A Conversation with Daniel Lanois
Mike Ragogna: You took a couple of different approaches on your new album, Flesh And Machine. When you first decided to do the project, was this what you had in mind or did it evolve into this?
Daniel Lanois: Oh, it evolved into this. I started with conventional songs and then the sidebars and byproducts became more interesting to me than the songs, so I abandoned the songs and went with the excitement of the sonics that I was discovering. It's a very laboratory-driven record and I'm proud of it that way. For example, there's a little track on there called "Two Bushas." It sounds like a symphony but made of components and instruments that are unrecognizable. I'm glad I push the symphonic button with new sounds.
MR: Are you the type of creative person who tries to explore new sounds constantly regardless of having a project to apply them to?
DL: Absolutely. I go to my laboratory every day and hope to bump into something special. I keep an arsenal of these discoveries. I get very excited about the potential of sound for the future, so when I hit on something that I think is innovative I cherish it and treat it like a little burning ember that you can throw some gasoline on top of.
MR: The approach you take as a producer with acts like Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan, so many others, seems to take them to levels they're not conscious of, trajectories they would never go without working with you.
DL: That's the nature of collaboration. People hope that you bring something to the table that's unexpected.
MR: How do you seperate yourself as an artist from your being a producer?
DL: I have friends who have really good taste and I just sit them down and say, "Tell me what you think of this." Without any doubt that's what I am to people to I produce; I'm a good friend to them and I'm devoted to the project and I have people around me who do that for me. They don't formalize their titles or anything, it's just good to be in good company.
MR: But comparing how you express your creativity as a producer and as an artist, where does your own unique expression begin? How does the process work for you creatively?
DL: I usally start with a moment of inspiration. If I'm lucky enough to bump into a sonic approach that I think is unique and innovative then I just run with that. I accept it as a beautiful gift and try and expand upon it to the point of having something very fleshed out. We may go into it with a plan in the morning but the number of times the plan has been abandoned because some smaller byproduct has been more interesting--It keeps me humble, that's for sure.
MR: Sweet. Well, Ambient 4/On Land and Apollo inspired the creative process on this album, right?
DL: On Land has an interesting musical sound, an animal sound. I decided to have that philosophy on a track on this record called "Sioux Lookout." It's a contemporary native cry to live a balanced life in harmony with our relatives. The human relatives, but also the water people and the four-legged people. When I started hitting on these sounds that I couldn't quite pinpoint as human sounds, I decided--not unlike the coyote that we hear in Los Angeles--to try and invent a universal language for not only humans but animals as well.
MR: Do you feel a strong connection with our four-legged friends?
DL: I feel a connection with the native community that I grew up near in Canada, that's for sure. We human beings eat too much. We could eat ten percent of what we eat and do very well with our health. I might spare a few animals. Certainly a few chickens. [laughs] I'm not going on a vegan rant here or anything like that, but just in terms of excess it would be nice to put the brakes on a little and have a look at what's going on around us and maybe be a little less greedy.
MR: That's beautiful. Getting back to what you said earier about the symphonic sound, "Two Bushas" is a perfect example. It sounds orchestrated, but aren't these really layers of sound that you came up with, right?
DL: I came up with those sounds as an ornament to quite a conventional song structure that Rocco Deluca wrote. What you're hearing on my record is the two tracks processing that I made for Rocco's song. Through a deconstructive process, I eliminated the song and then just had the ornament be in the foreground. It's quite beautiful. It's so detached from the song, the spine, that all you hear is the symphonic toppings. They're fascinating because you don't know what sounds you're hearing, the listener responds to the presentation is a symphonic way but without the familiarity of the usual cello or the woodwinds or whatever. I'm quite proud of that one for the future.
MR: "Removing the spine" is an interesting analogy. I think the composer to come closest to that might have been Debussey.
DL: I would agree that Debussey certainly pushed the limits of the form he was operating in.
MR: Are there any improvisational artists who inspire you?
DL: Well, I live and operate by drawing inspiration from my mates. I still really enjoy playing with Brian Blade. He was here the other night and we had a spontaneous combustion in my front room with an audience of forty people. I was very proud that we were able to gather such a crowd and have a bohemian night, a night to have a lot of optimism and creativity. If I want a current inspiration in improv, I just have to look over my left shoulder and Brian's there.
