DAG JUHLIN

How’s the Townshend windmill these days?  I don’t deploy the windmill much these days. The stages I am playing are too crowded and the ceilings generally too low. I will bring it out if it feels right at some point, I suppose.

What was your first rock concert and what do you remember most about it? Jethro Tull, Chicago Stadium, October 1978. I remember the awe of being at my first giant rock show, the haze that hovered above the crowd, Frisbees and toilet paper rolls flying everywhere before the show. The tickets were $8.50, the bootleg t-shirts were five bucks, Uriah Heep opened, and my friend Al and I drove his family’s VW Bug to the show, taking Milwaukee Avenue from Park Ridge, for some reason. Someone threw an egg and hit Tull’s drummer in the face. The music was an indistinguishable, reverberating collision of sounds. The seats were in another county. It was great.

What’s the craziest thing that has ever happened to you on the road? I was driving a Sprinter Van full of Poi Dogs down the coast in California the day after a gig in Mendocino (where my ashes are to be scattered), and en route to San Francisco, where we had a gig that night at the incredible American Music Hall. We had a tire blowout the day before and were riding on a spare, that may or may not have been put on with care and precision. Anyway, I was driving and there came an agitated grumbling from the driver’s side rear wheel, the one that had been changed the day before. It was rather unsettling and began to grow more pronounced. I was beginning my move towards the exit ramp when the wheel pried itself loose and came off. I kept control and steered us off to the shoulder, riding on three wheels and a howling axle. It was a crazy seven seconds or so of chaos and odd personal clarity. We scraped safely to a stop on the shoulder, trying to figure out just what the hell had happened, and like the punchline frame in a cartoon, the wheel came rolling lazily and wobbily to a stop in the grassy median that separated both sides of the highway. There should have been some lazy banjo music accompanying the unhurried comical rolling wheel as it seemed to poke around, looking for a good spot to lie down. But we were all safe.

We got out of the van and called Triple A and started milling around on the side of the road. I shot some video for YouTube which is out there somewhere. The really unbelievable part of the trip started then. A couple who had seen us in Mendocino the night before recognized us as they passed us, then turned around and came back to see if they could help. They were driving a small pickup truck, and they called a local friend to see if they could borrow their van. They returned with their extra vehicle, and the Triple A tow truck driver defied all his rules and grabbed our van, and filled up his truck with band members (who knew tow trucks had back seats?) and took us as far as he could, which was to a gas station just outside the SF city limits. We then crammed all of the band members and our gear and suitcases in into the van and pickup truck and made it to the gig on time. We loaded in, and then sat down to eat our free meal and a much needed pint of beer, and I remember looking at Rick and Max and saying “What the fuck just happened?” (watch Dag Julin’s Tour Movies)

There was a brand new van waiting for us the next day, as the rental company was there in SF. It worked out, only through the most cosmically fortunate set of circumstances imaginable. I have forgotten the name of the couple, but they were amazing. It was one of the friendliest acts I’ve ever been the beneficiary of.

As a guitarist, how did you adapt from playing with a band like The Slugs to joining a much larger stage band like Poi Dog Pondering?  The main thing I had to do was listen and just not blast heavy chords through the whole tune. I still play too loudly, unfortunately, but I have learned to get out of the way and say more, musically, with less.

The stage seems a very comfortable place for you, do you have any advice for happy onstage trails?  Just be right there in the room at that moment.

Does being a copywriter-by-day make it harder or easier to write lyrics?  I don’t know if I’ve ever taken lessons from either side of my writing lives and integrated them. I know that there are times when I tend to write rhythmically or with rhyme in my copywriting gigs, but only if it works. I wrote a thing for a Perry Mason promo that went “A crime, a clue, a suspect or two…” which I suppose could be a result of songwriting.

Who is in Expo’76 and what tunes do you guys do?  Expo’76 is myself on guitar and vocals (and posters and master set list), Kenny Goodman on keys, John Carpender on drums and Ralph Baumel on bass. We are often augmented by at least two of the Total Pro Horns: Max Crawford, Dave Smith and Justin Amolsch. We cover a lot of ground, from Duke Ellington to Nick Lowe; from Oscar Brown Jr. to Neil Sedaka. It’s tremendous fun.

When the call about the Dag Juhlin All-Star Band World Tour comes in, what super-star legends, dead or alive, are backing you up?  Georgie Fame (organ), Toots Thielmans (harmonica), Tommy Ardolino & Joey Spampinato (NRBQ; on drums and bass), Scott MacCaughey (Minus 5, REM, Young Fresh Fellows, etc., guitar/bartender). I would just hold everyone’s coats while they played.

Your making a road trip…..what’s on the Juhlin playlist these days?  In the car it’s been the most recent Beastie Boys album; the Beatles first album Please Please Me, which is my favorite Beatles album; Bruce Springsteen’s The Promise, that 2CD set of ‘Darkness’ extras, and Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite. At family dinner time it’s often Count Basie; when I am on the train it’s usually Segovia or a weird electronic thing; and when I am going to sleep it’s usually The Everly Brothers.

Upon arrival at the Pearly Gates you are surprised to learn old Saint Peter likes to rock, what say ye?  I just say “So, Pete. Any requests? Waddya wanna hear?”

GWENDOLYN

1.0 – How would you compare your new disc Bright Light (September 20th release) to your debut Ultrasounds back in 2000? 

