Unashamedly Left-Wing: A Conversation with Tim Eveleigh

As is often the case, I have Jeff Archuleta’s Eclectic Music Lover blog to thank for letting me know about the music of Tim Eveleigh. Describing the artist in a recent review as “a Renaissance man of sorts with many talents and interests ranging from music and stand-up comedy to computer programming/IT development, music and events promotion, economics and politics,” Jeff describes Eveleigh’s debut album, A Record, as a “well-crafted collection of songs written and sung from the heart.” Needless to say, I was intrigued!

Your latest album is called A Record. There’s something playful about the title, yet there’s also weight to it. What is A Record a record of?

It’s my first Album and it’s therefore a record (an LP) so it’s called A Record. It’s also fairly autobiographical so it’s A Record of my life as well. If anyone would like to hear some themed titles then I thoroughly recommend Ben Castle’s EP which is called an EP.

Pretty much all of my song titles are like this – I see them as non-cryptic crossword clues: they are single words have (at least) two meanings and both of these relate to the song – often one meaning to the verses and another to the chorus: that sort of thing.

To be fair – you usually have to be me to understand why.

I’m curious about the cover, which depicts a woman standing on a beach with a child in her arms. Who’s pictured? And what does the image represent to you?

I don’t know who it is! It’s a royalty free image from the Pexels website, specifically from Tatiana Syrikova’s page: https://www.pexels.com/@tatianasyrikova/ (who I also don’t know).

The process I went through is that I do have a similar image (of a mum holding a baby) where the mum is my mum and the baby is me. I was initially intending to use that photo but I can’t find it and then I realised that the image didn’t need to be me: and then I thought that I preferred it if the people in the image were anonymous.

Finally I had a look around the Pexels site – which I’ve used before when making videos for quartets (see [https://youtu.be/OvwU_VAFX7g] and [https://youtu.be/a5tYC4g30Xo]) – and this was my favourite one. Gavin Kinch [http://thetownthatlovebuilt.com/] then did his magic with it.

You describe yourself as middle-aged and middle class. How do those elements of your identity inform your songwriting?

I think I’m calmer than I was before I was middle-aged and I’m aware that I don’t have a huge amount of difficulty in my life – so I think middle-class is an accurate description. I hope that what I can offer involves reassurance that everyone has worth.

Mainly, though, it is what I am and everything I write comes from that perspective so I hope that it helps me to remember both things.

In his review of A Record, Jeff Archuleta mentions your interest in standup comedy. Do you perform as a standup, or is it more of a spectator sport for you, as it were? How does humor inform your songwriting?

Yes, I am also a comedian. I have compered events for the Croydon Comedy Festival and I have also performed at Science Showoff and The Freedom Fridge. I compere music nights in what I think would often be considered more of a traditional comedy-event style (than a music-event style).

I like to think that the comedy comes across in some of the songs (but that’s for other people to judge) and – as before – it’s part of what I do and so will be part of anything that I write.

There’s also a political edge to your music, particularly in tracks like “Manifesto” and “Drones.” What’s the relationship between politics and music—or between politics and the arts more broadly? How do you think they inform each other?

I would say that music, and the arts in general, are underfunded by Government and it’s agencies in the UK. I don’t think The Arts fit into their “winners and losers” application & funding model: partly because there isn’t any way to predict what will or won’t be financially successful – and anyway personally I believe everything deserves funding regardless.

I am unashamedly left-wing/progressive/socialist/woke (whatever terminology one wants to use) and I strongly believe that individualism doesn’t add up financially so I hope we come to realise that we are stronger when we work together and can combine all of our effort so that we improve everyone’s lives.

I think the arts can inform politicians by keeping debates alive that wouldn’t otherwise remain alive and by putting across viewpoints that might not be highlighted through other mediums.

You’ve been making music since you were very young. How has your relationship with music evolved over time? What’s the difference, for example, between making music as a ten-year-old and making music as a middle-aged man?

Broadly-speaking: as a younger man I was writing songs that involved reading about other peoples’ experiences and trying to tell their story but now I have enough experiences of my own to write about myself (as well as telling other peoples’ stories).

Along similar lines, how have changes in both recording technology and the music industry over the past few decades shaped that relationship?

