A Conversation with Adam Duritz
Mike Ragogna: Adam, the Echoes Of The Outlaw Roadshow continues pretty much into the summer and with Toad The Wet Sprocket.
Adam Duritz: Yeah, pretty much. Daniel And The Lion is coming out with us too. So yeah, it should be a lot like last time.
MR: What has the evolution been like as far as the road shows?
AD: I don't know if it's changed all that much. We were always changing the set every night and we still do, there's no big plan for it. We play whatever we want that night. We've always done that.
MR: Have you become comfortable enough with your music that you're able to emphasize other elements of communicating or connecting with the audience beyond the songs themselves?
AD: The music's changed from the very beginning, it's constantly in a state of evolution. Songs are different every night. The communication that goes on is between you and the guys you're playing with. The audience doesn't really have to do anything, they're there to be entertained as far as I'm concerned. They're not really a part of it. It's you and the guys you're playing with, and that communication is constantly turned on and constantly evolving through the songs. I'm sure they are very different now than they were twenty years ago, but they were different the first week of the first tour than they were the second week of the first tour. That's a constant thing. We've never felt the need to play the song the way it was on the record. There's no slavery to that.
MR: Right, because they're coming for a different experience. If they want to hear the record, they've got the record.
AD: No, it's more that we're there every night. The record was just one moment, and I like it. It's a moment that you try to capture in time and be as good as it can be, but you're not necessarily going to feel the exact same way you play a song. It's more important to me to play it how you're feeling than it is to try to recapture some exact moment that doesn't really matter anyways. For us, this is how the song stays fresh and doesn't get boring. To me, it's still still interesting playing every night because I think we haven't been trying to reproduce something over and over again by rote, and as a result I'm not bored with playing shows. That's not an audience thing.
MR: Most of the time, your band is on the road rather than recording in the studio. What has the evolution been like for the members of Counting Crows due to that?
AD: I'm not sure. We've been putting on shows for a long time, but I'm not sure it's like a lifestyle. Sometimes you're on the road, sometimes you're at home. I do think that being a musician involves three very important parts of the job: One of them is creating something from nothing, writing and composing; the time that you spend in the studio when you're really trying in a very concentrated manner to crystalize something into what seems like a lasting, perfect form. I think that's really important. I can't stress how important I think making records is. But I also think that once that's done and it's there for people to listen to and you've created this work that hopefully lasts, then you go out and play every night and that's a different thing entirely. You filter your life through the songs every night and the song come out differently. Or by the same token it makes you filter your songs through your life, but the point is that they come out differently every night, and that's an ongoing experience. But that's kind of the same as it's always been. That's sort of a philosophy about it that I probably had at the very beginning, that they were all really equally important. No one more important than the other, but those three things, to be the kind of band that we are you have to do all three of those things.
MR: How have some of these songs changed perspective or grown for you over the years?
AD: I think especially on the first album where we didn't know how to play that well, songs got a lot better on the road. I love that record for the songs that it has on it but there are performances that I don't think are up to par on that record because we weren't that good at it yet and we didn't know how to do what we were doing. But all of the songs change that way not because it's like, "This is what I meant to say." That's more the first album, where I just could've sung them better. I didn't know them that well. They also change because you change. The way you look at the experiences in a song is different now than it was then. It's always going to be a reflection of the experiences that you've had in your life since then. And that's true of every song. It's impossible to not look at them a little differently as you're going through them because you've had different experiences. Even as simple of a thing as you thought of a different melody for one part and then you go there. I don't even notice it sometimes but there are some melodies that I've been singing a certain way for years and years and I didn't realize I changed the record melodies until one happens to come on the radio one day and I'm like, "Whoa, that is really different from how I'm singing it nowadays." So I don't necessarily notice that.
MR: Are there things that you do differently now before you go out on a tour?
