Nash of Wooden Shjips Chats

Posted by Miss Ess, March 4, 2009 04:02pm | Post a Comment
Wooden Shjips are my favorite local band. See this past piece to read more about why I particularly adore them, and you should too. You can check out some of their music and tour dates on their Myspace page, watch a video from their '07 Amoeba instore here and see more pictures here. Read on for my interview with Nash, Wooden Shjips' keyboard pro.

Miss Ess: What have you been listening to lately?

Nash: In the past week I have been listening to a lot of Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and a few things I just got for my birthday, La Düsseldorf and Cold Son.

ME: What music was playing in your house when you were growing up, before you had a choice about it?

Nash: I think my mom listened to a lot of soft rock radio in the 70's because I seem to know all those songs when I hear them now, and my dad was always into classical and opera, but I only really remember him playing Christmas music. I always had a record player in my room and certainly played whatever kid records I had, like Sesame Street, Muppet Show and Disney records. And with two older brothers, I was hearing plenty of Beatles and Rolling Stones, not to mention a little disco, before age 10.

ME: Was there a precise moment you remember when you were young and you got into music? Where were you and what were you listening to?

Nash: I remember being really into “Blue Jay Way” by The Beatles and playing it over and over again on my parents' stereo when I was 8 or 9.

ME: Was there someone in your life at a young age that encouraged your musical interest or abilities?

Nash: Music was important in our house, and my brothers and I were encouraged to play instruments in elementary school band. I played trumpet not very well until I started high school. At that point, my interest in music was only going to concerts, but my parents were still supportive of letting me do that. Although I started playing guitar when I was in grad school, I didn’t play keyboards until a few years ago. My brother moved, leaving me with his Ace Tone organ, and I was messing around with it from time to time when Ripley asked if I wanted to play organ in Wooden Shjips.

What records from your youth were the most inspirational for you?

I remember listening to Hunky Dory, Beggar’s Banquet, and Blood On The Tracks a lot as a teenager, but when I was really young it was all about Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem.

You are from back east. What drew you to California?

I came to California to go to college at UC Santa Cruz. I grew up in Vermont and I wanted to experience life on the other side on the continent in a place where it didn’t snow 6 months a year.

Do you ever find it strange that so many people jump to label your music as having a 'California sound' when you are not from Cali originally?

Well, the 'California Sound' label is easy for people to place on the music simply because we live in SF.  Since a guy from Texas originated the ‘Bakersfield Sound’, I don’t think it is about where you grow up, but where you play. Still, it is amazing how much being a band from San Francisco resonates with people around the world. Some believe we are tapping into some artistic force left over from the 60’s and have asked me to explain if such a thing exists. I can only point to the natural beauty and light that must have inspired previous generations. But if we were a band from the Midwest, our influences and vision would still combine to produce something similar and maybe we would be a band that evokes the 'California Sound' out of the Great Plains.

How did you decide on and craft the sound for Wooden Shjips? Particularly the reverb on the vocals?

The idea was to play very primitive, improvisational psych rock and the reverb on the vocals fits well with that vibe, making the vocals another texture within the music rather than the focus.

I booked a show for you at Cafe du Nord when you had never played out before. What made you decide the time was right to play live at that point?

The four of us (Omar on drums, Dusty on bass, Ripley on guitar and vocals and me on organ) had been playing together for about 5 months and we had worked out several songs that we were planning on recording for our first album on Holy Mountain and the single for Sub Pop. It just happened that you asked when we had the time free and the material ready. It was the perfect time for us to play our first show; thanks so much for setting it up!

Somehow I must have psychically known that you were ready! What was it like to play with Roky Erikson at Noisepop a few years back? Did you get to meet him and if so, what was he like?

It was such an honor to open for Roky at Noisepop. All of us were excited to be playing a show that we would have wanted to go to anyway. We had the opportunity to meet him after he played, but it was our third show and we didn’t even feel comfortable hanging out backstage -- so while none of us actually got to say it to him that night, he put on an amazing show!

