MAXX: What is your driving force for getting back together?
Dereck: The new CD ... public interest really. We have been doing things every now and then just because it felt good; we would do a little bit of this and that. When Randy LeMasters came up with the idea of putting out the CD, it just kinda snowballed from there. It makes sense to do some promotion on it and here we are!
Stephen: You know, the main force is the CD coming together because it just seemed to me there needed to be just more than a CD document. We need to at least consider coming back together; if not for the sake of promoting the CD, but then for ourselves and give the music another chance at a time when people would be eager to listen. So I say it really goes back to the CD compilation.
MAXX: What was the motivation for coming out with the CD, other than having the opportunity?
Dereck: Well, I think one thing is when the first CD originally came out, it was our first one, so we were green with experience. We were happy with it, but in hindsight, we liked it on tape, but the way it was mastered, it was too softly. It was an idea of Steve's ... for a while it would be nice to see it come out properly, sound like it's suppose to. When the opportunity rose, we jumped at it!
John: I felt the strong and urgent need to get out and jam my ass off!
MAXX: Cool! How did you come up with the title, "Essence and Rarities 1982-1987"?
Dereck: Steve came up with the title for the CD.
Steve: Well, I always wanted the Essence album to be heard better than it had been because when we first made the Essence and Charm CD in 1986, the masters we prepared were just masters for the album. We did not know anything about the dynamics of digital technology, the CD then sounds like the album then, just without the pops and scratches. But we come such a long way, we understand what a CD can do so, I thought would it be great to hear this music properly ... finally the chance emerged! We also had bits and pieces of other songs that had been around, on singles, or never been released, demos. Let's show what this band is about, not only prime album stuff but also the other parts, like what lead up to the album that took a year to make.
Dereck: Basically, we answered the questions the same.
MAXX: What is the difference between the old and new music on the CD?
Dereck: Well, there is no new music yet. But, the new music, once we get to it, will be a natural continuation, as well as a reflection on who is playing now that John Miller is back in the bamd... plus the fact that time has passed and we, as people, have grown. That will be reflected in the music.
Steve: What I will add to that is even though we don't have new material, per say, there is definitely a new feeling behind these songs that has never been played or felt before. That is what's new to this music, the execution.
MAXX: Dan and John (Miller): How does it feel to be the, or should I say, you (Dan), the new member and you (John) the reincarnated member?
Steve: The re-member! He does not remember the old stuff!
Dan: It's a completely new thing! I came from a different styled band, and I must admit, I was not that familiar with the band. I was familiar with the name, but not the band. Really not knowing, it was a pleasant surprise to be able to explore a much broader dynamic range than I was used to. The compositions and arrangements was something that just had occurred to me over and over. It's been very good.
John Miller: I'm really jazzed to be back in it and I am looking forward to it... I'm a man of few words.
MAXX: I'm looking forward to the new music as well. What are your future plans?
Steve: The things we talked about are playing outside the area, like going to the Midwest area like Lawrence, Kansas City, St. Louis. We want to go to Pittsburgh because apparently that is the Mecca waiting for us. It looks like we are ready in our minds to play away from Omaha. Beyond that, we hopefully will be doing some recording of new material in the winter, when the weather is too bad for touring.
Dereck: About all I can say is that what I'm excited about is getting started on the new creative process with writing together and working on new material. Again, repeating Steve, we would like to tour; we would like to head East first and see what happens. We would like to re-establish the name and I would like everyone to come and see us and enjoy us. We would like to come up with a variety of material.
John Tingle: Well, personally, I've had 5,000 to 6,000 hours of practice since we last recorded. I am anxious to show the new (Digital) Sex; otherwise people will have to come out and see the new Sex.
John Miller: Writing and being in the studio. [The man of few words...]
Dan: I'm anxious to see what happens with the new material. It will be nice to be a part of the composition process as opposed to sort of hashing things that have been played by other people. I try not to listen too much to what has been done before I try to give it a different sort of feel; this way, I will be a part of it.
The new CD, Essence and Rarities, is at your favorite music store now. I urge you to pick it up as it will be an experience you will not forget. It is amazing to think the music was written over 10 years ago, yet it sounds like it was written yesterday!
I asked Stephen these questions via email. I think Stephen may have edited the questions or added more questions when he sent back his responses.
What have you been up to since the end of DS in 1994?
I've been hibernating and waking up, sometimes simultaneously. I'll start with the crappiest news first because there's a lot more good news.
