Realer Than Real

The point of “reviews” on the web is obviously to pretend to wax lyrically/blabber about something that interests you and that you feel everybody else should know about, ostensibly making connections and sharing a field of interest with other fellow fetishists, while in fact you are waxing lyrically/blabbering about something you find far more interesting, namely yourself. I admit it freely: I will surely be guilty of the same. A random anecdote seems far more pointed if it’s presented along with something seemingly substantial. That’s how it works on the world wide web, for better or (mostly) worse.

Anyway, like many boys growing up in the 80’s, I had a major crush on Belinda Carlisle. And Susanna Hoffs (all of the Bangles, actually, except for the big, tall one), but that’s a different review for later. I never liked Madonna much, so there you go. As anyone can tell you, Belinda Carlisle is a major babe. While Samantha Fox rather forcefully dragged us into puberty in the mid-80s with Touch Me, a track only slightly subtler than Je T’Aime, Belinda represented something slightly more sophisticated, making impending adulthood less frightening. I won’t divulge any secret fantasies I had (and still have) and I am convinced you, my dear reader, will be all the better for it. Belinda obviously had two monster hits with Circle in the Sand and Heaven is a Place on Earth. Suddenly, after slogging around the early ‘80s punk scene with the seminal Go-Go’s, and overcoming the usual addictions, she was a major star. She followed that album with Runaway Horses which in my humble opinion is a MOR masterpiece. Sure, it’s overproduced, but it’s still great. Leave a Light On even features the late, great Dark Horse himself, George Harrison, MBE, on slide guitar. Then followed her third solo album, Little Black Book aside, a relentlessly dull affair, completely lacking in songs, a rather jarring problem for any musician (unless you’re like Fugazi; too hard for tunes). As I remember it, it didn’t do much for anyone, myself included, and sank quietly. Myself, I was busy discovering AC/DC, Metallica, Jellyfish and the like. A greatest hits compilation followed, a perfectly servicable affair, but ultimately begging the question “can songs be this nice?”.

Then, in 1993: Real. Welcome!

Yes, Real is still MOR, AOR, ETC; this in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a myth perpetrated by indie bands lacking sales, production values and, frequently, tunes, that accessibility is bad. No, what really makes MOR rock bad so often is the frequent lack of wit and passion, indeed of any kind of vivaciousness. Take Oasis’ debut Definitely Maybe, as an example; it was a spirited affair, hungry and rough, but firmly rooted in a retro vein, lifted (mostly) from the Beatles. Of course, after half of Bolivia’s GNP disappearing up their noses, a promising artistic (note: artistic, not commercial) career fizzled out in a few notoriously torpid and dull albums.

But I digress. Real is a gem, power pop mined from the same vein as classic Cheap Trick, Big Star, the Ramones, the Go-Gos (duh) et al. It’s full of memorable choruses and soaring melodies. The then-current grunge wave seems to influence somewhat the slow verse/loud, big and in fact, FUCKING HUGE choruses. The first thing to strike you is that it’s less orchestrated, opting for a more straightforward guitar pop sound. Belinda’s voice was always a force to be reckoned with and here it’s displayed prominently, as is right. This is a good thing: She pushes her voice far beyond the climes she inhabited on her last solo effort and on some of the songs contained herein, she pushes her voice to a throaty rasp that you just can’t argue with. Check out her wail on Windows of the World, for example, or Here Comes My Baby, where she effortlessly extricates herself from the overwrought stylings of the Celines and Mariahs of the world. And when she’s not busy shattering glass, she delivers her lines with a lazy, near post-coital drawl.

The most profoundly important change was, of course, the songwriting team. Production/writing team Rick Rowley and Ellen Shipley were swapped for (former) Go-Gos Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffrey and some ex-Bangles, among others. The garage-pop edge shines through all the way. Lay Down Your Arms and Wrap My Arms (Around the World) have the sort of soaring choruses that grab you by the throat; it’s custom-made for your car stereo. Man.

Some Go-Go’s show up to play, the odd ex-Bangle, and for some added hipness, guitarist Pat Smear, briefly of Nirvana and Foo Fighters. I have a feeling this album was sort of a warm-up for the reasonably successful Go-Go’s reunion that followed a few years later, when they were finally acknowledged as an influential voice on the LA pop scene. Here, Belinda sounded like a rock chick again, and more importantly, as if she’s having fun.

Real did rather poor business, and is currently out of production, I think, but all the same, I wanted to pay tribute to its inherent great popness; it’s become a minor favourite of mine, resting comfortably among my Semisonic, Teenage Fanclub and Jellyfish CD’s. So now you know. And knowing…is half the battle, says Duke.

