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ROCKWiRED iNTERViEWS: ASA BREBNER

i'M NOT GONE
ASA BREBNER TALKS TO  ROCKWiRED
ABOUT HiS LATEST ALBUM SUENOS DE LOS MUERTOS
RETURNiNG TO MUSiC AFTER FOUR YEARS
AND THE ALLURE OF THE BOSTON MUSiC SCENE
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iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
Boston music veteran ASA BREBNER doesnít give a damn about setting the world on fire. All heís concerned with is getting the music out there. SUENOS DE LOS MUERTOS is BREBNERís first album in four years and to say that this eleven song catalog of love and loss is ďeagerly anticipatedĒ would be a bit of an understatement. More than a mere release SUENOS DE LOS MUERTOS signals the rock n roll troubadourís return to music after spending the past few years taking care of his ailing parents. Judging by the title, one would think that BREBNERís latest offering was all doom and gloom from man who once toured and recorded with the likes of JONATHAN RICHMAN AND THE MODERN LOVERS and ROBIN LANE AND THE CHARTBUSTERS. SUENOS DE LOS MUERTOS is in fact an unflinching and unsentimental examination of life, love and everything set to a sparse yet punchy rock backing provided largely by BREBNER and drummer KEVIN SHURTLEFF. With his distinctive howl, BREBNER surveys the tattered landscape of a life that is rock n roll on the tracks IíM NOT GONE and NAME DAMAGE. A nice Latin feel is conjured up on the song COME TO ME but things are truly electrifying on TRIED AND TRUE Ė a stunning duet between BREBNER and Boston vocalist ANDREA GILLIS.

ROCKWIRED spoke with ASA BREBNER over the phone. Here is how it went.

This is your first CD in four years.
Yeah, itís been a while. I was taking care of some elderly parents and kind of kept my focus on that for a while and kept playing in this one band that I play in called THE FAMILY JEWELS that does this sort of Do-Wop kind of stuff. The guys in that band are all quite good. We hardly ever had to rehearse. I kept doing that but I sort of kept the other stuff that I had been doing before on the back burner.

I actually first became aware of your work through THE BRAMBLE JAM.
Oh, no kidding?

Yeah, I interviewed them towards the end of last year.
Those guys are fun to work with. Iím glad that they got to make that CD.

It was definitely the first childrenís album that I ever covered and I have no children. Me neither. How I got involved with them is that I was taking care of my mother and my neighbors were semi-interested in music and we had this epiphany about writing - not necessarily childrenís music - but family music that wouldnít drive you crazy on a long car trip.

Your latest CD has an interesting title. Talk about it.
SUENOS DE LOS MUERTOS means DREAMS OF THE DEAD.. I sort of came up with the title when I was sitting on a barstool one day. Itís all about looking back on ones life and trying to imagine what people who have passed away Ė should they have a consciousness Ė be thinking of about their lives, kind of like that THORNTON WILDER play ĎOUR TOWNí. The narration by people who have passed away in a small town in that play was a sentiment that kind of informed the album. Itís about looking back on life from someone who no longer has it. Iím not religious and I donít really believe in an afterlife but you can use the idea of it to help form a feeling.

The due date for the CD is coming soon.
On February 13th, weíre going to be having a release party at THE PRECINCT. Itís pretty nice club. Iíll be playing with some friends that Iíve known for a long time in various bands. Weíll all be on the bill together.
Whatís all going through your head with regard to this forthcoming release? How do you feel about the album now that all the work that has gone into it is behind you?
This is probably the seventh album that Iíve put out and itís nice to be back and making music again but I wouldnít say that Iím anxious. Iíve been playing music for quite a while now without the ambition of trying to ďmake itĒ as a rock star. In my twenties, I was trying to do that, but at this point, itís become a habit. I canít live without it. Itís intertwined with the social fabric of your life as well. I live in a really nice city where there are a lot of clubs around that are walking distance from my house and thatís great. Itís sort of a microcosm and a macrocosm.

What drew you to music in the beginning?
Itís probably the most banal reason Ė to attract women. Everybody likes music except for certain people for whom it probably just sounds like noise to. I think everybody is emotionally drawn to it. Music seemed like a way to distinguish one self from the rest of humanity at the time when youíre in junior high school. It feels like a way to make your mark in the world and to have fun at the same time in an emotionally communicative way.

Explain the songwriting process. How does that work for you?
There are several different ways that it can work. I write some kind of emotional, cathartic, love-and-loss type songs and those usually come from some kind of base experience. Those are the songs that usually end up writing themselves in a really short time and just have to be tweaked here and there. Then there are the subject matter type songs that arenít quite as emotional but are probably a little more satire. There is a song on the record called ALLNIGHTUPTIGHTBAGBITEKOKAINEPAH which is a satire of a certain period Ė the late seventies and the early eighties. Cocaine was ubiquitous and record companies were handing it out to bands. On the one hand it was really stupid but at the same time, there is this dumb nostalgia for whatever was happening in your early twenties. You may have been coming of age when MOTLEY CRUE was on the radio and that was your BEATLES. It just happened to be the wallpaper of music was when you were coming of age. The drummer that plays with me is about fifteen years younger than me and MOTLEY CRUE was what was there when he first started opening his ears to what was on the radio. At the time, I dismissed their music but in retrospect, I look back at those bands that I used to hate and think they were actually pretty good. I came of age in the late sixties and early seventies and that was a time that was kind of an anomaly. I think a lot of the artists that were on the HIT PARADE or on the top ten were actually really serious and important artists like THE BEATLES, BOB DYLAN, JONI MITCHELL and THE ROLLING STONES. Iím not sure if thatís the same now Ė not to put down whatís going on right now. I know that there is tons of good stuff out there now. Itís almost weíve come full circle from the EISENHOWER era when we made these people like PAUL ANKA and now we have JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, BRITNEY SPEARS and LADY GAGA. Iím not saying those people donít have any talent. Iím not trying to put them down. Iím just saying that it seems like the sixties was this anomaly.

