Thursday, May 11, 2006

Faces to Face, Vol. I

Greetings and salutations. The record-setting post you see before you is the culmination of many weeks of tedious planning, scheduling, and troubleshooting...but you'd never be able to tell. Regardless, read on as I get all deep and philosophical with the boys from TK IV II I, shooting the breeze about everything including their big gig next week at AA's, the writing and recording processes on their CD's "Hollow" and "Disengaged", a brief mention of the super-secret 3rd album, Steve's solo project plans, having to play covers, the evils of the internet, and my general lack of a sense of humor in conversation.

What's being presented here is the most clearly organized version of our conversation, with minimal editing (except where I grouped some of the more scattered thoughts together, and continue to tweak the spelling/grammar) and no cuts for space. It's easily the longest post I've ever made, but well worth the read.

Steve L. (bass), Chuck J. (Vocals/Guitar), Troy W. (Guitars), Bill S. (Drums)

Due to technical difficulties, Chuck was unable to make the interview, but did give his blessing, and may have secretly spied on the entire exchange via an earpiece surgically implanted in Steve's hand, disguised as a cell phone. We may never know...

Phantom Critic: Let's begin. First thing's first. The timing of this interview is no coincidence. You guys have some shows coming up, and more importantly, a bit of name dropping to do. Tell me a little bit about this gig next week; the who and the what. How’d it all come about?
Steve: Opening for King's X, Awful Arthur's Towers, Wednesday May 17th, as for how it all came about...
Bill: Actually Troy and I were having a beverage or 7 at Arthur’s and Barry mentioned that he was getting King's X. We both said “Cool, we'll be there” but never even thought to say “Can we open?”
Steve: Enter Band Bitch.
Bill: Barry and Band uh......girl thought of what we didn't.
Steve: 7 beers will do that to ya
Bill: I replied uh.............duh........We'll play it!
Phantom: So a classic case of right place, right time, right friends?
Steve: Always.
Bill: The perfect part is we were already scheduled to play there the following weekend.
Troy: To toot our horn... I believe we are a good fit for that show.
Steve: Our friends are always looking out for us even when we aren't.
Bill: I'm gonna just let them take over booking.
Phantom: Let me get Troy to elaborate on that “good fit” comment.
Troy: Well, we've all been fans of the band for ages. I bought Gretchen Goes to Nebraska when it was new. They're rock, they're soulful, they're very good at what they do, and they keep slugging it out in the face of Big
Media's apathy.
Bill: Faith Hope Love...for me
Phantom: And you're rock and soulful...a good fit, indeed.
Troy: Honestly, we'll take just about any opportunity. But this is a genuine thrill.
Steve: It certainly makes it more special. Although we're certainly entertaining all offers.
Phantom: In an opening band situation like this, what changes in your show, especially when you get up to open for a band like King’s X? Some folks in your shoes might feel obligated to play the covers, while others would assume that most people were there for the headliner, taking that as an opportunity to put their original stuff front and center. If someone does come out to see TK, what are they gonna get?