In the long-distant past we recorded onto tape, cut it up with knives and stuck it back together with sticky-tape. Now we record into computers and make it sound nice with plugins.

My personal take is that the music industry is only interested in financially supporting the music industry and my advice would be to stay out of it (delete Spotify, kids!).

In order to support artists one needs to take financial risks and I don’t think the music industry has enough of a long-term view to do so. I don’t know whether it was always like that.

You have some incredibly talented musicians playing on A Record. How did you meet them?

Maria Levesley (backing vocals) is a friend of friends and I was lucky enough to discover that she sang as well.

Joe Jones (bass) is a friend that I was introduced to at Greenbelt Festival. He offered to play bass and I gratefully accepted. [www.greenbelt.org.uk].

Chris Kimber (tubular bells) is someone that I played with in bands and orchestras while at school – a long long time ago. We also hung out and have done recording over the years. I knew he had some tubular bells and exploited that ruthlessly. [http://www.chriskimber.info]

Pete Long (saxophone) also went to the same school but I mostly knew him from playing in the Big Beer Band in Croydon on Monday nights and I contacted him to ask him to play on “Touch.”

Pete Cooper (trumpet/flugelhorn) I also know via the Big Beer Band and I asked him to play on “Drones.”

Andy Thornton (production and many other things): I was a fan of Andy’s so it’s odd to me that I get to record with him. We’re friends now and he is a superstar as you can find out here: https://andythornton.bandcamp.com

Cara Thornton (backing vocals) I know because she is related to Andy Thornton.

Ben Cosh (who wrote White Lines) I first met at an open mic night at The Three Stags in Kennington in London and I would not be anywhere near the musician that I am (whatever that means) without his expert guidance and advice. [https://bencosh.bandcamp.com]

Jeff’s review of A Record mentions that you are involved in music and events promotion. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Since 2006 I have run acoustic (and other) music events called Freedom of Expression and since 2015 I have run the Croydon Comedy Festival.

In general the Freedom of Expression shows have been made up of four acts doing half and hour each and the Croydon Comedy Festival events have involved a half-hour support act and an hour-long headliner.

I think I get some additional perspective from being both a performer & a promoter and I hope this benefits everyone involved.

What’s next?

Album number two is on the way (and no – Maria – it’s not called ‘B Record’)!

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me!

A Fun Ride: Chatting with Voodoo Planet

An Interview with Voodoo Planet. I think it was my good friend Scoopski who initially alerted me to the rocking goodness of Voodoo Planet. Hailing from Desoto, Missouri, they’ve been making music since 2010, blending intelligent lyrics with a rootsy sensibility that strikes me as landing somewhere between the Sweetheart of the Rodeo-era Byrds and the fuzzy garage rock some of my favorite #Tweetcore bands like Magic Cobra and Thee Rakevines. I’m also struck by the historic sensibility of their lyrics. Their latest offering, “Bewitched,” is about Bridget Bishop, the first person executed in the Salem witch trials, and their song “Radium Girls” is about women who suffered radiation poisoning after working in factories where they painted watch dials with luminous paint. Curious to learn more, I dropped them a line.

You’ve been making music since 2010. How have you managed to keep the band going for so long?

It’s been a fun ride; we’re all good friends and have the willingness to change / grow. It helps that Voodoo Planet doesn’t have a singular style, we’ve always embraced an “anything goes” philosophy as far as the music we create. We spent a significant time in the beginning as an all-instrumental band and gradually branched out into vocals. 

What’s the scene like in Desoto? Do you get to play out much?

There are a significant variety of original bands in nearby towns, and we’re outside St. Louis, which has a healthy music scene. KDHX FM, the independent station, supports independent music, as does the Lindenwood University station, 89.1 The Wood. We haven’t played out since the pandemic, but are getting an itch to do so, possibly this summer.

Your Twitter bio includes a quotation from Brian Eno: “Every collaboration helps you grow.”How does collaboration fit into the way you make music?

A band is a fantastic collaboration when everyone supports one another. We love the idea of guest musicians and vocalists and would welcome it. Often, it takes the music in a direction that never would have occurred to you.

Is Brian Eno an influence?

