The Record Collection: 1988 (1-20)

The album collection in chronological order from when it was bought. Revisited one at the time.

Fetchin Bones | Bad Pumpkin | Capitol 1986 |

Underrated and sadly forgotten North Carolina quintet combining a kind of Southern jangly vibe with restless proto-grunge. They supported R.E.M and the B-52’s, whom they both are sonically related to. This is their second album, marking their move from small db Records to a major label without losing their spark. Rather this LP still holds up thanks to careful production by Don Dixon and tight songs throughout the record. And Hope Nicholls was a great singer back then, and she still is.

Ben Vaughn Combo | The Many Moods of Ben Vaughn | Restless/Making Waves 1986 |

‘I got a 1969 Rambler American/Baby aren’t you impressed/Sure I could have a Datsun 280 Z/But I’m not like all the rest’ Ben Vaughn blends humor and wit with classic American music; rock’n’roll, rockabilly and country twang. He’s been doing his thing since the early 1980’s, and has released albums better than this during his long career. But Vaughn and his Combo had such an irresistible charm on songs like “I’m Sorry (But So Is Brenda Lee)”, “I Dig You Wig” and “Wrong Haircut” that makes his debut album still a treat to listen to.

The Dream Syndicate | This Is Not The New Dream Syndicate Album… Live! | A&M 1984 |

Recorded live at the Aragon in Chicago one hot July night in 1984, when The Dream Syndicate toured on ‘The Medicine Show’ (released a month prior) with R.E.M. Only five songs long, but these are all classics – from a band in blistering shape. The classic line up of Steve Wynn, Dennis Duck, guitarist Karl Precoda on his last album with the Syndicate, and newcomer Mark Walton. Tommy Zvoncheck guests on keys, but this performance is first and foremost about four guys and great songs; long jams, feedback orgies and the joy of a sweaty club night. That’s rock and roll.

Guadalcanal Diary | 2×4 | Elektra/Asylum 1987 |


Producer Don Dixon is synonymous with some of the finest guitar rock of the 1980s, with a jangly signature sound that mainly captured the spirit of Southern indie and mostly known for his work with early R.E.M. Guadalcanal Diary, also from Georgia, never earned the same levels of commercial success. A new listen to the hands down masterpiece ‘2×4’ serves as a reminder on how that is just unfair. They shared some obvious similarities, but this quartet had a more direct and extrovert approach to their songwriting. This is their finest moment, an energetic and eclectic set of pure excellent songs.

The Screaming Blue Messiahs | Bikini Red | Elektra 1987 |


London based Screaming Blue Messiahs rose from the ashes of Motor Boys Motor (named after a 101’ers tune) exposing a crew owing debt to the likes of Bo Diddley, Little Richard and Captain Beefheart. With some adjustments to the line-up, the smokin’ trio was finally settled as the highly skilled outfit of Bill Carter on guitar and vocals, Chris Thompson on bass and Kenny Harris on thundering drums. Soon after they were renamed the Screaming Blue Messiahs. The Vic Maile produced ‘Bikini Red’ saw the band dwelling even deeper into iconic American pop and trash culture. Complete with references to Elvis, cars, booze, TV evangelists and fast living, the music itself proves an amalgam of rockabilly, rhythm & blues, hillbilly and surf fronted by Bill Carter who (with an American accent) declared that “Jesus Chrysler Drives a Dodge,” “I Can Speak American” and even “I Wanna Be a Flintstone.

Various artists | I Was A Teenage Zombie | Enigma 1987 |


Still haven’t seen the movie, but suspect the soundtrack is superior to the comedy-horror flick. This is a decent selection with some of the finest indie artists of the time picked from the Enigma roster. The db’s, Smithereens, and Los Lobos are all in here, and the Fleshtones got a minor hit with the theme song. The highlights are Violent Femmes’ “Good Feeling” and The Dream Syndicate with the haunting masterpiece “Halloween.”

