Dave Wilson of Chatham County Line - "I think the hardest cover song for us to do was the John Lennon song 'Watching The Wheels,' just because it has some small idiosyncrasies. He was such a seasoned writer when he wrote that song. It sounds really easy, but it's got these little tricks that you have to iron out if you're going to do it faithfully."
Matt Frenette of the band Loverboy: During recording sessions, Bruce Fairbairn, the producer, would come out like the manager walking out to the pitcher's mound. He would go, "Okay so, Mattie, I know you're holding back. Just go for it on this take. You've got a lot of drums in here. Just hit them all!"
Cris Cohen: Your voice still has this amazing strength to it. How is it so strong after belting it out in clubs and theaters all over the world?
Fur Dixon: For quite a long time, maybe 25 - 27 years, I was playing a lot of acoustic, solo (shows). But I also did a lot of busking. The reason I went off the path to more singer-songwriter stuff was because I had a child. And I just didn't have the time to have a band. So I started busking in New York City and at art festivals. And it was really lucrative. Wow! It was shocking how you could open up your case and play tunes… I guess if you're good enough. The first time I ever busked I didn't have anywhere to put the money because I didn't know I was going to make any money and I came home with like $93 in an hour. It was so much change, it was stuffed in my pockets, and I didn't even have a plastic bag on me to put the change in. So busking teaches you what works and what doesn't and how to project.
Cris Cohen: What makes for a good guitar solo?
Chris Hayes (Huey Lewis & The News): I think having some sort of theme is always good, and being able to have something in there that is easily whistled or hummed. Something kind of catchy. Not too complicated. Not super technical. Try to be a little bit more melodic. Try to have a hook of some kind.
Cris Cohen: “Celluloid Debris” is primarily an album of instrumentals. When you are creating an instrumental, are you guided by imagery? Are you guided by lyrics that no one will hear? How does that work?
Marc Bonilla: The way that I see music and the way that I see writing, none of this stuff comes from you. It all comes through you. It's not you. It's whatever voice is coming through you, your channel. When you start to think of things coming from you, you've already set yourself up for writer's block. You've set yourself up for a finite source of inspiration.
It is like going out to the desert with a canteen of water. You have it for a while, but then the canteen goes dry. What are you going to do after that? But if you see creativity as a river that runs alongside that desert, then all you have to do is go over there and dip your cup in whenever you're thirsty.
I've never had writer's block. Whenever I've had to write something -- whether it was for a TV show, a movie, an album -- I just sit down, start playing, and the ideas come. If you want to term it as muses, they are like fireman up in the loft. They're up there reading a magazine, watching the soap opera until the fire bell rings. Then it’s like, “Sh--! Somebody needs us!” And they come down the pole. Well, the fire alarm is your piano. It is your guitar. It wakes him up and he's like, “Hey, I guess we're needed. We need to throw some ideas down there for them.” I've always trusted that. And because of that, when I sit down and start writing, ideas just come. I don't have to force them.
I basically follow my ear, which is being led by my muses, whatever that is. That's why, if you're a composer or you're a writer and you go back to something you've written, you'll think, “I don't even remember doing that. How the hell did I do this?” You don't remember any of that stuff because you didn't do it. You weren't there. You were basically relinquishing your driver's seat to somebody else that knew the way there. You were in the passenger seat. A lot of people still think it comes from them. And because of that, they are cutting themselves off from an inexhaustible pool of resources.
Cris Cohen: What's the key to learning how to play well with others on an album? To play well with the percussionist? To play well with the programmed drums?
Chris Fryar of the Zac Brown Band: The most helpful thing you can keep in mind is to listen, to be aware. For example, when Daniel (de los Reyes) is playing, sometimes he'll play a part, and that part will just catch the ear of whoever's in the booth and he will go, "Oh yeah, why don't we make that into a loop?" In that kind of context, you want to just listen and give space to those ideas as they come up in a live context. And so from my perspective, my job is to hit the high points, the strong beats, embellish where I can, but pretty much be aware and be open to what's happening musically with the electronic end of things. And what's happening with Daniel's end of things. So if he picks up a shaker and starts playing an intricate pattern, then I am more than likely going to lessen what I do on the hi-hat, since they are similar sounds. I defer to him. It's out of love for the music and out of love for him, because he's an incredible player and masterful musician in his own. I don't want to detract from what he's doing.
The reboot of "Behind The Music" is kicking off with client Huey Lewis.
Cris Cohen: I get that. Although, what you said earlier, I never thought about it, but now that you mention it, it seems that being on stage in a band is like one of the world's biggest trust fall experiments. You know those trust falls where you fall backwards into someone else's arms? They use it for team building exercises. It seems like a band is one of the ultimate versions of that. The singer is falling backwards into your beat, your groove, your rhythm, and they just have to know, “He is going to be there. He will catch me.”
Sandy Gennaro: Right. And that is why you have rehearsals. That is why a lot of musicians don't get the gigs they go for. And sometimes during rehearsals, everything is hunky dory and there is that trust of falling backwards into somebody's arms. But once you get out on the road and there's no net, so to speak, that's when stuff tends to happen, especially after a certain initial period where the musician gets used to the arrangements and doesn't have to think that much about what's coming next.
Then they tend to maybe embellish. Or maybe that's the point where your mind tends to wander, where you're attracted to the girl in the fifth row making googly eyes at you or you're thinking about what you're going to have to eat after the gig or whatever. You end up playing more than you have to play. You start getting busy. That's when the singer starts thinking, “The falling back into your arms? You just let my butt hit the floor.” You know what I mean?
That happens a lot. It happens a lot where, on a lesser scale, Kenny Laguna, Joan Jett’s manager used to give us all the recorded versions of the material and say, Okay, guys, listen to the songs in the set on these original versions, because it's time to get back to basics.”
Because after a while, like I said, you get used to the whole thing. Everything becomes real comfortable. So you're apt to tend to take liberties that you really shouldn't take.
Cris Cohen: Diving back into “Let Me Down Easy,” I saw in this other interview, when you were talking about this song, you had this great line where you said, “There is darkness in enlightenment.” 1) I thought that could be a song in its own right. 2) Not to go too heavy, but it's such an interesting turn of phrase. With darkness and enlightenment, do you think it's a necessary balance? Or is it because there's a flaw in the system?
Kevin Martin of Candlebox: I think there's a flaw in the system. But it could be that it's a necessary balance as well. We're all sinners. And those of us who choose to throw stones, who live in glass houses, or that holier than thou attitude, until you're walking on water and turning water into wine, you really should keep your mouth shut. You're only here for a short period of time and it's just one of those things. I think that people get so distracted by this kind of belief that there's a God above and He's going to fix everything for us. And I mean, listen, I've been writing about this since the debut album. I was raised Roman Catholic, so I was an altar boy for several years. I've seen it all. And luckily I was one of the Catholic kids that wasn't oppressed by a priest.
I think that there's just so much darkness out there. And these people that go to church to try and find this element of freedom or direction, they're just missing the point most of the time. I think you can find that within yourself. And I don't understand why a megachurch pastor has to have $30M, $40M, when half of his flock can't afford to eat. And that's why I'm saying there's darkness in enlightenment. Because you're supposed to be learning something about yourself going here. And then here's this person that's telling you what you're supposed to be doing, and they're not doing any of it. One example is Jerry Falwell Jr. and what just happened with him.
So I think there's a massive flaw. And it's so simple. I think that flaw is that we're human. And the saying is that God granted us free will. That's the worst thing He could have given us, because we abuse that freedom on an hourly basis.
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