Yesterday, I sat down with Dan Murphy, Golden Smog’s affable guitarist, to talk about Barack Obama, Brian Wilson, the band’s early days, Soul Asylum, The Jayhawks, Jeff Tweedy, nonexistent Swedish brides, and the music industry.
Murphy’s Midwestern supergroup will release Stay Golden, Smog on September 23. The record is made up of tracks from the band’s early years, but also features two unreleased tracks: a demo version of “Until You Came Along” and an unearthed cover of Brian Wilson’s “Love and Mercy.”
Rock Plaza Central recently played San Diego’s Beauty Bar in support of Are We Not Horses?, and lead man Chris Eaton kindly agreed to do an interview. He answered our questions by email while immersed in recording demos for the band’s as-yet-untitled upcoming release. Eaton and his band have been called “stars in waiting” by Rolling Stone and Are We Not Horses received high marks from Pitchfork Media, so we’re pleased to pick his brain. In addition to being one of the most creative songwriters working today, Eaton is also known for two novels, The Inactivist and The Grammar Architect (a “cover” of a Thomas Hardy book).
I must admit, before meeting Tom, I had heard so many rumors and so much gossip that I was afraid. Frankly, his gambling debts, his animal magnetism, coupled with his disregard for the feelings of others…His elaborate gun collection, his mad shopping sprees, the face lifts, the ski trips, the drug busts and the hundreds of rooms in his home. The tax shelters, the public urination…I was nervous to meet the real man himself. Baggage and all. But I found him to be gentle, intelligent, open, bright, helpful, humorous, brave, audacious, loquacious, clean, and reverent. A Boy Scout, really (and a giant of a man). Join me now for a rare glimpse into the heart of Tom Waits. Remove your shoes and no smoking, please.
Owl&Bear: Can you tell us a little bit about Man Man‘s musical beginnings? How’d you get into music in the first place?
Ryan Kattner: The band as a whole—everyone in the band has been playing music forever. They’re all really accomplished musicians. They have backgrounds in hardcore and punk rock and heavy metal and jazz. Me personally, it’s funny: I learned by banging my head on a keyboard and not touching a piano again until my twenties, and then, you know, banging my head on a keyboard (laughs).