R.E.M | Chronic Town | I.R.S 1982
R.E.M | Murmur | I.R.S 1983 |
R.E.M | Reckoning | I.R.S 1984 |


I discovered R.E.M with ‘Life’s Rich Pageant’ as a 13-14 year old kid, and immediately fell in love, not only with R.E.M but in alternative American guitar rock in general. So when I finally switched over from cassettes to LP’s in 1988, purchasing their back catalog was obviously a high priority. One lucky day I went home with ‘Chronic Town’, ‘Murmur’ and ‘Reckoning’ bought from a friend, meaning days and weeks of deep listening. Humming along to barely recognizable lyrics. R.E.M might went on to release better albums later in their career, but these three albums, they’re all equal to me, really captures all I love about them. And they still sound as adventurous and amazing as they did on that February day in 1988.

Green On Red | Gas Food Lodging | Enigma 1985 |


Green On Red released nothing but excellent albums between 1982-88, and some great moments in the years after. This is the band in its prime; Dan Stuart, Big Dog MacNicol (RIP), Jack Waterson, Chuck Prophet and Chris Cacavas made one helluva great line up, supported with fine production from Paul B. Cutler of the Dream Syndicate. From the blazing opener ‘That’s What Dreams’ to the campfire version of ‘We Shall Ocercome’, this is rootsy ragged rock at it’s finest, but side 2 with ‘Sixteen Ways’, ‘The Drifter’ and ‘Sea Of Cortez’ are particular standouts. Heck, all of them are.

Thin White Rope | Bottom Feeders | Zippo/Frontier 1988|

Not too many bands can boast a recorded history without any major flaws. But Northern California’s Thin White Rope are one of those. They made great studio albums throughout, well known for their even more ferocious live shows of massive wall of guitars and bulldozer sound. The group never really fit into the categories used for branding guitar dominated rock in the 1980s. Thin White Rope were too harsh to be labeled as jangle, too loud for the emerging alternative country movement and too dark to fit into the flowery Paisley Underground. ‘Bottom Feeders’ is an EP of four originals and two covers (Jimmy Reed’s “Ain’t That Loving You Baby” and highlighted with a blistering live version of Suicide’s “Rocket USA”) and tucked between the bleak masterpieces ‘Moonhead’ and astonishing ‘In The Spanish Cave’. But there’s no reason to ignore this little beast of chainsaw guitars, raspy vocal and spooky vibes. Great cover art by Steve Blickenstaff.

The Dead Kennedys | Frankenchrist | Alternative Tentacles 1985 |


In an ideal world, songs about corrupt government, robots replacing the working class, suburban decay and structural racism would be of out of date some 30 years down the line. Alas, as we all know, the topics raised on ‘Frankenchrist’ are more relevant than ever. “No wonder others hate us/And the Hitlers we handpick/To bleed their people dry/For our evil empire”, Biafra sings on the album standout ‘Stars and Stripes of Corruption’ like an omen for the presidency and leadership in 2018. ‘Frankenchrist’ might lack the immediate punk anthems of its predecessors, but musically this is also Kennedy’s best and most diverse album, where they expanded their punk roots and embraced a far more eclectic sound to include surf, Latin, psychedelic and synth elements. The album is mostly remembered for the massive controversy that followed, when the band was brought to court – and to their knees – due to the inlay poster ‘Penis Landscape’ by H.R Giger. Such fools, when the real concern should’ve been on solving the real problems outlined here. ‘Frankenchrist’ is an underrated gem in the band’s catalog.

The Replacements | Let it Be | Twin/Tone / Zippo 1984 |


This is just the ultimate album when you’re 16 and life to go. The Replacements’ combination of restless energy and slacker attitude, teen angst and drunken confidence hit like a bomb when I bought ‘Let It Be’ in 1988, and it became the soundtrack into adolescence. “How young are you?/How old am I?/Let’s count the rings around my eyes” is just an ace opening statement into an album packed with classic coming of age tunes miles ahead from their previous more punk based efforts, sometimes like a mix of the Stones’ swagger and ‘Born to Run’ era Springsteen. The album cover is perfect too, remember how I just wanted to climb that roof and squeeze in between these four hoodlums from Minneapolis.

Green On Red | Gravity Talks | Slash 1983 |


I first heard Green On Red on the ‘Slash Cuts’ compilation, where “Five Easy Pieces” was a standout. Driven by Chris Cacavas’ psychedelic keyboard swirls and Dan Stuart’s snarling vocals, the band found their own place in their infancy combining 60’s garage/psychedelia and Dylanesque folk-rock. Gravity Talks is a very fine document of this epoch, provided by a bunch of clever outlaw kids from Arizona still not sure about where to go. I love the nervous desperation that hangs over the whole album, a youthful energy impossible to replicate later in a career. ‘We don’t pretend to know everything or speak out loud like our parents did’, Stuart sings on the anthemic “Brave Generation”, name checking Fitzgerald and Faulkner on a coming of age story of growing up between the Vietnam war and Cold War anxiety: ‘We’re not beat, we’re not hip, we’re the Brave Generation, what a trip.’

