Q&A October, Part IV
11/11/2010 (updated 11/11/2010)

How do you avoid falling ill on the road? Bedbugs, swine flu, the perils of cruise ships (I don’t mean wealthy widows, but norovirus and its ilk)...gotta be scary out there, especially when you engage in meet-and-greets.

We are congratulating ourselves on having gotten through a 5 week band tour, with no one getting sick, apart from small tummy upsets. Usually a cold or flu will go round the whole bus, and it’s not the kind of job where you can take a day off. I try to start out healthy, and keep the immune system up. If I shake a lot of hands at the merch table or a meet-and –greet, I wash my hands well afterwards, and generally avoid hand to nose and hand to mouth contact.

I was witness to that great moment at the 9:30 Club when you broke a string on “Can’t Win” and Bobby Eichhorn slung another electric around your neck, plugged it in, and removed the five-stringed guitar while, all the while, you continued playing as much as possible. That was amazing on your part—and on Bobby’s. I wonder whether you’d like to say something about the non-band folks who are along for you on this tour. I know that some of them have worked with you a long time. Also, have you had any nightmarish experiences with ex-crew folks that you’d like to recount?

We’ve been lucky with crew choices, as well as fairly selective vetting potential crew members, for these are people you spend a lot of time with. I can’t think of any real nightmares for a long, long time.

To start with Bobby, he’s worked as guitar tech and stage manager for – golly – how long? I’m thinking it could be 15 years. Bobby is a fine guitarist, songwriter and producer, and has written a number of sizeable hits in Norway. He worked for Carly Simon for many years. On the current tour, he’s playing acoustic guitar on ‘Angels Took My Racehorse Away’ from the side of the stage.

Simon Tassano is probably better known to most fans. We’ve worked together for 30 years. Simon is one of the best sound engineers in the business, who works incredibly hard to achieve a good sound in every seat in every venue. He is also a fantastic tour manager, dealing with flights, hotel check-in staff, interviews, and all those little things that need attending to. Simon does everything brilliantly, and is also the go-to person with the band’s Mac questions.

Russ Cole is our production manager and monitor mixer, responsible for getting the show up and running, and making sure everyone on stage can hear themselves, and hear everyone else, a thankless task, but we thank him anyway. Russ is a very experienced sound engineer and tour manager as well.

Edmon Daraedt is our lighting designer and merchandiser. These should be two jobs, but economy demands that one person does both. Edmond puts up backdrops and staging where possible, and lights the show, a very important element to the success of the evening. He also counts in and out all merchandise – most venues have their own sellers.

Leon Phillips is our bus driver, and don’t ask me how he does it. On this tour we had a lot of long overnight drives, and Leon handled them flawlessly. He also had to switch back and forth between day and night driving a lot, which is particularly tough. When you are slotted in your bunk trying to sleep, you need to know that the guy driving is going to get you there safely.

I was surprised by the gospel influences on Dream Attic, particularly on “Haul Me Up” and “A Brother Slips Away.” How did such an American (Southern, Christian) sound come into your music? I would have guessed that you’d have tried to avoid it as too far outside your own experience. (I love the backing vocals, by the way—so glad you have all those vocalists handy.)

I’ve always loved black southern gospel. If I had to be a Christian, I’d want to hang out with those guys. There’s a big Scottish influence on the whole southern Baptist scene, so I pick up on those things melodically, and I think that if I make it into ‘my’ music stylistically, I’m borrowing from but not immersing in.

Have you heard anything from members of the burner culture re “Burning Man”?

Not a squeak so far.

Whence the title “Dream Attic”? Did you know that it’s an anagram of “A Mitred Cat”?

I had a dream about an attic. The objects depicted on the cover were wrapped as you see. When unwrapped, the wrong objects were in the parcels. No freudian interpretations, please! I’m personally against cat-mitring, very cruel.

Would you consider collaborations with newer bands, like Ray Davies’ work with Mumford & Sons? If so, what sort of band would attract you?

I would consider such a thing, but I must be vague at this point.

Are you familiar with Dances of Universal Peace?