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Grant Lee Phillips' comments on Storm Hymnal - Gems From The Vault Of Grant Lee Buffalo

"Now and then, certain projects have a way of slipping out without much hoopla or forewarning. Among these, the European release of Storm Hymnal - Gems From The Vault of Grant Lee Buffalo. A 30-track double disc, the collection features select titles from the band's four major albums as well as B-sides and rarities. Presently, Storm Hymnal is a UK-only release, although it's due to receive wide distribution across the whole of Europe in the coming year. I'm sad to relate, I've heard no word of a North American release thus far. I suggest checking online resources like amazon.co.uk if you can't find it as an import. Storm Hymnal is a comprehensive sampling of Grant Lee Buffalo's best work and also features the band's most rare and experimental recordings as well, some of which have never been officially released until now. I was urged to contribute personal liner notes and cull through a large body of photographs, all of which are featured here in a very Buffalo-esque presentation." Source: GrantLeePhillips.com, December 2001


"A demo recording of Fuzzy was picked up by Bob Mould's Singles Only Label in the summer of '92, and before too long was gathering significant airplay at Boston's WFNX. In October of that same year we signed a recording deal with Slash Records. The same acoustic-based song that blazed its way to Beantown hurled us in stark contrast to the climate of the day. Perhaps that's my lesson - stick to the back roads, the hounds won't catch us if we cut through the stream." Source: Storm Hymnal - Gems From The Vault Of Grant Lee Buffalo (inlay), 2001

Phillips suggests there is more "glam" in his own band than meets the eye. "Well, it's all there," he insists. "Even 'Jupiter and Teardrop' off our first album, the opening chord and everything, you know, it's a hair close to 'Moonage Daydream'! You know, I like all that stuff. Sometimes the melodrama and the greasepaint allows you to get a little bit 'closer to the heart' in a way. 'Cause you can't be sure if it's real or it's put on, or if it's a testimony. But it does allow you that chance to get closer to the heart, sometimes. Eeew, what a terrible line! Let's erase that. Isn't that like an awful Jefferson Starship song?" Source: Stomp And Stammer, June 1998

Gonzo: What's Jup about?
GLBuffalo: Self explanatory.
Source: SonicNet.com, Online Happening With Grant Lee Buffalo, 09-22-1995

Question: Have you heard the new Bowie album, Heathen?
GLP: No, I like the cover though.
Question: He does a version of "Cactus" from [The Pixies'] Surfa Rosa.
GLP: Really? Oh my goodness! I have to call David Lovering and talk to him about it. That's great. That's the thing that's always cool about Bowie. He's such a fan to begin with. He knocked on our trailer one afternoon at a music festival in a Brussels. I think he heard "Jupiter and Teardrop" from the side of the stage and thought that I was ripping him off, which I was. But as fate would have it, I was in the cafeteria tent when he was knocking at our door. I wish I would have been there. I would have made him a cup of tea or whatever he might desire. He's David Bowie for Pete's sake.
Source: UGO.com, July 2002

"I can't say what makes the song tick or even if I have a greater emotional investment in that one really. It's an odd song with chords that I couldn't even name set to a beat that nobody on earth could dance to." Source: Messages From Beyond

"For me Texas exists in in this sort of mythological way, and what I was writing about was largely Texas the myth, the Texas I've come to know through movies and recent events in history. I started writing that song focussing on the JFK assassination and all of the weird conspiracies that surround that assassination. All of it begins to sound very myth like. I started it from that point, and then maybe two or three weeks later this thing happened in Waco that I'm sure you're familiar with (the David Koresh-Branch Davidian-FBI holocaust) so the song sort of took a different direction at that point. I sorta wanted to talk about two stories within one song but all of it is a sort of a myth, or a collage of myths. It wasn't long after the Waco incident that I heard it emerged on television, that there was a sort of a television drama that came out, and soon the OJ Simpson story will be told - in many ways it's being told right now, but a dramatization will feature. I'm just perplexed by that. It's so important in America, America is such a dreamland." Source: Things Grant Always What They Seem, Rave Magazine, December 1994

"Referring to "Lonestar", it's "Reno" as in Janet. I mumbled it though because I was paranoid that Janet Reno would hear the song and hunt me down like a wild animal." Source: Buffalo Moon, 1995

"Lone Star Song is an interesting song because I can't actually state what the actual political bent is on that song. It's much more unconscious and spontaneous of a writing than it is a political tirade. More and more, I find the only way that I am able to achieve something effective is to work from a very personal feeling, in that way all politics have to begin in the heart, and those people who are effective in that way socially and politically, they have to have a great deal of conviction to begin with. You probably have it memorized, that old REM slogan, "Think Globally, Act Locally." Seems I have it memorized as well. I always liked that and I'm not sure it's something that any one of them came up with, but its something they seemed to have embraced, and that's a very respectable thing". Source: Grant Lee Phillips, Shaking Loose the Sadness, Murmurs.com, May 2002

