The New Riders’ Michael Falzarano & Buddy Cage: Cruisin’ Down 17 Pine Avenue
What’s the story behind the album closer “Truth is Dead”? You have it listed as “Traditional – Arranged by NRPS, Lyrics by Falzarano.”
The theme of the melody is a traditional song – “Jole Blon” – but it’s really not. I put it in there as “Traditional” to be politically correct. It’s actually a jam we’d done in the studio – a lost track, really.
I was sifting through tape looking for something else and the engineer stumbled onto that. I heard a little bit of it and said, “What’s that? Let me hear it.” And it was just a little thing we’d played – a two-minute jam, you know?
So now we had this instrumental that needed some lyrics. I was listening to it in my little studio one day and “Truth Is Dead” came out – I didn’t sit down to write that song; I was listening to it and that’s what came out. I’ve been saying for a long time that common sense is dead – nobody has any common sense any more. When you listen to the politicians, it’s ridiculous what they’re saying, you know? One thing led to another and the next thing I knew, I had a fully-written theme from top to bottom that fit the music.
And I love that – I love things that just happen.
I remember the instrumental “Gonna Power Down Now” that closed out your last solo album, We Are All One. You and Buddy were just running with a groove … one of those on-the-spot moments.
That’s exactly right. The engineer was going to power down the board, but we were playing and he let the tape roll; it was one of those things that just happened. Back in the day, people weren’t always able to do that because tape was pretty expensive. Nowadays, with digital, it’s not the same. You never know what you’re going to capture … it might just be a little idea.
We released a bonus CD with Where I Come From that had a couple of soundcheck jams on it. You’ll be at a show and see everyone recording, right? To me, I’d rather be recording at the soundcheck – something very unusual always happens; something weird; some groove that just comes to us.
I always liken the jam situation to parallel tightrope walkers: cool as hell when it works, but if one falls, everyone’s going down. (laughter)
Yeah, it happens. (laughs) Over the years, we’ve been very fortunate to be playing together and have some really fun stuff happen.
To me, you’re in an interesting role in the New Riders. On one hand, you have the killer rhythm section of Ronnie and Johnny; and on the other, you have Buddy and Nelson, who are like Fred and Ginger when it comes to knowing what the other’s about to do. (laughter) I mean, I love listening to Buddy weaving his pedal with David’s B-bender leads – two instrumental voices based on intonation. Not everybody could do what they do and make it work.
And oftentimes you really keep yourself low in the mix.
Well, yeah – my job as a rhythm guitar player is to keep the groove going. You’ve got two guys like Buddy and David who’ve been playing together for 40 years on and off – and as you say, their sound is to weave in and out with each other. I’m trying to weave with them, but not get in the way of what they’re doing. You don’t need another lead player out there – it would just be a traffic jam. My role – which is the same thing I did in Hot Tuna, to be honest with you – is to lay in there; to try to stay out of the way, yet keep a foundation going.
I’ve been very fortunate. Over the years, I’ve played with a lot of the people I grew up listening to … I’m proud of it and at the same time, I know I’m very fortunate to have the opportunities that I’ve had.
It looks like there are a bunch of New Riders gigs coming up.
Yeah – we actually have shows booked through the end of the year. Plus, I’m doing some producing for other people and I’m working on another solo album.
Cool – anything you want to say about it at this point?
MF: Sure – the name’s going to be I’ve Got Blues For You. I’ve pretty much got all the songs recorded; now it’s just a matter of mixing and figuring out what I’m going and not gong to use. Hopefully, that will see the light of day by the end of this year, or beginning of next. Part of it is finding the time to work on it – I stay pretty busy, fortunately. (laughs)
Part II: Some thoughts from Buddy Cage (in which we just roll tape and get the hell out of the way)
Listen: it’s such a … a privilege to be playing these tunes, man – I love all of them. (laughs) Hunter’s lyrics are just unbelievable – his writing is stunning. And Nelson did a great job with them. And frankly, we all played tremendously.
We’ve tried it many, many ways in the studio over many, many years. It usually depends on who you’re working with – everybody’s got a different way of producing a song out of us. With Michael as producer, we were doing it right on the spot – the lathe is cutting right then, you know? One take stuff. You can feel the energy of the performances on the record.
We were working on an extremely limited budget for this album, which is fine with me for now. The good side is, we own it. We’re the guys that drive the truck.
As far as working out the arrangements, Nelson might come up with something – say at a soundcheck, when we’re tweaking and whatever. And he’ll have these chord sheets: “This is what I’m working on …” That’s really helpful for me; it gives me something to focus on. I mean, I’m an ear guy, but the way Nelson presents it is very helpful.
We might play a song for six months before we cut it … we might play it twice – it depends. But when we get to a studio situation, we’re ready … let’s go! And if there are no glitches it’s going to happen – we’re going to knock it down, man. We’re creating – and particularly on 17 Pine Avenue – we’re creating on the spot as we’re recording. I like that spontaneity, you know?
This one was done pretty much in two days – think about that. (laughs) Part of it is knowing your thing well enough so that you can sit down and just do it. For me personally, I don’t have to decide which way I’m going to go with this or that; usually whatever I hit from the top – BANG! – sets the tone on where I go from there.
This band is still evolving; still growing in our sound. When you get people who want to hear the same songs the same way over and over, it’s one of those things … you smile and wave: “You don’t get it.” I mean, they don’t get it – I’m not reaching for the people that I can’t get, man. This is the music that I’m giving and trying to make something out of … that’s what I do. There’s no time to screw around; I have no opinion about what anyone else is doing out there – I really don’t have time. I’ve got a full boat here.
I would like to sell enough albums just to have the budget to be able to get another one down – it’s fun to do, man. That’s what I mean by that line the “drive the truck” – that’s the drive that I’ve always had; we’ve always had. And this record is an example.
I’m working with the med team to dovetail everything with working with the New Riders. I’m dealing with some pretty wonderful people so far who realize what I do and what I have to do.
I’m ready to go, man – let’s play! (laughs)