Thursday, January 9, 2014

Hollandale Interview

You've talked about the folk and blues influences found in your dad's record collection and how those musicians impacted you. What solo guitar or instrumental musicians influenced your style or development as a guitar player?

I first heard Leo Kottke when I was really young, that Armadillo record is still one of my very favorite records, and Kottke led me to listen to Fahey and Lang and Basho and eventually to obsessively seek out all kinds of solo guitarists. At home I listen to mostly instrumental guitar music lately, and have been lucky enough to strike up friendships with players who have inspired me like Dakota Dave Hull, Peter Lang, and Paul Metzger.

Photos by Nath Dresser

Talk about working with Alan Sparhawk and how this collaboration came about. You've both worked with Chaperone Records before, can you also talk a bit about the label and if there are plans to reissue any more of your older albums?

Alan is also one the players who have been a big inspiration to me, both as a musician and as a friend. He carries a real sense of self-confidence with him that makes recording an easier experience for me. I had told him how much I'd like to record an instrumental record and how much the thought scared me. My confidence over the past couple years has been pretty weak, but Alan was extremely encouraging and recording at his house was very comfortable. Chaperone's been great - they're friends, plus they're in my town and connected to a lot of Duluth artists and musicians. We won't be doing any more reissues as far as I can tell, but I hope to release other new records with them if they're willing.

Was this a difficult album to record? How did it compare to other recording experiences?

Not really difficult, just very different. I normally record with a set number of tunes, and I know them from start to finish. Here I started with a tuning, and maybe a couple of phrases, and then improvised the rest. I got into tight spots and worked my way out of them, and finished when I thought I was done. The tunings are variations on open D and open C and the songs are improvisations that build off of the tunings. Nothing real fancy...

Do you start with an image or idea and create music around it, or does the music come first and the title later? And how does that relate to the album title?

While I was playing these songs, I let my mind wander to wherever it wanted to wander to. I titled the songs later to reflect whatever it was I was thinking about at the time. Hollandale is simply the landscape around Hollandale, MN where I spent a good part of my childhood. It's beautiful, slight rolling hills, rich farmland, with yard lights that you can see from 5 miles away. It's mostly landscapes, something to focus on while yr playing that keeps you in line, so that the piece (hopefully) will reflect a kind of continuity of thought rather than just a random collection of figures.

"I Dreamed I saw Paul Bunyan last Night" had me thinking about a nightmare where Bunyan terrorizes me during a hike in the woods. "Hollandale" is looking out over the fields, the town is like an island in the middle of them, and imagining what it was like when it was all swamp and then thinking ahead to when they were drained for farmland (my grandpa was there and helped with that). "Clearlake" is a dear friend, and thinking about the Mississippi river running behind her house, and "Paul Bunyan" is the north at night and noises in the woods that make yr hair stand on end.

Will you be doing any completely instrumental shows?

I'm planning on playing one or maybe 2 of the songs during shows, but probably not the whole thing and not exclusively. The songs are long, and I like singing, too.

You played a few shows with Jack Rose in 2008. What do you remember about watching him perform?

I was lucky enough to know and play a few times with Jack Rose, and I'm still inspired by the memory of him. He played a show with me in Duluth when the folks wanted to dance and I didn't know how they'd react to instrumental guitar music. Jack was a powerful guy, and stormed into his set and dropped jaws and kept the dancers moving and saying "holy shit" for days. I'm grateful to have seen him play. I was profoundly moved by his music, and I appreciated how uncompromising he was in making that music. He was full of life, when we talked, and it made me happy to know that he was out there somewhere.

Who are some of your current favorite instrumental musicians?

Daniel Bachman, Steve Gunn, Glenn Jones, Daniel Higgs, Paul Metzger, Bill Orcutt, Cian Nugent (Desert Heat is amazing), Mike Gangloff, there are a bunch out there ... and I know my record doesn't belong anywhere near any of these folks, but I guess I really did it mostly for me in any case.

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