When I first announced my intention to do a new solo record almost a year ago, I did a fake interview with myself. I enjoyed doing that, and now I’m about to actually put the damn thing out…so I’m doing it again. Enjoy! Or don’t. It doesn’t matter…it really doesn’t.
A Second Interview with Myself:
Derek, thank you for joining me today.
Oh, it’s you. I don’t like you.
Yeah you’ve made that pretty clear over the last 20 or so years. But come on…be a champ and answer some questions, okay?
“Be a champ?” Who talks that way?
So… You almost quit music a couple of months ago. What happened there?
Well we all make mistakes. I overreacted to a poor online-download response to stuff most people who’re interested already had and also failed to realize that I was entering a downward slope with my depression situation and…well I fucked up, basically.
So…to be clear, you’re NOT quitting?
No. I’m not quitting.
Well that’s a shame.
Sure is. But what can you do?
Well I guess you could update us on the “Ink-Stained Fingers” release you were working on before your little crybaby bitchfest.
I’ll ignore that.
Just like you ignore your nightmares of failing everyone you care about while your ex-girlfriends all laugh at your feelings and all you can do is stand there in your underwear that’s made from spiders?
Well anyway… “Ink-Stained Fingers” is back on the table. In fact–surprise!–it’s coming out this month!
As soon as they get it back to me. I just sent the files over to the CD people to get it duplicated and it’ll be uploaded to the Bandcamp page as soon as I have the physical product in hand.
Still for free?
Yep. Absolutely free. Some people are nice enough to WANT to pay–especially for the physical product–and if they want to they can give me $5 for it. But I just want folks to hear it. So if you want it free, don’t feel like a cheap-skate. I’ll be honored that you want it. (If I have to mail it to anybody, I’m asking $5 just to cover the shipping though. I think that’s fair.)
I hear (because I’m in your ears) that you’re doing a “limited edition” thing for the physical product.
That’s right. I’m going to only do 100 CDs (unless there’s an overwhelming demand for a second run) and they’ll be hand-numbered, hand-stamped, and hand-signed by me. Each one will be unique in its own way.
You really like signing shit, don’t you?
Y’know, I really, really do.
Tell us about the sound of the record. I hear (again–ears) that it’s gotten a little “bigger” in sound than you’d originally intended?
First of all, you know you’re wrong to pluralize “ears” since we’re deaf in the left one. But otherwise, yeah. The sound has definitely changed. There are still some really sparse moments on it, but I ended up with much fuller arrangements overall. Just couldn’t help myself. Although I had to make a few dynamic compromises to get it in a format that the people putting it on CD for me could use. It’s a little quieter and there’s a different EQ to it than I’d originally imagined…but I think it’s still good.
Did you take a different approach to it after coming “out of retirement,” so to speak?
Yes. I started absolutely from scratch. Abandoned all of the work I’d previously done and went back to all-new scratch tracks. I re-did everything.
So does that mean the song list has changed?
You’re inside my face. You tell me.
Okay. The song list HAS changed.
Yeah. I came back to it feeling different and having written some different things that I wanted to record. So some stuff came off and some other stuff went on. I think I like what I landed on.
Care to give us the list?
No, I’ll pass.
Fine. I’ll do it myself…
Pretty Much the Story of my Life
Of Death & Dying
…there but for the Grace of God
The Ring I Almost Gave Her
Give It Up
Thanks. That saved me some work.
You’ve genuinely lost sight of the fact that you’re interviewing yourself, haven’t you?
Great! So. Last time we talked you noted that the subject matter gets dark in places on this record. Still true, with all the changes?
Definitely. If anything, the record has gotten darker. “…there but for the grace of God” is a song about a friend of mine who recently killed himself, for example.
You’ve covered suicide before–“Selfish” on the “Out from the Light” record. And then the whole of “New Year’s Eve.” What’s the deal?
It’s nothing to worry about. You know me better than that. It’s a recurring theme and I kind of tick on it. Unfortunately, fucked up people find each other and most of us are musicians. I’ve known more than one person who’s made that damn, stupid choice–in fact even since the time that I completed the album, a family member left us that way–and writing about it is kind of the only way I know to cope. Plus, I spend a lot of time writing about sad stuff and I can’t think of much sadder than that.
Anything happy on this one, or should we all just start drinking NOW?
Both, I’d say. But no, really. There’s some positive stuff. “Slip Away,” “Give it Up,” and “The Best” particularly come to mind.
So we get a mix…
Yeah. This record is a pretty good representation of what it’s like to live in my head at this time.
Oh shit! In that case, sorry in advance, folks!
I know, right?
Indeed. So…shifting gears a little, it’s notable that you swear a lot on this release. That’s a first, right?
