Rarely does a band breakup work out. Either the truly talented members of the band leave the remaining members to flounder there way into obscurity or the dissolution destroys the chemistry that was necessary to create great music. When Halou disbanded, the result was two uniquely different bands that each make their own brand of genius. We featured one of the bands (Stripmall Architecture) last month and we’re thrilled to now bring you the other band: Inu.
Originally from Austin, Texas, Count [Mikael Eldridge] has been involved in just about every aspect of the music business. Working through the 90′s in San Francisco at various record labels [Polygram, Verve, PopMafia, and Ubiquity], Count acquired a vast knowledge of the music business while continuing work as an engineer, mixer, and producer at the SF’s noteworthy recording studio, Toast. In 1999, Count finally left working for record labels in favor of full time production work and to continue to work with his band, Halou. Count has since worked as engineer, mixer, remixer, and producer with a number of noteworthy artists including DJ Shadow, Frank Sinatra, Radiohead, John Cale [Velvet Underground], No Doubt, New Order, RUN DMC, Blackalicious, Lyrics Born, Galactic, and many more.
Along with guitarist Tim Hingston [Nyles Lannon], and cellist Zoe Keating [Imogen Heap, Rasputina, Dresden Dolls], Count has created a masterpiece of a record: Not For Anyone. Count took a few moments to reflect on the past and discuss how his diverse collaborations have influenced his work.
TDOA: Lets start with the past and work our way forward. We started out as fans of Halou and have followed your work since then. Can you talk about your time with halou and how it shaped the music you’re making with Inu?
C: Well, I spent a lot of time working on Halou and to be honest I always felt like I was pushing it in a direction a bit further than seemed natural for the band. Sometimes those forces can actually create something really interesting. But sometimes that just ends up being a lot of time spent pushing a round peg in a square hole. Inu is something I should have done a long long time ago- even while I was doing Halou. Not because there is anything wrong with Halou, but because it would have given me a place to simply do another thing without having to satisfy all my interests within one project. Although the 2 projects may come from similar places, there is something definitely different about Inu.
TDOA: Could you give us your take on the split with haolu and tell us if you foresee a time where you might work with Ryan and Rebecca again?
C: I talk to Ryan all the time and we have no hard feelings. Everything is all good.
TDOA: Your production credits are amazing and diverse. How did your experiences shape the music that you make with Inu?
C: I actually made a decision to not put any thought into Inu songs at all. Literally none. I just let things flow and once i had a bunch of song ideas I began shaping them. I felt like I had been around a lot of overthinking and contrived music production over the years with various artists and I just wanted to do what came naturally regardless of what is popular or what people thought etc etc.
Of course, having worked on things like funk, hip hop, jazz, and all kinds of other stuff, some subconscious things did sort of creep in there a bit. For example, there’s actually similar drum sounds on the funk/hip hop record I made with Galactic on a couple of songs. There are a lot of interesting records I’ve liked over the years- especially some atmospheric records from europe. But for me, they always fell short- they lacked a pulse. In many cases, there was a completely lack of understand of rhythm entirely. Drums were kind of an afterthought. With Inu I wanted to make one of those kinds of atmospheric records, but with kick ass real drums that really hit almost like a hip hop record.
But really the most important thing that shaped this record isnt a musical thing at all. I didnt think about the musical elements at all. I just did what seemed right and let my guitarist Tim have room to play whatever came to mind. The lyrics and meaning behind the songs was heavily shaped by my experiences. This is another point that always bothered me about some of those atmospheric records from the past I liked. They just had really lame lyrics. The music suggested there was something really important to say, but as soon as the vocalist opened their mouth there just wasnt anything compelling or thoughtful being said. I always wanted to hear a record that addressed really important social, political and even environmental issues without being preachy or annoying. So far I still dont think I’ve heard one yet. I;ve heard a few contemporaries create a song or two, but definitely not a body of work with a common theme. Its funny because this is exactly the kind of thing I actually make fun of regularly. But somehow I ended up making a concept album! Very Spinal Tap!
I’ve been thinking about this stuff for years and have been doing research for a film I am directing which addresses these exact issues. It just seemed so trite, self centered and short sighted to write songs about myself or a relationship with a woman when such compelling, emotional, and dramatic events are happening around us. We are at a critical state on an environmental, social, and economic level these days. So I ended up writing every song about these issues. The trick was making the songs work regardless of whether you are political or even care. And also the main trick was to simply not be annoying like just about every other political artist I’ve heard.
