(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Interview - Trainwreck

(Daryl Donald, John Shredman, Dennis St. Bernard, Boy Johnny)

Technology is frustrating. I was lucky enough to meet with Trainwreck before their Denver show for an interview. Unfortunately, my recording got trashed, so I don't have all the detail I'd like to have. Which is a shame, because it was a great conversation. Still, I can give you a sense of what we discussed and what the band is like.

First of all, they were a bit late getting in, but they still had plenty of time to get set up. Klip Calhoun (Kyle Gass) is more of a celebrity, so he wasn't there to load in; he came later when it was closer to show time. Still, it was fun to hang out with John Shredman (John Konesky), Boy Johnny (John Spiker), Daryl Donald (Jason Reed), and Dallas St. Bernard (Nate Rothacker). After they got their equipment in, we talked for a while before their sound check.

Denver is the last show on the tour, and the boys seemed a little road weary. While the band is ready for a break, they're lining up more dates starting in May. They're also planning to play a Tenacious D gig at Bonnaroo (June). This tour has gone fairly well. They had good crowds in the Midwest, but the South was a lot sparser, with only a dozen people showing up for one Alabama show. They blamed the low attendance on the economic slowdown.

Since humor is a key part of their music, I was curious to understand how much of their showis improvised vs. scripted. Daryl said that about half is more or less improvised, but that they reuse bits that work from previous gigs. While they're playing characters in Trainwreck, the roles are similar to their real personas. So, it's fairly natural to just riff in character. Daryl compared some of what Trainwreck does to Spinal Tap: that having some clear characters sets up a lot of the humor.

I asked about the use of flute in the band (Rock Boulder Mountain in particular). I joked about it being a bit of a phallic symbol. They brought up KG's long experience with the instrument, which he also played a bit in Tenacious D. We talked about the Jethro Tull angle that it added to their music. When I mentioned Jethro Tull's Grammy for heavy metal, Shredman pointed out that the flute is a very heavy metal instrument, that it was powerful and moving.

I asked about the song, TV Theme, wondering whether they had ever made a pilot or what the show might be about. Daryl immediately went into his pitch of a show like Jersey Shore meets Scooby Doo. It features the band, more or less playing themselves, traveling from town to town. Solving crimes. While they haven't quite sold the idea, they held open the possibility of self-producing something for the web that might act as more of a pilot. They riffed on the TV show during the concert as well.

I asked the group about their favorite songs. Boy Johnny and Dallas both picked The Drummer as their favorite song. Dallas said he really enjoyed getting the chance to step out from behind the drums and dance around a bit. He also likes seeing Boy Johnny switch to cover the drums while Daryl plays the bass. They talked about the inherently funny idea of a drummer's lament. Shredman and Dallas co-wrote the piece, starting the lyrical fragment of rhyming "drummer" and "bummer". Shredman said that many of their songs started out as lyrics, pointing out that it's easier to develop a humorous song with that approach. Shredman picked Brodeo as his current fave, but said he changes his mind all of the time.

Daryl's favorite song was Rock Boulder Mountain, which he developed based on his experience spending time in the mountains. He brought the rough sketch of the song to the band and they fleshed it out as a group. R.B.M. isn't quite as funny as some of the songs on the album (although the "glory hole" line was a bit amusing), which adds to the musical credibility of The Wreckoning.

I asked about Tim Blankenship and whether it was based on a real person. Daryl said that the song was based on several people, but they've met plenty of Tims since they wrote it, with people coming up and claiming that it fits them perfectly. They joked about keeping "Tim Blankenship" on their guest list, in case he really shows up.

In person, the guys of Trainwreck were really nice and laid back. They weren't quite as over the top or campy as they sometimes came across in other interviews, but they blamed that a bit on phone interviews getting a little wilder. I wish I could share a full transcript, because I'm sure I'm leaving bits out. Thanks to Daryl, Boy Johnny, Shredman, and Dallas for their time and cool attitude. They're a great group of guys I'd really enjoy hanging out with again.

See the show review here.

Me and Trainwreck

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