The Easy Button – Lost On Purpose (Q&A)

Already on the first listen, Lost on Purpose reminded me of Welcome Interstate Managers. Not only in terms of sound but also in terms of theme and size. And in quality! What a load of good songs Brian Jones has written.

The comparison with Fountains of Wayne is no coincidence at all. Brian Jones himself explains why.

How did this record come together?

After our last full-length release, I planned to take a long break from writing & recording my songs to focus on other projects. Then when Covid hit in Spring 2020, and we were in quarantine, I found that time to write music was all I had. That, combined with the passing of Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne, I felt that time was now available but not guaranteed. A few months later, I started making demos for what would become a 22 song album.

How great is the urge to stay creative? To keep writing songs and lyrics?

Songwriters know that it’s just inside you, and you can’t escape it. Like I said before, even when I tried to stop, the songs wouldn’t. I find that the melodies just come to me without really trying, but once they arrive, the urge to make them better each time helps you develop a catalog of songs that change and mature with you.

You want to develop “your sound” but not get stuck there doing the same thing on each album. Like Paul McCartney from “I want to hold your hand” to “Yesterday” to “Back in the USSR” and finally “Let it Be.” The same guy, same “sound,”..but with time, each song develops and adds a new dynamic.

You can pick three co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?

I love so many songwriters, but 3 I would love to write with would have to be; Mike Viola: My favorite writer, and I would love to write a movie soundtrack with him.

Elvis Costello: He would bring out sounds in me that I’ve always loved but never been able to write like New Wave and Electronic.

Ben Folds would be amazing to write with as he would bring out a “grand meet personal sound” that I’ve always admired.

Combing piano ballads, rock licks with complex harmonies with the occasional orchestral part. On our new album “Lost On Purpose“, we were thrilled to have four different guest artists add vocals and/or keys, which was something we’ve never done before. Daniel Brummel (Ozma), Bill McShane (Ultimate Fakebook), Brendan Lyons (Toledo), and Sam Black (Modern Amusement, helped to make these songs even better than we could’ve imagined.

Lyrics are too often taken for granted. What is the line of text, or are the lines of text that you hope listeners will remember? And why?

In the spirit of taking risks and developing each new song into something different, I really tried to write more “stories” and develop characters without allowing myself to be the focal point of each song like I have done in the past.

When you’re writing from a character perspective that challenges you to say what they are thinking, the song “Mississippi” chorus repeats “I don’t know what you’re going through” over and over again. This deals with someone in their profession, expected to have all the answers but really doesn’t.

The song “Beach Singer Man” says, “He doesn’t mind if you’re not kind and just talk over him cause there will be a day when his ship will come in.” This is sung from the struggling musician’s perspective. “Fast Ones” says, “I want one sad refrain. We all have one past mistake we keep repeating. Flowers need the rain and I need it eighty eight beats per minute”.

There, of course, are many lyrics from my perspective like “Get Lost On Purpose, you might find that you’re home”, from the track “Learning To Drive,” which is about taking risks and failing to find the right path hopefully.

You can’t control the way people ‘hear’ your music. But if you could make them aware of certain aspects, you think, set your songs apart. What would they be?

I’ve always enjoyed songs that are timeless and real. I hope listeners relate to the lyrics and find themselves instantly hooked by the melodies and can appreciate the songwriting craft as I do. We even released the new album on Vinyl so listeners could sit down and enjoy it without the impulse to shuffle. Take it all in. Get Lost on Purpose!

Scott Warren – Shadow Bands

Scott Warren has made a fantastic new record. Ten pop songs, which all differ slightly in taste, make me want to play Shadow Bands repeatedly.

Scott explains how the record came about.

How did this record come together?

The record came together like most—a collection of songs that sound like they might make for a cohesive record. Most completed except for some lyrical holes.

I then got together with drummer Brian Young to get that going. His rhythm partner in The Jesus and Mary Chain, Mark Crozer, laid down the bass and then I got to work on the guitars.

I ended up keeping quite a bit of my scratch vocals as they seemed to fit the vibe I was going for: slightly raw and loose.  

I definitely doubled some things up later on, though, and added backgrounds. Called in a couple of favors for some string arrangements and a few other elements and mixed from there. There were times when I took breaks to get perspective, so it ended up a couple of years from record start to mix finish. Songs range from five years old to the last tune, “Mountainside,” being written right at the end.

When was the last time you thought, ‘I just wrote a hit!’?

Haha. Well, when I finished “Left Out On The Joke” from the new record, it sounded like a hit to me. LOL.  It seems to resonate the most with people that have heard the record, so that’s definitely “the single,” if you will.

You can pick three co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?

I’m going with Paul McCartney, Ray Davies and Keith Richards  Paul for melody, Ray for wit and Keith for the riff. I guess that leaves me with?? 

How great is the urge to stay creative?  To keep writing songs and lyrics?

It’s essential for me. Regardless of whether I end up recording and releasing a given tune, it’s just something that I’m driven to do.  There’s something fulfilling about creating something from nothing for me and getting the melody, progression, and structure dialed in. Making all the words fit and feel “right” for the song. It can be magical. 

Cassettes are back. Which 5 five songs would make your first mixtape?

Ok, let’s go with some influences for this record and one of mine.

1. T. Rex – 20th Century Boy

2. The Beatles – I Am The Walrus

3. Beck – Cold Brains

4. Brian Eno – Needles in the Camel’s Eye

5. Scott Warren – Left Out On The Joke

Dusty Edinger – Missing Links and Kitchen Sinks (Q&A)

Such greats have influenced Dusty Edinger’s songwriting as Joe Walsh, Gerry Rafferty, and, of course, The Beatles. However, the Power Pop Rock Neo Soul also reminds me of Maroon 5, without all the affectation.

Sweet Sweet Music spoke with Dusty about the Keukenhof, cooking, relationships, motocross, standardized testing, Grease 2, his old band Star Collector, and how Missing Links and Kitchen Sinks came about.

What was the moment you knew you were on to something?

When they switched Darrins on “Bewitched” and I was the only one who noticed.

How did this record come together?

Just like everybody, I was stuck at home during Covid.  I wrote the record and recorded demos over about a twelve-week period.  I called my friend Gary Stone at Dream Antenna studios and sent him some demos.  Soon we were off and running.  I set out to write 4-5 songs.  But that turned into 18.  And then 18 turned back into the 13 you hear on the record.  5 didn’t make the cut.   So I sold them to Rammstein.  Now I drive a pink polka dot Lamborghini.

