David Gans (tnf) Wed 14 Jun 06 17:32
I have to mention Cat Stevens, too. I've been listening to some early recordings, some of which I'm going to post, and you can hear the influence quite clearly in my singing. I think what I learned from Elton John and Cat Stevens in 1971 - just before I was turned on to the Grateful Dead, which changed everything - was more about themes and atmospheres as much as anything. This was the era of the "sensitive singer-songwriter," when James Taylor was at the top of the charts. I learned a lot from him, too - his clear, precise fingerpicking on "You're Got a Friend," "Country Road," "Fire and Rain," etc. urged me in that direction. I'm having a hard time putting a finger on the Elton & Bernie influence. I was turned on to them by my songwriting partner, Stephen Donnelly - who also took me to my first Grateful Dead concert and introduced me to lots of other great music, too. Songs like "Sixty Years On" and "The First Episode at Hienton" appealed to us lonely romantic teenagers, so maybe that was their main influence. One thing that jumps out at me, from a later album: in the song "Dixie Lily" - a trifle, really - there's a line about the women on the riverboat. "Must be fancy breeding lets you live that way." That double entendre tickled me. They were by no means the first songwriters to put that idea in my head, but that particular line still springs readily to mind, and my own catalog is filthy with that sort of thing. And I'm damn proud of it!
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Wed 14 Jun 06 18:08
I love that song and I've never been able to parse the lyric.
David Gans (tnf) Wed 14 Jun 06 18:11
It's another of Bernie Taupin's charming bits of Americana, of a piece with all of "Tumbleweed Conenction." What about the other little ditty right next to it - "Solar Prestige a Gammon." Total, intentional gibberish.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Wed 14 Jun 06 18:18
yeah! I spent *ages* trying to figure out what language it was in! I was always amused by the song on Madman Across the Water ...I forget the name of it, but the one where he's singing about being an Indian, and I wanted to play it with Peter Gabriel's San Jacinto, and then find some other song by an Englishman singing about being an Indian so it could be a threefer.
David Gans (tnf) Wed 14 Jun 06 18:25
"Madman Across the Water" has some great songs and some awesome production. The strings on the title track are amazing.
Are You My Caucasian? (shmo) Wed 14 Jun 06 18:29
You've often described your songwriting self to me as "not prolific," and, yet, it seems your output has been increasing over the past couple of years. Do you attribute the greater composing productivity to the focus on/commitment to your music career? If not that, then why the spike in new tunes the last couple-three years?
David Gans (tnf) Wed 14 Jun 06 18:48
Necessity is a mutha! As my fortunes have improved and my gigs have gotten better, I've felt a greater need to keep growing. And I also have some things I want to say. The subject matter of my songwriting has been more along the lines of positive messages - that's the Jeb Puryear (Donna the Buffalo) influence. Both Jeb and his bandmate Tara Nevins write and perform songs that are spiritually positive without being hippy-dippy. I asked Jeb once if he was espousing any particular philosophy or religion, and he replied: "No. I just think that if you're going to get people's attention, you might as well say something positive." Or words to that effect. Last year I sat with with Lorin Rowan and in an afternoon we turned one of my personal life-lessons into a fine song: "Every Kick in the Ass Is a Shove in the Right Direction." As I said earlier, I think "Surely You Jest" stilled the angry voice in me for now, and I've been trying to get some of my life lessons into my songbook. I'm also tacking political and cultural themes with some gusto. One of my most effective songs in recent years is "Who Will Save Us from the Saved?" ( http://dgans.com/lyrics.html#SaveUs ) I set out to express my dismay and concern about the encroachment of theocrats on American public life in the most even-handed of terms, and the feedback I've gotten on the song has been overwhelmingly positive. I've got another song i the works right now that I don't want to say much about because the concept is tricky and I may not be able to pull it off. I spent a delightful afternoon kicking it around with Stevie Coyle of The Waybacks; his sense of humor is perfect for this idea, and he co9ntributed some fine thoughts to it. I'm hoping we'll have a chance to get together again soon to finish it. The loop-based composing I'm doing right now is really satisfying and really challenging. I am going to have to bring actual sheet music out on tour with me, I think. As these improvisations become compositions, there are four or five (or more) musical gestures that give each one its character, and the easiest way for me to remember the particulars is the old-fashioned way. And I haven't read notes off a page since high school (before I took up guitar and ditched the clarinet).
