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My Interview with Daniel Brummel

Started by geektheindierocker, May 03, 2005, 03:28:00 pm

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geektheindierocker

This was conducted in mid-March for an article in the campus paper I write for, the Rutgers Review.


Review: Having grown up in Southern California, what inspired the recent move to New York?
Daniel: I love L.A. and have lots of family and friends there, but it was time for a change of pace. My fiancée is in her senior year at Columbia so I wanted to support her. Plus I've become really interested in concepts like synchronicity, which really seems to flourish in a place with so much psychic energy floating around.
Review: You played a few solo shows in NY a little while back. How was the response?
Daniel: My shows here in New York have been successful, but not as sensational as if I was doing the shows in L.A. Ozma worked hard to develop a great following in Southern Cal, and over the years people really started to understand what we were all about. The music scene in New York is totally different ââ,¬â€œ [itââ,¬â,,¢s] headier, less forgiving. But I've mainly just been focusing on writing and recording since I've been here.
Review: How likely is it that your solo album Speak Easy, Monstro's Ocean Floor, and Commuter Music's Kick the Tires will see a 2005 release?
Daniel: Speak Easy and Ocean Floor are going into the mastering stage this week, and will be released in April and June respectively. The Commuter Music project is not quite fully formed but I definitely plan a release this year. My goal is 6 releases per year for the first 3 years. Not all mine of course.
Review: That is some great news. How did Gone With the Ghosts come about? Any date set for a release?
Daniel: Well Bryan (drummer) and Mark (guitarist) have been playing together for several years looking for the right players to complete their group. They met my good friend Ian Richardson (former drummer for Slowreader/Impossibles, plays bass/guitar in Ghosts) and began the search for a lead singer. They did demos with Tony Scalzo of Fastball and John Lamonica of the Polyphonic Spree but things never really gelled. So Ian asked me if I'd record some vocal tracks on their instrumental demos and send them mp3s of my work. I did, and the rest is history. We're still developing our game plan for the rest of the year, I doubt the recordings we have now will see a release soon. We're just getting our management/representation together in order to go out and find the right deal.
Daniel: The interesting thing about Gone With The Ghosts is that many of the song structures and chord progressions were already written by Mark and Ian when I came into the picture, so I was writing melodies and lyrics to preexisting music, which I've never really done before. It was an interesting exercise for me, and I found it liberating to be able to just focus on the vocal line and lyrics. Many of the lyrics were written in a matter of hours. "Strange Coincidence" took about an hour and a half. In Ozma sometimes the lyrics would take months or years before they were finalized. I found that working quicker actually produces a more coherent whole. In general, [itââ,¬â,,¢s] a much more relaxed and meditative creative vibe than Ozma.
Review: That's funny you say writing the melody and lyrics to pre-existing music is a new thing for you, because I've always imagined you working from the melody up, since great melodies are a universal element in all of your songs. What's your main method in constructing them?
Daniel: You're right, I normally focus on being sure I have a solid melody before I even think about formal structure. I learned a lot by "working backwards" for the Ghosts. I don't really have a set method in songwriting, normally I'll improvise chord progressions and melodies until I have something I like, lyrics come later, or sometimes embryonic lyrical ideas will come when I'm writing the melody. Occasionally I'll get an independent lyrical idea I really want to use, so I'll hum it around until I figure out how it wants to sit in the context of a song. Drummer Corey Fogel constantly stresses that we focus on "context over content" -- meaning your great melody or catchy chorus amounts to nothing if it doesn't appear at a moment in the form where it feels fresh and appropriate, and I've found that to be a key consideration.
Review: They sound like good standards to work by
Daniel: Yeah, you know, leave the listener some breathing room...repetition for emphasis but not too much...these are things I'm conscious of when writing, but in general I try and stay sort of unconscious about it and let whatever's going to come, come. I don't know where they come from. It's often hard to even consider them mine.
Review: Of all of your projects, do you consider one of them your primary act?
Daniel: Creatively speaking, not really, I find that kind of constricting. Time and energy are big factors though, and I'll probably put the most effort into Gone With The Ghosts and my solo shows this year.
Review: As a songwriter, you have proved to be both adept and prolific in your skill. Not only were you highest in songwriting credits for Ozma, but you were also the sole creative force behind Daniel Brummel and the Contraband and Monstro. With such a vast catalogue of songs, how did you decide which songs received the distorted guitar and keyboard treatment, which were supported by computer samples and effects, and which were stripped down with acoustic guitars and string instruments? Is this the same formula you use to distinguish which songs make it as solo material, Monstro, Gone With the Ghosts, and Commuter Music?
