By Nick Daly
First off, what has Bluetip
been up to lately?
Jason Farrell: We broke up. I have started a new band called RETiSONiC with Joe Gorelick (ex-Garden Variety, one-time Bluetip drummer circa '97). We will be recording soon, and EP out this summer. I am very happy with how the songs are coming out, vaguely influenced by Bluetip, but not so complex... more melody/harmony shit, one guitar, more rock more new wave more hardcore more bongos... more better. yummy feelings abound.
TinyMixtapes: I know it was a while back, but I always wanted to know the story of how you played with Tool. How did you end up playing shows with them? How were you received by their crowds?
Jason Farrell: Dave Stern (guitarist at the time) used to house-sit for Adam (guitarist of tool) and helped with the video shoot on "prison sex" way back when. Tool's manager called up Dave one day to see if Bluetip would be interested in opening up for their AENEMA tour that was to start in a few weeks. We said fuck yeah, despite the fact that we had no drummer and no prospects. We figured "how hard could it be to find some dude who'd like to go play huge arenas?"... not hard, but to find someone who could actually play WELL, plus learn our songs super fast isn't so easy. Luckily, we found Sean Gilchrist (from the Rhode Island band Beltaine) who was by no means just "some dude"... after three practices, he knew enough songs for us to avoid having to "space jam" half the set. First night was Asbury Park, NJ... no one on the crew or with management had any idea we were on the show, nor that we were going to be playing the next 10 nights as well... somehow, Dave sorted it out (and later sussed out who was to pay us our meager sum each night). Sketchy... I got the sense that, amidst the confusion of a big tour, any band with a half-plausible story could have jumped on the bill. Audiences were surprisingly kind and semi-interested, particularly when we strung curse words together into sentences. Ultimately we did not expand our fan-base, become rock stars, or even make any money. But it was a nice opportunity to see how the big boys do things.
TinyMixtapes: I'm sure you've been asked this, but where did you get the name Bluetip from? Anything behind it, or just a cool sounding name?
Jason Farrell: I stole it from the Ohio Blue Tip Matches... the kind that strike anywhere. Not much behind it, and not everyone thinks it's a cool-sounding name... My friend Alex Daniels never took a liking to it. Said it sounded too phallic.
TinyMixtapes: What inspires you to do music and your songwriting? Can you pinpoint the moment or moments in time where you decided that being in a band was what you wanted to do?
Jason Farrell: I guess ever since Kiss was flooding the market with their trinkets and albums (simultaneous solo albums? bring it on...). As a young, impressionable elementary-school tyke I ate that up. That made me want to play guitar, but a few years later Hardcore made me realize i could. After seeing Government Issue, Void, and other local H.C. bands make a mess on stage, me and my friends figured it didn't look so hard. At first we all were very bad. Some of us stuck with it, and some of us are still sticking with it. I don't know what inspires me to write music. I guess i just like what it sounds like, I enjoy making songs and figuring out how instruments fit together. I also like the thought that other people might want to listen to it. Touring exotic countries like Germany is real fun, too.
TinyMixtapes: You've done amazing artwork for Bluetp and also Burning Airlines, At the Drive-In, Fugazi, just to name a few... How do bands approach you to do their artwork? Do they approach you with an initial idea and you run with it, or play you some music and leave you to come up with ideas....?
Jason Farrell: thank you. A bands ask, i fill whatever role they need. Some folks want me to finish up a concept they already have (fugazi), some give me vague concepts of espionage and chaos that I have to translate into a cover (at the drive-in), still other album covers come from absolutely nothing (bluetip)
TinyMixtapes: I was able to see some of "Route 1," your film, and was totally amazed. Have you thought about doing film more often, maybe even tying it in with Bluetip, like a Bluetip video or something?
Jason Farrell: Originally, Bluetip was supposed to be a multi-media collective... a chance to bring the different artistic interest of its members (music, graphics, film, carpentry, whatever...) together under one name. it seemed like a good concept, but we quickly realized the music alone would be quite a time and energy sponge, leaving little to wet other things. We focused on the regular band things while most other artistic ventures (and personal interests) took a back seat. Hopefully this year i'll have some time to do new movie things.. or at least finish up the old ones started that I've been sitting on for a while.
"like wizards and unicorns and how you can apply their nobleness to humans... set in futuristic outerspace. that way i don't feel so naked and exposed or whatever, airing my dirty laundry."
guitars and equipment do you use?