In the space of two months in 1999, I got married and divorced. It was absolutely the most horrifying experience in my entire life. It nearly killed me emotionally, mentally and financially. I should have never gotten involved with her in the first place. I had no idea what I was getting into. My ex-wife has a history of mental illness. That wasn't the problem. The problem was that she did not treat it or manage it consistently in the years before we met. She would tell me things about what she'd done or what had happened to her in the past and I would think to myself, wow, well you seem okay now. I had no idea what it all meant or stemmed from. I was totally clueless because I'd never known anyone who'd been through what she had. She was very high-functioning and appeared on the surface to be stable and charming. Part of my getting through my devastation from the divorce was researching mental illness in depth. Terms and phrases like "acting out," "externalizing" and "projecting" came up many times. I had more than one counselor tell me that what she did had nothing to do with me. While I understood what they said, it didn't make me feel any better. To anyone who's never loved someone who struggles with mental illness, you have absolutely no idea what this is like. For over a year I was overwhelmed with intense grief and a depression that wouldn't move. She and I tried a reconciliation (on her suggestion) a year after we split. I honestly believed in the beginning that she was sincere in wanting to atone for her actions and was on the road to becoming an accountable adult. We made quick progress in the reconciliation at first, even discussing ways in which to become a couple again and various approaches to having children. But after about 3 months, she casually announced one day that she had met and fallen in love with some guy in Florida! The real slap-in-the-face came when she said that she still wanted to remain friends with me. Now I clearly knew that she was still stuck so I immediately disassociated myself from her, her family and her friends. I tried to feel compassion for her and her struggle but she's lived long enough to see the consequences of her choices and the damage she's inflicted by the masks that she wears and her deceitfulness. She's probably living in Boca Raton and sporting a tan.
In the middle of 1998 I developed tinnitus. It just started out of the blue. At first I thought it was due to my years playing in bands and wearing headphones. But my tinnitus is transigent, it comes and goes. I have good days and bad days. When it first hit me it was unbelievably overpowering. It's not like you're just being pestered by an annoying sound. What most people don't realize is how tinnitus affects your perceptions, your emotions and your reactions. If you came near me on a bad ear day you could walk away wondering why I was being curt or apathetic. Fact is, I didn't really know what I was feeling. I tried homeopathy, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, Western herbs, an ear specialist and I even tried drugs to calm down from the anxiety of it but nothing really phased it. The one treatment that has given me relief has been Cranial Sacral Therapy. It's been miraculous. I've also had good luck with certain Ayurvedic herbs and specific essential oils. I've come to realize that my tinnitus is due to an imbalance in my limbic system which is the fight-or-flight response in the brain. So for me, avoiding and managing stress is the key to keeping it under control. I still have bad days but nothing like it once was and nowhere near as frequent.
Digital Sex ended in 1994 based around a dispute over where to record new music we had written. Two of the guys in the band were partners in a studio and wanted to record there. I was one of the other members who wanted to record at Ware House Productions with Tom Ware again and didn't feel that there was any reason not to work with Tom. His studio is the best studio in the city, we've worked with Tom on nearly every song we'd ever done, why should we not continue with something that works so well? The other guys wouldn't budge so I proposed that we record in both places and let the results speak for themselves. When they said they wouldn't do that either, I walked away.
After I quit DS in 94, I was sick of being in bands, sick of playing in bars, sick of the music industry and the attitudes, and the prospect of making music that might not be appreciated or even heard. I'd been down this road before with Digital Sex in the 80s and with The World in the 90s and I had no interest whatsoever in jumping back into a band and wearing all those hats again of singer, songwriter, promoter, booking agent, producer, warehouse manager, accounts receivable, etc. I'd always had a dream to reissue my solo album Eyes Of The Wilderness in a remastered form and I did that in 1997. Besides the remastering I completely redesigned the packaging, added 4 songs from an album that The World had recorded and not released, and included a hidden track by Missionary Position. The new version improved the original and added other elements that were in some way related to the New Rose version. I put that CD together with the thought that that might be the last word from me. I really didn't know at the time if it would be or not. Overall, the reissue of Eyes Of The Wilderness is the best thing I've ever done.
Saving the best for last, Dereck and I reconnected in 1998 following a 4-year silence. He and I began to drift apart during that last version of Digital Sex and when the band ended on a sour note, we avoided each other. Thanks to this website, we've been enjoying a great friendship which is something we never had much time to do before as bandmates and as a songwriting team. It's great to be back in the fold with him and we'll stay friends forever.
