MIKE PATTON of 3PD, knockin’

3pd1How did you get hooked on rock & roll?

Guns N’ Roses.  I was in grade school, and had a passing interest in music – just whatever my folks listened to or what was on the radio.  Then my dad bought Use Your Illusion I (either trying to find “Knockn’ on Heaven’s Door” [wrong record, pops], or “November Rain”) and hated the rest of it.  So I got a hold of it, and that was the beginning of the end.  They swore!

Who were your heroes growing up? 

Musically, it’s run the gamut over the years, from GnR (see above), to Bowie, Ginger Wildheart, Johnny Thunders, Stiv Bators, Keith Richards & the Micks (Jagger and Taylor)… Michael Jackson and the Beach Boys when I was younger… I don’t know that they really count as heroes, but I sure as hell looked up to them (and still do).

Otherwise… Fuck, I don’t know.  I was honestly a pretty apathetic kid for the most part.  I don’t remember caring about or being inspired by anyone enough that I would call them a hero.  I mean, soldiers and firefighters and whatnot fit the bill, but I can’t honestly say that I cared while I was growing up.

What was your first instrument? 

The first instrument I learned to play was the piano (not counting kazoos or whatever), but I was just borrowing my folks’.  The first instrument that was MINE, was a trumpet.  Which was great, because when I got hassled by some older kids after band practice one sunny afternoon, I was able to smash them in the face with it and run off.  Don’t know what happened to it… Might’ve been a rental actually?  Next was a horrible blue (with black stripes?) Jackson guitar… sounded and played like crap, but man did I have fun with it.  It got lost when my folks moved while I was in college, which I’m still pissed about.

What was your first rock concert and what was its impact on you?

Technically the Beach Boys when I was like 5, but I was just along for the ride with my folks.  My first show with friends… Probably either Pantera, Alanis Morissette (I know), or Smashing Pumpkins/Garbage?  I’m honestly not sure.  And probably the biggest impact on me was Pumpkins/Garbage – because Garbage opened and put on a killer show, and the Pumpkins went on and were lifeless and boring, even though I liked them more.  That firmly cemented the importance of “the show” rather than just playing.

3pd2When did you start writing songs? did it come naturally or do you have to work at it?

Elementary/middle school… I think my first song was a catchy track titled “Field Trip to Hell.”  It came naturally, but that doesn’t mean I was any good at it.  I definitely have to work harder at it these days (for the most part – sometimes I get in the groove and it just spills out, which is really the best feeling this side of sex but I still don’t know if I’m any good at it.

How did you guys choose the songs for the debut EP?

‘Cause they kick ass.  Why else? Honestly, while PLS was becoming 3 Parts Dead, there was a lot of bullshit going on for JC and myself (the PLS remnants).  Once we started playing with Fitz and Ramon, we were all just having so much fun, and these songs sort of happened, and we were just so stoked on them that we put them out right away.  I mean, we had been playing together for maybe 2 months when we went into the studio.

Any plans to release a full-length follow-up?

Definitely.  We’ve been writing since we put out the EP, and are looking forward to showing everyone what we’ve been working on.  We’ll get into the studio soon, but we’ve been keeping busy playing out around the country in the meantime.  Fingers crossed for late spring/early summer.

Would you consider recording one cover to bring more attention to the band like VH did and, if so, what might be strong candidates for you guys to do?

I’d love to, but that’s definitely a secondary priority to writing our own tracks.  We do some live covers, both obscure tracks and more popular ones.  I guess if we were gonna do a cover for attention we’d have to pick some top 40 track that we all abhor.  But I’d rather do something by the Wildhearts, or the Stones, or the Distillers, or… You know, something else that really speaks to me as a fan and we can just have fun playing.  But that kinda defeats the “pop appeal” aspect of it.  Maybe doing “Do You Love Me” (a la the Heartbreakers cover) would be a good middle ground.

As 3PD you’ve already shared the stage with a number of luminaries as a solid opener, what’s the secret?

We never thought we were a “local band”, and we never acted like one, and so those opportunities have always just kind of fallen into our laps.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that we work our asses off to pursue them, write (we think) catchy tunes, and have managed to get a ton of support from some really amazing friends and fans that have helped push us to that next level.

If you could go out on tour with any band this year who would it be and why?

Haha, why, do you know someone looking for an opener?  Seriously though, that’s a tough question to answer.  As a fan, I’d love to hit the road with the Wildhearts, or the Supersuckers, or any of those bands that never seems to leave my cd player.  As a professional musician, I’d probably want to hit the road with someone like Nickelback, or Hinder, that’s packing shows, to get in front of some new faces that would dig what we do but might not hear us otherwise.