AD: Not so much beforehand, but there's things I do on tour. I'm the one person with a real physical instrument to play every night and it's vulnerable in ways that everyone else's stuff isn't. The guitars are vulnerable to temperature changes but essentially you can always use another guitar, they don't wear down the same way, but my voice does. When we were younger I had a lot more fun out there in between shows, but I feel really bad when I f**k up something... Because you can lose your voice and that's like a whole city. It's just one of forty concerts that summer for you, but it's the only one they were going to. So you have to be really careful about risking that shit because for all the best reasons in the world a town may never forgive you for the experience of driving out one night to do something fun and then they get there and the show's cancelled. Even if there's a perfrectly good reason, it doesn't matter, they still may never forgive you for it, so you have to be really careful about doing that. Keeping a career going for this long is very much a result of consistency and being dependable for people in that, even though you don't think of it in that kind of a work form, but the truth is, it is. So I'm a lot more careful, I don't do much on tour except for play shows nowadays. I used to go out more. Even just going out to have dinner, the noise level in a restaurant's pretty high, so just talking in can wipe your voice out. We're playing two-plus hour shows every night, that's a lot of strain.
I used to have a lot of problems and have to take a lot of steroids and stuff to keep my voice together. I sort of stopped doing that because it was killing me, but without that, I really have to be careful about f**king around too much when I'm out there. I'm really careful about it. One simple thing, I have a warmup I've done for years. It's about twenty-five minutes, I do it before soundcheck in the afternoon, I do it before the show at night, always. Then a couple years ago I got some additional sets of exercises that were more therapeutic for your voice, and I added those in the afternoon, so my afternoon warmup before soundcheck is now more like forty minutes long. So I do an extra long thing in the afternoon before singing and I think that helps me out. I think it keeps my voice stronger. I've been singing longer shows with no problems than I've ever done before in my life and it shouldn't really work that way, as I get older it should get harder and harder, but my voice sounds a lot stronger and I think it has to do with those warmups. It could also be some ritual that's just making me feel more comfortable and it's just a placebo. But there's nothing that I really do off the road other than that I have a packing list in my phone so that I know what to take with me when I leave on tour, so I don't forget things.
MR: Are there any particular microphones you insist on when on the road?
AD: Probably, but I don't know which ones they are, really. There's a mic that we've used for years in the studio for me that works really well, it's been the best one for my voice. I don't know the brand or type, but I recognize it seeing it. That's not really my thing. We'll use one mic on stage that I really like, but my monitor guy who's also our production manager comes to me and says, "Hey, will you try this different thing out at sound check?" and I say, "Sure." I'll work through them and see how they feel, maybe he feels like they're more durable so he wants to check if they sound good and how I feel about them. We test things out all the time, but I don't really worry about that part of it because I don't need to. There's so many other things I need to deal with on the road that I can't be collecting mics, too. I'm running the whole business of the band so I don't really have time for mics.
MR: Has the connection gotten stronger with the fans over the years? Are you growing with them as a family?
AD: Oh I don't know. I've always been really involved in the social media component of things. When I moved to LA, which was like 1995, before we made Recovering The Satellites, I realized that AOL had these message boards, like forums, for every band. Well, not every band, probably, but a shitload of bands. And I found that there was a Counting Crows forum on there and there were people writing and posting and talking about shows and being worried about whether the band was going to be back or questions about what the next album was going to be like, there was all this stuff and I thought, "Well, this is interesting. I could communicate directly with people instead of through the press or through interviews or through radio stations. I could just talk to people!" And this was like twenty years ago, way before Twitter and Facebook. It just occurred to me that it was an interesting thing. The way the music business was set up for years, everything was set up through intermediaries. You went through your record company--you couldn't make records without one because it was too expensive--you didn't talk to your fans save for signing autographs after a show, maybe.
That's the thing; the internet seemed very different to me. Even in 1995, I thought it was a really good idea, so I started writing on the message board, and it took me a while to convince people it was me, but eventually I did, and that started a running conversation between me and our fans that's been going on ever since then and continues on Facebook and Twitter. I always thought that was a good idea, so I always did it. I don't want to be disingenous about it, I don't know if we're family, because I don't know most of them. There are people I do know who I met twenty years ago or kids that I met a year ago in an MLB Fancave who's a really sweet kid. There's stuff like that, I know that I can see the same people that I've seen for twenty years popping up, but there's also eighteen year old kids in the front row who clearly weren't there twenty years ago because they didn't exist. The fact is that people don't stay obsessed. When you're young, especially college-aged, you're really into bands. You're really into listening to lots of music. You may be obsessed with going to see somebody every weekend when you're in college. There could be thirty bands that you absolutely love. Most people who aren't music geeks like me, as they get older it becomes two or three bands, maybe.
