Running in the BIG STIR family … KAI DANZBERG, TRIP WIRE & IN DEED



KAI DANZBERG (Hanover, Germany) who has just released his new album Not Only Sunshine on Big Stir Records:


For every song you record, how many end up in the bin? 


When Iʼm working on an album I always set the goal to at least have 15 songs to choose from. For Not Only Sunshine I had 17 songs finished but was actually working on about 35 tracks, all of which had very different final forms. Some of them were only one minute long… some of them were complete instrumental tracks with no vocals. Itʼs different with any song Iʼm working on. A lot of my 2018 works ended up in the bin. But there was a lot of stuff which was just not ready for release. Those, I will probably release as singles or I will keep them for my fourth album.




With every song you write, are you still learning to become an even better songwriter? 


Definitely. Within the last 2 years, I especially caught myself paying more attention to details. Sometimes I re-record vocals because I feel like there is one word which isnʼt the right one. Same goes for the instrumentation, especially when it comes to the mixing process. When I wrote the title track “Not Only Sunshine”, I had it all recorded. It was nearly finished. But then I realized that I had imagined that song completely differently in my head before I recorded it. That first version I did had the same tempo, the same vocals, and rhythm. But it was way louder with distorted guitars and different (and also louder) drums. If it had been 5 years ago I would probably have released it like that. But I ended up recording it all again. The final song has more of an acoustic feel to it. Even the drums are played with brushes, though those are virtual drums.


As an artist, you choose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so? 


There was a time when I refused to write sad songs. Thatʼs because when I started to do music I was a teenager who had a lot of depression. Back then a lot of people told me that my songs were too sad. People were asking me why I didn’t try to write some happy songs. So for a long time, I refused to write sad stuff. But I don’t believe it’s right to think like that. When I became older I learned that it doesn’t matter if your songs are sad, happy, aggressive or whatever. To me, itʼs only important to be honest. I donʼt feel uncomfortable with that at all. Of course… sometimes you write stuff which seems mo than it actually is. But in the end, I decide what to release and what not. Just be yourself.




Playing music in front of a crowd. Whatʼs all the fun about? 


I used to have a lot of fun on stage, long ago. Since the age of 15, I’ve suffered from a panic disorder which causes massive stage fright for me. The last time I gave a show as a solo artist was at the age of 17. I have to admit, it was not fun. I felt uncomfortable throughout the whole show. I definitely want to go back on stage – that’s a dream of mine. Unfortunately, I cannot guess when I’ll be ready for that.


Any ideas about how to turn this one into a million seller? 


Sure, get a sweet teen boy (he should be able to dance), listen to the popular music and create a similar song with a standard 4-chord progression, make sure he can sing falsetto. Now get him on a poster from the next big Teen Magazine. Done. He will be successful until he turns 21 😉 Okay, let me be serious now. Of course, there are ways to produce songs which have a bigger chance to turn into a Number One hit. If you listen to radio nowadays theyʼll probably play 5 songs in a row which all sound nearly the same. The reason for that is that the masses like melodies they are familiar with. So if I take that mainstream music as an example, I can for sure get more attention. But for me, the highest priority is that I LIKE MY MUSIC. If I one day choose to write a trashy German punk album, Iʼll probably do it. I have a book where I write down all my ideas and lyrics. The first thing I wrote in that book is “As long as you’re being authentic, people will see you”. I think that explains it all.




TRIP WIRE (San Francisco, CA) has just released their fourth album Once & Always on Big Stir Records. The band’s MARTY SCHNEIDER answers this round of questions!


For every song you record, how many end up in the bin? 


In thinking it over, none!  I do start on songs and hit dead ends but I just put them aside for a while and all of a sudden I have another song that’s hit a dead end and I realize that it would work well with the other one and I sew them together.  It can take years for that to occur but it almost always has.  Some of the songs on this record came about that way.  Bottle Rocket, for instance, the chorus and bridge were sewn into the verses which had been laying around for a decade.




Listen HERE

With every song you write, are you still learning to become an even better songwriter?

Yes, absolutely.  One of the things I’ve done to get better is either join other bands with people whose songs I admire or ask them to join mine and in learning their writing style I grab the best ideas and incorporate them into my writing.  For example, I joined Ari Vais’ The Campbell Apartment to learn from him and I asked Jeff Shelton from The Well Wishers to join us and have learned things from him.  I get song arrangement ideas that way but lately, I have been working with a local poet named Julie Kramer who has allowed me to incorporate her poems into my songs.  The imagery she creates is something I would have never landed on myself so I am learning to get better that way too.


As an artist, you chose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?


