First Among Equals
Posts : 1879
Join date : 2010-08-24
Location : London, UK / Vienna, Austria
|Subject: February 2018: Pre Sleepwalkers Q&A with Brian - online NOW Wed Feb 07, 2018 8:50 am|| |
we already got Brian's answers back for your pre Sleepwalkers questions! Thank you for all your questions, they made it again an interesting and very special Q&A session. You can find all the questions and his honest, open and super insightful answers below. Another great interview!
This thread is locked but if you want to discuss the answers or leave a message for Brian you can still do that here:https://thegaslightanthem.forumotion.com/t6484-exclusive-qa-with-brian-round-4-sleepwalkers-edition#191875
We do appreciate (and crave) your feedback
Enjoy the read!
The DSS Admin Team
What influences (band, books etc) inspired you the most for the new record? How did you choose the title for the record?
- Anya_TGA, LUX / jimla_ via twitterI was mostly influenced by the early 60’s British R&B scene (the animals, the early Rolling Stones) and also the Mod and R&B punk scene that came after that. Like the Jam, the Clash, The Bodysnatchers, and Elvis Costello. At the same time I was also exploring my love of American soul music, which I have loved since the beginning of Gaslight. The title “Sleepwalkers” came from the idea that these song take place in my mind and heart about the things I truly love, the things I don’t really talk about in day to day life... my “dream life” and since the record is always about “us” not “I” it’s very much taking place in that nighttime world of “sleepwalking” in between our regular lives and our dreams.
While looking at the tracklist, I noticed that some songs (specifically "Come Wander with Me" and "My Name Is The Night - Color Me Black") share their titles with episodes from the original Twilight Zone series. I know some of your previous songs like "Mulholland Drive" were at least partially inspired by films. Is this a coincidence, or has the Twilight Zone been inspiring some of your recent songwriting? If so, could you explain how the themes from these episodes made it into your songs?
- Magnificentdreamer, ESPI was really into the Twilight Zone when I was writing the record. It has this beautiful, uneasy mystery about it. And the titles were so great I had to borrow a few because they seemed to be able to capture what I was saying in the songs. The song aren’t about the episodes but they are part of that whole idea that “the Twilight Zone” is between reality and fantasy, much like the record is about our dreams between real life and sleeping.
What has been the biggest change for you between Painkillers and Sleepwalkers?
- JimmyB, USThe biggest change is that on Painkillers I was trying to find my sound as a solo artist and focus on things I hadn’t really done before (meaning a full album based with an acoustic guitar as the foundation.) But I realized over the last year on tour that everything I do is part of my sound because it’s me doing it and I want to embrace that. So the only rule on Sleepwalkers was “do what you love”. If you love it, it’s part of the sound. I wasn’t worried about if something was fast or slow or acoustic or electric. I took elements of all the albums and music and bands I’ve been in and let everything in and had fun with it.
I'm fascinated by the contrast between the upbeat sounds of the three Sleepwalkers tracks released so far and the recurring theme of death/afterlife in the lyrics. Can you speak to what inspired you to do this?
- Shiftyj, USOn this record I wanted to have more upbeat songs for the live show and I was really into using soul rhythms so I had that musically, but lyrically I was dealing with heavy thoughts in my life. Being a parent will do that to you. I was thinking “I’m not going to be here forever and that scares me because I feel I have a lot to lose now” so I had a million things to say about that on the record. I feel like it always remains positive though. There’s still a celebration of life even in the face of realizing your own mortality. It’s almost a “this is hard, but we’re still dreaming!”
What song on Sleepwalkers came the most easy for you to write? Which one was the most difficult and why? And which song on Sleepwalkers are you most proud of or excited for us to hear?
