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Ed Hale and The Transcendence - 03.27.12
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Ed Hale and The Transcendence
1. How did you get your band name?
Well that can be a confusing question if not posed properly! I used to be called Eddie Darling when my first solo album came out. After that whole teen-pop phase faded, I got myself into a real rock band and decided using my real name was the way to go. It was more honest and real. You know, I don't think anyone likes their own name. You gotta get used to it I suppose. But I'm used to it now. Regarding the band, Transcendence, I really don't remember. We started out calling ourselves Ed Hale and the Troubadours of Transcendence. LMAO! For real. But this is when I was thinking about the band and music more like some kind of trippy New Age awakening experience or something. See, that's the catch right there. We were never supposed to be called "Transcendence". We were just "troubadours of transcendence", like traveling minstrels spreading peace and joy and love and music and magic. But you know how the business is... they shortened it to Ed Hale and Transcendence. And then just to Transcendence for a while; three albums actually under that name. And then when the most recent Ed Hale solo thing took off they re-released all the albums under the name Ed Hale and The Transcendence.
2. How did this band get started?
That's actually a cool question, man. Thanks for asking it. After taking a sabbatical from public music making due to being so discouraged after the SONY thing fell through, I got this call out of the blue from Jorge Gera who used to play sax in my band. He told me he found a kid from Bolivia who plays drums and is smoking hot awesome playing all different sorts of styles including American rock. He suggested that the three of us should get together and jam. That kid was Ricardo Mazzi (Ricky, our drummer, who is still in the band today). He and I started the band but then Jorge left soon after. It was like Jorge's contribution was just to bring me and Ricky together. I loved Ricky's World Music vibes. He brought something totally different and unique to contemporary rock music. And he loved the fact that I was a "rocker". He grew up in Bolivia always wanting to be in a "real rock band." It was a good fit.
I was getting these visions of this big black dude all the time, and within weeks Stro just showed up. Sure enough, a big black dude who played bass like nobody's business. He was touring and doing session work up in New York with all these music business mega-stars. But he wanted to be in something more authentic and real and original. So he came on board and offered to help us produce the first real album. That's RISE AND SHINE, the band's debut. We threw everything including the kitchen sink into that album. Worked on it for two years straight. We drove the producer and head engineer crazy with it because he had offered to record the album on "spec", meaning he was giving us the studio time and his time for free for the album credit and the back-end royalties. But he had no idea that I was looking at it like my "last hoorah". I had no idea if I would ever get a chance to record another album, so I wanted to go out in style and be remembered for something. Hence the ambitiousness of that album. Maybe we took on more than we could chew, I don't know. But I think it still stands up. People still come up to me on the street and tell me they've listened to it a thousand times and bought ten copies to give away to their family and friends. And that's different than our other albums honestly. There's something about it I guess.
But the point is that Stro (real name Howard "Stro" Stroman) was so instrumental in the making of the RISE AND SHINE album. There's no way we could have pulled that off without him. He was a pro. We weren't. Eventually Stro left the band for the same reason many guys leave bands - money. Being in an original band is tough. It's especially hard for guys who are married or have kids. Those of us who stay in past age 25 are a special breed. Like one-tenth of one-tenth of one percent of musicians really go for it and try to make a living at it.
By this point Fernando Perdomo, our guitarist, had joined the band. He was insane from the very beginning. He looked 40 freaking years old but he wasn't even 20 years old yet. He could do anything with the guitar. A modern Jimi Hendrix. He came from the same place as I did musically; that whole Paul McCartney and Wings sound. He loved it as much as I did. All he needed was someone to calm him down and control his creativity. Luckily I was able to do that. I had the patience everyone else in the scene at the time seemed to lack.But that's because I could tell he was a genius. Like a real genius. His riffs and licks and solos are out of this world. He belongs in the rock'n'roll Hall of Fame one day. He brought in Roger Houdaille (bassist and frontman for the Indie-rock band Ex Norwegian) who was only 18 at the time. We celebrated his 21st birthday on stage during a concert a few years later. He too was into all the old 60s and 70s artists, but he went way extreme with it, you know, like all the experimental bands that no one's ever heard of. But that was good for us. He gave us a little something extra special. Listen to his bass lines in the song "Waiting for Godot" (from the All Your Heroes Become Villains album). That's Roger. He's in a world all his own. Pure creative genius still unscathed from the harsh realities of the very harsh music business.
