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Musical Mondaze

Marlon Williams

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Photo By: Steve Gullick

Marlon Williams’ sophomore album “Make Way For Love” reaches the masses today, and as we made pretty clear in our review, it’s one of the best complete, start to finish collection of songs that we have heard in some time. Singular in a multitude of ways while being familiar enough to be reminiscent, Williams is a game changer, the kind of artist you make regular social media check-ins with just to see when new music is dropping. He isn’t just to be heard, he’s to be followed, because you don’t want to miss what comes next.

We recently sat down with Williams to discuss the process of marrying visuals to his music, squaring off with the wind for the “What’s Chasing You” video, and why he feels that it is not his right to assume what the audience will take from his music.

 

TrunkSpace: You recently released videos for the singles “What’s Chasing You” and “Come to Me.” Do you enjoy the process of marrying your music with visuals? Is it something you labor over in terms of finding the right “fit” between the two?
Williams: It’s something I’ve grown to enjoy more and more. I’m starting to frame it as an extension of the songwriting process, a way of muddying the waters.

TrunkSpace: The video for “What’s Chasing You” features you grooving back and forth on a beach. What did you like about the concept and how it ultimately fit with “What’s Chasing You?”
Williams: I like the confrontation of the video. There’s no cutting away, and once you realize that it’s one long unedited shot, as a viewer, you’re more forgiving, you buy into the limitations.

TrunkSpace: How long were you out there in the sand, shirtless and dodging kites?
Williams: Well, we did about eight continuous takes and I was so windburnt by the end I didn’t know up from down.

TrunkSpace: The song itself has been on repeat here since we first heard it. It will appear on your new album, “Make Way For Love,” arriving today on Dead Oceans. How do you personally choose the singles prior to an album’s release, because in many ways, for the consumer, that single becomes the representation of the album, does it not?
Williams: Because the writing and recording was such an unconscious process for me this time around, it really was a lot of feeling it out as I went. A lot of allowing things to sit where they naturally fell. That’s totally true, and you have to be resigned to that reality and not impose too much on the way a listener fits the puzzle together.

TrunkSpace: Do you have emotional connections to individual songs or do they all sort of become parts and pieces to a larger emotional connection to the album? For example, what do you feel when you listen back to “Make Way For Love” and is your hope that listeners find a similar connection to it, either musically or through the lyrics?
Williams: I have no preconceived ideas about what I expect an audience to take away from it, I feel like it’s not my right. Of course I long to be understood, but I’m also aware that I’m learning from the songs as they’re out in the world too.

TrunkSpace: How have you personally changed between the songwriting that ultimately became your debut album and the songwriting on “Make Way For Love,” and how has it impacted your music? Has your songwriting POV changed at all?
Williams: I used to think I could hide behind my songs. I don’t feel that so much anymore, or I don’t feel the need to. However, I’m only two albums in and who knows if and when I’ll change again?

TrunkSpace: You have described your approach to lyrics as “newspaper storytelling.” Are you someone who has a difficult time shutting off that storytelling part of your brain? Do you see someone in a cafe or on a street and find yourself creating a fictional origin around them?
Williams: I do definitely like to create narratives for passing strangers. It can get a bit much. Sometimes I’ll watch an old person eating alone and imagine what Proustian memories of their mother’s cooking they’re conjuring up and hope it’s not making them too sad about mum being gone. Unnecessary.

TrunkSpace: You’re kicking off an extensive international tour on February 22 in Bristol, UK. What are you most looking forward to while out on the road?
Williams: I’m looking forward to going through all the stages of tiredness and overdoneness with the songs and being forced to find new angles of self-entertainment.

“Make Way For Love” is available today on Dead Oceans.

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Musical Mondaze

James Dewees

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Songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and professional project juggler James Dewees has had a hand in many memorable acts throughout the years, including The Get Up Kids, New Found Glory and My Chemical Romance. The most personal of his musical outlets, and the one that has stood the test of time even as time refuses to slow down, is Reggie and the Full Effect, a solo project he began in 1998. With 20 Full Effect years under his belt, Dewees recently released his 7th studio album, “41,” one he says was inspired by a series of personal tragedies in his life and how he chose to subconsciously cope with them.


We recently sat down with Dewees to discuss how each project fuels the next, the aspect of “41” he’s most proud of, and what he won’t lie to himself about in 2018.

TrunkSpace: It’s been four years since the last Reggie and the Full Effect album. Do you ever get in a headspace where you’re not sure if you have another album in you?
Dewees: Not really. Music is just something that I’m always doing. Writing, performing or whatever, I’m always working it seems, but I love it so much it never feels like work.

TrunkSpace: A lot of people find themselves needing to refuel the tank before tackling their next creative endeavor. Is that true for you between albums?
Dewees: Not really. I’m involved in so many projects that are different from each other. Each helps inspire the other.

TrunkSpace: When you set out to put “41” together, did you want to approach the songwriting or recording process in a new way? At any point during the experience did you feel out of your comfort zone, but by way of putting yourself there on purpose?
Dewees: Well, having gone through two personal tragedies in a month, I used the sadness for creative fuel, even though I didn’t realize it when I was doing it.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with this particular album?
Dewees: Writing and recording the songs for my mom, they were very difficult to sing because of the content, but I got them done and I’m super proud of them.

TrunkSpace: The album is your 7th as Reggie and the Full Effect, which is a huge accomplishment. If we were to sit down with all seven albums and listen to them back to back, sonically and thematically where would we hear the biggest differences? Where you do you think your music has changed the most over that time?
Dewees: It would be 21-year-old James and 41-year-old James. I’d like to think I’ve grown as a writer and performer throughout the years.

TrunkSpace: As you mentioned, 2018 marks 20 years of Reggie and the Full Effect. Time flies by in life, but does it fly by when you’re making music as well? Have those 20 years felt more like a handful?
Dewees: Yeah, I’ve never stopped being super busy. From Reggie, Get Up Kids, New Found Glory, My Chemical Romance and Deathspells – I’m always a busy person.

TrunkSpace: Has your own musical point of view changed since 1998 or do you feel that your songwriter’s voice is relatively similar between then and now?
Dewees: Yeah, I am a fan and lover of music. All kinds. My songwriting reflects a lot of that. (Not just with Reggie but all the other projects or recordings I play on.)

TrunkSpace: Sticking with the idea of your songwriter’s voice, how long did it take you to find yours and be wholly confident in it?
Dewees: Have I found it yet?

TrunkSpace: As you look back on your career in music, what are some of the highlights that you’ll carry with you throughout the rest of your life?
Dewees: All of it. From playing my first show out of town to headlining Madison Square Garden with My Chemical Romance.

TrunkSpace: What has been one of the surprise side effects of your career in music? Has music changed your life in a way that you never could have imagined when you picked up your first instrument?
Dewees: It has been my dream since I was seven to be this. And I’m thankful everyday for the opportunity to be able to do this.

TrunkSpace: We’ve barely scratched the surface on 2018. Did you make any New Year’s resolutions for yourself and if so, how are you doing sticking with them thus far?
Dewees: Not really. I want to quit smoking. But I’m also not gonna lie to myself. (Laughter)

41” is available February 23 on Pure Noise Records.

Check out the TrunkSpace review of “41” here.

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Musical Mondaze

LPX

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Photo By: David Goddard

Like moths to a flame, we were drawn to the charisma and ease of performance that Lizzy Plapinger contributed to the electro-pop outfit MS MR. With her latest project, the more alternative-geared LPX, we’re not just flapping our wings towards that flame, we’re flying right through it. (Check out the TrunkSpace review of her debut EP, “Bolt in the Blue,” here.)

