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. 

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DIDA PELLED

1.0 – When did your love of jazz begin and with what artists / records?

I began listening to jazz when I was fifteen years old, at The Thelma Yellin High School (Israel). I didn’t listen to jazz at all before that. As a guitar player (I didn’t sing at all at the time) I loved listening to Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, and to other instrumentalists like Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley, Miles David, Coltrane, Ahmad Jamal and many others.

2.0 – Were you singing before you picked up an instrument?

No. I began playing music only as a guitar player, and did only that for a few years. I played many gigs as a guitar player only before starting to sing, and at the time I wasn’t even thinking about singing. After High school, I went to the army (like everyone in Israel), and I was chosen to serve as an ‘outstanding musician’, so I played in the army band. In that band I started singing a little bit, and I fell in love with it. A year after, when I moved to New York, I began singing on my gigs too.

3.0 – What was the first song you ever learned to sing and play at the same time?

In the beginning I didn’t sing jazz so much, and I was mostly fooling around with singing some Israeli songs, Nirvana songs, or something in that vibe, I don’t remember :) So I guess those were the first songs I sang and played at the same time. I think that the first standard that I’ve learned to sing an play at the same time was “Like Someone In love”.

4.0 – It seems so few female guitarists gravitate towards improvisation but rather use it as a vehicle for songs: did that come naturally to you or was it something you had to work at a bit?

It came very naturally, because I started as a guitar player, so improvisation was what I was mostly working on. When I played a gig, many times with another singer, I was only playing guitar, and improvising was my way to express myself. In that sense, I think that I’m happy that I started singing late, because starting with the guitar gave me a point of view of an instrumentalist first, and of someone in the band. Starting to sing after playing guitar and improvising, and really knowing the songs and the language helps a lot.

5.0 – How was your experience like at Berkeley School of Music?

I was there only for 5 weeks, so I don’t really know how it is like to be a student there.:)

6.0 – What led to your decision to ultimately go for it as a musician in the states versus your home of Isreal?

I had a dream about moving to New York even before I started playing music. My older sister and brother were students in NY and I wanted to do the same since I was very young. Later after I got serious into jazz, I had no doubt that NY is where I want to be!

7.0 – Do the early 50’s rock’n’roll pioneers have any influence on your sensibility as a player?

Sure :)

8.0 – What do you enjoy most: playing live, writing or recording?

Playing live!

9.0 – What’s your favorite thing about the music scene in New York?

I don’t know another city in the world where you can go out every night and find a few very good options of different music to listen to, and to be inspired by the best musicians in the world.  I am back in NY at The Living Room on August 27th.

10.0 – If you could sit in with anyone, anywhere, anytime, past or present, for just one night….who and where?

Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles?  It’s a hard question! ( Visit Dida online at DidaMusic.com or on Facebook )

MIKE CLIFFORD

1.0 – What led to the decision to release Day Dreamer, an EP, as a follow-up to the 2007 full-length self-titled debut, Mike Clifford?

Money was a big factor.  I invested all of my savings into recording
the LP.  I hired great players and rented studio time, including a few
days at The Magic Shop.  That added up very quickly.  Following up with an EP-fewer song to record and mix-made sense financially.  But I also like the format of an EP.  Pick a few songs that you feel really solid about and put them out there.

2.0 – How do you think the material and delivery on the new disc vary in comparison?

Production value.  I couldn’t afford a pro studio to track drums on
this one.  All of the tunes on the EP were either recorded in my
bedroom or my friend and mixer/engineer/producer Zach Berkman’s bedroom using Protools and a few mics.  We didn’t labor a lot over sounds or complicated arrangements.  Instead, we focused on getting workable sounds and good, honest takes.  Like a lot of other songwriters I tend to think that a great song ought to hold up whether it’s performed by a voice and a single accompanying instrument or a full band with all of the bells and whistles added on.

3.0 – How did your band come together?

Different band with the exception of Leo Marino on guitar.  He played guitar on the LP and the EP, along with switching between guitar and bass in my live band for years.  Lately I’ve been performing with Leo,
the great Anton Fier on drums, and Brett Bass on bass.  It’s the best
group I’ve played out with.

4.0 – Would you describe yourself as a Day Dreamer; are you nocturnal?

Nope.  But I had terrible ADD as a kid.  The song “Day Dreamer” provides
a spot-on description of what it was like for me to space out in
school.

5.0 – What comes easier to you, writing on guitar or piano?

That depends on the tune.  I’m more proficient on the guitar, but I’m
likely to come up with more interesting chord-voicings and
progressions on the piano.  Sometimes I’ll develop a song idea by
switching between the two instruments.  If I’m lucky, trying the tune
on the piano might give me an idea of how to approach it on the guitar
and vice versa.