MR: What is your statement as an artist? Do you see yourself as an artist delcaring a mission or philosophy, or is it about being in the moment, capturing creativity?
DL: I see that I have a acertain responsibility with my work. I like to raise the spirit and take people on a sonic journey. There's a term that I like to use, it's called "Emotional Phase Cancellation." If you happen to be feeling sad and you listen to a sad song, it might take your sadness away. There's a lot in this record that is emotional and profound and quite deep and I'm hoping that I can reach that and pull that out of my listeners.
MR: What does the finished album do for you as a listener?
DL: I'm a little close to it to know for sure but I understand that "Sioux Lookout" is a Brian Blade-run performance. I isolated his acoustic bass drum performance and sent that to a computer system that allowed me to pipe that isolated sound through my PA's buzz-wah pedal to create a tone. Then I recorded that tone seven times at different pitches so that I would have access to a very innovative and nice set of colors that I could create a bassline from, but the bassline would be exactly synchronized to his bass drum. Little things like this get me really excited because it's technology but it's built to serve the great foot of Brian Blade and have a technological result based on an organic-played drum. That's my idea of Flesh And Machine.
MR: In many science fiction stories, the moral of the story--especially when flesh meets machine--is usually to be careful not to lose the human element. With this album, were you aware of having to keep the human in it in addition to all the stuff you were supposed to keep track of?
DL: We can never really lose track of the fact that we are fundamentally seekers, whether we are seeking through technology or trying to have a glimpse at another dimension. That's why people get out of their heads, be it by drugs or by meditation or by devotion. It's just part of our intelligence as human beings, we want to know what is beyond, spiritually. To start with arriving at a soulful result is a pretty good beginning. I use technology to get to that place of soul, the place where I might raise the spirit and see more clearly what the next dimension might be.
MR: So it's a union.
DL: I think, ultimately, we're all trying to get to the same place, and that's where the union lives.
MR: Daniel, what advice do you have for new artists?
DL: My advice to new artists is to do everything in your own power to find your own voice. I love it when I hear somebody embrace something in themselves that allows them to be unique. For me my steel guitar is my friend. It never changes, it's not technological, there's no options, I just have to devote myself to it and become a better player by playing it a lot. If there's something inspide an artist and they think, "Oh, that's really unique to me," then I'd say that's a component to chase after.
MR: You mentioned your steel guitar. Looking back to the days you began learning your instrument, isn't it fascinating that you became an innovator in music and sound?
DL: Well, that's a beautiful compliment, thanks very much. There were a lot of restrictions when I got started, my mom didn't have any money, I was lucky to even get a music lesson. The music studio only taught accordion and slide guitar, so I was pushed into slide guitar whether I liked it or not. Perhaps that restriction allowed me to funnel all of my devotion and passion and love for music in the right direction. There are times when I feel bad for young folks coming up in these modern times because the options are endless. You can go to the guitar center and walk out with a zillion sounds. When I was a kid getting started, I was lucky to have one or two sounds. I think there's no substitute for love, committment and passion. Whatever tools happen to fall in your hands are almost secondary to your committment. Committment is a driving force.
MR: Do you think having that many sounds ready from the start makes it confounding or confusing for a new artist?
DL: I think part of the intelligence now is to choose something that you're very excited about and stick with it. Become a master at a few things rather than a dabbler of many. I'm pretty old school in that way. I like it when somebody has applied themselves to a specific corner of what they love, whether it's music or otherwise. I appreciate that my friend does good leather hand stitching. It's not haute couture, but it's beautifully done and it's a cottage industry. It has to begin as a seed, but that friend of mine will become an expert at that particular stitch and make beautiful things with that. That's probably more important than considering all aspects of fashion.
MR: Are there concepts in your head or in your creative spirit that you are not yet to be able to express due to the limits of current technology?