22.08.2002 • Permalink

The Big Sound from the Little State

I was introduced to Imprint by my friend Heather, who incidentally dates Chad Maggs, the bassist of the band. I saw Imprint in concert three times and got to meet the band and hang out a bit. Chad was the only member of the band who I spoke to at length; we also emailed, which was how the actual interviews were conducted. I am extremely grateful to him for taking the time to reply to my questions and offer up information. The same applies to Heather, whom I also interviewed a few times. She offered insight to the band from the perspective of someone close to the group without being actually part of it.

The reason I decided to write about Imprint is the fact that I used to be a metalhead in high school, near a decade ago. Frankly, it seemed fun to revisit the scene and see if I could still belong, and more importantly, see what was happening musically nowadays. I still listen to my collection once in a while, but I haven’t purchased anything new for years.

Metal for me was a bit of acceptable rebellion. I was never a deprived child, nor was I particularly angry about much. Resolutely middle-class, I led a safe life. For me then, metal meant something else. My first interests were Iron Maiden (“Can I Play with Madness”) and AC/DC (“Thunderstruck”), though I quickly moved on the Metallica, who were releasing their eponymous album around this time. Metal always seemed somewhat apolitical. It was about demons, personal or otherwise, and as such seems a logical point of interest to the hormonally supercharged young man. Metal was and is (although less so these days, is my impression) the prime domain of the male. This is indisputable: It’s an essentially macho culture; music built on hormones and aggression. Metal was more musically adventurous (in theory, at least) and to a certain extent, it was an offshoot of prog rock. I lost interest in metal after a while; my long locks were shorn, I started wearing clothes in other colours than black, and so on. Punk took over as my musical adrenaline kick. Perhaps it was more accessible ultimately…still, you change as you grow and you move on. So, what’s metal now? Well, it all sounds the same, so I guess I’m old. Part of punk fused with metal and this nu-metal was made. Trailblazers were Korn, preceding Limp Bizkit and after them, a veritable deluge of angsty extreme sports freaks. Another part of punk decided that the Buzzcocks were the Way to God, and so power pop somehow ended up being renamed punk, making Cheap Trick the godfathers of punk, if I understand it correctly. The Sex Pistold reformed, for some reason or other; and some factions of stalwarts with no sense of humour whatsoever remain in their dank cellars and pogo.

The Met Cafe, Providence, 01-31-02
The Met Cafe was only a third full or so. Without the throng of bodies that might enliven it, it looked rundown and tired. Chad, the bassist and prime songwriter, met us at the door. We shook hands and I dutifully went to buy beer. The relative emptiness could also be explained by the hour. It was fairly early, and the band was still setting up on stage. Imprint were not headlining, but supporting punk stalwarts Murphy’s Law.

There was laughter and conversation in the room. I felt out of place; I have no piercings, visible or otherwise, and I was dressed in regular jeans, sweatshirt and sneaker. No cameo slacks, no army boots, tattoos or any heavy metal trappings. I had not been to a metal show for some years, unless you count the Ramones’ farewell tour. I once had long hair and donned black for every occasion, but my teenage rebellion extended to that, and although some of my love for the music remains, I have mellowed considerably. The aimless energy of my adolescence is redirected. It has been long enough for a stylistic shift to occur: no longer seen is the long hair and spandex of the 80’s. Nirvana effectively killed hair metal, and Metallica took Heavy Metal to a new level, where the scariest things were no longer Hammer horror trappings, as exemplified by Iron Maiden, but rather the demons in your own head. For an older audience member, the introvert tendencies of present metal is somewhat cloying; it used to be about anger, hormones and confusion, perhaps, but it was still something of a catharsis. Ultimately, it was about rebelling, an “us versus the world” mentality that in fact exists in just about every musical scene. Today, metal seems to have merged with the shoegazing of the indie scene, and punk is more indebted to the power pop of Cheap Trick than the might fury of the Sex Pistols.

The band started playing, after my second beer or so. A few lone souls took it upon themselves to create an impromptu mosh pit up front, but to no avail. There simply weren’t enough of them. As the band played their first songs, the vocalist clutched his mike in a firm grip, not unlike Hank Rollins, and moved broodingly back and forth, head bowed, eyes fixed downwards. He let forth shredding vocals. Heather, who had invited me in the first place, nudged me and said: “He’s really sweet and laid-back off-stage”, as if to assure me. I grinned and wondered if he’d approve of this disclosure of information.

Some of the songs sounded by-the-numbers to me, but a few of them rose to another level, typically those in which they attempted something different with the orchestration. One song had Chad keeping a driving rhythm going on a seriously overdriven bass, while Gary, the guitarist, plucked out a shimmering arpeggio as a counterpoint. It was most pleasing, and while hardly baroque, the effect of the contrast not only added an intuitive melodiousness, but also revealed the implied skill that tends to separate dilettantes from real musicians. (I later learned that Gary studied at Berkelee) Actually, there was nothing understated about the number; it thundered along like the four horsemen of the apocalypse and their extended family, but it did make me listen more closely to what they were playing.

