Friday 22 May 2020
Mick Dillingham Interviews - Salim Nourallah (Part 2)
Mick brings Salim's career up to date with this new interview that covers the last decade.
As a producer yourself, who would you say are the producers from the past that you are in awe of?
"Well, The Godfather of producers is George Martin. I think he set the bar for production, but in some ways what he did always felt somewhat unattainable. He did have The Beatles after all. Who gets to work with a band as mega-talented as them? Nick Lowe was another big influence for me. I loved the way his records sounded, especially the drums.
There was a no-nonsense quality to all of his productions that appealed to me even before I understood the recording techniques. I also appreciated that he was a songwriter who was navigating a career as a musician alongside his production job. I remember being 18 and saying, "I want to be like that and do both!"
If you could be the engineer to any producer, who would it be?
"I've never really regarded myself as a "real" engineer. I don't have the technical skills that pure engineers have. I learned to record out of necessity so that I could continue to document my own music. I feel like production is really what I excel in over engineering. So over the past few years, I've phased out the engineering side of what I do. So, all that being said, I don't think I'd wanted to be the engineer to any producer. I'd rather be the producer! Ethan Johns can engineer for me any time he'd like though."
If you could go back in time and be the fly on the wall for the recording of any record, what sessions would you go for?
"Without a second’s hesitation, The Beatles’ White Album. I would’ve loved to analyse the recording techniques. What microphones did they used on certain instruments? How did they got all those great guitar sounds (especially the fuzz guitar tones). I think it still stands as my pick for the coolest sounding recording of all-time. There's so many variations in the song approaches, but they all hang together cohesively due to the production and recording technique. It's remarkable. In one way or another I've ultimately been chasing this aesthetic for my entire career as a musician."
If you are unleashed in the studio, given carte blanche, what type of production would you gravitate towards?
"I tend to always go for what I consider to be a classic or timeless sound. Beatles production is timeless and classic, because they used great condenser microphones and lots of tubes. I think there are certain things that can date recordings and I'm interested in trying to avoid that at all costs. So even when I'm given "carte blanche" I think honouring the song is the most important thing. I don't generally go for piling layers upon layers and making something that sounds "fake." "
The Disappearing Act (with Bob Blumenfeld)
"Bob Blumenfeld has been a friend of mine since we attended second grade together at Western Hills elementary in El Paso. Sometime around 2008 he contacted me about recording some of his guitar instrumentals. He's always dabbled in these strange tunings, so everything he plays sounds exotic and mysterious to me. He came in the studio years ago to put some of these guitar pieces down and I started hearing vocal melodies. They were so evocative. Without telling him I plugged a microphone in to the control room console and started mumble-singing these ideas I was hearing.
He was in the tracking room so he had no idea that I was doing that. It was the beginning of a very unique songwriting partnership. Later I developed an interesting way of working on the songs. I'd cut Bob's guitar tracks to a drum loop which would put the song on a tempo grid. As I developed the vocal melody and words I'd chop up, extend or move around chunks of the song to accommodate the vocal arrangement. For me it was a totally unorthodox way of working, but it yielded some very interesting results.
The first Disappearing Act CD was released in 2010 and we miraculously managed a follow up that came out in 2015. That's called Born to Say Goodbye. That record was mainly written in 2013, while my marriage was falling apart. I never put any of the lyrics to paper like I always do. I would sit at the recording console and just sing whatever I was feeling. The words would develop in a stream of conscious sort of way, then I would circle back to revise them. My revisions were always with the microphone in hand, never a pen. I think it ended up giving the record a very interesting feel.
"Invisible" is probably the rawest, saddest thing that's ever come out of me. "Peace By The Sea" was another that was written in a particularly distraught state of mind. I just wandered out to the studio one night while the kids were sleeping and sung it in a daze. I found it easier to get these ultra-exposed feelings out under The Disappearing Act moniker because I knew the record would be flying under the radar, so to speak.
