Written By: Ryan Donnelly
The talent that exists within Gideon King & City Blog is not your everyday sort of talent. What you find here is masters of their craft in every part of every song that they create. Everyone is on point and is on the same page, and if you would enjoy Jazz/Blues/Fusion and beautifully produced music to try out those high end headphones on, this is an act you will want to follow.
RYAN: Let us start at the beginning, what is the mission of Gideon King & City Blog’s music?
Well I won’t say “we are on a mission from God” because someone already said that in a movie once. The mission is to render unnoticeable the space between pop/funk/rock and jazz/fusion. The mission is to write songs with which people can sing along and on which musicians can concentrate. It is to bring the best jazz guys in to breathe a certain kind of life to the compositions that I write. I truly think there are lots of people, young and old, that pine for real music, with real chord changes and real instruments and real arrangements. There is a reason young kids sometimes pick the Eagles or Hendrix over what’s on now. Great solos and harmonies and haunting and intelligent lyrics. Anyway, put another way, the mission is to bring together multiple influences and record these musical ideas in the best recording environment. A studio band concept using a mixture of old and new technologies to support great musicianship. Kind of old-fashioned I guess. Also, the mission is to have fun and make music for the sake of music and nothing else. We ain’tgonna pack stadiums with this stuff. I mean if we are invited we would go of course…..
RYAN: The song writing process is different for everyone, can you tell us a bit about your own song writing process?
There always has to be a trigger point, something that catalyzes the idea generation. It could be some guy wearing an annoying scarf and telling us about his “art.” It could be a travelling experience when you are out of place and want to write about home. It might be something funny you hear or see, some irony. Sometimes certain very biting quotes get to me and make me want to tell a story that spins out of a sharp concept. For example, Trotsky once said, “you may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” That concept keeps frightening me, so it may be a good conceptual launchpad. And then of course sometimes you just write lyrics that somehow hang together without literally transmitting any meaning. That’s my favorite kind of writing, putting together abstractions that somehow convey an image. What a bunch of b.s. Anyway, I just try and write things that might be interesting to hear. I may be complaining a touch about people, places and things, but none of it is a particularly deep complaint. I certainly don’t write love songs…….there are too many of those and few good.
In terms of writing the music and arrangements I almost always get an initial inspiration from some chord changes in a jazz tune. Guys like Wayne Shorter free your mind from any musical chains in terms of chord changes so I try and notice when their compositions have chord changes that work together for some theoretical or inexplicable reason. Then I start spreading the words over my chord changes (which are inspired by the work of others like Wayne), using different tones and rhythms. Slowly the puzzle comes together or it doesn’t.
I always try and have a moment or two in the tune when something harmonically cool happens. Also, almost all my tunes have a moment where some instrumentalist solos; this takes the tune in another direction and allows the personalities of the musicians to rise to the surface. I feel like too much music of today eclipses the skills and personalities of the underlying musicians. Songs take months to write and aren’t always a success sadly.
RYAN: Inspiration comes from many places. Can you tell us where you find inspiration from?
What inspires me most about this type of music is the interesting collision of technical skill and emotion. For me nothing blends emotional and technical output like jazz. I mean what came out of Coltrane’s horn was kinda frightening mathematically and emotionally. Jeez.
RYAN: You have worked with many different talents over the years, is there any one in particular that you might want to collaborate with on a future project?
Oh man, how long do you have? If I could have Wayne Shorter play a solo on one of my tunes that would be pretty darn interesting. How about having Herbie Hancock play on my stuff! I suppose we would have to kidnap him or something and force him to play my stuff. Can you arrange that? Just kidding………I don’t want to be put on some kind of list or something. That was a total joke…..I swear! It would be nice to bring back Ray Charles to sing on my stuff.
I would love it if I could collaborate with Steely Dan someday. They wrote the book in so many ways musically. Anyway, the list is so long—there are so many killer vocalists—that I don’t even know where to start so I give this lame answer. I gotta long list. I’ll email you first thing.
