SlominPunchInWhat earlier Mr. Henry record has the most in common with your new project Waiting For Henry, Ghosts & Compromise?

Man, I hope it’s not a cop out to pick two… but I think Ghosts falls somewhere between the first couple of Mr. Henry albums.  It has the grit and new-band-energy of As Good as the Ground, but I feel like it also has the song strength of Jackhammer.

You took a brief-to-longer-than-expected hiatus from playing live, recording and touring until now: does the material and lyrics on the disc tell any part of that story?

Yeah I did and yeah it does.  Story’s in the title song…  “Let’s raise a toast, to everybody’s ghost.”  For me, so much of this album is about coming to terms with the reality that a lot my life is now to be looked back on.  But it’s also about not being scared of the related ghosts – in my case, musical – that won’t disappear.  Doing the ‘band-thing’ once more is really like a born-again experience.  Like I had this phantom muse, packed into the closet with all the backup guitars and broken amps… and somehow it came back to life.  Musicians are like wolfmen… once you’re bitten it’s in you.

Elevator pitch, in one sentence: what’s your favorite thing about how the disc it turned out?

I always feel like a it’s a success if I come up with a recording that sounds like something I would buy myself… and I think I’d buy this one.  Or at least bootleg it.

Why did you record down in Freehold, NJ when you live so close to so many great studio’s in New York? 

Definitely the food.  They have awesome take-out Chinese in Freehold.  No, actually it’s kind of a cool story… for me at least.  We set out trying to work with Josh Jakubowski, who recorded the first Gaslight Anthem album “Sink or Swim”.  It’s the best and best sounding punk album of the past decade.  The tracks are beautiful, but bombastic.  Kinda like The Replacements’ “Tim.”  Anyway, our schedules couldn’t connect, but through the Josh search, we connected with one of his old partners in crime, Joe Dell’Aquila at Exeter Recording in Freehold.  First off, we were blown away by Joe’s sounds and mixes on his website samples.  We knew, even before seeing the studio that he was the guy.  Went in sight unseen and Joe rocked it.  Then, to ice the cake, we thought the whole ‘ghost’ thing of recording in the same town where Springsteen grew up, couldn’t hurt the vibe.  And it didn’t.  Was great.

Man, Hurricane Sandy …..what a nightmare.  Jersey’s known for bad hair and really bad McMansions, but not  hurricanes.  And it wasn’t just Sandy, in the 18 months we were recording down by the Shore we also got hit with Irene.  Thankfully, the studio – and our tracks – survived.  My house just lost some roof, although I have friend whose roof lost its house!

Anyway, a coupla weeks ago, I was with a group doing volunteer clean up work in Lavallette, a town that got mauled, and came up with the idea of turning “Here Comes the Rain” into a video fundraiser.  Working on that now.  We’re gonna donate all the proceeds from related downloads of “Here Comes the Rain” to Restore the Shore related charities.  Hope to have it up on the website this summer.  There’s a lot of folks who still need help and will for a long time.

You have amassed a nice guitar and amp collection over the years, what did you play on the new record?

Yeah, a nice collection of beaters from the guitar shop on the Island of the Misfit Toys.  Main electrics were a ’67 Epiphone Riviera 12-string, run as a six and an old Gibson SG Junior.  They’re always my go-tos, gritty but super warm.  Acoustic was a rebuilt Gibson dinosaur from the 50’s that I adopted from Texas.  Sounds amazing.  Ampwise, the main criminals were an ’82 JCM800, ’65 Fender Vibrolux, a Goodsell and a Samamp.  The Marshall saw the most action, since we were trying to put a big Buffalo Tom guitar sound into an Americana setting.  I think it worked.

Any rules you try to follow when writing a song or are they all ‘works in progress’?

Main rule is, when it comes grab it.  Otherwise you’ll be haunted for years.  Most of the songs on the album were one-shot deals.  Something sparks at 11pm and by 3am there’s a song.  Then there was Here Comes the Rain, which I started 15 years ago and never grabbed it.  Took a recession and Hurricane Irene to reignite the muse and find the lyric on that one.

Is a return to the road or the drive to play events like SXSW again on your radar or ‘in the rear view’? 

Would love to, but you’ll have to talk to my wife about that.

What is your fondest single memory from touring with Mr. Henry?