Daniel: To make a correction, Ezra Buchla was also a main creative force in Monstro, he may have written more songs than me for the group. Laura Steenberge (bass) also wrote songs and gave input, and Corey Fogel was an intergral creative force in terms of designing the sound. That was a strong, democratic group. In terms of deciding how to treat a song, there's a lot of gray area. In the beginning, a few Contraband songs were tunes I played for Ozma that they weren't so excited about. In general, I do write most of my stuff on acoustic guitar or piano, so really in their conception, the orchestrative choices could lean any different way. I also studied composition at UCLA and I'd love to do more vocal pieces with chamber ensembles, I love scoring arrangements for orchestral instruments. In general I just try to listen to the melodic/harmonic material and try and hear the most effective or powerful arrangement in my head.
Review: Was the experimental nature of the Doubble Donkey Disc and STOTBL (e.g. the Russian theme on DDD and string arrangements on Spending Time) a result of what you learned at UCLA?
Daniel: Yes, to an extent. I loved writing for the string quartet as early as junior year of high school, so I've always wanted to orchestrate...we just never really got around to it until the flute work on Double Donkey and more intensively on Spending Time. Now I'm writing more for horns and wind instruments. It was in my freshman year at UCLA that I first became enamored with the great Russian composers like Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Tchaikovsky. Ryen and I were actually carpooling to campus at that point and I remember sitting in traffic and being stunned by Shostakovich's perfectly miniature piano pieces ("24 Preludes") and their angular melodic sense, and wanting to capture it. I think of Shostakovich, Hindemith, and those types are the musical equivalent of cubism, or the Bauhaus and Russian futurism, like El Lissitsky or Feininger ââ,¬â€œ I hate to say something that trite ââ,¬â€œ but I think those disciplines and schools of thought were more closely related then. To me, Shostakovich's piano pieces express such a complex palette of emotions, to me they sound oppressed yet sarcastic, empty and dark yet oddly calm and optimistic. We could never approach that complexity but we tried to steal a little of the mystique.
Review: I once read that you were interested in composing scores for films. I imagine you are extremely busy working full time and recording with multiple bands. Do you still aspire to work in this field?
Daniel: Yes absolutely, I think cinema is a fascinating artistic medium, very linked with music. I love the music of Badalamenti, Rota, Morricone, Jerry Goldsmith, Burwell, etc. I'm actually contributing some folk music & short compositions to a performance piece taking place here in New York, sort of a whimsical play about humanism vs. nature and philosophy. I've scored cues before but this will be my first real project in the field. I'd also like to find a few graduate student films to do this year.
Review: One thing I've always enjoyed about your music is that it allows for really great moments. My favorites include the classical guitar at the end of ââ,¬ËœBattlescars,ââ,¬â,,¢ the orchestration at the beginning of ââ,¬ËœSwept Awayââ,¬â,,¢ from the Ocean Floor Demo (Monstro), the melancholic nostalgia during the verses of ââ,¬ËœSummer After Senior Yearââ,¬â,,¢ on Sound Mind (DB & the Contraband), and the falsetto introduction to the awesome chorus of ââ,¬ËœYou Know the Storyââ,¬â,,¢ (Ozma). Do you have any favorite moments in the songs you've worked on?
Daniel: Yeah, that's another important musical concept I stay conscious of, trying to create a catharsis in a moment. I like the key change modulation in ââ,¬ËœYour Name,ââ,¬â,,¢ and the suspension sequence and descending major scale at the end of ââ,¬ËœShooting Stars.ââ,¬â,,¢ On Spending Time we tried to turn the transitions between songs into "moments" too, sometimes making sarcastic choices like ââ,¬ËœTurteneck Coverupââ,¬â,,¢ coming in after ââ,¬ËœUtsukushii Shibuya.ââ,¬â,,¢
Review: You've been fortunate to tour with some really great bands...Mae, Piebald, the Get Up Kids, Rooney, Nada Surf, and Weezer to name a few. What was it like playing with Nada Surf and Weezer, two bands that influenced your sound? Any interaction with the eccentric Cuomo?
Daniel: Rivers' help was invaluable. The coolest thing I ever heard him say was that the piano was the best instrument for composition, which I had suspected, but never embraced until I heard a guitar god like him say it. Matthew, Ira, and Daniel [of Nada Surf] are all wonderful humans, their music definitely made me want to come to New York, especially Let Go. Matthew's a great friend, one of my favorite personalities, and I think he's got the best voice of our generation. Our tours with them were fantastic; I played keyboards with them on a few shows, which was a real treat.
Review: Do you have anything to say to fans still upset over the Ozma break-up? Any possibility Gone With the Ghosts or any of your other projects will tour with Yes Dear (former Ozma members Ryen and Joseââ,¬â,,¢s new band) in the future?
Daniel: All I have to say is that Ozma had a great run, and I'll always be proud of our output in terms of recordings and especially live shows. We had the best fans ever. But it was definitely time. As far as a tour with Yes Dear, we haven't discussed that but anything is possible. Ryen, Nate, and Jose are three of my favorite songwriters and I'm sure they'll do wonderfully with their new group.
Review: Very awesome


