Eric Welton Interview
Jan 2008 / Interviewed by Matt
Eric Welton fans rejoice! I had the privilege of interviewing Eric via Internet, and asked him to answer as many or as few questions as he wanted. He answered them all. Eric and I talk about his album "ZigZag", which is now a few years old, about home recording, playing live, and the "good old days" which I am technically too young to remember. Of course some of the questions, as always are the generic "What's your favorite Color" stuff - oh wait, I forgot to ask that....
Matt: Eric - How long have you been playing music for?
Eric: My parents gave me an acoustic guitar for Christmas one year, sometime before i was ten. my old man would take me to lessons every week, but i think i was too young. in grade school i signed up for lessons with Chris Rupert, he taught me the basics.
Matt: What was the first song you learned to play?
Eric: Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" was the first. I learned it on guitar and harmonica. That gave me the confidence and desire to learn more...
Matt: You can do an uncanny impersonation of Neil Young - do you still perform Neil Young songs?
Eric: I'm not trying to impersonate, really, I just try to honor whomever I may cover. I do still play some Neil, my favorite right now is Captain Kennedy.
Matt: What was the first "show off" riff you learned how to play on guitar? i.e.: Smoke on the Water / Johnny B. Good, etc.
Eric: I'm proud to say I haven't got a single lick or riff in me...I'm a rhythm player through and through.
Matt: If you could bring 1 cassette tape to a deserted island, with 10 songs on it that you'd be stuck listening to for 30 years...
Eric: Wow... The Band's "Tears of Rage". The Band of Horses' "Wicked Gil". Beatles' "Don't Let me Down." "Thirteen" from Ben Kweller. "Its All over Now, Baby Blue" from Dylan. "Early Morning Rain" from Lightfoot. Zappa's "Take Your Clothes off When You Dance." Kings of Leon's "Velvet Snow". "Candle Song Three" from Mojave 3. The Kinks' "20th Century Man. Neil Young's "Time Fades Away". "Salvador Sanchez" from Sun Kil Moon.
Matt: Awesome. So your family got you into music?
Eric: My family made me get into music - there was always music playing in our house - good music too, The Band, Dylan, Beatles...
Matt: I love all those acts. What or who else are your influences?
Eric: Life is a big influence, that may be a vague answer, but I mean, sometimes life does things to you and the only way for me to relate with it or deal with it is to zone out with a guitar in my hands. People in general are an influence - the good things they do and the stupid things they do - do something stupid near me and you just may end up in a song.
Matt: Ever get writers block? If so - what's the cure?
Eric: I always have writer's block - every tune i've written has just come to me when it needed to - I don't force it, I just keep playing, keep exorcising..
Matt: How do you write songs?
Eric: With a guitar in my hands or sitting at the keys...I fool around with chords until something comes, then I mumble over top of that until the mumbles become words.
Matt: Wow - that's exactly how I do it. Is it true you are relative of one of the Square Root members ?
Eric: Po's father and my mother are cousins.. my Grandma is his Aunt - our Grandma's are sisters. But he is really my brother, I love him and he is very close to Nadia and I.
Matt: Were you around during the hallowed Aberdeen days? (I ask, cause I wasn't - too young).
Eric: Loved and miss the Ab - those were the days. For most of my friends it was The Ab that provided our first bar experience - getting in under age was not an issue. Square Root was practically born there and those are good memories - when they were just a three piece instrumental band - that was great - those are their roots, mine too. The band I was in in high school "The Venus Pigeons" played a great gig there, opening for Ray Whaling's band. We played our own tunes as well as some Hip covers - we got the crowd to their feet and it was all a great experience.
Matt: Did the Venus Pigeons write or record any original material ?
Eric: Yes... that's when i fell in love with recording. our main guitarist knew how to use a four track and he taught the rest of us. we made a couple four-track demo tapes. then later on we went into the studio. Steve Eyres, from Frank's Music Center, used to work out of his house. we recorded five or so tunes with him, great sound quality on those tunes.
Matt: Could you describe your current home studio setup?
