Back in 1981, Marshall Crenshaw's single "Something's Gonna Happen" was released on Shake Records, initiating his string of critically acclaimed classic albums and 45s. Celebrating thirty years of making some of music's finest pop-rock, Marshall will be playing a series of concerts at New York's "City Winery" April 29-30 and May 1, joined by Ira Kaplan (Yo La Tengo), Graham Maby and his brother Robert Crenshaw. The following is an interview that was conducted in late 2010. Also included are additional interviews by If By Yes' Petra Haden, Cory Mon & The Starlight Gospel and Wes Kirkpatrick.
(photo by Nancy Heyman)
A Conversation with Marshall Crenshaw
Mike Ragogna: Marshall!
Marshall Crenshaw: Hey, Mike.
MR: Okay, we've got to start out by discussing that Louvin Brothers collection you worked on while we were at Razor & Tie. Prior to that, you also worked on a rockabilly collection that included a couple of Louvin Brothers tracks. Both were pretty significant releases from both a musical and collector's perspectives.
MC: Bug Music is a big publishing company, and for a little while, they had a deal with Capitol Records. I did a compilation of stuff for them, West Coast country music, everything from the Milo Twins to Buck Owens. I was proud of it on a musical level, but my liner notes were pretty dodgy and I wish I could go back and redo them. A lot of people were inspired by that record and that made me really happy, and I know of a couple of musicians who changed the course of their artistic lives because of it. There is a guy named Whit Smith, he has a really fantastic group called the Hot Club of Cow Town. He was in a shred metal band and heard Hillbilly Music, Thank God. He is one person among many who has told me that they love that record.
MR: Did you ever hear the Swing West series?
MC: Yeah, that was great.
MR: That was a lot of fun to putting it together with Rich Kienzle and David Richman.
MC: Rich Kienzle knows his stuff better than either one of us as far as hillbilly stuff goes. Yeah, those Razor & Tie collections are quite nice.
MR: Speaking of Razor & Tie, that's where we met, and I believe we bonded over a certain Grammy-nominated album called Miracle Of Science.
MC: Well, yeah--a Grammy nomination for the art director. (laughs)
MR: Hey, Stefan Sagmeister is a genius and it still counts! (laughs) And you have some other nominations as well.
MC: I do have a Golden Globe nomination and another Grammy nomination as well for Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story soundtrack. I really did earn that one.
MR: Loved it. So, let's talk about that one. How did you get together with John C. Reilly and that gang.
MC: It was completely out of left field, and I love it when it happens like that. It just so happens that there was a conversation that took place between one person that I barely knew and one guy that I didn't know at all. Tom Wolfe, a music supervisor, and Jake Guralnick who manages Nick Lowe. I spoke to him on the phone once, and these guys were going back and forth brainstorming what songwriters to bring on board for this project. My name came up, and somebody got in touch with me, and so that was that.
MR: Marshall you've worked on many other projects, like you have the co-writer credit for Gin Blossoms' "Til I Hear It From You," which was from the film Empire Records, right?
MC: Empire Records, yeah.
MR: And I think that was the group's biggest hit.
MC: It might have been. They had a handful of huge singles, but that was a big one and was on the radio for a year. That was a lot of fun and way cool.
MR: Yeah, at the time, it was such a breath of fresh air.
MC: What made it so cool for me is that I really liked that record. I had one other hit on a similar scale, a British hit by a guy named Owen Paul. He had a hit with "You're My Favorite Waste of Time." I can't listen to even twenty seconds of that record at all, but the Gin Blossoms I love. Every time it came on the radio I was so happy.
MR: The perfect radio record.
MC: It was. I would just listen to the radio and wait for it to come on. I hadn't done that since I was a kid.
MR: Gin Blossoms seemed to be nodding to The Byrds, The Eagles, etc., while maintained their own sound with some very strong pop songwriting.
MC: Yeah, I really like those guys.
MR: By the way, I loved your recurring, on camera role on The Adventures of Pete & Pete as the meter man. What a bizarre trip.
MC: A friend of mine had a semi-recurring role on the program and called me one day and asked me if I wanted to get involved. It was that simple. I said sure I wasn't doing anything else that day, it was great fun. Danny Tamberelli--he played the younger Pete who is now a rock musician--I heard from him about a year ago. He is a bass player and is all grown up. I remember it was cold in New Jersey, but I really loved the show. It was really cool.
