pop mavens The Jigsaw Seen can always be counted on for making
a tasty pop album. Even with such a note-perfect repertoire of releases
in The Jigsaw Seen back catalog, no one was expecting this much solid
pop goodness on their 2014 album Old Man Reverb.
Reverb will never get old and to prove the point, The Jigsaw Seen
cranks their amps to nine and delivers ten future pop classics. The
songs of group vocalist Dennis Davison really spring to life
on this album and Dennis gets solid support from his band mates Jonathan
Lea (guitars), Tom Currier (bass) and Teddy Freese (drums).
There's a number of potential hit singles here but every track has
something to offer on what will surely be looked upon as one of the
best pop albums of the decade. Both Davison and Lea chalk up some
impressive production work here and both are master instrumentalists,
with Lea handling all manners of electric guitars including vibrato
guitar, tremolo guitar, baritone guitar, leslie guitar and e-bow guitars,
while Davison adds even more color to his songs with all types of
keyboards including mellotron and chamberlin and clavinet. Another
amazing thing here is the Old Man Reverb album packaging, which
is far-out and unexpected and fits in quite well with the bands
other CD package designs. One of the best 21st century pop albums
in the finest spirit of late 1960s psych-pop classics from Lee Michaels,
The Byrds and Love, Old Man Reverb is certain to be on every
music critics list of best pop albums of 2014. Somewhere in
heaven Arthur Lee is smiling down on The Jigsaw Seen. www.TheJigsawSeen.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
Dennis Davison and Jonathan Lea of
THE JIGSAW SEEN
The Jigsaw Seen releases are often complex affairs, from the music
all the way to the titles of your albums and album packaging. Can
you offer some insights into the relationship between those three
components, from the music to how you choose the album titles and
the packaging, especially as it applies to the 2014 CD release of
Old Man Reverb?
Jonathan Lea: We've had the album title for quite a while and
it seemed to represent this group of songs well. For the packaging,
I decided to consider Old Man Reverb an imaginary model of
a Fender amp, like a Super Reverb or a Twin Reverb,
so the package incorporates elements of a late '60s Fender silverface
amp: volume knob, faceplate, footswitch, tubes and speaker. The vinyl
edition displays the concept best with the CD spindle on the front
of the LP jacket.
Davison: We look at it as a cohesive work of art. The songs, the
arrangements, the album artwork etc. are all parts of the whole concept.
Its too tempting for people to get music for free. You have
to make an album compelling so that people are willing to buy it.
mwe3: The lead off song on your new CD Old Man Reverb, Let
There Be Reverb is kind of like the albums overture in
Dennis Davison: The album title is something that Jonathan
has had for a few years. It is a play on "Old Man River"
and when I sat down to write "Let There Be Reverb" I kept
that in mind. There are some Phil Spector references in the song as
well. Music and nature are the two main themes of Old Man Reverb
and this song brings them together.
Idiots With Guitars is rather scathing. Is it pointed
at anyone in particular? I heard its about the L.A. music scene.
What do you like best about L.A. and whats worst about it?
Jonathan Lea: A lot of musicians in L.A. seem to have an actor's
mentality and are very backstabbing, bitter and resentful. I'm not
sure what the worst thing is.
Dennis Davison: I did write a song years ago that we recorded
called "Another Predictable Song". It was more along those
lines, but "Idiots" is mostly self-referential. It probably
helps to be a little thick if youre considering
pursuing a career in the music biz.
mwe3: Is Die Laughing really about AIDS? You mention
Tom Currier (bass) adds some ABBA like piano at the end. Coming to
think of it, it does have a little ABBA in it!
Dennis Davison: Yes, "Die Laughing" is about AIDS.
More specifically, I guess its about people dying from doing
things that bring them pleasure. I think the Abba-esque piano and
glammy guitars are the perfect compliment to the lyric.
mwe3: Understand sounds like a Who b-side from
1977. Great guitar lines take the lead on the 2nd verse. It has that
Townshend inspired psychological lyrics my controls have
been jammed, I could use a helping hand Its a love
song right? Sounds like it could be a hit in Japan or something. Speaking
of Townshend, has he heard the Jigsaw Seen albums? I dont see
how he could have missed them, especially the amazing Jigsaw Seen
cover of Tattoo.
Lea: I've stood next to Mr. Townshend at a bar, behind him in
line for a cab and even passed him in a hotel hallway - he said hi
- but I've never had a conversation with him so I don't know what
he thinks of us.
Dennis Davison: Its about asking someone to put up with
you when things arent going so well. Maybe we could get some
teen J-Pop superstar to cover it! Pete Townshend must be really mad
at us for something, because we never hear from him.
mwe3: For the guitar fans, can you tell us some of the guitars
youre featuring on the Old Man Reverb album?
Jonathan Lea: Generally, for dirty sounds I used my Pete Townshend
model SG through a 20-watt Marshall amp and for clean sounds I used
my Epiphone Casino though a Fender Deluxe but other guitars and amps
were also used. I played a baritone guitar on three songs and used
an E-bow on a couple. For effects I used numerous Uni-Vibe
type pedals and my beloved Admiral Girth outboard unit for tremolo
mwe3: Was We Women influenced by The Stooges? Is
that song The Jigsaw Seen at their most primal? Why am I thinking
Stones circa 1968? Will there really be a doo-wop version planned
Davison: Yes, definitely. I always had the Stooges in mind for
this one. They were a major influence on me when I was a teenager
and I still occasionally dip into that rancid well! We always reserve
a spot or two for something primal on our albums.