The Del Fuegos | Boston Mass | Slash 1985 |


Yet another album bought off the ‘Slash Cuts’ compilation I guess. There was nothing hip or super fancy about the Del Fuegos in 1988, still aren’t. But their basic and credible urban heartland rock ‘n’ roll has some strong timeless qualities – and time has fared rather well with this one, their second album. Fronted by the Zanes’ brothers and produced by Mitchell Froom, Del Fuegos’ hammered out a couple of easy to like bar room and streetwise backroad tunes – equally perfect for both purposes (not at the same time though). This is the ‘sound of our town’, that’s the sound of Boston, Mass all right.

The Dream Syndicate | Medicine Show | A&M 1984 |

Following their raucous debut full length, The Dream Syndicate signed with a major label, teamed up with renowned producer Sandy Pearlman (Blue Öyster Cult, The Dictators, The Clash) and spent five months in the studio to finish their Medicine Show. It was met with various receptions at the time, but has gained favorable to classical status over the years. Pearlman and Syndicate shaped a far different sound for this album, more related to Television, The Cars and Neil Young than Velvet Underground. This is American gothic stories filled with some of Steve Wynn’s most memorable characters on songs like “Burn”, “Armed With An Empty Gun” and “Bullet With My Name On It.” But the panoramic widescreen vision reveals in its full on side 2: The title track, the blistering jam “John Coltrane Stereo Blues” and “Merritville” are all epic and has deservedly so become standards in the band’s catalogue. Medicine Show was obtained at a time when learning the lyrics was part of buying an album. I memorized all of these songs by heart, and they’re still holding on to me.

Hüsker Dü | Warehouse: Songs And Stories | Warner 1987 |

Could have been the one to boast Zen Arcade or New Day Rising as my entry points to Hüsker Dü, but as it happened their swan song Warehouse: Songs and Stories became my gateway album. I discovered them without any anticipation or deep knowledge about their astonishing back catalogue. I was just thrown into this sprawling sonic assault of thin fuzz, frenetic pace and way to clever poetry for a kid my age. It was almost too much. I guess the sheer intensity and emotional depth did resonate very well at the time. And the songs are catchy as hell. I didn’t care to much about the front cover though, but adored the back cover; those three weird and average looking guys laying on the grass surrounded by psychedelic blasts. 30 years down the road it still sounds like an amalgam of 60’s pop anthems filtered through a punk psychedelic odyssey, I particularly recall “Ice Cold Ice”, “Could You Be the One” and especially “She Floated Away” being played nonstop. Warehouse: Songs And Stories is a breathtaking kaleidoscopic soundtrack of youth, the sound of a band that had finally grown up – but also a band that were falling apart. In the end, I guess everything does.

The Del-Lords | Johnny Comes Marching Home | EMI America 1986 |

Of all the albums bought in my pioneer days, this is the one I probably know the least. I don’t recall the actual purchase, nor the songs in detail. So with a bit of excitement I drop the needle and press play. Just like the first time. The archetypal 80s sound aside, time has fared rather well with Johnny. The cover doesn’t lie. These four tough, denim and leather dressed New York guys could’ve been lifted straight outta ‘American Graffiti’, cruising down the main drag and looking for trouble at the soda shop while hanging round the jukebox. And it’s pretty much that kind of music they make; no nonsense rock rooted directly back to the 1950s with a modernized and radio friendly sound – and some nice parts of chiming Byrds-like guitars. Not bad at all, formerly Dictators’ and front man Scott Kempner is a great songwriter and assembled a more than decent cast of characters, including Eric ‘Roscoe’ Ambel, for The Del-Lords. Sometimes all we need is to rock out, have a good time and don’t worry too much. The sound of carefree times has no expiration date.

