MWE3 Feature Story
written and conducted by Geoff Grogan for 
mwe3.com  


 

Continued From Home Page


SOUNDTRACK—The Dwight Twilley Interview

Dwight Twilley exploded on the rock scene in 1975 with his very first record, the ultra-catchy top-40 pop-rocker, “I’m On Fire”. If this were a just world, today he’d be as well known as his former label-mate, Tom Petty. But an improbable (some would say unbelievable) series of circumstances derailed what seemed like his inevitable climb to stardom, and despite another huge hit with “Girls” in 1984, by the 1990’s, Dwight Twilley was without a record label. Left to himself and back in his home town of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Twilley built his own recording studio, Big Oak Studios, and gradually rebuilt his career. Together with his wife, Jan, and his guitarist of over 30 years, Bill Pitcock IV, he has released one great album after another over the course of the last 10 years or so, culminating in his newestthe autobiographical album Soundtrack. Inspired by a documentary proposal about his life, Soundtrack chronicles the ups and downs of Twilley’s life and career with disarming directness; touching on his successes, failures and most poignantly, the recent loss of some of his closest friends, including sadly, Bill Pitcock IV.

Dwight Twilley Interview:
Friday, November 18, 2011 @ 5PM EST.
The interview lasted about 75 minutes.
Interviewer: Geoff Grogan (mwe3)
Dwight Twilley (DT)


{Geoff Grogan talked with Dwight Twilley by phone on the afternoon of November 18th 2011 for this exclusive mwe3.com interview- editor}


mwe3: Congratulations on the new record! Are you pleased with the response so far?

DT: Yeah…we’re very proud of the record and we’re excited about the response to it. It’s a different kind of record than I’ve ever made before.

mwe3: In what way is it as a different record?

DT: It was the first time I ever really focused on creating something that was absolutely one hundred percent autobiographical.

mwe3: You’ve never been identified as an autobiographical songwriter. There are hints of it once in awhile in your music through the years, but most of the time a listener wouldn’t get the feeling that you were writing from an autobiographical place.

DT: When you’re a songwriter, even when you try not to be autobiographical, you are, in some microdot anyway, whether you like it or not. In the case of this record, I was actually focused on it because of this documentary film that was being proposed and in production, and y’know just started thinking about kind of capsulizing the craziness that’s surrounded my life, and different people and events and even the thing that was really...strange isn’t the word for it. I don’t know what the word is for it. Sometimes moving about the whole thing was... Right at the time that I was actually trying to capture the events and people and things that happened to me, things were actually happening during the time I was making this record.

mwe3: Are you referring to the passing of Bill Pitcock?

DT: Yeah, in particular, yeah... Because he’d been such a huge part of my music and my records throughout the years and in fact, in the last ten years or so, it became just a really tight relationship between us. Most of the records we’ve released from here—Green Blimp, 47 Moons, the Christmas album, all those records, Tulsa... Most of them we’re really just...ninety percent of them were just myself, Bill Pitcock IV and my wife engineering with a couple of guests coming in and out of the studio. But it was just a real tight collaboration.

mwe3: Would you say that you’d become closer to Bill in these later years rather than early on?

DT: Probably so. At least it sure felt that way. It kind of forces you to stop and take a look at yourself when something like that happens. Y’know, and realize how blessed you are to have the different people who do walk in and out of your life, for good and for bad.

mwe3: Sure...and then this is a record that is about that, right?

DT: It really is. And an interesting thing too, that I’ve found since it’s been out and the reaction from press and the fans, something that I’m beginning to hear a lot, said in different ways is that the whole time that my major goal while doing this was to basically write my own story. So many people in so many different ways have said back to me: ”no, not really...you’re writing our story”.

mwe3: It’s amazing that you say that because that’s exactly my feeling.

DT: It certainly wasn’t intentional.

mwe3: Right, because you’re writing about yourself.

DT: Yeah...

mwe3: And who would think when you are writing about yourself that you’re actually writing the life story of your audience?

DT: Yeah, it’s very interesting. It’s kind of satisfying.

mwe3: So the relationship with Bill in the studio; the two of you must have gotten to a point where you didn’t have to speak, where you knew what he was going to do here, he knew what you wanted on a particular record. Was that the case?

DT: Yeah, absolutely. There were just so many things that we didn’t really have to talk about. And he was just so used to me going, “Bill just do one of those “dadada” things”, or “Bill play “TV” backwards” or “...remember the thing we did on this? Do it like that but change it to this”and, “...like that, but make it smaller here and bigger there, and don’t come in so fast, and change that for a minute...” And my wife, as I said, had been engineering these records, and it took her awhile to get used to it, and then she’d end up having to explain to other people the way that we worked, and, she would end up just saying “it’s ok, Bill speaks Twilley.”
(laughs)

mwe3: (laughing) that’s great! I’m sure after all these years he must’ve spoken it fluently too.

DT: yeah.

mwe3: Was he able to see this album all the way through to the end?