I hear Motley Crue is doing a “farewell” tour, so maybe that’s the sweet spot in the middle…  Nikki Sixx, if you’re reading this – give me a call if you need an opener!

GAVIN DUNAWAY of LIBEL, mars attacks

libel_matchless21What got you hooked on rock & roll?
 
105.9 WCXR – the main classic rock station in DC during the 80s. My father blasted it in the car wherever we went, and I fell in love with the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, etc. Mainly stuff with badass guitar work – I knew by the age of six I wanted to be a guitarist just like my idol George Harrison. You couldn’t imagine how upset I was when I found out Eric Clapton actually played the guitar solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
 
But yeah, they turned me into a rock addict at a young age, and I haven’t been able to shake it after all these years.
 
Was there ever a time in which you imagined you may be cured or give up? 
 
Honestly, in 2008, my band The Alphabetical Order lost its fourth drummer (sequential) and I’d tired of the sound and the DC music scene. I was pondering graduate school, writing a novel (still working on that one), maybe even teaching overseas. But I couldn’t shake it – I still wanted to rock, play guitar loud as shit and make at least a few more albums. A good friend explained that Brooklyn was the place to fulfill these dreams, so I packed up my equipment and never looked back. Well, except to visit friends… And family, if I have to.
 
What essentially makes Libel tick so urgently?
 
A fair deal of angst, discontent and disillusion – possibly some very hot overdrive pedals. Certainly the espresso IV bag hooked up to my left arm, which is easier to play guitar with than you might imagine. 
 
My initial goal with Libel was to blend my love of post-hardcore – e.g., Mission of Burma, Fugazi, Shudder to Think, Jawbox – with my affection for Bowie’s vocal stylings (he taught me how to sing, whether he knows it or not!) and songwriting prowess. And then, yeah, I wanted to layer in some heavier shoegaze atmospherics a la Swervedriver and Ride. I was influenced by very intense music, so it’s all I know how to make.
 
Seems like NYC projects break-up and reform under new banners if they don’t pop quick, or did you already?
 
Nope – we’ve been flying under the Libel flag since 2009, when we released our first EP, “The Prolonged Insult,” though the lineup has changed over the years. Pop culture memories are super short, so there’s a huge push to appear fresh and new (although it’s our fourth release, we do market “Music for Car Commercials” as our “debut LP.”) I think many people that re-brand constantly like you suggested are trying to chase the popular sound, trying to keep in step with what’s hip, which is definitely not my philosophy. 
 
There are plenty of great bands that didn’t get a lot of attention at first (maybe they didn’t have the hot sound of the moment) who eventually broke through, and people were then blown away by their back catalog. But, those bands stayed true to their ideas and evolved organically, not at the behest of the latest sonic trend. They’re the ones we remember.
 
How / where does the writing process seem to work best for the band? 
 
The magic songwriting window opens right after falling off the bar stool and right before vomiting and blacking out. It’s a short nirvana, so the process must be repeated regularly.
 
No, it’s more like this: I’ll come up with an idea – a lot of times just fumbling around with the guitar while watching TV – record it via Logic, and then build other ideas on top of it over a while until it seems like a sketch of a song. I’ll record bass, program (basic) drums, throw on some extra guitars and maybe keyboards, all the while working out draft lyrics. 
 
When I feel the tune is far enough along and is worthy of their ears, I’ll send off an MP3 and get feedback from the guys – while hearing what I was thinking, they’ll bring their own (better) ideas to the table when we jam on it. Nothing is set in stone – parts will disappear, parts will be added. I say that I provide the skeleton of a song, and together we develop a body for it.
 
What’s first for you in terms of material: a feeling / vibe from the music or the subject matter?
 
A lot of times they’re not even connected. I used to have notebook upon notebook with random lyric ideas, while now I keep them all stored in my iPhone (notes are great, save trees), which in turn gets saved to iCloud. You can tell I embrace the tech. While we’re writing a song, I’ll just sense that such-and-such random verse would be perfect and build the rest of the lyrics from there. Or it could go the other way around – I’m constantly humming works in progress to myself, and on the train something may click. Not to sound too hippy dippy, but often my musical ideas and lyrical subject matter just seem to find themselves in my head. Must be some kind of holy function…
 
libel_coco035Your bio mentions imaginary tours from a past age; do you really feel that out of place?
 
At first I was going to say, “Oh yeah, I wish I was in the 90s!” We probably would have seemed among peers 20 years ago, but in the current landscape, it’s nice being unique and difficult to classify. Other 90s-throwback bands getting attention sound a lot like one particular act – Dinosaur Jr, Pavement, vintage Weezer. But our influences are pretty mixed, and they’re not groups that really roll off people’s tongues, although they have loyal followings – bands like Jawbox, HUM and Swervedriver. We’re not lonely – we got a lot of Brooklyn peers with raucous sounds – but standing out in the current morass is gratifying, 
 
What’s the bigger high for you: writing, recording or performing?
 