Troy: Originals.
Steve: All odefinitelyefinately
Bill: All TK.
Steve: Situations like this allow us to shine the spotlight on our own musical accomplishments
Phantom: And impressing an idol isn't a bad side effect, either, right?
Troy: Remains to be seen.
Bill: That would rule.
Troy: They may be sleeping in the bus.
Steve: Just sharing the same stage will be an honor of sorts.
Phantom: Talking about your music, let's go back to the beginning. YoCD first cd, “Hollow” came about as something made more for each of you than for a fanbase, and I’ve heard you touch on how accidental that early success was. But when you listen to “Hollow” now, do you hear what might’ve started that spark and caught people’s interest, or do you continue to be amazed at why people care?
Bill: Let's Drink Beer and Jam should've been the title.
Troy: I think people can hear the enthusiasm. We've always, individually, wanted to be involved with a cool original project. This was feeding that jones.
Steve: I still think Hollow was a great effort. I still get off listening to it.
Troy: Looking back... I'm not even sure it was intended to be an "album." We gave the first completed song to ROV and they ran with it.
Phantom: Which was?
Steve: Information Overdrive. They got that tune before we comCDeted half the cd.
Troy: Which is a good thing.
Steve: We were vain (still are) and just wanted to hear our tune on the radio.
Troy: Yup.
Bill: It was a great feeling.
Phantom: I would say that is a fairly common vanity.
Steve: You have to be. If you don't want to hear your songs, why should you expect anyone else to?
Phantom: An excellent point. It all starts at home. How is that enthusiasm today?
Troy: It's like an addiction. You just keep wanting more.
I agree
Steve: constantly need another fix.
Bill: We're working on our 3rd album now
Troy: Whoa, dragon.
Bill: Now, now, now. Clock in!!
Phantom: Anything you can tell me about?
Steve: Still very early in the writing stages.
Troy: Only that we want it to be better. Even better songs, arrangements, attitude, and production.
Bill: Which means it will be released in 2012
Steve: Third album, and I think we are still trying to find out who we are.
Bill: Yeah..there was really no plan for Disengaged.
Steve: In a way I hope we never find out, cause it allows us to keep trying new things
Bill: We just go in the room and see what happens.
Troy: But there was some expectation of Disengaged.
Phantom: Well, let’s talk about the road from “Hollow” to “Disengaged.” Second albums are always awkward, so give me some idea of what was on your minds when you started piecing stuff together.
Troy: Some of it was done by the time we played our first show.
Phantom: You said there was some expectation. Did having an actual intent this time around make the process go any differently?
Troy: Yes. You work differently when you have an agenda. And a time frame.
Steve: Yeah, Hollow caught us with our pants down. As you know, we weren't striving for anything. By the time we got halfway through recording Disengaged, we had already started building something.
Bill: With a pile of gigs in between.
Phantom: Do you feel like that was for the better, or not so much?
Troy: Both.
StevdefinitelyI think we definately felt the pressure to "really" do it with Disengaged.
Troy: Better in that we had something to prove.

