Can you tell us more about your new album “Book II”? How long did it take to write all the songs?
First off, thanks for having me here today! We’re extremely excited to share this new album “BOOK II” with the world.
The writing is never the issue; like Tom Waits says, songs arrive to you in the wee hours of the morning – or whenever, really – and we’re just the conduits. It’s the execution – fixation in tangible form – that takes, well, in the case of an album like “BOOK II,” years.
The most annoying thing, speaking as artist, is that there’s a solid 40-50 songs “ready-to-go” (at least from my head’s point-of-view) at any given time, but with everything that gets in the way between seed-planting & final product, I mourn for some of those that may in fact never get to see the light of day (insult to injury, said head can be somewhat of a dark place).
Can you share with us some funny behind the scene?
There’s a song on this album called “Drain” – nice big 10-minute “epic” – with a fairly intense climax at the end.
We needed a huuuuge drum sound there, so the snare hits had to be recorded separately. For the first pass, the only way for our drummer to play the entire part sans-snare was to put his wallet on his lap & bring his snare hand crashing down on that every time so-as to absorb the snare hit with a precariously placed wallet instead of the snare drum.
All well and good until, during one take, he brought his drumstick down with full velocity on neither snare nor wallet…
How do you usually write the lyrics of your songs?
The one saving grace about the whole thing, these songs come to me more or less “pre-packaged” – at least in terms of the very souls of the songs – to a secret stereo system playing in my head, from which I can steal and not face any repercussions. That said, it’s often the title of a song that arrives before anything. Either way, I don’t write songs – songs write me. Lyrics & music typically arrive as a package deal.
What is the best verse you ever wrote?
Not sure, but the best bridge (from “It Happens”) is likely to remain undefeated for a very long time:
“You’re in a weird weird place to be”/”You can’t avoid this tragedy”/”You may or may not make it through”/”But it is through no fault of you”.
This all in a swirling Key-of-God E-flat Lydian swirling soundscape. You’d have to hear it.
What was the soundtrack to your childhood?
The cacophony of constantly getting yelled at for reasons I never fully understood. Good times.
What inspired “Good Day”?
Sarcasm, manic depression, inability to feel happiness, searching for meaning, the usual.
That and this persistent vision of expressing these sentiments from within a mystical magical kind of drooping Mickey Mouse-type outfit.
Only later did it morph into the full-on wizard costume you see in the music video.
As a control freak who eternally struggles with “that which one cannot control,” it’s this very inner turbulence that finds its way into so much of my writing.
“You’re doing everything right” – the words I’ve been hearing on a daily basis for as long as I can remember – is such a double-edged sword.
So, with that genuinely empty feeling that you’ve done all you can and fell short of your goal, sometimes all that’s left to do is “Bitch & Piss & Moan & Scream,” as I sang about [in “B.P.M.S.”] on the debut album – but that song already exists, so it was time for another musical therapy session to address the feelings of “what more can I say or do”…
The subject matter (part music business frustrations, part upbringing-related traumas) provided the perfect vehicle to ensure this album was rounded out by a heavier, more aggressive track.
Extremely proud of this one.
Are you ever scared of revealing, aspects of your personal experience, to strangers through your music?
In fact, I’ve always had quite the opposite problem; I want people to know my life story as soon as possible, because I loathe wasting time.
I feel like you can only truly know if you hate me after getting the whole story, so to me it’s just logical to want to learn if X person will have any value in my life, as soon as possible.
Shouldn’t we just get on with it, one way or the other?
Ironically I’m also the world’s most patient person, so it complicates things a bit to [only recently!] learn that your entire logical viewpoint is in direct conflict with human nature itself.
So I 1) end up pushing people away while 2) not going anywhere myself.
Do you remember the day you wrote “Swansong”?
I had just come off the cycle of the debut album.
True story, after dragging the final file of the final song over to [mix engineer] Rich Mouser, my body waited exactly that long and then spookily passed out almost instantly; literally knocked out from the exhaustion in making the album, I spent the next month in bed with the flu.
I honestly had nothing left.
Meanwhile, this was right on the fulcrum of the music business’s huge transition where labels would no longer invest into developing unknown entities – not to mention a huge downturn for the economy.
I ‘shot my wad,’ if I may, and things looked pretty bleak.
I remember Bruce Springsteen acknowledging a similar feeling about his “Born to Run” era, that he had every hope of that becoming the new big defining musical statement right then and there (at that point it had not).
That’s when the darkness came swooping back in (I say ‘back’ because, Darkness my old friend had been with me for most my life, it was only forced onto the back burner when I was blissfully recording that debut album), and I couldn’t shut out the voices in my head muttering “what now?”
I took myself on a mental-health vacation / writer’s retreat to an undisclosed location, and surrounded by nothing but 4 walls and an acoustic guitar, the song just swept through me: “I’m still standing here for 1 last shot.”
Much of this had to do with just having met well-known Philly producer David Ivory, who had agreed to work together in crafting something that maybe just maybe might have a chance (artist disclaimer, in NO way were we talking about ‘selling out’ – with all of Ivory’s reassurances that “it’ll still be you, don’t worry, it’ll still be you,” he made sure of that, and my trust was well placed).
“Everything’s a struggle, but a 2nd wind is all we need for a miracle.”
Doug would live to see another day.
What is the best show you ever played?
“Best” could mean many different things.
I’m choosing to answer this musically, due to the irony that only about 20-some people were in the audience [laughs].
It was an off-day in the dead of the summer a few years ago, and we played the local bar.
It was our best performance as a unit that we’ve ever turned in – we were tight!
All the rehearsing paid off… for us at least.
If a band plays exceptionally well in a forest [that also happens to be equipped with electrical power] and there’s nobody there to hear, did the band still play exceptionally well?
What are you planning for 2018?
Get “BOOK II” out there and play!