So I don't know whether they all stick together, but I do know that there is still on the message boards people planning trips together to go see shows, people get together with other people that they met on Twitter and messageboards and go to shows, I know that when Ryan Spaulding, my friend who runs the music blog Ryan's Smashing Life, when we started putting on the Outlaw Roadshow at CMJ and South By Southwest, people started coming in groups and talking to each other, people that were Counting Crows fans and people who were just music fans of indie bands. There's a network of people especially through the Outlaw Roadshow, people that can not wait to go to South By Southwest together or find each other down there or see us down there or come to CMJ and wander around. I do see a lot of those people. I don't know if it's a family of Counting Crows fans or just a family of musicians that play the Outlaw Roadshow that are friends and friends of friends and friends of their friends, but there does seem to be a network building around the road show.
MR: Nice. Yeah, I probably should've asked if your social media techniques make you feel more connected as the years pass by.
AD: I know musicians who, when they're on stage, it is really important to them that they communicate with the crowd and more importantly that the crowd loves everything that they do, and they struggle on nights when they're not getting the thunderous applause that they're used to. They have a hard time. They can confuse a bad show with a show where people are simply sitting down. It occured to me a long time ago that you're very vulnerable to that. To me, the place the show needs to be great is on stage. The people you need to communicate with are your band mates. You owe that because you have to be good every night, and you have to be good on a night when the audience isn't paying attention, because you know what? You still owe them that show. You still owe them the absolute best performance whether they're on their feet screaming the entire time or sitting down quietly, because there are still people out there who love it. It doesn't matter if they love it or hate it, it's not their responsibility as an audience to do anything as far as I'm concerned. If they want to fall asleep they can, they paid for the tickets. It's my responsibility to put on a great show, and so the people I've really got to be in touch with on stage, the family I've got to have is the band and to a certain extent the crew, because they're the ones I have to play with. If the audience doesn't clap at all, I've still got to be great. I've still got to play them a great song.
It occurred to me a long time ago that it wasn't about the connection between me and the audience. That does happen, and it's part of it, and I'm glad, obviously it works or they wouldn't come back, but I have to really pay attention to the connection on stage because I know people who are very, very vulnerable to confusing bad performances with good performances because they don't get the response they want. When I'm playing a great show, I know I'm playing a great show. I know guys, I've seen them play great shows, and they didn't know it was great. They thought it was shitty because no one was clapping or something and you'd see them peter out midway through the show because of it. That's not good. You still owe a show, there. I think you have to be great because someone out in the audience is obsessed no matter what. So I kind of never tried to make it about me and the audience. There's a connection that gets established every night nonetheless, and that is important, but it's not in the forefront of my thinking because I don't want to put the responsibility on people who paid for tickets to get there. I love when an audience is going crazy, it's really fun, but I don't want to put the responsibility on them and say, "Well, we didn't play a great show tonight, fuck you it's your fault." That just seems shitty to me. It's not their responsibility, so I don't feel like that's the first connection I try to make. I do feel like it's nevertheless made every night. But the one I'm looking for is at Jim [Bogios] on the drums and [David] Immy [Immerglück] on the guitar. Those are the connections that I'm really, really focused on during the show.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
AD: Music's something you should do if you have to do it. It's also a hobby for a lot of people, but it's not a hobby once you start doing it for your life. Hobbies are things people do for fun and the fact is that like every other kind of work, when you choose to spend your life doing something, it is not going to be fun all the time. You have to get through arguing with band mates and fighting over things that are important to you, things that you might not want to deal with if you're just playing on the weekends with a band. That's a hump every real musician has to get over, the point where they realize it's not just fun anymore. If you really want to love an arform it can't be based on just having fun, because it's not going to be. That's a hard thing to do. For a lot of people, that's not what they're in it for.
