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vol 5 - issue 09 (may 2003) :: interviews
WEB EXCLUSIVE: WALLY GAGEL
interview by insane wayne chinsang

HE'S PRODUCED OTHER PEOPLE'S MUSIC FOR YEARS. BUT NOW, WALLY GAGEL IS TRYING HIS HAND AT MAKING HIS OWN MUSIC. LISTEN IN AS INSANE WAYNE GOT THE SCOOP.

Wayne: I want to start off by talking a little bit about the album (Follow Your Bliss, Lunch Records) and how it came to be. Youíve gone from producing a lot of acts, and now youíve attempted to make an album with the help of guest musicians. How did you go from producing to creating an album for yourself?

Wally: On this particular project, most of the tracks were things I had been cooking up at home. And as I was putting lyrics together I realized that I didnít really want to sing it. So using some friends and people Iíd worked with seemed more appropriate. The first track we put down was with Tanya (Donelly, Throwing Muses), and then Lou Barlow (Sebadoh, The Folk Implosion) put something down. Then, Paul from the label suggested John Doe (X), who I had known and always wanted to work with. So it just all organically evolved that way. I think the main focus was that these songs had no homes, and that we could concentrate on it as a focused project.

W: On the album you work with different guest musicians, all of whom come from very different genres of music. But how did you decide on the specific sound of Follow Your Bliss, when you had so many different pieces coming together?

W: Some people actually had a hard time with it being diverse. You know, the essential theme of it was to make it more organic, because Iíve always liked the Massive Attack and Chemical Brothers approach to the sounds of their records. And I wanted to keep it organic with the people that were involved with it, the singers, and the stuff that was on top of the beats. I wanted to have a beat-based record that featured these people that wouldnít normally be singing on top of that stuff.

W: How much input did the guest musicians have with their tracks?

W: Two of the songs were more collaborative. Tanya Donelly wrote the lyrics and did the melody lines for her track. And then Hafdis Huld from Gus Gus wrote his as well. But all the other ones, I would put the scratch vocals down, finish the whole lyrics and the melodies, and then the people would come in and sing it. But with John Doe, he really changed the vibe a lot, but in a really good way. At first he was singing it completely different, and I was like, ďThatís not what I wrote.Ē (laughs) But then I was like, ďBut thatís X.Ē And thatís why Iím glad I worked with him on it. Whoever put their stuff down always made it better.

W: Was working with John Doe what you expected it to be?

W: He is such a super nice guy. He was very accommodating. He was like, ďThese are my thoughts on this approach, but if Iím doing something you donít like, just tell me.Ē But I was like, ďJust go for it.Ē I was actually supposed to work with him on his last solo record, because he liked my work with the Old 97ís, and heís a good friend with Rhett Miller (vocals). So this was a nice way to get together and try something, and hopefully weíll work on something in the future.

W: Have you ever seen the movie The Specials? John Doe is in it.

W: No.

W: Itís hilarious. He plays a character named Eight, who is eight bodies that share one mind. It was a direct-to-video movie, but itís great.

W: Heís always in those weird ones where youíre not expecting him. Like he was in The Good Girl. He played the weird parent.

W: Yeah. Definitely check it out if you get a chance. Itís really odd. Itís got Rob Lowe, and it was written by James Gunn, who used to do stuff for Troma pictures, like Tromeo & Juliet.

W: Iíll definitely check it out.

W: Cool. So, is it hard for you to go from producing to doing something like Follow Your Bliss, or is it much more related for you?

W: Itís definitely more related now. I signed to BMG as a writer about two or three years ago, and I used to be in the band Orbit. Iíd been writing my whole life. The Production Club is actually the name of one of the first bands I ever had. Tim OíHeir and I were in the band together. But this is kind of a reworked version of it. But I felt like I could work under an umbrella, kind of like the way James Lavelle would do the U.N.K.L.E. project. And it kind of relates to the way I work with other artists.

W: There is a second part to U.N.K.L.E. coming out.

W: Yeah. Itís been in the can for awhile, but DJ Shadow has done some work on it.

W: Iíve been a fan of Shadow for awhile now, and I finally got to see a performance of his a couple months ago.

W: A couple of the kids Iíve been working with in Muse saw him, and said it was one of the best shows theyíd ever seen. I guess he just had this incredible style live.

W: It was one of the most incredible shows Iíve ever seen. I saw Chemical Brothers, too, back in Ď97, and, damn, the way they had their speakers set up was amazing. They had them all around the whole theater, and they would just move the music around the whole building.