When did you decide to start asking for opinions on the new songs?

When it was done, I guess? I don’t know if I ever decided.  I guess I just made the record and hoped someone would acknowledge the hard work.  It was hard.  

The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for the new record?  

For me,  I would like to make a living making original music.  That’s a pretty lofty goal nowadays.  Streaming has eliminated any real sales revenue(Thanks for trying, Lars).   So that only leaves live performance.  The original music scene in Atlanta is basically non-existent unless you are into metal.  

And with these songs, in particular,  it would take a pretty large band.  I think “Sleeping with the Enemy” has 10 or 12 vocal tracks on it?  I’m scouring local orphanages for talent.  

How great is the urge to stay creative?  To keep writing songs and lyrics? 

For me it’s big. I need an outlet for sure.  And my interpretive dance classes aren’t going as well as I had hoped.  I already have the next record written.  Do they let live bands play at the Keukenhof? 

As an artist, you choose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?

Nope.  But hey, all you young budding songwriters, I can tell you it gets easier.  You have to write a bunch of trite, unrelatable, terrible lyrics before you can write better ones. It’s the same with, say…cooking, relationships, motocross, standardized testing, or karate.  There’s a reason black belts are hard to get. Keep writing, and you will get there. And the more music and art you expose yourself to, the easier it is to tell junk from the good stuff. The more life you live, the more interesting things you have to say.  You have to keep going. 

You can pick three co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?

I have never been able to write with other people.  I don’t think I ever would be able to.  Songwriting to me is like making something out of clay.  It pretty much looks like shit right up until the very end.  I don’t want anyone else to see it until then.

…but maybe Shel Silverstein, Paul Simon, and Paula Abdul.

What’s the gig you will never forget? And why?

Gigs of mine? I love all of them equally.  I can’t choose. They are all my children. 3,000 children.  I’m the Wilt Chamberlain of unknown musicians.  

Gigs of other people?  U2 Joshua Tree tour. I wasn’t even a massive fan at the time. Changed my life.  I saw Jellyfish on the last night of the Spilt Milk tour.  Changed my life.  I was offered a free front-row ticket to see Prince one time.  Changed my life.  I was offered a free ticket to see Peter Gabriel and didn’t go.  I suspect this was the huge mistake of my concert-going career.  All I can tell you is the next day; my life was exactly the same.  

Lyrics are too often taken for granted.  What is the line of text, or are the lines of text that you hope listeners will remember?  And why?

“Sometimes I think it might be all in my mind 

but I can’t be the only one 

who’ll die trying to reconcile 

all of the automatic weapons everybody becomes.”

Also, all of “Caught Red Handed”.  Because lock the door, people.

When was the last time you thought, ‘I just wrote a hit!’?

Well, that word means different things to different people.  But I remember being pretty excited the night I wrote “The Joyous Dinosaur Song”.  It hit me so hard that I decided to make it the only song on the record that kept the demo title.  That’s why the title makes no sense.  All my songs start with a working demo title like “the Jaws 2 song” or “the song that sounds Britney Spears-ey” or  “the terrible song”.  Otherwise, “Joyous Dinosaur” would have been called “Dreaming Wide Awake”.  But I found it absurd and, therefore, more satisfying to do it this way. I never thought I might be called out by a new music magnate in The Netherlands, or I would have thought it through more. 

…That said, I expect “Infatuation” and “I Still Love You Anyway” will likely soon be racing up the Dutch charts.

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?

Recording is way easier.  Anybody can do it. Getting it heard is IMPOSSIBLE. I was talking to a friend of mine about putting this record on Apple Music.  He told me they get 65,000 submissions a day. Every single day. It’s tough to get noticed with those numbers. 

Cassettes are back. Which 5 five songs would make your first mixtape?

1) 10cc-The Things we do for Love

2) Queen-Seaside Rendezvous

3) Led Zeppelin-In the Light

4) Crosby Still and Nash-Suite Judy Blue Eyes

5) The Theme from “The Rockford Files”

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

Well, in my case, specifically with this record, it was the first time it was only me and not a band.  Bands are great, but that means every person gets an equal say on everything.  Everyone wins except the listener(and the engineer). Ugh.  This right here is why the tambourine ends up on every chorus of every song ever recorded.  Pick your moments, tambourine people!  I feel like the cowbell people have shown monumental restraint.    

Playing music in front of a crowd. What’s all the fun about?

I can still remember the first time I looked out and saw a room full of people singing back to me words that I had written—pretty good stuff. Looking back, I wish the song hadn’t been about the Teapot Dome scandal.  

You can’t control the way people ‘hear’ your music. But if you could make them aware of certain aspects, you think, set your songs apart. What would they be?

I don’t try to reinvent the wheel.  One of my favorite things about songwriting is the rules and how great songwriters work within the parameters of those rules—and even knowing when rules should be bent or broken.   Also, I am an album person.  I want to listen to a record in its entirety.  So I try to write that way.  Even something as simple as song order can change the entire experience.  We live in this instant gratification world now; it’s very tempting just to download the single and move on.  If you do that, you are likely missing the larger point the artist was trying to make.  I like the journey.  “Missing Links and Kitchen Sinks” is serious.  It’s silly.  And it’s everything in between.  But I like to think it takes you someplace, however briefly.   Back to your original question…

I like vocal harmonies.   And I’m a fat trimmer.  I agonize over the most minor details.  It’s something I learned in my old band, Star Collector.  Everything should be there for a reason.  If there isn’t a good reason for something, I generally cut it.  Get to the point.  “Roll to Me” by Del Amitri is a perfect example of this.  One of the best pop songs ever written at 2 minutes, 14 seconds.  Also, don’t put dumb stuff in songs, like Lawrence Welk. Don’t do it.  

They expect ‘the roaring 20s v2.0’. What kind of party are you looking for?

It would pretty much be the “Cool Rider” bowling alley scene from Grease 2. 

Doublepluspop – Too Loud + Too Fast + Too Much (Q&A)

Doublepluspop revisited a project that was supposed to be their debut album, a collection of tracks that has been sitting in a vault since 2002.  Wanting to create a power pop band, frontman Paul Averitt formed Doublepluspop sometime between the late 90’s/early 00’s.

Last year there was a digital release of Too Loud + Too Fast + Too Much and now Kool Kat Musik is releasing the CD.

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Paul Averitt about the challenge of getting the right take, the right feel, and the right (or at least interesting) arrangement.