But if you've got to do it, then you should do it. I don't have any other advice than that because the truth is everybody who needs to express themselves should express themselves but most people expressing themselves will get no recognition, no monetary success, no public recognition because the truth is, and this is historically true, 99.999% of the time, no one notices. Which is not to say that you shouldn't still do it. In his lifetime absolutely no one bought a single painting that Van Gogh painted, but I'd hate to have been the guy who told him to stop painting, and thank god he didn't stop painting. Art needs to be made by artists, but you can't base that on recognition or monetary success, because the success is in the making of it. Everything else is fucking lucky if it works out. But it mostly doesn't! You've got to have satisfaction in doing it.
I was twenty-seven the first time anyone from a record company even came to see a band that I was in. I was twenty-eight when we got signed. That's like ten years in clubs. At some point in there, I made the decision I was going to do this with my life. It was clear to me that no one was ever going to see it. Things changed, and I got really lucky and all this crap happened, but I had made the decision before that and nothing had happened. Like I said, I was twenty-eight. I wasn't just starting out when I got signed. It's ten years. I have no regrets about it at all, but people have got to realize that. The success has got to be the success you feel for yourself about what you're doing. Not the clapping, not the money, that may never happen. You've just got to play for yourself. I'd encourage anyone to do it.
MR: And of course the road still continues, right?
Transcribed By Galen Hawthorne
Counting Crows North American Tour Dates
Date City Venue
May 16 Baltimore, MD Black-Eyed Susan Day/Pimlico Race Course
Jun 11 Tampa, FL Straz Center for the Performing Arts
Jun 12 Hollywood, FL Hard Rock Hotel
Jun 14 St. Augustine, FL St. Augustine Amphitheatre
Jun 15 Greenville, SC The Peace Concert Hall
Jun 17 Nashville, TN Ryman Auditorium
Jun 19 Lake Charles, LA L'Auberge de Lac Hotel & Casino
Jun 20 Robinsonville, MS Horseshoe Tunica
Jun 22 Atlanta, GA Chastain Park Amphitheatre
Jun 24 Charlotte, NC The Uptown Amphitheatre at The Music Factory
Jun 25 Raleigh, NC The Red Hat Amphitheater
Jun 27 Pittsburgh, PA Stage AE
Jun 28 Atlantic City, NJ Borgata Spas & Resort - Event Center
Jun 30 New York, NY Central Park Summer Stage
Jul 2 Boston, MA Blue Hills Bank Pavilion
Jul 5 Vienna, VA Wolf Trap for the Performing Arts
Jul 12 Somerset, KY Master Musicians Fest
Jul 14 Highland Park, IL Ravina Festival - Highland Park
Jul 15 Columbus, OH The LC Pavillion
Jul 15 Columbus, OH The LC Pavillion
Jul 17 Orillia, ON Casino Rama Entertainment Centre
Jul 18 Detroit, MI Motor City Casino Hotel
Jul 20 Cincinnati, OH Horseshoe Cincinnati
Jul 21 Grand Rapids, MI Meijer Gardens
Jul 23 Milwaukee, WI The Riverside Theater
Jul 25 St. Paul, MN The Myth
Jul 26 Council Bluffs, IA Harrah's Ballroom
Jul 29 Houston, TX Bayou Music Center
Jul 30 Austin, TX ACL Live
Aug 1 Tulsa, OK Hard Rock
Aug 2 Durant, OK Choctaw Casino Resort
Aug 4 Socorro, TX Socorro Entertainment Center
Aug 6 Tucson, AZ AVA Amphitheater
Aug 7 Phoenix, AZ Comerica Theatre
Aug 10 Las Vegas, NV Mandalay Bay Beach
Aug 12 Redmond, WA Marymoor Park
Aug 13 Portland, OR Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
Aug 15 Berkeley, CA Greek Theatre
Aug 17 Los Angeles, CA Greek Theatre
A Conversation with Glen Phillips
Mike Ragogna: So I hear Toad The Wet Sprocket is going on tour with Couting Crows soon!
Glen Phillips: Yes, that will be our summer vacation, which will be a lot of fun.
MR: And you guys have definitely toured together before.
GP: Yeah, we've toured in the past. Counting Crows was also the band that kind of got us back together. We've been broken up for maybe five years, and Adam asked if we would play a few shows opening for them and that was the first time we actually tried it out again. But yeah, we've been friends for a while. I've gone around with them solo. Toad played with them, I've known them since the day. I think Adam [Duritz] was actually on our mailing list from Pale-era, our first or second record back before Counting Crows got together.