First off, what's your favorite song, of all the ones you've written? (Why?) (...favorite(s) from Digital Sex, The World, your recent work...)
From Digital Sex I would have to say In Her Smile, from The World I would choose Swayed By Sentiment, from my solo stuff I'd pick The Romance Isn't Over, and from Between The Leaves I'd nominate Sing To Me. I like how In Her Smile just starts up without an intro and the way there's something new added to the song at each verse. Swayed By Sentiment was my ode to Dif Juz after I'd heard they'd broken up. It's also about me inviting my girlfriend at the time to come up to my 3rd floor apartment and lay with me on my futon. It was first called The Futon Song. The Romance Isn't Over is a weird combination of The Stranglers' What's That In The Shadows and a melody from a Warner Bros. cartoon from the 1940s. The keyboard break was also used in Radium Lovers. I tend to recycle and compost certain things in songs. You can hear the exact same chords but in a different sequence in several of my early songs. If you guess those songs correctly, I'll send you a free coupon for a pint of Ben & Jerry's. I tend to remember or be influenced by tiny bits of music then distort them either intentionally or because I'm not remembering them correctly. As an example, part of the inspiration for The Days Go was the song I Could Be Happy by Altered Images. I have no idea if I got close to it or not. Probably not. Sing To Me could easily qualify as one of my all time favorite songs. Richard had some riffs that he'd had around and as we worked on it, the song kept expanding and taking different directions. I love how the song keeps changing and goes from this mournful plea to this upbeat bah-bah-bah vocal section that's in the vein of Sunday Will Never Be The Same by Spanky & Our Gang.
What is your goal in life? (music and non-music goals)
My music goal is a general one: stay active and keep confusing myself. I have the time and energy to work but not to constantly recruit people or projects. If anyone who is sincere, dedicated and stable wants to talk about working together, they should contact me. There are loads of great bands and musicians in this area that I'd love to get involved with like The Faint, The Movies, Fizzle Like A Flood and a lot more. I want to be a lot more active in producing, mixing and writing. On a personal level, I've become a whole lot better in dealing with fools and foolish situations. One of my goals is a fool-free life. But there are lots of them out there and they look just like you and me. As incredible and fulfilling and at times overwhelming as my life is right now, I do feel a bit lonely. I'd like to share my life with someone who's comfortable in their skin and sincerely cares about me. I'd like to fall in love and eventually have kids along with everything else that goes on in our individual lives. I'd consider not having kids if the other person was someone that I felt very strongly about but they'd really have to be someone unique. I would not make that concession lightly.
If you close your eyes and imagine the perfect audience...what is that scene?
Sober and focused. Wouldn't really matter where. As long as they were present with us and not worrying about their laundry or their job or whether there's enough beer in their glass to sustain them. I've played before cross-armed critics and I've played before impressionable people. I've won over both so I guess I really can't imagine what would make an audience perfect. I've never had an audience sing the lyrics of a song back to me. That might be a step toward a perfect audience. I'd like to experience that. Preferably at an outdoor summer festival somewhere in Europe where there's always enough beer to sustain everyone. Even Hawkwind.
Now if you close your eyes and remember some of your favorite scenes from your own musical life, what are those?
Some of the shows with the first incarnation of Digital Sex from 1982 to 1984 were pretty damn amazing. I have tapes from those days. For a 3-piece with a singer we made quite a huge sound. Unfortunately the records we made from those days don't capture the throb that we used to fill the room with while we performed. The earliest gigs that we did at Saner's and upstairs at Howard Street Tavern were usually pretty memorable. I also recall great gigs at The Drumstick in Lincoln and at So's Your Mother's in Des Moines. Of course the show that we opened for REM at a titty bar called The 20s was a great night. That was probably '83 or '84. They were hot shit back then and everyone was watching them become more and more popular and mainstream. But to me their songs sounded the same and they didn't have much of an edge to them. They were still doing their jangly guitar thing. I thought our set was more dynamic and diverse and interesting. Definitely more sexual than their new style of mumbling Southern Rock. There was more going on in our song Theory Of Games than in their entire set. I thought we mopped the stage with them. We went to an after-show party with them and Michael Stipe was handing out little black breath mints and saying they were opium. Dereck ate one and to this day swears he got off. Two of my biggest thrills had nothing to do with gigs. The first time I went to Europe in 1990 to do a promotional tour I landed in Brussels and was so wired with energy that I had to tour the city. I walked into the first record store I saw and there on the shelf was the Eyes Of The Wilderness CD on New Rose! That was exceptional. I was just blown away. Another great moment was seeing an article written about me in an issue of Pulse (the magazine published by Tower Records) that featured Brian Eno and John Cale on the cover.
