Last October, the new found Seattle supergroup Walking Papers, consisting of Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees), Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver, Loaded), Jefferson Angell (The Missionary Position, Post Stardom Depression) and Benjamin Anderson (The Missionary Position) released their self-titled debut album. This April they will embark on a European tour, which is reason enough to take a closer look at the record, catch up with the guys and ask them a few questions.
11thSK: Could you tell our readers in your own words what Walking Papers is about and how you guys got together?
Jeff: Walking Papers is basically a science project. Barrett and I had a mutual admiration for each others work and we decided to put on our lab coats and see if we had any chemistry. We were pretty happy with the results of our experiment so we decided to see what would happen if we added some other elements to it. The first and only people we considered were Duff, Benjamin and Mike [McCready, Pearl Jam] We are pleased that it didn’t blow up in our face.
11thSK: Bluesy Rock from Seattle might seem odd at the first look, but I guess the city provides a lot of inspiration to express the most inner and often dark feelings, just as shown in the grunge movement. How much do your background and Seattle city life have an effect on your songwriting?
Jeff: To me “Blues” is just a synonym for music with feeling.
I’m guessing I would have wrote songs no matter where I grew up. I did however have the dumb luck of seeing both Mother Love Bone and Alice in Chains at a Skate King while I was about 14. Watching their trajectory definitely made me take it more seriously.
11thSK: Can you tell us something about the songwriting process of the album? Jeff and Barrett, this is your “baby” obviously with Duff, Ben and also Mike McCready from Pearl Jam contributing on several songs. Were they also part in the songwriting process or were the songs already in their final stages?
Jeff: Aside from a few ideas I had hanging around, Barrett and I wrote the songs by pursuing ideas spontaneously in a rehearsal room. We’d come up with these concepts and then I’d go home and labor over the lyrics.
Duff joined us in the studio and did what he does. Which is RULE! He’s a very primal player and within a take or three, after never hearing the song his parts were recorded. Ben and Mike took these recordings and add their contributions on their own. Barrett and I stayed out of everyone’s way so that we wouldn’t interfere with their process. We are quite happy with what they provided!
11thSK: Jeff, your lyrics are kind of dark with a twist. What are your inspirations when it comes to writing lyrics and telling a story?
Jeff: You spend most of your life trying to undo what’s been done to you. That’s the song I’m trying to write.
The songs are kind of an exorcism for me. I try to keep my antenna up at all times for what I consider “motives”. I allow these motives or characters I imagine to reveal themselves to me, and the songs just evolve from me entertaining myself with these ideas.
11thSK: Barrett, there are some instruments (marimba/vibraphone, upright bass, brass section) on the record that seem rather unusual in a rock setting, How much did your studies of ethnomusicology and your jazz-influences contribute not only to your drumming on the record, but also to the whole mood of the songs?
Barrett: I’ve used unorthodox instruments on rock recordings for many years now. As far back as Screaming Trees and Tuatara (my band with Peter Buck). I’ve also used instruments like upright bass, vibes, marimbas, steel drums, and gamelans on albums as diverse as QOTSA’s “Rated R” and REM’s “UP.” I even played the marimba solo on the Stone Temple Pilot’s song “Atlanta.” So it was only natural that I would bring these sounds to the Walking Papers. Mostly I use them to create a mood and atmosphere for each song, something that matches the lyrical content of the song. During my college years I studied upright bass and jazz drumming (I still have my own jazz group) and then I studied ethnomusicology in graduate school, all of which has given me a much deeper appreciation for all styles of music, all over the world. I love all kinds of music, even electronic (!), I just happen to be a rock drummer first and foremost. I guess you could say that all of my experiences as a musician have influenced the way I play drums, and in Walking Papers, I simply try to serve the best interests of “the song.”
11thSK: What are your own favorite songs on the record and which work best live in your opinion?
Jeff: I can’t choose a favorite really. It wouldn’t be fair to the others.
I do however think the songs have grown from when they were recorded. When the band is feeding off of an audience and through Duff and Ben’s contributions the songs are having a kind of after life. They can only be heard that way at a show and I always look forward to it. Now they are wild beasts and the only live in the moment.
Benjamin: My favorite song changes from day to day. The beauty of this band is that every song delivers something meaningful to me. When the four of us are playing together on stage there is the feeling of something bigger than the individual parts, something transcendent. It’s what I live for in music and feel lucky that I can look forward to playing every song in the set on every day and still get something from it.
