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Holly Bowling Interview [Full Transcript]

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In June 2016, I interviewed Holly Bowling for a summer issue of Surrender to the Flow.  Only about a quarter of the information below made the final article due to length limits, but what Holly shared with me was fascinating and inspiring, and in honor of her recent successes, I thought you’d be interested in how this talented and creative musician came to be. Congrats to Holly on the successful crowd funding and forthcoming release of her newest album Better Left Unsung, which she teases at the very end of this full transcription, and her recent sit ins with Phil Lesh, American Babies, and so many others.  You can see Holly during the New Years Run in NYC pre-Phish and on her 2017 winter tour.

CS: When/what was your first Phish show?  Was there a single song/show that got you hooked on the music? How many shows have you seen since?
HB: My first Phish show was New Year’s 2002. I got into them during the hiatus and never thought I’d get to see them play, so when they announced New Year’s and the three Hampton shows, there was no question whether or not I was going. I was already really into the music, and predictably, seeing them live only furthered the obsession. I ended up seeing all but 4 shows in 2.0, I was really determined not to miss out since I had missed so much already. I put off going to school and traveled around the country seeing Phish and learned more that way than I think I would have in school at that point in my life. Made a lot of friendships too that are still a huge part of my life. I slowed down a little in 3.0 and stopped catching quite as many shows, but I still see a lot. I’ve seen around 300 to date.

What’s been your favorite time or tour in the band history musically?
Everything from 1997. Fall 2013. Summer 2015. Summer 2016 (I hope!)  I really love the thematic, focused style of improvisation that’s developed in the last few years. 

Have you gotten any reaction from the band/members to your music?
Mike Gordon showed up at one of my shows in Philadelphia. I gave him a copy of my album. He stayed and listened to the whole Tahoe Tweezer and I think he gave me a thumbs up on his way out the door.  Other than that though, I have no idea what they think of it. 

When did you start playing piano?
Age five.

What did you do before this project?
For a living? I was teaching music. I ran my own studio. I actually miss the kids I worked with a lot. Seeing kids begin to understand music and watching the concepts click for them as they discover all these experiences is really the coolest thing. 

Did you always want to be a professional musician?
Yes! Since I was a little kid. But I had kind of given up on that working out as a realistic career. Then a few years ago I dove back in and haven’t looked back.

When/how did you get the idea to reinterpret Phish songs?
It wasn’t something I sat down and decided to do one day after thinking it over and searching for an idea for a project. It just developed naturally out of my experience with the piano and my love of Phish. I play what’s in my head, and what was stuck in my head a lot of the time was Phish.  I’ve been doing that for a long time, but approached it with more focus and discipline recently and actually worked through some of the harder parts that I’d been stuck on for years when I was just casually exploring the music.

Was the Tahoe Tweezer your very first piano arrangement?
The Tahoe Tweezer was the first Phish song I worked on in depth, and the first complex piece of music I ever transcribed and arranged. Not exactly a logical choice for a “starter project”, haha! But definitely a good one to learn from. The music is so varied and covers so much ground that it taught me a lot. And I mean that both in terms of texture, what to leave out, what to keep, and varying that over time, and also in terms of how to express different sounds and timbres on the piano. Sounds that either are pretty far from the piano to begin with or sounds that don’t translate well. Like really heavy distorted crunchy stuff, or really quiet delicate drawn out ethereal passages. Or interesting percussive sounds and patterns. Long sustained sounds, either from Trey’s guitar or from Page’s organ (which can hold a note indefinitely, and the piano can’t). Sweeps on the synth that move continuously rather than having discreet pitches. All kinds of stuff. So yeah… not a great starter piece to work on, but also in another sense, the best one to work on, because it covers so much ground. I learned a ton. I know if I did it again today my process would be very different. I think the end result would sound different too since I’ve definitely changed and grown as a musician since then. It’s funny. The original is a snapshot of Phish at that moment and in that period of their improvisation. And then my arrangement is a snapshot of me in that moment, of my style as a musician. So it’s like a musical snapshot of a musical snapshot.

