You’ve recently released your new single Keyboard Soldier, which is a commentary on the evils of the social internet, can you talk a little bit about what you hope listeners take away from this song?
Hello, IP…good to be with you all again. I think it goes a little deeper than that. Yes, a “keyboard soldier” is a tough guy (or gal) who talks a ton of smack from the comfort and anonymity of their phone or computer. I think that, in and of itself, is grounds for rebuttal! I mean, what kind of person decides to wake up, log on, and purposely antagonize, bully, and even threaten someone else on the internet? What kind of life do you have when that’s your M.O. day in and day out? Oh, maybe you’re the president! Nevermind…
The song, while calling to “feed the troll more bass,” segues into that bridge in 7/8 that changes the dynamic and tenor of the music and the message. “You could show some real empathy/Look at yourself, what do you see?” I wrote this as the country was embroiled in racial justice protests that gripped our collective psyches even as we battled a deadly pandemic. My attention was drawn to those protests, and then how the administration at that time decided to respond…with tear gas and fake tough guy walks to a church in DC for a photo op. Really disgusting.Empathy. Helluva thing…and hard to teach. I mean, you get to be 70+ years old and were born with every advantage under the sun. Lied and cheated and conned your way to the highest office in the world.
Then, as 400 years of racism and pain boil over, you decide to double down and thumb your nose in the face of the people you claim to “do more for than any president in history.” Fuck that. I was angry, and I am still angry. Social media shut him down, and like I sing in that song, “Come outside, brother…I hope you come alone. Fake tough guys aren’t so tough when they come out from behind that keyboard.
We hear you are gearing up for the release of your Album Amuse De Q on September 3rd. What can listeners expect from the EP sonically?
Amuse De Q is without any question our finest work. I know that you all will agree when you hear it! It keeps the same core lineup as 2019’s Occam’s Foil with Eddy Garcia on drums, Manny Tejeda on bass and some vox, and David Hamilton and Christina Hernandez featured on cello and violin, respectively. Also have my son playing keyboard on a song called “Set It Down” and I am very proud of how good it sounds. He nailed it. Also have Jessica Flores as the lead vox on a song about domestic violence during the Quarantine called “How Could You?” She nailed it!
That cohesion from one album to the next is a first for Little King over 7 albums and almost 25 years. We went in knowing each other, how to work off of each other, and what the process was gonna look like. I am always ridiculously prepared, but there was a confidence and ease of use this time that shines through on every song. It’s just TOGETHER and BEAUTIFUL.
The difference this time was in the post-production. Eddy has engineered the last 5 Little King albums, and he and I have pretty good chemistry. Trust, too. But I wanted to explore some different possibilites and sets of ears for mixing and mastering. I figured that we would retain that core sound of Occam’s Foil while bringing some fresh ideas and ears to the mix. It worked.
I auditioned a few different mixing engineers when we were done tracking. I got some wildly diverse mixes of the first song on the album, “Bombs Away” (which we will release as a single and video on August 6.) Ultimately, I fell in love with the mix from a guy named Daniel Salcido in LA, who has mixed and assisted on some albums from bands like Plain White T’s, Disturbed, Avenged Sevenfold, and more.
Daniel is a great guy, very laid back and meticulous and no fucking nonsense. We had an understanding…he NEEDED to tell me if I was full of shit or if something sounded horrible. That’s what I wanted, and that’s what I got! His mixing studio in LA became home for a few days and we just went to work on finishing “Bombs” and then the rest of the record. He made it easy – total pro – and we’ve never sounded better.
Finally, mastering was handled by Maor Appelbaum, also in LA. He’s an Israeli ex-pat living in the USA, and he REALLY doesn’t tolerate any bullshit. Yeah, he worked FOR me, but he also worked ON me! We had a couple civil disagreements, we met in the middle, and he got it right. Between Maor, Daniel, and Eddy, the music was in great hands for sure.
You are pretty overtly political in your music, talk to us about why you find it important to bring politics into your art.
You know, not really! Okay, “Hate Counter” from the last record was overtly political. “Keyboard Soldier” certainly is. Other than those two tracks, though, maybe only “Collateral Damage” and “Prodigal Son” from Legacy of Fools were politically charged.
I try and write what I’m feeling, and that album in 2007 and then the last two records reflect that…it was a time of emotion and heaviness in this country that could not be ignored. I am not gonna shy away from how I feel. Art is my means of expression, even protest, if you will. I am too old to give a fuck about offending someone over what I believe, and to be honest, I am pretty well-informed. I’m a bad person to argue with when I’m wrong…and the absolute WORST when I’m right. Ask my kids.
Amuse De Q tackles my experience in the quarantine (the “Q” in the title…although there are other Q’s to which I may or may not allude to). I saw my friend in abusive situations at home where they literally could not leave. I battled sobriety after fucking up royally at the end of 2019. My avowed bachelor life was taking its toll, too. The last song, “Omega Son,” is all over the place but really references the toll climate change is taking on my current surroundings in Arizona (hint…it’s NOT GOOD.) Political? Maybe. Apologetic? Absolutely not.
Did your writing process or recording process change at all because of the pandemic? If yes, how so?
The writing process has stayed the same since my first record in 1997. I write the music on an acoustic guitar. It’s a long, pain-staking process…and I revel in the pain! Seriously, you can’t imagine how many times I play and edit and play and re-edit before I bring the songs to Manny and ultimately to Ed and the rest of Little King. A lotta times…
The biggest difference this time was that Manny and I couldn’t jam in person for a good while because of the Q. So I was making little videos on my bed and sending them to Manny so he could get an idea of what was coming. This was April and May of 2020…we were ready to go on the road, but that blew up, so I had to make another record, right?
When May rolled around and the restrictions lifted, Manny came over to the house in Delaware and we banged them out. For this record, there was very little song editing left to do; they were so set to go that Manny really just had to write his parts and paly them along with me. The songs are usually about 80% done at this stage; with Amuse De Q, they were about 95% done.
I sold my house, two cars, my motorcycle, my furniture, and trashed a ton of shit and my son and I uprooted and moved from Delaware to my mom’s in Tucson. It was full upheaval. It was just time, and damn did it feel good to purge. But I didn’t have a driver’s license, so Manny drove the Escalade and a big ass trailer with Asher and me and the rest of my stuff to Texas. We tracked the basics in August…bass, drums, rhythm guitars. That took about two weeks or so, and then it was off to Tucson. Hats off to Manny…bass player, singer, designated driver of my kid and my stuff. Big time.
After we settled in Arizona, I set about the lyrics and writing the guitar solos and string arrangements (although David really writes them…I just tell him kind of what I want and where I want it!) The words came fast and easy, as did the solos. Played them over and over and over again, sang them over and over and over again. Per the usual.
Finally, we rolled back to Texas and finished in February with the bells, whistles, strings, and solos. It was smooth and so much fun. I think we might just do it again…
Thanks for chatting with us today Ryan, where can our readers find Little King online?
Always start with our site at www.littlekingtunes.com. From there, we are @littlekingtunes for FB, IG, and Twitter. We have videos done for the two songs and also working on 2 more, and those can all be found at Little King Official on YouTube. Very proud of those videos for “Keyboard Soldier” and “Bombs Away”…new adventure with that process for sure!
End of Interview
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