6.0 – Can you describe what it feels like to have written a song you believe in?

It’s very cathartic.  Especially if the song comes out quickly with
little editing or ‘crafting’ on my end.

7.0 – How do you know when a song is ready for recording?

I’ll demo it up on Protools and play it for a few people whose opinion
I value.  If the feedback is good I’ll try it out live.  If it goes
over well and I still like singing it, than the song is ready to go.

8.0 – What was the first song you ever learned to sing and play at the same time?

I’m pretty sure it was “About a Girl” by Nirvana.

9.0 – Who or what got you hooked on rock & roll?

It was in the first grade.  I was hanging out with my friends Joe,
Scott and JP in JPs TV room.  Joe put on Appetite for Destruction and
started rocking out on air guitar.  He told us we were in his band and
assigned instruments.  Of course he got to be lead guitarist AND lead
vocalist (Slash + Axle…Slaxle?).  I got stuck being the bass player.
I didn’t even know what that was.  Either way, I was hooked for life.

10.0 – How was your recent return to NY’s The Living Room in June?

Great.  I love that venue.  You can rock out hard on one tune and
follow it up with something really quiet and the audience will stay
with you.  It all works in that space.

TRISTAN FORGUS

1. When did you start writing and what were your initial subjects? 

I started writing in notebooks when I was probably six or eight – it’s hard sometimes for me to discern reality from family myths. Anyway, by the time I was 10, reading and writing had become central to my daily life and very survival. My initial efforts, like now, involved trying to make sense of things and to savor the beauty of the world, the indifference, the chaos and drama. You know, pompous artsy whiny stuff (grin).

2. Who are your main literary influences? Do you emulate any of them? 

This is going to sound clichéd, but if I were to be stranded on a desert island and had only one author’s work, it would hands-down be Tolstoy. War and Peace and Anna Karenina are the best novels ever. By themselves they would be enough.

Another all-time favorite is JD Salinger; I have spent years reading and studying him. I also love Virginia Woolf; I treasure her prose, her lyrical and psychological depth. And Dostoevsky, Raymond Chandler, Adrienne Rich. The list goes on. In general, I love books, a lot of different kinds of books, and when I find ones I love, I carry them around for years and re-read them time and again.

Do I emulate my favorite authors? You bet I do – or at least I try to – just like guitarists and drummers and singers, I guess: borrow here, borrow there, add your own two cents.

3. OK, now you’ve done it – you are stranded on a desert island, one turntable, no booze, 5 albums….what are they? 

Ha, no booze, interesting! OK, I wish I could just have 5 mix tapes (REALLY, my musical tastes are MUCH broader than the question allows  (I’d like a Brandenburg Concerto, a piano piece by Keith Jarrett, blasts by Coltrane and Mingus and Monk, Satchmo’s It’s a Wonderful World, and the Exploited’s Sex and Violence)), but sticking to the spirit of your question, five albums as follows, followed by five back-ups in case of warping due to sun or saltwater:

First Five: The Clash’s The Clash (U.S. release w.  “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais”), David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Leonard Cohen’s The Songs of Leonard Cohen, The Velvet Underground’s The Velvet Underground and Nico, and Husker Du’s Zen Arcade

Back Up Five: The Replacement’s Let It Be, Tom Waites Nighthawks at the Diner, Bob Marley Legend, Nirvana’s Nevermind and Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. 1

4. What is the status of your long toiled-over life’s work, the semi-fictional “Vicious Circles”

It is virtually done, except for my final confession in the last chapter and the epilogue. Or maybe that’s a gross misstatement; maybe I should just say it’s what it is and I am virtually getting ready to slay the beast one final time. I am working on it part-time now but I think about it all the time and hope to deliver it in-full next year. So, yeah….it’s been sixteen or seventeen or eighteen years, depending on the math.

5. What is it about? 

It’s about a sixteen-year-old Sarah, a girl who ran away in 1977 from the suburbs to the city of Chicago. It’s a true story based on nearly 100 hours of tapes Sarah and I made together. She was of course, like virtually all runaways, exploited. It recounts her adventures and misadventures as a girlfriend, a professional escort, a wife, a mother. It’s drugs, sex, power, survival, Chicago, the 70’s, the 80’s, the 90’s, and it’s about running away and, then again, not running away.

6. You are also a chef celebrating the opening of your first restaurant, Fusion Cafe;  is the name autobiographical? 

Well, celebrating is not exactly the word for it, if you know the restaurant business. It’s more like trading in your life and working and worrying all the time, but luckily I love it.

