Protest songs for our times with rock, flamenco, folk, New Orleans grease, progressive, experimental, electronica and world music flavors, and tongue more-than-occasionally-in-cheek.
The BENT EAR MAGAZINE Interview, April 2003 (from an undisclosed location), by musical adventurist Cranston Snord:
I'm here in this remote jungle cave, interviewing the elusive fugitive and leader of the band Snipe Hunt, Walter Ehresman, upon this, the release of his 8th solo album, "The Feral Rugby Team Must GO!".
By necessity, the location of this interview will not be revealed (though the smell alone brings its secrecy into question). Following the recent reinstatement of the Alien and Sedition Acts (spearheaded by US Attorney General John Ashcroft), Ehresman's past body of work with Snipe Hunt and as a solo artist, coupled with his current refusal to remain silent, has put him on the run. By staking out the better Tex-Mex joints in Austin, Texas, this reporter was able, after much subterfuge and great personal risk, to track down the artist who is subject to the largest manhunt since Bill Hicks was discovered by the government to have faked his own death.
Ehresman, clothed in a brown tunic and viking horns that flash violet in the dark, was amiable and only slightly flatulent during this interview. While certainly rustic, his living conditions did not preclude a cooler full of cold Shiner Bock longnecks, which we shared to great effect as the afternoon wore on.
BENT EAR: Thank you for seeing me here today. I must say, I find your garb somewhat unsettling....
A: Bull, sahib!
Q: Excuse me?
A: I'm just feeling a bit bullish at the moment, you understand. Being a professional spotter of nude emperors has its drawbacks--being shunned in one's own neighborhood and workplace, experiencing abysmally low music sales, and now this whole manhunt thing--I've been feeling inclined to gore some folks, if you know what I mean.....
A: Oh, no, certainly not.......I don't have "handlers", for one, so I could never be talked into a mode of presentation so foreign to my nature that it creeped out everyone who saw me speak and lost votes by the boatload.
Q: And I assume that you would never marry Tipper or anyone like her....?
A: You are correct, sir.
Q: Now, this new album.....I see you shelled out for color printing. Is that quite expensive?
A: Ohhhhhh!!! (sitting partially up and grabbing his buttocks with both hands) You have no idea! But it does make the bull outfit on the tray card and CD label much more fetching, don't you think?
Q: Indeed. I understand these CD artwork photos are from the Burning Man Festival held each year in northwestern Nevada?
A: That's right. We.....well, I'll tell you more about it when we talk about Track #4. In fact, let's turn to the music itself, as I don't know how long this cave will be secure.....
Q: Of course. You wrote all the songs, played all the instruments, and sung all the vocals on this new album, as well as producing it, is that correct?
A: That's true, except for a drunken compadre who sang background vocals on "Horsepower and Curiosity". He looks somewhat like Keith Richards, and that's the kind of backing vocals I needed there, so I gave him some Metaxa shots then put the mike in front of him. He was around anyway, given that he is my legal counsel for this album.
Q: Your attorney sings on the album?
A: Oh, yes. It seemed only prudent.
Q: As has always been the case with your work, this CD touches on a lot of different musical and lyrical territories. Track #1, "Jesus, That Blimp is Following Me!", reminds me of mid-'80s Stranglers.
A: Funny you should say that.....I noticed that myself, once it was done, though it was certainly not in my mind as I was writing and recording it. There's a banal little story attached to this song: I was driving to lunch one day when I noticed a large blimp over my car. Thinking nothing of it, I went on out and had a jalapeno/bacon/refried-bean/Frito/cheeseburger. When I was driving back to work, I noticed the same blimp over my car. At that moment, this silly song idea came to me, and I just went with it and recorded it that night.
Q: You're right, that was banal. The production on the song, however, may be the best of anything you've ever done.
A: Thank you. I agree, actually, with the possible exception of the next song on this CD.
Q: That would be Track #2, "That's A Fleshy Reality." I sense a Steely Dan influence here....?
A: Yes, except without the jazz chords or theory or sophistication of arrangement or dynamite female background vocals. In fact, I had to do my own female vocal parts.
Q: With Vise-Grips on your scrotum?
A: No, though that technique was suggested to me by my attorney. I opted for the less painful, if artistically compromised, use of a vocal processor. Lyrically, this is just another in my long line of songs about the futility of male behavior. It was also a daydream of female companionship written at the tail-end of a distressingly-celibate marriage.
Q: Now I understand Track #3 was the straw that broke the camel's back, as far as Ashcroft was concerned.
A: Yeah....that one and "Just Keep Your Eyes On the Ball" off the last Snipe Hunt album.