Eric: Ok - for financial reasons my setup is computer based. I'm using a PC with four gigabytes of RAM and a Quad-Core processor for speed. I have an M-Audio Delta 1010LT sound card for inputs. I have a small mixer plugged into that card. My monitor speakers are M-Audio BX5's. The software I use is Cakewalk's Sonar 6 - Producer's Edition and I use Reason 4 for MIDI applications. Sonar is completely transferable to Protools and I have just found it easier to use, I have found no reason to need Protools as of yet. I use basically one microphone - an Apex 420 large diaphragm condenser microphone that I picked up used at Frank's Music Center. I plug it into an ART Pre MP - its a tube preamp and it provides analogue warmth in my otherwise cold digital setup. I use an old set of Pearl drums, a Roland keyboard for MIDI triggers, a Fender Jazz Master and my acoustics are Seagulls and Epiphone's.
Matt: What model of acoustic guitars do you play ?
Eric: I have an early Seagull called a Minstrel. Another more common Seagull, the S-6, an Epiphone as well as an Alvarez RD-20.
Matt: You get some great sounds and production from the privacy of your own home. Care to share some of your secrets with other home recording enthusiasts, namely - me?
Eric: Just find the time, sit down and do it. Do a lot of reading on the process. I have found a lot of my success comes from accidents, trial and error. If I didn't sit up until 5 a.m. tweaking shit then I wouldn't ever find these sounds. Start with a good microphone and good monitoring speakers, without these elements achieving a somewhat "pro" sound can be hard.
Matt: Can you remember any particular piece of gear, or guitar that you've sold or lost, and now hate yourself because of it?
Eric: Yes, I've traded gear for other gear over the years... I miss my Hondo Telecaster copy... I miss my Gibson Les Paul Junior.
Matt: I've got a Les Paul in my past as well - I kick myself about it all the time for letting it go. I love the Synth in your song "Again", by chance can you remember what the patch was an emulation of ?
Eric: Thanks very much... I use quite a bit of MiniMonsta from G-Force - everyone should have that software.
Matt: Your track "whatever you want" reminds me a little of SROM. They are probably an influence ?
Eric: No kidding? Thats the first time I've heard that... They are an influence because I am a huge fan, but I could never sit down and try to write something the way Po writes. I can't get out of my own head the way he does and am simply not capable of the melodies that he comes up with. But we all do our own thing...
Matt: Was your album mastered in any way?
Eric: Not really, unfortunately. Its a very necessary step, makes listening much more pleasurable.
Matt: Are you a fan of MP3? What's your take on the whole i-tunes, buy 1 song at a time, situation?
Eric: MP3's are great - unless you own Warner Brothers Records. They are a great way to get your music out there - music is all about sharing and until now there hasn't been an easier way. The only issue here is that the music industry has yet to learn how to embrace it, but it will come. That being said, nothing tops the sound quality of thick vinyl on a decent sound system and I feel I have to have both - I need my MP3 player but I listen to my record player as well.
I use iTunes but I haven't purchased anything from it - I can understand why corporations and musicians who have become corporations do not like the 'new wave' - they stand to make less money. But once the adjustment has been made, years from now, it will all work out. Maybe just because you play guitar doesn't have to mean you are a millionaire - is that so bad? Or maybe they can still make millions by touring and selling screen printed underwear.
Matt: Ha ha. I've already got the Eric Welton briefs! Are you seeking a Record Label deal?
Eric: I've never been taken that seriously, so I guess I haven't taken it seriously. My good buddy Pat Robitaille, an extremely talented and accomplished musician, has been offered many times but he decided to stay independent. If I had the choice and opportunity, I believe I'd take that path too.
Matt: Is Eric Welton your birth name, or stage name ?
Eric: Its my name, dude. There may have been confusion when I had my step-father's name tacked on to it for a few years but I am and always have been Eric Welton.
Matt: Somewhere along the line I got real confused about your name! But confused is what I do best. (laughs) Are you currently working on new material? What are your future release plans?
Eric: Its all in my head right now...I am currently working a day job too much to let it out but that is all about to change and I am about to jump full force back into it. Besides my own recordings I have plans to record three different Windsor acts as well as Prophet Limbo from Chatham.
Matt: It is very hard to believe that "another day" isn't some kind of mega-hit in the indie scene. Have you done much in the way of promotion ?
