We caught up with Crushed Stars (Todd Gautreau) and chatted about the upcoming release ‘In The Bright Rain’ as well as a bit about music in Texas.
NT: You worked with a new producer on ‘In the Bright Rain’ (Stuart Sikes) how was the process different from ‘Convalescing in Braille?
TG: I had worked with Stuart before but chose to work with Congleton on “Braille” just to try something different. That record was a little darker and I thought would be well suited to Congleton’s strengths.
The songs on the new record were, pardon the pun, “brighter” and I wanted to revisit the vibe we got with Stuart on the 99 Red Balloons cover. So it seemed to make sense to work with him again on this one.
NT: You play all the instruments except for drums on the record. Is it the case that you know exactly what riff you want played going into recording sessions, and prefer just to record them on your own?
TG: I actually record everything in my home studio before going in to the studio to do the drums. The process of recording all the overdubs is almost part of the writing process for me. It all evolves really
fast. I don’t do demos in the traditional sense. I just start recording and the next thing you know I have most of the overdubs almost as soon as the song is written. I have tried enlisting guests guitarists, but they but they’ve all had commitment issues and I end up having to do it myself anyway, so this time I just didn’t even try to get anyone else. I am not opposed to having other players, it just never seems to work out.Once my tracks are done, I go in to the studio and spend two days on drums and two days mixing. So it’s hard for me to wait til then to have anyone else come in and track at the last minute. By then I’m too attached to what I have laid down. If there’s strings or brass we will usually do that in the studio when we do the drums. Though I usually have written the arrangement s beforehand.
NT: In the last few years your sound has changed from more of an electronic sound to a bit more thinking man’s pop (a bit more quiet, maybe cerebral). What was the decision behind the change?
TG: In the 90s there was so much awful guitar music, I just wanted to distance myself from it so I explored a more electronic terrain. But once I stumbled upon things like Palace, Guided By Voices, Epic Soundtracks, it made me want to write songs again so I returned to guitar. That had been my intention all along, I just got side-tracked for a few years.
NT: You cover Epic Soundtrack’s ‘House on the Hill’ on the new record, does this song have special meaning to you?
TG: To me this song is about resignation. For some reason I strongly identified with Epic’s solo records. I felt we were making music for the same reasons and had maybe shared some of the same disappointments. I was really upset by his death because it worried me that if his level of success wasn’t enough for him to hang on, my lesser degree of success might not be enough for me either. I wanted to cover Epic at some point and this track from his posthumous release of demos “Good Things” is one of my favorites. Very simple but powerful.
NT: What do you think about all the technology today for making music? Not to age you, but you have been sampling and producing for quite a while.
TG: It has really been a blessing. I started on four-track and for my first electronic records I had to do everything with MIDI and record straight to two-track DAT which was very tedious. The first Crushed
Stars record was recorded on ADAT so I could only do an alternate take if one of the 8 tracks was available. And I had no way of editing.
By the second Crushed Stars record I had moved on to Protools, the conveniences of a DAW make all the difference in the world to someone like me who is recording most of the instruments themselves. In addition to the time you save, you now have an arsenal of sounds available at a fraction of what it cost
10 years ago.
NT: Can we expect to see some of the new record performed live?
TG: Nothing planned at the moment. Perhaps if the new record is well received it will inspire me to do
NT: Are you a little surprised that one critic wrote that your music ‘should not be out of the hands of manic-depressives? I find your music quite relaxing actually.
TG: A lot of my songs stem from my own depression but the term used most often to describe my music is “soothing”. I don’t think that the material itself is depressing, though if you have been through that you may find comfort in the songs more easily. I suppose I create them to comfort myself.
NT: From everything I have read you sound like a really easy going fellow, do you get anxious after releasing new albums?
TG: No the most anxious part is a few weeks before the mixing session when I am running out of time to get everything done. There’s a lot of self-imposed pressure. Once it’s released you get to unleash it
and see where it will go.
NT: I believe you still live in Texas, which seems to be quite a conservative state, but it has produced so many interesting bands from the Butthole Surfers to Townes Van Zandt to name a couple. What do you think drives the music scene there?
TG: I think because it is so vast a territory you find a lot of individualism amongst the artists. With the exception of Austin, there’s not a unified scene in any particular area. I think you can create more interesting work in an isolated environment as opposed to having a scene to feed off.
NT: Do your kids enjoy your music?
TG:They have some on their ipods to be polite, but I suspect they often skip them. There are only a handful of tracks that they know by name but can usually identify a song as mine if they hear it somewhere.
NT: Can you tell me five of your favourite records of all time?
A Walk Across the Rooftops – The Blue Nile
Unearthed – Steve Kilbey
Bee Thousand – Guided By Voices
Third/Sister Lovers – Big Star
Another Green World – Brian Eno
A Life Full of Farewells – The Apartments
(oh wait, that’s six!)