W: I heard about that. Theyíre brilliant. Some people ask me if Iím going to try and bring this out live, but the hard part is just that there are so many different singers. But I guess itís just like what they did. I donít know how they did the voices live, but Iím just not too sure how to present it.

W: Thatís actually one of my next questions. Itís got to be hard to tour with something like this, where there are so many different people coming together. But youíve toured, like the stint you did with Orbit on Lollapalooza. Do you enjoy experiencing the music in that way, or do you prefer to handle your stuff more behind-the-scenes?

W: Itís naturally evolved for me to be more behind-the-scenes. I definitely love playing out, and we had a great time. But if I were to do it with The Production Club, itíd have to be something where I would hire a lot of people that I know in Boston who are really good at doing video set-up. I could have some stuff pre-recorded, play live, and have a lot of video stuff and possibly film incorporated in it. I missed the opportunity because I have been in Europe the past few months, but The Folk Implosion had been touring, and that would have been perfect if I could have done a few select shows. Because then Lou could have sung songs, and if we played in Boston, Tanya could have joined. But I just didnít have time to do it. But in the future thatís how I would do it.

W: Yeah. Itís totally different for people that are used to doing so much in-studio stuff. But there are ways to pull it off, like I said about Chemical Brothers.

W: And thatís awesome. Some things like that donít translate terribly well. You know, sometimes youíve got one guy up there with a PowerBook open, and after two songs itís like, ďOkay,.. ah, I get it.Ē But if I did it, it would probably be something where I would have a bunch of PowerBooks running video and music, but then also have a bunch of organic stuff on stage. I think thatís a good mix, if you can do it.

W: When I saw Shadow he had screens behind him that he would cue up with beats.

W: It sounded a lot like EBN, who I did sound for a long time ago. They were basically the first ones to introduce the whole cut and paste sampling. And it sounds like DJ Shadow has a very similar approach.

W: So how did you get into music to begin with, and was there one thing that you would consider to be your ďbig breakĒ in the industry?

W: I always had music around the house. My dad and mom were always playing stuff, so I learned from them, as far as guitar goes. Iíve had bands going since I was 12. So Iíve always played something. Once I started working at Fort Apache Studios in Boston, and got to work with Belly, Buffalo Tom, Superchunk, and Folk Implosion, thatís when it started. And then ďNatural OneĒ (The Folk Implosion) went Top 40, and that was a good break. And right at that same time, as I was doing the demos for Orbit, they got signed to A&M, so I ended up engineering their record and joining them on tour. So it all came together around Ď96.

W: This is a general question, but what albums do you consider to be production masterpieces?

W: Massive Attackís Mezzanine, New Orderís Power, Corruption & Lies, Depeche Modeís,.. (pauses) um,.. itís not Violator,.. (pauses) shit. Itís the one right before it. Anyway, at the same time I can listen to early Beatles stuff and be completely blown away. Revolver is still one of those records that is just unbelievable. And Queen II, (laughs) by Roy Thomas Baker, the complete over-the-top master-producer. And Radiohead, definitely. I think OK Computer is a brilliant record.

W: Who would you really like to work with, as far as production goes?

W: In some ways, itís still old school. Massive Attack is definitely one of my favorites, although itís basically been dwindled down to just 3-D. New Order, because I like a lot of the work that theyíve done.

W: Alright, Iíve got two questions left. First, do dogs have lips?

W: (laughs) Do dogs have lips? I would say,.. yes.

W: Good. Thatís what I think.

W: Although, there are certain breeds of dogs that have more lips than others, you know? Like a bulldog,.. youíd have to admit that it has some big lips. (laughs)

W: (laughs) Yeah.

W: Or a boxer. But then a German shepherd, maybe not. (laughs) So Iíll clarify it. There are certain breeds with lips,.. (laughing)

W: ...and breeds without lips. (laughs)

W: Exactly. (laughs)

W: And lastly, Follow Your Bliss comes out at the end of April, but once thatís out, whatís next?

W: A lot of songwriting and collaboration with artists. Iím working with an artist named P.J. Olsson; I did a couple songs for his record on Columbia. And then Iím working with this new artist named Lucia, which is going to be on Universal. And Iím engineering this band called Muse from the U.K. Theyíre like Radiohead meets Queen; theyíre very different, very cool.

CHECK OUT THE PRODUCTION CLUB HERE.

PURCHASE ITEMS BY WALLY GAGEL HERE


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