Chris Colbert (Part 1) on drones, Breakfast with Amy, The Prayer Chain’s Mercury, etc.
by Jason and Brent
Hello Chris. Thanks for doing this interview.
We are a fan of duraluxe and want to know if duraluxe is working on some new stuff? What can we expect from you guys in the future?
Troy and I are working on a few new things, were in a regrouping phase right now. Troy wanted to go back to school in his hometown of Evansville, Indiana. That is where we are right now. We have been playing a few show as “la Honda”, just to play non Duraluxe tunes.
We are starting a new record right now. we have about three songs in the works. It’s a departure from “the suitcase”, sorta. after three years in Los Angeles\Orange County, we have had it with anything commercial sounding. I don’t know who will put a new record out, we never have had a solid label situation, three records on three labels, it’s frustrating to try and do good work and not have any label support. I always pay for our records myself. I never see royalties. A labor of love, I reckon.
Where did Duraluxe receive inspiration for the concept behind “the suitcase?”
That record is about moving and travelling. We have lived in Nashville, Athens, Southern California, and toured a lot since we started the band. We tried to capture the discombobulated state of mind we get in when you spend your life travelling with three dollars in your pocket, and no idea when or where you might score a meal. The record is also about missing your friends who are scattered about the globe. I had to move to California in a hurry when gene Eugene died. I had to finish his projects and run the studio. I had to walk away from my life in Athens with no notice. I guess the suitcase is mostly about longing for a sense of stability.
Your Breakfast with Amy material is classic in our eyes. Where did you find the inspiration, as a group, to make such thought-provoking, creative, and chaotic music?
Breakfast with Amy, gee that was so long ago. I don’t think I’m the same person I was then, so it is getting hard to comment on it. I was an art student at the time, I think it was mostly motivated as a “dada-ist” comment on modern Christianity. I have a hard time with the way Christianity is perceived and understood in our little world. BWA was an attempt to get people to notice the ridiculous fashion in which the faith has mutated into this alienating beast, that I have witnessed doing as much damage as good in its presentation and understanding.
the band, WA, was about as dysfunctional a band as you can find. no rehearsals, no rules and as many agendas as members. We were inspired a lot by things happening in l.a. at the time. Bands like Redd Kross, Janes Addiction, and arty bands like Sonic Youth and bad brains were sorta an influence. As a band we all agreed on sixties pop, so stylistically we started there and let the modern influences direct us. Sixties pop was the form, our environment and times were the motivation. I kinda miss the performance art part of it. The shows were ridiculous, lots of fire.
How did you learn how to play guitar?
how did I learn to play guitar? the Ramones and Echo and the Bunnymen. I did take lessons for a little while from a guy named Rusty Anderson, he now plays for Paul McCartney. after a few months of lessons he said I should go develop my own style, I thought at the time he was dismissing me because I sucked, but I think he believed I really had a thing. It’s taken me 20 years, but I do have a thing with the guitar I call my own.
Besides recording and producing, do you have any other great experiences you would like to share, like doing sound for U2 or working for MTV?
outside the recording studio I’ve done some cool things. I worked for a company in NYC called Effanel Music. They have recording trucks and did a lot of live recording for mtv, vh-1 and jive like that. I got to record the Sex Pistols for 20 minutes, the Butthole Surfers, too. I worked on a Patti Smith live recording, an Elvis Costello “storytellers” show for vh-1. I’ve done a lot of tour sound, from small club tours to stadiums. Oh man, a stadium with 40,000 people in it and I’m in charge of the sound. It’s a power trip.
Name 3 cd’s that you’ve worked on that you’re most proud of and why.
that is hard to do. I’ve done maybe 400 records. it changes a lot. I’m really proud of my mix on the new Ester Drang “Infinite Keys”. A great record. The first Morella’s Forest ummmm, Superdeluxe I think it’s called has always been close to my heart. all the Joe Christmas\Summer Hymns stuff. The Choir, Mineral, anything Lassie Pacifico, oh man, what an amazing record. I mixed it in like five hours, Andy pricket tracked it. Perfect. When the magic is there, all the planets line up and it falls together. Oh yeah, The Billions, a moment of musical magic. I didn’t know them, the label was nervous about these kids, they thought the songs were too long and were afraid to make the band edit them down in pre-production. On the first day of pre-prod, I told the band the label needed three pop songs, so we will leave you alone for a couple hours. Take your three poppiest songs and make them three minute hits. Cupie (Eric Campuzano) and I went outside, smoked a bunch of cigarettes, went back in, and the band had arranged things perfectly.
I could go on all day before I settle on three cd’s
What bands have you been a formal member of, and give us an idea of how you feel about each band’s output?
Fluffy-Flipper and Melvins Meet the Adolescents. The funnest band I was in. No rules, just punk rock. I’m the only former member without a master’s degree. My roots are punk rock. I don’t know if people got it, is was a little heavy with sarcasm.
