Thursday 26 November 2020

An Interview With Creston Spiers

I'm quite honoured to interview today's guest - Creston Spiers. Creston was the lead guitarist/vocalist for Legendary Sludge Rockers - HARVEY MILK. I was a later starter to discovering HARVEY MILK but I became an instant fan of the and bought all their studio output and wished I had the chance to see the band in action.

Creston is about to release his brilliant new album - Brown Dwarf - which will be released on 4th December 2020 .

I was quite pleased when Creston agreed to do this interview where we discuss the making of the album and the future of HARVEY MILK.

Hi Creston. Thanks for doing this interview. How are things with you today.

I'm doing well today. I have a few hours of tutoring scheduled for later. that's how I make ends meet these days. my wife and I just moved back into our home in Athens and we're happy about that.

How you coping with the crazy stuff going on in the world. Are you quite daunted or excited about releasing your new album Brown Dwarf.

I wish I could say I was coping well with the crazy stuff going on in the world but my patrons could tell you otherwise. truth is I haven't written a note of new music since the lockdown began except one 3-minute instrumental that just came out. I'm hoping that's going to change once I set up my new music room here in Athens.

I am very excited about Brown Dwarf being released on vinyl. I hope that Jem and the others is at We empty rooms records have a successful release. I'm also excited that people will get a chance to have a product they can hold in their hands and put on their shelves. that's something that I've not really been able to offer through patreon, so I'm very thankful to my patrons for making this music possible and to Jem for allowing it to be released in physical form

We are here to talk about your new solo album – Brown Dwarf. And what an album that is. What can people expect from that record. As it’s quite different to your last album.

I'm going to go ahead and assume that by my last album you mean MMXVII, the first vinyl release from we empty rooms. The last album, MMXVII, had much more of an anthology/eclectic feel to it. there were two orchestral pieces, a country tune, straight up pop tune, as well as heavier things. I think Brown Dwarf as a record hangs together better. there is a theme and a feel and a sound to the record. I also think the actual collection of tunes is the strongest I've ever produced.

All this music, by the way, was originally recorded and released on my patreon page. They weren't recorded as records per se, at a single recording session. they were recorded one at a time over a number of months to meet the obligation I made to my patrons, who pay me a subscription fee for my new music.

Did you record this album during lockdown or was it recorded earlier than that.

Before. Actually, this record is different than the others in that these songs were recorded pretty much in sequence, over a number of months in 2018. This vinyl release will be the first time this music has been available to anyone but my patreon subscribers.

Was this an easy or hard album for you to write and record for compared to your debut album.

I would say that this record was easy to record. the songs came out quickly and smoothly right in a row. I have no explanation for that. I've been lucky. The three and a half years since I started my patreon page has been a very creative and prolific time for me (up until recently). my deal with my patrons is one new piece of music a month in exchange for their $3/month subscription, and I'm happy to say, so far, that I've been able to surpass that by a wide margin. Six new, full-length, professionally mastered LPs have been released on my page, as well as various cuts that have not been mastered or anthologized.

I love the many different styles of music you’ve included on this album. It has pretty much for everyone. Heavy riffs, Weird noises and fantastic quirky ideas from the start. You recorded and performed by yourself. Was that the idea to record the album entirely by yourself.

Yeah the stuff I do on patreon is pretty much done all by me. I play all the instruments, write all the music, blah blah. There have been a few guest appearances. Stefanija Giric, a patron, played some beautiful violin on “37 Fine Lines,” the first song of my new record, The Goodbye Waltz. me and Stevie teamed up for a while and I he appears on a few of the songs on the patreon page. speaking of Steven Tanner, of course

I love the “lo-fi” sound of your solo records. Makes the record more real. How would you describe your solo albums in your own words.

I would say that the new music, at least the rock music, on patreon (there’s a lot of orchestral music, too) would actually fall right in the middle between the Pleaser style Harvey Milk and the slow and heavy Harvey Milk. literally if you could put them on a number line the new music would be like right in the middle it's very song-oriented, 70’s- style rock, with hooks, but slower and heavier. I think Harvey Milk fans would really like it. I don't think it's quite as challenging as Harvey Milk’s music: no one's going to think you're cool for listening to it.

