A Conversation with R5's Ross Lynch
Mike Ragogna: Hey Ross, how's it going?
Ross Lynch: I'm good, just on tour, living it up! [laughs]
MR: So the Lynch gang is touring behind its new #1 album, Sometime Last Night. Is being in a band with your family awesome?
RL: Totally! Sometimes that can get a tiny bit annoying but for the most part, it's all really good. We all get along really well.
MR: That's got to affect the creativity in a good way.
RL: Oh, absolutely! We get to the point much quicker than anyone else really could because we know each other so well. Sometimes you go into a writing session and you kind of have to break the ice and get to know each other first, but when we're writing together it's just so seamless and so smooth, we just get to the product that we want much quicker. And we're just really good friends, we've known each other our whole lives.
MR: R5 released two albums and some singles and EPs. When you get together to create music, is there an intention for an end result or is it just creating with no expectations?
RL: It's a little bit of both. I say that we get together and make the music and what comes from that are the records and whatnot, but our path has kind of changed recently. For a while we were going to other people and writing with them and seeing what came from that, but now we're kind of doing our own thing where we're doing it all in-house. We're producing it, we're writing it, it's all just us. We're getting to a point where we're going, "Okay, maybe a year from now, we'll be doing this," and so on.
MR: Between the two albums, do you feel the music took a creative jump?
RL: That's actually how we all feel, it's been a massive jump from the last record and that's mostly because we've just been around more, we've learned so much from the music industry and we've learned so much about music and the music we like, we've traveled the world and throughout all of these experiences we've just developed a different taste in music. Louder was our first record, as well, so taking all that into consideration you get Sometime Last Night.
MR: So what is the actual creative process like and how has it evolved?
RL: The creative process has evolved from night to day, it seems like. Before, it was a bit more up in the air, we didn't necessarily know what we were doing. Now I feel like we actually have a handle on what we do, we get the track going, we get the song composed and ready and then we put the melody on top of it and the lyrics on top of that in a three-step process that works really smoothly for us. We're now doing that all the time, we have a studio on tour that we work with, we love creating and we just keep going.
MR: How do you know what what material gets eliminated? Are you guys self-sufficient with a process like that?
RL: I think we have become self-sufficient. The funny thing about this record, actually, is that we didn't have enough material for it. We had a whole record done, mastered, complete, and we decided to scrap it all and start from ground zero. When we went back in we started writing all these songs on our own because all the prior songs that we had didn't feel quite genuine or real to us, they didn't relate to our personal lives, you could say. So we went back and we basically wrote Sometime Last Night, and in the process of writing the songs we would write one song and say, "Okay, this song is better than this song, so that song has to go and this song will take that song's slot." So basically once we got rid of all the old songs with new songs we had Sometime Last Night and we released that.
MR: What happens to the other material?
RL: They become bonus tracks.
MR: Ross, what is R5's goal? And while writing and recording, what are you looking at for inspiration or a paradigm to follow?
RL: Interesting question! When we were writing the record, we didn't have much in mind in terms of where it was going to go, we were just writing it because it sounded good and that's what wee liked to hear when we were writing it. But when we think about our trajectory and where we want to go as a band we definitely want to reach a more mature fanbase, we want to reach a broader fanbase and just over all we want to make music that we want to listen to. I guess when you relate us to other artists we would love to get into the old school classics. We love to listen to The Beatles and Zeppelin and Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen. Obviously, we don't relate to any of those bands at the moment because they're all massively huge classics, but that's the kind of music that we love.
MR: How are you developing yourselves musically? Are you taking classes? Do you have any mentors assisting and guiding you?
RL: Well, we had a lot of mentors when we first started. We had people like Eman [Kiriakou] and Evan Bogart who have had multiple hits and we've even worked with people like Savan [Kotecha] who has almost every top ten on radio right now. So we've worked with all of these guys before and we've learned all of their tricks and secrets. Now that we've taken all of that into consideration, we take our own instincts as well and just continue to write. I feel like that's the best way to learn the majority of things nowadays. Even with guitar, music theory, all of these things, we're more efficient on our own. We learn a lot by just doing.