MR: Pale, wow. Can you remember when Toad first got back together, did you end up feeling like, "Wow, this could work?" Was there a feeling of this being more permanent than one show?
GP: Honestly, initially no. [laughs] The first time we got back together was not a lot of fun.
MR: But it got better.
GP: Yeah, we were willing to play maybe four or five shows, maybe only three, and we stopped pretty much immediately. I don't think we tried again for another year or two. We would all like it to work, but we had a lot of history, a lot of stuff to get over. The good thing was we didn't air all our dirty laundry publicly, so we were able to do it on our own terms and get back together when we felt it was right and when we felt it was good. It took us a while to find our feet and get over the past but eventually we did it.
MR: When you got together, was there something obviously different from when you were younger?
GP: Yeah, you've got to let go of the past and also let go of unrealistic expectations, kind of re-accept everybody for who they are instead of who everybody wishes everybody else was and just kind of reconcile ourselves with reality. Once we managed to do that we could kind of accept each other for who we were and what we were now instead of any of this other strange stuff that we filled it with. We didn't even have a really aggressive break-up period, but you get used to telling stories a certain way and I think in the years we were apart myabe we got further away than we expected we would. But yeah, once again, it's been really cool to come back and I'm amazed that we managed to get to the point where making an album felt like something that would be fun and felt like something we all wanted to do and we were all excited about. We could've done a new record at any time as some business thing and it would've been the record that I think everybody would be scared of from a band that's broken up. We waited until we could make a real record, and make something with a lot of heart. Something that was the band again. We're all really proud of it.
MR: Let's talk about New Constellation. What went into making it? Was it like the old days or was there some new way you all approached creating the album?
GP: It wasn't really like the old days. In the old days it was really our only outlet, and sometimes we were feeling like we were all on the same team, sometimes it was more contentious--mostly we felt like we were on the same team--but it was where everything we wrote had to fit. The big difference for me was coming back to it and really treating it like a project, I guess, is the best way to say it. All of a sudden, it was like, "Hey, what is a Toad song? What does a Toad song sound like?" It was really cool to go in and try to write for the three part harmony and think of spaces for Todd [Nichols]' guitar and how the rhythm section's going to be doing it. I really enjoyed that part of it, just kind of asking what a Toad song was the first time. It used to be like everything was a Toad song unless we didn't play it. Now it's a different thing, it's a specific set of attributes.
MR: Did you use a more solo approach, sending each other tracks, or were you all together, playing as a band?
GP: It really depends on the song. There were some where we'd all just jump in and play together and other stuff that was built up. Some stuff we built out of demos. After we had broken up, we recorded a couple of songs for a Greatest Hits-style compilation that Sony had put together. I remember when we did that, it was our very first time ever recording on ProTools, after we broke up. We were always a tape band, so it was a very different thing to go into not recording on tap, being able to relax into that and bring stuff home. A lot has changed since Toad broke up. Those were a major sixteen years for recording; the world is a very different place now. But yeah, we still made it a Toad record.
MR: Are any of these tracks songs that you had with you for a while, but couldn't record for whatever reason?
GP: No, not really. The big thing that we found toward the end of the project was I had been writing much more in this upbeat modality just because it was fun to go, "I actually have a drummer, a bass player, I'm going to be in a rock band! I haven't done that in a long time!" I'd been doing much more solo acoustic and more folk or Americana-oriented stuff, so it was exciting to think about writing and we found ourselves with a lot of vaguely up-tempo--as up-tempo as Toad gets, we don't get crazy up-tempo--bouncy numbers, and we didn't necessarily have the quiet moments or the deep emotional moments. So I did go back into a couple of songs that I already had around but hadn't thought would be for the Toad record, that I was kind of thinking would be on my next solo thing, but in thinking about the arc of the record, we didn't want it to be one note. We wanted it to have some breadth to it, so some of those other songs came in just to flesh things out in a more emotional way.
MR: Personally, I always put you guys in with Gin Blossoms and Counting Crows, a really strong group of bands that, even if you weren't influenced by each other, were all at least grooving on the same vibe.
