back to music this week we venture out into the daylight this time,
and to a place I haven't had a chance to cover a show at since early
2008. NoBrow Coffee & Tea! And don't think I was excluding
them, trust me, I would have been back on a regular basis, but its
hard to keep track of a frequently changing schedule. Or at least it
was until they got this Saturday fixture.
Time To Talk Tween Tunes is a musical showcase featuring two bands formed by Red Bennies leader Dave Payne. The softer rock stylings of Glinting Gems and the acoustic classical pieces from Black Swan. Once a weekly feature at the Urban Lounge for easy listening Sundays, now a part of the popular coffee house's musical rotation. I got a chance to chat with Dave about both bands and the showcase, plus his current thoughts on local music. All with photos from this past Saturday's performance (minus Cathy Foy on drums this week).
Glinting Gems & Black Swan (Dave Payne, Leena Rinne, Irie Earnest, Greg Midgley & Cathy Foy)
Gavin: Hey Dave, first off, tell us a little about yourselves.
Dave: I'm Dave, this is my wife Leena, Greg who plays in Koko & Camero, and Kathy who plays in Sea Monster. That's Irie who plays the violin in Black Swan. Leena and I have two 3 year-olds and Irie babysits them after Black Swan so we can play together. She's 18 and just ran away from home so she needs the money, too. Greg works with me at Rock'n'Roll Academy, and is studying musical enlightenment along with myself. Cathy also teaches drums at Backbeats drum store. Leena is the sweetest, smartest, and most beautiful woman in the world.
Gavin: What got you interested in music, and who were some of your favorite acts and musical influences growing up?
Dave: I got started in music from my father, who had a music career in the 70's (when I was born). My brothers and I now play his 70's hits in a recently-formed family band called Marvin Payne & the Gifted Seed. --Anyways, musical pursuits seemed like a natural thing as I was growing up. As an early teen, I played the saxophone in school and dreamed of being a jazz musician, and worshiped all the traditional jazz sax players. As a later teen, I had a friend who gave me Jimi Hendrix tapes, and I embraced the guitar. That led right into grunge and Soundgarden (it was 1993), and the Melvins, stuff like that. Then, much later in life, a bend back to more traditional stuff with 60's garage rock, say, I'd like any song from a Nuggets collection. Outside of that, I went on a Small Faces kick, which influenced the Glinting Gems quite a bit, originally. So... Jazz, then grunge, then 60's garage rock and Motown-type stuff.
Gavin: How did you originally form The Glinting Gems?
Dave: I had a group for a long time called Optimus Prime, (also called Blue Sparks for awhile), that sounded like a cross between the Meters and Ike & Tina's younger, white nieces music, and years after that group had bitten the dust, Leena and I got the itch to play together. The music was fun, and designed to be light on the playing and heavy on the listening, so we called our friend Ned Clayton to play drums. Then Mike Sartain played the drums, and then Dan Thomas went from 2nd string drummer to 1st string, and it remained that way for a long time. Terrence Warburton played in the group for awhile, too.
Gavin: What was the ideal behind the tracks you were writing, and making them separate from other projects you were involved in?
Dave: The ideal was to play easy, traditional, and expected stuff, with a sort of calm abandon. If I had had the sophistication to just go and play cover songs, I think we would have just done that (and we did do some nice covers), but it seemed more fun to cover ourselves. The difference between that and other stuff I had done, was that I took the other stuff a lot more seriously, from an artistic project perspective, writing and recording/performing, where the Glinting Gems was really just an excuse to score some stage time and pluck my instrument in front of everybody. The songs had lots of guitar solos and such.
Gavin: How did the idea come about to strip the sound down to a softer tone?
Dave: Well, we happened to get a couple of soft gigs in a row, that's all (that's when Terrence was in the group). But if your referring to the current version of the group, which we officially call the Glinting Gems "B" Squad, which was supposed to be Leena, Dan and I, but is actually just anyone 2nd string beyond Dan (Leena and I being the two brightest gems), the motivation to turn down is pure unadulterated musical enlightenment, and an intense passion to connect the individual performer with the sound being created (by de-emphasizing the sound, volume-wise, of course), and an understanding that only through the subtlety and nakedness of quite and personal performance can you transcend the music and communicate personality.
