CARL WEINGARTEN
This Is Where I Found You
(Multiphase Records)

 

This has been a very good decade for San Francisco Bay-area guitarist / composer Carl Weingarten. Lucky for music fans that in 2018, Carl released This Is Where I Found You, an album that some are calling his best yet. For those music fans in the know, Carl’s music output dates back to the 1980s with his guitar work in the band Delay Tactics and mwe3.com reviewed his solo album Blue Faith in the November 2000 instrumental section. In their archives, mwe3.com has a number of other albums of Carl’s that were released in the first decade of the 21st century. In this soon to be over decade Carl released some excellent albums including Panomorphia (2012), Life Under Stars (2014), and An Endless Premonition (2016). As cool as those albums are, This Is Where I Found You is a most worthy follow–up. Very easy on the ears without a hint of avant-garde or rock energy, the all-instrumental album features a sublime mix of heavenly instrumental music that blends New Age and electronica held together by Carl’s searing electric guitar work. A number of fine players join Carl in the studio, including Kit Walker (piano), Pat Duffey (acoustic guitars), Ulrich Schnauss (keys, synths), Michael Manring (bass), Celso Alberti (drums), Jeff Oster (trumpet), Peter Calandra (keys, synths) and other players, including wordless vocals on the lead-off track “Sing Like Water”, sung by Tate Bissinger. For his part, in addition to composing and producing This Is Where I Found You, Carl performs a wide range of guitar sounds including acoustic and electric guitars, e-bow, slide guitar, electric slide guitar, dobro and traveler guitar. Recorded between 2011 and 2018 at Multiphase Studios in Alameda, California, This Is Where I Found You is quite rightly Carl Weingarten’s finest moment as a solo recording artist. www.carlweingarten.com

 




mwe3.com presents a new interview with
CARL WEINGARTEN


mwe3
: Been a while since we spoke in 2016 when you released An Endless Premonition. How are things out in the Bay Area? You guys had some rough old times in 2019 with all the recent fires.

Carl Weingarten: I’m doing fine. The fires have been north of us, though we got some smoke blowing through for a couple of days. We’re very lucky, thanks for asking.

mwe3: As great as An Endless Premonition is, I feel you really topped yourself with This Is Where I Found You. My first thoughts were, that this album is very commercial sounding, especially for a sort of experimental guitar instrumental album.

Carl Weingarten: I’m really glad you like the CD, Robert. I think what you’re hearing is the summation of all the contributors. Most everyone who played on the CD are jazz and rock musicians. Their performances and the song arrangements added up to a very appealing sound. The CD is a more up-tempo direction for me, and it’s a direction that’s I’ve rarely explored. It’s less modal, less looping, less drone, more rhythm, more syncopation and more melody.

I’m not interested in being experimental just for its own sake. I went through that phase, where I thought being unique meant sounding weird, or dark or abstract. There’s plenty of that out music there now, and frankly, most of the music I listen to these days, be it classic jazz, chamber music, guitar music, modern soundtracks, choral music, is where I’m finding my inspiration. I just bought Chrissie Hynde’s new CD Valve Bone Woe, where she sings covers with a jazz orchestra. In the liners she laments a “decline in melody in popular music” and wanting to explore that area herself. I relate to that feeling, and have admired artists like Sonny Landreth, Terje Rypdal and Bill Frisell who focus on melody in their guitar playing.

mwe3: You said you were concentrating on radio play over reviews in print mags and even online web zines. Is that the way to promote an album like This Is Where I Found You in order to reach the most listeners? I did read a great review in Expose, the online music review site. I think Peter Thelen, the writer, really nailed it. I like when he said, during the time he was writing the review, that he kept waking up with one of the melodies from the album dancing around in his head. Is that the way you structured it, heavy on unforgettable melodic content? Is it always a balancing act, style vs. content?

Carl Weingarten: If I’ve made any music that’s memorable to listeners then I’m happy. I think Peter was referring to the Redwood Melodies CD, which were all acoustic guitar instrumentals. Radio has always been a good friend going back to our beginnings in the 80s. It was indie radio that gave our albums a chance when we were just getting started. As far as I know, the programmers who liked our music in the past, liked this new CD. We did get "Sing Like Water" rotated into the Sirius Spa channel, and I’m certain that Tate Bissinger’s vocals were the gateway.