Not Jason

Wow, great interview.  I got a lot of information out of that.  Thanks!
You and I were the extremities
I am the baseball.

phatpubah

CPL593H

sidindin

@starwickmusic

Kyosho

Ah. Excellent read. Very informative, as Jason said.
I'll be rising high above the earth so soon, and the tears I cry might turn into the rain that gently falls upon your window. You'll never know.

thekoalastampede

it's good but it preaches to the choir. Someone who knows nothing or very little about Ozma will have no clue what you are even talking about.

Not Jason

Quote from: thekoalastampede on May 03, 2005, 10:20:21 pm
it's good but it preaches to the choir. Someone who knows nothing or very little about Ozma will have no clue what you are even talking about.

But somebody like me who knows a lot about ozma stands to gain a lot more from an interview like this than the typical batch of questions I've heard asked a million times.

If somebody doesn't know who ozma is/was, what are the odds they're gonna give a shit about this interview anyway?

Personaly, Mr. Geektheindierocker, I think this may be my favorite Ozma related interview.
You and I were the extremities
I am the baseball.

geektheindierocker

Hey guys, thanks for the compliments. This is the first interview I've done so it's nice to get good feedback. thekoalastampede -- the actual article contains two introductory paragraphs that provide background about Ozma, Daniel's projects, and his busy 2005 schedule. I go to school on the east coast (NJ) and although the undergraduate class is comprised of almost 30,000 students, an 'Ozma' search on the Rutgers facebook site did not yield many results. Therefore, the intro is designed to inform the reader about Ozma's significance and DB's talent. I didn't include it here because you guys are pros  :P

Andy

Quote from: Not Jason on May 03, 2005, 10:35:22 pm
Quote from: thekoalastampede on May 03, 2005, 10:20:21 pm
it's good but it preaches to the choir. Someone who knows nothing or very little about Ozma will have no clue what you are even talking about.

If somebody doesn't know who ozma is/was, what are the odds they're gonna give a shit about this interview anyway?

what are the odds they'll even be here?

Not Jason

Quote from: Andy on May 04, 2005, 11:08:57 am
Quote from: Not Jason on May 03, 2005, 10:35:22 pm
Quote from: thekoalastampede on May 03, 2005, 10:20:21 pm
it's good but it preaches to the choir. Someone who knows nothing or very little about Ozma will have no clue what you are even talking about.

If somebody doesn't know who ozma is/was, what are the odds they're gonna give a shit about this interview anyway?

what are the odds they'll even be here?

well, it was written for a paper i think.  he just posted it here as a service to us.
You and I were the extremities
I am the baseball.

OMGWTFBBQ

very nice.

although it's now may, and i don't have a copy of speak easy in my hands.

angie

Quote from: Not Jason on May 03, 2005, 10:35:22 pm
Personaly, Mr. Geektheindierocker, I think this may be my favorite Ozma related interview.
wow. i completely agree. so...fresh, especially since it's out of the blue and discusses music so much more in depth.

brummel88

May 06, 2005, 07:07:34 pm #12 Last Edit: May 06, 2005, 07:10:38 pm by brummel88
when i started recording the contraband album "swept away" that never got finished or released, i was optimistic and wanted to tell everyone about it... then i fell into debt as ozma kept rolling around the US in a van over and over.Ã,  i had a CD backup of the drums, keyboards, & guitar tracks that i recorded with bruce witkin (ozma producer) for it but they weren't really headed in the right direction and when i moved to new york every CD i owned was stolen including those, as well as the roland xp-30 which powered the contraband.Ã,  i hope bruce still has his backups.Ã,  a few of those songs will definitely see the light of day at some point cause i love them dearly.Ã,  "my subconscious" "10:04 pm" "love that no one knows" etc.

but speak easy is definitely going to be released soon.Ã,  here's the planned track listing:

1. Mr. Brown
2. Sao Paulo
3. Mystery Of The Cathedrals
4. Banks Of The Ohio
5. Health & Happiness
6. Mourning Song
7. Misadventures In Stride
8. The Cuckoo
9. Language Of The Birds
10. Blindman's Song
11. Barbara Allen

i had a guy working on the master but he wasn't doing a very good job so now i've found a pro studio in NY to do it.Ã,  the reason i keep pushing back the release date is, again, financial stress and other projects.Ã,  this year hasn't been easy, but i do have a great living room studio at my apt. in harlem now, with an upright piano and guitars on the walls.Ã,  it's totally empty so it reverberates well which i like.Ã,  it's painted red and feels like a little musical womb.  since i am now equipped to record acoustic music in a semi-professional manner i expect to do more recordings in the "speak easy" style and get a label going, hopefully do some solo touring and continue developing gone with the ghosts.Ã,  ian & mark are great songwriters too and i think you'll like what we come up with together.

daniel
"When we think of ourselves, we are simply the victims of a delusion." - Aleister Crowley

OMGWTFBBQ


heysarahsarah

Nice interview.

It'd be nice if you could go a few months without having irreplaceable shit stolen.  I look forward greatly to Speakeasy.

Bob511i: But SARAH is my <3



No day but today.

geektheindierocker

Speak easy sounds like it will be quite the solid record. I'm looking forward to hearing studio versions of those Contraband songs.

brad

May 09, 2005, 06:00:52 am #16 Last Edit: May 09, 2005, 06:02:32 am by brad
Quote from: geektheindierocker on May 08, 2005, 01:32:50 am
Speak easy sounds like it will be quite the solid record. I'm looking forward to hearing studio versions of those Contraband songs.

contraband. beautiful.