DL: I'm not feeling a lot of mental limitation these days, technologically. I'm seeing a new window of opportunity, a new cultural explosion on the horizon. I've felt it a few times over the years from having been involved in the scene. We talked about making ambient records with Brian Eno; we didn't think we had a scene on at the time, but we did knock out maybe eight albums with that approach. Without being so specific right now because I want to remain naïve, I feel that it's coming upon me again. I think that bohemian nights, authenticity and exchange will be a very big part of music to come. I'm lucky enough that in New York Center on November tenth we're having a night with Tinariwen at the Masonic Temple in Brooklyn and that will be an amazing night. The Antlers will be there as well and what I've asked these people to do is to share the stage proper. No furniture moving, let's everybody sidle up together and play together. That's what I remember a little bit as a kid during the cultural revolution in the sixties. I think there's something on the horizon right now that's going to be very big.
MR: What you're talking about is probably going to happen on a global level. Maybe it will take America by surprise.
DL: Well, it's a global time for sure, with such fast communication systems. And it's rgoing global, but it's also going local. I think the rise of the cottage industry is a big part of what I'm talking about. There might have been more of a universal spirit, more of a "USA All Together" spirit back int he day, but I think there are little pockets of culture in America that will likely lead the way and I hope that Silver Lake is part of that.
MR: Beautiful. Daniel, I love talking to you. It's not only fun but also inspiring.
DL: All right brother, you're very sweet and kind. I appreciate you taking interest in one more wave of music from me. Let's take the stage and try and touch people's hearts. There's no bigger compliment than someone leaving the arena from a performance of mine and for them to want to change something about their life.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
A Conversation with Deep Purple's Ian Paice
Mike Ragogna: Ian, you're one of the driving forces behind the Jon Lord tribute projects that have been released. Would you go into how these CDs came about and what inspired their creation at this point in time?
Ian Paice: The whole event was the brainchild of my wife Jacky in collaboration with Jon's wife Vicky. They are twin sisters--very, very close--and Jacky has been running the charity event, called the Sunflower Jam, since 2006. Initially, she gets musicians from different walks of life or different bands the opportunity to play together on stage. And for this unique event, some very, very well-heeled people pay a lot of money, which we can then put to good use in trying to combat some of these terrible diseases which are taking too many of us away. Anyway, when we lost Jon in 2012 to pancreatic cancer, Jacky and Vicky decided--well, Jacky decided with Vicky's collaboration--that the next Sunflower Jam would be focused on Jon. And all the proceeds will then be donated to a new fellowship--the Jon Lord Fellowship--in a hope to try and help battle pancreatic cancer, to beat the very thing that took Jon from us. So, my role in this was really to kick open a few doors to people who maybe Jacky couldn't get access to, to try and get their collaboration and help. And really, it's her brainchild, not mine. I'm just a blue collared guy, she is the genius behind it.
MR: Deep Purple is of course one of the iconic rock bands that contributed its fair share of classics. Briefly going back to the early days and right up until Jon passed, how did the band create the music?
IP: The creation of the music was always--nearly always--the outcome of a jam. We would get together into a room and then we would just hammer out ideas as they came into our minds. The good ones we would work on and try to find if they could be arranged into some sort of musical format, but Ian could find a top line too, and that's the way we'd go on and we still do that, to this day. Occasionally, somebody would bring a more complete idea into the rehearsal room, but we're still trying to bring it into the fold of co-operative composition, so that we keep the spirit and the identity of the music that Purple creates.
MR: How would you describe your relationship with Jon?
IP: Well, very close. I mean, I`d known Jon all my adult life. From the age of, I suppose, eighteen, when I first joined Purple. So, he has always been there and apart from the years we collaborated on stage musically, our wives being twin sisters, we were never far apart socially--geographically or socially. We were always close to each other and we saw each other every week. I suppose, more than anybody else in the band, the loss was closer to me than them. But maybe they disagree with that.
MR: There are quite a few famous musicians who contributed to the CDs beyond Deep Purple such as Rick Wakeman and Bruce Dickenson. What's the story behind they're getting on board?
