PETER GALPERIN
This Burning Sun
(Jetty Records)

 

Washington State born / NYC-based singer songwriter Peter Galperin has released a number of critically acclaimed albums including Just Might Get It Right (2014), A Disposable Life (2013) and Perfect World Today (2011). The 2017 CD release of his 4th album, This Burning Sun, is a postmodern pop-rock masterpiece that establishes Peter Galperin as a 21st century Phil Ochs—redefining the significance of the modern day pop musician. It’s a testament to Ochs that 50 years after the tragedies of the Vietnam war, culminating in the end of the Nixon era in 1974, America’s younger generations are in the midst of fighting the latest anti-science power brokers while also trying to establish a kind of 21st century bill of rights on a range of long underrated and too long neglected issues. A strong critic of the current swing to the right in American politics today, Galperin’s forte is crafting catchy pop-rock melodies that touch on a range of significant societal concerns—global warming issues for example, and he brings back the lost art of the protest song with an animated video single from This Burning Sun, called “King Of You And Me”. Living up to the time-honored tradition of musicians standing up in moments of heated political discourse, Galperin further states, “The only weapons that artists have against evil are satire and ridicule, and since “King Of You And Me” is so topical and timely, I decided to try to create an animated video to go along with it.” When Peter Galperin sings ‘What’s normal to you, Isn’t normal to me’, from the album’s lead off track, you better believe he means it. The alien-nation of the 21st century cyberage, the infamous 2016 Presidential election, and the effects of global warming on a planet already damaged by faulty science—all are put under Peter Galperin’s musical microscope. With its urgent lyrics and profound pop melodies, This Burning Sun is one of the coolest albums of 2017. www.petergalperin.com


{In addition to the 2017 CD release of This Burning Sun, Peter Galperin’s new rock musical, Bulldozer: The Ballad Of Robert Moses is scheduled to premier off-Broadway in New York City on November 24th, 2017. With a cast of five actors and a live four-piece band, it will run for a limited engagement at the Theatre at St. Clement’s through January 7th, 2018. For more information about Bulldozer please visit: www.bulldozer.nyc



 

mwe3.com presents an interview with
PETER GALPERIN


mwe3: What’s doing in NYC this summer ‘17? How long have you been in New York? You're a bright light on the NYC music scene but I keep forgetting you’re from Washington State. What can you tell a typical New Yorker who has never been there, about the state of Washington?

Peter Galperin: Hi Robert, it’s great to talk with you again, you know I’m always a little worried about you down there in the ‘sinkhole’ state. I moved to New York City sight unseen in the spring of 1981. I came straight from Seattle after graduating from the UDub. If you went to the University of Washington in Seattle, which is the only school that matters north of Berkeley, California, you always refer to your alma mater as the UDub, short for UW. If you call the University of Washington anything else, you’re not from the Pacific Northwest. And that’s what I would tell a New Yorker about Washington State!

mwe3: So when did you record This Burning Sun and how would you compare it with your earlier releases? So what was your frame of mind in the lead up and during the recordings and tell us about going to Nashville again and who’s in your band on This Burning Sun?

Peter Galperin: This Burning Sun was recorded in April this year at the 515 Studio in Nashville under the watchful eye of producer Chip Hardy. It was my second time recording with Chip in Nashville because I know he’ll put together the best Nashville session players for me. Some of them I’ve recorded with before—like the fantastic Smith Curry on pedal and lap steel, and rock-solid Rodney Lewis on bass—and we had some new players on this session who all blew me away with their talent, like Wes Little on drums and percussion, David Dorn on keyboards, and the incredible voice of Britt Savage on background vocals. I had my dear friend Robert Aaron record his saxophone tracks in New York for “King Of You and Me”. I also had terrific support from sound engineer Trevor Golden, and mixing engineer Bobby Holland. All of these folks are such superb musicians… I just try my best to keep up with them. Sound wise, I was picking up stylistically from my 2014 CD Just Might Get It Right, but aiming for something a little “swampier” this time.

mwe3: This Burning Sun starts off the new album with “Normal To You” and it’s a great song. Does it signify the dysfunction of relationships or something deeper? Can you compare broken relationships with a country torn apart at the seams? The orchestral ending gives the song a kind of timeless aura and in fact the whole album has a kind of orchestral feel to it. What can you tell us about the guitar solo, it’s great! Does that song signify the “theatrical” vibe you’re currently going through with this new album and your
new off-Broadway play about Robert Moses coming soon?

Peter Galperin: “Normal To You” might be my favorite on this CD, I guess that’s why I wanted it to be the first track. The sentiment I was channeling was certainly influenced by the events of the recent presidential election. “What’s normal to you, isn’t normal to me” was something I said to myself one night while watching a televised Trump rally, somewhat in reaction to him, but more in reaction to the wild audience he was speaking to. I was having a hard time understanding why so many Americans didn’t see him the way I did. So to make a rather vague epiphany more intimate, I applied it to the idea of a relationship—can we ever truly know what another person thinks?