MR: And it seems like the reward for that is a number one album on Billboard. How did you guys feel when that announcement came in?
RL: Oh, it felt incredible! Even when one of our publicity people told us, "You guys are looking at top ten, top five on Billboard." Even when we heard that unofficially we were like, "Holy crap, that's crazy!" Then it turned out to be number one on the pop chart and number seven overall and that's just incredible, especially because Louder debuted at twenty-four.
MR: Will you be consciously trying to keep that momentum up or will it be business as usual, just keep creating and see what comes up next?
RL: A little bit of both. We'll continue to create but there is a bit of angst behind us, we want to make something that can match Sometime Last Night and potentially be better and obviously show the growth of us as human beings and evolve even further. There's a tiny bit of both of that, but right now we're on tour and we have to focus on what's happening in front of us.
MR: When you look at the difference between the music you play as Austin Moon on Austin & Ally and the R5 material, they're pretty different. Is it a lot of work to try to maintain credibility across both?
RL: Yeah, I've actually put a lot of effort into keeping both entities separate. I kind of always wanted R5 to be my route out. A lot of Disney stars have sort of been scarred with the Disney image. But for me, it's been a wonderful transition, everything's gone great. Austin and Ally is actually now coming to an end, so I'm moving on to other acting gigs and trying to keep them separate but together. I definitely want to do more acting, but it gets hard with scheduling because the band wants to tour the majority of the year and doing a movie would take six to eight weeks to do. It just gets a little difficult with the scheduling but I would love to continue acting. I love acting as much as I love music.
MR: I saw your schedule, I don't know how you're going to keep that up, good luck with that.
RL: Yeah, thank you.
MR: What advice do you have for emerging artists?
RL: Enjoy the time that is given to you. Say you're put into a certain situation with someone who has been very successful at doing what you want to do, appreciate that time and just observe everything. Try to pick up any sort of small detail that they do and you might not and just let that work for you. Also, if you are interested in doing something, just do it. Spend all your time trying to master it, try to get it under your belt and then maybe with a little luck you'll be in the situation to showcase your talent.
MR: Ten years from now, where is Ross Lynch and where is R5?
RL: Ten years from now? Hopefully, R5 is releasing our tenth record, hopefully it'll start massive numbers, I would love to be touring in arenas but also doing clubs on the side because clubs are much more fun to play, and then I hope Rocky and Ratliff and I could even be writing for other artists, almost like Max Martin, just because we like to do that. Then as far as acting I would love to be doing all sorts of interesting roles. This is really, really hard to achieve, but the best actors are the ones who can choose their roles and just choose whatever they want to play. Like James Franco. He does comedies, he does dramas, he does indies, he does all sorts of different stuff. I think that would be the best place to be as an actor because you have creative freedom.
MR: By the way, my son and I have watched you on Austin & Ally and I personally believe you're one of the most relaxed, natural performers I've ever seen on the Disney channel. All the best for you, your family and all your futures.
RL: Thank you so much!
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
SAINT ASONIA'S "TRYING TO CATCH UP WITH THE WORLD" EXCLUSIVE
"Trying To Catch Up With the World" is a brand new song from Saint Asonia's self-titled debut album to be released this Friday July 31, 2015 on RCA Records.
Saint Asonia is Adam Gontier (formerly of Three Days Grace), Mike Mushok of Staind, Corey Lowery (Eye Empire, Stereomud) and Rich Beddoe (Finger Eleven).
"Mike and I both knew the kind of record we wanted to make," says Gontier. "Once we got into the studio, we were done after five weeks. It's different from anything either of us have done in the past, and something rock music needs right now. It's raw, real and straight from our hearts."
"I'm really proud that we created such a cohesive body of work," says Mushok. "I hope when people hear it they become fans and want to hit a show! That's why you do it." The band will be kicking of their first headline tour August 14th in Oklahoma City.
