Yes! It won’t be a regular feature around here simply because I don’t have time to do these interviews much these days, given my job, plus child rearing, plus need for sleep. But now and then it will pop up and it will be totally sweet. Get it? OK then.
It’s been three years since I connected with Jay Farrar. Last time we, uh, chatted, it was right when the aural assault of “Okemah & The Melody Of Riot” was released. Son Volt have since released “The Search” in 2007 and are on the cusp of another release, called “American Central Dust.” The new album, which I hadn’t heard at the time of this interview is a return to plainclothes approach Son Volt’s intial records showcased. Farrar speaks about some of the specifics below, but it would be unfair to compare this new album to any of the previous 2 or 3. I have since received the album and I can tell you it is quite, quite good. It reminds me of an interview I read with Mark Sandman once, who explained that he loved to cook and did a lot of experimentation with sauces, but his favorite was still the plain old tomato sauce recipe. Elegantly simple. That’s what I think about when I hear “American Central Dust.”
My latest exploration with Farrar is below. There is reference in this interview to the past ones, so for your sake, I will post links to the first two interviews first, then you can read the new one. As usual, big, big thanks to Jay for accomodating my, um, interview style.
Interview #1 (September 10, 2004)
Interview #2 (March 26, 2006)
aaaand here we go……
1. Last time we “talked” we said we’d do it again in a year-and-a-half. That was three years ago. Sorry about that. I went and had twin boys. That shit is hard, man! Back then you said your kids mostly would rather listen to Blues Clues instead of your music. What are your kids listening to these days? Do they actually prefer specific parts/eras of your music yet?
Green Day, All American Rejects and My Chemical Romance—-all bands my kids have been listening to lately. There was a period when they said “Terroir Blues” was their favorite which I thought was strange yet appreciated since that record always gets relegated to the bottom of the pile.
2. I had a lot of different reactions when I heard that the new Son Volt album was coming out on Rounder (July 7). I worked there for quite a few years in the 1990s. I think about record labels a lot given the music business environment and it’s my belief that many artists can and should just release their own stuff. Of course, I understand WHY artists still want a label (resources, etc), but I’m curious to hear if you’ve ever thought of truly going it alone and why you decided to go with a label again.
“Terroir Blues” and “Stone , Steel and Bright Lights” were examples of self released recordings( Transmit Sound). The Grateful Dead said years ago that they stopped putting out their own records because they didn’t want to carry around briefcases all day. I’ve found that it’s good to have clearly defined distribution of duties. Sticking to the creative side is best while letting the resources and experience of the label do what they do. With that said, it’s almost inevitable that Transmit Sound will come into play down the line.
3. Gob Iron. I really loved that stuff. Went out to the Boston show with my pregnant wife when you guys came through, but we had to leave early because she wasn’t feeling well. I just want to confirm that you’ll come by my house and finish the part of the show I missed next time you’re in Boston? It was only like 45 minutes. That said, is there new Gob Iron stuff in the works? Why isn’t Anders Parker universally adored?
Anders Parker and I have been working on a project that hopefully will see the light of day in 2010.
4. I see that you had a talk with Spinner.com. The headline I saw was “Son Volt’s Jay Farrar Inspired By Keith Richards Drug Habits.” Come on, now! I picture you at home or in the studio, looking for inspiration to write a song – and then suddenly a wave of admiration for Keith because of his excessive and astounding drug use. That’s exactly how it went, right? Media headlines always nail it.
I was inspired by Keith’s honesty—not to mention all the music he has given the world.
5. OK, so I haven’t heard the new album yet. Do you want to tell me a little about it, did you do anything materially different in the process, were the songs inspired by anything in particular, the way, for example, Okemah was inspired by the events of the times? Yes, it’s the question you get in every interview.
The recording process was fundamentally the same as all other SV records with the emphasis on trying to capture the chemistry of playing live wherever possible while adding overdubs whenever it seemed beneficial. The idea going in to this recording was to make a more focused record than “The Search.” One way to try to achieve that was that I only played acoustic guitar and piano (no electric guitar).
6. Here’s the question you’ll NEVER get in an interview (yes, a riddle): where can you put a bookbag on the floor where nobody will be able to jump over it?
Let me know—I’ve been backpack jumping for years.
7. Do you have an IPod? Mind sharing the last five songs that you played (assuming it was on shuffle)?
“False Hearted Lover”(Levon Helm), “Tipitina” (Professor Longhair), “I’m Not That Kat Anymore” (Doug Sahm), “A Thanksgiving Prayer” ( William S. Burroughs), “Let Me Die in My Footsteps” (Bob Dylan)
8. I came across an old promotional CD for Paste Magazine a few years ago and found an Uncle Tupelo song called “Left in the Dark” that I had – unbelievably – never heard before. Hard to believe a song that good didn’t make its way onto any full-length – do you remember which sessions this song was from?
It was a good song written by the Vertebrats.
9. I am scared shitless of two things: bees and roller-coasters. What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of me?
Cormac McCarthy’s post apocalyptic vision in “The Road” was unsettling.
10. Has a particular book ever changed your life or made you materially change something about yourself?
Jack Kerouac’s book “On the Road” tipped the scale for music as a way of life for me.
11. I know you have some level of fondness for old institutions, so I need to ask about General Motors. Is there a certain sadness to their plight, or do you think of it as yet another piece of mind-numbing news in our country? What do you drive?
I tend to filter everything through a historical perspective–it was only about 100 years ago or less when big business leaders were either xenophobes or cozy enough with politicians to have striking workers shot by the National Guard in the good old U S of A. Overall…optimistic…
All the best for your future.