TEN QUESTIONS WITH DAVID PHILP OF THE AUTOMATICS
Rob – Thank you Mr. Philp for doing this interview with us here at Masters Radio. My first question is an easy one. If you were stranded on a desert island, how many of Billy Brown’s songs would you not take with you? 😊
David – LOL. A lot of the post retirement releases would be essential forgetting for any listener. Joking aside, Billy has made some really good records. He has this intensity and a great rock voice. Nobody’s up there for nothing!
Rob – Seriously, MR has formed a long-distance relationship with you, Billy Brown, Phil Hendriks, and Neil Frost. We have been honored that you all have supported us to date. Plus, your being named the Fans of Masters Radio Fan of the Month had to be a great honor!
David – It was indeed Rob. The way that the previous recipient was Sharpied out was on a par with White House hurricane reportage under Trump. But to get serious again for just a second (its a vice) I think all of us support Masters Radio because the site is a winner and you clearly care about the music and the artists.
Rob – Well, thanks David. I’ll remember to send a check! If Masters Radio had an awards show, your latest effort would be our nominee for album of the year. What song is your favorite and why?
David – Hard to say because they’re all my kids so its hard to have a favorite. And its funny how songs work out in the recording process. You have a song and you think “This is the next single” but it doesn’t really go anywhere in the recording process. Then again you have another song and you think “Should I even put this down, is it up to snuff?” And it catches a tail wind and next thing you know its better than you ever thought it would be. What is unusual about Starmaps of the Underworld was that it was mostly written in real time. Everything was recorded within a week of writing it. Normally for me writing is rewriting. Look at the Beatles Get Back movie- all of them played songs that would go on to be much better known songs after they would be rewritten. There was none of that on Starmaps because I was processing in real time events in my life- my Mothers death, quarantine and pandemic musings, another lung cancer surgery…Even as I say that I’m thinking that the rerecording of Jukebox was an exception and Perfect Summer. I will say that I never really thought of Weight of Dreams as a single but was happy to see it go to the top of the Heritage chart….nor Bonneville ’62 but that did too….Chelsea Flamingo. I’m proud of the album but to be honest I never really hear one of my albums until about 5 years after I’ve finished working on them. By the time you’ve listened to it a few hundred times in overdubs, mixing….you’re not hearing it anymore.
Rob – You’ve been living in CA for a while now. How is the music scene different there?
David -Well its not good and it hasn’t been for a long while. It’s much more about musicianship rather than songs I think. I can’t think of any LA acts in the last 30 years that I’ve been here that haven’t been big and dumb or else self consciously clever. There is no place for me here. I’ve tried but whereas I could fill clubs in London or Tokyo LA I apparently fly against the winds here.
Rob – You have recorded now for over, well let’s just say a LOT of years. Is there a process or method to your madness that has carried through?
David -In the early days I recorded with Producers with a capital P. We went to capture a performance live in a studio. I like to think that over the years I have become substantially un-producible. When digital technology came along unlike many in my generation I sought to embrace it. It allows you to experiment with speeding it up, changing keys, editing different parts and flying them around in the song: these were things that writers had been at the mercy of musicians for. Jim Wirt really taught me how to use these things to my advantage and we did the Christmas album, Britannia and Jukebox together before he went off to work in Cleveland.
Now I record new songs at my home studio. I maybe rewrite them a bit and get a feel for what’s needed then I send them out to Frosty in London, Jim in Cleveland or Tom Morse in Berlin. If it doesn’t work in one place I might strip it down and do it at another. Serve the song. Always. No “look how clever I am”. Serve the song.
Rob – You can’t name any of the people from the beginning of this interview. Give us an All-Star band you would love to put together to play with.
David -I’d love to work with so many people whose musicianship I admire. Mostly I’ve worked with bar bands and tried to make them really good bar bands that could go out and play halls. Working with David Garfield on our version of “Strawberry Fields Forever” realized how far that takes you to have really great players. I’d like to explore some more playing with the likes of Gregg Bissonette, David Garfield, Michael Landau. Its about budget though. How much are you going to spend knowing you won’t recoup even half?
Rob – Besides family and friends, where do you get your inspiration from in writing your music?
David – Its usually me processing something that I’m incapable of dealing with through more direct means. It’s an adaptation. If you’re asking me where songs come from the answer is I don’t know. They’re out there in the ether. You grab one and gently lay it down. Other times you find yourself pickaxe in hand at the pitface of song. You have to hear the words but also the rhythm of the words and the melody in the words and then get out of the way of the song.
Rob – We have listened to your music, featured it on our platforms, and played it on our streams. Our fans love it, and we do to. Is there a song that we have missed that you think our fans should hear?
David -I honestly and deeply appreciate the support. Lord knows I need it! Hmmm. “Your Biggest Fan” is the assassination of Lennon told through the eyes of the assassin on the Jukebox of Human Sorrow album. Also Wonderful Day on that album. “England’s Dreaming” on Britannia. Maybe “Riding on the Ferris wheel” off Starmaps: somebody loaded the wrong song on all the social media platforms so there’s another song from the next album in its place. You can only get it on the physical CD!!LOL
Rob – We get tired of hearing the old phrase “starving artists.” What needs to change in the industry and where should it start?
David -For me to make what the average Spotify employee makes I would need twenty million hits a year. Obviously that’s a vicious inequity. Even if they moved the decimal point two to the left it would still be a bad deal. I don’t think I need to say much more than that one fact.
But I will: we are in the pioneer days of a world invented by engineers and of course they have weighted the deck heavily in their own favor. Government needs to protect their artists, their “content providers” or they will end up living in a world they are really not going to like very much at all. Cheap bastwards1
Rob – Finally, if you, Phil H., Billy B., and Neil F. were on one of the “America’s Got Talent, Idol, or other reality show” who would win and why?
David -Well Billy would start off by offending the judges so that’s him out! I’m a little sharp with the tongue, Frosty is a little too musical. I’d put my money on Phil.
As a rough rule of thumb in the wild and wacky world of entertainment, always put your money on Phil!