KEYBOARDS? GETTING ARRESTED?
TOM BRISLIN OF SPIRALING TALKS TO ROCKWIRED
BY BRIAN LUSH
Throughout the history of
modern popular music, keyboardists have always been the most unassuming
musicians. They don’t quite have the swagger of a guitar player or the
Raucousness of a drummer. They just sit there, stroke the keys and sing
they can climb and mount
their pianos like JERRY LEE LEWIS or LITTLE RICHARD, dress like DONALD
ELTON JOHN did or they could be like TOM BRISLIN of SPIRALING who puts
at the bottom of his keyboard set.
is a four-piece
band out of New
consisting of MARTY O’KANE on guitar, BOB HART on bass, PAUL
WELLS on drums and musical prodigy BRISLIN on lead vocals and
sound (as evidenced in their 2002 LP TRANSMITTER and their 2004 EP
STAGE) combines four to the floor rock n roll with electronica
as well as classical flourishes.
interviewed this musical
prodigy TOM BRISLIN over the phone early one morning. Actually it was
the morning for me. I live in California
he in New
Brunswick New Jersey.
This is how the interview went.
did SPIRALING begin?
started when I was in
high school and I was writing all these songs and playing in as many
bands as I
could. Then I started this recording project called YOU WERE SPIRALING,
rotating cast of local musicians which eventually turned into a full
We played together for a few years and in 2002 we became SPIRALING
. This was right before we released TRANSMITTER.
All the press about SPIRALING
says you’re some kind of
prodigy. How does that happen? Was it nature or nurture?
I was definitely
family influenced. Everyone in my family is really musical and everyone
music in one form or another. Well, growing up we had a piano in the
I learned on that and started playing TV theme songs. And from there I
to studying piano.
You followed TRANSMITTER with
CHALLENGING STAGE any plans
for a new LP?
Yes, we’re in the process of
putting a new CD together. We’re still writing it.
SPIRALING is famous for rolling
keyboards. Has an
audience member ever been injured?
It’s just two
synthesizers on wheels. It’s
not like this big
giant monstrosity that I’m chasing the crowd with. Being the lead
/keyboardist presents its own set of challenges so I’d rather have my
on wheels rather than play a keytar.
happened to the keytar?
making a resurgence
but I think
it’s mostly irony.
kind of keyboards do
In the studio I
use vintage stuff like MOOG’s,
grand pianos, STEINWAY’s
and MELLOTRON’s. On
stage I use a more stripped down set up.
read that ROBERT MOOG
passed away recently. Any thoughts?
was actually an
acquaintance of his. It was a sad day and the band and I sent out our
wishes to his family. ROBERT MOOG just started making synthesizers
again and we
were one of the first artists who got to use the new equipment. I was
to have met him and I’m glad the he got the rights back for the name of
company and that he could make the instrument again. He created a whole
voice and because of that he’s just as influential as any singer or
Growing up, my
sisters used to
play a lot of seventies rock
and that was how I got exposed to people like KEITH EMERSON(EMERSON
LAKE & PALMER) and RICK WAKEMAN of YES. After that, I was
inspired by a lot
of the eighties bands like DURAN DURAN,
THE POLICE as
well as jazz keyboardists like HERBIE HANCOCK. So I guess you can say
influences are pretty wide ranging.
there any pressures
to being the only songwriter in the band?
Especially now that
we’ve started a new album but I guess that the challenge is of my own
having started the band and everything that goes along with that. But
songwriting process has become more democratic with time.
received your work?
happy with how
everything is going. I like putting the band in unusual situations like
for bands that people wouldn’t think that we’d open for. We played
once and that actually went over very well but of course I understand
we’ve got to be careful in situations like that. We’ve played at
shows and prog-rock
festivals and they’ve both
worked. It lets me know that we’re presenting something honest.
thing that’s ever happened to you on the road?
don’t know if
you can tell but we’re actually a very mild
mannered band. One time we were promoting a show for the CMJ Festival
got arrested for putting up posters.
York City doesn’t
allow it even though they are everywhere. Anyway, they brought us down
station and they put our flyers in an evidence bag and detained us in a
for a couple of hours where we were just looking at each other and
this really happening?” Ultimately all charges were dropped but we did
go to court to do so. So I guess you can say that we’re dedicated. In
the show went well and we had an amusing story to tell.
are your thoughts on
the music scene today?
are a lot of good
bands. Now, do they get their chance to be exposed to a wide audience?
know. I don’t have a lot of respect for the recording industry and what
choose to force feed us most of the time. Occasionally you do get a
that’s able to get public appeal that actually good. I’m a fan of guys
DEATHCAB FOR CUTIE and POSTAL SERVICE and there is one demographic of
who are all over it. Personally I’m a fan of a lot of bands on the
who are self funded.
sets SPIRALING apart
from other bands out there?
Good oral hygiene.
Every band has their own thing to say except for those more concerned
being famous. For us the music is the boss. Whatever comes out is what
to express. I don’t know if that sets us apart but it’s definitely
touring rough for a
band like SPIRALING?
especially if you tour
in a van like we do going coast to coast and back again. I was spoiled
first time I ever toured. It was with MEATLOAF’s
and I was his piano player for two years. Back then, it was all tour
flights and nice hotels and I was like “This is the life!” When I tour
SPIRALING on the other hand its living in a van and macaroni and cheese
all get along
we have a lot of fun. Proper nourishment and sleep are the challenges
music are you
listening to these days?
FOR CUTIE, TWELVE
RODS which was a band from Minneapolis who are sadly not around
DIPPER, THE STILLS, POSTAL SERVICE and FLAMING LIPS.
are those after-gig
Well we’re not
Just recently we played a festival with THE SMITHEREENS, THEY MIGHT BE
and JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS. That was a lot of fun watching
after our set.
What was it like for SPIRALING to
be touring with THEY
MIGHT BE GIANTS?
It was a lot of fun. That
was pretty pivotal because that was the first long term touring
ever done and the whole experience was constantly entertaining.
got you into
Before I could
really play I
used to draw album covers and make up song names. It’s just this whole
institution of rock records that had always fascinated me. So I guess
songwriting was always in the mix for me.
You’re the youngest in the
family. What do they think of
this whole SPIRALING experience?
there any songs that
you’re particularly proud of?
generally just happy
with the whole group. There are some songs that I prefer to do live in
situations. In bigger venues, I love doing songs like A FACE FOR RADIO
CONNECTION from TRANSMITTER. And in mellower situations, I
get a chance to do more of the
I’m particularly fond of the song
LIGHTNING TWICE (from
What would you like the audience
to walk away with after
I’d like for them to be
entertained. I can only hope that we’ve made some kind of emotional
hopefully they feel that they got more bang for their buck.
Any hints about the next
We’d just like to stretch
things a little more but who knows? Anything is possible in the studio.
MORE INFORMATION ON SPIRALING
VISIT THEIR WEBSITE AT