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Schematics For A Blank Stare interview with Jeffrey Greer

September 6, 2014

Schematics For A Blank Stare interview with Jeffrey Greer

Jeffrey Greer’s a man of many faces and one of them happens
to go by the name Schematics For A Blank Stare. 
The songs were mostly composed on a piano while alone and then filtered
through a collective of musicians and translated to electric keyboards via chemistry
and collaboration.  At times extremely
prog-ish and at others, much more dead ahead funk, with an added tasty hard
rock psych center, peaking it’s head out in the form of fuzzy solos and lead
lines that weave and melt into and out of the keyboard preaching King Crimson
in the background the entire time. 
Across two albums Schematics For A Blank stare refined their at times,
seemingly extremely experimental and psychedelic approach to music which isn’t
tied into the machismo of the retro-hipster movement and able to take itself a
bit more lightly with out treading into strange parody territory via The Pizza
Underground.  With song titles such as
“House Of The Rising Funk” and “Curse Of The Mud Zombies” Schematics For A
Blank Stare hit the nail right on the head. 
Interweaving between songs that could be almost interchangeable for a
cheesy B-movie from the mid-60’s to really funky, distorted, psychedelic guitar
and keyboard driven affairs that will have you tapping your toe and bobbing
your head in the living room.  And while
things get plenty noisy and ramped up, I don’t sense any aggression in this
music, either.  It’s nice to hear some
music that’s capable of summoning up the thunder and fuzz with out getting lost
in a haze of anger or getting so ramped up that they skip a beat or get off
track at all.  Both of their
self-released albums, Kiss Of Death and Acid Rain feel like soundtracks to a
movie that we’ll unfortunately, likely never see.  A film that would perhaps tell the personal
tale of musical exploration and that of finding a voice in the unique blend of
influences that convalesced to make Schematics For A Blank Stare the funky
psych machines that they were.  While the
members have moved on to other projects at this point, like the stunning psych
trio Canaan, Schematics For A Blank stare have left two astounding documents of
music behind and founding member Jeffrey Greer filled me in on the detail of
just how the project got started and what everyone’s up to at this point.  If you need some fun, funky music in your
life or you just need to know more about the multi-faceted artists that made up
Schematics For A Blank Stare than look no further, because as always It’s
Psychedelic Baby has got you covered!
Now I just
recently found out about you all but I know you’ve been around for a few
years.  Is this your original lineup or
have you all gone through any changes since the band started?
The original lineup stayed the same throughout both
albums.  I brought Zach Taylor in to
produce Kiss of Death and added a few songs that pre-dated Schematics For A
Blank Stare that featured Davin Burson. 
The last show we played was with a completely new lineup.  That was due to all the original members moving.
Are any of you in
any other active bands or do you have any side projects going on at the
moment?  Have you released any music with
anyone else in the past?  If so, can you
tell us about that?  I love playing
musical connect the dots, but nothing beats cheating and getting the answers
right from the horse’s mouth, ha-ha!
After Schematics For A Blank Stare ended, we were active
from 2010 to 2013, I was in a band called Age of Man with Matt Benson and
Darryl Driskill.  We were a heavy psych
blues rock power trio.  Currently, since
2013, I play with Jase Bryant and Brandon Smith out of Texarkana, Arkansas, in
an aggressive psych rock power trio called Canaan.
How old are you
and where are you originally from?
I am forty years old; born in Germany.
What was the local
music scene like where you grew up?  Did
you see a lot of shows there?  Do you
feel like that scene played a large role in shaping your musical tastes or in
the way that you perform at this point?
I didn’t really follow the music scene growing up.  Staying home, writing and practicing music
was my life.  The music that played the
biggest role during that time was film scores and library music from the late
60’s and early 70’s.  My style is
completely inspired by fuzzy psych rock from the early 70’s.
What about your
home?  Was there a lot of music around
when you were a kid?  Were either of your
parents or any of your close relatives musicians or extremely
interested/involved in music?
Music was always playing when I was young.  It consisted of a wide range of folk, rock,
lounge, funk, and anything with a heavy groove. 
My parents weren’t musically inclined but my grandmother did play the
organ.
What do you
consider your first real exposure to music to be?
My dad with his reel-to-reel and record collection.
If you were to
pick a single moment that seemed to change everything and opened your eyes up
to the infinite possibilities that music presents, what would it be?
Hearing the Soft Machine for the first time.  It happened around 2001; I wanted to write music
that sounded like it was lost film grooves from the early 70’s.
What was your
first instrument?  When and how did you
originally get that?