DT: No, he wasn’t. And you can kind of hear that, because there were just certain occasions where, even before he’d passed, when he started becoming more and more ill over a period of a few months, which got more and more serious as we went along. Just worrisome at first and then it got more and more serious. There were more occasions where, for instance on the song “Tulsa Town”. Normally I would have Bill come in and play the lead break. And uh, while all my career I’ve always been in the background playing the harmonica on this and that, on almost every record...I’ve never actually taken the lead break on the harmonica. And so, on this occasion Bill’s not feeling well, so why not, just for the helluva it, why don’t I try the lead break on “Tulsa Town” on the harmonica? Things like that, where slowly his health was failing more than we thought it was and we were just trying to cut him some slack and not work him hard. So there were things that I did, where I probably would have called on him more...

mwe3: I just listened to that today and I noticed the harmonica break. You carried it off, it fits the song and adds a whole lot of atmosphere to it.

DT: Thank you.

mwe3: Are you going to tour behind the new record?

DT: We’re going to try. We planned on it after Green Blimp was the idea...that’s a lot of recording. And then this whole thing came up about this documentary film and we went right back in the studio and started working on this and we actually...the idea was to get it done fast. And we literally released it exactly one day before the anniversary of the release of Green Blimp. It’s been a significant amount of work over the last couple of years.

mwe3: I was going to say that, it’s been a very active time for you.

DT: We released Green Blimp October 5th 2010 and we released Soundtrack on October 4th this year.

mwe3: And so Soundtrack, was it written and recorded in the period immediately following Green Blimp and just before its release?

DT: Yes.

mwe3: The whole thing?

DT: Yeah.

mwe3: All of the songs are new?

DT: Yeah, for this album, I was gonna...think there was one. I don’t have the songs in front of me. I believe every song on this was a brand new song.

mwe3: Yeah, you’re legendary for having thousands of songs laying around.

DT: Yeah. I usually like to dig up one old one and put it on. I don’t believe this album has one of those...for the first time.

mwe3: That brings up a question about the film. What stage is the film at right now? Is it in production? Have you seen a rough cut?

DT: No, we haven’t. We’ve only seen little clips, and we did the video (“My Life”). You can see it on our website, dwighttwilley.com Better to see it there, rather than on Youtube or something, because it’s a lot higher quality.

mwe3: It’s a great video with all of that old footage of you and Phil Seymour, playing on American Bandstand, with Dick Clark in the audience. I think I saw those shows when they were first running! Do you have a lot of old footage laying around?

DT: Yeah, we do have a lot of footage. And as far as the film...from what we understand these things can take two or three years, so we don’t really have any control over that. We’re not involved in the production of it. They came to us to have me sign off on telling my story. And just being available for interviews and making my photo and video archives available to them. And during that time we saw their initial proposal and in their plan they wanted to hire someone to write and record music that sounded like Dwight Twilley.

mwe3: (laughing) uh...Why not hire Dwight Twilley?

DT: That’s kind of what we thought,“now, wait a minute here.”(laughing) And I always kind of wanted to write like a soundtrack or just write music for a film, it seemed like an interesting challenge. And so we just went right to work on that, and thought from day one, our plan was we weren’t going to hold our record back until the film was done. When it was done we were gonna put it out, and in the event that the film actually appears we would reissue the album and maybe add a track or two. I wish I could tell you what the exact status is of the production, but I don’t really know where.

mwe3: Whether it ever actually appears or not, it was the spur to making a great record.

DT: Yeah, it did do that and it was really interesting because at the time we felt we did such a good job on Green Blimp, and that it was a very strong record and we were scratching our heads about “how can we possibly top that?” And it was really only about half way through the recording of Soundtrack that we started going “I think we’re taking care of business here”.

mwe3: I think it's one the best records of your career. And at this point I like it as much or maybe more than Sincerely, which is still my all-time favorite Dwight Twilley record.

DT: That makes me feel good...that’s what we’ve been trying to achieve.

mwe3: There’s a depth to the writing that I have to say comes with age, and that comes through. And the songs, well, I have a couple of questions about the songs. We’re talking about the film...were the songs written about specific memories? Or did you have specific people in mind?

DT: Yeah, in many cases, and events. In other words I’d sit and go "I should cover this area. I know this time in my life had a big effect on me”. For instance, the story behind “Bus Ticket”... that was a really an important part of my life, getting started out in that time in music. Y’know, my partner, Phil Seymour and I were just like so many kids who...like we knew that the Beatles invented rock and roll and Elvis was just a guy in movies (laughs). It was a very strange and lucky set of circumstances. Since we couldn’t afford to drive all the way to Los Angeles or New York that we literally went...well the only place we knew. 'Cause we wanted somebody to take our little cassette tape to, someone who had a real record company and somebody to hear it. And it was only for that reason that...we’d heard there were record companies in Memphis. We’d heard that and we just, literally, like naïve little kids, just drove to Memphis and drove down the street looking for a record company. (laughing)

mwe3: And you ended up in Sun Studios?

