Peter Stampfel, along with Steve Weber, was and is part of the core duo of the Holy Modal Rounders. In the 1960s, and occasionally afterward, they have taken roots folk music to its goofiest extreme, occasionally venturing into harder rock and psychedelic sounds as well. In early 1997, Stampfel talked about the Holy Modal Rounders, his stint in the Fugs in the mid?1960s, and various other solo and side projects.
The first Rolling Stone Record Guide said of the Holy Modal Rounders: "Stampfel...has a working knowledge of almost every song ever written, and Weber...only sometimes has a working knowledge of his own compositions."
I actually know a lot more songs than most people. As far as knowing every song ever written, perhaps I know a tiny fraction of 1% of every song ever written. I mean, even a tiny percentage of a tiny percentage of one percent. But still, yeah, I do know way more songs than most people, 'cause, well, I remember songs pretty good, and I'm 58 years old. My memories of songs and singing commercials goes back to...well, the first song I remember, 1944. And the first singing commercial I remember is 1945. For a while, I was collecting old singing commercials. 'Cause no one has. And I was asking all kinds of people older than me if they could remember any old singing commercials, and nobody could. So there's something about my head that just remembers music that it likes. And Weber does have a very faulty memory as far as his own songs and other people's too. It's a somewhat accurate remark.
So has that made it difficult to work with him over the years?
No, not really. When we started out, we found that we actually knew many of the same traditional songs, because we listened to the same handful of reissues of old 78 albums that were around in the early '60s. In fact, all the reissued 78 RPM stuff would probably fit in the backseat of a Volkswagen. It wasn't hard to be exposed just about everything that was available, 'cause not much was.
When the Holy Modal Rounders started, you were doing traditional material, but in an irreverent way that was uncommon at the time.
Yeah. The purist attitude at the time was that this golden age was gone, and the right way to do it was to try to recreate it down to the pop and scratch on the old 78 RPM record. I mean, that's certainly a valid viewpoint, but it wasn't mine. When I started writing songs, I wasn't very good. I mostly did it the way Bob Dylan started writing songs in 1961, which is putting new words to old songs, which of course is what Woody Guthrie did a lot before Dylan. It's the way college kids start writing, it's like parodies. A lot of teenagers will write parodies of popular songs. It's kind of a first step of learning how to do something. You copy something that's already there. When I started writing songs, I wasn't very good. And I'm a very slow learner. All I was doing when I started writing songs was, oh, try to do it in the most rudimentary way I possibly could. I really didn't get to be skilled as such for--jeez, when did I finally get to be a skilled songwriter?--it took me a couple of decades.
How did you end up joining the Fugs for a while?
[Ed] Sanders had put out a zine, actually, it was mimeographed. Sanders had a magazine called Fuck You--A Magazine of the Arts. And Weber used to write poetry doggerel for it. My ex-old Lady Antonia, who's the one that introduced me to Weber, knew Sanders also. In fact, one of the first things about Weber that I heard before I met him was that, on the back page of Fuck You, there's some little sketch of the contributors. And the one about Weber was that he had this all-night sexual romp with a gazelle in the Central Park Zoo. And I thought, wow, cool, not knowing Sanders at the time, not understanding his tendency to make up fantastic stories just for the sake of amusement. Weber really didn't have an all-night sexual romp with a gazelle in the Central Park Zoo.
In late '64, Weber came over to the house and said Sanders was putting together this dirty rock'n'roll group, and they'd written 60 songs with titles like "Coca Cola Douche," and he said, come over to this new practice. And I went, wow, cool. So Sanders was at the Peace Eye bookstore on East Ninth Street, which used to be the East Ninth Street coffeehouse, which was used to be a hangout for the evilest speed freaks on the set, before it was the Peace Eye Bookstore. Anyway, Sanders sat down with Tuli Kupferberg and Ken Weaver, and Tuli and Ed decided to have a dirty rock'n'roll group, knowing nothing about music whatsoever at all. I mean, they were totally--they couldn't play, they couldn't sing, or anything, but they just wanted to do it. And they wrote about 60 salacious sex and drugs songs. It was just like the punk thing that happened ten years after, the idea that you have an attitude and a sort of rebellious viewpoint that you preferred artistically. And despite the fact that you have no skills, chops, or talent, you just go ahead and do it anyway.
