Star Collector – Game Day (Q&A, and more …)

Game Day‘ is Star Collector’s fifth album. Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Vic Wayne about how this record came about.

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

I think I knew I was on to something when the songs just flowed out, one after another. I think as a writer, this is a good signal to dig in. For a Power Pop record, it’s a pretty intense one lyrically… Musically, the band gave the tunes a right ass-kickin’, and I knew from the get-go that our current personnel would come through with the mod-tastic goods but stay true to the emotional centers of the songs, whatever they may be.

How did this record come together?

Some powerful, chaotic, life-altering shit went down in my life and it was a bit foreign to me, honestly. I found that writing was a way out of the darkness. It’s therapeutic…and being creative also just feels good, like you’re doing something meaningful, even if only for yourself initially.

The recording process was the other end of the spectrum… great fun! Our longtime drummer, Ringo, moved away in ’18 so we were fortunate to have current stickman, Adrian Buckley, who we’d known for years, just slide in. Big bonus is that he’s also a damn fine recording engineer so, once the beds were done at a big studio here, I produced, and we overdubbed with him at the controls.

My younger brother, Adam, who’d also filled in for us on bass when we were ‘bottomless’ many times, (ie: our first tour to Europe), came on board and was simply brilliant. His playing is a wonderful cross between Bruce Thomas & Entwhistle, with a superb sense of melody (see Macca).

Steve, my longtime guitarist/vocalist/co-writer, really brought the guitar-goods like a champ, and I hacked away like the mediocre guitarist I am.

Haha… It was tops to have both Adrian and Ad sing on it too as they both have great voices that complimented mine & Steve’s nicely.

We also had Kevin Kane (Grapes of Wrath) play a blistering guitar duel with Steve; and Evan Foster (Boss Martians, Dirty Sidewalks, Sonics) co-produce a track with me and sing on it.

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

Well, if you mean once the record was finished… we felt pretty sure which songs would work as singles, which are the first 2 we did videos for, “Rip It Off” and “Game Day”, the title track, plus the one we’re working on like little Energizer Bunnies right now (okay, to be fair, it’s mostly Steve doing the vids… I’m about as technically proficient at video work as I am at playing lead guitar… “and the answer is none… none more proficient” *cue “Big Bottom*).

What always fascinates me is which songs people gravitate to on albums. One that surprised me a bit is all the love for the song “Green Eyes” we’ve received. Obviously, it made the cut to be on the album but didn’t call that one. What does feel good is that pretty much every song so far has shown up in different folks’ faves, so that tells me it’s not a couple of singles plus so much filler! Haha.

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

With the way the industry is today and from my little corner of perception, success to me is that we completed the record, and it sounds like it did in my head when the songs were written (better, in fact).

After that, because it’s an important record for me personally, and for the band after a fairly sizable break between albums, success is what it accomplishes emotionally and creatively.

After that, getting played on radio and having reviewers appreciate it is just the gravy, but still worth considering the cause, I mean, if you put blood, sweat, and fears into recording for a year (after writing and rehearsing for 2 more), you kinda want people to hear it. If not it’s, “if a tree falls…”. I will say that the Power Pop community has been stellar in supporting it so far and we’re most grateful, and that includes, of course, Sweet Sweet Music!

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

Like the urge to purge after too much tequila; or the urge to cough after your first teenage smoke; or the urge to share your first sexual experience with your best friend; or the urge after your first big coffee in the morning…haha.

Seriously, though, it’s been incredibly strong these past few years. Aside from the aforementioned heavy inspiration in my life, the lockdown has allowed me more time to write.

I think I’ve got about 5 new ones done and another 2-3 co-writes with Steve so I figure about ¾’s of our next album is written already. Now, getting into the rehearsal room is another thing altogether…

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

Great question. I’d say for me, yeah. Ultimately, music is an emotional ride. As a word guy who loves language, it’s essential.

Musically, though, the pure joy of hitting the chorus in Katrina & The Waves’ “Do You Want Crying?” or the way you can’t NOT sing along to the tail of “Hey Jude”; or the way my brother, Adam’s (solo) song, “Rainy Day”, can bring me to tears every fucking time; or how the sheer ferocity of “The Real Me” (The Who) can make you wanna jump around the room playing air guitar with a Hot Wheels track… damn… and, as a dad, don’t even get me started on “Cats In The Cradle”!

You can pick 3 co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?  

Well, aside from my own band, I’m gonna cheat & do this in categories as it’s WAY too hard to pick just 3:

3 who’ve passed on: John Lennon (no reason required), David Bowie (think it’d be ethereal and expansive), Adam Schlesinger (that pop sensibility!)