DT: We just drove until we found one... To find one, to just go in and play it for somebody and sure enough we found something that looked really like a record company, had some kind of recording studio, we walked in and played our tape for some guy named Phillips.

mwe3: Sam Phillips...

DT: He liked the tape and he hooked us up to an early Sun recording artist named Ray Harris, and sent us to, of all places, Tupelo, Mississippi to record. We got an education that I think changed everything that we did. One of the first things that he said was “y’all sing like pussies!”, and we did. And he looked at me and listened to my songs and went “y’know , Dwight, he’s a talented boy but spacey. He needs some ‘taters under his belt”, and he was right.

mwe3: To get some blues in there...

DT: Well, y’know, the roots of rock 'n' roll. And there were a lot of bands during that time period that were just trying so hard to be The Beatles and they were missing the whole beginning of rock 'n' roll and the importance that it played in everything, going back to rockabilly. And almost every record that I’ve ever made there’s some rockabilly influenced song on the record.

mwe3: Going back to “TV” and “Betsy Sue”.

DT: Right up to “Bus Ticket” today. And so that’s a really important period in my life and I think it really set our group aside from other groups at that time in history.

mwe3: Yeah, there were a lot of power pop bands in the 70’s. There’s Badfinger and the Raspberries, and all those guys. And very few of them...well, I’m trying to think of one from that early seventies period who dealt with rockabilly the way you did and nobody’s coming to mind. I think it was Dwight Twilley who brought that to bear.

DT: (laughing) Yeah, that guy...

mwe3: That sound also infused your single “I’m On Fire”. There’s a rootsy sound to it, there's a great gutsy sound to that song that is more than just “A Hard Day’s Night" era Beatles stuff.

DT: I don’t think people at the time particularly noticed that. Even ourselves... You couldn’t quite put your finger on what was different. But the thing was, after working down there...’cause we came down there with our pretty voices, our pretty little songs and we worked with him for a couple of years in Tupelo and came back to Tulsa and when we got back to Tulsa we didn’t sing like pussies anymore.

mwe3: Tupelo was like your Hamburg in a way.

DT: (laughs) In a way, yeah.

mwe3: So you got into Elvis. Were there other rockabilly artists that turned you on?

DT: Oh yeah, all the classic artists, all the Chuck Berry’s, Everly Brothers, Little Richard and all the great classic rock and roll artists.

mwe3: Right. I can hear The Everly Brothers in your sound even today.

DT: mm hmm...

mwe3: “Bus Ticket” seems to have a whole host of characters that run through that song. (Dwight laughs) Are those real people that you’re talking about in the song?

DT: Obviously, I’m mentioning Ray Harris, the producer in Tupelo and Philly Warren of course is Phil Seymour...

mwe3: That’s a really upbeat song. It’s not nostalgic in a wistful way, but more looking back and realizing how much fun you had.

DT: Yeah, it was a really exciting time for two little kids. We were ready to rock, y’know? Where else could baby rock and rollers go?

mwe3: Your voice has a grit to it that puts that song across well.

DT: Well, my marker for what a good singer is, is not how good his voice is, it’s how many voices he has. That’s what I’ve always tried to work on.

mwe3: And there’s a range of vocal stylings all over this album. In the studio, are all the voices you? And Susan Cowsill ?

DT: Yeah, with the exception of Susan coming in to doing some guest vocals... which is always a gas to have Susan come in.

mwe3: So all of the harmony vocals, etc. those are all you...

DT: mm hmm. They have been for the last ten years or so. But Susan came in and, for example, during some of the many funerals that we had over this past year...Susan came in for one and she was listening to some of the early work on Soundtrack, and she knew that a lot of the songs were about people that she knew. And, while she was here she said “well, where’s my song?” (laughs) The next time she returned to Tulsa I had a new song “The Cards Will Fall” ready for her to sing on... So there!

mwe3: Was it difficult emotionally, with all this that was happening around the record, the passing of Bill...and you lost another friend, Jerry Naifeh. (pronounced “Nay-fee”)

DT: Jerry Naifeh, yeah. He goes back as far as...he played drums on “TV”. The only drummer that Phil Seymour ever allowed to play on a Dwight Twilley Band record. He worked with me for many years and we toured for many years.

mwe3: The double blow of those losses, must have made it hard to continue to work on the record. Or did you feel that it had to be made then?

DT: Yeah, probably even more so. And my wife lost her mother...and my mother had recently passed as well.

mwe3: I can’t imagine losing so many people in such a short period of time. But you survived and you put your energy into your art. I don’t find the record mournful but, perhaps it is an act of mourning.