- WhitneyRobin121 via twitter, StitchesOnTheRadio, USWell, I actually had a pretty hard time writing the whole record. I was very inspired to do it, but it seemed I was having trouble getting the songs to be finished. That happens to me from time to time and usually it means I’m blocking something mentally that wants to come out, or I’m going in the wrong direction. So I had about 50 phone calls with my dear friend Matthew Ryan and we just talked for HOURS about songwriting, and our process, and I waited. Ha ha. I just waited and waited. Then one day I took Matthew and Ted Hutt’s advice and just wrote down what I loved and suddenly the gates opened and it all came out pretty quickly, in a few weeks. Writing is hard for me until I remember how much fun it is. I’m not a writer who needs to change the whole style to be inspired. I do what I do and I find that satisfying. Every time I try to push something through that’s not truly what I feel in my heart it always goes sideways. I will say I’m very excited to have everyone hear this record and sing along. I feel like I wrote it for all the people, like myself, who are searching and living, and learning, and loving. I also wrote this record entirely for myself, my family and my friends. This is absolutely an “us” record.
With Gaslight it seemed that guitars were usually tuned down a full step. In your solo work more songs are in standard tuning. Is that a result of the dynamic between being in a loud punk band compared to a solo artist with a more subdued sound on stage with additional instrumentation?
- brianzilm via twitterIn Gaslight we tuned the guitars down to suit my voice so it was easier to sing night after night at a full on pace without blowing out my voice every night. I think it sounds thicker and bigger, which is great for TGA. But with my solo stuff there more gentle parts, not all of it, but there’s a different kind of approach. I think the standard tuning helps the guitars sing and align with the organs and vocal melodies better. Also, it’s very hard to sing quieter songs so low. But now I’m learning more and I can play either way with a capo. So Im starting to know where to adjust to play in the same keys if a guitar is in standard or drop tuning.
What was the reason from changing the touring band from The Crowes to The Howling Weather? And who are The Howling Weather?
- samar.a_ via InstagramFor this record, I needed people who specialized in soul and r&b but still knew how to get things moving. The rhythms were very complex to get to feel right and that takes someone who is very familiar with that style. The Crowes are more of a rock and roll band, and I think they’re fantastic at it. But you have to use the people who suit the style best for each record you do, unless you’re in a steady band then it would be weird to hire out other people. So the Howling Weather is Matt Olsson on Drums and backing vocal, Nick Salisbury on Bass, and Ian Perkins on Guitar. But Dave Hidalgo Jr. played drums in the studio. He’s a monster drummer. Can do almost anything. I didn’t meet Matt at that point so Matt came in after the recording and Dave has to go back to Social Distortion.
It can be difficult to cut through one’s own gibberish and pinpoint what one's truly trying to say. Do you have a technique for pinpointing your message/intention when you are writing a song? And how do you match chords and lyrics?
- Crsmsi, GERIt’s really hard to get to the heart of what you’re trying to say in a simple and musical way. Sometimes it’s near impossible. I listen to Tom Petty and feel like I’ll never get to that level of directness mixed with poetry. I try to mix things between being direct enough to make my point have a point and abstract enough to let people insert their own lives into the story. The chords and lyrics aren’t really part of how I do it, I just choose the music by whatever moves me in the moment. The lyric and the rhythm decide much more of the lyric. To be chords are interchangeable I can use a G or and E and to me it’s only a subtle difference. I’ve been using similar chords for a long time but so did Johnny Cash and The Ramones and everyone else. I bet my learning piano will expand my chords on the next one though.
Your music, in all your projects, has beautiful touches of heartland, soul, folk and classic punk. How did you find your sound and are there more challenges in perfecting your sound while solo or when creating music with a band?
- jon_suslo via twitterI found my sound by including all the things I like and blending them together. A little of this, a little of that and eventually it becomes your own thing. The main trick is to let in everything you love and let it deep into your subconscious where it can become part of you. If you do it on purpose it’ll just sound like whoever you’re emulating. It’s much easier to make a particular sound when there’s only one person. When there’s more people in a band it’s only natural that all the people’s sounds get mixed together. Sometimes that’s great and sometimes it can be frustrating if you have a specific idea in mind. It really depends on what situation you’re in at the time. I enjoy both paths with the caveat “when it works.”
You've worked as producer on some really great records in recent years. What did you learn from being on the other side of the glass that you can apply to making your own records? Would you consider self-producing or do you think it's important to have another creative presence in the studio? And did you get into the technical side of the job or do you prefer to work with an engineer?