Murphy’s Law took to stage later; a hardcore group of fans, basically everyone in the audience, excepting Imprint, who took a well-deserved break in the back, stated moshing and crowdsurfing in the seriously limited space. The band seemed fairly drunk, chugging Jagermeister and sharing the bottle with their rabid fans. (I was fairly drunk as well, realizing I’d blown over 20 dollars on Foster’s oilcans. I swayed, true, but to no beat but my own.) The riffs counted three or thereabouts, paced to an unerring 4/4 beat and I stood at the back of the room, wondering if my eardrums would start bleeding soon, if they weren’t already. The evening concluded wonderfully, as the vocalist exclaimed what a nice day they’d had in Providence: “Isn’t this weather we’re having great?”, he said; “yeah”, replied the crowd in unison. “No, it’s NOT great,” he shouted back “It’s the END OF THE FUCKING WORLD!!!” The wag.

The Met Cafe, Providence, 02-23-02
The second gig was even better. My critical sense was to be honed further my second time around. It was also to be the night when I decided whether to attempt to write about Imprint and the surrounding metal scene. Low on time and non-mobile, I was resigned to the downtown Providence area. My other choice would be the Irish music scene, little more than an excuse for me to go to the Irish bar on Sundays, which I didn’t need (the excuse, that is), but could perhaps make me feel less guilty about spending time away from studio.

It was a CD release party, again at the Met Cafe; Imprint was not the only band there, they shared with two others. We gave the first band, Soulshed, a miss, since rumour had it they were pretty bad. Dedset was the other. The bands had achieved that great coveted goal of releasing an actual album. This time around, the Met Cafe was sold out. At first I felt even more out of place, but then realized I was not the only “civilian” there, although I was in the minority, surrounded by the spiked hair of punks, cameo slacks and combat boots. Again, I mused at the way fashion had become such a seeming hybrid of punk and metal, two genres that used to be so separate.

Dedset were enjoyable; professional and driving, they delivered a solid set. The mosh pit was fairly frenzied. I got too close to it. I hadn’t experience a mosh pit in years, either, and wondered about it all. What was the appeal? It seemed so…brutal. Logically, I know that the pit is simply the spirit of the music made action; it’s the act of venting. For most, it’s a better way to release pent-up energy than fighting. In a sense, it is fighting, but it’s more a ritualistic aspect of it. The intention is not to hurt or get hurt, although bruises are inevitable. Even at the most brutal gigs I’ve been to the mosh was never intentionally dangerous: when someone fell, people were quick to create a circle and help the person get up. That was the aspect that appealed to me, though it has taken me a few years to vocalize it. And it seems to work the same way for everyone.

Heather: I’ve always felt that metal and hardcore boys tended to be more well adjusted than other boys because they get out all their demons and aggressions through their music, and have no need for it to be anywhere else in their lives.

Imprint’s gig this time around was more focused, though they had abandoned the sonic experiments, somewhat to my disappointment. In truth, they sounded a bit more like Dedset, with more streamlined riffs and musically less “crunchy” and brooding than last time. They did, however, deliver a great show. I walked home in a light drizzle, a major beer haze and crossing the bridge, nearly fell in the river.

The New Wave Cafe, New Bedford, 04-19-02
The New Wave Cafe is a pretty small place, a low-key bar sporting a garish red neon sign, located in one of those pedestrian-hostile, cars-only places that America seem so fond of. My girlfriend and I entered, asking the doorman if we’d missed Imprint; no, he replied, they just started. He motioned to my camera bag; I’m with Imprint, I said, I’m taking photos. Ok, he said and shrugged without much interest.

Imprint was playing on a bill of five bands. They were third, right in the middle.

The actual bar was pretty tiny; there can’t have been much more than 30 or 40 people in the room, nor did the locale seem capable of more than 150, at most. As we entered, they finished a song; Chad, the bassist, saw me, and I raised my hand in greeting; he waved back, looking slightly incredulous that I’d actually come all the way to New Bedford. We sat down at the bar and ordered a few beers. I dug into my pocket and donned some earplugs. “Do you want a pair?” I asked Amie. “No, I’m fine”, she started to say, but then Imprint tore into the next number, and she quickly changed her mind.

The crowd seemed more eclectic than the last times. It was still a predominantly young audience, but less defined visually, i.e. fewer of the blatant “metal uniforms” abounded. There were more girls there as well, it seemed, none of which looked remotely “metal”; as such, I felt less an outsider at this gig than the other ones. Amie, an old patron of the establishment, pointed out some people who were regulars; one guy even played in a Hootie & the Blowfish-type band which occasionally performed there. Thus it seemed fair to assume that some of these people were regular bar patrons who came more for the bar than the stage. From the look of it, this was a correct assumption; they stayed mostly at the back, some of them chatting and nursing their drinks. They also seemed slightly older than the people following the bands. One of the few older folks to venture close to the stage was spectacularly mulleted.