IP: Everybody who was on that stage, on April the 4th this year, had a reason to be there, whether it was through musical collaboration with Jon, or actually being a personal friend of Jon's. And that means, everybody from Jeremy Irons, who compared the night, to Rick Wakeman to Paul Weller to every guy in the house band, Paul Mann, the conductor, everybody had a relationship with Jon, so they had a very valid reason to be there and contribute their time to the event. Paul Weller first met Jon at the first Sunflower Jam at 2006. First time I really met him, we actually ended up jamming on stage with Robert Plant, Paul and Jon and myself and a bunch of other guys. So, there was a connection there and from that time, we became friends. Same with Rick Wakeman. The amazing thing with Rick and Jon is until the 2011 Sun Flower Jam, they had never met each other, they knew each other's work and to the primary Rock 'n' Roll keyboard players from our country. But that was the first time they met. So again, Rick had a very good reason to be there; Jon and Rick became very, very close friends; same musical loves, same sense of humor, very similar characters.
MR: Why was the project divided into Composer and Rock Legend discs as opposed to perhaps a box set or other configuration?
IP: We had to get a construction for the night. It would have been no good, doing one classical piece, then a rock'n'roll piece, then another one or two classical pieces; it wouldn't have flowed properly and also the logistics for the sound guys would have been horrendous. So, we decided we will break it up into the first half, being the more gentle orchestral and lyrical side of Jon's work, and then giving the evening a natural crescendo for using the rock 'n' roll and blues parts of Jon's life to finish it up. Even to the point to closing the show with "Hush", which was the song, we first introduced Jon to the worldwide audience being a rather great keyboard player, and the duel between Rick and Don Airey is a fitting tribute at the end of the show to Jon.
MR: And, of course, video recordings were made of these sessions as well.
IP: Yeah, the camera crew were there throughout all three days of the rehearsals. And on one of the releases--I think it's the Blu-ray--you get an hour plus documentary included in the whole thing. So you can see all mistakes, all the glorious wonderful things that happened and all the humor...and a touch of the sadness.
MR: From your perspective, what kind of legacy does Deep Purple have in popular and rock music history?
IP: I don't know if you can isolate us. I think there was a movement from the UK in the mid-late 60ies where the musicians to just about being good enough to play three-minute-pop-tunes a couple of years before, when I becoming quite proficient, I was looking to do more with the instruments and we were able to do it. So I think ourselves, Jethro Tull, The Who, Led Zeppelin--just these here, I could go on for quite a few more, but they're the ones that stick out in your mind. These bands, and Purple of course, all had some very, very good musicians, who were very good and at a very young ag. So, I think we were part of that, it's not just us. We were part of this wonderful revolution that was inspired on your side of the Atlantic and changed and given back to you a couple years later.
MR: Do you have any particular Deep Purple highlights or favorite memories of the band to this point? And why do you think "Smoke On The Water" became such a monster hit?
IP: Well, over the course of like 46 years, of course, there are things that stick out in your mind. Sometimes, they are very personal and can't be told outside the band; sometimes, they`re very funny, but you had to be there to see the humor in it, and, sometimes, they were devastatingly sad .You know we lost some people along the way, people in the crew, people in the band, who were in the band on times, there were tough times as well. Most of these memories have to stay within the band, that's just the way it is. Why was "Smoke..." such a hit? Why is 'Louie Louie' such a hit, why is "Stairway to Heaven" such a hit? Certain songs just kept to the imagination of the listener. It may be a quirky top line, it may be an amazing riff, it may be a beautiful melody. I think the glorious "Smoke..." is that, on the face of it, it's very, very simple. But I'd never heard anybody outside of Purple actually play it properly. Everybody tries to play it far too heavy and that really isn't. The tempo is important, but the swing inside the straight eight beat is really important, too. If that's not there, then it just plops along. So, I think it was the genius of Richie's riff and the ability of the band and Jon to give it an extra dimension and I just think the simplicity with something indefinable is what connects with people on that song.
MR: What else are you working on?
