THE JIGSAW SEEN
Old Man Reverb
(Vibro-Phonic Recordings)

 

L.A. pop mavens The Jigsaw Seen can always be counted on for making a tasty pop album. Even with such a note-perfect repertoire of releases in The Jigsaw Seen back catalog, no one was expecting this much solid pop goodness on their 2014 album Old Man Reverb. Reverb will never get old and to prove the point, The Jigsaw Seen cranks their amps to nine and delivers ten future pop classics. The songs of group vocalist Dennis Davison really spring to life on this album and Dennis gets solid support from his band mates Jonathan Lea (guitars), Tom Currier (bass) and Teddy Freese (drums). There's a number of potential hit singles here but every track has something to offer on what will surely be looked upon as one of the best pop albums of the decade. Both Davison and Lea chalk up some impressive production work here and both are master instrumentalists, with Lea handling all manners of electric guitars including vibrato guitar, tremolo guitar, baritone guitar, leslie guitar and e-bow guitars, while Davison adds even more color to his songs with all types of keyboards including mellotron and chamberlin and clavinet. Another amazing thing here is the Old Man Reverb album packaging, which is far-out and unexpected and fits in quite well with the band’s other CD package designs. One of the best 21st century pop albums in the finest spirit of late 1960s psych-pop classics from Lee Michaels, The Byrds and Love, Old Man Reverb is certain to be on every music critic’s list of best pop albums of 2014. Somewhere in heaven Arthur Lee is smiling down on The Jigsaw Seen. www.TheJigsawSeen.com


mwe3.com presents an interview with
Dennis Davison and Jonathan Lea of

THE JIGSAW SEEN


mwe3
: The Jigsaw Seen releases are often complex affairs, from the music all the way to the titles of your albums and album packaging. Can you offer some insights into the relationship between those three components, from the music to how you choose the album titles and the packaging, especially as it applies to the 2014 CD release of Old Man Reverb?

Jonathan Lea: We've had the album title for quite a while and it seemed to represent this group of songs well. For the packaging, I decided to consider Old Man Reverb an imaginary model of a Fender amp, like a “Super Reverb” or a “Twin Reverb”, so the package incorporates elements of a late '60s Fender “silverface” amp: volume knob, faceplate, footswitch, tubes and speaker. The vinyl edition displays the concept best with the CD spindle on the front of the LP jacket.

Dennis Davison: We look at it as a cohesive work of art. The songs, the arrangements, the album artwork etc. are all parts of the whole concept. It’s too tempting for people to get music for free. You have to make an album compelling so that people are willing to buy it.

mwe3: The lead off song on your new CD Old Man Reverb, “Let There Be Reverb” is kind of like the album’s overture in way.

Dennis Davison: The album title is something that Jonathan has had for a few years. It is a play on "Old Man River" and when I sat down to write "Let There Be Reverb" I kept that in mind. There are some Phil Spector references in the song as well. Music and nature are the two main themes of Old Man Reverb and this song brings them together.

mwe3: “Idiots With Guitars” is rather scathing. Is it pointed at anyone in particular? I heard it’s about the L.A. music scene. What do you like best about L.A. and what’s worst about it?

Jonathan Lea: A lot of musicians in L.A. seem to have an actor's mentality and are very backstabbing, bitter and resentful. I'm not sure what the worst thing is.

Dennis Davison: I did write a song years ago that we recorded called "Another Predictable Song". It was more along those lines, but "Idiots" is mostly self-referential. It probably helps to be a little “thick” if you’re considering pursuing a career in the music biz.

mwe3: Is “Die Laughing” really about AIDS? You mention Tom Currier (bass) adds some ABBA like piano at the end. Coming to think of it, it does have a little ABBA in it!

Dennis Davison: Yes, "Die Laughing" is about AIDS. More specifically, I guess it’s about people dying from doing things that bring them pleasure. I think the Abba-esque piano and glammy guitars are the perfect compliment to the lyric.

mwe3: “Understand” sounds like a Who b-side from 1977. Great guitar lines take the lead on the 2nd verse. It has that Townshend inspired psychological lyrics “my controls have been jammed, I could use a helping hand” It’s a love song right? Sounds like it could be a hit in Japan or something. Speaking of Townshend, has he heard the Jigsaw Seen albums? I don’t see how he could have missed them, especially the amazing Jigsaw Seen cover of “Tattoo”.

Jonathan Lea: I've stood next to Mr. Townshend at a bar, behind him in line for a cab and even passed him in a hotel hallway - he said “hi” - but I've never had a conversation with him so I don't know what he thinks of us.

Dennis Davison: It’s about asking someone to put up with you when things aren’t going so well. Maybe we could get some teen J-Pop superstar to cover it! Pete Townshend must be really mad at us for something, because we never hear from him.

mwe3: For the guitar fans, can you tell us some of the guitars you’re featuring on the Old Man Reverb album?

Jonathan Lea: Generally, for dirty sounds I used my Pete Townshend model SG through a 20-watt Marshall amp and for clean sounds I used my Epiphone Casino though a Fender Deluxe but other guitars and amps were also used. I played a baritone guitar on three songs and used an E-bow on a couple. For effects I used numerous “Uni-Vibe” type pedals and my beloved Admiral Girth outboard unit for tremolo and reverb.

mwe3: Was “We Women” influenced by The Stooges? Is that song The Jigsaw Seen at their most primal? Why am I thinking Stones circa 1968? Will there really be a doo-wop version planned for 2023?