Q: Will you explain the title "Patient Zero (ode to a Shrub)".
A: Sure (takes a long pull to finish his beer, then opening two more from the fish-shaped cooler). As you might have guessed, this one is about George Bush the Younger. The title comes from a Center for Disease Control term used when they trace an epidemic back to its source. That is "patient zero." The song goes on to discuss the terrible, cynical exploitation of the 9-11 disaster by the Bush-ites, and laments that fact that if professional baseball owners had just heeded his pleas, George would have gotten the job he (as opposed to his mother) really wanted for himself--commissioner of Major League Baseball. If that had happened, we wouldn't have even had to suffer through him as governor in Texas! And just to be clear--this is not a "Truther" song, at all! The Shrub, et.al. didn't cause the disaster--they just shameless exploited it. As for the music, I've always loved Spanish guitar and have tried to find ways to incorporate that style into what I do. This track features me overdubbing the "flamenco" style lines on many steel and nylon-string acoustic guitars to fatten up the sound.
Q: The next track, "Jaleos, Aturuxo, Rev. Killjoy!", also has a Spanish guitar flair to it, albeit with electric guitars.
A: This is another of my Burning Man-related songs. In our theme camp last year, SCARAB (a part of The Solo Collective village), our resident Elvis impersonator, Reverend Killjoy, staged a Running of the Bulls (I was the bull), followed by a bullfight in our own bullring, every afternoon at sundown. Both bulls and runners were provided with mescal shots. I wrote this piece as a theme song for those activities, played at high volume on the jambox strapped to my tricycle, itself with mounted longhorns on the handlebars and a nodding fez monkey (see the CD label, and the tray card, for pictures). The terms "jaleos" and "aturuxo" are the claps, stomps, and yells of encouragement that you hear in traditional flamenco.
Q: Track 5, "Horsepower and Curiosity" has certainly pissed off a lot of people....
A: True that. I've often wondered how any woman can vote for Republican candidates......seems no different than an African-American voting for a Klansman. After I heard one of the Junior League-types at work emptily parrot GOP slogans one too many times, and say she voted Republican because "that's how my husband votes," I felt compelled to write this song. The lyrics just poured right out of me in about five minutes, and I guess they speak for themselves. I hope everyone understands that I'm a huge advocate of women's rights....I feel like they get the wrong end of the stick....
Q: No pun intended?
A: Shut up..........Women have historically been treated poorly in just about any culture you can name, and things still aren't equal today in the world. That's why I find it hard to believe that they could ever vote for a political party that has, IN ITS PLATFORM, so many anti-woman provision. I have to think that these women just haven't thought the thing through. Cognitive dissonance is a powerful thing, I guess....
Q: Track #6, "A Bet That Went South"?
A: Nothing heavy here......I just thought I'd take a crack at writing a "story" song, and I also wanted to try and capture the feel of a late-night jam session in a New Orleans studio. "T-Texas Too Smooth Tommy" and "Joey the Wad" are another two drinking buddies from the distant past, and this story about them is entirely fictional (though I haven't seen them in a while....it could be true, except that I've heard rumors that Tom has long since fled to Mexico for reasons that are not really clear). Listening back to my trap drum track, I sure wish I'd had a real kit drummer available for this song.
A: Shut up. Do you or do you not want another Bock....?
Q: Point taken (opens another beer from the fish cooler). Track 7, "No Redemption" is unusual for you in part because it seems to be in a 3/4 waltz time. Also, not the usual intro section....
A: Some fratboy jackass in a black sports car cut me off in rush hour traffic at a stoplight, then jumped out and flipped me off. The lyrics were done in my head in the time it took for the light to change, and I recorded the song that evening. There are mindsets out there in the public that are almost inconceivable to me in their "wrongness".........people projecting their own poor behavior and amorality onto others, a complete lack of self-awareness and consideration for other people, ways of thinking steeped in meanness and greed, so many refusing to make the hard decisions or see the difficult truths, and exploiting all situations for personal gain. I guess this song is just a free-association on those themes, which I spend more time thinking about than I wish I had to. You'll also note a reference to the Anne Colter-type blond Republican "pundit" , as well as to American's growing love of NASCAR (waiting for crashes) as an indicator of cultural/intellectual decline.
Q: I especially liked the "backwards baseball hat" slam. Now, I'm assuming that "For Sarah, to the West" holds a special place for you...