Gavin: One of the more interesting parts of the music is your use of the rarely seen Guitorgan. How did you come across that instrument, and how exactly do you use it for every song?
Dave: The guitorgan is a rare Baptist inspired instrument. A friend I had years ago bought one and showed me, then I finally bought one. It was the most money I've ever spent on an instrument; $800. At the very best, it sounds like someone playing a really crappy organ very poorly, so the organ half is only used supplementally. I do play a rare organ solo on it every now and again, however. I treat it as a regular guitar with a greatly swelling in-and-out-organ backup. The effect is phenomenal, though. To listen to, it really does add another dimension to the sound, but to play it is where is really shines-- the control over the organ swells and sustaining pitch is very rewarding. It feels similar to having perfect control over great feedback that rings at the pitches you choose, at all the right parts of the song. It's very involved to play and very fun.
Gavin: A couple years ago you released Tusk Task: Tsk, Tsk Tsk. What was it like recording the album and the challenges you met along the way?
Dave: The album is a compilation of a lot of recordings that we made during the years previous, which is an album style I really like. Rather than making an album that says, "This is what we can do", I like to make one that says, "This is what we actually did." All the tracks are live from rehearsal, or some are just drums live and then all else overdubbed in my room. If anyone in the group had a real investment in their performance, as in, knew I was going to try and preserve those takes for all time, they would have killed me. Dan has actually expressed his disapproval of the album. He played drums on most of it- maybe all of it.
Gavin: What did you think of the public reaction to it when it was released?
Dave: Fantastic. Amazing. There was zero response. I think that your last question was actually the very first time the album has ever been mentioned. That's significant when you are trying to make a group for very selfish reasons. I try and do all my groups like that now. I pay $100 a year to host the Rest30 website to show all the music I've worked on, really just as a present to myself. All that music (with the Glinting Gems being some of my finest work) has such personal significance, and I think that a lot of the stuff on there is un-objectively just INCREDIBLY fine music, but lets face it-- music isn't un-objectively significant at all. People like Radiohead, but I know a guy who sings just like the dude and his songs are much better, it doesn't matter. The wonder and magic of music equals 10 points. The wonder and magic of a personal acquaintance with another human being equals 12 points. People who listen to music made by strangers only do so because they don't have any friends who can make it. And if they do have friend who make music, and still listen to strangers music, it's because they are out of touch with their own ability to make that same music, or their mother's don't love them. My mother loves me, and I'm very in touch with my ability to make the kind of music I want. I'd pick a CD of myself over anything, and I'll steamroller my band-mates if they stand in my way when I'm trying to make a CD of myself.
Gavin: How did the idea come about for the Time To Talk Tween Tunes showcases?
Dave: I wanted to better myself musically (skill-wise) and I don't have the composure or motivation to practice at home, plus, I didn't have the confidence to do many of the things that I felt should have been foundational to my skill-set-- basically I had absolute fear of singing and playing outside of the totally encompassing safety of a super loud and pretentious rock-group. So I discovered that I could kill all the birds with one stone by practicing soft music in public. We ran TTTTT at Urban on Sunday nights for a long time, and then were booted for lack of audience. Then I proposed to Joe, the owner or Nobrow, that I could provide soft, potentially interesting- but most importantly- completely inoffensive music once a week in exchange for equipment storage at the cafe. And he lets me keep all my stuff in a messy stack in his office! It would have killed the idea to have to make even two trips to-and-fro carrying a drum-- in the early stages, lack of beer would have killed it at the Urban (we stored our stuff there, too).
Gavin: When did you form Black Swan, and how does that band differ from the Gems?
Dave: Black Swan was simply my attempt to learn the cello. Irie Earnest was a student of mine in years past, and she also is a serious study of the violin. It's great to catch up with her every week, plus she enjoys putting her violin skills to the test, but mostly I just exploit her skills in order to get good at the cello. I wrote some pieces with very slow bass parts, and have taken it from there. You'd call it either modern classical, horrible traditional classical, or drills gone wild. Since then, the pieces are difficult for all of us, and I've made some three part composition- Greg plays with us now as the new guy.
Gavin: How is it for you balancing the two acts together for the live show?