If I had any control as to what music will be reviewed or played on radio, I’d be there. But how much exposure a recording gets depends on connections and how familiar the writers and DJ producers are with your music, and if they choose you over the other half dozen CDs that just arrived in their mail or in-box. Every play is a blessing.

mwe3: You worked with Higher Level Marketing on gaining airplay for This Is Where I Found You. Any reflections on how that worked out?

Carl Weingarten: Sherry Finzer, who runs HLM did a great job. She keeps up with who’s who in radio and made sure our music got heard by the right programmers.

mwe3: You mentioned airplay was the main idea, possibly as opposed to reviews and written reviews. Did HLM help you achieve your goals in getting the airplay the album deserves?

Carl Weingarten: She helped a lot with radio, some reviews and also with several streaming networks. It all made a difference, but airplay is something you can at least measure.

mwe3: How would you compare This Is Where I Found You with your 2016 album An Endless Premonition in terms of how you approached each album?

Carl Weingarten: Endless Premonition based on a looping style I came up where I’m playing loops forward and backward simultaneously. The effect generates these huge orchestral swells rather than layering loops. I performed a few shows with the setup, and after that I recorded the CD. I have a second CD worth of material, but that got sidelined when I started working with Ulrich Schnauss, who wanted some of those tracks for our new project.

mwe3: Would you consider making another album in the manner of This Is Where I Found You or are you going to back to a more experimental kind of sound?

Carl Weingarten: There’s always going to be an experimental flavor in my music. Right now I’m doing more arranging than I have in the past, where improvisation and the structural elements blend together rather than say, here’s the part of the song written out and here’s the parts improvised.

I’m working on a new project that I’m really enjoying, and nearly all of the recording in being done in my own studio. My long time co-producer Noah Perry, is phasing out the engineering part of his career and is moving on. His studio was the laboratory where I was able to host and record most of the great musicians who played on the albums. I have always relied on the strength of collaboration, and it’s been something of a loss not having that partnership. Much the same as when I moved from St. Louis to the bay area after working closely with Walter Whitney for so many years.

After the CD was released last year I took time to step back and get some perspective. I’m glad I did that instead of rushing into another big project. I focused on photography for a while. It’s good to mix up and change creative gears. One art refreshes the other.

This last spring, I did an in-store performance at Vinyl Dreams in San Francisco and that got me inspired to put down some new tracks. At first, I thought I’d keep it a small acoustic project. Perhaps a group of signature guitar works that I could produce in my own studio. But that quickly went out the window as the project evolved into something a lot more interesting. I’m recording songs with up to 30 tracks of guitar parts, orchestrated with keyboard and sequencing, not counting the tracks I had recorded and then tossed aside. The music has an orchestral sound, but composed with just a handful of instruments. I’d compare the process to painting. Not simply adding one layer over the other, but constantly mixing those layers to create new colors and shapes, to the point where the finished painting has several complete paintings hidden under the surface.

mwe3: I notice in the “New Age” music world of 2020, that Zone Music Reporter is very highly regarded. What do you think of ZMR and I also noticed that Sirius XM played This Is Where I Found You on their Spa Channel. That is interesting. Do you find that satellite radio stations like Sirius is a good way to spread the work about music? Are there actual people there who you can talk with?

Carl Weingarten: ZMR is a great organization that specializes in the New Age market and helps artists connect with New Age radio programmers. I’ve gone to several of their annual concert and awards events in New Orleans. Panomorphia won Best Groove/Chill CD in 2012, and Life Under Stars was nominated in 2018 for Best Instrumental CD. Sirius and other syndicated networks, like Echoes, reach millions of listeners internationally. And we see some royalties too.

The relationships between DJs and musicians used to be stronger, but once you get to the corporate or streaming media level, it becomes impersonal. So as for Sirius, I have no direct connection. In fact the Pandora offices are down the street from where I work in Oakland, but they won’t even allow musicians to visit their office to deliver music. Which is why I value the direct connections I do have with a number of independent stations and programmers I can write or call directly, friends like John Diliberto and others, who have featured our music since the beginning.

mwe3: You worked with some brilliant musicians on This Is Where I Found You and there’s also a great female vocalist, Tate Bissinger singing wordless vocals on the first track, “Sing Like Water”.