Too many to pick one.  But up there would be opening for Iggy Pop at Birmingham, AL’s City Stages, playing with Counting Crows at the Beacon in NYC, our first SXSW and of course all those nights humping gear into a motel room at 4am.  Then there was the day we couldn’t get out of the motel parking lot in Jackson, MS, cuz the innkeepers were cooking nan bread on the hot asphalt.

What’s the first record you ever bought and what’s the best cut on it? 

Elton John’s Greatest Hits.  Best cut, definitely “Border Song.”  “Holy Moses, I have been removed.”  It’s the song no one knows.  Have no idea how it made it to his Greatest Hits album, but thank God it did.

What’s the best concert you ever attended and what strikes you most about it now? 

There’s two.  As a kid I got into see The Clash at one of the famous Bond’s Casino shows in NYC.  One of the dates was an all-ages matinée.  Me and my friend Dan pushed our way to the front and were getting crushed against the stage.  The roadies pulled us up before we got killed, and rather than throwing us out, they left us onstage and we got to sing into the mic with Joe Strummer.  Even have one of Joe’s broken guitar strings from that gig.  Was magic.  The other was The Replacements at the old Ritz in NYC in ’85.  Was one of Bob Stinson’s last shows.  I never heard them before that show, but my buddy got tix.  Was totally awestruck.  Left knowing I had just seen the greatest rock band ever.


1.0 – How important was music to you growing up?

Really important. Home life was a bit solitary so I was always listening to the radio and seeking permission to go to the living room unaccompanied to put LP’s on the “Hi-Fi” as my father referred to it. Got a clock radio with a cassette deck, then a receiver/turntable from my drum teacher and after what seemed like years of reviewing sound components, prevailed on my parents to buy me a real system.  I was among the first kids I knew with a CD player.

2.0 – When did you realize you could sing?

Not really sure.  I have 5 siblings from my dad’s first marriage and they are all really musical.  I think I first realized that I actually had rhythm before I recognized that I had pitch.  My mom was always chiding me for drumming on the dashboard or the table—couldn’t help it.  My 9 year-old daughter is like that now and it’s wild to see the chord of music extended in the family.  To your question, I did a lot of acting at school and in 10th grade we did a musical.  They put me with three other guys and we did a couple of barbershop numbers in the show that just hit.  It was random, but we fit perfectly into a TTBB scheme and we ended up recording an album, Shades of Blue as The Ceruleans our senior year that I’m still proud of and I still enjoy.

3.0 – What stuff did like to sing along with as a kid?

Jacques Brel, Billy Joel, Carly Simon.

4.0 – What was the first time you sang on a stage and what do you remember about it?

Alice in Wonderland as the Mock Turtle singing “Beautiful Soup”, age 8.  People said I had a high voice—they were right.  The first ‘concert’ was in high school at Homecoming.  I remember singing “What I Like About You” and watching my voice teacher cringe as I closed my throat and screamed.

5.0 Did you know about the Colgate 13 before you went attended the school, was it part of your decision to go there or just a bonus?
I’m not sure if I knew who they were or not, but it was not a factor in my deciding to go.  And it was an afterthought to be sure.  I had had some correspondence with the hockey coach but was not recruited (for good reason) and was still battling my dejection at not being a collegiate athlete.  I walked into auditions and there was a line down three flights of stairs.  I cavalierly gave some freshmen my cassette (in ’87 not every freshman had his own tape with a cover and recording right and everything!) and walked out. I later learned that some of the guys from the group were so outraged at my insolence that they wanted to blackball me, but eventually I got a call to audition.
6.0 – Most rock & roll singers have never had the sort of formal training that A capella entails, how did it help you as a singer?

The a capella stuff was helpful for developing my ear: pitch and harmony.  But I was visited by an angel who taught me everything.  Jane McKee was a voice major at the University of Iowa (I think) and she came to my school interested in putting an a capella quartet together.  She was tireless and incredibly dedicated.  And she then went on to train me in classical voice—donating tons of her time to teach me how to breathe and then how to sing.  I owe her so much for opening up a new world to me.

7.0 – It must be exciting to have music as a part of a well-rounded curriculum at Portledge School, how rare is that today?

