MARIANA QUINN-MAKWAIA w/ SMOKE & SUGAR

What are you working on right now and why are you excited about it?  I’m very blessed to be working on a few different projects that satisfy my multi-genre fancies: The Kai Lovelace jazz trio. The Sibylline is a folk duo with my ethereal composer of a sister Alice Quinn-Makwaia. VibeMosaic is an electronic neo-soul project with the magical Brad Morrison. Finally, Smoke and Sugar which is how we met at The Bitter End! We’re really excited to be putting out our first EP of neo-soul / alt-rock music called “Mindings” on Friday, October 6th. For any fans or explorers in the NYC area come join the celebration at Downtown Art in the East Village.

Did you grow up with music in your family?  Yes, my Dad’s a musician and composer as well as a voice teacher. My Mom is an actress and acting teacher. Actually most of our family friends are artists of one form or another. My sister and I grew up singing together. Sometimes my family would go on a walk and realize we’d been lost in some daydream and all four of us had been humming different tunes at the same time.

Was there a live concert experience that impacted you early on?  I went to a concert of my Dad’s friend Paul Silber when I was about nine. He was singing jazz and blues standards with piano accompaniment. It was such a simple arrangement but he made me fall in love with those songs, with the call to improvise that exists in jazz and with that beautiful porous boundary between performer and audience.

What was your first public performance?  My first public performance was in preschool. I played a fly in an adaptation of The Itsy Bitsy Spider. I made it to the front of the stage and then burst into tears. I went through a very intense shy phase in my youth.

How do songs come about for SMOKE & SUGAR?  I love this project because everyone involved is a composer and a musician. We tend to start with a seedling from one of us, and then allow it to fill out as we bring it to the rest of the band. First with melody and mood or lyrical theme. Then add counterparts maybe break up sections or embellish parts and lay out the lyrics.

Do you have any day-of-show (or pre-show) rituals that help you get in the right mindset to perform live?   I tend to channel all of my nerves or excitement into my hair and the set-list. The first lets me fuss over minute details in an internal headspace until it’s time to get onstage and the second lets me fuss over the flow of the evening with everyone in the band.

Who is on your musical Mount Rushmore? Lianne La Havas, Jeff Buckley, Nina Simone. The Beatles, Stevie Wonder is a prophet.

What’s your favorite thing about the music scene in New York right now?  I love how many New York musicians want to build community rather than compete. It can be so hard being an artist in a world that finds creative thought dangerous. Of course we’re all stronger when we uplift each other.

Last minute, you are asked to perform on a new version of Soul Train but they want you to do a 70’s cover — what tune do you chose for the band?   Oooh we already do a cover of “Master Blaster” by Stevie Wonder! But since that’s a 1980s single I’d go for “Ebony Eyes”. My favorite secret tune from Songs in the Key of Life.

You are granted special access to a time machine called ‘The Day Tripper’ in which you can go backstage and hang at any concert in history: what are your coordinates and what happened?   This may not be very original but I’d give a lot to be able witness what happened in Woodstock in 1969.

BEN TAYLOR w/ BEECHERS FAULT

 

 

20160511 - Beecher's Fault at Mercury Lounge 0016
photo by Gustavo Mirabile

What was the first album you ever purchased and how do you rank it today?   Not sure what the first one I bought with my own money was but the first CD I was given was Queen’s Greatest Hits 1 & 2…the double disc. My parents gave it to me for Christmas when I was maybe 7. It’s still one of my favs to this day. So many incredible songs.

20160511 - Beecher's Fault at Mercury Lounge 0020
photo by Gustavo Mirabile

Was guitar your first instrument? and what was your first guitar?   First instrument I played was actually piano. My parents bought an old electric organ from a neighbor in England for me to practice on. I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 13 and my first guitar was a black and white Stratocaster. I was really into Clapton at the time so I think he inspired that choice.