By this point, once Jon Rose joined on keyboards, we had firmly and completely gelled as a veritable world-class capable rock band. A unit of many, working as one. It's that small group, plus a few others who are always there for the fun of the ride, that have created all the Ed Hale and the Transcendence albums through the years. Bill Sommer, by the way, is our second drummer. That sounds weird, but it's just one of those things. We've got two drummers. They're both soccer lovers and drummers. Grew up in totally different worlds and yet they've got all these things in common. But Bill is as much a member of Transcendence as any of us. Ricky and I, though, are the only original members of that very first rehearsal all those years ago. The other guys came along soon after, though. We're lucky in that. We've been together a really long time. The same guys. That feels good.
3. What bands are you influenced by?
I think each guy in the band has a different set of influences, so I can only speak for myself. But one thing I will say is that almost all of us are pretty much into anything. We're IN the music business, you know. So there's no real style or genre that we don't come into contact with. I mean, right now, while we're doing all this promotion for my latest single "Scene in San Francisco" which has jumped into the Billboard Top 30, our keyboard player Jon Rose is out on tour with Julio Iglesias in South America. Crazy. But you know, that's the biz. All our work right now is centered around promotion, meet and greets, record signings, interviews, and photo shoots, so the guys in the band have time to do other things. And this is a great gig for Jon. No way he could take it, sincerely do a great job, or even get the job, unless he was into a wide variety of styles of music. Dig?
Me, I'm into anything and everything. I really NEED music. For my health and sanity. To make me feel good. Like it's part of my soul or something. I did this photo shoot yesterday that was very elaborate. A lot of makeup and styling and people on deck. And in order to get into it, we had to have music going in the background. They asked me what I wanted to put on. They were using Pandora, which is an incredible tool. One of the coolest things to come out of this new age. And we're in this photography studio filled with people of all different ages and backgrounds and at one point someone put on contemporary rap. But I just wasn't feeling it. It totally ruined the vibe of the shoot for me. Plastic, put on, contrived, commercial for the sake of being commercial, all posing and bragging and nothing substantial underneath. This is what it felt like, at least, in the room. But I had to be "on", totally ON... for the camera. So I went for the pure shit, the stuff that created me and who I am. Lou Reed, David Bowie, T Rex, Donovan, Hendrix, The Beatles, Zeppelin, Lennon, Wings, The Stones, Bob Dylan. Even the Dandy Warhols or The Pixies, The Replacements, Radiohead, U2, Muse. At its heart, this is where my music is coming from at i's core. Plus a few thousand others I suppose.
4. If you could tour with any bands, past or present, who would they be and why?
The Rolling Stones in the 70s. For obvious reasons. Never has been and never will be another "world's greatest rock band" quite like the Stones in the 70s. Way before all the bullshit started in the music business. Crafting songs like pottery to fit a specific genre using computers. Narrow-casting to please niche-niche markets based on polls and statistics. This kind of thing has ruined music as we know it today. We've got people like Adele or Katy Perry at the top of the charts who use three to ten people to help write a freaking song. And another five to produce it. That's become the norm now. Everyone pandering to everyone else in an attempt to please a very small imaginary group of music listeners who are scrambling away from regular radio in hordes for that exact reason. They're out there looking for something REAL and SINCERE and AUTHENTIC and the radio and record exec guys just don't see it. Albums like DARK SIDE OF THE MOON were made with a small band of four guys and a producer and a few engineers. And that's it. Real artists who could write great songs, looks be damned. Yeah, I'd love to tour with Pink Floyd if they ever got back together with Roger. For sure. I'd do anything with Paul (McCartney) just because he is still alive and, like many, I feel like I owe him a great deal for who I am today.
5. Best food to eat on tour?
I live on Sprite, coffee and protein shakes man. I may not be the best role model for that kind of question.
6. Why should people listen to your band?
They shouldn't. I mean, no one "should" do anything in an optimum world. We're working towards that. But I get what you're saying. Why might people want to listen to our band? Great freaking question, man. Truly. Check it out. Pandora uses a wide variety of descriptive terms in its algorithms to describe musical artists in order to craft perfect custom made radio stations for the listeners. An interesting method. I looked up the Ed Hale and the Transcendence channel on Pandora yesterday. It said: "this station was designed for music listeners who enjoy "emotional and passionate male vocals, vocal harmonies, melodic and sometimes searing and chaotic guitar lines, 70s styled art or glam rock, slightly experimental, deep thought provoking and emotionally stirring lyricism." I thought this was really interesting. It's hard as hell to describe the music that you make. But there it was. And I really can't argue with it.
