MURPH DANIELS w/ WOOD SHAMPOO

MURPHY's lawYour new record as Wood Shampoo is a greatest hit of sorts; must be great to get 17 songs off your chest?

If feels like we just won the WBA title against Mike Tyson and we even have the bite marks to prove it.   We took some of the best songs we had written in the last couple of years that no one has ever heard and a few new cuts as well and we started up the band’s Lear and headed up to Gateway Mastering Studios in Maine to see the master himself, Bob Ludwig. After Bob performed his magic, we were all systems go.

It seems so few records these days have a sense of humor unless it’s tied in with a band’s gimmick overtly, where does Wood Shampoo fit in that spectrum?

Our motto is simple: we have nothing to lose, so let’s have so fun for crying out loud and try to put a smile on our fan’s faces. Life’s tough enough, so we want to give everyone an outlet to escape from that. Anything goes in our writing: from sexy girls, vampires, aliens, the crazy world of the stock market, dead rock stars, crack, cover girls, gambling – you name it, we probably have a song about it and if we don’t, then we will for the next album.

Do you think being from New York gives you some sense of entitlement when it comes to rocking (hard)?

That’s an interesting question. Would you be able to make that a multiple choice question and give me a wink when I am near the right answer (that used to work for me in my high school French class)? I think there is so much top-shelf quality homegrown music here thrown in with the greatest bands in the world always stopping by to make NYC an extremely competitive market. You just cannot survive in front of the NYC fans unless you are at your best because they will not settle for anything less. They’ll take you out in stretchers if you’re off your game – they’re that sledgehammer tough. Even my own family throws rotten tomatoes at me in those cases, so use your imagination.

WOOD_SHAMPOO_coverWhat are your favorite cuts on the disc and which is your least?

Every track on the disc was picked by a panel of experts in the field using our proprietary analysis of qualitative and quantitative data. In other words, we like all the cuts. That being said, some of the ones that stand out for us are Wanna Be A Dead Rock Star, Top of the World, She’s So Fine, Cover Girl, Where’s the Party Earthling?, You Suck (Mr. Vampire), Ticker Tape, One More Chance, and of course our title track Crack, Crack Heart Attack. They just have a certain je ne sais quoi.  They are packed full of radio friendly hooks on every level and that’s how we like them. You’re lucky enough to get one or two on an album and here you are getting a lifetime supply. Go to our website, WOODSHAMPOO.net and hear them for yourselves and you be the judge and leave us a comment while you’re at it. We like to read them at breakfast.

I would say the cut that’s our least favorite is Three Cheers because it doesn’t fit into the format as well for this album, but we put it on there due to popular demand. It’s like early Bruce Springsteen meets Lou Reed and they decide to take a walk on the wild side. There’s great sax on that one from Frankie Tee.

What’s the story behind Crack, Crack Heart Attack the tune? I understand the CIA was involved?

What I’m about to tell you is the absolute truth (writer’s note: be aware Murph Daniels is currently wired up like the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and has been connected to a Delco car battery by a couple of independent contractors who work for a nameless agency. They are also wearing cheap suits.). We were in the studio and one of my producers, who also happens to be a guitarist on the record, Eddie Martinez, asked me to play him the day’s songs I had written for the session. Turns out nothing caught his ear that day and we just don’t waste our time with a song that doesn’t make that first cut, so he suggested a song I had done on a Murph Daniels’ solo record that he really loved, but thought we could do it much better now. That song was Crack, Crack Heart Attack and everyone at the session knocked in out of the ballpark that day. On a crazy side note, when I get a bad headache, I have found if I play this song really loud in the car, it will cure me after a play or two. Try it for yourself, I’m not kidding. JJ Cale had been an inspiration for me with the writing of this song because I thought if he could have a hit with the song Cocaine then why couldn’t someone have a hit song with the drug crack. He just passed away and will be missed.

WoodShampooThere are some monster players on the album: how does one assemble such a line-up without a major label budget?

Well, without getting into the budget, because the accountants are watching me 24/7, it’s really quite simple. You don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on studio costs, so why not get the greatest musicians alive to come down and do it right in one or two takes. Co-producers and guitarists Tommy Byrnes and Eddie Martinez are masters at their craft. They also put a crack (excuse the pun) team together. We not only captured Wood Shampoo at its prime, but had fun doing it. I called up Gateway Mastering and sent them the tracks and Bob Ludwig and team thought it was something they could definitely work with. They brought out sounds from the mix I had never even heard before. Bob is a genius and just an all around great guy. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I learned from working with him. And let’s not forget our fifth Beatle, Rich Gibbons. He was our engineer and mixer on most of the tracks and always had Wood Shampoo’s back. Rich fits in so great and I think part of the reason is that he is a Senior Producer at The Howard Stern Show and with that job comes a great sense of humor.

How does the writing process work for you and how do you know or feel a song is complete and ready for recording?