Great question. Almost all schools, public and independent are struggling to remain financially viable without cutting essential programs.  We have shown a real commitment to music at Portledge and it shows.  When you attend an All-County band or orchestra performance, it is really amazing how many of our students are selected.  Many districts are simultaneously cutting their program and budgets or losing elements of the programs altogether.

8.0 – How do you think it impacts the students’ experience?

A student of music is learning so much more than how to read or play or hear or articulate—my point is the value to the music student involves much more than the music itself.  There are educational study after study that continue to illuminate the ways in which the study of music helps to open neural pathways that lead to stronger retention, that have applications to science and math and language. And, they learn about beauty and empathy and teamwork.  I am so proud of our music department and our leadership for making the commitment in time and resources to the program.

9.0 – Is it part of your pitch to prospectives and their parents?

When it’s genuinely relevant, yes. Either because I just read or experienced an illustration of the strength of that program, or because the prospective student is a musician himself.

10.0 – What advice do you give students with special talent or who want to pursue a career in music?

To Porltedge students, I tell them about Claude Zdanow ’06 (StadiumRedNY) and his incredible road to success in the music industry and that he’d be happy to talk with you. I actually have hooked up students with alumni in music and other artistic fields and helped them enrich their work collectively.  That’s very exciting. But more generally, if you really know yourself enough that you can be honest with yourself.  And you feel you have the talent and the determination, and are willing to pick yourself up each time you told you’re not good enough.  Search yourself to see if you are willing to give up some of the creature comforts you currently enjoy, and if you are, immerse yourself completely in your work.  Nothing great was ever created without significant sacrifice.


1.0  – What is WORMBURNER about musically? Wormburner is a collision of musical influences from the vintage punk, new wave, and classic rock catalogues. On top of this music there’s typically a fairly dense lyrical component, often a narrative.

2.0  – Does the band have a favorite room in NYC?  The Bowery Ballroom. 2nd favorite: Mercury Lounge.

3.0  – Is it important to put on a show when you play live? Absolutely. Wormburner puts on a very physical live show. And audiences seem to respond to that.

4.0  – Which WORMBURNER song goes over best live? Probably “The Interstate”.

5.0  – What’s on your mind right before you go on?  No matter how much we prepare for a show, there’s usually some last-minute crisis to manage. Someone realizes he’s missing a patch cord or a guitar strap or something. I’d like to be able to tell you that the moment before we go onstage is a peaceful, zen-like experience. But that’s usually not the case.

6.0  – Does a band have to tour to be taken seriously? That’s a great question, and it’s a question A LOT of bands struggle with. Without proper support and publicity in advance of playing out-of-town dates, a band can end up playing to a stretch of empty rooms, town after town. And that very commonly leads to a band splitting up. Here’s a typical sequence of events: The band makes an initial impact by filling up rooms in their hometown, then they quit their day jobs and book a tour. The tour ends up being a disaster because no one outside their hometown has heard of their particular band, and no one comes to the shows. The band hemorrages money, and the band members grow bitter and they stop believing in what it is they’re doing. They go their separate ways and they often consider their band to have been a failure. It’s just my opinion, but it might be wiser for a band to have landed some sort of fully-funded publicity machinery behind them before quitting their day jobs and trying to make a living playing music on the road.

7.0  –  If the band had their own reality series, what might it be called? Personally I try to avoid reality TV at all costs. I’m pretty turned off by people who strive to get on TV in order to achieve some sort of ‘celebrity’ status. Sorry to be a downer but it’s just not my thing. So I can’t really even think of a clever title for a reality series about Wormburner. Sorry.

8.0  – Do you guys have a super fan? Yes. Her name is Terri O’Rourke and she’s the best. She comes to all our shows. But I don’t think we can claim her as exclusively our own super fan. Terri is a fixture on New York’s indie music scene, and she’s a true appreciator of great music. It’s an honor that she counts Wormburner among her favorites.

9.0  – For your half-time gig at the Super Bowl next year, you do a medley of which three WORMBURNER tunes? Peekskill –> Stolen Tags –> The Interstate

10.0  – Is magic a part of the musical equation for you? Sure. There’s definitely a certain magic to the songwriting process. I like to think that Wormburner has experienced this as sort of “a visitation.” One minute you’re in a studio making what feels like a directionless racket with your instruments, and ten minutes later a fully-formed song has revealed itself. That song didn’t exist ten minutes prior, and it’s a pretty cool thing.