To break it down even simpler, Ed Hale and Ed Hale and The Transcendence still go into the rehearsal room and the recording studio and on stage because we love making music. We aren't in there to "craft hit songs" or please a radio format or gain a market audience. We do it because we love making music together or as individuals. It's our blood if we were vampires.
So for music fans that are looking for something that is NOT super formulaic and heavily crafted, but still sounds like real people making music, we fit the bill. I heard the live version of "Magic Bus" by The Who the other day. God, is that an incredible five minutes of music. It's divine, heavenly, grace. But it's also sloppy as hell. But that didn't matter. And it still doesn't to some people. That's why people may want to listen to us.
Another reason may be because we don't just do the same thing over and over again. Sometimes that works against us. But in the long run, I think our fans really dig that aspect to what we do. Every album has its own sound and style. Sometimes they can be quite disarming at first, in how disparate the albums sound at first. But it's still us. The same five guys. But we'll always surprise you with what we bring out next.
7. If you could be any athlete, which athlete would you switch places with?
Joe Montana or Steve Young. I always say that in my next life I'm coming back as a Superbowl winning quarterback in the NFL. That's not easy to do when you're 5' 8" and 160 pounds!
8. If you won a Grammy, who would you thank?
You mean WHEN? Hah! The Grammys are changing as we saw this year. Real music is starting to get recognized again. Dave's speech from the Foo Fighters was awesome. So was Justin Vernon's of Bon Iver. They really held the torch for the people who make real music. I was proud of them. It was like a group sense of pride I think, for a lot of people. For me personally, I'd have to thank my mom. Everyone says that, you know, but there's a reason for it. She's been there for me since the beginning. Never discouraged me about making music my living. And my wife. She's been through hell and back with this business and she's still a trooper. Being married to a rockstar is not easy as she constantly reminds me. And that's an understatement. But she's there. Solid. True. She's got my back. I'd also thank all the artists who influenced me, who came before, the reasons why I got into music in the first place.
9. If you could change something about the music industry, what would it be?
I'd open up more channels for music not specifically crafted for commercial consumption. We've got plenty of those already. And when I say channels, I don't just mean radio. That's a part of it for sure. 99% of music listeners wholeheartedly believe that if it doesn't get played on the radio or on TV then it's not real yet. That's sad. A real misconception. Totally untrue. The music business as we know it today is a very closed off, tight knit and insular little business. If you say something to piss somebody off, you're out. If someone high up just doesn't like you or your music, you're out. There's no going around it to sneak in through any back door. They have it completely closed off and controlled.
No matter how much artists talk late at night amongst themselves about how they're going to do this or that, the sad truth of it is that if "they" don't want you to, then you don't stand a chance of doing it. American Idol is a great example of this. Everything you see on that show is an advertisement. The Coke signs everywhere, the fake music videos to advertise Ford cars, even the songs they choose to sing and the guests they bring on to perform. If they decide to have all the contestants sing Michael Jackson songs, it's because "promotional consideration was given to the Michael Jackson Estate and/or his record label", meaning it was a paid advertisement. Get it? Radio is even worse. Except for College Radio -- which is one of the last places where real editorial consideration is factored into what gets played or not played. That's why you can still hear real music on College Radio in the States.
This is what I would change. Loosen the controls a bit so a wider variety of musical artists could get in and get their music out there to potential fans. The other thing that is even more important to address is that we aren't able to make a living anymore from music, those of us really doing it for a living. The internet and the advent of "free music for the masses" has destroyed our income streams. I hate to say it, because no one likes a party pooper, but this party sucks for the musicians who make the music. It may be great for Joan Smith sitting in her house in Kenosha, Wisconsin, who wants to listen to free music all day. But for the artists she's listening to, they aren't even being paid a penny, let alone a dime.
The product we create and provide, like anything else out there, has a value. But for some reason, and I really don't think it was a conscious decision, consumers presently think the value of music now is zero. So no one feels like they should have to pay to listen to music or own music. For the most part. There are exceptions, but that's the basic rule now. And people wonder why ticket prices to live concerts have gone up so much. But if you think about it, there aren't really any other ways for us to make any money anymore. That's our last vestige of hope if we want to make a real living at music. And even live appearances are becoming harder and harder to charge for -- because there are so many young artists who are willing to play for free. What they're missing is that they're shooting themselves in the foot in the process - along with a few thousand other fellow musicians.