DT: Yeah. I don’t know about that. I’m probably too close to it to know. I think more like...in a lot of people’s case it was just important to...for instance, to make a record that Bill Pitcock IV would be proud of.

mwe3: There are a few other things that strike me about the record. One is how brutally honest it is. It can be really be disarming in its directness. For example, in the song, “God Didn’t Do It”, you come right out and say “God didn’t kill your record career, God didn’t make your fame disappear”. That is such a straightforward, brutal self-assessment. Was it hard for you to put that out there?

DT: Not really. Because I hear that from time to time...and just because it’s my life and what happened to me. And that’s probably another reason why people are saying that I’m telling their story. Because...God gets blamed for stuff like that. And I’m always hearing people going “I can’t believe all the things that happened to you...how could you possibly...y’know right after the release of “I’m On Fire” how could your record company fall apart and disappear? “

And just events like that, over and over . “You make a comeback, you release this huge album, Jungle with a big hit single “Girls” and you get ready to release your next big follow-up album and the head of your record company is (begins to laugh) on the CBS/NBC Evening news with FBI footage of him having a meeting with the Gambino family, and that leads to this huge payola scandal that destroys that record. How could these things happen?“

And people...through the years…people will say stuff like that, like “I can’t believe God would do that.” And, y’know, what I’m basically saying is; we all just do it to each other. Even in life, all these religions that fight against each other, they blame each other, they think it’s important to go kill innocent people. And y’know, in the name of God! And I just don’t believe God intends you to go out and kill innocent children. All that God supplies in this world are the good things, y’know, the things for us to cherish. All of the events that we think of as negative are of our own doing.

And sometimes, when you think it’s negative, it isn’t always as negative as you first think. Having the super-success that you always wanted and dreamed of doesn’t necessarily make you a better person, and actually might not really make you as good an artist as you ever could become. Because you don’t have that drive to communicate that you would once you get kind of lazy and fat.

mwe3: You’re not lazy that’s for sure. Are you a religious person?

DT: Not of any particular faith.

mwe3: Because God comes up in a couple of songs. The interesting thing about “God didn’t Do It”, you seem to be referring to yourself, but you’re also referring to people who don’t take responsibility for their own lives.

DT: Yeah, anytime you use the word “God” it gets people emotional. But it’s been the same through history. People have blamed the things that are bad on “God”. And I just don’t see it that way.

mwe3: The riff to that song is so powerful. Was that a riff that was written specifically for that song or was it just laying around? Had you written the song and then found a riff to fit it?

DT: That’s just a case of Billy speaking Twilley.

mwe3: Ok so you had the song and Bill just went wild on it.

DT: Bill and I always worked together on those things. The riffs on “I’m On Fire”, the riffs on “Girls”, thing like that...y’know, he was just good at picking up on me going “dadada”(sings the riff to “Girls”) and between the two of us there it’d be...

mwe3: There was a synergy there that came from working together so long.

DT: Yeah.

mwe3: The album opens with “You Close Your Eyes”. What inspired that song and how did that come to be the opening number?

DT: That was one of the last ones we did. The truth is, I was trying to touch on all of the things that had affected me, had an impact on my life, and I thought, well one thing I should include on this record is that experience that so many people don’t have...that is so strange. When you start, you’re a little guy, you’re working on music, you’re excited about your music and without even thinking about it...just like overnight you have all women at your disposal. Which was really a bad aspect of being a young teenage kid, and all of a sudden having all of these female opportunities...

mwe3: You were a rock star!

DT: And I thought that would be an interesting thing to write. And I actually had the lyrics down, and I thought that was kind of an interesting perspective that a lot of people hadn’t covered, but was true. And I was starting to work on that...and when I came home from Jerry Naifeh’s funeral, and Bill was sick at Jerry’s funeral, suddenly I just didn’t feel like writing that anymore. So I didn’t write that song and instead I wrote “You Close Your Eyes”.

mwe3: Which, in that context, makes that phrase even more meaningful. Referring to the passing of life, as well as looking inside. It sounds to me that you use that line to suggest a number of things; self-examination but also, hiding.

DT: And (laughing)...it’s making your dogs really happy! (Geoff's dogs are barking to the sound of Dwight’s voice on speaker phone)

mwe3: You’re a dog lover, right?

DT: Yup, I’ve got a big ‘un. And if you noticed, the record was dedicated to Sparky. (Dwight’s dog)

mwe3: Yeah, I’m looking at Sparky’s picture on the album cover right now.

DT: Sparky and Bill Pitcock would come in every night, and Bill even had his own plug in the studio. He had his place where he sat down, and he had his own plug that we built, covered and put down by the floor, that no one could even see and no one but Bill Pitcock used that plug, and hasn’t since. But the first thing Bill would do is take off his coat, and set it on the bench, where he sat. And Sparky would come sit next to Bill, and then we would work all night. So Sparky played a big role in the recordings through the years.

mwe3: How old was Sparky when he passed?

DT: Sparky was old...he was up there. He adopted us.

mwe3: He was a stray?

DT: Yeah. He was around for a good while.

mwe3: Who’s the “Skeleton Man”?