The set Imprint played seemed more indebted to the vibe they had at the release party than the very first time I saw them and I began to wonder if I’d actually imagined that evening’s arrangements. (I hadn’t: Heather later told me that Imprint tend to play less complex stuff when playing with punks, so as not to diverge too much. Essentially, dumbing down the music.) There were differences: Perhaps it was the small venue, but the band seemed more relaxed on-stage than when last I saw them. They smiled more and seemed to be more lighthearted. There wasn’t much of a mosh pit to speak of, but a few bodies jumped up and down vigourously. “OK”, announced Jaymz, “we’re going to do a cover song. You all know this one”, and at that point they tore into a song I have never heard before in my life. (Chad later told me it was the Deftones’ “Roots”) By this point, the mosh had expanded a bit, at least doubling in size. All of a sudden during the song, Gary, the guitarist, jumped off the stage and joined in the mosh, to everyone’s delight. It was interesting to witness; the stage was only raised a foot or so off the ground, but this breach of procedure, this act of performer/audience solidarity somehow became a moment of bigger symbolism; it was the defining moment when they seemed to win over the crowd. I may have put too much into it, but place someone on a pedestal, no matter how small or big, and nothing can elevate them more than by their descending from it. I took a few photos (most of which did not come out, including, to my great consternation, Gary’s venture into the crowd). A guy looked at me as I was shooting, and I took the opportunity to ask him why he was there; “for the bands, man”, or words to that effect. So what was it about the bands that he liked? He eyed at me somewhat suspiciously and shrugged before returning his attention to he music. A girl with an Imprint sticker on her ass was cheering enthusiastically, and so, I tried asking her the same thing. Despite my camera, she seemed to think I was making a pass at her, but she replied, if somewhat huffily, that she knew one of the band members, but looked away, and I didn’t get to confirm whether said band member was in Imprint or one of the other bands. One thing I did deduce, from observing the crowd, was that it seemed to consist largely of band members, friends and girlfriends. It seemed that a lot of the crowd knew each other, from the look of it (many greetings and “how have you beens”) and as the following band, Liquid Destruction(?) took to the stage, they simply came from out of the crowd and set up on stage. Their vocalist laconically remarked “Drink more —the more you do, the better we’ll sound.” It proved to be a fairly accurate statement; they were ridiculously loud, to the point that I felt a dull ache in the back of my head. We decided we were far too poor to be able to drink what was required to make them sound reasonable, so we left. Outside, I spoke to Chad briefly and complimented him on the show. For some reason, I didn’t tell him that I thought they were far better than Liquid Destruction, probably because he seemed very enthusiastic about them. I personally thought Imprint was on a much higher level.

While not adding much knowledge musically, I must admit that after seeing this set, it was easier to connect the on-stage persona with the off-stage one; the seriousness that I saw at the past gigs belied the affable guys I met after the show. The music was the same, but their demeanor was different. Obviously, performance is just that, and some histrionics are to be expected, but I did wonder whether it was the size of the venue (and what I assumed to be audience familiarity) that allowed them to loosen up somewhat. It was an interesting change, and it made me wonder about how much of the anger was a pose and how much was actual conviction. To my great delight, they did play their big showstopper, the break that leaves the viewer thoroughly flabbergasted with the sheer technical skill at display.

Thoughts After Experiencing the Band Live
My overall impression was that none of them really seemed like rock monsters; they all seemed quiet and approachable.. Chad was easily the friendliest, no doubt because of my long friendship with his girlfriend Heather. Still, every time they went on-stage, I noticed a shift; they were certainly focused on the task ahead, and Jaymz especially seemed to recede into some other place, brooding and pensive. His vocals, somewhat obscured in the din of the music, as always happens in the face of strange PA’s and bad bar acoustics, were still powerful, and dare I say it, assured for a 22-year old. This sort of statement certainly paints me as a wannabe old coot, but he seemed to genuinely emote from that dark place. They seem like a real unit on stage, working within their (not insignificant) capabilities. They are skilled musicians and make no mistake: they know it. Above all, they are confident on-stage; there is a focused swagger to their step, so to speak, that in addition to their musicianship lends them an air of authority. I am frequently impressed with the clarity of the sound; for a small band playing small clubs, the sound is quite good. They seem very focused on what they’re doing. They play with each other, not against each other. One might argue that this might take some of the fun aspects out of it. (After all, Deep Purple all tried to outplay each other, which led to them hating each other, but also some great moments for the audiences)

Up there, they seem bigger: larger and more overpowering. As I described, Jaymz prowls the stage; the others also drop their smiles and replace them with expressions of great intent. They play hard and they play precise, just as you’d expect from a band growing up with the legacy of thrash and speed metal. Watching them set up, however, is a quiet affair. They are hurried, but not stressed. Nobody yells at anybody else, though there seems to be such ritual to it that they don’t need to talk much.

