I’m a huge Neil Young fan. Although his guitar sound is massive, his sound source is usually not.
Usually nothing more than some old Fender Deluxe tube amp, say 12-15 watts … Of course, when he’s playing “live,” he mic’s that small sound source and literally runs it into another PA on stage and then into the house PA.
But the origin of his tones is great guitars into old Fender tweed amps. That’s a sound I love to work with.
I think I get at that fairly regularly. Amber Waves (2013) and The Power & The Glory (2012) are both quite nice representations of that “sound.”
Amp world? Small Fender amps 10-35 watts. On occasion, I’ll use a VOX AC-30 or a 100-watt Fender Twin for the cleaner sounds required from a jangle-y Rickenbacker or a Telecaster part, but 90% of the time it’s small Fender Tube amps.
Pedals? I know nothing about boutique pedals. I hear there are some fantastic ones out there. I really can’t afford them. I do have a few “go-to” pedals that do the job, but I’m surprisingly pedal-free.
To me it’s always about the song. Whatever serves the song and of course the delivery of good lyrics.
Is Winnowing the first time you’ve played all the drums and bass on an album?
Oh, no. I’ve played drums since I was 12 years old … Bass is newer, but even there I’ve played that over the last few WPA installments.
Yes, it is a blessing and a curse. I am grateful that I have such access to folk’s ears.
And there are some incredibly talented artists “out there” these days.
I suspect that they’d be “discovered” no matter what.
But, there are also many artists who seem to have nothing much to say. And musically they so “paint-by-numbers’ that it holds no interest for me. That means the pond is quite over-stocked. It’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed on the road. There’s no substitute for that intimate “live” show…it’s how I’ve managed to make new friends and fans.
Still, every generation will champion “their” particular artists as they should.
That’s all part of pop cultural identity.
Still, I’ll offer 3 somewhat forgotten thoughts to your readership:
1. Bad bands and artists rarely made it to a 2nd of 3rd album. The people knew crap when they heard it. This is pre-digital. One had to be able to play in the studio, deliver the take and play it “live” without the aid of tracks being flown in to bolster a band’s sound. Also there was no such thing as auto-tune in real time…You either hit the notes or you didn’t.
If you or band weren’t able to deliver then you were quickly shown to the sidelines.
2. Gone is the role of the A&R man (It stands for Artist & Repertoire);
It was he or she who typically brought an artist to a major label when he or she thought that artist was ready to go big. Being “ready” usually meant years of hard work, constant touring and song crafting by the artist well before they were in a position to turn any heads.
That A&R role is gone now, abolished. In it’s place is the “anyone can do this” attitude that the digital age has “bestowed” upon us. I think that’s a fallacy.
And it results ( I believe) in a general lack of creativity….
3. There has also been the death of that gatekeeper known as the educated rock journalist.
Knowledgeable people who more or less guaranteed that “good” music was at least noted. That was the point of the informed rock journalist.
Follow me here: We live in a day and age where anyone with a computer has the technology that allows one to fashion something he/she thinks is a real record in his/her bedroom. It “corrects” mistakes, it auto-tunes bad pitch in real time.
It even gives you all the sonic “discoveries” that took producers like George Martin years to perfect … all within easy access within a chip.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s not a thing in the world wrong with making records in one’s bedroom.
But with the loss of real journalists who knew rock and roll, we’re left with no one informed to listen to, scrutinize and render a judgement on the value of such offerings; there is no one to judge the value of the art.
That aspect is gone now.
It has often been replaced by self-appointed hipster bloggers who’s musical roots and references run about as deep as REM’s first album. (And I love REM); It’s often, it seems to me, to be no longer grounded in the streams and nuances that rock & roll drew from.
The journalistic “excavating” (which is what a real journalist ought to do for his/her public) is absent b/c it is without reference points in the past. I am very sorry this sounds harsh. But, today’s “journalism” often strikes me as an uneducated enclave of writers with a keyboard in front of them. Now, when I read someone’s blog/review, all I know is who his friend’s bands are.
On the new record, you continue to delve into themes of surrender and loss, finding hope in the midst of despair. Do you find, 20 years and 50 plus releases in, that you are more or less at peace with your humanity than when you started the journey?
I suppose so. Peace is a funny word, though. Peace is never a static thing.
I’d say there’s been something more like a resignation … punctuated with glimpses into something bigger than ourselves that make life beautiful, meaningful.
I think, underneath it all that Man is a mystic.
All great art seems to acknowledge that, strive to name it and reveal it I think.
On the personal level, I write to save myself. That’s it. No agendas here.
Sure, there are things I’d “bet the farm on.”
Peace & Joy … those things are fleeting, aren’t they? One has to go beyond & grasp the thing they point to. And I think that’s where all the great theologians, poets and writers go.They struggle to employ a nomenclature to describe this thing we call Life.
And so I think Faith and Courage are required to make sense of it all.
Everyday.It seems to me (at least as far as my journey has gone) that when we reach out for answers or mercy, opening our hearts to God (or whatever you understand Him/Her to be) it seems that we’ve been reached out to in advance.
We awaken to this thing called Grace. No displacing the need for faith, even if it’s a wavering faith.
As a writer, I’m never completely at peace with my humanity.
Like I said, when we speak of this mystery called “Life,” we know it is not static thing. We’re forced to grow, wrestle and strive to believe and make sense of it all…
The themes on Winnowing, just like all the records really, are about one person’s struggle to believe and affirm that Love (whether God’s Love of human love) has the last word when it comes to describing the reality we live in. That may not sound like the stuff of an engaging pop record, but I think it’s the only thing worth delving into.
Conclusions vacillate. And they vacillate because we’re all a curious mixture of faith, doubt, belief and unbelief. Learning to recognize this unfolding, moment-by-moment thing called Grace is what my work is about, I guess.
It comes wrapped up in that glorious Americana genre. It’s fractured, dusty, worn and I like to believe, “authentic.”