Interview with Russell David
On the upcoming
album "Evil in a good way"
(available June 12, 2001 from Simple Music).
was held at the Hyatt, Embarcadero 4, San Francisco, on May 15, 2001.
Slinky: It's good to be back with you. It's been a while since we've talked.
Thanks. It's good to see you again. Great place huh?
Uh... you know...
got that sterile airport ambience. No?
It certainly does.
you feel right at home.
What can I get you gentlemen?
Uh, yes, I'll have a Cosmo, shaken. Do you have those little Marachino
Yes we do sir.
Can you put a few of those in there?
Like a Manhattan?
Yes, like a Manhattan, but a Cosmopolitan.
Very good, and you sir?
Martini, two olives.
So what have you been up to? I hear you've been busy.
things have been crazy. I've been re-releasing a lot of old stuff with
the help of Ton Def and Mario Yee. I've been working with Nick Guerrero,
on his new album, which is gonna be really cool. I've continued work with
Jonas... we mixed and released his second album, and he's well on his
way to having 3 releases in a years time. The guy's a total madman! We're
also working on a Simple Music compilation cd called "Effortless"
with Nick, Jonas, and myself. It's a been a good year.
I'm impressed. Has this left any time for your own project?
I've been working on an album for about 9 months now, and it's coming
Anything you can share? When we last talked, you mentioned that you were
writing "evil" sounding songs, or something to that effect.
Has that continued?
RD: Not really,
but it's funny, because the new album is called "Evil in a Good Way."
So I guess there is a connection.
But the songs aren't evil?
that's subjective. I don't think so, but they do delve into passion, and
dysfunction at least to my ear. I've been trying to get a hold of that
darker side, and somehow get that emotion through in song.
So is there more of the same? More love and god songs?
RD: Oh Definitely!
I think I'm focusing on love this time. I remember telling you that "Friends
are Friends" was an album of love songs, which wasn't entirely true,
at least not in comparison to this one. "Friends" had a lot
of religion in it. This album is more pure romance, if you can call it
that. There's religious imagery, but the songs are mostly about women,
passion, relationships, desire.
What happened? Did you consciously decide to focus on Love?
RD: No. I
can't do that sort of thing on purpose. I just take the emotional ride
and see where it goes. I've had this idea in my head for a long time,
or this series of ideas, and for some reason, I've been able to express
it, or I've been inspired to express it more in these sessions. I don't
know where it comes from.
The album is still in production, but I've heard a few of the singles.
The songs sound different. Your voice is more resolute than on "Friends,"
similar to "I Wish I Was Beautiful." That's a subjective comment,
but does it connect with your vision of album?
yeah. Like in 17 by 23, which I think is on that pre-release tape.
Exactly the song I was thinking of.
so that song is very personal. I'm using my real experiences, and blowing
them up bigger than life. I'm taking my feelings of obsessive love, the
insanity that comes with that, and running with it, taking it to the next
level. I want that to come through-that strange mix of cynicism and relentless
That's a continued theme, though.
for sure, but I feel like I've come closer to it. I've been more successful
at capturing it, or at conjuring the kind of maniacal state it takes to
perform and sing these songs like you mean them. I hear these things in
my head. I can't just go into the studio and turn it on. You have to sneak
up on it sometimes. It's tricky.
But the writing is different too, more mystical.
RD: I don't
know if it's more mystical. I use a lot of the same techniques.
Like I said, I use my own experiences, and will zoom in on them so tightly
that they're almost unrecognizable. I don't know if that makes sense.
It's like I'm using a magnifying glass on my life. Without perspective,
it might seem like some unconnected alien landscape, but in reality, it's
just everyday human stuff. Just magnified. I don't know if that makes
Sure. So in that sense, do you magnify your emotions and reactions too?
RD: I don't
think there's a straight connection. I write songs based on emotions.
I try to express feelings through songs. Usually, I'm trying to think
of a creative way to get that across--a way that will make people think
and feel things like I do for a few moments, or that will make people
understand. I don't know. The emotions are the purest part of the song.
I don't think they're magnified, but it's a hard question maybe.
I just meant more along the lines of the way you describe the emotions.
Is that amplified to get a reaction?
RD: No, no
way. That truly would be evil. I'm not yanking peoples chains, or playing
games with the people who listen to my songs. I find that offensive. I
may be off my rocker, but I'm being as honest as I can. I'm making a good
faith effort to touch you as a listener, and to communicate with you.
I didn't mean it that way. I just meant , you know, just that not to insinuate
insincerity. Just as a way of expressing depth...
okay. I'm just touchy about that, I guess. I have a sense of commitment
to the people who take the time to listen. I appreciate their interest
and friendship, so I'm probably hypersensitive to that. I don't know.
I think I'm sounding nuts.
No, no. It's cool.
Your drinks. Martini Cosmopolitan with cherries.
So what happened to God? You said there was less religion in this new
RD: God is
still there. I think the sense of God is in every one of the songs. For
me, at least.
But it's less explicit? More focused on romance?
it's hard to say, because there's a point where it all gets mixed up together,
but overtly that seems true. God is more spirit than body in these songs.
RD: I don't
know. I guess I just mean "God" in the bigger-than-the-coventional-western-mind
sense. God in the sense of passion itself.
What about the song "Naked?"
well, I was going to mention that. Naked is the only real "God"
song on the album. And God is in his full physical body there. That was
the first song I recorded for this new project, so it's kind of a holdover
from "Friends are Friends" in that sense. It doesn't fit with
this album in an obvious way. But give me some time, I'll justify it.