You get the idea. This needs to change. No one has a problem dropping $200 for a phone, or $100 at the grocery store for food. And we're already giving away hit singles for free in the form of radio, unlimited streaming or free MP3 downloads. And free music videos, and free photos, and more engagement with the artist than ever possible before in human history. The last thing we have of our wares left to sell is our albums. So, for God's sake people, buy our freaking albums. Buy them new, not used. And buy them from a trusted and legitimate source, like a music store, or amazon.com or iTunes, that compensates the artists. This is vital if we want to keep good music in the market place. Or all we'll ever hear is shite from artists who are still living at home with their parents and don't need to make a living, or extremely formulaic commercial pop from artists on giant corporate record labels who don't know any better than to only release the most generic of artists.
10. Memorable tour experience?
Dirty or not dirty? Profane or not profane? Debauched? Or pre-screened for pre-teens?
Being in Atlanta, GA, on tour hitting about ten different cities in less than two weeks with the guys. A lot of records were broken on that little tour. A production company flew in to film us to create the EVERYTHING IS COHESIVE documentary about the band. (Available on YouTube). So we were being followed around by a camera crew. Everything was very rushed, but exciting. The new album at the time, NOTHING IS COHESIVE, was doing really well critically. The fan response to our live shows was great. There were loads of disasters along the way. Broken vans, lost vans, lost members, gigs cancelled without us even knowing, on and on. But we stayed tight as a band. We never got down. We showed up at a gig and there was no gig. Two days of driving and no gig. But we were so psyched to perform that we asked around the town right there in front of this one venue, the Hard Rock Cafe btw, and heard about another live music venue in Atlanta, gave them a call and asked if we could jet over there and play a set and they said we could. The place was called Masquerade. What sports they were. We rocked that place like we were playing at Yankee Stadium. Just came in off the street from a totally different town on the spot and played our asses off. Just for the love of music. I'll never forget that.
11. What does Absolute Punk mean to you?
It means EXACTLY what we've been talking about for the last hour. All of it. Staying true to what you do and what you believe in. Not selling out. Not buying in. Doing what you love because you love what you do. And not giving up. And no matter what kind of music you make, if you do that, then you're absolute punk.
12. What is your favorite song to play?
Too many to choose from. Nine albums worth now. Plus a hundred others at least... We used to do the "Theme from Welcome Back Kotter" by John Sebastian from the Lovin Spoonful. We really did. What a groovy tune. I don't know why, but we just did. And I used to love doing that song. It was so random. But tunes of ours... We've got some really cool simple upbeat rock tunes, and then we've got some really complicated songs with a lot of changes in them. Songs like "Rise and Shine" or "The Journey" or "Softening" or "Bored". These songs are insane to pull off live. It's like we're balancing on the edge of messing it up the whole time. Songs like "I Walk Alone" from my last solo album Ballad On Third Avenue is a tough one... With songs like this you really have to focus the whole time. But what I really enjoy playing with the guys on stage are the songs that are easy, the upbeat rockers where we can just smoke through it without thinking... songs like "Sleep With You" or "Superhero Girl" or "I Wanna Know Ya". Because they're fun. You get your rocks off. You go to another world.
13. What is your vacation spot of choice?
I don't really vaca, truth be told. Any free time I have I usually use to go volunteer somewhere. That may sound super gay or pompous or whatever but, man, I believe that we are super lucky and blessed if we've got the time or fundage to even consider taking a vacation compared to most people on earth. So I'm too concerned with paying that forward to consider taking a vacation. You just won't see that coming out of my scene. I'll go to Israel/Palestine to dig my feet in and meet with whoever I can to try to help that situation if I get a free couple of days. Or go somewhere to build a house for someone who doesn't have a place to live. Call it fear. Call it compassion or altruism. I don't care what you call it. But "voluntourism" has become very big and I think there's a reason why. Who the hell has the time to vacation with the whole Occupy Movement happening? Or the so-called Arab Spring? There's work to do. So I try to mix the two together.
14. What music reminds you of your childhood?
All the old Tin Pan Alley music of the 30s and 40s and 50s. My parents used to listen to that stuff. Or the musicals. Rogers and Hart or Rogers and Hammerstein. Again, I was raised on it. And then of course getting all those old vinyl LPs from my parents. Like the Beatles and the Mamas and Papas and Simon and Garfunkel. That stuff brings me back.
15. If you could have any super power, what would it be? Why?
Invincibility. Totally. ESP isn't going to help you if you can SEE that you're about to be killed but can't do anything about it. Super strength still can't beat invincibility. What if someone uses an EMP on you? The ability to not be killed or beaten no matter what. That would be badass.
