Chris Ballew Interview #5 by Mike Lyon

The Guys "From TV":

(The 5th Annual Mike Lyon Interview With Chris - September, 2001)

So Mike didn't write a little intro for the interview this year. That means I (Q) had to do it. That's OK, cuz ML does such a great job coming up with the good questions for Chris. I had practically the same interview, when I saw Chris and Tad in Hoboken this month, but didn't write anything down. doh! Anyhow, Chris introduced the combo saying this: "Hello, we're Chris and Tad, and we're from TV". Well, in case you didn't know it, TV and movies will be the primary focus of Chris and Tad (and therefore Chris) for the immediate future. Just read on...

Mike - We all know that there's a new Chris and Tad album coming soon, but maybe you can fill us in on any details. Will it be an Orange release? How long have you been recording it? What's it gonna be called? Songs? Loong ago you said The Dust Brothers might be involved...

Chris - Well, lets see now... We have been working on it for about 3 months or so in earnest. We went to a studio called Jupiter where I made the LAST pusa record and did the basic tracks to Pro Tools and then took those tracks home to my new studio and dumped them into my computer and started overdubbing and mixing and tweaking and now we have 6 songs done enough to call it a demo that we are using to see if anyone wants to help us put it out. I love the results. It sounds like butter. We don't have a sure title yet but we are considering a few possibilities. Songs include "Holidays in Your Holster", "Calling Long Distance", "Jogger", "In Your Mind", "Everytime I see Your Face I Feel as if the Hardest Part is Over and I'm Free", "Drool at You from Here" [Mike's note: this last song is a remake of "Here" from the Caspar album], and so on. As of now the Dust brothers are not involved but I just dropped a 6-song demo off in LA with one brother and we would love to get them in on it if we can.

Mike - Will you be touring behind the album at all, or is it too early to ask that?

Chris - We certainly don't want to tour... That is why we are doing film songs and TV. We will cross that bridge when we come to it.

Mike - Will there be any songs from Zero Friction translated for the C+T album?

Chris - There were a couple that we tried that worked and some that didn't. Because I thought that the songs from that record were fundamentally weak, I kinda wanted to scrap them all and let them grow mold in the corner for a while so I could get far enough away from them to be able to tell if there were any redeeming qualities in them or not. BUT "Stay With Me" got a very attractive liposuction and implant and is definitely on the new record. We messed around with "Some Postman is Grooving" until I wanted to kill kill kill - and it never worked.

Mike - Now, speaking of Zero Friction, everyone was very excited about it. Can you say a little about why you decided to shelve The Giraffes as a live act, and then the whole album itself?

Chris - I just didn't think the songs were that good. I was kind of on auto-pilot and working for the sake of being busy and I suddenly realized after I sent out CDs to find a manager that I didn't believe that the stuff was the best I could do and the experience of listening to it was nerve racking for me and that is the WRONG feeling to have about a record if you are going to do all the work that has to be done to release a record properly. So I set it aside.

Mike - Will we see a third Giraffes album? Everyone is pumped to hear more solo material from you...

Chris - YES!!! I have a whole bunch of instrumental music that I want to pull together and release somehow. Mostly drummless, Spacemen 3, go to sleep stuff. I have been doing this stuff my whole life and thought that it was only useful in the context of pulling melodies out of it for songs. Now it seems like a fun challenge to make them stand on their own and be interesting enough to hold someone's ears in check. So during down time I will putt away on that. I have a LONG term goal of furthering my music education and getting into actual scoring of actual films. By "long" I mean 10 years down the road.

Mike - Back to C+T for a second, you were talking about involvement in film projects, like the Scooby-Doo movie. Tell me what's up with all that.

Chris - That is our main business and most probable livelihood at the moment. The old PUSA manager in LA is in charge of this part of the operation and she is seeking out films and TV shows that we can get involved in and provide music for. I am most excited about this business artistically too because the challenge is to make something fun and cool-sounding that will fit with the project at hand. We just finished and saw on the air the bumper (in and out of commercials) music for "Next Big Star" which is the new "Star Search" show that Ed MacMahon is doing. We wrote songs for the "Country Bears" movie for Disney and the list goes on... We have a long list of demos and songs to work on right now.

Mike - Although you haven't released any singles yet in your post-PUSA endeavors, is there still the chance that we might get the odd 7" out of you? You had talked in the spring about releasing a C+T "summer single".

Chris - Yep, the summer single didn't materialize because of business. No plans for any PUSA activity at all.

Mike - So I hear that you've left home-taping behind and gone digital. What was the motivation for the big switch? What kind of a setup do you have now? And how is it treating you?

Chris - I LOVE COMPUTERS!!!!!!! I still use the cassette a lot, though. I record ideas onto cassette and then dump them into the computer and I still track drums onto cassette. I got the Digidesign 001 Pro tools setup and a Mac G4 to go with it. Pretty standard stuff. The big switch was motivated by LACK OF TRACKS! Tad and I would get to the exciting part where the song needed to have handclaps and tambourine and we were out of room. The editing part is amazing, too. I don't use the computer to generate music but once an idea is in there we can loop parts and cut out the dead wood so fast that we don't have to worry as much about knowing the arrangement of the song before we start recording. That attitude fits our style perfectly.