We recently sat down with Plapinger, co-founder of Neon Gold Records, to discuss the sense of accomplishment in going it alone artistically, the inspiration behind LPX, and why she’s ready to get inside her own skin and explore her creative self even further.

TrunkSpace: Is there a different feeling – a different sense of accomplishment – with something like “Bolt in the Blue,” which is wholly yours as opposed to a more collaborative atmosphere like with MS MR?
Plapinger: It is a very different feeling. It’s just a really wonderful sense of showing a complete and whole side of yourself with the world. I’ve always been incredibly proud of everything that Max (Hershenow) and I have made together and shared. This is definitely a different feeling when it’s just sort of me and an audience; honestly even bigger than that. I mean, on my own as a self-released, fully independent artist to feel like we’ve gotten so much traction and attention, to have so many ears on the music without the push of a major label – it feels like a huge sense of accomplishment and sort of full circle of everything that I’ve worked for MS MR and Neon Gold Records and how it all sort of perfectly came together in the package of LPX now. I’m using all the lessons I’ve learned basically.

TrunkSpace: At the same time, did you also feel more vulnerable releasing this particular material, because at the end of the day, all of the feedback, positive and negative, falls on you, correct?
Plapinger: Sure. It’s so weird. I never feel nervous about sharing music or videos or art. Not because I have some sort of full arrogant sense of it, but I just never put anything out unless I love it so completely, and I know, hand over heart, that whether it does well or it doesn’t, that I’m super proud of it. I’ve never had this anxious feeling of like, “What’s gonna happen?”, because I’m just so excited to be sharing things.

I feel like the biggest difference heading up to it was, honestly, just how much work went into it. It’s a really different thing when you’re plugging into a label and you have a whole team doing PR and you push this sort of international button and everything goes off at once. This is a really tiny team. It meant that the media leading up to it was sending personal emails to every person in the press that I’ve ever met and to any person I know at Spotify. I think everything about LPX is a lot more personal. With any sort of accolade or compliment that comes with it, it just feels that much more meaningful because I just know how much time and work and effort has gone into every piece of it.

TrunkSpace: How long has the project been gestating inside you? Was it something you have been thinking about for a long time?
Plapinger: I never had any sort of pre-meditated, preconceived notion of doing LPX while I was in MS MR. What we were sort of preparing for the third album at the end of the second album cycle, I just didn’t really know where we were gonna evolve and grow as a band at that point. Max had been writing and producing with a lot of different other artists, which is awesome and I was super supportive of. I did just honestly feel his evolution as a producer and as an artist and I think I really wanted that experience for myself, and in the process, to make music that was a little bit closer to the artists and bands and musicians that I grew up with listening to, which is really much more rooted in rock and alternative. Once we sort of decided to take a second and explain that in writing with other people, it’s only really then that I started imagining what a solo project would look like. I think it took about a year. It took four or five months for me to create “Tightrope,” which really set the blueprint for everything afterwards. And once “Tightrope” was written, it took me about maybe six months to get the rest of the material – keep writing, keep writing, keep writing, finding new collaborators, and then onto the music, which was a really awesome experience. It was a combination of being in the room with new people, which I’m really enjoying just what that means every time and how you have to reassert yourself every time you’re in the room with a new person… I assumed that going into the room with different people would mean, I don’t know, losing your sense of self and you acclimate to that person, and really it’s only forced me in the opposite direction to sort of understand my point of view as an artist more and more so that I can directly communicate that as soon as possible. Going through the process of mixing and mastering without a partner – I’ve always been so lucky to learn and have Max to help me with those kind of choices and those processes, and to do that on my own, was really awesome. I’m hoping that having that year under my belt, of doing that with “Bolt in the Blue,” I’m hoping I can move more quickly through the process and be releasing things a little bit more regularly now that that first body of work is out in the world.

TrunkSpace: And from an artistic standpoint, having “Bolt in the Blue” out in the world now must instantly charge you to get back into the studio and do more.
Plapinger: Totally, and literally the week that it came out, I was actually in Nicaragua where I wrote “Tightrope” and “Tremble,” which sparked the project, and was writing. I think I have the bones of the next body of work, the next couple songs that are going to be released. I’ve really not stopped writing even though this record just came out three weeks ago. I’m already looking to the next things, which is always a struggle. You’re always excited to put out the next thing but it took so much time to put “Bolt in the Blue” together I still want to honor and bring as much attention to that as possible, but I’m always excited to keep moving forward.

TrunkSpace: It’s like a painter. You finish a painting and you can hang it on the wall to be enjoyed, but at the same time you want to move on and paint your next work.
Plapinger: Exactly. My job is really done. I’ve made the music. Now it’s out in the world and I hope people love and appreciate it. All I really want to do is keep creating.

TrunkSpace: So will that next batch of songs be an extension of “Bolt in the Blue” or will you stylistically be trying different things?
Plapinger: It’s all in the same world genre-wise. Something that was really important to me with this first body of work was really just contextualizing LPX as something so different from MS MR, which really lived in the electro-pop world. I think when I first started releasing LPX songs, people didn’t know quite where to place me because I come from that genre. I love that these six songs really establish me in this alternative lane. I’m definitely still mining what that looks and feels like to me.

I think that “Bolt in the Blue” feels like such a high octane, aggressive, prickly, high energy body of work, it’s kind of bursting onto the scene. I feel like the next body of work, or couple of songs, will still have that energy but might not be quite as aggressive. I don’t know. I’m still sort of figuring that out. New songs take on a life of their own, but I feel like the next couple songs might be the calm after the storm.

TrunkSpace: Artistically that must be kind of freeing. You’ve made your introduction to the world as LPX, and now it becomes less about establishing what that new sound is, and more about what is inspiring you currently.
Plapinger: Absolutely. And that’s always ever-evolving, especially if you’re a music lover and you’re always listening to new records. I think so much of “Bolt in the Blue” is honoring the artists that I’ve grown up with, especially the female heroes that I have in alternative like Siouxsie Sioux or Shirley Manson or PJ Harvey. And recently I’ve been listening to a ton of new ones, and that’s definitely shifting the influences that I’ve sort of embedded in the production. My writing style is never really going to change and I’m always sort of experimenting with the tone of my voice and what my body is physically capable of in a sonic way, which I really love. That’s really liberating for me to think of my voice like that.

It has been interesting to see that this sound is ever-evolving as I think it always should be. The first hurdle is out of the way, which is exciting. People know who I am and now there’s more room for me to even get inside my own skin.

Bolt in the Blue” is available now.

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Musical Mondaze

Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal

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In our current spoiler alert society, there aren’t very many surprises left. For guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, 2017 brought about one very big eureka moment – the mainstream success of his latest project, the progressive rock band Sons of Apollo.

Comprised of Thal, former Dream Theater members Mike Portnoy and Derek Sherinian, Mr. Big founding member Billy Sheehan, and ex-Journey vocalist Jeff Scott Soto, the supergroup released their first album, “Psychotic Symphony” on October 20 and saw it debut at #1 on Billboard’s “Heatseekers” Chart, not at all what Thal expected when he thought they would churn out an album that “musician fans and friends” would enjoy.

We recently sat down with the renowned guitar hero to discuss what keeps him in the music biz, the reason he gravitates towards collaborations, and why he refuses to go half way on any project he commits himself to.