David Gans (tnf) Wed 14 Jun 06 18:56
(By the way, I'm about to head over to KPFA to host a four-hour tribute to Vince Welnick, a member of the Tubes and then The Grateful Dead, who died on June 2. I'll be on the air from 8 pm til midnight, on KPFA 94.1 in northern California, and streaming online at kpfa.org, kfcf.org, and nugs.net Vince and I played together many times over the last ten years. He was a brilliant musician and a sweet, if somewhat haunted, man. I've got quite a few of his old friends and bandmates calling in, too.) (I'll upload some of the music I've been talking about tomorrow, to that page I mentioned before: http://www.dgans.com/inkwell )
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Wed 14 Jun 06 19:41
(Five for Fighting has a lot of that what's-his-name-like string stuff on early Elton John albums.)
Ruth Allison (tinydancer) Wed 14 Jun 06 19:46
My favorite version of Lazy River Road- maybe ever, anywhere- is one that you told me was a 'mistake in musicmaking' and you didn't like it because you felt you made mistakes. Then I used the analogy of Jerry throwing Phil down the little flight of stairs and them later using the tracks for the live album. Ever since then I've been trying to hear what you hear, why you don't like it, but I can't hear it. Then I started on Echolalia and asked for your favorite version and you said you didn't have a feeling about the merits of one performance over another. That said, how do you know when you've done a performance you're proud of? And how do you know when you've not? Both after the gig and after listening to the recording?
Ruth Allison (tinydancer) Wed 14 Jun 06 20:12
Just finished listening to Vince sing 'Golden Days'. You said you tried it and didn't feel it was right for your voice. Can you explain? Thanks.
David Gans (tnf) Thu 15 Jun 06 00:14
> My favorite version of Lazy River Road- maybe ever, anywhere- is one that > you told me was a 'mistake in musicmaking' and you didn't like it because > you felt you made mistakes. That was an attempt to play "Lazy River Road" w/ the loop station. I thought I'd record a rhythm and play a solo later, as I do with other songs, but I played so badly over the recorded accompaniment that I decided I'd be better off leaving it as a pure solo acoustic number. I may try that again, but the song is so perfect in its simplest form that I suspect I'll always bring it back to that. > Just finished listening to Vince sing 'Golden Days'. You said you tried it > and didn't feel it was right for your voice. Can you explain? Thanks. There's a lot in the lyric that feels a little thin to me. It works amaz- ingly well as performed by Vince, because it is his cri de coeur and he poured a vast amount of personal pain and passion into every version of it I've ever heard. When I tried performing it, just me and my acoustic guitar in my living room, it didn't seem like it would ever get off the ground. I may take another run at it - I would like to keep the song alive, because it expresses something important, but it may turn out that I can't. I feel that it does fit my personal narrative - there are things he says in there that I can say truthfully in my own voice, but I'm a different kind of musician working with a different set of tools. As Mister Natural famously said, "Use the right tool for the job!" If I don't feel I'm the right tool for that job, then I won't do it.
David Gans (tnf) Thu 15 Jun 06 01:20
I've just added "Who Will Save Us from the Saved?" and "Shove in the Right Direction" to the collection of sound files at http://www.dgans.com/inkwell
Gary Burnett (jera) Thu 15 Jun 06 07:46
Two questions (well, perhaps more): First, to return to looping for a bit (sorry if my questions are "loopy," Steve ... I'm more than a bit loopy myself!). This isn't the first time you've done work with digital technologies in creating music -- there's also your earlier "Mutilaudio" stuff. Are there any connections between the two either conceptually or in terms of process? And would you ever anticipate a melding of the two approaches -- a deconstructed cut-up piece entering into a loop work as one of the layers? Or perhaps a looped work subjected to the Mutilaudio technique? And, second, even the title of "Who Will Save Us From the Saved?" suggests that some of your recent work has a strong political element. Could you comment some on that? Do you see yourself as a "political" artist?
Steve Silberman (digaman) Thu 15 Jun 06 08:12
David, one of the obscure items from the Gansian oeuvre that we happily have on our shelf is your book on Talking Heads. Do you have any delicious TH stories that might not have made it into the book?
