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Fool Rooster

A Discussion with Joshua Davis of Steppin' In It

November 3rd, 2005 · Written by · 1 Comment

After six years and three albums as the primary songwriter and vocalist of the Michigan quartet Steppin’ In It, Joshua Davis decided to release his first solo record “Fool Rooster” in the spring of 2005. Because it was recorded entirely live and in a few short days, the album has a very intimate quality. We decided to ask Josh to explain a bit more about himself, his friends, and his solo debut.

Fool Rooster - Joshua Davis

Thirdeye Magazine: When did you first start playing music?

Joshua Davis: I got my first guitar for my bar-mitzvah, when I was thirteen. Learned a couple of Whitesnake songs, and it’s been all downhill from there.

TE: Are there any musical experiences that changed your life forever?

JD: Besides seeing Weird Al Yankovic on my 20th birthday? No.

TE: After years of working with Steppin’ In It, what made you decide to do a solo album?

JD: “Fool Rooster” can hardly be called a solo album, but I had been considering it for quite a while. Actually, “Last Winter in the Copper Country” began as my own, but we decided to record it and release it as a Steppin’ In It product. I just had some tunes that didn’t quite fit the band, and everybody at Earthwork was really gung ho. Gung ho? What the hell is that?

TE: You seem to be on very friendly terms with every musician we’ve seen you collaborate with. Is this all a façade or does the friendship continue off the stage?

JD: I’ve been fortunate enough to surround myself with musicians, writers and designers that are not only gifted at their art, but are terrific people besides. It isn’t hard to be close with these people. Close personal relationships create close working relationships. These are my best friends.

TE: Would you recommend someone experience you first live or by listening to an album?

JD: Well, you can’t exactly put go-go dancers on an album, can you?

TE: The album “Fool Rooster” has a raw, almost live feel. How did you achieve this effect?

JD: Every time I’m in the studio I get more familiar with the process and have more of a handle on how to get the sound I hear in my head. Everything I hear on the radio today sounds like Velveeta tastes. Digital recording makes everything too easy. All of this studio sleight-of-hand is removing the human element from this music. I wanted my album to breathe, you know, to have its flaws and its own personality. We recorded the album live in the studio in one room straight to 2 inch tape with no overdubbing.

TE: I take it you don’t like the way Velveeta tastes? You never are in the mood for liquid cheese product?

JD: Let’s just say I’ve had some bloodcurdling run-ins with pasteurized, processed cheese food. Spray cheese, however, is an entirely different story.

TE: How important is song sequencing when you create an album like “Fool Rooster”?

JD: An album seems more like a collection of songs before it’s sequenced correctly. “Fool Rooster” was no different. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the way it sounded until I cut some tunes and got it in that order. I get kind of hung up on sequencing. Until it’s finally done, it’s all I think about.

TE: Many artists contributed to the look, sound, and substance of “Fool Rooster.” What was it like collaborating with others on this record? Explain the origins of the “Weathervane Collective.”

JD: This album was all about the process. Having the finished product was almost an afterthought. I wish everybody that hears the record could know what the sessions were like. It was one of the best times I’ve ever had. Everybody that was involved—the Steppin’ In It guys, everybody at Earthwork, all the great people from Lansing, drummer extraordinaire Justin Linam, especially Glenn—everybody kicked ass. Oh, and the Weathervane Collective is an international socialist bowling league whose purpose is to reduce the suffering of the proletariat through beer and cool shirts.

TE: That sounds fun, is it an exclusive socialist bowling league or can anyone join?

JD: Is there such a thing as an exclusive socialist organization? Oh, you have to bowl a 200 game, and have your own shoes.

TE: Who are “Morris and Ella”?

JD: My grandparents on my mother’s side. They had a huge hand in raising me, and I’m forever grateful. Morris passed away when I was 17, but I like to think that I’ve picked up many of his traits. Ella is 90 and is a great inspiration. This is a song more for them than about them.

TE: “All but Six” conveys a provocative, gloomy mood reminiscent of a funeral. Where did you get the inspiration for this tune?

JD: The coolest guy in Lansing is a fella named Jim Flynn. He’s a blues enthusiast, but you’ll see him out catching live music all the time. When you see him at the club, you know you’re in the right place. I once heard him say, “Fuck ‘em, all but six.” Meaning the six pallbearers at your funeral. It stuck with me.

TE: What do you see it as then? Could you elaborate on the meaning of the song “Holy Land”?

JD: Ginsberg said it, “Everything is holy! Everybody’s holy! Everywhere is holy! Everyday is eternity! Everyman’s an angel!”

TE: Does the current political climate have any influence on your creative process?

JD: These are troubled times for sure, and I feel that anything of a positive or progressive nature that we can put into the world helps.

TE: What can we anticipate in the future?

JD: We’re busy working on a new Steppin’ In It album. I’m getting excited about it, and I think it’s going to be the best project to date. Doing a lot of playing, writing and listening and, most importantly, raising a daughter.

TE: And lastly, for a Vonnegutesqe question: If you could write your own epitaph what would it say? No avoiding this one!

JD: All dressed up and no place to go.

TE: Thanks a bunch for your time, the staff of Thirdeye and the Weathervane Collective will have to have a bowling competition sometime…

JD: Thanks for the interest, and we’ll take you on anywhere, anywhen.

Visit www.steppininit.com for more on Davis

Tags: Interviews ·

One Comment so far ↓

  • marcdedealderman

    Josh,
    Drop us a line about the bowling. We too would like to be a part of an organization “…whose purpose is to reduce the suffering of the proletariat through beer and cool shirts”
    Marc & Dede

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