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THE POWER OF POP INTERVIEW

JOE MANNIX

www.mannixrock.com 

Why is Come to California a double album? What, in your own mind, is the concept behind it?
I wanted to avoid ear fatigue. Some of my more favorite songs are on the second half of the album. I wanted to make sure they got a fair listen. The second reason is that the first part of the story takes place on the East coast (disc one) and the second half of the story takes place on the West coast. ( Disc two). So you have your left coast disc and your right coast disc.

Did you have any reservations about the possible negative connotations of a double concept album in this day and age?
No. I refuse to be a part of the dumbing of American pop culture. It seems like everyone wants to be able to pigeon hole your sound or your look etc.. I made a vow after Oral Groove broke up that I was going to make quality music on my own terms. I think it's important to go on and do different things with your craft. I have the most respect for acts that are able to do it. In saying that I still like to release music that people can relate to and sing at the top of their lungs in their car. I will never release an album unless I feel sure that each and every song a can stand on it's own as a single.

These are definitely worthy targets to aim for as a recording artist! Do you think that the primary style you have opted for - i.e. country-folk-rock - is indicative of the more straightforward, heartfelt direction you are seeking out? (I note that Oral Groove was more power pop in nature) Is it easier to express these concerns in this "format"?  
Our band sound seems to waver between being a roots rock band and pop rock band.  Mannix definitely has more of an American rock sound than Oral Groove ever had. My writing still has an anchor in Pop rock. A good hook is a good hook. All my songs are based around a hook. I always try to capture and put on tape that elusive bitter sweet hook. It's what music is all about for me. Our booking agent who is from Austin Texas termed us as a "Roots Pop Band." I can deal with that tag.     

What was the difference in approach between Pretty Strange and Come to California? How did you and the band prepare for the recording sessions? Were the songs developed on stage or in the studio? What were the contributions of the other members of Mannix to these songs?
My original intention with Pretty Strange was to do a full acoustic album (like Springsteen's Nebraska). I started laying down acoustic guitar parts and then just kept building on them. I then decided to record some band tracks. Chris Peck and I went into the studio and laid down Drums and rhythm guitar. We then started adding to them as well.  We were constantly adding a vocal here to this track and an organ part to that track, etc. It was pretty chaotic but it all came together. My idea was to create an overall cohesive listening experience out of very diverse pop songs. I think I did that. I hope I did that.  Come To California was done differently. I finished writing all the songs and then brought the band into the rehearsal studio to learn the tunes. Once we had them down, we went in and tracked them. The backing tracks were brought to a friends studio in NYC where we finished all the overdubs. CTC is really indicative of what our live band sounds like. It's very close. I wanted CTC to be more of a "band" sounding record.  

As the producer of CTC as well, how close is the final result compared to what you "heard" in your head? Is there anything about CTC you're unhappy with, in hindsight, that you would change if you had the chance?  
I think we nailed 95% of it the way I had hoped.  I'm very happy with the outcome. The only song I wish we recorded differently is "Tired of Thinking of you". We recently started playing a live version of  it that has become the highlight of our live set. I do wish we could go back and re record that one. Oh well. There was also a solo acoustic version of "Salvation" with alternate lyrics that I thought was pretty cool. I was going to lead off the album with it until I wrote the song "Come To California." It was then shelved.   

"Rid this soulful fire that is consuming me" - what is this "soulful fire" you're referring to?
The soulful fire is " Geraldine" and it's consuming  the main character of CTC.

I note there are quite a few 'religious' references in the songs eg. "but the devil left me nothing behind," "angels helped me to see that glorious U-turn sign," "get your rosary beads and summon up a saint," "like Lazarus I'll rise from this lifelong sleep." Are these references used as literary devices or do they have greater/deeper significance? Are any of the songs semi- or fully autobiographical?
Most are used as literary devices. Maybe it was my stint as an alter boy in the catholic church as kid.  It's not about religion but spirituality. I tried to show  a spiritual side to where the character was going. The whole salvation theme. In story, the main character gives himself up to the ocean hoping it will take him to a higher place. The torrid ocean ends up putting him back on the beach and temporally ridding him of his addiction of "Geraldine". But you know what they say. Once an addict, always an addict. In the end he can't fight off her haunting. The lead off track of the album " Come To California"  is actually the last song in the progression of the story. It's a friend warning him not to go back. Not to heed her call. 