Smith Curry’s pedal steel guitar solo just floored me, it was like Smith was surfing the song, just waiting for the perfect wave to curl up under him during the solo. And the organ intro and outro was something that David Dorn added impromptu. I loved it the first time he played it and saw those two parts as beautiful bookends for the song.

As for the “theatrical vibe”, I try to tell a story in every song. Sometimes the story gets stretched out over a series of songs, as in my musical Bulldozer: the Ballad of Robert Moses, and other times it’s contained to just one song. But there are certain theme’s that I’ve returned to multiple times on This Burning Sun, sometimes just to look at the same idea from another point of view.

mwe3: I was really hoping it wouldn’t come to this… but "The King Of You And Me” is a real satirical view of the now infamous election of 2016. When did you write it? I guess you don’t want me to start you up about this but you lay it out pretty clearly in the song. Tell us about the video you have of it. Was it João Dias who worked with you on the video? How did you meet up with João?

Peter Galperin: You, me and a clear majority of voters all hoped it wouldn’t come to this! This electoral college victory is the epitome of creative accounting. I started writing “King of You And Me” on January 21, 2017 while watching the Trump inauguration ceremony. I still have the rough recording in my iPhone, tentatively titled “Inaug Blues”. That day I was stunned, alarmed and ashamed by what I was seeing and hearing – a man who knew nothing about the world, and who still knows nothing, telling us that he was so much greater than every politician sitting behind him on that stage, greater even than 250 years of democracy itself.

I’m not a big fan of any politician, but I was waiting and praying that the Bush’s, the Clinton’s, the Obama’s, even a-hole Dick Cheney, would all get up in masse and walk off that stage. That’s what President “American Carnage” deserved from them. But they all proved once again to be the feckless, timid, self-serving career politicians that we’ve seen over and over. We are now living in an era of societal strife and anxiety not experienced in America since the Vietnam War and the Cold War, and this time the enemy is one crazy motherf&%ker in the White House. All of the post-election marches and protests showed that it’s up to us, the American people to correct this massive mistake. It certainly won’t be either of our lame and inept political parties, and it won’t be a news industry that is financially dependent on promoting a fabricated constant “breaking news” media environment.

As children we learn to conquer our fears through fantasy, why can’t that still work for us as adults? I thought by writing “King Of You And Me” as a fairy tale it might help keep the demons at bay. The things that scare us the most—ghosts in the night, dragons in a cave, witches in the attic, a mad man in the White House—are definitely more manageable when they are hand-drawn. The only weapons that artists have against an evil tyranny are satire and ridicule, and since this song is so topical and timely, I decided to try to create an animated video to go along with it. I was lucky to find incredibly talented Portuguese illustrator, João Dias, who was very interested in the project, and willing to work with my limited budget. Hopefully, the video will get some notice online. It would be really sweet if we got slammed in a nasty, early morning tweet from you-know-who. You can see more of João’s wonderfully inventive art at www.bitsandcrafts.org

mwe3: Track three on This Burning Sun, “I Been Told” is almost kind of a gospel type of rave up as if you’re seeking redemption from the evils of the world. The bridge makes for quite smart song writing. Yet it’s a bit science fiction too. “Maybe there’s more to life, Maybe our spirits never die” yet it rocks up a storm.

Peter Galperin: I envisioned “I Been Told” as a gospel song from the moment it showed up. At first I thought I’d have to record it with a full choir, but I had Britt Savage singing with me in Nashville, and she can sound like a full choir all by herself! “I Been Told” is one of five songs on this CD that are part of a bigger story that I’m working on—another rock musical concept. This one centers on climate change and global warming. “I Been Told” is sung by one of the main characters as he searches for some kind of reassuring insight into what looks to be a stormy and uncertain planetary future.

But I wanted this character to be more self-determined than just blindly believing in someone else’s best guess for the future—that’s pretty much all that religion can offer us—so in the song’s bridge he comes to realize that what he really wants to do is live more fully in the moment, and not stake his hopes on some kind of future salvation. Years ago I figured out that preachers and fortune-tellers are basically in the same business, and the goals of that business are not necessarily in our best interests.

mwe3: “On Higher Ground” is another upbeat song. Is that the kind of uplifting song you like to write or do you prefer more ominous topical subjects? I guess you need both in a complex world. With your smarts and practical policy you should be running the country! I guess there’s a slight religious overtone, so maybe Christian radio would play this.