IP: Well, I don't do much alone so I do the old sessions for people, if I think I can do justice to the track they sent me, they want me to do. Most of my time is still taking up with Purple on the road and that's really the way I want it. I do guest with cover bands sometimes between tours, just to keep my hand in.You know, it's quite normal for us to have five, six, seven weeks between tours and for me, sitting in a rehearsal room, going through the motions, it is just totally useless. You know, in a rehearsal room, you can make mistakes, you don't develop the same power, you don't have the same discipline and control of what you`re doing. It has to be on a stage in front of an audience. So every now and again, you see me guesting in a semi-pro-/just-about-pro-band and I'm thanking them for that, 'cause it gives me a chance to actually play in front of an audience and that keep my chops up, where I think they should be.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
IP: Just remember why you start doing any artistic dough, whether it's music or painting, sculpting whatever, drama, dance. You do it 'cause you like it, it`s something that really interests you and makes you happy. If you are lucky enough and success comes along and that then becomes your life and your career, that's great! But really, you know, always remember why you started doing it. And if all you ever do, if you`re a drummer, you're sitting in the garage with a pair headphones on and play along with your favorite musicians - You still have a wonderful gift that you've given yourself. Always enjoy, just remember why you did it.
MR: What's next creatively and personally for you?
IP: Well, at this stage of my life, all I want to really keep doing is what I`ve been able to do in the past. And that means, I gotta stay healthy, I gotta stay sharp, I got to be aware that eventually the years will make things I do more difficult in the future and, again, keep enjoying the fact when I go on stage, those years disappear and I`m that 15-year-old-kid who started there again.
A Conversation with Chuck Prophet
Mike Ragogna: Chuck, your new album is titled Night Surfer. Do you know how dangerous surfing at night is? Have you not seen Sharknado 1 and 2, even though no one's surfing at night in either movie but that's beside the point?
Chuck Prophet: Um, what? Ah, yeah? I don't know what a Sharknado is. I'm a slave to pop culture as much as the next guy, but you got me there, Mike.
MR: [laughs] Your single "Wish Me Luck." Is that with regards to surfing at night?
CP: Not exactly. But I will say this... Surfing at night, it's not as farfetched or scary as people think. I surfed the Huntington pier many times at night back in the day. There are lights coming down from the pier. And it's a good way to beat the crowds. If you're up for it, me and you could hitch a ride for old times sake to the Huntington Pier. The Jack In The Box opens early like 8 AM. You can pick me up. I'll be in the parking lot waiting for you.
MR: I'm in...love that pier, oh by the way. Dude, the album seems both universal and conceptual. Was there no coin available to flip?
CP: Yeah, I know. Kind of confusing, isn't it? That's my fault. I tried to sound like I knew what I was talking about when I whipped up a bio for the record. That was my first mistake. I was under the gun. Originally I asked the publicist, "Can't you just go on the internet and crib bits and pieces from all the previous bios?" I don't know where any of this is going when it's happening. The way it usually goes is that if I'm lucky enough to tap into a few songs that take me somewhere, I'm more than happy to follow them down to their logical conclusion. All that puffed up rhetoric aside, there was a, dare I say, dystopian theme in some of the early songs. And that was something that was pretty easy to tap into.
Life in Startup City, USA is making me anxious, Mike. Look around. Landlords licking their lips, people getting evicted, people lying down in front of Google buses. I can't help but wonder where we're headed. Sure, technology is making great strides. But technology is not culture, no matter how hard they try to convince you. But just so you know I'm not a total crank, the photo on the cover was taken on an iPhone. And you know, I made the demos on my laptop too. So there, I'm not a total crank. The future might save us. But we have to get there first. That's what I've been saying.
MR: Lately, though I'm not exactly yelling, "You kids get off my virtual lawn," I'm sad at what we're surrendering to tech. I love it, I hate, I'm with you. Hey, you worked with producer Brad Jones, recording Night Surfer in San Francisco and Nashville. San Francisco and Nashville?
CP: Brad has strengths I don't have. He has an incredible brain. He's fast. And he's totally capable of anything. If I told him I wanted to record on the roof, but only on a full moon, he'd get out a weather chart and start crunching numbers or whatever it is people do when they stare at weather charts. And, lucky for me, he's always up for an adventure.
MR: Which songs are the most revealing about Chuck Prophet's current psychological and emotional states?
CP: Oh man, you're not gonna make me do that, are you? It's hard to pin down my emotional state. It changes daily if not hourly.
MR: Okay, fine. Can you go into, from your pespective, how Night Surfer differs from your previous project?