What do you play these days and do you use the same gear on stage as in the studio?   I’m really not much of a gear guy. I like to keep it as simple as possible so I play an American Telecaster for its simplicity and versatility. I own several guitars (most of them gifts) and I’ll occasionally switch it up but the tele is my go-to for studio and live. My amp is a Budda tube amp and I love that thing.

You’ve moved around a lot geographically, how do you think those contrasts of place & time have impacted your music or approach to it?   Well being from England and having English parents who love music has definitely had a huge impact on me. I grew up listening to all the English greats (Beatles, Stones, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Floyd, the Police, Bowie etc…) I think my time in Texas allowed me to gain an appreciation for country music. I’m a HUGE Jerry Jeff Walker fan. But just in general I’ve always used music as a medium for making new friends in new places. Everyone loves music so it’s a great thing to talk about when you’re in a new place.

What’s your favorite part about being in a band; writing, recording, or playing out? I love all of it but writing is probably my favorite part. I tend to write in quick spurts. I’ll get an idea for a song and finish writing it in a day or two. I love it when it all happens at once like that.

What do you think is the tightest Beecher’s Fault elevator pitch (or did I just blow the interview?) “Wilco and Passion Pit had a baby named Beecher’s Fault”

Take us behind the scenes: what is the bands dynamic and how does that vary pre-show verses post?   Ken and I tend to run the show. We are the main songwriters and founders of the band so we are the most intense and bossy. The other three (Lauren, Serge and Max) are awesome musicians and great friends so it’s really easy to work with them. They do a great job of tolerating us. Pre-show I’d say we are generally relaxed but a little intense and focused. Post show we all like to hang and have a good time. Beechers-Fault-full-band-photo

You’re a Wilco aficionado of sorts — what are your favorite three Wilco albums? “A Ghost is Born” is definitely my favorite. I was introduced to it and Wilco in my first week as a student at Colgate University. It just really resonates with me and I think the songs are some of Jeff’s most expressive and personal. After that I’d have to say “Being There” and “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”. Both of them are just packed with amazing tracks that I can listen to hundreds of times and never get tired of.
What advise would you give to a young artist or band getting ready to really ‘give it a go’? It’s way harder than you think. Don’t expect anything from anyone and make sure your band-mates are your favorite people in the world because years from now you’ll still be in the “struggle” with them.
You’ve been asked to do a tribute on the Grammy’s: who is the artist and what is the song do? Wilco, “The Late Greats”.

MATT FEDDERMANN

FeddermannHow did your love affair with rock & roll begin? As a kid listening to Buddy Holly, The Beatles, Elvis, Jerry Lee and more on 104.3 the oldies station in Chicago. My Dad was/is a big oldies fan and that radio station was all he ever listened to. “Smoke on the Water,” “Wild Thing” or “Iron Man” are the first songs most guitarists learn. Mine was “That’ll Be The Day” and “It’s So Easy”.

What were the first three albums you ever purchased and which of those holds up best today to you? Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Run DMC Raising Hell and Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood. Thriller holds up best to me, hands down.

When did you start writing songs and how do they ‘come together’ for you most often? 7th/8th grade with my very first band, Vertigo. Songs come in many ways. Sometimes I’ll be driving a melody with pop in my head, or, I’ll hear a phrase that I like and will write a song around it. Sometimes, I’ll be jamming with other musicians and we write the music and then lyrics will follow.

You’ve managed to carve out a nice niche on the north shore by being a respected ‘jack of all trades’, how has your business model evolved over the past few years ?  My business model hasn’t changed all that much. With the internet and all of the social media resources as my disposal, communicating with fans is much easier on one hand and on the other takes three times as long. I literally work all day to book shows, promote shows, create content to increase my brand awareness, etc..

What advice do you give to young bands trying to build a following and, in turn, get better gigs? A few thing. The BIGGEST thing is to be friendly and outgoing. I try to meet as many people at gigs as possible. Anytime someone gives me a tip, a compliment, a thumbs up, a high five, anything, I make sure to introduce myself and ask them their name. A 30 second engagement can mean a new long term fan. Your fans can be and are your biggest promoters. The more people that come to your shows, the better the bigger the gigs will grow, the more opportunities will open up along with making more money.