So actually, what Ed and Tuli were doing predating the whole punk thing by a full decade. When I saw what they were doing, I volunteered me and Weber to be their backup band, because actually we were playing hand drums, and Sanders played a little kiddie organ, a little toy baby dinosaur organ. I felt that they were doing something that was so neat and so cool and so right on that I volunteered me and Weber to be their backup band. That's how we started playing with them.
Did you leave the Fugs because it was hard to keep playing with them and the Holy Modal Rounders at the same time?
Not really. In fact, I quit playing with Weber after I'd been playing with the Fugs for about seven or eight months, in July of '65, 'cause Weber was getting too crazy and fucked-up, basically. In retrospect, I wish I wouldn't have quit playing with the Fugs at the same time, but I just was totally fed up with Weber. I wanted to get a rock and roll sound before that. I got into rock and roll before I got into folk music. I got back into rock and roll, actually in 1962, 3. Sort of fell out of love with it...I got very fed up with rock and roll. Then I met Antonia in late 1962, and she was playing the AM radio, and listening to all this great stuff. People think about the Beatles as bringing back pop music, but actually good pop music started really coming on strong in 1962. That's when the Beach Boys' first record came out, that was when Motown was getting started, the girl groups were really great, Phil Spector was really taking off. The Beatles got their first hit, and the Stones formed.
What happened was, I tried to form a rock and roll group after I broke up with Weber. Weber and I were contacted to do a gig. So we got together for a gig in 1967. And Frazier Mohawk, Barry Friedman was his real name, was there with an Elektra group, and said that he always wanted to record the Holy Modal Rounders. I said, well, I have this group called the Moray Eels. But he was willing to record the Moray Eels, and Weber and me together, I'm willing to do it. Which is why the album is called the Moray Eels Eat the Holy Modal Rounders. The decision to join me and Weber and the Moray Eels was made after the record was recorded.
The "Indian War Whoop" album came before that, right?
It predates [the Elektra album]. It was recorded during the Egyptian-Israeli war in '67. I met Sam in the fall of 1966, when, coincidentally, Carol Hunter was the first woman in the New York scene that had man-like chops. She could play Scruggs banjo, really great guitar. She later on was an electric guitar player for Neil Diamond in the 1970s. Carol had talked to these people who wanted me and Weber to play out there in 1966. So I went to the pawn shop to unpawn my fiddle. I had this fiddle in my hand, and this guy said, hey, are you a bass player? I was learning to play bass, and said, yeah. And it was Sam Shepard looking for a bass player, 'cause he was playing in this group that needed a bass player. That's how I met him, in October of 1966. I started playing with Sam then.
When Bernard Stollman from ESP Records wanted to make a me and Weber record in early '67, I wanted to do it with Sam also. I explained to Bernie that the reason I quit playing with Weber is he refused to work on songs. And if he wanted a record to sound like anything, someone had to sit there and make us rehearse, 'cause Weber couldn't be forced to do anything. And Weber refused. We went into the studio, and basically hadn't played together for, except for the Illinois gig, for a couple of years. The reason the record sounds so crappy is that Weber wouldn't rehearse.
We went into the studio absolutely cold, which is the reason the Elektra record sounds so crappy too. I played the record to Barry Friedman and said the reason this sounds so crappy is because blah blah blah, quit playing with Weber, wouldn't practice, blah blah blah, didn't practice for this record, record sounds shitty. You want a record to sound good, ya gotta stand there with a gun pointed at his crotch, cock the trigger and say, practice, motherfucker. He said he would, and then when it was time to actually rehearse, when we all got to California, he said, okay, everything's fine, I talked to Weber, he'll be great. I'm gonna get some coffee--go practice. And of course, Weber didn't want to do that. So again, we went into the studio absolutely cold, and had to make a record after blah blah blah. Anyway, that's why those two records are so...