For more info go to http://www.saintasonia.com
A Conversation with 311's Nick Hexum
Mike Ragogna: Nick, your new Archive rarities box basically traces 311's career from another angle from the beginning, right?
Nick Hexum: Yeah, I think it's our entire major label career. There's nothing from this current last album because there were no B-sides, we put everything out. This goes all the way back to Music's B-sides, our first major label album. It's pretty much the whole scope of our career. There are a couple of odds and ends from the very early days before we were signed that weren't included.
MR: What do you think about the body of work?
NH: I hadn't heard some of those versions and some of those songs in so long that it was like some long-recessed neuron that hadn't been accessed. It was a real trip for me to help put it together and to hear those songs. I think it's going to be really interesting for our fans who have lived with different versions, the album versions of those songs to hear a demo version where there were maybe different words or different arrangements. To hear something in its infancy, it's almost like a photo album that you hadn't seen in a really long time. It's definitely interesting for us and our fans are really reacting to it. It's going really well.
MR: And the box is meant to be a celebration of your twenty-fifth anniversary. How does that feel? Did you ever think you'd make it twenty-five years together? How do you think the band has progressed creatively?
NH: First of all, reaching a silver anniversary is no easy task. I'm not sure if I thought that far into the future. I knew that our band had something special and that we were going to find an audience. The fact that it's been going for this long with no end in sight is just such a gift. We're not slowing down at all. The shows have been going off and we have a lot of exciting ideas for a new album. I think that would be time to hang it up, when everything feels stale. But music is a never-ending journey and there's always new frontiers and styles and different things to criss-cross together. We've got a ton of life left in us. We're just grateful to our fanbase who enabled this dream, whether or not we've got hits or certain media support, we just make music from the heart and our fanbase feels it. We don't really have to play the game like some bands do, living or dying by hits or whatever. We're very blessed.
MR: I imagine this year's Unity Tour will run the whole gamut of material?
NH: Yeah. In Vegas, we celebrated another anniversary, it's been twenty years since we put out the blue album, which was our big breakthrough self-titled album. We played that album in its entirety plus all the B-sides from it when we were in Vegas last week. There's a lot of things to commemorate right now. It's like putting out a new album because there are so many songs that were either difficult or unavailable for people to find. It's a real shot in the arm for our fanbase.
MR: Did you rediscover any songs during this process?
NH: There has definitely been some of that. We took a song called "Outside," which came out on a soundtrack back in 1995 and was really hard to find. But playing that song again and rearranging it a bit when we play it live, it starts on a cool jam session where we kind of vamp on the chords for a little while and add one instrument after another--there's always ways to change it up and keep it fresh and that's what we're about.
MR: And have signature hits like "Down," "Love Song," "Don't Tread On Me" been evolving?
NH: I definitely think that there is continuing interpretation. I say "Amber" is the song that has had the most legs. When I sing it now it's very different. When I made it I was more on top of the beat and now I've learned to sing it more like a jazz singer where I'm kind of waiting and singing a little after the beat and holding out the notes longer. It definitely has evolved. I sometimes see people singing along but they're used to hearing the album version and I'm like, "Nope, I'm not quite there yet, you're a little ahead of me in the song." I don't even notice that it's changed because it's a slow evolutionary process, but sometimes I realize, "Oh, I am kind of singing this different."
MR: It seems like there would naturally be a divide between people who want to hear the songs as they were recorded and people who come to hear the current evolution.
NH: Totally. Recently, there was a bit of a reunion of sorts. We did the H.O.R.D.E. festival which we had done twenty years ago. For that show, we did a lot of jam songs, songs that really stretch out and have a lot of guitar solos and breakdowns. I think with certain crowds you'll sense that they're just ready for straightforward rockers, a bit more of a punk set, and then other crowds like this one you say, "Okay, this is going to be more hippie-jam appropriate," so we vamped and played the songs that go off into the stratosphere.
