PETER GALPERIN
Perfect World Today
(Jetty Records)

 

Putting socially incisive lyrics together with a toe-tapping folk-rock beat is tried and true, yet the genre gets a lift with Perfect World Today, the 2011 CD from NYC-based pop-rock innovator Peter Galperin. I could see fans of mid ‘60s folk rockers such as The Byrds, Lovin’ Spoonful and Donovan digging where Galperin is coming from on Perfect World Today. Written, recorded and produced by Galperin over the past year, Perfect World Today also blends in some fine electric guitar and keyboard work. Although it’s just seven tracks, Perfect World Today covers a lot of ground musically and overall, the CD provides a solid foundation for Galperin’s singing, songwriting, guitar and keyboard style and studio expertise. In the spirit of Paul Simon at his most folk-rockingest, Galperin isn’t afraid to merge some Afro-Latin rhythms or even smooth jazz fusion into the mix and several cuts even sound samba and bossa nova inspired. A Seattle native, Galperin has spent the past 30 years in NYC and likewise, he was greatly influenced by the music of David Bowie, Talking Heads and Laurie Anderson. With the CD release of Perfect World Today, Peter Galperin has created an authentic sonic destination worthy of return visits. www.JettyRecords.com


mwe3: The Perfect World Today CD is great. What inspired the album, what did you set out to accomplish and did you play everything on the CD?

PETER GALPERIN: The state of the world is always amazing! Unbelievable, ridiculous, insane, profound, scary things are happening everyday. Sometimes it’s hard to comprehend and make sense of what’s going on around us. My songs usually come about because of something I find amusing, annoying, or puzzling. They are my attempts towards a greater understanding of something, or in some cases, just a confession that I don’t get it. Each song is a short story exploring a feeling or capturing a moment, and I try to tell these stories with humor, honesty, and compassion and sometimes a little bit of anger too.

On the CD I sing all vocals, play acoustic and electric guitar, fretless bass, mandolin, violin, and keyboard. I played the main drum tracks through a midi-keyboard and added a lot of live percussion parts (tambourine, wood blocks, shakers). The trombone solo on “Wonders Of The World” was played by Kevin Moehringer of the Underground Horns, and my 13-year old son Julian sings some background vocals and helped with the theremin-like sounds on “Hey Little One”...I needed 4 hands to do it. (lol)

mwe3: How does being a multi-instrumentalist contrast with your live band sound and what instruments do you play live?

PG: Well, I wasn’t sure how I was going to pull off doing these songs live until someone pointed out to me that every song I write is developed with just me and a guitar. So in spite of all the overdubs and backing tracks on the CD, my live show can be as simple as that—me and an acoustic guitar. With the live band, we build on that approach and use instrumentation appropriate for each venue. Sometimes our drummer—the very versatile Andy Blanco—uses a cajon and tambourine, other times he plays a full drum set. Patrick Derivaz, my longtime bass player, uses a wonderful acoustic fretless bass and Carl Riehl, our newest member, is so talented that he has transposed most of the keyboard and horn parts to his accordion.

mwe3: Can you say something about your guitars that you feature on the new CD and how do you decide what tracks should feature what guitars? What do you look for sound wise in both electric and acoustic guitars?

PG: I love guitars. Some guys fantasize about having a ten car garage to hold their dream car collection, I dream of having one room filled with fifty instruments. But since I don’t have that kind of room, every instrument I own needs to work very hard for me. Several years ago I went into a music store determined to buy a really nice acoustic guitar, figuring I’d get a Takamine or maybe a Martin, but I came out of the store with a Fender GA-43 that I just love to play. Right now that’s my main song writing, recording and performing instrument and every song is built around the sound and rhythms I get out of that guitar. It works well for my style of playing because I don’t do a lot of strumming, but instead pull the chords off with my fingertips. The lead guitar parts on “Action Figure Hero” were played on a Washburn G35K that I’ve had for many years—dating from my CBGB’s days back in the ‘80s . It has an indestructible whammy bar and a really versatile sound. The chime-y chords on “Perfect World Today” were also played on the Washburn. But my favorite guitar to play/record is my Fender Fretless Jazz Bass. I spend a lot of time working on the bass grooves and since I’m a guitarist first and a bass player second, my initial tendency is to play way too many bass notes. But eventually I get it down to a basic minimal pattern that locks in with the drum rhythm and becomes the anchor to the song. I also have to mention my little mandolin because I’ve found that it’s a great sound to brighten up a chorus with. It can add a very rhythmic quality, although it’s a real pain to tune, play and record.

mwe3: How about keyboards and what are your favorite keyboards and keyboard sounds?

PG: I played the piano, organ, and synth parts on a Korg K61 Midi Controller keyboard using Garageband sounds as a starting point and then customizing them to my taste. I like to use realistic sounds and getting the piano sound on “Brand New Gadget” and “You Know It’s Over” was a lot of work. A lot of electronic piano sounds are just too thin for my ears. But digital organ sounds are great, and I love the old Hammond B3 sound that I used on “Wonders of the World”. With oscillation sometimes you only need to use one or two notes. I also have to confess to a weakness for breathy, ethereal synth choral parts. Listen to the choruses on “Perfect World Today” or the background pulse throughout “You Know It’s Over”. Those sounds are like candy to me and it’s something I’m seriously trying to control my use of. In general, I try to play keyboard parts that either add punch or atmosphere.

mwe3: I noticed an Eno influence on the CD especially on the track “Wonders Of The World”. What artists first inspired and today continue to inspire you as a recording artist and musician and what are some of your most influential albums?