Gary Burnett (jera) Thu 15 Jun 06 08:24
I'll second that question! Especially since with the new Talking Heads reissues I've been getting deeply into their music all over again.
Gary Burnett (jera) Thu 15 Jun 06 08:27
And I can't resist the impulse to tell a little Gans/Talking Heads story either ... On one of the many occasions when I've had the pleasure of watching David perform at the Suwannee Music Park down here in northern Florida, he opened his set with a great version of "Psycho Killer." There were many befuddled faces around me in the amphitheatre there, & I heard someone nearby say something like "... but he's a DeadHead, isn't he? What the hell do DeadHeads know about the Talking Heads???"
Steve Silberman (digaman) Thu 15 Jun 06 08:55
The name of that band is Talking Heads, dammit. ;-) This Deadhead knows a *lot* about Talking Heads. I always hated that provincial attitude in certain corners of the scene.
Gary Burnett (jera) Thu 15 Jun 06 09:26
And I know that David has plenty to say about the travails of having to deal with that kind of provincial attitude!
Dan Levy (danlevy) Thu 15 Jun 06 10:18
David Gans wrote the book on Talking Heads!
David Gans (tnf) Thu 15 Jun 06 10:43
The Talking Heads book project was offered right after I turned in "Playing in the Band." My approach to the band was rebuffed, and in fact some of the people I approached for interviews told me that were advised not to par- ticipate (but some of 'em did anyway). So it wound up being purely a re- search project. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't nearly as much fun as I had hoped it would be. The editor who signed the project left the publisher before the book came out, and the publisher decided to discontinue that type of book - trade paperbacks on music, or whatever - so "Talking Heads: The Band and Their Music" sank almost immediately. It was never promoted, and went out of print very quickly. Furthermore, the publisher reneged on their contractual obligation to make the books available to me when it was deleted from their catalog. So I wound up with a handful of copies and the rest were fed to pigs or whatever. I occasionally pick up a copy in a used book store so I'll have one on hand (no matter how ragged) to give as a gift of to a journalist or whatever. The publisher licensed it for publication in the UK, and I have one copy of that edtion, which has a different cover. You can see both covers at http://www.trufun.com/books/ I do have a David Byrne story, though. iFrom 1976 until the radio show became my day job in '87, I worked as a music journalist. One of my gigs was as music editor of Mix: The Recording In- dustry Magazine. I got an assignment to interview Leslie Shatz, who at the time was doing the sound design for Byrne's movie "True Stories." I went to Russian Hill Recording in San Francisco to interview Shatz and Byrne. One fun thing that happened that day was that I was drafted to assist with a bit of Foley work. I held a large rubber band and twanged it in front of a microphone as part of the sound effects for a scene on the assembly line that featured Jo Harvey Allen. I also took that opportunity to invite David Byrne to a Grateful Dead show at the Greek Theater the following weekend. (This must be June 1986.) He at- tended, accompanied by producer Karen Murphy (who I had met earlier in con- nection with her work on the masterpiece "This Is Spinal Tap"). I have a photo of Byrne in the roped-off section near the soundboard, enjoying the music. After the show, I brought Byrne backstage to be interviewed (KPFA was broad- casting the whole weekend). Bob Weir was at the table, too. All I remember about the interview was quoting someone as saying Talking Heads were "the Grateful Dead of the '80s" and asking Weir what he thought. "God help 'em," was the reply. If Byrne knew the journalist doing this story on Leslie Shatz was the same one who had written a book about him over his and his management's objec- tions, he never let on. He was charming and personable in our interview for the Mix piece. Right around the time I went looking for photos and other materials for the Talking Heads book, record company promo shots began being distributed with a notice that they were for periodicals only and not authorized for publication in books. In my more paranoid moments, I feared I had single-handedly ruined things for book authors. And one more thing about that story: I misspelled Leslie Shatz's name in the article! I spelled it "Schatz" throughout. He was very kind about it when I ran into him a couple of years later and prostrated myself before him in apology.