Peter Galperin: Wow, Christian radio. Now, that would be something. My dear departed mother would be so proud! I guess with a title like “On Higher Ground” there is a kind of cheerful Presbyterianism at work here. This is another song from the global warming musical concept. The bridge is definitely a prayer of sorts – “Protect the ones who’ve lost the most, and bless the ones who’ve come so far”. I don’t think of myself as a religious person, but I did get dragged to church a lot as a kid—my mom was a church organist, my dad directed the choir. And, although I could never accept Christian dogma with a straight face, there are some great adventure stories to discover in the Bible. Christian radio DJ’s can take this song figuratively or literally, either way is fine with me.

mwe3: “Don’t Look Back” gets back to global warming and ignorance of climate change and environmentalism. “Don’t Look Back ‘cause you might turn to stone” gives the song a kind of biblical tone. In the age of chemtrails I guess many people are just being overburdened by all the ominous signs. Is Global Warming beyond the intellect of the average joe six pack? Is that why the concepts involving change are considered too brainy and even threatening to the average American at this point? I mean you have no argument from me but it’s too hot for me here.

Peter Galperin: On an emotional level there certainly is no better time to get some religion than right before an apocalypse! But when all natural disasters can be easily explained by science, what’s the point of limiting your knowledge to myth and magic. “Don’t Look Back” definitely plays with an “end of days” type scenario, and references the timeline of humanity as being but a dot in the history of the universe.

But on a more gut level, I was just thinking of something Iggy Pop-ish when I wrote it! Now that you’ve got me thinking about the meaning of these songs, I can see a distinct Biblical thread going through some of these tunes. If that’s the case, it happened on a semi-subconscious level. I remember as a kid being unsettled by the Biblical story of Lot’s wife looking back at Sodom and Gomorrah. That was as vivid a childhood memory for me as watching “Jaws” for the first time.

mwe3: “Hey, What Can You Do” proves my point in a way when you sing “The warning signs were just too hard for me” but hey what can you do? lol Even when you make it easy and fun, people still can’t seem to wrap their heads around the subtle yet clear signs that things are going the wrong way. Will it take something truly even more catastrophic to change everything? That seems to be the way out.

Peter Galperin: One of the great things about writing songs is that I can sing from points of view that I don’t have to believe in personally. So in “Hey, What Can You Do” I get to be a climate change denier. It’s lots of fun. Yes, this is also from the global warming musical concept, but it’s such an up-tempo, toe-tapping song that I’ve found when I’ve performed this song live in clubs in New York, the audience in general sings along with it. Even fierce environmentalists! In the musical, this song is sung by a disgraced ex-Senator, who didn’t support environmental regulations. He sings the song from a lifeboat that is sinking.

mwe3: Everything seems to come into perspective on “Lost Our Way”. Was this song written before this latest ice shelf breaking off? Are we eventually going to create a different country geographically? Trump calls it a hoax and he appoints the former head of the biggest oil company. Now it’s the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Wilma, the cat 4 hurricane that killed my father in October 2005. No electricity for a week, no airports in Fort Lauderdale for 4 days and with no internet for a month down here in sunny Florida, where it’s been over a 100 heat index every day the month of July and August and also every day in September.

Peter Galperin: Very perceptive Robert, “Lost Our Way” is the opening number for the global warming musical. If we say “global warming musical” enough times it may never sound totally normal, but it might start to sound less odd. This song sets up the story’s premise and is sung by our reluctant hero, the captain of a decrepit ferryboat. Our current latest ice shelf disaster is incorporated into the story, but I had to revise some of the dialog because the Larsen C ice shelf broke off about 3 years before it was expected to. Much bigger ice melts are predicted to follow, and current scientific studies show that sea levels could rise by as much as 30 feet by 2100, and I think that’s optimistic. I’m so sorry to hear of your very personal connection to Hurricane Wilma. Your father seems to be psychically connected to a lot of the songs I’ve written. Maybe that’s part of our connection. As sea levels rise, and oceans warm, the storms we experience will continue to get stronger and stronger. “Lost Our Way” is a warning and a lamentation, a digital message in a bottle sent out to future generations. It’s a very melancholy song, but I think the chorus shows a bit of hope in it—it’s a borrowed “Ode to Joy” chordal structure.

mwe3: As I mentioned, “One More Smile” is one of the great breakup / love songs. Yet even with heartbreak and ruin you just ask for “One More Smile” so it kind of balances the divorce or separation you sing of. “Try to think of the good old times, when we shared a home”… So where to now Saint Peter?

Peter Galperin: I read something the other day from a very zen-influenced friend that presented the idea of thanking everyone you’ve every come across in your life, whether they’ve loved you or hurt you, helped you or hindered you, because they have all been part of who you have become. So a relationship can end, it can even end badly, but you can still find joy in seeing that person’s smile. I guess it’s the ultimate optimistic outlook. Uh-oh, now we are back to that cheerful Presbyterianism we brought up earlier in the interview.

mwe3: Are there other credits on the CD and who did the engineering, mixing, mastering, etc… cover art design? What does the cover art say to you? Looks like it was some guy who was burned to death in the desert.