What has been your favorite arrangement thus far?
As far as the jam transcriptions, I think maybe the GD’s ’74 Eyes of the World. But that might just be because its the most recent complete one I did and I’m always learning from each one and trying to make the next one even better. As far as arrangements of compositions and songs, rather than jam transcriptions? I really loved the challenge of It’s Ice. It takes a lot of focus to play and I spent a ton of time figuring it out, it was a really rewarding project to tackle. But that’s a really tight technical arrangement and consequently there’s less room in it for my own musical voice (aside from the middle section, which I’ve been taking liberties with for sure) because the composition is so complex to begin with. I really like how the arrangement for Scents and Subtle Sounds came out. I did a lot of playing around with the different registers of the piano and moving the melody line around from to another, and trying to make use of all of the areas of sonic space.  Another favorite is Pebbles and Marbles. I feel like the arrangement is still settling a little. But in the right setting on a really good piano, I think a lot of emotion comes through on that one, which is what I wanted. I think it’s a really powerful song to begin with and I love the lyrics, and the build. The feeling I wanted to come through in the arrangement is there, and there’s a lot of subtle delicate stuff before it gets heavy.  Across the board, really any of the arrangements where you get to hand off a part or a melody from one hand to the other, sort of like passing a baton, or I guess ideally maybe something more graceful like a trapeze artist moving from one flying trapeze to another… any of these are physically fun to play, just the physical motions you go through as you try to keep that melody line intact as it shifts.   

What’s one of the hardest songs and/or jams to reinterpret? Easiest?
Simple songs with four chords are easy to learn. Sometimes they’re harder to make something special out of them, especially in a purely instrumental context. If there’s a lot of repetition, which is fine if there’s great lyrics over top, it can be hard to make that translate to an instrumental setting without it getting boring. So in that sense, the stuff that’s easiest to arrange can also be the hardest to do well. Then there’s stuff that’s hard just because its technical and complex. I really want to learn All Things Reconsidered but its just insane and I’m not sure how I would cover all the parts and do it justice. But really the thing I find hardest in general is arranging parts of jams where the meter becomes ambiguous and time falls apart for a while. When there’s a structure and a framework to fit the pieces into, it all makes sense, even if its really hard to figure it out. There’s an order and a right answer. When the meter disappears, its really hard to pin things down to paper. And there’s not really notation for things that are that loose, or if there is, I don’t know it. So my scores in that part end up being descriptions to jog my memory of what that section sounds like as much as exact directions of what to play. And in the case of these jam transcriptions, I’m not looking to be too free with it and just do my own thing – I do that in my improvisation, but in this case, I’m trying to recreate and re-orchestrate something, almost like making a piano reduction of a symphonic work. So I want to be as true to it as possible. It’s funny how difficult it becomes when the underlying structure becomes a question mark.

How do you select songs or jams to arrange?
Lots of times, I pick because a section of a jam is stuck in my head. So I’ll pick favorites, or stuff I’m listening to a lot. Sometimes, with songs especially, I’m more picky about the criteria. Like if its really focused on a drum groove, 2001 for example, I’m not gonna do it. I don’t think it would be in service of the music really. And some stuff is just physically basically impossible on the piano, due to the constraints of the instrument. You can’t repeat notes as quickly on a piano as you can on a guitar, because the actual mechanism in the piano doesn’t work that fast. You can’t sustain notes indefinitely, or bend notes, which pretty much rules out doing one of my favorite jams ever, the Camden Chalkdust from ‘99. I’m still trying to figure out a way to do that one though. It’s so good.

How does it feel when you first perform them?
It’s always harder performing things in the very beginning. There’s something cool about stuff that’s really fresh, but I’m also often learning things at the very last minute so the music isn’t as comfortable under my fingers as it will be a few performances later. It takes more concentration and there’s less room to take chances with it or let it open up a little. That usually comes later.

What’s your relationship with The Grateful Dead?
I never got to see Jerry, I was 11 when he died. I grew up listening to the Dead because my parents did, so I’ve known a lot of the songs as long as I can remember. I fell in love with the music on my own terms later, sometime in high school. I mean I liked the music already, but there’s a difference between knowing and liking music you hear growing up versus seeking it out yourself and really diving in to it.

