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by Donald M. Rosen
Thursday, Jan. 13, 2005 at 9:24 AM
RED HUNTER: Changing the World of Independent Music from Austin, TX
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RED HUNTER: Changing the World of Independent Music from Austin, TX
Interview with Donald Rosen, January 03, 2005
Young musicians have a totally new problem on their hands today: high-speed internet and intelligent fans. Not only because of widespread indie-kid-file-sharing, but also because of the current political climate and a growing disgust toward conglomerates like the over-mentioned Clear Channel, a whole new spin on the future of music is emerging in the CDs and interviews of our young creators. Increased demand for raw recordings and old-fashioned soulful performances has led some artists like the ones on Whiskey and Apples to take touring into their own hands, often zig-zagging the states endlessly without a home to return to. Two such artists are Red Hunter (Peter and the Wolf, the Murder Mystery) and Keith Zarriello (The Shivers), and I was lucky enough to interview Red, who has been driving his Toyota to strange venues across America for a year and a half now and finally starting to get the attention he deserves.
Prolific to the point of compulsion, he’s finishing a handful of albums while holed up in his loft (known as Spiral House) in Texas. I talked with him on the phone recently about life, touring, and the art space he’ll be opening in Austin called The Owl.
DR: First of all, congratulations on all the touring. I have to say I’ve never heard of anyone getting around so much by themselves with no hired promotion, tour support, or distribution. It’s pretty monumental.
RH: Thanks. Well it doesn’t feel so monumental when a creepy trucker is suddenly standing right behind you at a gas station in Arkadelphia at 3 am and there’s no one around for 400 miles, but I’m glad somebody thinks it’s cool. By touring like this and showing friends how to do it, I think we’re taking part in the long-standing tradition of creating an underground railroad that let’s us travel in good company around the states.
DR: So you’ve been touring all over for the last 18 months, what’s an experience that stands out in your mind as an important one?
RH: Really it’s been the hospitality of people like Ari (of Wax & Wane) in Baltimore and Justin at the Church of Divine Energy that makes this kind of touring possible.
DR: And now you’re gonna park it in Austin and open up a venue?
RH: Yeah, I still plan to tour every three months or so, but I’ve been chasing the perfect place to play all around the country for over a year now, and I think I’ve just got to build it myself. Shoeless Joe, you know? It'll cut down on traveling time. That way I can finally concentrate on my real passion which is drinking.
DR: So what kind of venue do you have in mind?
RH: It’s sort of a mess of ideas.. Places like the CODE in West Philly had a real open, experimental atmosphere and really took care of the poor traveling hobos who came to play there. Keith was so sick the Shivers couldn’t go on and I ended up banging on a gasoline can and chanting the whole time and they still gave us all the door money so we could get back to New York. That’s respect. That’s how I plan to do things at The Owl. The first time I ever went to New Orleans I played at a now dissolved club called El Matador. It was a sacred place, with lots of dim red lights everywhere and a kind of spooky, 1920s Paris brothel kind of thing going on. That’s where the idea for the lighting at The Owl comes from. Great for moonshine music shows. So it’s just a collage in that way sorta.
DR: What did you mean by, “moonshine music?”
RH: Oh yeah, that’s what we call the records on Whiskey and Apples. The recordings are dirty, lonely, basement-type worlds and we all sell our own records so there’s never a moment when the artist has to give up something like their freedom to put whatever they want on a record, or the money that’s rightfully theirs. We just feel like bootleggers, and that what we’re doing isn’t a part of any music “industry” and doesn’t need to be.
DR: Is it true that your pal Chevez had some serious bootleggers in his family back in the day?
RH: Yeah. Apparently Chevez had famous moonshiner great grandparents, which is why he calls it Moonshine Studios—not to be confused with Moonshine Records, of course.
DR: So when’s the last time you had a day job?
RH: Ack. I waited tables in Hollywood for three months in 2001 and then decided I’d rather be homeless than keep doing it. So that’s what I did for awhile, basically lived in the car, slept on the beach, that whole thing. Now I’m getting by with record sales online and at shows, and I’m expecting to license a song to a French film at the end of the month, which is where the money to start up the Owl is coming from.
DR: French film? What song? What film?
RH: The song is a scary little number I don’t play much called My Violin. It’s about the ghost of my great grandfather coming back to reclaim his prized possession and finding out that I was careless and it got broken. He’s very angry. It’s actually just a dream I had once, he was sort of floating after me and moaning. Kinda cheesy, but that’s what the French folks are into these days, I guess.
[Hunter requested the film and director not be printed until after the licensing is completed, so I’ll skip ahead to the next part.]
DR: Now you’ve got to admit that the climate is changing in music as we speak. Do you think it’s mirroring the way people are losing faith in the mainstream media?
