Although I do like the record very much
- as a consumer - I understand, it's made mostly for the musician(s).
How did you get this idea and why did you choose to do it that way? Must we distinguish between you and a consumer or you and a musician?
This record is for anyone who is moved by it. Besides does a person have
to be a painter to read a book about a painter's life story? Or does a
person have to be a musician to listen to a record that uses the experience
of being a musician as a metaphor for the struggles we all deal with?.
"Why do I feel so old, where did I go? I used to be moved to tears by
the sound of a simple chord." Who has not felt this way?...that is to
say, stale and uninspired? It turns out that we want more than to just
have food and shelter, though many people in the world would be happy
to have just that. But you can bet they'd want more as soon as their need
for food was satisfied. Ultimately, we all want to feel close to the "source".
We all want to feel not just physically, but emotionally "alive". And
to me, this is largely what this record is about.. the desire, the struggle
to be Connected. How do you define a song? (There seems to be much more going on than
just songs). This is a very interesting question Ullrich.
I guess I would say that a song is a short framed, popular form in which
music finds itself. Within pop songs you often see the standard verse,
verse, chorus, bridge etc... which if you listen to American radio is
usually oh so painfully predictable and boring... at least to my ears.
I don't mean to be overly critical here, but there is just so much discovery
to be made, so much in our imaginations to be let out, if only we would
just let ourselves go there. It's sad to me that there are so many people
buying into pre-existing structures so as to be accepted- instead of daring
to be unique.When I'm making music, I never restrict myself to adhere
to "rules" of any kind. It's not that I don't like rules. It's just that
I feel as an artist, as a human being, justified in making up my own,
if I choose. And I do. So long as whatever I am creating is resonating
in my bones, so long as the shape it takes works for what I am trying
to communicate, then it's perfectly valid....whatever it is. The CD parodizes itself in that there are several
hints in the lyrics that you are actually listen to a certain product.
That is very unusual. What do you want to achieve with that? I see the listener as not just a passive witness to sounds that have
been recorded, but someone who is intimately connected to completing the
emotional, sonic painting...this story, which is unraveling in both past,
present and future tenses on the record. So often with "the Musician",
I am communicating directly with the listener... involving them, letting
them know I know they are there.As far as the stories within the stories
within the stories with The Musician... well, that's just one of things
that makes the record have some depth. There's always more to uncover
each time you go into it. What's the function of the "word-plays" in between songs? They seem
partially stages and partially accidental? Those word plays you refer to, is a phenomenon
I sort of discovered in my mastering process, which I call, "The in-between-zone".
The in-between-zone is the place on a CD where you could (if you choose),
have audio (music or "whatever") in-between the numbered tracks or songs.
It's a phenomenon unique to the CD format, unlike say records or tapes.
So for example, if you are listening to "The Musician" and you are at
the end of the third track and decide to skip to track 4.... then you
just missed out on what was between the end of one and the beginning of
another. But if you are listening to the album straight through, you'll
experience the whole thing.As for the function of it, the in-between-zone
became this magical realm where I could talk more directly to the listener
or where very personal moments in time were revealed or sometimes the
zone worked like a sort of glue connecting the songs. As far as some of
those real personal moments- I'll just say that these were not intended
to be recorded. They were accidentally recorded, but I ended up included
them on the album because hearing them back made me really feel what I
was experiencing at the time.Ultimately because the in-between-zone lacked
the definition of a number, I felt a great freedom to express myself there. The sound of the music sounds very natural,
very warm and very inspired (almost as with a live show). What did you
do to achieve that? I'm so glad you got that impression. It was definitely my intent to
try to communicate a real life, human sounding experience rather than
a finely tuned, overly produced, shiny, glossy recording. So often I feel
with highly produced records, that there is such a barrier between the
music and reality. Sometimes the more produced a record is, the less human
it seems. And often I find myself asking the question when listening to
such a recording... where is this taking place? Am I witnessing an important
moment in time or just a product that's been overly perfected for the
sake of "working" on the radio?It's not to say that this kind of recording
approach can't be wonderful. Anything can be done well. I was just after
something more personal and more timeless with "The Musician". So in my
engineering and producing efforts I made every attempt, at every turn,
to make sure the sounds I put to tape sounded as natural and as much like
real life as possible. Using tube, analog gear was an important part of
making this happen, especially for creating that warmth. Then of course
there were the performances, which had to be inspired or they weren't
included. That was really the most important thing, capturing the inspiration
even at the cost of compromising the sonics a bit or including some "wrong"
notes. It was always a priority to choose a performance that I could really
feel over the option of choosing something that was "perfect", but not
entirely inspired. Ultimately I wanted the listener to feel like they
could easily visualize where the music might have taken place, so that
they could have a better chance of being part of a real experience. Of
course this effect is not as extreme as say a live album, there is still
plenty of fantasy (such as me singing the whole choir or Brendan playing
an entire string section with his double bass), but I think the overall
experience feels very realistic. How do you pick your topics for your songs? Song ideas, music ideas, all that is inspired, all that gets included...
comes from that magical place, that beautiful thing...I call The Muse.
