Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pensacola Interview with ALT Bill

In 2004 a new album came out in Pensacola, and the local underground newspaper 
said this local band that had recorded it would be playing under the oak trees 
in the middle of Pensacola’s Music event called Springfest. The article 
encouraged folks to “drop by” in between treks to the different stages to check 
them out. Due to the write up I specifically added them to my day. The album was 
called Isabella; the group was labeled C.B. Radio. I ended up going back for 
their multiple sets and the next day I skipped other acts to catch every single 
song they played.  I’ve been hooked ever since.  The band, the names, both on 
stage and on the albums has changed over the years. With different directions, 
different types of songs, and different arrangements. But at the heart of it all 
is Chad Bishop. I have loved being able to see Chad’s songs go from first time 
in public, open mike items, to lush (but never over done) arrangements for full 
band on commercial cd’s. 
1.  Well I think unofficially you have become an ambassador of Pensacola, at 
least an ambassador for a certain under the current culture here.  (Thanks by 
the way) Though you’ve found many wonderful places to attach to after your 
travels, what are your thoughts on Pensacola? 
I love Pensacola, its home.  It’s a magically surreal place.  I watched 
hurricanes tear it apart, I’ve seen great people float in and out of Pensacola, 
there is general consensus amongst the people I know from p-cola that it is the 
most vibrant ghost town ever!  By ghost town, not that it is void of people, but 
that many people have left some kind of mark on p-cola and still linger even in 
their absence.   
There really are few places in the country as pretty and goofy as p-cola.  Our 
country is falling into disrepair, there are a lot gross places that we've seen 
on tour.  As my friend Kent says there are fewer places for us to dream, and 
P-cola is one of the last places I've seen. 
(Special treat - Kent Stanton will be playing the house show also.) 
2. Pensacola, as well as most places I guess, has a lot of people that are 
musicians in one form or another,  to most all though, it’s secondary to other 
careers or aimless jobs. You though, despite regrouping a few times (either by 
choice or force), keep on it, what are some things that drive you? 
Compulsion is the heart of the artist.  I love writing songs and recording and 
touring.  Wanderlust is also a big motivating factor. 
3. Was there a person, or a moment where you picked up a guitar, or a song came 
to you, when you said, “This is more important, more core to who I am, than 
clocking in and clocking out somewhere.” 
To be honest it was a slow process of convincing myself that being a musician 
was more important than working for someone who doesn't really care about my 
time as much as I do.  Over the last five years I've really let go of a whole 
things that were stopping me from diving in head first. 
4. The words of many of your songs are like prose one would find in classic 
works of people like Keats or Browning and others, Were you a poet first? 
I started writing poems from the time I could hold a pencil and write words.  I 
still have the journals I wrote when I was child.  I've never considered myself 
a poet.  I think writing poetry is noble work, and there are plenty of people 
out there that write great poetry.... I don't think my poems or lyrics are part 
of that fabric of super awesomeness, although I do see myself in the future 
dedicating myself solely to the pursuit of poetry.  
5. You have performed your songs as simple words and guitar folk style and then 
as full blown full band arrangements, are you particular to either style? 
My preference depends on the mood of the songs I am working with at the moment.  
The songs we did with The Cripple Lilies grew from very tiny spaces and then 
became bigger arrangements from the parts added by the players in that group.  
We were striving to explore silent spaces in that group. 
With Paper Scissors Rocketpack, I really wanted to make huge boisterous 
arrangements while remaining true to some minimalist notions I've begun to cling 
to over the years. 
In CB Radio, I had no idea what I was doing or what I wanted, and I think those 
songs ran out of control.  But I think what we captured was amazing and 
desperate still.  I was still playing in Flat Broke Folk at the time and 
learning how to organize and play in a band.  I learned quite a bit about 
playing on stage, doing things on fly, relaxing while performing.  
With Spider + Octopus, I wanted to get away from the ideas I had formed about 
bands, because I was starting to feel constricted by them.  I want Spider + 
Octopus to be a project where Renee and I are free to explore our songs any way 
we choose, and to support each other on the road as separate distinct voices and 
as a duo. 
(Flat Broke Folk put together with Kent Stanton played back in the day here a 
few times with The Pine Hill Haints. You can catch them at the 309 house show 
this Friday, Nov. 6th, (with Rymodee & Driven by a Curse) Haints Friday, Chad & 
Kent & Renee Wednesday, your week could be very good. Mine will be!) 
6. Do you do most of the arrangements for songs, or did band members add those 
parts? Like when you had a violinist, did you write for that instrument, or does 
it just fall into place with the right artist? 
I've also arranged things for my songs, but within a band context I usually step 
back and give people the opportunity to create parts for themselves.  I usually 
give people the boundaries that they can compose within and see what happens 
after that... 
7. I love the drum arrangements, (when you have them) is that a band school 
I think you're talking about the floor tom we turned on its side.  It’s been on 
loan from our friend Brandon Warren who played with me in a few bands in the 
   (Actually I was referring to the drum arrangement on songs like Bella On the Rocks & 
8. The production quality on Isabella really stood out to me when I first heard 
it, then later albums, plus you are in several places (on the Internet) for music distribution,
you took the professional route from the start it seems.
How did that evolve? 
From the start I knew I would eventually take the plunge and try to play music 
for a living.  So from the beginning I was striving to learn as much as I could 
about the profession, while I didn't have that much professional responsibility. 
I also tried to find people and studios that were doing things in a way I 
appreciated and I tried to record my album with these people, so i could learn a 
thing or two from them. 

9. In what ways does a Spider evolve when it partners with an Octopus?
When you add the Octopus to the equation, I think people tend to smile more, 
because she changes colors quite often and dances quite well with many 
instruments in her hands... tentacles.  
10. At your house show here, you got Kent Stanton to join the bill.  Flat Broke 
Folk history there.  Where those times any type of compass for the horizon? 
Kent is a bestest friend of mine, we shared a moment in a band together called 
Flat Broke Folk, which Kent wanted to be more of a collective than a band.  I 
think looking back on that band I could not have been in better situation for 
entering the Pensacola music scene.  Kent was an already established personality 
within P-cola music community.  I learned so much, and we're still friends. 
11. Who is Rita? 
Rita is an amazing uke player from Huntsville Alabama, she hosted Renee and I 
one night during our travels.  She is a magical person.  
(“She’s taking me higher  she’s smiling, she’s flying all around my desert heart”)
12. Do you ever wonder what the world would be like if Karl Marx would have sang 
songs at open mike art centers in old bakeries. 
Yes!  I've written a handful of songs with that notion in mind...  They should 
appear on an album in the next year, I think the tentative name for this group 
of songs is "Marxist Reels and Imminent Decay" 
Marx left us something to sing about in his absence anyhow.  
I'm finding that there are more Marxist on the Gulf Coast than any other part of 
the country.  I guess this is another discussion...

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