US - Massachusetts - Full Moon 127 - 02/02/07
an interview with...
Scoring the rolos at the ferry in 1992, fonzie-style
Eric Gaffney might not be a household name, but by rights, he should be. Back in the late 80s, he, together with Lou Barlow, co-founded the mighty Sebadoh and while he left the band before they took off commercially in the mid-90s, it's the early stuff of the band, like the seminal album Sebadoh III that made a long lasting impression of hundreds if not thousands of bands. Since his depature from the Sebadoh camp almost 15 years ago, he's been busy playing with his outfit Fields Of Gaffney, he's also released a few solo efforts, mostly on small labels. Before he gets back on the road in the States with the reunited Sebadoh in late February, he took the time to talk to Luna Kafe about his latest solo record, Uncharted Waters, which was recently released on Norway-based Handmade records.
LK: What's it like to be EG in the winter of 2006/7 (and what is the most striking difference to, say, your last release with Sebadoh over a dozen years ago)?
Eric: "I'm older, I have a few wrinkles in my face that weren't there before, been through a few relationships, I no longer imbibe in booze, and I moved west from Northampton, MA. Those are some differences. I'm back in Sebadoh for a 2-month reunion tour which is news. I sing and play guitar at the same time better than I did 20 years ago, that's another difference."
LK: Especially as far as Europe is concerned it was somewhat easy to lose track of you after you've left Sebadoh. So for the uninitiated... What did we miss?
Eric: "You missed me? After Sebadoh I played solo shows in the 90's, put out tapes through mail order in '98, started Fields of Gaffney, booked shows in the northeast ('99-99) then a CD for Old Gold (Brilliant Concert Numbers) in '99, a single for Sub Pop in 2000, moved to San Francisco, re-started Fields of Gaffney with a new line up, booked my own tours (Northwest twice, South By Southwest 2003, NYC + LA) and released out Nature Walk and Cosmic Chicken & Egg on my own Animal Friends label. Been doing music all along, low key recording and performing, but without the hype and no label support."
LK: Even for those unacquainted with your previous solo work and the Fields Of Gaffney stuff, it is easy to imagine that Uncharted Waters gives a good overview stylistically of what you've been doing over the last decade or so. Was that kinda the idea behind the release, a sort of a spring clean before you devote more time to Sebadoh again?
Eric: "No, Uncharted Waters had nothing to do with spring cleaning for Sebadoh. I recorded some songs here + there over the past decade, and it was long overdue. It had been in the works since I moved to California in 2000. Some of the songs date back to the Sebadoh days, "Cold Weather" was written after our first tour (Fall '91)."
LK: Especially now that everybody is using ProTools and the like - what is your view on home recording these days? Is it (still?!) more of an artform than a bare necessity for you?
Eric: "I like recording, period. All sorts of recording techiniques. I've recorded on pro tools four times now, mostly on acoustic. Some of that is on the new CD. I like analog best of course."
LK: Obviously, there's a lot of variety on Uncharted Waters. How you do decide which way a song is gonna go - for example if it's gonna stay instrumental or if you're going to add lyrics, whether you'll record on the Tascam or utilize a "proper" studio?
Eric: "$ limits how I record for the most part, without a proper label. I don't decide much of anything, i just do it. Been at it for years. Instrumentals can mean i didn't write any lyrics for something or that it was just a recording or idea. I'm selective about what I release and how I mix and sequence. It isn't random."
LK: Listening to the album I couldn't help but thinking that your view of what your music should be about and how you're gonna get there is still similiar to your approach in the late 80s/early 90s?
Eric: "Sort of. I'm not trying to sell a million records with my latest or anything before. It's meant to be limited and somewhat obscure, that's the approach as well."
LK: Or, even more generally: What is your definition of good music?
Eric: "Whatever I like now or have liked in the past. Something with a swing, groove, bounce, a sound or quality or tone i like, all sorts of styles and tempos. I can't pigeonhole my music interests. I try to stay away from absurd volume levels for the most part. Tinnitus! I have a list of bands that I like on the myspace music page I have up."
LK: How would you characterize the main difference for you between working solo or as part of a band (where you might or might not be the leader of the gang)?
Eric: "Ok, I like being in a band over performing solo, I'll say that much. I am better with a group (Sebadoh, Fields of Gaffney) than solo acoustic or whatever, or at least I think so and audiences seem to as well."
LK: Much has been said about the imminent Sebadoh reunion already. Did it come as a surprise to you that it happened/is happening?
Eric: "No, I campaigned for it and Jason and Lou finally agreed a few months back to a full fledged reunion tour, not long after III was reissued.
I was out of the band for a really long time, they kept it going and so it's a little weird at first with rejoining and re-learning songs but we practiced for a full week and sounded pretty good despite the passing years."
LK: Is it just the right timing now or did you think after the first "reunion" rehearsals: We should have done this years ago?
Eric: "I guess it's the right timing. Seems to make sense. I wouldn't have wanted to perform The Sebadoh or whatever they were doing a few years back. Not interested. We're playing the oldies, our favorites, what we knew and what the fans like or so we hope. It took this long. Be grateful."
LK: Are there any "safety measures" to prevent you guys from drifting apart again?
Eric: "No. We got this thing called 'free will.' We're doing it for the big money, then we're fucking off and leaving. Just kidding ya. Actually we love our fans, the little buggers. We all have other things to do in life, Jason and Lou are in other bands (Dinosaur Jr, Fiery Furnaces) and are married (not to each other) you know, and busier than I, so we'll have to see what happens as far any plans beyond the reunion tour and "The Freed Man" reissue that hopefully will be out on Domino this year."
LK: What do you think if you listen back to an album like the recently re-released Sebadoh III all those years later?
Eric: "Um, I wrote those songs and recorded 'em for it. Then all those years later, I selected a bunch of old unreleased band recordings for the bonus disc. I like the reissue alot, it was a labor of love. I think we're all happy with how it turned out."
LK: For something a little more general again: Was there a special event in your life, or a piece of music you heard, that made you decide to become a musician? What was it?
Eric: "No. I grew up with music (Beatles, Stones, Dylan, Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, folk-rock, Pentangle, Jazz, Blues, Hendrix) in the house. Music has been part of my life since then, the motherfucking 60's baby. I'm older in that respect than 99% of my peers in indie rock or whatever. I bought a $4 ticket to see The Ramones in 1978, to give you an idea of how long I've been into Punk for example. I was into New Wave and Top 40 back then too, then when hardcore shows started in Western Mass., I'd already had a band (Grey Matter) I'd started a few months prior, and started playing out in the summer of 1983, on drums and writing song lyrics."
LK: And lastly, any famous last words?
Eric: "Yeah, I have a new CD, Uncharted Waters, which is ten years of recordings collected that I should think anyone who likes my past recordings with Sebadoh will appreciate. Get it from Handmade Records in Oslo, Norway. I like it, maybe you will too. Thanks."
Copyright © 2007 Carsten Wohlfeld