Jason Farrell: Gibsons. I have a couple SG's in various states of disrepair, a les paul that's my workhorse, a trini lopez that sounds great but I'm afraid to touch for fear that it will turn into dust... plus some cheap guitars. I can't resist a cheap, pretty guitar. I've had the same Marshall JCM-800 forever. Love my new Fender combo amp... lots of crispy mid-range.
TinyMixtapes: How would you describe your guitar playing? When you write on guitar, do you find yourself going back to different things- chords changes,
structures, scales, anything- or trying to stay away from certain things?
Jason Farrell: I honestly just fuck around 'til i stumble across something I think sounds good. I definitely lean towards riffs. then layer it all up or whatever. I really like trying out different strumming rhythms. I like all kinds of guitar playing, but the things that end up as songs tend to be similar to each other. Not so many of my "pretty country strumming by the campfire" parts make it to CDs.
TinyMixtapes: How is a Bluetip song written? Does everyone write things at home and bring it to practice, or just get together and jam?
Jason Farrell: We shared writing. I came up with most of the initial song ideas, and 98% of the lyrics. Everyone figures out their parts peppered with suggestions from the rest of the band. Everyone has an opinion. The best songs we wrote were when everyone contributed, improving upon the original idea til it surpassed what any one of us could have written. That didn't always happen. Painful writing scenarios happened a few too many times, like when we wrote "anti-bloom/broke the lease" off Polymer: I came up with those two as one song and showed it to the band. They learned it and then critiqued the fuck out of the arrangement until it didn't sound like the original idea. I would go home and re-work it, re-present it, and the process would begin again. eventually, after much changing, debating and fighting, the song somehow ended up coming back around to the original direction 'til it sounded exactly like the idea i brought in. The only difference from the original arrangement was that we decided to put a track ID# in the middle of the song and give the end a different title. That sucked. whatever... By the end we at least agreed on something, and everyone felt they were a part of the process despite the huge circle we had traveled.
TinyMixtapes: When you write lyrics, are there any lyrical themes you find yourself coming back to? Are there any subjects that you consciously try to stay away from?
Jason Farrell: most of the lyrical topics for Bluetip centered around times i fucked something up. I'm now consciously trying to stay away from that very topic. too much of a bummer.
TinyMixtapes: Are your lyrics autobiographical and personal or fictional? Do you ever write to get things off of your chest? Do you ever write anything "too personal" and get rid of it or shroud it in mysterious lyrics?
Jason Farrell: Bluetip lyrics were very autobiographical for Dis No.101 and Join Us. There were a couple songs i felt uncomfortable with, they were too close to real events and real people. I discussed it with the rest of the band, they recognized how awkward it might be for me to sing the songs, but put in their vote to keep them as-is... so I kept them. Now that time has passed and the stuff that happened has been mostly forgotten, I'm glad the songs were kept as I wrote them. By the time i started writing lyrics for the Polymer album I tried to broaden the scope of topics... getting away from autobiographical into fictional stuff. Like wizards and unicorns and how you can apply their nobleness to humans... set in futuristic outerspace. that way i don't feel so naked and exposed or whatever, airing my dirty laundry. I often shroud the real meaning, or an underlying meaning, for those folks that like to look for some other level of interpretation. though maybe sometimes I'm just shrouding the fact that i have no topic behind a mess of words.
"mummification and pyramids are early examples of how people have tried to gain a sort of permanence against death and power to halt change."
A lot of songwriters hate to talk
about meanings behind songs. Do you
talking about what your songs are about?
Jason Farrell: No, I don't mind talking about that shit... though I'm always interested in what people think the songs are about... to see if I'm getting my point across successfully (or disguising it successfully). I don't know that it's so important for people to "get" what I was trying to say... it's fine if they like it for a completely different reason, if to them it means the exact opposite of what I intended. It's fine if they don't give a shit about lyrics... But I try to put the effort in, try to say something without rhyming "Fire" with "desire" or "higher"
TinyMixtapes: The title track from your newest album, Polymer, isn't too easy to figure out as far as meaning goes. Or rather, and this goes for almost all Bluetip songs, it seems to be about one thing, but I get the feeling that there's more to it or that what I think it is about isn't what it's really about. Can you give me some insight into what that song is about?
