Fools and Festering Wounds:
Sound Advice From an Unsound Mind
Truman Wallace is the rhythm guitarist and main songwriter for a Broomfield band called the Fleshies. In the eighties and nineties he worked as a record producer, an A&R man for Capitol records and did some promotion along the front range. He gave it all up in 1999 to play in the Fleshies, “a once-in-a-lifetime chance to play with talented musicians on [his] own terms.” An additional factor to his departure from the front office of the music scene was his blacklisting for publicly slamming Richard Leokum's six-point artist development plan.
He's one of my favorite songwriters. We met in his living room. He had two tiny dogs on his lap. A can of soda on a TV tray. The stereo played a tape of a badly recorded Fleshies concert. His gut sagged over a pair of cut offs. He wore flip flops and no shirt. The heat was turned up to eighty. Outside the snow fell onto a rutted lawn.
Strapping Danforth: Truman, I've noticed over the last thirty years that even though the world is filled with good musicians, good songwriters are scarce. Do you see the same thing?
Truman: Yeah. It always amazes me to see a band full of great players go on stage with the dumbest songs. I once saw this band where the guitarist could play any thing. Any thing. They did a bunch of covers and then announced an original tune. The song was so awful the place cleared out. Would you rather be married and miserable or divorced and childless?
SD: Divorced. I want you to point out some stupid things young songwriters tend to do.
TW: The first thing they do is make the assumption that they're going to write something original. Let me say this loudly and clearly: there is nothing original anymore. Especially if you're sitting on the edge of you bed with a guitar on you lap, trying to write songs about hating your parents. Or a blues. Or anything. So the first thing you gotta do is resign yourself to being a plagiarist. Embrace it, in fact. If you hear a tune and you dig it, find out why you dig it and steal that part, make it the foundation for your next song.
SD: Like your song “Temptation's Blast Furnace” where you steal the guitar solo from “Maybe I'm Amazed” by McCartney?
TW: No. That's all me. You're just like my wife. [Truman leaves the room to empty the ash tray. Fifteen minutes later he comes back with droopy eyelids, talking more slowly, but otherwise unaffected.] Give your first songs some structure. Oh sure, you want to be free and be an artist and la di da da...You're an idiot....think, verse, chorus, verse, ending. You can always write primitive free crap. You can't always write a good song.
SD: I though this would be worthwhile interview. Do you think anyone finds this compelling?
TW: Wanna talk about something else?
SD: No. But try to make it more interesting. Talk about things that piss you off.
TW: My freezer pisses me off. I get very angry when I try to cook a steak and it's got freezer burn. I get mad when hippie bands start jamming. It goes on too long. I get mad when a band plays the same beat for every song. You hear that a lot. Listen to KBCO some day. Every song on that radio station is the same tempo with the same beat. Same thing with AC/DC. That drummer's been playing the same beat for thirty years. I really hate bad singer songwriters. It completely pisses me off when people take themselves seriously. When I see a group getting super serious I stand in front of the stage and yell, “Idiots! You're entertainers.” Nobody ever led a revolution with a guitar strapped over his shoulder.
SD: What about Vietnam and the sixties? A lot of social movements were pressed forward by music of the time.
TW: Here's my problem: Bands always get pissed off when they're accused of turning kids into murderers. Five minutes later they claim that if we sing the right songs we can stop a war. Which is it? You can't have the good without the bad. My life is all bad these days.
SD: Are you well?
TW: No. I've been drinking since...a long time. I'm having some problems at home.
SD: Your marriage.
TW: Do you want a dop of something?
SD: No, I had a heart attack. What's your least favorite act in Colorado ?
TW: Probably the Cornish Hens. I don't even know why I hate them. They're not ugly.
SD: Is it the song writing?
TW: The songwriting? Yeah. They couldn't write a grocery list. The lyrics are all moon June shit. Their idea of a good bridge is ten measures of a minor chord. And the endings are stupid. A good song has a good ending. “Freebird” is not a good ending. It's a long ending. A lot of bands end a song by simply stopping. That's not an ending. That's a stop. Other bands think you end a song by not ending. I f**kin' hate long songs. The last long song that I listened to was Beethoven's Ninth. And that sucker could have ended after two movements. My wife left me and she wants to take the kids.
SD: We were talking about how much you hate the Cornish Hens.
TW: Right. The Cornish Hens. Did your wife ever leave you?
TW: What should I do?
SD: Knowing nothing about your relationship with your wife, I couldn't say. I do recommend you take your own advice. When a song is over it should end. Not fizzle out. Not drag on for years and long custody battles.
TW: What the hell?
SD: I'll let myself out.
TW: What the hell?
The Fleshies next show is Tuesday at the Turn-Key Lounge.
--Strapping Danforth, December, 2001
Sent: Tuesday, December 11, 2001 4:42 PM
Subject: Santa? Is that you?
Strapping Dan just gave me his Chrismas list. He wants a copy of the January 2001 and Nov 2001 Riff Music Magazines. Can you grant him that one wish. Or does that count as two wishes? He said, “Seeing as how I've been sending her articles gratis for over a year, you'd think she could get me some copies of them.”
Again, Merry Xmas.
Sent: Tuesday, December 11, 2001 6:42 PM
F rom: Lois
Subject: Re: Santa? Is that you?
I think Santa will be able to arrange it.