|Interview TEDDY MORGAN
Transcript from audio interview, October 4th 2003
www.teddymorgan.com and www.myspace.com/teddymorgan
The good old radio, I first heard Teddy Morgan & The Pistolas on the radio in 2001. Jan Donkers still had his show and he was in Austin, where he invited his favorites into the studio during SxSW. Teddy Morgan sounded so good that I pushed the record & start buttons on my portable, adding more nice music to my ever growing collection of tapes. Countryrock mixed with blues and added psychedelic effects, just what I like. About one year later I taped another radio session, when Teddy and his Pistolas were in The Netherlands. Something grabbed my attention, I read a concert review in a music magazine, just a part in a two page article regarding several acts. It was about Teddy's music of course, but it also mentioned the two minutes of silence on that evening, the 4th of May when we commemorate all the people who died in World War 2. The review stated appreciatively that Teddy had paid respect by taking his big hat off and I thought: "That's a wonderful gesture..." It's one of my "pet peeves" that people usually pay so little attention, so Teddy Morgan became an instant hero!
Finally, last Summer I had a chance to see him live when he opened for The Blasters on a bloody hot night at the Paradiso. I was impressed, by his guitarplaying in the first place. Teddy made me think of a friend from San Francisco: Jeff Kane, the great leadguitarist in Russ Tolman's Two Car Garage Band, even in the way he moved on stage. Then there was the obvious, boyish pleasure in playing of Teddy, Richard and Atom. It should have lasted much longer, so I was real happy when the three musicians came back with Kelly Pardekooper in the Fall. I saw them at the Q-Bus in Leiden, where Teddy got plenty of space to showcase his talents and his macho side of typical guitar tiger! And I saw them at the Take Root Festival, where Theo Oldenburg (Alt.Country Cooking) and I interviewed Kelly as well as Teddy, which sounds more simple than it actually was... They opened the festival but after that, Teddy seemed to have vanished! At one point three people were looking for him, although he kept his hat on that didn't make him easier to trace. Our last attempt, way after midnight with everything closing down around us, was successful. He came to our table, where we had the recording equipment ready, glass of whiskey in his hand, asking if we still wanted him, as he got a bit drunk in the meantime... No problem, Teddy!
There's still music somewhere in the background when Theo says: "Tape's rolling!" Teddy does a liner for Alt.Country Cooking and asks, somewhat insecure: "Do we do all-right?" When I pull out my notes to start the interview, he says: "Oh my Lord, you got a lot of questions there..., o.k...." and teasingly makes a gesture of getting up. We start laughing: "No! You're number four, everybody did it right, you're going to do fine too!" Theo says: "A man who can play guitar so well..." Johanna: "Yes! You can answer a couple of questions! You're my favorite guitarplayer!" Teddy, in total disbelief: "Really??" Johanna: "Yes, on the electric guitar! On acoustic, well, I've never heard you on acoustic and I have some favorites on acoustic, but on electric you are!" Teddy: "Woww..." Theo: "It's really amazing what you can do on a guitar..." Johanna: "Yeah! With the special effects!" Theo: "And without a plectrum, you do it only with your fingers..." Teddy: "Yeah, a little bit of..., I use a pick now and then. Mostly the fingers, cause it's, after a while, it becomes unconscious and you can... It's like moving..." He feels obviously more comfortable now, so we can start with the first question.
Johanna: Teddy, I'm really into names tonight, I'm asking people about their names, so what is your full name?
Teddy: Theodore Clifton Squires -Squires is my wife's maiden name- Morgan.
J: Sounds cool!
T: Yes, it's a big name!
J: I also like the big hat! Is it part of your image or do you wear it just because it feels comfortable or...?
T: Well, sometimes I don't wear it... Last tour I didn't bring a hat, but this hat now has so much history. It's about time to retire it, cause I'm kind of destroying it! (He shows us the frayed, threadbare brim.)
J: You can buy a new one...
T: Oh, you know, of course! (Laughing)
J: I read a review about a show you played here in The Netherlands last year and that was on May 4th, which is the evening when we commemorate all the people who died in World War 2. You made an impression there by paying respect and taking your hat off during the two minutes of silence, not everybody is considerate like that, so... Are you interested in the habits and the history of a country where you play?
T: Oh, that's a tough question... I don't know... When that happened, the moment of silence, you know it was moving and... if I remember right it was for World War 2? People that died in World War 2 and... you know, with everything that is going on now in the world as well, it's..., it just felt like the right thing to do. And, honestly, I love Holland. I don't know if I could live here or not but my wife and I think about it sometimes, so... But that was just something that happened at the moment and it felt right!
