Spirit That Brings Us Here
The Spirit That Brings Us Here August 2011 Chris LeRoy and Lisa Nemetz Interview with questions provided by morst The first thing I notice about your new album is that it's the first one you've released under your own name. Will this be your 'Hot Rats?' Hey! I love HOT RATS. Best album cover ever, and did consolidate Zappa as compose and player. I love my music collaborators, and they have helped produce all my stuff. But when you bring a song to a band the band shapes the song. Usually changes for the better, but change all the same. Folks who have heard my early versions of songs that became Cracker, or Dangers or Mighty Grasshopper recordings noted there is something special about those recordings. So I started from those first tracks and produced the album solo. The songs are "ragged but right." So it's not The Dangers, and it's not The Hoppers. Who is playing with you on this album? I heard you have at least one track with Lisa Nemetz on vocals? It is a little like Traffic's John Barleycorn album. Like Winwood I intended to play everything. But then wisely sought out friends for variety! Drummers Brad Vaughn (Dangers), Chad Villareal and Art Schindele (Hoppers) were essential. Tony Fate (Hoppers) and Bob Vennum (Dangers) appear on one guitar track each, as does Tim Loughlin with his stomper bass. It was still a very solo album until Lisa Nemetz came in to sing. I was looking for female backing vocals but instead had a woman's perspective and take on my material. It changed the record because first I love her voice and second she informed the female characters in the songs. Lisa inhabited the angel in HAPPY MAN, Eva Braun in THE OTHER SIDE, and the Spirit in YEARS. She made great suggestions and infiltrated the record in a very positive manner. And our voices flow just right. So that is correct, morst, Lisa on vocals. -------- And you sing and play guitar and bass on this? Minus the drums I play everything, lots of Hammond B-3, maybe too much. All together I am a very grungy band! But I must note Tony Fate's beautiful jazz toned solo on RIVER RISE ABOVE. He is a soulful cat. Tell me about the title, is 'The Spirit That Brings Us Here' a song on the album, or a phrase from a song like 'this could be the death of me?' It is a line from the song YEARS. Lo-Fi Maria Baglien picked it. The song YEARS is from the 1990's when I almost stopped playing music because it had become so hard for me to write songs. I missed my music friends and that songwriting gift. One afternoon I dug my guitar out a closet because this melody hung round me. The song became YEARS, which celebrated getting back that elusive power. (Garod Wayman is a cool fan who encouraged me to record it and get on with a solo album in general. I read my email! Thanks, sir). It is the spirit of music that pulls us, artist and audience, together. It is a theme that runs through many of my songs, from RADIO CITY to GET HIGH... I believe we are connected through music in powerful ways. The Crumbs understand this well. "Do you believe in Rock and Roll?" Any notes about the artwork that I've seen for The Spirit That Brings Us Here? You take the photo yourself? The cover is a sculpture, a kind of inverted lamp. It is by a cool friend from San Francisco Brian R. Mathis, a talented actor, stage director, and educator. The 2003 piece is called " Mary in the Sky with Diamonds" A couple weeks ago he was showing me some his artwork on his ipad and I locked into this photo of Mary. A beautiful and mysterious work that has already caught on with fans. Mary is pain and peace, both are themes in the new album. The Campout 7 gig poster shows The Dangers performing in Pioneertown for the annual Cracker-Camper Van Beethoven event. Will any of these new songs be included in The Dangers' set? I am happy to get The Dangers back out to the campout. Last year I had to switch bands when Bob Vennum picked up a conflicting BellRays gig. As much fun as was had with THE MIGHTY GRASSHOPPERS, I wanted to play new stuff from The Danger's A LITTLE BIT OF LIGHT album. This year we can and yes there will be a few new solo album songs debuted too, along with Lisa Nemetz up there to sing too! This year, the post-campout Fi-Stock studio party will be held at a new location in Redlands. Did you record this album at the new studio? Does the studio have a name yet, and have you still got Maria Baglien behind the board for this project? All hail the new Lo-Fi studio. I think on paper it is called STUDIO, but, morst, you and I know it will always be Lo-Fi, with Maria at the helm. The new album is the first project from the new place, and appears to have a great drum sound. I just heard the mastered version last night and the late night vibe is