TUNE IN TO
|ROCKWiRED iNTERViEWS XiREN
ROCK N ROLL REVENGE
XiREN TALKS TO ROCKWiRED
ABOUT HiS LATEST CD 'TRiP-R'
A CHAOTiC TOUR OF iNDiA AND THE STATES
AND GROWiNG FROM THE EXPERiENCE
iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
2005, XIREN was one of the first people I interviewed for ROCKWIRED and time
has certainly changed a lot of things. I no longer nervously cling to that
list of questions when interviewing people over the phone, and well, XIREN's
hair is considerably longer. If anything, I had him to thank for my now
cavalier attitude with regard to interviewing folks. Four years ago, XIREN
released the immaculately produced E.P. 'THERAPY FOR HEROES' issuing such
ENO-styled elegies such as 'INVISIBLE HERO' (at one time, a contender for a
placement on an abandoned SUPERMAN soundtrack) and the stunning 'I NEED
YOU TONIGHT'. Now, he is back with a full length L.P. 'TRIP-R' and this time,
XIREN truly get's his BONO on with top grade stadium rockers (the title track
and ‘BURN YOUR LOVE DOWN'), 'ZOOROPA'-styled pop tunes ( 'JESUS WAS AN
ALIEN' and 'SOMETHING MORE') and unavoidable singer-songwriter
sensitivity ('I'M HERE' and 'JUST LIKE RAIN'). One standout track -
'GRACE' - opens with a haunting vocal arrangement that will definitely have one
thinking they are listening to some lost QUEEN recording. In speaking with
XIREN again, the road to completing his latest opus was indeed rocky. Worked on
and recorded during a hellacious tour of India and during a U.S. tour that
ended abruptly following a tour bus accident, the resulting album, according to
XIREN, seems to have been molded by the experiences; as was he. "It's got
the retribution." says XIREN of 'TRIP-R' " It's got the retribution.
It's got the upset. It's got the complexity and then it turns around at the end
and becomes introspective, mellow and graceful. I put it together as a
“record”. People don't do records anymore. All they do is write a
bunch of songs - this was meant to be a record. It wasn't meant to be a concept
record but the songs have a sincere and coherent flow. People that are still
listening to records these days are really appreciating it and that's huge.
That is all I ever wanted."
You got back to the U.S. and there was an incident with the tour bus.
We had worked about seven to nine months on this U.S tour. We had a great booking agent down in Hollywood, Florida and we were organizing and working on sponsorship to make the tour, green. The day before the bus crash we had converted the bus to veggie diesel we were cut off in traffic causing a catastrophic accident losing or damaging much of our gear and causing a death. That pretty much stopped everything. But here is what I have to say about all of that. I don't feel victimized by any of it, if that makes sense. I feel like I grew up in a lot of ways and I'm very proud of how everyone in India - meaning all of the other bands that I was with - I was very proud about how myself and all of the other bands handled India. I'm proud how all of the band members on the bus handled all of that stuff. People were really gracious, graceful and thoughtful. On one hand, I'm not proud that someone was hurt but other than that, I really don't take back anything this year. I think it carved me out of wood a little differently and I had to grow up.
And you've got a great CD.
Thank you! I think I've got an excellent CD. I really do. I think it's the best CD that I've ever released as a full album, for sure. It's got all of that energy in it. It's got the retribution. It's got the upset. It's got the complexity and then it turns around at the end and becomes introspective, mellow and graceful. I put it together as a record. People don't do “records” anymore. All they do is write a bunch of songs - this was meant to be a record. It wasn't meant to be a concept record but the songs have a sincere and coherent flow. So yeah, I think people that are still listening to records these days are really appreciating it and that's huge. That is all I ever wanted.
Well you and BEN JANSEN have been music partners since the beginning. Describe the relationship.
I can almost picture that if he were on the phone, he would have a quip and compare us to something like BONNIE AND CLYDE or who knows what.
You'd have to be BONNIE because of the hair.
I am definitely BONNIE!
I don't have a good quip, but I would say it’s like I wield this giant blunt instrument; I sit there doing most of the work, the writing and the crafting then I bring him in for what the external world would see as the last couple percent in a lot of ways. In terms of hours, his participation on this record was probably in the range of less than ten percent, but here is the thing: He sharpens it. This blunt instrument that I wield, he absolutely refines and makes it plausible. It is so interesting because if I were to ever let you hear the evolution of the record, it is not a small thing that happens in the last ten percent of production, it's everything. It's the difference between having a really interesting concept and having a credible commercial record. I rest on BEN's genius in a lot of ways. I think he's a relatively untapped giant. He and I have really tried to refine our relationship in the same way that U2 and BRIAN ENO might work together to challenge each other. BEN is not that easily impressed and that is a fun thing to be around because he is one of those few people that doesn't think that everything I do smells like perfume. So, I really want to impress him in a weird way. I look up to him.
What songs stick out for you the most and why?
That's a great question? What sticks out the most for you?
'I'M HERE' is a good one.