J: People really appreciated it, what you did...
J: You're touring a lot, this Summer you were here with your own band and now again with Kelly Pardekooper. Isn't it hard to be away from home so often, don't you miss your wife and family and friends?
T: Of course I do! I miss my wife and we have three dogs, so... And anyone that has dogs, they know it's like family and that's tough... But actually I've been touring a little less, it seems like a lot but not as much as I used to a few years ago. But at the same time I love (emphatically) playing music every night..., so that's great! Usually my wife is able to come visit me at the end of a tour and we have a great vacation. This time it didn't work out... But it's just, you know, part of what I do...
(During a short technical break we continue to talk about dogs, Theo has one too and they both agree dogs are just like children to them. Teddy tells that he got his three dogs from the pound where they otherwise would have been put to sleep. One's a chow-labrador mix and those mixed breeds are so unique that he wishes they could be cloned!)
J: You're living in Tucson now, but you were not born and raised there. Where are you from and why did you move to Tucson?
T: Well, I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I lived there till I was twenty-one and started playing music there when I was eighteen, professionally. Then I went to Los Angeles for a year to play with a guy named James Harmon and then I was in Austin for maybe seven or eight years. But then, when I was travelling I met my wife in Tucson. I met her a couple of times and the last time I met her, which was four years ago, we fell in love immediately. She would have moved to Austin, but Tucson was an exciting change and I actually love it there, I don't wanna leave, so that's how I got to Tucson!
J: Yeah and now it's your real home! (Laughing)
T: Yeah, it's my first real home! And last, hopefully... (Whispering)
J: You included a live-song "Along The Way" on your album, that you recorded with Calexico. Are you friends with them?
T: Uhm, yeah, I know them. I can't say I'm like really close to them. When I moved there, when I moved to Tucson four years ago... They work in the studio that I found in the phonebook and I started recording there and I didn't know of Calexico! I just started, you know, talking to them and they... Joey played on a song, a song or two of mine on the "Crashing Down"-CD and... Just got, you know, got to know them. They invited me to come play with them at a Tucson gig and a guy named Jim Blackwood, who records a lot of Calexico-shows and a lot of Giant Sand-shows, you know, he recorded that night. I had about four songs I did with them when I sat in and I really loved that version of "Along The Way", so I asked them: Hey, do you guys mind if I put this on my CD as a bonus-track? and they're so generous, you know: No, no problem, please!, but they're just great musicians!
J: They're very populr here in The Netherlands!
T: When I moved to Tucson, I had never heard of them and then I was: Ah, this is a great band and nobody's ever heard of! Cause none of my friends had heard of them and then I come to Europe and I realize these guys are..., these guys are like The Rolling Stones over here!! They're huge and they deserve it!
(Then DJ Jan Donkers and his partner pass by our table: "Do you know who you're talking to? This is the great Teddy Morgan!" Jan writes down his cellphone number, so Teddy can call him on his day off in Amsterdam, they're planning to grab a beer.)
J: Please, tell us something about the music scene in Tucson?
T: Oh well, you know, it's kind of small and funky, but it's... Oh, how do you explain the music scene there... It's uh, it's really free and the good thing about it and the bad thing about it are the same kinda, everywhere's... A town like Austin, there's a lot of people that go out to see live music. In Tucson there's not as many people that go see live music, but in some ways it means bands almost play more free, like they don't give a damn! I really like just the influences of the environment, the desert and I think that's one reason bands like Giant Sand and Calexico sound the way they do. You can't help but it's so far removed from the rest of the world, that its influences are kind of bizar. It's a real special place, it's hard to explain, but I've loved living there.
J: We also know Chris Burroughs, he lives in Tucson.
T: Oh yes, he lives in Tucson!
J: Do you know his project Hardpan?
T: I know of it... I haven't heard it, but I know that they've had a couple of great tours.
J: You should check them out!
T: I will! I will! Actually, I heard one song at a local station. There's a real cool radiostation called KXEY in Tucson and I heard a song that was great... I can't remember, like something about going down to the border or something. It was a great song and I asked Chris about it: What's going on with this?, you know and he said it was some other Blue Rose-artists...
J: "Closer To The Border".
T: "Closer To The Border", yeah! That song was great! Yeah...
J: Well, this was a kind of inbetween question, but it just crossed my mind! (Laughing)
J: I think you're an absolutely great guitarplayer, I like the somewhat psychedelic soundscapes that you create and the solos of course. Could you please tell us something about your guitar and your technique, like the special effects?
