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Factory Sessions EP, Art, Love,
and feeling the world through
the eyes of Russell David...

Interview by R.M. Slinky

Russell David’s tenth studio release, “Factory Sessions EP” is completed, and currently in the final stages of mastering. I had the opportunity to meet with Russell on Friday, November 14, 2003 to talk about it. We met at Noe Bagel (24th. St., San Francisco) around 12 noon, and got a window seat.

R.M. Slinky: It's been more than a year since we last got together!

Russell David: I know. Strange, huh? But it doesn't feel like it.

RMS: Time flies.

RD: And not much changes?!

RMS: I was going to say time heals all wounds.

RD: That too, yeah.

RMS: And it's raining again! I think it was raining last year too.

RD: Was it? I can't remember. But this is beautiful. The summer is hard to get through - so dry - and it's wonderful to have rain again.

RMS: Well you know me and rain. Even worse that I forgot my umbrella.

RD: We'll have to get you one at Rite Aid. They're on sale.

RMS: Lucky me!

RD: Yep.

RMS: So, I've heard this cd, and wow. It's different!

RD: I guess so, yeah. It's sorta quiet, I guess? More quiet?

RMS: That's the first thing that hits you. Definitely. The first few bars sound like Nick Cave, "Boatman's Call" or something.

RD: Thanks, but don't jinx me by comparing it to that record! That's probably my favorite recording of all time, and maybe this cd rips a little bit from that sort of stuff... badly, but definitely not on the same level. I mean, obviously.

RMS: It's not the same, but I guess I just see an influence there.

RD: Definitely an influence, sure.

RMS: One of the things I was thinking as I listened, was that this is sort of the "quiet little record" you've been threatening to make for quite a few years now. I remember talking with you for the past couple years, or last year anyway, where you said the songs were broken and small and quiet. I struggled to hear that, 'cos even with "[Songs for When you think you Made a] Mistake" - I mean the brokenness and softness was certainly there, but I never heard it the way you explained it. Does that make sense?

RD: I think so. The cd is quiet and stripped down. And it just sort of happened that way. It wasn't a plan.

RMS: But it certainly evokes a mood.

RD: I think so. I mean, I hope so. That's what I felt right after getting the mixes done. In retrospect, now, I'm doubting that, but I really do hope the mood comes through. I don't know. I'm still thinking maybe one or two songs need to be cut.

RMS: The cd I heard has 10 tracks. You might cut a few from that still?

RD: I don't know. I'm just having doubts about some of the up-tempo acoustic guitar songs. We'll see. I don't know.

RMS: I think it sounds good as is. The up-tempo songs are passionate, and loud, but even then in a sort of quiet way. Quiet loud.

RD: Thanks for saying that. I hope it comes through.

RMS: I think it does. It's the kind of thing you've hinted at before, especially with "[Songs for When you think you Made a] Mistake." It's like an open handed approach to loss, or I don't know how else to say it. I should shut up because you're gonna tell me they're about riding the bus or eating pasta or something.

RD: They could be about riding the bus. Really, I don't know what the songs are about. They're just feelings from the past year, basically.

RMS: Obviously some are break up songs.

RD: Really?

RMS: Well, they are, aren't they?

RD: Yeah, but you know, it's hard to say. I guess they are, but really none of them were written about specific people or relationships. If they are "break up" songs, they're more like maybe break up songs to the world.

RMS: In what sense?

RD: Just emptiness, I guess. Seeing that things aren't how I want them, and I don't know how to change it, and I just don't believe in the possibility anymore. In some ways. Something like that, or... I don't know. It's just impossible to say. It's sounds all wrong...

RMS: The break up with everything?

RD: I don't know. It's not conscious. It's really just an attempt to explain a moment or a feeling. I really mean that. I know it sounds like I'm trying not to explain, but really that's the best picture.

RMS: But that idea works?

RD: It does. Or that's where I'm drawn, anyway. Like in "Ashes," I sing something like: "it's all over, there's nowhere to go." And I just say it over and over. And that sort of encapsulates my feeling about the whole thing.

RMS: That there's no hope?

RD: Not really. It's just on another level entirely. I can't explain.

RMS: There is hope?

RD: There's always hope.