- cowgirlwiththeblues, UKI enjoy producing others. It’s a whole new thing seeing it from the angle of trying to get another person’s vision to sound the best it can be. I learned a lot, and it helps me in some ways with my own work because I understand both sides more so I can be more open to understanding what the producer is trying to get out of me than I was before. In other ways it doesn’t help me because I really like to have a partner making a record. From Ted Hutt to Brendan O’Brien, to Butch Walker, I really connected to each one of them and that helped me in the songs on all of those records. I’m not sure doing it alone would get me where I wanted to go. But with that said, I reserve the right to change my mind. You all know I love a good mind change from time to time!
I notice you switch guitars up a lot on stage, and even when you are writing - Tele's, 335's, Les Pauls, even your acoustics, Martin, Gibson and back. Why is that? Other than going for a certain sound, is it sometimes even just based on aesthetics? And what is the most prized guitar in your collection?
- The boy from Little Eden via DSS, avbizkit via twitterI think of guitars as tools. I’ve never fallen in love with any specific one for very long, and I don’t necessarily feel like I’ve found one that I ever bonded with in more than “this is my tool I use for work.” I change them up very often and it’s always about what fits what I need right now. Over the years I’ve drifted here and there with many different types but I still haven’t found one that I’d say is any better or worse than the next. I feel it more in my fingers and in my guts. I will say I’ve learned there are only subtle differences in any guitar and I can make “my” sound, whatever that is, on any one of them. Strat, Tele, Les Paul, anything. I do feel connected a little more when I play the big ES 335 and 345 guitars because they feel like acoustics to me. They make me feel like I’m tied into my grounding of writing in my room even when I’m on stage. I don’t really have any prized guitars. I wish I did. I guess if Gibson made me one that was my signature model I’d feel like that was special. I do love guitars in general though.
What is your songwriting process like now? How has it changed over the years? And, whether it has changed or not, what's the biggest thing you've learned from so many years of writing?
- wanderbunny vis Instagram / StitchesOnTheRadio, USMy writing process goes like this: BIG IDEA. Different idea. Long period of nothing, frustration, self doubt, depression. Acceptance. Then songs come. Always. It’s always a struggle for me to write because I desperately want everything to be good, and good by my own standards. It’s hard to write, but it’s really rewarding when it goes in your favor. New songs are like finding new love, it’s like the first time, every time. I’ve definitely learned to wait better during the “dry season” when I’m writing. That used to to really bum me out and make me depressed. I always used to feel like I had no more songs and the spirit had abandoned me forever. Untrue. I’ve learned now, in my years of writing and making albums, that it never leaves you. There will always be more songs, more poems, more art. You never run dry permanently. I feel better knowing that now. I think that’s true for everyone.
How has parenthood affected your songwriting (if it has at all)?
- ivienco, ARGI think parenthood effects you as a whole, so it goes everywhere. I don’t know that the kids have changed my writing but they definitely changed my perspective on the world, which has influenced my writing, especially now. They gave me a real sense of purpose and something to work hard for so that drives me even harder now to push for the best I can do at the time I’m doing it.
How does it feel knowing that something as simple as a lyric for you could mean so much to someone else that they choose to get it tattooed on them?
- StuClimson via twitterWell, first I think lyrics are not simple at all! I have lyrics tattooed on me from bands and I love it when people respond so much to a lyric that they would want a tattoo of it. That’s a real compliment for me. I don’t tend to judge people for really liking my music. Some bands seem to look down on their fans for being big fans and that seems very mean to me. I think it’s an honor to have someone tattoo a song on them.
You've recently mentioned taking piano lessons, guitar lessons and even a songwriting course in order to become better at what you do. Have you ever had any singing lessons, or is your improvement there down to experience, practice and learning what you're good at? And are you learning any new instruments besides the piano?
