1) What possesses someone to say “I’m going to record a cover song a day every day for a month”?
The whole covers thing was directly influenced by something called “Fun-A-Day”, which a friend was organizing through an arts collective [http://daartscollective.com] I work with. The point of the project is to create something new everyday for a month. I took it to the illogical conclusion that I should record an entire tune each day.
I’m happy, and incredibly surprised, I actually followed through with it, and that a fair amount of it doesn’t suck. My main personal motivation for trying this idea was simply to see if I could pull it off. It took a tremendous amount of discipline, which is not something I generally have. After the fifth day, I realized I could, and sort of had to, see it through.
2) Was the fact that February the shortest month of the year a factor in your choosing it?
Well, the month was arbitrary - part of the point of doing “Fun-A-Day” in February is that winters in Iowa are drab at best, and often pretty brutal. Initially unrelated to the project, I recorded the Minutemen song on January 31. It seemed like a good idea to keep that momentum going. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that February is the shortest month of the year - I was about to go nuts by the last two days. Another two or three days of recording and I may have snapped!
3) Do you feel like there should be a way around releasing this on cassette without being sued? Maybe as a charity tie in or something?
Well, to be honest, I could give a hoot about being sued. Anyway, ya gotta make money off it to get it taken away from you…
With royalties and such, it would be impossible for an established label like Captcha to make a physical release feasible. Also, it’s nearly 100 minutes of music, which is a solid chunk to fit on a cassette. In the meantime, I’ve been burning double-disc packages featuring art by the wildly talented Victor Cayro [http://bald-eagles.tumblr.com], and selling/giving away copies on tour.
If there was a penny to be made from it, I would glad donate every cent to my friend Robin Marty’s reproductive rights awareness project, Clinic Stories [https://rally.org/clinicstories].
4) Who do you feel out of the lot would be most likely to try and sue you? I don’t know why, but I want to say Guided by Voices.
Haha, GBV is one of my favorite bands - so much so I don’t even mind using the abbreviated term - but I have heard Robert Pollard can be a bit territorial. On the other hand, it’s not like he doesn’t have enough material to go around...
5) In some ways, wouldn’t it be kind of worth it to be sued by Jandek?
Corwood Industries can suck my dick! (There, do you think that’ll get back to him?)
6) If you did release it on cassette and were subsequently sued, could I pose as your lawyer? I’ve seen every episode of “The Practice” and thus understand the value of probable cause.
You sound more qualified than my last lawyer. Do you work pro bono?
7) Of the covers, do you feel that you have a personal favorite?
I was really surprised with how “Up On the Sun” turned out. A strategy I used from time to time was to take my favorite part of a song and not use it. On the Meat Puppets tune, it was that golden guitar riff, which I replaced with synth. (On Flipper’s “Shed No Tears” which I recorded, but not as part of this project, I removed the bassline, which is one of my favorites, and substituted some old Wax Trax-type four-on-the-floor synth rhythm.)
“Walking With Jesus” felt like a real statement of intent, kind of where I started to hit my stride. Silkworm’s “LR72” and “Take Care” were incredibly personal to me. I hadn’t played the Big Star song since a dear friend passed six years ago - the lyric “it sounds a bit like goodbye/in a way it is, I guess” slays me.
8) Was there one song in particular you might have liked to include but couldn’t because you ran out of days or you just weren’t able to cover it?
“Love Is Everywhere” by Pharoah Sanders, and pretty much anything by Dead Moon. The former would have taken too long to record, probably, and as for Dead Moon, well, I don’t have the balls to tackle Fred Cole, at least not with a MIDI setup. If I had my thinking cap on, I would have done “Lonesome Surprize” or any of a dozen other tunes by Refrigerator.
9) I know there are some people out there who record a song a day in an original sense, or just maybe even an EP every month, but did you find it to be easier or harder to do this with covers versus original songs? On one hand, with covers you already have the material written for you. On the other hand, you could just let a guitar chord distort its way to silence while Seinfeld talks in the background and call that a song on a day you might have been running short on time.
True, one of the big challenges with the covers was having less opportunity for such shortcuts. Recording other people’s songs was very difficult for me, actually. I generally improvise most of my own material, so there was that, the necessity of being more organized in terms of structure.
Even worse, I severed all the tendons in my left hand in early 2012, and even with lots of surgery, it never healed right. I can pretty much only use my forefinger and pinky, for which I’ve compensated by using tons of alternate tunings. So even the songs that had fairly traditional chord patterns required some rethinking and translation to one goofy tuning or another.
Also, speaking of prolific, check out Samuel Locke Ward [http://samuellockeward.bandcamp.com]. Dude recorded an album every month of 2013, and most of the year before and after as well, with a much better hit-to-miss ratio than I could ever muster.
10) Would you ever consider doing an entire covers album dedicated to a specific album? Recently, Related Records did it with Hole’s “Live Through This” and I believe it was last year a different label did Nirvana’s “In Utero”. You could obviously have different bands cover different songs.
Hmm… I would be way more likely to curate a covers/tribute album than record one. I recently listened to that Joy Division tribute from 1995 - for a major label cash grab at indie culture, it holds up quite well. As for which album I would pick, I would have to say something by Joni Mitchell. I’d attempt to tackle Hejira by myself, but would love to hear how a bunch of buddies would interpret the tunes on For the Roses.