RYAN: Not every musical act can pull off the crisp sound that is on your album, nothing sounds electronic to me. Am I right in assuming this album was made using real instruments over their electronic counterparts?
Yes, not only real instruments but real musicians. It’s pretty interesting, when you have a great piano player play into a MIDI Controller Keyboard the software sounds more like a real piano player than if you have a sucky player do his thing. The positive musical impression of great phrasing and idea uniquity leaches to the surface no matter what anybody is playing through. But you are totally right, we really try and use real instruments put through a great signal chain including the best amps and cables and sound rooms. It makes a huge difference. I have yet to hear a software program that can replicate quite what a big acoustic bass sounds like. Trumpet too. Piano is pretty close technologically…I gotta admit. I also think that musicians are inspired by feeling the resonance of a real instrument bounce all around them.
We also experiment quite a bit with technology. It exists. Might as well use it to sculpt the sound, so long as it does not subvert the authenticity of the production.
RYAN: Every song off this album is unique an inspired, yet all the tracks merge into one seamless composition. How difficult was that to accomplish with so much diversity?
The extent to which it sounds seamless—–and thank you for that compliment I will take it and run like a shameless thief in the night—is the extent to which great musicians are playing. They get what these tunes are and are not and play accordingly. They are that good. Far better than I am. The tunes are different, yes, but the genre is maintained; this is rock/fusion. The common thread of crossover influences prevents any tune from being too much of a stray dog. Did I just say that? Ridiculous! You should kill this interview right now!
RYAN: At this point in your career, what are some of your highest points yet?
Two things, and not necessarily in order of importance. First, I have gotten to work with virtuosos, plain and simple. These folks are damn good. And they are almost always fun and intelligent people. They know they are good but joke about it all too. Second, I am relieved that we have gotten decent reviews, because it is very hard to tell if what you are doing stinks sometimes. People say one should not care what people think when one is making art as long as it is honest….for me that’s a bunch of crap. I want people to like it and appreciate all that goes into it. I care what people say and think about it.
RYAN: Do you have any advice you would be able to give your listeners who might want to try their hand at music composition?
Yes, sure, but it is hardly a big revelation. Take lessons and learn harmony and listen to the best of the best. Listen to Stevie Wonder and Steely Dan and John Scofield and Art Tatum and Chic Corea and Kurt Rosenwinkel. Listen to Hendrix and Dylon and John Mayer and classical music. Listen to stuff that has real harmonies and well executed runs. Not very original advice I suppose. Drink green tea and go gluten free and speak with a fake British accent and take yourself super seriously and refer to yourself as an “artist” constantly. That will do it!
RYAN: The Soundcloud/Rdio revolution is here and digital streaming is slowing down physical sales. Any thoughts on this?
The only thing I can say is that what has been lost in this move to zeros and ones is the whole concept of an album as a full expression, a thematic whole. Scrolling through Spotify is like a frenetic game of musical hopscotch in which you just bounce from one tune to the next and make no connection between them. Everything is so accessible so quickly that musical attention deficit disorder has set in. I do it too. I bounce around digital mediums like a maniac. I love the ability to quickly dial up anything I want to hear even though it has killed the opportunity for artists to make any money. It has fractionalized the effort behind making music into microscopic economic units. Bummer. I wonder if there will ever be an effective countervailing force to this?
RYAN: Lastly, and thank you for your time. Is there any news from your camp that you would like to tell your fans about?
I’m practising a lot and have already started tracking new tunes for the next album. I think the new stuff is good, but as I was saying before it’s hard to tell sometimes if it actually stinks. Our band t-shirts are ready and available on the internet. That of course is a joke. Thanks for asking these questions and showing interest. Gideon King & City Blog genuinely appreciates it, all kidding aside.
Gideon King And City Street Blog can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/CityBlogMusic