What was the moment you knew you were on to something?

Am I?

Recorded 20 years ago, released in 2020, CD release in 2021. What’s the story?

Lack of funding, general interest, and enthusiasm. Life gets busy when you’re not watching. Our sound engineer friend Coy Green had acquired a pair of Alesis digital recorders and wanted to get them spinning, so we set them up in the corner of our rehearsal space and did some live takes with overdubs after the fact. Things got less busy on the band front, and the project kind of lapsed.

When Covid-19 hit the planet like reverse-Beatlemania, Coy pulled the now antique recorders out of storage, and fortunately, the tapes still worked. He transferred the tracks into a format he could mix them in. He did a board mix of sorts, and there it is.

How did this record come together?

Slowly. Painfully. As all births.

When did you decide to start asking for opinions on the new songs?

That’s quite an assumption you’ve got there, sonny.

The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for the new record?

If someone hears it, or even a part of it, that’s success for me. I’m not concerned if they like it, hate it, indifferent, whatever. I’ve done the part I enjoy; writing, recording, and performing them. If someone hears the songs, that’s the most I can hope for lately. The “success” was getting the thing out at all.

Overcoming the odds of any of our music getting through the avalanche of music accessible via the internet now, it’s incredible anyone finds out about any particular album lately, much less ours.

How great is the urge to stay creative? To keep writing songs and lyrics?

Different for different people, but I am and have always been naturally drawn to and focused on the writing of a pop song. There are general rules to the power pop genre, and they make for an exciting challenge. You can’t just free-form it and hope it goes well. It takes thought. It’s an intellectual process just as much as an emotional one.
As an artist, you choose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?

It is never comfortable to do so. I’m a very private person, and I always bristle when my lyrics are too revealing. Unfortunately, this is often, especially in my early work, such as this album. Some lines make me cringe. Some because it could’ve been more artfully put from a composition point-of-view, but others for the emoting going down. I should’ve known better.

You can pick three co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?

I don’t compose well with others. I tried it a few times, and it didn’t really take. Not that some good things didn’t result; it’s just difficult for me. The Leo in me always wants to be in charge, get final edits, etc.

But if I COULD do so with any three? I’m at this moment going to go with John Davis of Superdrag, Steve Carter of Little Jack Melody (who produced our 1999 single), and Andy Partridge of XTC.

I’ve met all three of them, and that sways me a bit because I can see us getting along as writers, though I’m liable to be bowing to their whims in many ways.

But just as I’ve listed them, I feel bad that I didn’t mention Ron Sexsmith or Aimee Mann or Matthew Sweet or Andy Sturmer or a Beatle. But I take it their feelings won’t get hurt.

What’s the gig you will never forget? And why?

A Doublepluspop gig? There was one Thursday night in Dallas where it poured down rain all night, and not one person showed up. That was the only time that ever happened, thank God.

Lyrics are too often taken for granted. What is the line of text, or are the lines of text that you hope listeners will remember? And why?

I tend not to draw attention to certain lyrics so the listener can draw to the lyrics that resonate with them naturally.

I always did, however, like the bridge to “You Can’t Be Serious”:

You’ve been seen causing riots

All over the town

And though the mobs do the damage

You seem so proud that your words sound so faithful

To so many folk

I guess they just don’t get the joke

When was the last time you thought, ‘I just wrote a hit!’?

There hasn’t been a FIRST time. Not going for “hits.” Going for things I like.

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?

Heavens yes. Do you have any idea how much music is “released” onto an unsuspecting internet every day? It is impossible to comprehend.

When the recording and manufacturing of music were more “cost-prohibitive,” you had an economic buffer that kept the glut of sub-standard products from the marketplace, more or less.

With the advent of CD manufacturing followed by digital music distribution and a recording studio in everyone’s laptop, we’re awash, nay, DROWNING in a melodramatic backwash. I’m not even discounting MYSELF in that. How’s that for self-reflection?

Cassettes are back. Which 5 five songs would make your first mixtape?

Hm. It would likely start with something peppy like an OK GO song followed close behind with a driving tune from OK GO. Then we’d slow things down with a little OK GO mid-tempo thing. Let’s bring it back up with a funky OK GO song and finish strong with some band covering another band’s classic song, say, OK GO doing “This Will Be Our Year.”

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

It’s a challenge to get the right take, the right feel, the right (or at least interesting) arrangement. Getting a recording with a unique vibe is always the goal. Most music nowadays seems focused on getting the best “sounding” recording sonically. That is boring to me because it usually isn’t in service to the song; likely the reverse.

Some of the best recordings that I can think of have tracks that are what would be thought of as sub-standard or unusable by today’s standards.

Sorry, we were talking about ‘fun.” It is fun to try different recording techniques, sonic timbres, creative arrangements, or even old standard templates that serve the composition within their framework that might seem pointless in a “standard” reading. The possibilities are endless. How does it all fit together in a successful combination? It’s an adventure.

Playing music in front of a crowd. What’s all the fun about?

Playing music with people you love and respect is a rare thing and should be treated as such. It’s also about the connection between a receptive band and a receptive audience. See Pete Townshend for better words than mine on this subject.
But yeah, when it works, there’s no drug better than that. You never get enough.

You can’t control the way people ‘hear’ your music. But if you could make them aware of certain aspects, you think, set your songs apart. What would they be?

I wouldn’t. Let the songs stand in the listener’s ear however they will, all naked and trembling. It’s not up to me to assign categorization. That would be a disservice to the listener.

They expect ‘the roaring 20s v2.0’. What kind of party are you looking for?

Come again?

courtesy doublepluspop

The Speed Of Sound – Museum Of Tomorrow (Q&A)

Something Else writes about The Speed of Sounds’ Museum of Tomorrow: Released by Big Stir Records, this 13-track collection centers on science-fiction concepts, where the past meets the future, the future meets the past, the present is questionable, and the line is blurred between fantasy and reality.

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to John Armstrong about a notebook for storing snatches of phrases, connected songs, an 8/10 review in Vive Le Rock, and misquoting JFK.

What was the moment you knew you were on to something?

There have been several with this album; among the biggest were:

After adding the keyboard linking parts between the tracks, the first listen through to the whole thing as a single piece and hearing the vinyl test pressing.

“Oh yes! That is EXACTLY what it is meant to sound like.” is a very good thought to have.

How did this record come together?