A Wurlitzer 200A electric piano.  I bought it in 2001 at a local music
store.  It was still in the original box.
How did the
members of Schematics For A Blank Stare originally meet?  When would that have been?
John, the bass player, and I went to school together.  In 2003, I moved in with him.  At the time, he didn’t play.  I was constantly playing and writing.  He wanted to join in, so he bought a
bass.  He was a natural.  Wade came in around 2005.  He’s an amazing guitar player that
understands great fuzz tones.
When and what led
to the formation of Schematic For A Blank Stare?
It gradually started as stated in one of the earlier
questions, but it officially started in 2005.
Is there any kind
of ideal, mantra, code, or creed that the band shares or lives by?
Just keep it funky and fuzzy.
What does the name
Schematics For A Blank Stare mean or refer to? 
Who came up with the name and how did you go about choosing that?  Are there any close seconds that you almost
went with you can recall or remember?
It’s a name I came up with. 
It’s a reference to getting lost in the sound.  At first, it was going to be a song title,
but then I thought it would work for a band name.  There were a couple of names before we
settled on it, but I can’t remember what they were.
Where’s the band
located at these days?
The band is no more. 
Wade lives in Philadelphia.
How would you
describe the local music scene where you’re at currently?
Texarkana has a vibrant music scene.  There’s always a good band playing somewhere
every night.
Are you very
involved in the local scene in your opinion? 
Do you book or attend a lot of local shows, or anything like that?
I would say that I’m pretty involved.  Canaan plays at least two shows a month in
the surrounding area.
Are you involved
in recording or releasing any music?  If
you are, can you tell us about that here briefly?
Canaan is currently recording a three song demo which is on
Bandcamp.
Has the local
scene played an integral role in the formation, sound, history or evolution of
Schematic For A Blank Stare or do you all feel like you could be doing what
you’re doing and sound like you do despite where you might have been located or
what you could have been surrounded by?
It hasn’t affected the sound of Schematics For A Blank Stare.  The local music scene is primarily heavy
rock.  This project started out as a
studio project, even though it’s all just live recordings on the records.  I never really planned on taking it to the
stage.  There’ve only been a few
shows.  Most of the time when I play
these songs, it’s just me and a piano.
How would you
describe Schematic For A Blank Stare to our readers who might not have heard
you all before in your own words?
It’s music that could have been used as a B-movie soundtrack
from 1970, lots of funky drums, fender Rhodes melodies, heavy bass riffs, and
fuzz wah guitar.  It was all recorded on
analogue tape.  No drum machines or
loops; all played live.
I’m extremely
curious to hear who you all would cite as your major musical influences?  What about influences on the band as a whole
rather than just individually?
Personally, Alan Hawkshaw, Brian Bennett, Barigozzi Group,
Sven Libaek, Piotr Figiel, Francis Lai, Karl Heinz Schafer, Piero Umiliani,
Serge Gainsbourg, Piero Piccioni, I gres, Les Maldedictus sound, De Wolf
library, KPM music library, David Axelrod, and Galt Macdermont.  As a band: Black Sabbath, Dust, Toad, Blues
Creation, the tones of early proto metal.
What’s the
songwriting process for Schematic For A Blank Stare like?  Is there someone who usually comes in to the
rest of the band with a riff or maybe a more finished idea to work out and
compose with the rest of the band?  Or,
is there a lot of jamming and exchange of ideas that you all just kind of
polish and distill until you work out something you’re happy with?
The majority of songs I write on piano.  There were some songs that came out of
improve jams, though.
What about
recording?  I think that most musicians
can obviously appreciate all the time, work and effort that goes into making an
album when you’re holding that finished product in their hands.  Getting to that point though, and getting
stuff recorded and sounding the way that you want it to, especially as a band,
can be extremely difficult to say the least. 
What’s it like recording for Schematics For A Blank Stare?
We did all recording ourselves using a 4-track analogue
recorder.  We went through a few of
them.  If you listen to the last song on
Kiss Of Death, you can hear the tape machine needed to be calibrated; it sounds
like the guitar has some intonation issues. 
We burned up several recorders. 
There are a lot of things I wish would have turned out sonically better.  These albums were really never meant to be
heard by a large audience.  It blows my
mind knowing there’re copies of these albums all over the globe.  Thank you David Horowitz and Auditory
Conundrum records for putting out Acid Rain.
Do you all prefer
to take a more DIY approach to recording where you handle the technical aspects
of stuff on your own so you don’t have to worry about compromising or working
with anyone else?  Or, do you all prefer
to head into the studio and let someone else handle that side of things so you
can concentrate on simply getting the best performance possible out of
yourselves?
