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Rusted Root (Interview) 

St Andrews, a New Recording and the Bands 25th Anniversary.  Show on Friday May 16th.

With Al Bruting

In the winter we saw Rusted Root at the Magic Bag and witnessed a tight band that played well together. This time around they are at St Andrews on Friday May 16th.  St Andrews Hall is a much more accommodating room for a large sound and has the makings for a truly great show. We sat down with Micheal Glabicki and talked about the band, the show and whats up next.

MCB  Can you talk about what it’s like creating this sound with these people on stage?
RR  Well its different every night.  There's nothing planned.  Some nights its more improvisational and sometimes we stick to the group dynamic and end up creating something different that way. Its free and we can move with the live energy.

Were a psychic group and pretty in tune with each other.  The larger piece is what the audience brings and staying in tune with that and this helps determine how the show goes.

May 16th Show 

MCB  You have some distinctly different styles in the band. Is it easy getting on the same sound page together or do strong styles tend to pull the sound in one direction or another and how do you keep it on the tracks?

RR  We work pretty hard during the sound checks  creating the landscape that we want to move into.  This wouldn't work if I were wishy washy.  I need to hear whats going on and move it in the right direction.  We take it for what it is and go with what feels right for the song. 

MCB  Can you tell us a little about Liz Berlin from a percussion standpoint?  I didn't realize her range outside vocals until I saw her on stage.

RR  When I started the band, I wanted everyone to have a handle on African percussion.  Liz took the African drumming class and as people came into the band they followed suit.  This was her starting place and over the years she continued to progress and picked up several more instruments.  On stage she might play from 12 to 20 instruments at a show.

MCB  Tell us about the lineup we will see at St Andrews and what we can expect to see on stage.

RR  We have a new album were working on right now and combined with our 25th anniversary, this album will be different.  The best way to make this happen was with a strong blue print up front for the arrangement and to feel out the rhythms, the axillary percussion, the background vocals and how the auxillary melodies should lay through the songs.  Mainly to lay out a strong blue print.  In the past I had a good idea of this blue print and we would work it out and create the song.  Now we have moved towards this process where we have to know each others minds creatively.  Now we know each other well enough creatively where we cant start with a pre desinged blue print and together take that blue print to the next level.  

With the new tracks, I am bringing in a different way of setting up the back ground vocals and a different way of layering in the percussion.  Instead of defaulting to a preset idea, we are reaching out towards an anything goes sound for the recordings and then really trying hard to duplicate that live. Your going to see us live with at least 3 or 4 of these songs in that process so you can watch for that live.

MCB  Can you talk about how a rusted root song starts, the writing process and has it differed over the years.  Rusted Root has put out 7 releases and many miles on the road.  Can you comment on what has impacted your sound over time?

RR  Normally I will have a song written on the guitar with vocals.  After that I would listen for the arrangement and the structure to fall in place with the idea I had for the song.  On the new album, I will be starting with a blue print that is designed by what I already hear that already has the distinct back ground structure around vocals, percussion and baselines filled in.  

From this point the band will move forward and work out the fine details. This is going to bring in a new way of thinking about vocals, layering in the percussion and moving away from an anything goes default.

MCB  Will you be using familiar engineers on this album or have you decided to change that as well.

RR  I will be engineering this album myself.  This will be different from prior recordings in itself because we will be doing a lot of the recording on the road.  Were going to find cool rooms or halls where we can get good sound and branch out and be creative that way.  This will hopefully open our minds to different avenues because were not all in a room standing next to each other. 

Were not playing in a room and solving problems in a certain way.  This will get us out of that midset and put us in more of an anything goes playing design.

MCB  So your bringing what happens live back into the song.

RR  Yes. When we are sound checking in a room we might put a drum kit on a balcony or mic a guitar amp down a long hallway and see what happens.  We can get recording ideas, even if its on a handheld, and incorporate them into the song. There's a wide open landscape now to bring in different ideas that would have been hard to do back then because of the cost of the recording.  This is great in terms of bringing something to the listener that opens up possibilities.  We are going back to the ideas started by the Beatles and the wall of sound where we can go back and open the music up.

We have become strong on taking a song on the road for six months and coming back to the studio and recording that live.  I want to to take the power of the live show and combine it with the power of the studio.  We all sing and play together well, so we can take that from the floor of St Andrews Hall and lay down the track that way working on the recording and engineering aspect.  Taking the energy that we create during a tour and adding and branching out the sound that way we will see what happens.

MCB  So has this been your formula or is it experimental in terms of recording.

RR  The way that Rusted Root has always done it is that everyone layers the same part on top of each other.  Theres not that space where the bass is popping out or the backing vocals fill in like a brass section.  So were getting the whole band to play a rhythm and what I see the blue print achieving is that everyone already knows their part as far as the bands groove.

This should give us a lot of sonic space to add vocals because these songs are more personal and themed, so its important that the lead vocals fit in wheres there is a strong thread throughout the song.  

MCB  Then band can fill up the low end and leave the high end for vocals and leads

RR  Yes.   And keeping it more sparse we wont see a lot of error in the music.  I thought it was really great how Lorde did "Royals" with just the bass line and vocals.  It was a smart sound and still had a strong feel.

MCB  What makes a good live show for you and does the audience factor into it.

RR  Its really just being free.  I like nights when we are completely free to play like we haven't played before.  When your playing and you think "wow, did you hear that" you become a fan of your own music.  Its great when you know that your connected with something bigger than yourself.  The music just comes out.

If your interested in band that jams, or one that fills up a sound room, Rusted Root will be on the St Andrews stage on Friday, May 16th, playing and perfecting the sound for their upcoming album and eighth release.  Having witnessed the last show, their return to a bigger stage should better accommodate a dense and intense sound.