Do you believe you will have that perfect gig, that perfect audience?
I never think in terms of perfection. I don't want much to do with it or in chasing it. Perfection is a bottomless pit with no rewards except the illusion of perfection. This is how I view anything I do: I work with the available materials under a given situation with a certain group of people and watch what happens. Perfection means constant control and micro-management. I'm interested in arriving at the point where you release control and see how far the momentum you created keeps going. I'm much more interested in limitations and restrictions than in endless possibilities.
The first time I heard your music is when Randy LeMasters sent me Essence and Rarities and Eyes of the Wilderness after finding out I was a big fan of For Against. The instant I heard the music on those two CDs, I loved it and I played them over and over again for days when I first got them, something I almost never do. It was so *easy* to like your music, so natural. The main thought going through my mind was "God, this is awesome; why haven't I heard of this before??? "What are your thoughts about this?
When it became obvious to me that there was interest in our music, I began to wonder (and doubt) if we'd ever go beyond a certain level of success or accomplishment. We weren't unified as a group in terms of what to do beyond playing in local bars. Touring for us was out of the question mainly because we had a couple guys in the band with full time jobs that would not allow them to disappear for a few days or weeks at a time. This was especially important with John as he was a husband and father with 3 kids and his wife was not working. Replacing John with someone else was never an option because the Tingle sound was every bit a part of the sound of Digital Sex as was my voice, Dereck's bass playing and Greg's drumming. So instead of touring I went to the edge in promoting the band through its recordings. I made sure than every music magazine in America and Europe had copies as well as certain record labels. I paid for ads and flyers. I went to New Music Seminars in New York for many years and did the gladhand routine. NMS was every bit as important back then as South By Southwest, CMJ and Gavin conventions are now. I also used record pool services to get our records into college radio stations across the country. If we could have gone out on the road at that time, we could have played in almost any college town or major market in front of audiences who either knew our music or at least our name. The biggest promotional feather in my cap was getting Digital Sex on MTV without a video. MTV hyped our French CD on their music news. Alan Hunter did the story and they filled the screen with the cover of our disc. Incredible to think about now and I didn't have to kiss any ass or make any stupid promises or favors to make it happen. I had built a great foundation for the band to expand upon but the reality was that we were stuck in Omaha unless we wanted to drastically change our sound or our personal lives which at the time we weren't all willing to do. I did absolutely all that I could under the circumstances to get our music heard and make it available to people and I did a damn good job of it. Plus, I did it for years and years after the records were released, even during periods when the band had broken up and was non-existent.
Will Digital Sex ever play or record again?
I've been asked variations on this question for many years and in some cases have felt pressure to reunite the band or write songs again with Dereck. Since Dereck and I have reconnected we have done some work together. We worked on a few songs on his home studio and remixed a song by The Faint. We enjoyed working together and the results of our work but Dereck and I have different priorities. Dereck has told me several times that he's never been that interested in doing the work required to be and stay successful in the music business. But the music game has changed quite a bit and there are more options available and more levels of success to choose from. I tend to go where the wind takes me but if it were up to me I'd like to make another Digital Sex CD with Dereck and John and Tom Ware. We're all still here and we're all playing better than we ever have. There is no question that we could make a record that would be fantastic. I have no hesitation in saying that whatsoever. We've also put the past behind us far enough to enable us to work together and enjoy the process of working together as well as the music that we'd make. But I suppose in fairness to everyone we'd have to rename ourselves Geritol Sex. I recently said that the only reason for the band to reunite to perform would be to open for The Faint but that has not been arranged and I'm not actively pursing it at the moment.
What's the status of Between The Leaves?
Between completing his college degree, his other band, working jobs and having a new girlfriend, Richard told me he no longer had time for Between The Leaves. Even though we were partners and collaborators and shared an equal vote, he viewed his participation in BTL as a side project. On his website he described himself as my sideman which I never once considered him to be. So Between The Leaves has run its course. I'm glad that we could record a few songs but wish that we could have recorded a few more like Con-Spire and Judas Pinocchio. We also did an incredible version of Thoughts Of You.
