Interview - Devil Whammy, new album and more - August 8, 2022
by Lost in the Nordics
Hey, super nice to have the chance to chat with you. What have you been up to over the past year in this big old mess?
Nice to Nordic with you! I’m half-Swedish, so it’s nice to have a group yodel. I’ve been working on the third Dark Americana album – I think it’s going to be called “American Gothic”. I have 7 songs so far in varying degrees of completion. Beyond that, I am working on a new live show where I perform with a 45 minute video – all spooky darkness. I just did the first one this last weekend. It was recorded by the good people at AlertTheGlobe.com. Over time I’ll be adding more widgets to it – maybe dry ice, magicians, toy monkey drummers – those sorts of things.
What first got you into music?
Epilepsy! I would plonk out notes on my dad’s old player piano and it helped me focus and calmed me down. I grew out of the petit mal seizures when I turned 15, but not before I drowned in my brother’s pool at his birthday party. Heart stopped, no breathing, floating over my body – the whole thing. I guess I couldn’t stand not being the center of attention. That left me with an asterisk on death and reality weirdness. Anyway, those piano notes gave me little pictures in my eyes. I get weird color tints when I hear music. Maybe I have a broken brain – I was heavily medicated as a kid.
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
People who wouldn’t have me. Like Tom Waits, Nick Cave. I really dig Jason Isbell too – haven’t met him, but from his social media posts, he seems like a really good guy. And he writes killer songs. Have you heard his song “If We Were Vampires”? That line “Likely one of us will have to spend some days alone” makes me tear up every time I hear it.
Your latest song is 'Devil Whammy'. Can you tell us more about the making of it and if there were any unusual things happening during the process?
Well, it might or might not be one of the songs on “American Gothic”. Hunter (my wife and songwriter and video partner) said something about something that went wrong and how it was like a “double whammy”. I thought she said “Devil Whammy” and off we went! I wanted something danceable so I decided to write a Velvet Underground song. It doesn’t make sense, I know. It started just as a drum track, electric guitar and bass, then pedal steel started complaining in the corner. Then some banging on a piano followed. Then a tremelo guitar. I’m going to make an extended version and try to get a Tiktok dance challenge going. The extended version will have instructions on how to do the dance: “Wave your arms in the air, spin your head round and round, shake your hips back and forth, and try to not fall down…”
What are you focusing on right now?
“American Gothic”. It wants to go in a bunch of places, so it’s at the stage of taming it. It’s a progression from the last album “Mojave”, which was about using the decaying tiny towns in the desert as a metaphor for America’s swoon into the abyss (yay politics!). “American Gothic” carries that forward with more modern production techniques while keeping a foot in the old west. “Where Are You?” was released a few months ago -a creepy carnival thing. “3 Feet From a Vein” is coming out in a month or so, which is about Seldom Seen Slim – a legendary prospector who used to live in a ghost town out in the Nevada desert by himself. When he died Nevada named a mountain pass after him. So the song is about the moment he passes to the other side. It has a more modern sonic cadence and then a choir of angels come down to take him to heaven, where it rains Mezcal. It probably sounds kind of stupid right now, but it’s a tear-jerker.
You are also based in Los Angeles. Can you tell us how the music scene there has inspired your sound at all?
The Los Angeles music scene as an inspiration… maybe in the sense that “Desperation is the Mother of Invention”. SO many insanely talented people here, all making it look so effortless. Everyone is brilliant. Everyone is gorgeous. Everyone has dayjobs.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
Be an asset to others in anything you do and never loan a musician money.
What is the biggest challenge of being an artist?
Constantly telling yourself you’re an artist when your bank account says to think again. Telling yourself you’re an artist feels very… umm… “up your own ___”. If you NEED to make music or art or poetry, if it’s something you need to do for your own mental and physical well-being, then you found your place in the ant colony. If you do it because it’s fun and it makes people look at you, then please leave the ant hill – emotionally needy ants with paintbrushes and guitars will thank you.
How do you structure your day?
I get up around 6 AM. I turn on the equipment and get to work. I sing at the bottom of my range and that mainly exists between 6 and 7 in the morning. I made many enemies when I worked out of my old apartment. They also told me to think again about that artist thing.
Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of music?
I’m a geek. Surrealism and Dada are my Harry Potter and Star Wars. Can name the players, where they went, what they did. Hunter and I went to Paris for our first-year anniversary and stayed in the 6th arrondissement, a block from Le Dome, La Couple, La Rotonde and La Select, where the surrealists used to gather every night before World War Two. I must have bored Hunter to death with old facts.
Do you sing in the shower? What songs?
I sing old song-poem songs sometimes. Song-poems were these things from the 60’s and 70’s where people would see an ad in the back of a magazine that said “send us your poems and we’ll put them to music and make you a hit record!” People would send their poem with money and get a 45 record back with their poem set to a “song”. These things are BIZARRE and usually hilarious. You can find some online. Some of my favorites are “Jimmy Carter Says Yes”, “God Is Our Ramrod”, and one that will stay with me until the day I die called “Goddess of Love”. It seems to be a minor key yiddish hora dance played on a Lowrey chord organ and sounds like the song the Doors were always trying to make.
And Finally, what are your plans for the future?
Finishing “American Gothic”, perfecting the live show and setting up shows in Europe. Now if only world-wide pandemics would get bored with us…