What was the first Dead song you reinterpreted? Hardest/Easiest?
The ’74 Eyes of the World jam transcription was the first one I transcribed and arranged. Another interesting choice as a first project, haha! Go big or go home I guess. I mean I’d played around with tons of their songs but just casually, figuring out the chord progressions and playing that way. I’d never sat down and rearranged all the puzzle pieces and tried to weave the threads together in a really deliberate way, and rearranged, and rearranged again until it seemed right. I would just play.  I actually arranged that one because JamBase wanted me to do a song for the “Songs of Their Own” series they did leading up to the Fare Thee Well shows, and no one had picked Eyes yet, and I had coincidentally been messing around with that song a few days before, playing around with the timing moving from 3 to 4 and back again. They asked me to do a jam transcription or at least include a tease of a notable jam, and I wasn’t going to, I didn’t think I had time to get it finished before the deadline. But then I listened to the Louisville Eyes and just decided I had to do it. I worked on it pretty much nonstop for several weeks. It was kind of nuts.

What has been your favorite place/venue/show to play so far?
Jam Cruise has to be one of my favorites ever. I think it has to be probably the only music festival ever where you show up to play your set and they happen to have a beautiful grand piano just sitting there waiting for you all ready to go. I mean obviously if you’re Dr. John or someone like that, you get that at every festival you play. But as an emerging artist, it’s hard to find that, much less in a festival setting. So that was pretty rad.

I also really love the Massry Center in Albany. People show up there really prepared to listen and get into the music and let it take them away, no distractions. That’s a really cool thing. There’s also an amazing piano and the acoustics of the room allow you to play completely unamplified. Another place like that is a new favorite of mine that I just played for the first time a few months ago called The Old Church. It’s in Portland OR and as you would expect, it’s an old church… but its no longer religiously-affiliated and is purely a performance space for arts and music now. The space is beautiful and the acoustics are too, and the whole vibe in there is just really special. I love spaces like that. I really like when I have the opportunity to play in spaces that are different from the usual places we’re used to going to see music.

Who have you played with that you were particularly wowed by (either because you didn’t know them at all, or because you knew (of) them very well)?
I’m grateful to have played with so many musicians who have wowed and inspired me. Obviously getting to play with both Aron [Magner] and Joel [Cummins] during my Jam Cruise set was really special. If you had asked me a few years ago if I thought I’d share the piano with both those guys, in the same set no less, I don’t think I would have believed you.

What other bands/interpretations do you incorporate into your sets?
I’ve done a few songs and teases of songs by the Disco Biscuits. There’s some long-form compositions in their catalog I’d like to explore more. The one I’ve worked on most so far is Magellan, which has always been one of my favorites of their songs.  And then I’ve thrown in some Greensky Bluegrass teases and references. That started on Jam Cruise ‘cause Paul and Anders were there and I wanted to give a little musical shoutout to them. And then after I got to sit in with them in Eugene, which was such an honor, I snuck some GSBG references into my sets the rest of that tour. Phish and the Dead are the bread and butter of my sets right now but it’s always evolving.

How do you see yourself expanding your repertoire or performance as you grow from here?
I love the piano, and I always will, but I’m excited to expand out into other keyboard instruments as well. I’ve been having a ton of fun playing around with all the less expected sounds you can coax out of a piano and expanding the palette of sounds I have to work with, and I’d like to keep moving in that direction. I’m also working on some original music. That’s something I want to let grow in something other than a solo setting though. Maybe a trio.

What do you hope to see this project accomplish/become?
My goal is to make music that connects with people. If that nonverbal conveyance of emotion is happening, then I’m doing it right. Obviously there’s plenty of things on the creative and logistical end of things I’d love to see develop, but really, goal number one for me is connection. If I’m connecting with the music I’m playing emotionally, and someone out there listening is too, I think that’s what it all comes down to.

Anything else you want to share?
Yes! I’m making another album. It’s the music of the Grateful Dead reimagined for solo piano, and I’m unbelievably excited about how the sessions have gone so far. I can’t say any more about it just yet, but keep an eye out for it! It’s gonna be good!

 

Jason Hann Interview IN FULL!

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SOOO As Promised- the whole interview! Edited for your listening player and set to a live EOTO show from July 10, 2010 in Louisville, KY. Please excuse me clickclickclicking away in the background, I compulsively type responses to questions as they happen, though I hear now that I should just wait to transcribe until after the interview. Live and learn, folks! I’m trying. SO HERE IT IS!

Mom Rock: Talking to Tina Weymouth

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Mother’s Day is right around the corner and to honor all those amazing moms out there, we hope you’re having a wonderful Mother’s Week here on BTR.

Moms have the tendency to take on double, triple, even quadruple duty when it comes to their kids, and this mom in particular is an expert at juggling many different roles at once. I’m talking about one of the best bassists in rock history, one of the most influential women in the world of music–the Tina Weymouth, herself.