God no, that’s the main reason it took a while to get good and why I’m still doing it, I got a late start.  When I first learned to play I drove my car to a remote location and sang and played in the back seat so there was no chance anyone would hear!  I also have been in bands with fairly critical guys who took every opportunity to let you know you just wrote something lame.  You just have to power through the criticism, it helps to develop a thick skin and drive you to do better.



Any ideas about how to turn this one into a million seller?


Get younger and prettier really quickly.

What’s the gig you will always remember? And why?


Well-timed question, we just played it.  We participated in a benefit show to raise money for an old friend who had major surgery last year.  He’s a music lifer who plays guitar with The Bye Bye Blackbirds and teaches guitar, bass, and drums for a living.  I’ve played in bands with him in the past as well.  We played the Bottom of the Hill here in San Francisco, which has one of the best sound systems and sound engineers anywhere, the crowd was large and enthusiastic and we played well.  It was a good gig all around.  I also opened a show for YouAmI, a band I very much admire, so that was pretty great too.

When was the last time you thought ‘I just wrote a hit!’?


Every time, Patrick. C’mon!

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?


I think both are equally easy.  However, if you add the caveat getting heard “by a lot of people” that’s a different story.  Recording has gotten much more accessible but writing and recording a good song is still pretty difficult.

Which 5 records, that everybody forgot about, would define ‘our time’ on earth?


I better not try to define our time, most of my friends are pretty passionate about music and I don’t want to argue with them later but I know what defined my time…The Beatles Revolver, The Rolling Stones Hot Rocks 1964-1971, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Damn the Torpedoes, Guided by Voices Alien Lanes and R.E.M. Life’s Rich Pageant.  Son Volt Straightaways and Wilco A.M. are runners up. (See what I did there?  You can’t pin a music lover down to just 5 records)

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?


It’s how band members interpret their parts on my songs so that it changes them from what I would do to what we would do.  That being said, every song I bring to the band I write all the parts in a demo and fight with myself over which part I think I can’t live without.  In the end, and about 9 times out of 10, what the others guys do makes the song better.

Playing music in front of a crowd. What’s all the fun about?


We recently played one of our best shows to 4 people who were having a conversation about something unrelated to our performance and it was fun because I was with my friends in the band, we played absolutely perfectly because there was nothing left to lose and it was fun.  The other side of the coin is that show where the crowd is large and they’re paying attention and responding.  In other words, I love it all!

Always proud to answer ‘I am a musician’ to the question ‘what are you doing?’?


Yes, but at our age (don’t ask) the response and body language can be interesting.  It goes from slight shock to confusion to judgy in about 15 seconds.

You can’t control the way people ‘hear’ your music. But if you could make them aware of certain aspects, you think, set your songs apart. What would they be?


Harmony vocals without a doubt.  Not just any band can do it, we’ve got good harmony singers and everything I do or have done for the last 5 years has been focusing on harmony.  I love the way it sounds and I can’t do it, so it being out of reach makes me admire those who can.  On Jeff’s and Bill’s songs I always feel bad that I can’t contribute in that way in the live setting, especially since they do it for me live.  I’m lucky that way I guess.




IN DEED (Uppsala, Sweden) is poised to release a brand new CD edition of their album Everest on Big Stir Records. RICHARD (guitar, vocals) and LINDA (lead vocals) of the band chime in for the interview!


As an artist, you chose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?


Richard Öhrn: I don’t think it is. There are some lyrics that we decided not to write because of that. It is good, to be honest, but if that also might result in someone being hurt, there is a reason to think twice. And just because you are a so-called artist, it isn’t necessary to show your emotions. It’s about good music, good songs. Not that showing emotions is wrong, though!



What’s the gig you will always remember? And why?


Linda Karlsberg: Sometimes you remember the situations before and after the gig the best. In the early days of In Deed we had a Hammond organ when playing live. It was heavy – very heavy! — and every gig night ended with us carrying this Hammond organ down narrow stairs into a cellar. Wouldn’t think of doing that today!


When was the last time you thought ‘I just wrote a hit!’?


Richard Öhrn: Not very long ago, I found an old demo of an unfinished song I’d forgotten about, but when I heard it, I felt ”wow, that is actually really good…even hit-good.” But even though you have that feeling, that’s just the beginning of the long road: to make up an arrangement that will bring out the best in the song, and to perform as well as possible while recording it, and then…the whole process of promoting and making it available to a wider audience. There must be so many unheard hits on this planet just because of errors somewhere along that line.





Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?


