INTERVIEW: Ben Folds

Published on theMusic.com.au, Jan 2017

Ben Folds Shares What We Can All Learn From ‘Trapped In The Closet’ By R Kelly

Classical music can learn a lot from R Kelly’s Trapped In The Closet, an affable Ben Folds tells Daniel Cribb.

Most fans of pop and rock would admit to rarely listening to classical music, let alone going out to experience it live – except for the rare occasion when a band enlists an orchestra to perform alongside them, which, as Ben Folds comments, is “not that good most the time”.

Few acts that embark on such an endeavour have enough time to workshop the dynamic in a way that truly complements the insane talents of the classically trained musicians backing them.

Flashback to 2016 when Folds last visited Australia with acclaimed New York ensemble yMusic and we put forward that there were times when audience members almost forgot the headline act was even there. “I totally understood that and that’s kind of what I wanted, so you’re on it,” Folds tells.

His latest album, So There, was a collaborative effort with yMusic, and while he was preparing for certain sectors of the classical community to turn their nose up at the idea of a pop musician releasing such a record (he’s been performing with orchestras for years), it was met with wide acclaim all ’round, even going to #1 on the US Classical Music chart. “There was a formula that proved, after the fact, to be very effective, which is sort of specific to that album,” he says.

“If you listen to the record, it’s mostly a pop record and it’s in the voice of a guy who’s been selling records in the pop world. Now, selling shit in the pop world is still topping the charts in the classical so, when they called it classical and my crowd bought it – then suddenly I’ve got the number one Billboard Classical record for a long time, but it’s not really an indication of my going in and taking over the classical world.”

Although Folds is now firmly planted in that world – currently National Symphony Orchestra’s artistic adviser – he’s not looking to repeat the So There formula again. “I definitely lose a lot of opportunities by jumping off something when it starts to work,” he admits, a statement that is backed by his eclectic back catalogue and countless projects. For Folds, it’s more about doing what enjoys as opposed to cashing in. “It’s like, ‘Okay, the iron’s hot – time to strike.’ And I go, ‘Oh, I think I’ll do something else’.”

Frequently jumping between genres over the past few years, he’s noticed correlations and interesting (and bizarre) influences between pop, folk and classical music. “R&B and hip hop have encouraged us to look at the beat differently, and what plays the beat, and I think that actually opens up a lot of opportunities for classical music,” he says.

“Remember that ridiculous Trapped In The Closet by R Kelly? It’s good shit, right? It’s 45 minutes of the same song and he’s telling this crazy-ass story, but it’s actually kind of brilliant. The beat is a water faucet drip – that’s all it is.

“It’s not a drum, it’s not anything that we’re used to – this kind of reimagining of groove textures is really exciting because they can be done by all kinds of crazy shit in the orchestra and the rock bands are stuck with their drums.”

Folds’ Paper Aeroplane Request tour hits Australia in February, with the US muso going back to his roots and performing in solo mode. The show will see punters writing song requests on pieces of paper, turning them into paper planes and then hurling them onto the stage, which should make for an extremely memorable evening given his comedic wit and improv skills.

With touring duties and his artistic-adviser role, Folds has had little time to think about his next studio album, but he’s still found time to add credits to his IMDb page, proving even further he has worthy comedic value by playing himself on US comedy You’re The Worst at the end of last year. “I really enjoyed it,” he laughs. “I have so much fun with that stuff.”

http://themusic.com.au/interviews/all/2018/01/17/ben-folds-daniel-cribb/

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INTERVIEW: Gyroscope

Published on theMusic.com.au, Jan 2017

Why Gyroscope Chose Self-preservation Over Releasing Another Album

If Gyroscope didn’t take a break, they might have imploded, as frontman Dan Sanders tells Daniel Cribb.

“We took the tool belt off for a while and were living life for what it was; gaining different knowledge and experiences,” begins Gyroscope frontman Dan Sanders on the band’s time away from the spotlight.

Besides the occasional hometown gig, it has been pretty quiet in camp Gyroscope since the touring cycle of their acclaimed fourth LP, 2010’s Cohesion, died down, but they have in no way lost their spark, channelling their renowned live energy into two blistering new songs for double A-side release Crooked Thought/DABS.

It’s the first new music we’ve been gifted in seven years, and by all accounts, it has been worth the wait, with the release showcasing a revitalised act.

It took that time away from the band – focusing on family and individual projects and careers – to figure out how to juggle everything and put Gyroscope in perspective. “We’ve always said from the start that it was family first, but we’ve realised you can do this and do that and still make it work and enjoy it and write some cool tunes along the way,” he explains.

Given their relentless release and touring schedule from conception until Cohesion, it’s easy to see how they might have imploded had they not taken a step back. “When you start to get in a cycle where you write, you record, you tour, you write, you record, you tour, the monotony gets in the way of some sort of real life, because you become a machine where you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel – you get stuck in that and it starts to get you down.”

The band was touring so frequently that they had to designate certain times to write, almost like clocking into a day job, which, as Sanders says, doesn’t always work.