Believe it or not, I didn't feel comfortable airing these kind of feelings yet on a solo record. I felt like so many people in the Dallas arts community knew my ex, Jayme, and I. It just didn't feel right to air hurt feelings on a solo album until I'd let some time pass."
"Rhett has been a big part of my life ever since we toured his Instigator record in 2002. I played bass in his backing band and we became close friends. Our sons were just about the same age and we'd both gotten married around the same time. There were a lot of things that we had in common including difficult relationships with our father's. I ended up producing his self-titled solo record in 2009 and I also produced a few Old 97 records - Blame it on Gravity, Grand Theatre 1 & 2 and Most Messed Up.
"Most Messed Up fittingly happened at a time when both our lives were sort of falling apart. I ended up divorced and ready to tour in the gaps of not seeing my kids. We'd do these 3 or 4 date mini-runs. It worked perfectly for my single-dad schedule, because I could fly out to wherever Rhett was, do a couple of shows, then scoot back to Texas in time for the Wednesday afternoon carpool pick-up.
We also started writing songs together around this time. We ended up writing three songs that appeared on their Graveyard Whistling album: "Jesus Loves You," "I Don't Wanna Die In This Town" and "She Hates Everybody." He also contributed lyrical assistance to The Travoltas' "Work of Art".
I did a run of dates with the Old 97's to support the release of my Skeleton Closet album in the Fall of 2015. That was kind of crazy, because I was doing a one man show with a 1979 Panasonic boombox. After that we drifted out of touch a bit, but earlier this year we did some East Coast dates, wrote some more songs together and had plans to go on another Southern run in April. The coronavirus shut us down though."
Alex has been another close friend of mine since I met him on tour with Rhett in 2002. His band, The Damnwells, were opening a bunch of dates and we hit it off instantly. He's one of the funniest, brightest people I've ever known. In 2014 I ended up producing the last Damnwells record.
Later that year, on one of the Rhett Miller runs, I ended up meeting Sarah Henry. She was working with a great recording studio in Nashville called "Welcome To 1979". We became music nerd friends and formed a record label together in 2016. Sarah dubbed it Palo Santo Records. After The Damnwells broke up, Alex started a duo project with his girlfriend, Amber Bollinger, called Broken Baby.
When he sent Sarah and I some of their recordings in 2017, we were completely blown away and signed them to our label. It's quite different than The Damnwells, but still has Alex's penchant for great melodies and words. At the beginning of 2018, Palo Santo enlisted Alex to be our label manager. After he came on board he ratcheted the whole thing up to a much higher level."
Billy Harvey and NHD
"My friend, Bob Schneider, first told me about how great Billy was around 2003. He gave me a CD of songs that he was working on for his 2nd solo album, Pie. I thought his songs were awesome, clever and melodic and I became a fan. In 2008, I asked him if he'd produce what would end up being my 4th solo album, "Constellation". I loved working with Billy on that record, it was probably the best recording experience I'd had to date.
It was a massive relief to have someone else that I respected help make production decisions. I'd been on my own in that department for my first three records and was feeling worn out. Billy is also one of my favourite guitar players, so in 2009 I asked him if he'd play on this Rhett Miller solo album that I was producing. He did some pretty mind-blowing stuff on that record.
At the beginning of 2014, my personal life was sort of in shambles, due to a divorce. I decided I wanted to start getting out and playing more. I'd always been active playing in the Dallas Metroplex area, but only occasionally toured since the birth of my two kids, Gavin and Miette. I thought it would be cool to put together a Texas tour with a couple of friends.
The first two that came to mind were Alex Dezen and Billy Harvey. They didn't actually know each other yet and I remember them both being slightly suspicious of the other. I strung together eight dates in May and by the end of our run, Alex and Billy were fast friends. We'd basically started NHD, Nourallah Harvey Dezen. We did two more similar Texas tours in March and December of 2015, then decided to finally make a record together.
Our friend, Martie Maguire from the Dixie Chicks, graciously let us record in her wonderful home studio. We had Jim Vollentine engineer. He'd masterfully recorded the Old 97's Grand Theatre, Most Messed Up, as well as my Hit Parade and Skeleton Closet records.