TrunkSpace: So often we hear, especially nowadays, about the negative impact of being in the public spotlight, but we have to imagine that for a musician, hearing how you positively impact fans is a driving force to keep going forward. Is that true with you and your career?
Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal: It’s definitely a driving force. Absolutely. Most of the time I want to stop. I want to stop being a musician, and I hate the music business, and I just want to do something else with my life. And then I’ll get a message from somebody saying that what I did helped them and meant something to them, and I realize that that’s why I do this, and it’s so easy to forget that. But that is why we do what we do.

TrunkSpace: You mention the occasional desire to leave the music business. Are you somebody who has to step away and refuel the tank between projects to then get that creative spark back?
Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal: I think so. And I think that I need to live life for a while – experience life – have stories that I feel are new stories to tell, and then I can do it. If I was gonna sit in the studio every day, I don’t know if that would work. I don’t know if being an output machine, just pumping out music daily, maybe would be even better, but I found that for most of my life I’ve needed to just live my life and then go and make some music.

TrunkSpace: Does that also apply to diversifying who you’re playing with and finding new voices to write alongside? Do your collaborations keep things fresh?
Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal: That definitely is a big part of it. I think collaboration is so important. And there’s only so much I can get out of myself, and I only have a finite amount of anything to offer. But when you’re working with someone else, each one of you has something the other doesn’t, and when you put the two together it’s almost like the result is bigger than the sum of both parts by themselves.

TrunkSpace: When you look at those various collaborations throughout your career, do you view them as different roads all intersecting, or are they the same road traveling along the same career path?
Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal: Good question. I guess they’re the same life path, but different things. I guess you could say they’re different movies. One is “Star Wars,” the other is “The Empire Strikes Back,” and the other one is “The Return of the Jedi.” But they’re part of the same collection in your life. And that’s the thing, everybody’s lives are connected and we’re all part of this web, so it’s not a linear thing. I think everything we do is more like we expand outward than going in one direction. I think we’re like a circle that keeps expanding.

TrunkSpace: And like anything in life, you get from those experiences what you’re willing to put in.
Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal: Oh sure, yeah. And, for me, I find that I need to immerse myself fully and go in deep. I have a very hard time just doing anything half way. I need to fully commit to whatever I’m doing while I’m doing it, whether it’s a band or whether it’s just producing or recording or my own albums or just doing a guest guitar solo for somebody. I need to really just fully commit.

TrunkSpace: Your latest project Sons of Apollo is filled with career musicians who have been at it for decades. Does working with that caliber of musicians provide a vibe of, everyone knows what they’re there to do and they do it. Does it make the process more efficient?
Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal: Well, definitely with Sons of Apollo, you have a bunch of people that are the same types of creatures on the same page. It works well. That’s the thing, like any relationship, it has to be a balanced one where… if one loves someone more than the other does, it doesn’t quite work out well. So, we’re all on the same level as far as things. And, for me, and I noticed for Jeff and Derek and all the guys, they’re the same way, they care 100 percent. They fully put their heart and everything into it. And I think that’s why it works. And what I’ve realized is that when you’re like that, you’re gonna do much better in a band than as a hired gun kind of guy. And I think that’s why I’ve had difficulties in the past when it was a hired gun situation – which I never was, I was never a hired gun player, I was always a band guy, always had bands, always had it either in my solo band or Art of Anarchy or now Sons of Apollo. That’s the kind of person I am, and that’s just how I operate. If it’s something where it’s just more like employment, I could maybe do it for a short time, but after a certain point I need more, and it hurts too much to not give more or to just be kept at that employee distance and not a partnership kind of thing.

TrunkSpace: You knew the guys from Sons of Apollo for a long time. When you’re in that sort of relationship with other musicians, when do you know that a jam session is becoming more than that? Is it a bit unspoken at first, or does it just kind of happen?
Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal: You kind of know pretty quickly – it happens immediately. As soon as you start playing together you just have this comfort and there’s this mind reading thing where you’ll end up doing the same kind of feel with the same kind of accents at the same time, like you’re anticipating the same things and reading each other’s minds and instinctively just know what the other is gonna do. And a lot of times that just happens. It happens more often than not, I’ve found.

TrunkSpace: Where does “Psychotic Symphony” sit for you in terms of your own relationship with your music? Is it an album that in 20 years you’ll look back on and see as a career highlight, both as a songwriter, and just as the experience?
Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal: I think so. It’s funny, it’s not what I expected. Going from Art of Anarchy, which was radio rock, to Sons of Apollo, which is really like classic progressive hard rock… to me, Sons of Apollo I thought was gonna be more like something just for musicians, but it kind of blew up. Something is weird in the universe when women are coming up to you saying how much they love your progressive rock band. That’s not supposed to happen. Women are supposed to run in the opposite direction. (Laughter) And we would joke about that in the studio. We would come up with this crazy part in this weird time signature, and I would say something like, “We just lost two more female members of the audience.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) Life is all about expectations. When you have them tied to something, you tend to either be surprised or disappointed. Is part of the surprise with how well Sons of Apollo has been received because you had expectations?
Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal: Yeah. I went into it thinking we were just gonna bust out an album in 10 days, and that musician fans and friends would enjoy it, and that would be it, just for the sake of making an album, but then it took on a life. And here we are in 2018, we’re gonna be touring all year, and starting to write ideas for a second album. But that’s how it is, you never know what’s gonna happen. All you can do is just put stuff out into the universe and it takes on a life of its own, and you have to let it have that life and don’t hold it back, and support it.

Psychotic Symphony” is available now from InsideOutMusic.

For Sons of Apollo tour dates, visit here.

 

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Musical Mondaze

Flint Eastwood

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Flint Eastwood is Jax Anderson. Jax Anderson is Flint Eastwood.

Regardless of how you categorize her alongside of her music, one thing is for certain – she is a breath of fresh air, one infused with positivity, who connects with her fans through shared experiences and presenting herself as part indie artist and part motivational speaker. Her message is one of community, bridging the gap between those who feel they are struggling with personalized demons and those who bring assurance that the demons visit us all in time. In other words – you are not alone.

We recently sat down with Anderson to discuss how her creativity is fueled by listeners, accessing the things we can all relate to, and why she chooses to perform under the name Flint Eastwood.

TrunkSpace: How do you balance creative expectations and career expectations, and, are they one in the same or two completely different roads you’re traveling on?
Anderson: I think for me, I’ve always had this idea of what I want to do with Flint Eastwood. My whole purpose with this project is just to help people. Creatively and career wise, that’s what I want to do. As long as I’m doing that, I’ll continue with Flint Eastwood and if I feel like I’m not doing that, then I’ll either change the path and follow down something else, or I’ll do something that turns into something totally different. I think for me, creatively and career wise, it’s just the same goal, which is to help people. Everything’s kind of viewed through that lens.

TrunkSpace: Sometimes even when we’re surrounded by people, being human can feel very lonely. Often people will connect with a songwriter in a way that sort of helps them feel like they’re not alone in the world. Does the opposite work for you? Does having an audience connect with your music give you a sense of connection and community?
Anderson: Yeah, for sure. I think what initially drew me to music is just the sense of community that it brings. In every genre, music is just a common thread that kind of transcends any type of difference that you may have with anyone. I think that’s such a beautiful thing, and it’s something that I think is a very rare thing for human beings to experience. I think having a community around what I do is extremely important. I always thought it was awesome being able to follow a band and kind of be able to discover other bands and discover other things that I may like, just because I have that commonality of liking the same band as somebody else, and going to the show and meeting new friends. It’s really cool to be able to go to shows and kind of see repeated faces and see even new faces, and just see things that we have in common and be able to connect on just being human. It’s a really comforting feeling, especially whenever you’re on the road for a while. To be able to end a show and talk with people, and it feel like you’re all a family is a really comforting thing.

