October 2, 2013 Interview – Jeff Angell of Walking Papers
Seattle, Washington has been the birth place of many rock n roll legends over the years. From Jimi Hendrix to the age of grunge with bands like Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, and many more. With such a rich history of rock music the region has maintained one thing over the years, a dedication to the foundation of the music, blues and soul. In 2012 a new seed was planted in the soil of Seattle rock with the band Walking Papers. The band is comprised of Jeff Angell (vocals, guitar) of The Missionary Position, Barrett Martin (drums) formerly of the Screaming Trees and Mad Season, Duff McKagan (bassist) of Velvet Revolver and formerly of Guns N Rose, and Benjamin Anderson (keyboards) of The Missionary Position. The group of seasoned rock veterans have been making waves in the genre releasing their debut album Walking Papers (2012) and headlining the second stage at Uproar Festival 2013. While at the Uproar Festival we sat down with vocalist/guitarist Jeff Angell for a personal and in depth look at the beginning of Walking Papers, his love for music, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – Well first I’d like to congratulate you on playing this year’s Uproar Festival. How excited is the band about playing this rock festival and how is it going thus far?
Jeff Angell – I’m as excited as a tornado in a trailer park. It’s going great, just slugging it out everyday winning fans 1 by 1,000. It’s been great, the Alice In Chains guys have been super supportive and let us use some of the back stage amenities like the shower and what not. They come watch us play and make sure we get taken care of. It’s been really great.
CrypticRock.com – That is great, it’s a very unique mix of bands. Walking Papers is a relatively new band first formed last year. The band is comprised of yourself, Barrret Martin formerly of Screaming Trees, Duff McKagan formerly of Guns N Roses, and Benjamin Anderson your bandmate from Missionary Position. Tell me how Walking Papers came together for you guys?
Jeff Angell – Well during the grunge years Ben and I used to hang out at the gothic rock clubs because the girls were more attractive, instead of the grunge places where they didn’t shave their armpits (laughs). That’s where I met him and we’d been friends for a long time. Then Duff came to watch me in this other band I was in called Post Stardom Depression, and he invited me to sing for Velvet Revolver. He was kind enough that when I told him I didn’t want to be on the TV show, he respected me, he was loyal, and in return after we recorded 6 songs together I never released them and I held onto them. I didn’t try to use the songs to propel myself and so we kind of became friends. I think when you are a guy like Duff it’s hard to find people you can trust, there is a “circle of trust” you have to get into. We’ve always stayed friends and he always looked me up. Not to get into it but I got really fucked up. I had a lot of good opportunities with bands and I got in a really bad place with drugs and booze. I was living in a car for a couple of years and then I lost touch with him. Then I went into rehab and that is when I heard from him and he said “hey man I am here for you when you get out”. They have been really supportive.
Then a lot of things started happening for me, and once I got my head clear I started making Missionary Position records. I did some shows with Barret Martin opening for one of his bands. He just called me up a few weeks later and said, “I’ve been looking for the right singer, let’s do something together”. Of course he’s such a phenomenal drummer and musician that I jumped right at the chance and we started to work on songs. Then I called Duff and asked if he wanted to play bass, and there you go.
CrypticRock.com – That is really cool and a very interesting story. To think about it, where you were and where you are now. You are now headlining the 2nd stage of Uproar Festival.
Jeff Angell – Yes and we have toured Europe 3 times and I’ve put out 3 records. Two Missionary Position and this Walking Papers records since I’ve gotten sober. There’s no regrets, but man I sure pissed away a lot of time. I am not going to do that anymore.
CrypticRock.com – Well that is great. Continue to stay healthy. The band wasted no time getting music written and recorded releasing your debut self-titled album Walking Papers in the same year the project was formed. Coming from different musical backgrounds what was the chemistry like in the beginning?
