Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Interview: Dave Birk, Creator of Speed Queen Mystery Date, Airs Out His Dirty Laundry Pt1.

[This is part one of an interview with Dave Birk, singer-songwriter and creator of Speed Queen Mystery Date. You can read part two by going to Carolina Orange by clicking here.]

1) This being your first LP (or am I wrong?), it begs the question...what events led up to this point? What was the impetus for recording Speed Queen Mystery Date now?
I've been writing and recording for years - put out some demos, shared songs with family and friends, and helped others with their musical pursuits. A CD of my own was always 'in the making' -- but kinda like a cake with the oven temp set too low, I never moved it past the dream phase. And, as a songwriter, the next song is always your best so I never really felt I was arriving with a summary body of work that I would categorize as 'good enough.'
Then, in 2010 and early 2011, I had a few things converge that really prompted me to make this record. While producing an EP for an awesome local band, Circle of Heat, I took a look in the rear view mirror at all the bands, musicians and theatres that I had helped over the years with music production, songwriting and recording. Considering any one of those efforts didn't seem like a great feat, but considering the whole body of work affirmed my musical sensibilities and gave me a definite sense of accomplishment and credibility. Around that same time I got involved with a music experience called Rock Camp for Dads (rockcampfordads.com), that provides a month-long, guided experience for 'campers' to form a band with a performance at the end of the month. I was in two bands: Trunk Bunnies (vocals and bass) and Hotdish Suicide (vocals and drums), performing at venerable Minneapolis music venues - Bunkers, Famous Dave's Blues Club, and the Hard Rock Cafe. That really energized me, while at the same time found me performing cover songs rather than my own. Finally, my employer ended up downsizing, which resulted in my having one of those blessing-in-disguise moments that freed up a big chunk of time that I could dedicate to make this CD a reality. Having great support from my amazing wife, Jill, sealed the deal on working to make this all happen. Originally planned as a 4-song EP, the songs sounded so great and the process was so fun that I knew I had to pursue recording a full-length CD.

2) Is there a discipline to the way you write or does inspiration just show up unannounced?
Pat Pattison will tell you that inspiration is the distance between your (behind) and the seat upon which you do your songwriting - and I agree with that philosophy. Pushing myself to write new material to grow the EP to the full-length album really proved out how sitting down, focusing and working turns out stronger results. That said, most of my songs, at least the initial spark, spring from my heart from a lyric and melody that just pop out. Then I work and work them to build them out, trying to find the creative twists and turns and make them into whole songs. Lots and lots of ideas end up as fragments in files that may never see the light of day again, but some will hang around in my subconscious and help write themselves over time. Finally, for any aspiring songwriters out there, I will add that a lot of my ideas come from really seeing myself as a songwriter and constantly being engaged looking and listening for ideas, finding new ways to say things, trying to find more than one meaning in words and phrases. That feeds and tunes the creative engines so that the process flows rather than being a chore - certainly it is still difficult, but every song brings a unique challenge and opportunity to learn and grow.
3) How much of Speed Queen Mystery Date is autobiographical, if any at all (I'm thinking particularly of "Country Music", as song on the LP that I particularly relate to)?
All of my songs have varying levels of autobiographical connection, but it is hard to say how much in each song. Sometimes the sentiment is based on my life with the story is mostly disconnected. For example, the title of "Roller Coaster of Love, Hate and Tenderness" was how I described my wife's reaction to my motorcycle accident. Her last words before my ride were something like to be careful and I need you. Then I ride off and end up crashing the bike when I'm doing like sixty. So her first retraction is that she's glad I'm alive, followed by a serious scolding and eternal moratorium on motorcycles, followed by lots of gentle caring. The song, however, is about a boy/girl relationship, which I've ultimately decided is a metaphor of how life can takes through some extreme ups-and-downs and spins-us-arounds.
Then, there's Sleeping Beauty that I originally wrote as a poem for my wife, so that is 100% autobiographical. And I knew a Jody with red hair, green eyes and mysterious smile, walked with a little limp and was cool, but the rest of the song simply builds around that.
Funny thing is, my wife thinks that all my songs are about her - or at least worries that everyone who hears them will think they are about her, but they're not. Each song has its own life, regardless of how much of 'me' is in it.
4) You used Kickestarter to raise the necessary funds to record Speed Queen Mystery Date. How would you describe the experience and how were you able to record a great sounding LP on a shoestring budget? Did you use any unusual enticements to get folks to donate?
The entire Kickstarter experience was great and is the reason I was able to finance the making of a full-length CD. The encouragement I received from the backers was the greatest thing - having a bunch of friends and family cheering for you, believing in you, and being genuinely interested in what you will create. My personal mission statement is to create and encourage and support other artists, so that makes Kickstarter even that much cooler to me.
I never anticipated how much personal marketing I would still need to do to get the word out, remind people, and remind people some more. I felt bad about bugging people as I don't like begging or twisting arms, but at the same time I had already recorded 4 songs that I knew were really good and super fun to listen to and I wanted people to join in that journey with me. It was worth all the midnight emails.
The rewards for my kickstarter project focused on a laundry theme to connect with the premise of "Speed Queen Mystery Date" and also sought to showcase and support artist friends. The most creative thing I offered was the stray sock adoption program. You know how every time you do the wash you end up with at least one sock without a match, well, we save them in a box. So, with help from my daughters, my sister and my niece we turned them into sock puppets, complete with adoption certificates. It was great fun. I also gave CDs from the various bands the musicians play in and original art from artist friends of mine (abstract photos, hand-bound journals, and textile art).




You can find Dave and his fine CD, Speed Queen Mystery Date, at his BandCamp page HERE.
If that doesn't suit you for some reason, Try iTunes or Amazon.com.

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1 comment:

TC BrumUK said...

This is really great. Get Kurt Baker latest, play the two on repeat you will be rockin into Christmas.

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