by Ethan Kaplan, Murmurs.com, July 2004
R.E.M.’s side musician Ken Stringfellow has told Murmurs.com how the band’s bold approach to making a record revolutionised the way he records his own music.
In an interview with Ethan Kaplan, Stringfellow, who also plays with Peter Buck’s other band the Minus 5, said working on Reveal gave him a more “spontaneous” outlook on the recording process.
Stringfellow last month released Soft Commands and has been busy helping out with R.E.M.’s forthcoming album, scheduled for release in the first week of October…
EK: The new record seems to find you wearing your influences on your sleeve, most notably the Beach Boys with “When U Find Someone.” Was this a conscious thing?
KS: Well, it’s like using digital samples. There are all sorts of evocative tones from established musical forms out there, it’s fun to quote them and recontectualize them.
EK: Whats with the Holst’s “The Planets” progression on Any Love?
KS: It’s one of my favorite pieces of music, and I wanted to see if any one would notice!
EK: Congratulations. How was the recording process different for Soft Commands? It seems to be more fleshed out and less sparse than Touched.
KS: It was done in very different places. All told, I prob. spent more time in the studio on this one, and was less worried about trying to play everything myself. I learned enough from working on Touched that I was able to ‘produce’ these sessions more elaborately.
EK: Did the work with R.E.M. this time about inform any of the record? Even just the recording process?
KS: Working on Reveal had a huge effect on how I made Touched (the records were done virtually back-to-back). Their willingness to experiment, and trust in their abilities to complete ideas even from very abstract beginnings, really made me loosen up my approach to recording. I tend to come in with things less worked out, more flexible for development spontaneously in the studio.
EK: Did fatherhood and getting married inform some of the record? It almost seems that thematically, if indirectly, this is a sequel to Dear 23, even if only from where you are in life.
KS: It would be D23’s counterpoint, I suppose. There are some songs that refer to those new situations.
EK: What is new with the Posies? How did that recording process go?
KS: Our record is about 80% complete. We wrote it and recorded in a furiously creative session in the first half of this year. Each day we would show up to the studio and come up with a complete piece of music, which would be recorded that day. Rinse and repeat. I think we really have done some novel and original things (for us, at least) this time around.
EK: You seem to be among the busiest people in music, how do you balance life with your art?
KS: I am not really the balanced type. I tend to have a schedule that is structured like confetti. But, I don’t view my life and my art as two separate things. So, in that sense, it’s already in a kind of balance.