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Old 10.06.2008, 04:48 AM   #50
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Tall Firs
Aaron Mullan
If Thurston loves them, so do we; subba quizzes Tall Firs on the eve of their UK tour…

Signed to Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace label, three-piece Tall Firs have been compared to everyone from Crazy Horse to indeed Sonic Youth. Currently on tour in the UK in support of sophomore album Too Old To Die Young. I put forward a few questions to guitarist and founding member Aaron Mullan, covering everything from touring, recording, difficult guitar tunings and aging gracefully amongst the rock and roll pack.

For a three piece your music is quite full, at once both laid-back while heavy. Was it a conscious decision to go down this route, or was it the sound that naturally evolved in playing together as a band?

That’s just where we are. Somewhere on the common thread that runs between Creedence, the Band of Gypsies, Celebration, New Order, Muluqén Mélésé, Kiln House-era Fleetwood Mac, Gamelan Orchestras, Mudhoney, Howlin’ Wolf, Love, Blues Control, Interstellar Space, and Paranoid.

You have recently released your second album, how does it differ from the first, and what are you ambitions for the record?

The first one was written by two people and had no thought to the idea we might actually be called upon to play those songs live. This record was written by three people and arranged for three people, and some of the songs were developed live before they were put to tape. We now have a drummer in the band. So some of the songs are a bit more rockin’. Our ambition is that people will hear the record and it will resonate with them emotionally. We’re hoping to help people.

‘Too Old To Die Young’ appears a wry, joking title almost anti-rock and roll in a sense?

Well yeah there is an attempt at humor there. If it’s funny, it’s funny because it’s true. We’re older than Hendrix or James Dean or Kurt Cobain were when they died. We’re older than the Beatles when they broke up. It just takes us a while to compose our thoughts. We have respect for anyone who takes the time to listen and want to put together a coherent statement before asking for people’s attention.

How was the recording process?

We recorded over several years in different spaces. Our friend Tim Glasgow helped us cut some of the basics, and came in to mix the record, which was one of the best moves we’ve made. I’m the main engineer in the band, so for me it was super to just sit on the couch and listen to someone else put the mix together. On one or two occasions we had strong opinions and overrode Tim’s choices, but in general he just did it.

Did you have any artists or sound in mind as influences,. That you attempted to capture?

Not really. For us, as soon as we can recognize that somebody’s part bares an obvious influence, we point it out so the others can be sure to steer clear of that. For us, if a song has a Country basis, the last thing we would want to do is call in the pedal steel guy. We’d rather call in somebody to play bagpipes or chipper-shredder or anything. Also, Dave and I can’t really play in any style other than what we do. Ryan can play just about anything he wants, but collectively it’s not like we could make a Metal record if we wanted to. Sometimes records have a weird resonance in retrospect: I first heard this Stalk-Forrest group record right as we were finishing ours, and to me it was almost part of the same album. David Fricke once pointed out us sounding similar to the studio single version of ‘Dark Star’ and I thought that was brilliantly insightful. The other dudes don’t even know that version of the song. They don’t even like the Stalk-Forrest group record. Those two have understandings of what our band is doing that are just as demented as mine. So in short, no: we are unable, uninterested, and unwilling to ape someone else or provide a watered-down version of something else.

Your music is released through Thurston Moores’s Ecstatic Peace Label. And Aaron is Sonic Youth’s soundman - does that entail taking care of those notorious guitar tunings?

Well my real job is to engineer for them and run the studio. The tunings don’t require much ‘taking care’ of, it’s not like they need to be watered or taken for a walk! The guitar techs who tour with us have spreadsheets and stuff to keep track of what songs are in what tunings, played on what guitar, with what gauge strings. Weirdly, I don’t even know any of the tunings beyond knowing that they are different from the ones Dave and I use. But sure, in a pinch I have been known to re-string and re-intonate a guitar to switch between tunings during a recording session. I think of it more as part of engineering than real guitar work.

How do you find touring in general. Are you looking forward to playing the UK dates?

Honestly, touring is generally difficult and occasionally rewarding. We had really good experiences last time we were in the UK. So, yes we are looking forward to it. Total worst-case scenario you can always count on a good booze-up with your pals. But hopefully people will come out to the shows and listen and say hello.

'Too Old To Die Young' is out now on Ecstatic Peace


Thanks to Chris @ Stone Immaculate…

By: John Tonner
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