Erik Larson is the powerhouse guitarist behind well known and widely popular Virginia based rock outfit Alabama Thunderpussy. Also known for his solo albums released on Smallstone Records, Erik is extremely talented, writing songs, singing and playing many instruments in his downtime from his touring and recording and life with ATP. Cosmic Lava aka Freebird did this interview with Erik and got some insights into his music and songwriting. Thank you to Erik for the time and enjoy.
In writing the songs for "Faith Hope, Love" did you feel a fresh start from the last solo album, or do you feel like its a continuation of your music?
A little of both actually. Continuation in that it's just more of my personal ramblings, but the songs were coming from a different place this time. More aggression involved, less observation.
Its an interesting title, and a bold one, I like it alot, it seems like three words that are major issues in the lives of everyone, to be seen and taken in different ways for good or ill, how did you come upon the title and what does it mean to you?
Well, those are three major themes in the record. Basically 2003 was a rough one for me personally, and a lot of what I was writing had a lot of pain and anger involved, but those three things helped me to get through it all relatively unscathed.
In your solo albums on Smallstone Records, you play all of the instruments yourself as well as singing. It must be fun for you to build songs in the studio from the dirt up with your own vision and abilities, as comparedto organizing or being part of a group like ATP. Has it been rewarding for you to explore or express yourself in this manner as opposed to your full time band's projects and expression?
Well, I don't really look at it that way. It's more of a control freak kinda thing. When you work in a band context, the songs are never exactly the way you envision them, because they get filtered through the group and the individual sensibilities of each member. When I do the solo stuff, I know exactly what I'm gonna get from start to finish. Most of the songs are shown to the band first, and rejected for what ever reason, but I still hear the potential in my head and don't give up on them.
When songwriting, do you usually write music first, then lyrics, or do ideas comein different ways or at the same time? Do you write mainly on guitars to beginwith, playing so many instruments?
Music always comes first for me. The songs shape a topic sometimes, as a a mood or feeling, that will get me thinking about something and then the lyrics will kinda fall into place. Everything I write is usually started on a acoustic guitar. I figure if it sounds good there, it's gonna sound killer on electric. But occasionally there are songs that start from somewhere else. "My Inner Injustice" was based on a polyrythm and bass line for instance.
What inspired the song "Chinvat Bridge"? I know its a part of the Zoroastrianism religion, as a bridge to be crossed after death that is a way of judgment of the soul?
You've done your research. Basically, the concept is spwaned from that. It's partly about taking responsibility for your actions. The way I understand, it is that when you cross the bridge, the weight of your sins can break it and you fall to the abyss or hell or what ever, but my slant on it, being of the pagan mindset is that if you have no weight or sin or experience either, too light in other words, you can get blown off the bridge just as easy, so it's about balance.
Alot of people seem to enjoy the cover of Elliot Smith's "Say Yes". Is that one you always wanted to do and what inspired you to record your own version?
I love the song. Topically it spoke to some of the themes of the record also, and I wanted to do a tribute to him, since he is a huge influence on my song writing. Believe it or not. I definately wish my vocal performance was stronger on that version, but fuck it, I did it for Elliot. I think most folks either love it or hate it, which is fine by me.
Do you forsee yourself as continuing to record your solo work in the next few years?If so, what directions would you like to take on the next Erik Larson cds as opposed to ATP's next projects?
I'll probably always do solo stuff as long as I can afford it. I'm the one who pays for the recording and mastering etc., Scott just releases them. As far as direction, I don't ever predict what they're gonna come out like, I just do it. I think, they will just sound like me, no matter what approach I take with it.
Over the years, as you started playing drums in Avail and then your own bands like Alabama Thunderpussy from there on, you must have seen many bands come and go, styles and trends change, etc. What has kept you going and made you sustain your music?
I've been playing in bands since I was 12. I'm 33 now, so pretty much all I know how to do is make music. I think, the key is to follow what ever strikes your interest. If it's not fun or fullfilling in some way, then why bother. I don't play music to make money or get laid or be famous. All I can hope for is that I can enrich other people's lives in some way.
Thats all man, thanks alot bro!!!
No sweat, thank you for your interest.