Wednesday, December 7, 2016
A Ripple Conversation With The Members Of Jack The Radio
When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphanies since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.
What have been your musical epiphany moments?
George Hage: I started playing guitar when I was 13 and Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix were really the first to artists I clicked with. Hendrix bent my mind being a virtuoso and Cobain showed me you could write great songs with just power chords.
A.C. Hill: Two moments stand out for me. One was seeing postal service live in a small bar in Chapel Hill before they were "big". Completely caught me off guard. The other is probably hearing "time out of mind" (dylan) for the first time.
Danny Johnson: The first time I heard Radiohead's Kid A, it hit the reset button for how sounds could be used. For a kid who grew up on 60's rock and folk, it broke the "rules" of song structure and how instruments should be used. The idea that a guitar doesn't have to sound like a guitar was a huge realization. Tom Waits' Mule Variations was another epiphany for me -- innovative sounds with an unconventional voice, but all tied to songs that, for me, are unrivaled in their authenticity.
Chris Sayles: Probably the first time I ever saw Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Huge epiphany moment of yes, that's what I want to do. The music thing.
Talk to us about the songwriting process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?
GH: It’s an ever-evolving process that’s never stagnant. Sometimes it’s a riff one of us brings in or makes up on the spot. Other times it’s an idea or story that inspires me to fully flesh out a song before bringing it to the band. Other times A.C. or I may have a melody and rough lyrics that we take to the band to flesh out together.
ACH: For me it usually starts with a riff and a melody. I'm big on melodies. We all contribute to fleshing out the songs from there.
DJ: Musically, anyone who strives for exceptionalism. Not technical expertise, necessarily, but being the best at what they do. While I love listening to Jerry Douglas be the best dobro player around, I'm more inspired by listening to Jeff Buckley, Ryan Adams, Dawes... artists who worked to figure out their pocket and really dedicate themselves to perfecting it.
ACH: Danny Johnson
GH: There’s too many to name. I try to learn or take something away from any experience whether it’s how someone successfully delivered a song or seeing why something doesn’t always work well. We are very lucky to be surrounded by a wide variety of talent and a diverse community.
Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?
GH: I’ve actually found a lot of inspiration at comic book and indie press conventions. It’s really motivating to see so many artists/creators come together to share their original ideas with thousands of people who are all there to interact with and consume their art. Sometimes I find that same inspiration at a concert but we don’t really have the same set up for music/bands. As far as finding ideas, 2016 has been a hell of year full of death, life changes, and teeth-grinding, local lawmaking and national politics.
ACH: I am honestly bored with most music I hear these days. I do like to listen to hip-hop to get inspiration now and then.
CS: In the least expected of places. Could be a commercial I see on TV, could be a percussion loop in an EDM song I'm listening to in the gym, a solid plate of eggs (how is that NOT inspiring).
We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?
GH: Raleigh is a rapidly growing city and it’s an exciting time for us to grow with our city. It’s been amazing to see live music develop over the past decade and the diversity it brings. With festivals like Hopscotch Music Festival bringing some of the best in indie, metal, hip hop, etc, and MoogFest bringing some of the best experimental and electronic artists, and IBMA bringing the best bluegrass players together annually. That mix of talent definitely inspires us to blend several styles in our music.
DJ: Raleigh is such a music town, it's hard not to be influenced by the abundance of talented writers and performers in the city. Raleigh has a big-but-small metropolitan environment that makes it possible to walk down the street and recognize others from the community, but it’s got a big enough population, and steady growth, to seek out and win over new fans.
Where'd the band name come from?
GH: A.C. and I lived together for a bit while we wrote and recorded some early song ideas way back in 2005. We wanted to schedule a few shows to test them out so we needed a name. At the time we didn’t feel like the music we wanted to make was represented on the radio so our thought was to make the kind of music we want to hear and jack the radio. It started as a call to action but it’s somewhat transformed into a character we are fighting with our music.
You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?
GH: Would be totally down to do the remakes of Roadhouse or Dune if they ever decide to do it. Beyond that any western or sci-fi western movie would be rad.
ACH: Schindler's List. Seriously.
DJ: We'll call dibs on whatever film Quentin Tarantino puts out next. Either that, or we could grab a time machine and head back into the hey-day of spaghetti westerns to team up with Ennio Morricone on a flick.