I write in batches; I have a notebook for storing snatches of phrases and titles while the ideas brew subconsciously and are ready to pour out when I get mental space and time. The lyrics are an essential part of The Speed Of Sound songs, so they are always the starting point. The music comes afterward to match the feel of the words. I think most people do it the other way around, but I’ve tried it, and that doesn’t work for me. 

I knew there were many connected songs brewing, and from the very beginning of the batch, I knew this would be a thematically connected album. I also knew it would be released on vinyl, so I was very conscious of the physical time constraints which forced each piece to be tight and compact, purely to get it to fit with so many songs. 

While the songs are taking shape internally, I was also thinking of the album as a whole; its dynamic feel and overall architectural shape, plus how we would link it all together – which in itself tied in the title. So rather than just a set of songs, Museum Of Tomorrow was conceived as a single piece, the only gap being to flip it over onto the other side. I like albums. 

The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for the new record?

In ‘normal’ recognized measurable terms, Museum Of Tomorrow already is a success; in that, we’ve been largely ignored or misunderstood for over thirty years and Museum Of Tomorrow went straight in with an 8/10 review in Vive Le Rock a full three weeks before release. 

In simpler, broader terms, as with the music itself, I take a longer view on it and still be making new music 32 years from the first release and enjoying doing it is success.

How great is the urge to stay creative?  To keep writing songs and lyrics?

It is big. I don’t think there is such a thing as writers’ block, but there is ‘not being in the right place.’ I find that to write new stuff, you’ve got to have no distractions and uncluttered headspace. When that lines up, they pour out. I know there’s plenty more in there, and the process of getting them out and knocking the right bits off the raw block to get at the shapes hidden in there is fascinating and a lot of pleasure, despite also being pretty damn hard work.

The process itself: experimenting with the sounds and textures of songs is very fulfilling. Most music never gets recorded at all, so the feeling of having piloted through the creative process and ‘landed’ a new album and preparing for release is addictively exciting.

As an artist, you chose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?

No. It is not comfortable, but to misquote JFK: “We don’t do these things because they are comfortable.” I find it way more interesting to write something that means something personally than go with Moon/June rhymes about nothing. It is all very serious subject matter and pretty dark thematically, but the music is uplifting and optimistic.

Gloomy, but we’re not a bunch of misery-guts about it. There is a natural playfulness there that hopefully is engaging. Not exactly a sugar coating and not exactly by way of protective body armor. Music should involve emotional experience, so that is what we do if/when other people connect; that is fabulous.

You can pick three co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?

Anna Calvi, Kate Bush, and Joni Mitchell. All three of them are explorers making their own rules and setting their standards. Each have their own Sound™, and each is very different. The idea of trying new stuff is exciting, and all three of those personal soundscapes are directions I would like to travel.

What’s the gig you will never forget? And why?

We’ve played many gigs, and they were all different and memorable, but probably the most unique was playing in the drawing-room of Victorian novelist Elizabeth Gaskell. It was a tiny intimate gig with so much history in the house and in that particular room. It felt like time travel and playing a gig in 1854. That was the first time we played Charlotte in public – which was only written about a week earlier, a song about fellow novelist Charlotte Bronte suffering an anxiety attack brought on by a doorbell ringing while she was visiting Mrs. Gaskell and hiding behind a curtain until the other guest had gone. It was Ms. Bronte’s 200th Birthday, and both hers and Mrs. Gaskell’s portraits were watching us from the wall next to the curtained window Charlotte had hidden in. It felt like she was there. Cool. But also very spooky.

Lyrics are too often taken for granted.  What is the line of text, or are the lines of text that you hope listeners will remember?  And why?

Yes, most people probably don’t listen to lyrics other than a chorus hook, or,  if they do listen, they probably mishear them anyway, which is a shame because there are an awful lot of good lyrics out there despite the general cultural dumbing-down we’ve had and the vocabulary contraction.

With Museum Of Tomorrow, the first line of ‘Tomorrow’s World’ is etched into the vinyl near the run-off groove: “We were offered Star Trek but they fed us Soylent Green.” It announces the whole album and sums up the way the 21st Century has been ‘a bit disappointing’* (*British Understatement) compared to what we were told we’d have 40-50 years ago.

There is meaning in all of the songs, plenty to dig for and carry away. We have been called a ‘thinking person’s band’ quite a few times. The vinyl issue has a printed 16-page booklet with the album lyrics in it, and that is also a PDF with the download (and the album streaming also includes the lyrics now), so there is more opportunity to hear them as they are. However, as soon as you release a song into the wild, even the people that listen to the lyrics will hear it in the context of their own experience, and it will mean something different to them.

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?

It is possible to record an entire album and add an orchestral score all from a computer keyboard in your bedroom. Getting people to listen to it is hard. The internet is a blizzard of information blowing straight in your face, so naturally, people shut their eyes.

Countless people are shouting, “Hey, listen to my band.” It is challenging to be found amongst all that, even if people are actively looking for you. I also have a radio show (Tuning Up on Mad Wasp Radio), and the amount of submissions I get is enormous; it simply isn’t possible to listen to all of it. Time is a limited resource, and if people choose to spend it listening to you, that is an immense gift. Independent music physically IS that metaphorical/metaphysical tree falling when no one is there to hear it.

Cassettes are back. Which 5 five songs would make your first mixtape?

Only five? Whoa. That’s hard. Am I allowed to say listen to all the Tuning  Up shows on Mixcloud? There’s close to nine continuous days (and nights) worth of mixtape on there!

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

Pushing buttons! AND sliding sliders! Recording is about exploring what you can do with the sound you’ve got and deciding when you have got enough of it. Thinking of new ways of doing things while trying to keep it as spontaneous as possible, planning things out in advance, and watching them all come together. It is sculpting shapes and structures from thin air. It is magical.

Playing music in front of a crowd. What’s all the fun about?

Live performance is where music comes alive. I’m an improviser, and in a live situation, that is pure excitement. The Speed Of Sound has never played the same set twice; there is always something different. We have a back catalog that is far too big to fit into a single gig, and although we are better at playing our own stuff than other people’s music, we do occasionally play a cover live too. Music has to evolve to stay alive. You can’t play something the same way for 30+ years; it has to stay fresh.

You can’t control the way people ‘hear’ your music. But if you could make them aware of certain aspects, you think, set your songs apart. What would they be?

We make pretty forceful crunchy music, but it floats at the same time. To get the most out of ANY music, you have to meet it halfway to start with. Our music is not background music; it is immersive. Dive in with an open mind and let it grab you. Relax into it.

They expect ‘the roaring 20s v2.0’. What kind of party are you looking for?

