On Fillmore: Glenn Kotche and Darin Gray’s Extended Vacation
BR: First cut on the album is “Checking In”, where we just sort of drift along gently until there’s this big disturbance … and we touch down in the jungle. That’s our first introduction to Dede and the bird calls.
GK: We just knew it would work out well to have him join us for this. The beginning of that cut sounds like other On Fillmore songs; it’s a nice segue into the new stuff. It starts out sounding familiar, but when the birds come in, all of a sudden you say “Okay – this is somewhere else … this is not right …” (laughter)
BR: “Master Moon” has this slow-building tension that never gets resolved. It’s not a creepy song, necessarily, but by the time you get to the end, you realize you’ve been holding your breath … there’s a leetle edge there.
GK: I know that’s the song that a lot of people have commented on so far, saying it’s the most accessible song on the record or whatever, but that’s not even my favorite song to listen to. For me, I’m not even that much of a fan of that tune … but I think it does a good job of capturing an uncomfortable feeling. It’s one of those things when you’re traveling and you’re in a new place … you haven’t quite gotten your grounding; you’re not quite sure of things and you’re trying to figure it out. There’s that little feeling of anxiety hanging over your head and you’re trying to figure out “Where am I?” and your senses can’t quite relax. I think that song captures those feelings well and that’s kind of cool.
BR: Like my mother used to say: “That gives me the willies.”
GK: (laughs) Right – that’s it. Good for your mom!
BR: Here’s a picture I’ll throw at you: the first time I listened to “Daydreaming So Early”, it brought back a strong memory from my childhood. Here on the Maine coast, when I was a kid, just about every fishing family had one of those old Hallicrafters shortwave radios on the kitchen table, okay? That’s how you stayed in contact with the boats and knew everyone was safe. They were powerful things, with dial tuning, rather than crystals, so you either had to be right on or you’d get these weird off-frequency bends to things … plus all kinds of weird transmissions from all over the world. (laughter) So the first time I’m listening to “Daydreaming So Early”, there’s a point about halfway through that sounds like the vibes are being played over an old Hallicrafters short wave …
DG: I love that; cool image. Let’s just say they were. (laughter)
GK: Yeah; that’s great. The truth is, that’s just the way the vibes came through the microphone. We didn’t write it that way, but it’s like it was waiting when we got to that point.
DG: We weren’t consciously trying to make it sound like a transmission from outer space or anything. But I think it’s cool for people – like you did – to draw their own images from it.
GK: We’re trying to create a place … trying to communicate from a little weird or different place and it’s broken, you know? Listening to the playback, it seemed like it had the right sound, the fragility that we were looking for – just before all the drums come in.
BR: Oh, man – that big wall of military-sounding drums at the end: how many tracks did that represent?
GK: (laughs) I want you to write that there are 70 tracks of me playing drums. (laughter) I’d love to take credit for that! Actually, yeah, there are field recordings involved, but I am playing over top of it all.
That’s something that both Darin and I love doing: we try to avoid store-bought sounds … something that you just walk into the music store and buy. A lot of times we’ll use homemade or prepared instruments or extended techniques where you play instruments not necessarily in the way that they’re intended to be played, combining different sounds to create a new sound … like with the marching drums. I’m playing along with drums that I’d recorded elsewhere and it creates this new kind of this weird drum that doesn’t really exist.
BR: Or a snore …
DG: A snore?
BR: Yeah – isn’t that someone snoring at the end of the track?
DG: Ummm … I can’t say. (laughter) Good ears. (more laughter)
GK: See, that again, that’s a key aspect of On Fillmore – taking a common sound to a new place … that’s the sort of thing that we do. As people, we don’t have the option of closing out sound, you know? We can close our eyelids and shut things out, but with our ears, we can’t easily shut things out; we’re always hearing. There are all these incredible sounds all around us that we hear every day and kind of take for granted. But when you take those individual sounds and put them in an entirely different context, in a different light – you can get a completely different reaction to them.
BR: Oh, absolutely.
GK: So in the case of that particular sound, when I hear it, I still can’t decide if I’m afraid of it or it‘s something endearing. Is it the sound of something gentle, or is it a 200-ton dragon around the corner? A snore is generally a sound that I would take for granted – especially living on a bus with six guys. (laughter) But I think that’s basically our formula for creating new places – taking these sounds and placing them out of context. I guess ultimately – and this may be a bit idealistic because we’re really just making music that we enjoy – but ultimately it would be great if it got the listener to pay attention to the things that we all take for granted … just listened a little more. But I think that may be a little lofty goal.