Are Your Songs Rabbits? :: Wooden Wand Interviews Howe Gelb

Our Longshots series returns with two of the more prolific voices working in music today -- Wooden Wand's James Jackson Toth and Giant Sand's Howe Gelb; both of whom just saw album releases this year, Blood Oaths of the New Blues and Tucson, respectively. The artists, left to their own devices, below.

James Jackson Toth: So, with Tucson, you’ve created this very compelling narrative about this strange character that seems, to me, equal parts Don Quixote and The Gunslinger. Did the narrative give birth to the songs, or was the narrative written around the songs?

Howe Gelb: The liner notes were made up after the fact. Every album is a bit like a Rorschach blotch and we all kinda, in our mind, figure out what’s going on and what the songs are about. You know, like Ziggy Stardust, where there’s an obvious story there, even though there never was one. It was never offered up — your mind just sorta puts it together. Anyway, when we got all the songs done I just looked at ‘em all and thought — is there an order here? Do they tell any kind of a story? Kinda like reading tea leaves.

JJT: That’s kind of amazing, that you did it backwards, because, as far as concept albums or rock operas go, it’s a pretty cohesive story. More so than, say, Quadrophenia or something.

Howe Gelb: The way that my mind works, that made the most sense to me. I thought “Why presuppose in advance and set yourself up for all of that stress and potent failure?” But if you allow it to just happen by itself — which is what I try to do in most of these situations, let nature handle what nature handles best — then you can use your mind to see the pattern. The storyline was written in less than two hours, all that stuff, because…well, my daughter really wanted to go for a bike ride. So everything you just described, the whole Don Quixote / Gunslinger thing, that’s probably in your mind. That’s the part you’re playing in the whole thing.

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