But I think the tunes are up to scratch and the performances are at least fresh And the Lo-Fi quality that you're talkin about, although it's not necessarily intentional, I certainly haven't spent a whole lot of time trying to produce refined recordings! I mean there's so much beauty and magic in “Come On In My Kitchen,” and what, that was recorded on like a tin can on a spring, right? so I guess it is true that I'm not overly concerned with High Fidelity in my recordings, but they aren't demos either. I take my time to get good sounds, good balance, and of course Kyle does a wonderful job mastering them and making them sound like real records!

Why did you call the album Brown Dwarf. Any particular meaning.

I should tell you that Brown Dwarf is not just the name of the record, but also the name of the project or band, so to speak, although I’m the only one who appears on the recordings. I do have a real live band: Andy Pope on bass and backing vocals, and Brandon McDearis on drums, both friends of mine and local Athens musicians. we've been practicing and working out the songs from patreon, especially the ones on brown dwarf. we've gotten pretty good. the songs stand up pretty well with a three piece

I like the name I guess for the same reasons I liked Harvey Milk. it's a real thing - I mean brown dwarf is an astronomical term for a type of star - but it also has kind of a funny sound to it as if you could be talking about an African-American little person. so I just thought it had a ring to it was kind of funny.

What influenced you when writing and recording the album. It has the perfect mixture of upbeat and slightly gloomy based songs.

Mostly I was just trying to write catchy tunes that had interesting changes in them. I only had one rule: don't be afraid of pretty! I guess I was just trying to write new classic rock

If the pandemic ever gets under control, will you be making touring plans for the record. Or is that too early to tell.

I would say that playing live is not really a priority for me. I definitely enjoy playing with Andy and Brandon and we will play live if the opportunity presents itself, but it's okay with me if it doesn't

What comes first for you when recording new music. Lyrics or Music.

I have to admit that my process for writing has changed a lot. I guess because I've been trying to set up a sort of “factory.” really I didn't realize how difficult it would be to put out new music every month! So what I do is start with the drums, and I'll basically make up a song on the drums. Then I get a good structure going and layer-by-layer put a harmonic progression and melody on. then always, always the lyrics are the very last thing. I hate writing lyrics. it's always a struggle. every once in awhile a song like “Now, Come Blue Skies” off the new record, will come right out immediately like in one sitting. but that's definitely the exception to the rule.

As I mentioned earlier I've had I guess what you would call writer's block since the whole pandemic scare began in late March. I'm hoping to break that soon. I've got a brand new computer, a brand new music room and hopefully a lot of brand new ideas coming! so to all my patrons out there: you know how I feel about you. I’m just hoping to send you some good stuff soon

I became of aware your music obviously through HARVEY MILK but I was a late follower to the band. I only became aware of you back in 2008 when I listened to Life…. The Best Game In Town. Instantly fell in love with that album and the other albums you’ve released with Harvey Milk. I read on Wikipedia recently that you see this as the band’s worst album. Is that true. Or is it bullshit on Wikipedia’s part. If it is true. Why do you think that of the album. As it got some major praise from fans and critics alike.

No I absolutely think that's our worst record. my wife says I'm biased against it because it was a dark time for me, but I don't: we didn't have the songs going in. It was the first and only time we'd ever decided to record a record without having anything to record! and as far as I'm concerned the tunes are just not up to Snuff. there's too much filler and not enough original material to justify a long playing release, to me. I think Special Wishes is our best record. I think they're all pretty good. Life is the only one I think, of the six that we produced, that just doesn't make the grade

What is he current status with Harvey Milk. Are you guys still touring. Any plans for a new album in the future.

No I don't think Harvey Milk will play together again. we all still get along great and we're all still friends but it's just not even on the table I don't think anyone has any real interest

Looking back with your time with HARVEY MILK, is there anything that you would change with the band.

I wouldn't sweat so much

Thanks for doing this interview. Before you go, do you have any words of wisdom that you want to say to your fans.

you bet:

Distrust the government.
Avoid mass media.
Fight the lies.
Always love never fear.

Words by Steve Howe and Creston Spiers

Thanks to Jem at WeEmptyRooms for arranging this interview and for Creston Spiers for taking the time out to do this.

Brown Dwarf will be available to buy on DD/Vinyl via Creston Spiers and WeEmptyRooms for the Rest Of The World form December 4th 2020.


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