Tina was the bassist for Talking Heads, which featured her longtime boyfriend, (now husband) drummerChris Frantz and front-man/guitarist David Byrne. They later added Jerry Harrison on guitar and together, created several groundbreaking records that changed how people thought about music and rock n’ roll. Tina’s bass lines, in particular, differentiated the band with her funk drive, unique rhythms, and no-holding-back attitude. From the dingy streets of NYC’s Lower East Side during the 1970s and ’80s, to the top of the rock charts, to maintaining her success with numerous hits from her and Chris’ side project, Tom Tom Club, Tina has done it all in her professional life, including raising two happy, healthy children.

This rock-star mom was nice enough to have a long and wonderful phone conversation with BTR about being a hardworking woman in rock, raising kids while exposing them to the joys and protecting them from the harsh realities of life on tour, family life past and present, Zappa, and her personal opinions on motherhood. Be warned: Tina is wonderfully intelligent and well versed. She speaks with the kindest voice, as this conversation felt as comfortable as gossiping after school with a best friend.

T: You had your first baby in November 1982 (Robin, 29) after finishing Speaking in Tongues with Talking Heads? How was recording throughout your pregnancy?

Tina Weymouth: I actually went into labor as I was putting in my last bass part. With Egan, we weren’t in the midst of an album when he was born, but he was a little crawling baby when we made the last album, holding his drum sticks. That was the first thing the boys did when they were babies. They both started playing drums, like their dad. That was their first instrument.

T: What else did they like to play?

TW: Well, they moved to guitars after they saw the Ramones, and Egan was a drummer in a punk band but now does fine art. Robin went to Savannah College of Art and Design, but now he’s a composer. They both work together, too. They’re young men now, they’re doing their own thing completely.

T: Did you ever have to take them on tour with you?

TW: I’d take them on tour to some extent, I thought it was going to be easier than it was. With Talking Heads, I just did one tour with the baby and then that was the end of that then. But with Tom Tom Club, I took them on the last tour that we did with the Ramones. It was called “Escape From New York” and I didn’t want to leave them behind for an extended time. When they’re babies it’s easier, they’re very portable and you can plop a baby into a nanny’s arms and everyone knows how to take care of baby. But when they get to be older, then you have really serious questions arising and the windows of opportunity to address those questions are very short. You need to be around and not just anybody can do that–can answer those questions. Adolescence was a very critical time, I did not tour much. I spent much more quality time with my kids. It was just much more crucial, that’s when your whole frontal lobe is developing. You do the best you can up to age 10 to instill good values and that sort of thing, but after that, you just have to be there because you can’t be instilling it anymore. All you can do is lead by example. You can sit down to dinner each night with everyone and speak on important issues and talk about important things and treat them like equals so that they become equals and think for themselves, because you cannot live in a democracy and not think for yourself.

T: Do you think they had a normal family life?

TW: Well, the PTA didn’t think they had a normal life. It’s those parts of moms that just interfere with everything. They just made these vast assumptions that they were better mothers because they weren’t in rock n’ roll. When my kids would get taunted in the schoolyard, they would say, “Oh, you’re mom wears motorcycle pants.” And my kids would say, “Yeah she does!” What wasn’t normal was they learned drug culture really early. We were doing a production for Happy Mondays and they learned by observing how terrible drug abuse was. We had broken arms, broken noses, junkies robbing; it was just an amazing, horrific experience. And immediately following that, we were in an attempted carjacking together. Three gangster crack heads. We got away, me and the two boys, about 4 and 8, and we enrolled in a family Tai Kwan Do course. I wish I had done it as a girl, so that I’d known how to send off a would-be rapist, but I’m so glad I did that with my children. It got them a lot of respect for not fighting but [showed] what to do just in case. I think it was a wonderful thing to do together. Also, it was another opportunity for them; they learned so many things early because of these experiences. We didn’t go to Six Flags or Orlando. We went cruising on a sailboat, we went camping, we would write songs on the guitar–we wanted them to be more self-reliant. Now they say, “Oh, thank you so much, I’m the only one I know that doesn’t hate my parents!”

T: Did you have to have them in any really tough positions?

