Friday, May 2, 2014
A Ripple Conversation with Francis Charles Roberts - Old Man Wizard
What have been your musical epiphany moments?
No particular moment is really standing out, but seeing Judas Priest for the first time was life changing, as was hearing “Gates of Babylon” by Rainbow after hitting the false (and incredibly satisfying) ceiling of his solo albums. I also remember that seeing Opeth made me realize that challenging music isn’t an excuse to make mistakes live. Oh, and when I heard Leather Nun, I think that was the first time I realized that there are bands who aren’t famous that are better than bands who are famous.
Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?
The process is different for each song. Sometimes it starts with a riff, sometimes it’s a melody, sometimes it’s a line of lyrics, sometimes it’s a bigger story or abstract concept. When I put something together I’ll usually take that first idea, set up a mic, and just improvise on it for ten minutes. I’ll go back and listen for something cool that I hadn’t thought of before, and then throw everything else away. Rinse. Repeat. Once I have way more material than I need, I chip away at it until I have a solid song. Sometimes this process takes a day or two, and sometimes it takes a few years.
Who has influenced you the most?
Tough question. All sorts of people, from friends and family to game designers, authors, musicians… I’ll try to make this list fairly short and filled with people who you can find on the internet (no particular order): J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Tove Jansson, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Howard, King Diamond, Brian May, Freddie Mercury, Lemmy, Ronnie Dio, Ritchie Blackmore, Mikkey Dee, Mikael Akerfeldt, James Hetfield, John Cage, everyone in Monty Python and original Black Sabbath, lots of video games and tabletop games (Dungeons and Dragons haha). I’ll be here all day if I keep going.
Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?
Books, mostly. I try to listen to at least a few albums I’ve never heard before every day, but sometimes all it takes to become inspired is simple stuff like going on a walk or quitting a job.
We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?
I wrote this first album in one of two places: In my bedroom with the door closed or on the road. I can safely say that I wasn’t a part of the local music scene at all until after I had written this music. This music came mostly from books and travelling, not from San Diego. Having said that, there’s a nice little heavy psych scene here (Joy, Earthless, Harsh Toke, Radio Moscow, etc) and a great sludge/metal community (Age of Collapse, Man vs. Man, Deep Sea Thunderbeast, Alioth), and both of those communities definitely inspire me to push the limits with what we’re doing. Also, I’m sure there’s something about Mexican food that makes people like metal.
I was driving to the Renaissance Faire in LA with my friend Drew, and an old guy driving a red pickup truck drove by. He had a massive white beard and Drew was all, “Look, it’s old man wizard!” I said that I thought that would make a cool band name, he told me it’d be a stupid one. I sure showed him, eh?
You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?
The Legend of Conan, no question. I hope they follow through and make this movie, and if they do, I would drop everything to score it. YOU HEAR THAT, MOVIE PEOPLE? CROM LAUGHS AT YOUR PUNY FILM SCORE!
You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?). You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?
One of my songs or somebody else’s? I’d probably write about a short Jethro Tull song, “Cheap Day Return” or something. If you wanted something on one of my songs, I might pick “Traveller’s Lament”, but I might have too much to say about that...
What is your musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?
I want people to enjoy listening to my music, I want them to have fun, and I want them to want to think.
Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?
I’ve had some pretty extensive and troll-ish conversations with people who swear by alternate tunings based on A432. If they were on film they would be the closest thing to Spinal Tap that regularly happens.
Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?
Playing live is usually one of two things: A regurgitation of the rehearsals, or totally scary if you aren’t prepared. It’s a hell of a lot of fun though, and I hope it’s fun for the fans too.
What makes a great song?
Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?
It sucked. I don’t even remember what it was called or what it was about, but I think my friend still has a video of us playing it in the garage. You can only hear the guitar and the drums. I think I was listening to Alice in Chains a lot, so it probably sounded like a childish version of something they wrote.
What piece of your music are particularly proud of?
I really like some of the songs I’ve written recently that I haven’t released yet, and I think I’m most proud of the whole album Unfavorable, but I think “Petty Theft” will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s on the internet here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sO1S8whocrE
That really depends on how you’re defining a great song. In metal/heavy rock, I’ve been impressed most recently by recent releases from Ghost, Triptykon, In Solitude, Agalloch, Vhöl, etc, but there are plenty of excellent songwriters active in all genres.
Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?
Live! Digital or Vinyl is tied for second. LPs are rad and fun to play, but digital is so damn convenient. I gave away all my CDs recently.
Whiskey or beer? And defend your choice.
Single malt scotch. As much as I love great beers (we have tons in San Diego), a good single malt scotch just does a little bit more for me. I also love good mead.
We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?
I live in San Diego, and when you’re here you should check out Pack Ratt Records and Junk. Mikey will send you home with something you’ve never heard of, and it will melt your face off.
What's next for the band?
We’re announcing some tour dates for this summer soon. Not as much as I’d like, it’ll be nice to take these songs on the road finally.
Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?
Vote with your money. If you hate the music on the radio, if you hate that a band isn’t coming to your city on their tour, reach out and see what you can do to help. Buy merch from bands you like, and if they don’t have any merch you want to buy, reach out and tell them what you would buy. If your friend’s band sucks, tell them why and stop going to their shows until they fix it. Dishonesty and blind support of “local” or “famous” music, or of music from one genre and no others leads to a very hostile climate for people who are really trying to do something good for the music scene. If you don’t like what somebody is doing and express your feelings honestly, that rules. If you don’t like what somebody is doing and then you buy it from them or work for them, that’s really fucking toxic and a big part of the reason so much stuff sucks right now.
Dread Crew of Oddwood Petty Theft
Dread Crew of Oddwood Petty Theft Band website: http://dreadcrewofoddwood.com/ To buy album and lyrics: http://dreadcrewofoddwood.com/music_lyrics.html Band ...