Andrew Pearson found happiness not only in by writing wonderful lyrics but in the skies as a pilot. I am fast becoming a big fan of his mesmerizing sound and prophetic lyrics. I will let him tell his story.
You said Bob Dylan was a big influence on you since you were thirteen, tell me about that?
I was precocious kid. I pissed off my family by refusing to be confirmed in the Church of England, and at 12 years old admitted readily to my atheism. (I may as well have invoked devil worship for all the good it did me.) I was reading Bertrand Russell and his philosophies were starting to take hold (Of what I could understand at that age anyway). Music up until then had been pop. (Buddy Holly, Beatles etc). It was 1964. It would be another year before I discovered Leadbelly, and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee and all the delta blues masters that would shape my guitar playing and lead me to the Chicago blues guitarists such as Freddie King and Buddy Guy that would cement the style. At the time I was a singer in a band by default. Nobody could sing. I could not sing not quite as badly as everyone else. I was the de facto singer. Here comes this folk singer (who also can’t sing) with these infectious tunes, telling stories to make you cry, make you think, make you angry, peddling anarchy like it was holy water, and what can I say? I WANTED IT! I wanted to BE it! So I started writing and the first attempts were terrible, then not quite as terrible and then finally I showed them to someone else and they were actually impressed! ………? So I kept on going. Hey, it wasn’t “The Ballad of Hollis Brown”, or “Gates of Eden”, but it was a start.
Later I dropped out of college, where I was studying organic chemistry, and toured Europe. I got a few record/publishing deals going in London but I dried up creatively. It was probably due to not really having had the life experience or the maturity to gain insight that would lead to satisfactory, original observations. Oh, I had stories, but it was a teenager’s travelogue. I wanted to see things as Dylan saw them. There was only one way. I jumped on the first plane to the States and planned on doing a Jack Johnson/Woodie Guthrie “ride the rails and tell the tales” deal; maybe get back into music in a year or two I thought. Three days in and I am in the village in NYC at a guitar shop on West 4th st (Dylan country) and I see this Fender Telecaster I’ve got to have. I have $300 to my name and the Tele is 250. But I need it. Why? I’m in Dylan ville for chrissakes and I’m gonna play (I don’t even have an amp). I will go on to play the clubs he played. The Bitter End. The Back Fence. Kenny’s Castaways, CafÃ© Wha? Village Underground. All the haunts that created the mind boggling groundswell of the 60s that are now the hokey tourist traps. In the 70s they were still cool. Which is what I did. For many fruitful years. Records, tours, little clubs, stadiums, sideman gigs, my own thing. House band at Max’s Kansas City in New York. Got banned from CBGBs in the feud that went on between these two clubs. It was all good. Until I dried up again and I realized I had never, ever, been a real (normal?) human being. I had been a musician for all my life, and I felt empty and phony. I was trying to write songs about how difficult it was to write songs. About as deep as a Broadway puddle. I wanted to be a great artist, like Dylan. I wanted to say something important like him. And I couldn’t. I just didn’t think I was any good. So rather than continue with what I knew, what I was successful at (in other people’s eyes), I quit.
I drove a cab. I did menial jobs. I joined the human race. I figured I would somehow get back into it (the effect of the trip over from England was what I hoped to recreate) but after a year or more of nothing coming out I decided “that was it” and I had better find something to do with my life.
So I ruminated on what was it that I wanted to do. What did a “career” (I had never thought in those terms) constitute? What did I want from my life? Well, number one, being a card carrying hedonist, I wanted to thoroughly enjoy what I was going to spend the majority of my waking hours doing. That was a tough one. All I had ever enjoyed (outside of sex, chemical stimuli, reading and travel) was playing music. I searched back into my early childhood and remembered the crazy wish that I wanted to fly. Flying dreams. Superman in the clouds. That started a whole other chapter of my life that required discipline, study, finishing college, working incredibly hard, taking numerous tests and interviewing for positions where there were literally tens of thousands of competitors. Tens of thousands of dollars and several years later I became a pilot. It has been rewarding, fractious, unstable, absolute fun. I have survived three major airline bankruptcies, the most famous strike in the industry (Eastern 1989), Seen more of the world than I cared to with companies such as Pan Am and United. Endured 9/11 (which was extremely close to home) and numerous other destabilizing issues. But I would not have traded the move for the world, and it has allowed me to grow and position myself where I can be free of the demands of the music business while still be in a position creatively and financially, to do what I need to do: Tell my story.
