Are you happy today with how GREEN’s “The Planets” turned out? The Planets was, to say the least possible, a very difficult and costly album to make. To say the most possible: One member of the group backed out of it at the “practice” stage of the recording. We had recorded some pretty shoddy practice versions of the songs and the recording engineer and I thought that we could use those tracks and magically “ProTool” them into shape. Of course, neither one of us had ever used ProTools! It was no silver bullet. The “record label” that promised to put out the recording, if I would foot the bill for recording it, broke that promise after I’d finished the recording. I’m no longer a billionaire, so the whole process was extremely painful financially. Some of the other band guys and I put up the money to get it pressed on CD. There were a couple hundred other obstacles/roadblocks/judo chops/ambushes along the way, but we got it out. All-in-all, I would rather have recorded it in France with Iain Burgess on a multi-million dollar budget, but I think that it’s still one of the top twenty Rock albums ever recorded.
What led you to do a concept record? It’s a CONCEPT RECORD!?! Oh my Lord–let me look at my notes! Oh, you’re right, it is a concept record, after a fashion. It was originally titled The Music of the Spheres after a really cool ancient/medieval philosophical/cosmological concept that, the planets in their courses produce celestial music as they meander about the universe. Unfortunately, Mannheim Steamroller used that for their tour title that summer and Mike Oldfield used it for an album title that year. As it was the songs ended up coalescing into the concept in and of themselves.
How would you describe the evolution of the GREEN sound? “Give me a C, a bouncy C….”
What were you listening to around the time you recorded your debut “The Name Of The Band Is Green”? Beatles, Beach Boys, the Brandenburg Concertos, Al Green, 50s and 60s Country & Western, Curtis Mayfield, and a lot of Punk stuff from 1976-80. (It’s actually: The Name of this Group Is Green.)
Are you working on any new material? I’ve got a backlog of ten thousand songs, but recently I’ve written enough new material for a double-album.
Live, GREEN always seems to sound like an experiment, is that fair? Sometimes, I have to admit, it was inebriate tomfoolery. Sometimes, it was cosmic soul-searching. Sometimes, it was the best rock and roll band in the world.
Do you have a philosophy about recording? Stop after Iain’s third bottle of vino. Actually, I like the Nick Lowe school of “ram through it a couple times and move along.” Good production, however, is really about getting good performances from the players (whatever that takes), getting good sounds (whatever that takes), having some technical mastery of the means of production, and then lavishing tons and tons of time in mixing the sounds together. That last part–the mixing the sounds is what is tricky, as it usually requires the most money, and therein lies the rub.
Do you have a favorite guitar? I grow extremely fond of my guitars–so much so that it makes it difficult to say which would be a favorite. I could tell you hours of stories (some of them interesting) about any one of them. The one that looms largest in my legend is my mulberry early 70s Gibson Les Paul Deluxe. I’ve used it on almost everything we’ve ever recorded, and it’s held up through years of the most brutal, hellish touring you can’t imagine.
What was the best GREEN show ever, for whatever reason? One that wasn’t particularly wonderful in terms of our musical performance or for the fact that Carol Channing appeared on stage with us, but that has a sentimental allure for me, was at a country club in Belgium. It was a really beautiful end-of-summer day. I beat the club’s teen tennis champion in two sets (I’ve wondered ever since if he let me win). Some friends of ours that we’d met over the course of our tour came by to give us moral support and to drink our dressing room beer. The day dissolved into the kind of elegant, glowing evening that only seems to occur in Belgium. We went on at sunset and everything seemed right in the world.
Does Stipe owe you money? – Would that be a Stipe-end?