Multi-instrumentalist. Composer. Producer. Serial questioner? Lover of tuna casserole! This edition of Fistful of Questions goes to a man that defies musical categorization, Mr. Austin Taft.
What is your full name?
Do you have any aliases?
That’s for the listeners to discover over time.
What bands are you actively involved with?
“Austin Taft” is just me, and I write/compose, produce, perform and mix all of the studio albums released under the “Austin Taft” name. The live band is called “The Austin Taft Soundtrack” and its purpose is to reinterpret songs from the studio catalog specifically for the live stage.
What was the first instrument that you played?
I am a drummer first and foremost, and I have been playing the drums for 31 years.
Tell me about one of your first musical memories?
Threading a Tascam 22-4 reel-to-reel at probably 3 years of age. My Dad is also a songwriter and loads of tapes were being filled with his demos in my early years.
What was the name of the first band you were in?
Seven Day Weekend, and that didn’t go anywhere at all. The next band didn’t have a name, but we had one gig which was our 8th grade dance!
Tell me about the genesis of Austin Taft.
After having focused solely on the drum kit for 10 years and lightly dabbled with keyboards, I started teaching myself the guitar at age 14 as a reaction to several things. I was having difficulty finding musicians who were interested in creating the range of music that seemed right for me, and there were frustrations around the school band/orchestra attitudes at the time. The instructors and various students seemed unfocused and uncommitted, so I did not pursue that avenue in high school. I chose instead to dedicate that time to learning the guitar, writing my own material and working toward recording my own demos, touching on many genres but centering around rock music. After several years of this, I recorded my first official album, “Beneath The Sun and Beyond The Reach of God” in 2008, and this was released in 2009 on Triple Edge Records. I have been recording and releasing music ever since, and “Skeletons”, the new album, is my fifth studio release.
How long did it take you to write and record Skeletons?
Some of the writing dates as far back as 2012, and the recording was an on-and-off focus from 2015 to 2020. I had several other projects in the hopper as well which are unrelated to the “Austin Taft” music, including (but far from limited to) composing and recording 24 pieces of music for a video game, mixing an entire cast album for a musical and producing/recording an entire album for a rapper out of Tucson, so this was one reason for the delay in between my 2015 album “The Human Condition” and this new release. Additionally, I recorded a lot of music at my old studio which got scrapped due to dissatisfaction with the performances, new ideas for arrangements, etc. The entirety of the material which actually made it onto the new record was recorded and mixed completely at my current home studio in Colorado Springs, CO.
If you could insert yourself into any one band what band would it be and why?
I’m tempted to say King Crimson, but I don’t think I’m up to it. I would really enjoy creating with a highly unique and expressive artist. Sinéad O’Connor comes to mind.
Have you ever heard a song and immediately wished you had written it? If so… What was the song and artist?
Certainly, but the feeling is always quite temporary as I remind myself that music chooses the vehicle most appropriate for itself. Johanna Warren has written several songs which would qualify. Realistically, though, if I were actually to apply the “I wish I had written that song” mindset to something, it would have to be some ultra-successful song that has been recorded by everyone under the sun so that I could be getting outstandingly wealthy from the royalties. Probably one of the popular Christmas songs that has been recorded thousands of times. If income was that assured, I could create even more of the music I really enjoy creating with a faster turnaround time.
Do you have any non-metal musical inspirations?
In truth, I’m not really a metal artist at all. I’m a music artist that just happens to have a new album which is closer to the realm of progressive metal, but the previous album was acoustic-focused and the album before that was more of a rock or hard rock effort. That said, from the metal realm, I would cite Strapping Young Lad, Napalm Death, Type O Negative and Meshuggah as big ones, and from the non-metal realm, the extensive list would include Genesis, Cypress Hill, Rickie Lee Jones, Soundgarden, Jim Croce, King Crimson, Days of the New, Stone Temple Pilots, Brand X, Paw, Tori Amos and Jimmie's Chicken Shack.
