Interview: Dave Depper (The Ram Project)
Published on August 30th, 2011 | Jonny Abrams
On our most recent NewTube, we featured a video of one Dave Depper performing “Monkberry Moon Delight” from Paul and Linda McCartney’s classic 1971 record Ram, an album which he has covered in its entirety (right down to the artwork!) and released through City Slang last week.
Our curiosity sufficiently piqued by this understatedly ambitious undertaking, Rocksucker winged a few questions Dave’s way and learned that, contrary to reports, he is just good friends with – and a bit of a fan of – The Decemberists.
Before we get underway, here is Dave performing “Monkberry Moon Delight” with Joan Hiller and members of Museé Mécanique at a show in his hometown, the musical stomping ground par excellence that is Portland, Oregon…
Obvious question to start with – what made you decide to cover an entire album? Were there other candidates in mind, or was Ram always the obvious choice for you? Might you undertake similar projects in the future? If so, which album(s) might you pick?
To make a long story short, I wanted to undertake a personal challenge that would involve 1) teaching myself how to engineer an entire album from start to finish in my own home, 2) getting over my lack of self-confidence in the vocal department and 3) making myself an overall better musician.
Ram wasn’t exactly an obvious choice, but I’d been a big fan of it for some time and it seemed appealing to me for a few reasons – it’s a very complicated album, with really difficult instrumental and vocal passages. Yet there are also some very simple songs, like “Heart of the Country” and “Eat At Home.” I figured that, even though at the outset I had no idea how to recreate “Back Seat of My Car” or “Long Haired Lady,” that by the time I got to them I’d have picked up some tricks along the way.
It was really fun to do, and I’d like to do a similar project again, but for now I’m going to be concentrating on finishing up an album of my own material. But I do have a yen to recreate Fleetwood Mac’s Mirage someday.
Going by the live videos I’ve seen, your versions of the songs are quite faithful to the originals. Were you not tempted to give each one a complete makeover?
The whole point of the project was to recreate the material as exactly as possible, so: nope!
Fair enough! Will you continue to take the Ram project on tour with Joan Hiller and Musee Mecanique?
I would love to but, logistically, there hasn’t really been an opportunity yet. Hopefully someday…
Do you have a favourite solo album of John’s or George’s?
I think that George’s All Things Must Pass is the greatest Beatles solo album, period. (Rocksucker says: agreed.)
And of course, Plastic Ono Band was John’s finest hour.
Do you have much self-written material in the offing that you’d like to get out there? If so, any plans to start working on it soon?
Yes, lots! I’m working on it right now. I’m touring with the Fruit Bats for the next month and I plan on spending the remainder of the year completing my next record.
In what capacity have you worked with The Decemberists in the past? Which is your favourite record of theirs?
There’s been a bit of misinformation going around out there regarding this topic. I’ve been good friends with them for many years and we’ve all collaborated on various projects (albums by The Minus 5, Blanket Music etc) but they’ve all been extracurricular, wedding-band type situations.
A band that I was in, Loch Lomond, did a US tour opening for them a few years ago and I think that’s why people have been thinking that I actually formally collaborated with them. I also opened a couple of shows for them last week with the Fruit Bats. But I’ll state it here: I’ve never been a member of The Decemberists. I’m just a friend and a fan!
Incidentally, my favourite record of theirs is a tie between Her Majesty The Decemberists and The Hazards of Love.
Are there any up-and-coming and/or little-known artists you’d like to recommend or give a shout out to?
I’d like to shout out to my former band Loch Lomond, who are releasing a new record (Little Me Will Start A Storm, which I produced and performed on) on Chemikal Underground next month. Also, amazing bands are seriously growing out of the ground right now in Portland. My current faves are Ramona Falls, AgesAndAges and Lost Lander. Check ’em out!
Finally, if we were to ask you right this moment to name your top three albums of all time, which would you pick?
Hoo boy! Umm…my favourite album is Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. After that…um…let’s go with Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life and David Bowie’s Scary Monsters. I’m already second-guessing this. Oh jeez…
Dave Depper’s first solo offering The Ram Project is out now on City Slang Records. For more information, please visit myspace.com/davedepper
To celebrate the release of The Ram Project, City Slang are giving away two bonus tracks: ‘Another Day’ and ‘Oh Woman Oh Why’, both of which were recorded by Paul McCartney around the time of Ram’s release in 1971.
You can download the tracks on Dave Depper’s Soundcloud