Danny & Dusty | The Lost Weekend | A&M 1985 |

When you’re 15-16, life’s at the crossroads. Your path is not yet set, there are choices to be made; sports, school, or well, smoking and drinking. Now, I’ll never blame Danny & Dusty for leading me down the wrong road, but those two fellas on the cover sure seems to have a good time! Who doesn’t wanna join in on their drunken choir? And Danny & Dusty sounds just like a couple friends having the time of their lives. It certainly helps when they happened to be Dan Stuart and Steve Wynn, joined by a fine group of likeminded ramblers from The Long Ryders and Green On Red/The Dream Syndicate. They dropped most of their gloomy credibility and pretensions outside and entered the bar with nothing but good intentions: to sing, drink, shoot stories, long on talk and short on cash, and drink some more. ‘One’s too many, and a hundred’s not enough’ as they say in the legendary movie The Lost Weekend (I watched it immediately after buying the album.) The result is loose and spontaneous, but not too sloppy, rather it’s rowdy, confident and has actually aged very well. The songs are great, from when the word is out until we knock on heavens door begging for hangover relief on Sunday. Chris Cacavas is perfect as the barroom pianist, Dan and Steve know how to tell stories about winners and losers in the shadow of the Hollywood neon glimmer. Lebowski might be the dude, but these guys, they were the real dudes.

The Cramps | Psychedelic Jungle | I.R.S. 1981 |

‘Primitive, that’s how I live.’ Lux Interior holler and howls all the way through ‘Psychedelic Jungle.’ The Cramps’ second album is onehelluva slow burning garbage crate digging bonanza of 1950s sleaze and dark shades, a wild, weird and wicked entry to a world of voodoo rockabilly, haunted garage rock and deranged punk. I discovered the band, as far as I remember, with a live version of “Sunglasses After Dark” played on radio, and was immediately hooked. I don’t play this too often though, must’ve been years since I was reminded to not eat stuff from the sidewalk

Reklamer

Craig Brown Band: Detroit Country Rock City

Detroit is rightfully considered one of America’s great music cities, counting Motown, MC5, Iggy & the Stooges, Bob Seger, Alice Cooper and The White Stripes among its notable exports. Now go ahead and add Craig Brown Band to Motor City’s roster. Their effortless and ragged mix of classic rock’n’roll, honky-skronk and garage rock follows a proud lineage, and Brown and his band have naturally found a home at Jack White’s Third Man Records.

Craig Brown is no newcomer to the scene, having played in various Motor City punk bands through the years, most notably the trashy electro-punk outfit Terrible Twos. But with Craig Brown Band he’s adding some country/folk twang into the blue-collar rock mix, described by the Detroit Metro-Times as “straightforward without being boring; as composed as it is relaxed; a touch of folk and heartland rock, just enough to remind us a little bit of Tom Petty here and a dash of Nashville Skyline-Dylan there…”– and we have to add for the record that Craig Brown Band also shares a similar raucous barroom feel to, say, The Replacements or Danny & Dusty.

Recorded by Warren Defever (Thurston Moore, Yoko Ono, Iggy & the Stooges) and loaded with classic songwriting and wry and humorous observations on fishing, baseball and drinking, their new album The Lucky Ones Forget is a one helluva debut. We had the opportunity to chat with Craig Brown about his new album.

***

Who is Craig Brown Band – can you please introduce yourself?

My band consists of Jeff Perry on drums. He is one of my oldest friends. We’ve been playing together since 6th grade. Eric Allen on rhythm guitars. He is a great front man and I’ve played guitar in his band throughout the years. He’s a great friend and player to have around. Andrew Hecker is on the bass. He’s the youngest member by a handful of years. Bass is in his blood. His dad is an incredible player as well. Andrew has all the talent in the world and is just as much a total knuckle head… I’ll leave that at that.

Lastly, I have been graced with The Drinkard Sisters. Bonnie and Caitlin Drinkard singing on backup harmonies. Being sisters they’ve been singing together their whole lives and it really shows in their almost effortless work ethic. They’re just great!

I’m Craig and I play all of the bendy guitars and just about everything else you hear on the record: all the acoustics, some harmonica, some organ, some percussion, bells, etc.

Congratulations with a great album. What do we get and what’s it about?

Thank you! Well… about that… You get an album that is basically mixed of some songs I’ve had for over 5 years, and some really new ones. It’s hard for me to label it myself in any sort of category. Some people say country. Some say just rock ‘n’ roll. I’m fine with either.