Nice! So far, it has sold more copies than anything else I have done up to this point and I haven't even started any of the radio promotion or any of that stuff but the strange thing is that “industry experts” all chose different songs when I ask which song to start promoting as the single. When radio has called asking for “the single”, I have to ask what their format is. If it's AAA Rock then I give them the first couple of songs. If it's progressive or singer-songwriter stuff, I go towards the end of the record. If it's dance music then I go to the middle of the record for the pop stuff. It's really interesting because there’s been no consensus. There is very little overlap with peoples favorites. I've had a hard time choosing which ones are my favorite children.
That's funny! My parents did that easily all of the time.
Yeah, therapy is expensive! At different times, they've all been my favorite and I've got be honest. I enjoy all of them. This was one of the first where I started putting Valentine songs on the record.
I've been with the same woman for twelve years and every year I would write a song for her on Valentines Day. This March it will be twelve years and we just got married in Augustthe month after the bus crash. It wasn't in the cards for us to necessarily get married. We knew we'd be together forever and then we decided that we really wanted some of the benefits. Every year that we've been together on Valentines morning, I would wake up and write whatever there was in my head. I'd write it all down and have the song ready by lunchtime - recorded and everything. There are three or four songs on this record that are Valentines songs for her, so those songs are charged with a different energy for me than the rest of my stuff. There is something very authentic that happens when I sort of write from my heart once a year when I sit down and craft a song for her as if I was talking to her. JUST LIKE RAIN, INSANE and GRACE are the Valentine songs on the record. But of course 'JESUS WAS AN ALIEN', I wrote for my mother-in-law.
Is she an alien too?
Very likely but she certainly believes that JESUS was. There is a lot of personal content on this record. Not that there wasn't on previous releases, but this is me talking about my family, my love life and that kind of thing. Themes like that haven't quite permeated a record in the past like they have on this one.
I'm looking at the liner notes of the album and I had no idea that QUEEN's 'FLASH GORDON SOUNDTRACK' was your first album. It was one of mine too!
Was it really!
Yes! It was that and PAT BENATAR's 'CRIMES OF PASSION'.
I think you and I were raised on the same kind of music. That is a great example of my musical relationship with BEN JANSEN. There are those people in the world that absolutely get you and they see through anything. In addition to being musically empowering and a brilliant contributor, he is one of those people that truly get me and when we were working on 'JESUS WAS AN ALIEN', I wanted this thing to happen to where the song would be played sort of like 'duh/duh/duh/duh/duh/duh/duh', and that was when BEN sang ”FLASH!/AH-AHHHHH!” Which then caused me to mention that the FLASH GORDON SOUNDTRACK was my first album and he confidently said 'Dude! I totally understand you musically!' All of my records have this epic quality and these massive vocal overdubs and I could never pin it down as to where it came from. It wasn't like some modern U2 or STING influence. In one second, BEN saw it all. I think we laughed about it for a good half hour. So there is a little anecdote for you.
Were there any songs on this album that were challenging in any way?
There were songs that had an awkward birth. Some of them had a wide birth and they just came right out. For 'JESUS WAS AN ALIEN', I went in a lot of different directions. It started as an acoustic song that I did on a Christmas record for my family a few years ago and it went through the mill a little bit before it arrived to the place where it is now. 'BURN YOUR LOVE DOWN' was definitely a painful birth, but the king of horrible birthing was 'BIG ENOUGH'. I've got about six different production directions for that song. That song could not find its voice. Again, it was a song that started on either acoustic guitar or piano with very simple melodies and in production, there were so many different versions of it made. 'BIG ENOUGH' was a struggle. That one did not want to happen, but when they are done, they sound done. The only other song that was this hard to produce from my catalog was 'BUTTERFLIES' from the album 'POLITE CONVERSATION'. That was the one that was in the VOLKSWAGEN commercial.
Talk about the hair?
Yes. Not mine, yours.
It's like the CHIA hair.
It's the ultimate hair! You're my only friend that is truly a rock god!
You can tell what order my albums are in by the length of my hair. In 2000, it was short and spiky and then in 'POLITE CONVERSATION' it was a bit longer. So I guess you could say that my hair is for cataloging purposes. The Dewey decimal system is waaay outdated.
What do you want a person to come away with after they've heard this album?
I've always wanted to affect a person the way I have been affected by music which is to say that if it changes the temperature of the room one way or another, that is cool. If it causes someone to feel inspired, that's great too! I know artists who work in other mediums who say they love working to my music. I really think there is a group of people that are being left behind by popular music and no one has the time to go out and discover all of these internet radio stations that play new bands while most of the major labels are making everybody sound exactly like everyone else on their label. When BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN inducted U2 into the HALL OF FAME, he said something really great. He said that this was the last band that he would ever know all of the names of the members. If you turn on rock radio, all of the bands might as well be the same. There is a similar production quality and a similar guitar tone and a similar style. It is so compressed these days and I don't get a sense that any of them really has a lasting quality. It appears that they had a really great hit and hopefully they will have a second record that will follow it up but the record company was never counting on a long term future. They’re counting on one hit. I want to create a personality and let someone feel like they're getting real music; the same stuff you grew up on. It's the same stuff that I grew up on. It's this music that has guts and soul and depth and inertia…
Spandex. Exactly. Just for you BRIAN!