What’s a non-metal song that you'd like to do a cover of?
“Disturbance at the Heron House” by R.E.M.
What band have you witnessed live that has really impressed you with their live show?
I’ve been fortunate to see many incredible acts on stage, from B.B. King to Rage Against The Machine to George Winston to Ministry to Bonnie Raitt to Porcupine Tree -- the list is extensive. But the best show I ever attended, to date, was Genesis live in Chicago on October 3rd, 2007. Phenomenal.
The year is 2000. Where are you at and what are you listening to?
At the start of the year 2000, I was living in the state of Louisiana and probably listening to artists like Days of the New, Metallica and Everlast.
What advice would you give young musicians that are just starting out in the music business?
Create for yourself first. Create what you want to hear. Also, if you’re a songwriter, register with one of the not-for-profit performance-rights organizations and get your songs published properly.
What is an absolute band killer?
Boiled down to one word: Toxicity.
If you were to start your own music festival what would be the name of that festival and who would be the three headlining bands?
“A Celebration Through Collective Consciousness”. Or something. And I would love to see Devils Teeth (from Milwaukee, Wisconsin), honeymoon (from Norwalk, Ohio) and The Austin Taft Soundtrack (selfishly) headlining that bill.
What’s the longest time you’ve gone without bathing?
I was not prepared for this question. Probably a week. I don’t recommend it.
What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
I’ve got several albums worth of material written that needs to get recorded and released, and I am working hard to clear out the backlog and get even more new stuff out there!
Is the Fistful of DOOM show in the top 10 of your favorite music podcasts?
Top 5, actually!
Do unicorns sleep standing up?
If they wish it to be.
You’re driving cross-country and you can only listen to one album the whole time. What album will it be?
A buddy of mine did this and listened to my first album over and over because it was the only CD he could find that would play in his car’s CD Player for some reason. I would probably aim to match that experience to see just how painful it is. Maybe it holds up surprisingly well?
You are writing a book about your life thus far. What is the title of that book?
“My Life Thus Far: A Book About My Life Thus Far”.
What is your favorite song by Lady Gaga?
I’m not aware that I know any Lady Gaga songs, but I believe a collaboration album was released with Tony Bennett at some point, and I quite like Tony Bennett, so probably something from that album.
Napalm Death or Meshuggah (if you had to choose)?
Gun to my head, I’d have to give the edge to Meshuggah. The 2004 release, “I”, was one which elevated my understanding of what music can achieve.
Doobies or Boobies (if you had to pick one)?
I have so many questions. Are we talking about weed, or The Doobie Brothers? If we’re talking about breasts, is this all breasts on any person of any sex? Is this breasts on any animal of any species? True story, in the 5th grade, a teacher barred me from asking more than 3 questions in a single class period.
Waffles or Pancakes (if you had to pick one)?
Wafflebot hates pancakes, and I would not want to offend Wafflebot.
Star Wars or Star Trek (if you had to choose)?
Star Trek is the clear victor for me personally.
Favorite band t-shirt you own?
Right now, it’s probably a Carrie Akre t-shirt that Carrie kindly sent me several months ago. You can see it in Episodes 1-3 of my ongoing YouTube series “Live” In The Studio, available at http://www.youtube.com/itsaustintaft
A good Tuna Casserole works for me.
A favorite doesn’t quite come to mind, but I’m currently reading a book about the band Genesis, called Genesis 1967 to 1975: The Peter Gabriel Years, by Mario Giammetti. It’s an excellent read so far. Wonderfully thorough.
Beavis and Butt-head Do America.
The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness”! Thanks for asking me stuff!
Many, many thanks to Austin for taking the time to answer these questions. I appreciate it. Skeletons (the previously mentioned 5th album) is a delightfully delicious listen and I highly recommend that you bask in its sonic glow!
~El Pedo Caliente (aka Uncle Jameson from the Fistful of DOOM show)