GP: Yeah, I think we were influenced by a lot of the same bands--The Replacements and Hüsker Dü and earlier Elvis Costello, U2, R.E.M.. There had been this group of bands that was called "college music" at the time maybe? I don't know if it even had a name, it was before they came up with "alternative." Also, there was a post-punk attitude where it was taking some of punk, removing the fashion and some of the aggression from punk but still kind of not feeling affiliated with the mainstream and wanting to claim some artistic identity that was outside of mainstream pop music. I think also because of that, it's more literary in general, especially a band like Counting Crows. There's a poetry to it. I don't know if we achieve that but I tried to aspire to it and the idea as well of being emotionally vulnerable, I guess. And instead of taking on a rock stance or an aggressive stance, it was about talking about your more--not necessarily weak points, but your vulnerability, I guess, is the best word for it. Where you're questioning life, where you're unsure. I think that group of bands...
There was always an amount of that. I remember when we started getting played on the radio, it was a very awkward time because there was all this music that was becoming increasingly aggressive again and we never felt like we totally fit in with that. We played all these radio shows and it would always be Henry Rollins and Hole and Green Day who I all thought were great but we were kind of the ugly stepchildren in that batch of bands. We didn't really fit in, and there was a second wave that included bands like Counting Crows that made us a little less alone in that realm.
MR: I think another aspect that the post-punk world held onto was an aggressiveness in the lyrics. I mean, your own "Hold Her Down" was pretty disturbing.
GP: That was the intent.
MR: [laughs] Yeah, it's the poster child for your point. "Hold Her Down" was so in your face. I guess that's also what happened in the post-punk world, people weren't afraid to be in each other's face anymore.
GP: Yeah. [laughs] I had my punk period; I still have those periods.
MR: What's the separation between Glen Phillips' solo material and Toad The Wet Sprocket? Are you doing both things simultaneously?
GP: Well, no, I did a quick record right before the Toad album just to kind of get it out of my system. I did a one microphone record called Coyote Sessions up at a friend's place on Coyote Road, hence the title. But I knew that Toad was going to be doing a much more extensive production-oriented recording process and I really enjoy getting in depth like that, though I also really enjoy making a manifesto and making a bunch of rules for myself so that I'll have a new challenge in the studio. Coyote Sessions was a single stereo mic, so instead of mixing anything after if the bass was too loud you'd just move him back a couple feet. It was a really interesting process. It was also the first record I'd done that was all Santa Barbara musicians, I didn't do a lot of work with people from Nashville or LA. It was just a bunch of friends, we hung out in this other friend's barn and everybody had to really concentrate and quiet down because whatever we played was the record. So it was fun, but it was kind of also a high pressure environment. I had a really good time making that, and I'm excited about doing another one once this Toad thing is more wrapped up. I still need to be in writing process for my next project, but I'm very excited about getting back to that side of things as well. I like variety.
MR: Speaking of variety, the cover artwork of New Constellation is gorgeous. I love the woods and the stars and the DNA strand reaching up to the sky with garbage.
GP: Thanks. My friend's wife Michelle brought up the idea of junk DNA, DNA basically made of trash. They were sitting around a fire, she suggested that, he drew it the next day and sent it in and that's the cover. Ben Ciccati is the artist on that, he's a really good friend, he lives just down the street from me.
MR: If the DNA's made out of junk, might the bigger statement be "as we're evolving we're not evolving into something very pure?" Is there anything reaching towards that in the songs that I missed?
GP: I don't know if it's in the songs specifically, but we're all trying to lurch forward and get somewhere. Part of DNA is about evolution, and part of evolution is about how you're still carrying so many things around, right? You can switch a couple of genes around and grow a tail. Our past is within us as well, so as much as evolution is about moving forward we're carrying every bit of our history with us. However, you want to carry that, metaphorically, even emotionally as individuals, we've got everything we've ever done, all our memories, all the decisions we made and it's all still sitting there inside of us waiting for us to give it some kind of meaning.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
GP: Lord, I have no idea. Make something you really care about and keep your options open. You never know where you'll end up. It's a strange era right now, right? The labels can't invest as broadly as they used to. I actually tell a lot of singer-songwriters that if they want to follow in my career path, what they want to do is make it to a time machine and get signed in the nineties when the labels had a ton of money and were investing in career development. These days, you've got to do it all yourself. You've got to know how to record and mix a record, you've got to know how to take care of your own artwork and your own website and your own social media and you've got to do it. There's this dream people walk around with that they're going to be "discovered" and everything's going to happen to them. Maybe it'll happen to somebody somewhere, but basically, you've just got to work your butt off and learn every job you can possibly learn because you'll have to do them all and that's kind of the way it works now.