I usually hear or read something that catches my attention and knocks me off my feet. I then use that phrase as a building block for the rest of the song. Other times I come up with a catchy riff first and the lyrics follow somehow as I play the riff over and over again on guitar. I take the songs to my producers, which usually is Tommy, and they continue the process. Inspirations for some of my songs have been from hearing someone saying “you suck” to their parent and wanting to find a funny way to use it in a song which turned out to be You Suck (Mr. Vampire), to having my best friend ask me for years if he could have my guitars when I die and that one later turned into My Best Friend Died (and Left Me His Guitar).

What’s the first album you ever bought and the first you ever tossed out in a disappointment (if any?)?

I think the first album I ever bought was Elton John’s “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.” I was truly amazed by the musicianship. I think I probably traded the albums I didn’t like for the ones I wanted at a local store so I never actually would throw one out.

Gun, or billy club, to your head: what are your favorite three albums of all time?

I’m a huge music fan and I really love a mix of everything from Talking Heads, The Clash, Guns N’ Roses, Elvis Costello, Nirvana, Otis Redding, James Brown, Johnny Hallyday, The Rolling Stones, Lou Reed, The Jam, Al Green, Joe Williams, My Morning Jacket, Wilco, Roy Orbison, Hoodoo Gurus, Moby Grape, Toots Thielemans, and Johnny Hallyday. Stop me when I pass three okay?

If you had put out a Wood Shampoo double-live opus in the 70’s, what would it have been called and how were sales?

I think we would have called it “Wood Shampoo: One Lump or Two?” and it would have been a limited sold-out run of one million copies in blood red vinyl. 

DUSTY WRIGHT

Your new record If We Never sounds immediately comfortable – how do you view it in relation to your other musical incarnations?

Very personal and uncomfortably comfortable. The songs were written for me in most instances. Two of my friends died while I was recording it. My son’s godmother Patti and my best friend Buff. It made me examine my life, the life of men my age, my relationship with my family (wife, children, friends, etc.). In many ways, it’s a rumination of a middle-age man’s life; all the lust, love, betrayal, sorrow, joy, the finality of life. It’s no doubt my most personal effort as I’ve really examined my own ego and id on this one. (hear track “Sometimes I”)

How do you approach song writing for a solo release versus, say, GIANTfingers?

No difference, really. Just different players. Interestingly enough, this record began as the second GIANTfingers CD and the morphed into my own solo effort. I recorded some tracks with the band and then started laying down more personal tunes, very sparse, in some instances just my voice and guitar with a few embellishments. But I don’t know if I really approached this record any differently than any of my other records, song-writing wise. I don’t write a song and think of who will play what. I just let it flow and then decide what works for me vs. what may work better for GIANTfingers. I’ve always felt that a good song can be played just as readily on an acoustic guitar as it could be on a cello. Melody is (the) driving force.

Do you think the concept of a full-length record will be spun out in 50 years or stick like the symphony has, as a revered format?

Very good question. I think the full-length is dead right now. How many people ingest a full-length album today? I’d like to see that poll. We buy tracks. Artists like  CeeLo Green have been done well by releasing killer tracks like “Fuck You” or earlier with “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley that made folks stop and notice. And they were done before the albums were released. Besides, did it matter to the Beatles or the British Invasion bands way back when? Nope. They just released singles that got compiled into albums. There is just too much music, too much culture for people to pay attention to an entire album.  Much of my favorite hip-hop has always been best ingested by individual tracks and not entire albums. However, if an album is a magnificent effort and the songs flow into one another, then it rewards the listener like a novel or short movie. Even my own CD is stupid, even though it’s a concept album about middle-aged angst. I’d be a fool to suggest that anyone spend the 40 odd minutes to listen to it. But if they do, I hope they’ll enjoy the experience. I think it works best while driving or riding the subway. Ingest it like an audiobook. I also think that providing strong visual components for your music can act as a barker for your brand. Recently my video for the track “Secret Window” featuring the French actress Stella Velon won Best Music Video at the LA Film & Script festival. And the cover art was rendered by artist Jeff Zenick.

Do you see rock & roll as a reasonable raison d’etre?

Reasonable? No; necessary. Two guitars, bass, and drums. A garage. Some dudes that want to let it all hang out, and voila… Let there be rock! Rock and roll will never die. Long live rock! Rock is just like any other musical genre. Once you introduce it to the status quo, it will ascend, peak, descend, and then settle in to itself. Rock probably had its Renaissance during the late ’60s/early ’70s. Those bands and tunes have stood the test of time. Just like jazz in the ’50s, classical music in the 19th century. But then again, punk rock kicked it in the arse and it had a rebirth. Rap kicked it in the teeth. And on and on…

Did you have to fight or embrace cynicism to keep on keepin’ on?

Not at all. FIrst and foremost I have to be engaged myself. I don’t look at songwriting, or painting, or writing a great novel as any different. It’s all about the journey for any artist. You have an idea, you produce the idea in some format, and then feel compelled to share that idea with other people. Then you leave it up to others to embrace it or reject it. An artist need only worry about pleasing oneself. Any attention after that is extra gravy. But it’s easy to be cynical given today’s music culture. Especially when so many people feel that music has so little value that they have no qualms stealing it. I often ask these same folks why they don’t steal art off of walls. Normally they have no irrefutable rebuttal. Musicians need to make a living, too.

