Hello Josh. What are you up to today?
Hi! Today’s activities: Trying to finish reading a manuscript for a book I’ve been asked to write a song about, but not getting very far – I’ve been lapsing into marathon stretches of Grand Theft Auto 4 and working on my secret chicken hotwings sauce. I should be trying harder – it’s for the new Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. (Eoin Colfer’s writing the next installment while Douglas Adams has a kip.)
You’ve had a pretty big rollercoaster of a ride over the past few years. What would you say has been the highlight for you since things really kicked off in 2004?
It’s been more like a rickshaw over a very bumpy street. A few nice and unexpected things have happened, but ALL of the weird and crappy things have as well (sometimes more than once.) Don’t make me quote Hunter S. Thompson*.
A good big moment for me was the first time I actually multi-tracked myself on my own proper 16-track digital recorder. I remember being so excited by how good everything sounded to me that I would literally giggle aloud to myself on the street for the next month straight. It was just very inspiring, because suddenly I was aware that a whole world of studio quality sound- clean, digital, and overdubbed to the bejesus- was now open to me 24/7. This was probably before 2004. Maybe like 2002? Does it still qualify as an answer?
Reading about you online, you’ve been compared to a whole range of people – who do you like / agree with being compared with? Is there anyone you’ve been compared to that you just think “what the hell? I sound nothing like them!”?
Honestly, I’m just happy that I’m past the point of having to be the only one describing myself. Probably one of the most painful acts in the world is to be made to describe your own music. This is the curse of the indie musician. And the description always has to be boxed up in a succinct melding of no more than three incredibly spectacular, conspicuously obscure influences. It’s someone else’s job now, so have at it. “A cross between late-period Hildegard Von Bingen, mango guacamole, and a space heater.”
Anyway, I play piano, so I get a lot of Elton and Ben Folds. (No problems there- I’m a fan.) I get the Tod Rundgren nod once every twice in a lifetime. The Queen comparisons are insanely flattering but (unfortunately for me) I know I’m not even close. That level of proficiency is something to aspire to, for sure. I don’t necessarily argue about it, but when it comes up, I sulk silently to myself in a dark corner because I know the cold, hard truth Something that doesn’t get a lot of play is that I’m a massive Iron Maiden fan (the classic period, or course.) Just once I’d like someone to pick up on the Steve Harris influence in my bass playing, dammit.
What can we expect from your second album that your first album didn’t have? Is it shaping up to be the “tricky second album” or is that just a much-fabled misconception?
I’m doing all the drums this time. Some of the production will be a bit more stripped down sounding, but I’m also toying with going fully orchestral on some stuff too. I’ve already bought myself a new conductor’s baton. I know, “there he goes again with delusions of grandeur…”, but you’d be amazed what can be done these days with a computer and a little bit of spit!
On the subject of songwriting – how does it start for you? Lyrical concept? A riff? A drug fuelled orgy?
I’m going to have to go with “all of the above.”
Before going on stage, do you have any rituals?
Can I go with “all of the above” again? (see the previous question for details.)
What would be a cool location you’d like to do a gig at?
Location optional, but I really want to be in that wedding band that does all the dirty versions of famous disco songs, with the phantom f-bombs. I could just be one of the background guys. Maybe on the tambourine or marimbas.
Finally, what music, books and TV / films are you really enjoying at the moment?
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, “Sheherazade”
Johannes Brahms, Symphony No. 3.
David Bowie, “Hunky Dory”
David Newman, “Wall-E” Soundtrack
“The Blind Watchmaker” by Richard Dawkins
“The Soloist” by Steve Lopez
“And Another Thing” by Eoin Colfer
Pro Tools User Manual by necessity
“District 9” That’s my hometown…and pretty much the way I remember it.
“The Edge Of Love”- awesome score by Angelo Badalamenti.
“Inglorious Basterds”- Blowing up Nazis just feels goooood.
“Once Upon A Time In America”
* “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”