Off-stage, the band is approachable, affable and occasionally talkative. They do, in fact, strike you as somewhat shy. Heather pointed this out to me as well. “It’s so funny to see Jaymz on stage like that…he’s normally very quiet and sweet”. There seems to be no leader that stands out from the rest. Jaymz, as the vocalist, is the natural focal point, obviously. However, Gary, the guitarist, is the one who takes care of booking matters and so on. He’s listed as the contact person on their website (www.imprintmusic.com) and as such is the outward face of the band, at least business-wise.

This seemed interesting and when I asked Heather if there were any defacto leaders in the band, she indeed replied

Heather: I think Gary is really the leader, since he’s the organizational one, the one who plans the shows and such.

After the gigs, the guys were relaxing, dismantling the gear and slipping into a couch to wind down. It’s interesting to note that they do these things together, as a gang. They seem to gravitate towards each other. Of course, given that they have to be organized, they need to stick close together, but still…they are both a musical and a social circle.

The Interview
Chad: Imprint formed from the ashes of a band named Downshift. (A memory we’d like to forget) The remaining members kept going in search of a singer…we went through a few tryouts, then we met Jaymz and everything kinda fell into place. In the beginning we were doing just for fun, then we got serious about it. We’ve been working to do this for a living since 1998.

When asked about the songwriting process, which I figure is the big one in terms of power within a band, I am told that it’s a collaborative effort. Each member brings something to the stew, then structures are built and songs are created. Jaymz is the sole lyricist and up until now he’s only been concerned with the vocals.

Chad: Usually one of us brings a riff down to practice and we work from there so all of us have a part in writing the songs. All of us have part in the writing process: Jaymz takes care of all his vocals, we just give him advice (“that really sucks man, do something else”).

So the songs are democratic and grow organically, almost, from the Imprint “community”. And nobody seems concerned about Jaymz becoming the sole songwriter either. Heather backed up the statement.

Heather: They all write together; usually starting from something that either Chad or Gary comes up with, and building upon that….Jaymz recently bought a guitar too, so he can start writing riffs and such…He does all the lyrics.

(The lyrics, for the record, are rather dark and downbeat, although they are also fairly byzantine in their incomprehensibility. They can be perused on the Imprint website)

When revealing their musical interests, the band shows great diversity…it goes from Counting Crows to blues and jazz (Gary, in his bio, seems the most diverse: Like most guitarists, he likes Stevie Ray Vaughan but is also a Sonny Rollins fan. He also went to Berkelee) to the obvious metal gurus. But as Chad says: “Everything under the sun…” (Footnote: Drummer Chris Hayes instantly endeared himself to me when he sited famed Muppet drummer Animal as an influence.)

Chad: We play the music that comes out of us: It wasn’t a conscious decision.

In my headbanger phase, I was obsessed with “heaviosity”; the impression I gave off was that I listened to metal 24/7. This was not true, however: I could never give up my love for the Beatles any more than I could stop eating. For a self-professed metalhead, I was rather diverse in my tastes, and my one moment of realization arrived when I was browsing through some black metal fanzine to find a review of [sunshine pop band] Jellyfish’s “Spilt Milk”. I knew then that I was not the only one: I had bought it a few months before. Interestingly, this time was also the period when my interest in classical music was coming to the fore, particularly classical guitar, which I was learning to play myself.

Imprint’s musicianship, as I’ve noted earlier, is quite impressive. Their diverse music interests seems like a good starting point. The most interesting metal bands were always the ones with something more to say musically. (They were incidentally the ones to rise to greatness as well. Metallica early on included classical guitar breaks before blasting away; by 1998’s “reloaded”, they even had a hurdy-gurdy on an album.) Perhaps the diversity of the music does bring in a diverse crowd: They tend to “dumb down” their music when playing with the punk bands, which Heather pointed out they had to do:

Heather: Fellow musicians tend to like them a lot, since musically they really know what they’re doing and can pull it off live. I think that’s why punk kids aren’t so into them–[it] goes over their heads! (Remember that show we went to, where the other 2 bands were punk? That’s a good example). The little girls love Chad and Jaymz,

I also asked Chad about who the typical Imprint fan is:

Chad: Most of them are human, some girls, some boys… haha, just kidding. [A] good variety: We appeal to metal heads and musician types, but we also have poppy and acoustic songs that gets an older, more mellow crowd.

So they definitely seek out the diversity of their own influences. While I don’t think they have mined it as much yet as they surely will in the future, it is there as an undercurrent to the music, and can definitely appeal to a broader audience once they explore it more. (Although I have only seen three shows, so I can’t generalize the audience yet)

So far, then, they adhere to the democratic ideal, which will empower them in their quest to take on the world. All for one, and one for all. No huge egos have surfaced in the band, and one can hope it doesn’t happen. The nature of the group is collaboration; from this springs originality and ideas. The band that plays off each other also pushes each other to rise to new levels. But though the songwriting process is a democratic endeavor, they admit to not always seeing eye to eye on musical ideas:

Chad: Absolutely: We fight all the time when writing. We just try it as many ways as possible and whatever feels the best, we go with.

