FLIGHT is blowing up. I think, and hope, that FLIGHT becomes even more of a house-hold name in the coming days. His music is saving rock and roll. It's a classic, rudimentary vibe done in a new way. It's organic jams that just don't quit, with hooks for days.
I was lucky enough to play a show with FLIGHT months and months back, and have kept up correspondence with big homey since. I was even lucky enough to spend Halloween at his abode with good friends. We had a killer time.
A few months ago, I sent him a big fat list of questions and here's the answers I got back… Now, I've read a few FLIGHT interviews in the past, and I just felt like the interviewers may have missed the point. Hopefully, this is a bit better than those, hahaha.
What does rock and roll mean to you?
I can't think of anything but clichés. When I think of rock and roll I think of Kings of Leon or U2 or Motley Crue. Hard to pin down what the fuck it really is. Everybody has a different idea. For me though, it's more accidental comedy. Like in “Behind the Music: Motley Crue” they talk about how their original band name was going to be Christmas, “because, hey, everybody already liked Christmas.” You know, just hilarious shit like that. Every rock band seems to have some really priceless comical value and they are almost totally unaware of how funny it really is. Bono's glasses? Gimme a break.
Tell me about Mississippi… Where exactly in MS do you live?
I live in Taylor, MS, which is about an hour south of Memphis. It's right outside of Oxford, where the Ole Miss is located. It's some country shit but we have a lot of parties when bands come in town and it seems like a great retreat for them. People are always very relaxed and comfortable so they seem to enjoy themselves. That's my invite. We always need more good artists coming through.
Is there a certain type of music that dominates that area? Is there a localized crew of dudes that all kind of bounce off of each other?
Well, no, but there's a lot of heady jam bullshit. Lots of “roots” music, whatever the hell that means. There's still some good stuff, just not anything consistent. Pretty much all of my friends are involved in music in some way or have been in bands at one time or another. It's a very incestuous group and we all share our time with each other, musically speaking. Some of it is great, some of it is very mediocre, just like everywhere else in the world.
How does Mississippi or the South affect or influence your music, if at all?
I think it's impossible for me to say to what extent Mississippi influences my music but I definitely have taken pieces of things that are distinct to Mississippi and thrown them into my little FLIGHT stew. I bought the amp I record through because it reminded me of T-Model Ford's tone. It's cheap, has a shitty chorus effect and the amp is too powerful for the speakers so it distorts in a pretty bizarre way once you get it all the way up. That's the most literal influence I can think of. Lyrically, I think you tend to get bored and kind of make up these stories that are pretty desperate or imaginative, but still rooted here in the South. You know, I couldn't ever really write a song about uptown girls or Sunset Strip and take myself seriously. So I guess there's that thing where you just end up having to tell stories about what's in your head or a surreal version of something you're around. My buddy Michael Bible wrote this great short story about a dude who claims his son was molested by these huge Bigfoot kind of characters and then three weeks later there was this actual news report in Mississippi, or maybe Alabama, where this dude was essentially telling Michael's story… It was bizarre. I don't think that answers the question at all, but I hope that makes sense.
In general, what do you write your lyrics about? The first time I heard “Flowers,” with the hook “Don't you put no flowers on my grave…” I was pretty much sold… Where do your lyrics come from, and in general, how important are the lyrics in regards to the music as a
Lyrics are extremely important if they suck, but only kind of important if they are decent or good. You know what I mean? Nobody notices if your lyrics are ok or even good, but if they suck then it's a really bad look. It's easy to be corny or sentimental with words but it's a lot harder to just say things direct and describe a situation in hopes that it makes sense, because like I was saying a second ago, whatever you say, you never know how it's going to come across to someone else. So I usually take a sub-conscious approach and write them very quickly. I figure it will either be honest and sensible or come out sounding like some surreal dream. Beck and Bowie are the best at that in my opinion. Bowie straddles that line perfectly, like on that Quicksand chorus, “Don't believe in yourself / Don't deceive with belief / knowledge comes with death's release.” What the hell does that mean? There's so many ways to take that and it almost sounds silly. But it's great.
