Hey kind people of a mad world. If you do had already read some posts and interviews at this blog, you may have notice that Mineral is one of the most named bands around here. When I first listened Simpson' melodies and lyrics, I was really amazed. Since them, it's been more than ten years I've been trying to find his works. With the whole internet stuff, things are much easier now. He's been putting up some amazing music since 1994, leading Mineral, Gloria Record and his actual project, Zookeeper. I know it sounds a little bit cliché, but the man is one of my "musical heroes" since I remember enjoying music so much. So, when he accepted doing this interview, it just brought smile to my face. Hope you enjoy this as much as I:
* Sorry from bad English.
Hi, how are you? How is everything with Zookeeper clan?
Chris Simpson: Hi I am great. Things are good. I feel more like a kid keeper than a zookeeper these days. Me and my lady have 2 ½ years old twins and a 9-month old. I stay home with them most of the time and go to school (a few classes a semester) a few days a week. Somehow I still have found time to be thankful and celebrate by finishing a new record.
The song “Flood Of Love”, has so strong images. A lot of your songs work with images (like “When it's late at night and the house is blue”).Does it happen naturally or is something you always try to put in your lyrics?
Chris Simpson: I guess I like images too. I'm very visual. So maybe it just seems natural to me to write this way. I don't think it's anything I think too much about.
One doubt… Is Literature a thing that influences the way your write your lyrics? If so, could you recommend us some authors that you like?
Chris Simpson: Yes. I'm sure what I read influences the way I write. My favorites as far as fiction have been Hermann Hesse, Carlos Castaneda, Flannery O'Connor, Graham Greene, Beryl Bainbridge. Believe it or not I spend most of my time reading non-fiction though: cosmology, religious philosophy, psychology, mythology, I even went through a theoretical physics phase.
The first time I heard “Becoming All Things” album, I thought “let’s make a party!”. A party with good moments. And hard ones too, of course. I mean, after “Boy & The Street Choir”, we have the funky “Al Kooper's Party Horn”. Why such variety and did you have a party while recording?
Chris Simpson: Yes. We partied. That was kind of the vibe and feel of the sessions. A bunch of people in one room together having a good time. Playing spontaneously and often fairly unrehearsed.
How are you live presentations?
Chris Simpson: Raw. They are a little different everytime. And sometimes (often) not greatly rehearsed either. I have been performing solo a lot more lately, but still love to play with other people. When I have a band together it is usually a band put together for that specific show or tour, so the dynamics and energy between the players is often different from show to show, etc. It is more a matter of working with the resources available usually, but I like something about the spontaneity and energy of this approach.
Pink Chalk seems to me a little slower, intimate and chilling record than previous ones. Why this “change”?
Chris Simpson: I don't know why. Fundamentally I guess it is different because with this record I started and for the most played the majority of the instruments by myself. So it was just me and an engineer working together recording. We started a lot of it on an 8-track tape machine and I wanted to limit the technical possibilities at first. To see if we could be more spare with the instrumentation and get the songs across more simply.
It has been six years between your last release, did you get kind of tired of making music or you just slowed down your songwriting process?
Chris Simpson: Probably some of both. Also I had three kids and some other detours along the way. My life was kind of crazy in a lot of ways and I have been in the process of sort of settling down and getting back to work. I had and still have a lot of inner work to do, but I am happy to have finished something I can share with people outwardly again.
What bands are your medicines?
Chris Simpson: Harry Nilsson, Van Morrison, The Velvet Underground, The Kinks, Talk Talk, Big Star, Broadcast, The Innocence Mission, Nina Simone, Thelonious Monk, Otis Redding, Neil Young, Bowie. I don't know. So many. I like artists. And singers. I love singers.
Zookeeper band-mates have other projects, right? Can you please tell us a little about them?
Chris Simpson: Seth has a project called The Whiskey Priest. He lives in New Mexico now and doesn't play with us much anymore. Alex Dupree writes some of the best songs going under the name Idyl. He lives in California now and goes to grad school for poetry. He's a true poet for sure. Even if he didn't happen to also write poetry. Ben Lance and Ben Houtman play in a band called Frank Smith, and Ben Lance also plays with our good friend Booher. Jeremy Gomez, who also played with me in The Gloria Record, and Mineral, also plays with What Made Milwaukee Famous sometimes. Joe Salinas is also an aspiring film maker whose work is produced under the Miso Mesican Media moniker. Cully Symington has played with Cursive, Okkervil River, and The Afghan Whigs. These people are all amazing musicians and artists and much more. Look them and their projects up.
Do you still listen the bands you were hearing when you got into music?
Chris Simpson: When I got into music it was through my mom's records so I was listening to Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and Barry Manilow and Laura Branigan, and thank God, The Bee Gees. I still listen to the early Bee Gees (pre-disco era) records a lot. And Simon and Garfunkel. So, yes to some of it.
Do you perceive many changes as artist and person from the boy who recorded Power of Failing and the man you are now? Which ones?
Chris Simpson: I can't think of a way in which I haven't changed. And yet, everything remains. We seem to grow and take in more and more without ever really letting any of it go. I have had to learn to let some of it go for sure, but it is all a part of who I am now. Who I have become and am becoming.
What were your last year favorite albums?
Chris Simpson: Oh boy. I don't listen to a lot of current stuff. I really like The Walkmen, did they put out a record last year? They seem to always be putting out records. I loved the last Bright Eyes record , The People's Key, was that last year? I can't keep track. Bill Fay put out a new record for the first time since the early 70's, I love that.
What are the good things about being in a band that you only know if you’re in a band?
Chris Simpson: Are there good things about being in a band? No, of course there are. It's been a while since I've been in a band that was really consistent, but the camaraderie and creative bond can be so exhilarating. I guess you wouldn't know that if you weren't in a band.
Thanks Chris! I know people who read this blog really enjoys your music career as a whole. Please leave them a message, anything. Really appreciate.
Chris Simpson: Thank you! I enjoyed your questions and answering them very much. Peace and lovingkindness you and all of your readers. Hopefully I can come to Brazil and play for you some day. It seems so far away but the world is small and getting smaller so you never know.
You can find Zookeeper's music here: