Vic Wayne talks in depth about how Star Collector’s beautiful new record ‘Attack, Sustain, Decay... Repeat’ came about.
Was it hard to work on ‘Game Day’s successor because of how intensely personal it was?
Well, that is certainly a fair question, Patrick. A lot of insanity and trauma led to the majority of ‘Game Day’, which was probably another reason I was a bit taken aback (happily, mind you) by how fully the power pop community embraced it. I suppose the influences that inform much of the music (The Jam, Big Star, The Who, etc.) might’ve made it easier to gloss over the introspective lyrical content, inherent chaos, and soul-searching, but, hey, that’s the beauty of music… we get out of it what we hear individually.
As for the new album, ‘Attack, Sustain, Decay… Repeat’, no, it wasn’t hard at all. A DJ friend of mine, Michael, and I were discussing the other day how an album is a representation of a moment in time and each one, therefore, kinda has its own life and uniqueness.
I also subscribe to that when it comes to songs. Each one is it’s own entity and I approach every lyric that way. I also think the band is experienced enough to go down the many paths we chose with confidence on ‘ASDR’ without worrying what anyone else might think.
Now, I’m not saying we weren’t hoping people would dig it. Of course, we’re always kids at Christmas when that happens, but as I was writing a 6+ minute psychedelic song like “If We Can’t Take A Joke” or the band was arranging a 2-minute nugget like the album closer, “Don’t Have To Fold”, it was simply, what do we feel is the song in its best form? If someone out there disagrees, no problem; to each his own, but as the band, we felt the songs ended up just as they were meant to be.
Funnily enough, even though ‘Game Day’ DID have a ton of personal stuff on it, ‘ASDR’ does as well. It’s got songs about everything from joy, love, loyalty and sex to fear, illness, revenge, aging, excess, and even murder. Maybe not prototypical power pop stuff, but certainly life stuff. Of course, as on every Star Collector album, there’s fair modicum of cowbell too, so there’s that… Haha.
‘Attack, Sustain, Decay … Repeat’ has a heavier sound than its predecessors. Was that a conscious choice at the beginning or did it happen while doing it?
It happened as the album began to take its shape. Each song, as mentioned, is written in its own bubble and then you sit back after you have a slew of them as assess the aural damage… haha. You hope they’ll work together as an album and, though we definitely stretched out further on some tangents this time, we feel it still sounds like us. It wasn’t conscious, it’s just the way this batch of songs turned out.
As to the idea that it has a heavier sound, that’s an interesting observation as ‘Game Day’ had “Super Zero Blues”, and ‘Flash-Arrows & The Money Shot’ had “Start To Shine”, for example, which I’d call pretty heavy. Of course, the guitars and bass are up front on ‘ASDR’ but there’s also 3 quieter tunes, including “Cross My Heart” which is only me and my acoustic, and a bunch of straight up power pop-ish rock tunes (“Feel It Comin’ On”, “Beat It To Death”, “Crashin’”, “Don’t Have To Fold”) but some of the others do push out into other directions. “The Back Of Your Head” is more STP-like, and “Halfway Home” which I thoroughly enjoyed writing with my brother, Adam (who played bass and sang all the harmonies on it) is almost like a Tom Petty meets Echo & The Bunnymen (a band we both adore) vibe.
And then there’s “Running Through The Rain” (where I really get to pull my Ian McCulloch bass voice – one day I’d like to voice wrestle Mac for the lowest note… winner gets to open for the Bunnymen! Haha).
On that song, we also have Paul Myers (an old friend and well-known musician, podcaster, filmmaker, and author of ‘Go All The Way’ – A Literary Appreciation of Power Pop) singing fantastic BGs along with another pal, Derek Macdonald, on organ and toy piano. I wrote that one with Ian Person of The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, which was sweet.
Here’s the story, Morning Glory: I’m wearing their t-shirt in our “Rip It Off” video and another DJ, Wayne, who lives in Sweden and was playing our stuff, said he knew Ian and played the vid for him; and he dug it. So, as we were starting to get songs together for ‘ASDR’, I suggested to Wayne that he connect me to Ian with the thought of writing together. He did… and presto, a few days later I received 2 unfinished demos that I loved, and thought would work well with our sound. I wrote lyrics and melodies, added a bridge here and there, and structured them, and came up with the finished version of “Running Through The Rain” and the first single, “Feel It Comin’ On”.
I can totally hear the TSOOL influence in them, which is why I like to co-write with people I respect; you get the combo of their thing and your thing. It’s the same when I listen to the songs I write with Steve; or the one I wrote with Kevin Kane (The Grapes of Wrath) on the ‘Flash-Arrows’ album; or the songs on our debut, ‘Demo Model 256’ that I wrote with childhood friend, Dave Lawson. Talented folks just bring their own innate musicality and approach, which is different than when I write alone.
Overall, sonically, on ‘ASDR’ I feel it’s just us pushing our own boundaries to see if we stretch or snap… and so far, with the exception of our drummer, Adrian’s impending back surgery, it’s the former…haha… just kidding. He’s too skinny to have back problems!