Heather concurs, but offers up some additional info:

Heather: Oh yes, they argue while writing! But the cool thing is that they try everyone suggestions, no one is completely ruled out without trying it first. There are some songs they still don’t agree on…Chad HATES “Downgrade”, but Gary loves it, etc…

But with Jaymz buying a guitar to write more efficiently on his own, could there be a shift towards a more singular sound, as a result of an individual songwriter? Nobody seems to think so. And while there are some jokes about Jaymz developing “lead singer syndrome” (i.e. big head, not lifting things etc), his confidence as a frontman has increased tenfold since they first started out. Logically, this leads to better performances, which is ultimately in the obvious interest of the band.

While some bands are little more than a backup group for a vocalist (Crowded House, the Kinks, Wings, Blur, the Jam, the Police, Ben Folds Five, the Replacements, etc), the big difference is that for the most part these are a group of musicians and a single songwriter. In a band like Imprint, where all the members contribute to the musical “stew”, a democracy is easier to uphold, simply because the band as a whole doesn’t rely on one single person. The sound, which is what leads to success (or lack thereof) is a result of the various input. Bands who write like this often do well, U2 being a prime example. Bono writes lyrics but the rest of them write the music, instead of just being told to play.

Me: Do you see any egos in the band? They seem very democratic.

Heather: They’re democratic, definitely. Sometimes Chris jokes that he’s too good for them and should leave because they’re a waste of his time when no one is up to practicing and he really wants to. He doesn’t mean it though! They tease Jaymz about getting Lead Singer Disease (they never carry equipment, big head, etc…) but he’s really not that bad. He’s got a lot more confidence now, and that’s a good thing. You have to have a bit of an ego to be a musician, you know? To think that people actually would want to watch you play and listen to your music. But there aren’t any Vince Neils [Motley Crue frontman] in the band, thank goodness!

Chad: It’s a democracy. We all have our own responsibilities.

Me: What are the strengths of the band members? How does this show in the music?

Chad: One of the strengths of the individual band members are all the various styles of music [that] each of us bring to the table. Five years ago, Gary came from Pantera and Dream Theater and a bunch of jazz stuff; Jaymz loves most music that is ridiculously heavy; Chris loves Tool, Dream Theater Nine Inch Nails, Yanni (don’t ask me) and I came from Overcast, Integrity and all the older hardcore stuff…and I loved ska (go figure). As the years passed, we all grew to listen to more styles of music and our experience in playing has also helped us grow to listen to new styles of music

Heather: Gary is the man —he went to Berklee, so he really knows what he’s doing, and his strengths show through his musicianship. Chris is really aggressive when it comes to their music, so that comes across in how he plays…Chad is a thinker; he spends hours on a melody in his head until he comes up with something he likes (hence why their friend Matt calls Chad’s songs his “epics”) and Jaymz is continually getting better at singing and his frontmanship…he always could scream like a motherfucker though.

Paul McCartney remarked that all he wanted to do in the Beatles was rock…and as he pointed out in the Beatles Anthology (humbly, of course) “I always thought we were a great little R & B band.” Curious about their musical interests, I asked Chad if he thought Imprint’s future lay in metal.

Me: I saw in your bios on the web page that you all like a lot of different music…will Imprint stay metal in the long run? (Not that I expect you to turn into Santana or anything…)

Chad: We will just keep writing and whatever comes out, comes out. I’ve been listening to a lot of new stuff, mainly because Heather or someone at work got me into it (like Radiohead, Portishead, and Jimmy Eat World), so I’m writing a little bit more spacey and simple than I used to. Plus, all of us are eager to hear new good music and meet new people that will affect how and what we write, so it is possible that Imprint could write a Santana type song: As is, we have a bunch of acoustic songs that we keep in the closet. For the lighter shows, we are very versatile and just starting to explore new territory. So I don’t think we even fit in the metal genre where we stand now, and it is unlikely that we will grow into that [genre].

Conclusion
Imprint seems to be around for the long haul: They are driven and professional and they love what they do. I think that the structure of the band will enable them to stay a unit for a good while. It is of course impossible to prophesize anything, but as long as they stay true to their setup, they can stay strong and retain their individuality. One thing I can see in the future might be the addition of another band member: I can see them adding a keyboard player, for example, to create fuller arrangements in their expanding musical picture. Chad is realistic about their progress. They have come further than he expected and he knows that success is the result of hard work.

Chad: We didn’t think we would be where we are right now, but we worked our asses off and got here. We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are ready for it…we hope to be signed [two years from now] but we aren’t excepting it. We want to get to the level of playing in the band for a living with out record label help.