TW: We wrote Naked in 1988 in an old, Long Island City loft and recorded it in Paris, in June that same year. Egan must have been just an infant. I had to have Robin [first born] in that loft but when we had Egan, I just wanted to get out of there. By the time Robin was 3, I wanted to get out. You know, the lead paint and everything. Then when Egan came, we realized that we could pay the same in rent as we could in mortgage and live in nature.

T: So having a home made it way better?

TW: Yeah, the kids would come into our studio and set up their little drum kits right next to me and they would sound just like The Velvet Underground back in the day.

T: How did the way you learned music compare to the way your kids did?

TW: I’m a self-taught musician. I was listening to the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul & Mary–a lot of folk, in fact. I learned a folk finger-picking style from one of those Pete Seeger books with little diagrams with numbers for the fingers.

T: Who have your kids’ musical influences become besides you?

TW: It took them time to grow up before they discovered Talking Heads. They first fell in love Tom Tom Club because it was around all the time, and later they liked Talking Heads. They really loved the Beach Boys, but they liked other stuff too. But their tastes were growing all the time. Like I love big band jazz, but I couldn’t stand bebop. I think we all need to mature a little before we can incorporate new patterns and schisms. Sometimes it’s just too complex and some people are so math-minded that they like a good puzzle. They want Zappa, which is a musical Sudoku, but I really much prefer a composition. I much prefer things like Mozart that have real melodies. Most of western music has been built on a very simple time signature, but our African heritage brings over the crazy, complicated polyrhythm. We’re so blessed to have access to European culture, as well as African culture, and so lucky to be part of both in that respect. And thank goodness for radio, radio is what completely informed us back in the day of what was what. Who knew what to buy or who to listen to without radio?

T: Did you want your kids to go into music?

TW: Well, one did for a while and it’s not impossible that he might return to it, but I don’t encourage my children to go into music as a career because it’s very hard on your body and on your health and there’s just no money in it. Whatever golden age happened–Mick Jagger said in 120 years of recording, there was a 15 year window where an artist could really, truly thrive, but that ended. Some people still have to do it. It’s a vital passion. It’s sort of do-or-die, but one of the reasons I’m still able to do it is because when we did make a little bit of money, Chris and I just stashed it all away. We only spent half of everything we made. The one half, we invest and invest in ourselves–our music, our health, and then our home and family. I just don’t want to be a burden on my kids. I hope that when I die, I will leave no debt. One thing that stopped a lot of musicians [was] spending money on cocaine and shit like that. It’s empowering the worst kind of people. I just can’t stomach that. That’s what we had to deal with the Happy Mondays. It doesn’t make you a better writer or artist. This goes back to the first rock star, the romantic poet, Lord Byron. He had this idea that you have to be on opium, but look at the Bronte Sisters, they did it without anything.

T: Were you ever affected very personally by something like this?

TW: I’ll tell you a great story. Don Cherry was a musician in Ornette Coleman’s band, and Moki was the mother of Neneh Cherry and Eagle-Eye Cherry. With a lot of jazz mucians, they thought they were better if they were taking heroin. So there was never any money for that family and Moki told me one time that, during the hippie flower child day, she made nine patchwork and velour long-dresses and she carried them up to Henri Bendel Sales in New York. She carried them from Brooklyn, on foot, across the bridge, all the way to 57th street. She got $90 and she came home. It was Christmas, and she was able to take the subway on the way home. She bought a turkey and food for the kids, a doll for Neneh and a toy for Eagle-Eye. His first song when he was 8 years old was about cars and food, because he never had it, but Moki Cherry was the most creative artist and the best mother to those kids. It’s so great what women do for their musician lovers. The whole story of rock n’ roll is the women who have supported these men. But watch out for having kids because then you have more babies. The men don’t stop being babies, you know.

T: Yeah, you joined a band and learned an instrument for yours, and that worked out pretty well, right?

TW: Chris was my boyfriend since art school and I was living with him and David [Byrne]–or you could say David was living with us. Chris found the place, and the three of us took turns cooking and cleaning up and we rehearsed every day. I bought a bass guitar, and eventually, an amp. You know, one thing at a time and we took it from there. But now David’s manager is working out of that same space, an office now.

T: Where was it?

TW: Down on Christie Street, rough part of town back then. We had to push a dead body away from our door one day to get to our day jobs. We lived in lofts for 20 years without heat after 4 pm. We had no showers or bathrooms. I had to travel out to Long Island to shower at my brother’s when I had the train fare for it, but we had fun without money. I mean, it was really rough. I like having money now. New York was broke, though. It wasn’t until Carter, and Congress under him, changed the tax laws on capital gain and that’s when things started to pick up.