A: As you might guess from the title, I wrote this song last September immediately after returning from Burning Man, full of inspiration after spending a great week with a woman I'd just met there. I'm a big progressive rock fan (Yes, ELP, Nektar), but I've always known I don't have the chops (or memory!) to write and play those kinds of songs. Nevertheless, I still have an ambition to record songs with different discreet sections or "movements," and this song may be my most successful stab at it yet. This one is from the heart, and gets as close (in the lyrics at the end) as I've gotten to breaking my self-imposed taboo against writing love song lyrics.
Q: Does she spend time here with you in the cave?
A: She has volunteered to, but I would never subject her to this squalor and stench.
Q: Track 9, "Fikriye, Dancing Alone" finds you back again, as with all the albums you've been associated with, exploring in the 'world music' vein.
A: I had been looking for ways to incorporate my Najarian electric oud more into my songwriting, and this piece was a conscious attempt to do that. I have been listening to a lot of Turkish traditional and hybrid music in the last year, and I'm sure that influence crept in too. I kinda like this song, if I do say so myself. (cracking open two more beers)
Q: Even though that song has an electronica/dance element, the CD really takes a turn towards the electronically weird with Track 10, "The Wrong House."
A: Yep....I always tend to put the weirder stuff toward the end of an album. Musically, the sound of this song is a direct consequence of my role as a "midiot." Much inappropriate usage of equipment here that runs contrary to the manuals. Lyrically, architectural metaphors are used for a discussion of failures in communication between people.
Q: Track 11, "Sharpened to Bits ('02 English version)" has been recorded before, right?
A: I wrote this song back in '87, when my playing, singing, and recording equipment and expertise where quite poor. It was on my first 90-minute solo cassette, "Honor in the Swine?" ('89). I've always felt there was something worth salvaging in this song, and you may remember that Vic and I did a Spanish version of it on the last Snipe Hunt album (ed. "I Saw the Future (But the Damn Train Hit Me Just the Same"). I took the drum machine track from that version, erased everything else, and did a whole new version for this album with different instrumentation (including talking drum for the bass part) and with me singing the vocals in English. The song lyrics are the same......a meditation on the concept of being sure to be seen to be avoiding trends, thus still being driven by what other people think of you. A treatise on hipsterism.
Q: There must be a story behind Track #12, "But.......You Broke a Rule".
A: Indeed there is, but if I told you, I'd have to.....
Q: Kill me?
A: No, I was going to say "make you eat Spagettios with lima beans mixed together."
Q: Well, then, for god's sake, don't tell me!.........(long sip). Well, that only leaves us with the bonus track, "Ladonia: For Thee I Fling."
A: Not long ago, someone e-mailed me a link to an intriguing website: www.ladonia.org
. I was fascinated by the ideas found there (to whit):
--Ladonia is a new-ish nation, seized from Sweden in 1980 along the rocky south shore by an absurdist collective of anarchists and artists. After the seizure, three large structures were erected on the site.
--Omfalos was a one-ton monument constructed by Ladonians to mark the center of the world, named after a pillar at Delphi in ancient Greece. After a lengthy court battle the Swedish government ordered its removal and, upon hearing that the artist was going to blow it up with dynamite on the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize (a fine provocative gesture, to be sure, given what Mr. Nobel is most known for.....), a Swedish navy crane boat snuck into shore on the wee hours of the day before the explosion and removed Omfalos. It now resides in the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm.
-the remaining structures in Ladonia now are Nimis and Arx, which remain proudly standing.
-the capital of Ladonia is Wotan City.
-the only word in the language of Ladonia is "waaaall." Its meaning is obscure.
-the currency of Ladonia is the "oertug"
After reading all this, I contacted Lardonian Sec. of State Lars Vilks and offered to write a SLNA (Slightly Longer National Anthem) if they'd make me a minister in the cabinet (the existing national anthem was the sound of a stone being thrown in the water). Upon the completion of this anthem, I was named Minister of Dubious Anthems for the great nation of Ladonia. Musically, I am excited about this song because I got to dust off the old beer bong from my bachelor party in '93 and use it for the intro, plus I got to insert many hand-farts through a delay box for the outro, which I have to say is a first for me in using that particular studio technique. Also, my legal team is looking into the diplomatic immunity angle as a way to sort out my current troubles with the US government, and.......
Q: Mr. Ehresman, though you may be a high-ranking member of the Ladonian government and an artist of unflinching vision, you, sir, are out of beer, and thus I must bring things to a close. Besides, I think I need some air.....
POSTSCRIPT: attempts to later clear up a couple of points from the interview revealed that Ehresman no longer inhabits the malodorous cave. Whither this iconoclastic musician? It is hard to say, but this reporter urges you to take Ehresman's mantra to heart: "Keep an eye on the bastards...."