INTERVIEW: Bud Collins Trio
Can you talk to us more about your song “Television Personalities”?
This tune was written from complete despair. I used to be completely bewildered when I was younger at the kinds of things people consumed on television. I remember being still in middle school and thinking how tacky and contrived it all seemed, and feeling embarrassed at how everyone just played along, throwing good taste or critical thinking to the wind, sitting in front of the box like zombies. It freaked me out even then. But as time went by – it just became more and more depressing and seemingly hopeless. I wondered “doesn’t anyone actually see what is going on here? they are killing us all slowly…” Now with the advent of modern media and the internet, the Kardashians, the Trumps, Kanye, shows and movies about violence and killing and the shameless and greedy pursuit of material things and money – not only is it no longer necessary to disguise any of it, it’s a badge of honor to proudly flaunt your disregard for anything of substance, to crow about your greatness, even when there is none – like if you shout it enough times it becomes true. So horrible, so pointless, so vain and without depth or end. It’s really sickening, in a true sense. That is what this song is about.
Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?
Mostly the emergence of Donald Trump.
Any plans to release a video for the track?
Yes! Sometime before summer – we have some great ideas – but we can be very slow to produce at times.
The single comes off your new album No 5uch Th1ng – what’s the story behind the title?
This line “No such thing” came to me in the morning once, just the single line. It was going to be about how one person’s reality can content with another person’s reality so completely. How my perception and what seems so logical and natural to me is foreign and alien to someone else. It summed up all three of those songs well – they were all written in a time of true bewilderment at humanity. It makes me feel like an astronaut trudging along across the surface of an empty planet…
How was the recording and writing process?
We spent much more time on these tracks than we have in the past. We threw out whole lines, whole verses. Much of it was done in the basement of my house, in a cold corner, with a space heater. As I write, or type I should say, my hands become colder and colder until I cannot feel my fingers any more. Then I have to go warm up before I can play any instruments on the tracks. Writing tends to be a weirdly painful and strange thing. I feel strange, trying to wrestle ideas forth. I know I feel like I have important thoughts, but they seem so bland and inconsequential when I finally start to express them in words. But I force myself to go on. I sometimes will spend days on a single line of lyrics, because the cadence isn’t right, or the image is dull. I really want each line to have something interesting in it, some novel image or thought – that someone could relate to. I love certain writers for that, particularly Steven Milhauser, and Rene Belleto, and I want each line to sparkle with some gemlike quality.
The musical parts are mostly hammered out on a guitar first, on Pro-Tools, with a metronome. What emerges eventually may not have any trace of that first guitar part left when the track is done. Then we spend a lot of time finding the right drum figures, which will then suggest a bass part that usually goes on with a moog first – then later is re-written and re-played by the great Dave Shuman. The moog also figures heavily in the rest of the textures as well, though much of the time it is used as a polyphonic trigger for some nice synth plug ins. Many many parts are recorded and erased, looking for the right combination. Nowadays we are opting for fewer tracks with more substance. In the past we’d have dozens and dozens – but since every time we are still learning how to do it, we realize ways that we can refine the approach to get more clarity with less chaos – hopefully!
What is it about the 70s and 80s that you find so fascinating?
Those were the times I grew up in! I won’t say my age, but I was young during those decades, many things about those periods are still magical to me, because I lived through them. I remember when flower power was co-opted by the corporate industrial complex – suddenly all of the packaging for products and foods was hippy-fied, and flower-powerized. As soon as the culture developed something, it was ripped from our hands and sold back to us, over-packaged and overpriced, in the most cynical of ways.
Known for playing with different genres – how do you get to balance them together?
We love reggae, jazz, classical, blues, bluegrass, synth-wave, lo-fi, EDM, everything. We try to emulate them, but they end up seeming very watered down, just faint pools of the original waves. But that’s OK – it’s good to have a feel in mind that takes you somewhere – it doesn’t always matter where you end up from a genre perspective, just that you eventually get somewhere!
What made you want to recently start from scratch?
We had literally hundreds of tunes from back in the 80’s and 90’s, but we felt that they were not mature. They lacked a certain patience and craft. And we really wanted to challenge ourselves. Because writing was always the most important thing for us – we always believed that writing was at the core, not just production, which many musicians seem to be overly focused on, or technique, which we were obsessed with but never provided the real heartfelt vibes we were striving to create, so we said fo0get about all that old stuff, can we still do this or not? We started with blank paper and just began all over again, with the benefit of focus that you get from many failures, and from truly learning from your failures. It’s been one of the best decisions we have made, the agony and joy of it is all there again, fighting the faintness of thought, and the rushing of time….
Did you get to rescue any knowledge or memories from your past days that you are putting in action currently?
Mostly what not to do! Be more patient, be more thoughtful, but maybe the most important thing from the past that we are still trying to express the intensity, outrage, anger, bitter disappointment. The things that drove us to make undisciplined music then would drive us to make focused and meaningful music now.
Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
These songs all come from the torment and strangeness of being. Moonbase nine, riffs on the Major Tom metaphor quite a bit. The loneliness of space is a metaphor for the loneliness of Earth. No such thing is about the solitary nature of consciousness. Television Personalities is about a kind of isolated bewilderment at humanity.
Any plans to hit the road?
We recently came back from SXSW in Austin TX, we are looking to play a series of dates in East Coast US cities towards the end of summer and into fall.
What else is happening next in Bud Collins Trio’s world?
We have a full length release that we have been working on for five years now. Yes, five years. We just want to make everything sound right. The first set of tracks were recorded in a cabin in the mountains outside of Woodstock NY. The second set at Northfire Studios in Northampton MA, and the last at our keyboard player/producers studio in Canton CT. We are very close to completion now, so the EP is kind of an interim release. We are very excited about the full length album and will hopefully have more news about it soon. Other than that – we are still just hammering away at new songs – and honing the craft of isolation and bewilderment.
Thanks so much for this opportunity to answer some questions and participate in your work too – and thanks so much for supporting the independent music community!