TDOA: Can you tell us specifically what work you did with Radiohead and DJ Shadow and how the work ethic of those respective bands might differ from those of others?
C: I do a lot of work with Dj Shadow in different capacities. We dont set any roles so he just calls me when he needs something- doesnt matter if its recording live instruments, mixing, or mastering. I worked with him setting up his current live tour. We did several remixes over the last couple of years one of which was for Radiohead. It was a great song and fun to work on. One of the reasons a remix like that is fun to work on is because of how much thought goes in to the original tracks. Its obvious when you listen to dj Shadow or Radiohead that a lot of thought went in to each sound. So doing a remix is great because the ingredients you have to work with are great. Its like cooking- if you give a chef average ingredients, they are going to struggle to make something great. You dont necessarily need a huge budget to make that happen. Dj Shadow doesnt- but he might spend over a month on a song. Most people just dont put that kind of effort into their craft. I generally come in at the end of this process with Shadow. He likes to work alone at least at first. But It can be a bit overwhelming for just one person. On the other hand, Radiohead has a luxury in that they have found perhaps the best producer on earth. As far as I know, they work with Nigel probably throughout the entire process which I’m sure makes the process much less overwhelming. But if you are doing it all yourself like Shadow it can be overwhelming. I certainly ended up feeling that way towards the end of the Inu record. Whether I want to or not, I end up spending a lot of time on my own music. Hopefully the end result comes across that way. But to write, perform, sing, engineer, produce, mix, and master all yourself is really not something I would advise anyone. That goes a bit beyond having a good work ethic and borders on insanity.
TDOA: The Stephen Colbert video is fantastic. Please tell us the story behind the making of the video. Did you have to get permission from Stephen to use his image?
C: I’m not really sure where that all came from. Ive never written anything that pop before. Actually the song I heard in my head was quite ‘indie’ sounding. But when I tried to lay it down, it starting turning fairly pop. Sometimes you just have to let these things happen. The song was originally a very dark song about how fucked up our current news media is. Completely thoughtless people like Glenn Beck and Sean Hanity and all those immature blonde Fox news sorority bitches have created a serious problem that I just had to address in a song. I found it hard to not mention Stephen Colbert in the song because he was so brilliant for not only making us aware of this problem, but doing it in a way that makes you laugh. His name happen to be in the chorus and the song just sort of ended up about him. It just seemed to make sense to add visuals to this song to emphasize the narrative. Its a bit hard to make out the lyrics so animation seemed like a great way to illustrate the point. My friend Charlie Canfield helped us out working on some sketches and story board and then Dan McHale did us a huge favor by spending a couple of months doing the animation. And my friend Casey did a great job editing the piece for us. We dont have permission and as far as a know you dont need permission to honor a public figure. With the exception of the gay dance party happening inside Geraldo’s mustache, I dont think we defamed anyone so we should be ok to avoid any lawsuits. Besides, if Geraldo finally just admitted that he (or at least his mustache) was gay, he’d have a lot higher ratings.
TDOA: We’ve always been amazed by the lack of political protest music during the Bush years. The video for Stephen Colbert goes after Fox News (god bless ya!) with a sense of wit. Why do you think bands generally eschewed protest music during the past decade?
C: I too was completely amazed by this. Radiohead offstage and outside of the studio certainly seem to address it but their songs sound pretty abstract.
I brought this up earlier, but I think there are a couple of reasons why most bands avoid it:
1- most protest music (especially the lyrics) just plain sucks. It ends up being corny or pretentious. If you do actually get something thats isnt corny or lame, you often times arent exactly rewarded by the public for bringing up important issues in your music. My good friend Philip Steir from Consolidated pointed this out to me years ago when talking about his band. Lots of people liked the idea of Consolidated musically- funk/electronic/hiphop/industrial combined made for an interesting juxtaposition. But the people who liked the music didn’t always care for the politics. And the people who were down with the political views were often not at all interested in heavy music. So you end up really cutting out your potential fanbase pretty quickly.
2-Most bands are pretty lazy. Seriously- I see it in action all the time as a producer. Writing lyrics about something political or serious it hard to do. Most bands just write about whats easy. And let’s not forget that most bands start out more or less as a way to get pussy. You’d be surprised how many of the great musicians of our time have admitted that.
