JESSE BREWSTER

jessetieguitarblazin_nobkWhat is your favorite moment on your last record Wrecking Ball at the Concert Hall?

That’s a tough one. The theme of that record is big sounding Americana tracks countered with heartfelt ballads. I think working on “God Fearin’ Man” was a blast, but there were some really tender moments too, especially on songs like “Sometime” and “Sorry Ain’t Enough”.

You’re taking a new approach to your latest release March of Tracks, it must be liberating in some ways and yet daunting in others?

Man, it’s a departure as far as the process of making a record goes. On the last album much of it was tracked live, with the same 5 people. Now I’m using a multitude of players, studios, engineers and gear, and it’s been incredible. I’ve been hand picking my favorite West Coast players for each song that plays to their individual strengths. Being able to focus 100% on one song at a time is so refreshing. There is the ever present and motivating factor of my own self-imposed deadlines (new song released 1st Tues. of every month) which can be a little stressful. But it’s also a response to the demand for single songs- don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of albums and will make more in the traditional way in the future, but this time I want to get my music out there in the most effective way, and have gotten a great response so far. What was daunting was the idea of starting work on a 12 song album that people wouldn’t be able to hear any of for 6 to 9 months. Ah the world of instant gratification!

How’s it going so far; do you already have the future tracks mapped in order?

Right now I do have a rough order, and am trying to be conscious of the tempo and style of each release. I want to be sure to mix it up and not, for example, release all the big up-tempo stuff up front so that all I’m left with is ballads. The other struggle is that any time I’m recording (and I think many artists would agree with this) I hit a creative stride with new material. So who knows, some of the stuff I’m writing right now could still make the record.

When you start writing a song, what comes first for you?

As a guitarist and sideman for years before I starting performing and touring as a lead singer/songwriter, that’s where things usually begin. I’ll find a progression that inspires me in some way, and 90% of the time the feel leads me to the subject matter. That being said, on occasion I do start with a theme and work from that side.

How do you know when a song is done and ready for recording?

That’s a great question, and something I think a lot of songwriters struggle with. As I’ve self-produced most my songs, I usually have a pretty good idea of when they’re ready to track. For songs that I send out to my players I try to give them a decent demo without getting to specific, because I like to allow people to approach their own parts creatively. But working with a producer is also a great way to finish that last 15% of a song, and something I hope to do more of.

JesseBWhat’s the state of rock & roll in California?

I think there’s a ton of amazing music out there, and it never ceases to amaze me how often I discover new incredible bands who are miles from where I live. So from that standpoint it’s as prominent as ever. From the industry side that’s a different story, I think with the internet era, people are less drawn to genres now than they are to good (sometimes not so good), catchy songs. That’s why every 15 year-old has 1000 songs on their iPhone from 1000 different artists. The way we as artists make out living has also changed, with an emphasis on licensing and placements becoming a more the norm.

Is there anything left of San Francisco of the 60’s?

Yes, and they’re all still performing! Every band who had a hit in the 60’s is still doing it, and they’re drawing all the same folks that came to their shows way back when. The boomers are the demo that can consistently afford to go out and see shows. Overall here though there’s a great collective support system in place of local artists, not as dog-eat-dog as other markets I’ve seen. I think it’s a great place to live and to foster your creativity, but I don’t see much opportunity here. I can’t think of many bands who have gotten really huge coming out of SF since Counting Crows or Train.

What were the first 3 records you ever bought and how do they rank today?

I’m not sure if they were the first 3, but I remember getting vinyl of Bob Marley Live, Willie Nelson and The Eagles.  All of which still measure up pretty strong compared to the music of the last 30 years

When did you start playing guitar and what was the first song you really got into to the point where you owned it?

I had a couple of false starts. At 7 or so I learned a couple chords, then again at 9 I picked it up again and went through a Bob Dylan songbook and learned “Don’t Think Twice”. I had a pretty good foundation when I kicked into higher gear at 12

By an amazing breakthrough in technology, you are to be awarded a role as a rock & roll deity with an expanded life span of 250 years (congrats) but, as a condition, you are forced to choose between electric or acoustic guitar from here on: would you be able to face the anguish?

That would be tough. I think I’d have to go with the acoustic, because that’s where 80% of the songs I write begin. Even the hardest hitting, slamming electric guitar driven tunes were usually started in my dining room on an acoustic. Also then if I’m still alive and kicking after the next major war or calamity, I won’t have to worry about finding a place to plug into in the post-apocalyptic hellscape!  :)

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GREG KIHN

ImageIs there an album or song that got you hooked on rock & roll as a kid? 

Yes, I remember hearing “Don’t Be Cruel” by Elvis on the Juke Box at YMCA summer camp and I noticed all the girls loved it.  Later, when I got a guitar and started to learn folk songs I saw the effect guitars had on girls.  By the time the Beatles came along I already knew the basic chords.  I was too shy to meet girls any other way.  But music turned out to be the best way.  As far as an album that shaped my life I would have to say “Freewheelin’” by Bob Dylan because it got my whole generation writing songs.  As far as life-shaping events go, I’d guess I’d have to say seeing the Beatles for the first time on Ed Sullivan.  It blew my mind, it blew all our minds.  You had to be there.