CS: Pi. The black and white movie from the late 90's. Look it up.
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?
GH: First thought is either Zeppelin’s “Over the Hills and Far Away” or Hendrix’s “Castles Made of Sand”. Both have truly memorable and epic moments for me and the reversed guitar solo by Hendrix is a classic.
DJ: That's a tough one... it would be a tie for me, both story-songs. Dawes, "Little Bit of Everything", because it's a great Americana tune, and demonstrates how to tell a touching narrative with direct, contemporary language. Either that, or Tom Waits "Pony", because it gets me choked up every time I hear it, so there's got to be some interesting science behind a song that can do that.
Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?
GH: Still one of my all time favorite moments was playing a rooftop party to kick off a festival in the Berkshires. Playing a rooftop show had always been on my bucket list after watching the Beatles’ last public performance in 1969. The night was full of amazing food, beers and even rocked out with the mayor.
DJ: I definitely got lost backstage at Memorial Auditorium when we opened for George Thorogood, ending up out in the crowd and trying to convince the backstage security staff that I was with the opening band. Certainly effective for instilling humility.
Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?
CS: Live shows are where the magic happens. There have been countless musical interactions that have happened between members of the band that we've been like "Damn, I wish we had put that on the album!" It's where we loosen up and have even more fun than when we record, which is already a lot of fun. I'm not sure we can measure the amount of fun.
GH: Exactly that. It’s a place to directly interact and share moments with the audience. It’s amazing to see what songs or parts of songs people connect with and getting lost in those moments together.
ACH: Carl Anderson.
DJ: In our area, Mount Moriah, Phil Cook, and American Aquarium are really inspirational in regards to sheer exceptionalism -- each of those acts has dialed in a unique sound that speaks to what NC has to offer the national arts scene. Outside of that, Dawes consistently puts out some of the most engaging and well-written songs in years, especially in regards to Taylor Goldsmith's lyrics. He tells stories that are captivating and memorable, which is become less and less common in pop music. Blake Mills is probably my favorite all-around artist out now. As a player, songwriter, producer, sideman... he's as good as it gets.
GH: Jack White, Dan Auerbach, Dave Grohl, Sturgill Simpson, and Blake Mills guitar work just off the top of my head. Locally we have some great talent as well with Wild Fur, Kooley High, The Dead Tongues, American Aquarium and a ton of other great bands.
Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?
GH: Vinyl when I want to sit down and really digest an album. I love digital for the convenience and portability and CDs for long drives but both can come with distractions. It’s a treat to be able to put a record on and hold the cover in hand and read through lyrics and credits.
ACH: No question. Vinyl.
DJ: CD for convenience -- I've got a wall full of CDs and the collection keeps growing, but vinyl for sheer enjoyment. Hanging out with my daughter, pulling a record from its sleeve, and watching together as it drops down on the turntable from the autoloader on my 1950's Magnavox console player... not much better than that!
CS: Digital. Can't play records on my phone while I'm at work or doing other responsible-adulty-type things. And I scratch CDs like a professional. Can't use them within a week.
Whiskey or beer? And defend your choice
GH: Why choose when you can have both. You wouldn’t split up a great duo would you?
DJ: Out and about? Beer. NC breweries are the unofficial fueling agents for many Raleigh musicians. At home or in the studio, a glass of rye whiskey fits the bill.
CS: Whiskey. And not that whiskey needs a defense because it doesn't, but it's less carby. #fitspo
We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your hometown, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?
GH: Schoolkids Records is a staple in the Triangle and the Raleigh store just added a bar so make sure to stop in, grab a drink and enjoy some music.
DJ: Schoolkids or Nice Price are both bountiful treasure troves of music.
What's next for the band?
GH: We’re always working to push our live show and crafting new ideas. Currently we’re in the midst of planning a new Jack the Radio beer collaboration with Trophy Brewing to celebrate the 5 year anniversary of our debut album, Pretty Money for release early 2017 with a new music video for the song.
Additionally we’re working on other exciting album releases with some familiar faces and short tours for 2017.
Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?
GH: I’m writing this fresh after the election results. I’ll stay out of politics but want to say despite our differences in this great country, let’s remember to be kind to one another.
OH and music is good for the soul so find more at www.jacktheradio.com and follow on Twitter: @jacktheradio, Instagram: @jacktheradiomusic, and subscribe on youtube.com/jacktheradio