If you talk to new bands, they've got one guy who designs the merch, another guy who does the website, everybody's pulling three or four jobs, everybody's working really hard and hopefully you choose people you love and you want to work really hard with. But my impression is more and more like that these days. Same as it used to be, every once in a while, maybe you'll get a placement in the movie that makes everybody know who you are. It comes down to equal thirds: doing good music, working really hard, and then just being ridiculously lucky. Or maybe it's like twenty-five, twenty-five, fifty, with fifty percent on the luck end. You've still got to get lucky. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't, but if you're not working and the music isn't good, the luck won't matter either.
MR: When you look back at Toad's success, how do you think you guys fared?
GP: Oh we were extremely lucky. We worked very hard, but we even assumed we were going to be signed for a couple years and then get dropped and break up. That just seemed to be what bands did, but it would be a fun story to tell. I don't know, we were really insanely lucky. We didn't even send out demos. There was a guy at ASCAP who started dubbing off casette copies of our first record and sending them to record companies and we got calls and we didn't even know how these people got our music. If he hadn't done that nobody would've heard about us at all. So that was lucky. You go beyond that into the rest of our scene, we were signed right when CDs were getting popular and all of a sudden the record companies had tons of available cash and Donnie Ienner was brand new at Columbia and decided he wanted to show he could do artist development and he was going to prove it with us. So we got total creative control, our advances were only for recording the records. We didn't take money. We were like, "We're an indie band even though we're on Columbia!" We were cheap for the label; the label had time to wait on us and they let us grow. They put out our two indie records nationally and we got to tour for years and get better on the road and get a real audience; you could never do that anymore. "All I Want" didn't come out...it was nine months into our third record before we actually had a hit. You can't do that on a major label anymore. We were just insanely lucky.
MR: Your album Fear was a huge record. It also featured "Walk On The Ocean," "Hold Her Down" that we talked about earlier, and it even seemed like "I Will Not Take These Things For Granted" took off in a subtle way. I consider that a classic album. Beyond the luck, the hard work, the magic, the hits, what do you think Toad The Wet Sprocket its? What do you someday want it to be remembered for?
GP: I don't know... We were just making music we cared about. I think we spoke to a group of people that not a whole lot of other people were trying to talk to at that time. There were always nerds, but this is before nerds ruled the world, before it was cool and okay. I think we spoke a language--once again talking about vulnerability--that not a lot of other people were trying to do at that time. A song like "I Will Not Take These Things For Granted" was just not cool. It's a little Howard Jones, it's a little too much about your feelings, but it meant a lot and it was honest and authentic, and for people who were wanting that in their music, we were a band that was willing to be less cool and be more vulnerable. I think it was deeply appreciated and people stuck around for us because of that. I kind of think that's why people stayed with us, why people liked us. We weren't so busy being cool that we couldn't be real people anymore. We weren't somebody you'd aspire to be, we weren't sexy rock people in any way, we were the band that you could've started, and there we were. "Hey, that's my band that I thought of starting, that's awesome! They made a record!"
MR: I guess you were sensitive in a period when people were learning to be sensitive--maybe "personal" and "smart" would also apply--in their pop music again after metal, etc.. What does the future look like? You're going to be touring to support the album, right?
GP: Yeah, we're out all summer with Counting Crows and what's next, I have no idea. I've got to write another album and we'll see if we do more Toad, there's no hard plans, we may well. The fact that we got together and did this record is, I think, a huge achievement for us. We were as broken up as a band has ever been and we managed to get back together and get on a team again and I think that's awesome. So I don't know what it means for future, but we're all just kind of keeping our eyes open and seeing what feels right, I guess.
MR: Excellent. All right, I won't keep you any longer but thanks for the interview and let's do this again sometime.
GP: Alrighty, we'll be back around! Thanks.
Transcribed By Galen Hawthorne