Do you have to become Facebook (say hey to Matt) exhibitionists to play the game?  If you are not on social media, you are at a severe disadvantage. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.. Ever walk into a bar to play a gig and everyone is staring at their phones and not you. Chances are they are on one of the previously mentioned sites. Get your “b(r)and” in front of as many eyeballs as possible. A large number of the population spends hours a day staring at their electronic device.

Years ago it seemed as if the Chicago music media shunned artists / bands that came out of the north shore as if they didn’t deserve the coverage; in fact many bands sought to hide the fact so they weren’t labeled as ‘rich brats: does this hold true at all today? Ya know, the scene is so much different these days. Music oriented local Chicago media has shrunk considerably in the last 10 years. Local Anesthetic on WXRT is only 30 minutes on Sunday nights (does anyone listen to terrestrial radio anymore?). Illinois Entertainer only seems to cover the south and western suburbs. Cover bands are a PLENTY these days.

In Chicago, much as in NYC, often musicians get put in one category or another: either your a working musician or an artist…. Is one the dream job and the other vehicle? I’ve been struggling with that for YEARS and I think I’ve finally found a balance. I have two very different song writing styles. One of very acoustic based and the other electric guitar/keys/synth based. I market them differently. I do my acoustic singer/songwriter originals and covers thing in the suburbs where you can make money and use some of that money to pay for my “original artist” project called Monsoons. I keep specific email and facebook lists that are geographically based. I rarely send updates regarding my acoustic covers thing to gatekeepers and decision makers in Chicago and abroad, I send them Monsoons updates. It’s not an easy thing to do and it takes a lot of time, but, it’s doable. My gigs at local restaurants and bars in the burbs has paid for the recording sessions & music video first few Monsoons songs. In fact, producer/mix wizard Sean O’Keefe (Fallout Boy, Plain White T’s) is mixing the first single. – Matt Feddermann

HANK & CUPCAKES

When did you realize you were a musician?

Hank > When I was 18 and about to be incorporated for the IDF (It’s mandatory in Israel which is where we’re from…). I was confronted with the thought of not playing my bass for 3 years and realized that thought was unbearable.

Cupcakes > I was always interested in performing arts whether singing, playing piano, acting or dancing but honestly when I met Hank I was inspired by his complete dedication and I started to focus in on music.

What was the first album you purchased and how do you rank it today?

Hank > My parents gave me Abbey Road when I was about 13 and it’s still is one of my top 5 today.

Cupcakes > I think it was an Israeli artist called Eviatar Banai, I haven’t heard it in years so I’m not sure where it would rank today but in my memory it’s pretty good!

How did you two come together to form Hank & Cupcakes?

We had just come back from a long stay in Havana Cuba in late 2007 and decided to wrap up our life in Israel and relocate to NYC in late 2008. We had a full year of limbo and were bored silly, to the point we actually said let’s jam together and see what happens. And then all these songs started coming and it was fun and made sense!

What’s your role in the songwriting with the ‘band’?

Hank > The songs are written by Cupcakes, usually on a piano and I contribute on the arrangement / productional side. I also started writing recently so maybe we’ll have some of my songs on the next record.

Cupcakes > Some of the songs have come about from jamming together in the studio, some from combining ideas (like in the song “Cocaina” for example, Hank came up with the chorus first and I later wrote the verses) and many from the piano as Hank

Do you write music for the iphone, walkman or the live performance?

Hank > We make no conscious effort to write for anyone, just try to have fun and keep it real.

Cupcakes > I never used to confine myself when writing but recently I sat down at the piano and asked myself “now what would I want to be playing on stage?” and a really groovy high energy song came out which we’re both super happy about so I might continue to “lead” myself that way!

 

What are your musical differences?

Lets see… We argue during rehearsals sometimes, it’s usually some stupid argument about a part or something of that sort that gets blown out of proportion because we are so emotionally intertwined… It’s not so much about the differences but more about the amount of passion invested meeting the occasional frustration.