Eric: Thanks again. I haven't promoted it at all, but I do play it every single time I play out there...
Matt: What was your first on-stage live experience like?
Eric: Besides the high school band thing, my first solo performance was at Bauhaus, a cafe at the location that later became Beatniks. I was scared. I was shit.
Matt: Could ever for see a time in which you'd have a backing band - sort of like a Bob Dylan / The Band 1965-1966 arrangement, with you as the front man?
Eric: I would love to have a backing band - I need a backing band, but no one will back me. In all this time I've had a couple of interested parties but they weren't really interested in playing my stuff, they just wanted to play together, and then after some time it would just fall apart...
Matt: You and Nadia sing very naturally together - did she have prior experience in music, or was this something you had to get her started in?
Eric: The first time I noticed Nadia was when we were both on stage at The Parkview's Open Mic. A few of us were on stage all singing along to some song and all I could here was this loud voice behind me - very clear and confident. From that day on we started to play together. It is a struggle though because neither of us are trained so sometimes it may take some work to find the right voice.
Matt: How many times have you played CJAM ?
Eric: Twice - what a thrill - too bad he doesn't have live guests anymore. What a great station though, 91.5FM they play my records a lot, enough to have me chart on college radio a couple of times. I don't think its in Chatham yet but if you are in Windsor area, dial in - I once heard a DJ play six Square Root tunes in a row.
Matt: What made you pack up and move down Windsor way?
Eric: What makes people stay in Chatham? It was a great move - best decision I've made for myself but also because of school and work for both Nadia and I. There are so many transplanted Chathamites here, its funny. And I let them make fun of me for being from Chatham because I figure its fair since we Chathamites pick on Tillbury's Tillbillies.
Matt: Haha - I pick on Wallaceburg. How do you feel about Chatham Kent's music scene right now? People tend to have mixed feelings about it.
Eric: I'm a little disconnected from it lately. As ever, I feel there is great potential in Chatham and many interesting things could happen. I just wish there was a proper venue, owned by proper music loving people. A large part of Chatham's music culture died when they tore down the Parkview, and went up in flames when Beatniks burned. If someone would just open a good venue I think we'd see more action in Chatham.
Matt: What could be better about Chatham Kent's music scene?
Eric: Perhaps if everybody stuck together and worked together on projects and shows - like, there should be something going on every month where a few local acts got together and put on a show, it would give something to the up-and-comers to look forward to and practice for, and give the local veterans something to do locally, instead of always having to leave town to get a decent gig.
Matt: On CJAM you mentioned you played with My Soft Frequencies, and The Darns, and of course you've played with Square Root - what other big acts have you bumped into during your travels?
Eric: I enjoy playing with a Windsor local group called MICHOU, everyone should check them out. Yellow Wood slays me. Pat Robitaille.
Matt: Care to plug some upcoming shows?
Eric: I hope to be traveling to Toronto with the Root to play a show with Fleece Elves in March... or April. Joining MICHOU at Milk Bar in Windsor in March. I hope to be sharing the stage with the super Tara Watts...
Matt: What links can I relay to the readers to find more out about your CD's and projects? ie: Myspace, etc.
Eric: www.myspace.com/ericwelton and you can hear some of the work I've done with Prophet Limbo here: www.myspace.com/prophetlimbo
Matt: Is 'Dog' still in print for people to purchase - and where can people buy it from ?
Its on the first full length "ziGZag" as well as a remixed version on the EP "an ep".
Matt: Oh man - I thought Dog was the name of the album, as well as the opening track title. I feel like Larry King - I didn't do good research. (laughs) Sorry, but I gotta do another generic question... What one sentence best describes your outlook on life.
Eric: Its going to turn out better than I can imagine.
Matt: I also loved the Beatniks scene - but I think I only caught the tail end, or last few years of it. Any idea when it opened?
Eric: hmmm... I think it was only opened for 3-5 years before it burned to the ground... I still think a lot about that place, I really miss being there - we were all robbed when that place was taken away...
Matt: If I win the lottery - and open Beatniks 2, will you come in as one of the house acts and/or out-of-control bar tenders ?
Eric: You'll have to bounce me out to keep me away.
Matt: Haha. Excellent.
Eric: Thanks again Matt!