- cowgirlwiththeblues, UK, newforleslie via InstagramI am always trying to learn more. I feel like my goals are way beyond my abilities, which is frustrating, but also inspiring so I keep chasing them. I am constantly practicing and trying to learn more about guitar and piano and singing. I went to vocal lessons a few years ago but I found it was doing me less good. It seemed that I went through a period where I got more hoarse quicker on tour. Then I stopped with the lessons and started drinking a lot of water and that has seemed to help over the last two years since I recorded painkillers. I feel like I have more control over my voice now than when I was in my late 20’s and early 30s.
Do you envision the piano being the main instrument on future albums (or at least some future songs)? And does/would that change your songwriting process?
- Danastacy, USI think I would do some piano on a song if it called for it. I still love the guitar, though. It’s always going to be my main instrument to communicate with. It would be really lovely to have a piano on a song or two, I bet that would sound great! The piano does change how you approach writing because it has completely different patterns than guitar so your hands don’t just immediately go to their familiar places when you sit down.
I was wondering how you decide to change lyrics during live performances for some songs? For examples adding “just in case” to Navesink Banks or dropping the last line in Mae. Is it something you tweak in practice and then decide if you like it or is there more to it?
- ScottMillerMLB via twitterAny lyric changes usually come from the song developing for me, personally. Sometimes I just think of them, like with Navesink Banks, I just thought one night on stage while I was playing it “tucked beneath our coats... why? .... just in case.” So it just came out one night right there on stage. Then with Mae the whole song meaning changed for me in a big way. I thought it was about one thing and then I realized later it was about something completely different. Same with Blue Dahlia - so I included part of “Left of the Dial” by the Replacements in the bridge. Because the song had a new meaning to me. Sometimes the songs switch things up on me and I just go with it. I also try to keep the chorus’ the same so people can sing.
What have you found to be the hardest thing about being on tour?
- TGAforLIFE, USThe hardest thing on tour? Hmm... it may come as a slight surprise but I really hate to travel. I love the shows, but I hate the actual traveling part... the flying, airports, security checks, customs, immigration. It’ll make you insane. But the shows make that worth it so you do it. But that’s probably the part I find the hardest.
What can we expect from the summer 59 Sound shows? Will these be more than just playing the album? And is the Gaslight reunion a temporary thing only for the anniversary or will we see more of you in the near future?
- Tim via twitterFor the summer ‘59 Sound shows, we’re going to do the whole record and then play some of our other songs for the rest of the set. I think we’ll probably mix it up from all the albums and try to play a bunch of songs that we know people really like. Each show will vary here and there, like we always did. As far as anything else beyond that, we’re only doing the summer shows and then it’s back to laying low. When it comes to new music, that’s the same as I’ve always said, if we had an idea we all felt with all of our hearts, like we did on the other records, then we’d do it. But if we didn’t then we wouldn’t. One thing I can promise you is that none of us will do anything our hearts aren’t 100% in. We’re all heart or we’re nothing. The way I look at all of this is that the band is awesome - and it’s awesome if we can go out and play and enjoy ourselves and make the people who come to see us really happy too. Right now I’m getting to celebrate all that work we did and I’m grateful I have the ‘59 Sound and get to go play it.
Looking back on your career since the beginning of TGA, are three things you would have done completely differently now?
- mingus, BELOh wow, there’s about 50,000 things I would do differently. Haha. I’ll tell you that when I was with Ted Hutt making Sleepwalkers he really reminded me how I felt back in the beginning - before big shows, before Bruce, before ALL of the cool, and sometimes insane things that happened to me. - and the thing was that back then I really didn’t know anything other than I was so excited about music. It took me a long, and very hard, road to get back to a place where I feel like I only do what I love. I still worry, but I love what I’m doing so much that I have no answers for anything anymore. I don’t have any excuses for the music I make. I just really love it. I hope everyone else loves it too, but I realize not everyone will, but at long last, I can say honestly, that if someone doesn’t like it - then that’s 100% okay with me, it’s just not for them. I’m playing for the people who love it. Because I love it. So if you ask me what would I change... I would have spent less time trying to defend myself to people who were tearing me down and more time sharing the joy with the people who loved what I was doing