I like the long game, so it is a slow-burning fuse for me. I want to keep going, doing what the rest of the band and I are doing for as long as possible. Music is my drug of choice. So the so-called ‘glamorous’ matter/anti-matter type annihilation that people see as the Rock’n’Roll-Life-Style isn’t a choice I’d go for. However, for me, wherever there is a guitar, that IS a party.


Multi-instrumentalist Stephen Chopek introduces his innovative EP, Dweller, a six-track collection of tasty power-pop music. Dweller’s genesis occurred when Chopek came home from touring with Mike Doughty, the former frontman of Soul Coughing.

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Stephen about an unheard New Wave song from the 80s, the creative muscle and the making of Dweller.

What was the moment you knew you were on to something?

I felt good about the songs as I was recording them in Memphis during 2020, but it wasn’t until mixing earlier this year in Atlanta that the music really came alive. The first song that I started to mix was “Empty Hands”, which set the tone for the rest of the EP. I was experimenting with drum sounds, and after a few calculated guesses, I arrived at a vibe that grabbed me. Specifically, I liked how the synthesizers worked with the rhythm section. It felt like a New Wave song from the 80s that I hadn’t heard before. That groove informed the direction of the other instruments and how the vocals sit in the mix. This was my eureka moment that guided me through the other songs. 

How did this record come together?

Dweller started coming together in 2020, shortly after the pandemic forced everyone to isolate themselves from the outside world. I had just returned home to Memphis after a US tour in February, playing drums with Mike Doughty from Soul Coughing. I quickly realized that I was going to be inside for a while, so I shifted my focus from performing to recording. I had a lot of musical sketches and lyric ideas that were ready to be turned into songs. The fragments with the most promise were picked out and put through the paces. I spent a few weeks on each song, chipping away at them every day. Having the luxury of time on my side, I was able to approach the music with patience. Listening with fresh ears at the beginning of each session gave me the advantage of perspective. I allowed the songs to guide me along the writing process and see where they would take me. 

How great is the urge to stay creative?  To keep writing songs and lyrics?

The creative muscle needs to be exercised every day, so I always have a few projects going on at once. Practice routines are important, but so are designated times for uninhibited exploration. This can be applied to any number of creative endeavors. I’m always trying out new drum beats, guitar riffs, keyboard leads, chord progressions, vocal harmonies, etc., but there are other artistic avenues that I travel on. Photography is a big part of my life, as well as video art. I take lots of pictures and make my own music videos. Even though these are varied disciplines with different languages, they’re all part of the creative process, and they each inform the other’s development.

Lyrics are too often taken for granted.  What is the line of text, or are the lines of text that you hope listeners will remember?  And why?

The chorus of “Start Over” repeats the phrase “hold on, it’s not too late, we can start over”. Within the song’s context, the lyrics tell the story of a couple beginning again when things seem like they’re falling apart. On another level, those words are also about not giving up and starting new every day. Two important ingredients for a fulfilling life are persistence and patience. Balancing those two can be a challenge, but it definitely keeps things interesting. 

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?

These days, recording songs is easier than getting them heard. You don’t need a lot of gear to record music, and technological advancements are always making more user-friendly, affordable, and compact tools. You can set up your laptop or phone anywhere and just go for it. Whatever limitations you experience can be used to your advantage by finding interesting ways to work around them. Getting the music heard is another story. There are indeed more outlets than ever to share your songs online, but there are also many things out there competing for people’s attention. You have to really love the whole process and not get discouraged when others don’t think your music is as amazing as you do. Keep going and improving and sharing. Your songs will get better, and people will start to notice. 

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

My favorite aspect of recording music is making something out of nothing. That’s the part of the creative process that I find endlessly fascinating. You plant a seed and watch it grow. Of course, you need to take the initiative to get started and the motivation to continue, but there’s also a dance that goes on where you alternate taking the lead. Sometimes you guide the song, and sometimes the song guides you. This approach will take you in different directions than you originally planned and lead you to places better than you could have expected at the beginning of your journey. 

James Henry – Pluck (Q&A)

James Henry delivers punchy, guitar-driven songs with sweet melodies, succulent harmonies and sharp lyrics. Think Merseybeat meets Squeeze meets Weezer.

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to James about that “seize the day” mentality, Frank Zappa, dipshit rubbish beats, and the release of his great new record ‘Pluck’.

What was the moment you knew you were on to something?

Regarding my new album, Pluck, there was a gap between the final mixdown and initiating the process of release, where I had not listened to the songs at all. I suddenly had to do so to prepare for mastering, and I came to that listening experience almost as a separate person – someone detached from the writing and recording of these things. It was surprising – I really liked what I heard! I thought, “There should be a few others out there who will like this too.”

I think it’s the best thing I’ve done, by a long way. It’s the sort of music I would buy – I hope that doesn’t come across as arrogant at all. At the very least, it’s a competent album.

When did you decide to start asking for opinions on the new songs?

In late 2020/early 2021, I began to contact blogs and radio stations that I thought may be receptive to this work. I’ve had a pretty good reaction to the album from most of the people who responded. One review in particular from the site “PopRock Record” was incredible.

The guy who runs the enterprise, Dennis Pilon, had taken the trouble to carefully listen to the whole thing and made authentic links with the work of other artists that I was considerably proud of.

Getting comments such as these from people who’ve never heard of you before is a real confidence boost. 

The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for the new record?

Creating an album independently and having it available as a physical product constitutes success in my book. The online world gives musicians a route to release that just wasn’t generally available to them previously. The problem then arises of getting that release noticed – there is so much noise out there. I’m grateful for any recognition! Added success would be selling a reasonable amount of CDs and gaining fans who are genuinely interested in what I do and willing to support more of it. I’d like to achieve that someday.

How great is the urge to stay creative?  To keep writing songs and lyrics

The urge for me to carry on is strong as I have quite a backlog of material which, if it all turns out to be listenable, I would like to have released. In doing so, it might be good to have the support of a label, but if not, I’ll try and continue to do it myself.

I like writing and recording and have done so for many years. Even if I weren’t looking to put something out, I’d still write. It’s a fun activity. I’m also a huge fan of the guitar and will maintain my desire to thrash about on one until my calloused hands wither and my arthritic fingers crack and crumble.

As an artist, you chose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?

