Our Interview with Michael Truckpile
Michael Truckpile's music dances across the
boundaries of folk, country and gut-bucket rocking. With his intently
explorative voice and steady acoustic guitar playing, Michael spins yarns
of frustration and hope around the question marks of life. Having grown up
in a house full of music with a
mom who played
keyboards in rock bands and a music writer for a dad, Michael went on
sewing musical seeds in the d.i.y. communities of upstate NY. He'?s played
drums and sang since adolescence but only recently took up song crafting
on guitar after clandestinely purchasing a beautiful, old beat up 1940's
arch top at a garage sale in Kingston. That was in June of 2003 and
Michael has since written, recorded and released a full length CD on
Art of the
Underground Records, played shows in venues as varied as barns and big
rock clubs and toured around the U.S. Michael is also the drummer and
singer for the hyperactive pop duo
The Kiss Ups.
Biography supplied by
www.michaeltruckpile.com. Please visit Michael's site to hear his
music and learn more about his upcoming projects and tour dates.
Where do you usually find your inspiration to write your songs?
Song writing is a delicate animal for me. Sometimes I try to pet the
animal and give it a nice little loving scratch on the head or a pat on
the belly and it knocks my lights out, then I can't pick the guitar up for
another two months. Other times I just push a bunch of crap to the side
in my mind somehow and it just flows out like a stream. I would love to
say that I can just turn it on and off, but it's quite a bit more taciturn
and temperamental than that.
Sometimes the inspiration is in a specific topic and I know that I need to
write a song about a specific thing and then I find the words and melodies
to express it. Sometimes I'm just messing around with some guitar parts
and a melody comes to my mind and I sing nonsense syllables until they
start to transform into words and those songs will direct me toward what
the song's about. Many times a song just starts with the first line and
I'm drawn into following where that first group of words that sound so
good together are going to take me.
EWR: It seems many of your songs are about friendship? Do you find
creating music with other musicians helps you in the creative process?
Michael: My friends and community are quite dear to me. I've been
blessed with friendships and circles of friends that seem to continue to
deepen and grow, and I guess that thread has made it's way into a lot of
my songs. Interestingly enough, the Michael Truckpile stuff is almost
always written in total isolation. I have a hard time even writing if my
partner is in the room and never around anyone else at all. I was
noticing the other day when I was working on a song and Jacinta was in the
room that I was censoring myself before it even got outside my mind. I
need to have the safety to know that I can sing a line or go off in a
direction with a lyric or idea and know that I may be the only one that
ever hears it! Because frankly, sometimes the first thing off the top of
my head is completely embarrassing or cheesy, and I need to be able to let
that type of stuff fall flat on it's face or just trickle down through
version after version until it gets distilled down to how and what I
actually want to say.
In band situations writing music with other musicians has been great, and
I actually miss that and still hold the hope that I'll be able to find
some other musicians to write with for Michael Truckpile, but have yet to
go out and seek them.
Your father is a music critic. How does this usually play on your
songwriting? Do you feel he is overly critical?
I can't figure out whether he's overly critical or not. I know I'm overly
critical on myself. Does that trickle down from him or am I just a
neurotic self-effacing bastard? My dad has heard truck loads of music in
his life and doesn't necessarily have the same tastes as me. For example
my dad thinks the Beatles are pap, and I would argue that the Beatles are
one of the greatest bands of all time. But my dad is also supportive and
gives the occasional suggestion that helps. The worst is if he doesn't
say anything, then you know he's either not feeling it or he's just off in
his own world.
What bands or musicians most influence you? Would you classify the music
from your CD as folk?
Michael: The best genre classification that I've been able to come
up with is "Garage Folk." Just like the garage rock bands of the sixties
didn't have a lot of training or grooming, they just busted it out and
laid their guts out in front of themselves and rocked. I have the same
effect, but I'm playing an acoustic guitar and taking influences from not
just rock and roll but all types of American and non-American music
forms. It seems anything can be classified as folk, but as for traditional
folk influences, I have few. I'm not sitting around listening to Phil
Ochs , or Odetta, or Pete Seeger very often. I know and respect them, but
haven't really dug my teeth into traditional folk. My music is probably
some derivative sub-division of some leg of indie rock or another, who
knows. I grew up listening to 70s and 80s rock and new wave with my
parents and then got into hair metal from about 7-12 years old and then
got seriously into punk and then almost every other form of music I could
get my hands on after that that sounded good to me. I listen to a lot of
different genres, but I think specifically with the Michael Truckpile
stuff I can say there is some Joni Mitchell, some Dylan, Neil Young and
some Billy Bragg in there among other things.
Please tell me about your solo album and what you hoped to achieve by
publishing it. How did you hope it would have a particular impact on your
audience? Did people react the way you had hoped?
Michael: My first CD is just a bunch of songs that I had written
while teaching myself to play the guitar then I realized, "Hey, these are
good, I should do something with this!" First, I recorded seven of these
songs in one quick day with Dean Jones, here in Rosendale, and I made some
quick cover art and slapped it together as a holiday gift for my friends
and family. I gave a copy of that to Alex Kerns at Art of the Underground
in Buffalo. He had just released a split LP for my band The Kiss Ups
whom I played drums and sang for. He really liked it and asked me if he
could put it out. I was somewhat taken a back, but of course said “Yes,
but let me work on it some more.” I ended up writing a bunch more and
tweaking and re-recording until I got it to a point I liked it. The result
was the 13 song Michael Truckpile debut cd. The only impact that I
hoped it might have on people was for them to relate to it and for some of
the songs or words to help make dealing with our crazy lives a bit more
bearable and less isolated. And it's been sweet because I've gotten some
feedback to that effect and it helps me realize that it's good for me to
continue writing and making music and sharing my ideas and spirit with the
Tell me about the Sparkle Kids Action Network. How would you
categorize the music, if possible, and do you feel you will put out an
album with the group?
Michael: The Sparkle Kids Action Network isn't actually a
band, I guess we're more like a gang. It's just me and Jacinta Bunnell,
my partner, who is the author of these amazing coloring books Girls
Will Be Boys, Will Be Girls, Will Be... and Girls are Not Chicks
that challenge traditional gender roles, and my other musician friends
Dave End and Julie Novak. We all had separate sets on tour. Jacinta did a
coloring book making (zine) workshop, and then we all did a song together
at the end of the night. We all wanted to go on tour together and we
wanted to have an umbrella identity to unify us and bring the whole
package together. S.K.A.N. was a powerful force to reckon with throughout
the Midwest as we toured in a used vegetable oil powered diesel luxury
touring sedan, with one acoustic guitar between us!
You are the drummer in The Kiss Ups. You've are a solo artists, and you
are also part of the Sparkle Kids Action Network. Your music seems so
varied at times it seems you need multiple outlets. How do you deal with
creating such varied music?
Michael: I actually just started a really far out project with my
friend Julian Velard who is a fantastic pianist/singer/songwriter this
past weekend. I don't know if I'm even at liberty to talk about it! I
love multiple outlets, there are so many different ways that one could
express one's self, it's a thrill to experiment and inter-mix ideas and
influences with other folks. The Kiss Ups are pretty much on hold
right now until further notice. But mostly the Michael Truckpile
project has been my main thing, I'm excited though to get back on the
drums in some of the newer projects in the works and rock out a little.
EWR: Thanks so much for doing this.
Thanks again so much! It’s been fun.