Both of the engineers decided it would be a cool thing to make the records without any grooves between the songs, 'cause it would be more psychedelic or something. And also, I stupidly didn't go to the mixing session with either of these records, which I didn't realize at the time, going to mixing sessions was key when you're making an album. I'm a very slow learner, and often have to do things the wrong way many times before I get the hint.
How was your experience on ESP Records?
It was weird. Bernard Stollman apparently stiffed a lot of people. We were supposed to get...me and Weber and Sam were supposed to get $150 apiece advance on the record, and he never even gave the money to Sam, and I never got mechanical royalties for the record. However, when I was broke and about to be evicted in August of 1966, Bernard Stollman called me out of the blue and said that they had reissued the first Fugs album on ESP. He [gave me] about $200 out of royalties. And since my rent was $60 a month at the time, that was the rent that I owed. Bernard Stollman had stiffed a lot of people, and stiffed me. But when I first met him, he called me out of the blue with the money that kept me from being evicted. So I can't totally denigrate the guy. He was hanging around the downtown scene and consequently ran into tons of people that were around, and recording them very cheaply, and paying them sporadically. That's, in a nutshell, what he was doing.
It was all our fault. On both the ESP and Elektra albums, me and Weber took tons of amphetamines. But we also did that for the first two Prestige albums, and they sounded just great. The drugs addled things a bit, but it was mostly the fact that we went into the studio totally cold, and had to make the record without having anything rehearsed. It was the idiot idea of the producers to make records without any grooves. But even after there were grooves, it wouldn't have altered the really sloppy material that was involved. So I can't really fault anybody, except for us, as far as the quality of those records goes.
"The Moray Eels Eat the Holy Modal Rounders" was a very psychedelic, more rock-oriented record than anything else the Rounders did in the 1960s.
That's what we wanted to do. The Moray Eels was a rock band. I had wanted to combine folk music and rock music from way back. In fact, I got an electric bass in 1964. That was the point in which Weber quit wanting to work out new songs, and consequently...and working on the song was playing the damn thing three times, and learning] three chords! It was the case of rehearsal being such incredible drudgery that it was difficult.
How did "If You Want to Be a Bird" end up on the "Easy Rider" soundtrack?
God, what an awful cut. I just heard it about a year ago, and I was incredibly embarrassed. Peter Fonda heard it on the radio, one of the few times the record was played on the radio, and thought that would be perfect for the movie. It was good luck that it got used.
Your next album was "Good Taste Is Timeless."
It was done in Nashville. The engineer was Scotty Moore, Elvis' guitar player. The producer was [a] jazz keyboard guy. He worked on everything to get it really smooth. So he was the person pushing for real precision. He was a really nice, sweet guy to work with and we really liked him. The main problem...it wasn't so much slickness as a lack of spirit. [Guitarist] Robin Remaily is a brilliant musician. He had the best chops--he was the best player in the band. But he was intimidated in the studio. One of these guys who would play great live, but when the studio situation came up, he kind of froze. Weber also had that tendency. He got over it by the late '70s, but at the time, he was again much more inhibited in the studio. The bass player and drummer just weren't that great, they were kind of stiff in front. The keyboard player, Tyler, just tended to play too many notes and not listen very much. I was feeling very musically unsure of myself back then, during that particular year. For all those years, the record is kind of stiff, although it has its moments. Anyway, the record is basically something that no one can be blamed for. It was a combination of circumstances that made it sound that way, although a lot of people really liked the record.
What did Scotty Moore think of you guys?
He didn't say. He was a really great guy to work for. Again, we didn't mix the record in Nashville. Like assholes...we were supposed to play for some sort of Christmas party. The band decided that it was more cool, a better idea to go to New York and mix the record later, so we could play at the party, which was really dumb. That was when I finally learned that you should be at the mixing session, and that the mixing should be done by the person who recorded it. The record was mixed in New York by some people that were really clueless, and it didn't work. I don't want to go into it, it's too depressing.
