Cass McCombs Chats

Posted by Miss Ess, August 21, 2009 07:29pm | Post a Comment
Currently on tour and one busy guy, Cass McCombs is out there supporting his recently released, gorgeous and critically acclaimed record Catacombs, on Domino Records. You can hear a few tracks from the album on his myspace page. Here, he chats with me about, among other things, that new album and its creation, the rigors of touring and his dream show billing.

Miss Ess: You have a lovely new album -- where was it recorded?

Cass McCombs: Ariel (the producer) subletted an old house in Hollywood he found on craigslist and we recorded in the living room, in addition to various other spots around town.

ME: How did you decide what production moves to make and how to shape its sound? Love the bit of country twang added by the pedal steel sounds.

CM: I don't know much about production, that's not my line. I'm just trying to make it as simple as possible, as delicate as possible, so the personality and emotion of the performance is a straight-shot to and from the heart, direct. Several of the songs on this record were recorded one hundred percent live, including the vocal -- now that's a real test of will power. That was the hardest thing I ever had to do in a recording situation; it takes true endurance. It's no problem for Barbra Streisand, but it's hard work for me.

ME: Where did you write most of the tracks for the album? Did you have anything in particular in mind as you wrote?

CM: Chicago, New York City, Pasadena, Topanga, Sonoma, Las Vegas, New Jersey, Baltimore, on the road, etc. Songs were chosen out of a pool of work written over about four years because they seemed to work well together and play off each other, [and were] diverse enough to tell a story.

ME: Do you tend to write the lyrics first or the music when you are making a song?

CM: It goes back and forth, or at the same time.

ME: Love the video for "Dreams Come True Girl." What was the process of filming it like? It looks like it was a lot of fun. Why did you decide to include skateboarding in it?

CM: It was filmed in Petaluma at the legendary Phoenix Theater. We are extremely appreciative of all those kids and skaters for participating in that video. That's their place, the Phoenix Theater, they own it. It's where they hang out, so they just happened to be there. We were the visitors.

ME: What song best describes your life right now?

CM: "Trying To Get To You" [Elvis Presley] or "Big Red Sun Blues" [Lucinda Williams].

ME: With the recent passing of Michael Jackson, I am curious to hear what kind of influence he had on your music and life!

CM: He is my hero.

ME: You are currently on tour. What's touring like for you? Do you enjoy the rigors of the road?

CM: I like to travel, but who doesn't? As a musician you want to perform your songs and try to make the people dance and put pictures in their mind...and also just have a wild time and drink wine and everything. You want to enjoy yourself and your comrades today because it will all soon be over, especially for the songwriter, [since] the process is exactly the opposite; it is sorrowful and gut-wrenching and just plain hard work.

ME: If you could play with any other bands, regardless of time and space, on the same bill, who would you choose and why?

CM: The Grateful Dead, The Germs, Ritchie Valens and Merle Haggard.

ME: What has been your best find at Amoeba over the years?

CM: I came of age at Amoeba; it's hard to say. Everything, I suppose...

ME: Thanks so much for your time.

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Interview (341), Cass Mccombs (16), Catacombs (3)