intact! How does your geographic location influence your songwriting? Would these songs be different if you lived in Buffalo, NY instead of the IE? As my songs are mostly internal struggles I don't know how much location would influence the craft. Like Randy Newman, a deep influence, my songs this time abound with characters. The first track, HAPPY MAN, is an update from The Book of Job, This time devil negotiates with a "jukebox angel" to do Job wrong and send him down river. THE OTHER SIDE has Eva Braun rethinking her relationship with Adolph Hitler, in her last days in a bunker. If you listen hard you will find Osama Bin Ladin too. Also there are unnamed cads (COME TO ME) and semi-villains throughout the album, even a fantasy scene with Mark David Chapman, and John Lennon in PEACE BREAKS OUT. I don't the IE had anything to do with it. It is all in my head! I do want to hear from folks about the new set of songs. I think there is a bit of a breakthrough with the last song, RIVER RISE ABOVE. Another good friend, Robert Daeley, has me working on a poetry book of my songs. I made a direct effort to approach this song as a poem first. It has a very reductive language, and cadence: RIVER RISE ABOVE river run river hide river never did decide river deep river wide come on baby it's not about us sink into the wanderlust come on baby it's not about love the river rise above river bed river ride crashed into the riverside sinking water hold the tide come on baby it's not about us sink into the wanderlust come on baby it's not about love the river rise above river come river go all our lives we never know heads above hearts below come on baby roll with me find a place we'd rather be come on sugar flow with me river is eternity © Chris LeRoy 2011 Published by New West Crash Music/ASCAP As king Dylan-head I remember being thrilled with the first massive Dylan lyric book came out. I sat for hours with my guitar and played along. But without a guitar, and divorced from melody, many many songs don't translate as poetry smoothly. You need to hear the poetry of his phrasing, that is the magic. RIVER RISE ABOVE tries, and I mean tries, to sit as poetry. So maybe I have one for the book! What's next? Are you planning to start any more bands? Maybe a punk/thrash outfit? I do seem to be a bit of a moving target. Someone thinks SO GOOD from the new album is a punk song. SIDE NOTE: One thing about that track is that there are only acoustic guitars. No electric guitars were harmed in the making of SO GOOD. Mastering guru, Bob Lanzner from TECHNOVOICE couldn't believe it. It was my Street Fighting Man challenge! Back to your question, what's next? I mark steps in albums. This is my sixth album and I see an album up ahead from THE MIGHTY GRASSHOPPERS. We have a batch of good new songs. THE DANGERS got started on new stuff but Bob V had a lot of BELLRAYS work (GO BellRays!) and we planned to take a year and make an album in stages. I think that will happen too. Still, there are very few HOPPERS shows and light years between DANGERS events so I do need to figure how to promote THE SPIRIT THAT BRINGS US HERE. Stage one is an acoustic duo with LISA NEMETZ. We are debuting at Campout 7 and Fi-Stock. We both know some of these tunes need a band so... Now if I did go the punk/thrash route I have a couple of potential names: Iron Thing, Scab Calloway, Davy and Goliath Want To Eat Your Children, and my favorite, Christian Bubbly Death. Do you have any plans to press vinyl or release The Spirit That Brings Us Here as high-definition digital audio? I'm no longer satisfied with CD's. (How ya gonna keep em down on the farm, after they've heard 24-bit?) No, I won't settle for an 8-track, though if you release one I'd probably buy it for the novelty aspect. Vinyl is intriguing. Morst, have all your friends buy one Spirit CD so I can spring for the vinyl.... You sure write & record a lot of music - will you be able to tour the USA playing music any time soon? Please? Well, since you said please, I can guarantee that I will triple my shows this year and attempt to get to you as a duo, or band in the near future. I get asked a whole bunch!! And you all said please! Last question - did I forget anything? Anything you'd like to add? Any new tattoos? You never forget anything, and I am afraid of tattoos.... But I would like to add my heartfelt thanks to the Crumbs and Crumbettes out there who have been so enthusiastic about my music, buying the CD's, championing me as a songwriter, singing along to GET HIGH (including hand motions), and pushing me forward. David and Johnny opened doors for me but you guys pushed me through. You folks continue to make this not just possible but inevitable. GO DANGERS! GO HOPPERS! GO LISA AND CHRIS!