LIVE’S ED KOWALCZYK
June 8, 2006 | Author: Greg Phillips
Ed Kowalczyk, the enigmatic lead singer from US band Live was recently in Australia doing some pre- publicity for the band’s new album ‘Songs from Black Mountain’. Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips sat down with Ed for a chat.
Songs from Black Mountain’ is the album’s title, what’s that all about?
The Black Mountain is a nickname of a mountain in the valley where I live. It’s debatable why it’s called black, whether it is because It’s got oil on it or because it’s covered in really dense Californian oak trees. Their canopies are intertwined so it’s kind of dark up there all the time. So I’m not exactly sure why it’s called black but its always very suggestive of a mysterious place.
When the band first starts talking about a new album, what are the goals?
Well, I would say it starts with me as a songwriter. I’m really just after the best, most memorable and compelling songs that I have at any given moment when it’s time to put out an album. Really I just write all the time. When it’s time to release an album, I look at the material and think well this is a great direction. I’ll pick a bunch of these songs that sound like they go together. It’s really kind of on the fly. It’s not really a sit down conceptualised band in that way.
What do you look for in a producer?
Well we’ve had so many different producers. I think our current producer Jim, is probably the most trained musical producer. He comes from a theory background, which is a total 180 from Jerry Harrison who we began with. Jerry brought more of his prowess to the project and thinking about music, whereas Jim has a little more, I don’t want to say musical background because it’s all musical, but its more trained, more like how I imagine George Martin was for the Beatles.
I suppose it’s important to get on with a producer on a personal level too so that you are all honest with each other and feel comfortable expressing your opinions…
Absolutely. We are brutal with each other. You have to be. If you’re not getting into some screaming matches, you’re not doing it right.
With your vocal did you experiment with different mics or mic placement at all?
I have the Neumann U64 I think it is. That classic Neumann seems to work for me. When it comes to doing my vocals in the studio, I basically dress my room up Tibetan style and have god and goddess statues all over the place. Stuff that inspires my higher mind.
What about guitars, do you play much guitar on this album?
I do … I play all the rhythm guitars on the album. The acoustics on the album were all up front this album and that was all me. I played a Martin D27, but on stage I use a Takamine acoustic/electric and we go right into a DI and actually don’t use an amp.
Apart from the success being in a band has brought you, what does music mean to you?
Music for me is maybe the most effective way in terms of heart to bring people together. On a huge a huge pop culture level as well as a very intimate fan to artist level it really can do all those things … unlike any other art form I think. In particular rock n’ roll because of its mass appeal and as a vehicle for a message, it’s probably the most profound you can be a part of and I have always taken that seriously.
How do you reconcile the fact that you belong to an industry that breeds superficiality with the art and creative side of things that you enjoy the most?
You have to have a sense of humour first and foremost. You have to realise that you are in a business that it is pretty mean to its youth let alone its elders. It’s like .. OK … one record..good night.. see you later. To survive in it is an accomplishment. You have to be able to laugh at it. You have to be able have some fun. In the end I feel like I’ve had a good day when I use the business and it hasn’t used me.
Any Spinal Tap moments you can share with me?
Oh yeh, wouldn’t be rock n’ roll without a Spinal Tap moment. Not just the other night, we lost every single monitor during one song. We were on stage for the entire song. We watched the tape back of the show. We actually forgot where we lost the monitors and that’s when we knew we’ve been doing this a long time. We were just routinely going through this song because we had played it so long and nobody missed a beat.
So you can do without monitors now?
Yeh (laughs), of course!!!
Songs from Black Mountain (Sony/BMG) s out now.