How did you approach recording this album?
The basic tracks were all recorded up in Northern New Hampshire while I was taking care of my mother who was dying. My friend KEVIN SHURTLEFF came up one weekend in the fall and it was just me on guitar and him on drums like THE WHITE STRIPES. We did all of the basics that way. I took the tracks to a friendís studio and I basically fleshed out the bass and second guitar parts. I had friends come in and do the back up singing. CHARLIE LEDGER plays harp on one the songs.

From the album, what songs resonate for you the most and why?
My favorite track on the record is COME BACK TO ME. Itís got a little bit of a Latin feel to it. I think that song is one of those romantic songs that I wrote in ten minutes. It  sort of tumbled out as a catharsis. Those are the kind of songs that happen the most for me. Itís a short song and itís pretty simple. Itís all about love and loss and longing. That is the one that ticks out to me the most. Iím also partial to TRIED AND TRUE because my friend ANDREA GILLIS sings on it. She is a big punk rock, R&B singer around here who I love dearly. Itís a song about rediscovering a lost lover or a forgotten friend.

From a distance, it looks like Boston has this interesting music scene. Would you talk about the scene that you are surrounded by.

Itís a big college town. I started playing when I was in my early twenties at THE RAT which was this famous place Ė itís gone now Ė it was a melting of people that were just beginning to make baby steps away from the corporate rock thing that was going on.  I thin that in many cities, punk rock became a reaction to a lot of the Corporate FM radio. BERKLEE SCHOOL OF MUSIC is here to there is a super jazz scene. The great thing about Boston is that all of these different styles of music co-exist and crossbreed. I know that Manhattan is bigger place and there are a lot more clubs but you donít know a lot of the people that would be your constituency. In Boston, everyone kind of knows each other, if not directly. It makes for an interesting social network. Itís big enough of a city to be a city but itís also small enough where you have this very interesting social scene. All different genres of music are able to rub elbows here.

I interviewed a band from Boston called LUSTRA a few years back and they had told me about something called the ďBoston CurseĒ.

That sounds like the RED SOX. I donít know what theyíre taking about. I think a lot of bands here end up being insulated in Boston and never break out into the national scene. I was in a band called ROBERT LANE AND THE CHARTBUSTERS back in the late-seventies and early-eighties. The band was big in New England and sold about sixty-thousand records and toured all over the United States in a Winnebago for months. We were never really able to break out of New England. That might be what they mean by the ĎBoston CurseĒ

That was what it meant.

Youíve got a few people whoíve gone national. Youíve got the MIGHTY, MIGHTY BOSSTONES, BOSTON, J. GIELS BAND and THE CARS. I guess you could say that itís kind of an insular thing. I donít really think about it. Iím not trying to go for the brass ring like I was when in my twenties. Making music is just what Iíve always done. Iím not trying to become matinee idol. More like a manatee idol. Itís still enjoyable to me. I love music. I donít know, this may be the last record that I put out. If the music comes to me, Iíll sit down and work on it and if I like it , Iíll record it. Thatís how the process works. This could be the last time that I write a record. I donít know.

What would you like someone to come away with after hearing SUENOS DE LOS MUERTOS?
Itís rock n roll. I hope it makes Ďem rock. Rock n roll is about sex, fun and living and I hope that some people get some inspiration from that. 


http://www.rockwired.com/brian.JPG BRiAN LUSH (FOUNDER, EDiTOR-iN-CHiEF)
BRIAN LUSH holds a BA in Creative Writing from  the UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO. He established ROCKWIRED on New Years of 2004 and hasnít looked back since. From January 2005 to March 2009, LUSH was the host of the weekly internet radio show ROCKWIRED LIVE. He produced the program for the AMERICAN RADIO NETWORK. As the editor-in-chief for ROCKWiRED MAGAZiNE, LUSH is hands-on when it comes to interviewing and building a lasting rapport with the artists that come ROCKWiREDís way. As a youngster, BRIAN LUSH had no idea what kind of seed was being planted by reading magazines such as HIT PARADE, HIGH TIMES, SPIN, REQUEST (remember that one?) and even ROLLING STONE (but to a significantly lesser degree). ďThose were the days before the internet and being a rock journalist looked like the coolest job imaginable.Ē says LUSH ďBut reading these magazines had me imagining that one day Iíd be the artist giving all of the clever answers to some poor guy with a tape recorder. Well, life has a way of surprising you. Now, Iím the poor guy with the tape recorder and asking all of the questions.Ē

CONTACT BRiAN LUSH AT:
djlush@rockwired.com