Ugh, must I decide? Performing is certainly the most exhilarating, leaving you tingling for hours – maybe – days afterwards. Performing offers the quickest gratification, but writing and recording an album gives a sense of accomplishment that cannot be matched.
 
You wanna know the biggest low? Marketing – trying to convince people your music is special, especially when their senses are saturated by media. “Well, my mom likes it!”
 
What’s your philosophy (if any) when it comes to playing live?
 
As rabid fans of the great German group Autobahn, we practice nothing but nihilism. Emphasis on nothing.
 
A spaceship lands on your roof, a small gray humanoid emerges with a vinyl record he knows you will approve of as a first offering / means to an end: what (most likely) is it?  
 
Though it may sound cliche, I think there’s only one record that could be in his hand: “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.” This starman has come down to meet us because he doesn’t think he’d blow our minds. Basically, he’s telling us not to blow it because he thinks it’s all worthwhile. Let the children lose it, let the children use it, let all the children boogie.
 
However, that LP better be a first printing, or it’s galactic warfare up your ass, buddy.

DEMIR DEMIRKAN, water colors

 What was the first rock record you fell in love with?

Deep Purple – Machine Head

When did you start playing guitar and who is your main influence?

I have two guitar players that influenced me majorly: David Gilmour and Ritchie Blackmore. I started playing at age 14. First song, like many others of our kind, was Smoke On The Water but I then I went more into bluesier stuff like Eric Clapton, J.J. Cale and some singer/songwriters like Paul Simon and Tom Waits.

How did you and Sertab Erener hook up and was it musical to start?

We fell in love while we were making music together. She asked me to produce a demo to present to the great Arif Mardin. We cut 2 songs in about four days. And something happened during that time, I mean there was something before that but studio can be a very dangerous place for potential lovers :) After that we wrote many songs together some of them being big hits. I produced 4 albums for her and some singles, all in a state that I can’t really tell if it’s making love or making music.

What’s your favorite thing about Chicago Issue, your latest release as PAINTED ON WATER?

One of my favorite things about Chicago Issue the sound; pulling in elements from different styles like rock, electronica, dance and blues.Also, I like the way we combined electronic elements with the played instruments. It’s usually not this seamless but I think we got it on this.

imgresHow did you two end up in Chicago? and what do you tell folks back home about the city?

We re-located to Chicago for a musical theater project that we’re composing for. It is a very long-term project so we thought we might as well move here. It’s a beautiful city. I’ve lived in Los Angeles and New York but I think Chicago takes you in more than the others. I believe Chicagoans are very warm, sincere, no b.s. and socially evolved people which makes this city the most livable place for me. We also have a home in Istanbul, which is also a great mega-city. They are both very very different though, which creates a diversity in my cultural soul.

How does the writing process work for you guys?

Do we fight? Of course! :)  I think creativity is born out of clashing of differences rather than compliance of equals or the alike. In the end there is only one winner: The Song! If it’s good for the song and the music it does not matter whose idea it is really.

Do you guys perform live with a full band or just as duo?

We have been performing with a full band but now we are moving towards a trio format where two of us will be fronting and one more member controlling the sequences, keyboards and computers. I will also be playing some keyboards and some electronic stuff aside from guitars. Also musically I am more inclined towards the electronics domain because of the freedom it provides in sound. As a composer, there comes a time when the conventional sound and the playability of the known instruments is not enough to put out what’s in there in you. Synths and digital audio opens many doors to new creative ideas and inspirational ground.

You are known for taking musical left hand turns: is it important to your relationship as a couple for the music to evolve?

I think when individuals have the intention to change and evolve, they do with everything else around and related to them, be it the relationships or music. I and Sertab, we both have this intention to change and renew, constantly. Stability is good until it fulfills its use, then you have to know when and how to realize its time for change and which direction to take. It takes hours of meditation, thinking and observing. And of course there are these accidental blessings happening sometimes. All of a sudden you slip and make a mistake which puts you on a track that you’d never think of. That could also be a subconscious decision which you might be perceiving as a mistake, but this is a whole different subject to talk about :)

7So few Americans know anything about your homeland, Turkey: is there anything you guys hope most to convey with your music n’ lyrics?