For me, very much so. His attitude toward creativity and making music, that “inspired-amateur” approach, went against the grain of the “virtuoso rock musician” that was so prevalent in the early ’70s. Technically, many trained musicians may have turned up their noses at his lack of chops, but he created/popularized an entire genre of music – ambient. I find his Oblique Strategies approach inspiring, at times embracing chance can take a dead-end and turn it into something entirely new. 

Who are some of your other influences?

Each band member has varied tastes, with some overlap. For me, there are those influences that stick around permanently more or less, and then things you embrace for a bit, absorb and then move on. Your comparisons to the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo and fuzzed-out garage rock are appreciated, that’s a favorite album of mine and garage rock is in our DNA. 

Songwriting-wise, definitely Beatles, Neil Finn, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, and Jeff Tweedy, and it’d be silly to not include Bob Dylan. I’ve had plenty of flirtations with older blues (pre-1960s), surf music, Garage Rock, West African guitar music (Ali Farka Toure, etc), and roots / Americana styles. 

You recorded your 2017 EP Bookstore Sessions In a bookstore. What’s the story there? 

Up until the end of 2022, my wife and I owned an indie bookstore for 25 years. Books make great sound absorbing/baffling, and coves in the sections are like little sound booths. We were able to spread out and make as much noise as needed. Also plenty of reading for bathroom breaks!

I’ve mentioned your 2020 album Ripsnorters to a few people, and before they even hear the music, they love the title. What’s a ripsnorter, and how did you settle on that title for your album?

Pretty sure I came up with that one. It’s one of those great old-timey words that are very evocative, especially when combined with the album cover (created by my son and youngest daughter). Ripsnorters sounds funny and maybe a little mysterious, I guess the variety of songs on the record and the idea that they could all result in a Ripsnorting-good listening session appeals to me!

Some of your songs touch on some of the otherwise unsung figures of history. What draws you to them? You’ve written specifically about women in history. In addition to songs about Bridget Bishop and the radium girls, there’s also “Lizzie Didn’t Do It,” which is about Lizzie Borden. Why are these stories in particular worth passing down in the form of a song? Why do they matter?

Most of our songs tend to be “about something” in particular, as opposed to abstractions like love, etc. Not that there’s anything wrong with that type of songwriting, but thus far we don’t feel like we would bring anything new to the table in that mode. 

We got a book at the store about Lizzie Borden. It fascinated me that even back in those days, she had supporters that protested that she was innocent, to the point of wearing buttons with “Lizzie Didn’t Do It!” on them, but she was pretty much found guilty in the court of public opinion, which still occurs today, and living in a small town, people can be judgemental of other folks without knowing the whole story. Same with Radium Girls, that a company could be so cavalier with the health and safety of their employees to sell a product with a dangerous component – still happens today. 

Unfortunately, these horrible events often harm those without a voice, economic means, or power to defend themselves. If a song can bring attention to a historical event, that’s all the better.

Patrick (Myers, VP drummer) wrote “The Ship,” about a once modern and mighty battleship that was found abandoned and thought it was a perfect metaphor for the way some folks are treated, and “Bewitched” about Bridget Bishop, a real person persecuted by her peers. 

Any plans for a follow-up to“Bewitched”?

No immediate plans for a follow-up, that story ended rather unpleasantly! 

Fair point.

In closing, I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to respond to your thoughtful questions. Before last year, Twitter was unknown to me, but Brian (The Brian Jin) got me interested, and I’m blown away at all the encouragement offered by so many unsigned artists, including you, Marc! Many indie artists produce such a high caliber of work, and it elevates all of us to support one another.

I couldn’t agree more! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me!

Man Myth Legend: An Interview with Russell T. Shipp of Rusty Shipp

Once again, I have Jeff Archuleta’s Eclectic Music Lover blog to thank for alerting me to the subject of this week’s interview, Russell T. Shipp of the “nautical rock’n’roll band” Rusty Shipp! Jeff offered some incredibly insightful commentary on the music of Rusty Shipp back in December, praising (among other things) the act’s “dark, immersive sound, unforgettable melodies, electrifying guitar work, and Shipp’s vibrant tenor vocals.” When I checked it out, the music was as Jeff had promised, and the album art was equally impressive, so I reached out to set up an interview…

So your name is Russell T. Shipp. Did that make calling the act “Rusty Shipp” a no-brainer? Or did you try other names before settling on Rusty Shipp?