After the Metromedia [LP, "Good Taste Is Timeless], we realized that we really needed a new bass player. We auditioned all kinds of people. We got a new bass player, and then the rest of the band decided they wanted to move to Boston, but I didn't. In Boston, we ran into this saxophone player named Ted Deane, who would sit in with us. When we subsequently played without him, it was less fun, so we asked him to join the band. Ted Deane had a friend Roger North, who was drummer. We were at this time--this is by 1971 about, '70, 71--we were getting very disappointed with the drummer who replaced Sam Shepard when Sam Shepard went off to make the Rolling Stones movie that never got made. So we replaced the drummer with Roger North, and suddenly we had a really good rhythm section, which we really hadn't had before that, as well as a saxophone player.
And at that point, the band began to become really interesting. Unfortunately, it never got recorded in that format, except for the get-together in 1976 or 7, when we made the record for Adelphi. They went to Oregon in 1972, and I didn't want to go to Oregon. So basically I quit playing with them, and they remained together until '77 or 8 or so. They still get together for a yearly reunion, but basically the band stayed together longer than I ever dreamed that they would, but finally fell apart. When they were here in '77 because these friends of theirs flew them out for a funeral, I wangled the recording session and the record deal, because I really...I thought it was the last chance to actually record the band in the format that it never recorded in.
We didn't have any time to practice and rehearse, and the record was done in one week in this studio in which there was no air conditioning, and it was in the high 90s. And again, Robin would kind of freeze in the studio, and Weber was kind of having an attitude. So the record didn't begin to capture how incredibly good we all were in 1971 and 2, unfortunately. When we made the Rounder Record, "Alleged in Their Own Time," in 1972, they basically wanted to do a me and Weber record, 'cause they'd always wanted to do that, Rounder Records. I was pissed at the band at that time--we were having real difficulties in terms of direction and attitude and things like that--that I wanted to make a more acoustic record with some friends who weren't in the band. Although the Rounders could have recorded in their good lineup back then, it didn't happen. We tried to record some of Robin's songs with the whole band, but Robin just didn't like the way they came out. Despite the fact that there would have been a couple of cuts with the band in this good configuration, they really didn't work because of the fact that the--well, we just weren't that good in the studio at the time.
I'm really pissing and moaning a lot--that's kind of unfortunate. I didn't want to be so spleenful and bileful and moaning and groaning and complaining and whining about the misfortunes of the past.
Is there anything you would have done differently in your career, looking back?
I would have not taken so much amphetamines. I would have stayed with the Fugs in 1965 when I quit playing with Weber. 'Cause, hell, I would have gotten to ride in the bus with Neil Cassidy driving, and all sorts of cool things that the Fugs later did. As well as the fact that by '66, they were really a good band. Those are the two basic things. I would have started taking violin lessons. For a long time, my whole attitude was that you don't practice, you just play for fun, and never play scales, never do anything that's diligent or the right, correct way. You know, spirit good, discipline bad. Very '60s bullshit approach. But, gee, that's about it. I'm now clean and sober, which I've been for eight and a half years. If I done my whole last couple of decades over, I would have become clean and sober a hell of a lot sooner than that.
How do you feel about the "Have Moicy" record?
It's a good record. There's supposed to be another "Have Moicy" record that's in the works, but Hurley won't be able to do it, 'cause he's too committed--he has two other projects that are over a year late. Hurley and Robin and Weber met each other in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in 1959. I met Weber in 1963, when Hurley and Robin, who had had a band with Weber earlier than that called the Blues Doctors, they came up to visit Weber after he'd moved in with me in May of '63. That's how I met them. We talked about making a record together for years and years and years, and Robin was on the East Coast with Dave Reisch in '75, and decided to call Rounder and see whether they wanted to do it. That's how it happened.
Jeff [Frederick] and Jill [Gross], the Clamtones, had been playing with the Rounders out there. There were two bands in one situation. The Rounders--but not Steve--would back up Jeffrey and Jill, and then they'd be the Clamtones. And then with Weber, they would play as the Rounders, and so the Rounder/Clamtones would gig together, alternating sets with Weber and Jeff and Jill as front people. That's why Jeff and Jill were out here with Robin and Dave in 1975. So that's why they were on the record.
