Monday, July 14, 2008

Interviews:: Mike Feuerstack - AKA - Snailhouse

We had a chance to ask Mike Feuerstack (Snailhouse) - Canadian song writing's best longtime, unknown artist - a few questions. He's been putting out records for years, each one seemingly better than the one prior. Lies on The Prize just came out, and it's easily on my list of Best-of for Canadian music '08.

So, sit back, relax and enjoy.

HH:: Musically, the new record - Lies on the Prize - seems to have some of the warmest, happiest tracks I can remember hearing from you. Was that a conscious decision or just an indication of where you at these days?
MF:: I'm inclined to think that this record just has a broader scope. It may have some of the happiest, but it also has some of the darkest and most cynical work I've done. I can't say it was conscious, but I do think I became aware of it as it unfolded, and decided not to edit away the extremities while working.

HH:: Lies on the Prize, at least in my mind, is also the most accessible Snailhouse record to date, but I wonder after 10 years of writing songs, do you still think about writing records that will splash on larger audiences or is it more about making music that you are proud of?
MF:: I hope you are right. If so, I'd like to think that it's purely a function of becoming better at what I do. Although many of my ideas are unusual, it's never been my intention to alienate listeners. I want a big audience - what artist doesn't?

HH:: Trying to put your career arc in perspective, do you still feel driven to write songs or do you find yourself thinking, well, I guess it's time to sit down and write a new record?
MF:: Songs just come. If anything, I worry that they'll stop. I average about one record every 3 years, which is not terribly prolific. I am hoping that not worrying about it is the best way to handle the issue. I'll only know I've done something wrong if the songs stop coming. The discipline for me comes in when I have to turn all of the fragments and ideas into songs worth listening to.

HH:: You worked with Jeremy Gara on this record. I would imagine that since he's a talented musician that is used to fuller arrangements, he probably had a few ideas that were different from yours. Was it hard to give up control or did your experiences working as a hired gun for other bands help you form a comfortable working relationship?
MF:: I don't think I'm a control freak by any stretch of imagination. I can be particular in some instances, and Jeremy is very respectful of that. Other times I have no idea what I want and his input is invaluable. We are old friends and mutual fans. we have a brotherly affection for one another, so it is easy to collaborate. We've played together for many years. We've played in bands together, worked together, hung out, hell, even lived together. If making this album wasn't a fun thing for us to do, we wouldn't have bothered. That said, Jeremy worked insanely hard, and brought a lot to the recording.

HH:: A few questions about all things Sappy. How surprised/touched were you by the terrific tribute record they put together and did that project help reinforce that your songs made an impact to countless musicians and you keep you motivated?
MF::I'm well aware how rare an honour something like that is - it's very touching. It's also totally surreal to listen to. It amazing to hear my songs filtered through friends, fans and kindred spirits. There are some really creative and exciting performances on there, but I can't really comment on the songs. Ha.

HH:: The impact your songs have had on artists is pretty obvious, so I wonder, what influences and inspires you?
MF:: I wouldn't assume that it's obvious to everyone, but again, I'm touched that some people think so. What inspires me is probably not that different from anyone else who makes art. It's always different: Sometimes it's a film or a book. Sometimes it's a recording. Sometimes it's a windy day, or a BBQ with friends. Sometimes it's a daydream or a nightmare.... always different. It's a hard question: where does hunger come from? Or tiredness? I think of the desire to write songs in the same way sometimes.

HH:: You are scheduled to play at Sappyfest, as part of a terrific block of songwriters. How important is it for Canadian musicians that Festivals like Sappyfest exist and are there any acts you are looking forward to seeing?
MF:: Sappy is always a lot of fun - and an amazing line-up of performers. I can't comment overall because I don't seem to play many festivals. Sappy is really cool for me personally because it's a huge gathering of friends, old and new. The same is true for the music: there are many old favourites I can't wait to see again and there will be a bunch of new bands I have yet to hear.

HH:: Things have changed a lot since you started making records. How do you feel about the way digital era, blogs and downloading changed the way people discover and consume music?
MF:: Well, there are two sides to every story. I lament the way the creative arc of the album can sometimes get lost. People tend to discover things song by song. When I began listening to music, I would save up to buy an album. I'd have to actually take my time to choose what I wanted and then I'd have to take my time to get to know it. It made for more of a relationship between artist and listener. Some music takes time to grow on you. Now there's more of an "impress me" situation. We sample half a song or two, and the judgment is made. I miss the artifact - hard copy with artwork. it's less disposable than digital files.

The upside is that many many many more people do get that introduction, which may or may not lead to a performer/listener relationship. In a way it replaces radio as a means of reaching people. This is a great thing, because radio was never available to most artists. Now it's very easy to allow the curious listener to find you. The question has now become "How do you make people curious?"

Music is now so cheaply made and cheaply acquired, that it's going through a phase of devaluation. The "market" is so saturated - I hope that people see this as a call to make better and better music and put on better and better shows. It's time to let the intrinsic value speak.

HH:: So you are given the chance to play a show with any two bands. Who would you choose?
MF::Menudo and The Rolling Stones. All ages show!

Posted at 1:43 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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