DT: Oh, I’m the "Skeleton Man". That’s my second favorite track on the album.

mwe3: What do you love about that track?

DT: Well, number one that I wrote the song called “Skeleton Man”. (laughs) As a songwriter, just the idea that, when my day is over, people looking back at me...at least somebody, someway, someday will say “yeah, you know what though? He wrote “Skeleton Man.” (laughing). And I just like the visual of it. And the image is so great ...for me. And the song is just really about, regardless of whether you try to or you do it on purpose, as you go through life, it’s another part of my life, but I guess it’s part of everybody’s life. Y’know, if you don’t admit it, you’re just lying to yourself...and the reality is, as you go through life, you hurt people. That’s what the "Skeleton Man" is, he’s the one that stole your heart. And, he’s “under your yard” (laughing), which is my favorite line. It's just the reality, that you look back and think of important people. Y’know, when you’re in my position and you’re writing a record like this, you’re thinking about important people in your life and you can’t help but if you have any honesty at all, help but think ”oh boy, I sure wish I hadn’t hurt that person. I didn’t mean to, but I did.” That’s what “Skeleton Man” is about. My second favorite.

mwe3: What’s your first favorite?

DT: The title song.

mwe3: Tell me about that song. It seems very different than many of the other tracks, musically and lyrically…it’s very intriguing.

DT: Well, it comes from the same place in that my biggest function and biggest talent in life, and the most important thing to me is being a songwriter. And so, once again, the thing I’m mostly proud about that record and the song is that, I knew that “Ok, I’m writing a soundtrack” and then I thought to myself, or that little songwriter voice inside me said: “now wait a minute here. There’s been hundreds and hundreds of people that have written soundtracks. Has anyone ever written a song, “Soundtrack”? And so once again, I’m kind of taking my little claim to fame and going “yeah, you may have written a soundtrack, but I wrote a “Soundtrack”(laughing). And the other thing about it is immediately when I started to work on it, my plan was as a producer, was to design the record, to make it sound like it was a film. So I tried to make it sound visually like it was changing from scene to scene. It was coherent, but at the same time it was almost on the edge of psychedelic in that it was like changing colors from time to time and environments and subtle sound effects. So that it was building up to something, but while I was at it, it was like a motion picture. It had a beginning, y’know the bass doesn’t come in for almost a minute, I believe, in the song. And also too, that it was the last song that Bill played on. He played the bass on it and it was such an incredibly “hooky” bass part. It wasn’t completed in the way, with all of the secret things that we normally do when we recorded a bass, but it was so good that we decided to just leave it as is and forget the idea of having anybody even dream of trying to play it!

mwe3: Well, I’m not going to ask what those secret things are that you use to record the bass, (Dwight’s laughing) you have to keep some of your secrets.

DT: Yeah, we have a few at Big Oak Studio.

mwe3: It’s interesting that you think visually about that song and about the record. You’re an artist. You draw and paint.

DT: mm hmm.

mwe3: 47 Moons, you did artwork on that. So you’re thinking visually in terms of film and you’re thinking of narrative in the record, but you don’t see it as a chronological narrative, is it that right?

DT: No, I certainly didn’t. I just tried to pick out people and places that played an important role in my story. An example of that, like you were saying, I have done a lot of graphic art in my life and a lot of times I’d be in the studio and I’d be working on, say, “I’m On Fire” and I’d just do a little a drawing for “I’m On Fire” which exists in the world. And a number of songs, that people have seen, through the years and a just a little drawing that goes with the song. So, I thought about that when I was working on this album. And I have a published piece of art that’s out and pretty well-known, it’s called “Out In The Rain”. And it’s a drawing, it’s available through “Image Makers Art”, (imagemakersart.com) and it’s a high quality lithograph of a watercolor piece that I did of a dog holding an umbrella, and the cat, kinda in the dog’s protection, watching a stop light getting ready to change...in the rain.

mwe3: There’s a little thumbnail of it on the inside page of the CD cover.

DT: Right, there’s a huge, high quality lithograph that can be purchased of it.

mwe3: That’s a terrific image. I played “Out In The Rain” for my wife today, which I love. I think it’s a great song, it’s classic Dwight Twilley, and I told her about the drawing, and I said 'what would be great is a video of the dog and the cat animated.'

DT: Interesting that you’d say that, because in this case, see this was the first time ever, that I actually wrote a song about a piece of art, rather than the other way around.

mwe3: When did you draw the lithograph?

DT: I drew it in Hollywood, in a little apartment, when myself, Phil Seymour and Bill Pitcock IV had traveled out there to look for our record deal in 1974, just before we were signed by Shelter Records. And the thing, when you were saying about it being animated, the thing I’m kind of proud of in the song, is that within the song, I made the painting move. So if you listen to the song, the first verse tells you about the dog and the cat waiting on the corner for the light to finally change. And then when it gets to the last verse of the song, it talks about the dog and the cat walking from the corner, when lights had finally changed. So I made them walk away within the song.

mwe3: It’s a great image. It’s interesting, in playing that song for my wife today, she loved it. And as I said, it’s classic Dwight Twilley, a classic pop song. And I said to her that you’ve got thousands of songs like that that you’ve written. You just have a knack for putting them out; from “Looking For The Magic” and “You Were So Warm” right up to “Out In The Rain”. Y ou just have knack for writing that great pop song and she said ”how do you make it seem so easy?”