I hadn’t realized it exactly until I thought about your question: yeah, I guess the name is autobiographical. Fusion, the melting pot, my African father, my English mother, my art, my science, my cooking, and on and on and on…. It’s almost like a guiding principle for me, now that I think about it. (see Tristan’s ‘Cafe 101’ cooking blog)

7. You’ve always been an avid indie music purveyor and dabbling songwriter, does music have a nexus with cooking? 

Yes, I think so, very much.  Think in terms of a production, the mix, the balance, the quality of performance, the quality of equipment, and of course the composition itself, the melodies and harmonies, the tempo and rhythms, and of course the lyric…. These all have almost direct analogies to a successful (or unsuccessful) dinner service.

8. What are you listening to these days? 

I’m listening to Pandora a lot these days. I had been listening a lot to internet radio on iTunes a lot for a couple of years really, especially Coyote Radio out of UCal.-SanBernadino and Boot-Liquor, a SomaFM alternative countryish station with a alcohol sub-theme. But ever since I started Pandora when I got my iPhone, I’ve been listening to a lot of Superchunk Radio and stuff like that.

 9. As a writer, do you have to stay busy at your craft to keep your chops up like a musician, or do you have to walk away from time to time to keep things fresh? 

Well, I’m probably the last person to give advice about writing habits, but I’d say both have their place. Like with everything of course: practice, practice, practice is the way to get better and to get things done. Writing though especially takes place not only in the act of writing but in the act of living too.

10. What takes more courage for you, actually writing or reading what you have written?  

Wow, that’s a good question. I don’t know, probably the writing; as much as I love it, I am very afraid quite often and really, you know, it can be hard and it can hurt. I love the quote from Hemingway: “There’s nothing to writing, just sit at the keyboard and bleed.”

In terms of reading, the hard part is getting past the understandable but unreasonable loyalty to what one has written – that is, to approach and see it objectively. to be able to critically assess its virtues and weaknesses and to have the courage to re-write.

VON CLOEDT

1.0 – What 3 albums would you say had the biggest impact on you as a kid – are they still essential to you?

Wow, I had to think really hard on this one.

I’m not so sure that I can narrow it down to 3 albums, as much as 3 songs. When I was a kid, around 9 or 10, listening to the radio wherever I was, I wasn’t so much interested in what album these songs were on, but rather what the SONG was, and maybe who sang it. I had an uncle who was in country music cover bands for a long time in my life, and he could do a killer Johnny Cash voice. But, at the time of being so young, and not caring about who Johnny Cash was, the lyrics of “Folsom Prison Blues” can stand out if you’re paying attention to them, and I remember thinking “dang, that’s messed up”. And only thinking back on that do I realize that that was when I started to actually care about music and see how cool and different it can be, because… well… they weren’t going to be playing that song on “The Muppet Show” anytime soon.

The second would be the first time I heard Nirvana, which was their MTV Unplugged session. They did this song called “The Man Who Sold The World” by this guy I didn’t know about named David Bowie. That was a two-for-one. Just like every kid in the mid 90’s wanting to be a musician, Kurt was that motivation, and it made me want to find out who the hell this David Bowie was. So, I started looking into more of the historical aspect of music/musicians.

And the third one, the one band that made me hunt for meaning BEHIND the lyrics is Pink Floyd. Besides the Johnny Cash tune and the fact that I heard a lot of country tunes from my Uncle’s cover band, The Silverwings Band, Americana wasn’t really apart of my early musical development, it was classic rock.

Are they still essential to me today? Absolutely, you can’t deny the classics.

2.0 – How does being a musician yourself impact your opinion on a disc received for consideration if at all?

I think the fact that I’m a musicians affects a lot of how I listen to an album. I listen for musicianship, lyrical quality, and mixing. If an artist/band is willing to record and send out this album, they better make sure that it’s the best that it can be, not just because they want to have something out there for someone to listen to. I don’t want to hear your basement tapes with the neighbors dog barking in the background.

3.0 – You recently celebrated a milestone with your 100th AmericanaRockMix.com podcast, what inspired you to start doing them in the first place and have you been surprised by its acceptance and growth online?

Being from St. Louis, I grew listening to mainstream radio and not knowing anything besides what the radio tells me to listen to. Then as I got older, I started finding other bands that I really liked, but weren’t getting any radio play. I come from the land of Wilco and Son Volt. They sell out shows in St. Louis, but do they get played on the radio on  a regular basis? No, because they don’t fit the popular radio format. And so, I started to question “if these bands are so good, why have I never heard them anywhere besides my friends’ CD players”. So I started doing this tiny little, extremely unprofessional, make-shift, blah blah blah, show to put on the internet in hopes that someone, somewhere would find it, and love these bands as much as I do. Without trying to sound like a martyr for the music, I really did start it for the love of the music.