How was your tour of Europe? What were the audiences like there, and how were you received?

Playing in Europe is great. We have been to England three times and the Continent twice and we were well received at all the shows. The audiences there are very supportive, very enthusiastic and very friendly. A lot of them come talk to us after we play and ask for us to sign cds or records. One of our favorite shows was in Valladolid, Spain. We played in a youth center on a Sunday night, the only band on the bill. At 8, they opened the doors to the room and people of all ages (toddlers included) poured in and rocked out with us for an hour. Everyone was so excited to have us there, giving us presents, taking pictures with us, and getting autographs. We had so much fun that by the time we were at a tapas bar later that night, it hardly seemed like we played.

How did you decide to add trumpet to some of your music? I love it! It's unexpected and fantastic.

Dusty plays trumpet too and when working on songs, we would talk about times when it might be good addition. As we recorded "SOL ’07," we knew that trumpet would be perfect. People are always talking about the ‘trumpet song’ after we play it live.

Where did you record your upcoming album and who did the production work?

We recorded this album in our practice space, just like the first album. Dusty and Ripley are responsible for the recording and mixing. Some songs we record live and others start with the drums and bass tracks and we build from there. We use an old Tascam 80-8 8-track that Dusty keeps going. It is great to do it all ourselves because we can take our time and record when we are inspired and not stress about studio costs or scheduling.

Yeah, that sounds like a good way to do it and keep some of the spontaneity of the moment. Was there any particular idea or concept behind the new album?

The songs are about motion, moving through time and space.

I see you are playing Psych Fest 2 in Austin just before SXSW -- and Golden Dawn are playing as well! Really exciting. Anyway, can you tell me more about this event and how it is put together? Who else are you looking forward to seeing perform? For once I am wishing I was going to Texas!

We weren't planning on going to Texas this year, but The Black Angels are putting on this fest, Psych Fest 2, the weekend before SXSW and we couldn't turn them down, especially when they told us all the great bands that were coming: A Place to Bury Strangers, The Warlocks, The Strange Boys, Sky Sunlight Saxon, Dead Meadow, The Golden Dawn and many others. Three nights of amazing psych rock better than any line-up during SXSW.

Totally. Sounds radical. What aspect of the creative process do you enjoy most: writing the music, playing it or recording it?

I enjoy playing the most. Writing and recording are fun, but there is a lot of time spent on defining the little things, like tempo and tone, that make it much more of a process of perfecting a vision. When we play, all those little things are worked out and everything is just out there to explore the vision. I improvise a lot and at that point it can’t be done over and there is no sense in worrying if the little things are perfect, as they just might be perfect in that moment.

What has been the musical high point of your life thus far?

There have been so many high points in the past few years. Every show, every new recording is another high point. The best is when people come up after shows to share with us how much they enjoy the music.

What is your most prized piece of musical gear and why?

I don’t have that much gear. The only thing I’ve really invested in is my Farfisa Fast 4 combo organ. It is a lot of fun to play and I use it a lot on the new album.

What is your favorite local band?

Such a hard question to answer! We’ve played with some great local bands like Sic Alps, Hank IV, Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound, Ascended Master, Sleepy Sun, Om, Howlin Rain, and some others I am sure I am forgetting, but I am always excited to see those bands play and look forward to hearing their next releases.

Name a record you love that you think more people should hear.

Magic Flowers Droned by Psychedelic Horseshit.

Do you have any musical heroes?

Neil Young.

He's the ultimate! What song best describes your life right now?

“Yea! Heavy And A Bottle Of Bread” by Bob Dylan and The Band.

What has been your best find at Amoeba?

I’ve had some great finds from browsing the used lps and 7”s too, but what I like best about Amoeba is that when I am inspired to seek out something, it’s always there. Last time I did that, I went in to find some Carl Ruggles and came away with a nice copy of Sun Treader for under 5 bucks.

Thanks so much for your time!

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