Jeff Angell – Instant. It was almost like divine intervention in a lot of ways. I had a couple of songs that were lying around, if we ran out of jams, that I’d bring in. The majority of everything was Barret kicks in a beat and the first riff we started playing. The key to it was we did a lot of demos. We never jammed without running a tape. We didn’t have a lot of time to jam, maybe once or twice a week, but then we’d go home and listen to those and give stupid little names to them like “Toe Nails” or ” The Roller”, Then we’d come back and say hey man I like that one then we’d just communicate through email. We were really focused and had a really serious work ethic about it. We chose the ones we wanted and zeroed right in and worked them out. Since I was doing the lyrical part I could decide hey man that part needs to go 4 times.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like it was a very organic process.
Jeff Angell – Yes it really was. I almost feel like sometimes people get delusions of grandeur that your writing it, because it’s really all handed down. You know what I mean? The phenomenon of music and harmony, the science of it is pretty amazing. It’s out there you just have to harness into it.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely. Being from Seattle Washington the band has strong ties with some of the most elite bands from the 90’s era. Working with Jack Endino and Mike Mcready. Tell me what it’s like working with all these well established and accomplished people in the rock scene?
Jeff Angell – The thing is they are all really into music, they haven’t lost their passion for music. I had done a record with Jack Endino before which is really interesting. I was excited to work with him, but I said to him we have no budget man. He said I don’t care let’s just do it in your rehearsal room, so I had done a record with him before in my rehearsal room. He will get down and dirty and take it right back to the garage or he will go into some fancy huge studio. Actually he is more reluctant to go into the fancy studio, he thinks you’re wasting your money. He is a good producer in that way. He wants to get the best product done in a reasonable amount of time and within a reasonable budget. He understands you are going to be paying all that back and he wants your record to be successful. He also doesn’t tolerate half ass phoned in performances. He will say, “I think you should go home and work on that song”, or “I don’t think you guys or hitting it, how about another couple of times?” We’d would say “well the drummer is tired” and he’d say “well I guess maybe you should go have a nap, we’ll do something else, and try again tomorrow because that’s not it”. He’s recorded so many great records, he’s not afraid to tell you what he thinks. He is not rude about it, he’s a sweetheart. He’s also a marriage counselor, therapist, soothsayer, and a medicine man. He keeps your band getting along and communicating.
CrypticRock.com – That is really cool and must be great to work with someone like that. Walking Papers definitely is not following the trends of what’s popular in modern rock. You are doing what inspires you and the music has a very blues rock sound. What do you attribute the unique sound of the band to?
Jeff Angell – The blues thing is funny, especially in Seattle, because I think Seattle was one of the last times that people actually kind of took music as far as you can go without computers. Like putting together punk, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, or maybe the Buzzcocks or something. They mixed up a cool mixture but sometimes I think it gets too far and people are so concerned about reinventing something that they are so far out there that they lost touch of what they were trying to do in the first place. I’d played in a bunch of bands that got a little too experimental and I didn’t embrace the blues. I felt like how come it feels like this music is really touching people. At one point I realized I’ve always liked the blues. I grew up with my mom playing BB King records around the house. To be funny about it we couldn’t afford the chromatic scale we had to get by on the pentatonic scale. Instantly once a guy embraces the 1, the 5, and the 4, those are the foundation and building blocks of what songs are made out of. You start trying to get too creative and out there, then all of a sudden it just doesn’t sound like a song anymore. It just sounds like noise…. which can be good if your Psychic TV or Neurosis because I like those bands as well. For me I like super modern music but also I like to keep it as something that is palatable for people and that is what I think the blues does. I don’t care if it’s metal, techno, hip hop or whatever. If it has that’s blues element which is basically soul then I like it. If it seems soulless, even if it has the best progression and sweetest melody, but if there is no soul in there I just can’t dig it. Who knows maybe sometime we will be using electronics on some stuff or different instruments, but it will always probably have a blues thread in it.
