INTERVIEWS

Cosmic Rock

Fresh out of the studio and on the edge of their new album release, Philadelphia's king psych-rock groove metal band Thunderbird Divine are on the warpath. The new album entitled "Magnasonic" will be out shortly on the hot indie label Salt Of The Earth Records. Being big fans of the music, we sat down and had a summit meeting with singer/guitarist the main man Erik Caplan to hear all about the new album. Erik is a very easy going, mellow guy yet is also a monster behind the guitar and mic, pulling out riffage and soul with the new band. We talk to Erik about the record, his inspiration and thoughts on many interesting subjects. Get down the program and witness the landing of the Thunderbird Divine.

 

1. Hail Erik! How're you, brother? Good to talk to you today. How have you been?

Hey Gid! Great to be in touch again. I've been well. Hope you are as well.

 

2.Yeah great thanks bro. Good to hear. What’s going on the world of the Thunderbird Divine?

Things are good with us. We've been writing steadily, playing together and getting ready to put out our first record, Magnasonic, with Salt of the Earth Records (www.saltoftheearthrecords.com). We busted our asses making it, and we can't wait for everyone to hear it.

 

3.I heard an advance on the new album, and, man, it is full-on badass. I really love it. Tell me all about the recording process.

 

We went into these recording sessions with the goal of making a strong first album statement. We spent a lot of time crafting the song arrangements before we hit the studio. We demoed every song at our rehearsal space on digital 16-track before we went into the real studio. From there, it was all about nailing down our performances to create solid song foundations. We also wanted to indulge ourselves a little to flesh out the music with whatever sounds we felt would best meet our needs. The recording process was intense. Getting the best takes for the songs was essential, and we didn't want to compromise and use anything that was just "good enough." We did the majority of the basic tracking here in Philadelphia at TedAudio (www.tedaudio.com). Ted Richardson is a really talented guy with a great ear. He knows his gear and the right way to capture a band in a natural way.

 

We did most of our instrumental and vocal layering with Ted, but we also spent time with Charles Newman at Cottage Sounds Unlimited (www.cottagesounds.com) in Brooklyn. Charles is responsible for the killer Wurlitzer and Hammond organ parts on "Bummer Bridge" and "The Devil's Hatband," as well as some of the wild-sounding analog synth playing. He's another extremely skilled musician and engineer, and we were privileged to have him on board for this record. He also was tasked with the daunting job of mixing this record, and we think he really rose to the occasion.

 

4.You guys used some diverse instruments this time around. A water drum, electric sitar, etc. What did you bring in this time to add to the usual rock line up?

 

We began the tracking process with the oversight of an old friend acting as producer, and, as his background is based in indie, oddball pop and highly experimental music, his sensibilities lean towards the use of virtually any instrument available in order to capture the soundscapes we envisioned. He's also a professional, a perfectionist and a very smart person who does not accept limitations in art or music, and he encouraged us to be as ambitious with the music as we wished, so pretty much any instrument we could find was on the table for inclusion on the record. Unfortunately, we encountered creative differences during the mixing stage, and he decided he no longer wanted to be involved with the album. His impact on the album can't be overstated, though.

 

 

Consequently, you'll hear things like marxophone, mandolin, piano, water drum, electric sitar, tenor resonator guitar, baritone guitar, harmonium, pump organ, djembe and various synthesizers on the record. 

 

We also brought in some friends to act as guest vocalists--my ex-wife, Avy, our drummer's girlfriend, Brittany, Andy (Clamfight) and Kerm (Sheena and Thee Nosebleeds), and these folks added some great texture.

 

We didn't go out of our way to be different for the sake of being different, though. I think we just tried to give the songs the attention we felt they deserved. I'm not sure if the whole thing makes any sense stylistically, but it sounds cool to us.

 

5.What inspired the lyrics on the new stuff?

 

Most of the lyrics on this record are kind of different for me. My tendency is to write from a "what if" point of view--"what if I was the spirit of a sword" or "what if Neptune kidnapped me?"

 

I usually don't write from a personal perspective, but I dealt with some heavy stuff throughout the year before we tracked Magnasonic, and the lyrics I wrote reflected the way I processed those events. 

 

 

Consequently, I wrote some self-affirming lyrics, some guilty lyrics, some hateful lyrics and some history research lyrics. It felt pretty good to do something different with these songs.

 

6.Right on man, You said you were inspired by cowboy life and western theme for a song?

 

Yeah, that's "The Devil's Hatband." These are more my usual style of lyrics-- something I read about the demise of cowboys grabbed my imagination, and I really felt like writing about it.

 

I don't think people realize the end of the cowboy era came about partially as a result of the invention of barbed wire. Once that stuff started showing up in the Western states, there was far less of a need for cowboys to herd livestock, and that became an unsustainable vocation. Barbed wire killed the cowboys.

 

Native Americans called it "The Devil's Rope" because it was used to parcel up their land by the landowners who essentially stole it. Cowboys called it "The Devil's Hatband" because it ruined their jobs. Big businesses used it to take over the West. I didn't know any of this, but when I read the term "The Devil's Hatband" in the course of my wanderings, I thought it was evocative, and the story behind it was compelling. That is one of my favorite songs right now.

 

7.Okay bro when is the official release date?

 

Salt of the Earth Records will be have the CD version of Magnasonic available for preorder December 7. It'll be released stateside January 11 and internationally January 18.

 

8.So who’s in the line-up these days, and how do you work out the live gigs with the additional instruments on new songs?