We tracked the entire "And the Devil Went Up To Portland" record in just seven days at Martie's place. We even wrote three songs from scratch - "Hello, From An Emergency Room In Hollywood", "Somebody Loves Me" and "Ballad Of A Patient Man." That record eventually came out in 2017 after we took it back to Pleasantry Lane and mixed it.
Bob Schneider completed the circle by doing the fantastic album art. He'd also done The Nourallah Brothers and Skeleton Closet designs. NHD did another short Texas tour in October of 2017, this time with John Dufilho and Richard Martin giving us a full band situation. The last thing we did together were three dates with Rhett Miller in Colorado.
That was November of 2017. We haven't done anything else as NHD since, but we've been talking about doing another record together. That probably won't happen until next year - 2021. Palo Santo also put out Billy's classic album, Pie, on vinyl for the first time last year."
The Travoltas (2012 and 2017)
"The Travoltas were born out of my friendship with Paul Slavens. He's a keyboard virtuoso and radio personality here in the Dallas/Denton area. He's been in bands for many years. "Ten Hands" being his most well-known. When my 2nd album, Beautiful Noise, came out, he had me do a track by track segment for our public radio station, KERA. I really enjoyed our visit and we did it again with a couple of my records that followed.
After I came up to Denton to do a track by track segment for Hit Parade, Paul and I had an impromptu performance where he reinterpreted some of my songs. It was so much fun to hear him stand songs like "1978" on their heads. The Travoltas would later turn it into a reggae groove! So that was when the seeds were sewn to start The Travoltas.
I poached some insanely talented musicians that had recently come through the doors of my studio - Nick Earl, Mike Hodges and Emsy Robinson. Then I found some matching polyester suits on Ebay for only $25 a pop. In September of 2011, we played our first show at Sons of Hermann Hall. 2012 was our biggest year though. We played a ton of dates with the Old 97s in the Midwest and East Coast. We quickly recorded a few songs at Pleasantry Lane, so we'd have a CD for new fans to take home. It was never intended to be our first album, it was just a limited edition tour momento.
In April of 2014, the band spent just six days recording at the Treefort in Austin with Jim Vollentine engineering. We tracked something like fifteen songs that wouldn't be released until December 2017 as our "proper" debut because the band lost its motor when drummer, Mike Hodges, moved to New York city in early '14.
Jason Garner, who is a phenomenal drummer, stepped in as a replacement, but his busy touring schedule with Polyphonic Spree and the Old 97's really slowed us down. I finally decided to officially call it a day last year. We had only played one show since 2016, so it felt like, for all intents and purposes, the band needed to be officially put to rest."
Hit Parade (2012)
"In August of 2010, I ended up taking a band down to Austin and recording in the same studio that we’d done the Old 97s' "Grand Theatre" in. It’s called The Treefort. We had four marathon days booked, because that’s all I could afford. John Dufilho, Joe Reyes, Jason Garner and Richard Martin were the guys who joined me. John and Jason had been friends of mine since The Moon Festival played San Antonio in the early '90s with a band they were in called 13.
I met Joe Reyes through John and Jason. Joe is another San Antonian. In 2008, I produced his band Buttercup and fell in love with the way he played guitar. His fluid melodicism reminded me of Neil Finn. He just had this effortless way of gliding around the fretboard. The Buttercup record I produced, "The Weather Here", is still one of my favourites. Richard was in a fantastic instrumental band called Shibboleth that were friends of mine.
We made a record of cover songs from the '70s that I dubbed Salim Vs. Shibboleth that still hasn't seen the light of day. Maybe someday? I'd eventually call our band The Treefort 5. It was obviously named after the studio I'd also fallen in love with and was spending so much time in. The Treefort 5 is such an incredible group of musicians, I feel like they’re the Texas version of The Heartbreakers.