The acceptance and growth aspect blow me away. I think I’m a little detached from the extent of how far around the world this show goes. I get e-mails from all around the world and it never ceases to amaze me. Is the show popular? I don’t know. I know that bands like the show, but do the individual music listeners? Once again, I don’t know. And I’m ok with that. I know how many downloads and listens each show gets per month, and it’s exciting to see the numbers go up each month. But then again, they’re just numbers. And I’m not completely sure how relevant that should be to me. Not to say that I don’t appreciate those who listen to the show, because I absolutely do. If it wasn’t for e-mails and facebook messages that I get from people telling me about how they have a new favorite band or just bought a new album online because of two songs that I played on the show, I probably would have gotten bored a long time ago. It just feels good to get some verification that I’m not doing this for no reason.

4.0 – Genre tags like ‘Americana’ can help an artist reach their audience but can also have a negative effect in the sense that they may limit an artists appeal, is the term Americana Rock intended to expand that scope? 

The tag “Americana” can really detract the casual listener from checking out a new band. There are stereotypes and stigmas that go along with the term which have gained attention due to the “redneck” movement in country music. But because of those limitations that can be applied to “Americana”, I needed to bypass that with something that people can relate to more, such as the hugely ambiguous term of “rock”. Plus it brings a format to the show. I don’t want to do a show of ballads, that’s going to put people to sleep. A lot of people listen to the show at work, or in the car, or while exercising. They need something that will catch their attention. But, yes it’s meant to expand the scope of the show without sounding overbearing. If I really wanted to expand the scope of the show, I could have named it The Americana Bluegrass Folk Alt. Country Cowpunk Rockabilly Extravaganza Rock Mix.

5.0 – One of the attractions to the home-spun podcast format must be being able to promote the artists you dig with no constraints, would you ever relinquish that to an extent for a larger audience on radio or Sirius? 

The fact that it’s a home-spun podcast with no limitations for the artists or myself is a strong fixture in the format of the show. If I gave up any of that for any reason, it would no longer be “The Americana Rock Mix”. It would just be another generic radio show. Not to say that I wouldn’t gladly do a SiriusXM or terrestrial radio show. But it wouldn’t be The Americana Rock Mix as it stands now. Maybe a variation of that.

6.0 – As with any media outlet, quality control is your calling card; what is your criteria for featuring an artist on ARM?

I really try to emphasize to people the “ROCK” aspect of the show. If it’s not up tempo or there’s no driving force in the song, it doesn’t stand a strong chance to making it onto the show. But not every song can be a rocker. It’s also got to be a song that will get caught in people’s heads. People like songs that have a catchy hooks. And, like I mentioned earlier, good audio quality is a must.

7.0 – You recently relocated to the Gulf Coast of Florida, were you burned out on the St. Louis scene and what have you learned about the Fla. scene so far?

I grew up on the St. Louis music scene. And it was tough. There’s not a whole lot of support from people up there. And then when I moved down here to Florida, I realized how crappy the scene up in St. Louis really was. I just thought it was tough up there, I didn’t know it just flat-out sucked. The scene down here in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area is so supportive of their bands. And the support works both ways. The bands love to help out those who are will to help them out as well. There are organizations down here to help out the bands with shows and tours. I just wish there was someone, with enough heart, back in St. Louis to help them with that. They don’t know what their missing.

8.0 – Is there such a thing as ‘Midwesticana’?

I know that Uncle Tupelo kind of started the whole Alt. Country music scene back int the 90’s. And there have been a few bands to spawn from that, like The Bottle Rockets, Son Volt, etc. But if there is such a thing as “Midwesticana” then it starts and stops there with those bands.

9.0 – Any independent 2011 releases that you feel should be ‘must listens’ for major labels?

I don’t think that the major label is the way to go anymore. There are a few artists that have released some amazing records this year. And I wish them huge success, but I don’t know if I wish the for them to get affiliated with a major label. The major labels aren’t making the money anymore. It’s the DIY artists/bands. The ones that are really trying to get out there to get noticed and doing their own merchandizing are the ones who are going to be more successful, and won’t be trapped by the contracts of limitations of major labels. It used to be that the people within the major label organizations had the connections to people with more connections. But in the age of the internet, everyone knows everyone. The major label is an overrated middle man now.

10.0 – Are you at all surprised by the extent to which Americana music/artists are are featured in advertising today as a sort of ‘seal of brand sincerity’ and yet remains ignored by mainstream radio?

Yeah, I am surprised. And it makes me happy. It just shows that some advertisers out there have their finger on the pulse of what is good in music nowadays. Hopefully it’s not just some trend that will fade. We’ll just have to wait and see…