Bill: The inspiration was great
Steve: I think better. Forces you to really take it up a notch
Troy: With Hollow, we were able to tweak, and dork around with everything endlessly...kinda poke-n-hope until we stumbled on things we liked.
Bill: We love the fans, but we had the 4 worst critics in the world to deal with.
Steve: With Disengaged, we had a fanbase waiting for it.
Troy: Disengaged... we knew some tricks from before, and some pitfalls to avoid. Recording techniques that we discovered, kinds of arrangements and harmonies that worked... who should play which parts...that sort of thing.
Steve: Basically we knew what worked and what didn't going in
Bill: Trick 1: Bill can only have 3 drinks before recording
Steve: And on the next cd, only three drums.
Bill: Boo!!
Troy: From the writing, to the recording, to the kinds of shoes we wore to mix.
Phantom: So how do all actually handle that pressure? Is having the intent something you ever battle with? I’m interested in how successful people can be by letting the chips fall where they may. It seems like that approach played a huge part in the genesis of the group and most of your early success, and would be the ideal way to keep it fun and interesting.
Steve: Constantly.
Phantom: On the other hand, the more you do, the more you start becoming known for what you’ve done, and so I’m wondering how you balance that.
Troy: Well, we've all been playing gigs forever. We'd be a much different band if we had to learn that part at the same time.
Steve: Yeah, we bicker constantly, but the truth is that we have a great deal of respect for what we each individually bring to the table. At then end of the day, we're all working with pros who all want the same results.
Phantom: I take it then, that your experience has taught you what is worth bickering about?
Steve: Everything is worth bickering about.
Phantom: Or are you all simultaneously impossible to please?
Steve: That too.
Troy: I think that we have organized our chaos.
Steve: Seriously...all the bitching gets us to an end result that we can all be proud of.
Bill: We've all spent years bickering in different bands that had no promise. This band makes it worth it.
Troy: We're excellent bicker-ers.
Steve: No pain, no gain.
Troy: We should be gainin' like crazy then.
Bill: Plus if we didn't bicker, we wouldn't entertain ourselves.
Steve: Just means that we're all passionate about what we're creating.
Bill: Shuddup Troy!
Steve: I'll take passion over apathy any day.
Troy: Indeed.
Phantom: How do you think the music has changed from “Hollow” to “Disengaged,” or has it? Since it’s a little early in your recorded career to start talking about reinvention, what I hear sounds more like a progression; a refinement, if you will, on what you basically stumbled upon the first time.
Troy: I would agree with that.
Bill: We hope so.
Steve: I'd like to thinkthat's we're progressing, but thats a tough question for us to answer. We don't hear our music with the same ears that someone outside the band does. We're too close to it.
Troy: For myself... TK songs should have some kind of 'mood'. All the other stuff just kinda works around that.
Steve: I think we're getting better about writing actual "songs".
Phantom: You mean structurally?
Steve: Yeah. I mean, I think Bed of Stone is a complete "song". Not saying the others aren't, but that one in particular just feels right all the way through.
Troy: Trimming the fat. Not giving in to excess, for the sake of excess.
Steve: It builds, every part has a point, there's no wasted space, etc.
Bill:aggressiveow was raw and aggresive. Disengaged just feels more mature.
Troy: I think we all hope to continue that. To hone it.
Phantom: I think albums with that much fat trimmed off are usually called "Greatest Hits."
Steve: Cool. we have a name for our third album.
Bill: and 4th
Troy: Hatest Grits.
Phantom: I get a dime everytime someone says it...
--[Another of my attempts to be clever, thwarted]--
Phantom: I want to go back to something Steve said earlier, about what people outside the band hear...