MR: Did you discover any new personal favorites off the box?
NH: Yeah, there were songs off Uplifter, which was the first record we did with Bob Rock, there was one song that no one had ever heard called "Week Of Saturdays," and this song just makes me happy. I hadn't heard it in a couple of years but it really takes me places. It's definitely more of our sunshine-y, happy, tropical vibe, but it's a funk song. It's a unique groove to me. Another song off that same era was one called "Get Down," which is a pretty introspective, maybe a little bit spiritual song, it gets heavy in the choruses. We hadn't played that in a while so we broke it out on the cruise and the place went crazy. It was like, "Wow, we forgot about this one, why did we leave this one off?" It's nice that now everybody can very easily get all of these songs, you don't have to go digging on YouTube or trading them on peer-to-peer things, they're all here and they're remastered and they're legal.
MR: And isn't it amazing, it seems like packaging is getting younger generations into owning physical versions.
NH: Yeah, I think that was a big part of the appeal, having the book in the box set that's almost like a coffee table book. Putting that together I gave my manager this huge box of keepsakes, it was like a trunk. I just threw stuff in there but I had never opened it or looked through it, but I gave it to manager and was like, "Go through this." He said it was like an archeological dig. He found my ponytail from when I cut my long hair in 1992, he found wisdom teeth, pictures of girls I couldn't even remember. He went through it and found a lot of cool photos of all of our different home studios, so you can see all of them. There's usually a bong on the table and a bunch of wires everywhere. It's almost like a coffee table book. We knew we had to add value because like you said, that's the appeal of having something you can look through and make that experience worth it.
MR: And there's the "smart URL" through which you're able to get the lithograph and a collector's patch.
NH: I think the patch has the hexagon hive graphic that's on the cover of the box set. The lithos, we had a three-hour signing session where we just sat down and signed enough for all the special packages. That just makes us feel good, that the fans wanted us to have those special keepsakes like that.
MR: Do you have personal fans who followed you from your very first show in Omaha in June of 1990?
NH: We're going back to play at Sokol Hall, the site of our first gig opening for Fugazi back on June 10th in 1990. We're playing at that same old music hall in Omaha at the end of our summer tour. I asked my brother and sister, "Were you guys at this show?" My little brother who was only twelve at the time was like, "Yes. I was there." I'm definitely going to invite all the old friends, some of the people that were there from back then. I'm still friends with the guy who got the very first 311 tattoo that I know of. Well, actually, P-Nut, our bass player, got the first one, but the first fan that got one, I'm on a basketball team with him. He got that maybe twenty four years ago. It's pretty cool that the friendship has endured.
MR: Speaking of friendships, how have the band's relationships with each other evolved over the years?
NH: Everybody seems to be really in sync. There's just a sense of gratitude because of all these anniversaries and special things going on like, "Wow, we've really created something cool here." That seems to filter into the decision making process, everybody is cooperating very well. I think my individual attitude is to go with the flow and not try and run things or steer things, just kind of let the group decide and keep everything very malleable. I think everybody else is into that attitude. It's been very harmonious. We've had some disagreements but not lately. We've been in a really good place for a long time and I think for five guys to stay together is no easy feat and I think everybody just needs to work on their own side of the street. It's like a marriage, without the sex of course. Everybody just needs to remain flexible and so far so good.
MR: So it's twenty-five years of success later, of course and you've influenced a few bands. Do you ever hear those 311 influences in other bands?
NH: Definitely. I think we're probably on the third generation of bands influenced by us. We were among the first to fuse rap and rock in the nineties, and then there was kind of a flood of much angrier people doing somewhat similar things, and fortunately that went away. I think that reggae is really a timeless thing, there's always a fanbase for that. You'll hear different reggae songs that we can hear a bit of ourselves in, and definitely take it as a compliment. Everybody is only standing on the shoulders of giants. We're all just representing our influences. Leonard Bernstein said, "We're just a sum total of our listening experience." Whatever we listen to is going to come out in our music, so that's why I always try and keep a wide variety in what I'm listening to, because I know that will keep the variety in my writing.
