Are you interested in playing in central Iowa, and anytime soon?Do you see yourself coming to Connecticut area anytime soon?Are planning on coming into New York City to perform any time soon?
This year I plan to stay off the road more often than I'm on it, but we will do at least one national tour. New York is always a favorite stop. Connecticut and Iowa are less certain.
Here's how touring works: if I'm supporting, I go wherever the headliner plays for the dates that I've been invited. With colleges and universities, it also comes down to where and when I'm invited. If I'm headlining clubs, we generally route the tour to be driveable and to go through the cities where I already have a following — this ensures that the venues don't lose money and we have an enjoyable show. Occasionally, usually only if it fits with the existing route, we'll play a "secondary market" and see how things go. For that to be successful, we need a really enthusiastic promoter who can rally the community (like in Pensacola), or to play in a series that already has a loyal audience (like in San Diego), or some great press and radio to pique people's curiosity — preferably all three. Of course, there are also house concerts, a great alternative to the club circuit; I wanted to explore the Southwest last fall, so we planned a route just for living-room shows. Maybe we can visit Iowa-Wisconsin-Nebraska-Dakotas the same way sometime. But on the whole, if it's off our beaten path like the Midwest or central/south Florida, my apologies: we probably won't make it over there this year.Have you seen any films recently, either in theaters or on DVD that particularly impressed you?Hotel Rwanda
really affected me. It was one of those films that made me forget I wasn't seeing a documentary. Lately I've been watching a lot of movies with Jim Batcho, who's teaching a course in media aesthetics, so I mostly remember a lot of "See how that's all natural lighting in those candelit scenes in Barry Lyndon
? Kubrick used a Zeiss 50mm, f/0.7 lens for that; he was a groundbreaker that way. And extensive use of bright light flattens and lends a sense of objectivity, as you can see in Lucas's THX 1138
..."Are there any recordings of your Estonia efforts? I would like to purchase them.
The guys will be pleased to hear that. Full disclosure: I'm suppressing the Estonia EP because I'm not happy with my performances on it — songwriting, vocals or keys, none of it. But with enough popular demand
we might do another show and open it to B&Ps or something.When you write songs about your own experiences, do you write them purely for yourself as an expression or did you know that you will be playing those songs to an audience in the future?
Maybe I differ from some songwriters in that I don't feel like I'm baring my soul when I write songs. It is a form of expression, sometimes of intimate and difficult things, but they're things that I'm consciously sharing with an audience. I don't really write songs to keep for myself; I have other outlets for sheer venting or secrets I don't want the world to know. When I turn to music, I'm already hoping that someone out there will understand and feel understood by what I'm creating. Art as communication. I think that's always been the case.What compelled you to do the "Wall of Pillows"?
They were 99 cents each at IKEA, and it seemed like an amusing solution to the nasty acoustics of a square room. Pillows all the way across would be too loonybin-like, I thought, so we painted the wall behind red and checkerboarded them. I think the name of The Asylum has stuck anyway, though.Have you ever gone scuba diving with Mr. Cheng?
Some day, definitely...I'll have to get certified first!What is your favorite food?
This is like "what is your favorite" anything — I can never answer these. A friend of mine was once asked what his favorite kind of weather was and he said, "Whatever I'm properly dressed for." That's my answer too. Context is everything.What is the first non-classical song you learned to play and at what age?
My piano teacher gave me some Peanuts themes early on. I think the first song I ever figured out by ear was the theme song to The Land Before Time
.Why is dbeattie transcribing your music to paper, instead of you?
Because he's better at it. Seriously. Transcribing is a very different process from composing or playing; it's painstaking work. I'm also much lazier than he is. When you write piano motifs or come up with them, how do you remember them all? Do you record them on your computer, or do you just remember them in your head, or do you write them down?
If they're worth remembering, I generally remember them. (Sometimes even if they're not.) I record things to work them out further; sometimes listening back to them in different settings will lead to other ideas. But if I can't recall how a motif goes, chances are it wasn't that compelling.I’ve always wanted to hear more about your background as a classical pianist. Is it true, as the SF Chronicle once reported, that you gave two-hour piano recitals while still in your teens? Are there any
Klavierwerken that remain particular favorites?
My teacher did ask me when I was about fifteen whether I wanted to go to conservatory and study to be a concert pianist. At the time, I guess I showed enough promise that with six-hour-a-day practicing I could have a shot at doing it professionally. But I was never a stellar classical musician. The required level of technique always defeated me eventually (Beethoven's Waldstein
piano sonata, yeeeeow); expressively I had decent intuition, but nothing special. More importantly, I wasn't passionate about the classical repertoire — I wanted to live in the contemporary world musically. So I played two solo recitals in high school and won a few honorable mentions in competitions, and that was pretty much the pinnacle.
I still love the intricacies of Bach's Well-Tempered Klavier
, and I've got a special place for Rachmaninoff (I agree with him that he wrote much more interesting stuff than that C#-minor prelude). Lately I've been thinking of re-learning a short piece and playing it as an encore. Maybe the band can learn one movement of a piano trio.