Saturday, October 18, 2014

Share with Me Saturdays - Howie Howard Part 2

"I've always been more interested in making the next thing 
than promoting the thing I finished."

Photo Credit: Sandy Woodson

Greetings, all! Happy Saturday. I'm continuing with my October featured artist Howie Howard of Mr. Furious Records. Make sure to read his survey to catch up! We're celebrating the net label's 10th anniversary and 44th album release. MFR offers streaming of all the albums for free, and/or you can download them from Bandcamp.

We met at his house where he always has multiple projects in progress. As we talked, he referred to our dabble session as "A Day in the Life of Mr. Furious Records." We also drank a lot of wine. I think it helped.

Howie's making a pedal board/box thing to hold/transport all his fancy pedals. 
Those are all the technical terms.
Photo Credit: Sandy Woodson

Classy: So, when did making music begin for you?

Howie: It started at home. Mom played piano and was the church organist. I was in all the church and school choirs. I played percussion in band class, but I started band late; I didn't start until 7th or 8th grade. 

Classy: Then what was your first non-school band you were in?
Howie: When I was 16, I picked up a guitar for fun and learned how to play songs from looking up the tabs of songs I liked on the Internet. 
Once, a track meet got rained out, and we ended up hanging out at my friend Scott's basement. I got my guitar out, he got his sax out, we jammed. It was fun; it sounded good to us. We started practicing covers, talking about what songs to learn, eventually playing gigs around school and coffeehouses doing just covers. By fall 2000 I'd written my first few songs, and we recorded them spring 2001, and we were sort of off and running...

Classy: You said that Mr Furious Records (MFR) came from hating selling CDs. What's the problem?
Howie: Well, 1) I like playing shows, but I get very focused on the performance aspect of the show. 2) I was recording so much that I got tired of bugging the same 50 people to buy CDs over and over again. 3) I just didn't like what the commerce aspect of trying to sell CDs was doing to my relationship with people in that moment after the show; taking that moment of genuine enthusiasm and response and human connection and trying to flip that into it into a sale really killed my soul.

Photo Credit: Sandy Woodson

Classy: How many active MFR artists are there?

Howie: Well, Mr|Ten is our 44th release. There are maybe seven consistently active bands, but we're really only talking about five people essentially. Cory and I have a new band together that will be on MFR, I'm sure, without adding any more people. That will be called Sneaky Sneaky Snakes. It could be Sally Ride, but I just wanted to use that name.

Classy: Where do you make the distinction that this music goes with this band, but this music goes with this band, when it's the same four people?
Howie: That is a very legit and hard-to-answer question. My goal with taking the name Sally Ride [for my own band name], besides honoring Sally Ride...the idea musically was that I wouldn't need to take another name. There were no rules about what Sally Ride could or could not be. And I think I've done pretty well at keeping that up, in that there's a lot of diversity. The next record will be all acoustic, but the second one out will be doom metal. Outside of Sally Ride, that has more to do with who is collaborating on the project.

Classy: Now, when we met, it was when you were working at a church as a music director. Life has changed a lot since then! I feel like music has always been your connection to the universe? Is that true?

Howie: No, not really. I don't really connect to the universe with music. It's much more concrete. It's really all about the people who are in the room with me during a performance or who are listening to a recording. A connection to the infinite isn't something I've noticed through listening to music. Over five years ago, I read that two-page article about the Four Seals of Dharma [see a different article, same list here], these simple ideas that can take a lifetime to integrate, and my heart immediately went, "Yes, I really recognize this as really important insight for me!" So keeping those in my mind as I go through my day is what you're probably getting at there.

See, he has wine, too.
And that painting I did that one time.
Photo Credit: Sandy Woodson

Classy: How has music helped carry you through really difficult milestones in life? Does it help?

Howie: It does help; in the moment it's much more about listening. I have albums that I go to for empathy, I guess. I don't write out of pain. Sometimes after the pain has passed, I will go back and revisit that and write. I don't get a lot of mileage out of writing for catharsis, or listening for catharsis. To me, there has to be a narrative and some aspect of redemption or hope. The pure, "I'm screaming out into the void," doesn't do much for me. It's just screaming.
Classy: I love it because every other artist is like, "I'm writing about my pain!"
Howie (laughs): Maybe that's why no one likes my art!

When we finished talking, Howie had planned to work on some of his recording process. His general flow of creating an album is to first write the instrumental parts. Then he demos all the instrumental parts and burns a disc to listen to in the car to try to create the melodies while he's driving. Once he has his melodies figured out, he records another demo including the melody and listens to that on a headset to scratch out the lyrics. Then he'll go back and record all the tracks for real for his song. Depending on the project, he might play all the instruments, or there are other collaborators singing/playing on the tracks, too.

 "This is my 'write a Nine Inch Nails song' exercise," he explained.
Photo Credit: Sandy Woodson
That's not the end of his process, of course. Once all the recording is done, the tracks go through a mixing and mastering process to make sure all the instruments and vocals all sound even and like they actually go together! Sometimes the process looks like piecing together parts from different takes to get the best version of the recordings. Depending on Howie's project assignment, we may be listening to a song that he challenged the collaborators to record in one take.

Photo Credit: Sandy Woodson

While he sang, I busied myself with taking notes...but mostly wandering for snacks (ahem, wine). 

When he was done, we decided to play a song together. I very occasionally pick up my bass, and that allowed us to slog through a rendition of "With or Without You" without too much delay.

We're available to play your next party.
Photo Credit: Sandy Woodson

When we were done playing, it was time to sketch. Howie's one of the 12 people in the world that follow my blog pretty closely, so he knew what was coming.

 And yet, he gives me that look like he's ready for me to say something ridiculous.
Photo Credit: Sandy Woodson

Of very important note, everyone I've dabbled with so far sketches way better than I do.

By the end, we still weren't completely sure why Howie sketched himself with bangs, 
but we just rolled with it.
Photo Credit: Sandy Woodson

Photo Credit: Sandy Woodson

All MFR releases live on the website. Projects that include Howie are: Sally Ride, Mars Lights, Dark Satellites, howie&scott, echoes, Shacker, and probably a bunch of other stuff. Howie keeps the blog updated with new music, reviews, show info, and some good ol' rambling, like every good blog should have. He still reflects on how he may not have gotten to this point if not for that rainy day back in high school.

Congrats on your 10-year MR-versary!

-C McG

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