Jonathan Lea: Twenty years ago we recorded an almost identical
version to the one on Old Man Reverb but didn't release it.
For the longest time, we've planned a doo-wop arrangement... 2023
can't come soon enough for me.
mwe3: Madame Whirligig is the most psychedelic
sounding track on Old Man Reverb and I can almost hear Neil
Young singing it. Another track with the mellotron nicely upfront
in the mix. Seems like an interlude with a series of motifs merged.
Tell us about your mellotron and chamberlain or is it all done with
computers these days?
Jonathan Lea: Dennis actually owns a digital Mellotron which
also includes the Chamberlin sounds so no computerization was involved.
Dennis Davison: This was one of those songs that is brief and
simple in the structure, but complex as far as the arrangement goes.
An interlude with a series of motifs merged is a good description.
I have a digital mellotron. A guy in Sweden makes them now. It looks
exactly like the old mellotrons. It also has the Chamberlin sounds.
First I thought Hercules And Sylvia was a country music
song. Then I found out its really about two gorillas in the
zoo! Do you like writing about odd things as much as writing
love songs or pointed social statements?
Dennis Davison: I just have to go with where my brain takes
me. I write about things that interest me and I like exploring subject
matter that no one else has tackled or just doing it so differently
that its not recognizable.
mwe3: I was thinking that track 8 on Old Man Reverb, Your
Mind Is Like Mine is like the ultimate love song. Key line:
Theres so much to do and so precious little time...
Its definitely the most 1960's sounding song on the Old
Man Reverb album. I could see The Left Banke and even The Cyrkle
Dennis Davison: Thank you so much. This is probably the most
straight forward song on the album and its definitely a love
song. Weve been playing this song live for years and finally
got around to recording it.
Lea: We actually dumped the electric 12-string guitars I originally
recorded and replaced them with acoustic guitars to make it sound
mwe3: How about some of those great projects you were involved
with back in the mid 1990s such as the Bee Gees tribute
CD and the Mancini tribute? And what other tribute or side projects
have you been involved in that you're the most proud of.
Jonathan Lea: Dennis and I produced the compilation Melody
Fair, Songs Of The Bee Gees which was released in 1994. The Jigsaw
Seen recorded the title track, which, amazingly, still gets radio
play 20 years later. For the Mancini album, Shots In The Dark,
Del-Fi Records commissioned us to record Baby Elephant Walk
which became a CMJ Top 50 hit.
Dennis Davison: Jonathan and I produced and compiled Melody
Fair: Songs of the Bee Gees by... We also produced Sing Hollies
In Reverse. They were fun to do for the most part. There was an
interview at the time where Maurice Gibb talked about the Melody
mwe3: Also from Old Man Reverb, Abide sounds
like a Spaghetti Western theme song to a long lost Clint Eastwood
movie. Must be that baritone guitar! Sounds like Ennio Morricone meets
Frankie Laine via Hank Marvin. How influenced were you by both Morricone
and Hank Marvin?
Lea: I wasn't familiar with The Shadows when I was growing up
except for their appearance in Thunderbirds Are Go so
I wasn't really influenced by Hank Marvin. I love his sound and also
the Morricone soundtracks so I'm glad we got to use some of those
sounds on this track.
Dennis Davison: Its the oldest song on the album. I actually
wrote it in the early 1980s. My father was a big Frankie Laine
fan, so naturally "Abide" was his favorite song of mine.
The Jigsaw Seen used to perform this song live in the early days of
the band. Morricone was definitely an influence on this one.
mwe3: Is the album closing Grief Rehearsal the
showpiece on the Old Man Reverb album? You say its influenced
by Gene Clark and Jimmy Webb. What are your favorite Gene and Jimmy
Dennis Davison: I think it would have been a hard one to follow.
Thats why we sequenced it last on the album. I wouldnt
say that the song was influenced by Gene Clark or Jimmy Webb, but
the arrangement, instrumentation and the general vibe of the recording
reminded us of those two guys. Jonathans guitar parts are great
and we even managed to get Teddy to play with brushes! The string
part is Chamberlin.
Lea: There's so many fantastic Gene Clark songs, a few of my favorites
are She Don't Care About Time, The World Turns All
Around Her and Echoes. The great Jimmy Webb songs
By The Time I Get To Phoenix and Wichita Lineman
obviously influenced the sound of Grief Rehearsal.
mwe3: So whats planned next for The Jigsaw Seen in 2014
and 2015? What other musical mountains are you planning to climb next?
Jonathan Lea: Dennis and I have remixed our version of The
Kinks' This Is Where I Belong for an upcoming album to
benefit The Pete Quaife Foundation that also includes tracks by Paul
Weller and Noel Gallagher. We hope to tour and record our next album
Dennis Davison: I think the next album needs to be a departure
from what weve done in the past. We havent
mapped out a plan yet. Old Man Reverb is our fourth album since
2010, so we might want to keep up the pace of an album a year. A lot
of people seem to discover our catalog all at once, which couldnt
have happened in the pre-internet days.
Thanks to Dennis Davison and Jonathan Lea at