So how did that album end up so much more to your satisfaction than others you had done?
Mainly because everyone just happened to have a bunch of really great songs. Hurley's set is a little bit uneven. I think that maybe one-fourth of his songs are a lot better than the other three-fourths. But every Hurley song on that album is a masterpiece. All of Jeffrey's songs are really neat, and the stuff I did was really good too. Aside from that, the stars were right, the moon was in Cleveland--it was just sometimes, things just go slowly, because of fortune smiling. But it was a combination of luck and that everyone just happened to have really great material.
How do you regard the Bottlecaps records, in comparison with your other stuff?
The first Bottlecaps record is nice. A little stiff, 'cause John Scherman , the guitar player, was mostly responsible for the arranging. It's a bit on the compulsive...it tends to be a little too mythicing. So those two records are--they're good, but a little stiff. The last Bottlecaps was finished, and it's a lot better, 'cause we did it in the keyboard player's eight-track studio. So we were able to take as long as we could to finish it. It's a lot looser and more varied, well, assuming the best Bottlecaps record when it comes out finally, if it does, Rounder might do it. I really like the New Orleans record ["You Must Remember This"]. I'm really happy with that. Mark Bingham is a real old friend. I met him when he was a gopher for Elektra in 1968. We became friends, really, in 1976. He's a brilliant engineer, and I could also let him run with the...we're discussing arrangements, and I just basically let him run with them. I was down there, we did the rhythm tracks, and I did the final vocals, and then he just added everything up and mixed it. We're so compatible as far as what we're trying to do that I could just let him run with the ball, and have him come up with either what I would have wanted, or I hadn't even thought of, but what I was delighted with when I finally heard.
And the record you put out in 1995, "You Must Remember This"?
Personally, I find that the most listenable record I ever made. In the year before it came out, we had a work tape, and my daughter wanted to hear it all the time when we were in the car. For a couple of years, this is. So actually, I've heard that record more than anything I've ever made. More than I've heard everything that I've recorded totally. The more I've heard it, the more I've liked it. There's about two things I would have changed, but I find that and "Have Moicy" wear better than anything else I've done. "Have Moicy" was two other people. So I think I've really gotten a lot better, finally.
What's in the pipeline next, for records?
I worked with Gary Lucas for a couple of years. Gary has a band called Gods and Monsters. It's kind of a band showcase. Besides doing solo guitar stuff, Gods and Monsters has about three different people that sing lead besides Gary sometimes. He really has an extremely wide ranging approach to his music. He does solo stuff, group stuff, he backs up other people, and he has other people--he's got a real renaissance approach. I made a record with him that we're trying to sell right now. Mark Bingham did the recording and mixing of it. The last Bottlecaps record is on Rounder now, and they say they're gonna do it, though I'm not positive yet. A live album I made with in 1981, which is supposed to be a double album, happens to be released as a CD on Adelphi, but it was supposed to be out in the fall, and I don't know what the hell is going on with that.
So there's basically three records totally finished at this point. One is supposed to have come out, one might come out, and one we're trying to sell. There's interest in another "Have Moicy" album, which we're talking about doing maybe this year sometime. There's also the other half of the live album from 1981, which was supposed to be out in the fall, which should be released subsequently, 'cause there was two albums worth of stuff, 14 songs apiece. And then a small label wants to do a collection of the Unholy Modal Rounders, which is the band that, when Dave Reisch, the bass player from the Rounders, was out here in '75, we put together a band which stayed together after he went back to join the Rounders in Oregon. That band lasted from '75 to '77. It never recorded in the studio, but there's a lot of really great live recordings around. And it was a damned nice band. I was listening to some stuff, and it was way better than I remembered it. And Mark Bingham wants me to do an album of children's songs too.