Dave: Musically fun...ha ha. I have Red Bennies practice at one, have to cut it painfully short at 2:45, drive across the whole world to pick Irie up, play as fast as possible till 4:45, send Irie around the corner to my house to babysit the girls so Leena can come over, pray to god Greg or Cathy can make it. There's actually 5 or 6 other people on the official "B" squad list who don't come! Rush and rush to get everything played before we have to get out at around 6:00, most of this all dependent on the twin's nap-time anyways, and I'm a busy guy who perceives weeks as days anyways, and this is my only time to get all this stuff done. So it's incredibly important to me and incredibly stressful to pull off all the time. It always feel like my life boils down to this certain half hour, and the other person is 15 minutes late.
Gavin: Are there any plans for a new album from either group, or simply playing the weekly gigs for now?
Dave: I want to do albums for both very badly. The stuff that "B" squad is working on is for from finished, and the Black Swan stuff is... I suck at the cello. You have to play the cello really really well in order to sound just barely OK. So I don't sound OK yet.
Gavin: Going state-wide, what are your thoughts on the local music scene, both good and bad?
Dave: All I know, is that loud music is ridiculous. In a culture where the quality of music is so arbitrary, why can't we have a conversation at the bar? If anyone wants to step up and make fine music, why can't they capture our attention and have us listen? I will not step foot in a modern rock bar unless I'm there to play, and then I will get my revenge by going with the flow of the insane sound man and grand canyon PA and turn up as loud as I can. Seriously, FU every bar in town, and FU my own bandmates, and FU sound guys- it is so weak to hide behind volume, when the individual is the only thing your trying to show off anyways. And it's rude to play loud. And if the music sucks, it's blasphemous to glorify it with extra volume on top. Turn that shit down! When EVERY person in the audience is a 17 year old male, crank it.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it bigger or better?
Dave: Turn it down at the bar and people will listen if the music is good = better friends, better community, better musicians, better audience, better everything, more happiness, peace forever.
Gavin: Aside yourselves, who are your favorite acts in the scene right now?
Dave: Brinton Jones and Brian from Big Sky Tribunal's solo acts. I don't care for music I'm either not making or don't know who is. Most of my friends bands are to loud to either enjoy or ignore. So there is really no "aside yourselves" for me. There's a lot of rad medium-volume stuff played by the kids at my school, but I'm involved with that.
Gavin: What's your opinion on the current airplay on community radio these days and how its affecting local artists?
Dave: I don't really see any effect beyond relish by the people immediately involved, but I love what KRCL does. I'm a huge fan of Bad Brad Wheeler's show in the afternoon. He's great- he plays stuff of mine every once and awhile, plus confides to me how pissed he gets when his friends ask him to play their stuff, which makes me think my stuff is less special when it comes on, but makes me like him more. And I like the other stuff he plays a lot because I like him- I mean, if I didn't know him, I'd never listen to that stuff- I'd put in a CD of myself. Or.. to put a finer point on it, I think all the DJ's over there make a real effort to build their personal relationships with the community, and that's the greatest thing you could possibly do, for any station, scene, community, or anything.
Gavin: What's your take on file sharing these days and how it affects you as a musician?
Dave: I feel that I have the very modern attitude of: People make music. It doesn't have a community function, it has a personal function. Persons, and communication between persons is communities. Music does not have a monetary value-- if anyone is making money with music, they (and their customers) are living in the past, and I'd like them to BE in the past as soon as possible-- the cultural and monetary significance of music in the past has been the weight that has squeezed the life out of music ever since the first caveman became an expert rock bonker and became famous. I envision a world where all cavemen can be expressive rock bonkers.
Gavin: What can we expect from you guys over the rest of the year?
Dave: We are going to make revolutionary music, and dominate the world in an absolutely invisible way, where they don't even know they've been dominated, until they walk out with their coffee and say to themselves, "did you hear that? I thought only the speakers in the ceiling of Forever 21 could make such a beautiful sound! Did that really happen? I better go back inside and check! Wow those are real people doing that!" It will be just like the band at Chuck-E-Cheeze, but the next level. Plus I'll get better at the cello, Cathy will stop speeding up on the drums, Greg will sightread the guitar, Leena will sing harmonies with me, and Irie will graduate high school.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Dave: Yes, we also do "JAZZ CORNER" at NoBrow on Sundays from 2-4PM. Plus, my school: Rock'n'Roll Academy, best music school in the world. Sign up! Also, Rest30, finest music all having taken place within my circle of influence ever!