Our four days in 2010 were probably the most fruitful that I’ve ever spent. We tracked as the guys were learning the songs for the first time. All of us were set up to play together and much of what you hear on the record was done within the first hour of learning each song. "Hit Parade" and "Channel 5" are even the rough tracking mixes that Jim Vollentine had up while we were monitoring our progress.
When we circled back to properly mix those songs, I felt like we never re-captured the glory of the monitor mixes. It took me a while to get "Hit Parade" finished because I was doing so much recording work back in Dallas. I was still engineering and producing all the time, almost seven days a week.
I launched my first crowd funding campaign on Pledge Music after Alex Dezen recommended it. I found the entire process very inspiring and I think it influenced me to make an album that my fans would really love. It was the first time that I made music wanting to give a gift back to the people encouraging me to continue making music.
I made another couple of trips back to Austin over the next six months to track "Goddamn Life," "Never Felt Better" and a lighter version of "Miette." By the time the record finally came out in 2012, I had moved into full-on Travoltas mode. The Travoltas outplayed The Treefort 5 twenty nine to six that year.
Tapete Records had booked my fourth European tour for the Fall of 2012. I was supposed to go to Spain for three or four shows. It was a dream come true, as I'd always wanted to go there. I ended up cancelling the tour because my ex-wife insisted that the financial strain of our trip would put the final nail in our coffin. So I went along her desire to pull the plug on the tour. That effectively nuked my relationship with Tapete. I've also still never been to Spain! I haven't lived my life with many regrets, but that's one move I still regret to this day."
Friends for Life EP (2012)
"The "Friends For Life" EP is just a collection of songs that didn't quite fit on Hit Parade. "When You Were A Kid" still makes me tear up whenever I hear the wind chimes that used to hang outside my kid's old bedroom window. I have fond memories of Erik Sanden (Buttercup) and Joe Reyes going nuts over this band version of "Friends For Life." They even briefly covered it. "My Job Is Leaving" was inspired by Rhett Miller. I played it for him for the first time on the way to one of our favourite Dallas bars, The Barley House. After it was finished he sighed and said, "Well, that was sad"
The acoustic version of "Miette" was also considered "too sad" by her mother and brother. They voted it off the Hit Parade record and that's what got me to do the alternate version that made the record. "Misery is Coming" is a voice memo recording from my phone, while baby Miette cooed in the background while I was trying to work out the song. I'm still really glad I included it in this collection.
The artwork is also still one of my favourites. I asked a bunch of my "friends for life" to contribute school portrait photos of themselves. They're all pretty adorable. Bob Schneider, Billy Harvey, Rhett Miller and Gabrielle LaPlante are just some of the friends who contributed photos."
Skeleton Closet (2015)
"Rebuilding my life, post divorce, seriously slowed down the completion of this record. The first song, "Dead Man's Stare," was initially tracked back in 2010 when I brought The Treefort 5 in to make Hit Parade. "Two Years", which was about my late friend Carter Albrecht, had also been tracked during the Hit Parade sessions. I immediately set those two aside because I knew they were the path to a messier, stranger follow-up record.
Another contributing factor to "Skeleton Closet" sound was my budding musical relationship with guitarist, Nick Earl. Nick and I had been playing a lot together in The Travoltas and I was inspired by how inventive his playing was. Nick is a master at creating cinematic sonic soundscapes with a vast array of pedals and gadgets. I felt like The Travoltas weren't really the right vehicle to showcase his talents in the "other-worldly" department so I also enlisted his help with this record.
"The Bullies Are Back" is a good example of the different direction I wanted to undertake. I'd tracked a very "safe" version with The Treefort 5 that was perfectly fine, but not at all what I was looking for. I kept Dufilho's rolling, Slade-like drum track and muted everything else. Then I put a reggae Bass groove to it which totally stood it on its head. When I called Nick Earl in, he made the song ferocious and terrifying. If I played the two different versions of the song back to back, I'm sure you'd hear how astounding the difference is.
