05 Springtime In Tangier by Tomten
“I’m not against Pro Tools, I just don’t like to be around computers for too long. We mixed it at Orbit, Andy Meyer had us all there to help move up the faders, so we had tape markings, and he’d say ‘do this now!’ then we’d [motions like he's pushing several faders up at once]. It makes more sense to me, I understand it more.” Brian Noyeswatkins, the lead of Seattle’s band Tomten, describing, in part, why they record to 16 track reel to reel tape instead of letting a computer do the work. Their sound deserves such treatment and as everybody knows in their heart of hearts, it’s the proper way to record a band. Tape.
These guys are really cool, I think you’ll enjoy them. Brian’s a great guy too, I had a blast hanging out with him. That’s kinda all we did, hang out and chat it up. Before an interview, I have to suppress the cliche interviewer guy’s voice inside my brain. Mainly because I’m not that guy. Also, to force a conversation, can potentially strip the interview of the feeling you get by simply letting shit happen and not acting too interview-y. I do better if I stutter a lot and leave the questions in my note pad at home. I tracked down Brian and asked if we could meet up and grab a Bartles & James somewhere. We met at The Twilight Exit and, reassuringly, I began to think it was a good interview tactic as we compared the bar drink version of a John Cameron (scotch, vermouth, and orange bitters on the rocks) to the bar drink version of a James Cameron- which we defined as big, experimental, and catchy, with a sea salt from the Marians Trench rim. Brian says “You gotta invent a whole new way of making drinks in order to make the James Cameron. I’ll take two James Camerons.”
“So So So” by Tomten
“I’m actually not a big Pink Floyd guy,” he answers, “I like The Madcap Laughs, that album’s great. I’m into Fairport Convention right now. Also Richard Thompson. Have you heard the album I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight?” I said no. “I was playing it at work today, it makes you want to kill yourself but it’s really good, it’s really pretty. It’s not a downer album.” I realized Tomten doesn’t have a band they’re trying to duplicate, they’re just going for it, inspired by an era and whatever conveniently falls into their sticky fingertips. We chatted for a couple hours then went over to the ping pong table to conduct a proper interview. The Twilight is in the Central District of Seattle, we were on the back patio enjoying the sunny weather, the other tables around us were couples, or groups, all playing board games or cards. I set my digital recorder on the ping pong table, and we decided not to keep score.
What inspired the reverby sound with you guys?
“We stole an amp, from Cornish College of the Arts,” where the band met and was formed, “an Ampeg Reverberocket. It has really nice reverb. I think it was that amp. And our guitarist, at the time, liked reverb a lot. I think we all like reverb. Reverb’s always good.”
What was the oldest vinyl he owned.
“Oldest or favorite? My favorite is an original pressing of John Cale Paris 1919 French import.”
Do you keep it behind glass?
“No, I listen to it, I don’t like to hang stuff on my walls. What’s your favorite vinyl?”
“Probably my Tom Waits collection.”
Brian jumps in “I have an original pressing of Closing Time. That’s the best three-in-the-morning album. When you’re by yourself. The upright piano on that album is so murky.”
Brian then does a great impression of a Waits’ lyric then goes right to his Donovan impression from when he saw him perform in 2009. “He said really cheesy things between songs.” Then he mentions how “Paul McCartney was SO great with the Beatles, but now he sucks. His new album is called Kisses On The Bottom. What the hell? Maybe he’s use to people kissing his ass. Wait… ready? Do your best Paul McCartney face, on three…” then, after counting to three, Brian does a hilarious, cartoonish Paul face “All you have to do is, like, side mouth… aw it’s so fun. I almost got in a car crash one time doing Paul faces to my friends.” “That would be a great way to go.” I said. He laughs, “Yeah, except no one would know.”
Then we place a bet on who will live the longest, Ringo or Paul. I put my money on Paul, I think Paul will live well into his hundreds. “I should only do ping pong interviews from now on.” “And I should only do interviews that end with a DUI.” I said, contemplating another James Cameron.“Yeah exactly.” In a Travolta-esque voice Brian mocks “I talked to this guy, then I went to jail. You could be like the Ronny Dobbs of all this.”
Then I crawled out of the cupboard.
Tomten released a self-titled full length album in 2010, and an EP earlier this year called Ta Ta Dana. Their second full lenth album Wednesday’s Children was released last month, all of which can be found anywhere. Brian recommends you order the vinyl from your local record store.