MR: It was pretty psychedelic. It was only on for a couple of years, it evolved from a cartoon on Nickelodeon, and when it went off the air, I boycotted watching the station. Then again, weren't the kids like forty when it ended? (laughs)
MC: Oh, my. Well, I know a lot of people and adults really liked the show. I get asked about that every once in a while.
MR: Back to your music, sir. You had a couple of Ronnie Spector covers--"Communication" and "For Her His Love."
MC: That was something that we did with Alan Betrock. Alan was an important person in my life. He put out my very first record, he really rose to the occasion and hired someone to promote it in New York and get it on the radio. It was a huge radio hit.
MR: I remember. And you went way back with Alan, like thirty years for your single, "Something's Gonna Happen."
MC: Yeah. Maybe if Alan didn't come along, it would have been something different as I was very driven in that time frame. But Alan was the guy that opened the door that gave me the start with what I wanted to do. A few years go by and he calls me, and he is working with Ronnie Spector--that was a dream come true for him. He was a super-smart person and had a fairly wide range in terms of the music he was into, but he dearly loved Phil Spector's stuff and girl group stuff. So, for him to get a chance to work with Ronnie was a really big deal. He just put it into our hands and it was mostly my tunes and my band. We just went in and did the best we could and try and get inspired.
MR: What year was that?
MC: Around 1987, when La Bamba was happening. For some reason, the Ronnie thing and La Bomba kinda blurs together. For some reason, I had never heard that stuff until a few years later after Alan passed away and I really loved it. These were the sweetest versions of these songs by far. It was a big deal for me too, I was just as crazy about those Phil Spector records as Alan was. I really went to school on those records.
MR: Loved your La Bamba stint. Over the last few months, I've been lucky enough to get a couple of Ronnie Spector interviews, one for HuffPost and another for PBS specials that were filmed in Pittsburgh. She's a beauty, so lovable.
MC: Yeah. I really like her. She is really interesting, that's for sure.
MR: "You're My Favorite Waste Of Time" was covered by Ronnie as well, right?
MC: Yes, I guess she did. That's on the record.
MR: Also, "Whenever You Are On My Mind," Ronnie did that, and also Marti Jones.
MR: And "Something's Gonna Happen," was covered by Ronnie, and also by Robert Gordon whose cover of your song "Someday, Someway" was a hit.
MC: Robert Gordon. That was another thing that was a real turning point in my life, me pounding the pavement trying to get stuff out there and I dropped a cassette tape off at Richard Gottehrer's apartment building. I just gave it to the doorman and said, "Give this to Richard Gottehrer." Strangely enough, that thing actually found its way to him and it turned into something.
About three weeks after I did that, I got a message on my answering machine. It was Robert Gordon. He found "Someday, Someway" when I didn't mean for him to because I was keeping that song for myself. It wasn't one that I actually played for him. It was on the back of a tape I gave him that had something else on it and he heard it and said, "I gotta have that." That's the one for me. So he did it and it was great, it was a big, big radio hit in New York at the same time And "Something's Gonna Happen" was a big hit. So boom, we were a local band playing all the clubs. I loved all that. We had two songs on the radio. We were the biggest hot dogs in the city. That was quite cool.
MR: Let's go back for some folks playing catch-up. How did you get from Detroit to New York?
MC: I got to be 22 years old, and I realized I needed to get out of the Detroit area, so, I did. I scraped together whatever money I could--I sold an amp, a guitar, and I went out first to California with a friend of mine from high school and that didn't work out very well. I went on the road with a country western lounge band, and on that trip, I responded to a classified ad in Rolling Stone that led to me getting into Beatlemania. I went to New York...I had never planned on going to New York, it was the farthest thing from my mind. That was in 1978. My wife and I had gotten married in March of '78 and she had already been to New York City before. My brother was there going to The Institute of Audio Research living in Spanish Harlem. I got to New York City with my wife and the first day I was there, I just fell completely in love with it. The first night I was there, I said, "This is it." So, hallelujah, eureka and all that good stuff.
MR: How long did your stint with Beatlemania last?