I believe if we plan and do this deliberately, the music will not come out sincere enough. We think our music has the codes in its DNA that belongs to our homeland and whatever we play, sing or compose it’s there. Honestly, when we listened to our EP all through after it was finished you know, objectively, we thought it was western music. This did not last too long because as soon as we’d hear our American friends commenting on it, we realized that it still sounded a little foreign, unique and different, which we believe, is a good thing. Lyrically, we want to maintain a subjective point of view which again would be of two individuals’ from Turkey. So in short, whoever listens to our music will be breathing in the molecules of our homeland, our life-stories, and like I said this is not we want to consciously implement into the songs. I see this as natural cultural evolution because we mix and renew with Chicagoan cultural codes as well.

Should Shakespeare be looking for royalties from you?

:)) The verse lyrics of Why Do You Love Me are based on some love quotes of W. Shakespeare, but they are sung from an opposite point of view. Sertab is singing them to the person who is saying those words. W. Shakespeare, I think he has a way of not using clichés but still making things sound familiar and with full intent. Having studied English literature an humanities in college and being into rock and roll, it’s not possible not to be influenced by the Bard himself and his work.

JIM COOPER, hip cat on records

JimCooperWhen did your first fall in love with vinyl and records?  Oh at an early age…. I can’t even remember; it’s part of my genetics I guess.

Do you recall the first records you bought or had as a kid?  It was probably some Disney or childrens records back when I was like 2 years old, that’s my earliest memory. and the album covers. I used to get a big kick out of….I was big on cars & trains.  So an album that had cars or trains on it I could spend hours just looking at the cover.

How has record sales going by & large over the last few years?   They are there, they could be better, they could be worse but I see a lot more young people getting into music via records which is a good thing. They have an enthusiasm for ‘the records’. They’re more consumer friendly. You don’t need a magnifying glass to read the lyrics like you do for the lyrics from the booklets for the little CD’s.

So how long has Hip Cat Records been in business?  We opened in November of 1987.

How did you come up with the name Hip Cat or is that all you?  I had a cat who I nicknamed  ‘hip cat’ but the name also comes from the Pink Floyd song named “Lucifer Sam” ….their  original guitar player and songwriter Syd Barrett wrote they lyrics “be a hip cat, be a ship’s cat, somewhere, anywhere”. I was a big Pink Floyd fan so I just ran with the name ‘hip cat'; it just seemed a natural name for a store.

When did you move to the new location (3540 Lake Ave, Wilmette) and how is it going? Well we moved to this location in June of 2006 and its been a good, plus it’s nearer to where I live so the commute is a lot shorter.

Do you guys have a website or is it all word-of-mouth?  No, it’s pretty much word of mouth or customers who have been coming here for a long time.  I’m not computerized. I’m old school. Somebody did set up a website at some point but i don’t what happened with it (laughs).

I imagine you’ve had some interesting Chicago musicians walk through the door? Well we’ve had Ben Weasel come in before. He probably didn’t know I recognized him. When a known musician comes in I never acknowledge that I know who they are. I just treat them like some regular customers,  I don’t give them any preferential treatment, they can just be a regular Joe looking through records. and they seem to like it that way.

What are the DMM stickers on some vinyl re-issues and what do we need to know about records today?  DMM stands for ‘direct metal mastering’  and it actually encodes more information from the original recording so it’s going to sound better. The recordings done with 1/2 speed mastering make the biggest impact improving sound. Another ingredient for better sound is the deeper grooves in (some) records. So they might be advertising different vinyl weights like 180 gram heavy weight vinyl or 200 gram audio file vinyl but the real jist of it is  the fact that the  grooves are deeper. The industry has decided to hype the weight; They aren’t going to tell you on the sticker that it has deeper grooves, they are going to tell you it weighs more.

You’ve been doing this a long time and you’ve seen a lot of records come through and leave the door, who are the top 5 that still move records?   Definitely Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and of course The Beatles. But we also do really well with Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. On the blues side it’s probably Muddy Waters and then Buddy Guy… he puts a new album out every year or so and they re-issue some of his older albums every now and then. He does great.

ADAM MITCHELL, never mind the bollocks

adam_gold_recordsWhat music grabbed you most as a kid?

Well, the first actual “rock” record I ever heard was “Rock around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets. At age 12, I couldn’t verbalize why it was great. I just knew it made me feel glad to be alive! The next record I heard after that – and I was still living in Scotland at the time – was “Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley. Then we moved to Canada and boom, it was rock ‘n roll all the time. Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Elvis. My parents, like most parents at the time, didn’t approve – they thought Lawrence Welk was the height of musical sophistication  – but they weren’t too hard ass about it.  But from then on, yeah, it was rock ‘n roll every moment I could get.  Then, of course, Dylan and the Beatles changed not only my world but the world.

What was the first song you ever wrote and what do you think of it today?