What are your earth signs and how do the movement of the moon n’ planets affect your ability to work together as a team?

Hank > We’re not heavy on astrology… I’m Scorpio and Cupcakes is Virgo, I phoned the moon but got the answering machine…

Cupcakes > Yup, not strong on the star signs… I try to let my inner voice lead my actions. As far as working as a team, it’s really about knowing how to communicate, listen to each other and always remember that we’re both striving for the same goals.

If you had to choose, what are your personal & band theme song(s)?

Hank > “Enter The Ninja” by Die Antwoord

Cupcakes > hmmm…that’s a tough one, all I can think of right now are really cheesy 90’s songs.

Whats the best / favorite gig you have ever done?

Hank > I don’t know about best / favorite, we don’t look into the past with longing… We had 2 amazing shows this weekend at Nashville and St. Louis Pride events right after the supreme court’s decision to legalize gay marriage. It was very emotional and we felt lucky to be a part of these events at this time in history when progress and justice were glorious.

Cupcakes > Yeah last weekend at Pride was amazing. I also love the show where people start taking their clothes off and throwing them on stage. We tend to encourage releasing the beast within!!

Your next album goes all the way to #1, whats your essential backstage rider wishlist include?

A helium container, two full body rabbit costumes, mini golf, live flamingos, 4 palm trees w/ 2 hammocks (Parallel) and a Magician. Thank you! – Hank & Cupcakes

LISA HELLER

How did you choose “Life On The Run” to be your first iTunes single?  I chose to release “Life on the Run” as my first iTunes single because I think it is a good representation of who I really am as an artist. As the first thing I’m really putting out into the world, “Life on the Run” is kind of saying I’m going to be myself, and march to my “own beat of the drum.”  I think it is an inspiring song to people who want to strive for a dream and don’t know if they can do it.  I think you can do anything you want to do if you work hard enough.

You are in a unique position releasing material at such a young age: do you ever worry that you may look back later in your career and go ‘OH NO!!”?  I don’t think that releasing material at such a young age (my 19th birthday to be exact) would make me look back and worry. It’s all a learning process and you have to learn who your audience is and feel for what they like and don’t like and work from there. If I never put my songs out into the world, how would I know if people would fall for them? I also think an audience likes to see an artist evolve over time and I plan to continue to grow.

How do songs take shape for you typically ? For me, my songwriting varies from song to song- sometimes I am driving on the highway and have to pull over because I get this one phrase stuck in my head and I have to scribble it on my coffee cup before it goes away. Other times I sit down and start playing different chord progressions on my piano and guitar with varying rhythm, and once it sounds right to me I start humming along until I find a suiting melody, and the words just kind of flow from there. Each song is such a different experience- with some it takes an hour to write the root of the song while with others I could spend 6 months on it just to find the right words.

What’s the bigger high for you: writing, recording or playing live?   Wow that’s such a hard choice! Can I say all three? They are all so different it’s difficult to compare. Writing is something that has been a huge part of growing up for me. I write down the experiences that I’ve had or are new to me, then I compare them to ones I haven’t yet had a chance to experience. But recording is also amazing because it’s like I’m taking all of these ideas that are kind of jumbled up in my head, and they’re put into real solid music. I really get in such a deep zone when I’m recording that I can’t explain. Sometimes I forget what I’m doing and that other people are there listening while I sing into the mic. And lastly, performing is such an amazing experience. The second I step on stage it’s like I feel this connection with the audience that they understand me. It’s like we’re all one, and as I sing about the adversity I’ve faced, as many others have, I’m singing for them, not me. I want to tell them it will all be ok, empowering my audience as well as myself.

What do you want your audience to see or feel when you are in front of them?  When I’m in front of my audience, I want them to feel welcome. There are so many opportunities for people to feel excluded or doubt themselves. But when I’m in front of people I want them to feel like it’s ok to be themselves, and feel empowered.