I suppose that can appear in certain songs, but I honestly don’t set out to “show my emotions” or bare my soul through songwriting. In terms of lyrics, I do see a freedom to say what’s on your mind. Still, I also enjoy highlighting the unorthodox attitudes and behaviors, which often provide a chance to introduce humor into a musical situation. I like lyrics that raise a laugh or an eyebrow.

You can pick three co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?

If you twisted my arm, I wouldn’t mind trying to come up with something sat opposite Paul McCartney. He’s a genius, a master of modern pop songwriting, and you’d be a complete fool not to learn from him.

Chrissie Hynde and Ray Davies spring to mind, too – their approaches to writing and performing are unique, and I’d like to witness how that all begins.

If I had a choice of working with an artist who’s passed on, then Frank Zappa or Prince would be my choices. Both were outlandishly talented – and I know Frank wouldn’t have been shy of sharing a forthright opinion.

Lyrics are too often taken for granted.  What is the line of text, or are the lines of text that you hope listeners will remember?  And why?

From my song “Tomorrow May Be Too Late”, the title alone is pretty much to the point. The first lines are “Tomorrow may be too late, so why do you sit and wait? Get out of your chair, start tempting fate – tomorrow may be too late”. I like that “seize the day” mentality if, as a listener, you feel you need to invoke it.

For more “self-help” style wordage, the song “Afterthought” may be appropriate: “Why do you treat me like an afterthought? I can’t compete if I’m your last resort. I won’t be Plan B – I want to rewrite your history, but…… I’m never going to be anybody’s afterthought”. I would say many of us have been in relationships where we’ve been taken for granted, so to speak. If so, this could be your battle cry.

When was the last time you thought, ‘I just wrote a hit!’?

I can’t ever tell! I write ultimately for my own amusement. I’ve heard many songs in the past by famous artists where I’ve thought, “That’s a number one,” only for it to disappear without trace or languish around the lower reaches of a chart while some dipshit rubbish beats everything else and sells millions.

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?

Absolutely! The technology to make a convincing record at home is pretty staggering to me, compared to what I used to get out of an Atari ST1040 and a 4-track cassette recorder. Getting it heard in the right place, though, is nigh on impossible, especially with the amount of material that’s out there online. The mainstream media still seems resolutely impenetrable to me, without having a shed load of money to buy your way in. Getting a sync placement or a spot play on a major radio or TV outlet has proven beyond my capabilities over the years…….but you never know, eh? Gotta keep tryin’ ……..

Cassettes are back. Which 5 five songs would make your first mixtape?


“Saturday Morning” (from the album “Sweetener”), “The Sun Is Cracking The Flags”, “I’d Be All Over That” (both from the album “Overspill”), “Available For Selection” and “So Many Times Before” (both from the new album “Pluck”).

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

You’re the director of the entire film that is your song. You can have anything happen at any time, in any order, with pretty much any instrument your computer can muster. You can mess with your guitar sounds; you can throw a Moog synth phrase in there; you can say rude words and everything. It’s hard work because there’s a basic level of technical stuff you HAVE to incorporate, which may be boring or impenetrable to many. But…..if the end product is close to what you first heard in your head, there is no bigger thrill than hearing it coming back at you. It keeps you out of mischief – or deeply in it, depending on your point of view.

You can’t control the way people ‘hear’ your music. But if you could make them aware of certain aspects, you think, set your songs apart. What would they be?

Many of my songs have a 60’s musical influence. What I think often sets them apart is the guitar work that’s bludgeoned into a lot of the material, which stops it from sounding too contrived. I like aggressive lead guitar sounds, and in that respect, I’m influenced a great deal by Adrian Belew. He makes noises on a guitar you can’t believe.

They expect ‘the roaring 20s v2.0’. What kind of party are you looking for?

Anywhere that offers tasty small sausages, the freedom to wear a baker boy cap, and plays “A Girl Like You” nice and loud.

The Sun Sawed in ½ – ‘Sirens’ and ‘Beaches in Bali’

The Sun Sawed in ½ released two EPs in the past few months. ‘Sirens’ and ‘Beaches in Bali’ are musically very rich. That sound did not arise in a swanky recording studio. The pandemic made songwriter, guitarist, and producer Tim Rose look for new ways to record his music. He found it and told Sweet Sweet Music about the creation of, in total,  eleven new songs.

How did the new music come together?

Owing to the pandemic, I had a lot of time at home. So I began playing with Logic Pro X on my Mac for the first time. I ended up building fully realized demos to more than 30 new songs during my learning curve. Then I found that I wasn’t the only musician sitting at home. I got in touch with our lead singer, Doug Bobenhouse, and he and I started culling and building the best of the material.

Thankfully, I was contacted by a start-up company in Portugal called Musiversal that helped pro-studio musicians during the pandemic by giving them easy 30 minute booked gigs during the day doing a remote recording. This was incredible as it allowed our band to work with some world-class players and use sounds and instruments we never thought to implement.

What’s the gig you will always remember? And why?

The Sun Sawed in ½ has had some really fun gigs. From opening for bands such as Echo & The Bunnymen, Semisonic, and Cracker to performing with Chuck Berry in the audience.

However, having the opportunity to play at the Cavern Club in Liverpool was a stand-out. Given the Beatles were my role models as a young songwriter, just the chance to be in their hometown was enough of a dream come true. But to perform at the International Pop Overthrow at the Cavern was the icing. 

When was the last time you thought, ‘I just wrote a hit!’?

For everything we produce that we foist upon the general public, we put through a rigorous cycle of doubt. We deconstruct the song, question the lyrics, poke at it, trash it, and if it still wakes us up at night bouncing through our heads, we know we have a hit.

To answer the question directly, the last song I wrote gave me that feeling right away. However, like all the others, it needs to go through the scientific peer-review process before I’ll swear to it.

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

Everything. It’s like designing a palace. Building the structure and then adding the filigree and the frescoes. Today, it is really simple to build a fully realized song online. With Zoom, Audiomovers, and a Mac, we were able to record hundreds of sessions with talented musicians with ease.

In fact, we never set foot in a recording studio for these EPs. And, everything sounds as good as the work we did with Keith Olsen at Sound City/Goodnight L.A. studios in the ’90s. Technology has been really kind to composers and producers. I’ve had more fun making these EPs than anything else we’ve done with The Sun.

You can pick three co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?

Given that none of my picks are likely, I will pick those who are purely hypothetical. 