 

The line-up remains the same as it has been since March 2017, when we first came together. Flynn on guitar, me on guitar and vocals, Adam on bass and Mike on drums.

 

As for the task of reproducing the variety of instruments we used in the studio in a live setting, we've kind of decided not to worry about it too much. Our general feeling about studio recordings is to give them what they need to sound fully realized. If that means we need harmonium, well, we find a way to get one. Life's too short to hear your music without all the elements it needs in order to sound finished to your ears.

 

 

Live, we just rely on the strength of the songs themselves. They're good songs with or without the extra layers. I always think of The Rolling Stones' "Under My Thumb" as an example of this... does that marimba part have to be there in the live setting for me to enjoy the song? No. It's cool to hear it on the record, but it doesn't have to be there for the song to still be appreciated.

 

We could theoretically bring in folks to play organ, add percussion or act as additional vocalists, and I think we have some friends who would help us out with these things, but it doesn't seem feasible most of the time. Back in the day, The Stones didn't use a marimba player, either. Maybe when we're on our 50th anniversary tour we'll start bringing one.

 

9.Yeah okay. What have you been up to otherwise?

 

Personally, my day-to-day life is pretty simple, and I like it that way. I work from home, cook, spend time with my little family, play and record music, watch movies and read. It's peaceful.

 

10.Aside from music, what is one life skill you feel every person should have?

 

I guess some folks would say it's important to be able to hunt and skin an animal or make a fire without matches, but I think a truly valuable skill is to be able to discuss virtually any subject objectively. The art of open-minded conversation seems to be a lost one, and I think it's essential and important for personal growth as well as our overall growth as humans living on this big ball of mud together.

 

11.What do you feel some of your regrets are in your music and your greatest victories?

 

I certainly have some musical regrets. My last band, Wizard Eye (https://wizardeye.bandcamp.com), wrote some pretty cool songs before it split up, and I regret that we never had the chance to get those tunes recorded in a studio. We had a great vibe when we were playing all the time, and I wish we could have captured more of that in the studio. Those guys are killer players.

 

I also regret the way we parted ways with the erstwhile producer of Magnasonic. He brought a huge amount of talent and professionalism to the project, and I hate that our differing creative visions for the end product resulted in an unfortunate split.

 

 

On the victorious side, I must say I'm very proud of the vocals on Magnasonic. In the past, I've been more of a screamer or a belter, and I think some of my lyrics were lost as a result of using that vocal style. I think it worked for the music to some degree, but it was also somewhat limiting and possibly alienating to some listeners. I really worked to develop my melodic singing for this album, and I think it maintains the intensity of fried singing without sacrificing my stylistic identity. I think of that as a victory for sure.

 

I'm also really proud of my bandmates for their work on this album. They really stepped up and took risks in the studio, and they ventured outside of their comfort zones. I think we all have new perspectives on recording as a result of this experience.

 

 

 

12. Any favorite records or books you’d like to talk about?

 

I'm probably showing my non-metal and non-doom colors here, but most of my daily go-to music is pretty tame and mellow when compared to a lot of the guys who play the kind of stuff we play.

 

I really like Joni Mitchell, and if you've never heard Hejira, you owe it to yourself to check it out. She's a force of nature. I love Stevie Wonder. He's a national treasure. More people should listen to Talking Book. Listen to The World is a Ghetto by War. Listen to Queen's second album, Queen II. Listen to everything by Funkadelic.

 

As for books, I'm still a big Stephen King fan, and I was really glad he returned to form with his most recent works. I love to pick up old Tom Wolfe novels from time to time, and I rarely shy away from any autobiography. Everyone has a story, and I'm a curious guy.

 

14.Whats the scene like in your area in current times?

 

It seems to me that Philly has always been a microcosm of the general music world. It's a good-sized town, so we always have a bit of everything here. If you like jazz, we have tons of it. If you like metal, we've got all kinds. If you like hip-hop, we've got that, too. All you have to do is go out and sniff around. You'll find it here.

 

15.Sure yeah okay. How do you feel the social media sea of madness has affected indie artists?

 

I think it's a double-edged sword. On one side, social media helps level the field for indie folks to have their stuff heard. However, on the flip side, the average listener now has to wade through an ocean of music in order to find anything they'll actually enjoy.

 

I think social media can be an incredibly valuable tool for artists to reach their audiences without relying on press releases, and listeners can get directly in touch with them with virtually no effort.

 

Of course, this also opens up the door for artists to potentially overshare and look foolish by posting ill-advised content or opinions. And I'm sure plenty of artists find themselves the targets of unwanted attention via the same conduit.

 

 

16.If you had the chance to see any classic band you never got to see live, who would you choose?

 

I would have loved to see The Jimi Hendrix Experience in its earliest club days... back when they were hungry, young and looking to make an impact. I bet they were like a typhoon.

 

17.Yeah damn for real. What other creative pursuits do you have besides music?

 

I'm pretty boring, really. I like to cook something interesting from time to time, but I wouldn't say that's a creative pursuit. Most of my creative energy goes into music. I've always loved the arts in general, but I'm not particularly skilled at any of them aside from music. And I suppose some might say I'm not particularly skilled at that, either. I keep doing it anyway because I really don't know what else to do with myself.

 

 

18. Any last words or news for your fans today?

 

Please keep an eye and an ear out for Magnasonic. We worked hard on it,  and we're proud of it. And thank you for the support... we appreciate it.

 

Solid man. Stay in touch and let us know your news rock on Erik. - G