If you could open for any artist or band on a spill of east coast dates this summer, who would it be?  There are so many artists that I aspire to open for.  Of course Taylor Swift comes to mind, as such a dynamic player in the music industry.  She flawlessly switched from Country to Pop, a task no artist has surmounted with such supportive fans. I also would love to open for Christina Perri – her song “Jar of Hearts” was one of the first songs that I ever performed live and it really inspired me to write down-to-earth, relatable music. Sara Bareilles is also an amazing headliner – she is an artist I emulate and aspire to be like with her words of empowerment without a hint of cliche. Of course I would also be thrilled to open for bands with whom I am connected, such as Waiting for Henry, a group of great guys who have been supporting my hard work from the beginning.

How did you pick up guitar and what advice do you give to others who want to learn how to play?  I taught myself to play some simple chords on the piano which is how I started songwriting. After a while I really wanted to play guitar too so I started looking up how to play chords on google images! This really jump-started my ability to write songs, before I started taking lessons. My advice for someone learning to play guitar is to look up chords if you don’t want to pay for lessons, and keep repeating them until your fingers bleed. After a week or so you will stop hurting and your fingers will just remember where to be placed. From there, you can start writing songs! And for piano, you just need to learn the basic triad structure and go from there!

What were the first few albums you ever bought and what do you think of them today?  The first few albums I ever bought were from my parents, which definitely had a huge impact on my choice of music. As a young child I would listen to Dave Matthews and Coldplay in the car, so it really made me appreciate the deep music where the words had so much meaning and the instrumentation that was so captivating and complex. The upbeat party music was always fun too but that never really affected me the way that songs like “Yellow” by Coldplay did.  U2’s “Beautiful Day” was a perfect song when I needed to appreciate the little things in life or get motivated.

What’s your favorite song of all-time?  I would probably say “Fix You” by Coldplay – It was the song I resorted to throughout high school and it brought so many different emotions each time I listened to it. “Fix You” has this certain indescribable power to heal and unite people.

If you could have an alter ego performing in an alternate universe, what might she sound and look like?  If I were given the chance to be someone else, I would still choose to be me. There are billions of other people in the world but only one me, so if I’m not me then who am I? ~ LisaHeller.com

GAVIN DUNAWAY

libel_matchless21What got you hooked on rock & roll?
 
105.9 WCXR – the main classic rock station in DC during the 80s. My father blasted it in the car wherever we went, and I fell in love with the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, etc. Mainly stuff with badass guitar work – I knew by the age of six I wanted to be a guitarist just like my idol George Harrison. You couldn’t imagine how upset I was when I found out Eric Clapton actually played the guitar solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
 
But yeah, they turned me into a rock addict at a young age, and I haven’t been able to shake it after all these years.
 
Was there ever a time in which you imagined you may be cured or give up? 
 
Honestly, in 2008, my band The Alphabetical Order lost its fourth drummer (sequential) and I’d tired of the sound and the DC music scene. I was pondering graduate school, writing a novel (still working on that one), maybe even teaching overseas. But I couldn’t shake it – I still wanted to rock, play guitar loud as shit and make at least a few more albums. A good friend explained that Brooklyn was the place to fulfill these dreams, so I packed up my equipment and never looked back. Well, except to visit friends… And family, if I have to.
 
What essentially makes Libel tick so urgently?
 
A fair deal of angst, discontent and disillusion – possibly some very hot overdrive pedals. Certainly the espresso IV bag hooked up to my left arm, which is easier to play guitar with than you might imagine. 
 
My initial goal with Libel was to blend my love of post-hardcore – e.g., Mission of Burma, Fugazi, Shudder to Think, Jawbox – with my affection for Bowie’s vocal stylings (he taught me how to sing, whether he knows it or not!) and songwriting prowess. And then, yeah, I wanted to layer in some heavier shoegaze atmospherics a la Swervedriver and Ride. I was influenced by very intense music, so it’s all I know how to make.
 
Seems like NYC projects break-up and reform under new banners if they don’t pop quick, or did you already?
 