Don’t remember the actual very first song I wrote but one of the early ones, right after the Beatles had first come out, was a Christmas parody I wrote called “God Rest Ye Hairy Gentleman”.

Did it ever make the light of day in another for form?

No, no way, but it was pretty funny!

Artists have so many different approaches to writing, what is your general philosophy?

Strive for excellence. That’s it. And do whatever it takes to achieve excellence. Trying to do that, even when I didn’t know what I was doing, is the only reason I can think of to explain the career I’ve enjoyed.  Strive for excellence. No one buys average.

Great songs give people a certain feeling: is that one of your barometers in determining whether a track is ready to be recorded or is that reserved for the listener? 

Learning to be a songwriter is learning to be a bridge builder.  A good songwriter builds bridges of understanding between himself or herself and the audience.  it might be emotional understanding, it might be intellectual understanding, but that’s the whole deal.

You have written with a whose who of international talents from Linda Rondstadt to Waylon Jennings to KISS: which collaboration, or collaborations, were the most challenging?

Well, the collaborations that turn out to be most  “challenging” are generally those that, in the end, don’t work – and consequently, are ones that don’t produce work that lasts or you’ve even heard of.  If you’re working with another writer, especially a writer who’s an established artist, every song you come up with has to get a thumbs-up from a lot of people before it makes the record; the artist, the record company, the producer, the promotion department and so on.  Did I mention striving for excellence?

You offer personal song-writing coaching online @ AdamMitchellMusic.com: how does it work and do you end up sharing a writing credit if it’s really good?

Really, the best way to think of this is as one-on-one, song aid.  Personal tuition. And no, since it would be a work for hire, I would not take part of the song. Anyone who’s interested should contact me at info@AdamMitchellmusic.com.

The industry has changed radically in the last two decades: do you think it is harder today for a songwriter to break in with major artists to get
songs out?

I think in some respects it’s much harder to be a songwriter now because, unlike in previous times and even up until very recently, publishing companies very rarely now give a writer, particularly a new writer, a substantial enough draw – that is, advance against future royalties – to live on. In my own particular case, when I moved to Los Angeles, Warner Bros. was paying me to write songs for them and it was a paltry amount but I could get by. But by the end of my first year, so many artists had cut my songs that WB decided to renegotiate my contract and suddenly I was making about ten times what I had previously. I’m not sure you can do that now.

On the other hand, in many respects it’s much easier now. You can do great demo recordings at home, the Internet puts the whole world at your doorstep and I still believe that excellence prevails in spite of all difficulties. Everyone gets a break, sooner or later. The trick – the key thing – is to be ready when it happens. All the breaks in the world won’t help you if you’re not prepared.

a-mitchellWhat advice would you give to aspiring artists in regard to refining their craft or brand of music?

Join me at SongCoachOnline.com. Great songs are at the heart of everything in music and I’ve helped many people improve dramatically in that respect. It’s what I love to do and you’ll get a lot of other information about recording, common career mistakes, great gear and so on. Remember, when you’re trying to get somewhere in music, it’s a competition, like anything else. And the most prepared – and those willing to work hardest – will win. It’s a cruel logic I know, but it’s true.

 Jagger once famously sang “it’s the singer, not the song”, was he being ironic?

With all due respect to the His Majesty, the Prince of Darkness, I say “Bollocks!” The song is the most important thing by far in any performance. Look at it this way…You can have the greatest singer in the world singing a crap song and what do you then have? Zero.  A well polished turd. Here’s an absolute, universal, once – and – forever, truth. If you don’t have a great song at the heart of what you’re doing…a hundred times nothin’ is still nothin’.

In a recent interview you said ACDC’s *Back In Black* would make it to your island playlist: would it have been even better with Bon Scott?

Not in my opinion. I think Brian Johnson is phenomenal. It’s very rare for a singer to do a great job replacing an original guy but I think Brian has done it. He and Bon are both incredibly good.

MURPH DANIELS, combat rock

MURPHY's lawYour new record as Wood Shampoo is a greatest hit of sorts; must be great to get 17 songs off your chest?

If feels like we just won the WBA title against Mike Tyson and we even have the bite marks to prove it.   We took some of the best songs we had written in the last couple of years that no one has ever heard and a few new cuts as well and we started up the band’s Lear and headed up to Gateway Mastering Studios in Maine to see the master himself, Bob Ludwig. After Bob performed his magic, we were all systems go.

It seems so few records these days have a sense of humor unless it’s tied in with a band’s gimmick overtly, where does Wood Shampoo fit in that spectrum?