I enjoy every day I go to work. I fly as a Captain on the Airbus 320 for a major US airline (in fact I am writing this to you from a layover in San Francisco right now) and plan on doing it for as long as the law allows. It is the Yin to my music’s Yang. My music would not survive without my flying. The travel associated with it, the people I meet, the pressures of it, the political perspective that comes from working in so many different cultures ( a far cry from being a tourist) all provide invaluable stimuli for writing.( I never travel without a guitar and a digital recorder and my songbooks). I married and raised a family, formed other businesses, taught, and studied several different disciplines totally unrelated to music or flying. I grew.
Sometime in the early 90s my ex- band members contacted me for a social reunion. We jammed. The digital revolution had happened in the interim, multi track home recorders were available, sequencers existed, synthesizers created sounds we had only previously dreamed of. I wanted in. I wrote some songs, recorded some demos, transferred my skills from guitar to guitar-synth and eventually recorded an EP, “Pulp Generators” in 1998. My flying career, and the training I was involved with at the time would not let me promote it, and the project died. I played some solo gigs in the neighbourhood, around Montclair New Jersey, but without any real conviction. Audiences need to see a drummer for a rock performance. Nobody, not even knowledgeable musicians, could figure out that I was doing all this without any prerecorded samples. I realized I need a band but that entailed the usual logistical nightmare. Then 9/11 happened, good friends of mine died in those airplanes. We were at war, under siege, and frankly, to me , music was just something all to peripheral to the real needs and duties of modern life. I would go back, once in a while, write a few stanzas, tell myself it really WAS important; not really believe it, and leave it again for another year. 2009 came around and I was just about ready to demolish the studio and sell all my instruments when an old friend and ex-WNEW DJ by the name of Dia Stein called me out of the blue and suggested I jam with two of her friends in the city. I really didn’t want to, but out of respect for her I went. The drummer was Nick DiFrisco and we hit it off immediately. I came out of the first session and had written a new song before I made it home. I have continued to write at a furious pace ever since. I have never experienced this flood of original, quality ideas before in my life. I probably average one song a week and this flow of creativity needed a place to go.
We recruited Bill Foster as bassist (ex Billy Cobham, Larry Coryell) from the jazz/fusion world, Ian McDonald (ex-King Crimson, Foreigner) from the prog-rock, pop-rock world, and recorded 20 songs. I chose seven for “Beautiful Accident”. I realized that the choice had subconsciously released an idea, larger than the album itself. The songs told a story within the subtext of their collection. It is the story of the 20th century. This would be the foundation of a larger story. The story of me.
What makes your music unique?
There are several answers to this. One is the multi-faceted way in which it is constructed, using guitar synthesis loops. Another is the instrumentation. Each aspect of it has a mirror. A bass synthesizer plays along with a bass guitar, an electronic drum machine wends its way into the live drummer’s tracks. Vocals are treated to create timbres that are unusual, in a subtle way. Where one instrument could perform the task two or more are used for sonic depth. I would also say that there is true originality in the blend of blues and psychedelia. A modern day Hendrix or Traffic as it were. The syncopation within the rhythms is unique in places. But none of these really get to the core. That is the lyrics. I feel I express insights and ask questions that are uncommon, if not singularly original. They are the product of living a full life. They are not the emotional conundrums faced by a 22 year old.
Let’s look at the songs, in order.