Troy: I'm not sure we're a band that is gonna blaze a new trail in rock history...our objective is to just drive really fast in the median strip.
Phantom: What do you think people will hear when they listen to "Hollow" or "Disengaged?" Other than enthusiasm...
Bill: I think Chuck's lyrics really connect with people. Everyone has a different favorite and story of their own to relate with it.
Steve: Chuck is our ace in the hole. That guy is an immense talent.
Phantom: Did he just call in to check on the interview? Or was that legitimate compliment?
Steve: Nah, just givin him props.
Bill: The cool part is how people take the tunes and make them their own. Everytime we've picked a tune that we thought would be the most popular, we're dead wrong.
Steve: Man...that's a tough question there, ghosty.
Troy: Oh, he's an ace-hole alright.
Phantom: Certainly deserving, though. Most reviews I've read of your music, including my own, attribute his voice as a major signature in your sound.
Troy: Yup. And he deserves it. We're his biggest fans.
Bill: Agreed
Steve: Love his voice. You should see him recording vocal tracks. The guy is a monster.
Bill: He and the other 2 morons make me proud everytime we play.
Phantom: However, I would say you three have a different obstacle. Vocals are their own unique thing.
Steve: Yup.
Phantom: to be unique as a bassist, or as a guitarist or, (god forbid) a drummer [did I say that?]...
Steve: God forbid, indeed.
Bill: Hey!!
Phantom: That's a much taller order, because you three can pound out groove after groove and at the end of the day, the uneducated listener can listen and go "another rock band."
Troy: At this stage of the game, you learn to capitalize on your strengths as a band.
Bill: I think we help shape each other.
Steve: And that is all that should matter...the band as a whole.
Bill: We've been together long enough to say "hey, that part sucks" and not have a major blowout.
Troy: And to avoid drum solos.
Steve: I don't give a rats behind if anyone thinks I'm a top notch bass player, as long as the song moves them.
Bill: More cowbell! May 17th... 26 minute drum solo and 4 minutes of the other guys.
Bill: They keep me tame. Which I hope helps me to not be the same old drummer.
Troy: I think people appreciate our connection with thesillinessding our faults and sillyness, at least as much as they would "virtuoso" musicianship.
Phantom: So, what I'm hearing is that "honesty" is probably your answer.
Steve: Pretty much. Personal accolades are cool and all, but if they ain't diggin the "band"...
Phantom: But then let's ask the fun question. Surely this wise approach is the product of maturity has this always been the case with you each personally?
Steve: Lack of ability has always been my personal motivation
Bill: uhhhhhhhh.......
Troy: Bill is old. Is that what you're gettin at?
BillI I always thought if i could impress another drummer, I was ruling.
Steve: Wrong.
Phantom: Actually, what I meant was, surely you can't have all had this enlightened approach for the biggest part of your musical life.
Troy: Not at all. We learned by doing.
Steve: I've always been the subpar musician. So shreddin has never been an option.
Bill: You are a rock Shteve!
Steve: And a rock is all you need, baby.
Troy: I've always wanted to be a shredder. It just didn't work out that way.
Bill: The low end never stops!
Steve: Don't let him kid ya, Troy can rip when he wants to. He's just all about the sum of the parts.
Troy: And beer.
Bill: I've realized that there is always another bad ass drummer. Just not too many of them in great bands.
Phantom: An important realization, but then there is always another bad ass rock band.
Bill: True.
Steve: Exactly. If all you care about is impressing, there's always someone else that can tear you up. We'd rather write good tunes.
Troy: A great band is rarely an accident. That's why we're holding on to this one so tightly.
Phantom: So no plans for the Steve L Experience anytime soon, then?
Bill: I'm releasing my solo death mariachi album next month.

