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John Doe: Punk rock pioneer with X, songwriter, poet, actor, solo artist, published author…folk musician.
“I guess Fables in a Foreign Land is my version of folk music,” he says of his forthcoming solo album out May 20, 2022 on Fat Possum Records. “It started by being sick of musicians that play too much and having to orchestrate or arrange songs. ‘What if it was just less?’ Everyone says less is more, but you have to figure out for yourself what that means. I didn’t do a deep dive into folk music and concern myself with what was ‘traditional,’ it was just an outgrowth of trying to strip the songs down to the basics.”
Thus, he describes the byproducts of a process that commenced when he called Willie Nelson bassist Kevin Smith on Tax Day 2020, one month into the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. Instead of “sitting on my ass,” as Smith gruffly replied when asked what he was up to, the duo began meeting on his Austin, Texas patio, eventually inviting local percussionist Conrad Choucroun to the sessions. The goal: To work up Doe’s story-songs of life in the “pre-Industrial Era.”
“All of these songs take place in the 1890s,” says Doe. “There’s a lot of sleeping on the ground, a lot of being hungry, a lot of isolation. All of that fits into the kind of isolation and lack of modern stimuli that I think people started rediscovering during the pandemic lockdown: realizing that as parts of your life start getting taken away, what’s important and what you live for becomes paramount.
“When it came time to record, I looked at a bunch of studios and decided on (Spoon drummer) Jim Eno’s, because of the high ceilings and mic selection and such. He knows his gear. He has an old style (of recording) without being too traditional. We just set up in a corner the way we would set up on Kevin’s patio. Dave Way (producer and engineer) put up loads of microphones, didn’t use headphones, and said, ‘Okay, bitches! This is for real!’ Because of the setup, we couldn’t re-do vocals or parts. We did edit between takes. It’s a bit like old jazz records, like a Rudy Van Gelder, Blue Note record.”
Three first singles culled from Fables In A Foreign Land – Never Coming Back, El Romance-O and Destroying Angels. Doe explains the story behind each. “’Never Coming Back’ starts the record for a reason. It embodies the spirit of what’s to come. This song begins a journey that will be without comfort, where you are running from something dark, that is approaching fast. You can’t go back because there’s nothing to go back to.” While “El Romance-0,” which features Los Lobos’ Louie Pérez adding his lyrics in Spanish, Doe explains “The subject of the song is so full of himself that he believes he can choose his own nickname. We all know, you can’t do that.” And then there’s the murder ballad “Destroying Angels” which features lyrics written by Shirley Manson of Garbage. “It’s an experiment that went very right. The term “death caps” is another term for poison mushrooms. Oh, and there’s more blood.”
Limited Ed. Whiskey Smoke LP
Fables In A Foreign Land
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