1. The Timekeeper’s Waltz: It makes the observation that altruism is actually a luxury of the wealthy. Nihilism? No. Reality. It questions the honesty of socialism. It asks why we succumb to the tirades of Preachers. Why not confront outrageous claims with critical thinking? The historical subtext is the modernistic movement at the beginning of the 20th century, combined with Einstein’s revelation that time was not linear. It defined the century. We were never the same again, spiritually. It is very critical of man’s behavior, of the mess we make of life. But at the end, for us all (just about) if we had the chance we’d say “Take me ‘round again”.
2. Amsterdam: It is about the unforeseen consequences of good intentions. Actually, my good intentions. I was terrified my daughter would want to be a professional musician and so gave her piano lessons to curb this desire, or at least throw it into perspective. It worked. And I regret it. The historic corollary is the Great War. The “war to end all wars” which created more problems than it solved. The Great solution that lead to the depression and WW2.
3. Criminal Cool talks of the lionization, the peculiarly morbid fascination the modern public has, for criminals. I trace it back to Bonnie and Clyde. Folk heroes of the Great Depression. It still exists today. The song was actually written when I was flying for Eastern Airlines, and Frank Lorenzo was stripping assets and destroying thousands of lives in the process. Frank Lorenzo appears in the original draught in place of Bernie Madoff, added later to keep it current. Is it mental laziness? This shadenfreude? Do we secretly say “Good on ya! Stick it to ‘em!” Whoever ‘em may be. Again it questions our weakness to pursue critical thinking.
4. The Son of Jacob Mallet is a fictitious character. He demonstrates the futility of our leaders suggesting that widespread retraining is the answer to dying industries. Generations accepting of a continuum are suddenly informed it is over. WE don’t make refridgerators here any more. We buy ‘em from Taiwan. There is no easy answer to this no matter how politically desirable. It is a consequence of progress and should be recognized. That’s all I want to point out. To generate a certain empathy. A similar mantra was issued by FDR during the depression, and it really was all fluff. We emerged from that into, and because of, World War 2. It gave us many shocking developments. But there were two which surpassed all others. One was the shrinking of the planet and the acceleration of culture clash. The other was the ability to annihilate ourselves.
5. In the Garden of the Long Pig (the term cannibals use to describe human meat) explores the shrinking world by taking a bunch of NY tourists on an eco vacation to the Amazon jungle, only to find their tour guide wrapped in a love affair with bourgoise materialism. This, then, is our future? Our manifest destiny? The spoils of The Monroe Doctrine?
6. Penitentiary asks the question: What if we were created as an amusement for the gods? And what if they were now tired of this human sitcom? Do we ask this question because we have now gained omnipotence? We can conceive of godly pursuits so therefore are we not Him? It’s tongue in cheek of course, but it demonstrates the vastly expanded philosophical issues with which we are now confronted. How life imitates art. IT was penned at The Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego Bay, where L. Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz. MGM filmed Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis in “Some Like it Hot” there. A magical place. Very unreal. Very “product of man”. The old wood paneling seems to whisper” You can do it here, if you’re at the top of your game”.
7. I am an optimist. A lover of mankind in awe of its accomplishments. The Reprise is my way of stating this. Our Amazon tour guide is welcomed to the center of the modern world, New York City, and shown its trappings, pitfalls, terrors, hopes and wonders. It could go either way and be a demonic post apocalyptic rant, or a hymn of thanks to humanity. It is the latter of course. It sees how we somehow work together. How diversities flourish when motivated, even when constrained in such a “little place down by the deep brown sea/hopelessly overcrowded but there’s room for you, room for me.
The century, the album, ends on an up note.
So this is Beautiful Accident. It’s a collection of songs. It’s a walk through time. It’s a philosophical discourse. It’s not your average CD.
What are you working on now?
