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A Conversation with Joe Pisapia (continued)

JP: And I was going to come in and, just as a buddy, kind of help them out, get the record off the ground, do their release stuff, and maybe do a few months. You know what I mean?

PM: Yeah.

JP: Maybe three, four months.

PM: But then they got hooked on the Joey P. vibe.

JP: Well, what happens is you start "Hey, let me try some banjo on this, let me try some keyboard on that, let me try some--yeah, might as well." And then all of a sudden it was like you started changing everything.


PM: Yeah, right. Then it became the arrangement, yeah.

JP: You got it.

PM: So before you signed up for this hitch, how much of a keyboard player were you? Just like, "Hey I'm a two-finger guy in my apartment if I just hit the right two fingers"--or what?

JP: Yeah. I'm a right-handed keyboard player.

PM: Right.

JP: You know what I mean?


JP: Yeah. I'm that guy. For me, I learned how to kind of dabble in all this stuff just from wanting to do my own music at the house.

PM: Right.

JP: And a lot of times, you know how it is, Frank, you're in the groove, it's like 2:00 in the morning. You're like, "I can't call somebody now, but I really want to get this done."

PM: Right.

JP: You stay up until 5:00 until you get it.

PM: "I'm the only one here."


JP: Exactly. So yeah.

PM: Because I mean, that's very likely your banjo approach, too, like, "What? Bluegrass, clawhammer? Who gives a shit about any of that?"

JP: Exactly.

PM: "There's a banjo in the corner, I pick it up and the make the sound."


JP: Exactly. I actually was at the Family Wash the other day, and somebody was doing--I don't know what--I guess it was bluegrass style because they had picks on.

PM: Oh, yeah, that's bluegrass.

JP: His tone was amazing. I don't even have fingernails.

PM: Oh, yeah. And they get those picks on, and position their hand right on the bridge, so that if you ever stuck your ear on top of that, it could blow your eardrums right out. [laughs]

JP: He had a [Shure] 57 pointed into it. It sounded hi-fi, you could hear it in every corner of the room.

PM: Wow.

JP: Yeah, it was awesome.

PM: I love the banjo. It is a five-string that you play on tour and on the record, right?

JP: Yeah.

PM: And it's a piece of shite, or it's a good banjo, or what?

JP: Actually, I got to tell you our good friends at Alvarez--

PM: Ahh!

JP: --made this amazing banjo. I mean, this guy pulled out all the stops.

PM: Oh, they're capable of great things, Alvarez--

JP: Yeah.

PM: --when they put their minds to it, that's a phenomenal company, yeah.

JP: Really. And I don't know how they do it, where they like score the wood, or whatever, and then they kind of varnish that in, and it looks deep, and it has grooves in it. And they did all this really fancy stuff on the headstock.

PM: Damn!

JP: And it plays and sounds awesome.

PM: Now, does it have a resonator, like a bluegrass banjo and all that, around the whole circle of it?

JP: Oh, yeah, like that metal piece, and then the kind of snare drum head, or whatever.

PM: Right.


PM: Wow. So am I led to believe that you're not playing that much guitar in the band, that you're playing banjo, bass, and keyboards? Or do you play tons of guitar, too? [Although Joe plays a number of instruments convincingly, his guitar work is truly stellar and unique. Along with the clips from the Daydreams solo record, we urge you to sample Puremusic clips from Joe, Marc's Brother, one of our favorite bands.]

JP: It's weird, Frank. It's kind of like I'll just work around--I'll just kind of grab something off the lazy susan, as it were.

PM: [laughs] "I'm the lazy susan guy."

JP: Like spin the lazy susan, grab an instrument. Some nights, I'll play a lot of guitar; some nights--depends on the set.

PM: Wow.

JP: Sometimes it's like, man, I've been on the bass for like six songs in a row. But sometimes I'll be like, oh, I'm on guitar for five songs in a row. It's weird.

PM: So when you're not on the bass, is somebody else on the bass? Or some songs don't have any bass?

JP: Yeah, exactly. Ryan is usually the other go-to guy on bass.

PM: Ah. But somebody is always on the bass--or not necessarily?

JP: Well, here's what they do, and this is from the old-school Guster: Adam uses one of those Chet Atkins guitars, the solid body ones, because they're so--I don't know, they're just solid.

PM: I'm not a big fan of those, particularly.

JP: It's like driving a U-haul through the city.

PM: [laughs]

JP: But he has one of those midi pickups on there, and he gets bass out of that.

PM: Oh, does he pick up the strings separately, or something?

JP: It only picks up the back two strings for the bass.

PM: Oh.

JP: And then he can play like a little guitar. Like if he does an A bar chord, it's going to have an A in the bass, and then you'll hear the strings ring on the other one.

PM: Oh.

JP: It's kind of wild. And that's how they used to get away with it back in the day.

PM: So does it drop the bottom two strings down an octave or something funky?

JP: It actually samples like a bass sample, like a stand-up bass, it triggers a midi thing.

PM: Oh, my God. That's totally cool.

JP: Yeah, it's pretty wild.

PM: But is it a quality bassy sound, or just kind of a kitschy bassy sound?

JP: I never heard it out front. I'll tell you one thing, it's like really deep--

PM: Wow.

JP: --because it's kind of artificial, it gets all that sub stuff going on that you can't get on the bass guitar.

PM: Subsonic, yeah.

JP: Yeah. When I first saw them, I didn't know how they were doing it. I thought they were just triggering a tone down below to make it appear like there was something filling up the low end, because it wasn't even defined. [laughs] But they didn't have the best sound then, back then.

PM: Because I saw a samba guitar player in Miami recently. And he had one of these RMC pickups in his nylon string, and it was very sophisticated. And he processed the bottom strings with a kind of an octave divider, and he dropped them down an octave. And it was super hi-fi, and it sounded like a two-piece, it sounds like he was playing with an upright bass player. And it was frightening.

JP: Oh, that's awesome.   continue

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