Peter Galperin: The CD cover for This Burning Sun is a photo I literally stumbled upon. As you know, sometimes in the summer New York gets so hot that the pavement actually starts to melt. The asphalt can stick to your shoes. And it’s been getting hotter every year. Waiting for the light to change at the crosswalk in front of my building one lovely humid 95 degree summer day last year, I found these melted Raybans at my feet. An urban fossil ready to be unearthed by future generations.

As the planet warms, melting glaciers are revealing items and bodies lost for decades, sometimes centuries. While at the same time roads, neighborhoods, and entire towns are being permanently evacuated as sea levels rise. Someday in the future the buried remains of our era will be rediscovered, and the scientists and scholars of that future world will try to understand “how we lost our way.”

mwe3: So the This Burning Sun album is coming out on CD in September 2017 and then the Robert Moses inspired off-Broadway production called Bulldozer. He signed off on my father and his business partner owning the food trucks during the construction of the 1964 NYC World’s Fair, while feeding the workers at the Fair with their fleet of food trucks. NYC was so romantic back in the pre-JFK years. What drew you to Moses? I guess there’s a biblical element in there too! Moses led me and my family out of the Red Sea! What can you tell us about the method and motivation for Bulldozer and is there a soundtrack and who is in it? How are you planning to publicize it?

Peter Galperin: This Burning Sun will be out in September on iTunes, Spotify, and Bandcamp, and my rock musical Bulldozer: The Ballad of Robert Moses opens in November. Your connection through your father to Robert Moses is quite amazing. To me Robert Moses is an historical figure, as is the Biblical Moses, but as a kid you saw the guy pull-up in your driveway! For years all I knew about Robert Moses was that there was a beach and park on Long Island named after him. Sometime in the 1990’s I came across “The Power Broker” by Robert Caro and it seemed to explain New York’s inherent dysfunction—why the subways were so decrepit, why there were so many overcrowded highways slicing through the city, and why automobiles seemed to take precedent over people in a city that is much more suited for pedestrians. And all of it was attributable to one nasty man.

I thought that someday someone…Oliver Stone?, Martin Scorsese?… would turn “The Power Broker” into a powerful movie. So I waited for that to happen, and while I waited I wrote a song about Moses, and then another, and then another. Eventually I had about a dozen songs about him, so I started to tie them all together with a script. It was an obsession, and took me about five years to get the story ready for this production. Now we are planning to do a 7-week off-Broadway run in Manhattan this fall, and hopefully the show will be successful enough to get another longer run, and a big enough budget to record a cast album.

It has two acts—running 100 minutes —with 18 songs, sung by 5 actors, and backed by a 4-piece band. I’ve got a great team of people working on the show – our director Karen Carpenter (kcdirector.com) is known for premiering new off-Broadway musicals, and our show manager Aaron Grant (theatrical.ag) is an expert at getting the most out of a tight budget. We are bringing in a very talented lighting and stage designer, and our cast is superb—official announcements are coming in October. The Theatre at St. Clements is a beautiful 160-seat space on West 46th Street right in the heart of the theater district. Friends of mine find it odd that I’ve written a musical because they know that I’ve never been a big fan of traditional musicals—what I’ve tried to create with Bulldozer is something in the style of a Rocky Horror Picture Show or a Tommy type of show. It’s very entertaining, a little bit educational, and it’s all rock and roll. With a little luck, the audience will walk away with a new perspective on New York City, and a bunch of very catchy tunes in their head. I think people who like musicals will really like the show, and people who don’t like musicals will absolutely love it.

mwe3: What else is coming next? This Burning Sun and the Broadway production of Bulldozer … Can you offer any words of hopes or aspirations, mottos, prayers, credos? I know, ‘Keep your eyes out for sink holes! Lol’ I remember the John Lennon song called “How?” being so reality based and scary… sort of like a wake up call. This Burning Sun is a 21st century wake up call. Funny how some things never change!

Peter Galperin: My hope is that “Bulldozer” is successful enough to give me the opportunity to do another show based on the global warming-themed songs on This Burning Sun. I think the biggest issue the world faces is climate change and whether we react now or later, at some point we will have to change our patterns of consumption. The physical geography of the world one hundred years from now will be a very different place than today. But one of the strongest human traits is adaptability and hopefully we will go in the right direction.

We can’t become complacent and accept abnormal political conditions, abnormal environmental conditions, abnormal psychological conditions, as the new normal. There’s a lot of hard work to do, and hopefully new, young leaders will rise to the task like Joe Kennedy III! I quote myself when I say “We might find heaven, but there’ll be hell to pay,” and I quote the legendary John Lennon when he says “Strange days indeed.” The future is up to us!

For more information about Peter Galperin, visit www.petergalperin.com or www.bulldozer.nyc




 

 
   
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