Why was the BTL CD "Waiting For Eurydice" withdrawn and when will it come out?
Richard reacted very negatively to the artwork which came as quite a shock to me, especially after receiving nearly unanimous and enthusiastic praise for it from people who had seen it. I still like it quite a lot and feel that it's the best design I've ever done with such limited resources. I thought his reasons and reactions were a bit dodgy and More-Moral-Than-Thou so I cancelled the whole thing and backed away from him because it quickly became apparent that he only wanted what he wanted and compromise didn't really interest him. I felt like he viewed me as his employee or his record label and I'm not either to anyone. So now it's in limbo. I've been actively shopping it to various labels in hopes that someone will license all or some of it.
The front cover of your Eyes of the Wilderness CD absolutely stuns me and is my favorite album cover! I find myself drawn to scenes like that: cold, isolated, natural, with no landmarks, no drama. It's simply LIFE. I love it. Did you take this picture? Was it cold out? Are the white patches really snow? Why did you select that particular image for your album cover?
The Eyes Of The Wilderness reissue is by far the most complete and multi-layered project I've ever done. There are some aspects to the design, which I think are blatantly obvious, that people have never caught to this day! The cover shot is a picture I'd taken while out driving around one day in the winter. That hill and those trees no longer exist. It's now an auto parts store or something of equal cultural enrichment. I'd always felt that that image should be used on a record cover and it was perfect for the Wilderness reissue project. It's partly inspired by the original Martyn Atkins cover of the Joy Division 12-inch single for the song Atmosphere on Factory Records.
Do you enjoy listening to your old music? How often do you do you listen to your own records? Which ones do you listen to most often?
I try to deliberately take long breaks with my music now, even with the BTL CD which I enjoy listening to immensely. The longer the gaps, the more I can hear and enjoy the music and not get stuck in analyzing it. I haven't heard the Power In The House compilation in a long time. I always like hearing that because it's not just me. I prefer to listen to my stuff when someone else plays it or when I don't know that it's coming, like hearing it on the radio or in a record store or at a carny. But overall it's not something that I find very rewarding or interesting.
When someone meets you in person and doesn't know about your music, and then asks your about your music, how do you describe your music?
It depends on who they are and the mood I'm in. I can tell when people are really interested or not. I deliberately keep it general and use terms like melodic, atmospheric, pastoral, textural, sensual, the same words that I use when I write about myself in a singles ad.
If that person asks to hear your music, do you reach for a CD or do you reach for your guitar?
If I reached for a guitar the other person would reach for an aspirin. I'd rather they have a relationship with the song on the record than with me. Too many people insist on believing that all songs are biographical and I have no interest in fulfilling anyone's imagination or fantasies. After I write and record a song it doesn't really 'belong' to me anymore. It becomes something that people either include in their life or they don't. I'd rather they view me as who I am and not as a personification based on an idea or feeling inspired from a song of mine.
Are there any songs [on a recording] on which you feel the performance actually exceeded the writing?
Never thought about it that way before but the first song that came to mind was Innocence At Will. That's an example of a song that needed some form of space or environment in order to live, whether it's coming off a stage or enhanced in the studio. Based on just the parts alone, it's probably not very interesting. But the version that was released captured the desperateness that inspired it. Love Or Lust is an even better example. The studio was a significant instrument for both of those songs.
What about production; were there any notable "happy accidents" in the studio which resulted in a dramatic increase in your enjoyment of the song?
I can think of one right away. While mixing In Her Smile, Tom started doubling the guitar break through a delay after it was recorded. It was a small trick but a huge improvement and it sounded quite a bit like Vini Reilly so we kept it. Otherwise there are always tiny things here and there that weren't part of the songwriting that somehow jumped on board like panicky stowaways. I can hear little things like that in almost every song.
If you could "get away" and drop all your responsibilities for a month or a year, and devote that time to creativity (music, art, whatever you wish), where would you go?
Because we're so landlocked here I usually escape to somewhere that has what we don't have, like oceans, hot springs, old growth forests, etc. Cities and urban environments don't hold much interest for me anymore, including the one I'm currently in. I've always wanted to record under the pervasive influence of natural beauty because I never have. A lot of my favorite rock groups from the 70s would do this: They would live together in a communal space and take their personal relationships into the music making which I think is much more interesting than people who simply come together occasionally to make sound, as though it's part of a job description and they're simply building a resume. I would first go through an initial do-nothing period of decompression to unwind a bit. Then I would gradually acclimate to a workspace and slowly build up the speed and frequency of work. And I would make as much time as possible to be naked in the woods.