Our motto is simple: we have nothing to lose, so let’s have so fun for crying out loud and try to put a smile on our fan’s faces. Life’s tough enough, so we want to give everyone an outlet to escape from that. Anything goes in our writing: from sexy girls, vampires, aliens, the crazy world of the stock market, dead rock stars, crack, cover girls, gambling – you name it, we probably have a song about it and if we don’t, then we will for the next album.

Do you think being from New York gives you some sense of entitlement when it comes to rocking (hard)?

That’s an interesting question. Would you be able to make that a multiple choice question and give me a wink when I am near the right answer (that used to work for me in my high school French class)? I think there is so much top-shelf quality homegrown music here thrown in with the greatest bands in the world always stopping by to make NYC an extremely competitive market. You just cannot survive in front of the NYC fans unless you are at your best because they will not settle for anything less. They’ll take you out in stretchers if you’re off your game – they’re that sledgehammer tough. Even my own family throws rotten tomatoes at me in those cases, so use your imagination.

WOOD_SHAMPOO_coverWhat are your favorite cuts on the disc and which is your least?

Every track on the disc was picked by a panel of experts in the field using our proprietary analysis of qualitative and quantitative data. In other words, we like all the cuts. That being said, some of the ones that stand out for us are Wanna Be A Dead Rock Star, Top of the World, She’s So Fine, Cover Girl, Where’s the Party Earthling?, You Suck (Mr. Vampire), Ticker Tape, One More Chance, and of course our title track Crack, Crack Heart Attack. They just have a certain je ne sais quoi.  They are packed full of radio friendly hooks on every level and that’s how we like them. You’re lucky enough to get one or two on an album and here you are getting a lifetime supply. Go to our website, WOODSHAMPOO.net and hear them for yourselves and you be the judge and leave us a comment while you’re at it. We like to read them at breakfast.

I would say the cut that’s our least favorite is Three Cheers because it doesn’t fit into the format as well for this album, but we put it on there due to popular demand. It’s like early Bruce Springsteen meets Lou Reed and they decide to take a walk on the wild side. There’s great sax on that one from Frankie Tee.

What’s the story behind Crack, Crack Heart Attack the tune? I understand the CIA was involved?

What I’m about to tell you is the absolute truth (writer’s note: be aware Murph Daniels is currently wired up like the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and has been connected to a Delco car battery by a couple of independent contractors who work for a nameless agency. They are also wearing cheap suits.). We were in the studio and one of my producers, who also happens to be a guitarist on the record, Eddie Martinez, asked me to play him the day’s songs I had written for the session. Turns out nothing caught his ear that day and we just don’t waste our time with a song that doesn’t make that first cut, so he suggested a song I had done on a Murph Daniels’ solo record that he really loved, but thought we could do it much better now. That song was Crack, Crack Heart Attack and everyone at the session knocked in out of the ballpark that day. On a crazy side note, when I get a bad headache, I have found if I play this song really loud in the car, it will cure me after a play or two. Try it for yourself, I’m not kidding. JJ Cale had been an inspiration for me with the writing of this song because I thought if he could have a hit with the song Cocaine then why couldn’t someone have a hit song with the drug crack. He just passed away and will be missed.

WoodShampooThere are some monster players on the album: how does one assemble such a line-up without a major label budget?

Well, without getting into the budget, because the accountants are watching me 24/7, it’s really quite simple. You don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on studio costs, so why not get the greatest musicians alive to come down and do it right in one or two takes. Co-producers and guitarists Tommy Byrnes and Eddie Martinez are masters at their craft. They also put a crack (excuse the pun) team together. We not only captured Wood Shampoo at its prime, but had fun doing it. I called up Gateway Mastering and sent them the tracks and Bob Ludwig and team thought it was something they could definitely work with. They brought out sounds from the mix I had never even heard before. Bob is a genius and just an all around great guy. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I learned from working with him. And let’s not forget our fifth Beatle, Rich Gibbons. He was our engineer and mixer on most of the tracks and always had Wood Shampoo’s back. Rich fits in so great and I think part of the reason is that he is a Senior Producer at The Howard Stern Show and with that job comes a great sense of humor.

How does the writing process work for you and how do you know or feel a song is complete and ready for recording?

I usually hear or read something that catches my attention and knocks me off my feet. I then use that phrase as a building block for the rest of the song. Other times I come up with a catchy riff first and the lyrics follow somehow as I play the riff over and over again on guitar. I take the songs to my producers, which usually is Tommy, and they continue the process. Inspirations for some of my songs have been from hearing someone saying “you suck” to their parent and wanting to find a funny way to use it in a song which turned out to be You Suck (Mr. Vampire), to having my best friend ask me for years if he could have my guitars when I die and that one later turned into My Best Friend Died (and Left Me His Guitar).