MR: What advice do you have for emerging artists?
NH: You don't pick music. Music picks you. Especially with the way the music business has changed with piracy and everything you don't say, "Ah, maybe I'll become an engineer or an actor or a musician." If it's like that then don't pick music, because you have to want music so bad that nothing else would work for you. That was definitely the case for me. I didn't have any kind of backup plan whatsoever. If music is your only option, go for it.
MR: What's next on 311 or the Nick Hexum Quintet's agenda?
NH: I would say that I'm just putting all my effort into new 311 music. I think we're onto a pretty exciting new sound. I was just working on a demo today before we talked. I think with dubstep and different production styles there are new, fresh influences to bring in to music. For me, as soon we get done with the summer tour we're just going to get cranking. We've got five songs already completely ready as a band, so we need to get in there and record the the stuff for real. We've got fifteen more demos started and it's nice that we're all here on tour together so we can grab forty five minutes of a lyric-writing session here and there before sound check or whatever. We're just keeping it rolling. That to me in the biggest gift, how excited I am about our new music. It's not like, "Hey guys, what are we going to do now? We've already done everything." There's a clear new frontier that we can go into.
MR: So there'll be a lot more music coming from 311 over the next twenty-five years?
NH: I believe so. That's how it feels right now. Onward and upward.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
PATTERNIST'S "GONE" LYRIC VIDEO EXCLUSIVE
Patternist (aka Gabe Mouer) is an up and coming indie electro-pop artist out of Portland, Oregon, whose new single and lyric video "Gone" is a follow-up to his 2014 EP Youth is Fading.
According to Mouer...
"Gone is written from the perspective of a kid watching his drug-addled friend jump off the roof of his house. It's about how the inane things we're prone to doing when we're young often serve to make us feel more alive. For the lyric video, we were aiming for something that adequately captured the atmosphere of the song while being simple enough not to distract the viewer from the focus of the lyrics. After kicking around a few ideas we settled on this very minimalist concept of cutting together shots of bokeh--specifically, blurred traffic lights--we took in various cities across the east coast."
A Conversation with Ben Lee
Mike Ragogna: Hey Ben, I've got a very important question for you. Are you still the world's sexiest vegetarian?
Ben Lee: [laughs] Firstly, that's one of those weird internet things. I think I was nominated on a list once, it's not something I even submitted for, but somehow it ended up out there. I get so many questions about being the world's sexiest vegetarian. I'm not even a vegetarian! I was at various points but it's definitely something that the internet has snowballed into something bigger than it really was.
MR: Now it makes me curious who the runners up were.
BL: I know. It's also very subjective, isn't it, sexiness? I'm not really into competition over that sort of thing.
MR: Your new album is Love Is The Great Rebellion. First off, what was the creative process and inspiration for this batch of songs?
BL: It was a very interesting period. You know when it feels like your life is having a software update? You start realizing that you've been running really old ideas, old behaviors, old ways of looking at things, and it's time for an update. That really occurred for me around the period when I was writing this record, on many levels. I'd been on a particular spiritual path for about about ten years with a particular teacher and it had just became abundantly clear to me that that period had ended. For people who have never immersed themselves deeply in a spiritual path, it might not sound as though that's such a big deal, but so much of my identity was formed around this community and these belief systems and rituals and everything, it wasn't like some big scandalous ending of that relationship, I was just ready for a bigger concept of what the path could be. So that was huge. Creatively, I felt a sense that in the past I had kind of been a spoilsport. I'd had these massive ambitions for what I could do with pop music and the melding of a more philosophical album, I had a really big hit in Australia, I had a couple of moderately-known songs in Australia, but it never really went where I imagined my career going.