The record is a lot about relationships, insecurities, and basic wonder about past and future endeavors.

Can you share the story behind the album cover?

[Laughing] Sure, I guess. The album cover was just a shoot with my friend Zak and me in the middle of this field at this old school in Detroit. It was actually a shot for the gatefold in the inside. Which it still is. He wanted to try me hiding under it. So we kept that as the inside and that was supposed to be that.

We had a completely different idea originally for the cover. One day I was showing the fotos to my friend Dan Clark and he had the idea for the cover being just a zoomed in version of the inside. I liked it, Third Man loved it. And there you go.

What inspired you the most when you started writing the songs that ended up on The Lucky Ones Forget?

Girls.

What can you share about the recording process and working with this material in the studio?

We recorded with Warren Defever. He’s just fantastic! He’s brilliant and he has been doing it for a very long time. He knows what he’s doing and he’s also open to suggestions, which is usually a very hard combination to come by these days. We recorded it all as the four guys live. Then I came in and did all the extra little things and lead vocals. Then the Drinkard sisters came in and sang their parts with brief run-throughs before every one of their takes with me on a baby grand piano and us just singing. I wish there was some recordings of that actually.

The final sessions was just Warren and me mixing the record together. The record was mastered for vinyl down in Nashville. We recorded the album at Warren’s studio here in Detroit.

Did you have a clear idea or vision on how the album should be from the get-go, or did it develop along the way?

Yes I did. I did because I recorded over half of the record by myself in a little 4-track studio at my house throughout the years playing all the instruments. I never really dreamed I would land a band as good as mine and these were just songs I’d make and record sort of as a hobby. Basically, I knew what I wanted because I already did what I wanted. Just not with a totally pro sound.

What kind of feelings or sentiment do you wish leaving for the listener after hearing it?

Man… Hopefully a whirlwind of emotions. Or maybe just makes you hungry. I dunno…

Please describe a preferred setting to ultimately enjoy the album?

Driving, or loud as fuck in the other room while taking a shower I guess.

What’s the best debut album ever made and why?

Well, three really come to mind and I feel I can list all of them because they are all from different worlds:

Ready to Die by Biggie
It’s just my favorite rap album. It makes me feel cooler than I am when I listen to it. It really set the bar so much higher for rap and it all stopped being cute at that point forward. He was just so damn smart lyrically. He’s truly inspired me in being funny and dead serious at the same time.

Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. by Dwight Yoakam
This album is just perfect sounding and written. Every aspect seems nothing of a debut. This guy and his band really had their shit together from the very start. Pete Anderson (fellow Detroiter) who produced and played lead guitar for Dwight’s band for years has really inspired me in playing country guitar. It’s just so fun to do once you “get it.”

Kill ‘em All by Metallica
It is just incredible from start to finish. It was such a life-changer for me growing up. So powerful! Also, I just can’t believe it’s the same band now. Wow!

Bjørn Hammershaug

Too Much Damn Guitar!: An Interview With Steve Wynn

Steve_Wynn_1200

If music were like baseball, Steve Wynn is easily batting .500.

That is to say that, over his career, the modern rock legend has a longer and stronger track record than most of his peers.

In the early 1980s Wynn rose to prominence as the lead singer and primary songwriter of seminal Los Angeles band The Dream Syndicate. Founded partly on Velvet Underground’s improvisational soundscapes, Television’s loud guitar dominance and the jingle-jangle of The Byrds, the Dream Syndicate are rightfully considered among the most notable bands of the so-called Paisley Underground scene, which also included The Bangles, The Rain Parade and others. Along with R.E.M, they are also one of the most important bands in the development and popularization of college rock.

Dream_Syndicate_days_wine_rosesWith a constantly revolving line up, labels and experimenting in sound, The Dream Syndicate released a steady row of albums in the course of the ’80s. Their classic debut, The Days of Wine & Roses (1982), stands among the finest albums of the decade, while the blistering live album, Live At Raji’s (1989), captures their ferocious on-stage energy. The latter also turned out to be their swan song (though they reunited in 2012, with the possibility of new material on the way), paving the way for even more successful bands like Nirvana and Pixies without cashing in on the indie/guitar resurrection in the 1990s.

Steve Wynn has remained perpetually productive ever since.

