Interview With Austin Taft
Hey Austin, thank you for joining us today. How are you?
Hi! I am very well and happy to be speaking with you today. Thanks for your time!
Tell us a bit about your latest album, Skeletons, what was writing and recording for this album like?
It was awesome. It's the most fun I have had putting a record together. I work alone in the studio, so the Austin Taft studio albums are all self-composed, self-performed and self-recorded. The live band, called The Austin Taft Soundtrack, has been on hiatus, and I wanted to create this new album (titled "Skeletons") without any concern for how it might be reproducible live. And some of the material will be performed live for sure, but it was really fun during the recording process to be able to add a fifth guitar or a ninth keyboard part or whatever and really focus on getting a thick, powerful sound through whatever means might appeal in the moment.
In terms of writing, the song structures are more lengthy on this one. 9 songs spread over 71 minutes. It's heavy, so hopefully there is no shortage of pummeling, punishing moments, but there are some very delicate sections as well. I've tried to work a fair amount of ear candy into the production. I would like listeners to feel rewarded if they experience this new release through a good pair of headphones.
Overall, I've been describing the record as "Prog-Metal-That-Sometimes-Isn't". If the aim has been achieved, it will serve as a challenging and unpredictable listen. Half-sung, half-screamed. Musically expansive. Lyrically bitter. As far as I know, taken as a whole, there's nothing else quite like it out there. If this sounds appealing, please hop over to our Bandcamp and check it out!
Given the current state of the world, did it poise any issues towards the completion of the album?
It did not. Because no other musicians or songwriters were involved in the process, it was just me locked away in my home steadily working on it.
Of course the current state of things isn't ideal, have you started to plan for what comes next once the world starts opening up again?
I would be keen to get the live band back up and running. It has been a while. But it needs to be right, and a project like that can take a bit to get right. You're working with all of these outside factors, like other band members, venue management, capacity restrictions due to the pandemic, etc. So while I'm working on that, I'll continue crafting new music in the studio which has a narrower checklist of requirements to get something from the starting line to the finish line. I'm also working on a "Live In The Studio" YouTube series which will hopefully excite and entertain.
Tell us a bit about yourself as a musician, who influences you?
I'm a drummer first and have been a drummer for 30 years. I've got closer to 20 years experience on the guitar, and everything else I just sort of get away with. I don't really practice the bass guitar or the keyboard until I actively need to write or record something on those instruments. I definitely should spend more time on those, but I'm not as disciplined as I should be.
Being influenced as a musician is probably different from being influenced as a songwriter, though there is a degree of overlap. The list of drummers I've paid close attention to is pretty expansive. Top ones would include Phil Collins, Tomas Haake, Terri Lyne Carrington, Jimmy Chamberlin, Chester Thompson, Gene Hoglan, Art Blakey and Manu Katché. Guitar influence has definitely come from Steve Hackett, Daryl Stuermer, Robert Fripp, Travis Meeks, Tony Iommi, Allan Holdsworth and Jerry Cantrell, among others. For bassists, I would have to cite Les Claypool, Peter Steele, Esperanza Spalding, Victor Wooten and Mike Rutherford. I don't think I'm too actively influenced by any particular keyboardists, in terms of how I play, but my big three would probably be Tony Banks, Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman.
I know I'm just rattling off names, but completing the list of influences would require citing some vocalists, and those would definitely include Peter Gabriel, Chris Cornell, Phil Collins, Barney Greenway, Scott Weiland, Peter Steele and Jens Kidman.
Who is your biggest bucket list band you've shared the stage with? Who would you love to share the stage with next?
Days of the New in 2009. That was a cool one. Earlier in my life, when I was two weeks from 21 years of age, I wanted to see Days of the New in concert but wasn't allowed in because I was underage. It was a total buzzkill. So years later, it felt great because not only was I able to finally see Travis and his band perform, but to actually have The Austin Taft Soundtrack on the same bill was quite special.
For the future, another "bucket list band" would be Devils Teeth. A killer group from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They've got a new record coming out which is a Spaghetti Western garage rock operetta sort of thing. Really genius stuff. Doing a show (or a series of shows) with them could be a blast. I'd also love to rock with Honeymoon from Norwalk, Ohio. They've got a huge, really thick sound and their songwriting is always remarkably interesting. I highly recommend their stuff. They just dropped a new EP called No Smiles + Only In Name. It's quite stellar.
What are some of the main themes behind the new album? What story are you trying to convey?
Anger. Sadness. Disappointment. It's a real downer lyrically. There are only four lines worth of lyric on the whole album which have a positive viewpoint, but even those are screamed bloody murder. I'm typically focused on making records for the long term, but this one was created with more of a reaction to the "now". Times are tough. A lot of people are pissed about a lot of things. A lot of people feel betrayed by their governments, by the companies they work for, by people they trust, by themselves, by whomever. Those feelings are reflected in this new album. I don't typically write from an autobiographical position. I prefer to write observationally. "In this song, a character is thinking X." "In this song, a character is feeling Y." They might be different characters, or they might be the same character. Sometimes the perspectives can even conflict with each other. But I find this exploration to be a consistently intriguing way to write, and it's an approach I value as a listener as well.
Last but not least, is there any message you would like to share with your fans?
Hell yes. Just to reiterate, there is a new Austin Taft album out now called "Skeletons". It's available worldwide through Bandcamp, Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, YouTube Music, Amazon, 7digital, Pandora and plenty more. Also, keep your eyes open for some new YouTube content, coming soon!
Thank you so much for your time! Check out Austin's music, all available on his Bandcamp and wherever else you may choose to listen to your music!