PG: It’s interesting that you mention Eno because while I wouldn’t consciously cite him as an influence, but I think on a subconscious level his artistic approach and sensibility has definitely had an effect on me. I loved early Roxy Music, and I actually remember when I first heard and watched the accompanying video for “Music For Airports”, and all of his collaborations with David Byrne are so interesting. So I guess what I absorbed from Eno and from musicians like Byrne and Laurie Anderson, is that you can make pop music about unexpected topics, and incorporate unusual sounds and rhythms. It’s that whole idea of musical anthropology—Paul Simon and the Beatles did it years ago, so I’m certainly late to that game—and discovering the musical world beyond Top 40 radio and MTV. To that end, I basically quit listening to pop music in the early ‘90s... “Nirvana Unplugged” might be the last rock CD I purchased and I started discovering old and new jazz—Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Charlie Hunter—and particularly Brazilian, West African, and Cuban music. I found that I was really drawn to the poly rhythms, syncopations, melodic simplicity and conversational vocal style of that music. Musicians like Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao Gilberto, Luiz Bonfa and Walter Wanderley, and bands like Orchestra Baobab, Touré Kunda and Bossacucanova. Some of my favorite CDs are these odd compilations called “Ethiopiques”, recorded in the early ‘70s that feature a mixture of eastern and western styles of music. And I have an old Thievery Corporation compilation called Sounds From the Verve Hi-Fi that has new mixes of old bossa nova tunes that I’ve played so often that my family has complained. But the thing that really drives my approach to lyric writing and has influenced me the most is the humor, irony and sarcasm I find in British songwriters like Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, and Robyn Hitchcock, and American songwriters like Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips and Beck.

mwe3: Can you say something about your early musical training, what instruments you first learned and what about your early musical experiences that led you to become a recording artist and performing musician?

PG: Both of my parents were classically trained musicians and I grew up studying violin and piano in a house filled with music by Bach, Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart etc... I played violin in several youth orchestras—one that was directed by my father. I had a solo recital debut as a 12 year old in front of the local ladies community cultural association and started off as a classical music major in college. But as a kid I had always wanted to play the guitar and my father wouldn’t let me. So when I went off to college and my roommate had a guitar that he rarely played and didn’t mind that I was always borrowing, I was in heaven. I started writing music in college and putting together various bands. We always had to play my songs, because I wasn’t good enough on the guitar to play many cover tunes.

mwe3: You’re from Seattle originally? When and why did you decide to live in NYC and how has New York City treated you and influenced you since you arrived? Were you influenced early on by the music coming from New York?

PG: I grew up in the suburbs north of Seattle and plotted my escape from an early age. I moved to New York in 1981, shortly after graduating from the University of Washington with a degree in Graphic Design. My professors all highly recommended that I leave town and go to LA, Chicago or NY to start my career. All the music I was listening to at that time was coming out of either London or New York. I didn’t have a passport, so I moved to New York, sight unseen. Bands like the Talking Heads, Blondie, The Ramones and Television were still kind of local New York bands. I think when I first arrived in New York, I may have gone straight to CBGB’s from the airport. There was a lot of interesting music going on downtown in those days. I was exposed to the noise-rock of Glenn Blanca, the glam-rock of Alan Vega, and the pop-rock of The Bongos, and I saw a lot of ‘80s hair bands for one dollar at the old Peppermint Lounge. Early on I met a musician named Robert Aaron who played sax on David Bowie’s Let’s Dance album and he toured with Blondie and Laurie Anderson. Robert and I worked together on an album of my songs that was never distributed, but just working with Robert was a great learning experience for me and introduced me to a higher caliber of musicianship and studio expertise. I still find the New York music scene very stimulating, and love the fact that everyone in the world plays here at some point. I recently saw a fabulous Brazilian musician, Tom Zé, playing at Lincoln Center. He sang a bossa nova song with lyrics improvised from the New York City phone book.

mwe3.com: How do you balance your time as a musician with your company Galperin Design? What else interests you and occupies your time?

PG: I’ve been working as a graphic designer since college, and over the past few years I’ve also started doing a variety of video projects. My interests in design, video, and music are intertwined and all-encompassing. Every day varies depending on the projects I’m working on at the time. My design studio, music studio, and video editing studio are one and the same—I just have to pull the shades down for video, or turn off the AC for recording. Some days I might be making a corporate design presentation at a client’s office, another day I might be with the band in a rehearsal studio, and on another day I might be videotaping or editing a film project. I love the variety. My only other interests, other than my family, are an avid curiosity in the world at large, and a somewhat superficial interest in technology.

mwe3: What are your upcoming shows in the city, who’ll be playing with you and can you let the readers know any other plans regarding the new Perfect World Today album?

PG: I’m playing out at clubs in New York City about every 6-8 weeks with the band, and in-between with some solo acoustic gigs. We’ve got an upcoming full band show at The Bitter End on Saturday, Sept. 17 at nine PM. I’m hoping we can get a good crowd out for that night because it’s one of New York's best live music clubs. The guys in the band are all exceptionally talented working musicians. Our drummer Andy Blanco plays in a lot of Broadway shows and recently performed with Sting at the Apollo, bass player Patrick Derivaz regularly backs up Tom Verlaine and just finished engineering the soundtrack for the HBO show “Bored to Death”, and our newest member, Carl Riehl, is a sought after accordionist who plays in the pit band for Second Stage Theater. I’m lucky to have these terrific musicians joining me on stage. Playing the songs from the CD live with Andy, Patrick, and Carl has made the songs even stronger. And playing with these guys has pushed me to write another CD’s worth of new material, which we’ve been playing in our live sets. So the short term plan is to get this band into the studio sometime this fall to record my next CD. I’ve recently launched my official music web site at www.petergalperin.com, and I’m in discussions with some management agencies to help with bookings and syndicated song placements. If you’ve listened to my lyrics you’ll know that, while I’m not the most optimistic guy, it does look like musically things are moving in the right direction.

 

 
   
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