First, congrats on your new single. It’s amazing indeed. Well done! I believe that you’ve started as a musician before going into the film industry, right?
Yes, as a teenager I played in a few different rock bands as well as recording countless self-produced cassettes by myself and with my partner John Gibson. For a career I wanted to be a filmmaker or picture editor, but I naturally gravitated toward sound editing. With that as my day job, I was able to continue creating and releasing music on the side.
Although you’ve got great ‘70s rock vibes, your mixing elements are very unique. Was it planned during the songwriting process?
Do you mean the bits of different genres that pop up? In general the songs just come out all at once when I’m writing, and when I’m recording I may notice that a section would sound better with different instruments or with a baroque or country vibe, and I never fight those tendencies. In fact, I depend on them!
According to your bio, you’ve been more active in music during the 80s/90s era, what happened after and does this mean that you’re on a comeback?
Several things happened in the early 1990’s that threw me off track. Getting married and raising a family caused a lot of tension with my music, even though my wife Julie had agreed it would always be a part of our lives. At the height of my “cassette underground” success, I had to throw it all away because of the pressure and the tension. Then my wife died, so I relocated several times with my two kids, remarried, and finally took on a heavy sound editing schedule, especially the Netflix series Narcos. I did about 80% of the sound work on Narcos so it was creatively fulfilling, as if each episode was another album. As far as music, my wife Sharon has been absolutely supportive in however much I chose to do or not to do, but I decided to finish my sound career before returning to music full time, which is exactly how it turned out. So yes, it is a comeback!
At the same time, you were a writer in several iconic magazines, may I ask why you stopped doing this and just started your own blog?
Actually, I only wrote for Option Magazine, and mostly underground cassettes in the early days. However, I clashed with the editor and also burned out on homemade music, so I didn’t write for decades. I did get nice articles about me printed in Alternative Press and Keyboard, among others. Recently I began contributing to Divide & Conquer Music blog as a reviewer, and it’s been great to delve into so much new music! It’s obviously a different era with different tools but the creative spark among artists is quite similar.
I tried to find any music videos for your songs, but I was unlucky. Are you planning to release one soon?
A series of generic music videos are now on youtube, but they are just my music with static cover images. I have other videos on youtube but they are mostly not music related, though a couple are. I was actually trained as a filmmaker so a video wouldn’t be out of the question, but I’m still hacking through literally 25 years of song demos for upcoming albums, and shooting a video would require a totally different mindset. I don’t want to make a video where I just sit there and mouth the words; it would have to be as creative as the music.
I’ve read that you opened for Van Halen back in the ’70s. Tell your fans how did this happen.
I was in a working band called Highway Star after graduation from high school, and we mostly played mainstream rock for parties and school dances. In the mid 1970s, kids were moving away from rock and toward soul, or what was later called “disco” so they didn’t always love our band. One night we were booked to open for Van Halen for a girls’ high school prom. VH had not been signed yet. When we played, the kids didn’t like us at all, but when VH started blazing away, literally everybody walked out and drove away because it was the total opposite of what they wanted to hear and dance to. Myself and the drummer just sat on the floor and took in the whole show by ourselves. I told Roth they were gonna be famous, which wasn’t hard to predict!
Well, tell your Rock Era fans, is “Single Guy with a High Income” part of an upcoming album?
Yes, the album is called “Project 5” and it’s totally finished even as we speak. I’m just waiting for my friend Greg to finish the artwork. I always do a physical CD run a week before a new album starts streaming, just because it’s important to me to have something I can mail and that can be played at home. I’m hoping early September will see the full digital premiere on Bandcamp, and later for Spotify and the rest.
By the way, on Bandcamp, it says the song by Project 5 Sneak Peek. Can you please elaborate?
Yes, that just means it’s a sneak preview of the whole album.
Do you think being a musician had an impact on you as a sound designer? Was it inspiring by any means?
Absolutely. Before I worked professionally, I taught filmmaking at a small school run by the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs department, and it was there that I was able to use my first Teac 4-track recorder, which was huge and heavy and had 12” tape reels. That continued with my first editing job, where my new boss also had a Dokorder 4-track he’d let me use. But for many years I was limited to small cassette recorders or 2-track cassette decks, with primitive track bouncing and open-speaker overdubs. When I finally got my own Teac 4-track, I would often create effects for work or bring sounds home to play around with. One of my first tracks to get any airplay was a speech by Hitler set to guitar music, and I’d gotten the original tape from World Wide Pictures. However, about 20 years ago I realized I could be recording my albums on Pro Tools, which is what I used at work. Up to then I was mostly using tape. Switching to Pro Tools changed everything, from fidelity to ease of recording to the speed I could work. And now that I’m retired I have Pro Tools at home along with a huge sound library I can draw from at any time.
Last but not least; 30 years in different studios full of networking, connections, and more, still, you preferred to release your music independently. May I know why you are not considering a record label?
At the height of my indie “success” in the early 90’s – and it wasn’t much! – I did seriously look into music as a full time endeavor. But, I took a seminar and it really opened my eyes about what was required to be successful. The main requirement was touring: there didn’t seem to be any way around getting signed if you couldn’t go out and support your music and meet the fans. I did consider it, but as I mentioned I was getting married and starting a family and eventually I realized I just couldn’t do everything. Of course if a record label wanted to release my music on a consignment basis, I’d consider it, but that hasn’t happened since the cassette days when a few were sold by distributors.
Finally, I’d like to thank you for such an honor, but I was wondering if the COVID effect still threatens our live music scene. What promotional plans do you have for the rest of 2021?
Well, it obviously isn’t affecting my own music, but it is a little uncomfortable to go out to see music with a mask. My wife and I just saw Keb Mo playing only his second show since lockdown, and we plan to see more, but just like last year we’ve all got to be extremely careful.
For my promotional plans, it will be the same as always: mail out a bunch of CDs, upload to Bandcamp and the other sites, try to get reviewed and added to playlists, and then go on to the next one. Thanks so much for the interview!