As Birmingham based alternative countrified/indiefied band Gasfoodlodging work behind the scenes on their new collection of songs called "Blue Collar Rain", I had a coffee and a sandwich with Dave Griffiths in Sutton Coldfield to discuss the new songs that were all penned by himself and to find out why he likes true crime documentaries so much......
I've heard your home demos for many of the songs that will make up "Blue Collar Rain" which travel back and forth between musical styles. Was this deliberate or was it just something that evolved when you were putting the songs together?
I don't restrict myself by writing in one musical style, I like a variance in music and I try to show that in the songs I write. The main aim of songwriters is surely to stand out from the crowd but obviously that's a tough thing to achieve in the competitive world of music. I'll give it my best shot though.
I'd like to ask you about the working track listing you have for "Blue Collar Rain" at present. 'We've done alright' is a great slice of bouncy punky country rock if there's such a term?
We've been opening with this one at gigs recently and it seems to be getting a good response. It's got a nice lively tempo. But personally I love that mid-tempo groove the best, you know "Tumbling Dice" by the Rolling Stones? That's just a great tempo to my ears.
The next song on your proposed track listing is "Corporate Disease". A track that I'd suggest many people could relate to nowadays. I'm hearing the Artic Monkeys mixed with your guitarist hero Chuck Prophet on this cleverly structured track. Do you consider yourself a politically motivated songwriter?
Chuck and The Artic Monkeys? It's interesting to hear how other people interpret music. Not that I'm complaining about your opinion haha. Well I have a great distaste for many things that go on in this world like many other people but I could never end up being a Billy Bragg type songwriter. It's not that I don't find global issues important enough to address but continually writing about them would be too depressing for me. We can all yearn for a wind of change to come along and blow all the world's problems away but it's not going to happen, not now. We've declined too far in my opinion to the point where damaged limitation is the best we can hope for.
The next song on the track listing, a ballad called "Moving Along" is a true gem and reaches the high plains of alternative country at it's best in my humble opinion. Was there any other influence behind this song apart from the obvious subject matter of moving on in life?
Thanks, not directly, no. The "moving along" theme wasn't just about relationships or careers etc I was also making reference to other unknown bands involved in musical pursuits like us. As in the lyric "When the radio keeps on playing the same old song". It's tough to get heard on the prime radio stations, recording contracts and professional production quality is everything and they aren't interested unless those two things are in place. The majority of unsigned bands (including us) can't afford professional recording costs and obviously we are not signed so musical exposure is limited. There are some shows that highlight 'unsigned' bands but mostly it's internet radio that offers the best exposure. The downside is they don't have a great amount of listeners compared to stations such as Radio 1 for example. So therefore it's tough to "move along" in musical pursuits as well, constant obstacles doesn't make things easy. But there's no point moping around, feeling sorry for yourself, it's just the way it is and you have deal it with it".
The next inclusion "Daniella Delray" gave me a wide smile. The infectious Rock & Roll of a nympho office girl should have many tapping their feet in unison. Your lyric "You wouldn't wanna be the wife of a guy who has to work alongside Daniella Delray" sums up the mood perfectly. A girl you knew?
Haha, no. The influence for this track was based on the topic of dealing with "temptation". I really enjoy true crime documentaries and there's been more than one case that I've seen where some vivacious girl joins a company or organisation, creates sexual temptation in the process and turns lives upside down. Black comedy was the aim of this song. I guess many guys would like to have some fun with a Daniella Delray but they may have to face the consequences if they do. It used to be the case that it was either the workplace, bars, nightclubs etc where affairs would manifest themselves but since the internet has exploded into everybody's lives, it brings along a whole new easier way to meet people. The temptation to stray is everywhere. I don't know the statistics, but I would guess since the birth of the internet the divorce rate has risen.
Your lyrical ability on the next song, "See ya next time", signifies to me that you have the metaphor angle covered in splendid fashion in your writing as with others in this collection. "I'm whizzing round like a washing machine, I step out dirty but I should be clean".
Yeah, I have to admit, I do like the usage of metaphor's in songwriting. They can be used to get across a humorous or serious topic equally as good in my view.
"Play it from the Heart" has that dirty and sleazy bluesy rock feel that guitarists will love. You were a big Bill Hicks fan like myself then?
For sure, I loved his comedy style. His way of talking about everyday or historic/current affair issues and putting his own slant on things was really funny. I always wanted to write a song that hat tipped him and I'm pleased I managed to do it. I was obviously focusing on his well documented distaste for manufactured pop acts, a view that I'm confident many people share. He was a real talented guy.
"All for your Country" is the next song you have lined up. A satirical romp featuring Hookers, Lollipop Suckers, the Unemployed and Chef's, just the average everyday subject matter for a song? I played this one 5 times in a row the first time I heard it.
It was just another song I wanted to write that would hopefully give people a smile. But on a serious note it's about taking pride in your own nationality as well as trying to focus on and accentuate the positives in life.
We now move on to your tale of lesbians on the run in this summery crime caper, "Under the Texas Sun". As with the song "Moving Along" you instill the necessary imagery for a listener to get inside this song with your lyrical content extremely well. What's the background behind this song?