Breakfast with Amy-just what 80’s Christian music needed. The first time I met Gene Eugene, he went off on me about how I was cheapening the market with that crap. We became great friends. BWA was definitely a product of the times.
Duraluxe-somewhere along the way I realized that I could actually write good songs. Troy O’daugherty and I have a thing when we write. We both get to use our non-music influences in this band. We let William Burroughs influence our lyric writing, a lot of cut ups, we get to show our Bob Dylan influences work, country, folk, grunge, shoegazer, we agree, agree, agree.
I hope more people will get to hear the Duraluxe records, there is something there, if you dig in a little.
I’ve been an informal member of many bands, but I have not been in too many bands of my own, the studio thing takes a lot of time.
Besides Duraluxe, what other music are you working on right now?
I have been taking a little break. Three years at the green room wore me out. I worked on about 40 records in three years. They each take a little bit of my soul. I have been spending a lot of time listening to my vinyl collection and making beats on my computer. I’m itching to get back into action. The last thing I worked on was some summer hymns in Athens in Feb., before that I was in Chicago mixing the Ester Drang record.
Give us your thoughts on the recording process of The Prayer Chain’s Mercury (one of our fave cd’s at somewhere cold).
A good record takes a little conflict, Mercury was a f*****g war! You can hear the band break up on the record; you can see them extend a warm and heartfelt middle finger to the industry. It started off with a lot of hope and expectation, trying to escape the grunge tag they got from shawl. The first couple weeks were great, it was Wayne, Eric, Andy, Steve Hindalong and myself. The drones were taken seriously, The Verve and drummers of Burundi were blasting through the big speakers, there was some strong drink. We were left alone. After this first couple of weeks Tim showed up. then the label people started to hang around the sessions. This is when the war began, Tim and the label vs. everyone else.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Tim, but he loved the rock star aspects of the Shawl era, while the rest of them wanted to be taken seriously as artists. Their quick rise and success kinda alienated them from a lot of the musicians who had paid their dues, but received no glory.
anyway, I was the first person at the studio on the first day, and I finished the last mixes by myself, I was the last man standing. I think the conflict is what makes that record pretty good, I wish the original version was the one released. The label kinda ruined it for me with all the changes. The best moment- Andy singing Sunstoned. The best vocal on the record. The drone for Humb, which was mostly my doing, was fun. The tapes for mercury were in my possession for years. one day I came home and found that my basement was flooded. Floating across the water was the box for reel two of mercury. The track sheet for Grylliade was washed up on the stairs. The masters for that record are now in a Nashville landfill.
You have put out a call to travel around and record people. With all your experience and established reputation in music, what drives you to do this?
Mostly the experience that compels me is the adventure, the travel. I’ve been everywhere in North America, I went to Norway to record, in January of 2001, January dude. It was like minus 10 the whole time.
How did you discover drones?
o.k., bear with me on drones, I get a little metaphysical about drones. I’m a big fan of Indian music, and I really like to study religion and the nature of belief. I read the Upanishads as much as the Bible, I study all religions to define my own beliefs. The drone is important, it’s the sound of the mystery of the universe. It is the “OM”, or more accurately the AUM of meditation. The Buddhists, the Hindus and the early church of Christ all use the AUM, Gregorians, Russian Orthodox, they take the directive to pray and meditate much more seriously than American Christianity.
When done properly all the vowel sounds are represented, consonants are interruptions, the beat is an interruption of the essential sound. The drone should put you in a place to receive the resounding being that is the universe. in Hesse ‘s Siddhartha the river was the drone that put the hero in touch with God.
An example would be the prayer chain “Humb” drone. It really can open you up to receive the message; it is calming and rapturous at the same time. The Sanskrit term for this is “ananda”. That is the meaning of the last letter of the AUM. So the drone is the meditation. It could be with properties, like meditating on God, or without properties, and meditate on the Formless, which is a property of God. The drone is a prayer and a meditation, the song of the universe, and a vehicle to bring one to the feet of God.
I think a lot of western Christians are missing a big part of the experience of God by denying this part in their lives. Christianity is an eastern religion, and has all the properties of the religions that predate it. The meditation, the drone, is part of the experience, just sit down, shut up, and listen. God will sing for you. Oh yeah, don’t be afraid of the great metaphor that reveals God. As history Christianity is complicated, as metaphor is beautiful, graceful and compassionate. Oh no, there is a duality for you.
Who are your favorite artists to listen to?
Bob Dylan, Yo la Tengo, Stereolab, Miles Davis, Lenz\Swift, Stan Getz, Edith Piaf, Indian music, Ali Farka Toure.
Do you have any advice for young musicians getting started out?
Worry about songs-not gear, learn rhythm, learn to tune, listen to The Beatles, get a lawyer.
Any other comments? (URL, contact info, etc.)
My contact info, fabulouschris@hotmail. I haven’t a website yet. Thanks a lot, I feel like I’ve been to a therapist, Chrissy
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