After the demise of The Dream Syndicate, he immediately launched a solo career under his own name, as well as being involved in a series of different projects: Danny & Dusty (with Dan Stuart of Green On Red), Gutterball (with compadres from House of Freaks and The Silos), his own combo The Miracle 3, and the recent supergroup The Baseball Project (which includes his wife and half of R.E.M.).

No matter the musical constellation, Steve Wynn has always kept his signature in tact. Never compromising on strong, intelligent songwriting packed with funny wordplay and gritty storytelling, and of course excellent guitar playing and transcendent melodies. This pivotal artist has turned into one of the most reliable names of the last 35 years, always willing to reinvent himself in search of new sonic territory.

I sat down with the ever so friendly Steve Wynn for a deep-digging round of offbeat and revealing questions.

* * *

Describe your perfect day.

If I write a new song it’s a great day. When I’m creative and producing things, I’m at my happiest. That’s joy to me. Also, walking five miles every day, preferably in a city I’ve never been before. And those two things go together. Walking and writing for me has always been a good combination. So if I’m in a strange city, walking a lot, thinking about an idea for a song, and eating a good meal… It doesn’t get better than that.

Growing up, what made you want to become a musician?

I was born in 1960, so I grew up through Beatlemania, AM radio, garage rock, protest music, acid rock and great things like that. It was just in the air, and I was thrilled by music from a young age.

I wrote my first song and played in my first band when I was 9. That’s all I wanted to do. I had an older sister who was just old enough for my mother to trust me to go out with her, but young enough to be into cool music. She could drive, she had her own house, and she took me to lots of great concerts. The first show I ever saw was Delaney & Bonnie when I was 9, who I still like a lot. I was a music junkie from the age I was 6, so when my sister said we’re going to see Delaney & Bonnie I said, “Oh great, I hope Eric Clapton is playing.” I knew what was going on. She took me to see Alice Cooper, The Who, Roxy Music… all these great bands.

I’m very glad I was 17 years old in 1977. To be old enough to leave home, driving a car, enjoying my freedom while punk rock was happening… That was the perfect blend, and it blew my mind. The most romantic period of all time for me was buying singles by the Clash, the Buzzcocks, Elvis Costello and stuff like that. I think that influenced me more than anything.

What’s the most unlikely album that has inspired your own music?

ascension_coltraneIt’s probably not a surprise to those who know my music and my history, but a lot of jazz records. Out there albums like Albert Ayler’s later stuff, Ascension by John Coltrane, Dancing in Your Head by Ornette Coleman… These were all records I loved, and who taught me of improvisation. In the years before The Days of Wine & Roses, I’d practice my guitar not to The Yardbirds or “Stairway to Heaven,” but to free jazz. It made sense to me, to learn how to jam and improvise. So I would sit down with these freaky half-hour long jazz pieces and go at it.

There’s a fire in your house! What three things do you rescue?

Besides my wife? [laughs] That should be obvious. Let’s see… my 1960 Princeton reverb amplifier, which is the best amp in the universe and which I use every time I make a record. Made the same year as myself, and sounds like all the albums I love. Then there’s my paisley Telecaster, which I just got. It’s my favorite thing right now. This is just music stuff, but I have to add Bob Dylan’s really great bootleg, Ten of Swords, which you can’t find anywhere these days and is a collection of his early demos and recordings. I carried it around forever. Yeah, I go for those three things, after the wife.

If you could pick a fight with anyone – who would it be and why?

I’ve got a few problems with Dick Cheney. [laughs] I think he and George W. Bush had quite a bit to do with screwing up the U.S. and the world in general, for reasons driven by money and corruption. If not punch him in the face, I’d at least like to ask a few questions. I can do more damage with my words than my fist.

I’m a political junkie and have always been a newspaper fanatic. First thing on my radar used to be a copy of the International Herald Tribune [now The International New York Times]. When I came to new cities, the first thing I tried to find was the train station and buy a paper, cause I had to have the news. And that was a way for me to discover a new city. Now you don’t need that, it’s all there. Just like music: The biggest thing about touring was to choose which 20 cassettes to last me for the next 6-10 weeks. I would agonize on my record collection whether to bring Marquee Moon or Adventure. Now I’ve got the entire record collection in my pocket.

What’s the worst or best advice you ever received?