Mike - The nice thing about digital is that new songs can be Internet-ready in a matter of seconds after recording. Does this mean that we might see a bigger Ballew online presence in the future?

Chris - I hope so. I am learning how to e-mail songs and I would love to be organized enough to get a web site together that can post songs...

Mike - Let's talk about the aftermath of last year. Since our last big talk in 2000, you put out 3 records (Freaked Out and Small, The Days Are Filled With Years and Hand Me That Door). That's a gigantic output for just one year of recording! So I'd like to ask what kind of success each of those 3 albums had, and how you maintained such a fever pitch!

Chris - They all did OK. Nothing too huge, obviously, but that is also a result of being scattered over various projects and running a family. Nothing got the full attention and so it all suffered a bit in some way. I really like all of those records as far as the music goes... No complaints there. I did pay eventually for the fever pitch and that is why I dropped The Giraffes as a live band and why I am doing all that I am with just Tad at the moment. The multitasking approach got out of hand.

Mike - What are Dave [Dederer] and Jason [Finn, the other members of PUSA] up to now, then? I hear Dave is playing with Duff in a band called "Loaded." Is it good stuff?

Chris - I haven't heard it. He was going to go to Japan with that band but he had a baby and isn't going anywhere soon. He IS writing a book about the music business using PUSA as an example and he is looking for a publisher for that. Jason in looking for a touring band to get into and stay with for a while... At least that was the last word from him. I haven't seen him for 6 months or so.

Mike - Time for my favorite subject, Ballew Recordings of Times Now Past - Gavin [Guss, formerly of The Tycoons] just recently posted an old Tycoons song that you guys wrote called "Lady Elaine" to, and it's really being eaten up; everyone loves it! Is there any chance now, 4 years down the road, that the fan community might get to hear the old record that you guys scrapped?

Chris - Never say never. "Lady Elaine" was our best song... The only one we all wrote together. But I doubt with all else going on that it will ever be anything but an MP3. And that is great! That is why this is so GREAT. We don't HAVE to coordinate a record release, which is a lot of work. I mean a LOT of work - and people can still hear songs. Beautiful.

Mike - And that means that Subset must be the next topic of conversation. I know that Subset is totally dead and buried. But will the completed record you guys cut ever see the light of day? As a bootleg, maybe?

Chris - Top secret negotiations are underway, that is all I can say.

Mike - I got a copy of the "Balls" LP that you did more than a decade ago, and it's crazy stuff. I noticed that Phil Franklin played on it, and you guys were of course in EGG together. When was the last time you worked with Phil on a project? For that matter, what about Dave Thiele?

Chris - I have long ago lost track of Phil but Dave and I see each other on a regular basis and we are still working on the Creepy Stick debut after 26 years of work.

Mike - Speaking of EGG, I know you were doing a lot of art at the time those records came out, in kind of an art collective. A horde of fans really dig your artwork a lot (and I certainly do - I got that tattoo of the Caspar cover!). Have you ever thought about putting out a small artbook? Do you still draw or is the focus elsewhere?

Chris - I still do artwork when the music part of my brain gets mushy and overloaded. It is the one thing I love to do most while I listen to music - besides fall asleep. As far as a book goes, if I were approached by someone who wanted to see the whole batch of stuff and they thought there was enough there to work on I would be interested in that. I did a 24 hour art marathon about a year ago and wanted to do the same one this year but I was in LA. It was amazing... Exhaustion and creativity mixing it up and I sold all my work that night at an auction to benefit an arts center in Seattle. It did make me want to do more but if I have 10 minutes free these days MUSIC related ideas are lined up ready to go first.

Mike - When I was doing some research the other day I found an old top ten list of your favorite albums that you compiled back in 1996! It's a kick.

Here it is:
1. Chixdiggit (self-titled debut)
2. Fun Lovin Criminals: "Come Find Yourself"
3. Beck: "Odelay"
4. Maxwell: "Urban Hang Suite"
5. Custard: "Wisenheimer"
6. Screaming Trees: "Dust"
7. Menthol: (self-titled debut)
8. Supergrass: "I Should Coco"
9. Oasis: "What's The Story Morning Glory"
10. Alice In Chains: "Unplugged"

So what would this list look like now, 5 years later?

1. The Creation: "How Does it Feel To Feel?"
2. Rolling Stones: "Let it Bleed"
3. Reef: "Glow"
4. Andrew Birds Bowl of Fire: "The Swimming Hour"
5. R.L.Burnside: "Come on In"
6. R.L.Burnside: "Wish I was in Heaven Sitting Down"
7. Beastie Boys: "Body Movin Fatboy Slim remix"
8. Rushmore Soundtrack
9. Beethoven 6th Symphony
10. Brian Eno: "Apollo and Atmospheres"

Mike - How are the kids? They are getting old, and that is crazy since the first time we talked was right after Augie was born!

Chris - They are great! Augie is 4 and starting pre-school and Josie is 1 and trying to keep up with her brother...

Mike - For the record, I STILL think you should cover The Beatles' "Back in the USSR".

Chris - OK, I will.

Mike - Thank you!

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