Interview

Here is an interview that I gave back in 2007 to a British web site called Distant Warning. Enjoy:

BRIAN TRAVIS INTERVIEW
18 JULY 2007

DW: Hi Brian – it’s been quite a while since we saw you on Distant Warning – how the hell are you doing?

BT: I’m doing very well Pauline, thanks for asking. The music business has been keeping me very, very busy, so much so that I’ve been unable to find the time to log on to DW and participate in the forums (or The Alarm forums) as much as I’d like in the last few years.

The Brian Travis Band has come into contact with a record producer, a management company and an entertainment lawyer since our last UK tour in 2004 and we have been busy assembling our team and writing and recording new music and trying to build this music career dream of ours up a bit bigger so that everyone in the group, including myself, can make an honest living from creating and performing original music.

It’s not as easy these days with record labels no longer handing out record deals like they did back in the 70’s and early 80’s and these days record labels really have no budget for development deals for bands. These days you have to do nearly everything yourself and somehow grow as a creative unit while working full time jobs to support the costs of being in a rock band. The expense involved is what has kept The Brian Travis Band from returning to the UK for a third tour. We need the support of a label (or a private investor) to make this whole thing financially viable for us.

DW: For those readers who aren’t familiar with your band, can you introduce us to everyone and tell us how you all ended up making music together?

BT: I was writing songs in Santa Cruz California and playing in a few different bands in the mid 90’s and when one of my favourite bands in that area, a group called Windcave, broke up. My favorite local guitarist, Jason Gonzalez played in Windcave and shortly after they called it quits I approached Jason and asked him if he would be interested in playing lead guitar in a new project I was starting called Third Wish.

Jason and I began to rehearse and put my songs together in a way I’d never heard them before. Soon we had a drummer and a bass player and we hit the clubs opening for jam bands like The String Cheese Incident and Vinyl.

The group went through many incarnations and players until Jason and I finally moved to Los Angeles in 2002 to put together The Brian Travis Band. We auditioned other players and found Thaddeus Wiseman (drums) and Manny Vega (Bass) and a very talented player and high school friend named Matt Brown joined in on keyboards about a year or so after we started playing shows in LA and up and down the California coast. Due to lifestyle changes Thaddeus Wiseman now lives in the UK (he said he was going to immigrate if George Bush got re-elected and he did, and I respect him for that.)

The Brian Travis Band are playing LA shows with Mark Wickliff and Steve Weil on drums and bass respectively. The way it works in the BTB is this: If you have ever played in the band, you are part of the family and an open invite to participate in the success of the group in whatever way possible is encouraged. Thad and Manny may return to the BTB orbit in the future, possibly for another UK tour as Thad is already in your time zone.

DW: Taste This Moment Records is a label that you set up yourselves. Is it a label that purely produces BTB music or do you work with other bands/foresee you taking other bands under your wing in the future?

BT: Right now, all BTB releases are released on our own label, Taste This Moment Records. Our most recent effort, the all-acoustic CD “Sense of Place” was originally going to be released on an independent label based in Santa Barbara called, Ranch Recording. The producer and label head we were working with on that project had to withdraw his financial support for personal reasons and the BTB were basically given a very special all acoustic recording that sounds very different than the music we make when left to our own devices.

The entire acoustic CD was cut live and all the performances are what we actually played live and in the moment. There was no overdubbing. We tracked some extra backing vocals and whatnot to give it a more full sound, but mostly it is left stripped down and honest. A very “warts and all” recording. As a result of the financial support dropping out, it took us longer to get the CD in a releasable state. We had to come up with the money to mix the CD ourselves. And as of this moment, we are still trying to come up with the funds to master and duplicate the CD. Pre-orders sales are very important for this reason. If we get enough people to pre-order the disk, the costs of mastering and duplicating can be covered and this musical effort will hopefully see the light of day soon.

In regards to producing other groups or artists. I’d certainly be interested, and once we make enough duckets from our own endeavours, I could see TTMR expanding and producing another like minded artist or group.

DW: I’ve been listening to some tracks off your forthcoming acoustic cd – Sense of Place. Your sound has really developed since ‘Past the Breakers’ – vocally as well as musically – would it be fair to say that you’ve been more experimental with your vocals on this cd? (It sounds great by the way!)

BT: I think what you’re hearing is the live production as opposed to a sterile track by track recording. There was no digital editing of the vocal takes and little to no overdubs except for the backing vocal tracks. You’re hearing what my voice sounds like being recorded after 2 years of touring. It was warmed up and primed to cut live. This was the first time I’d ever cut my vocals live and I plan on doing more of it throughout my career.

