Saturday, 14 January 2017

Mick Dillingham : Jason Falkner On The Grays

It's been a while since I've done a feature on an older album and as I'd been listening to a lot of Jason Falkner lately and in particular The Gray's Ro Sham Bo album. I thought I'd go down that path.

However, my great friend, Mick Dillingham, had interviewed Jason Falkner in 2008 and when I re-read that interview, I realised it was far more interesting to read than me blabbing on like a Fanboy. So here is Falkner's take on The Gray's album.

Lets talk about The Grays.

When I was in Jellyfish, I'd made a tape for my girlfriend at the time, who worked at this coffee house. It had a lot of Odessey & Oracle and some Imperial Bedroom and XTC demos and she played it at work. One day this customer says to her "Who made this tape?"And she tells him and he's like "Oh Jason Falkner, I know Jellyfish".

So he passes on a tape of his demos and I liked some of his stuff. It wasn't where I was coming from, it didn't have the same urgency, but it was very musical. So we met and hung out a little bit and this was Jon Brion. I remember, day one, thinking there's no way I want to be in a band with this guy and then all of a sudden I'm in a band with him, how did that happen? What did I do wrong?

He called me six months after we'd first met and asked me down to this rehearsal studio. He knew that I was demoing, getting all the pain out of the Jellyfish experience. So I went down there and there was Buddy and Dan.

So we had a play and Jon goes out and calls this guy from Capitol Records and says "You'll never guess who I've got here playing together" and he says "I'll sign them sight unseen" and all of a sudden we're being dangled the carrot and I'm like "wait a minute, I don't want to be in a band anymore, I hate bands right now!". Every record company you could name was flying out to set up a showcase. We had this whole attitude too, we didn't have a name or a manager.

We didn't make a demo tape. All the record companies are going "we'll pay for a 24 track demo tape" and we're like "if you don't like us live, then fuck off. We were being total brats. That's when I discovered being a brat really works. In the music business they expect that of you. We were offered five deals and we went with the one that gave us the most creative freedom. I called Jack Puig because I loved him from the Jellyfish stuff and we started making the record. but that band was imploding from day one.

I'm really proud of parts of Ro-Sham-Bo, but it was hard to make. Jon and I were too similar in that we can play all the instruments, we were both really arrangement orientated and it was like only one of our visions was going to win. We both couldn't be served. He wanted to make a record that was....... I really don't know if even he knew what the wanted. We ended up competing to be the antithesis of the other, really unhealthy.

When my vision started winning out, which was making a pop album, with arrangements, interesting parts hopefully, then he's like "I want to make this really loose thing, just jamming" and I'm saying "I don't really jam". I write songs, I orchestrate these parts for him and they are not really open to that much jamming. He would like solo over a verse like Beavis, I mean like, settle down!

I ended up arranging most of Buddy's songs with him and arranging most of Jon's with him to too. I was very specific in what I wanted and the rest had an idea that we would be an anti-band, like a total democracy and it doesn't work in art. There's no such thing. Whoever's song it is will be king and they have ultimate veto power. But as it turned out the other guys kind of backed out of their own stuff, because I guess my will was so strong I just took over

So are you happy with The Grays album?

There's elements of that record I'm really pleased with, some of it is a little to pristinely recorded, in that Jack was at that time trying to win engineering awards, which he absolutely should win because he's phenomenal. You should see where we recorded that. It was like a rat infested studio which shouldn't be able to produce something that sounds like that.

So how did The Grays finish?

We were in Chicago, we'd been touring solidly for the last six months. Our record company guy flew out to see the show and we broke up that night. Jon was leaving and we had a big meeting and the record company guy said "Jason, if you stay with the band then they'd do mainly your songs and a few by Buddy". I didn't want to do it because when Jon said he was going to split I thought good, so finally, I can get to my real business.

So finally I said to this guy, I'll do another Grays record if you let me do this album of cover versions. I made the mistake of saying I could do this cover record very cheap. I learnt from that that you should never say you can do something for cheap. Why do it cheaply when you can spend a lot of money!

So I did that record in a week, 14 songs recorded and mixed in a week. I didn't have a budget approved I just went in and started recording and I got a call on the fifth day. "What the fuck do you think you're doing in the studio?" "What do you mean what am I doing? I'm making the record that we talked about".

He's saying "you haven't had the budget approved, this isn't supposed to be happening". I'm like "it's happening, it's going to be finished in two days, you should come down and listen to it and somebody's going to pay for it, because I'm not". So the album got shelved and that was about it with The Grays.

You can read the full length interview with Jason here. It will also give you a chance to read many of Mick's other fine interviews.

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