Another big influence on this record was the Optigan. It was an instrument originally manufactured by the toy company, Mattel, in the early 1970's. It played an optical disc that contained pre-recorded rhythm and keyboard tracks that you could use to build your own songs. The discs looked much like regular LP records. It was basically one of the first samplers, just like the Mellotron.
I'd been writing for years mainly on acoustic guitar and only occasionally on piano, because my skills on that instrument are rudimentary at best. On Skeleton Closet, I wanted to push myself out of the safety zone and build songs differently. The Optigan's rhythm tracks were perfect for that. I started "Permanent Holiday" and "Andalucia In The Spring" with Optigan rhythm tracks I found that inspired Bass grooves. I didn't write the vocal melody or lyrics until I'd already written the music bed.
"Crocodiles" was done the same way after I simply wrote down the title, because it sounded like something that should be on a record called Skeleton Closet. "To The Desert" was born out of another Optigan loop that I put a weird reggae Bassline to. I decided to use the words of El Pasoan poet, Benjamin Saenz, instead of a traditional melody. It felt more like that's what the music was asking for.
"Two Lizards" is perhaps the best example of Nick Earl's skewed genius. The fragmented, aggressive buzzing sounds the dominate the recording are all remarkably coming from his guitar, not a synthesizer. I can't even begin to imagine what this song would've sounded like in the hands of any other guitarist.
It took me so long to complete Skeleton Closet that I actually had two separate crowd funding drives, one at the start to pay for recording costs and then another as I got closer to the record's release. I no longer had record label support behind me as I'd ruined my relationship with Tapete when I bailed on playing in Spain. I miraculously raised $28,000 between the two pledge drives and was able to cover all the costs of releasing and promoting Skeleton Closet. I was even able to pay all my friends who played on it!
The artwork had also taken forever to complete because I'd lost my long-time collaborator, Jayme. She had played a huge role in the photography and design of most of my album covers spanning 2003 to 2012. I finally asked Bob Schneider if he'd help after several misfires from other designers. I sent him a blown out photo that I'd taken of myself laying in the grass one afternoon. I was pretty sure I was having a nervous breakdown when I snapped it, so it somehow felt like a fitting image for this album.
Skeleton Closet also spawned the Boombox Experiment. I attempted two full band performances of material from the album in May 2014 and wasn't happy with how it translated. After that I decided to make special mixes of songs then dub them to cassette. I found a 1979 Panasonic boombox to be my trusty touring companion for the next two years and worked up a one man show with my 1964 Guild Mark I acoustic guitar and bullet mic.
An entirely new performing persona emerged for me during this time. Kind of a fusion between Travoltas' punk Sinatra guy and solo singer-songwriter guy. The boombox shows spanned all of 2015 through 2016. I even spent a couple weeks opening for the Old 97's on a West Coast/Pacific Northwest run. It was a trip walking out on expansive stages to play to big crowds with just an acoustic guitar and a rickety boombox."
"The boombox experiment inspired me to do an alternate version of the song "Terlingua." The band version just didn't seem right for my boombox shows. For this version, I introduced a Clash-like reggae vibe and slowed it down a hair, so I could get all the rapid fire words out. I actually prefer this version to the version on the album. I think it fits the vibe of the record more - it's weirder. If I ever re-issue Skeleton Closet I'm going to swap them out!
There are some other interesting misfits on the EP. "Guns of Glory" was totally based on The Clash's version of "I Fought the Law." I wrote that one with Joe Reyes. I also had another song that was a bit of an experiment called "Soldiers." It didn't quite fit on the album, so this was a good place to stick it. It's a five and a half minute dirge that deals with a war story.
When I was looking for bonus tracks, I also discovered the acoustic demo version of "Two Years." I thought there was something emotionally compelling about hearing the song stripped down to just my voice over an acoustic guitar."
A Break in the Battle (2017 with Chris Holt and Paul Averitt)
"This was a fun one to make. A local record label, Hand Drawn Records, asked me to appear on a covers compilation they were putting out in 2015. I thought it would be fun to do something with my friends, Chris and Paul, since we hadn't played together in a while. Paul used to be in The Happiness Factor with me and Chris played quite a lot of electric guitar on my 2nd and 3rd solo albums.