CP: It's more layered. And thematically, the last record was all about San Francisco and was really raw musically. So, this one is a reaction to that I suppose. But if you're not buying that, and want to tell me they're all the same on some level, well, I won't argue. Funny, my friend Greg Leisz who is an amazing musician and has a long rap sheet longer than your right leg, told me that the first song he learned was "On Top of Ol' Smoky." And he often wonders if that's still all he's ever playing. Only stretch as far as your blanket reaches. That's what I say. Honestly, a few things are different this time around. Some dark scenarios, but where there's music, there's hope. Gospel, anyone?
The record is definitely a guitar album, with layers, replete with strings and horns and those prog guitars that border on straight-up arena rock. The vocals have that hard-earned phlegm I've never been able to get to stick to tape before. I think my voice changed. I like it better now. Another thing that might be different is that this time around, I'm also really going for it with promotion. I know I'm a little late to the party, but I'm giving it the college try this time for sure. I'll get on the web most mornings and remind people I have a new record. That's a challenge in and of itself. Fact is my records have never really sold that great. I guess I feel bad about it. But I keep making them anyway. Every time I'm done making a record I try to get my head around the concept of selling it. I flew out to North Carolina to the Yep Roc headquarters and suggested we get everyone together in a circle join hands and pray. And guess what? It's all happening. Now here I am talking to you. It's The Huffington Post, baby!
MR: [laughs] Yeah, although I'm just a lowly contributor, but thanks. So who is this "Countrified Inner City Technological Man" and was he fan of your band Green On Red?
CP: Honestly, I thought I'd treat myself to one of those long titles. I guess I'm a little late to the party as usual. Remember the '90s? Weren't long titles a big thing in the 90s? That seems like a Mark Eitzel kind of thing. You know the type... "Jim Rode West on a Pony to Find Mark Eitzel Cleaning Santa Claus's Thorny Feet On a Bare Mattress on Capp Street" Those kind of titles.
MR: Chuck, Chuck, Chuck. Given your track record for having songs appear on HBO and FX shows--you freakin' lucky dog--when should we expect to see "Wish Me Luck" proliferating on every broadcast channel?
CP: Yeah, well. I'm not exactly singing for Spuds. But, seriousness aside, the film and TV money definitely helps. I mean, I'd love to get up on my high horse and say I'd never license my music for anything or whore myself or whatever but it's a little late for that. Honestly, I've been lucky to have music in some films and TV shows that I can really get behind. And for me beyond everything, sometimes the most important thing to do is to survive. So, anything that helps pay the utility bill is good with me. But, if people don't want to lend their music, that's cool too. It's a personal thing, I suppose.
MR: So Spuds, what advice do you have for new artists?
CP: Just do it. If you're an artist, be an artist. Making a decent record or playing a gig is a lot like coaching high school football or something. You've got to be smart enough to do it and dumb enough to think it matters. If it matters to you maybe it will matter to other people. That's a good place to start. Also, I'd also suggest you surround yourself with cool people. Fact is, you'll end up getting in bed with some good people and you'll end up getting in bed with some people you'll come to find you don't want to wake up next to. And really, it's hard to tell until you're in the heat of battle who's got your back and who doesn't. So, in order to get your music out there, just do it. Most people are full of it. And even the best people out there are full of BS one-third of the time. I also think that good ten or fifteen minutes with the internet in the morning should be sufficient. But, that's just me. What do I know about the music business? I'm still trying to break in after decades of trying.
MR: What don't we know about Chuck Prophet that right after you tell us, we wish we never knew?
CP: Even though I've tried many times, I've never enjoyed playing poker. Being confined in a small hot room with a group of men using language like "hit me, flop me, slap him, hold him" has never really been my idea of a good time. Maybe it's because I grew up with three sisters. I don't know. Is that juicy enough for you? Probably not. I mean, I've done enough to embarrass my parents already. What do you want from me?
MR: Yeah, gonna forget all that real quick. Will you insist on continuing your reckless night surfing that you're apparently not doing and if so, can we just wish each other our fond farewells now? Farewell, Chuck. I will miss you.
CP: Ah man, I'm not going anywhere brother. I'll be out here long after I bury your ass. Don't worry about me. I'll still be out here somewhere. Standing over steaming manholes. I can't live without it and I've never quite figured out how to live within it. I will miss you too. I enjoy our chats. I really do.
