Palisade Hills Interview Summary
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I really appreciated the chance to answer these thoughtful questions.
I don't get to do too many interviews...I love what Palisade Hills
Palisade Hills Interview
How do you describe an artist like Mr. Brian Hartzog? You could call
him inspired considering his music reflects the likes of musical geniuses
such as Prince, the Beatles, Hendrix, and Bob Dylan. Then again, considering
the fact that he played all the instruments and sung all the parts on
his debut project The Smashing of Pictures you could call
him a musicians musician. Whatever the case Brian Hartzog is one
Your new release One Way Ticket, has a strong, solid funk/rock
sound. What kind of approach did you take with this project in contrast
with your first release?
For the most part on The Smashing of Pictures, I wrote the
songs bottom-up, starting with drum beats and guitar licks
up to the melody and lyrics. For this disc, I made a conscious effort
to use a different approach. I wrote all the songs while singing and playing
acoustic guitar. I think that helped me write better melodies
enabled me to re-arrange the songs a lot more before I began recording.
I also wanted to write my lyrics more from a third person point-of-view
from the minds and lives of characters that I imagined
from my perspective. In other words, less I. I always tried
to include bits of my life in my songs, but this CD is a bit more subtle
in that respect than my first one. When it came time to record, the biggest
difference with this disc is that I recorded every note of it in my home
studio. Im really proud of that because I had to scrimp and save
for several years to buy my basic setup
I actually designed the
studio myself.Also, on this disc, I wanted to bring in other musicians
instead of playing all the instruments myself. I worked with Doug Albritton,
a fabulous drummer, for the entire length of the project. He really stuck
by me as I changed and re-arranged the songs
and I think his drumming
came out great. I also brought in some really talented horn players, a
songwriter friend of mine to play bass on one track, and the most well-known
pro engineer in town (Mark Williams) to help out for 2 of the sessions.
Mark has worked with tons of major label acts (Joe Walsh, Lets Active),
and it was a personal goal of mine to work with him on my own music.
When did you begin your musical career and what influenced you to
produce the type of music you do?
I feel like Ive been making myself into a songwriter since I was
11 or 12. I remember the very day when I realized it was what I wanted
to do. I was listening to Princes 1999 album, and I found that I
could understand what he was doing to create the groove both musically
and production-wise. When I told my friends about it, I realized that
they didnt really understand what I was talking about
felt that I had an ability to understand and hear things in music that
they didnt. I was totally hooked. I was like: Listen to what
that drum machine shaker is doing
and they were like What??.
I quickly found my other main influences: the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Bob
Dylan, Parliament, and spoken word poetry. I go through phases where I
get influenced by one thing or another
but I always come back to
those main influences.
What all instruments do you play?
I play guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, and I sing. I used to play a little
trombone in grade school
I think that helped me when it came time
to compose and score the horn section on my songs Motha Funky
and Alright to Drive. On One-Way Ticket, I also
served as producer and engineer
.which got a bit tricky sometimes
had to leave extra space at the beginning of tracks to give me time to
press record, run into the other room, strap on the guitar or whatever
instrument, put on the headphones, count-off, and start playing
would really crack my drummer Doug up sometimes
I personally have to say that guitar work is amazing. Did you have any
former training or teaching available to you, or is it just a God given
talent that you pick up.
Thanks for noticing my guitar playing
I actually taught myself
how to play
which is probably why my style is a bit peculiar. Guitar
players who come to my shows always have trouble figuring out what Im
doing because it doesnt look like I play very many traditional chords
How have you handled the business side of being a musical artist?
At first, not very well. But Im now getting a much better understanding
of what it takes to find an audience. Ive come to realize that there
are only 2 choices: 1. you can stay in your bedroom and make music entirely
for fun or 2. you can try to make music your career. Theres really
no middle ground that makes sense. And if you want a career in todays
music business, you must come to terms with the fact that you must figure
out how to sell your own creations. For a lot of people that
means trying to impress this A&R guy or that DJ
and a lot of
musicians and songwriters spend their time trying to mold themselves into
what is marketable. I think that is an artistic mistake, a business mistake,
and a big waste of time. Ive decided to take a different approachI
want to find a way to market the music that I feel compelled artistically
to create. Ive become defiantly independentIve stated
my sales and music goals on my website (http://www.brianhartzog.com) for
everyone to see. Ive created my own manifesto which says, basically,
that I want to create my own personal music industry. That way, I dont
have to answer to anyone else, give up the rights to (or creative control
of) my music, or chase any particular fashion. I may never be on MTV or
commercial radio, but at least Ill still have artistic integrity
for me, is all I care about.
What are some of the inspirational aspects that helped you to decide
and choose the concepts and titles of your songs?
I keep a notebook close by at all times, and I try to write something
at least once per day. I try to write down every song idea I get immediately.
If I dont, Ill forget it within minutes. I compile all these
scraps of paper into a database that I created to hold my song ideas
I go through it when Im looking for a song to write. A lot of stuff
comes from there. Sometimes the title changes as the song develops, but
it gives me a good place to start. I get inspiration from music, talk
radio, my life, things people say, and stuff that I read.
Do you plan to bring the same type of sentiment to your third release?
Im just thinking about that now. I think I want to dabble a little
more in electronic keyboard and drums sounds
and heavier rock guitar
sounds. The next disc will be funkier and mixed with a little new wave
it will still sound pretty indie. Of course this could all change if I
feel pulled in a different direction
What advice would you give an artist just starting out?
Figure out what inspires you. Then figure out how you are different from
that. Find a way to express your own voice musically and dont be
swayed by what anyone says. Find your own vision and stick to it. Never,
What are your feelings on the state of todays music?
Honestly, I dislike most of whats on commercial radio. I think
the bean counters and lawyers at the top of these major media conglomerates
think by numbers
and they have never really created anything original
in their lives. Therefore, they run their businesses by numbers
by what makes sense artistically. Therefore, they shotgun new releases
to the public via Clear Channel and MTV, drop from their label what doesnt
make a ripple in their test groups, and spoonfeed us what does. If something
is successful, they copycat it. Theyve realized that its much
easier to make money by owning the distribution channels than it is to
find great new music. Therefore, theyve tried to ignore and sue
the Internet distribution channels out of existence while keeping tight
hold of their connection to commercial radio, MTV, and superstores.
Luckily, the Internet cant be stopped
and non-music companies
have realized that they have an opportunity to jump into the fray
scares the crap out of the labels.
I think in the next few years, youll see the film music, tv music,
and advertising music businesses continue to merge
the legal file sharing and satellite radio continue to grow exponentially
see major labels and commercial radio to get more and more predictable
and youll see the local or regional indie artists
start to be able to make a decent living by making and releasing their
And for my final question, if it rained music, what would grow?
Purple flowers, Hendrix discs, a crowd of peace
Sun fried vegetables covered in grease
Art rock trees,
A chorus of bees,
A garden of Chili Peppers growing to the funk
French horn streams
Guitars and dreams
And cactus-shaped drumsticks on a bed of punk
Thank you again Brian Hartzog for taking to time to answer these questions.
I wish you much success in future of your musical career.
Thanks so much for the opportunity. I appreciate all you do for independent
artists. Take care.
Sunday, March 21, 2004
Artists website: http://www.brianhartzog.com
Listen to Brian's