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ROCKWiRED iNTERViEWS JOHN ENGHAUSER

LOST iN THE SOUND
JOHN ENGHAUSER TALKS TO ROCKWiRED
ABOUT HiS LATEST CD LOST iN THE PAGES
WORKiNG WiTH JOERG STOEFFEL
AND TAKiNG LiSTENERS ON A JOURNEY
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iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH

For multi-instrumental singer-songwriter JOHN ENGHAUSER, the stars were in perfect alignment when he was in the studio recording what would become his latest release, LOST IN THE PAGES. Album number four marks a shift in ENGHAUSERís adult oriented pop sensibility which can be attributed to the songwriterís need to document a turbulent break up through song and the spot-on production of co-producer JOERG STOEFFEL. As a songwriter, ENGHAUSER canít be touched. LOST IN THE PAGES is a varied set of fourteen songs that are all beef and no carrots. The standout tracks include the acoustic funk of COGNITION INC., the wistful strum-a-long SO MANY PEOPLE, TOWER Ė an epic electronic ballad that recalls early GENESIS and the southern rock bravado of BURNING LADDER. Reaction to this fine collection of pop rock gems has been immediate and intense as ENGHAUSER has recently walked away with a LOS ANGELES MUSIC AWARD (LAMA) for BEST HOT A/C ALBUM. Picking a winner is a tricky thing in music but itís a safe bet that LOST IN THE PAGES will not be lost in the shuffle.

ROCKWIRED spoke with JOHN ENGHAUSER over the phone. Here is how it went.

Now that LOST IN THE PAGES is out there for people to hear and all of the work that has gone into making it is behind you, how do you feel about the finished work?
I feel very good about it. From a production stand point, I think this one is my best release. Iíve always enjoyed the music that Iíve put out but for the first time, I feel like the finished product is as closest to my original vision than any of my prior work. A lot of that just has to do with me having the time and the patience and know how to get it to that point. I worked with a good friend of mine - JOERG STOEFFEL - who is my sound engineer. We worked really well together and that helped out a lot. I can be quite a perfectionist so it was cool to bounce things off of him. Heís got a good radar with things. The songs kept adding up. I figured that I would have a ten-song CD but I ended up with fourteen. I couldnít stop writing and he loved every tune. Things just sort of aligned that way. It was at a time when I was going through a break up so lyrically, writing songs was like writing a diary. I think STING once said that your best work comes from your darkest times. So thatís how I feel about it.

So the break up was the catalyst for getting the songs out one after another, right?
The catalyst for me doing this album was one of the songs that I had written called ĎI VOWí. Itís a very bitter track. It was a Sunday morning and I wrote the tune from top to bottom with lyrics all on that morning in three or four hours. It usually never happens that way. Usually songwriting is like a work in progress. So when I got done, I got excited about it and I just knew that it was time to get back into the studio. I had that song and some others that I had been working on. I knew that it was going to be a very autonomous project. I was going to perform a vast majority of the instrumentation. That was how it all started. I would have to say that the break up merely accelerated the project.

So it was the accelerant.
Right! It wasnít the catalyst. It was the accelerant.

How did music begin for you?
It was always there for me. My parents were big music fans. They were constantly playing records when we were growing up and I would hear certain things and I would ask my mom to play a certain song again even though at the time, I didnít know what any of the song titles were. Weíd go on these long trips during the summer and we were always listening to music in the car. I started playing the trombone when I was in the sixth grade. That was the first instrument that I ever learned to play and I learned how to read bass clef. It wasnít until high school that there was a rock band that was looking for a lead vocalist for this high school variety show. I approached these guys and said ĎIíll sing for you!í and they looked at me and went ĎHuh? You sing?í I had never actually done it but I knew that I could. They gave me a microphone and we jammed out on some LED ZEPPELIN and they were like ĎOkay, cool!í I had always sung to myself in my room or under my breath and was scared to death of ever having to do it in front of people. That was the beginning of rock stardom (laughs) and it was all down hill from there.

Before recording as a solo artist was there a succession of bands?
Yeah. I started a cover band in college. We didnít really write. We did a lot of different arrangements and created little things with the band which was a lot of fun. I really didnít start writing until my early twenties. I was teaching myself piano and I was a really late bloomer on guitar. I taught myself an instrument because I needed a tool to get these musical ideas out. I wrote a couple of tunes and I got a guitarist and a drum machine and came up with a groove on a couple of tunes and went into the recording studio. I moved to the coast in my early twenties and that was when music really started. I joined this band called JAMAWOKEE which was this four piece funk band and they were the three best musicians that I had ever played with. We would just go into a room and rehearse and write a song from top to bottom at every rehearsal. The chemistry was amazing. Weíd go out and do these high energy shows. Weíd go out and do a gig and everyone was into it and the crowds got bigger and bigger. Things were really happening for us. That was how it all started. We lost our lead guitarist after a while and we could never bring back that magic that we had so I had decided to go ahead and do my own thing. I got tired of us being a four piece group and someone leaving the band and taking our songs with them. From there, I decided to just write all of the songs. I still enjoy the team aspect of a band. Iíve never had a big enough ego to think that itís all about me. I just want to make sure that the rest of the band is feeling it as much as I am.