  1. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky would be a wonderful mentor to write with. His sense of melody is sublime, and his deep knowledge of music and composition would push our songs beyond anything anyone is doing today. I remember listening to The Nutcracker with headphones in the dark and thinking how this was the first epic rock opera.
  2. Nina Simone is an artist I admire, owing to her unique voice, piano skills, and her ability to take a song and turn it into an emotional journey. I would love to access that depth of my soul and have the skill to translate it to my music. Few artists have done this or can do this. Brittney Howard comes to mind for someone still with us. But, Nina is in a class by herself.
  3. Sam Cooke. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a better voice on a human. And, that talent goes way deeper than his smooth voice and stellar performances. Sam was an impassioned songwriter who was first to bring the pain of the black existence to the masses and a decade ahead of Marvin Gaye and “What’s Going On.” On top of that, Sam Cooke was a brilliant writer who knew what a hit song sounded like and had the directions mapped out in his mind to drive there in style every time. One of my mentors, Andy Partridge of XTC, is an A-level Power Pop songsmith, and his “Earn Enough for Us” song has a Sam Cooke pastiche from “What a Wonderful World.” To be that sure of myself and to be that talented would be ideal. To co-write with someone at that level would be a life-changer.
  4. I wanted to mention the names of my songwriting influences: Brian Wilson, Lennon-McCartney, Dylan, Elvis Costello, etc. I don’t think it would be ideal to write with any of them because I’ve studied them in detail my whole life. However, it would be an honor.

The Foreign Films – Starlight Serenade (Q&A)

You would expect that after the release of The Record Collector”, The Foreign Films’ Magnus Opus, Bill Majoros’ musical inspiration tank would be empty. Nothing could be further from the truth. With Starlight Serenade, another highlight is added to the already so rich oeuvre.

Bill Majoros explains to Sweet Sweet Music how this is possible.

What was the moment you knew you were on to something?

When a lightning bolt of inspiration hits, it’s always a magical feeling. I love creating music from thin air! Songwriting is a daily ritual for me, but intuitively you feel the excitement and energy when you’re on to something special. It’s like tuning into an imaginary radio station and discovering a new song!

I’ve been working with a fantastic bass player and co-producer, Carl Jennings, for many years now. When we work together, it’s like musical telepathy. When I showed Carl the basic ideas for the songs, he immediately came up with fantastic bass lines. That was a eureka moment! The overall vision for the album materialized!

How did this record come together?

After a pretty epic project- A 3 LP, 31 song, vinyl box set “The Record Collector” I began to romanticize about the way bands recorded and released music in the 1960s, exciting singles and albums being released within a short period of time, capturing the energy and zeitgeist of the moment. I’ve been using this concept as my current blueprint for releasing music.

With that in mind, my two most recent albums came out back to back, with Ocean Moon in 2020, followed by my brand new release, Starlight Serenade. I’m a multi-instrumentalist; in the studio, I begin with a guitar or keyboard part and lead vocal.

Having said that, the chemistry of collaboration elevates and illuminates the songs! I’ve been working with Rob Preuss, legendary Canadian keyboard player, and the incredible orchestrator Jason Frederick from the UK for these records. Steve Eggers from the fantastic Canadian band The Nines also contributed some background vocals. I’ve been loving the collective sound; suddenly, a song will start to transcend a sketch and become a technicolor painting.

Both records were created around the idea of shining positive light in dark times. I think of it as retro-futurism or kaleidoscope pop, A musical alchemy of the past and present while dreaming of the positive future. A new “roaring 20s”!

The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for the new record?

If you put all your heart and soul into a record and love the people you’re working with, that’s success.

For me, success is doing what I love the very best I can. From the time I was a kid, all I’ve wanted to do is make cool records like my musical heroes. I’m thankful to be able to pursue that goal.

As a writer, I always hope the music reaches more listeners. I always hope my music brings musical joy the way my favorite artists brighten my life.

In a tangible way, I’m working with a great record company Sonic Envy/ Warner Music. It’s my first time being affiliated with a major label for quite a while. I’m optimistic the melodies will reach many more ears, lol!

How great is the urge to stay creative? To keep writing songs and lyrics?

It’s incredibly important to stay creative; I’m always passionate about writing new songs and recording! I love and live for sonic discoveries. It keeps my sense of wonder alive. Composing can turn a grey day into beautiful technicolor; it truly elevates my spirit! Music illuminates the heart and soul; it’s a beacon of light in the dark.

Staying creative is part of my life’s philosophy or mantra; I’m always striving to grow as a musician/artist. For me, the secret of songwriting is to immerse yourself in great music, film, and art, then combining influences you love to create something new, in a humble way, adding to the grand tapestry of music.

In other words, listen to tons of cool records, then put lots of love into making cool records of your own.

As an artist, you chose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?

I think of it from a cinematic point of view. I love to create characters and atmospheres, telling stories, and painting musical pictures. That’s why I go under the name “The Foreign Films” My own emotions are definitely in every note, but I feel it’s much more interesting to create creative, imaginary scenarios.

Songwriting is also an exploration of the subconscious, like a deep-sea dive into the dream world. Ultimately The Foreign Films’ new LP Starlight Serenade is my imagination’s jukebox. The songs became the soundtrack to my life.

You can pick three co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?

Wow, I may as well go big, lol, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon…hmmm maybe Elton John. Any of the greats would be a tremendous honor.

What’s the gig you will never forget? And why?

That’s a great question; I’ve been a touring musician for many years! A couple of years ago I played The legendary Cavern Club “birthplace of The Beatles” in Liverpool. It was a thrill! The Fabs made me want to become a musician! As a boy, my parents bought my first records, Revolver and The White Album. It opened my mind to a universe of creativity. It was full circle as an artist! I’ll never forget that fantastic experience!

I was also lucky enough to play the infamous CBGB’s in New York City, 1st Avenue in Minneapolis (Prince owned it and filmed Purple Rain there), and The Stone Pony in Asbury Park (made famous by Bruce Springsteen).

All of these are very memorable, beautiful experiences!

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

We love to record in an old-school way, playing live drums, guitars, bass, and vocals in a traditional studio (Westmoreland Hamilton, Ontario, Canada). We try to capture the human spirit in every note, not relying too heavily on technology.

For me, it’s important to keep the music organic, like all the vintage albums I love. Having said that. Jason Frederick makes the string arrangements from the UK, and Rob Preuss (keys) is in NYC. Modern recording technology makes this possible! Carl Jennings and I lay down the basic tracks at his studio, capturing live energy, then mix in overdubs for extra sonic magic!