T: How did the way you grew up compare to the way you raised your kids, with or without the rock ‘n’ roll?

TW: I was one of 8 and I had near perfect parents–five sisters and 2 brothers. My parents were just fantastic. When they grew up, I spent as much time as I could with my children and parents. They were very interesting people and they loved to travel. It was excellent for my kids to experience different cultures with them and my parents made do with so little for so long, but we had great experiences. We learned to sew our own clothes. I think being on a super tight budget makes you more creative. I was still making my stage clothes with Talking Heads. When I wanted to wear something a little different, I would get out my Singer sewing machine and start making it.

T: What else would you have to say about being a mother and in rock music?

TW: I don’t recommend parenthood really because no body tells you in advance how hard it’s going to be. They think, “Oh, my parents did it,” but I so understand what Sigmund Frued meant when he said, with infant mortality going down, we start to have a lot of other types of problems. There’s always something, but I’m glad I only had two kids. In a technological world where each kid is a composition of every other kid, I couldn’t imagine bringing more children in the world today. It’s heath care costs, it’s everything. And you better have your body really prepared. Just as its old sperm that causes down syndrome, children spaced closer together are more likely to have autism, there’s a new study out about it.  I was always told, space your babies four years apart because that’s how long it takes. If you don’t get all the vitamins you need, all the nutrients won’t grow while you’re pregnant. It’s like a rose bed–the roses will grow, but you need to prepare the rose bed, the soil needs to be just right, you have to get it ready and then your roses will be beautiful. You cannot take too seriously conception today because you’re not going to have 14 kids and maybe one will turn out great. You’re going to have one, maybe two. How are we going to provide for them? It’s not something people should just automatically do, and certainly not because religion tells you to. Women say, “I want to have a baby because it will be perfect,” but it’s not starting from scratch. It also might be a good idea for people to understand their genetic makeup, and they may change their minds. If two people have a recessive gene for a disease and they find out the chances of their baby having that disease are very high, they may want to consider adoption. There are so many beautiful children all over the world who need homes. Debbie Harry was adopted and she’s so grateful to have a loving family and also very happy to learn she came from a good family. These are very personal decisions and you want to make them the most informed way possible.

 

Originally published on BreakThru Radio, 5/5/2011

Zach Deputy speaks of music things

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When someone says “one-man band,” the cartoon fool with a drum on his belly, tambourine on his foot, kazoo in his mouth, and other noise making things in his hands is the first image to come to mind. Take away all those cluttered instruments and all that’s left is a musician trying to get his songs heard, but today that cartoon is no longer a fool. In this world, one-man bands are not only feasible, but pretty cool too, and the music they make is just a worthy as that of a full-fledged orchestra.

Zach Deputy is one of those musicians (not the fool, the talented music player) who has taken the one-man band concept to the next level. He has found a way to build his songs live and on stage from scratch- nothing pre-recorded, no buttons pre-set, all in front of an expectant audience. And he does it all with one little instrument- his Godin Synth guitar. Well, so not just the guitar. He’s also got looping machines, special microphones, drum pads, and more to create a full-band effect from just one man, and that guitar sure puts in its time.

I got a word in with Zach about the tech he uses to create his unique sound, where that sound comes from, and why you shouldn’t call him a phony.

Tela: So how long have you been playing music?

Zach Deputy: I’ve been singing since I knew my name, I’ve been beat boxing and making weird mouth noises since 2nd grade, ya know back in school we used to cover our mouth and stuff, and playing guitar since I was 14.

T: What other instruments do you play?

ZD: I play pretty much any percussion, anything string I can’t play, I never got into ya know violin and cello, but otherwise, pretty much anything, I’m into making noise.

T: Tell me about your beautiful guitar, what is that and how does it work?

ZD: That’s my looping guitar, it’s a Godin Synth guitar, so you can use it to play in any instrument you want. It can be a goat, a French woman, anything I program it to do. It can make a ton of noise, and it’s not really that hard to play, pretty much like a regular guitar. I can make so much sound with it.

T: Why did you start the looping thing, and the one-man band thing?

ZD: Well it was by accident actually. My bass player friend and I were hanging out and not being very productive, we weren’t doing anything so I was just like okay what do I do now and he had some stuff I wanted to mess around with, one of which was a looping pedal which I had never used before so I got to messing around with it and eventually created a whole song on his one machine.