16. Any pre-show superstitions or rituals?
Well, you got me thinking about something with this one. On the one hand, I almost always pray before a show. Just to do the best that I can and help offer people in the room an experience they will never forget. Then there's the whole issue of sex. Sometimes a bit of the naughty just before showtime can really calm you down before a show and give you an extra jolt of euphoria... so when you take that stage it's showing on your face that you've experienced something... You're feeling all loving and lovable. And yet at other times, there's this thought in the business that it's best to stay away from sex before a show and to save that to leave on the stage. HAHA! That can be taken the wrong way. But you get what I'm saying. Save it for the performance. Save up that energy so you can give it to the crowd. Now you got me thinking about that. And I don't think there's any one right answer. Though you hear arguments for both sides of it all the time in the business. For me I like to loosen up, make sure I've eaten a big meal at least an hour before the show. Be well rested. Hopefully have taken a good nap. No drama. Stay away from the phone and email and all the bs that's behind the scenes. Focus on the show. Focus on the goal of WHY I'm still performing live for people...
When it comes to superstitions I've got plenty of them. I use Vicks Vaporub on my chest and throat still. I always warm up my vocal cords. I always swallow large quantities of honey right before I go on. Something hot like tea seems to help. I've got lucky picks and a lucky scarf that I always wear... it's pretty crazy.
17. What is something that most fans don't know about you?
I can honestly say that I couldn't imagine ONE thing that fans don't already know about me. I'm so open and out there. It's insane really. I would have no idea. I'm about to release a new book, a non-fiction pop-culture book entitled We Are the Revolution: Welcome to the Age of Personal Expression. As a writer. If anything I think that a lot of attention has been focused on me or us and our music... but what a few people might not know is that I am an avid writer. I'm in the process of completing in various stages at least fifteen different books, mostly novels, in the moment. That would have to be it.
18. What is your assessment of the current state of radio? Do you think it's a place where your band could flourish?
Well that's two questions in one, isn't it? Current state of radio? We need more rock stations. Period. One of the best rock music radio stations in America, WRXP in New York City just went the way of talk news. And this is FM radio. What a freaking shame. Miami and South Florida lost their last rock station too. Not oldies. But new rock being made today. There are just not enough of them. The other thing is that a lot of radio stations play it really safe. They stick with playing only ten to fifteen new songs in any one given day or week. That's incredibly tight. THE SAME ten to fifteen songs. They literally wait till the song becomes a hit on all the other stations all over America and makes it into the Top 15 and then and only then will they give that song a spin. These are "the hit stations". It's ludicrous. they've stopped believing in the power of music. They're programmed from someone else who works at a different station thousands of miles away. They don't even have live DJs come into the studio anymore. This is more the norm than not. They're programed via computer weeks in advanced. Everything you hear including the DJ talking to you has been pre-recorded and re-recorded a bunch of times. All except for a select few. That's how it really works. So what is YOUR assessment of that?
Now with all that said, to answer your second question, I'm currently sitting on the #25 most popular song on radio in America right now, on Billboard (in the Adult Contemporary format). So yeah, I think we can flourish on modern radio today. We are flourishing. And this is song number two from this same album. So who am I to complain about it? But don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. But what I am trying to do is loosen things up a bit. Let the stations know that the more they open up and start engaging with their listeners, with real live programming and real live DJs who are free to play what they want to, with some rules and structure of course, the bigger they'll probably get in terms of popularity in their respective hometowns. Like the old days of radio when you could really relate to the DJ and you could feel that he or she really liked the music they were playing. That's what made the radio so great once. That's what makes NPR and College Radio so great now still.
19. What do you like to do in your spare time?
What spare time? HAH! I haven't had much spare time since all this craziness started happening around us. In fact it seems like all we do now is work. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But when I can, I escape into the movies. I really dig the art of film making. And it's one place where I don't have a stake in it. So I can totally let go and allow myself to get absorbed in them. I also really dig reading. I buy way more than I am able to read, but one day when I am retired and tired of the game, I'll get a chance to sit down and just do nothing but read for hours on end while smoking big fat expensive cigars. That's another hobby I just don't get the time for these days. But I miss it. There's nothing like a good cigar, a good bourbon and a good book.
20. What kind of hidden talents do you possess?
Besides being a writer? Something that I think most people know about anyway... I freaking love karaoke. Though I don't know how talented I am at it. So scratch that. I'm pretty good with a bow and arrow. I dig archery. Anything else? Well, when I'm called upon I can make some pretty wicked Italian food. Though I never have the time. Never home long enough. But I'd say I have a little hidden talent there waiting to be explored more which we'll eventually get to.
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