MC: I was with Beatlemania for close to two years and then I quit and started down a different road.
MR: Your first album Marshall Crenshaw is a real classic of that era. Look at the songs that are on that. "Someday, Someway," "Girls," "I'll Do Anything," "Rockin' Around In NYC," "She Can't Dance"...to many, these are all essentials.
MC: I'm glad.
MR: What do you think is the reason for your first album's success?
MC: Well, it was good. The stuff was really well written. There was a discernible viewpoint that came across. It captured something, a statement was being made. We generated a lot of excitement in New York City from grassroots and built it up in less than a year. We had it really nailed down, but things got tricky after that.
MR: And you followed that album with Field Day, Downtown. I especially loved that Warners run.
MC: I did five albums for Warner Brothers. Let me tell you this, when I signed with Warner Brothers, I had another offer on the table for more money but I went with Warner Brothers because I liked the people better. But if I had been a more pragmatic type of person, I would have gone with the other label. I think they wanted us more and they were going to spend more money. So, I went with Warner Brothers.
I don't know, show business was very jarring to me. I just had no way to prepare for it. I got ambivalent pretty fast and that was not good because you have to be completely focused and driven, and you have to have your ducks lined up in a row. When it came to creating the art and the music, I knew what I wanted and was able to achieve most of it. I had that part of it nailed down, but when I had to venture out into the world--be in show business and conquer territory--I hadn't thought any of that through. I got caught that way.
MR: Marshall, what was that other label that put the offer out?
MR: Yeah, in the early '80s, RCA was a strong company.
MC: They were hot, but let me explain. I go over to Warner Brothers and hang out. Karen Berg was my A&R person, she's no longer on this earth unfortunately, but I loved her right up until the last. It was just fun to go up there and hang out and they would take me out to a really cool restaurant. It was just really fun to be with them. I remember I had this meeting at RCA. There was a gal there that wanted to sign me, she was really sweet and I really liked her. We sat in a conference room with no windows with her, my manager, some other guy and the president of the label--just the four or five of us. No windows. They had food cooked in-house, and they brought that in for us to eat. It was dodgy, you know? So that's why I went with Warner Brothers. It was just more fun.
MR: Monday morning quarterbacking in the music business can be pretty painful. But you did sign with Warners.
MC: Yeah. And the other thing I didn't know about was that there was this big schism between the east and west coasts at Warner Brothers, and I was an east coast signing. I didn't know any of this. Funny how things turn out, but that's what happened.
MR: By the way, I think your knowledge of music is phenomenal. Who do you think are the most important artists in rock music?
MC: Sam Phillips, Earl Palmer, Chuck Berry.
MC: All you have to do is go back and listen to the Beatles early records. They weren't writing anything down, or taking notes. They had a broad based knowledge about pop music and they used it to the best of their abilities.
MR: Marshall, you still know your music inside out.
MC: I know a lot of stuff. This is my life's work. When I was a kid, I barely cared about anything outside of music. I wouldn't describe myself that way now. I have a cool life with a lot of different things that I'm passionate about, But as a kid, everything was boring to me except Rock 'n' Roll. As time went on, I got interested in other forms of music. I read about it, I thought about it. I just crammed my brain full of all this stuff and I just loved it, you know? I worked on a film earlier this year called Losers Take All as executive music producer, I had to round up the original songs. It's a movie about an aspiring rock band. It's all about the mid '80s to early '90s and the early Indie scene and punk rock. I feel like now, if there is any kind of pop music, I can empathize with it in some way or another and I have at least some knowledge of it. I am good at research too. I am old now at 57, and I have a lot of knowledge and experience with creating, understanding and playing it. I have been playing guitar since I was ten years old, I have been a musician all my life.
MR: Given the state of the music business, how do you feel about young artists coming on the scene now.
MC: There has never been any kind or road map or rule book. You have to get the lay of the land and figure out what to do. That's how it's always been. There is less to aspire to in terms of grabbing the brass ring, it's up to the person who is out there trying to do it. It's up to them to figure it out. When it was my time to figure it out, I figured it out. It was just a matter of looking around and knowing that at this moment this is what I can do, so I'll do it. Anybody starting out now has to do that, but yeah, I know, the whole shape of it is different now.
