What inspired you to first start making music? And how did you come to be in your current incarnation?
My parents were long-haul truck drivers, and when I was a baby, in 1979, my mom decided to start her life over in Las Vegas, where she became a cocktail waitress, and raised me as a single-mom.
By 1993, I started writing songs and convinced my best friend to start learning drums. We started making boombox cassettes, largely influenced by the 80’s/early 90’s Pacific Northwest and Scottish music scenes. K Records started distributing these tapes, and the local community radio station started playing them, too.
We put my mom’s home address and phone number in the liner notes of our handmade tapes, and a little blurb bragging that we practice twice a day, religiously. We got fan mail from foreign countries, and tourists often called and turned up to our bedroom band practices, to hang out with a bunch of 14 and 15-year-olds, while my mom was at work, oblivious to what we had going on.
We started getting gigs in bars and casinos where they had 21+ age restrictions — someone had to smuggle us in and out. We also borrowed pickup trucks and rented generators and put on “punk” shows in the desert outside city limits where we’d be out of police jurisdiction. Often these audience turnouts would be over 300 people. Flipside Magazine and Maximumrocknroll would send writers down from Los Angeles to cover what was going on in the deserts outside Las Vegas. It felt electrifying to be a part of that.
In 1995, my mom moved to Kansas City to work on a riverboat casino. She brought me along, but I abandoned her to chase the music through basements everywhere. This has basically been the trajectory ever since.
Provide us with some info about your latest release…
Cruel Child is a confession of sorts, a grocery list of household abuses that are more a result of human nature than any profound wickedness. These are sweet little reminders of pain everywhere, your run-of-the-mill sex addiction, your usual cuckoldry, your daily dose of hesitater’s guilt, these burdens we all dish out and endure, to ourselves and to each other, like some sort of medicine, as we aim to be more tolerant, loving, and open-minded members of society. It’s a sick celebration of the people we say we love, the beauty that surrounds us, and the little things we marvel at up close, every day, and the lasting mark we all leave behind.
Which ones would you consider your main influences both music-wise & non-music-wise?
Some songwriters whose works have steadily seduced me are Nirvana for their integrity, Leonard Cohen for his constancy, Will Oldham for his curiosity, and Lana Del Ray for her bravery.
What truly inspires me to pursue writing and transmitting songs, moreover, is to engage people on some profound level of intensity, that it may afford everyone involved a transformative experience that is both meaningful and lasting.
In what way does your sound differ from the rest genre-related artists/bands and why should we listen to your music? In other words, how would you describe your sound?
These are structurally simple songs written in the American popular tradition, and delivered through the discipline of rock and roll. They are usually stripped down to their raw elements, and belted out in full surrender. Lyrically, they tend to be a bit darker, more contemplative, more devotional than a typical pop song. They’re often mistaken as “sad” songs, but close-listeners tend to get something more dynamic, and multilayered from them than that. The melodies are often playful like a childrens’ song. I play my guitar differently than most other players, it has a “pulse” to it, in part because I played banjo for a long time, and in part because I try to supplement the rhythms of a band when I’m playing solo. I sing in a sort of gravely “spoken” voice, but sometimes I lose myself in the music, then my singing can resemble that of an evangelical preacher.
Please name your 3 desert islands albums, movies & books…
“Songs From A Room” by Leonard Cohen
“Songs of Love And Hate” by Leonard Cohen
“New Skin For The Old Ceremony” by Leonard Cohen
Paths of Glory
The Education of Cyrus by Xenophon
The Prince by Machiavelli
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
Do you prefer studio or performing live and why?
Performing live and recording in the studio each has its ups and downs, and can vary widely depending on the circumstance. I have always felt far more vulnerable performing live than recording in a studio. Performing live has more often required achieving some state of surrender, although I’ve tried to bring these aspects to my records. The idea that a sound recording may survive its creators, like a message in a bottle, and bring some value to its recipient seems very romantic to me, although I have never tried visualizing who may someday be at the receiving end. Performing live, it’s important to break down certain barriers to feel connected and conversational with the audience. For instance, I am usually more comfortable being on the floor than I am elevated on a stage. I prefer being in a well lit room to being spotlighted, and standing in front of the PA system instead of having a separate monitor mix. Of course all circumstances are different, and trying to navigate these in real time can be as gratifying as they can be challenging in either a live or studio setting.
Is there any funny-unique story you would like to share with us, always in relation to your music ‘career’?
This isn’t as much of a story as it is an anecdote, and something that tickles me often. I think that it’s absolutely hilarious that after 25 years of putting music into the world, I would earn more money working part-time at McDonald’s.
Which track of your own would you point out as the most unique and why?
It is difficult to compare the uniqueness of any original work, but I will say that “Kid For The Cattle” has the very special distinction of being our bass player’s favorite track on the album!
Would you like to share with our readers your future plans?
I am looking forward to hitting the road with these new Cruel Child songs. We work hard to make it to wherever we’re invited, and we urge our listeners to reach out to us directly, whether they’re seasoned industry professionals or folks who simply enjoy the music we make.
Separately, there are some fantastic new albums coming out from my label-mates at Epifo Music in 2019, so I like to be involved with my friends’ music, even when it is behind the scenes.
Free question!!! (Ask yourself a question) you wish to answer and haven’t been given the opportunity.
Where were you the first time you heard Lana Del Rey?
I was in Pennsylvania, helping a man move a log cabin around the side of a mountain, because he didn’t want to be seen by his neighbors. “Video Games” played on the pickup’s stereo, while we felled giant poplars in the snow, and sawed them into long skis upon which we would spend several days slowly sliding the house over the snow and mud. I was captivated by this song every morning for a week before I caught a track ID from the DJ and wrote it down.
Photo credits: Luca Giorietto
Curated by: Christos Doukakis
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