What’s the first album you ever bought and the first you ever tossed out in a disappointment (if any?)?

I think the first album I ever bought was Elton John’s “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.” I was truly amazed by the musicianship. I think I probably traded the albums I didn’t like for the ones I wanted at a local store so I never actually would throw one out.

Gun, or billy club, to your head: what are your favorite three albums of all time?

I’m a huge music fan and I really love a mix of everything from Talking Heads, The Clash, Guns N’ Roses, Elvis Costello, Nirvana, Otis Redding, James Brown, Johnny Hallyday, The Rolling Stones, Lou Reed, The Jam, Al Green, Joe Williams, My Morning Jacket, Wilco, Roy Orbison, Hoodoo Gurus, Moby Grape, Toots Thielemans, and Johnny Hallyday. Stop me when I pass three okay?

If you had put out a Wood Shampoo double-live opus in the 70’s, what would it have been called and how were sales?

I think we would have called it “Wood Shampoo: One Lump or Two?” and it would have been a limited sold-out run of one million copies in blood red vinyl. 

CHRISTIAN SBROCCA, cœur et l’âme

ChristianWHAT WERE THE FIRST 3 RECORDS YOU BOUGHT AS A KID?

I can’t find 3! The first two I remember wanting to buy…but that my parents bought for me were vinyls: John Cougar Mellencamp (Hurt So Good), Joan Jet and the Blackhearts (I love Rock n roll) and on tape the first two I bought for myself were Michael Jackson (Thriller) and Men Without Hats (bought with my Brother) for the song Safety dance. Other tape (records) bought a little after that:  Appetite for Destruction (Guns), Tesla, Bon Jovi, Ozzy, Def Leppard..

AND HOW DO YOU RANK THEM TODAY?

Classics! Really good songs still.  I’m not the type of person who got “trapped” in the 80’s…but I have to admit that the quality of songs during that decade is phenomenal. We turned our backs to 80’s music in the late 90’s until recently.  When we look at the top 40 from 1980 till 1989, we realize that a lot of those songs are still “up to date”.  Especially the “New wave music” and the “Rock” music…but no so the Hair metal bands..

DID YOUR FASCINATION WITH MUSIC, LIKE SO MANY ARTISTS, BEGIN IN THE HOME WITH FAMILY?

Absolutely.  MY father was an italian immigrant from Rome Italy.  He came to Canada with a plethora of music styles as he was also a musician himself.  The Beatles, Elvis, Southern American music, Italian classics etc, played continuously on our turn table but also “Live”.  Parties at my house were legendary…My father was one of the best “entertainer” I’ve ever seen…

As he (my dad) fell in love with the french Canadian culture (The Quebec Culture), he also learned a lot of folk music form here.  As you can imagine, mixing the Beatles, italian classics and french traditional folk would rock any party, in any country!

Those were fine days….  I started playing with him at the age of 12-13.  Started with some back vocals and easy rythms.  Things moved forward pretty fast though, as I was really passionate about it.  By the age of 14-15, I was playing at parties (with my buddies trying to impress young girls!), camping trips etc…at the age of 17-18, I played my first “bar gig”

My father passed in 2002… We played hundreds of times together at our house or at relatives for Christmas, Easter, New Years, name it.  Since he passed, I’ve never played a single note at a home party again.  It was his kingdom…he did it so well.

WHEN DID YOU START ACTUALLY WRITING SONGS AND CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE WRITING PROCESS FOR YOU?

My first melodies (with bad lyrics) were written between the age of 15 and 18.  Although I do not consider them as “songs”. My first real song was written in College at the age of 19.  The song is called “Unexpected”.  This song followed me for quite some time since it was kept on my first english album in 1999.  It was written after a young hockey player, Travis Roy, at Boston University (I was also a player at UMass, Lowell), became quadriplegic during a hockey game. This accident really moved me.

After that song, it took me a few years to write again. As for song-writing itself, it always has something to do with emotions as far as I’m concerned…  Self doubt, happiness, love, death, anxiety, substance abuse etc… are all topics I have sang about in my career.

It usually starts with what some of us here call “yaourt”.  A melody with no real lyrics… It can, or almost sounds like real words but they aren’t.  They are just there to guide you to an emotion that will end up leading you to real words.  Once the melody starts to take form, then real words come naturally….

I wrote strictly with the acoustic guitar for 10 years…  The first song I’ve ever written on the piano is a song about my dad called “Un monde sans mon père”. ( A world without my dad).

Today, I’d say that 60% of the songs I write begin with the piano, the other 40 is with the guitar.  Same deal….Most of the time, melody, then lyrics.  I have also done the opposite (lyrics first) since I write for others quite often.  I love it….  Completely different dynamics, but challenging.

