Yeah‚ I think it turned out terrific. When you guys decided you were ready to record‚ did you or did the band and you collectively decide that you were going to fill the role of producer‚ or did you get everything done and then look back on it and go‚ "Oh‚ I guess I produced this"?
It mostly me initiating it‚ and since Paul lives in Brooklyn it was just kind of easier for me to be the point man‚ not just the organizer but the secretary and the chairman of our little meetings. So it just worked out best for me to take the lead on that.
Did you guys have specific songs you wanted to work on each two-day session‚ or did you just work as you went along spontaneously?
Yeah‚ we were very specific about what songs we were going to do‚ just because there wasn't really time to do it freehand. He and I would decide what songs‚ he would send down some demos‚ and we'd make sure everyone listened to them before I got the group together‚ and then we'd rehearse them and bang out some arrangements. Then Paul would come down and we'd rehearse again before we recorded‚ and then go in and record. So it was really kind of seat of the pants‚ but because there was so little time we did need to be very specific about what we were doing.
Well‚ it sounds like you were as methodical as you guys could all be separated as you were by geography. Paul alluded to some tracks that were recorded but weren't used on the CD.
Yeah‚ we actually did sixteen tracks and three didn't make it. We chose the thirteen because there was a clear line through them. The three we didn't put on were kind of stylistically a little different. One was kind of a soul tune‚ one's kind a torch tune‚ and the other one kind of a crazy‚ out-there blues. I would've liked to have seen them all on there‚ but I guess the conventional industry wisdom is you don't want to confuse people with too much material. I'm proud of them all.
Yeah‚ well‚ I'm sure you should be. I'm thinking you might want to throw them on your website for people to download at a minimum cost or something like that‚ because it sounds like they're pretty interesting of their own accord.
Oh‚ yeah‚ nothing goes to waste. They'll show up for sure.
Tell me a little bit about how you write songs. Is there a method you like to adopt to pump something out‚ or do you wait for the inspiration to hit?
For me it usually starts out with a melodic idea. I'm not too technologically advanced‚ so I just have a teeny handheld cassette recorder‚ and I'll sing melodic ideas. And if it seems to get traction‚ I'll flesh it out myself on guitar or piano. It's usually a lengthy process‚ and oftentimes Paul and I will take these little sheds that we've got and bounce them off each other. And sometimes we'll just shed them alone. It usually starts as a little tiny idea‚ and sometimes it needs help and sometimes it just grows by itself.
How fully fleshed are the demos‚ generally‚ when you present them to Paul and the other guys in the group?
By the time I present them to Paul they're pretty fleshed-out. But there are times when it's just verse or chorus and I'll throw it at him. And he'll do the same thing. We use each other as kind of arrangers in residence‚ and if I can't wrap my mind around something Paul will finish it off and vice versa.
Were there any tracks on Sidewalk Caesars that ended up sounding dramatically different than the way you or Paul envisioned them?
Not really. If anything‚ they were improved just by bringing everybody's talents to bear. "Hook‚ Line and Sinker" was supposed to be a little slower and more like a song by The Band. It kind of ended up a little more pop. Otherwise‚ everything else is pretty much how we envisioned it.
I think‚ with all due respect‚ my favorite cut of the album is "I Just Wanna Hang Around with You‚" and that's not an original song. I'm interested to know where you got that. Paul remembered that it came from a band you knew in Minneapolis.
Yeah‚ it's from a band that I knew in high school. I guess you'd call them a punk rock band. They took that Robert Hazard tune and amped it up‚ and I always liked it. With each record we try to delve a little bit into our '80s past‚ see if we can put our roots spin on it. I like that song a lot. I think it's the most straight-ahead rock song on there. It's an experiment of ours that's been on my mind for quite a while.
You're right about it being straight-ahead. After eleven tunes of blues‚ rock and soul‚ and that one started sounding like the Ramones. It's a great change of pace‚ especially as it sets up the last tune‚ "Good Luck with Your Impossible Dream‚" which is nothing like it‚ and really like nothing else on the album.
How did you guys decide on the final sequence of the tracks?
It was kind of random‚ kind of not. We thought "Good Luck with Your Impossible Dream" was a good final statement‚ kind of wistful. And it's a different type of track for us‚ too. We try not to limit ourselves just to blues stuff. Obviously we want everything to have a toe in roots music‚ whether that be folk or country or blues‚ but we just thought that was a nice‚ gentle goodbye.
And the rest of it‚ in terms of sequence‚ we wanted it just to have a little momentum. I guess the rule of thumb is you want to have something representative up front and then you can weave in other stuff as you go along if you've hooked people.
When you're on the road with DTB‚ you're on the stage with two bands in one night. Does that pose a challenge in terms of stamina in any way?
Yeah‚ a little bit. I'm onstage a lot‚ but I'm not having to be a featured singer… probably just a quarter of the time. But I'm up there doing backup. So‚ yeah‚ for me it's a matter of stamina‚ and a matter of making sure you get enough rest‚ and drinking a lot of tea‚ and taking care of my health. It's all you can do.