RMS: I'm interested in the real life stuff that inspires you to write. It seems like a natural question, because, with me at least - the songs feel very personal and direct. Just listening, I wondered about what relationships inspired them, and felt a connection in my own history. They seem to have specific context when I listen. I'm thinking about you, well, partly because I know I'm going to talk to you, so I'm thinking all that - but beneath that, personally, I'm reminded of my own stories and people I've loved and lost. It happens on different levels. And I guess in that sense, it's weird that you seem to approach it as a more non-specific thing.

RD: It's not non-specific. I don't mean to say that. It's very specific and personal. But I also don't feel like the songs can be tied to a moment or a place or person.

RMS: Isn't that a contradiction?

RD: I don't know. It doesn't feel like one. The songs are personal to me. They're not about linear reality, but more the emotion.
It's like a thousand different specifics, making something bigger. Like a pointilist painting or, I guess I don't know.

RMS: I get that. But all the same, a big part of my reaction, I think, is feeling connected to what I imagine your experience must have been in writing them, or what must have inspired you to write it in the first place. You know?

RD: Yeah, that's good! I do that too. We'll never have the same experiences, but we can still share the feeling. So if I'm writing about depression and isolation or God and passion, it doesn't really matter. They're all break up songs, and we all understand and feel the connection intuitively.

RMS: But I want to get at that. Because it seems like there's a difference in the way you're looking at "break up songs," which is supremely interesting because you wrote them - and maybe even more interesting that someone like me can come from the outside and be easily connected and touched in my own way, oblivious to what you were feeling.

RD: I don't think anyone is oblivious. Music just does that naturally. It's just the nature of things. No one can listen to a song without personalizing it. When I listen to "Boatman's Call" the lyrics are mine, and they refer to my life. I can't help it.

RMS: It's the amazing thing about music.

RD: Yeah. I don't understand it. It happens in poems too, and all art really.

RMS: And I suppose it's even harder when you use words - or easier to get that confusion - because they have an actual, literal, meaning, whereas a painting or pure instrumental music is more evocative of the feeling itself, without that screen. It seems like you're talking about something more like that.

RD: Yeah, I think so. It's possible to use words emotionally, and get beyond that, but you always have the proper meaning, and I guess that makes it confusing.

RMS: Also potentially more interesting, because you then instantly have these different entrances for people to intersect and connect with the work. Where they can make it their own, almost literally.

RD: I don't understand it, but yeah - that's the most beautiful thing. And it really is their own. I agree. The act of someone listening to a song and personalizing it, is, itself, a creative act.

RMS: Cool, huh?

RD: Definitely.

RMS: So, but I'm curious - and tell me to stop if I'm being too personal - so then, like in "Good Soul" where you say something plain like "I love you," you weren't thinking of a specific person?

RD: Well, I was thinking about lots of people. All the people I love.

RMS: See, I just interpreted it much more narrowly. As a love song between two people who've been distant, and the singer is finally being honest.

RD: And that's the meaning too. It's not one or the other.

RMS: It's amazing that there are all these little nooks and crannies.

RD: Yeah.

RMS: I know you spent a large part of the year working on painting. Does that influence the music do you think? Or how does it influence it?

RD: It might be an influence. I haven't really thought about it. I know I like the immediacy of painting, and the non-verbal part - the pure, direct, emotion. I don't know if it influences the music directly, maybe only in the way I'm inclined to talk about it? I don't know.

RMS: But do you see yourself trying to get at the same thing in both mediums?

RD: Probably, yeah. It all comes back to just trying to get feeling across, and connect with other people. Or sometimes just to say it. I don't know. It's all confused. The older I get, the more everything seems to be the same thing. There's not a lot of distinction. There's the wanting to be with other people, and hear them, and share stuff that feels real. I think that's where it all comes from.

RMS: Your paintings seem especially desperate and powerful. At least some of them. I was really in shock seeing them for the first time.

RD: Eek! I'm sorry.

RMS: No, they're beautiful.

RD: Really?

RMS: Yeah, for sure!

RD: Well, thank you. I feel I sort of made progress, or found something there that I hadn't found before. You can mangle songs to death over months and months, but with a painting it's do or die in about 45 minutes. Especially with the cheap acryllic I've been using. You have this little window, and it works or doesn't work, and that's it.

RMS: You've said before that the best songs are like that too - immediate, almost mistakes.

RD: In general, I think creativity is pretty accidental, or just what happens when we open ourselves to making mistakes. Yeah. Music isn't set up for that as much though... especially with studio recording... not that what I do is called that. But still!

RMS: Well, whatever it is, it's ok.

RD: Thanks.

RMS: So more painting is on your agenda for 2004?