Writing is a full time job for me…and although I do it more with my “head” then with my “soul” lately, there is always a way to put “heart” and honesty into it… Obviously, i’ts different when the writing is for my own material….then soul comes first.

IF YOU WERE TO HAND A DISC TO MR. BIG IN AN ELEVATOR LIKE IN THE MOVIES WITH ONE TRACK OF YOURS ON IT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

It’s very difficult to answer…I’ll say: “The Choice Is Yours“. It’s a song I have not yet released…. but:the track pretty much sums up everything that I am as a human being, an artist, a singer song writer.

Christian2HOW DID YOUR RECENT EUROPEAN DATES GO?

Very good…  the most important show I’ve done in France was in a 13th century Castle in the French Alpes… What was really for about that experience is that 16 of my faithful fans from Canada made the trip to Europe with me !  They followed me on tour for 10 days and on the 10th day, we played a sold out concert in the Tallard Castle.  On top of the 16 that made the trip, about another 15 french Canadian fans joined us on the last day to attend the Castle concert…..  One word : Magical!

IT’S BEEN A FEW YEARS NOW SINCE YOUR LAST FULL LENGTH RELEASE, L’OPNION DES AUTRES, ANY PLANS FOR A NEW DISC?

The french canadian market (95% in the Province of Quebec) is pretty Small…..only 6 million people.   In order to have a great quality of life, one has to find multiple ways to make a living.  As far as I’m concerned, in the last couple of years, I have found ways to position myself (and my studio), in great position.  Lately, I have been writing for other artist that are much more « commercial » and « popular » then me !  Interesting copy rights come along with that.  Also, I have been hired to write « thème songs and « music » for many TV shows.  Some of then are « daly » shows.  Interesting copy rights and publishing rights come along with that as well.

As for my own material, It’s been too long LOL. Textbook story :  Since my last full length CD « L’opinion des autres », I have lost a little bit of momentum.  I’m now on my own with no record label, no manager and no bullshit.  My last record deal experience was brutal.  I’m excited about doing things slowly and on my own.

WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF FIRST AND FOREMOST TODAY: A PERFORMER, A SONG-WRITER, A SINGER OR A PRODUCER?

Probably the most “unanswerable” question ever! But let’s be honest here… I ain’t “the producer”, but I’m pretty good at it. I’m not a “singer”.  I’m a singer–song-writer that can sing…but I’m not “the singer”! I think I’m a “performer” and a “song writer”….that produces music and sings his heart and soul out.

CANADA’S OBVIOUSLY HAD SOME GREAT ARTISTS OVER THE YEARS: WHAT’S THE CLUB SCENE LIKE IN QUEBEC FOR NEW MUSIC THESE DAYS AND ANY ARTISTS GRABBING YOUR EAR?

The club scene is very healthy for new upcoming bands.  But unfortunately, it’s hard to make a living playing “clubs” with original material.  That being said, Montreal is probably the best “stepping stone” in all of North America for “indie music”. I’ve been an “Arcade fire” fan for years… So cool to see them do so well.

Patrick Watson, Malajube (french), Karkwa (french), Stars etc….There are also other “main stream” bands or singers that do really well, and although it ain’t my type of music, it’s fun to be able to appreciate other’s talent and success (Celine Dion for example)

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A YOUNG ARTISTS RECORDING THEIR FIRST DISC?

Cliché stuff but so freakin true:  Be yourself.  Don’t let the “web”, “youtube”, “instant star’ bullshit syndrome get to you. IT  DOES NOT MAKE YOU AN ARTIST AND IT WILL NOT GIVE YOU A CAREER OF ANY KIND. Write your own stuff cuz that’s how real careers are built.  If you do not write your own stuff, then find the right songs for you.

Work. Dedicate yourself….Work…Never give up….  Cuz if this is really what you want to do, there will never be any other options anyways!  You might as well work.  Oh yeah…have fun along the way!

WHAT PITFALLS NEED AMERICAN BANDS BE AWARE OF WHEN VENTURING NORTH TO PLAY DATES IN CANADA (OR QUEBEC?)

No too many…. Be polite.  Be open… Be respectful. Yes, a little cliché but…..Break the stereotype: Show us that you “understand” that although “America” is a great country, that you “ain’t” different then any of us or any body else for that matter. We love that especially in Quebec!  We are a nation of our own…we speak French, we have a different culture, we have a different back ground, different traditions……Know a little bit about us (Canada or Quebec) before you head up here…it’ll show that you “care”.   Do the same in Europe and anywhere else your music brings you! ~ Christiansbrocca.fr