MR: Given all of that, do you have any advice for new artists?
MC: Try to be good. All my life--and you can point to any moment in time that I have been listening to pop music--there has always been a lot of formulaic stuff. Now, it seems like the mass culture stuff. I know it's for young people, so I am not necessarily supposed to get it, I just wouldn't give 95% of it the time of day. But that's a typical old person's point of view. There are all these short cuts and autotune, all kinds of ways to manipulate information and turn it into something. You can take anything and turn it into anything. I guess I don't have any good advice for anybody starting out other than good luck.
MR: (laughs) You know, virtually all of the artists I interview, when the discussion of "autotuning" comes up, love to trash it.
MC: I feel like a jerk even saying that and taking that approach because there is always some older person looking down at what young people are doing and saying, so I'm not going to say that. There really is a lot of great stuff out there all up and down the food chain and age scale. I am continually consuming new stuff.
MR: Still, we're a culture that would rather play Guitar Hero and Rock Band than play the actual instrument.
MC: It's funny. I was reading the book called You Are Not a Gadget by a guy named Jaron Lanier. He is one of the pioneers of the Internet and the developer of computers as we know them today. He was giving a warning about all this stuff and how it can have detrimental effects on people's brains. I swear to God, I caught myself while reading the book wanting to go downstairs and check my email, wanting to turn on the TV for a few minutes. I was wanting to do eight or nine other things while I was reading the book. Just that right there taught me a real lesson to just do one thing at a time. Just think one thought at a time. I am making myself do that. My daughter is texting all the time, but my kids do have good manners about it. If someone is talking to them, they won't sit there and text. We are all just trying to understand all this junk.
MR: I know, we all are. There is something addictive to virtually everything we do now in pop culture and communication.
MC: I have gone back. I don't like it. A while back, I found a bunch of emails on this disc I sent and received when I first got my computer--data from an old computer that we had gotten rid of. I was looking at these emails and they were letters...long and grammatically correct, with paragraphs. They were so interesting, and I have really gotten away from that. But I am going back to that. Not going to let this stuff beat me.
MR: (laughs) Is there a way to survive in this culture without investing in all of these gadgets?
MC: I can do it, I've got it in perspective now. So, wish me luck.
MR: What else is on the Marshall Crenshaw front?
MC: I do a radio show on WKZE on Wednesday nights at 9pm, ET. It's WKZE.com. I bring in my records from home or what's in my back pocket.
MR: What do you play?
MC: Whatever I feel like playing. I run my mouth, play these records, and people really love it. I have been doing it for a while. In 2005 and 2006 and then again last year, I started again. It's ongoing and burgeoning. Record-wise I've got this project that I want to do. I want to do actual vinyl singles, one every three months for two years. It's going to be vinyl and downloads for me from now on--no CDs in the foreseeable future. Each one of these singles will have a new song of mine on one side and then a double b-side with a cover tune. I did some remakes last year of some of my '80s stuff so I would have versions of them that I own myself. It came out really good. They aren't slavish remakes, they are very true to their original versions. They are worthy, so I thought I would put one of those on each of the b-sides of the single, it will be a double b-side with a cover tune and a remake of one of my old tunes.
MR: Are you going to get to "Cynical Girl"?
MR: Love that one. Do you have a record lined-up yet?
MC: I do. The first one of the A sides is going to be "I Don't See You Laughing Now." The b-side is one by The Move called "No Time." This is a beautiful song, and I interpreted it as being a song about the end of the world which I think is pretty timely these days. I also did a Nilsson song a few years ago called "Don't Forget Me." I also did a version of "Baby, The Rain Must Fall."
MR: What is your favorite song of all time? Do you have one?
MC: I did my radio show this week as a tribute to Aretha Franklin. I heard about her failing health I'm sorry to say. That really shook me up. At the end of the show, I said, "This is my favorite Aretha record and possibly my favorite record ever, 'Until You Come Back To Me,' by Aretha Franklin." I used to obsess over that record, and I recently met Hugh McCracken, the guy who plays guitar on that song, and it was a gas for me to meet him and tell him how much I loved that record. So, that is one of my favorite records of my lifetime. I also really love "When You Walk In The Room" by Jackie DeShannon. I love her.