Carl Weingarten: Tate is a professional bay area choir singer, who has toured and performed internationally. She’s a recent graduate of the Mills College music program. I’ve always liked choral music, but mostly through baroque and byzantine. I’d seen Tate and her sister Reece perform with the Piedmont Choir, and the music grew on me, but it never occurred to me that I could explore that music myself. That started to change a couple of years ago when a visiting choir from Estonia came and Tate brought in two of the singers to record in my studio. They were absolutely captivating. We recorded several songs, including a traditional piece where I had Michael Manring add bass.

mwe3: You always have great album titles for your albums and This Is Where I Found You is a quite interesting name for an album. Is there a story behind the album name and the intriguing album cover art?

Carl Weingarten: It’s an expression of discovery, of finding something new. The photo is by German photographer Anja Bührer. I loved her photos of children at play, and for kids everything is new and exciting, and her images capture that.

mwe3: How did you work with Pat Duffey's acoustic guitars on the new album? Is that the first time you worked with Pat and how did his guitar sound pair with yours. He’s on quite a few of the nine tracks on This Is Where I Found You.

Carl Weingarten: I’ve known Pat and his wife Billie for about 10 years. Pat is a veteran bay area jazz, blues and rock guitarist. He and Billie, who plays bass have several bands they tour with. Pat is a talented and versatile guitarist and is super easy to work with. Pat and I both have roots in the blues, but my playing has an atonal edge, while Pat tends to cut straight ahead in his tone and phrasing. I like his playing and he added a lot to the music.

mwe3: Kit Walker played quite a bit on This Is Where I Found You. What did Kit bring to the album?

Carl Weingarten: Kit is a great player and arranger and his synth parts complimented not only the melodies, but brightened the tone of the music.

mwe3: Synths and acoustic guitars seem an ideal and sonorous way to enhance your e-bow and slide work.

Carl Weingarten: The e-bow is a brilliant instrument, but it’s an unmistakable, if obvious sound no matter who uses it. So I use it sparingly these days, mostly to add color or create harmonics. I prefer to push the amp or use compression pedals for my lead guitar tones.

mwe3: Peter Calandra also adds synths on a track and a co-writing credit too. How long have you known Pete and how did he enhance the sound of This Is Where I Found You and did you record him and the other players live in the studio or was tracking done remotely?

Carl Weingarten: Peter wrote me when he and his wife were considering a move to the West Coast. He came over to my place and we had a great visit, mostly about music we both liked, and his work as a composer and soundtrack producer. I later sent him the tracks for a song we discussed, and he finished his parts in New York, not only playing keyboards but arranging too.

mwe3: You also have the trusted Bay Area superstars, Celso Alberti, Jeff Oster, Michael Manring too. Are those guys still your go-to session players? How are they doing these days? I think they must be getting more popular by now!

Carl Weingarten: The guys are great. Celso is a renaissance man. He plays drums for several groups and has been the sound engineer for Dave Weckl’s tours. They’re all extremely busy, but Manring, Oster and I also have a space-jazz trio called Blue Eternity. We play a few times a year, usually at planetarium events, where we play in the dark under a star show.

mwe3: Ulrich Schnauss also adds synths to a track. How did you meet Ulrich and what did he bring to the album sound?

Carl Weingarten: We met totally by chance. Ulrich had found an old order form online for some of my early albums. The link still worked so his order popped up in my Paypal. I didn’t recognize his name at first, but it sounded familiar, so I did a search, found him and remembered that I actually had of one his CDs, which I really liked. I emailed him and he told me that he had been listening to my early Multiphase vinyl and cassettes as he was growing up.

Ulrich is a master electronic musician. His work speaks for itself. He’s got a full working life of commercial production work and as a member of Tangerine Dream. He generously played on one track for This Is Where I Found You, and we are now several tracks in to producing a collaborative CD.

mwe3: Tell us what guitars you played on the new album as there’s both electric, acoustic and tell us about your Traveler guitar and how does it compare with your other guitars.