TrunkSpace: The most powerful music is always the most honest music, but does putting that much of yourself into something open you up to the sort of snap judgments of the social media age where everyone has a soapbox that they’re ready to stand on?
Anderson: Just me as an artist, I always want to be a beacon of hope and a beacon of positivity, ‘cause I do think that there’s a lot of negativity in the world. I think there are certain artists that it is so vital for them to have their platforms and be really vocal and use their platform for something that they feel like is good. For me, I feel like my soapbox is just positivity.

Yeah, I mean any time you put anything out there in the world, whether you’re going to school to be a teacher or going to school to be an artist, or you’re actually doing things – anytime you do anything that’s other than just sitting at home and being by yourself, you open yourself up to judgment. For me, I just don’t pay attention to that. I have way too much stuff to do and way too much stuff that I want to get done to ever pay attention to people that are being negative. I’m the type of person too that’s like, “Yeah, everybody’s allowed to have their opinions. I am not going to be for everybody, and that’s totally okay.”

TrunkSpace: Where did the inspiration come from to spread positivity through your music?
Anderson: For me, input equals output. If you’re putting positive things into your life, typically things are going to be a little bit more positive for you. Granted, there are different circumstances that people are going into, and things that people can’t really help. Everybody deals with pain or negativity in a different manner, but for me personally, I just feel like I spent so much of my life being sad that I finally just made the decision that I didn’t want to be sad anymore. I just kind of changed my perspective. I mean, it took a really long time – I say it as if it’s easy – but I made an intentional effort to take a look at the people around me and take a look at the things that I was putting into my life, and to base it all around this core value of being a beacon of hope and being a beacon of positivity, and spreading that to people around me and surrounding myself with those kind of people. Hopefully connecting people and helping them with whatever they’re going through because, you know, all of us have shit in life. All of us have gone through stuff and all of us have difficult times and if we can just admit that and admit that we have hard times and things aren’t easy, then it makes things a lot more relatable and it makes things a lot more easier to cope.

For me, I just want to let people know that it’s going to be okay, you know?

TrunkSpace: And that’s a great way to be, particularly in a world where there seems to be so much promotion of negativity. When you hear how your positive messages impact your listeners, does that keep you moving forward on this journey? Does your audience inspire you to continue on the Flint Eastwood path?
Anderson: Definitely. Music has been that for me in so many instances. The times that I was at my darkest, there were different records that just got me through. To be able to create that for other people as well is just something that’s… you hit it right on the head, it’s exactly what keeps me going. Granted I’m not saying that I’m this savior that comes in and changes everyone’s lives and blah, blah, blah, blah… what we were saying before, I’m not going to connect with everybody and not everybody’s going to fuck with what I do, but the people who do feel the things that I have felt and have gone through the things that I’ve gone through, I just want to be able to give that kind of empathy towards them and let them know that they’re not alone and let them know it’s going to be okay.

TrunkSpace: Is there a particular reason that you spread that message as Flint Eastwood and not as Jax Anderson?
Anderson: Yeah, I wanted to give it a feel that it was more than just me. I wanted to give it a feel that it was more of a community and it was more of a group effort, because honestly, yes Flint Eastwood is just me, but there are so many friends and there’s so many people that are involved and behind the scenes and with the creation of everything that it’s crazy. I’m extremely grateful for the people that are around me and I kind of felt saying that it was just Jax Anderson wouldn’t be truthful.

Flint Eastwood’s latest EP, “Broke Royalty,” is available now from Neon Gold Records.

Visit here for tour dates.

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Musical Mondaze

Speak Low If You Speak Love

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It has been over five years since Ryan Scott Graham first released “Everything But What You Need,” the debut album from the multi-instrumentalist’s solo project, Speak Low If You Speak Love. (It was reissued by Pure Noise Records in 2015.) As the bassist and backing vocalist for State Champs, Graham is no stranger to juggling musical genres, but even he admits to experiencing nerves on the eve of releasing his solo sophomore, “Nearsighted,” which he describes as a “new direction.”

We sat down with Graham days before the release of the album to discuss the emotions attached to putting music out into the world, what listeners could be thinking in the year 3043, and why he doesn’t write while on the road.

TrunkSpace: As you gear up for releasing new material, what emotions do you wrestle with? Is it excitement? Are there nerves? Is it a combination of both?
Ryan Scott Graham: It’s absolutely a good combination of both. I haven’t released new Speak Low music in a few years, so it’s nerve wracking to see what the reception of the new direction is, but it’s also exciting because there’s nothing to really fear when you believe in the songs so much.

TrunkSpace: Is there a different feeling associated with releasing Speak Low If You Speak Love songs as opposed State Champs’ material? Is there more of you invested personally in the solo material just by the nature of how it all comes together?
Ryan Scott Graham: I’m deeply passionate about both bands, so it’s hard to compartmentalize the feeling associated with debuting new songs. Both are fun and exciting, but I guess Speak Low can feel slightly different because it’s more of an “all eyes on me” moment. If somebody doesn’t like the material it definitely feels a bit more personal than the group effort. That’s probably the biggest contrast.

TrunkSpace: The songs on the album were created by you, given life, and will now live on long after any of us are here. Do you view your songwriting as part of a legacy? Do you hope that people of, let’s say 3043, will have a sense of who Ryan Scott Graham was by listening to “Nearsighted?”
Ryan Scott Graham: I think the reason why putting new music into the world is scary in the first place is because it exists forever. In regards to “Nearsighted,” a goal of mine was to make a cohesive record that had some legs to stand the test of time. Will it? I guess we will have to wait and see, but I think records you can listen to from front to back are the ones that stay with listeners. I’m crossing my fingers I accomplished that. In 3043, if people are listening to Speak Low I think they’ll wonder why I’m such a crybaby. That is unless, of course, robots can feel emotions too.

TrunkSpace: When you first sat down to put together “Nearsighted,” what were your personal goals? Did you set out to achieve something specific with it from a creative standpoint that you feel you didn’t accomplish with your debut album?
Ryan Scott Graham: I suppose I wanted to be more deliberate overall. Not only with the lyrics, but the melodies and instrumentation to accompany. It’s not that I’m not proud of “Everything But What you Need,” because I am, but it feels like a different lifetime. I wrote those tracks without revisiting or rewriting a single note, which I’m sure some would argue gives the record its charm, but there was much more deliberate thought on the “Nearsighted” tracks. I wanted the flow of this record to be smoother. I wanted to capture a moment in time and feel timeless all at once.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with “Nearsighted?”
Ryan Scott Graham: I’m proud of the journey. I wanted to give up numerous times, because I put so much unnecessary pressure on myself. When I sat back and remembered why I was creating, everything began to come together. I needed to remind myself that I love what I do – and there will always be someone out there who needs to hear what you have to say.

TrunkSpace: Is it easy for you to transition from Speak Low If You Speak Love to State Champs and vice versa? Creatively do you have to compartmentalize the two or does the spark that fuels both stem from the same place?
Ryan Scott Graham: I think it all comes from the same place, truthfully. Yes, they’re different genres and I think maybe the project goals are different, but there’s nothing I love more than making music. Sometimes I write a riff that I think is fundamentally Speak Low and it ends up finding its way into a State Champs song. You really never know!

TrunkSpace: You’re obviously performing your songs in a live capacity, but when an album is complete, do you go back and listen to the recorded versions with any frequency?
Ryan Scott Graham: Of course! I don’t think of it as self gratuitous to listen to your own songs. I create things I enjoy and am proud of – you can be proud of yourself without being a jackass!

TrunkSpace: Are you a perfectionist when it comes to the recording process? Are you able to easily label a song complete, or do you labor away at them, tweaking and retweaking?
Ryan Scott Graham: As I mentioned earlier, “Everything But What You Need” was a record that came easily; “Nearsighted” was a completely different story. I rewrote, reworked and re-chorded multiple songs over the course of the making of the record. It was frustrating because you want the songs to make sense immediately, but that just isn’t the case every time. It makes it more special when they do click right away.

TrunkSpace: Could you ever see a day where music is not a major factor in your life? If so, would you still need a creative release/outlet?
Ryan Scott Graham: I have a lot of passions that I hope to pursue in the years ahead, but I can’t imagine a future without music. Whether that’s my career path or not, it’s hard to say. I’d love to teach English or literature abroad at some point.

TrunkSpace: When it comes to your career in music, did you have a mentor who took you under their wing? Do you see a time when you could be in that mentor role and helping to put another young musician on his/her path?
Ryan Scott Graham: I don’t know that I’ve had a “mentor” per se, but I’ve definitely had a handful of musicians that I looked up to growing up. I always tried to reflect specific pieces of their journey in my own without being a copy. As far as me being a mentor to someone, it’s certainly not out of the question. If I can influence someone in a positive and creative way, I’m doing something right. There’s nothing more rewarding than hearing someone say that something you did made them want to try it out. You can’t fall in love with something without giving it a fair chance.

TrunkSpace: You have a big tour set to kick off soon. Are you someone who can write while out on the road or do you have to unplug creatively while out there on the highways and byways?
Ryan Scott Graham: I tend to unplug musically while I’m on the road. Obviously we’re playing the show and in the zone during the sets, but in regards to songwriting, I need to lock myself away if I’m going to get anything done. Being on the road is key for conversations, exploration and people. I’d rather pour myself into something other than music while I’m out here.

TrunkSpace: We’ve barely scratched the surface on 2018. Did you make any New Year’s resolutions for yourself and if so, how are you doing sticking with them thus far?
Ryan Scott Graham: My resolution for 2018 was to develop a better pattern of time management, but I can honestly say that I have not been doing a great job of that. I love to stress myself out.

Nearsighted” is available now from Pure Noise Records.

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Musical Mondaze

Fu Manchu

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As the old adage suggests, if something isn’t broke, why fix it?

Fu Manchu, the reigning kings of all things fuzz and wah, have been maintaining their signature sound for nearly three decades, taking fans on an epic journey of musical longevity that any band would hope to one day achieve. Their latest (and 12th!) album, “Clone of the Universe” is scheduled to land on February 9, and if they have their way, there will be another dozen in the future.

We recently sat down with singer/guitarist and founding member Scott Hill to discuss the bands abundance of riffs, what he hopes fans take from the album, and why he rates it as one of his personal Fu Manchu favorites.

TrunkSpace: Your upcoming album “Clone of the Universe” is the band’s 12th. When you’re a dozen albums into your career, is it easier or more difficult to write new material? Has Fu Manchu ever found themselves at a creative crossroads?
Hill: We have been lucky to always have a lot of riffs available. We actually had too many riffs when writing this record. All Fu Manchu songs start with one riff being brought into the practice room and we go from there.

TrunkSpace: Sounds change over the years just as much as people do. If you were to look back at your first album “No One Rides for Free” and compare it sonically to where the band is today, what would you pull out of there as being the biggest change, that perhaps, a fan may not notice?
Hill: Better recordings now. More comfortable at being in the studio. We always record the same way with all of us in one room around the drummer.

TrunkSpace: When it comes to how the album physically came together in the studio, did you attempt anything differently in the process that you had yet to tackle with previous albums?
Hill: We always start with a guitar riff and work on that. We record all of our songs on a cassette 4-track machine and once the song is done we all live with it and if we want to try changes, we do. Once the song is finished, then the lyrics/vocals happen.

TrunkSpace: For the fans who have followed you guys since the beginning, what do you hope they take from “Clone of the Universe?” Is it just as much for them as it is for new listeners who may be discovering Fu Manchu for the first time?
Hill: Same as always. HEAVY / FUZZY riffs! Get into the song and get out. Except for our 18 minute long song. That one takes a little longer.

TrunkSpace: Looking back over your previous albums again, where does “Clone of the Universe” fall into your list of personal favorites? How did the experience of making this album on a personal level compare to the experience of making those that came before it?
Hill: This one is up in the Top 5 for sure. We have Alex Lifeson from Rush playing guitar on it! I think this is one of our best sounding recordings. We put on an 18 minute song as the entire side two of the record. Artwork is one of our favorites as well.

TrunkSpace: The industry has changed quite a bit since Fu Manchu first started making music together. Today you release your works, including this latest album, on your own label, At The Dojo Records. Beyond having more control over your own creative destiny, what other benefits does a band have in self-releasing their material?
Hill: The satisfaction of completing a record from start to finish! Everyone contributing.

Fu Manchu in 2014. Photo By: Andrew Stuart

TrunkSpace: On the opposite end of the spectrum, where have the changes in the industry had a negative impact on bands? Is there an area of the business that remains inaccessible to those without a major label backing them?
Hill: Having to pay for everything ourselves. Plane tickets, bus rental, gear rental for Europe and van trailer rental, hotels in the USA. Paying for recording to pressing of the records. But again, the satisfaction of doing everything from start to finish is worth it.

TrunkSpace: There are ups and downs in any career that spans as long as Fu Manchu has been writing and performing. Personally, what has been the biggest up for you that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life?
Hill: Just being able to still release records and tour and have people buy the records and show up to the shows.

TrunkSpace: In the moments when those ups became downs, was there ever a point where you considered walking away from music altogether or is it engrained in who you are?
Hill: In my almost 30 years in Fu Manchu there have been only two times where I wanted to stop playing in the band. They are very personal so I will not be talking about them here.

TrunkSpace: Beyond the writing and recording, what’s an aspect of being a musician that you enjoy that may not seem an obvious choice? Anything from picking album cover art to deciding the track listing on a new album… what makes you giddy?
Hill: Getting into the practice room and coming up with new songs. That’s my favorite part!

TrunkSpace: Again, “Clone of the Universe” is the band’s 12th album. Do you have another dozen in you?
Hill: Working on the next record now!

Clone of the Universe” drops February 9 on At The Dojo Records.

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Musical Mondaze

Santa Cruz

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For those of you in America who think that rock ‘n’ roll is on life support, it may be time to venture outside of your cozy little comfort zones.

Finnish rockers Santa Cruz are scheduled to return to the States on February 28 as they kick off an opening stint with Fozzy in New Orleans. Their latest album, “Bad Blood Rising,” is filled with big guitars and an even bigger attitude, a winning combination for a young and ambitious band set on a path to becoming amphitheater icons.


We recently sat down with Santa Cruz bass player and backing vocalist Middy to discuss America’s relevance to international artists, why he recorded all of his stuff for “Bad Blood Rising” from a couch, and the most magical experience in his Santa Cruz journey thus far.

TrunkSpace: We read that the band was first inspired by Los Angeles-based acts like Motley Crue and Guns N’ Roses. Both of those bands were part of an era of rock where a look and an attitude were just as important than the songs themselves. When you guys started out, was that important to you as you looked towards the future – finding who the band was and not just the sound itself?
Middy: I think at first those things came kinda hand in hand, but at some point we must have watched Pantera’s home videos on repeat too much or something and started going easy with the hairspray thing or then we just got more environmentally conscious.

Nah! But I think these days it’s more about the music than about the looks.