DW: Your song ‘1986’ is a fantastic tribute to The Alarm – have they heard it yet and if so what has their response been?

BT: I wrote that song a few days after the announcement that all the original members would be playing in London back in October 2003. I already had a gig booked in LA and was unable to make it to London for that reunion one off show. I’m a massive Alarm fan from way back – my first show was the live MTV broadcast from UCLA. I was front row, right in the crush. That show changed my life. Not being able to attend this reunion show was eating me alive from the inside out.

The only way I could deal with it was to write a song. So I picked up the guitar and the lyrics just spilled out, “I’ve been waiting for this day to finally come around, now it’s here and I’m too busy. Too caught up in the now, these plans I’ve made just won’t allow for me to break away…”

The rest of the song is a lyrical tribute to the group that changed my life. Some of the lyrics are very autobiographical and a lot of the lyrics were ‘borrowed’ from Alarm songs. I had been listening to the Poppyfields bond and Mike was ‘borrowing’ original Alarm lyrics and making new Alarm music and I guess that whole idea rubbed off on me for this song.

I think the track came out with the spirit that the Alarm deliver live… I even put some ‘whoa-ohs’ in there that are very Mike Peters inspired. I have given a copy of the cut to Mike when I ran into him at Alarmstock 2 in LA at Capitol Records. I recently spoke to Mike on the ‘Rocking The Colonies” tour and he told me that he thought that 1986 was a “classic”. I just hope that he understands that this song is my personal musical tribute to a group that helped shape the musician I am today and I hope they do not come after me for royalties about a ‘borrowed’ lyric here and there!

DW: You’re marketing the new album, how would you describe it?

BT: The new CD is all-acoustic. No electric instruments whatsoever were used on this CD. Nothing got plugged in. Just mics and acoustic instruments. It’s a folk record really. A good tagline might be, “A folk record from a California rock band that is performing outside the box and into a new acoustic arena where electric guitars and pounding drums have been traded for mandolas, dobros and upright bass.”

There are acoustic versions of songs that have already been recorded electric in the past and songs that may be recorded electric in the future, however I think that a handful of the songs on this CD will only appear as acoustic versions on this release, which make this album something special and worth owning if you’re a true blue fan of The Brian Travis Band.

DW: I hear talk of a BTB Documentary – what is all that about and is it available anywhere to watch?

BT: The documentary is still being filmed by a director named Michael White. He is following us around at our shows and doing interviews and filming our rehearsals and whatnot. It is the story of the Brian Travis Band’s rise to prominence in the music industry. The struggle of ‘one band against the world’ sort of thing…

He has put together a rough cut of the film that I have seen that looks pretty cool. Lots of really good live footage. It’s basically the best commercial ever for our band, and this director wants to take it to film festivals where we will accompany screenings with two or three live songs (acoustic) to round out the night in a string of cities in California.

There is a clip of a trailer for the film on the Brian Travis Band myspace page and there will be stuff on youtube I’m sure, once it is complete. Once it is submitted for film festivals, we will see what happens with it and if it gets any wider distribution. It will likely be released on DVD in the future no matter what happens and it will be available through http://www.thebriantravisband.com

DW: I also hear rumours of a possible UK tour towards the end of the year, how are plans for that coming along?

BT: Not as well as I would like I’m afraid. Thaddeus and I were working together on spearheading some of the UK bookings. However, because neither one of us has the time to book an entire tour at the moment, and due to other extenuating circumstances, our UK tour plans are being delayed until further notice.

I am disappointed that we will not be back this year, as I love being overseas and playing music every day, but I am okay with it for now due to all the activity in LA surrounding the group. We’ve been playing shows at one of the better known clubs in LA recently, The Hotel Café, and prepping for those shows along with dealing with the industry attention has kept me from having a hand in the booking as much as I used to.

We want to tour the UK again really soon, however we want to be able to do it right with hotels and a driver and decent guarantees rather than playing anywhere and everywhere and sleeping on floors and loading and unloading our gear on and off of trains. We’ve already done that… in fact we’ve done it twice… and we are getting to a new place in our career where we are requiring more of a payoff for what we do in order to make doing it a profession rather than a hobby.

DW: What are you listening to at the moment?