DT: (Laughs)

mwe3: Because it’s not, right?

DT: Well, it becomes your job. Well, it’s not that you want to do it, it’s that you have to do it. It’ s just a part of your life. And you learn the mechanics of it, and so as you get skilled at knowing how to construct a song. And then it finally just gets down to it, you only need one thing and that’s the idea. A song is just a communication and the second you think of an idea, about what you want to say, a different way of saying something that’s already been said and something you want communicated... Then the second I have the idea then writing the song takes no thought whatsoever, really. Speaking of “Looking For The Magic”, by the way, it’s going to be featured in a motion picture coming out next year. It’s called You’re Next.

mwe3: Great, that’s something to look forward to. That’s a classic Dwight Twilley Band number.

DT: It’s always been a very popular song with people, I’m don’t know exactly why, but through the years it’s one of those that people never seem to forget.

mwe3: It’s got a momentum to it. And you sing it great, obviously.

DT: Thank you.

mwe3: Before I forget, about the song “Soundtrack”. Now that you talk about visuals, there’s that line in “Soundtrack”... “nothing can open your eyes like Black and White Skies”. You singled that line out on the cover. It must be an important line for you. Can you tell me what it means for you?

DT: Well, the only place you ever see black and white skies is within a motion picture, which is a place that’s not necessarily reality, but it means something. It’s more or less like the line that we used from Green Blimp, which was “skies are blue, for me and you”. It’s just a line that represents the whole album, as far as I’m concerned.

mwe3: It seems to suggest that art or movies, or music, any form of art, is something that will open your eyes. Is that something you were thinking about?

DT: You got the hammer sitting real close to the nail there. It makes me think of Wizard Of Oz.

mwe3: “Black and white skies” and “Blue skies”; the black and white and color parts of The Wizard Of Oz.

DT: Yeah, it’s kind of like the difference between the two albums.

mwe3: One is very upbeat, positive, and this one’s introspective. But not at all downcast. That’s one of the great things about this album. I think this album is very uplifting, even for all of the difficulties that it deals with. Is that something you’re aware of or were thinking about, that it couldn’t be too down?

DT: No, I think being honest, y’know...I look kind of, like I was saying to you earlier, some of the things that you think were bad at the time, aren’t necessarily things that, when you look back on ‘em are really such bad things.

mwe3: You learn and grow from bad experience. And maybe that brings up another song “Good Things Come Hard”.

DT: Yeah. You may have a lover, y’know, that you really wish that still existed, and you feel so bad that you separated from that person. But then again, would you give away, would you wish it didn’t happen? Would you give away that experience, the time you spent with that person that you loved that much?

mwe3: Of course not. And that experience enriches your life even though there’s pain.

DT: And as far as “Good Things Come Hard”, was really just capturing for me, the early time with Phil Seymour , when we did sing like pussies. Little Simon and Garfunkel guys who had pretty little songs, and pretty little voices, wandering around, out in the world, trying to find our way into music.

mwe3: But you did and both of you developed rockin’ voices.

DT: Mmm hmm... thanks to Ray Harris.

mwe3: There’s that line that’s so straight forward, “Two little boys went their own ways, one’s still around and one’s in the grave". Was that a hard line for you to sing?

DT: Yeah, I thought 'is that too hard for people to listen to?' And I even thought, 'I have a relationship, a good relationship, with Phil’s mom'. In fact she calls me her “other son”. And I wondered at the time was that a little too harsh of a line to put out there? And then at the same time, to me it just seemed that that was real, that’s the reality of that situation. That’s the case...and so it kind of had to be said.

mwe3: It honored a person, as fans of your music, we all miss. It was just so heartfelt. It choked me up, on more than one occasion, and for people who knew him, people listening when you were recording, what did your wife think of it? What did Bill, think of it when you sang that line? Did they respond?

DT: A lot of people did. As well as, kind of the same reaction to the “My Life” video.
There were a lot of people whose response to that was really touching.

mwe3: The final line of “Good Things” is sung once, and the usual thing would be to
repeat it. But you just stop there. Was that on purpose?

DT: Yeah, I don’t do anything by accident when I’m writing a song.

mwe3: So, the intent was to leave us wanting more.

DT: Yup.

mwe3: Are you in the studio now?

DT: No, I’m not, which is a very strange thing, actually.

mwe3: Is that what a day for Dwight Twilley is? You go the studio ever day to record, you play music? What is Dwight Twilley’s life like every day?

DT: Up until just now, it’s literally every day, I work seven days a week, I’m always in the studio working.

mwe3: On your own stuff? Or do you record other people?