Were you involved in bands before FLIGHT?
Always off and on. I've never had any consistency with a particular band but I've been playing since I was 13, so yes, plenty of bands between then and now but I sort of gave up right before FLIGHT started up. Of course that's when I made something that people actually wanted to release. Funny.
FLIGHT is a solo project, it seems, but you have dudes that jam live with you? How much is it your baby? Do you ever get song ideas, extra help, etc from outsiders?
Yeah I've got a live band now so we're a four piece for the time being – whenever we can actually play shows. It's definitely my project though, I mean I record everything alone. I'd like to involve the live band but it's just easier to do it alone because you don't have to ask for favors or for people to come sit through the extremely boring process of recording. Everybody's got their own shit going on.
In that same vein for a minute, would you ever expand FLIGHT out into a full-on, multi-member band?
Yes, absolutely. I've talked about it with the guys in the live band and I'd like to have help from them in the recording or even writing process. I mean we all are very agreeable people but I tend to work fast. I don't edit much. I try to spit it out quickly and keep moving. Plus, I can't pay them and I can't afford the gear it would take to record everything in a proper live setting, so there's that.
Let's take a flip trip to dream town and if you could get any dudes or dudettes in the jam (alive or dead) who would you recruit?
This is a hilarious question. I don't think you're going to like my answer but I'd love to get Michael Jackson, Lionel Ritchie, The Brothers Johnson and then maybe Manuel Gottsching, Konrad Plank and like… Giorgio Moroder. I'd want to be around people who make music that I can't understand or can't relate to the process it's being made with. You know, I would never want to jam with Kevin Shields or Frank Black. They're great songwriters and their recordings are amazing, but their process really just isn't as interesting to me. I'd like to learn things that I don't have a clue how to do, as far as recording and writing goes.
How important is image in rock and roll to you? How important is it to, like, FUCKING LIVE ROCK AND ROLL, at least a little bit?
That's a funny one. I mean for starters, this goes back to your first question. Lots of people have different ideas of what rock is but I don't think it's important to live “rock and roll” at all. Some people do it really well and I love them for it, but I guess for every Kurt Cobain or Jay Reatard, and those are 'rockstars' that I like a lot, but there's always a Daniel Johnston or an R. Stevie Moore lurking behind them. They are equally rad and just as talented but not as famous of course. But you know Motley Crue looked really awesome and really stupid at the same time. There's something great and fun about that but good shit is always good shit. I also love the in-between image like Mark Linkous… soft spoken, redneck, isolated from people, junkie off and on, loved dogs and turtles and motorcycles and then just so happened to make the most insane sounding music I've ever heard. It seemed like an extension of a really interesting person and not just some idiot character he made up to get attention.
How do you manage to create music that packs a swaggering boom-pow aesthetic, with hooks that can literally stop people dead in their tracks?
Is this the part where me and you get to make out? Seriously man, I appreciate the compliments but I don't know how to answer that! I like pop music as much as I like experimental music. That's the best I can do.
You record and produce yourself, as well as others, right? Are there any specific rituals you try to keep up when making a FLIGHT recording?
Drinking. The one thing I try to do is not overthink anything and drinking helps that. Drums sound like drums. It's not good to get hung up on the details. I try to finish something and then re-do the whole thing if it's no good. I don't nitpick the individual parts or performances. I have a good room to record in and a very limited setup, so I try to let it do most of the work.
What are some classic records that you feel stand as some sort of musical guidance for what you're doing for FLIGHT? That, at least, helped mold what you're doing?
It's definitely a mix of a lot of things. The songwriting for me is definitely late 70s straight through to the early 90s. You know it's nothing very original. That said, I think when I heard The Shocking Pinks and Boris recordings and even stuff like Norma Jean or Electric Wizard, I realized what was possible with heavy signals and peaked recordings. Something about those tones just sound like heaven to me.