And the song seems like a blatant, anti-religion, protest tune.
not really. I don't see it that way. I see it as a cry for people to be
honest with themselves. I'm saying, Look. The Emporer has no clothes.
I'm moving on in my life, and you are all free to come with me. I don't
mean it in a hateful or arrogant way. I don't mean it as anti-anything.
It's pro-honesty, pro freedom.
And from the songs on the album, it does seem that you've moved on, or
turned a corner somehow. Yes?
RD: I guess,
yeah. In the sense that I don't feel ashamed or tentative about my life
So you were tentative before?
RD: I don't
mean that. It's just that a lot of my past music has been in reaction
to my experiences with Fundamentalist Christianity, which was fine and
appropriate, but I think I'm moving on to a different stage now. I will
always be affected by that experience, and I'll always write songs about
it as inspiration directs, but I'm free of it now, spiritually, psychologically,
and hopefully emotionally.
Are you sure about that?
pause) No. Of course not. I said "hopefully." My next album
might be filled with religious angst. I don't know what's ahead, but this
album is more centered on the human expression of God. The positive side
of that, what I call GodÉ human devotion, passion, desire what some people
would call "evil."
And that's the tie in to the title?
that's what I mean by it.
The fluidity of good and evil?
RD: I guess
you can put it that way, but it's not that philosophical, really. I can't
explain it satisfactorily with logical sentences, which is the whole point
of trying to explain it with poetry and songs.
But try. I don't understand exactly what you mean with this.
RD: I don't
know. It's convoluted, I admit it. It's like this metaphor I hint at in
a few of the songs like of two lovers, or a guy who's in love with a woman
he can't have, and he's so obsessed that he romanticizes the idea of catching
a venereal disease from her. He thinks that would connect him to her,
and give him a permanent souvenir of having been close to her, something
he'd always remember, a part of her living inside of him. And I know that
idea is messed up, it's really dirty sounding, it creeps you out, and
doesn't give you a "good" feeling--but it describes a kind of
transcendental devotion and commitment, that to me, is the most beautiful
thing in the world. I can't explain that. I don't know if other people
will get it, but it's there, and that's the essence of what I mean by
"evil in a good way."
What song's that in? I totally missed that.
RD: It comes
up a few times. It's in "17 by 23" and "In the Morning"
Hmm. I'll have to listen again. That's interesting.
RD: I hope
it doesn't ruin the song for you!
No, not at all so this is a freedom for you, a new direction, but I'm
not sensing any real answers or changes in that department. You still
seem to be searching for some kind of closure in some way. Or am I missing
RD: I never
said I know the answers. I have plenty of confusion left, and everything
I do is washed in my continued experience with God. If I've turned a corner,
it's only in an increase of openness, where I can say, "Yes, Jesus
broke my heart, yes, I'm wounded by the loss, but hey look at this beautiful
or painful or interesting thing over here." I think I was obsessed
with justifying my choices in the past--and maybe I still am to a point--but
I think my music has moved beyond that. I'm focusing on other things now,
what I perceive to be other expressions of god.
Like broken love?
Like the incredible, soul devouring, desire to be one with another human
being. What is that? Like the loss of an ideal, or perennial discontent,
or obsession. These things are immense, and there's a sense of God within
them. Even--and maybe especially--in the hard and painful and sick ones.
And do you think listeners will get all of this from the songs?
not, but they're not expected to. I just wrote little songs about my feelings.
There's nothing specific anyone should get out of them. I hope people
identify and can feel with me. That's about it. They're not complicated
songs, and they don't inherently mean what I say they do. I make them
sound complicated by talking like this, but they're really not. They're
There have been rumors swirling around about a Simple Music film documentary
in the works. Can you reveal anything?
RD: I don't
know too much. I know there's a project out there. Nick G., Jonas, and
myself have all been interviewed for it but I don't know if it has any
real possibility of turning into a film. It seems like the deal might
be falling apart. We'll see. I hope it happens!
How did it come about?
a student, first time film thing. There was some interest generated by
our web designer. She has the ability to do film, and is interested in
our story. That's about it. I'm helping with archival footage I have from
the early years, and opening our song catalog for their use, but other
than that, it's an independent project.
So we're not likely to see it in the local cineplex? The next "American
RD: I doubt
it. But it may be available on video someday if all goes well. That's
And the re-release of the Simple Music catalog how that going?
but sure. Ton Def and Mario Yee are chipping away at it project by project.
It's tough going for the most part, because the source material is so
abysmal. The cassette versions will always sound better for a lot of that
stuff. So if you have an original tape version of a Simple Music product,
hold on to it! The cd might disappoint you.
What's the cause of the quality issue? You'd think cd's would sound better.
think that, yeah, but the problem here is inherent in what Simple Music
is. Low-Fi gear mixed with a lack of engineering knowledge. Mario & Ton
are good guys and they're doing the best they can with what they've got.
We've lost the ability to remix a lot of the older stuff, so we're at
the mercy of the original mixes, which, by and large, totally suck! I
think we're learning as we go along here.
Well, thank you for talking. I look forward to hearing the completed album
when it comes out in?
RD: In July,
hopefully. We still have some drum tracks to record, and the mix down.
A lot of work then?
We're not done yet.
I can't wait to hear the finished project! We'll talk again soon? When
David's eighth studio album:"Evil in a Good Way" is scheduled
for release in July 2001 on the "Simple Music"label. The album
is available for FREE to all who are interested!