JIM DINOU


1.0  When did you start playing music? what was your first instrument? Well my first ‘official’ instrument was alto saxophone, starting sometime around 5th grade. When we were handed a piece of paper with the choices of instruments to play, all that was left was sax or oboe, and I didn’t really want to get beat up for something else at that godforsaken place. Todd Woloson and I used to meet up before school, him on trumpet, to play “Feels So Good” by Chuck Mangione! Even before that, at home I made daily visits to our piano and made noise. The first song I ever figured out was the “Theme From Rocky”.

In freshman year of high school I was asked by my old friend Derrick(Suede)Stout to play in his band: “Yesterday’s Future”. That was so exciting to me- and I really felt like a star. It was a good little teen band, and we wrote our own songs… which set us apart from the other bands at our high school. Unfortunately, the honeymoon ended when I got the band kicked out of talent show Senior year for drinking booze in the parking lot with a junior, who got her whole act thrown out as well. To all those whose dreams I crushed that day, i apologize sincerely. I think around that time I joined a little band of degenerates called “Plastic Finger”.  Ahh…. I can still recall the aroma of Doug’s basement…

2.0  What was the first record you ever purchased and what impact did it have on you? I think it was “The Jimi Hendrix Concerts”: a double lp, maybe an import. It owned me from the solo in “Stone Free”(OMFG!). It was absolutely magical to me. This was what I used to play along with on sax, to try to mimic the bends and the trills and the feedback. I had somewhat of a crappy Zenith integrated stereo, where the low wasn’t low enough and the highs were muted so I got plenty of quality midrange, so it kind of sounded like a guitar amp anyway.

Even more cherished was “Discipline” by King Crimson. This coincided with my introduction to “hooch” which of course took me into the netherworld. Around that time I got a Casio CZ-101(an amazing phase-modulation synth from the 80’s), and figured out the gtr riff from “Frame By Frame”. I think that riff was so hard-wired into my head after learning it that it surfaced in different forms on many songs I wrote for years after.

3.0  As a teenager you were way into Al DiMeola and fusion, do you still enjoy it? Not really. I’m not impressed by musical athletics or hubris like I was as a teen. Actually, quite the opposite. I prefer to be seduced, rather than clubbed in the side of the head I guess. There’s a certain ‘macho’ in his playing that trips a gag reflex in me. It’s the same thing with rock vocalists whose every note has the perfect amount of pitch and nuance- It just becomes tedious to listen to and makes me want to hear a real person, flawed and vulnerable.

But I still enjoy old jazz/rock records quite a bit- the ones that are more about interaction than solo grandstanding: Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” and “Pangea”, Headhunters, Weather Report. Weather Report changed the way I heard music. I think that Joe Zawinul is the most gifted  human ever to touch a synth. 

4.0  Like DiMeola, you have always pushed the boundaries, is that a choice or is that something that came naturally to you? I think you’ve officially exceeded the Al Dimeola reference limit!  I think the true groundbreakers change the context and the genres of music itself. Maybe it’s a sign of my age, but I enjoy more tasteful/unpredictable/understated musicians who seem bigger than their instrument. A perfect example is guitarist Bill Frisell– who can go from Americana steel-string to demented reverse-feedback in the course of one song.

I don’t think that ‘pushing boundaries’ was ever a conscious choice for me. It was definitely in the back of my mind, as a type of quality control mechanism. I’ve always tried to change the parts of my music that I see as stock or trite. It irritates the fuck out of me when I hear cliches, so I try to keep them at a safe distance. I think I benefitted from not playing guitar, and approaching pop from a synth and electronic angle. Without trying to sound like I’m soliciting a sponsorship: Korg was a big part of making that happen. When the M1 came out, it was the first “music workstation” ever produced. In one machine, you had a large palette of sounds, a sequencer, and effects. I can’t say enough about the creative value of a one-stop shopping environment. It has probably made me sound much more original than I really am!