The two new songs aren’t as polished as previous hits – a Spotify shuffle from Baby, I’m Getting Better to Crooked Thought might have one thinking they’re listening to two different bands – but that raw, gritty nature is what makes them so charming, and is the result of a more “organic” method of songwriting. It’s how one of their biggest hits and best live songs to date came to fruition.

“It’s us, four dudes, getting into a room and jamming like we did with Doctor Doctor,” he tells. “45 minutes later you’re out for a smoko and you’ve done it; you’ve got this belter of an idea. [Doctor Doctor] literally started with me busting out a riff, Zok [Trivic] starts on the guitar, Brad [Campbell] comes in on the bass and Rob [Nassif] on the drums and we all just joined in and jammed and that was far and few between back in the day because we were just so under the pump.

“We know now this organised side is where we create our best music.”

That’s how the new double A-side was born – the band getting into a room together and throwing ideas around to see what stuck. And it seems a lot did, with Sanders revealing they picked the two singles from 30 demos. “There’s songs in the back pocket that we will use,” he tells.

Whether or not a selection of those appear on another A-side or a new album — Sanders is unsure — but it’s clear they’ve figured out the key to longevity and will keep chugging along after their upcoming Australian tour. “We’re a bit bull-headed and being in Perth we’re away from all the hoo-ha, so I think if we can just keep doing what we do and including family as inspiration, it’s a pretty powerful force and we’re digging it.

“Gyroscope’s got a new sense of purpose… It’s exciting, man; we’re getting back to basics.”

http://themusic.com.au/interviews/all/2018/01/09/gyroscope-dan-sanders-daniel-cribb/

INTERVIEW: Tonight Alive

Published on theMusic.com.au, Jan 2017

Fighting Demons With Music

Tonight Alive vocalist Jenna McDougall tells Daniel Cribb the path to Underworld was a “scary” experience.

Embracing the calm before the inevitable album release storm, Tonight Alive vocalist Jenna McDougall has been spending some time in Melbourne following the band’s recent run of Australian shows. “I’ve just been trying to get into a good headspace before the end of the year,” McDougall begins.

The singer has been spending a fair amount of time at 24Hundred – the merch store attached to their label, UNFD – and even played an acoustic set there alongside some old friends; the perfect format to preview the intimate new subject matter of the band’s new LP, Underworld. “I feel so excited and very much at peace with everything I said and did on the record,” she says. “I look forward to doing it on stage, because I think it brings a fifth dimension into it and I really love the full body experience of a song.”

That’s conveyed perfectly via the music video for lead single Temple, which features McDougall thrashing about the screen and giving it everything she’s got. “I feel like that video’s the first time I’ve ever got show my stage self in a video.”

“Demons come out through me when I perform, and I like twitching and I like feeling energy leave my body and I’ll do really bizarre moves to make sure that it does.”

It’s a stage presence in tune with what’s being sung about throughout the album; its production and live execution are both therapeutic for McDougall. “I feel a very deep and honest connection with those lyrics, so naturally my body reflects that,” she tells.

“In the first line of the song I say ‘I’m intoxicated by my depression,’ and for the first time I was actually like ‘I am depressed, I am so deeply unhappy and I feel so completely trapped in my life right now.’ And just admitting that was one layer off the entrapment for me.”

“I was really sick when I wrote that song,” she reveals. “I’ve been dealing with a bit of an eating disorder the past couple of years, because I have allergies to everything, so every food I was eating would give me an allergic reaction. I developed this fear that I couldn’t eat anything without my eczema going nuts and it was already in a chronic state and I couldn’t do anything about it.

“That’s part of what I’m talking about in [Temple], which is totally scary to talk about. When we wrote that song, I’d only told one person that I was struggling with that, and that was Whack, because we write all out songs together. It was pretty far out to put it in a song and put it in front of the band, our team and the world; it’s an amazing feeling to work with honesty on that level.”

2017 was a big year for Tonight Alive, with a lot of exciting developments, including signing with UNFD, who will release Underworld the same day the band play Unify, alongside Parkway Drive, The Amity Affliction and more. But there was also some bittersweet news that dropped back in October, as guitarist Whakaio Taahi announced he’d be stepping down from the band to focus on other projects. “I guess [Underworld] is kind of like his last labour of love, and I’m not really sure how it’s going to be moving forward and I’m not really prepared to start thinking about what that’s going to be like, in terms of songwriting and things like that.”

There’s a sense of dark urgency around the music on Underworld produced by the duo, but McDougall stresses it’s not a negative record; a statement backed up by the lyrics throughout. “Every time we write a song, I’m very mindful that I’m not saying there’s no hope or that we’re doomed; I really don’t appreciate that type of music or message.

“If people truly believe that and they put it out there then that’s one thing, but I’m coming from a self-help standpoint and have been for a long time and I really care about personal development and evolution of the mind and spirit and that’s part of why I always have a silver lining in our songs.”

http://themusic.com.au/interviews/all/2018/01/04/tonight-alive-jenna-mcdougall-daniel-cribb/