"The current state of affairs has provided a handy bridge when it comes to singing that song. Crawford, Texas is as much a hub of world events as anywhere else. I have to say that, when I sing a song, I'm simultaneously where I was when I wrote it and also conveying it in the moment, this moment, the present.
"Even if I name-check someone like Janet Reno, for instance, then it's still open to interpretation as to why she is in there. She merely makes a cameo. I was intending to juggle a few different stories, everything from the Kennedy conspiracy to Waco to the belief that Texas was a bizarre dust storm of potential events. Having said that, I love the food met great people and I've played great shows there. I hope they will have me back." Source: UGO.com, July 2002

Inga: What's Mockingbird inspired by?
GLBuffalo: Mockingbirds... the Charlie and Inez Fox song.
Gonzo: Does it have anything to do with Seals and Croft's "Hummingbird"?
GLBuffalo: Nope... more like arts and crafts.
Sundial: What is Mockingbirds about anyway? The lyrics to that have always fascinated me.
GLBuffalo: Star-crossed lovers... who collide at the corners of have and have not.
SonicNet.com, Online Happening With Grant Lee Buffalo, 09-22-1995

"We sort of this whole song [Mockingbird by Inez and Charlie Fox] and cut it up and put it back together for Mockingbirds. I can do that because it's an old song and I'm an outsider. It's not part of my history. But it is darn eerie that it's playing now. We're plagued by the Supernatural. Maybe we should do an album cover with us standing in a triangular formation with the Bermuda triangle in the middle." Source: Moonstruck, Rolling Stone, January 1995

"Occasionally, you have songs that might have been written at different times and in different locations, but, somehow, it all fits together. But if doesn't feel right, then we're very apt to leave it off the record. And that's when songs start finding themselves in that piles marked "b-sides". It doesn't mean the songs are any less viable; it just means they've been neglected.
Honey Don't Think was sort of written with that in mind. I said, "You know, we're gonna need some b-sides for the next record," not really stopping to consider that we hadn't yet accumulated enough songs to even make the record proper. (Laughter.) So I started thinking "What if I had to write a song for someone else to sing?" And that's how Honey Don't Think was done. It made it really easy to write actually.
I might have been influenced - in some ways - by the Paul Westerberg record, by its directness and his clever twist of words. But the song, for the most part, was just a really unconscious piece of writing that took all of five minutes to create. In hindsight, I wish I'd written another verse to it; it would've been more complete. I realize silly things like that, when it's too late. The song wasn't really finished, you know?" Source: Goldmine Magazine, 1997 (Interview: 11-03-1996)

"Well, the song is still pretty introspective on the album, but I've hit upon a new way of doing it live. Going back to your question about Mighty Joe Moon, some of these songs, I'm just beginning to appreciate and just beginning to enter into at this point. We hardly ever played "Happiness" when Grant Lee Buffalo was around and when we did we tried to pull it off like it was on the album. Which sort of distanced it in a way. So this is an opportunity to revisit those things and rediscover the meaning behind them." Source: UGO.com, July 2002

"This song is a romantic pastoral vision of an industry and, more importantly, the people that brought life to it. It attempts to juxtapose divine aspirations with earthly triumphs and by sheer coincidence recalls soul music of the early seventies. I think of it as rollerskating music because that and Blue Oyster Cult is what they played at the skating rink in Stockton when I was a kid." Source: Buffalo Moon, 1996

Q: I heard Bethlehem Steel was the new single, but I haven't seen a commercially available version with b-sides or anything yet.
A: No, you're right. We've only shipped it to radio so far. Actually, when Copperopolis came out, I was pushing Bethlehem Steel to be the first single, since we consider it the album's centerpiece. There's an edit of it that's about three minutes shorter that the album version. It's a whole 'nother mix, and that would have been our preferred choice (for an initial single). The record company, on the other hand, was pushing pretty heavily for Homespun and - even after that - they want with Two & Two. Which is another good single as well, but… You only have a narrow window with these kind of things. By the time you get around to your third single, radio programmers have already moved on to whatever's happening that week. The new Marilyn Manson, or whatever. (Laughter.) Not to say I'm bitter about it, but, in hindsight, I think it would have been smarter to go with Bethlehem Steel first. Source: Goldmine Magazine, 1997 (Interview: 11-03-1996)

"One of the album's finest moments, is arguably "Bethlehem Steel". Inspired by the legendary steel town of Bethlehem, PA, and in more general terms, the theme of human aspiration. The lyric is set against a dark and grinding soul groove. It's admittedly an odd amalgam yet probably one of the album's most unconscious efforts." Source: GrantLeeBuffalo.com, 2001

Question: Its funny listening to Copperopolis that Bethlehem Steel went out of business.
GLP: I think I heard that, it's no more. I ought to send them a copy of that record. I began writing that song when were on the road with Paul Westerberg in 1993 and I had seen signs for Bethlehem Steel. Later, a few years later we wound up in Bethlehem Steel and approached the thing like Dominic Dunne from a journalistic standpoint. There is a Goodman General Store and there is a Lazarus Moving/Storage.
Source: Grant Lee Phillips, Shaking Loose the Sadness,
Murmurs.com, May 2002

