Interview: Dave Scher

As big Beachwood Sparks fans we’ve always just assumed that the collaboration between you and Jimi Hey came about when you played together in the later stages of Beachwood Sparks. Am I right?

It began as you presumed… we were done touring with BWS and Sub Pop agreed to let me make a record, and I asked him to play the drums on the recordings. He had much more to offer, and a solo project turned into a collaboration, and a band.

When did you first meet Jimi Hey? Could you describe/expand on your relationship with him over the years?

Jimi and I met through KXLU in ’97 or so… he was friends with Chris Gunst, and played on a 7″ with a band called Moog, which I really liked… and he also called my radio show a few times to request Six Finger Satellite. He was also in the 1st version of Beachwood Sparks, though that lineup only lasted for a gig or so. He got back with Beachwood Sparks in 2001 for the “Cowboy Robots EP”, and we toured for it.

Jimi and I always had a great relationship over the years, he is very funny and extremely talented. We shared a lot of the same enthusiasms, and were part of the same musical community.

What was the status of Beachwood Sparks in 2004?

There were no plans to reform or work together then.

What did you/the two of you have in mind when you started the band? What kind of music did you want to create?

I originally wanted All Night Radio to sound and function like a cosmic radio station, which channeled music for people living, dead, not-yet-dead, plants, animals, ghosts etc. I felt the sky was the limit with those parameters… The album ended up being more of a collection of songs. But we had even made a lot of recordings of station IDs and sound effects, in anticipation of making it a broader concept in the future.

We both loved a broad range of music from across the history of recorded music, and before! I mean a really long list from the past… Bands we liked that were contemporary to the work were the “Speakerboxx/Love Below” record by Outkast and Animal Collective, Black Dice, Gang Gang Dance, Ariel Pink, Cass McCoombs, The Shins and dang probably many many more. (I’ll tell you the bands from the future we liked later.)

Were the songs around before the actual band was started? Did you guys write separately or together?

I had written most of those songs long before, and that was why I asked Sub Pop if I could make a record… the melodies and chords were complete, and many of the words. Jimi enhanced them, added many ideas, and pushed me to work on them more than I might have done on my own steam. He added beautiful ideas to all the songs, parts for singing and bass, as well as less tangible ideas, and attitudes.

We (from talked to Neal Casal last year and he told us that the album was recorded in a strange part of L.A. with gang wars occurring outside the building. Can you tell us about that?

Anchovya Studios was at my apartment in Echo Park… there were, indeed, troubles with Latino gangs from time to time. A bullet hole in my front tree, helicopters in the evening. But there were pluses to the neighborhood… it’s pretty, there’s artists, and I’d ride my bike around Echo Park lake every day to clear my head and listen to ideas. Also, I was right on the edge of Elysian Park for taking hikes. And my landlord was an accomplished sculptor and ceramicist named Peter Shire, who was tolerant of artistic tendencies, and made great espresso when you visited his studio to pay rent each month.

The cover of “Spirit Stereo Frequency” is a work of art in itself, in the booklet it says you yourself were art directors of this together with B. Tamborello, Brandy Flower and Tim Koh. Who are those guys and how did the art work happen?

Brandy Flower is a great graphic designer, silkscreener, and street artist. You can find out more about him through Hit + Run… his latest.

Brian Tamborello is of the music groups Psychic Ills and Embassy ( I think that’s true for Embassy)… his brother Jimmy T. is a colleague of ours from the KXLU days, and also makes music. Brian is a photographer, and also an editor… czech it!

Tim Koh is a rad guy, who played bass for All Night Radio on tour, and now plays with Ariel Pink. He is a great musician, and makes music of his own too, and is also a great graphic and visual artist.

We’re all from the same family out here…

“Spirit Stereo Frequency” seems like a kind of complex kind of music to bring on tour. How were your live performances?

I think the recordings were cool, and the shows became something a bit different. Jimi and I got Tim Koh as our bass player, and the possibilities opened up much more than before… I think the backing track element was stressful, but we rose to the occasion, and played some cool shows. There was an art form to playing that way that we got to knowing, but could have taken further. It was a lot of work. Often right before a show, we’d be backstage trying to bounce mixes of things instead of relaxing; in the van rides too, if I recall. A lot of work.

In late 2004 All Night Radio had reached it end and you and Jimi Hey decided to part ways. How did that happen?

I think there were a lot of factors that forced the matter to a close. I don’t want to wax on about them right now, but I can say that for all the work that the project required, I knew in all honesty I didn’t want to continue doing it. All Night Radio was a recording project that could have become a serious group, but it would have required a full-time dedication and partnership. The experience had become very heavy and taxing, and in the big picture, it was time to move on.

Jimi and I still see each other, and I always enjoy it. We went together with Tim Koh to receive an award one time, and backed up Cass McCooms at the Wiltern Theater opening for Modest Mouse. I saw him play with Ariel Pink and it was radical. I’ve been on the road working quite a bit though, so I haven’t seen him as often. I think he’s a really great talent, and look forward to hearing what he does next.

There was some talk a couple of years ago about a Farmer Dave solo album. What happened with that?

I’m taking a break from my recording to answer this interview. I’m making a record for Kemado Records of NYC… this one won’t be as psychedelic as All Night Radio, but I plan to make more overtly surreal music later this year.

After All Night Radio you have been playing with a lot of other bands and been touring frequently with Interpol and are now a regular member of Jenny Lewis’ band. It doesn’t seem like you’re as much into playing music as psychedelic as All Night Radio. Did you get it out of your system with “Spirit Stereo Frequency?”

No, my system’s still psychedelic.

Published 2009-03-01