Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Sunday Conversation With Mountain Mirrors

Jeff Sanders is the mastermind behind the acoustic based heavy mountain music so lovingly known as Mountain Mirrors. To date, he's written, recorded, and self produced three albums, and still was kind enough to make some time to answer a few questions. So, we pulled up the couch, fired away, and this is what Jeff had to say.

When we were kids, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever hear 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?

My biggest epiphany came in high school the first time I heard Metallica's "Ride the Lightning" (especially "Call of Ktulu"). I remember reading a review for Ride the Lightning (I'm pretty sure it was in Maximum Rock and Roll zine), and the writer explained it as the most brutal, electrifying music imaginable...but with a vibe that, compared to other metal bands, was almost like classical music. I was on a mission from god to find that album immediately. The sound just freaking paralyzed me. The title was exactly the way the music sounded to me at that time - there was nothing like it ever before. I was completely entranced. And for the first time, I had a band that was all mine. Like I had a secret that could melt peoples' minds.And their next two releases were the same for me. Life-changing events. The effect wore off when the Black album came out and suddenly everyone dug them...and to me it wasn't as great as their earlier stuff...I have to say though; "Death Magnetic" freaking slays me. I am so happy to hear them playing like this again.
My other major epiphany came from D.R.I.'s "Dealing With It"...I had never heard a CD before that I related to, lyric-wise so much. The music is awesome, but those lyrics are as honest, real and poetic as anything by Dylan or John Lennon. What a classic disc..."

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?

Sometimes a song can take two months to write. I need one good riff or one good melody. Even one beautiful chord. Then I'll try to get lost in that chord. Sleep on it...the brain is always working on it subconsciously, I think - once you are committed to that riff or beautiful chord or evil chord change. One day it just busts open like a flood gate. The hard part for me is the lyric. The concept has to really resonate in me in order to feel compelled to finish it, and I go about it the same way. The minute I stop trying and start reading, watch a movie. Letting go and living life...hiking, walking the dog, visiting family, it's almost like "the spirits" reward me with a lyric idea. When they think I'm ready. If that makes sense.

When you write a piece of music, do you consciously write from the mind set of being different than what's out there now?

Not really. I will say that it takes some discipline to play everything on the acoustic guitar and not come crashing in with the heavy, chunky electric guitar "wall of sound" here and there... I try to create dynamics by just hitting the guitar harder and shaking the notes more urgently to create heavier sections in my songs. Right or wrong, that's what I've done so far. I want to see how far I can push the sound of the acoustic guitar. I love the way it sounds played softly, and I love the way it sounds when you bash it. At first, it felt like a limit I set for myself. But it opens a ton of doors, and hopefully sounds unique. I've been jamming a lot more electric guitar lately. Picked up this sweet Agile 3100 natural spalted top Les Paul copy that just has the most beautiful tone - clean or distorted, and it inspires me...

In songwriting, how do you bring the song together? What do you look for in terms of complexity? Simplicity? Time changes?

I have always loved songs that change up and go on an epic journey - like old Iron Maiden and Judas Priest stuff...I also love a song that has a vibe, stirs up your head and is done in under three minutes and lingers in your thoughts - like Nick Drake and some of Beck's acoustic songs...I try to keep that balance depending on what the song does for me.

What is you musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?

I just write about what I'm into...I'm into dark, psychotic stuff as well as sort of new age spiritual ideas. Ghosts, UFO's, crime scene shows, survival that shit. I always felt like an outsider, and I get fired up inside by shady, evil crap going on in the world. We're all raised to be paranoid and keyed up. So it's all that shit that creates angst in me. And at the same time, it's important to me to try to rise above it and embrace some beauty. If I'm lucky enough for someone to listen to my music, I want to show some of that beauty to them...I want them to escape from the world with me and give some love with the sounds...even if it's the dark imagery that sparks my poetry or riffs...ultimately there's got to be that faith, hope and love.

What piece of your music are you particularly proud of?

It depends what mood I'm in, but I can't deny "The Demon's Eye" is responsible for a ton of people getting into Mountain Mirrors through MySpace. I dig that one... it's pretty dynamic and melodic. I'm really proud of all the lyrics on the self-titled disc... Other favorites have to be "Stay Evil," "Karmic Dogs," "A Spell to Block the Sun," "Field of Grass," "Afterlife," and "Birds in a Rat Race."

Where do you see you and your music going in ten years?

Hopefully by then I'll have at least a couple hundred fans.

Describe to us the ideal (realistic) record label and how you'd work with them, and they with you.

The ideal record label would worship their customers and the fans of their artists. They would have a deep trust in karma...and would work like dogs to get songs licensed in film and television.

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?

99% of my listening these days is digital. I have a Rhapsody subscription, so that's how I listen to new music. When something hits me hard enough, I buy the CD. I'd like to pick up a record player. Back in the day, it seemed like an inconvenient way to listen to music...nowadays a lot of people swear by it. I'd love to check it out again...probably end up buying a bunch of my favorite albums all over again. lol

What's the best record store in your town?

Newbury Comics is da balls. :-) And so is CD Baby...and Rhapsody.

Jeff, thanks for the insight on your music. We appreciate your time and effort!

All three Mountain Mirrors albums can be found at . . . check 'em out!

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