When I moved to Nashville (from D.C.) I started going by “Rusty Shipp” as a funny way to make it easier for people I met to remember me. When we were first starting this band we were throwing around different band names, but different friends of mine and even the band members themselves said, “How can you go with any other name than Rusty Shipp? It’s already the perfect band name.”  So it just stuck.

While we’re on the subject, and just out of curiosity, you changed Russ T. to Rusty, but you kept to both P’s in “Shipp.” Was that a conscious decision?

Yes. We were originally thinking of calling it Rusty Ship, and it just being a funny thing that someone in the band was actually called Rusty Shipp, but then I thought that adding the extra “P” made the band name instantly more attractive and thought-provoking. Instantly you make people think about the band name: “Why the extra ‘P’? Could it possibly be someone’s name? That would be hilarious! Or maybe it’s just an artistic way of spelling “ship” for some deep reason…. I want look into this band.”  At least that was the hope, and it’s actually turned out to be that way, which is really cool, and constantly validating our decision to go with the extra “p.”

I’m also curious about how your sense of identity might be tied up in the band. Is it ever difficult to separate Russ T. Shipp from Rusty Shipp?

It is sometimes. Partially because it’s my name, and my friends in Nashville do mostly call me “Rusty Shipp,” so anytime I hear the band name I’m hearing the same name that I’m known by around town. But also, because as the founder, frontman, voice, and main songwriter of the band, it really is hard to separate me from the music, because it’s such a huge part of my life. My whole life revolves around these concept albums and songs, with their lyrics, music, and message, and the mission of the band. It’s certainly not a hobby; it’s a life mission I’m planning on pursuing till the day I die, and so in many ways my life is literally Rusty Shipp.

Can you talk a little bit about the cover of your album Dark Side of the Ocean? Who did the art, and what does it depict? How does that relate to the themes of the album?

The artwork of “Dark Side” and the two previous albums “Liquid Exorcist” and “Mortal Ghost” were all done by the one-and-only Hein Zaymaan – a local Nashville artist. He’s actually my favorite artist. When a friend of mine first showed me his artwork I instantly was captivated by it and reached out to him. It’s been a great working relationship so far, and he is as much of a dreamer and world-builder as I am.

I’m thrilled you like the artwork so much; it’s my favorite of the three album covers he’s done for us. It really captures the story-based concept of our album, which is about a soul that drowned and sunk to the bottom of the ocean where it met other sunken souls and was intercepted by a sea angel and taken to an ancient, underwater angelic kingdom ruled by the King of the Deep, aka, the Archangel of the Ocean.

As Jeff mentioned in his review, you describe Rusty Shipp as a “nautical rock’n’roll band.” How do nautical themes lend themselves to discussion of larger issues relevant to a more landlocked life?

GREAT question. I love artistic, imagery-rich, story-based concept albums for all the intrigue they have that pulls in the listener to the album and keeps them there. But to some degree the artistic images and themes of nautical, ocean imagery are surface level for something fun and entertaining to the audience. But I’m very passionate and mission-minded with using our songs to somehow make the world a better place through empowering, thought-provoking lyrics. So pretty much every song we have, while rich in oceanic imagery or relating to a concept story, will have some spiritual or philosophical message buried beneath all the talk of sea angels and the kraken, etc. Our song “Man Myth Legend” is a perfect example. While talking on the surface level about the storyline of sea angels debating about whether to go to the other side of the ocean where men live, the deeper subject matter is addressing the pandemic-era issues the world faced of people suddenly becoming entrenched deeper into the comfort zones of their political and demographic camps. It confronts the fears holding people back from going to the opposing camp to learn and hear from them.

What attracts you to nautical themes?

It was a slow process, but when you have a band called Rusty Shipp, it was only a matter of time before we thought it would be good to embrace the nautical vibe that “Rusty Shipp” naturally brings to mind. Year after year we went more “all in” with the themes, imagery, and lyrics, tweaking them to be more and more overtly nautical. That, and I am a big surf rock fan, and I thought the combination of grunge and surf was a unique combination that would make us stand out from the pack of rock bands.

