Friday, December 08, 2006

Super Christmas Show 

Thanks to all the other acts involved, particularly Trish from Still Small Voice & the Joyful Noise, I have been added to the super Christmas show at Little Kings, Friday 22 December. The complete lineup is Distaster with The Baldness, Mikey Dwyer, Nice Machine, Mother Jackson and Still Small Voice & the Joyful Noise. I'm first and I'm also thinking about making eggnog, so there you have two reasons to come out early.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Unused Interview 

As always, I thank my old friend and fellow traveler Gordon Lamb for another set of nice words about last Monday's show, printed in last week's Flagpole magazine. I thank him every time because I feel no sense of entitlement from friends with journalism responsibilities, as I like to feel I've earned the mentions on the merits of my work.

Below is the set questions and answers Gordon submitted to me well before the show, with the original intention of writing a longer story. I am to blame for taking too long to send the answers, because every time I remembered it, I was better off not offering written words for public digestion. The Flagpole editorial process shares none of this blame. It should be no big deal that I print them below, because the modest ranks of Distaster friends and supporters are scattered across the globe. I hope readers will find this amusing, at least.


Can you give me the background of your history in Athens? What
brought you to town, etc. Also, when did you begin to play music? What
was the impetus behind your starting?

I've been here since 1972, and my parents were from here originally; we just came back after being in North Carolina, where I was born in 1970. I grew up in Winterville so I was close to everything in Athens, and started listening to 90.5 about 1982.

I've been playing music since 1978, if you want to count when we learned to play the recorder in third grade. I started playing my mother's acoustic guitar the year after and was in the school band program from 1981 until graduation in 1988. I think I've always had the drive to make music, a calling of sorts, that compelled me to do it despite the adversity it often invites.

Which bands have you been in and how did they form and why did they
split up? (this can be really general as I know there's a ton of

In high school I started something called The Pain Brothers that recorded one song. I was actually recording myself as a solo artist from 1982 forward, and it wasn't until 1990 when I got into Refuse Factory. For them, I really started out recording the existing lineup but then the singer quit and I took over. The bass player quit soon afterwards and I replaced him, too. I was a finisher for some of the songs; guitarist Thomas Nixon would come up with some things and I'd write words and maybe adjust the arrangements in some cases.

I don't know if anybody remembers Tracy Morgan but I was in her band for one show, along with drummer Mike Kennedy, in December of 1990.

The Radio:Tahiti era started in 1991 after Refuse Factory had broken up and Steve Fitzpatrick and I found ourselves to be neighbors at Joe Campbell's practice spaces. That's what led to side involvement in Autoscope.

Broom Room Annex was initiated in 1994 and was actually Brooks Carter's ideas, because I'd played him some Refuse Factory and similar songs when we worked together cleaning the 40 Watt. Not many people know this but we actually invited Dave Marr and John Donnely to be charter members, but Star Room Boys were starting up around that time and John had just begun his career as a public defender. It was an outlet for the short, guitar-based songs of mine that were significantly different from the "redneck industrial," as we called it, in Radio:Tahiti. We finished an album but we didn't release it beyond giveaways to friends.

A few months after Brooks moved out of Athens to attend medical school, in 1996, Phil Fitzpatrick and I joined with Tim Adams and Alan Flurry for a second version of Broom Room Annex. This carried on untl January 1999, when we opened for Sylvain Sylvain. We've talked about doing it again soon, actually.

Distaster started after I noticed 2002 came and went with zero musical output from me, the first such year since 1979, and I decided that would never happen again. I also decided to just do it all my way, much as I had as a teenage recording artist. I have to say that I'm enjoying a break from some of the issues of monolithic band memberships, such as getting everyone on the same page with equal enthusiasm for the vision and direction, etc.

All the bands split for reasons such as work, living situations, people getting domesticated, etc. Not really anything acrimonious.

When did you decide to really just make music on your own?

I don't think I ever considered it a choice; I was drawn to it and I did it, from that early age.

I've always thought of you as an extremely creative guy with his own
piper to follow, so to speak, is this how you see yourself at all?

Fortunately I don't see the piper as something external to myself; that would make life much more difficult. No imaginary friends or disembodied voices here.

I do insist on only doing what I really like, though I've had times before when I was in someone else's project and wasn't so sure about my part in it. I'd rather have a real job than make hundreds a week playing in Top 40 cover bands.

What is your overriding aesthetic principle? Basically, what makes a
song or composition good in your eyes and ears?

Again, first I have to like it, and then I have to still like it after working with it for a while. I don't mean to brag but I do often have a knack for arrangement. Not always, but often. I try not to make too many things sound the same.

Whatever anyone thinks of my lyrics, I know they could be much worse. Anyone can write about being 22 years old, having a live-in girlfriend and the world opening before them, but my own experiences are somewhat less than fulfilling in many regards. I like to be a little more honest and I don't worry myself about soft delivery.

Apart from my own music, I think a general quality of a good pop song is if it doesn't mean exactly the same thing to every listener. I think everybody has favorite songs with particular, personalized associations.

Please tell me all about this newest EP you have for sale online.

It's my first attempt to actually sell music online, beyond the usual local consignments and giveaways, and it's meant as both the new "Terry & Holly" single and a way to get the two Christmas-themed songs out in the same package.

I'm very thankful for the guest vocals on those Christmas-themed songs. Dave Marr sings on "Essie, the Aussie Swimdancer," which is actually a country song, about a touring Australian swimdancer and the small-town man who takes it a bit seriously. Clay Leverett sings "Hamburger Xmas Eve," which, unlike my usual sordid fare about destitution, despair and acrimonious breakups, is simply about getting a hamburger after finishing one's Christmas shopping.

I think it's a good deal, and the graphic on the web page is the same size as a CD foldover. What I need is for people outside of Athens to buy the thing, as I tend to give my music away locally.

At this next show will you play with other people or will it be just you?

I thought it might have other people appearing with me but it's getting close now, so I guess I'll do it all myself. I don't know if I'll be any more animated than usual but I hope a few new and different things go over. I usually throw out an odd New Wave classic cover at the end and I expect I will this time, too. I don't know what, yet.

Something else about my live show: I have a pretty interesting collection of gear and I could spread out the MIDI setup and all my old machines to show off how cool I am, but it's much less effort to just put my parts on CD and use that at the show, and it means my load-in only takes one trip, carrying a guitar and a plastic bag with the CD player and cables in it. I'd rather not have beer spilled into my Atari STe or my Yamaha CX5M.

The show went well enough, by the way. We were all sorry that Sleepy Horses had to cancel on short notice but we made the best of it. I was very pleased to meet Elizabeth of Fancie. I also did a duet of David Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes" with 8-Track Gorilla, which was also fun.

More news and music to come soon...

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