Dennis Davison: Yes, definitely. I always had the Stooges in mind for this one. They were a major influence on me when I was a teenager and I still occasionally dip into that rancid well! We always reserve a spot or two for something primal on our albums.

Jonathan Lea: Twenty years ago we recorded an almost identical version to the one on Old Man Reverb but didn't release it. For the longest time, we've planned a doo-wop arrangement... 2023 can't come soon enough for me.

mwe3: “Madame Whirligig” is the most psychedelic sounding track on Old Man Reverb and I can almost hear Neil Young singing it. Another track with the mellotron nicely upfront in the mix. Seems like an interlude with a series of motifs merged. Tell us about your mellotron and chamberlain or is it all done with computers these days?

Jonathan Lea: Dennis actually owns a digital Mellotron which also includes the Chamberlin sounds so no computerization was involved.

Dennis Davison: This was one of those songs that is brief and simple in the structure, but complex as far as the arrangement goes. An interlude with a series of motifs merged is a good description. I have a digital mellotron. A guy in Sweden makes them now. It looks exactly like the old mellotrons. It also has the Chamberlin sounds.

mwe3: First I thought “Hercules And Sylvia” was a country music song. Then I found out it’s really about two gorillas in the zoo! Do you like writing about “odd things” as much as writing love songs or pointed social statements?

Dennis Davison: I just have to go with where my brain takes me. I write about things that interest me and I like exploring subject matter that no one else has tackled or just doing it so differently that it’s not recognizable.

mwe3: I was thinking that track 8 on Old Man Reverb, “Your Mind Is Like Mine” is like the ultimate love song. Key line: “There’s so much to do and so precious little time”... It’s definitely the most 1960's sounding song on the Old Man Reverb album. I could see The Left Banke and even The Cyrkle doing this!

Dennis Davison: Thank you so much. This is probably the most straight forward song on the album and it’s definitely a love song. We’ve been playing this song live for years and finally got around to recording it.

Jonathan Lea: We actually dumped the electric 12-string guitars I originally recorded and replaced them with acoustic guitars to make it sound less “1960s.”

mwe3: How about some of those great projects you were involved with back in the mid 1990’s such as the Bee Gee’s tribute CD and the Mancini tribute? And what other tribute or side projects have you been involved in that you're the most proud of.

Jonathan Lea: Dennis and I produced the compilation Melody Fair, Songs Of The Bee Gees which was released in 1994. The Jigsaw Seen recorded the title track, which, amazingly, still gets radio play 20 years later. For the Mancini album, Shots In The Dark, Del-Fi Records commissioned us to record “Baby Elephant Walk” which became a CMJ Top 50 hit.

Dennis Davison: Jonathan and I produced and compiled Melody Fair: Songs of the Bee Gees by... We also produced Sing Hollies In Reverse. They were fun to do for the most part. There was an interview at the time where Maurice Gibb talked about the Melody Fair compilation.

mwe3: Also from Old Man Reverb, “Abide” sounds like a Spaghetti Western theme song to a long lost Clint Eastwood movie. Must be that baritone guitar! Sounds like Ennio Morricone meets Frankie Laine via Hank Marvin. How influenced were you by both Morricone and Hank Marvin?

Jonathan Lea: I wasn't familiar with The Shadows when I was growing up except for their appearance in “Thunderbirds Are Go” so I wasn't really influenced by Hank Marvin. I love his sound and also the Morricone soundtracks so I'm glad we got to use some of those sounds on this track.

Dennis Davison: It’s the oldest song on the album. I actually wrote it in the early 1980’s. My father was a big Frankie Laine fan, so naturally "Abide" was his favorite song of mine. The Jigsaw Seen used to perform this song live in the early days of the band. Morricone was definitely an influence on this one.

mwe3: Is the album closing “Grief Rehearsal” the showpiece on the Old Man Reverb album? You say it’s influenced by Gene Clark and Jimmy Webb. What are your favorite Gene and Jimmy songs?

Dennis Davison: I think it would have been a hard one to follow. That’s why we sequenced it last on the album. I wouldn’t say that the song was influenced by Gene Clark or Jimmy Webb, but the arrangement, instrumentation and the general vibe of the recording reminded us of those two guys. Jonathan’s guitar parts are great and we even managed to get Teddy to play with brushes! The string part is Chamberlin.

Jonathan Lea: There's so many fantastic Gene Clark songs, a few of my favorites are “She Don't Care About Time,” “The World Turns All Around Her” and “Echoes.” The great Jimmy Webb songs “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” and “Wichita Lineman” obviously influenced the sound of “Grief Rehearsal.”

mwe3: So what’s planned next for The Jigsaw Seen in 2014 and 2015? What other musical mountains are you planning to climb next?

Jonathan Lea: Dennis and I have remixed our version of The Kinks' “This Is Where I Belong” for an upcoming album to benefit The Pete Quaife Foundation that also includes tracks by Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher. We hope to tour and record our next album in 2015.

Dennis Davison: I think the next album needs to be a departure from what we’ve done in the past. We haven’t mapped out a plan yet. Old Man Reverb is our fourth album since 2010, so we might want to keep up the pace of an album a year. A lot of people seem to discover our catalog all at once, which couldn’t have happened in the pre-internet days.

Thanks to Dennis Davison and Jonathan Lea at TheJigsawSeen.com and Vibro-Phonic.com

 

 
   
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