Interview with Chuck for the reissue of Brother Aldo
Hey chuck, how are you? how's life in San Francisco? it's cold and rainy in London. How do you feel about brother aldo being re-issued after 8 years?
It always nice to know your records are in print. I don't have children but, after a while I imagine these records become like kids from another marriage. You don't need to see `em everyday. One just takes comfort in knowing they're out there fending for themselves.
What are your thoughts and recollections on the album?
Brother Aldo started out as song demos. At the time, I naively thought I might go to Nashville and get a gig as a songwriter. I was in a band (Green On Red) that had disintegrated (shortly after, resurrected-but that's another story). I was ready to retire or head for the hills. I didn't get the staff songwriter gig, but the cassette was dubbed here and there and when Chris Carr played it for Fire records head honcho Clive Solomon, he demanded to put it out. I made peace with my nasally nicotine stained baritone and we threw it out there. A modest but proud group of people responded and I've been making Chuck Prophet records ever since. And last year I eventually made the first of many treks out to Nashville to write.
Was there anything different about the recording process that went in to defining the sound of the record?
Producer/raconteur (sp?) Scott Mathew's had converted his Bernal Hights shack into a makeshift studio. He had a funky AM radio console and one good German mic (which we used on EVERYTHING). In order to disguise some of the tape hiss we kept an old tube radio bleeding into the room at all times tuned in between the just the right two stations for the optimum static. This approach was later affectionately, commonly, referred to as "Lo Fi". It was mixed as we went along on 7" inch 1/4' reels which I carried it around in my suitcase. The tapes went through a couple airport x-rays machines before I made the hand-off to the Fire Record brass in a Camden pub. Which had me concerned for the first four pints or so.
How do you feel does it stand up to the test of time?
If I stand back and squint when I listen to it, I dare say it sounds timeless. I think because of a combination of the technical limitations and the spirit in which it was recorded, it's held up. Thankfully, there was no one around who felt compelled to meddle with it too much . We didn't bow to any of the conventional wisdom's of the era; None of the bells and whistles that were goin around at the time, no boxed Japanese reverbs or effects to speak of. The real test is that when I kick some of those songs around on the bandstand (which I often do) they still manage to stand up for themselves.
What kind of music were you into at the time?
As I recall, whenever in doubt, I'd turn out the lights and listen to Waylon Jennings' Dreaming My Dreams for inspiration. Certain records have the sound that they were made when no one was looking. LX Chiltons' Flys on Sherbert , Neil's' Tonight's the Night or the Basement Tapes come to mind. I don't mean to put myself next to those records but on a good day I like think of Brother Aldo as a kind of kindred spirit.
Who is brother aldo?
He's a character in one of the songs. I like albums that have names. Tim by the Replacements comes to mind. I'm sure there's others...
How did you feel about working with that many people on brother aldo?
It was mainly me and Stephie with Scott and Roly Sally together with whoever was hanging around at the time. One night we went to see JJ Cale. After the show we abducted Spooner Oldham and brought him to the studio to play piano.
As an artist what has changed for you in those 8 years?
Not a whole lot. Back then I carried those songs around in my head or backed up in a compositional note book. Now I have a laptop that saves everything. And when the song Gods are smiling it comes out of my fingers straight into the hard drive. If anything's changed, we all like to think we get better. I Guess I'm no exception. I like to think I've learned and unlearned some things along the way
What's it like working so closely with your wife Stephanie?
Nobody can sing around me like Stephie. It' been known to get a little crazed but , hey , what am I gonna do? At this point she knows where all the bodies are buried.
What are your plans for the future? And what can we expect from the new album you're working on at the moment?
The plan is to keep my self entertained. Any day now I'll assemble the usual cast of Mission district musicians and characters to the studio. Maybe return to FT Apahe under the watchful eyes of Sean and Paul. We might augment it by cutting some tracks with Dan "The automator" AKA Dr. Octagon. With one eye on Hip Hop culture and one eye for wreckage in the rear view mirror. We'll heat up the BBQ till the coals glow in the dark; Tear a couple pages from the blood stained diary and throw em in there. Then we'll wrestle with the songs straight to tape, before they get too housebroken. and serve `em up greasy. You can expect less introspection, more visceral, butt shaking, sweaty revival music that I've only hinted at in the past. With a little luck it'll be more in your face or up your nose.
How do you feel about the burgeoning No Depression scene in America and your place in it?
If they're' gonna have chat groups or rooms that debate over the best version of Townes Van Zant's "Pancho and Lefty" how can anyone complain? Nobody invented that stuff. Anybody will tell you that.. But along with the new groups, it keeps people aware of the sources and the complete heaviness of artists like the Stanley Brothers and Furry Lewis. I dig it.