Jason Farrell: Hmmm.... It is about a mess of things. the idea for that song came from alcohol. not drinking it, but how it's made. bacteria eats up sugar and poops out alcohol, all the while making their environment more and more unlivable. The bacteria eventually kills itself with its own by-product, leaving behind liquor or whatever. basic tree-hugging analogy, but i figure their legacy ends up being somewhat useful to humans and human culture (well, bar owners and patrons... ) That is quite an accomplishment. human existence may have a similar end result. Being able to manufacture things that permanently alter your environment is pretty amazing and deserving of a little bit of pride. mummification and pyramids are early examples of how people have tried to gain a sort of permanence against death and power to halt change. Formaldehyde and tombstones carry on in that tradition. By trying to manufacture the perfect polymer, one that will last long past any other element in the periodic chart, humans will someday reach that permanence that has eluded them. the downside is that it will be toxic and kill them. But maybe some other "thing" will find our by-products very useful. I don't know... it's a bit of a jumble. I was just happy to have written a song that didn't deal with some bad break-up...
TinyMixtapes: "Don't Punch Your Friends (For Being Slow)"- That statement and the song is pretty straightforward. To me it seems like it came maybe from a situation-what inspired the lyrics to that song?
Jason Farrell: Ha! yes, but I'll never tell who it was. vicious singling-out brought on by frustration turned what should have been fun into a weird work-like environment...
TinyMixtapes: Do you suffer from astigmatism? Or is that song actually about distorted judgment rather than an eye condition?
Jason Farrell: double astigmatism... but my judgment is similarly impaired
TinyMixtapes: I think I read somewhere that you prefer recording to touring, which is different in that most indie rock musicians prefer to tour. Why do you prefer recording?
Jason Farrell: that's not true. I liked touring Europe and Japan. I just dislike touring the U.S., doesn't mean i won't do it. and I defy any "indie" band to enjoy their 11th time in some group-house basement on a Sunday night. free case of Pabst Blue Ribbon or not...Recording is fun. records and radio is how you enjoy most of yer music listening pleasure... think of all the bands you've listened to versus all the bands you've seen...
TinyMixtapes: How was Polymer recorded? Is it mostly live, etc? How much time recording and mixing did you have?
Jason Farrell: we had about 10 days to record and mix 15 songs... 5 went to the hot(-)fast(+)union EP, 10 went to Polymer. At Mission Sound, Brooklyn, NY: Dave Bryson (drums), Jake (bass) and myself (guitar) played live to tape... Brian and I then started overdubbing all guitars (replacing my scratch track). we switched studios and states (Phase Studio, College Park, MD), finished guitars, did vocals... switched studios and states again (Inner Ear, Arlington VA) to mix. the album and EP cost around $6000 to record.
TinyMixtapes: Do you think a record should be representation of how a band plays live, or do you think a record and live performance should be different? Which do you like more, and which do you feel is more important?
Jason Farrell: Recorded music and Live music are so very different. you should do whatever sounds good for the medium. I think a band SHOULD be able to fairly represent their recorded music in a live setting... but shouldn't feel pressured to replicate it. I like it when bands do something different with some songs (either more energy or a different arrangement) as long as they don't fuck with my favorites. Both live shows and recordings are important, but recordings get more listens (and listeners).
TinyMixtapes: I keep reading about bands that write material and then get rid of it because it is "too soft" or wimpy or something. What do you think about this? One thing that separates Bluetip's music from other bands that you get lumped into the same category with is that it is tougher and more dissonant. Have you ever written a song and thought, "that sounds too soft?"
Jason Farrell: Bluetip tried to bring in powder-puff tunes, too. they just got all muscular from the Marshalls. My new band RETiSONiC has no such inhibitions about being soft...or hard...
TinyMixtapes: How much do you think a band's personality impacts their music? When you listen to music, do you care what the musicians' personalities or beliefs are? Like if you liked a band and they turned out to be assholes, or even "hypocrites" for that matter, would it matter to you?
Jason Farrell: I guess it matters a bit... But chances are i won't be hanging out with them, so i'll never see their bad qualities. If their art is intelligent, interesting, or entertaining then they deserve a listen. I bet Picasso and Beethoven were real dicks.
TinyMixtapes: What do you think are some strengths and weaknesses in the band? What, if anything, would you like to improve on in the future or on future releases?
Jason Farrell: Bluetip has some complex song structures and parts that become a jumble in a live setting. RETiSONIC takes the good bits of Bluetip's sound minus the jumble.
TinyMixtapes: I always like to ask this: What is a question you would most want to be asked in an interview and have never been asked?
Jason Farrell: wow, it was that question. how did you know?
TinyMixtapes: Have you been writing any new material lately? What can we expect from Bluetip in the near future?
Jason Farrell: Bluetip is dead. it's all about RETiSONiC now. We will be recording an EP in April with J.Robbins, playing out soon afterwards. go to www.retisonic.com for info.