What was the first complete tune you learned to play and sing at the same time?

That would be “Tom Dooley” by the Kingston Trio.  I can still remember how proud I was to get up on stage at a coffee house and play it.  I learned the 3 basic chords of life and I found out later it fit 90% of all the songs on the radio.

With the revival of Americana and roots music is it difficult to resist the temptation to return to your folk roots and put out KIHN FOLK?

Oh, you wicked, wicked man.  The “Kihn” puns just won’t die!  The only times I didn’t use the “KIHN” puns for GKB album titles- “Glass House Rock” and “With the Naked Eye” both albums stiffed, so we went right back to the KIHN formula for success.  I try to hide ‘em, but my folk roots stand out like Nicki Minaj’s hair color.

How did you get your first break in the music biz, or was it a confluence of events?

Matt Kaufman and Allan Mason were two law students in Baltimore when I was still in high school playing gigs at local coffee houses with names like “The Foghorn” and the “Crack of Doom.”  Allan later invited me out to California and let me crash on his floor.  Allan wound up working for A&M Records and Matthew started Beserkley Records.  When I first came to California I used to play on Telegraph Ave for spare change.  I did pretty good, too!  About 40$ a day!

What is, hands down, your favorite Greg Kihn record and why?

My all time favorite Greg Kihn song is The Breakup Song because it’s always fun to play, has a great guitar riff, and the lyrics “Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh translate into every known language.  That’s why today I can walk down the street in, say, Lithuania or Tasmania and people will point at me and shout, “There goes that uh-uh guy!” 

You have found a new home today on radio in San Francisco; is it strange being on the other end of the mic or was radio always something you could see yourself doing?

You know, my ego is so freakin’ huge I don’t care which side of the mic I’m on, as long as the mic is ON!  Radio is a wonderful way to communicate with hundreds of thousands of people every hour.  I love it!  Plus I can do the show in my underpants and nobody would ever know!  They can’t see me!

If you had a classic fake radio DJ name what would it be? any suggestions?

When I was a kid growing up in Baltimore, DJ’s had names like Fat Daddy and Commander Hot Rod.  Maybe I should change my on-air name to Beef Jerky or Greasy Cheeks or Dash Riprock.

As a horror writer now with several acclaimed books out, have you ever considered writing tunes to accompany your novels on the expanding digital landscape or in your audio books?

Actually I started out trying to do just that.  The result was the “Horror Show” CD in 1997.  It was supposed to serve as the soundtrack for the novel “Horror Show” and possibly a movie score but I only got 2 songs finished before I drifted off in another direction.  The 2 songs were “Horror Show” which you can see on You Tube, and “Vampira” which has no video.  Eventually I’ll make the movie of “Horror Show” and write the rest of the soundtrack.  By the way, let me be the first to announce the release of my new novel RUBBER SOUL published by Premier Digital Publishing in the spring of 2013.  It takes place in Liverpool in the early 60’s and has the Beatles as the main characters in a murder mystery.  It follows their meteoric rise to fame and culminates with assassination attempts in Manila in 1966 after snubbing the Marcos Family.  As far as I know it’s the first historically accurate truly fictional BEATLES NOVEL.  I hope you check it out when it’s released in early 2013.  I guarantee it’s like nothing you’ve read before.

ImageWhat are your fondest memories from touring with the Rolling Stones?

Hanging out backstage with the Stones.  Mick was very nice and gave me packs of cigarettes (Marlboro Box) whenever I asked, but the guy I most enjoyed talking with was Charlie.  He is a very interesting man- knows about history and is an expert of the Civil War believe it or not.  He’s got jazz roots.  Keith and Ron just played guitars and never said much.  Bill Graham introduced me and that did the trick.  I was one of the inner sanctum after that.  I’m sure Jerry Hall, Mick’s wife at the time, was checking me out.  Or maybe it was the drugs…  I’ve forgotten.  I’ll never forget the rush of walking out on stage in front of 90,000 people!

What are Greg Kihn’s “Ten Commandments of Touring”? 

1.    Never get separated from the band in a foreign country.

2.    Never leave the hotel with a chick who says she’ll take you to the airport in the morning.

3.    Never drink in the hotel bar alone, nothing good can happen.

4.    You’re better off smoking a joint alone in your room and watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island than going to a local club with some chicks you just met.

5.    When singing the National Anthem, start low and sing fast.

6.    Never drink from the mini-bar in your room.

7.    Never poop in the lavatory on the tour bus, peeing is OK, but defecation is not welcome.

8.    Never drink the other band’s beer, steal their women, or smoke their stash, it’s bad karma.

9.    Always treat the roadies with respect; they can really make you look bad if they want.  Remember, they have their own secret credo from which they never vary- (I’ll tell you but don’t say you heard it from me.)  The Roadie’s Credo- “If it’s wet, drink it, if it’s dry, smoke it, if it moves fuck it, if it doesn’t move, put it in the truck.”

10.  Pace yourself, it’s a long tour.

Visit Greg online at GregKihn.com