I think everyone who gets into the music industry, at some point, has to be dreaming of mega success. It's just one of the fantasies that keep you going at the beginning. I think it became sort of clear to me that that arena is not particularly interested in a more philosophical outlook. I in a way just threw up my hands and said, "Oh well, I'm not doing that anymore," and then I went off and made a few experimental records and whatnot. It became clear to me that in a way I was carrying a wounding by the music industry. It was a bit of a cross roads--either I would become a bitter person that hadn't achieved what they wished to achieve and carry that sense of failure, or I would open up to the idea that life is constantly renewing itself and much like my spiritual path things end and things begin and here we are today. Certain things happened in the past and there's not much we can do about them. But I can let them go and begin today with, "What is my vision? What is my mission? What do I want to do?" All of those things involve this sense of rebellion, they involve setting fire to something from the past. That's the type of rebellion I'm talking about, a rebellion that has to be done for love and with love.
MR: I'm familiar with the following of spiritual paths but I question meditation without application. For me, it's like, "Okay, aren't you supposed to use these truths?" I feel like this is possibly the rebellion aspect as well, the jumping back into action part.
BL: I think you're certainly right but I don't want to give the impression that I abandoned the spiritual path. It just changed for me. It moved into certainly contemplation and analysis and meditation and comprehension and prayer, these are all very important parts of my life, it's just changed shape and moved into a different conception. I read a wonderful quote yesterday, I think by Manly P Hall that said, "Meditation that does not alter conduct is an illusion."
MR: So is your particular path about growth of consciousness? Do you have an idea of what it's done for you?
BL: Yeah, it's allowing me to move incrementally towards freedom. My conception of existence is that I do believe that we're born in chains, and most of the ways that we're not free we're not even aware of. It's kind of like The Matrix, he suddenly wakes up and realizes that he's plugged into this giant system. I think there's a lot of false notions of freedom that actually come from the ego, so a lot of the systems we see within our culture or the types of celebrations of freedom are actually new prisons being formed by the ego. I think systematically we can work towards freedom in very small incremental doses by huge effort basically. I see that in my own life in tiny ways, just moving forward, and that's all that matters. I have this song "Happiness" on the record, and it's interesting because a lot of people can't resolve these ideas they have about it. When I'm being interviewed they ask about having a bleak look at the reality of the human psyche and the human condition and still resolving to be happy and what that means and how those go together, and I bring it back again to rebellion. It's almost that happiness is the best revenge in this system where we are slaves. Think about the slave spirituals that were sung in American history. The indomitable spirit of the human mind and the human heart is really where we find the courage to keep progressing. For me, the happiness that I'm talking about is happiness because we know this story only ends one way, and that's with love as the victor. Right now we may be in the middle of the battle, but we know the end. It might take ten years, it might take ten thousand years, but we know how it's going to end and we're happy because we know that we're moving forward towards that inevitable homecoming.
MR: For me, "Victory" summarizes all the tracks that came before it, plus there are three more songs that keep a thematic rally going. It's like you continued exploring. Or maybe just the album has four exclamation points at the end.
BL: Yeah! But it depends on where you stand. Think about the moment in baseball when someone hits a home run, or in boxing when one person knocks out the other one. That is a very intense climactic moment, but life continues. Every victory becomes something in the past. There is a dramatic climax in the album, but I suppose the reflection and the contemplation that occurs after that in those more subtle pieces are maybe the beginning of the next adventure.
MR: It seems that with this album, you examined and worked out a lot of issues. Is that your process with every album or was this one particularly cathartic?
BL: Because of the background I come from initially, coming out of punk rock and indie music and the underground scene, authenticity and making art have always had to go hand in hand. I could never write anything else other than what is actually on my mind at that time. That being said I'm not looking for music to be a personal release for me emotionally. I think I'm at the beginning stages of this: I'm trying to touch something eternal in my music. In a way the catharsis is sort of failure, because my personal journey is not really as interesting as the eternal truths that we can get to and that people like Shakespeare got to or Beethoven got to. People who really master art, you kind of don't hear a lot of them in what's going on. You just look in the mirror and understand the human condition. Who knows, that probably won't happen in this lifetime, but that's where I aspire to move towards--to touch something that sort of doesn't have me in it at all, but is more true as a result.
