Dutifully dusting off the Item Five cobwebs today…..

I honestly have no magical, reminiscent stories about Varnaline or Anders Parker. All I can really tell you is that I first discovered Varnaline shortly after thier 1997 release on Zero Hour Records, titled Sweet Life, which will most likely make my top 10 albums of the 1990’s, if I ever get around to putting that list together. That time was probably the peak of my desire to be in the music business. Music meant the absolute world to me. It was a time I look back on with much fondness. I had literally no money, but I was rich with desire and fueled figuratively by hunger. The hunger to find music to release on our label that would really move people. Melodramatic, yes.

So there have been plenty of musicians whose bands and albums have come and gone for me over the years. One album and that’s it. Anders Parker, however, has remained a constant and is the equivilent of a five-tool baseball player – he can sing, he’s a multi-instrumentalist, and boy, can he write one hell of a song. That’s only three tools, I know, but I make the rules around here and a three-tool musician is the same as a five-tool baseball player.

Anyway, Parker started as the lead singer/writer/guiarist for Varnaline, a fantastic band which lasted roughly ten years. Now, he’s recently released Tell It To The Dust, his first solo album, although in reality Parker pretty much wasVarnaline. So for those of you who appreciated Varnaline’s music, you will be floored by this recording, because it’s quite breathtaking, both on the quiet, acoustic/piano tracks, which are truly as powerful as Plasic Ono Band-era Lennon and on the rock side, where you may be reminded of Neil Young & Crazy Horse at their pinnacle. This album is that good. I even think the title of the album kicks ass. It won’t be the last time you hear about Parker here, either. I’ll be posting my top ten albums of 2004 soon and Parker’s also coming to Boston just before Christmas for a show. It’s Anders Parker month here at the Robot.

So it is yet another honor to be able to interview Anders Parker in today’s Item Five installment. He’s one of the many constants in my music listening life and his music still seems as fresh to me today as when I first unwrapped Sweet Life seven years (and another lifetime) ago.

1. First off, your new album, Tell It To The Dust, is simply stunning. Did you approach this any differently than other records you’ve written? Was it more personal?

Thanks. I don’t know that I approached the songs differently intentionally. Each song is different. I have been playing piano a lot, and that affected the writing.

2. I get a strong “Plastic Ono Band” vibe from “Tell It To The Dust” – is that an album you like or are influenced by? Was that style something you had in the back of your mind when you were writing/recording this?

I love the Plastic Ono Band record. It wasn’t intentional, but I noticed it too. I like that stark production for those songs.

3. What are the advantages of having a beard?

Don’t have to shave. Don’t get carded.

4. The old Varnaline song “Now You’re Dirt” explores a father-son relationship (at least that’s my interpretation). I don’t like to pry all that much, but is this song autobiographical? Do you think musicians can “get something completely out of their system” by writing a song like this? Or do you think such satisfaction is temporary? It’s my favorite Varnaline song.

It’s not autobiographical. Inspired by a newstory I read along while on tour. And by an aquaintence. Wrote it in a hotel room in Idaho.

5. Do you know that Varnaline’s “Sweet Life” holds the record for the most consecutive times I’ve listened to an album without listening to anything else? Eleven times. Other than thinking I’m insane, how’s that make you feel?

Wow. I’m flattered.

6. Who was the first band you were completely obsessed with?

The Beatles

7. What is the last thing you laughed really hard at?

Monty Python “Flying Circus”, guitarist Mark Spencer ranting about something/anything.

8. Why don’t you ask me a question?

Why do you blog?

answer: Easy. Because I don’t get enough attention in real life and I’m probably narcissistic beyond belief. I’m not sure if I am kidding.

9. Do you think it’s a sin that Centro-Matic is not more widely known?

What a great band. Yes it is a sin that more people don’t know them. But not surprising, unfortunately.

10. Not sure you’re a baseball fan, but can you believe the Red Sox actually did it? What inexplicable event do you think is next in our world?

Amazing that the Sox won. I wish that I could sit here and write about how happy I am that Bush is gone.

11. I’m interested in your thoughts on the music business today, aside from the “most record labels suck” statement we hear from a lot of other artists. What are your thoughts on ITunes, the future of physical product like CD’s, the idea of signing directly with an online provider like ITunes, etc etc?

God, that’s a big question. In general I think the advances in technology have been positive for musicians as far as recording and distribution go. And it seems like we’re still just getting through the door with all of these changes. In 20 years we make look back at where we are now and think it was a naive time, which it probably is. The cat is out of the toothpaste tube and you can’t put him back in. So where does that leave us? Well, I don’t know. I think it’s a good thing that people can get their music out via the inter-web. But it is a drag as an independent artist when people come up and say “my friend burned a copy of your record for me”. You know that they aren’t going to buy it, for the most part. But then again, they’ve heard it and they came to the show, so…

12. What was your favorite board game as a child?

Monopoly, Clue, Life, Checkers, Chess.

13. Who is the best band from the 1980’s?

Minutemen, Replacements, Van Halen (DLRoth era), Husker Du, Talking Heads, REM, Metallica.

14. Who would you rather be: Levon Helm, Robbie Robertson, Garth Hudson, or Richard Manuel?

Bob Dylan

Thanks to Anders!