"This song began as an intimate acoustic piece, but when I brought it to the band it took on a much harder veneer. It had a "Clash"-like energy about it at that point, but we realized that this edgy approach, however up-beat, could not deliver the more dreamy lyric, so we hit upon a new approach all together: a song whose skeleton is acoustic and hovers in a sea of ambient guitar, voice and mellotron. This direction was completely spontaneous and represents a moment where the possibilities of the studio were fully embraced. Lyrically the song is about people patching things up. It reflects a skeptical optimism that comes naturally to me." Source: Buffalo Moon, 1996

"Unlike some of the songs of Copperopolis that were conceived while touring, this one was written while we were off the road. I've noticed that while we are on tour, I tend to write very solitary things when I go back to the hotel. When I'm away from that ritual of volume and adrenaline, I'll write a song like "Homespun" at 3:00 in the morning. There is a sense of rage in the lyric that was brought on by news from home. For instance, the Oklahoma bombing was still a fresh story, as was the growing militia movement in the US. There was this climate of upheaval, and the writing of "Homespun" was prompted by that climate." Source: Buffalo Moon, 1996

12. TWO & TWO
"This song is about feeling misunderstood and inarticulate. It's about searching for simple answers to even simpler questions before realizing that neither of them exists. The title is just another way of saying "It isn't black or white." There's a more internalized approach to songwriting here that may feel cryptic, but it's the closest I can come to expressing these issues nonlinear, illogical and pure." Source: Buffalo Moon, 1996

"One of the first songs written for the new album. It's a simple enough pledge, but I imagine its overtones are as complex as anything I've written in a while. I set out with the idea of saying something in a way that was more direct than I might have gone about things in the past. In short, let's just say it's very much a one-on-one kind of song, but if you feel like playing along, it's in regular old D." Source:
GLB WB Site - Jubilee Review, 1998

"The melody of this song came from the bass. I was wanting to trick my fingers into playing something different. I've had this Kramer bass laying around for years. I bought it from a fella' in a band called Psycom way back in the '80s, and for a long time that's the only kind of music it wanted to make. I'll have to admit it though, it gave me this song. The chorus came a few weeks later, over coffee in Providence. The bridge went through a few evolutions before settling in. I remember watching a lunar eclipse in Calvary and the moon looked like it was on fire. I was a long way from home and even the sky looked different. I went back to my hotel room that night and finished off most the words." Source:
GLB WB Site - Jubilee Review, 1998

15. MY, MY, MY
"The lyric theme of this one is one of laughter in the face of chaos. It's about breaking down all the barriers we set up for ourselves and the dumping-off point for a whole lot of bad self-fulfilled prophesies. You can shake your butt to it; I love it but it tears up my throat." Source:
GLB WB Site - Jubilee Review, 1998

"It really turns haywire, that song. We have to play it near the end of the set because by the time we get through the song, all the guitars are out of tune, the drum heads are busted, my throat's wrecked, and it's time to go home at that point." Source: Illinois Entertainer, August 1998

I imagine this is one of my favorite things we've recorded in a long while. The song was written one night after Joey and I had spent hours talking about the future with Paul Fox. We hadn't yet committed to Fox at this point but I began to glimpse what was possible, like sunlight on the horizon. This song was born out of that reassessment. I took it as a good sign." Source:
GLB WB Site - Jubilee Review, 1998


These alternate versions represent these album tracks in their early incarnations. They were recorded in the same session that yielded "Fuzzy", "Stars & Stripes" & "Dixie Drug Store". Source: Jupiter And Teardrop German Single (inlay) (St. Louis, March 1994)

"The Shining Hour" - This one is a lot spookier here. It probably would have been on the album except that we forgot that it was recorded. The arrangement is different and I like the vocals on this version more than the album." Source: Jupiter And Teardrop German Single (inlay) (St. Louis, March 1994)

"Wish You Well" is arranged differently than the album version. This alternate version employs some bizarre sound effects & Paul plays piano on it as well. It also features the voice of an unnamed psychic in the bridge, uttering the words "Los Angeles has been hit", recorded months before the LA riots, the song is a strange premonition." Source: Source: Jupiter And Teardrop German Single (inlay) (St. Louis, March 1994)

"Soft Wolf Tread" - This version is a very intimate, acoustic, take on the song. Joey plays some really cool shakers. It is not an "unplugged" kind of thing but a completely different approach to the song. It may be better than the album version." Source: Jupiter And Teardrop German Single (inlay) (St. Louis, March 1994)

"I wrote it pretty quickly. It's basically a stream of images that were inspired by a book on the Black Plague that was reading at the time. I was also watching a program about WW2 spies and some of that stuff is in there too. It's a strange one with a great deal of darkness that pervades the lyrics. It belongs in the X File I think." Source: Messages From Beyond

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