Ultrasounds is collection of recordings I made here, there and everywhere I could over five years. I was experimenting – trying all kinds of sounds and recording techniques with friends of mine. At the time I didn’t imagine they would come together as an album one day – happily, they did! I love that album – It’s like looking at old photographs of myself.

Bright Light on the other hand was born out of a clear intention. With a pocket full of country-folk songs and very little time, we recorded the album live in 3 days and then invited our favorite musicians to come and play on it. The whole thing was mixed and in the can within three weeks. We knew the album we wanted to make. And producer Ethan Allen navigated those waters masterfully.

2.0 – “Discover Me” is a great introduction to both the record and new fans, is it your favorite track?

Sometimes when you hold on to songs too long they can become heavy in your heart. You may outgrow them or just plain ol’ forget how they go.  Many of the songs on Bright Light had been kicking around my guitar case for a while.  What I like about “Discover Me” is that it came to me a week or two before we went into the studio. It was fresh and made me smile to play it and share it while it was still so relevant in my life. I especially love how Tony Gilkyson played guitar… with Danny McGough on the B4 organ just barkin’ back at him… and Josh Grange on the pedal steel sort of floating over it all. Beautiful talent!

3.0 – You have a flair for the whimsical, does that come naturally?

I actually looked up “whimsical” (1. spontaneously fanciful or playful 2. given to whims; capricious 3. quaint, unusual, or fantastic) and I thought, hey – that’s not too bad… at least it’s not boring!

4.0 – When did you first start singing and who did you enjoy emulating most? 

My parents used to sing together. My dad would play guitar and my mom would sing harmony and we’d have little hootenannies in our living room. So I suppose I emulated a lot of my dad’s record collection growing up… Cat Stevens, Jethro Tull, Incredible String Band, The Beatles… I also attended a school with an active choir and arts program – so singing was a big part of my childhood. Although I never considered myself a “singer”… I knew I had a love for performing but it wasn’t until late in my teens when I picked up the guitar that I actually started singing more seriously. I suppose it was more about the writing for me.

5.0 – How did you write your first song ever? 

I came home one afternoon and found my sister (four years my junior) playing my dad’s guitar. So of course I wanted to do it, too! My first song was a two string bluesy folk fusion about a woman destitute in love – talking about how some man came and ate her heart but it go stuck in his gossiping throat. The lyrics were like something out of a Salvador Dali painting. The chorus was complete Celtic gibberish but super catchy. It was unlike anything I had ever heard before and I loved that about it. I forget what it was called.

6.0 – Do you write the same way today or is it more collaborative with the band?

Leave me alone with my guitar and inevitably a song will come. These days with work for TV, family and other projects, I have less time to write for myself – but back in the day I was quite prolific. My band understands the natural ebb and flow of the creative process. And they generally like my songs. I just start singing and they play along and somehow it all comes together… like stone soup.

 7.0 – How did the current band come together and what is your favorite thing about them as a team? 

I played solo for quite a few years. The first person I played with was Roger Park (on upright bass). He got busy with life and shortly thereafter I started to play with high school pal Douglas Lee who had just moved home from living in New Orleans. He was going on about some kind of glass instrument he was planning to build and I encouraged him to build it cause I wanted to start a band with him. Then Robert Petersen (another high school friend) moved home from the Bay Area where he was playing in Thumb Of The Maid (now known as The Moore Brothers). So together we started playing as quite a weird little folk trio (well, weird for 1996). Eventually we met Brandon who wanted to join us on the pots and pans and found objects he could bang on. That suited us nicely. By now, we’ve been having so much fun we’ve been playing for about ten years together. More recently, Scott Doherty rounds out the band with his keys and various guitars. And guess who’s on pedal steel? Roger Park! So it comes full circle. My favorite thing about them is who they are as people. At this point we’re friends first and band mates second. It’s really quite a nice group of friends.

8.0 – How did the WEEDS show placement come about for you? do you like the show? 

LOVE the show! I can’t think of another show that has reinvented itself so fantastically over and over again. The writers and actors are so good at what they do. The folks we work with allow us to constantly try new things – it all makes for a creative Camelot. It’s been a hugely positive experience in my life. And it was all luck of the draw, really. Well, sort of. My dad always told me there are two rules in life: 1 – be ready. 2 – keep showing up. So there I was playing in a band I have for preschoolers called Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang. Turns out the creator of Weeds and her three kids are big fans (true Hollywood story). Being “whimsical” as Jenji can sometimes be, she asked if Brandon and I would audition to become the second season replacement composers for her show.  Now granted, there were hundreds of composers and we were just throwing our hat into the ring. Faithful to my Father’s advice, I never turn down an opportunity… Turns out, they really loved what we did and gave us the job… That was like six years ago and we’re still working on the show – very lucky! And very grateful – it’s taught me so much about music and storytelling and what it means to make my living as an artist.

9.0 – When you explain your music to new friends who inquire, what words come up most? 

Uhh… folk. Country folk. True stories. Stuff I’ve written. Mostly, I’m stumped for a description.

10.0 – Your standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona and you see a Dead Head sticker on a Cadillac that’s slowing down to take a look at you….can you trust them?  

Oh, sure. But number one rule still applies. You know the old saying… nobody rides for free.