Richard Öhrn: Definitely, yes. Recording can be done anywhere/anyhow and still generate a really professional result thanks to the good-enough equipment available at low cost these days. Getting it heard is another matter. You need a lot of knowledge, a great base of contacts (and the right ones), and timing…and you’ll even need coincidences totally out of your control to be fortunate, I believe.


Always proud to answer ‘I am a musician’ to the question ‘what are you doing?’?


Richard Öhrn: I don’t really say that I am (a musician) since my main profession is something else. But sometimes I realize that other people define you as a musician above all else, and that makes me really proud. If that’s how people see me, I’m ok with it, it’s quite cool.







Since last year, a lot has happened. You will probably have enjoyed the whole ride but can you share some highlights?


It’s quite difficult to nail down just a few highlights because there have been so many!  Aside from building the website, being granted the Big Stir trademark and launching the legitimate Big Stir Records business in May of 2018, we’ve had the honor of booking, playing gigs with and releasing the LPs, CDs, and singles of a myriad of brilliantly talented all original artists and bands – all worth listening to and collecting their catalog. Here is just a partial list:


Recent and upcoming releases: Kai Danzberg (Germany), Trip Wire, In Deed (Sweden), Amoeba Teen (UK), The Armoires, Anton Barbeau, Plasticsoul, The Condors, Spygenius (UK), Blake Jones & The Trike Shop, Addison Love, Leslie Pereira & The Lazy Heroes.


Bands who’ve played the Big Stir Live series along with all the bands listed above: The Records (such an honor!), Arthur Alexander Band, The Kariannes, The Walker Brigade, The Ex Teens, The Fast Camels (Scotland), The Stanleys (Australia), Anny Celsi & Nelson Bragg, the breakups, The Living Dolls, Joe Normal & The Anytown’rs, Brandon Schott, EZ Tiger, The Bobbleheads, The Forty Nineteens, Rockford, Ballzy Tomorrow, Modaferri, Walter Clevinger, Manual Scan, Lannie Flowers, Danny Wilkerson, Popdudes, Michael Simmons, The Korner Laughers, Rebecca Schiffman, Sitcom Neighbor, Mod Hippie, Jason Berk, Jeremy Morris Band, The World Record, Maple Mars, Nick Frater (UK), Picturebox (UK), Merit Badge, Anton Barbeau, Charms Against the Evil Eye (UK), Shplang, Doctors & Engineers, 13 Frightened Girls, Hux & The Hitmen, Toxic Melons, Russ Tolman, Trotsky Icepick, Rob Bonfiglio, Chris Price, and more…  Every one of those listed deserves to have at least one “million-seller” and we hope anyone reading this dives into their music and finds their new favorite band!


It was also exciting to launch our own Big Stir Digital Singles series, which includes many of the above-mentioned artists! The first 12 singles will be released on a compilation CD on April 19th, as Big Stir Singles; The First Wave. We’re proud of the series because it catches some of the terrific of-the-moment online releases, which are too often lost in the blink-and-you-miss-it pace of social media, and it features artists well beyond our own roster who are part of the wider pop community… and they’ve all brought their very best to the series. We’re delighted to have an online “event” every Friday and give these songs a proper, permanent home on CD!


In working with the amazingly talented artist Joseph Champniss of London, UK on publishing our Big Stir Magazine, we’ve discovered that people all over the world enjoy the creative and playful nature of what we like to put forth, and we couldn’t be more thrilled! We’re in the process of compiling articles and artwork for Issue 4. Past issues include interviews with Robyn Hitchcock, Martin Newell, and Pat Fish (The Jazz Butcher), as well as the artwork, writings, and ramblings from many of us within the Big Stir realm and beyond. Author of Shake Some Action 2.0, John Borack, has an ongoing column, as well as does David Bash of International Pop Overthrow Festival fame. Bloggers, Radio DJs, and Record Shop owners also contribute stories and musings. It’s a labor of love and a whole lot of fun!


And lastly, a major highlight for The Armoires as a band has been collaborating with many great musicians in contributing bits and bobs on our upcoming album. Even Matthew Seligman of The Soft Boys played bass on one of our songs! We got to view our own record as a party with all of our friends invited and they brought so much to it… we’re really eager to share it.


The music industry is redefining itself or has been for a while now. Is Big Stir part of that redefinition?


Because the music industry had become so fragmented and the works and performances of so many talented and hard-working bands were going virtually unnoticed for various reasons, “Big Stir Live” was born out of a desperate need for community and solidarity, giving like-minded musicians a forum in which they could perform together… an event, rather than a half-hour gig, sandwiched between the rapster and the metal band. The Big Stir brand eventually took on a life of its own, evolving into a record label and magazine publisher, continuing to stitch the global community together.


