INTERVIEW: Action Andy & the Hi-Tones — High And Lonesome
Released October 31, 2013, High And Lonesome (RELGO 69) is an amalgamation of storytelling, real life experience, and musical pursuits (past present and future); written, vocalized and strummed by local San Diego musician and friend Andy Rasmussen.
Accompanied by a lively litter of seasoned local musicians whose careers span a lengthy ledger of class acts, this concept album explores the ups and downs of a fictional character through superb musicianship, immersive interludes, and loads of subliminal nods to musical influences. In essence, a handshake between discerning fact and creative fiction, this album is invitingly cerebral and will turn on your brain. I have already logged fond memories of this album driving through the backcountry of Deep California, wake of tumbleweeds in tow…
High And Lonesome is also distinctly and uniquely San Diegan, insofar as numerous local waypoints and landmarks are mentioned throughout the album. The sound effects and narratives of local destinations included herein are something to behold — this city has needed a musical document/monument for quite some time!
The album’s material holds up great in a live setting, and the current gigging line-up (Andy – Vocals & Rhythm Guitar, Xavier Anaya – Lead Guitar, Jeremiah Silva – Bass, Jarrod Lucas – Drums) of Action Andy & the Hi-Tones are all charismatic and lively as all dancin’ grooves get out.
Ultimately, it struck me that I don’t really know too many people who have written an entire album. Naturally, I wanted to know what inspired this fellow musician-friend, so out of curiosity I approached Andy with the idea of an Interview. By the grace of the Great Black Spiral-Saucer in the sky, he obliged (Actually, I knew he’d say yes — he’s really one of the most easygoing, friendly musicians in San Diego). For the Reading Listener’s pleasure, transcribed below, The Interview:
KYLE HOFFMAN: You’ve been in a number of different groups and have played a variety of styles over the years. From what I can tell, most of these styles are pretty well-exercised on this album. How do you feel your experiences in previous groups influenced this album?
ACTION ANDY:What this album represents to me is a new direction in my music, and one that merges all my influences into my own style. After all these years doing various projects, I now have freedom to pursue my music without being locked into any genre. I know where I’ve been musically, and want to keep challenging myself as an artist to continue and create without limitations..
KH: How and when did the initial idea of a concept album come about? Was it a lingering idea, or did it come to you like a bolt of lightning, filling you with a burnin’, itchin’ desire to GIT IT OUT on an album?
AA: I can’t quite remember how it came about, but once the idea of a story-line progressed, I began to write songs for the purpose of connecting everything together. It was a new approach to making an album, which before, seemed like a clustering of songs. With this one, I had to consider how it all connected, song to song.
KH: Did you have most of the songs conceived before the idea of a concept album came about, or did you have a general outline/theme/short story that you wrote the songs for?
AA: Once I understood what I wanted to do, I had to figure out a basic story. I felt a need to tell it based on events from my own personal life, and based upon friends I’ve known. It had to come from a landscape of places I’ve lived, places I frequented, my neighborhood, bars, liquor stores, seedy joints, alleys, trains, churches, highways, and small towns I’ve passed through. Just like my merging of musical styles that I love, I also merged my life and background to help tell the story. It had to be real..
KH: The narrative interludes are integral to the mechanics of this album’s storytelling. Are there any albums, actors, or characters that influenced this particular element?
AA: When the album was beginning to take form, I began to look at other albums and see what worked for that particular album, and what made them stand out. The narratives from Hank Williams’ Luke the Drifter records were a big influence, especially toward the end of the album. I listened to The Pretty Things “S.F. Sorrow,” The Who’s “Tommy,” “Quadrophenia” and “Sell Out,” especially Kay Adams “The Legend of Johnny Brown,” and the imagery of Sixto Rodriguez. In the end, I even used the sound of Vietnam-era Huey helicopters to represent angels taking away the soul of Hilo, as a nod to “Jesus Christ Superstar,” one of my child-hood favorite movies.
KH: The intros, outros and interludes are riddled with various sound effects. Over the course of the album there are footsteps, dogs, church bells, a diesel truck, a helicopter, and the whispering wake of a trolley. How and where did you capture these various sound effects? Were any of them difficult to capture?
AA: One aspect to making the album real, was to make sure that all the sound affects came from my neighborhood with all sights and sounds around me. Over the course of a few weeks, I walked around with a tape recorder and recorded the Trolley, birds, buses, cars, my dogs barking in the night, the sound of my front gate opening and closing. I recorded the sound of my footsteps walking along the sidewalk, through alleys, and up the steps to a church one block from my house. To get those diesel sounds in “Mean Diesel Daddy,” I had my dad haul ass on a diesel truck up and down a back road, grinding gears til the thing almost broke. I remember sleeping in my car for four hours until the train behind my house passed by so I could record it — what we go though for the sake of art (!)
KH: I’ve noticed a couple of nods to other groups, particularly a reference to Mouse & the Traps in one of the interludes… are there any other groups you would recommend that might help the listener catch on to more of these cues?
AA: Throughout the album you’ll find nods to The Texas Tornados, Mouse and The Traps (very perceptive), The Monks, Red Simpson, Davie Alan and the Arrows, just so many others. In “If You Don’t Have Love,” I quoted from Langston Hughes’ poem “Motto,” one of my favorite African American poets.
KH: Your first album, Haunted Honky-Tonk (RELGO) was also recorded at Earthling Studios, by Mike Kamoo. What made you decide to record at Earthling again? What influence did choosing Mike Kamoo have on the making of the album?
AA: Returning to Earthling Studios was a pretty easy choice for me. Mike is an easy going guy, and we work well together. He knows me and my sound, and was very open to try just about anything. He’s a musician too, and while a great producer/engineer in his own right, he has an artists perspective which I feel is very important.
KH: There are some pretty interesting effects that catch my ear, particularly Xavier’s reverse loop guitar solo on “Mean Diesel Daddy.” Did you have any difficulties in utilizing these effects or techniques for this album?
AA: The backwards guitar solo was pretty fun to create. I recall Mike flipping the reel over, and Xavier did a straight solo with slight variations in it to get those long drawn out sounds. He did that in about three takes, then flipped the reel over and that’s it. We did the same thing with the intro to “Step Into the Light,” and used backwards cymbals on that song and a few others. Once we got to adding effects and things, that was probably the most fun I had during the whole project.
KH: As musicians, sometimes we create with particular musical influences in mind. Other times, influences can be covert, and are not as tangible until we have a finished product. Did you experience this after recording?
AA: It’s a bit of give and take as you are in the process of creating, you can have “influences” but I feel it shouldn’t overpower who you are as an artist. With this album, I was able to utilize all my influences, but still create something new without it being repetitive. Moving forward, this album helped me see who I am, and I no longer feel limited by any one particular style or genre.
Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to PURCHASE THIS ALBUM!
“Trouble In Me”
“Step Into The Light”