If you had to pick, what one year in rock is your all-time favorite? 

Wow, great question. Certainly my pre-teen years in the late ’60s defined me, and probably unconsciously informed my own musical style, my ethos, pathos, id, etc. ’69 to ’72 were memorable for me because my older cousin who was attending Kent State bought me Abbey Road and Led Zeppelin and introduced me to heavier music. I was already a Beatles fan, but Abbey Road was the album, especially side two, that made me appreciate the album as an album.  Wasn’t long after that I began ingesting Cream, Bowie, Dylan, Santana, Hendrix, The Doors, The Allman Brothers, Neil Young, et al.

Sometimes artists reach similar places completely unaware of one another and that cohesion is what creates a ‘scene’. Was there ever an artist you heard that made you think “yeah, that’s my scene man!”?

You know I’m often inspired in the least likely places. Sometimes it can be a tiny jazz club in the Village or rock club or even a private party, but I think that when Americana hit in NYC in the late 90s it was a scene I really felt a kinship and bond with. Many of the bands played the same venues, sometimes sharing the same bill. That was also was period during the mid-to-late 90s where I was producing a series of Americana gigs at CB’s Gallery (next to CBGB’s) called The Front Porch Series. And if was often my band and 4 other bands sharing the night. Most of us waved the flag of roots-rock, alt-country, Americana. Then one day I was a playing a BMI showcase at the original Living Room and Ollabelle was performing before us and it was like, “Holy Shit! That’s it man, that’s the sound, that’s the vibe, that’s the band. That’s all of what I wanted to convey. I turned to the dude next to me and said, “wow, they should be signed immediately.” And he said, “they just were. T-Bone Burnett is bringing them in to CBS.” I was stoked for them because they so deserved it. They just nailed it! Ditto for early Daniel Lanois and his solo records and gigs.

Any goofy behind-the-scenes stuff at Creem that like to laugh about now?

Nothing goofy really. But I do have some cool rock and roll stories. One of my fondest memories involves riding around Glastonbury during the festival with Robert Plant. He was headlining the main stage that Saturday night and I assigned myself to cover that event while at the helm of Creem. I took the train up from London and met him at his hotel. We climbed into his Mercedes and he drove me around Glastonbury sharing stories of King Arthur and the Holy Grail and the Maidens of Tor. He then asked me if I was a Moby Grape fan. I was even though I was introduced to them much later in my rock and roll life. He proceeded to try to ring up Jerry Miller, one of the guitarists and songwriters in the band. When we got back to the festival, we caught some the Velvet Underground’s reunion set, some of Midnight Oil, hung out with the Black Crowes backstage, and then Plant finally played. He was magnificent, as one might imagine.

What is your take on the new media and where does Culture Catch fit in?

New media is now. As I say, “converge is the word.” Web content has converged with TV content. The content is delivered on multi platforms and devices. Most consumers have access to two of the three screens — mobile, laptop, and desktop. Most folks in America could care less what size the screen might be. Plus, you can watch your content when you please in any environment. CultureCatch.com was one of the first companies to actually produce and post audio podcasts and vidcasts/webcasts on iTunes when we launched 6 years. My show featured compelling, long conversation with celebs in all areas of the arts. I think because I had this great access I was able to draw attention to our website. So we were part of the birth of new media. We even ran the podcasting symposium at Macworld the year they launched the iPhone. It was quite the event. Apple has been very kind to us. Really helped promote our programming across multiple platforms. Ditto for Verizon Wireless and some other forward thinking brands. Just this week we were mentioned in the New York Times by Mike Hudack, CEO of Blip.tv, as one of his favorite shows on his network. Am I getting wealthy from it? Not yet. But I’ve got no gatekeepers telling me what I can or can’t program. As long as there are interesting artists willing to share their stories, I will keep producing my content.

Rumour has it you were once purified in the waters of Lake Minnetonka, how was it working with Prince?

No rumors, nothing but the truth! Yes, I was the only journalist to interview him in the early ’90s while I was at the helm of Creem.  He was then known as “the-artist-formerly-known-as-Prince”. I had agreed to a cover story with him, but I had to accept certain conditions. Interview would be conducted at Paisley Park, in person. However, I couldn’t bring a tape recorder, pencil, pen, crayon, et al. to document said interview. I would have to create an interview with my memory and creative moxie. I was up to the challenge as I felt he’d appreciate my humble Akron, Ohio roots. Hung out all day at Paisley Park. Met all of his band and folks that work there. Finally got to meet and hang with him towards the middle of the afternoon. He was too cool, a bit shy, but deep. A few months later, he ended up hiring me to publish and edit his fanzine New Power Generation. That lasted for a few years until he got distracted with other things.