T: How many different loop machines do you use now? And how do they work?

ZD: Loop machines basically store all the sounds I need, I have two but on each loop machine I have 4 different tracks or phrases and I can loop as much as I want in each of those. I can have a drum track in one of them, a bass track with backup singers on another, I can have organ and guitar tracks and I can pull any of those in or out as I please. Basically, the second looper is for a B section because they’re not synched up together, so I have to make a completely different loop. Sometimes I’ll knock out all the melodic instruments and keep the drum section in my loop A and I’ll re-loop that and create a different rhythm section for loop B. Then I have an A and a B section to create a song.

T: What brand of looping machines do you use?

ZD: The boss RC 50, like RC Cola, haha.

T: When you go to do a live show, is any of it prerecorded? When you go on stage can you just press a button and the sound you want comes out? Or it’s all done right there?

ZD: No, I couldn’t live with myself if it was prerecorded, it’s completely against my ethics, and morals of music. It would be like going against my whole career if I used pre-made loops, that’s not the idea. In fact, one time at a show, some guy was shouting out, saying I was faking it. Have you ever seen the episode of Family Guy when the guy keeps popping up going “you’re a phony!” to Peter? Well, that’s what it was like, he was screaming in the middle of my show that I was faking it and not really doing what I was doing, so I stopped in the middle of the song I was performing and I said to the audience “This guy doesn’t think I’m really doing any of this up here, so I’m going to make a custom loop for him right now” and so I did and it was pretty good, but the lyrics went “You’re old, you’re creepy, you live in a teepee, you’re old, you’re creepy, you live in a teepee…” and pretty soon everyone was singing along, shouting at this guy at the top of their lungs. It was great, he got so mad and left, and ya know I don’t want to be a dick, but how are you going to stand in the audience and scream that at me? So… yeah, none of it is prerecorded I just could never do that.

T: What happens when you go into the studio? Do you do it on the spot?

ZD: Actually my studio albums are mostly done with a band, I worked with members of Ryan Montbleau band on Sunshine (2009). They came in to help me out, and I’ve worked with some of the Jackson’s, members of Earth Wind and Fire, Dr. John, Bruce Hornsby, a ton of other great musicians.

T: Does it feel much different than when you’re working with your looper, just you on stage, as opposed to a live band in the studio?

ZD: It’s way different, and it’s pretty much the only thing I have the budget for. I sometimes wish I could record in a very different way but my last two albums I’ve made in four days- recording, mixing and mastering takes much longer, but I don’t have the money to spend a long time in the studio so we get in there, lay it down, and get out.

T: How did you meet all these great musicians?

ZD: I guess just being in the right place at the right time, ya know, networking and paying them when they come to the studio.

T: I know you like to describe your music as dance music for the soul, but how would you elaborate on that? Where does your sound come from?

ZD: It just comes from everything I am. My mom is from St. Croix, Virgin Islands, so my grandma would always bring me Calypso mix tapes and other music, I loved getting mix tapes from my grandma. And then when I was younger, my mom got really into country music, which is a little weird, and my dad is into Motown and beach music, so that’s where that all comes from. My parents were professional dancers as well so I have music in the family and I’m a product of the 90’s so you get that whole hip-hop influence in there. Just our whole generation growing up in the 90’s, high school and middle school were kind of sucky, but we had nirvana and sublime and biggie smalls, so ya know whether I like it or not, it’s in my blood and since I grew up in the Southeast, there’s a bit of twang influence. Then I discovered Ray Charles, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, stuff like that. I really draw influence from everywhere, so all those things make my music and then me as a person and individual soul taking it to a new level.

T: What can you tell me about the new album?

ZD: It’s called “Another Day,” it comes out in September. It’s a great album, I’m very happy with it and very excited about what its going to do for my career. It’s definitely going to open the window to a completely different audience without alienating the audience I already have. The songs are closer to what I do at home when I’m just messing around, so that’s really fun for me. I’ve been playing some of the new tracks and people are responding well, so I can’t wait to see how the album does.

Pick up a copy of Zach latest EP, “Into the Morning” or you can download the track “Happy Graduation” for free from his Facebook page. Keep checking back for more from Zach Deputy on BTR, or catch him on his nationwide summer tour, going on now.

Originally published on BreakThru Radio, 7/13/2011