MR: Nice. It seems like each of your albums is a mission, whether it's personal or exclamatory about certain subjects.
BL: That's true! The sense of mission and purpose has always been a part of each project I do. I've never liked the term "concept album" because it makes me think of some inflated seventies sci-fi thing, but the idea that there's a reason to be making the thing your making is a concept to me. I've always had a concept as I begin working, I've always had something I want to explore, something I want to understand, something I want to taste personally. That continues.
MR: I've always admired one of your more fun projects, The Bens, with Ben Folds, Ben Kweller and you. That was brilliant.
BL: It was very fun, and that's a great example of a concept. The concept was we were friends, we were sort of in a similar sphere musically and we have the same name. Then it was, "Let's see what we can do together." I love the idea that beginning with a concept you can have this new freedom to explore unknown territory.
MR: Ben, you're an ARIA award winner, you were a mentor on Australia's The Voice, and you had a featured song in There's Something About Mary. What do these high points do to you as an artist?
BL: Well I try not to think of them as high points. That's really only seeing things from one perspective. We all know enough about the history of art and music that often when an artist is experiencing something externally that's quite successful they may be facing very big internal challenges. In terms of commercial success and the various moments when it's occurred more than others I literally just feel gratitude for it. Sometimes when I watch the Oscars and I see an actor winning a prize, I can see what's going through their mind, and it's, "I'm going to be able to keep working." We are working artists. A lot of people don't realize that from the outside. They think of artists as living in this fantasy world. But as a working artist who's going paycheck to paycheck and continually finding ways to be inventive and work within the system and outside the system and support our families and keep moving... Well, the song I won an ARIA for, "Catch My Disease," that song continues to put food on our table. It's no small thing, but it's not like I want every moment to become like that. I don't want to become some kind of addicted to conquering type artist, but to have a few moments in your career that can give your the leverage to keep exploring and keep working is something to be very appreciative for. It's a big deal to survive as an artist. This is not a world that makes it easy.
MR: Yeah. This is your tenth album, do you think it's time to do the retrospective?
BL: I don't necessarily perceive a demand for that. These kinds of things are more left to record companies. We're doing a little box set on Noise Addict, my band from when I was young. That's something that a label wanted to do and I'm happy to help them do that. But I look forward. If someone else thinks there's a buck to be made by doing a retrospective I'm happy to entertain the idea, but essentially, I move forward with my projects and the rest is not my concern.
MR: And your cred goes back to you association with folks like Steve Pavlovic, Beastie Boys and Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore. Your band Noise Addict had a pretty nice launch.
BL: [laughs] Yeah, there was definitely a hype that was convincing to people.
MR: Is there a song on this album that stands out as particularly precious to you?
BL: I'm not sure. "Everybody Dies" is a really interesting song to me because I managed to take the most horrific thing to most people, our own mortality, and make it hummable, make it sort of a kids' song. We need to normalize death. Death is swept away into hospitals and stuff. Death used to be something that was integrated into the family home. I think it's hard to fully live if we can't appreciate the fact that we're mortal beings and we're on the run from it. I'm also happy with the last song, "God Is A Fire." It's another one of those concepts that'd difficult to grasp. You meet a lot of people who will say, "Oh yeah, I'm spiritual," but people are afraid to use the word God. In a sense it's understandable because they've been exposed to all of these ideas, these anthropomorphic, geo-Christian ideas based around this Santa Claus God sitting in a chair judging everybody. When you look into the mysticism that existed before the churches and before the synagogues, at the origin of each religion there really was a sense of God as a spirit, as a molecule hidden in the heart of each person. I like the idea of reclaiming God from organized religion, not abandoning it, and also not throwing the baby out with the bath water, because all religions have had incredibly beautiful and astute philosophical concepts, but just the fact that I got to share that idea on the song "God Is A Fire," that's kind of radical in a sense. Most people wouldn't think of it in that way, that God is actually a substance, God is actually an element that wiped away the old and gives birth to the new. These are interesting concepts that make me feel excited when I can find a way to get them into music.