This was influenced by a true crime episode I was watching the one night after which I watched the film "Blood Simple". The next day I was in my car playing "Dyin' all young" by Chuck Prophet, then when I got home later I mixed everything together and came up with this song. I wrote this really quick too, it's good when that happens. You don't even have to try, everything just flows like water out a tap.
Track number 9 "Stoned Delight", sends out imagery of hippies attending a Rolling Stones gig circa 1969. I would bet my house that Keith Richards would like this track.
That would be a pleasing thought. Yeah, this was obviously influenced by my love of music by The Stones but equally the former American band Green on Red.
"Banging Drum" is up next.Yet another song filled with summery psychedelic imagery. you own a drum that you bang yourself? What's this song actually about?
No haha But if you have the beat of one it's when magical things can happen musically. In addition, it's the beat of a banging drum that makes people move, dance, it works as metronome for their inner rhythm. Its the heartbeat of musical life! I basically wrote this song about the fun that can be had taking part in outdoor pursuits such as music festivals, camping, running, picnics, etc. The things many people do to get away from the hustle and bustle of surburbia. A simple and short song about an aspect of "Escapism" really.
We now move on to the one chord blues rap of "Another day Gone" featuring name checking of "Eric" from the True Blood TV series through to the Hip Hop collective, "Wu Tang Clan" in the lyrical content. When you told me you had a song lined up featuring just one chord I feared the worst but I was wrong. I loved it.
Thanks, yeah, I had the idea one day of writing a song based around the events of a 24 hr period in life. I'm sure these theme has been covered before by some other band! Still, I wanted to give the song a comic edge and it worked out better than I figured it would.
The final song on your current working track listing "Wherever" is my personal favorite at the moment. It's a beautiful ballad that virtually everybody could relate to. Losing something precious. Is the English Riviera a place you frequent a lot? You mentioned Torquay within the song.
Yeah, I try and get down that way as much as I can. I love being by the sea. I saw a TV documentary the once which featured different stories concerning holiday romances. On the one particular episode this guy had fallen in love with some girl but before he got chance to speak to her she'd vanished and her identity remained unknown. It was a pretty moving piece of TV as this guy was heartbroken as hell and had tried everything within his power to find out who she was but to no avail. So this song was influenced by that story mostly, plus the guy in the TV show was a resident of Torquay which is a place I love to go to so that worked out well lyrically, I got to use Torquay in a song!
The bonus track, "Solitudeville" is a seething heartfelt tale covering the topic of loneliness. Your lyrics and guitar riffing on this song are wonderful. Was this based on personal experience?
Yeah, at times, sure. It's something that can creep up on you, a death of a loved one, a sudden change in your social life. Before you know it it can strike and it can happen fast.
You've mentioned True Crime documentaries in relation to your influence on songwriting, are they something you spend a lot of time watching?
yeah, way much time watching them I guess! I take after my Nan she always liked real crime things on TV as well as magazines and books. I just find the forensic aspect on how they solve the crimes fascinating. It's just the psychologists that annoy me, it seems to me their a pointless overpaid crowd, the lot of them. All they do is point out the obvious, they simply stitch together the strands of common sense that anybody with half a brain could figure out.
Are you writing anymore new songs at present?
Yeah, I've a got half finished ideas all over the place, as well as the majority of songs written for the follow up LP to this one. Sometimes songwriting can be easy but sometimes it can be one of the hardest things to complete. I'm sure other songwriters who may read this, can fully relate to that. I wouldn't say I'm a lengthy songwriter where lyrics in songs stretch out forever. Every songwriter is and should be different, I guess I like to keep things relatively simple and to the point instead of wondering off into lyrical meanderings. I don't think people like Dylan deliberately set out to write lengthy songs at times. it's just the way a song can come together, if Dylan has lot to say he'll say it. I'm a huge fan of Dylan because you get a mixture of everything from him. Sure, in his early years his songs were heavy on the political side but that stemmed from what was going on around him at the time. Vietnam, race riots, Anti-War protests and so on. But there's a lot of his music that isn't political at all. I'm sure that Dylan himself wouldn't want to listen to music that's always "doom and gloom" or "depressing" in nature and I don't think the majority of people driving to work on their regular morning commute would be overly keen either! The songwriters that seem to be the most successful since the heydays of Rock & Roll in the 50's and 60's are the ones that cover all angles of life. From happiness to sadness and everything in between.
Finally, what made you decide on the LP title "Blue Collar Rain" ?
One of my favorite films is a 1978 film called "Blue Collar" that stars Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto. It's about the struggles of 3 working class guys who work on a car assembly line in Detroit. The overall theme of the LP is based around doing the best you can in life whilst dealing with shit life can throw at you, which is pretty much what the characters in the movie are trying to do, although in their case they resort to drugs, crime and adultery. Obviously not everybody would choose that route as a solution to enhance their lives but lets face it, drug use, crime and adultery goes on in the real world nevertheless. I added "Rain" at the end as a metaphor for a 'downpour of misfortune' that can sometimes occur in life and blue collar workers around the world have historically had plenty of those in relation to the workplace without doubt.
Gasfoodlodging release "Blue Collar Rain" in March 2017.
C.Whittaker © 2016