In a wider context, do you see the subject of "addiction" as one that continues to destroy lives and hinder personal growth? What is this"salvation" you talking about in the sense of the CTC story line? Is there a more universal message you are trying to convey to your listeners? 
The story for this album all started with the song "Geraldine."  I thought that the lyrics for Geraldine were a great basis for a film noir type of story about a guy trying to find a lost love in dark and dangerous LA.  A desperate man pursuing a woman named Geraldine.  In  pursuing this woman, he loses himself and almost loses his life.  The overall message I'm trying to convey is that obsession or passion can lead us into very dark places. Places that we should not go to but we just can't help ourselves.  Obsession turning into addiction.  In this case his intense love / passion for Geraldine has turned his life upside down.  He loses all sense of himself. Even with higher intervention he can' t be saved in the end. His whole life is Geraldine.      

Is the concept of America as the "Land of Opportunity" still valid in 2001? Do you personally believe there is room in the modern rock scene for a band like Mannix? What is the concept behind www.mannixrock.com Records? Do you believe the internet will "save" indie rock?
Sadly, I think the dollar rules in the " Land of Opportunity". However, I believe that there are ways in Art and music to make a differance and take a stand for what you believe.  Mannix, consisting of Chris Peck / drums and vocals, John Kasiewicz / Guitar and vocals and Toby Graham / bass and vocals is the best band I have ever been involved with. Super talented players who are not afraid to get their hands dirty and pursue what they truly love to do. We play one mean live show!  We recently acquired a great booking agent and have dedicated ourselves to getting out on the road at least three weeks a month to tour and promote " Come To California". The fan response has been amazing. We have also been very fortunate to have some other talented people join the Mannix family and do PR  and radio promotion  for us. Chris, John, Toby and myself are all very focused on taking this band to a much higher level and building something that we can all be very proud of.  I have no interest in chasing down the hip indie / major A&R guy to our shows. Those days are over. We are no longer waiting around for someone to discover us. We have taken matters into our own hands. It's a great feeling. This band has a very strong work ethic. You have to strong work ethic to survive these days. 

The major labels have been wrestling somewhat with the "internet" issue raising mainly so-called legal rights and whatnot, whereas for the artist it's all about connecting with the fans. How far do you believe a band likeMannix can go with the internet and without a big record label? Do you believe that with these new opportunities, an artist is only limited by his/her ambition and vision?
The Internet has be a great tool for Mannix but we can only go so far without big money behind us. I'm realistic as to how far this grass roots campaign can take us. That being said, I think that if a band utilizes all of their resources (Internet / touring etc..) they can place them self in a much better bargaining position when taking the leap into the Indie / major label hunting ground.  I think you need to do the full on grass roots thing to get to the next level.  In this day in age, very few bands are getting signed because they have a great demo. You have to get out there and work your ass off and utilize every resource you have.    

What does the immediate future hold for Mannix?  Are there new songs already for the next project?  Will Mannix continue in the musical path set out so far or will there be a different direction to come?  
We plan to tour the heck out of "Come To California."  We plan to be on the road at least three weeks per month in the good old USA. I'm really looking forward to the next album.  About 3/4 of the album is already written.  We are working a few of the tunes into our live set.  I'm very excited about the band recording these songs.  Very excited.   There is a conceptual format for the next album as well.  It's about fairies and dragons and castles and Wizards.  I also have a few songs in there about aliens who become friends with the fairies and dragons and wizards and live happily ever after.  Haahh. I'M ONLY KIDDING!