I'm always banging on her door, begging for her to let me in, but she
usually doesn't respond to my insistent, obnoxious begging. Instead she'll
wake me up at the most inconvenient times and just when I'm without pen
and paper, piano or recorder. It's a sick joke on me really, but I do
my best to be as open as I can when she does decide to hit.During these
inspired episodes with The Muse, I often feel overwhelmed and frustrated
because there's so much there and I don't seem to have the capability
to contain it all. The song ideas, melodies, music that you hear from
me are only small fragments of what I was able to catch when the muse
was raining down. And during these moments of grace, (which is really
what I live for), I'm frantically running around, trying to contain as
much of that amazing water as you can.... but all I have is my tiny cup.
Most of what lands in my cup bounces out with the force of that rain,
which is a horrible tease because I get to taste it, but I don't get to
really drink a whole glass of it. This has always been a sore spot for
me, but I'm getting better at accepting my limitations. I think someday,
when I'm not so needy for her, I might actually be able to absorb more...
maybe I'll even get to become a sponge someday, so I can put away my pathetic
little cup. I'm trying... or rather, I'm trying not to try too much. But
I'm really a drug-crazed fiend for her. It's all very desperate. Are you an actor (in the sense that you act in your songs)? I am definitely not mimicking a style or trying to have an image nor
am I pretending to be something I am not. Although as a musician playing
compositions, you have to be somewhat of an actor. And hopefully the right
kind of actor who brings to the moment what is genuine emotion rather
than mimicked emotion.If I was doing improvisational music, this wouldn't
be an issue. But anytime you have a plan, a structure that is more or
less set (such as a composition, a song); you have the task of having
to re-put yourself into the subject of that song. So I guess I am sort
of an actor, but in the sense that I have to dig down and re-discover
what that particular song is about for me each time I play it.As far as
not singing from a totally personal stand point, I do relay the story
of Mad Magdaline... but of course, I relate to that character very much,
so it's not so hard to do. How do you come up with Mad Madgadline and what does she stand for? I don't remember how she came about. She just
sort of appeared in my head one day and stuck. And as far as what she
stands for.. I would say she stands for personal freedom and individuality.
She's also very human, in other words- she's fragile and affected by what
others think and what they expect of her. But in the end through love
and self-belief, she follows her own heart and makes her way despite all
the obstacles and... the ass holes. What's the function of the cover / artwork? A woman sits intently facing her instrument.
She is naked... vulnerable, but also strong... She is surrounded by elements
of the past, present, future, with hands reflected in the black skin of
her instrument. The image is about her relationship to herself and to
the world expressed through the powerful engines of music. Notice that
she is not facing the camera, the audience? She is not seeking out praise,
looking for suggestions or willing to carry the load of peoples' criticisms.
This is her journal or should I say now... "The Musician" is MY journal. What does the nudity / gun imagery stand for?
(Keeping in mind that those are big american issues - in the context that
nudity is frowned upon whereas violence / guns are socially acceptable) The physical nudity you see on the cover or
with Magdaline on the inside is a visual expression of that vulnerability...
it's the expression of being uncovered... musically... emotionally....Guns
on the other hand have many connotations, all of which have their home
in the complex psyche of the musician. Everything from being misunderstood,
to feeling like there's something you have to defend... to feelings of
anger; revenge... to the powerlessness we sometimes feel and the urge
to gain that back power. What I am NOT trying to do is condone violence.
I am just relaying a story and the symbolism of the gun does tend to powerfully
communicate many of the complex and sometimes contradictory emotions of
this particular story. When Magdaline kills the corporate record industry
man with her gun, she is really killing the idea that she needs his approval. What can we expect from live performances?
What's their main function for you? I'm coming to realize how important it is to
be as true to the moment as possible when playing live... to let the music
redefine itself... to take chances... to not be too closely enslaved by
structure, set lists or social niceties. This approach for me and Brendan,
(my husband and musicical partner on double bass), has resulted in a very
unconventional, intense, playful concert experience. In other words, it's
an emotional rollercoaster. Which is good. Which is real. I mean how lucky
we are to have allowed ourselves this ritual called a "concert" where
we all agree that we can have a deep exchange. This kind of communication
can happen with music and art, but it's pretty rare to find in our everyday
lives like when standing in line at the grocery store. The main thing
for me is to take risks when playing live, even if it means me falling
on my ass sometimes. What's the driving force behind your art? Love.