ENDNOTE
Imprint’s tour bus did make it all the way to California in 2003, but they disbanded in 2004.

01.05.2002 • Permalink

Elegy

There must have been
some purpose
to the easy rain,
the bodies in the river,

and the symphonic
blue lights;
a growing whiteness
behind the eyes

caps the sweet despair
of red bicycles on rooftops;
chrome among gulls,
winged elegies.

14.04.2002 • Permalink

The Art of Seeing

I remember very clearly from when I was in the 5th grade: I had been shipped off to camp for a week in some picturesque Norwegian mountain hamlet with my class; we lived in an old boarding school where lambs would graze and bleet next to us as we played football.

Our room overlooked a majestic valley and though I can no longer remember the particular details, I remember climbing out on the ledge with a friend and stating something like: “It’s really pretty, isn’t it?” My friend, by way of reply, shrugged and said nothing. I was not offended or riled; after all, I had to admit that I only said it because it seemed appropriate at the time, as something that should me remarked upon in a suitably adult fashion.

During the summer of 2001, I took the train from Oslo to Bergen for the first time in my life. It is said to be one of the most beautiful trips in the world, but I know my countrymen well enough not to take immediate pride in a pile of rubble or a stretch of gray water placed conveniently between to cliffs. I also came equipped with three years of art education and would observe and appreciate whatever lay ahead in an appropriate manner.

Some two and a half hours outside Oslo, my eyes grew wide and my chin dropped precipitously; never had I come across something quite so wonderful; as we rolled into the actual mountainlands, the landscape seemed so majestic, so copious in its beauty as to become almost tedious. It was relentlessly pretty and I sat wide-eyed, mouth agape with wonder and it was all I could do to attempt to take everything in. Nature had worked here with a limited palette, perhaps, granite grays, moss greens, a deep blue sky and ponds and brooks of liquid darkness and ominous reflections.

There was a calm beauty to the landscape, but harsh, with none of the tenderness or good cheer of an ocean sunset; it was like looking at a piece of eternity and feeling dismissed as something transient, ephemeral; indeed, I felt altogether insignificant.

Arriving finally in Bergen, I strayed into some of the alleys of the city, part of the city’s trademark Hanseatic architecture which makes it seem lie a city leaning on itself, jumbled and cozy, but always precipitously close to collapsing upon itself. When at last I found my friend’s apartment, I was blubbering; he patted me on the back with a knowing nod, and we did the only thing seemingly logical at the time, which was to get uproariously drunk.

I suppose this anecdote is just to illustrate that there has been some progress, natural or otherwise, over the past 13 years. I have responded to all manner of artwork; some I have understood and some, I haven’t. Some hold endless fascination, despite, or possibly because of their banality and some, in their complexity. The first painting I remember seeing, or if you will, seeing beyond, was a triptych entitled ‘”Time” ( or so I believe); each was roughly the same pattern, a corridor of sorts, but with different colours. I believed it to represent the shifting of night and day, of the seasons. It was at the same time that Munch’s work became anguish, as much as intense colours and poor draftsmanship. Coincidentally, the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” also started making sense at this time. (Sort of.)

It was not until I was actively studying art that I came to see the world through different filters and angles. The first piece to really move me was Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks”, then, perhaps oddly, Scheeler’s abandoned cityscapes. These were the first I connected with, perhaps finding in their works a similar mindset to my own; as a happy midnight wanderer and (however occasionally) morning explorer, it’s the temporarily abandoned scenes that fascinate me the most. The hidden things uncovered during sunrise, the fatigue of the lazy subway car and so on.

Scheeler had a big impact on my photographic work, and to this day, I don’t know whether to feel pride or consternation at a friend’s remark that I “make even NY seem empty”. To each his own, I suppose, and it’s a theme recurrent in much of my favourite poetry as well.

I think what I react to the most are the privacies caught on canvas or even conceptually. Hopper’s work reflects this, like I said, but I also prefer something like David’s “Death of Marat” to a battlescene. It’s the aftermath, the wake of things, the calm of the storm I prefer. Perhaps this is why my own work reveals a fascination with ruins and decaying structures as well as pattern and lines. For me, there is an intriguing duality about the decaying rather than the spotless; in ruins, there is an inherent narrative and often a sense of a history, by which I mean that there is a tangible present, but also a certain past.

I rarely respond to confrontational art with more than a shrug. Upon seeing the infamous “Sensation” show in London, I was forced to admit that it was a curiously impotent affair; repelling? Certainly. Provocative? Not really, more than the actions of a petulant child. In a separate setting, the pieces were probably far more effective, but I couldn’t see anything beyond a certain smug crossing the border of good taste. Excepting the paintings of Rachel White(?), my most vivid memory of the show is my friend, once a butcher’s apprentice, standing in a Damien Hirst piece, pointing to the flank, remarking where “the good meat is”.