Nope – we’ve been flying under the Libel flag since 2009, when we released our first EP, “The Prolonged Insult,” though the lineup has changed over the years. Pop culture memories are super short, so there’s a huge push to appear fresh and new (although it’s our fourth release, we do market “Music for Car Commercials” as our “debut LP.”) I think many people that re-brand constantly like you suggested are trying to chase the popular sound, trying to keep in step with what’s hip, which is definitely not my philosophy. 
 
There are plenty of great bands that didn’t get a lot of attention at first (maybe they didn’t have the hot sound of the moment) who eventually broke through, and people were then blown away by their back catalog. But, those bands stayed true to their ideas and evolved organically, not at the behest of the latest sonic trend. They’re the ones we remember.
 
How / where does the writing process seem to work best for the band? 
 
The magic songwriting window opens right after falling off the bar stool and right before vomiting and blacking out. It’s a short nirvana, so the process must be repeated regularly.
 
No, it’s more like this: I’ll come up with an idea – a lot of times just fumbling around with the guitar while watching TV – record it via Logic, and then build other ideas on top of it over a while until it seems like a sketch of a song. I’ll record bass, program (basic) drums, throw on some extra guitars and maybe keyboards, all the while working out draft lyrics. 
 
When I feel the tune is far enough along and is worthy of their ears, I’ll send off an MP3 and get feedback from the guys – while hearing what I was thinking, they’ll bring their own (better) ideas to the table when we jam on it. Nothing is set in stone – parts will disappear, parts will be added. I say that I provide the skeleton of a song, and together we develop a body for it.
 
What’s first for you in terms of material: a feeling / vibe from the music or the subject matter?
 
A lot of times they’re not even connected. I used to have notebook upon notebook with random lyric ideas, while now I keep them all stored in my iPhone (notes are great, save trees), which in turn gets saved to iCloud. You can tell I embrace the tech. While we’re writing a song, I’ll just sense that such-and-such random verse would be perfect and build the rest of the lyrics from there. Or it could go the other way around – I’m constantly humming works in progress to myself, and on the train something may click. Not to sound too hippy dippy, but often my musical ideas and lyrical subject matter just seem to find themselves in my head. Must be some kind of holy function…
 
libel_coco035Your bio mentions imaginary tours from a past age; do you really feel that out of place?
 
At first I was going to say, “Oh yeah, I wish I was in the 90s!” We probably would have seemed among peers 20 years ago, but in the current landscape, it’s nice being unique and difficult to classify. Other 90s-throwback bands getting attention sound a lot like one particular act – Dinosaur Jr, Pavement, vintage Weezer. But our influences are pretty mixed, and they’re not groups that really roll off people’s tongues, although they have loyal followings – bands like Jawbox, HUM and Swervedriver. We’re not lonely – we got a lot of Brooklyn peers with raucous sounds – but standing out in the current morass is gratifying, 
 
What’s the bigger high for you: writing, recording or performing?
 
Ugh, must I decide? Performing is certainly the most exhilarating, leaving you tingling for hours – maybe – days afterwards. Performing offers the quickest gratification, but writing and recording an album gives a sense of accomplishment that cannot be matched.
 
You wanna know the biggest low? Marketing – trying to convince people your music is special, especially when their senses are saturated by media. “Well, my mom likes it!”
 
What’s your philosophy (if any) when it comes to playing live?
 
As rabid fans of the great German group Autobahn, we practice nothing but nihilism. Emphasis on nothing.
 
A spaceship lands on your roof, a small gray humanoid emerges with a vinyl record he knows you will approve of as a first offering / means to an end: what (most likely) is it?  
 
Though it may sound cliche, I think there’s only one record that could be in his hand: “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.” This starman has come down to meet us because he doesn’t think he’d blow our minds. Basically, he’s telling us not to blow it because he thinks it’s all worthwhile. Let the children lose it, let the children use it, let all the children boogie.
 
However, that LP better be a first printing, or it’s galactic warfare up your ass, buddy.

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.