CrypticRock.com – Right, obviously from what you are saying that as long as music has soul to, it that is what you care about. That’s what music’s about, it’s about soul, so it definitely has to have that feeling. I totally understand that. You touched on your influences a little, but I’d like to know what some of your other musical influences are?
Jeff Angell – With the blues I like John Lee Hooker, Lightening Hopkins, and Howling Wolf. I get into all those records. I really like Americana, Townes Van Zandt, Lucinda Williams, and Willie Nelson. In soundtracks I like Ennio Morricone. I will listen to all that, but I will listen to more modern stuff like The Kills and Metz. In metal I like Pantera and Neurosis. I also really love the poet song writers like your Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Bob Dylan, and Tom Waits. To me that is a whole other level. Even Bruce Springsteen, I love The River (1980), and Nebraska (1982) where every song is almost like a screenplay. Those are probably my favorite in inspiring stuff to listen to.
CrypticRock.com – That definitely all bleeds through into the music. All the artists which you mentioned there all have that dirty down straight from the heart soul.
Jeff Angell – I also grew up on the Ramones, AC/DC, and The Sex Pistols like most people. I still enjoy it when that comes out. Anything that has a soul really. On this tour I really like Middle Class Rut, I think they are killing it. Jane’s Addiction and Alice In Chains I think made by far some of the best records of the 90’s so it’s a thrill to see them. They are changing up their sets too because they have the catalogue. I think even like a band like Jane’s Addiction, people get to a point with Dave Navarro and Perry Farrell with the celebrity status of how big they are. I think people forget those records are some of the most phenomenal records made. Perry Farrell is a complete poet.
CrypticRock.com – My last question for you is regarding films. Crypticrock.com is a rock/metal and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are you a fan of horror films and if so what are some of your favorite horror films?
Jeff Angell – I don’t get to watch a lot of films, but the first horror film I saw when I was a kid was A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984). I saw it in the theater, I was way too young to be in there. I was 12 and my neighbor snuck me in. I think that film was a classic. Some movies to me that are not necessarily suppose to be a horror film, like just last night I was watching There Will Be Blood (2007), to watch a guy lose his mind over money is more horrific than the actual horror films. I like Rob Zombie’s first film House Of 1,000 Corpses (2003). I liked of course Jaws (1975) and all that stuff I grew up on. The suspense is kind of the best part of those movies. I like The Ring (2002) a lot. The first Saw (2004) movie was good. What are some of your favorites?
CrypticRock.com – For me, oh man. I love the original Dawn of The Dead (1978) film by George Romero. Night Of The Living Dead (1968) and Day Of The Dead (1985). I love Fright Night (1985). I like a lot of the Italian horror films like Suspiria (1977) by Dario Argento.
Jeff Angell – I like some of the vampire movies like Near Dark (1987). The horror was living in that environment. I also like Alfred Hitchcock The Birds (1963).
CrypticRock.com – The Birds is a classic. To elaborate more on my favorite horror films I like a lot of the older films from the 1930’s up until the early 1990’s. I am not a fan of the newer stuff as much because I am not a fan of the CGI.
Jeff Angell – I think it’s a high fructose world right now. I think people are trying too hard. Film or music is like a linear art form, it’s not about everything all at once. It’s not a shot to the arm. It needs the suspense to build it up and it needs space to have a reaction. That is the thing that was great about those horror films was the suspense, it was about what your brain can do. That is actually a Clint Eastwood thing, he was talking about when he did The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966) and Fistful of Dollars (1964). You never know what his back story is, they never even say his name. Eastwood said, which I thought was genius, was that his audience’s imagination was more powerful than anything they could ever put on film. By having that suspense, leaving those holes in the movie, and not exactly showing what you are scared of allows your imagination to build it up. There is no CGI that is ever going to replace a human being’s imagination. They try to show you all this stuff but then you just feel that looks goofy. That is not real or that would never happen. Once I start doing that then I am not sold and I haven’t bought into the idea.