TrunkSpace: Here in the States, rock music doesn’t have the same mainstream appeal as it once did in the heyday of Motley Crue and Guns N’ Roses. You’re set to return to the States on February 28 as you kick of a tour with Fozzy. From your perspective, what are your thoughts on American rock fans? When you first came here and performed live for U.S. audiences, did the crowds live up to expectations in terms of how you perceived them?
Middy: Well, I think these days the whole musical landscape is more diverse, people have easier access to all kinds of music and the only place to find new bands is not your big sister’s record collection anymore. I don’t see the “rock is dead” in any sense of the brutal word. And as far as we’re concerned, the crowds in U.S. were still living and breathing rock music.

TrunkSpace: For all of our readers here in the States who are unfamiliar with the musical tastes of Finland, can you give us a little insight on how rock music is consumed there? Is it just as popular there today as it was say, 20 or 30 years ago?
Middy: Well rock/metal music has been pretty relevant in Finland since the early 70s, even though back in those days all the mainstream things came to Finland a year or two late. In early 2000, late 90s, this huge metal movement started in Finland cause of bands like Nightwish, Him, and Children of Bodom. I think at some point everyone from a kid to a grandmother was showing the evil horns and maybe that was why a counter movement called Finnish rap music came up. These days when it comes to the younger generations, rap is the big thing out there, but the metal music still has a solid fan base in Finland.

TrunkSpace: There was a time when bands looked towards the States as the promise land in terms of where they hoped to one day make it and break it. Is that still the case or have the changes in the music industry altered the way people view America’s musical viability?
Middy: I think that the American market is still a big deal, one reason being the size of it. And I still feel that many countries are looking for what is big in the States at the moment and it really reflects the markets outside of the States. I don’t see why the changes in music industry would take any credibility away from it.

TrunkSpace: Your new album “Bad Blood Rising” debuted at #5 in your native Finland. What was the journey like to bring that album into fruition? As you look back now at the process, did it go as planned or were you forced to make changes on the fly?
Middy: I think it went down pretty much as planned and for the reason that we made it ourselves. We were not forced to make compromises with anyone else. Even though in the beginning we didn’t have this kind of concept for the album, we just started putting songs together and seeing where it took us. Of course, some of the ideas for songs were more than two years old, but from that point, when we got into our rehearsal place all together with the early demos it took us about a month to put the songs in such a form that we were able to walk into a studio with them. So in some sense the process was pretty swift.

TrunkSpace: For the listener, it’s the album that becomes memorable, but for the people putting it together, the experience becomes just as memorable. What’s one of your favorite memories in recording that album that you’ll carry with you through the rest of your life?
Middy: To me personally there aren’t many stories about recording the album since it took me two and a half days to lay down the bass tracks. But I recorded all my stuff sitting on Johnny’s couch and we had loads of fun during that time. So nothing to put in the great history book of rock ‘n’ roll.

TrunkSpace: If we had a group of people lined up who had never heard Santa Cruz before, what’s the one track off of the album that you’d confidently throw out there to win them all over? What song off of “Bad Blood Rising” sort of says, “This is who we are!”?
Middy: I’d go with “Young Blood Rising” since to me it’s probably the most “Santa Cruz sounding” song there is, and I think the reason is that it sounds more like the stuff that we’ve done before. On “Bad Blood Rising” there are lots of stuff that is at least, in some way, experimental to us and might give people the wrong picture of what the band has done in the past. Not saying that the songs are any less us.

TrunkSpace: Can you tell us a bit about your songwriting process? Does everything come together in a room together, or are parts and pieces worked on separately and then brought together to be fine-tuned?
Middy: On this latest album we had raw demos for about 15 songs made by Archie and Johnny and then we got into our rehearsal place together and we worked daily for a month and walked out with 11 finished songs. Of course during that month we focused on structures and tempos and what not. We kinda baked the cake in that month and in the studio we added the jam between the layers and decorated the whole thing.

TrunkSpace: What about from a lyrical standpoint? What is the point of view of the songs… are they told from a first person perspective or as a storyteller’s perspective?
Middy: Well, actually to that question Archie would be a better one to answer. But my point when it comes to lyrics has always been the “don’t explain them too much, rather let the listeners make their own conclusions and interpretations.”

TrunkSpace: One of the best things about music is that it can bring people together who otherwise see eye to eye on nothing. In a club, you could be standing next to two different people who you may having nothing else in common with other than a love for Santa Cruz. In this day and age where everything everywhere seems so divided, is there anything like a live rock concert experience… because in a lot of ways, it feels like one of the last true communities?
Middy: Since my teens the rock concerts and festivals have probably been the only mass events that I’ve taken part in cause I’m not into Black Fridays or Christmas shopping. But to be serious, I don’t see why the so called “rock community” should be so privileged compared to other music genres for example, cause I bet that people at techno raves feel that they are part of a big community rather than just a large number of people who happened to walk into the same field at the same time. But that is true that rock music brings people together and when you walk into a metal festival you don’t see people fighting each other or anything like that. I think that metal heads have always been proud of belonging to one big family.

TrunkSpace: As you look at your time in the band thus far, what has been the best part about the journey for you? What wouldn’t you give up for any amount of money or fame?
Middy: The past 10 years have been an ongoing chain of great memories and sometimes I even start to feel nostalgic about it, which is kinda scary being a 24-year-old and all. But one day that sticks out was when we got the opportunity to open up for AC/DC in Finland in front of 55,000 people. That feeling when I walked on stage was magical.

To find out if Santa Cruz is coming to a city near you, check out their tour dates here.

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Musical Mondaze

Here Come the Mummies

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*Feature originally ran 4/03/17

You don’t have to be in a funk just because it’s Monday. Instead, get funky!

TrunkSpace brings you another edition of Musical Mondaze. This time out we’re sitting down with Here Come the Mummies, an eight-piece funk-rock band from Nashville who mash it up on stage in full body bandages. Though their true identities are under wraps (pun intend), leading to rumors that the mummies are in fact well known Grammy-winning musicians, it doesn’t take birth certificates and proper names to bring you to your feet and rock your souls for all of eternity.

We sat down with Mummy Cass(anova) and Midnight Mummy to discuss the mummy versus zombie debate, their historical musical history and, of course, Quentin Nigel Fontanelle Dumblucke IV.

TrunkSpace: Thanks for sitting down with us. I guess the first thing we wanted to throw out there was a sort of logistics question. Typically, the mummification process involves the removal of organs, and specific to our question, the brain is pulled out through the nose. Doesn’t one need a brain to know how to write and read music and play the instruments themselves?
Mummy Cass: You’re absolutely right about that, and they scraped and yanked and pulled and did every other thing they could to get it all out… wait, was was I talking about?
Midnight: But in the end…
Mummy Cass: Right! But in the end, they missed a few spots. Thanks.
Midnight: Sure, man.

TrunkSpace: Thanks for clearing that up. Perhaps you could help us with this as well. What is the difference between a mummy and a zombie? Aren’t they more or less the same thing?
Mummy Cass: Well, it’s true we have a taste for flesh, but more in an erotic sense, and not so much in a munching down on your brain sort of sense.
Midnight: True. Dig. Ick.

TrunkSpace: How did the band first come together? Were you all from the same tomb?
Mummy Cass: We played together in ancient Egypt at weddings and feasts and such, back when we were mere mortals. But shenanigans with the Pharaoh’s daughters got us cursed. So we’ve been wandering the Earth together through some dark ages, and some comparatively fun times, like now.