It’s nice to have a sound engineer at a studio to help get
the sound you want.  These albums are DIY
all the way.  You can hear the lo-fi
quality and imperfections in the audio. 
I think that’s part of the attraction, the innocence in the sound
quality.
Do you all spend a
lot of time working out every aspect of a song before you head in to record,
figuring out exactly how something’s going to sound before you ever attempt to
record it, or do you all just get a good skeletal idea of what a song’s going
to sound like, while allowing for change and evolution during the recording
process?
As far as melodies go, it’s worked up before recording.  Other parts are usually figured out during
the recording process.  Sometimes we
would sit around for hours playing each part to a song together, working it up.
Do psychoactive or
hallucinogenic drugs play a large or important role in the songwriting,
recording or performance process for Schematic For A Blank Stare?  People have been tapping into the altered
states that these drugs create for a long time to make their art and I’m always
curious about it…
No, drugs don’t play an important role in any of that for
me.  The majority of the songs were
written on hazy, grey afternoons in the fall. 
Although, I have enjoyed listening to music on mushrooms, I have no reason
to believe that it influenced my music. 
It may have been a psychoactive state that I have been in while writing
music, but it (the psychoactive state) was never induced by any substance.
Your first release
that I’m aware of is 2012’s self-released Acid Rain 12”.  Can you share some of your memories of
recording that first album with us? 
Where and when would that have been recorded at?  Who recorded it and what kind of equipment
was used?  Was that a fun, pleasurable
experience for you all recording Acid Rain? 
When I was looking over your Bandcamp page I know it lists the 12” as
limited edition.  Is Acid Rain limited to
any certain number of copies?
Recording Acid Rain was a blast.  It was recorded during the fall of 2006.  We used reel-to-reel tapes for drums and a
Tascam 4-track for the rest.  The house
in Smackover, Arkansas we recorded in was sound insulated nicely.  None of us really had any idea`of recording
techniques, we just turned the knobs till it sounded right.  I wish we could have recorded in a studio,
but I’m pleased with the way it turned out. 
Yes, it’s a limited edition of 500 copies.  I’m not sure how many of those are left.
A year later in
2013 you unleashed you second full-length album Kiss Of Death.  Was the recording of the material for Kiss Of
Death very similar to the session(s) for your earlier album?  Do you feel like you all had learned a lot
working on, or since you had worked on, that first album?  Who recorded the material for Kiss Of Death?  Where and when would that have been?  What kind of equipment was used?
For the Kiss of Death album, I brought in Zach Taylor to
produce and mix the music.  He also laid
down some amazing vocal harmonies on that album.  It was kind of rough finishing the Kiss Of
Death
album since everybody had moved away. 
I wasn’t sure if it would even get finished.  There’re a couple of songs that never got
completed due to the distance between everyone.
Other than the two
albums does Schematics For A Blank Stare have any music that we haven’t talked
about yet, maybe a song on a compilation or a demo that I might not know about?
Yes, there’s enough material for a third album.  It will remain unmixed and in the vault.  I think the two albums are plenty enough.
With the release
of Kiss Of Death back in 2013 at this point, do you all have any other releases
in the works or on the horizon at this point?
Canaan has a three song demo about to come out, other than
that, no.
With the
completely insane international shipping rates these days I try and provide our
readers with as many possible options for picking up imports as I can.  Where’s the best place for our international
and overseas readers to score your albums? 
What about our US readers?
Bandcamp, Discogs, or eBay.
And where would
the best place for our interested readers to keep up with the latest news like
upcoming shows and album releases from Schematics For A Blank Stare at?
Are there any
major goals or plans that you all are looking to accomplish in the rest of 2014
or 2015?
The band I’m in now, Canaan, wants to play as many shows as
possible.
Do you all spend a
lot of time out on the road touring?  Do
you enjoy being out on the road?  What’s
life like on tour for Schematics For A Blank Stare?
I play a lot of shows with the band I’m in now.
What, if anything,
do you all have planned as far as touring goes for the rest of 2014?
Just staying active in the local music scene.
Who are some of
your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to play with over the
past few years?
Radio Moscow, Dax Riggs, Gypsy Hawk, Mothership, American
Sharks, and Destroyer of Light.
In your dreams,
who are you on tour with?
The Greg Foat Group.
Do you have any
funny or interesting stories from live shows or performances that you’d like to
share here with our readers?
I used to get really worked up when playing the drums in my
old band, Age of Man. One night, I was particularly “emotional”, and at the
finale of a song I literally played my drums into the ground. Before I realized
what I had done, I kicked my bass drum over and walked off stage. We were half
way through set. I went to the bathroom, and when I came back, the drummer from
the previous band had started setting my drum kit back up so I could finish the
show. Me and the band just laughed it off and finished the set.