RD: God willing, definitely. I've been preoccupied with this cd for the past few months, and I'll be away in December, but when things settle down, painting is on the to-do list!

RMS: I can't wait to see!

RD: Ok. You'll be the first, and maybe only...

(R.M. Slinky flips through his spiral notepad.)

RD: Aren't you going to ask me about the big chart-busting success of "[Songs for When you Think you Made a] Mistake"?!

RMS: Thank you! Yes, obviously. What was it? The top of, most listened to?

RD: A couple of songs, "Cupid Complain to Venus" and "I Like it When You Kiss Me" both, got to #12 on the most listened to for the SF Bay Area.

RMS: This was back in July?

RD: In May. For about 3 weeks all together, from rise to fall.

RMS: That's exciting! It must feel good to finally connect with an audience.

RD: Sure. But it's more a good story than anything else. Because it's such a random and obscure fact. I couldn't really believe it when I saw my name on the chart. It was weird, but nice. Almost like being on the top 40, except completely not.

RMS: Reporters weren't stalking you on the street, rabid fans seeking favors?

RD: Sadly, no.

RMS: Well, there's always 2004. What will the singles be?

RD: I don't know. There probably aren't any.

RMS: What about "Before" or "Ashes"? They're both beautiful.

RD: Maybe. I think the strongest tracks are "Good soul" or "Bury Me Standing." But I don't think I'll be pushing any of the songs too hard. It's just an EP.

RMS: I was wondering that. Why are you calling a cd with 10 songs an EP?

RD: Mostly because the name just popped into my head and sounded good. And also because I feel embarrassed of the songs, and I want to soften the blow a bit, by lowering expectations. You know, something like: "well, the songs all suck, but what do you expect from an EP anyway?"

RMS: But they don't suck.

RD: Not all of them, but I'm still embarrassed of the overall project. It's an EP bridge to what will hopefully be the next, and much better, thing.

RMS: I said before that the cd has a mood, and it's really true. The songs are simple, but I think they work well together. You shouldn't be embarrassed.

RD: Thanks, no. I shouldn't say anything. After I've been this close to a project, I have absolutely no objectivity. It's par for the course for me. I hate every cd as I release it. Or I love it and hate it, but mostly I'm afraid everyone else will hate it.

RMS: I like it.

RD: Thanks. And you'd tell me if you thought it was the biggest piece of crap you've ever heard, right?

RMS: ... sure.

RD: Well, I just hope you would tell me. It's ok to have that opinion. I mean, I have it most of the time myself!

RMS: Well that's not good!

RD: I think it's ok. Both sides are right.

RMS: Maybe.

RD: It's true.

RMS: Hey, you know, my girlfriend just rented "24 Hour Party People" and it got me wondering about the "Factory Sessions" / "Factory Records" connection. I know there isn't one, but did you think about potential for confusion there?

RD: Yeah, I found out about all this after we picked the title. I hope we don't get in trouble for that. I really didn't mean for there to be any connection. The meaning for "Factory Sessions" is on the cover, basically me polluting the world with the exhaust of crap art. "Factory" in that sense. I haven't even seen the movie.

RMS: So you're not trying to milk the return to 80's chic, the second coming of Ian Curtis and the Happy Mondays?

RD: Nope. That stuff's great, but obviously there's no connection.

RMS: Tony Wilson's lawyers read it here first!

RD: I hope so.

RMS: You should check out the movie. It's a bit sprawling, but worth it.

RD: It's on my list.

RMS: How's the band doing? Can we expect to see you live anytime soon?

RD: Hopefully. I'm working with two different groups, both of which should be playing in 2004 in and around SF.

RMS: Two!?

RD: Yeah, one is a real rock band called "Mission of Ed." I do some singing and writing, and my friend Rolf also sings and writes, and it's a full band, rock/blues/folk sound. The other is a little acoustic thing I've been doing with Jon Armerding.

RMS: You'll keep us updated on shows and such?

RD: Definitely! Just keep checking the site. Everything will be posted there first.

RMS: And "Factory Sessions EP." How do people get it?

RD: It's in the final stages of mastering now. It will either come out at the end of November, or in January. It depends on how things go. Either way, keep checking the website.

RMS: Thanks for talking Russell.

RD: Thank you too!

Russell David's tenth studio project:“Factory Sessions EP” will be available soon. Visit the catolog for your FREE copyl

Read the review of “Factory Sessions EP” by David Lawnkind.