DT: No, it’s not that I have anything against it, we’ve had a few people, just random friends and stuff, but it's usually there’s just no time.

mwe3: ‘Cause you’ve got the studio booked?

DT: (laughing) Yeah, I really I take up all the time, all the tracks, everything. I’m pretty much a workaholic and kind of a madman. I’m like a mad scientist. Y’know, when I finally got the Big Oak Ranch Studio, it became my own personal little canvas. It kind of supercedes everything else in life. Right now, for the first time in years, we literally know that somebody like the police need to come here and take us out of here, ‘cause it really is time for me to go out and walk around on a stage and I would like to go out and scream at people from the stage. But it’s really hard to do these days, and I really feel crippled without Bill. How do you replace that? So that’s the dilemma at the moment. It feels very strange. I’m not in my normal element.

mwe3: Because Bill’s not there.

DT: And because I’m not working. I’m actually not working which is a really weird thing.

mwe3: You’re not working on a new record right now?

DT: There’s always a new song to play and the saying around here is, people say “what’s your favorite song?” We always go “The new one”. And so people stop by and ask us what we’re doing and we don’t have a new song. We’re kind of forcing ourselves, we know we need to just stop. (laughs) We have plenty of business to do, promoting this record, and you could never stop all the interviews and everything that needs to be done, the video, on and on and on. But there is a certain time when you need to stop recording, and if I don’t get the band up and rolling and get some kind of tour together, I’m actually worried that I’ll go down there and start recording again and God only knows what will happen.

mwe3: You won’t come out for another year.

DT: (laughing) That’s right.

mwe3: Are you going to audition musicians, or do you have people in mind already?

DT: I have some real good prospects but the logistics that are a pretty big challenge. Where people are located, that sort of thing.

mwe3: People outside of Tulsa, in Los Angeles or someplace?

DT: Yeah, people I’ve worked with before.

mwe3: When do you think you’ll hit the road?

DT: Trying as hard as we can to get out there in Spring and Summer.

mwe3: And so you’ll tour for as long as there places that want you?

DT: Yeah, I’d like to play for a while. Haven’t played much over the last ten years.

mwe3: How long has it been since you toured?

DT: I’ve done little tours and appearances and things, but I’ve been more in the studio than anything else. I couldn’t say I was a working performer. And so I’d like to spend the next couple of years, if possible being a performer. I’ve certainly got enough music to promote. Plus I’ve just signed a deal for all of Europe, for Soundtrack as well. So there’ll probably be a lot... I’m sure a lot of different countries that’ll say “can you come over and play?”. So, we’re gonna try to do that.

mwe3: That will be a big change, because, as you say, you’ve been in Tulsa for ten years or more, at home, working. Have you become a homebody, then?

DT: Well, there is a safety to the studio. I’m in total control of the universe when I’m in what we call my “magic box”, or as the song “My Life” says “in our magic room.” There’s safety there. I control the horizontal. I control the vertical. Nothing bad can happen. Then you walk out your door and it’s a whole mean world out there, and everybody else is in charge. (laughing)

mwe3: An interesting aside, I saw you play live once in 1979, the only time I ever saw you play, and you opened for The Jam in Philadelphia.

DT: What a terrible combination.

mwe3: An odd combination. That’s what I thought at the time. Was there animosity between the bands, or was it like oil and water?

DT: Not really. Just two different audiences. It was strange.

mwe3: You played a lot of rockabilly, as I recall. That was sort of what you were touring behind. Were you in an Elvis phase then?

DT: I think that, I always...a lot of people go out and just try to recreate as much as possible their records. And I always kind of had the feeling that the records I made required more than just a band to play. That’s even true today, and I always felt that when you went on the stage, yeah, you want to play songs that the people know, but more than that, you want to get up there and rock. You want to create a different kind of energy that you don’t recreate in the studio. And I think I felt more strongly that way then. Now it’s a little different because there’s so many songs of mine that people know through the years, really gotta cover a lot more songs and be pretty close to capturing the riffs and lyrics and things that people are waiting to hear. But the same feeling is still there. I’d kind of like my live show to be, y’know, if you want to hear the record, you can put on the record. I’d like for people to...live...be able to experience a different kind of energy than they would from listening to the record.

mwe3: Would you be playing club dates, that kind of thing?

DT: Most likely. A lot of my audience, they’re in wheel chairs.

mwe3: I wouldn’t go that far.

DT: Close!

mwe3: I can imagine a place like B.B. King’s or the Hard Rock Café would be perfect for you.

DT: Somebody said something about a place called Joe’s Pub.

mwe3: That will be great. So there are some artists, Dylan comes to mind, who are pretty liberal with their music, would you be that free with your songs?

