Reid Genauer: Dust Never Sleeps (Ten Years On)
JW: It seems like you guys have an advantage because of the fact that all of you were in other bands and have had the chance to make mistakes and mature, both musically and psychologically.
RG: It’s true. First and foremost musically, but then beyond that as far as what our expectations are, what are limitations are, when we’re writing a song or creating an arrangement for an old song or whatever, it’s a touchy thing to be in a room of people and have to give and take criticism. You learn grateful ways of doing it. These guys are all really good at doing it; both offering and receiving constructive criticism.
JW: You added Nate Wilson a little bit later. How did that change your approach since you had never been in a band with a keyboardist?
RG: That was sort of an obvious choice, first of all because everybody knew him and second of all because he’s awesome. It’s great. It’s really liberating for a few reasons. One is that the obligation of holding down the rhythm part for me is not quite as foreboding because there’s someone else doing it. Then as far as interest and dynamics are concerned for a set, it’s great to have more than one soloist because you get a freshness that you don’t get if you just have one person banging out solos every night. There’s a richness that the keyboard has, tonally, as a singular instrument and then just the fact that you have one more instrument playing gives you that much more richness.
JW: Take us through the process of making the album. How democratic was it?
RG: It was an unusual situation in that as a band, we were so young. It was definitely my vision that was defining what this thing was. I mean I wrote like a two-page vision statement on what this thing should be and what it should not be. I suggested elements of certain albums that I liked and asked people to listen, whether it was tonal qualities or the use of certain instrumentation. Then I had a list of what the album should be and what it should not be. I’m not exactly sure why it was a success, but it was. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to really achieving what the initial vision was. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that there was a clear vision and that there weren’t 15 cooks in the kitchen trying to decide what it should be. Everybody kind of pulled together as a team to work towards a common goal.
We also had Rich Hilton, who even though it doesn’t say it on the album, pretty much co-produced [Strangefolk’s] A Great Long While with Nile Rodgers. He’s Niles’ right hand man. At this point, he’s doing all the Pro Tools and a lot of engineering. He is a technical genius. He really is. He happens to be a really gifted musician as well. So he helped write a lot of the vocal harmonies, as did Adam and Nate. He was a great quality control filter. He listened really intently on the performances and would say, "You know what? That was good, but you can do better. Go back and do it again." If there was a bum note somewhere, he was on it. If there was a glitch in the rhythm, he was on it. It was a really neat process and by far the most fun I’ve ever had making a record just because we weren’t under the gun time wise to make it happen and because there was one unified vision of what this thing was.
JW: You also took matters into your own hands on the business side of things by going back to school to get your MBA. How has that helped your music career?
RG: My vision of how that fit into my life is still evolving, but basically I went because all I had done for ten years was play music and it was coming to an end. I felt like I didn’t know what I was gonna do, but I felt like I was pretty grossly unprepared for anything but playing music. That’s part of what always made playing music a scary proposition for me. With most jobs, there’re transferable skills where you if get sick of doing something in ten years, you can go work for a different company and do a slightly different thing. There’re escape routes. I felt like playing music is playing music and that’s all you’re really prepared to do. As I sat through my coursework, I viewed everything through the musician’s lense. I realized that a lot of the things that I had gone through, whether they were music industry stuff with contracts and lawyers and volume of records sold or whether they were interpersonal things with how group dynamics work, it was all really relevant to the stuff I was learning.
To circle back to what I said earlier, when I left Strangefolk, I felt like my life was really out of control and this was a sort of dramatic way of regaining control. The education is a powerful tool in driving the boat.
JW: There are a lot of common themes in your lyrics to which your fans really seem to relate. What inspires you as a songwriter?
RG: There’s no one starting point to sitting down and doing it. I look at songwriting like a merry-go-round. There are all these places that you can jump on. I jump on at different places for different songs. Maybe it’s one lyric or one phrase that I heard somebody turn that I think is so cool and that’s the inspiration for the song. Broadly, because I’m fortunate enough to be part of a genre of music that takes from all genres, I’ll incorporate different elements: Motown or country or harder. For example, I went to see moe. play once and they’ve definitely got some edge. I thought that a lot of my songs are pretty folksy, so it would be cool to have a song that sort of knocks people over the head in a more distorted, rock and roll kind of way. I wrote "Burn Down" after that. It’s got some big sort of power chords and a section in the middle that sounds a little bit like Led Zeppelin. Lyrically, I draw from different places. I remember seeing the first Lord of the Rings and I wrote a song after that.
JW: Which song?
RG: It’s a new song called "Pedal Down." I went recently to see this art exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum by Richard Avedon. We went on this walking tour and there was this really descriptive language about his photographs. He happened to take pictures of a lot of poets so they had excerpts of poetry and stuff like that. I wrote a song recently that we haven’t even unveiled yet that was inspired by that. There’s also this book Cold Mountain. It’s a really lyrical book. The pace is a little slow, but the whole thing is written almost like a song. That inspired "Cabin John." Lyrically, I search out expressive places that contain expressive content. As far as what a song’s gonna be about, I don’t really know. That’s a little more unconscious. Sometimes I have cool phrases and I form the subject to fit around the phrases. Other times, I think of a subject and choose the phrases to fit around it.
JW: What’s the deal with the Assembly of Dust? Enlighten us.
RG: [laughs] The Assembly of Dust was a counterculture movement that originated in the middle ages and went for hundreds of years. I’m not exactly sure where it died out. It’s unclear to me whether or not it ever existed or it was just a mythological invention, but regardless, it’s a really cool concept and it basically parallels a lot of what goes on in today’s music scene and especially in the jamband scene. At the core of it is the notion of congregating with a bunch of likeminded people to lose yourself and step away from the rigors of daily life by listening and playing music [Editor’s note: to learn more visit www.stonechoirtablets.com.
JW: You had a similar theme for your New Year’s show? I heard that was quite a trip.
RG: Right, it was. People came for the weekend to this really rustic inn [Full Moon Resort] in Woodstock, NY with vegetarian food. It was a great vibe. We had a bonfire and everyone was sitting around the fire. It was an incredible evening.
JW: Right now the band seems to be performing sort of semi-regularly. How is the next year shaping up? What can fans expect? Will there be a full national tour?
RG: At the moment, our CD release tour is going to focus around the Northeast. I think our first national exposure will be the festival circuit this summer. The other way that people can connect with the band and see what’s going on in the live setting is through our website. We have what we’re calling the "Digital Dust Series." The majority of the shows we’re videotaping and then we release a recount or an episode of the shows. So Episodes One through Five are up on our site now. It’s a mixture of interviews, backstage footage and performances.
JW: Digital Dust sounds like a futuristic drug. I guess this is how fans can get their Reid fix?
RG: Right. The hope is that people on the West Coast and in the Rockies who aren’t able to come to the shows can sort of go to the cyber show.