MR: How about albums?
MC: My brother John and I were sitting around on either Christmas or Thanksgiving half-inebriated, and were trying to come up with a list of the top ten rock albums of all time, and we came up with Bo Diddley's 16 All-Time Greatest Hits, Fun House by The Stooges, and The Ventures In Space. We then stopped because we couldn't think of any other albums as good as those three.
MR: Thanks so much for your time and years of friendship, Marshall.
MC: Oh yeah. I enjoyed it too man. It's always nice to talk to you.
MR: Seriously, all the best in the future.
Transcribed by Ericka Richards
A Conversartion with If By Yes' Petra Haden
Mike Ragogna: Hi, Petra. So? How did the If By Yes project come together?
Petra Haden: Yuka and I started writing songs together nearly ten years ago. I would visit her in NY and stay with her at her lower east side apartment and we would just sit and write songs almost every day. It was a lot of fun and very relaxed. Eventually, we had enough songs for a record and thought it would be a great idea to release them. A couple years ago, we played some of our music for Hirotaka "Shimmy" Shimizu and Yuko Araki from Cornelius. They loved it, so we all decided it would be great if we collaborated together. Yuka and I are such fans of them, so it made sense to work together.
MR: David Byrne is one of your guests, how did you snag him?
PH: We were listening back to one of our songs originally called, "Carry Me Away," which I sang in gibberish. I was working on lyrics to the song, but was having trouble. I thought David Byrne would be perfect to write words because the song has a special kind of groove to it, I thought it needed his touch. So, we sent him the song and asked if he would be interested in helping out. He wrote back and said he would work on it, and he recorded his vocals and sent them to us just as a guide. "Eliza" became the name of the song. Hearing what he wrote in place of my gibberish was a trip. I thought it would be cool if we were singing together, so I asked him if we could use his track and he was cool with it.
MR: How would you describe the music of If By Yes?
PH: Electronic, smooth rock.
MR: How did this group assemble?
PH: One day, back in the 90's, I stopped by the offices of our record company. I heard a song called "Sugar Water." It was being played so loud, it vibrated the window shades. Usually, I cover my ears if someone plays music that loud, but this song was different. It put me in another world. My mind was blown and all I could do was close my eyes and wonder, "Who is the genius behind this?" The song was by Yuka Honda's band Cibo Matto. Soon after that, I met Yuka and her band. We started hanging out and became friends. Yuka played me some of her music. It was so pretty and moving, I thought we should work together. We made each other laugh and I knew we would work well together.
Yuka gets me. That's what makes us writing together so special and different. One of the many things I love about her is that she appreciates my using random syllables instead of lyrics. She wanted to work that into our music. I have been self-conscious about writing words and she was always supportive on our process of writing words to our songs. Whether it was collaborating with friends/family, or writing on my own. After we had something recorded, I'd write describing a dream I had. My sister Tanya is a good creative writer, so I gave her one of the songs and she came up with the lyrics.
When I wasn't in New York, Yuka would email me tracks when the arrangements were done. If I had another vocal idea, I'd add it. She'd incorporate it and send it back and I'd approve it. I loved everything she did. She made the original demos of the songs in her apartment on the Lower East Side. Sometimes she'd fly to L.A. and we'd record in a studio out here, or in Keigo (Cornelius) Oyamada's studio in Japan.
MR: How did the group get signed to Sean Lennon's label?
PH: Sean is a good friend who I have known and worked with for years. Somehow, it just made sense.
MR: Petra, who are your influences?
PH: My musical influences come from artists I've grown up listening to, such as Pat Metheny, Bach, The Bulgarian Female Vocal Choir, Steve Reich, Michael Jackson, Cheap Trick, Erik Satie, Rachmaninoff, Debussy... There is so much!
MR: Being the daughter of jazzer Charlie Haden, did you study jazz more than any other field of music or did you have more of an appreciation for it over other forms of music?
PH: The way I studied jazz was by growing up around it. I love all kinds of music. When I listen to Bill Frisell, Miles Davis or Keith Jarrett, I also hear classical in there too. Some popular music these days, I feel has classical and jazz influences and when I recognize that sound, that's what draws me into the music more.