Talk about the guys in the band on this album. Who are they and what do they bring to the table musically and personality-wise that makes it all work?
Thatís a cool question! No one has asked me that. I play the acoustic guitar and a lot of the electric guitar parts and bass and keyboards. The drummer is DICKI FLISZAR. He is an amazing artist and songwriter. He probably doesnít want anyone to know this but what happened was that we had another drummer come in to play the songs and he had worked on it for a while. I would send him all of the rough tracks that were done with MIDI drums and he came in and he wasnít quite getting what we were looking for. JOERG Ė the sound engineer Ė suggested DICKI. I had played once with DICKI and I knew that they were good friends. We got a hold of DICKI and he said that he would be there the next day after five oíclock. He literally listened to the tracks on his drive up from Venice up to the Valley which is probably about an hour and a half drive. He listened to all fourteen tracks and he sat down and I coached him through song by song and he just totally got it. He had such a great sense of musicality that he saw what I was going for and he nailed it. Here I was being this conductor and waving my fake wand as he was playing the drums. It was pretty goofy. When it came to a cymbal crash I had to pretend that I was crashing the cymbal with my imaginary stick. Whatever it takes to get it done! You would never know that that was the case when you hear him play. He is very remarkable. JOERG is such a good friend. I love what he brings to it. Heís got a real southern rock influence so he brings the balls the table that I need. I ask for a ballsy solo and he does it. The solo that he did, I helped him write it but eighty percent of it was him. That was the last solo on BURNING LADDER and it is just ingenious. I love listening to it. Itís so melodic. Guitar solos are a dime a dozen but this one is just Ďwowí! CHRISTIAN KAUFMAN did the final mix down on the album and heís from Boston. He did a lot of the hand percussion.

Earlier in the interview, you said that songwriting for you is like a work in progress. Elaborate a little more on the songwriting process.
It sort of never ends. Itís hard to tell where it starts. A lot of times, Iíll just be walking down the street or be in the car and by myself and an idea will pop into my head. I will make a voice recording of what that idea is depending on what sort of a tool I have. I donít always have an ipod on me with a microphone. Iíll literally call my voice mail and sing into it. Iíll later listen to those and go Ďwhat was I thinking?í and other times, Iíll be like ĎYeah, I can see where thatís going!í Then Iíll sit down and kind of work it out. Other times, Iíll just tinker on the guitar and do all of these open string things and listen to hat Iím doing. Everything is done by ear and I think that I come up with my best material that way. Music usually comes first. Itís kind of a scattered way of doing things. I donít know if there is a method to the madness. Usually the lyric comes later. Iíll sit down and write these stream of consciousness poems and Iíll use those as lyric and that can work really ell too.

From the album, hat songs resonate for you the most and why?
Thatís a tough one because I donít consider any of these songs a throw away on this album. But I would have to say the song SO MANY PEOPLE is a favorite of mine. Itís a fun one to do live. It really drives and itís got a heavy edge to it. The lyric is an ode to JACO PASTORIUS.

The late jazz bassist.
Yeah. I just wrote everything by ear and everything just worked. My favorite lyric would have to be COGNITION INCORPORATED. That is what the label is pushing as being the next single. Itís got that slow, fat, funky feel. The song I HOPE THESE WORDS FIND YOU is the most personal just because of what I as going through at the time. The lyrics came first on that one. The sounds change from song to song. I donít hold myself in a box. If something sounds good to me, Iím going to go with it. When you have so many influences, you donít know whatís going to come out.

How have people responded to the songs in a live situation?
The songs have been going over very well live. We havenít really played the ballads live. My experience with doing ballads live is that they donít translate well when you have this high energy room. When itís just me and another guitarist doing an acoustic thing, it can work. Overall, live shows have been going over really well. The packaged deal Ė from top to bottom Ė the songs have been flowing from one to the next quite well.

What would you like someone to come away with after theyíve heard this album?
Iím trying to put myself in their shoes and think about what made music so great for me. If I can get someone excited enough about it and in some ay shape or form it made them a happier person and made them forget about their bad day or took them somewhere, then that would be great. If itís someone ho is very musical and a songwriter, I hope it inspires them to try new things.