What I want to do with the "Have Moicy" record, if I can talk the record company into it, is record enough stuff for two CDs. Since getting everyone together from all over the country is kind of a complicated procedure, and since I don't know how long Weber's going to be around. He's been multi-abusing since the '50s. I also wanted to do some more recording with Steve Weber, besides on the new "Have Moicy" records. That's the other thing I'm trying to do, is basically work on stuff with Weber to record.
So which are your favorite recordings that you made?
The first albums are really nice. The second one is kind of crappy, because we didn't want to record any of our original songs which we were writing at the time, because when Paul Rothchild signed us to Prestige, about three weeks later he quit the label and went to Elektra. So Prestige, basically, we didn't have a contact there and the guy who was interested in us was no longer there. So we wanted to get out of the contract, which was for two records. So on the second album, we basically didn't want to do any of our original or fresher stuff. So the album is kind of isn't as stunning as the first. Also, the asshole that did the sequencing put all the songs in the key of A in a row. If someone would have made a list of exactly the wrong way to put songs together because they would be the most similar and stupid.
So anyway, the first two albums were okay, the "Have Moicy" album's okay. "Alleged in Their Own Time" has some moments. It's kind of a flawed record, but there's some good things there. There's about two really good cuts on the Metromedia [LP], and the rest of is bland compared to the way the band sounded. Adelphi Records should have been a lot better, but it was impossible for it to happen that way. It has a couple of nice moments, but there it is. I like the first Bottlecaps Record. It could have been better, but it's really okay and listenable. The second Bottlecaps record isn't as good as the first, because we didn't have as much time, or that big a budget to do it with. The upcoming Bottlecaps record is really, really nice. I'm really happy with that. "You Must Remember This" is really really nice, and I'm really really happy with that. "Have Moicy," I'm happy with that just fine. The first Fugs records are amusing.
Have you seen the influence of the Holy Modal Rounders on other artists?
The Lovin' Spoonful covered two of the first Rounders songs on their first album, or covered two songs that the Rounders did. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band covered one song on their first album. We influenced a number of musicians, although most people hadn't heard us. Some people think that They Might Be Giants were somewhat influenced by us, although that's really a stretch, inasmuch as they're a very eccentric duo. I just found out, in 1970, that when I started playing professionally, this club called the Fox and the Hound in San Francisco 1960. I met Jerry Garcia in 1970, and he said that he used to come down and watch me play then. You'd be stretching it by saying that I was among 200 other influences of his, I could have been one of them. Mostly, our influence was kind of brief duration and small. But it was there.
We were too screwed up to capitalize on our positive aspects. There was just too much drugs, alcohol, and bad attitude in the band, and too many fucked-up characteristics, combined with a lot of bad luck, to have anything happen, as well as the fact that the band basically folded in 1972, and I quit playing with them. As far as I was concerned, only lasted for about five years longer. They actually had a big influence in Oregon. I played out there for a wedding in August, and I heard a number of bands that actually were still doing Rounders covers. Golden Delicious, which is really nice, which Dave Reisch, our bass player, is playing in, who's recording right now. They did a whole gang of Rounders songs. There's a band called October Salmon. Roger North's son is the drummer. They actually do a lot of Rounders covers. The fact that when the Rounders got out to Oregon in 1972, there wasn't that much of a music scene out there, they were actually very seminal. The influence of the band out there, reasonably speaking, is probably stronger than any previous one, in terms of influencing the sound and material of a number of actual working bands.
What's your musical relationship with Steve Weber like now that you're doing some gigs again?
Weber's kind of difficult to work with, 'cause he still doesn't like to rehearse. Getting him to work on a new song that has more than three chords is like pulling teeth. But performing with him was really fun. I didn't expect to have such an enjoyable time doing it, but I really had a ball. It was a delight and a joy. Unfortunately, rehearsing with Weber is really--for one thing, he lives down in Pennsylvania, so I have to go down there. So it's kind of hard. And he's kind of a pain in the ass, 'cause he's a serious drunk.
He's very obstreperous. But that's just the way it is. Sometimes when he is bad and fucks up, it's actually kind of interesting and kind of funny. So it isn't a case of whenever he does something bad or wrong, it's a disaster or tragedy. It can be kind of fun, too.