11thSK: You played a couple of shows in Europe last year. How was the reception then? How does playing to an audience for the first time with a new band differ from playing with a well-established act? Do you still get nervous coming back to places you’ve already played?
Benjamin: The European audiences are fantastic. The energy and excitement in European clubs rivals what Seattle clubs felt like to play in the early 90s when going to see live music was what everybody did for entertainment here. Playing these shows with a new band adds to that excitement. For me it’s not a matter of getting nervous, but trying to channel the anticipation and energy and deliver a performance that leaves both the audience and the band feeling like our day was better for having shared that time together.
Jeff: I never really get nervous. I get anxious, as a matter of fact I wish we were leaving tonight.
11thSK: Barrett and Duff, you both have been to Germany several times before. What are your memories of playing there? Any fun stories you might wanna share?
Barrett: I’ve been to Germany and Austria many times, first with Skin Yard (with Jack Endino) in 1991, and then several times with Screaming Trees in the 1990s. I am really looking forward to Walking Papers finally playing there. What I remember about the German audiences is their great love of rock, they really get into it. Germany is very much like the United States, in that rock and roll is almost a lifestyle. I think we’re going to play some great shows and win over some new German friends when we come over there in April.
Duff: I have really great and favorable memories on Germany, both in the recent past, and WAY back, when there was still and East and Wast Germany. I’ve seen that country grow and change…but the fans of rock music there, have remained intelligent and supportive and kickass!
11thSK: It will be the first time in Germany for you Jeff and Ben. What are your expectations?
Benjamin: I’m very anxious to see Germany for the first time. My friends tell me that the German audiences are great to play for. I have a long term love affair with music and art that has come from Germany. My father always played Baroque music around the house, the first cassette I ever owned was Kraftwerk’s Autobahn and I am a big fan of everything from Cluster to Einstuerzende Neubauten. Also many of my favorite albums were recorded at Hansa. I don’t totally know what to expect, but I am looking forward to connecting to the place. I think I’m going to love it.
11thSK: You’ll be playing not one, but two shows at the infamous Download Festival. One acoustic set and a regular one. Were you double-booked accidentally or whose idea was that?
Jeff: I’m not sure who’s Idea that was but whoever they are they should get a promotion!
11thSK: You’re playing very intimate, small club shows, which will certainly add to the already intimate atmosphere of the music. What else may the fans expect from your live show?
Jeff (jokingly): Well we aren’t allowed to bring our pyrotechnics into the country due to customs so we decided to replace them by actually practicing and playing some new songs that we have yet to record. We tried to put together some choreography, but we just looked like jackasses. The small clubs are the best sound just ricochets ‘til it finds it’s target.
11thSK: Duff, you’ve played in so many bands, from Seattle punk bands to GN’R, Neurotic Outsiders, Loaded, Velvet Revolver, Jane’s Addiction and now Walking Papers. Do you feel the urge to try different stuff all the time or do you just happen to slide into new projects or bands at any given moment?
Duff: I do just happen to slide around a bit. I’m really fortunate in that way, and it may have something to do with me both playing guitar AND bass. The quality of musicians that I’ve been around in these times, has been absolutely stunning…and it has certainly made me better-and that is something that I always try to do (become a better player).
11thSK: Duff, besides recording music and touring the globe you were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame with Guns N’ Roses, you have released your autobiography “It’s So Easy (And Other Lies)” which is also being made into a documentary film, you co-founded a wealth management firm for musicians called “Meridian Rock”, you write columns for Seattle Weekly, Playboy and ESPN . All this just within the last few years, not to mention the joy of parenting teenage girls together with your swim suit model/designer wife. Are there any goals left and how do you manage to pull off all of this?
Duff: I like to apply myself. Maybe I’m a bit of an A-type? But seriously, I just like to be positive and strive for new and different things, and challenge my intellect.
11thSK: Barrett, you formed a group with Mike McCready (plus Layne Staley & John Baker Saunders) in 1994 with Mad Season. Now you’re going to record an album with Duff, Mike and a cast of several singers, if I’m correct. Is this the second coming? Will it be in the vein of Walking Papers, Mad Season or something entirely different?
