Interview: Ken Stringfellow – part 2
Published on August 21st, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Here is part 2 of Rocksucker’s interview with Ken Stringfellow…(click here to read part 1)…
Your new album Danzig in the Moonlight has a really fresh sound, insomuch as it could conceivably be the work of a new band. Do you follow new music and if so which artists do you find inspiring?
I follow it in three ways–I’m constantly working with up and coming, younger artists, and they always bring new things to the picture. I’m constantly getting sent music. And I pay attention to reviews and press. Lately I’ve been into Dirty Projectors, School of Seven Bells, Evening Hymns…
What made you decide to join Lojinx? You’re certainly a good fit on the label sound-wise. Are you a fan of any of the other acts on the roster?
Andrew [Campbell], the label owner, has been pretty vocal about his interest for awhile, and that works for me. He came to Brussels this year when I was working on another project, and heard the album in progress. His attitude is professional, and experienced. I felt good he had Brendan Benson on the label–I’m a fan of Brendan’s work and of course I appear on his latest release, playing bass and keys on several songs. My old bandmate Brian Young plays in Fountains of Wayne, I go way back with them. I like Kim Richey as well, saw her play last year, she’s really good. Good company all around.
Have you spoken about a next Posies album yet? Granted it’s not been long since Blood/Candy.
Not really. I think this album will occupy me for awhile.
Is there anything going on with THE DiSCiPLiNES?
We worked on some ne songs this year. We might try and do a release, maybe only in Norway and perhaps France where we’ve done well, in the next couple of years.
How did you come to get involved in Big Star in the first place? Were you a fan of theirs beforehand? Any particular favourite songs of theirs?
Of course! Haha, it wasn’t like I answered an ad in the paper, ‘join cult band, see the world’! In the early days of The Posies we covered a lot of Big Star songs, and generally obsessed over those records. By virtue of a single we released, covers of “Feel” by Big Star and “I Am the Cosmos” by Chris Bell, we got on the radar of Jody Stephens, the drummer of Big Star. We (the Posies) had looked into recording at Ardent Studios, where the Big Star albums were made, and Jody works there to this day, he was our contact, sent us a brochure (this is pre-internet). We were amazed to find that he worked there, and sent him our single, and stayed in touch. When Alex Chilton agreed to perform as Big Star with Jody, we were on the short list to round out the lineup, Chris Bell being already deceased and the late Andy Hummel being completely out of music.
I think I could mention whole album sides as my favorite bits, but…god. I don’t even know anymore. This music has become such a part of me through endless listening, performing these songs either with Alex and Jody or in my solo shows, or whatever. I can’t say one song is my favorite, but there aren’t any skippable songs on their albums. Not one. It’s all essential.
Is there more to come from the Big Star Third project?
There’s talk of some performances next year. Working on that!
What is the “major composition project” you say you have in the works?
It’s major for me! It’s doing some score for a series of videos being made by a role playing game company. I can’t say more than that. But as I haven’t done a tone of composition/score work yet, it’s not second nature for me, so I have to really put my full concentration on it. It’s the first thing I’m tackling when I get back from my vacation.
Tell us about the Dutch artist you’ve been working with…
I’ve worked with a LOT. There’s JB, whose album was cut alongside mine. There’s Carice van Houten, who is primarily known as an actor (see: Game of Thrones), but who has made an unbelievably risky and adventurous album, with myself, JB, Howe Gelb, Steve Shelly, Antony Hegarty, Marc Ribot…and, not coincidentally, Joost and Pim who played on my album. We did this album in Brussels as well. I’ve worked with a dozen or more other Dutch artists in the last year.
During your R.E.M. days, Peter Buck once said that you and Joey were basically teaching them their own songs (you yourself said “Anything up through Green I knew better than them”). Do you remember which songs you showed them, and how many made it into the live set?
Well, my biggest triumph in that regard was getting them to play “Camera”, which they hadn’t played in well over a decade. One of my favorite songs, ever.
Do you have any contact with Ringo these days?
No, our paths haven’t crossed in recent years, I’m afraid. He was very friendly and fun, when we did meet and perform together a couple of times.
Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming acts that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
An album that came out this year that I’m really proud of is a Dutch band called Avant La Lettre. Their album Belief is excellent, I worked on about half of it as engineer, mixer, different combinations depending on the song.
And also released this year is an album by an American singer named Ian McGlynn. Called Now We’re Golden, it’s an extremely colorful, sonically wild album…for fans of Bon Iver, The Postal Service, late period Teenage Fanclub…I listen to this album all the time.
There’s also a track I did with TheLAB, they recorded the music and I wrote the lyrics and melody, called “What Kind of Dream” and we’ll be working on a video for it…expect a release this fall. Reminds me of Broken Social Scene meets Sebastian Tellier.
Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists along to tide you over, whose would you choose?
That’s a terrible question to someone who has kids, you know! Let’s say I could invite my family along to this beautiful island I’m being exiled to. I’d choose to bring along just the albums I’ve worked on. My own, my bands, my productions. It’s a catalogue full of different styles, and full of good memories working on these projects together. I’ve recalled this anecdote before, but I remember hearing the guitarist from Beat Happening sigh and say despondently, “I just want to listen to music by my freinds”. It seemed like indie preciousness at the time but I totally agree with him…I feel the same way. I’m tired of being marketed to, in many ways.
Ken Stringfellow, thank you.
Ken Stringfellow will play the following live dates in October and November…
12 Oct 2012 – Dynamo, Turku, Finland01 Nov 2012 – Paradiso, Amsterdam, Netherlands02 Nov 2012 – Rotown, Rotterdam, Netherlands03 Nov 2012 – Mezz, Breda, Netherlands04 Nov 2012 – Tivoli Spiegelbar, Utrecht, Netherlands06 Nov 2012 – Botanique, Bruxelles, Belgium07 Nov 2012 – Mod Club, Hasselt, Belgium08 Nov 2012 – Beta, København S, Denmark15 Nov 2012 – The Lexington, London, UK