Steve: Not at the moment. If I did that though, I'd hire these idiots, so same dif.
Phantom: Back on the albums, there is always a tendency to gravitate toward what brought you success, but there is also the nagging thought that someone (like myself) might call you out on repeating a formula. Knowing that, how much of what is on “Disengaged” was just natural, and how much was a conscious process of trying to grow and "hone?"
Bill: That's were I think we have an advantage.
Steve: Man, great question...and a big personal concern.
Troy: There's always the nagging thought that someone's gonna find fault. You can find it on every bulletin board on the web.
Bill: We try to hone our writing and recording, but we let the material dictate where the band is going.
Troy: But you gotta do something... so you might as well do...something.
Steve: I think one thing we've found is that most songs kinda write themselves. You just have to find out where its trying to go.
Troy: We're our own biggest critics. It don't leave until we say it's done. If no one else likes it...that's one thing...but at least we'll like it.
Bill: Like Bed of Stone. We never sat down and said "let's write a mellower tune for this album."
Steve: Bed of Stone is a perfect example of what I spoke of. As is Burn Georgia Burn. Those tunes both started out VERY differently.
Troy: Mirror images.
Bill: Bed started as acousticand Burn was accoustic.
Steve: Yup, and if we hadn't "listened" to what they wanted to be, they both would've suffered for it.
Phantom: When you are writing, is there a dynamic between the 4 of you? Take me through the life cycle of a song in TK.
Troy: It depends. Sometimes one of us has a riff. Sometimes Chuck comes in with a whole arrangement.
Steve: Depends on the song. Some write themselves, others have to be banged out with a hammer.
Phantom: Can you give me a "for instance...?"
Troy: In either case, it gets bastardized until it sounds like TK
Bill: Perfectly said.
Steve: Chuck wrote Burn as pretty much a complete arrangement, but it sounded all wrong. It was supposed to be a swampy acoustic diddy. We said "no, it should sound like this..." and we all cranked up and
kicked its ass. Thus Burn Georgia Burn was born.
Bill: 10 minutes later we had roomsucker.
Steve: On the flip side, Disengaged started about 10-12 years ago. That bastard went through 10 different arrangements until it felt right. But when we finally got there, it was worth it. Well... to us anyway.
Phantom: If I were to pass judgement (not that I do such things, of course) I would consider the biggest value in the songs on "Disengaged" to be how, let's call it "unrushed", they are.
Steve: Unrushed...that's an understatement.
Troy: I'm not sure I follow, Lou.
Phantom: They sound more like the material you would expect on a debut. And less like the average sophomore release.
Steve: Are you saying that the album seems refined? Or am I misreading?
Troy:Phantom: The tracks would suggest you've had a lifetime to work on them. The detail implies a great deal of time sarrangementng and producing the arragement(s). As opposed to the rushed approach so many 2nd albums often form as. Many bands almost take a step back in their evolution on second releases.
Steve: Ahh well, it certainly seemed like a lifetime at times.
Troy: We weren't fulfilling a contract obligation.
Bill: Thanks man!
Steve: And we didn't have a producer kicking our ass consnecessarilyough that wouldn't necessarrily be a bad thing. I do appreciate that though. Alotta effort went into that puppy. But like Troy said, we didn't have anyone telling us to "spit it out". Well... other than our fanbase.
Bill: I think the pressure might have affected us a little when we started it, but soon after we decided "It will be done when it's done."
Phantom: The further along you go, is there any concern that you may be a fad? Not intentionally in the [insert name of manufactured pop band] sort of way, but in conjunction with everyone starting to embrace the 1980’s again?
Troy: Fads are popular.
Steve: Always.
Troy: We've said it many times. When crowds get bored with us, we'll just go back to Bill's and do it for us.
Bill: When you look at how music revolves, isn't it all a fad?
Troy: Honestly, I don't hear that much "80's" in us.
Phantom: Which was going to be my next topic.
I dunno. There's definate elements of 80's rock in our music. Can't and won't hide where we came from. But, Chuck especially is great at spinning an unexpected twist melodically.
Troy: If anything, we may be too current.
Chasing what's "cool" at the moment will only make you tired.
Phantom: I listened to your
podcast back in November and one of the things that stood out to me -
Steve: Aside from porn talk?