MR: The album opens with the smooth "You Feel Right" which seems like the album's emphasis track, and it was mixed by Cornelius. What were the recording and creative processes like?
PH: The original version of "You Feel Right" was recorded a long time ago and it sounds quite different than the remix. The original has more of a "lounge" feel to it, I think. It was so interesting to hear what Keigo did. It was like listening to an Albert Einstein new math equation. He turned it into something so different, yet kept the same emotion. So, that experience to me was pretty wild! When I first heard it, I said out loud, "OH MY GOD! How did he DO that?"
MR: What were your experiences like in Japan?
PH: Yes, I've been to Japan. The first time I visited Japan was in 2005 when I played with The Foo Fighters. It was a short stay and our show went very well. The second time was when If By Yes played a show with The Goastt and Yoko Ono about a year and a half ago. This time, my stay was longer so I was able to do some cool sight seeing with Yuko Araki who was kind enough to show me around. It was beautiful and can't wait to go back!
MR: Is "Eliza" about anyone in particular?
PH: It's about someone living in a mobile home out in Lancaster or Barstow or someplace like that--only freeways, powerlines and semi-abandoned developments around.
MR: "Imagino" is a beautiful mix of pop, electronic and trance, and it represents the passion that flows through the album. Did you find that this collection of songs touched you more deeply than perhaps some of your earlier work?
PH: "Imagino" was one of the first songs Yuka and I wrote together, so it does touch me in a different way than some of the other songs on the album. It makes me think of memories. Plus, my sister Tanya helped me write these lyrics and that makes it even more special.
MR: On a few of these tracks, you challenge your vocal range. Do you feel this project made you grow as a vocalist?
PH: I'm growing as a vocalist every time I sing. I learn something new about my voice everyday. From singing while being on hold, to recording a sea shanty. A song so simple can be even more challenging than trying to sing three octaves!
MR: Do you have any advice for new artists?
PH: Take care of yourself and have fun.
MR: What does the future hold for Petra Haden and If By Yes?
PH: I try and focus on today and am so happy that we made a great sounding record. I'm looking forward to playing our up coming shows.
1. You Feel Right
2. Eliza - with David Byrne
3. Three As Four
5. Still Breathing
6. In My Dreams
7. Shadow Blind
8. You're Something Else
9. Out Of View
10. Lightning In Your Eyes
A Conversation with Cory Mon & Wes Kirkpatrick
Mike Ragogna: Hi guys, please would you go into what mandated your starting up the label My Forlorn Wallet?
Cory Mon: Wes I and created My Forlorn Wallet Records out of absolute necessity. In our current "struggling to be heard, noticed and properly and affectionately represented position" we created our own record label for a handful of reasons.
1. We retain all the profit
2. We play by our own rules, create our own image and put out the exact music that we wish to create.
3. It gives us a professional platform from which to pitch and expose our music to the music industry.
In today's world of music, it seems that there are less labels looking and, of those labels looking, they have become extremely conservative with the "risks" or bands that they are taking a chance on. It also seems that the "little guy" has more opportunities than in the past. It's still loads and loads of work but an independent, or one's "own" record label, seems to hold a bit more clout these days. But maybe that's just because our music and professional representation of such has improved.
Wes Kirkpatrick: Like Cory said. In today's day and age, there aren't really that many artists being signed to major labels. A lot of my favorite artists were on major labels at one point, but left to pursue the independent route for one reason or another. While touring together, Cory and I realized we had a lot of the same goals for ourselves and a strong passion for music and it just seemed like the right thing to do. It's definitely hard work building towards what we want to be, but we get to build it our way and that's what was most appealing to us.
MR: Cory, would you call Cory Mon & The Starlight Gospel's Turncoats a concept album?
CM: No, not necessarily. It was a tough album to record. mix, pay for and eventually finish. The recording ended with a partial break up of the band. In the end we entitled it "Turncoats" embracing the turmoil rather than pretending that it wasn't our most difficult venture yet.
MR: What was it like working with producer Chad Weiss?