What band or artist would you most love to cover one of your songs?
I think the question should be, why hasn't anyone yet? I think New Order could do a great version of In Her Smile provided I sing it and Vini Reilly plays the guitar break. That's not asking much is it. Eno could probably do something great with Radium Lovers or Thoughts Of You. Might as well have Bauhaus try Love Or Lust. The Kings of Convenience should do Thanks For Living, Roxy Music could do Tortured Beauty and if the Left Banke ever returned they should of course do Second Wind. Todd, the vocalist from The Faint, says he likes The Days Go and I'm sure they could put a nice sawtooth edge on it. I would really, really love to hear someone cover a song of mine. That would mean a lot to me.
Name your ten favorite bands and your ten favorite albums. (Yes, it's a hard, over-asked question... just name the first bands & albums that popped into your head at the word "favorite")
This nearly gave me a stroke. I had to stretch the parameters a bit. In no particular order they are:
Favorite local artists (past and present):
Have you ever thought about teaching music?
I would be better as an un-teacher. After students learn their fundamental music crap I would delineate their thinking by making them consider music in less certain terms. I would have them write a piece that included all the frequencies and overtones in a table or a toilet or a carrot or glass of milk or the carpet. I'd also make them write a piece of music then remove every note divisible by four. I was doing some things like this when I was in bands but very secretly. I found out that most rock musicians hate to hear 3 things: turn down, slow down, and play fewer notes. Most musicians are hellbent to prove how useful they are. I'd rather they fumble occasionally. You can't make discoveries without getting lost.
Unreleased studio recordings (for DS, the World, and your solo music): Is there enough for a CD? What would have to happen for that CD to come out? Live music: same questions. What would it take to get a live CD (or more) released?
Oh God there's enough for a box set at least. There's half an album by The World that hasn't been released and loads of songs scattered all over, like Vigil, which was a contribution to a Pablo's Eye album. There are loads of incredible live tapes from the very earliest Digital Sex days and there are two complete nights of World shows that contain never-released songs such as Facing The Sun and Far Away, as well as great versions of old Digital Sex material and Wilderness tracks. I'm pretty sure we have tapes of unplugged performances of just me, John and Dereck. And Dereck still has quite a stack of home recordings that could be included, such as demos, alternate versions and covers like David Bowie's Ashes To Ashes. There's even a Christmas song by The World which was the first thing that the band ever recorded, Carol Of The Bells, featuring John on icicle guitar. And we have more than our share of photos and videos. But as far as doing something like this, I have to ask some unpopular questions: Who would want this and how many of you are there? This is not to slight anyone who likes the music. An archiving project of this size could take 2 or 3 years to do. It could easily take a year to put out just a single disc of material. And do we make 5, 50, 500 or 5000 copies? There are still copies of the Digital Sex and Eyes Of The Wilderness reissues available and those were pressed in small numbers. If someone discovered or rediscovered our songs and used them in a way that elevated the band, I think the effort would be justified. Maybe Without Hesitation could be used in a snowboard commercial. Or Iggy Pop could cover Theory Of Games for a movie soundtrack. It would take something as preposterous as that to kickstart another archival reissue as far me getting involved.
This is a purely hypothetical question, but, like the "ten favorites" question, it's one of those "hot topics" that's hot because it has a direct influence fan's behavior...What are your personal thoughts (and/or your professional stance) regarding musical piracy? Does it matter to you which technology is used:
I don't rely on the Internet or any specific new technology to build my music library. I know that more and more people are doing that so I'm probably in a shrinking minority. I'll listen to a cut or 2 from an artist on a website and get a sense of their aesthetic. If I want more I'll buy their CD either from them directly or in some other way. All I want is a taste. It's not very interesting for me to download music, burn CDs and file them away. In simpler terms, it isn't very fun. If given the choice I'd rather spend my money at a real brick and mortar record store than on a website. To me the Internet is like a storefront window. If I like what I see I'll go inside, look around and maybe buy something. I think there should be an exchange of some sort between audience and artist. The idea that music is free or should be free is not healthy. Plus, one of the few shopping experiences that I still can look forward to and enjoy is grazing glassy-eyed and drooling through a record store. I want the whole package, not just a download. I'm a tactile guy. I gotta touch it.
