Alan Sparhawk

Alan Sparhawk

by Jason

I figure our readers are more than acquainted with your work, so let’s cut to the chase.  What prompted you to make Solo Guitar?  In terms of its stripped down style, why did you choose to do it this way?

I suppose several things led to it.  I have a very sordid love/hate relationship with the guitar, and after all these years battling with it, maybe this is a way of facing it head on.  I’ve had good experiences in the past with stripping things down and staying closer to live recording, so I just kept it simple.

Can you tell us a little about the process you went through in recording Solo Guitar?  What was going through your head while you were working on it?

The studio we recorded it in is an old church that has a large vaulted ceiling, so we set up a few amps throughout the room and I connected them up in stereo and A/B switches – then I could send the sound into the room from several points at any given time.  The hope was to let the room be as much an instrument as the source.  Once we had a few microphones up at different points in the room, we just let the virtual tape roll while I played.  Most of the songs are improvisations based on simple structures or themes.  Some stuff worked better than others. After two evenings of recording, I left it with Eric Swanson to pick it over and he narrowed three hours down to one.  I sat with it for nearly a year and edited it down to what it is now.

Are you hoping to record another solo disc in the same vein as Solo Guitar?  If so, do you have a time-line for yourself?

I would like to.  I have a few ideas for a new one.   We’ll see if anybody loses money on this first one before I make too many plans.

What are you working on now?  What’s coming for Low, Black-Eyed Snakes, or the Retribution Gospel Choir?  Do you have any other incarnations you would like to share with your fans?

Low has been doing a few festivals this summer and we are working on a new thing to have out early next year.  Snakes are doing a few shows this month, but we may be waiting for the ski season before doing any traveling.   Retribution Gospel Choir is working on doing some shows this fall – maybe go out west.  We’ve done a little recording, but I’m not sure when that will be done.

You had the opportunity to record with Jessica Bailiff and Rachel Goldstar for Eau Claire.  How was that and what role did you play with the project?  How much influence did you have on the sound?  Are you planning on working with them again?

Jessica had recorded a few records at our house already, so she knew the drill here.  She and Rachel had been collaborating by mail up until then and they needed a place to get together and finish it.  The sessions went quick – they were prepared and knew what had to be done.  There was alot of room for ideas because everything was kept simple (we were using an 8-track, half inch recorder.)  I was mostly just there to facilitate what they already had going on, but everyone contributed.  There was good communication, so there was no need to play a role.  I see and talk to both of them from time to time, but there have not been any plans made.

Recently, you have dealt with issues of depression.  If you don’t mind, can you tell us all how you are doing?  It seems that you touched a lot of fans with your openness, including myself.  How does it affect your current work and how do you cope?

I don’t know.  I wish I had clear and confident answers to those questions.

What is your vision for Low in the coming years?  Do you see yourself doing music for a living for the rest of your life?

We’ve never really had a vision, or at least never a vision for the future.  If you get too ahead of yourself, then you’re not really all there for right now.  I would love to be able to play music for the rest of my life, but I have no idea how to make that happen.   We have been very lucky so far.

Do you have any advice for budding musicians?

Play with other people.   Assume nobody buys CDs anymore.  Songs are not words put to music.

What are you listening to now?

Fugazi – end hits, four tet, horace andy’s dub box, I am the slowdancing unbrella.  I listen to music mostly in the car.

Thanks Alan.  We appreciate your time.

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