Saturday, May 26

Peter Holsapple - Exclusive Q & A (Part 1)

The dB’s Repercussion Blog Q & A
With Peter Holsapple

Peter Holsapple: ready for any old thing that might come along...

Pop quiz for fans of The dB’s:  

To which member of the band would you give
the Most Valuable Player award?

Without hesitation, my vote goes to Peter Holsapple.

There would be no dB’s, of course, without founder Chris Stamey. In my book, he will forever have the title The Guy Who Launched the Best American Alt-Pop Band, Ever. More recently, Chris gets major props from me for his songwriting, singing, arranging and production work on the new and most excellent Falling Off the Sky. 

The last 'proper' studio album
When the continued existence of The dB’s came into question, however, it was Peter who stepped up to the plate. Along with founding member and drummer Will Rigby, Peter carried forward the spirit of the band for years after Chris left in 1982 for a solo career. The other founding member of the band, Gene Holder, said good-bye shortly after the recording of the group’s final studio album, 1987’s The Sound of Music. That left Will and Peter to soldier on with Jeff Beninato (who had joined the band for TSOM) and an assortment of musicians who toured with the group in the mid to late 1980s.

In the early phase of The dB’s musical life, Peter shared songwriting and lead vocal duties with Chris. After the latter’s departure, however, these two major responsibilities fell entirely on Peter’s shoulders. So it was an impressive achievement for the Holsapple-led dB’s to retain the same level of respect from music critics — not to mention credibility among dB’s fans.

As you can surmise from this preamble, it was a tremendous honor and thrill for me to spend an hour chatting with Peter recently about the band’s reunion and, in particular, Falling Off the Sky the recorded fruit of The dB’s sporadic 21st century labors.

I’ve split my conversation with Peter into two parts. Part 1 is the Q & A that appears below. Part 2 (coming in a week) will be a longer, more in-depth, and more free form feature story. It will offer further details regarding Peter’s perspective on the new album as well as the joys and challenges of making music again with the same three guys with whom he grew up so many years ago.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's my pleasure to present to you my nominee for MVP of The dB’s — Mr. Peter Holsapple.

Peter Holsapple: sharing the load once again with Chris Stamey.
The dB's, Hoboken, NJ, May 6, 2012 jvdalton photo via Flickr
First, congratulations on a great achievement: Falling Off the Sky is a beauty. It stands up to the best of your catalog, as a group and as solo artists. Lots of us will be trying to describe Falling Off the Sky, so let me give you the same opportunity: how do you describe it?
PETER: It sounds to me like a dB’s record that’s got all the elements you’ve come to hope for with a dB’s song — good melody and good harmony, there’s interesting guitar. The incredible rhythm section, who’re able to turn anything into something good. We wanted it to sound effortless. It’s the old suspension of disbelief, I guess. They may know it took a million years to make it, they may know it took a thousand vocal takes, but they think it [sounds as if it] took only one. That’s what you want, you want it to all sound like it’s a natural, organic process. I’d like to think that we did succeed in that.

In between recording dates for
Falling Off the Sky, the second Stamey-Holsapple duo album was recorded, and the two of you also worked on solo material. With so many songs available, how did you decide which ones were right for The dB's album?
"Santa Monica"  from this album
features Will & Gene
We did spend a lot of time trying to think, “What is this record supposed to sound like? What does a dB’s record sound like?” In fact, there was a point where “She Won’t Drive In the Rain Anymore” was on the chopping block. The feeling was, “Well, is this really a dB’s song?” And, yes, we finally determined that it was. On Here & Now, you’ll notice the song “Santa Monica” features Will and Gene on drums and bass.  We recorded that at a dB’s session, the same session I think that we ended up getting “Send Me Something Real” and “World to Cry” out of. “Santa Monica” is a perfect example: same personnel, but does it really sound like a dB’s song? No, it ended up sounding like something that should be on a record that’s just me and Chris that happened to have those guys on it. As we were recording Falling Off the Sky, it became evident [which] songs really benefited specifically from Will and Gene’s take on them.

I'm intrigued by the running order. I hear a difference between "Side A" & "Side B". The first six songs seem like a great collection of singles. But Side B has this amazing flow, which I think is best appreciated as a whole. Does this reflect your intent?
Little Feat's Sailin' Shoes
I honestly couldn’t say we really felt like that. Only when we were talking about the vinyl did it really get down to an A and a B-side kind of thing. We knew the first few songs really had to pull people in; you want people to sit up on their hind legs and like this — make it so it’s undeniable. And I think we did that. Great records [have] that knockout one-two punch. I always think of Sailin’ Shoes by Little Feat; starts with “Easy to Slip” and then “Cold Cold Cold.” That’s a perfect way to start a record.

I assume that recording this album was quite a challenge: squeezing in studio time between all your other commitments and musical projects. How different do you think the album would be if you'd had the old scenario, "We've got just 8 weeks to record & mix this"?
It will be different if you do it like that, without a doubt. Somebody asked me the other day, “How do you know when an album is finished?” And we were laughingly saying, “Well, ask Axl Rose.” The album is finished when the checkbook closes, in a lot of cases. But the winnowing process for us was, I guess, about trying to get as many songs done so we would have enough to choose from. If we’d had 15 songs to choose from, it would have been harder to decide what a 12-song album would be. We tried to get the most intelligent collection of songs that we could put together. We were able to ferret out the ones that made the most sense together.