Bill: Ah, sweet porn.
Phantom: That. And the discussion about walking the line between the 80's hard rock and the modern sound. Granted, your reputation around here is based on the covers, at least as a stereotype.
Bill: I think that approach was simple for us.
Steve: A given in this scene.
Troy: I don't agree that our rep is based entirely on our covers.
Phantom: But I think the 80's vibe is pretty strong in what you do. I don't think it's based on that entirely, but when I hear someone characterize you as "that 80's band," it's clear they are basing that opinion on a limited scope.
Troy: Then they miss the point.
Phantom: Well, it's certainly a narrow observation on what you do.
Bill: We play covers that we enjoy, not what's "cool" or brings in the most $. I guess that we're just lucky that it's working right now. We've all been in the "what's popular at the moment bands," mainly for money. And there's nothing wrong with musicians doing that for kicks and cash...
Phantom: Right...
Troy: And the 80s covers certainly weren't popular when we started playing them in 99. It's all the rage now, I suppose.
Bill: This week.
Phantom: Very true.
Steve: In a perfect world, we could go out and do all TK all the time. But, the reality doesn't allow that. So if covers are a necessary evil so to speak, do what you know. Although, we've tried to get away from that some
Bill: It's gonna be all about death mariachi once I learn how to spell it.
Phantom: Was that something you had in mind during the making of "Disengaged?"
Steve: The 80's thing?
Phantom: Well, balancing it.
Steve: Not at all. Truth be told, when we're writing or recording, all we care about is making it pleasing to our ears.
Phantom: So some of the same things that make you like those covers show up in the music you make.
Steve: Like I said earlier, you can't hide where you came from, but hopefully you put your own stamp on it.
Troy: I'm personally more influenced by the attitude and bombast of the old hard rock, than I am of the songwriting. Call me retarded, but I think "mainstream rock" songwriting is much better than it was 20 years ago.
Steve: Well yeah, lets be honest, the songwriting wasn't always the best.
Bill: Ron Keel is turning over at his campfire!
Steve: But he still has the right to rock.
Bill: Nice.
Phantom: Well, I don't believe you're lacking in the bombast department.
Steve: High five. If we can keep the bombastic quality, yet still have something worth a damn to say lyrically...I'm pretty happy.
Phantom: I speculate that your "enthusiasm", as you put it, is a large part of that bombast. So much of the music from that generation, for the better or worse, seemed to sound as though everyone had just buckled up to go along for the ride. It seemed so much less methodical than it does these days, and there is some value to that...and there's a downside, too.
Troy: Not everyone gets to go onstage with a great band every weekend. It makes me appreciative, and enthusiastic, to be a part of it.
Steve: It was all about fun back then. I dig that spirit. Nuthin but a good time.
Phantom: If I'm hearing anything from the three of you, it's that fun is the top priority.
Troy: Onstage, yeah.
Steve: Doesn't mean we can't be deep, but who says everything has to be about messed up childhoods? If we're not having fun, its just another job. Music is supposed to be an escape.
Phantom: One other thought from that podcast I want to touch on, and then I'll let you go. This sort of relates to what we were talking about earlier, about how you try to set yourself apart. But you spoke of the internet as a double-edged sword...
Steve: Indeed.
Phantom: Which isn't something you hear a lot of bands say these days. I thought that was an interesting observation. Most people see it as “oh, I can get 100 times the number of people to listen to me." Well, so can everyone else. Success used to be based on regional popularity and now you make yourself a smaller fish in a much, much larger pond.
Steve: Yup.
Bill: But can you get a 100 people to come see you?
Troy: And care.
Steve: And come back to the next show.
Bill: And buy the drummer a shot!
Phantom: Facilitating fast food fans? You think it makes it easier to forget about a band and move on?
Troy: Rock on the internet is like sex for a fish. Spray it wide, and see who gets..
Phantom: Yes.
Steve: Well, its no secret that attention spans ain't what they used to be.
Troy: Absolutely. Attention spans are down to what? A nanosecond?
Bill: You've got 10 million more to go download.
Steve: Flavor of the week isn't just a catch phrase.
Troy: Pulling no punches...a lot of bands just suck. It's always been that way. Now everyone can hear that they suck.
Steve: And it makes it that much more difficult to find the gems.
Troy: It truly is a sea of poo.
Steve: Yeainstantaneously many more people instantaniously...but so can everyone else.
Troy: Yes. You're not only competing for the club spot, and the entertainment dollar...but for 5 minutes of attention.
Phantom: Very true.
Steve: You just try to make the most of those five minutes, and give people a reason to come back.
Phantom: Sum that reason up for me. How are you guys making people come back?
Steve: Because we're genuine. We don't take ourselves seriously, but we do take our music seriously. We put all our heart into our live shows, and the energy isn't faked. We are having the time of our lives on that stage.
Bill: I'm proud of the material and I think it pulls people in if it get's that 5 minutes. As far as the shows go, is it a fad, or do you leave with a big smile on your face? Maybe they just come back to see if it will work again!
Troy: I'd say we spent more effort answering these questions than we do planning our 'entertainment' factor.
Bill: That's it!!
Troy: I feel like I just jump in and hold on.
Bill: Pure dumb luck is our formula.
Steve: Yup. naturallye what you do, it just natuarally shows.
Phantom: An excellent conclusion.
Troy: Cool. Thanks so much for putting up with us.
Bill: And thanks for giving a damn about music in this valley!
Phantom: I want to thank you guys for taking the time. Hopefully you had fun. And if you didn't, don't worry. Just tune in next week and I'll make fun of someone else.


Once again, thanks to TK for making the time and working through our initial technical obstacles to make this happen. I'm in hopes they enjoyed doiforwardas much as I did, and look foward to sitting down with another band in the near future, so hit me up if you're interested. Tune in next week, as I make good on my promise to make fun of someone new, and start pitting 16 bandroyalnst each other in a battle royale fight to the death. Thanks for reading. Until next we meet...

- The Phantom