I picked a song called "Disenchanted" by The Church for the compilation. We had to track it live though and after we did that I felt we could do a better version at my studio. So a few weeks later, we got together and re-tracked the song. It was nice to have something to work on with the guys and we had so many laughs doing "Disenchanted" that I thought, "why not keep going?"
We generally worked on two songs at a time. Chris is a master at figuring out songs, so he'd do that then we'd meet up and hash out the arrangement and right key for me to sing them in. "Horsin' Around" by Prefab Sprout was particularly challenging, because I'd always had it in my head to take it away from the '80s and give it a torch song spin. We cut the vocal and main guitar live without a click. I'm still very proud of how that one came out, the guitar work from Chris is pretty exquisite.
Another one we stood on its head was The Replacements' "Kiss Me On the Bus." Chris came up with a killer, intricate fingerpicking guitar part that sent it off in its own direction. I know The Replacements Bass player, Tommy Stinson, he played on an Old 97s record I produced. The last time I saw him I was opening a horrible show for him and he was ten sheets to the wind.
I made the mistake of telling him about covering 'bus' and he just said, "Yuck." Despite Tommy's lack of enthusiasm, I'd still recommend this record over any other that I've made or, at the very least, I'd say it's the best starting point for music listeners who've never heard my records before."
Somewhere South Of Sane (2018)
"I never officially started working on this record, it all just sort of happened. If Hit Parade was written in the cracks of my life, Somewhere South of Sane oozed out in the post-divorce expanses, over the course of several years. My process was similar for many of the songs. I simply waited for them to come in and as soon as they did I'd record them. For various reasons I hadn't made one of my own solo records in my own studio since 2006. It felt really good to be working there again, it felt like I'd reclaimed the place.
Most of the songs on SSOS were written on my 1972 Guild Mark III. They call these kind of acoustic guitars “Spanish” guitars, because they have nylon strings and a wider than usual neck that Flamenco players gravitate to. The songs were written with absolutely no consideration toward whether they would ever be performed live. They’d usually come in late at night or early in the morning while I was alone in the apartment that I was living in.
As soon as a song would be in a place where I thought I could put it down, I'd go to the studio and document it. I had one Neumann condenser set up in the control room and I'd usually cut an acoustic guitar track followed by a vocal. I'd usually burn a CD then drive around and listen over the course of a few days. I’d make adjustments to the lyrics, change a word or two or a line here or there, but they were often just minor tweaks.
When I felt a song was basically finished on my end, I'd have Nick Earl come in. The sonics of the record were absolutely inspired by Nick. I knew that with his wizardry, he would create expansive, imaginative worlds for each song to live it. Just listen to "Rainbow Dolphins" or "Boy In A Record Shop" for proof. Another thing to consider is there are no synths or keyboards on this record. All of what you hear was done with Nick's electric guitar.
I ended up just pecking away like this for about three years. It was a thoroughly enjoyable process and I had a load of songs that I was pretty happy with. That's why I decided to release my first double album. There's twenty one songs on the record, but I also had seven or eight bonus tracks. So we released all the bonus material digitally as the North, South, East and West EPs. "
Jesus Of Sad EP (2019)
Billy Harvey and I started recording again together in July of 2018. I had a bunch of new songs as well as songs that I'd been sitting on for a few years, the "beat" songs that didn't fit on Somewhere South Of Sane. It all added up to 25 songs that we tracked together. I was driving myself crazy trying to whittle them down to a single album so I decided to release five separate EPs.
I have a songwriter friend here in Texas, Nicholas Altobelli, that I was joking with one day. I called him the "Jesus Of Sad" then thought, "Wait, that could make a nifty song title!" So I scribbled it down. It's also a bit of a nod to Nick Lowe's Jesus of Cool. That was the UK only title of his first solo record. The American label reps thought it was too risqué to call it that here.