TrunkSpace: When did you guys come to the “New World” and what ultimately made you decide to settle in Nashville?
Mummy Cass: Our latest discoverer, Quentin Nigel Fontanelle Dumblucke IV, had us transported to one of his facilities outside of Boston from Tunisia, where we had taken a few centuries off from being unstoppable. There some frightful experiments took place, but I don’t want to talk about…
Midnight: …As for the Nashville part, in a word, studios. Of course now we have our own. It is way underground, and secret.

TrunkSpace: Nashville is obviously known for being a music town. But, is it competitive? Are there other mummies you guys knock heads with in town?
Mummy Cass: We pretty much have our run of the place.

TrunkSpace: The band plays a sort of hybrid (diebrid?) funk. Now, that’s not exactly a genre of music that was kicking around when you guys were alive. How did you discover the sound and what was it that drew you to it?
Mummy Cass: Well, funk has a faint whiff of rot to it, just like a perfectly ripe strawberry. So, it was a natural selection.
Midnight: Ha, Natural Selection.

TrunkSpace: Tombs are known for their ancient, yet sophisticated booby traps. Did any of you have any cool booby traps you can share with us?
Mummy Cass: Well, let’s just say that all that stuff from “Raiders of the Lost Ark”… pretty accurate.
Grates with spikes that swing down out of nowhere when you so much as brush up against a sarcophagus, stuff like that.
Midnight: Not pretty, not pretty.

TrunkSpace: There was a time when a group of undead performing on stage would have caused a bit of a stir and driven the general public into a terrified tizzy. What changed? Has the popularity of shows like “The Walking Dead” forced people to look at the actual walking dead differently?
Mummy Cass: True, and we have caused just such a stir many times in many places in our wanderings. Nowadays people act as though they’ve seen it all. That’s why we like making ‘em jump around and dance and stuff.

TrunkSpace: The band can clearly maintain a beat, BUT, how do you maintain a pleasant smell for those in the audience? Is there a trick to quelling the stank?
Mummy Cass: We do NOT maintain a pleasant smell.
Midnight: Nope. Not even worth tryin’.

TrunkSpace: Do members of the band ever change bandages or are those you don as antique as you are?
Mummy Cass: They never come off. Think of them like onions in a casserole… baked in, no getting them out. If you tried, our decrepit flesh would tear off along with. It’s a sort of human jerky we have on our withered bones.
Midnight: You said bones.

TrunkSpace: If we were to peel back those bandage layers, who would we find to be the most handsome?
Mummy Cass: What did I just say? You can’t peel the damn things o…
Midnight: I’d have to say… probably Midnight.
Mummy Cass: Ha.

TrunkSpace: Speaking of looks… how does a mummy living in the modern world find love? Does decomposition come into play?
Mummy Cass: Well, ladies dig us cause we know how to have a good time, and we don’t have to put on some kinda ridiculous dog and pony show with fancy cars, hats, rings and whatnot.
Midnight: Hey, I like a good pony show.

Oh, you meant like tiny horses. Ah.

TrunkSpace: Here Come the Mummies write songs that have a tendency to stick in your head. Will they stand the test of time just as you have?
Mummy Cass: That’s not the only place they stick. Seriously, only time will tell, and…
Midnight: Unless somethin’ changes, we’re gonna be around to find out.

TrunkSpace: What are your thoughts on somebody like Rob Zombie who is only undead in name?
Mummy Cass: Still pretty cool.
Midnight: He’s got his own thing.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from Here Come the Mummies in 2017?
Mummy Cass: We are always working on new music. Who knows when we’ll put it out? Maybe this year, maybe next. We are playing some brand new stuff right now from the two new records we have out, “Underground” and “A Blessing and a Curse.” Check us out at www.herecomethemummies.com.

Here Come the Mummies tour dates here.

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Musical Mondaze

Andrew W.K.

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Photo By: Nina Ottolino

*Feature originally ran on 9/13/17.

When he’s not focusing on his music, Andrew W.K. works with the spoken word as a motivational speaker. This may be a bit of a surprise to people who only know him as the metal madman synonymous with partying hard, but the Michigan-raised musician is a living example of a book not to be judged by its cover.

The TrunkSpace chat with Andrew W.K. is a perfect example of this. We could have talked the entire time about his new tour and forthcoming album, but instead we pressed forward, beyond the surface subjects to delve deeper – so deep that we were no longer conducting an interview, but having a conversation. Two people existing in the same space, embracing the time of our individual overlap.

We spoke about life. We spoke of humanity’s collective journey. We spoke about the “joy zone,” a place we could all serve to visit more often. And through it all, Andrew’s vivacity and passion for the topics discussed became as breathable as the air itself, entering our lungs and exhaling back into the universe as positive energy hell bent on partying.

Consider us motivated!

TrunkSpace: Over the years, your promo images project you to be an intense, intimidating guy, and yet every interview we’ve read or watched with you, you are the absolute opposite of that. Do you feel like people perceive you in a way that you are not?
Andrew W.K.: I don’t know. You’d have to as them, I guess. Sometimes I meet people who say I’m taller than they thought I was or that they thought I would be more rough. I like contrast. That’s probably the main aesthetic that surrounds my personal approach to this. Contrast.

TrunkSpace: You have always seemed to have a strong awareness of personal brand and how you present yourself to the masses. How important has that been to your music and your career in general?
Andrew W.K.: Well, I feel like I’m a representative. I feel like I’m on a mission. I have a quest. I’ve been fortunate enough to be entrusted, in a very small but nonetheless significant or meaningful way, with the opportunity that I’ve been given. That opportunity is meant to achieve joy for myself, but more importantly, others as well. My joy is in creating their joy. If no one else was there, I would still enjoy it, but it’s more rewarding and the end goal is to try to conjure up, amplify, and hit this joy zone point. I have a set of tools and resources to work with to get to that place and since I’m a representative of that joy feeling, ultimately I feel like it’s important that if someone is out there looking for that joy feeling, that they are as aware as possible that they could potentially find access to that joy zone through me, through my humble offerings.

I’ve thought of it a lot of different ways, but it seems like the best way to describe it is like a casino in Las Vegas. Each casino is trying to draw people in and one of them uses really, really extravagant neon lights and another one uses a giant, waving cowboy, and another one uses an Egyptian theme with a giant black glass pyramid and a recreation of the Sphinx. They all have something to offer but at the end of the day, it’s a similar experience, which I guess is to win money. That’s not how it goes most of the time as we are well aware. Talk about contrast and ups and downs! That’s why I like Las Vegas so much, it’s really a land of contrast. This complete void, abyss, desert, then all of a sudden this oasis of extremely dense intensity. Extreme darkness and then extreme light all concentrated in this one electrical blowout. This idea of winning money or severe loss. It’s pain and joy, up and down.

Anyway, each one is saying, “Hey, come in here, you can get what you’re looking for in here!” Again, there’s a subversive, slightly sinister quality when it involves that kind of money but they still have something to offer and they’re trying to get you there. Well, I have something to offer, which actually does still involve some of the same things. There’s commerce involved in what I’m doing. I’m trying to make a living and all that, but really, I’m trying to say, “Hey, I’m working on an access point to that joy zone too.” Some people might get it through pizza, some people might get it through going to the movies, so there’s all these ways to try to get to that joy zone to try to validate the human experience as being a worthwhile experience, that being alive is a good thing. “Here is what I have to offer that’s meant to confirm that.” As a representative of that, I am trying to be, not necessarily the loudest or most extravagant or flamboyant or even ostentatious, but I am trying to be able to be located.

TrunkSpace: If the joy zone was a television, Andrew W.K. would be one channel on that television?
Andrew W.K.: Yes. Definitely. Channel 13.