Barrett: The Mad Season “Above” box set is coming out April 2nd on Columbia/Sony and that is really the last thing that Mad Season will do. That band is done, but we did want to release the 3 songs we did with Mark Lanegan, as well as the DVD of the 2 concert films from the 1995 Moore Theatre and New Years Eve shows. This new project with Mike McCready and Duff McKagan is really more like a “house band” for Mike’s new record label, Hockey Talkter Records. We are going to be recording songs with various singer-songwriters to be released as singles on Mike’s label. So for example, we just did 2 songs with Jaz Coleman from Killing Joke, and 2 songs with Jeff Angell. Those are the first 2 singles. Its hard to say whether it sounds like any of our other bands, because the songs we have recorded so far range from mellow and atmospheric to dark and heavy. Its also really fun, because we’re all from Seattle and we have played in some very different bands over the years, so we have a lot of musical experience. We play with a kind of musical language that we all understand and that makes it easy for us to create new songs, all the time. And we laugh alot! All the time, especially when one of us starts telling a ridiculous story during a rehearsal or recording session. Between us, we have collected some very funny stories over the last 25 years. Its not so much a band as it is comedy troupe that just happens to back up great singers.
11thSK: What’s next for Walking Papers? Are you working on the sophomore record right now and if so, any clue when it will see the light of day?
Benjamin: We have begun the writing and recording for the next album. As soon as the baby is born, we’ll pass out the cigars.
Jeff: What Ben said!
11thSK: Thanks for taking time for the interview! We’re looking forward to seeing you on tour!
Walking Papers – Album Review:
The album opens with „Already Dead“ which as a first song is surprisingly mellow and dark, but doesn’t fail its impact, as it pounds like a heart with a steady beat. Another stand-out track is „The Whole World’s Watching“ whose blues riff penetrates your ears just as persistent as Jeff Angells raspy and unique voice that is full of feeling. “The Butcher” strikes some more thoughtful chords and has a waltz-rhythm that almost makes you wanna dance and lose yourself in the atmosphere of the song as Barrett Martin leaves the drum stool for a minute and steps behind the Marimba. “Two Tickets And A Room” is the soundtrack to a (self-) destructive Las Vegas love trip that Angell calls “the night the lights went out in Vegas”. The next Song “Red Envelopes” integrates elements of Ska Punk with the presence of a horn section while “Capital T” is another rocker that exposes a troubled relationship, musically almost reminiscent of guitar gods like Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughn. One of the most interesting songs lyrically has got to be “A Place Like This” which tells the story of a player on the dance floor who realizes that he dances alone and tries to disappear unrecognized. This kind of dark, twisted and bittersweet humor can be found throughout the whole record. The musical and spiritual kinship within this quartet is unmistakeable. The rhythm section of Martin and McKagan is the backbone to which Ben Anderson adds his well-fitting nuances on keys and with Jeff Angell’s licks, lyrics and haunting vocals this Seattle ensemble delivers a unique and surprisingly fresh output. Everyone who is open to an intimate listening experience and doesn’t expect a particular sound of any of the members former bands, will certainly be rewarded. But not only the album is worth a listen and so everyone who has the chance to witness Walking Papers live on tour in Europe shouldn’t hesitate, because there might not be another chance to experience these guys from Seattle as up close and personal as on this upcoming tour.
Release: October 2nd 2012
Label: Sunyata Records, The Boredom Killing Business
Genre: Blues, Rock, Americana
Jeff Angell – Guitars, Lead Vocals
Barrett Martin – Drums, Backing Vocals
Duff McKagan – Bass, Backing Vocals
Benjamin Anderson – Keyboards, Backing Vocals
1. Already Dead
2. The Whole World’s Watching
3. Your Secret’s Safe with Me
4. Red Envelopes
5. Leave Me in the Dark
6. The Butcher
7. Two Tickets And A Room
8. I’ll Stick Around
9. Capital T
10. A Place Like This
11. Independence Day
European Tour Dates:
April 27th – Tilburg, Netherlands @ 013
April 28th – Amsterdam, Netherlands @ The Winston
April 29th – Hamburg, Germany @ Logo
May 1st – Cologne, Germany @ The Underground
May 2nd – Saarbrucken, Germany @ The Garage
May 3rd – Paris, France @ La Fleche d’Or
May 4th – London, England @ The Garage London
June 11th – Dublin, Ireland @ The Pint
June 12th – Belfast, Northern Ireland @ Voodoo
June 13th – Glasgow, Scotland @ Stereo
June 14th – England @ Download Festival (acoustic set)
June 15th – England @ Download Festival (regular set)
June 16th – Tallinn, Estonia @ Rock Summer Festival
Sunyata Records: http://www.sunyatarecords.com/
Interview and review were written by BB King Size a.k.a. Niko a.k.a. The Last Man Standing