David Gans (tnf) Thu 15 Jun 06 11:32
Regarding Gary's question about Mutilaudio as it relates to looping: First of all, a definition: "Mutilaudio" is my contribution to the great tradition of "appropriative art," which uses found objects or redeploys things to make a statement. Duchamp's "Fountain" is an example of appropriative art ( http://www.beatmuseum.org/duchamp/fountain.html ), and so are Dickie Goodman's "Space Man" records from the early '60s. In the audio realm, Negativland and John Oswald are particularly brilliant practitioners. Oswald: http://www.plunderphonics.com Negativland: http://negativland.com I've got several Mutilaudio pieces here: http://www.trufun.com/mutilaudio/ At the bottom of that page you'll find a link to an article on me by Cynthia Dyer-Bennet from MicroTimes magazine, and an article on John Oswald that I wrote for Wired. My live looping work is entirely live: I've never used a pre-recorded track or sample. I wouldn't rule it out - there are laptop-based performances going on all over creation, although I've never tried to use any of those tools. Everything I do live is done on the spot, and for the time being it's going to stay that way. But I could see making a rhythm track from found sounds - a sort of low-level Mutilaudio - but these are two different art forms in my mind. On the other hand, I've been using the digital audio workstation to develop live and studio loop pieces. The record I'm working on now will consist (almost?) entirely of loop work, sculpted after the fact. (My first working title for this record was "Slightly Sculpted.) I've posted a work in progress at http://www.dgans.com/inkwell - it's called "Honeydew-> Perfect Peach." On April 20, I went into Jeremy Goody's studio here in Oakland, accompanied by my friend Hal Month. Hal lives in your town (Tallahassee), Gary; he tours with an Athens-based band called Cosmic Charlie and he hosts a weekly gig at the Warehouse in Tallahassee called Dead Keys and Friends. Hal was coming to the Bay Area for a seminar, and he wanted to get together and play. I suggested we play in a studio rather than let our collaboration escape into the ether. As it happens, Jeremy has the same electronic keyboard that Hal just bought: a Nord Electro 2 ( http://www.clavia.se/nordelectro/ ). It does a phenomenal job of delivering a wide variety of sounds, including a pretty convincing Hammond B-3. Jeremy recorded several versions of each instrument: we took a feed from my guitar preamp, took the stereo feed form my amplifier, and put a microphone on the speaker as well. From Hal's setup, we took a direct feed and miked the amplifier. This gave us great flexibility in editing and mixing the results: with the unprocessed preamp feed, I had access to a raw version of any note I played. I'm still working on the recordings we made that day. Jeremy and I are editing and mixing some pieces, and I took one over to my friend Jim LeBrecht at Berkeley Sound Artists ( http://www.berkeleysoundartists.com ). Jim does a lot of film sound, and he's got a fantastic array of tools including things that can place sound in the 3-mindnsional audio world of 5.1 surround. Jim and I have taken one of the 4/20 jams to some wonderful places. Give a listen to "Honeydew-> Perfect Peach" at http://www.trufun.com/inkwell/ It's a loop jam that has been edited and enhanced with the same tools I use to mutilate audio, and then some.
David Gans (tnf) Thu 15 Jun 06 11:36
> And, second, even the title of "Who Will Save Us From the Saved?" suggests > that some of your recent work has a strong political element. Could you > comment some on that? Do you see yourself as a "political" artist? I've always had a strong desire to change the world, but my aproach and methods have changed over the years :^) As I said earlier, I've made a conscious decision to write songs that express my thoughts and feelings about the world and our society. I think art should be political: as Brecht said, "Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it." Growing up in the '60s and watching most of the ideals of that time crushed under the wheels of fundamentalist and corporatist machinations, I've come to the understanding that the world has to be changed one person at a time, not by force but by persuasion and example.
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 15 Jun 06 11:47
"Who Will Save Us From the Saved?" is a fine song! David, when you say: > "Mutilaudio" is my contribution to the great tradition of "appropriative > art" Does that mean you coined the term?
Gary Burnett (jera) Thu 15 Jun 06 11:48
It was actually the "Honeydew-> Perfect Peach" track that made me ask the question about Mutilaudio. I really love that piece -- rooted in improvisation and on-the-spot composition, then re-formed and manipulated afterwards to great effect. That and the fact that Hal Month is a great keyboard player! (Oh, and not that anyone who doesn't live in Tallahassee cares, but he's not doing the weekly Dead Keys events here any more -- he'll do one every once in a while, but it's no longer a regular gig, unfortunately.)
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