What's the first song you ever recorded?
The absolute very first song that I recorded was me singing Happy Together by The Turtles acapella into my dad's big monaural reel-to-reel tape recorder. I was probably 5 years old. I'd give away a testicle to hear that now. But as far as "real" recordings, those go back to the days at University of Iowa. I studied for a full year in their Electronic Music Studio and worked with 2-track reel-to-reel tape machines, a Buchla synthesizer, an EMS Synthi II in a plastic suitcase like Eno used to use, a huge Moog synthesizer and an ARP 2600. Most of these synths used patch cords as nothing was modular at the time. None of these primitive keyboards were polyphonic or had pre-sets or memory. Everything was hit and miss and you'd probably never get the same sound twice. They were basically fancy oscillators with filters that were triggered by the keyboard. You weren't really playing notes, you were shaping wave forms. I did some ambient things back in those days that I no longer have copies of. Really wish I did. Then one day I walked into a radio station studio at WSUI and taped myself playing a weird air-driven keyboard called a Monet. I wrote and performed an anti-drug song. I can't remember the title of it but some of the words were: Do you remember the flashes you had/What they said to you/You wrote them off as not being right/Kicking around the grains of truth. I don't have a tape of it but I remember it sounding like something John Cale would write so I sang it like him. When I got out of college I started a duo with Megan Bury, the sister of Buck Naked, and we recorded 4 songs. One was a Wire song that I can't remember the title of, something about Three Girl Rhumba, another was a version of Bowie's Heroes and a Bowie instrumental from Low called A New Career In A New Town. The 4th song was an original but I don't remember much about it. I think it was a song that eventually became Dervish Dance for Digital Sex. Again, no tape survives. All we had was a very primitive beat box, a guitar and a keyboard. We were set up to play at a birthday party of mine but I was too high to do it so it didn't happen. We never attempted it again. Too bad. It was pretty cool from what I vaguely remember. After that Digital Sex started up and it was all downhill from there (I'm kidding, you fool).
What was the most musically productive point in your life? What were your days like during that period, and what are some of the songs that came out of that time?
I recall a week during the Maureen & Kevin era of Digital Sex, maybe 1986, when I worked on and completed 3 songs: Tortured Beauty, Look For Outstretched Arms and When Feelings Change. Those songs were departures for me lyrically, particularly Outstretched Arms and When Feelings Change. I really liked those songs and still do but I always wondered in the back of my mind if anyone besides me could find anything in them. I was living temporarily with my friend Molly in her really nice apartment on Park Avenue and Douglas Street because I had my license taken away for DWI. She lived along a bus line so I could still go to work, which was probably waiting tables at the Spaghetti Works. What a food factory that place was. And still is. I was dating a girl named Penny who seemed very exotic to me because she always wore a wrap around her head and always wore very cool earrings and bracelets. Kind of a white girl Erykah Badu in her own way. I love things like belly chains and arm bracelets and toe rings. I adore adornment. Penny worked at high end clothing stores like Nouvelle Eve and Linea. She had a lot of individual style and was feminine in a way that I don't see much of anymore. Plus she had a sense of humor as snide as mine and she was the most amazing cook I'd ever known. I eventually moved in with her and we got a cat that we named Puss. Unfortunately I was still deep in my drug phase and would be for 3 more years. But for some reason I was still writing good stuff. Once I get revved up working on songs, they start flowing out pretty easily even if they were diverse and seemingly unconnected as those previous 3 were. Soon after that I moved into a 3rd story apartment across the street from Hanscom Park where I wrote Astray and several World songs like Swayed By Sentiment. Dickson LeBron of Atomic Breathing used to live there before me and Steve Schneider from Power In The House moved in after me. I lived there for about 7 or 8 years until I ended up where I am now. I picked this house with my girlfriend at the time Cynthia, a really sweet person who I still think about and hope that she's doing alright. I'm pretty lucky in that nearly every single song I've ever written has been recorded and released.
What's up with Bliss Repair?
This is the project I've been doing for several years with Eric Rea. It's taken a long time because we live in different cities. We've been working on tracks for a CD. This stuff is really great and wonderfully damaging. Eric's mixes and production have been amazing. People will be taken aback by it. The majority of this project is based on plundering and pilfering and all in great warped fun. No release date yet but it's nearly finished. Better wear a helmet for this one.