Well…a second. On the “Wayne County EP,” I say “god damn it.” But I’m not sure it counts as an “official” release. “Ink-Stained Fingers” is definitely the first thing that I’ve spent this much money on where I swear–and it’s definitely the most prolific swearing I’ve done on tape to-date.
How sweary is it?
You get three fucks, a shit, and two hells–although one of the latter is used literally so I don’t really count that one.
Why the potty-mouth?
Because I’m tired of lying about it, mostly. Anyone who knows me for more than two seconds knows that I don’t consider ANY word “bad.” There are no bad words–there are just bad intentions. I speak very colloquially and I’ve grown tired of pretending I don’t just to appease my “Christian” listeners–most of whom curse a little themselves. The songs I wrote on this one are deeply personal and to not have that language in there… To not refer to my shameful pride as my “fucking pride” in a song where I’m laying myself bare before Christ seems like a greater hypocrisy than saying a word that a soccer mom thinks her kids need to be protected from. I maintain all of the words I used are used appropriately and for maximum linguistic impact. And I stand by it.
So you’re not including strong sexual or abusive content. Just emotive language. You’re using the words to emphasize the seriousness of the point you’re making.
Right. I don’t have ANY sexual content on the record. I’m not demeaning anyone (other than possibly myself) in the use of the words. In many ways it’s an angry record, so I’m using angry words. I’m using them to add weight to what was already weighty. Or in the case of saying, “I may live to regret it, but at least I fucking said it” in “The Girl,” I’m using it because I talk that way and it felt organic to the rhyme scheme. 🙂
You’ve used a decent amount of that kind of language in your other bands, right? So why is this such a big deal in your solo work?
I guess my solo stuff started out SO embarrassingly Christian themed that it just seems shocking to people that I’m moving into a direction that they don’t typically classify as “Christian” music anymore. But I don’t think of it as at all unusual. I don’t think of it as unchristian. I’m not taking anything away from the Gospel or denying my faith. I’m maybe STRUGGLING with it…but you don’t struggle if you don’t believe. It’s just that musically, I don’t want to be Michael W. Smith–not that I have a problem with what he does, he writes great songs–it’s just not what I want to do.
It’s got to be organic… You’re not a Christian musician, you’re a Christian who writes music.
Right. I don’t feel the need to reach a certain–and very limited–audience. I see a need to express myself. My faith is all over the songs I write, but so is my humanity. It’s really a shame that people WANT you to separate the two. (That’s kind of what “Dichotomy” is all about–my faith is unshakable, when I’m not an atheist, ha ha.) God made us a human beings. Then he became a human being HIMSELF. And it seems to me that if God chose to be human, then that can’t be a bad thing to be. So I’m going to be honest, I’m going to be human, and I’m going to cry out to God in the only way I know how to while I’m in this flesh.
With fucks and shits and hells?
Neat. So…you mentioned honesty there, and I know that’s something you want to talk about in this fake interview. Despite the inherent irony there, let’s touch on it. In the liner notes (which no one has seen yet–SPOILER ALERT!) you mention being “more honest” than you’re comfortable being on this record. Tell us about that.
This was a tough one to write. I decided that I wanted to try to address or even kill a couple of the demons that haunt me on this one. And the only way to do that is to get uncomfortably real. I’m telling the unvarnished version of some of these stories. I’m admitting my flaws and darker thoughts and stopping just short of naming some names who would probably rather be kept out of it. (Although I’d like to note that the girl people might think “The Best” is about is only like 50% of that story. It’s also largely based on Craig Thompson’s beautiful graphic novel “Blankets.”)
What makes you uncomfortable on this one?
Well…the song about suicide is called “…there but for the Grace of God.” You do the math.
Right. And songs like “Holding On” step into dark territory too.
Absolutely. But in general, I think there’s still hope to be found in the darkest parts of this record. In “…there but for the Grace of God,” I clearly state “I could never go out that way.” In “Holding On,” the chorus is, “Some things are WORTH the holding on…” And then you’ve got songs like “Give It Up” that are talking about celebrating what you’ve got and letting go of the rest. There’s some hope here too. I just had to go inward to find it and that’s scary and it’s uncomfortable…but it’s the only way you find the truth. If people want to come along on the ride, they’re welcome to do it…but they might have to get a little uncomfortable too.
Well not to be too abrupt…but I’m tired of talking to me and that seems as good a place to end as any.
Thanks for spending time with yourself to do this today.
Only way I know how to live.
Yeah. It still seems inappropriate that your pants were unzipped for this though.
They’re my pants and I’ll do what I like with them!
Right. Well. Thanks everybody for reading! We’ll see you again soon. Look for updates on the official release date of “Ink-Stained Fingers” shortly!