TrunkSpace: It seems like as a country, as a world, we are in a very weird place politically and socially. Do you think people are looking for escapism, looking for that joy zone, more now than even 10 years ago?
Andrew W.K.: I could see why someone might think that. Perhaps it would be correct. But I imagine that 10 years earlier and 10 years from now, the same thing would still apply. We’re always looking for the joy zone. This is the human experience. There’s always going to be strife and struggle. There will always be what seemed like better times in the past and a better time in the future just out of reach. The point is to let the challenges that face us not pull us down, but bring the best out of us and sometimes, yeah, like you’re saying, tapping into that joy zone isn’t the escape, it’s the fuel that helps us rise to a higher level and not succumb to our worst potentials. We always need that. Humanity is always on the precipice, it’s part of its defining characteristic. I don’t know why. It seems inescapable. Maybe it’s our cross to bear, our punishment. Maybe it’s the test we have to pass, or maybe that’s just the nature of reality is that it’s always going to take everything we have, it’s always going to be extraordinarily intense, and just accepting that is the only way to temper that intensity. But, wishing or pining or lamenting the challenges is certainly not going to solve them, it’s only going to make it seem more overwhelming. We are worthy of rising to face these problems on a global scale, on a national scale, on a communal scale, or a community scale, and most of all, on a personal scale. If all of us, and myself first and foremost as I’m speaking for myself, if we did the best we could about us, about your own self, turn inward and not in a head-in-the-sand way. It’s very overwhelming to try to imagine saving the world. “What’s the one thing that I could do better about me? Could I be more patient? Could I be more thoughtful? Could I be quicker to correct my own shortcomings than to point my finger at someone else’s shortcomings? What am I messing up?”

If we did that, that would go a long way to addressing a lot of these very vast and overwhelming expansive global problems, I think.

Photo By: Nina Ottolino

TrunkSpace: We spoke to Henry Rollins some years ago and we were discussing a similar subject and he said, “If everybody just put in a thimble of water, eventually we’d get an ocean.”
Andrew W.K.: There you go.

TrunkSpace: Sometimes people take on too much responsibility as opposed to just taking on what they’re capable of.
Andrew W.K.: Yeah, and that’s why it can feel so overwhelming and maybe it’s meant to. It is crushing, but when it gets so crushing, then you have no choice but just focus on, “Okay, I’m going to take a breath. Now I’m going to let that breath out. Now I’m going to put one foot forward. Now I’m going to put the other foot forward.”

You can break life down into a very manageable sense of being and realize that’s all you can do anyway.

TrunkSpace: What’s so fascinating about music, particularly in a live setting, is that you get all of these people under one roof who perhaps in any other circumstance wouldn’t find common ground, but here they all are entering the joy zone with Andrew W.K. together. That’s powerful.
Andrew W.K.: Yeah, it’s beautiful, it really is. I know exactly what you’re talking about and that’s probably one of the absolute greatest things about getting to do this. And it’s not just to be part of creating that, but just to be in the presence of it. It’s where all the other stuff is just let go. It’s like when all the other stuff is just stripped away or dropped for a moment, all that’s left is the truth, which is that we’re all human beings and we’re here.

TrunkSpace: And in this day and age, we’re losing our sense of community, but in a club or venue, all seeing the same band or artist, that really is a community, even if it is for a short period of time.
Andrew W.K.: Yeah, sure. I agree. It’s very uplifting, it’s very fulfilling, and as a younger person, I was really excited for my own concert experiences or seeing shows specifically by the fact that I was seeing people around me, kids in school, that I knew didn’t like me, that were kind of mean to me for very, in my opinion, very superficial reasons. It was about how my hair was or what clothes I wore or what music I listened to or didn’t listen to… sorta that I wasn’t doing things right. But that moment, none of that existed and when I realized that there were moments when all that fell away and that whatever was left, that’s who those people really were and that’s who I really was. It wasn’t all this decoration on top of this true self, it was what was there when all the decoration, when all that was stripped away, that there was something that couldn’t even really be defined, it could only be experienced and that that was in every person. Even the people who weren’t in that venue at that time. I got so excited about that idea of specifically being able to have a good experience even with your enemy and that they counted too, they were a human too whether they liked it or not.

TrunkSpace: In terms of just the music side of what you do, there’s so much passion in your voice talking about it both from the live performance perspective and in the creation of it. What kept you away from the full band experience for so long and what brought you back?
Andrew W.K.: Well, partying. Partying took me away and partying brought me back. I guess that’s sort of like what Homer Simpson said about beer, but it also works for just partying in general. I mean, life in general. Life took me away, life brought me back. It wasn’t a lot of decision making formally, for better or worse. There wasn’t a choice. Also, it should be said out of respect for my band members that we never stopped playing. We were playing festivals, we were playing one offs, we were very active. I was touring in all different kinds of capacities as well, so there was no shortage of activity. But I guess for me or for this operation, there does have to be at some point, some kind of formal declarative effort that we’re going to do this or we’ll just continue on doing whatever. I’m very fortunate and very lucky, and don’t take it for granted at all, there were so many opportunities that I didn’t need to plan out anything, something would just happen. Oftentimes, the things that would happen or the opportunities that would be offered to me, were more exciting or interesting than an opportunity I would even dream up to pursue.

The last time I tried, for example, to record a new album, which I’ve been trying to do, really. It wasn’t for lack of trying, I’ve been trying to record a new album for the last, well, for this whole time, the last 10 years. It takes a very long time for me to record primarily just because I record alone and it’s more of assembling… building a house by yourself or something. It takes months versus a couple weeks or so. This last one actually took a year and the last time we tried to plan it out, it was in 2013 and that had been after many other attempts at clearing out the time and each time, something really exciting came up that I didn’t feel like I could miss. In 2013, I remember being on tour, specifically, I was on a solo tour, and I said, “Okay, when this tour is done, that’s it, I’m going to carve out the next three months. Even if we can’t get the whole album done, at least it’ll be underway, it’ll officially be happening.”

I have had these songs and parts floating around and in various stages of completion for years, since 2005 or 2006. I remember this moment, it was in San Antonio, Texas I believe, and I got a call from my manager. He said, “Well, I guess we won’t be able to record the album for those three months.” I said, “Why? What are you talking about? We made an agreement, a promise to ourselves that we were going to turn down any offer.” He said, “Well, you just got offered an opening heavy metal DJ slot for the Black Sabbath North American tour.”

There would never have been a part of my mind that would dare to dream up that kind of opportunity and say, “Hey, go tell Black Sabbath that I want to be their DJ.” When something like that came up, I couldn’t resist. I felt like I had to do that kind of thing. Anyway but there’s always been a destiny feeling to this work that I’ve tried to embrace where you just follow the omens or you follow that deepest instinct and it would be nice to say we planned it all out this way but it sort of feels like it’s planning us. That’s how I feel.

TrunkSpace: A lot of times people want to define a musician’s legacy by his or her songs, their hits, their mainstream success. What do you want your legacy to be when all is said and done?
Andrew W.K.: Just party. My main goal beyond the feeling I’m trying to give someone, if there’s a way that I’m going to be marked down in the index of life or music, I just want my name and partying to be synonymous. That’s my goal. Party hard, whatever, the bloody nosed guy. To exist at all is almost impossible. If I can pull that off in some kind of a blurry outline of a filthy guy in white clothes with stringy hair and a bloody nose singing about partying, that’s more than enough. That would be a tremendous achievement, if I could actually bring that into a long lasting standing. That’s the goal.

Andrew W.K.’s “The Party Never Dies” tour kicks off tomorrow in Atlanta, GA.

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