MOUTHY ISSUE TWO
interview by Mitch Friedman
Give us a short overview of your musical career.
I discovered guitar in sixth grade. I found a used Takamine twelve-string in a music store several years later, and this has actually been my main songwriting instrument ever since. I started playing bass guitar in a rock band in San Jose in the early 1980s. We played clubs, festivals, private parties, and the occasional coveted opening slot. The band went through several incarnations, but eventually I got burned out with the whole scene and decided to focus on my originals. I released Seven Worthies Of The Bamboo Grove in 1997. It received good reviews in several magazines throughout Europe, including MOJO and Ptolemaic Terrascope, with articles and interviews appearing in several Italian magazines as well. A few months ago I released my second CD, God's Empty Chair.
Tell us a bit about the recording history of God's Empty Chair.
We used two different studios for the basic tracks. We brought John Wedemeyer in separately to overdub additional guitar parts, as well as his solos. Several songs utilized additional instrumentation such as keyboards/piano, middle eastern percussion, and cymbalom, and these were recorded during different sessions. I was also fortunate to have the contributions of Dave Gregory (ex-XTC) and Lyle Workman (Jellyfish, Frank Black) on guitar and keyboards for this album. We were able to have them record their parts in their home studios and mail these back to us. Lyle worked in Pro Tools and sent his parts on a CD. Getting Dave's parts was a bit more complicated, since he was still using an old analog tape recorder. It was great to be able to cover Andy Partridge's song "Susan Revolving," which was never previously released by either him or XTC. I heard the demo several years ago, which clocks in around forty seconds, and fell in love. When I approached Andy about covering it, at first he was surprised that I had a copy of it, since the song was really only a sketch, then he graciously offered to finish the song for me. He was only adamant about two things: that he heard a key change at one certain point in the song, and that I listen to a copy of Pink Floyd's first album repeatedly before the recording session.
How does it differ from Seven Worthies?
There's more of a sense of experimentation, yet I think there's also a sense of cohesiveness throughout. I'm not playing bass on this one. We brought in Endre Tarczy who contributes bass and keyboards. He's a much better bassist than me and a songwriter in his own right, and his contributions really add to the mix. The new album is co-produced with Vince, and though I was initially afraid of giving up control, my apprehension soon gave way to appreciation for all that Vince brought. Also, the band let loose and contributed more. This is most apparent on songs like "Bathe My Heart," where Randy Hayes' drum part really makes that song rock and move, and on "Susan Revolving" where everyone jammed on the ending. Lyle's electric sitar was the perfect psychedelic icing on the cake.
Who are some of your biggest musical heroes?
I've been influenced by what I grew up listening to like Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, The Beatles. More recent influences would include Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, XTC, and just recently I've gotten into the new Beck album. I don't listen to much new music, I seem to have mostly music from the sixties and seventies, like The Byrds, CSN, Jefferson Airplane, Jethro Tull, The Kinks, Judee Sill. Grace Slick and Janis Joplin have certainly influenced me as far as vocals are concerned. I still think that Grace has the best female voice in rock.
How do you approach the songwriting process?
I usually come up with the music first, and depending on what the feel of this music is, words may or may not follow. Sometimes it's a package deal, where the music and words appear together at the same time. For a demo, I'll record guitar and vocals onto a cassette, mainly so I don't forget how the song goes. Then I'll give this tape to the band. I don't necessarily write all the parts, though I do sometimes hear certain things here and there.
Are you working on any new music at the moment?
Lately I've been listening to a lot of psychedelic music from the sixties, and my new songs are leaning toward this genre. I'd like to record an entire album that drips with psychedelia, under a pseudonym much like XTC did with The Dukes of Stratosphear, and release it sometime this year. Fortunately for me, Vince is also a big fan of this style of music, and I have a feeling that we're going to have a lot of fun with this new project.
If you could collaborate with any person in history, who would it be and what would you collaborate on?
Ooh, good question! It would be John Lennon, circa 1967. "Strawberry Fields Forever" is one of the greatest songs from the psychedelic era, and it would be amazing to collaborate with him. If my choice was limited to someone alive now, I'd choose Jimmy Page. I love the way he incorporates a middle-eastern feel into his music, especially on "Kashmir" and "Four Sticks" from the Unledded album. How he melds the strings and percussion from the Egyptian Ensemble with that all-out thundering rock is just so amazingly keen. I saw the Page/Plant tour some years ago and have never been the same.
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