Beautiful Accident is the first in a trilogy. The trilogy is my story. Beautiful Accident sets the stage, the current project “Entre Las Americas” examines the seminal issue. The issue that shaped my life more than anything, and also defined mankind’s future more than anything in recent history. It is the exodus of the Western world for points west. The Americas. It’s not just about immigration (a social issue on which I have very strong views), but about the clash of cultures, and how differences in styles within societies; values, traditions, can cause radically different products when exported to a new land. It is about the difference between North America and South America. How did Catholicism figure into all this. How did free enterprise factor in? Nepotism? Tribal traditions? “Entre (between) the Americas” is a different album musically. It is less bluesy. There is a greater influence of the Beatles Sgt. Pepper/Magical Mystery Tour era in it. I needed a more lyrical rhythm section and so brought in Adrian Harpham on drums (Known for his work with New Orleans greats such as Leo Nocentelli of the Meters, Dr. John and Henry Butler) to work with Bill Foster whom I retained on bass. Dave Eggar (Coldplay, Beyonce) was brought in to orchestrate certain songs with his fabulous cello work, and so add a certain George Martin quality to it all. The production is entirely different. B.A. was intentionally produced with a retro patina on it. Entre is today. 2011. The next record will be produced like no other, in a futuristic manner.
The Third International “The Timekeepers Waltz”
So that’s what I am working on right now. It is nearly finished. The single, Norah Dear b/w Caudillo will be out in late July, followed by the full 8 song album in September.
Where did the name “The Third International” come from?
I am shortening the name to “Third International” (with a nod to Roger Waters and the guys in the Floyd) is named after a building that was never built. It epitomizes the pursuit of the unreachable. The quest for the unattainable dream. The building was designed by Vladimir Tatlin in 1919 for the Politburo headquarters of the Bolsheviks. Lenin, et. al. didn’t like it (far too trippy) and Tatlin got to vacation in Siberia.
He had been the golden boy of the Bolsheviks, a member of the elite “Futurists” and for his troubles ended up as a stage set designer, dying in relative obscurity in the 50s. His idea endures and is regarded by many students of Modernism as one of the best examples of Modernist architecture. Maybe he was the template for Ayn Rand’s character Howard Roarke in The Fountainhead? I don’t know. But it is certainly possible.
In closing, a comment on the industry, marketing and our audience. I see that the largest demographic slice of our fans, by age is in the 25 to 34 range, followed closely by the 35 to 44 year olds. I believe that this older audience exists by no accident. I appeal to a more mature psyche, and also one with tastes for certain genres that were popular decades ago because that’s what I like. I play for an audience of one. I feel the industry has long neglected these age groups, claiming that they did not buy records. It, of course, became a self fulfilling prophecy. You don’t create something for someone and they sure as hell won’t buy it! Well now the genius’ that ran the industry have run it into the ground, not being able to get their hands around digital copying and its ramifications. Good. The king is dead. Long live the king! The devolution of the industry into a cottage style, homespun item with little remuneration is, in a way, a very good thing I think. It means people will make music for themselves primarily, and so possibly a better art be produced.
Audiences will be smaller, more intimate, and so venues will accommodate this, having better acoustics than large outdoor gigs or stadiums. I predict that the ever shortening attention span of the American public will, however, produce an end to the 3 minute pop tune. I predict there will be 30 second snippets that people will download, and they will become ever more fungible and disposable. Music (rock) as we know it will ascend to a more highbrow status, much like the theatre did with the advent of movies. It must therefore have substance, depth, mileage. It will need to work on several levels. Hopefully I will raise enough interest to produce multimedia presentations of the band live, but that’s a way down the road.. Of course, those who produce music in this “Brave New World” will need to be more self propelled, independent, and lack the need for a substantial income from it. There are few of us who have prepared for this, but it will be to our advantage as the money train veers evermore off the rails. The problem is that most people in my position are either (a) trying to recreate a past glory by regurgitating old hits with reunion gigs, or (b) amusing themselves playing lightweight, safe music that manages to take the place of their golf game. No matter. I could care less. I see a great opportunity. I feel energized enough to go run ten marathons. I’m having a ball.
Welcome to the future.
By: Diana Olson – firstname.lastname@example.org