T: Well, I played for years with no effects, just the amp and maybe tremelo, which is an effect like... It sounds like a, you know, Creedence Clearwater - sixties - Louisiana - swamp - sound and that's... I've always loved tremelo but you know, I add one thing, like I add a delay-pedal and then I add a compression-pedal and then... I don't know, you start playing with something and more and more. I have a studio now and so I'm producing records and recording records and so you realize... I've learned and get into using effects almost as another instrument, as another way to create a sound or express a feeling. So just experiment and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. But a lot of it is delay and moving the delay around and compressing the delay, so that the delay does strange things. This is kind of technical talk but if you send that tremelo and a delay through a crazy compression, it squashes itself and it gets bigger and smaller at the same time, hard to explain, but... And of course two amps, you know...
J: A couple of questions about your album... Why did you choose the title "Freight" for your album?
T: Uhm, that's funny, actually my wife came home from work with a couple weird names. "Freight" and I can't remember the other one, like, I can't remember it, but at the time I was like: "Freight"?? That's such a..., I'm not gonna use that name and then I was reading a book about hobos and I was gonna call it "Westbound Freight", cause I wrote a song which didn't end up being on the record. So, "Westbound Freight" and then, actually on one of the songs for the bonus-tracks, there's a song and I say something about "Freight" and it just became the name!
T: Hey, you're back! Hey, what's up? Get this on the interview, we've got Johnny Hickman right here! He guests on the Bob Dylan-song, we recorded at his house, when his wife was due any minute for a baby!
Johnny: With her baby, yeah... The song came out great, the baby came out great... Hey, you know, it's a good world! And now we're over here, one year later!
T: Man! Less than one year...
Johnny: Yes, a little less than one year, yeah! Playing in Holland, yeah, we get to love what we get to do, look what we get to do! Most people will get up and get to work and say: look what I have to do... We say look what we get (emphatically) to do!
T: That's true!
Johnny sighs in delight: Come to Holland and one of my buddies is here and he's on the same stage and oh, fantastic!
T: Johnny Hickman, everybody! Oh, that's Frank, we get Frank out here too... Come say hello, Frank!
Teddy and Johnny: Say hello, Frank!
J: Yes, you say something too!
Frank: What's going on here?
T: I'm telling them lies!
Frank: Lies? Well, give me up to speech and I can lie right along with you...
(Another interruption, somebody wants to take Johnny and Frank to the after-party at Cafe De Witte Bal.)
Frank: Well, there goes Cracker... So much for that interview!
T: Hey wait, don't leave without me!
J: We take care of him in the meantime, don't worry...
T: All-right... Is there any time left on the mini-disc? (There is.) Don't edit that out!
J: No, that's fun!
T: This is gonna be the craziest interview... All-right!
J: I'm not going to ask about all the songs, but my favorite is "Moon So High", which has a very nice live-version. Could you please tell us a little about the song?
T: Well, I wrote it actually... You know, it's kind of a song about lost love but really, this honestly, I wrote it about if I lost my wife or yeah, you know, I wrote it on my honeymoon actually. And we were just on the other side of the mountain, between Tucson and Oracle, Arizona and I was out in the country. And the moon was so high and so bright and my weddingnight was the best night of my life... I can't explain it, it sounds cliche but it was just an amazing night, cause I love her so much and to be married to her... And I just thought: Man, the moon's so high, there's no way but down from here and then I just started thinking what if I..., things didn't work out... Cause there was this strange situation, I came to Tucson and we fell in love immediately but we didn't know what to do about it, so... Anyway, I'm not gonna go on anymore about it, but that's kinda where the song came from.
J: Yes, I think it kind of shows through the song that it really comes from your heart, that's why people can relate to it. I like it very much...
T: Thank you...
Teddy, in little boy's voice: Hello, get over here... This is Towley, the drummer!
(Richard asks if he has done his interview as this character.)
T: No..., I was just telling them... (Sounding sad) I just went on about Gwen...
Richard: Oh, your wife...
T: This is just the craziest interview...
J: I also noticed influences from the blues in your music, is the blues something like a first love or are you going to do some more on another album maybe?
T: Oh, blues is..., yeah, that's where I started playing guitar. Well, Bob Dylan actually, some of the acoustic first records, that's where I started playing guitar. But I spent years listening to blues and really just trying to sound and learn the magic in those Little Walter records and those Muddy Waters records and B.B. King, you know the fifties B.B. King and Lightnin' Hopkins and so, even though really my music doesn't sound like blues right now, it's a big part of the way... Specially that stuff on Chess, cause it was produced so well. There would be six or seven instruments, but it would sound just like one voice and hopefully I can, you know, put that together with my own songs...