You’ve been making music for a long time. Is making music together and the fun that comes with it the driving force or do you also have something to prove to yourself? I ask because I feel the urgency and I was wondering where that came from. It’s a compliment by the way
Thank you for that. It’s definitely both, no question about it. Some lines from “Feel It Comin’ On” can answer that: “I’m going to play it out a long time; I ain’t no raindrop in the streetlights… A touch sentimental but I’ll be fine; I’m all or nothing by design”, well that right there is a bit of a personal introspection that covers my outlook and my need to express myself from my own unique standpoint (as are everyone’s, of course… “We’re all individuals!!.. “I’m not” – sorry, but any chance to quote Python).
Regarding “urgency”, that’s a very interesting word to put to the songs… I suppose, yes, there are songs about getting older (“Nineteen Dream”, “Don’t Have To Fold”) and some of the other topics mentioned earlier refer to difficult situations so I guess one might see it that way. I do know that if I died tomorrow, the songs I’ve written are a pretty good representation of my life and how I thought and felt about lots of stuff, but I don’t feel a sense of urgency, like I AM going to die tomorrow. I guess that’s back to the ear of the beholder again, but I do hear what you’re saying.
About the “making music together for fun” bit, well it was when I was a kid and it’s just as true now. Another line from “Feel It Comin’ On”: “I’m sticking to wide eyes”. Yep, I love creating, recording, performing, all of it… keeps me feeling youthful. And when you can do it with top-notch people like Steve (who I refer to as my second wife, it’s been so long… haha) and our outstanding rhythm section: Adrian, who’s coming up on 5 years with us shortly, and Tony (1.5 years), well you’ve hit the fucking
jackpot! Getting that confluence of personalities and talents together is no mean feat. I consider myself one lucky Canadian. And having my brother, Adam, along for the ride on bass and vocals these last couple of albums has just been the icing on the cake.
There are a few lines of text from “Black and Baby Blue” that immediately stand out to me. “You feel like a fool, underneath so much cool, But you shut your mouth, and pound by pound, you beat yourself black and baby blue”. How did the song come about?
That’s a very personal song I wrote about one of the few times in my life that I actually felt anxiety about, “what the fuck am I going to do next?” with my outside-of-music life. I’d worked the same day gig for many years and my whole department was dismantled in a very short time, fairly unceremoniously, but, hey, that’s life, isn’t it? Shit happens.
However, finding a new career path was harder than expected. I was at a crossroads and, quite unlike me in most other aspects and times of my life being the ‘bugger with the swagger’, was having real trouble deciding what’s next. But you know, like most guys, we try to cover up the hard inside stuff… “be a man” n’ all (hence the lyrics you quoted above) cause that’s how men are socialized. I eventually went back to school, got another degree and career, and figured it out with the help of my lovely, supportive wife, but in the interim, I was feeling “Black And Baby Blue”, pretty much word for word: “Well, that’s the price you pay for being so naïve; And where’s the magic when there’s nothing up your sleeve?”. Dark, I know, but there is light at the end with the refrain: “It’s never too late to start again”. I suppose that line could also be our band mantra about the looong break we took between our ‘Hundred-Bullet-Proof’ and ‘Game Day’ albums. Haha!.. but hey, what’s 15 years between friends??
Looking back at the creation of the new record, is there a moment that you can identify as most satisfying?
Hmmm…not any single moment, no. I know that when Steve and I wrote “Beat It To Death”, I felt we had a great track to build an album around, which was quite early in the process. I also know that when I finished the two songs with Ian, that was another big moment.
When Steve brought in the killer 70’s boot stompin’, arena rock riff of “Crashin’” I almost said “Nah”, and what a mistake that would’ve been as that turned into a showcase of the band embracing our Sweet, Cheap Trick, Sloan, hell, even Grand Funk-ness! which IS part of our DNA, so there’s a moment. Writing “Halfway Home” with Ad was special too. He’d toured with us and performed on our records but we hadn’t written a proper song together for decades.
There were too many excellent moments to count working with Adrian as he engineered, I produced, and the others would play these excellent parts (like Tony’s incredibly inventive spidery-bass parts in “The Back Of Your Head”, or Steve’s melodic solo in “Beat It To Death”, or Ad’s fantastic bass work in “If We Can’t Take A Joke”)… and we’d both just go, “WHOA!!”.
Seeing Steve’s finished video for “Feel It Comin’ On” was brilliant too as it’s flash, crash n’ bash in all the right places. I’d love for folks to check it out on our YouTube channel and subscribe. With every album, getting the CD version back with Steve’s always fab artwork is always satisfying too so no, no single moment, but lots of them!
In the end, we’re stoked with how ‘Attack, Sustain, Decay… Repeat’ turned out and no matter what reception it gets (fortunately, reviews have been very generous so far – happy face emoji), we’re proud of it. It showcases the many faces and influences of the writers, players and production team that made it. Oh, and, for the Record (see what I did there?), I’m hoping I DON’T die tomorrow!