What was the beginning pint for your music career? How did it all start?
Good morning…great to be with you! Thanks for the chat.
“Career” might be a stretch, but I was a very bad singer in a group with people much better than me back in high school. I grew up in a suburb of Seattle in the 80’s, so this is before Grunge and when Heart, Queensryche, and Hendrix were the noted artists from the area. But we were vamping a lot of U2, INXS, Rush, Zeppelin, etc. Jon Rubenstein on bass, Tom Becker on guitar, Lenny Lambert on drums, and Kirk Bentley on keys. Funny thing is, I still talk to them all through the tragic magic of social media.
Anyway, we rehearsed a lot on weekends and took it fairly seriously. But, to reiterate, I was bad. As in not a good singer. As in, shouldn’t have been doing it. I was a novice guitar player at the time, and Tom didn’t need my help. But what I didn’t have in chops, I made up for in I-Don’t-Give-A-Fuck-What-Anyone-Thinks, and that goes a long way in life.
Finally, we got a gig for about 20 minutes in the cafeteria at lunchtime. Said cafeteria was called the “Mushroom,” as info. Really was shaped like Papa Smurf’s house. We played in front of about 200 of our friends in high school, which is no mean feat. I mean…the opportunity to be made fun of in that setting is HIGH. But we did it, pulled it off, and as awful as I was, we still came away with our dignity intact. I think.
Was there any bumps on the road? What kind of challenges did you have to deal with?
I am ambitious. When I put my mind to something, I am fairly relentless in the pursuit of that goal. As such, the challenges have been relative. The hidden truth is that I have been a responsible father and husband (2x each) and then a single dad for almost my entire adult life. I’ve also been the bread-winner, and churning out indie rock records and not being able to tour doesn’t necessarily feed the fam. So, the challenge has been balancing my creative ambitions with my innate sense of personal responsibility and (lhalf-) Jewish guilt.
I’d say it’s worked out, though. We are doing better now that we ever have in 23+ years, and the fact that people still care is, I think, testament to that perseverance and pursuit of creative outlet. I also have to say that my other career allows me to work from anywhere, and that’s huge.
What was the most fulfilling and satisfying moment so far?
As trite as it may seem, the response to the last album (Occam’s Foil, 2019) has been by far the most satisfying time in my career. People actually CARED! That’s a big deal, especially since it had been 5 years since I had released anything (OD1, 2014) and that was just a 3-song EP.
We came out of the studio feeling pretty damn good, but you never really know. But, as the album made its way into the world, and people seemed to find each song unique and yet resonant, it became clear that we’d created some decent art. Never mind the critical praise and radio love (which was significant, at least to me)…I could tell it was working by the feedback I was getting personally. After this long, you can distinguish platitudes from genuine praise, and with Occam, ’twas much more of the latter.
That record still sounds great to me. I don’t spend a ton of time listening to my back-catalog, honestly. That’s tough for me, honestly, but with Occam’s Foil I am actually really gratified with the result. It’s aging well.
How would you describe the music that you typically create?
Have you ever had Ethiopian food? It’s typically served on a large platter with a huge helping of injera, which is like sponge bread. On that platter, there are usually about 6 or so different samplings of different dishes, served family style. You grab some injera, use it like a tortilla, and you scoop up a bit of this, a bit of that. Quite a visceral experience, and as a vegetarian (for 25 years), it really is a very pleasing dining experience for yours truly.
What is your creative process like?
Music first, always. I thrash about with some riffs and then bring them to Manny (Tejeda, bass and backing vocals) and we refine them. More of this, less of that, repeat here, big rest there, slow down, change time signature, and more. It’s a fun process…Manny and I are great friends and he is SO DAMN GOOD. I feel blessed that he puts up with me.
From there, we travel to El Paso to record with Eddy (Garcia, drummer extraordinaire and studio engineer for the last 4+ Little King albums). Ed is a beast! He can play anything well, and he’s incredibly creative. It’s a lot of fun to run my brain through theirs…the results are always exponentially better than I expect.
Finally, and this is where we are right now, we record the bass, drums, and rhythm guitars and then I go into the Walden Shack. Or my bedroom in Arizona, currently…and the words flow. I had a lot of inspiration from the Mongolian Clusterfuck of 2020, so the words rushed over me quite readily this time.
The new album is titled Amuse De Q, and the lyrical topics focus on some universal themes from the Q (Quarantine, as it were…also Questions, QAnon Bullshit, KLAQ, and more….) Sobriety, or lack thereof, isolation and fear and how to overcome it, social media, social and racial justice, politics, and the end of the world. Pretty standard stuff, really
If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?
Aside from the obvious (the triumphant return of live music), I would like to see the focus shift back to musicianship and well-crafted songs as the standard for popular music. I don’t know…my old guy shit is probably kicking in here. But the “Golden Era” of popular music to my ears will always be the 1970’s, and I’m sticking to it! The playing, the innovation, the soul that went into it before the cyborgs took over speaks to me on a level that no era does.
As an extension of that, the prevalence of bands who release singles instead of full albums and then break their arms patting themselves on the back on social media is a little annoying. Yay. One Song. Congrats! Okay…sorry. It’s always great whenever anyone releases their art for the world to consume and, ultimately, critique. But I come from an era where the album was the thing – the artwork, the production, the way the songs work together to form a cohesive concept musically/lyrically/production-wise. So yeah…albums.
If you were asked to give a piece of advice to upcoming bands, what would that be?
Other than to not listen to aging fake rock starts? Ha…I kid, I kid.
Some real introspection is a good start. Ask yourself the tough questions and be brutally honest with the answers. WHY are you doing this? WHAT do you expect to get out of it? HOW committed are you, and potentially, your bandmates, to that stated goal? WHERE do you see yourself in music in 5 years? WHO can help you get there?
Also…learn the business of budgeting. If you have $500 to promote a record, fine. If you have $50,000, even better! But the recording process can be cheap or crazy expensive, based on one chooses to go about it. Revenue streams are such that it’s not likely a band will make their money back until we can all tour again. So…what are you willing to spend? Once that’s been determined, you’ll have to figure out where that money goes. Social Media ads, Google Ads, Spotify and YouTube and Apple Music promo, a publicist, touring transportation, video, college and commercial radio promo…it’s all in there.
Again…tough questions that deserve to be sussed out BEFORE you get into the black hole.
If you didn’t become a musician, what would you be doing now?
Charity work. Kids, dogs, or kids and dogs. Maybe some environmental and literacy advocacy as well. I have a lot of passions outside of music, and I am pretty ambitious. It’s all out there, and I will find time to do it all! Also, I’m a big film buff, and I’ve written a couple screenplays. My degree from college is in Creative Writing, and while I use that to write lyrics, I am obsessed with the idea of producing full=length feature films. Soon…
What is new with the band at the moment? What are you currently working on and would like to share with the world?
As I said, Amuse De Q is about 75% done. The re-emergence of the pandemic and the impeding Q may push us back a bit, but I am not in a huge hurry. The release would, ideally, coincide with the onset of the touring season…if there IS a touring season. Will just have to wait and see.
Please check back with us on social media (IG, FB, and Twitter @littlekingmusic) or visit the web site at www.littlekingtunes.com as we update that often. We appreciate your ears, and keep hope alive…we will make it through this!