CM: We recorded and mixed our previous record 6 Days in the Devil's Workshop with him at his studio in Minnesota. All went smoothly. So, we decided to do another record together this time changing the approach. After the first week of recording Turncoats, Eric, Chad and I sat around a table at Del Taco where Chad told us, "This is the most depressing record I have ever worked on." One and a half weeks later, upon completion of the recording, Chad exclaimed, "This may end of being the finest record I've ever worked on." So, yeah, we ran into a lot of issues along the way but recovered with the heart of a table tennis champion. By the time we went into the recording of Turncoats, we were great friends with Chad and that made the dynamic different than they had previously been. We were all comfortable with one another, thus it led to a lot more "butting of heads," etc. But in the end, it was the true friendship that got us through it. Had we experienced the same set of "lows" with less of a friend, I'm not sure if this record would have ever been completed or released.
MR: What went into creating the songs? Is that your usual process or is that different from your Six Days In The Devil's Workshop and Clatter Racket projects?
CM: We did take a different approach from our last two projects. First, we flew Chad out to our home in Utah and we set up a guerilla style recording studio in the basement using flipped over couches and foam pads to create our ISO booth etc. We came at it with the skeleton--the lyrics and basic chord structure of the song in place--and layered it all on, whereas 6 Days... was a studio recording of live performances with minimal additional layering and Clatter Racket was a live show taping and recording. Most of the production ideas came through guitar jamming and working things out between Eric, Chad and myself. We decided to go with all guitars on this album rather than keys, which we used a lot in the past two projects, for padding, etc. We had ten songs picked out from the get go, but due to the fact that we were recording and sleeping at home, it gave us time to write two songs--thus kicking two of the originally planned songs to the curb--that ended up on the album.
MR: Wes, since Naps & Nightmares is your solo debut, how does it feel to have a your own project?
WK: It's a great feeling to finally have it finished. Going into the recording process there was definitely a little extra pressure knowing that if it didn't go as well as planned there was nobody to blame but myself. Luckily I had a pretty good idea of how I wanted everything to be going into it and there weren't really any big objections which made for a pretty smooth process.
CM: What's the story behind the making of Naps & Nightmares?
WK: Naps & Nightmares was many things before it was Naps & Nightmares. I think it went through at least three other album titles, songs being added, songs being dropped, songs being added again after being dropped just to be dropped again, and so on before settling on the final project. The actual name Naps & Nightmares came from the recording process itself. Spending the evenings at Chad's former studio, the kind of building that you were always looking over your shoulder as you weaved down the long creaky hallways, I would have this recurring dream that I woke in a dark black room to the silhouette of someone standing over and staring at me. After the dreams, I'd just lie awake for what seemed like hours. So, during the day, I'd have to nap during any downtime in recording to be able to make it through the day. A few months following the recording, my guitar player asked about the writing of several songs, and it led to us talking about the crazy nightmares. We would refer to the recording as a bunch of naps and nightmares, which stuck.
MR: What went into writing the songs and creating the recordings?
WK: A lot of these songs were written in the middle of the night. I'd wake up with a line or melody in my head and a strong feeling to just get up and write. I'm not really one to sit down and try to write a song, I definitely work best when the process comes about organically and I'm not trying to force it. I had the main six or seven songs that I knew were going to be on the record going into it. I had been playing some of them live for years and never got too tired of playing them, which to me, was a really good sign. I get tired of my own songs quickly and just have a hard time listening to myself in general, so the fact that these songs stuck around for so long made me believe they were meant to be on the album. Once in the studio, it was just a matter of playing through some of the other ones and seeing which ones jumped out at us to round out the album.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
CM: Patience, time, it all takes time. I tell myself this daily and imagine that I will continue to tell myself this from here on out. There are ebbs and flows, and dry spells and high times as an artist, and I try to embrace both. Understanding, embracing this fact is my only road to sanity.
WK: I think the main thing I would say is just to keep plugging away. There are definitely times where things are rough, everything feels like it's going against you and you want to give up, but if you stay focused on the music and the bigger picture it will definitely help. There will always be dry spells. The key is to be patient and just fight through them however you can. Keep writing, keep playing and just try to enjoy the fun parts of being a musician to get through the tough times.
1. 3 Step
5. Dr Pleasure MD
6. Colors Fade
7. Short Song
8. Broken Train
10. Lover Come Home
Naps & Nightmares Tracks:
3. Away From You
6. So Long
7. Where You Are
8. Better Than Today
9. Waiting By the Window