But I still think there's that like, implied sound thing. Where you can't hear everything perfectly clearly so your brain has to put it together and figure out what the hell is going on. I like listening to stuff like that. At some point after the 80s, producers just became
obsessed with volume and clarity. Before then there were a lot more implied sounds. Like you could feel certain things in the mix, but you couldn't totally pick them out.
Your releases always have really killer artwork… The look and feel of the sleeves definitely fit the music on the wax… How controlling are you with the art for your releases? Do you give the artist freedom, or do you have concepts? It seems important that the music and imagery
marry together… Is this true to you?
Well, the first two covers I literally just picked from James Hines' flickr account probably the same way you did for the Honeysuckle LP. The other one — I had a little skull/ouroboros collage that I did a few years ago. I scanned it and sent it to Andy from Woven Bones so he could add some different colors and a more interesting texture. Andy also did the bubble logo. He jacked it from Cluster's Zuckerzeit album, which
rules and was the perfect homage for me, in my opinion. They did the complete opposite of what I do musically. But that's funny because it's definitely important to me that the art matches the music so it's fun to see how far I can take that. The Lead Riders was just a drunk as shit photo that a buddy of mine snapped before we all passed out. I thought it sort of had this relaxed creepiness to it.
What would the world be like if White Zombie had never existed? Fuck that, what if Rob Zombie had never been born, how does that personally affect you?
So funny man. Well, for one thing you and I wouldn't have hit it off without White Zombie, which is hysterical. Broing down over White Zombie at a house in Arkansas has become a fixture in my life. I was living in Fayetteville as a kid, probably 10 or 11, and my future brother-in-law
brought over Devil Music, Vol. 1.
It took about 30 seconds until that shit flipped me entirely upside down. It was like there was a brand new universe that I didn't know about. Like, where the fuck are these aliens from and how can I get them to abduct me? I know I sound like a cheese ball, but I was trying to show my sister's boyfriend at the time some classic rock compilation bullshit I bought at the mall and was all proud of — so it really was a total mind-fuck to hear something like White Zombie for the first time.
It was everything I knew to be wrong and I was completely obsessed with it instantaneously. I was sort of sheltered before that, but once I heard them and Check Your Head and Nevermind I realized I wasn't getting the whole story and I needed to take some initiative to find more stuff like it. I wouldn't say I credit Rob
Zombie with that, but I guess it is kind of true. Hilarious to think about it.
What's on the immediate horizon for FLIGHT, in the aspect of upcoming releases, shows, etc etc?
The Lead Riders 12″ EP just came out. I've started working on some new recordings that are far more pop oriented than what I have been doing. I'm also going to really incorporate piano on these next recordings. Hoping to get that Hunky Dory piano/sax rock on top of some FLIGHT shit.
Do you pay attention to the current trends in music? Do you care about bullshit tags like No-Fi, Chillwave, Witch House, or whatever else they're shoveling onto music fans?
I care about them to the extent that they were created because at least one, maybe two artists were doing something original or something mostly unoriginal but with a regurgitated edge to it and that made someone else, a writer probably, want to invent some bullshit phrase just to express how they felt about it or to describe it. I mean, I love Salem and I guess they're Witch House? Or Drag maybe? It's always interesting to see who sticks around from those stupid little sub-genre tags. But whatever, there's always good bands lumped into the bullshit.
Out there, somewhere, is FLIGHT's ultimate mega-fan, who owns all your recordings, visits your Myspace every day, talks about you over brunch. If you could say one thing to them… what would it be?
Wanna get a drink?
What's been blowing your dome lately?
Best Cry Ever Auto Tuned on Youtube… kind of old now but still brings me so much pleasure. The new Salem record is perfect. Odd Future is the future. Lil Wayne's new record blows but it doesn't matter because Curren$y and Big KRIT are destroying. They're coming through Oxford in a couple of weeks. We're all stoked about that show. I'm also really looking forward to Mickey Rourke playing the Ice Man mafia killer. That will probably be a couple of years, but it's going to be amazing. I really like his role in 'Rumble Fish.' Weird, male anti-ego shit.
Lastly, finish this: FLIGHT would not exist without…