Guitarist and vocalist Andy Thomas of Denver's rootsy, folksy, Tom Waits-inspired punk rockers Tin Horn Prayer has just released a beautifully dark and brooding new solo album called "Wicked, Dark" (Scroll down to listen to the new album below) and hopes to use the money he raises by selling this record to fund the publishing of his very first novel, "Hell is in New Jersey."
Thomas recently chatted with The Huffington Post about the new music and book.
Who are you?
I'm Andy Thomas, of course. I play music, I am an aspiring writer and I'm nice as fuck.
What inspired you to do a solo record outside of your critically acclaimed Tin Horn Prayer project?
I'm always writing songs and a lot of them just don't fit the spirit of Tin Horn Prayer. The songs on the this record are notably darker and slower than anything we've ever done as a band. Whenever I start strumming a guitar, it's pretty obvious early on what type of song it is going to turn into. Some I keep for myself and some I bring to the band. Lately I've been writing a bunch of pop-punk songs -- who the hell knows what those will turn into.
What can fans expect from Andy Thomas' Dust Heart?
Most of these songs stemmed from a somewhat failed attempt at writing songs based on Coen Brothers' movies. I had a plan to watch all 15 of them and write a song about each. I think I wrote twelve of them and as I was gearing up to make the final push, I realized that I didn't identify with all of the themes and lacked inspiration for the final three. For me, even when writing songs about other people's stories I have to find some personal parallels with them or the end result will lack inspiration. Although I gave up on the project, I noticed that songs I felt close to all contained similar themes and I decided to keep them, write a few more songs in the same vein and release this album.
Do you play all the instruments, write all the songs for ATDH?
I wrote all of the songs on this album, sang, played guitar and drums. I had some help from some pretty notable people; My gorgeous and talented girlfriend Jen GaNun lent her vocal abilities to three of the songs, my longtime friend and all around genius of a musician, Ian Cooke played cello on a few tracks and Dameon Merkl from Bad Luck City sang on and wrote his part for the Murder Ballad "Simple Solution." He sang from the perspective of a man being buried alive and I sang from the perspective of the guy doing the digging. It's a love song.
What kind of themes are you exploring lyrically? What kind of sounds are you interested in for this project?
As the title suggests, the subject matter on this record is pretty heavy and dark. I took a lot of themes from those Coen Brothers movies which largely seemed to be about being over-matched and not being able to keep pace with the world. The album suggests ways of combating this are detachment, denial, escape and finally acceptance. The enormity of the world has become very overwhelming to me these days. Writing songs about it seems to be the only cure.
When can we see ATDH live?
I am playing at the Marquis Theatre on March 20th with The 4onthefloor and And The Black Feathers. I also have a solo tour with Arliss Nancy planned in May. Once I figure out a way to get this album physically released I'll probably do a release show as well.
How are you releasing "Wicked, Dark"?
For now I am just releasing it digitally on my Bandcamp page. I am using the funds from the files to go towards self-publishing my first novel, "Hell is in New Jersey."
What is "Hell is in New Jersey" about?
It's loosely based/inspired by a short story by Etgar Keret called "A Souvenir of Hell." My story is about a guy named Dylan who has worked at Outer Shell gift shop for eleven years. The Outer Shell is located next to the exit from Hell, where inhabitants march in a straight line out of the exit, by the gift shop and back through the entrance. This was once a cultural phenomenon, now nobody cares.
Dylan lives this bleak and unfulfilling life and wants to escape so badly that he eventually ends up in Hell trying to pursue one the dead women from the line.
When I started it it was supposed to be a funny and quirky story, but I realized very early on that when you write about sin and Hell you have to touch on some pretty heavy subject matter. So, while it has comedic elements to it, the book, like the album, came out wicked dark. Sorry, ma!
What inspired you to write a book?
It was always the big goal for me. No matter how many albums I've put out over the years I still felt I was being lazy if I didn't sit down and finally finish a book. I've had tons of false starts over the years but, for some reason, I stuck with this one until the end. I was also unemployed a for a few months when I started this book and that always helps your creative drive.
Does music writing and fiction writing feel similar to you? Different? Why? Did you find one to be harder than the other?
Writing a book is much more difficult. There is just so much more to keep track of when you're writing a novel. When you finish a song, it's a lot easier to go back through and double check to make sure all of the themes line up and that you didn't forget anything. With a book, that's the hardest part. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank my editor, Janice GaNun, because there's no way I can go back through and edit this book any further without getting a migraine.
Why did you decide to self-publish?
Partly because no one wants to publish it! Ha! I didn't make a big push for it, I sent it to a couple people that a never heard back from. It seems like a pretty exhausting process that I'm not sure I understand or have time for. I made it past the first round of the Amazon Break Through Novelist contest and thought I had it made. They just announced the next round and I was not among the survivors.
Self-publishing just seems to be the way to go these days, you have more control over every aspect of it. As a musician, I got used to the DIY way of putting things out but, if there are any publishers out there in Huffington Post land that want a shot at the book I'll gladly send it and my left arm your way!
Will you be doing any readings of the book?
Well, I do have one of the smoothest reading voices out there so it's definitely a possibility. I think when it's out I'd prefer to get some of my friends to play a show and I'll set up a table, sign copies and trade them for beers. That seems like the punk rock way to do it!
For tickets and more information about Andy Thomas' Dust Heart show, visit Marquis Theater's website.