In terms of the redefinition of the music industry, we’ve tended to defy conventional wisdom and follow our heart and soul instincts regarding community and the idea that the artists within it are stronger together rather than working in a vacuum. Everyone needs the support they deserve and we try to offer as much of it as we can to all of the people we believe in.


You are all over social media and you really found your tone of voice. Happy?


That’s interesting because “tone” is really subjective, and it’s often hard to know how you’re coming across, especially to an international audience! We strive to always be positive and boost the artists we love and to also be supportive of the many wonderful DJs and bloggers (such as yourself) who keep this music alive. And it’s important for there to be a bit of whimsy and inclusive clowning around between the musicians on the scene, too. It’s a delicate line and jokes can be misinterpreted, but we aim to be welcoming and make it feel like fans are listening in on, and able to join, a party where their favorite bands are talking shop about songwriting and recording and gigging… maybe we’re comparing who has the best paisley shirt, or what our favorite influential records are. For our genre and our “demographic” there’s no point in artists striking an aloof or “badass” pose, but equally you don’t want to see someone with the attitude of “well, here’s some song I made, probably nobody cares”… in between there’s a place where the creators can be joyful, even exuberant about the work they’re creating and really engage with each other’s songs and recordings. We like to keep the discourse right in that sweet spot.


We’ve got a bit of visual flair courtesy of Champniss and one of our favorite things is, after each Big Stir live show, being able to post a “yearbook photo” where you’ll be able to see bands you know from California, Texas, Scotland, Australia, or wherever else this music is made, all hanging out together looking like they’re friends having a great time, because guess what? They are! And we want our fans to feel like they’re a part of it. For all the negatives that social media can often exhibit, that’s a really positive picture to put out there that’s truly “social”, and it warms our hearts.




What does it mean when you ‘sign’ a band?


At the onset of forming the label, the core artists who made up our initial roster were already a sort of collective via the live scene and we just banded together organically. We were all putting our releases out on Big Stir Records to consolidate promotion and sales, but also to support each other under a single umbrella. It took on a life of its own and to be honest, no two artists have come to us the same way. Take Addison Love: we knew him as a member of Yorktown Lads and Popdudes and he quite casually mentioned that he had finished an album, and we asked him if there was any reason NOT to release it with us, and he said “great, send me the logo and catalog number”, and off we went! We’ve never met In Deed from Sweden in person, but they happened to get in touch with us after David Bash of IPO mentioned us to them – we are usually a little reserved about bands we haven’t seen live because that’s how we usually connect. But right when they got in touch we were driving from LA to San Francisco for a gig as The Armoires so we popped the IPO compilation into the CD player and their track happened to be the first song we heard, and we were in love instantly. Great friends from the live scene like Leslie Pereira & the Lazy Heroes, they’ll just casually mention that they’re getting ready to do a record and we’ll say “yes!” before they even get to ask.


Spygenius from the UK had become dear friends of ours but were probably a year or more from their next release. However, their previous album ‘Pacephale’ hadn’t really been released in the US, we loved it, and we figured out a way to make it a “Big Stir” release without even re-pressing it. It was as simple as that, and we’re glad we did because they’re such a cornerstone artist, part of the family from almost the start. From then to now where we have actual contracts with artists and facilitate pressing, even on vinyl, it seems like such a long road… in reality it’s barely been two years! The short story is, just as every artist is different, so are the stories of how they join our family.





If dreams come true, what is the dream you would like to dream?


The dream we would like to dream is the one where we gain enough exposure and sell enough music for all of our artists to be able to quit their day jobs and just live the life that fuels them creatively. They deserve that. The dream also includes a Big Stir live series happening every month all over the world… a touring circuit of sorts, where bands can play a gig, knowing they’ll be welcomed, supported, and on a bill with similar bands. We’re working on that!


We’ve been on an incredible learning-curve journey since we formed Big Stir Records and we hope it leads us to more airplay, more exposure, inventive marketing campaigns, getting our artists’ songs placed in film and television, booking college radio-circuit tours and well-paid international tours, and so much more.


After this year we think we will have taken our place among the great labels that serve up this music to those who already follow it – SpyderPop, Futureman, Kool Kat, Karma Frog, The Beautiful Music, and quite a few more – but we know this stuff can reach beyond this community. We’ve dropped a lot of names above, and every single one has tunes that could’ve been hits in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s or ’90s, and people still listen to those classics… they’re just trained to think that “nobody makes that kind of music anymore” so they’re out seeing tribute bands or subsisting on streaming oldies playlists. If we can catapult just one of these amazing artists into the mainstream consciousness, only good things can follow!



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