"Write Back" is Will's first composition and first solo lead vocal on a dB's album. (I love the song, and hope his other solo work gets a wider audience because of it.) Did Will have to endure jokes from the other guys about Ringo or "Octopus's Garden"?!?
One of Peter's favorites
No. That Paradoxaholic record [by Will] is one of our family favorites. There are so many great songs on there: “Leanin’ On Bob” is just great. Chris and I at one point looked at each other and said, “Hmm — this may be the best songwriter in The dB’s, ultimately.” I’m really happy that Will has a song on the record — it’s about frickin’ time! The real question is how we’re going to play it live. I love that song, and we love that song. It fit in very nicely.

GET WILL RIGBY SOLO MUSIC (2 albums, 1 EP, 1 single) HERE

Lyrically, a lot of these songs revolve around memories, dreams and coming to terms with the past. Some are tinged with regret, while others have a more hopeful tone. Is the thematic coherence something you aimed for?
I think, not to quote another song, it was just happenstance that we did happen to find these lyrics [that share some common themes]. It may be a product of our individual experiences, growing and what our lives have been like. It certainly is a reflective record. In order to get back together again, we had to do some reflecting because there was a reason why there was no dB’s. In 1988, when the band finally called it quits, I think at that point the feeling was, “It’s obviously not going to happen for The dB’s.” It’s so different now. You put some time in there, Chris and I do some things [musical projects] together, we hang with each other — we still love each other very much — we still care very much about each others' parents. So the bond is there. I think this record is the product of a certain amount of maturity. I think you have to have lived these lives to have written these songs.

Will and Gene sound so solid on this album, yet they can't have much time to rehearse or play together live. How do you explain the musical telepathy they seem to have?
Will Rigby, drums
Gene Holder, bass
They didn’t have a lot of time to rehearse or play together. But Gene’s got a style and Will’s got a style, and somehow or other, whenever they pick up and play together — even if they’re just faffing around — it always sounds great. We launched into “Rice Pudding” by the Jeff Beck Group at rehearsal the other day, and everybody knew all the changes. We just know this stuff. This is the “shared hallucination,” I guess [referring to memories of growing up together]. My wife is constantly amazed that I still have a clutch of friends that I’ve known since third grade.

What will become of the music that didn't make it onto the album?
There were a lot of songs. We ended up recording about 30, … but I don’t know what’s going to happen to those. There are a number of others, Chris’ and mine both. Hopefully, they’ll see the light of day. Our whole thing was trying to make this into the best possible presentation we could. We realized that 31 years is a very long time between records with the same band. We tried to pull together the best stuff that we could. We knew we wanted to make an album. We toyed with the idea of, “What about three EPs or four EPs? Downloads, single downloads for each month for a year!” — all sorts of Today’s New Marketing Ideas. But it just didn’t ring true for us. We’re album guys; we’ve always made albums. 
All good music collections need it

Chris has said, “We should just have this in the can as another record.” But to my way of thinking, it is not necessarily a record’s worth of songs. It’s a number of songs, but I don’t know that they would hang together as well as Falling Off the Sky does. There’s a reason they didn’t make the final cut — which is not that they’re bad songs. It’s just because they didn’t necessarily seem to fit the emotional flow that this record has.


Some of us are salivating at the thought of getting to see The dB's live, especially playing the new songs. (I've already got my tickets for the album release show in Durham on June 9 and your Mountain Stage date later in the month.) Right now, though, it appears that you guys are planning sporadic live dates rather than playing a "tour" per se. Can you offer any more info?
Don't call him Pete!  photo by Sean Davis via Flickr
Between my new full-time job and Will’s touring schedule with Steve Earle, we’re just going to have to do live dates when we’re able. Gene’s got two children and Chris has his studio; we’ve all got our various lives.

Describe the future you'd like to see for The dB's.
I’d like to see this record bought in duplicate by everybody. The reason being, going back to when you first heard Repercussion — the radio play we got back in those days was not from anybody servicing stations. It was all really nice people who had bought the record and fallen in love with it and had shifts on their college station or local community station. They’d bring their own copy in and play it! Or they’d put it on a mix tape. We lived and died by the mix tape: that’s how we got known, it was by word of mouth. Without actually asking everyone to seriously go out and buy two copies, if you want to give a gift to somebody, it’s a good record to give as a gift. It’s beautiful music, it’s worth hearing. And there’s a limit to how much any record company can do.

Tell the truth: you owe the success of this album to the Reptile Brain Activator
TM, right?!?

You’re gonna have to talk to Chris about that because that’s totally his invention, and it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing!

End note: if you're curious as to what the Reptile Brain Activator is, or why it receives a thank you in the liner notes to Falling Off the Sky, have a look HERE.



  1. i think there both very good and its the chemistry for all four that makes the dB'ssssss Rock And Rollllll , Alieeeee.

    1. Agreed! That's why I'm so glad all four are collaborating again. Even Holsapple-Stamey (as good as they are as a duo) is not the same as The dB's.

  2. ooooo Great intervieuw ...........Alie


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