One day, in my late teens, I convinced my friend Andrea to make a cassette tape with me, about half her songs and half mine. Our first cassette was entitled "The Bards: Adagio". We made copies for ourselves and an additional one for our friend Linda, who in the spirit of true friendship, accepted our gift and listened with patience. Folks commented that it sounded like we were singing underwater.
..Undeterred, we embarked on another cassette project. Fortunately, we had realized by this point how pretentious is was to call ourselves The Bards. So, in an effort to sound less pretentious, we changed our name to the considerably less pretentious sounding Wood Nymphs. Two cassettes followed, "Bread of Dreams" and "Go Electric". Andrea decided making music wasn't really her calling and that's where the Wood Nymphs story ends.
..I put together a solo cassette "Sidewalk Scrapbook" in 1995 as Turnpike. I actually either believed in myself enough by this point or was suffering from delusions, and sent this out to a few zines to be reviewed. . Remarkably, I got some reviews...and they didn't suck! After a short stint in an audio recording program in Asheville, NC I briefly returned to my native Surrey, B.C. before moving to Bellingham,WA to study audio recording at Western Washington University.
..By this time, I believed enough in myself to try and put a band together. My ad looking for bandmates resulted in about 6 messages from people saying "um, yeah, I've never heard of any of the bands you mention but I can play bass" and one person who didn't sound like a flake. I formed Virginia Creeper in 1996 with brothers Joe and Jay. In the slightly over a year that we existed we managed to sound good on paper, without really sounding that great. We opened for Modest Mouse a couple of times, we put out a 7" single which also got reviews that didn't suck including a lukewarm mention in Alternative Press, and started a record label--Elsinor records. After about a year, things weren't going the way any of us had envisioned. My desire for band democracy had blossomed into a full blown case of the Sebadoh syndrome, where everything was divided three ways complete with instrument switching. The band parted ways peacefully. Joe and Jay along with recently added Creeper Bart formed the Revolutionary Hydra. Not so peaceful was the loss of Elsinor in the "divorce". More than anything, that left me furious, hurt and eventually jaded for years about making music.
..Despite that experience, I immediately began work on another Turnpike cassette. I was nearly done when one day I decided every single song was crap. I scrapped the whole project and prepared to begin again. My mom meanwhile kept saying "When are you going to forget about this music stuff and grow up?". Well, adult life eventually did take over and by default and quite unintentionally, music fell by the wayside for several years...Fast forward to 2009. I am finding bands that excite me again. The passion to make music returns. I had always planned to make a greatest hits CD of sorts--recording newer and better versions of my best songs. Life is no less busy, but I decided I needed to create room for music. Which brings us to the first project as Maps for Sleep. The "Timid Pop Songs for the Perpetually Shy" series of EP's is a collection of old songs re-done. I am planning 3 EP's at this time, one per year. The completed collection should make a nice little boxed set. I am also writing new songs which will be released separately...I have never been into flashy biographies so if you have read this far, I commend you. I have always preferred to let the music do the talking. I hope it says nice things to you..
Tell me about your favorite guitar.
That's easy... I only have one. I bought it used over 15 years ago. It is a Fury, which is a Canadian made guitar. I am not much of a guitarist (I took organ lessons) so I had my brother help me buy a guitar. He said his guitar teacher loved Fury's. This guitar has that trebly Rickenbacker like sound. It has a skinny neck which is great for smaller hands. The only downside is it is really heavy, heavier than a bass.
How did you "road test" your album?
I spent a few months listening on different players and tweaking. I listened in my car, on my Mp3 player, computer speakers, and home stereo. It's impossible to get it sounding right on everything. In the end, I read somewhere that most people these days listen to music on their computer speakers or mp3 player. So I settled for trying to get it right on those two players. I also had a couple of friends listen to it and give me some feedback. Of course, then you get it mastered and everything sounds different again...
Tell me about your recording studio.
I have never had the room for a dedicated studio, and right now, it is a corner of my den. For years I recorded on a Fostex 4 track cassette, which I still have, but two years ago made the leap to digital with hard drive recording. There has been a definite learning curve. I use a firewire audio interface and for this album, used the free Cubase lite that came with it. I have an SM57, but was unhappy with the vocals on this album, so I recently bought a condenser mic. I did a lot of direct recording with a drum machine and Line6 Pod but I think that was probably an overreaction to all those years of fighting cassette hiss. You would think switching from cassette to digital would be a step forward, but it has meant taking a few steps back-I'm still trying to figure out how to get a sound I like.
What is it about a girl holding flowers?
There is no great symbolism with that. The album title, as well as the cover, with a girl tossing petals in the stream (he loves me, he loves me not) are kind of descriptive of the theme of these songs, all of which were written in my early twenties. Basically, there are a lot of songs about unrequited crushes.
In general, do you write songs away from the studio before recording them or do you create in the studio? Tell me about your writing process.
I don't have one particular approach. Songs start with ideas that pop into my head, or when I am noodling on the piano or guitar. For every several ideas, one will end up as a song. For every handful of songs, one will still sound good in the morning. About once a year, a song will just really gel. I try to let the ideas sit and just keep coming back to them until something happens. When you force it, it ends up sounding, well, forced. Since I record on my own, the arrangements usually happen as I am recording. Occasionally I can hear in my head what I want it to sound like finished. That is harder, because I can never quite get it sounding the way it does in my head.