RH: Of course. It’s exactly the same thing. We go to independent media sources we feel we can verify if we want to have any idea what’s happening out there. Music is a kind of journalism if you listen to the right stuff. There’s a huge push to get away from these very oppressive conglomerates like Viacom and Fox and stuff—which is nothing new, really, it moves in cycles and probably always will. The vilest criminals are always there, but they disappear from the public eye at key times and then reappear when they’re needed.
DR: Don’t blow my mind.
RH: You talking smack?
DR: Yeah, musicians always wanna get political up in here.
RH: Everybody’s political. Even Paul Reubens.
DR: So rumor has it there’s a ridiculous amount of new music recorded at Spiral House coming our way.
RH: Yeah, the Peter and the Wolf EP will be online January 8th for people to check out, and there’s also a bunch songs there from our new project called The Murder Mystery. It’s all at www.whiskeyandapples.com.
DR: Now how much of it is your own homemade recordings versus studio stuff like Alien Sun and Couches by the Sea?
RH: Yeah, well Chevez runs Moonshine Studios in LA, which is a great studio and everything, but he’s also my childhood friend so it's hard to draw the line between DIY and professional... everything either of us do is the result of trial and error recordings that started at, like, age 14. But most of my new stuff was done on four tracks in Texas, and the sound I’ve been getting is deliberately dirty and hissy. I don’t think I’ll ever make an album like Alien Sun again, which was really orchestrated and plastic-smooth and then we mastered it at Capitol. I like some of the songs there, but I prefer hearing what the actual performances sound like and not doctoring them up too much anymore.
More more more more, za za za za zeeee. I mean, seriously -- lee -- lee -- yoowww - za za za -roooo - hooo - hooo
(At this point, Hunter trailed off into some kind of hallucination jibberish. I tried to capture a little of it here, but it actually went on for about two minutes. I literally had to reach out and touch his shoulder and sort of draw him back into reality.)
DR: So do you want to continue the interview?
RH: Sure, did we ever stop?
DR: Guess not. Where were we? Umm. So you’re pretty committed to the solo path at this point? I mean, I’ve been told that your records don’t get sent off to radio stations and media begging for approval. You just sort of take what comes as you go about the business touring and performing…
RH: Hells yeah. [He trails off again, begins whistling something, I think it was Chopin...] I’m not going to play that game ever again—trying to win the approval of strangers... It's so irrational, many of them don’t even share your taste at all, and yet you sweat and hope and pray they’ll understand your art. Most of what happens in the course of an interview is that the self-indulgent artist talks about how great they are and then the ass-kissing writer lets them get away with it! But then the 3rd party—the reader—they're the ones who really get JACKED! They lift the artist onto a pedestal just because of the psychological effect of seeing somebody else’s ideas glorified on the printed page and feeling like their own will never be. That’s why I gotta stick to the big guns, baby. That's why I only conduct interviews with fictional people like yourself. You’re a swell guy, Don, and I’ve known you long enough to know you share my taste. But I'm startin' to get pretty dizzy in here and I gots to get me some AIR!
DR: Well thanks to you, Red! Let's get outside and run around like God intended! You’re an old-fashioned gentleman and I wish you great luck. On that note, I’ll let you get back to work.
[At this point Red scrambled from his chair and ran outside. I believe he struck up a conversation with the first woman he saw. I stayed in the doorway to write the following notes:
Note from the author:
Finding his first name incredibly dull--it’s Brian--he gladly accepted a shortened version of his middle name when kids at school started calling him Red. That middle name is actually Redding, after Otis, whose music forms some of Hunter’s earliest memories.
After traveling extensively and talking to the kids who know his music across America, Red says it’s likely that his CDs get burned at a ratio of 100 copied to every 1 sold, which is probably quite common for independent artists in the modern age. If you buy Hunter’s records online, you’ll find that except for Alien Sun, they all arrive on hand-drawn CDRs. The drawings are by Red himself. He firmly believes it’s more important to constantly produce new, inexpensive records because when people recommend them to friends, they simply burn them instead of purchasing them from him. So help him tour and keep the music coming: www.whiskeyandapples.com
Also, be sure to check out Peter and the Wolf, which is a set of melancholy night songs written by Red Hunter and performed with Dana Falconberry.
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|Mr. Rosen, you've done it again!
||Donald M. Rosen
||Thursday, Jan. 13, 2005 at 9:32 AM
||Thursday, Jan. 13, 2005 at 9:39 AM
|please read the "censorship" version
||Thursday, Jan. 13, 2005 at 10:16 AM
|link to revised article: http://la.indymedia.org/print.php?id=121044
||Thursday, Jan. 13, 2005 at 10:19 AM
|nathan taylor is a pseudonym for
||roland ezekiel hunter
||Monday, Jan. 17, 2005 at 6:04 AM
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