5.0  What are you listening to, Fall of 2010? A lot of ME, actually. (blushes)

6.0  What are you working on presently? I’ve been playing with a few bands: one being Matt Walker’s new project of1000 faces, a psychedelic space-punk band called Tomorrow The Moon with Steve Gerlach, and a band fronted by Charlie Otto called Savvy. Charlie’s the frontman(David Byrne) for a Talking Heads tribute band called This Must Be The Band, which I’m also in. I’ve been really busy.

7.0  What do you prefer, creating live or in the studio? Since most of what I conjure up for my band Impossible Recording Machine is born inside my keyboard, my first connection to it is always in the workspace. Every song starts as an infant, becomes a toddler…child…etc. So I feel a connection to it in a kind of safety zone. I create at a certain pace, that I’m not entirely comfortable sharing with too many people. I’m sure many would think that there’s something wrong with me if they saw how I work.

Re-formatting my music for a live performance has always been a challenge. There are tympanis, organs, bells, saxes, found sounds- all really hard to actualize live without some kind of backing audio. This goes back to the ‘pushing boundaries’ thing, does it not?! I would really like to write something that would be easy to transfer to the stage with a typical instrument. That’s a new goal…

8.0  Much of today’s music sounds pasteurized, how does one keep it ‘real’ and remain positive? I don’t really listen to new music that much. Whether that’s a self-insulation or just lack of interest I can’t say. I like and absorb exactly what fits my needs. I’m really a musical Libertarian! There’s just so much out there– one doesn’t have to seek out music any more, it comes barreling through your computer or from the car next to you or at the Starbucks. I’m not saying there’s a void- there is so much great music to hear, and Chicago has more of it per–capita than most cities. It’s a great place for me to live and thrive as a musician.

9.0  What do you think of The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? I think it’s a bullshit idea manufactured by a couple of Baby-Boomers who thought that the experience of their youth was much more significant than yours. But people sure buy into it.

10.0  Can you still play the solo to “Little Wing” on both keys & sax? Could I ever? Do you have it on tape?

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MATT WALKER


1.0  Who was your favorite drummer growing up? Hard to pick one! Stewart Copeland, Stevie Wonder, Neil Peart, Bill Bruford, Steve Jordan.

2.0  Does playing guitar also make one a better drummer? Yes and vice-versa , anything with harmonic/melodic qualities will help a drummer think more musically, and playing drums can certainly help inform other instrumentalists about feel and good time.

3.0  Do you have a favorite stage kit? I like to change it from band to band , tour to tour. My old standby is any good ol’ 4 piece a la Charlie Watts , but sometimes I take it to extremes…last Morrissey tour was a Gretsch USA Custom 6-piece kit, but with and orchestral Bass Drum and a massive 8-ft Paiste Gong as well…oh yeah and about 10 cymbals, all Zildjian.

4.0  Is it okay to be nervous before a show? Definitely, nerves can help step your game up, but to be fair they can also stiffen up a performance. It goes both ways. I don’t really meditate but before a show – I try to find a minute or two to close my eyes and focus my energy…really visualize how I want to play. It really works.

5.0  When you write a song, where does it start for you…. as a riff, a beat, a melody, a lyric? Anywhere and everywhere. I get more song ideas when I am out walking or riding my bike than anywhere…which usually results in me racing home to record it before I forget it. I write more on piano than any other instrument, but when I have the time my favorite writing technique is to spend a few hours going back and forth on the instruments. I might have an idea on guitar, but before I finish writing it I’ll go over to the drums and play with the song in my head, because I’m more comfortable on drums than the other instruments I’ll come up with dynamics and arrangement ideas that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Then it’s always back to the piano to really figure out harmonically what is happening with the song.

6.0  What’s up with MDR? TheMDR is still happening, but a couple of the members have left town so we are focusing more on finishing recording/mixing our last EP. I have been working on a kind of solo project called of1000faces. Its based on my writing but the idea is to record and perform in a variety of contexts with different musicians from all genres. We just played our first show in Chicago a couple of months ago and will be playing again Nov12 at The Bottom Lounge.