It’s incredibly fun to work with such fantastic musicians. At the conclusion of a recording project, it’s wonderful to press vinyl. It makes everything feel complete. Album art is incredibly important; it helps bring the recording to life visually. I’m fortunate to work with the artist named Kristie Ryder (Poppermost Prints). Every recording has a corresponding cover that captures the technicolor spirit of the songs.

You can’t control the way people ‘hear’ your music. But if you could make them aware of certain aspects, you think, set your songs apart. What would they be?

I always play every note with heart and soul, wanting my songs to radiate good feelings; musical sun through the clouds. I try to write creative, psychedelic pop songs that are fun to sing along with, but there’s often a story hidden within. I love to take the listener on a sonic journey. You could listen to the music and float downstream on a river or dive deep beneath the surface.

My songs often function on a few levels. For example; The mystical premise of “All The Love You Give” asks the question, “if you could go back in time, what would you change?”

The character magically wakes up in the 1960s with a chance to begin again. She decides to follow her bliss and take the path less traveled.

“All this love you give, live the life you want to live with all the love you give.”

Like a musical time machine, you’ll hear jangly guitars, vintage drums, bass, and synthesizers played with a very live feel. All of my songs tend to have a subplot.

Another example, inspired by a reoccurring dream, “A Photograph of You” is a ghost story, from the point of view of a spirit who haunts a dusty old attic in a ramshackle cottage that time forgot.

While playing crackling records on an antique gramophone, he spends his days gazing at faded photographs, reliving earthly delights from long ago. The apparition reflects on bittersweet moments of love and loss, then suddenly vanishes following a startling revelation!

Ultimately I want to take the listener on a musical adventure and illuminate the heart. Lyrics are too often taken for granted.

What is the line of text, or are the lines of text that you hope listeners will remember?  And why?

“Everything comes and goes, nobody really knows

Darling our love still grows flowers in the spring”

This is from my song “Rainbows” it’s an acoustic meditation on the ever-changing nature of life. As the seasons’ cycle around, everything is temporary and simultaneously eternal, like flowers dying in the autumn frost to be reborn in the spring.

This song is dedicated to my Mom’s beautiful memory and magical spirit.

“Rainbows in your eyes

Everyone laughs and everyone cries

All that shall live surely will die

Maybe we arise

Neath summer skies

And maybe I’ll see you again.”

Steve Rosenbaum – Have a Cool Summer! (Q&A)

‘During the 80s, I was playing in Ann Arbor, then in LA. During those years, I recorded many demos of my originals in my home “studio”, which consisted of, at first, two cassette decks, then a Tascam Portastudio 4-track cassette recorder. I never thought much about them being at all good enough to “release” so I sat on them from nearly 40 years.

About a year ago, I started posting a few of them on Facebook groups (Power Pop and Home Recording). The response was overwhelming, which was quite a surprise to me.’, says Steve Rosenbaum.

And now 23 of those demos have been bundled and released, on 8-track and reel!

Find out how that came about.

Have a Cool Summer! is a collection of 23 demos you recorded in the 80s. Have you always known the songs were too good to go unheard?

Quite frankly, I didn’t know. In a vacuum, I do think my stuff is excellent, but then, when I hear one of my favorite artists, I get a doubt in my mind: is it really that good? Many of the songs in this collection have not been heard by anyone else ever.

I joined a group on Facebook for fans of 4-track cassette machines (loosely referred to as Portastudios). These machines came out in the 80s as a cheap alternative to big studios. I posted a few of these recordings, and the members of that group were effusive in their praise – not only for the quality of the recordings but also for the songs themselves. It was then that I realized I might actually have a bit of a goldmine hidden in this collection of tunes.

A lot has changed in the music business since you recorded these demos. What change has had the most impact on your career?

If I had to pick one change in the business, it would have to be the ability to easily share music online, either by streaming, sharing, or posting. When I was recording these demos, the bar to distribution was incredibly high. If you really wanted to reach a large population, you needed a record deal, which I was not likely to get with these demos or this style of music.

Now, I can find blogs online (like yours), Facebook groups, or a hundred other avenues, and get these songs into the ears of exactly the people who will like them. Case in point – these songs are finally catching the ear of quite a few power pop and home recording fans.

In my experience, My Innocence could have been a hit for anyone who hit the charts in the ’80s. Have you often offered the song to others?

Thanks for saying that! I always thought the song was good, and others have told me the same. I’m open to anyone covering my songs but was never in a position to promote that happening. Nonetheless, funny you should mention it, this song actually *was* recorded by a singer named Niki something in the mid-80s in Los Angeles. My friend and bandmate, Mitch Goodman, knew her. She needed a song to showcase her vocals for a contest, so he suggested “My Innocence.” I still have a copy of it.

If anyone wants to cover it or any other song I’ve written, please let me know!

And then suddenly the question came up, ‘shall we release your demos from the ‘80s?

So, this guy I met on Facebook, Nathan Brown, heard some of my Portastudio and two-cassette demos, saw all the interest that they were generating, and proposed that he release them on his label, Dead Media Tapes. I was surprised that anyone would take these demos seriously, but he heard something in them. He has exclusive rights on them for 8-track and reel-to-reel release, with digital download, until sometime after the first of the year. After that, we will move to more typical media. I think it’s kind of cool that they are only available on tape since that’s how they were originally recorded.

A little more about the Portastudio: this machine, and others like it, was a big deal for songwriters in the 80s. For about a thousand dollars, you could actually do a multitrack recording at home. Famously, Bruce Springsteen did “Nebraska” on one. They didn’t sound great, but they got the job done. Before the Portastudio, I used an even cruder technique where I “bounced” tracks between two regular cassette recorders.

In the early days, I didn’t even have a drum machine and was doing my “drums” with buckets, Tupperware, coffee cans; you name it. I was running a mic through a guitar amp to add some reverberation. So, the sound of these recordings is a bit unusual, to say the least. But I figured out how to work within my limitations and still produce something that sounded good, even though it didn’t sound like an $800 an hour pro studio.

Hopefully, we are almost over a very crazy period. Do you already dare to look ahead and make musical plans?

Here in San Diego, the venues are re-opening, so there are starting to be opportunities to play live. I work with a couple of terrific musicians here in town that play my originals live with me in a band called “Mess Of Fun.” The last time we played was on the eve of the shutdown, March 12, 2020. We were supposed to open for Power Pop legend Paul Collins, but he cut short his tour right before our date. We went ahead and played what was probably the last live music show in San Diego that night. Now, with things opening up a bit, I’m back on the phone and email hustling for gigs.