We're talking about artists. When you look at Dante's Inferno, you see an incredible poet and artist, and artists think in metaphor. Artists don't think literally. If I wanted to literally talk about all of these concepts I'd just put out a record of me talking about them. But I believe that by putting them in poetry and song and music you actually get closer to the truth. A part of the problem is that people have lost an appreciation for the poetry and art that's in religion. These are all allegories and metaphors, and what are they describing? They're describing a fire in the human psyche that we can make contact with. It's important to appreciate the symbolic nature of these types of stories.
MR: You were brought up Jewish. Did you find religious satisfaction while you were getting a Jewish education?
BL: I found a launching pad for discussion. I went to a Jewish high school and I would debate with the rabbis, I enjoyed it, I enjoyed prayer and I really valued these things. I found an inability for people to speak in this more allegorical sense, there was a real literalism and fanaticism that I don't think are really part of the spiritual path, they're something in the territory of the ego, but I love that I was given the opportunity by being born into some form of religion and education it gave me a place to ask questions. I have a lot of appreciation for that.
MR: I think religion is always shifting and always trying to define itself as we evolve culturally. It's funny because it seems so contrary to everyone's choice of having strict interpretations of their chosen religious texts.
BL: And it's also meant to be an internal journey. Anything there is to know about the nature of God and the nature of the human heart is to be found with your eyes closed, exploring your own consciousness. All of these maps are incredible. You really read the Bible and Quran and the Torah and the Bhagavad Gita and the Tibetan book of the dead and you understand more about the maps of what we can find in there, but they all have to be experienced. I think the problem we have with religion is that it attempts to replace an actual experience of your own with someone else's experience that they wrote about. That's not to say that what that person experienced isn't true, but you must experience it yourself.
MR: Beautiful. What advice do you have for emerging artists?
BL: It depends where they are. For me, I was watching everyone else a little too much. I was a little too aware of what was fashionable and what was acceptable and what was cool. If the artist is like me I would say go with your own understanding more because it will outlast fashion. But there are other artists who are so wrapped up in their artistic nature, they're so ethereal that for them thinking like a business is actually a really good piece of advice. For those people to pull back a little bit and say, "Okay, how do I actually share this with other people? How do I get my message across?" For those people, it involves that type of adjustment. I think the main thing is to become aware of what your tendencies are and what your flaws are and then take appropriate action based on that. Don't just be in fantasy, actually be able to look at yourself and really weigh up, "What am I like as an artist? What do I need to adjust?"
MR: This sounds like it's coming from experience.
BL: Well, that's the only good kind of advice. [laughs]
MR: One last question. If love is the great rebellion, do you expect the coup to happen soon?
BL: Yeah! It's happening internally. It's a process, but we don't know when we'll arrive where we're going. The Buddha is so interesting, because in his four noble truths he said, "There is suffering, there is a cause of suffering, the ego, there is a path out of suffering, and there is an end." For us to walk down the road of this rebellion, knowing that there is an end of sorrow is an incredible rebellion to be a part of. I'm without doubt that it's on the horizon and that we just have to work hard and be patient at the same time.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
KAT REINHERT'S WALK INTO THE RAIN" EXCLUSIVE
"This song was inspired by a relationship that helped me find my way back to the positives in life--especially when life is difficult. We were talking once about how I felt it always seemed to rain when life was particularly difficult. He said no--that the rain was actually just washing away all of the bad things and clearing space for all the beauty that would come after it had passed. That rain never lasts forever, and that rain often leaves beautiful rainbows and sunny skies in its wake, much like difficult times often lead to growth and change. Allowing ourselves to be open to that growth and change, even when it's hard, can bring the most beautiful surprises."
"Walk into the Rain" is off Kat Reinhert's forthcoming album, Spark, due out August 21.