7.0  How did the Morrissey gig come about? A few of his band members live in L.A. and are friends with my brother Solomon and ex-Cupcakes band mate Greg Suran. When Morrissey found himself in need of a drummer to tour for “Ringleader of the Tormentors”, my old Chicago pals put my name in for the job which got me an audition….ironically, a year after I became his drummer, the original bass player quit and my brother joined Morrissey’s band as well.

8.0  Any tunes in his repertoire that were more difficult to learn than you may have expected? Some of The Smiths songs are a challenge. Not from a technical stand point, but trying to capture their essence which is largely dependent on the style of drummer Mike Joyce, and the way the drums and bass interacted. Additionally, there was a certain sound they had that lent itself to Morrissey’s vocals – In a live situation, with a catalog as expansive as Morrissey’s, it’s challenging to go from one era to the next in a single set, it’s almost like time travel.

9.0  Who was your favorite 80’s act? Again, how do i pick one?!! Adam Ant, Gary Numan, Icicle Works. Talk Talk, Split Endz, Tears for Fears….its a long list.

10.0  If you could be anybody else in history who would it be? I see this question in some magazine….what is it…GQ? Cosmopolitan? I would be David Bowie because no one can touch him.

SCOTT BENNETT


1.0 – What led you to move to LA? After losing my Warner Bros. record deal, and my 3rd band breaking up, I needed a change. Although I had had a great run doing commercials in Chicago, I thought that I might get a chance to do more album work, and more specifically, after playing on Brian Wilson’s “Imagination” album, I thought that I might have a shot at writing with him if I lived in CA.

2.0 – What are you working on now? Well, I did get the chance to not only write with Brian, but co-produce and mix his most acclaimed post Beach Boys album last year, “That Lucky Old Sun” (**** Rolling Stone, Spin, MOJO, Uncut) which lead to him asking me to help finish 2 songs for his soon to be released “Brian Wilson Re-Imagines Gershwin” album. The Gershwin estate let Brian pick a couple unfinished works from the vaults, which he wrote new melodies and or bridges for, and asked me to write the words. I just sent the mixes of a female power trio I produced, called EZ Tiger, to Doug McBride at Gravity for mastering. And, we’re on the last mix for a project that started just before I left Chicago, that features Matt Walker, Jim Dinou, Brett Simons, Danny Shaffer and myself, called, “Shiny”. It’s great, arty stuff that still sounds fresh 10 years on. We abandoned the project when everyone got real paying sidemen offers (Pumpkins, Morrisey, Brian Wilson, Liz Phair, Fiona Apple etc)

3.0 – What is your favorite rock genre? Melodic meets artistic. The Beach Boys, Beatles, Bowie, Costello, Radiohead and many others managed to make daring, complex records that were also catchy.

3.1 – You play a lot of instruments, which one came easiest to you?  The drums. But, I’ll take a piano on a desert island.
4.0 – Any quick advice to young musicians that believe they’ve got it? Write songs.
5.0 – What was the first song you ever wrote? Was it influenced by a specific artist? How do you feel about it today? It was called “Traffic”, about a girl that wouldn’t leave me alone. It had 3 completely different parts that almost fit together. Not bad for a 14 year old, but it’s best that it was only heard by a couple dozen people.

6.0 – Did you have hero growing up? John Lennon.

7.0 – What do you like to do when you visit Chicago these days? Just breath in the great energy and look at proper architecture. And see old friends and family, of course.

8.0 – What was the most challenging gig you’ve ever had?
Opening acoustically for Tower of Power at Cubby Bear. They liked me for 13 of my 25 minutes, but then wanted to shake their butts to a 12 piece funk band.

9.0 – In the studio, do you record the same way today as you did starting out? When it’s just me, playing everything, nothing much has changed since I got my first reel to reel, except better mics and a bit better knowledge of how to place them, and how to mix. But, with a band in a proper studio, it’s nice to have engineers so you can focus on the music. Having said that, I do believe that each project requires different techniques. Sometimes I want a great, quality recording, and sometimes I want to put the drums in the bathroom and the amp way down a hallway with mics far away etc.

10.0 – Which song of yours do you think Spock would like most and why? Infinity Begins. First, because of the title, and second, because it goes in and out of time signatures without sounding obvious.