So what keeps you working together?
It's the good side of the music that we do together. When I first met Weber, my first impression--I'd heard all these terrible things about him. He was this evil speed freak who wore nothing but black clothes that he got from garbage cans that were too small. I didn't realize he played funky blues guitar brilliantly, and also he looked like--my first thought was, my God, it's my long-lost kid brother that I never even thought I had. And the first time we played together, the very first time, it just worked like perfectly, like we'd been doing it all our lives. There's this very strange way in which we fit together, which was a gift from whoever's up there pulling the strings.
So what I've been doing is focusing on all the good parts of what we do together. Accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, so to speak. Although it's a corny Pollyanna attitude, put into action, which I find is actually an excellent way to go about everything. I mean, the more optimistically one behaves, the more world tends to be agreeable. It sounds like dumb corny bullshit, but it's absolutely true. So the music that we do together is a gift from fate, and we do fit each other in this really unique, bizarre, really strange way. And he won't be around forever, which is why I'm trying to on one hand do as much work with him as possible. On the other hand [whispering], it's a real pain in the ass! For years I just didn't want to have anything to do with him anymore, because of all the disappointments and betrayals and blah blah blah. But people mellow out when they get older, and people are more aware of how precious the positive aspects of anything that you happen to be involved with are. That's why I'm trying to go in the direction of doing as much recording with Weber as I can, as long as he's still around.
Anything else you want to add?
I want to get a little vainglorious. You haven't heard many of my more recent songs. There's one on the New Orleans record, "Take Me Away." But one thing I do have to say for myself is that I'm one of the very few people that is capable of writing material as good or better than I did several decades ago. Partially because I was such a lousy songwriter when I started out, and it's been such a long time to learn. The only people from the '60s that can still hit a song occasionally that's as good as their old material are Neil Young, Paul Simon, and sometimes Lou Reed. So on the one hand, I've got my amazing obscurity. On the other hand, because I'm such a slow learner, and because I've learned to persevere, I've gotten better and better and better. Partly because I realize how small my abilities in comparison with what I'm shooting at. I'm only part of the way to where I want to go.
One of the things I want to do right now--there's eight songs that are '30s and '40s songs? I'm planning to learn to write songs in that mode. I'm going to take about ten or twelve archetypes, study them, tear 'em apart, really kind of retro-engineer them, and learn how to make 'em pick. And I've been learning keyboards for the last year and a fraction, and, in three years time, start to write '30s and '40s pop-style songs that sound like they could have been written back then. Maybe I'll never be successful. Maybe this is beyond me. But I've found that anything I've attempted to do, as long as I keep on trying, I've been able to attain so far. That's one of the best things about my basic music, is it's really--I don't know anyone that's managed to keep on improving to the extent that I have. Like I say, partly because I started so slow, and developed so slowly. That's one of the nice things about me, myself here. I feel kind of weird blowing my horn like that, but it's true!
What I'm trying to do right now is--before "Sgt. Pepper," most of your pop groups were making two or three albums a year, and that's what everyone did. "Sgt. Pepper" took eight months to do, and subsequently, most pop musicians decided that making albums was this big artistic deal, and suddenly--as well as the facts that more tracks being available, you could really jerk off more in the studio. You used to have to play everything pretty much the way it was arranged. And once there's multi-tracks, everyone can do their own thing piece by piece, as well as the side people in the studio, and decided that's where they should write songs, 'cause they were getting--if you can drag your ass, you can make five figures just getting paid to make a record.
My big plan right now is to do as much
recording as possible. There's seven things that are in various
from finished to planned right now. I'd really love to have at
one thing come out a year, ideally about three things in two years
be possibly possible. So I really am trying to come out with more
stuff than the people that don't have to be confined by having to work
40 hours a week, and have two kids to raise and something like
I'm really amused by the possibility of being able to--being an old
with young kids and a full-time job--out-produce the truly successful
don't even have to go to fucking work.
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