But for me, I just couldnt help it. We are in such a critical point right now. I look around me and I see that even the news organizations arent bringing us the most important news. They have failed us and decided its easier to just entertain us. So I guess if the nightly news is going to entertain us, the entertainers are now going to have to do the hard work and bring us the important issues. Colbert realized this.
TDOA: The visuals for everything you do (videos, album art, website design) seem to done with a great deal of care. Who conceptualizes and executes that vision?
C: I’ve always been a huge visual guy. I studied design and architecture in college. Before that I was always the ‘artist’ in class in grade school. Its always been a big part of the way I see things. And I am finally now taking big step directing this film. The album art is my work for the most part but I spent a ton of time finding just the right images. My long time collaborator Ryan Hicks (who did just about all of the Halou artwork) did this with me. But he’s a busy guy and the last couple of times working with him I really did my best to basically finish the artwork and then hand it over to him to tweak and manipulate just to make things faster for him. But we’ve done some really elaborate work in the past. The Halou Wholeness and Separation cover took a very long time. Ryan executed my vision for sure on that one. It just took a long time. Im sure he was losing his patience with me on that one.
TDOA: You are clearly cognizant of the importance of the internet in the music business. How have your strategies for marketing changed as power of the internet has coincided with the demise of the record label system?
C: I could spend all day talking about this one. Im going to keep it short here. I used to work for record labels (major and indie). We finally have the ability to do what I always wanted- directly upload music to people with any label or distributor getting in the way. Unfortunately, the distributors still find a way to get in the way. And thus far, things havent worked out the way they should. Currently, it still requires money and a lot of time to properly promote a record. And there are WAY too many people making records. As a result, the bandwidth is severely clogged. So there is a real problem right now in the music business. The web industry has decided to focus on the wrong aspects of social media. Facebook for example only recently even allowed people to post their music. And they dont yet even allow you to use their site in the one way it could be useful- viral promotion. For example, I cant even send out a blast to the people who signed up specifically to my band’s Facebook page. Unbelievably stupid. I still uch prefer people sign up on our email list on our website. That way we dont have an irritating interface or a middle man like Facebook getting in the way of me communicating with my fans. Fuck Facebook. They make money on ads. Thats their primary concern. But at least that money isnt going to Rupert Murdock. Thank God people finally stopped using Myspace.
TDOA: Do you plan to tour with the new Inu album?
C: Hell yes! We were about to announce a huge tour with a major artist for the fall but it my have just been postponed until 2011.
TDOA: We’re of course interested in your connections to Texas and would love to hear your thoughts and memories of the Dallas and Austin music scenes. Do you think Dallas will ever be able to take advantage of their proximity to the ever growing Austin scene and develop into a more influential power?
C: interesting question. Dallas has always had some very cool, underrated musicians. Dallas is the 5th largest market in the US right behind San Francisco, but you’d never think of it as having cool musicians. Austin, Seattle, New Orleans, and many other towns come to mind first. But luckily I was able to hook up with some of them. I never even played music until college. I had no idea how to play an instrument or produce a record. BUt I was so into listening to music. I paid attention to every detail. When I was around 18 I hooked up with Toby and Todd Pipes (Deep Blue Something) and we began playing. It was really just a way to keep me from being depressed. I sucked, but luckily they humored me. I never would have done music if it werent for them. And I’ve met a lot of cool musicians through them. I was glad to have them come on tour with Halou on our last tour. It was funny to have my old high school friend on stage with me 20 years later looking exactly the same as he did when he was 20 years old!
Hopefully Dallas will benefit from the music centered community of Austin (my home town). Dallas is a bigger city and there’s really no good reason why music shouldnt be a bigger part of society there. But make no mistake, Dallas is more ‘conservative’ than Austin by a long shot. And conservative cities have never been supportive of music. Lets look at the big music cities of the US- NY, LA, San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans- the people value music and support musicians and the arts. Unfortunately those are things that are valued these days by ‘conservatives’. Ultimately, it’s up to the people of Dallas to start supporting music. The cool musicians are there. They just need to be recognized through a network of cool venues, media outlets, and local promotion. Thats exactly why Seattle kicks everyone’s ass as the US’ best music town. They have a great, supportive radio station (KEXP), great music stores (very rare these days), great venues, and great promoters like Steven Severin at Neumo’s. Those things combined create a community that supports music. Regardless of the internet, without those things, the music business and musicians can’t flourish.
To learn more about Inu, visit http://www.inumusic.com/
Listen to the new album!