Responding to art is not the same as responding to the world, in my opinion. Responding to art is responding to an idea, to a point of view. In both instances, it is a deeply personal experience. I have for the most part seen art and the world as two separate instances. Through what may perhaps be called prejudice, the world as a whole is best represented through “truthful” media (a self-contradiction, to be sure). I see these at the very east aspiring to some objective truth, whereas art becomes subjective, a message beyond what is seen and understood instantly.

Reporting presents us that which portrays itself as an objective, raw and untarnished truth, while art in this manner, is a far more honest endeavour, aspiring to nothing greater than one point of view among many.

But I digress. Or do I? All perception is subjective by its very nature and no matter how objectively a line or a picture may be presented, the receiver will always impose his or her own point of view upon it, coloured by whatever particular emotional or historical luggage he or she carries with. So fucnctions art, in my opinion.

More than ‘fine’ art, it is movies and comic books that shaped my outlook, as well as photography. I suppose to a certain degree, it is this which has led me to the field of graphic design; the single, narrative image. A narrative image, rather than a singular scene, a narratve. I don’t mean to say that I don’t appreciate this. Far from it, and again, I point to Hopper, Scheeler and Munch. It is just that I have always preferred the power of a comic book to a static landscape. Catching a moment, in an image, however, is the greatest visual achievment to me.

When my grandfather died, we found a series of old photographs of him from his younger days; he was in full captain’s uniform on the bridge of his ship. I had never known this aspect of him and I came to realize at this time that the moment is always flawed; as it doesn’t or indeed can, include the temporal aspect. This again goes back to my fascination wih the decaying of things. There is history there, and one must see the whole in oreder to recognize it.

I am not sure if art has had an impact on my perception of the world. This I believe to be a direct result of growing up in the world, through interaction and generalisation. Art is obviously part of the world, most often a comment upon it. I believe that art can be of its time, but not necessary to it. It can help find converts, but it is essentially powerless on its own. This applies to a great many things, but particularly today, with art being so far removed from the general public as it is.

Art can give you an understanding of the world, but is is certainly a long-winded process. I see things intuitively, rather than intrellectually. If anything, I see the world as photographs of sorts, a series of single moments.

I can see how the light falls or sense the mystery of a foggy marshland, but I never view the world as an abstract,as some people do. I always approach the real world intuitively, then intellectually. Abstraction to me is solely an intellectual endeavour, a result based on analysis andmeditation; although I am often able to see patterns, it is again not through an abstraction in my mind, but rather through a feeling that there is something underlying there.

My one skill in seeing, I suppose, is to see things simeltanously in black & white and colour, knowing fairly instinctly when a particular setting would fit either colour scheme. Other than that, I always find what I am looking for later after the fact; for example, in some photos I have done, I have unwittingly been playing with scale, as in the instance of a somewhat awkward small cabin at the foot of a mountain, for example. It might be a chiascuro effect (which fascinated me long before I knew that there was a term for it) and so on. Hence, my perception of the world, the act of seeing this, is for the most part only intuitive.

Conversely, I approach art intellectually from the very first moment, which might be why I am never truly bowled over by a given piece: emotionally, I am removed and I approach art with the assumption that it is to be immediately analysed, understood, before I can be appreciated. Hence, I am guilty of a surgeon’s lack of passion for his work. Of course, there are exceptions, and again, this is photography and graphic design. Good work in both fields can connect with me suddenly. It is perhaps an overly cynical approach, and I admit I sometimes wish I could give myself over and just experience. This may, or probably will, happen in the future, as I internalize the analytical processes.

I must admit that while I have respect for the intellectualism of modern art, the fact that it has so moved purely into the realm of ideas makes it less tangible for me, for natural reasons. The idea is so pure, so throroughly intellectual, that the form of the resulting piece essentially is rendered meaningless. I miss the playfulness of Magritte or Dali, who made tangible both dreamworlds and the surreal. The surreal has an abstract element to it, a nonsensical flavour I appreciate. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I have swalloved a lot of art theory at this point that I wish for something simpler.

I am uncertain of how I wish for people to see my own work. I have no aspirations of greatness; I strive for skill and professionalism, and the blending of this with whatever talent I have in myself. I obviously wish to do work that will move people, and emotionally, not intellectually. The message must obviously come across, otherwise, I have failed in my professsion, in which the message is all. I must try not to get caught up in simple artifice, rather than art. Also, the fact that a commercial artist speaks to a greater audience than a fine artist, one must be careful not to forego doing conscientus work, out of simple resonsibility. However, this is currently an entirely hypothetic point of argument for me, as I currenly have no audience beyond my immediate peers. Still, I hope I will not be seen through my art. I am not sure if I always appreciate feeeling intimate with an artist throuigh his or her work partly because it usually feels contrived and false. All in all, I will be happy as long as I can add something subtle to the world and possibly make someone else think about what they are seeing.

08.02.2001 • Permalink