3 living Brits: Paul Weller (from ‘All Mod Cons’ through to ‘Sound Affects’… kinda my musical bible right there), Pete Townshend (see Paul Weller), Jimmy Page (riff-tastic-orgasmic, and I write the words!), (cheat) Glenn Tilbrook (that pop sensibility part deux and I write the words again!), would’ve added Noel Gallagher, Richard Ashcroft & Ian McCulloch but somehow I think the clash of “who writes the lyrics” might be an issue. Haha.

3 living Americans: David Fagin (Solo, ex-The Rosenbergs) (that melodic sensibility – big fan), Dave Grohl (feel like it’d be non-stop laughter and still get results), Dave Pirner (whether it’s vogue to dig Soul Asylum or not, I’ve always been a fan of his writing)… “3! 3! 3 Daves in 1!”

3 living Canadians: Kevin Kane (Grapes of Wrath – who I did co-produce & co-write with on our ‘Flash-Arrows & The Money Shot’ album – great talent and a personal connection); Mark Bandola & Rob Vandeven from The Lucy Show – super band no one knows, originally from Canada though they did live/record in the UK), Craig Northey (Odds) (you guessed it… that pop sensibility once again!)

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

My #1 is, unquestionably, The Jam at Kerrisdale Arena here in Vancouver, their last North American date before they split. My teenage mod band et them, I  got a pound note autographed… childhood dream, really. I actually got to relive my story in the book, ‘The Jam – The Day I Was There.

After that, 4th row on the floor to see The Kinks as a teen, or the jaw-dropping visual extravaganza that was KISS in their heyday when I was but a pup!

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’ll give you 2: From “Start To Shine” from our ‘Flash-Arrows & The Money Shot’ album:

“Ain’t it obvious to you?

Don’t need no shrink to think it through

You’re lying naked with the truth

Start to fade or start to shine

And go further out… further out this time…”

(Pretty much my mantra about doing what makes you shine with this one little life we’re given).

And: From “Game Day”, the title track from the new album:

“It’s Game Day and I’ve gotta be strong

Game Day splayed out on the lawn

It’s Mayday and the Sirens’ Song

Now there ain’t no losin’ at all”

(It encapsulates all the pain and turmoil that brought me and this album into the light after much darkness. It’s deeply personal but I think many can relate that sometimes we find clarity in having to make hard, frightening, life-defining decisions)

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

Haha… “There’s no way to answer this dangerous question and maintain my country’s humble politeness!.. HOWEVER, gun to my head, I feel if this were an earlier era in popular music, both “Rip It Off” & “Game Day” from our new album couldashouldwoulda… I felt like they had that magic when they were being written and the band made them even better, but, really what the hell do I know? I’m just some guy… standing in front of a girl…wait…

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?

Yes, a thousand times yes.

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

Geez, are they really?? Hmmm… the only format more sonically questionable than 8-tracks. Let me mull on this one…

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

I absolutely love the process. It can be ‘pulling out hair, chunks at a time’ occasionally when, for example, a mix is just eluding you, but hearing your songs come together (right now, over me… sorry…) really is a magical mystery tour at times (a Beatles Two-fer!).

Especially so when you’re working with really fine players who just make it pop, as they say… nothing like it. I’ve been mighty fortunate to have Steve as the Starsky to my Hutch all these years, and working with my brother Ad again, well, you do the math. Brothers, man. Adrian is a killer skin-basher and engineer too, and having guests like Kevin Kane, Evan Foster (and previously Paul Myers) come in and bring their magic is the icing on the musical cake.

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

Playing live is such a different animal than recording or writing. For us, it’s a way to let loose the scissor kicks, turn up the amps, and experience the immediacy that only performing can bring.

It’s breaking strings, breaking sticks, having your guitar strap fall off mid-song, guessing at your harmonies when the monitors aren’t cutting it, and falling into the drum kit after an ill-timed jump. It’s the danger of putting yourself and your songs out there to be judged by the audience, but, hey, Death or Glory! (I’m really riffing on song titles now… watch out).

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 would say musically we straddle genres, even if our main thrust is kinda mod-based rock/power pop. We always sneak bits of garage, new wave, arena/riff-rock, folk, and splashes of prog into the mix so a bit unpredictable, I suppose. You’re not getting 10-12 of the same formula every song after song. Lyrically, I really put a yeoman’s effort into making sure each line, each word chosen is the right one (for me at least) much to Steve’s chagrin when it comes to harmonies (haha)… and, unlike straight pop music, I tend to write about a lot of deep, personal shit. To me, ‘if it don’t mean somethin’, it don’t mean nothin’!

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

One that plays “Lips Like Sugar”, “Start!”, “The Real Me”, “She Said She Said”, “D’You Know What I Mean?”, “Better Things”, “Good Girls Don’t”, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” and “Bittersweet Symphony” so I can sing along at the top of my lungs, and then hits “Love Shack” HARD! Haha. Hey, maybe that’s my mixtape right there!

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