Friday, April 4, 2014

Dessa: The Appetite For Distraction Interview 4

 Somehow this is the 4th of these sets of questions that I have sent to Dessa and the 4th set that she has graciously answered for my rural little blog (you know, like if my blog was a city and visitors to the site were the population?). I've really tried to get some weird/interesting/insightful questions going so that it's not the same interview that you'd read everywhere else, and I think I've done an okay job at that this year.

Here are links to the previous Q&A's: 2011  2012 2013

1. One of my favorite songs from Parts of Speech is "Skeleton Key". Whenever I listen to it, I think of it in the context of the P.O.S-led No Kings track "Bolt Cutter". Both are about tools for gaining access to previously forbidden areas, but a skeleton key grants access and leaves no trace, while a bolt cutter is more destructive and forceful. Was "Bolt Cutter" lurking anywhere in your mind when you wrote "Skeleton Key"? Or am I just seeing patterns in the clouds?

I hadn't realized a connection before now, but, yes, I see the point you're making. The songs differ in tone, but I think the lyrics to both talk about bucking convention. 


2. I was so delighted and pleased to listen to your episode with Jason Ritter on Wits. I had never heard of the program before, but I was so interested to see the comedic acting side of you that we sometimes catch glimpses of in between songs at shows. What was it like to record?

Terrifying. I almost tried to squirm out of the gig. I'm a planner by nature which makes live, competitive, improve sound like a special, miniature hell. But in the end, the show was good, there was chocolate backstage, and we were triumphant.
3. You performed two cover songs on your Wits episode (Beastie Boys' "Fight For Your Right to Party (as part of an amazing sketch) and Paula Abdul's "Cold Hearted Snake" (my all-time favorite PA song. No lie.). In addition to that, you have a GORGEOUS cover of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm Going Down" on Parts of Speech. What is your process for picking covers to perform? What do you think makes a good cover? Is there any chance that "Cold Hearted Snake" will make it into your set for your next tour?(, he asked with fingers firmly crossed)

The Beasty [sic] Boys song was actually performed by Janey Winterbauer, she's a cast member on the show and is a super accomplished singer about town. (I am astounded to find this out. I guess I didn't even realize I was making an assumption!)  My dad is always encouraging to do more covers, but I've only tackled a few. A good cover is tough to pull off--they're cheesy, they're boring if they're too faithful to the original, and they're often overwrought if they're not faithful enough. I like covers that put the original song through a new filter, give it en emotional resonance that wasn't evident in the original recording. As of the Paula cover, no plans to make that one a regular part of our set, though I wouldn't be surprised if we played it again once or twice.

4. What is your Mom's favorite song on Parts of Speech?
That's a very sweet question. I don't know the answer for sure, but I think it might be "Annabelle" and I'm pretty sure it's not "Warsaw." 

5. You recently read The Omnivore's Dilemma as part of the #Lithop book club that you started. One of the sections of the book finds the author making a meal entirely out of local foods that he can grow, hunt, or scavenge. If you were to make a meal out of only things you could grow, hunt, or scavenge from your apartment, what would that meal consist of?

I'm going to presume that "scavenging" does not include hunting for lone peanut-butter M&Ms lost in the corners of my kitchen. I kept a plant for a while, hoping to grow red bell peppers, but the touring life doesn't suit the potted plant very well. I took him with me on a trip or two, but he died all the same. I think I'd be destined for a similar fate if I were to try and live on food I grew myself--not a hell of a lot survives in a one-bedroom apartment whose primary occupant is out-of-town for weeks at a time. I have, however, become a much better cook after reading Pollan's stuff. Most recently: mushroom farro. You cannot fuck with my mushroom farro.

6. What are the chances of Doomtree releasing a live album?

Zero. Our live show is an amazing thing to experience, but not very amazing to as isolated audio the next day.

7. If you were given 24 hours to explore (but not interact with) any part of the world, would you rather go 200 years into the past, or 200 years into the future? Where would you go?

Past. The future would freak me out too much, I think. Maybe Spain. 

8. Do you think Doomtree could have made as big an impact as it has if it had been started 20 years earlier, when the Internet and social media were vastly different, if they were available at all?

Tough to tell. If we were working 20 years ago, we wouldn't have the internet at our back. On the other hand, we'd be in an era where people still bought records. So we'd either be totally obscure and broke, or we'd be signed to a major and filthy rich.
9. There's a poem in your recent chapbook (A Pound of Steam) called "Kept Company" about a couple of imaginary friends. It's SO detailed and so mapped out. It feels like you wrote the rules that imaginary friends have to follow. Did you have any imaginary friends as a child?

I still have a lot of imagined conversations, some out loud, some in the privacy of my head. As a kid, I don't remember having a regular, imagined companion, but I think that I had a lot of one-sided conversations then too.

10. What's next for you in terms of touring. I know that you just came off, I think it was, 13 straight years of touring, but once you've rested, when's the next time you make Mountain earn his keep? Another solo tour? A Doomtree crew tour? A completely acceptable answer to this question is, "I don't know, man. Get off my case! Geeez"

The band and I are gearing up for some touring in April; we'll be hitting markets in the Midwest. Then (drumroll) I will be heading to Turkey in May to have my head expanded. After so much focus on my music and my career in 2013, I'm eager to spend some time learning about what other people in the rest of the world are doing--get out of my own shoes for a while. There is some very tentative talk of an autumn tour, but it's strung through with 'if's and 'maybe's. In the meantime, I'm doing a little bit of work in the classical field, I'm working on a new choral piece to be debuted in Minneapolis in October. 

Thanks, James. 

Thank YOU, Dessa, for your amazing answers. You are single-handedly making me feel like a real interviewer!

Until next year, I leave you with one of my favorite pictures of Dessa (from the Doomtree website):


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