A Conversation with Charlie Mars
Mike Ragogna: Charlie, rumor has it you've got something going on with The Money. First of all, how much are talking about?
Charlie Mars: I've got a new album called The Money, which cost most of my money to make and I hope listeners find it to be the money. So lots of money...and lots of no money. Its about the pursuit of things that seldom fulfill, and a celebration of the things that do. I quit drinking many years ago. When I first got in to AA I remember they said you could replace alcohol with lots of things...money, sex, drugs, exercise, work. I replaced it with lots of things. I still do. I'm on the search like everybody else.
MR: Okay, The Money completes your Texas trilogy. What?
CM: This is the third album in a row I've made in Texas. I recorded all three albums with a core group of musicians and producer/guitarist Billy Harvey. I recorded two albums--LIke a Bird, LIke a Plane, Blackberry Light--in Austin and this one just outside of El Paso in the border community of Tornillo, Texas. I've always had a thing for the number three. Cormac McCarthy got to have the border trilogy...f**k it...I'll have the
MR: Yeah! The album seems to be a personal journey, and to me, it's a little
on the dark side. How true to your life was it? What was the creative process like, writing these songs and recording them?
CM: I spent the better part of two years writing and playing these songs every day. Most of them took different shapes over time and settled in to what they are in the studio. I write from feelings...and the words usually take shape when I surrender to those feelings. For me, surrendering is the toughest part. I spend a lot of time in hotel bathrooms playing guitar and singing. The acoustics are good in there. The songwriters I admire the most have one glaring commonality--economy of language and instrumentation. I try to further that emphasis on restraint in my music...and take great care deciding what can be taken out, as opposed to what can be added. There's enough fluff layered on top of fluff to last all of us two lifetimes in most of the music I hear now. I would say the emotions behind these songs are all true to my life. We hold hands. We fight and make up. We turn our backs on each other.
MR: What changes happened to you that you're most proud of and is there anything about your past that you miss?
CM: I'm most proud of the times that it was tough to keep going and I did. I think I've gotten better. Most people don't. I think it's because I've always had to fight for it. You get better when you fight for it. When it gets easier, you stop getting better. That seems to be how it works. It's not that the band got popular...its that they got comfortable. I miss rotary phones and land lines.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
CM: Be better than the next guy. Follow your heart. Write your own songs. Use the women's bathroom in a club...its always clean. Don't hang anything in the hotel closet...you will leave it. If you don't love it, do something else. The drummer for Green Day told me to always have an out. I'm not sure I do. Avoid the phrase "catch me when I fall" in your songs. It was only good the one time. Four million songs ago.
MR: [laughs] With all these heavy questions, I have to ask you a stupid one now. What's your favorite whatever?
CM: My favorite whatever is running a trail they built over some old railroad tracks in Oxford, Mississippi, where I live. I always hated running. One day I was losing it in the studio and I went for a run. I still hated it but I felt better. I kept doing it. One day I stopped hating it and started to love it. You have to cross the threshold. Put down the prescriptions. Get off your ass. Start moving. Nature is the answer. It's a good whatever.
MR: Beautiful. Charlie, ideally, how do you see your life and musical career moving forward from this point forward?
CM: Ya know, stadiums full of people and two encores a night. I'd really like to play World Cafe and Letterman...my mom loves Letterman. Can Jackson Browne invite me on a world tour? As for my life...who the hell knows with a cup of good coffee. That's mostly how it's gone.
According to the Renaiszance camp...
"With all the conflicting voices, opinions, advertising, media and societal noise we're surrounded with on a daily basis, all telling us who we are and what we should be doing, 'My Way' is about taking back the reigns of your life and choosing your own path and destiny. An elegant message wrapped in hard electric guitars, electronic textures and soaring melodies, the chorus crescendos with, 'Gotta do this my way, it's my life to lose, not just cuz they say it's my only path, to choose.'
"The 'My Way' music video, directed by Ravé Mehta, is saturated with vivid imagery that clutches the imagination. The video mirrors the music production and features lead singer Radha Mehta along with clips from global changemakers like Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Nikola Tesla, Albert Einstein and Abraham Lincoln, all about blazing new trails that bring positive change to the world. 'My Way' celebrates people who have the courage to think different, do different, be different, and make a difference."