Do you all give a
lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the band to a large
extent?  Stuff like flyers, posters,
shirt designs, covers, logos and that kind of thing.  Is there any kind of meaning or message that
you’re trying to convey?  Do you have
anyone that you usually turn to in your times of need when it comes to that
kind of thing?
There’s a lot of thought behind flyers and posters.  We want a visual that lets people know what
there in store for.
With all of the
various methods of release that are available to musicians today I’m always
curious why they choose and prefer the various mediums that they do.  Do you have a preferred medium of release for
your won music?  What about when you’re
listening to and or purchasing music?  If
you do have a preference, can you talk a little bit about why?
Vinyl is the only way to go. 
I don’t own any CDs, just records. 
I love to sit in front of my stereo, grab a few records, some beer, and
relax.
Do you have a
music collection at all?  If you do, can
you tell us a little bit about it?
I have a vast record collection, not sure how many, never
counted.  I have lots of psych, library,
funk, lounge, and tons of obscure, groovy records.
I grew up around
this enormous collection of music that my dad had and he really encouraged me
to listen to anything that I wanted, but more importantly I think, he would
take me out and pick up random stuff from the local shops that I wanted to
hear.  As a result, I developed a deep
appreciation for physically released music. 
There’s something magical about kicking back with an album, a set of
headphones, reading the liner notes, staring at the cover art and just letting
the whole thing take me on this crazy trip! 
Having something physical to hold and experience along with the music
always made for a more complete listening experience.  Do you have any such connection with
physically released music?  If so, can
you talk a little bit about that?
I do.  I feel the
exact same way.  I love the artwork on
albums, the literature, reading all the info about who played what and where.
Like it or not,
digital music is here in a big way. 
While digital music may be pretty revolutionary on its own, when you
team it with the internet that’s when things get really interesting!  Together they’ve exposed people to the
literal world of music they they’re surrounded by and allowed for an
unparalleled level of communication between bands and their fans eradicating
geographic boundaries that would have crippled bands even as little as a few
years ago.  On the other hand though,
illegal downloading is running rampant right now and while people may be
exposed to more music than ever, their relationship with that music is rapidly
changing and not always for the better in this writer’s humble opinion.  As an artist during the reign of the digital
era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?
I understand the importance of it in the way it makes music
that’s hard to find accessible to a large audience.  I don’t have any music on my phone.  When I burn albums from record to CD to
listen to in my car, I can hear the difference in quality.
I try to keep up
with as much good music as I possibly can but there’s just not enough time in
the world to keep up with one percent of the amazing stuff that’s happening
right now.  Is there anyone from your
local scene or area that I should be listening to I might not have heard of
before?
Bristol Hills, The Dirty Streets, Mothership, and Giganto.
What about
nationally and internationally?
Sienna Root, Vidunder, London Souls, Mount Caramel, and
Earthless.
Thanks so much for
taking the time to talk to me about the band, it was awesome getting to learn
so much about you all and while I know it had to have taken a while to get done
I hope it was cool for you all to look back on everything you’ve managed to
accomplish as a band over the past few years. 
Before we call it a day I’d like to open the floor up to you for a
second though.  Is there anything that I
could have possibly missed or that maybe you’d just like to take this
opportunity to talk to me or the readers about at this point?
I would like to acknowledge Heather Harris for her love,
encouragement, and beautiful artwork on the Acid Rain album.  Without her, I would have never had the
confidence to send it to Fred.  Before we
made the record she handmade gatefold sleeves for CDs to sell at shows, those
had original artwork as well.  And Fred
Bussu, thanks to him for promoting Acid Rain
David Horowitz; thanks to him for producing Acid Rain.  Thanks to Joshua Foster for his killer
artwork on the Kiss of Death album and Neil Inman, thanks to him for formatting
Kiss of Death.  Thank you for the
interview.  Thanks to everyone who has
purchased a copy.
DISCOGRAPHY
(2012)  Schematic for
a Blank Stare – Acid Rain – Digital, 12” – Conundrum Records (Limited to 500
copies)
(2013)  Schematic for
a Blank Stare – Kiss of Death – Digital, 12” – Conundrum Records
Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2014
One Comment
  1. Robert Rapier

    Listening to "Kiss of Death" was like a series grooves that you slide back and forth on.
    A funky, fuzzy resurgence of a 1970's groove. Forty-something years on, I still dig the "groove". Must listen.

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