5:00PM (PST)




Throughout the history of modern popular music, keyboardists have always been the most unassuming of 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 into the microphone.

Or, they can climb and mount their pianos like JERRY LEE LEWIS or LITTLE RICHARD, dress like DONALD DUCK as ELTON JOHN did or they could be like TOM BRISLIN of SPIRALING who puts wheels at the bottom of his keyboard set.

SPIRALING is a four-piece band out of New Jersey consisting of MARTY O’KANE on guitar, BOB HART on bass, PAUL WELLS on drums and musical prodigy BRISLIN on lead vocals and keyboards. Their sound (as evidenced in their 2002 LP TRANSMITTER and their 2004 EP CHALLENGING STAGE) combines four to the floor rock n roll with electronica as well as classical flourishes.

I interviewed this musical prodigy TOM BRISLIN over the phone early one morning. Actually it was early in the morning for me. I live in California and he in New Brunswick New Jersey. This is how the interview went.

How did SPIRALING begin?
It 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, with a rotating cast of local musicians which eventually turned into a full live band. 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?
Yeah, I was definitely family influenced. Everyone in my family is really musical and everyone plays music in one form or another. Well, growing up we had a piano in the house and I learned on that and started playing TV theme songs. And from there I went on 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?
(Laughs) No. 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 singer /keyboardist presents its own set of challenges so I’d rather have my keyboards on wheels rather than play a keytar.

Whatever happened to the keytar?
It’s making a resurgence but I think it’s mostly irony.

What kind of keyboards do you play?
In the studio I prefer to use vintage stuff like MOOG’s, grand pianos, STEINWAY’s and MELLOTRON’s. On stage I use a more stripped down set up.

I read that ROBERT MOOG passed away recently. Any thoughts?
I was actually an acquaintance of his. It was a sad day and the band and I sent out our warmest 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 fortunate to have met him and I’m glad the he got the rights back for the name of his company and that he could make the instrument again. He created a whole new voice and because of that he’s just as influential as any singer or songwriter.

What keyboardists inspired you?
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 that my influences are pretty wide ranging.

Are there any pressures to being the only songwriter in the band?
Yes. Especially now that we’ve started a new album but I guess that the challenge is of my own design having started the band and everything that goes along with that. But the songwriting process has become more democratic with time.

How have audiences received your work?
I’m very happy with how everything is going. I like putting the band in unusual situations like opening for bands that people wouldn’t think that we’d open for. We played metal night once and that actually went over very well but of course I understand that we’ve got to be careful in situations like that. We’ve played at all-ages punk shows and prog-rock festivals and they’ve both worked. It lets me know that we’re presenting something honest.

What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you on the road?
I 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 and we got arrested for putting up posters.

Yeah. Apparently New York City doesn’t allow it even though they are everywhere. Anyway, they brought us down to the station and they put our flyers in an evidence bag and detained us in a cell for a couple of hours where we were just looking at each other and going “Is this really happening?” Ultimately all charges were dropped but we did have to go to court to do so. So I guess you can say that we’re dedicated. In the end, the show went well and we had an amusing story to tell.

What are your thoughts on the music scene today?
There are a lot of good bands. Now, do they get their chance to be exposed to a wide audience? I don’t know. I don’t have a lot of respect for the recording industry and what they choose to force feed us most of the time. Occasionally you do get a great band that’s able to get public appeal that actually good. I’m a fan of guys like DEATHCAB FOR CUTIE and POSTAL SERVICE and there is one demographic of people who are all over it. Personally I’m a fan of a lot of bands on the local level who are self funded.

What sets SPIRALING apart from other bands out there?
(Pause) Good oral hygiene. Every band has their own thing to say except for those more concerned with being famous. For us the music is the boss. Whatever comes out is what we have to express. I don’t know if that sets us apart but it’s definitely something we believe in.

Is touring rough for a band like SPIRALING?
Yes especially if you tour in a van like we do going coast to coast and back again. I was spoiled the first time I ever toured. It was with MEATLOAF’s band and I was his piano player for two years. Back then, it was all tour buses, flights and nice hotels and I was like “This is the life!” When I tour with SPIRALING on the other hand its living in a van and macaroni and cheese but we all get along  and we have a lot of fun. Proper nourishment and sleep are the challenges though.

What music are you listening to these days?
DEATHCAB FOR CUTIE, TWELVE RODS which was a band from Minneapolis who are sadly not around anymore, LITTLE DIPPER, THE STILLS, POSTAL SERVICE and FLAMING LIPS.

How are those after-gig parties?
Well we’re not MOTLEY CRUE. Just recently we played a festival with THE SMITHEREENS, THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS and JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS. That was a lot of fun watching these guys 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 SPIRALING had ever done and the whole experience was constantly entertaining.

What got you into songwriting?
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 that songwriting was always in the mix for me.

You’re the youngest in the family. What do they think of this whole SPIRALING experience?
They’re really supportive.

Are there any songs that you’re particularly proud of?
I’m generally just happy with the whole group. There are some songs that I prefer to do live in certain situations. In bigger venues, I love doing songs like A FACE FOR RADIO or CONNECTION from TRANSMITTER. And in mellower situations,  I get a chance to do more of the mellower material.

I’m particularly fond of the song LIGHTNING TWICE (from TRANSMITTER)

What would you like the audience to walk away with after seeing SPIRALING?
I’d like for them to be entertained. I can only hope that we’ve made some kind of emotional impact and hopefully they feel that they got more bang for their buck.

Any hints about the next CD?
We’d just like to stretch things a little more but who knows? Anything is possible in the studio.