The Jesus Of Sad EP came out in January of this year to coincide with some tour dates I did with Rhett Miller. We have another EP slated to come out in May called, Let's Be Miserable Together. Of course the tour dates that we had lined up for that have now fallen by the wayside due to the Coronavirus shutdown."
Born With a Broken Heart
"I had been struggling with depression around the time that my mother was fighting Alzheimers. A phrase came in out of the blue one day - I was born with a broken heart. It made me kind of chuckle to myself in the same way The World is Full Of People Who Want to Hurt You did when that came in 15 years ago.
It was dark, but amusing in its darkness. So that idea started the ball rolling and an avalanche of words followed. It took me back to my childhood and reflections on some of the things that were ultimately heartbreaking, like the way I felt my mother was treated. It's really a tribute to her and an acknowledgment of how wonderful, creative women like her have been disrespected by men. The next thing that came in was the first line of the song: Let me take you to the desert/to my humble start......."
How's things hanging with your brother?
Faris lives in Las Vegas now. He hasn't put out and album or done any recording on his own in almost ten years. In December of 2016, we got together and recorded a one-off song to try and raise money for families that had been decimated by the violence in Syria. Our father was from Jableh Syria, and we still have a lot of family over there.
For the charity I wrote a song called "Christmas In Aleppo." My kids actually played on the recording too, it was a very special time. My son, Gavin, played the drums. He was only 13 at the time. My daughter, Miette, also sang on it.
I talk on the phone with my brother at least once a week. He said that he'd finally written a couple songs a few weeks ago. I've been encouraging him to record them, but he's reluctant. He still plays guitar and piano, he's got a bunch of nice instruments in his house. Here's a Spotify playlist I made of his music. I think it's pretty damn impressive."
How does the songwriting process work with you and has it changed down the years?
"It hasn't changed much outside of the projects that I get involved with that require me to write with other songwriters. When I'm on my own, it's all basically down to waiting for the moment inspiration strikes and a song comes in. Sometimes I will go months without picking up the guitar to write, but it never bothers me. I never force it.
I lost both of my parents over the last couple of years. My mother, Karen, passed away in May of 2018 and my father, Fayez, died this past August. With both of them it was a slow, excruciating process. A handful of some of the best songs I've written came in around the time of my mother's death.
One good example of the way that spontaneity plays a huge role in my process is a song called "Damage." It's slated to be released on my next full-length album, A Nuclear Winter Feels Warm. I was at lunch with my father, celebrating my birthday in 2018, when a friend of mine sent me a text suggesting we write a song together. He told me all I had to do was send him a title. I texted back, "Damage is Fun!" By the time my father and I were leaving the restaurant, he'd sent me back a voice memo of his idea for "Damage Is Fun."
I listened on the way back to Dad's office. It immediately triggered something else though, my own take on "Damage." I was supposed to go visit my mother after lunch. I only had 90 minutes before I was supposed to pick my daughter up from school, but this song was wanting to come in. I decided to race home and try and knock it out. So that's what I did. I basically finished it before carpool and then felt incredibly guilty that I'd decided to do that on my birthday instead of visit my mother. I went to see her the next day though."
Looking back on your body of work what are the things that really stand out for you?
What mainly stands out is that I'm one seriously determined or insane motherfucker. All of the time and effort I put into these songs and recordings is kind of ridiculous, especially considering they've never generated any sort of income. They were incredibly impractical in that sense. It's been my life's obsession though.
After I fell in love with music as a kid, there was never anything else I wanted to do. I've been singularly driven by songwriting ever since and I'm grateful every single day that I've somehow managed to pull this off as a "job." I still get to wake up and do what I love to do even though I've never had a hit or sold a load of records. It's pretty miraculous."
You can buy from Salim's website here. You can listen and buy albums at his bandcamp site here. You can listen to or buy Somewhere South Of Sane here. You can listen to or buy The Travoltas here. You can listen to or buy The Disappearing Act here. Y