Richard: I'm trying to make you laugh!
J: That's o.k.!
R: These are the smallest notes I've ever seen...
T: I know and they look like they're written, like in line...
R: You ought to write bigger! (Teasing)
J: Yeah! I know! (Laughing)
J: You write most of your songs yourself, on your album "Freight" there are two covers of songs by Willy DeVille and Bob Dylan, so can we assume DeVille and Dylan are favorites of you?
T: Well..., I don't know that much of Bob Dylan, it's a new name to me... That's a joke!! Oh, Bob Dylan is great and that's one of my all-time favorite records "Bring It All Back Home" and I play a couple of Dylan-songs, let's try this and then... I got to know the guys in Cracker and Johnny Hickman and I really hit it off and so I asked him to do it as a duet, so that's why we did the Dylan-song. And then that Willy DeVille-song, just someone gave it to me about seven years ago, "No Such Pain As Love", I just thought... I thought I should cover this song and then finally I did!
J: And who are your other favorites?
T: Oh man, it's always something new... I love Steve Earle and I love the production that Daniel Lanois does, I love Otis Redding and the whole Hi Records-catalog and Lucinda Williams, Greg Brown, you know, so much! I love Coldplay, I think their new record is great, you know, I just love music!
J: We all do!
J: Please, tell us something about The Pistolas and why are they called The Pistolas?
T: Well, I recorded that record "Lost On The Highways" with John Penner and Chris Hunter, two of my favorite musicians I got to hang with in Austin. And I always thought: God (somewhat angry) I never played with them together, this would be such a great band and so we were able to do it for a couple of years and we recorded that record. And a friend of the band's came up to us in Denver and said: Hey, you guys are like..., you guys should be called The Pistolas! Cause we wanted some sort of name, so that's where it came from, a friend in Denver. And we used it for a while, now I still kinda use it but The Pistolas was really that band, of John and Chris.
J: So what are your plans for the near future?
T: Well, that's a lot of studio stuff. I finish this tour, then I have this side-project with Dave Gonzalez, who has a band The Paladins and Chris Gaffney, who plays with Dave Alvin and is just a great artist on his own, Gaffney... So it's called The Hacienda Brothers and we've recorded five songs in my studio and written some together and hopefully we've got some dates to write with a guy named Dan Penn, who is just... I've never met him, I can't wait to meet him, so we're supposedly going to be writing with him to finish this CD. And then, I started work on a great band here, from Amsterdam, called T-99. And, you know that band? Yeah, they're great and this new record, it's weird and voodoo and psych, Los Lobos meets Muddy and yeah man, it's crazy! So we recorded for seven days here and then they're gonna come to Tucson and we're gonna finish it up in Tucson. And uh, what else we got going, Richard? Yeah, this great artist Cathy Rivers, we're recording a new record for her. And I need to keep my next record going... So that's all studio stuff. No real touring until, I don't know, it happens. In Tucson we go out to San Francisco and L.A. and do just a couple of small tours. Oh, I think we'll just go, play, you know. We're living in Tucson and so, it's just a short drive, so in December we gonna go play a couple dates out there.
(More laughing with Richard and others.)
T: You guys were... aaargh!! Yes, we're going to The Witte Bal, when I'm ready, a couple more questions? Aah, no one's even gonna like me anymore when this is done! This guy talks about himself more than a...
J: I'm also going to use it for a website, so it's two interviews in one, like squashing two flies in one hit, as we say here...
T: Yeah-yeah-yeah! O.K.!
J: What do you like best here in The Netherlands?
T: (in little boy's voice) Man! I can't even begin to tell you! (then normal) Oh, I love seeing all the bikes! Working on this record was great, biking to the studio every day. I'll leave it at that!
J: Did you go to see some other artists here at the Take Root Festival?
T: (immediately) Oh yeah! Cracker, I love Cracker! And... I can't say it, but it's like Starbeard Sideburn...
Theo: Stuurbaard Bakkebaard... (a Dutch band)
T: In the acoustic stage, but it was so packed, it was claustrophobic, I could only stay for about three songs. But they were awesome and Richard bought the CD, I can't wait to hear it, cause they were great, so... And Cracker, Cracker was great too!
J: O.K., one last question, a fun-question! If you could trade lives with somebody, for 24 hours, who would you like to be?
T: Oh, that's not fair! Towley... No, The Dude!!
Interview by Johanna J. Bodde, with Theo Oldenburg's technical assistence.
Parts of audio interview were used in Alt.Country Cooking, transcript previously published on Real Roots Cafe, The Netherlands.