Whatever it was I didn’t listen to it. I don’t take advice very well. [pauses] Someone once said to me, “Be careful and be aware of things that are done in your name, because you will bare responsible for it.” I think that’s true. Sometimes, when you’re a musician, you think somebody else will take care of things, but at the end of the day it’ll come down to you. The things you put out there, you live with. That’s why I think I take such good care of the records I make, the shows I play and the way I treat people.

A role model has always been Bruce Springsteen, who I think is a pretty righteous dude in his approach to live music. Seeing him play in 1977 for the first time was another big life changer, because I saw how much passion he put into his show, treating it like it was the last time. Some will see you that night, some may never see you again, may never have seen you before, and that show may be the most important in that person’s life. You should treat every night and everything you do like it may be the only time you do it. Because for some it will be.

What’s your favorite sport, and why?

You didn’t have to ask that. [laughs] It’s baseball, of course. I’ve always been a big baseball fan. One thing we found from the Baseball Project is that a lot of musicians love baseball. It makes sense, because baseball is much like the music we make. It’s cerebral, it’s mental, and you drift away in your own imagination. There’s no clock in baseball. There’s a clock in football, both European and American, there’s a clock in basketball and hockey. Baseball is open, limitless, infinite, anything can happen. You’re living in the moment, but you’re also living throughout history. Everyone who loves the game can recite numbers and facts from the last 150 years. Which is what we do in the Baseball Project.

Strangely enough I have three favorite teams, and they all have to do with where I’m from and where I live: I love the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and New York Mets. But these days, since I live in Queens, I’ve started to like the Mets a little bit more. Now I can just walk to a Mets game.

A funny thing, my old friend Josh Kantor is the organist in The Baseball Project, and also the organist for Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. It’s the greatest job, and he’s a really cool music fanatic. Typically in the past the organist would play old-fashioned songs or big hits, but he plays The Dream Syndicate, R.E.M and other really obscure indie bands to 50,000 people every weekend.

baseball_project_2015
The Baseball Project at The Crossroads Club, Oslo November 13, 2015. (Photo: Bjørn Hammershaug)

What’s a place you’ve never been that you want to go?

So many. Next year I’d like to go to South America. I think Bogotá is on top of my list right now. I want to go everywhere. It’s the greatest thing, finding a new city. My favorite place right now is Mexico City, with its great bookstores, cafés, restaurants – and rock fans. There’s a huge scene down there.

Can you name a book that you wish everyone one would read?

I could name a lot of them… I’m a big fan of a book by John Updike called Rabbit, Run, actually there’s a series of books about this character called Rabbit. It tells the story of 20th century America better than any history book. It explains a lot about America and why it’s the way it is and what happened in the second part of the 20th century. I recommended that one, and any of the books with Rabbit in the title by John Updike.

Criticize your own music from the perspective of someone who hates it.

Too much damn guitar!

What’s your greatest fear?

Probably being deaf. I wouldn’t like that. I love music too much.

Are there any particular of your own albums you hold especially dear?

wynn_miraclesI’d have to say Here Come the Miracles, I really like that for many reasons. I think it’s my best record; and I’m really satisfied with what I did on that one. It also came at a time in my life where I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I thought, I’m 40, I might be done or I might be out of ideas, or I might have nothing left to say. It came at the right time, where it showed me where I should go, and also that I could keep doing it. It revived everything, from the creative side to the career side. It was also the easiest record to make. There were no obstacles, no confusion, and everything was just obvious. Now that doesn’t happen every day. [laughs]

The world is ending tomorrow. What do you do before it’s all over?

Enjoying some time with my wife. That’d be Linda [Pitmon] by the way, my bandmate in The Baseball Project. When we met, we had both been touring a lot, so we knew all about that lifestyle. I toured with this other musician for several years, and once he and I were together in Rome. It was such a beautiful night, we had had a great dinner and stood on a square under the full moon. He laid his arm around me and said, “Steve, I love you man, but I’d much rather be here with my wife.” And I totally understood him. The thing about musicians is that we travel the world having all these great experiences, and then we go home to our wives or friends and try to explain what it was like. It’s nice to be in a band with my wife. We can share all those great memories together.

wynn_hammers_2015

Bjørn Hammershaug
Originally published September 17, 2005 on read.tidal.com