Your song “What’s Kraken?” really caught my attention. It manages to maintain a somewhat dry sense of humor via wordplay while still addressing the serious issue of political division. Likewise, the invocation of the Kraken calls to mind some of the—I want to say melodrama—of the political rhetoric we’ve heard over the past five years or so. Can you talk about that song a bit?

Our fans have been begging us to do a song about the Kraken for years, and we wanted to finally have a more light-hearted, funny song to change up things from our typically serious, intense songs. But as the song developed, in true Rusty Shipp fashion, the lyrics started getting deeper and more intense. What started off as a fun song about the mythological sea beast, it became a song that examines reports through history of The Kraken, and compares them to modern day news and science reports that are likewise drawing skepticism and debate over the validity of the claims. The song digs into the pandemic-era experience we all went through of being confused about which authorities were telling the truth about what, who and what we can really trust.

What do you see as the relationship between music – or art more generally – and politics?

I think politics are just the order for how humans live within a certain society, and thus humans will express themselves musically about how they think their society should function. Politics has become a dirty, triggering word, and also has come to have a certain specific label and baggage attached to it, but I think actually “politics” is a lot more far-reaching and general of a term. Sure, people have disagreements about how society should function, but as with any form of human expression, if someone is expressing any opinion about life there is going to be someone that will disagree. Politics is inescapable in human life and therefore it’s an essential part of human expression. People can make it as triggering or natural as they choose.

You’ve covered a couple of well-known songs. For example, I know you’ve covered the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” and Pink Floyd’s “Us and Them.” What was behind the decision to cover those songs in particular?

I’m a HUGE Beatles fan and I’m in a grunge band. When I first heard “Helter Skelter” I thought it had all this pent-up raw energy that couldn’t be truly communicated with the recording technology of the time, and I brainstormed what an all-out, raw, grungy version would sound like if the Beatles had done it today. With “Us and Them,” I wanted to pick a song from “The Dark Side of the Moon” because our album was called “Dark Side of the Ocean” and I wanted to have an obvious reference to the Pink Floyd album to overtly tie it together, as well as make sure people didn’t think we were so naïve that we didn’t know there was a legendary album with a similar title. “Us and Them” was less famous than “Time” and “Money” and so it didn’t seem like a cliché cover song choice. And it actually worked out perfectly because the lyrics actually tie-in seamlessly with the themes of the album addressing the “us and them” factions the world was really falling into during the Pandemic. 

And how do you approach covering a song? I’m particularly curious about walking the line between staying true to the spirit of the song but also putting your own stamp on it.

I definitely want to re-imagine a legendary song to get to the core of what made it legendary in the first place, and then take that spirit, energy, and vision and either bring out more potential I feel is still left in it, or else take it into another direction that seems a natural progression for the song, to do an innovative and artistic re-working that will only garner greater appreciation for the genius of the original. I’m confident that we did that very well with the three covers we’ve done: “Helter Skelter,” “Show Me How To Live,” and “Us and Them.”

Like most bands, Rusty Shipp has undergone some personnel changes over the years. How have those changes influenced the sound of the band or contributed to the evolution of that sound?

It’s really interesting how the different band members give each album a unique sound. At the times in our band where it’s been mostly me doing guitar solos on the album, they tend to be simpler, riff-based solos, whereas with the different lead guitar players we’ve had they can be more bluesy or metal. I’d say the lead guitar work is probably the most notable. But also Jake Adams on Mortal Ghost had a really genius-level melodic writing for his bass parts in a way I’d never really heard and wouldn’t have though of. If I do the lead guitar or bass on a song, it’s going to be very much relating to the riffs in the song.

What’s on the horizon for Rusty Shipp?

I fully expect smooth sailing, recruiting new Shippmates to come aboard and sail with us into the sunset together to find our destinies, followed by some stormy gales, followed by some rescuing of men thrown overboard, followed by some more smooth sailing, and finally reaching our port destination in a distant kingdom we can help build into a place we can call our home. And also lots of artistic, innovative, creative, philosophically-provocative, life-transforming, empowering albums that get better and more ambitious, one by one.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!