When I was seven they asked me what instrument I wanted to play. I think they wanted me to play the French horn. I shook my head. I wanted to play the saxophone, because it was loud and shiny, because my favorite Muppet played one and because girls would probably think it was cool. I learned later that girls are pretty into drummers and guitar players and bass players and lead singers and what I really should have understood was that I wanted to make rock and roll.
I played in plenty of bands, bringing my Tom Waits-meets-Nick Cave mentality to horn playing, which basically means every song is a circus. After 9/11 I stopped being a shy sideman and bought a guitar. (I now own seven.) The songs came out under my aka Martin Ruby, born in the shadow of Cohen and Oldham, finding that Cash baritone, that lonesome wail of a harmonica recorded in the middle of the night with the windows open. No matter how hard times get, there is a kitchen table and a guitar and a little glass of something to sip on. That is how I make sense of our modern times.
Writing the music for Whale is one of the hardest things I have ever done. It had to feel effortless, invisible, and speak about a world that is not ours. I wrote the themes on my Gretsch Electromatic, leaving them sparse and open so that the ambient sounds of a calliope, a harmonium, mellotron cello and hurdy gurdy could give it perspective. To find a place for the viewer to look at things from.
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