Carl Weingarten: I have a custom made electric Sweetwood guitar. My trusty Alpha electric (Gibson Studio replica) finally became untrusty after 30 years of music making and is now proudly retired. I also an electric Eastwood guitar that Henry Kaiser gave me, a Regal dobro, steel resonator guitar and a Recording King parlor acoustic. I used the traveler guitar for some of the early material on This Is Where I Found You. It has a punchy midrange tone that’s like a mandolin.

mwe3: Were the guitars amped or did you record DI?

Carl Weingarten: I’ll go DI if I’m using an effect or delay that I want in stereo. Or just a clean tone. Sometimes I’ll run two channels out of my rig, sending one to the DI and the other to the amp. My main amp is an enhanced Fender Blues Junior. We built a layer of isolation into my studio walls, so I can really turn up in there to record. After several decades of pedal produced guitar tones, I’ve come to discover the sacred art of mastering amp volume and tone. It’s hard to beat good tube amplification.

mwe3: You also recently reissued a double CD set pairing your 2002 and 2005 albums Escapesilence and Local Journeys. Seems like a long time ago, yet the albums still sound great. Why reissue them now and how do you reflect back on those albums from back in the day?

Carl Weingarten: Looking back, there were several CDs I did over the years where one followed another as a progression. Escapesilence and Local Journeys were two of them. Both small group recordings featuring the dobro. I’ll be reissuing more CDs as two-for-one packages, including The Acoustic Shadow with Blue Faith, Slide of Hand with Redwood Melodies.

mwe3: I read my 2004 review of Hand In The Sand, which was a 16-track collection that featured a couple tracks from the then upcoming Local Journeys where I called you a cross between Leo Kottke, Ry Cooder and Robert Fripp! Was there any remastering or remixing on the double CD reissue?

Carl Weingarten: No remixing on this reissue, but others will have some remastering and include previously unreleased material.

mwe3: Have you figured out how many solo albums you have released so far? Amazing that it all goes back to the early 1980s when you consider the Delay Tactics releases. Of course this predates the internet and all the bells and whistles that came along with it!

Carl Weingarten: As far as official releases, I count about 30 titles where I was the artist, producer or a collaborator.

mwe3: Is there going to be a box set at some point and are all your album still-in-print if that term is even valid anymore? I mean on CD of course.

Carl Weingarten: At some point I’d like to release a box set that has all the 1980s Multiphase albums and cassettes, along with the very best of the music we never got to release, plus artwork and a thorough history of the label, the whole nine yards. In the mean time several of the early titles are being reissued on vinyl by two U.K. labels, Emotional Rescue and Azure Vista Records. Emotional Rescue reissued Dreaming In Colors last year and we’re waiting for them to release a compilation of the Delay Tactics on vinyl, and then follow with a reissue of Windfalls sometime next year. Azure Vista reissued Living In The Distant Present last year as well.

mwe3: We were talking in 2016 about the pitfalls of the music business model as we move into the roarings '20s, starting in the third decade of the 21st century. Is there too much emphasis on style over content these days? I grew up in the 1960s when all we had was the weekly edition of Billboard magazine, which basically was the only way to even know what was going on outside of Top 40 AM radio. I don't even know if there were jazz radio stations in NYC during the 1960s. lol

Carl Weingarten: I went through a box of old independent music magazines and indie journals from the pre internet days. Magazines like OP, Option, New York Rocker and others. Aside from the articles, even the ads show what a vibrant scene it was.

I think it’s safe to say the internet has not turned out as the utopia that was originally predicted. Where the music business is concerned, it rapidly accelerated the speed of marketing, being able to reach more people in a very short period, as compared to traditional press and radio. Up to that point, it used to take a lot of work to promote a new recording, which was all done through the post office, telephone calls, live shows and word of mouth. The internet made all of the above too easy, and now the market is over saturated.

It also goes to why the record store concept is still thriving. It’s one of the few places where music lovers can go where much of the music universe is laid out right in front of them in rows of bins.

mwe3: So now with your finest album out, what is the plan to follow This Is Where I Found You? I hope you can follow this one as it’s going to be a hard act to follow...

Carl Weingarten: I’m very excited about the project I’m recording now, the one I mentioned before where I’m playing most everything myself. This one picks up where This Is Where I found You left off. I hope to release it this coming spring.




 

 
   
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