DT: For the most part, it should be recognizable, with some surprises. The important thing is to capture the riffs that people remember and expect to hear. If you’re gonna play “Girls” you’ve gotta hear ”dadadaddada”(sings riff to “Girls”). You’re stuck with that, so any band that I would work with would have to learn how to play that. The issue of the lead breaks, for instance, that’s one of the big obstacles. It’s so hard for somebody to even...and a lot of people have expressed this opinion without me saying it...they actually feel uncomfortable even trying to capture what Bill Pitcock has done through the years. So that’s a challenge in itself.

mwe3: A lot of musicians are intimidated by him.

DT: Yeah.

mwe3: Well, here’s a silly question, but it might be of interest to you. If you were going to put together a dream band, of anybody, past or present, who would you choose to play in that band?

DT: I’d just have my old band back. I’d have Phil Seymour on drums and Bill Pitcock IV the on guitar, and I think, I don’t know…probably… Susan Cowsill singing harmonies and uh, I can probably think of a couple of more people if I thought about it for a minute. Jerry Naifeh on percussion, and uh, I think that’d be a pretty damn unstoppable group right there for starters.

mwe3: That’s great, it’s exactly what I’d hope to hear. In looking back to Soundtrack and your life, how do you see your career? Do you see it as a narrative, in a way, as a story that could be told to younger musicians, younger people?

DT: Well, I guess that’s what the documentary is trying to do. And there have been a lot people through the years, who’ve said “that is an incredible story”. A lot of times it’s just cause of all the crazy things that happened that no one can believe, but, y’know, it is a story. I look back on it and go “damn! how’d all that stuff happen?”

mwe3: That line in "I Am The Lonely One”... “stories yes, I’ve got a few, but know ones there to tell them to” is there one story that comes to mind, when somebody asks?

DT: A perfect example of that really, is no one could tell a story about the early days on the road like Bill Pitcock IV. And he would come up with things that I’d completely forgotten about, all the absurd things that happened after the shows, with the crazy women and everything that went on. And it’s sort of like, I know that Bill had told those stories to a lot of people, but there’s no one better for him to tell them to than me, and no one better for me to tell a story to or recall a story like that, and tell it to, than Bill Pitcock IV or Phil Seymour. And they’re not there for me to tell that story to anymore or for me to hear that story from them.

mwe3: So you’re referring to your band mates in that line.

DT: Not necessarily, but that’s one example.

mwe3: “I Am The Lonely One” has an almost anthem like quality to it, despite its lyrics, and there’s that bridge in the middle where you reach a crescendo, that kicks the song into a whole different realm, very uplifting, and yet you’re singing “I am the Lonely One”. Were you conscious of that contrast between the music and the lyrics?

DT: Well, I’m Mr. Bridge in my opinion (laughing). And always to me, the definition of a bridge is the part of the song that takes you to a different place than the rest of the song. And then that allows the song to breathe and bring you back home to the song itself.

mwe3: Another moment that succeeds like that is in “The Last Time Around” with the instrumental break after the line “you’d sell your soul” and Taylor Hanson’s organ comes in and it's almost like this huge orgasm of sound.

DT: Taylor will do that kind of thing. Very talented man. Good guy.

mwe3: It’s great what he brought to that song. Did you give him a hint as to what you wanted there? Point him in the direction or did he just know?

DT: Probably a little bit of each. I try to work with everybody, I always have a vision of what I’m doing, a very clear vision I think. As I’ve matured, I’ve become more and more a strong record producer. I really kind of know exactly what I want and so what I try to do is express, to whomever I’m working with, what I’m looking for and hopefully I get what I want. And in the case of working with somebody with a huge talent like Taylor Hanson you get the unexpected on top of it. And that would have been the case in a song like that.

mwe3: So you’re like a director?

DT: I have definitions for things. The things I’ve learned from being a record producer is, people put all these different or important meanings behind 'what is a record producer?' And it means he knows the musical part of everything, the construction and is behind the sound. When it all gets down to the actual truth of the matter, the mission of the record producer is just the person who gets the record done. (laughing) That’s really all it is, that’s his job.

mwe3: Do you have a vision for what happens after touring? Do you have a vision in mind for the next record?

DT: It’s a huge blank canvas. That’s one of the reasons I think I need the experience of going out and walking out on a stage and screaming. Because I think it would be good for me to get away from the environment of what I’ve been doing for the last few years and I think it will kind of lead me to the next step. And it will be interesting to approach the next recording, when it comes around, without the luxury of having Bill Pitcock at my side. We’ve been through the same experience, not having Phil Seymour at my side. Y’know, life changes. And so right now, I may be hating it but y’know, talk to me a couple of years from now and I may say It turned out to be a good thing for “x” reasons.

mwe3: “Good Things Come Hard”...

DT: It’s true. Good things come hard, but sometimes...there’s no business like show business!

Thanks to Dwight Twilley @ www.DwightTwilley.com - Zox @ www.ZoxArt.com - Cary Mansfield @ www.VareseSarabande.com and to Geoff Grogan @ www.LookoutMonsters.com







 
 
 
 
 

 


 

 

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