BT: The new Black Rebel Motorcycle Club CD. It’s great stuff. I’m very proud of those LA boys for making great music that totally grooves and rocks at the same time. I’ve also been listening to early Bowie a lot. Hunky Dory. ‘Oh You Pretty Things’ and ‘Life On Mars’. Simply great songs and great, great music…I just got back into The Beta Band and I have the latest Shins record, but don’t listen to it that often. Everyone in the BTB has been getting into mid-career Neil Young (On The Beach, Zuma and Tonight’s The Night) and the Smile bootlegs by the Beach Boys. We’ve been getting into The Band and The Stones and Dylan as well…often covering songs by these classic artists in our live sets. Oh and The Kinks. I adore The Kinks.

DW: Tell us a bit about living and working in LA – what sort of atmosphere does the city have for a musician?

BT: Well, it’s the entertainment capitol of the world right? Everyone comes here with the same dream, which can make it very hard on a band with so much competition from so many other really great artists and groups. The advantage I think I had is that I spent many years in northern California where people are much more laid back and ‘real’ if you know what I mean.

Moving to LA to take on the music industry has been challenging and difficult and wonderful and positive all at the same time. Being from northern California I have been able to see through all the BS that gets thrown your way when you’re a new artist on the scene. I’ve also been lucky enough to gravitate towards people in the business who are genuine. I think that comes from the fact that I try to be a genuine person and like attracts like.

Actually playing music in LA is another story. A lot of the clubs are still ‘pay-to-play’ like the Whisky and the Roxy and other clubs on the strip. Any band can play there if they pay the club the fees. It makes for a horrible night out for the fans, because these clubs pack seven or eight bands a night each with a “blink-and-you-miss-it” forty-minute set and the audience and the bands alike feel cheated and used. Which is exactly the case. Fortunately for the BTB we outgrew those clubs long ago and have had the good fortune to play at places that actually pay the band 50% of the door. Part of this mentality is that there are so many bands jockeying for the same time slots. Every show in LA is a “showcase” and the clubs feel that the exposure is enough to justify not paying a band for a specific time slot. The standard thing is that you need to get thirty people to your show or you don’t get paid. This puts a lot of pressure on bands in LA and I am not certain that it is a good policy.

The best policy would be 50% of the door from person one. That would make the club and the artist equally responsible for the crowd on any given night. If it’s a packed house everyone wins, if it is a dead night, the loss is split 50/50 not on the band alone.

DW: What other bands from LA could you recommend that we check out?

BT: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. The new record, ‘Baby 81’ or ‘Howl’. The 88 are also a great LA band. Check them out if you don’t know them already. Joe Purdy is solid. He tours the UK all the time too. Brian Wright & The Waco Tragedies is a great band. I am also partial to a girl named Dawn Demone who plays in a group called Vette because she totally rocks. She does not have a CD yet, but all these artists you can find on myspace.

DW: Best and worst gigs and why?

BT: The best BTB gig I’ve ever played was at Molly Malone’s earlier this year. The band was on fire and I felt like I could do anything on stage. It was a very liberating feeling. Our worst gig was probably a place in Santa Monica called 14 Below. Crap sound and crap audience and if you can’t hear yourself what’s the point? There are loads of gigs that started out good and ended badly or the other way round. Usually a bad gig has to do with the wrong person behind the soundboard, or an unprepared group. Sometimes, I am working so hard promoting the BTB that I am burnt out by the time I hit the stage. This is never a good thing. You’ve got to pace yourself and be well rested and alert for shows. I’ve never understood the people who can take drugs and perform. That’s not me. I need a good meal and half hour of vocal warm ups to pull off a great show.

DW: What else does the future hold for the Brian Travis Band?

BT: Hopefully a record deal so that we can all quit our day jobs and get busy with the group full time with no distractions. I’ve written a new album’s worth of material so I am sure we will be tracking more in the studio soon.

We will continue to build up our growing following and I am itching to get back on the road. I just want to tour my life away y’know? I’m sure I’ll feel different about it a few years on, but right now I feel like a dog that is tied up with a vast expanse of beach in front of me… I know I have a great group. We have an excellent manager and the material to do some damage. I know we can deliver the goods live and right now all we need is a break. Just one good break like opening for the right group or hooking up with the right tour or some sort of internet youtube phenomenon.

There has been talk of aligning our song ‘Gasoline’ with the 2008 election season. Our lawyer is working on that one. Something to get our music out there and in people’s faces. Once that leash is cut The Brian Travis Band are gonna run and run and run all over every rock venue in the world. It’s our time and we’ve been waiting patiently.

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