Lastly, we wanted to get to know the wonderfully weird world of Attic Ted a little better, so we managed to snag the band’s front man, Grady Roper, for a quick interview.
ANON: Where do you draw inspiration from for your music and your characters?
Grady: I started this project after buying a 1950s Hammond chord organ. Hauling this thing around to shows was always a spectacle, being that it was a huge antique piece of furniture. It seems like this instrument somewhat dictated the tone, or mood for this music. The songs are born from toying around on it, finding a cool melody, and then figuring out a story to tell within it. Where the process itself is the inspiration, as in, each part building on and creating the next. It is never premeditated. And building the masks are the same way. I never know who the character will be, or what they will sound like until the mask is completed. It’s more about using the tools that happen to be laying around, and seeing what they create. The masks are made of beer box cardboard, the parts stapled together, then thick paint layered on to make them strong enough to be kicked around and sweated all over.
ANON: Which character is your favorite to play? What’s their story?
Grady: Well, there have been two different main ‘Old Man’ Attic Ted masks. after using the first one for 7 years, it was left at a gas station in Missouri. The replacement mask looked very different, but with somewhat of the same demented spirit. The first one was older and more decrepit, while the newer one is a bit more brazen and schitzo. On stage, I have often suggested, “I have snuck out of the Austin State Hospital to play this show, and I needed to be back by 2am for my medication.”
A few years back, the large opera singing woman, ‘Virginia Black’ character was introduced. She is more popular, I think because women are more pleasant to look at than crazy eyed mustached dudes. Performing as her is very fun, as it seems like a female character can get away with talking about subjects, like sex or love, in a very different way than a male character. It is fun to have them argue and contradict each other.
ANON: What is your songwriting method like?
Grady: I write most of the songs for Attic Ted, many of which are stories, scenarios, often in reference to something going on in my life. I usually begin with playing around on a keyboard, until a nice little melody stands out, or chord progression is found, and then the words usually just kinda fall out in relation to the tone of the song. I often will hit record on the Tascam 4 track tape machine, and just improv words, or sounds resembling words, then go back and figure out what could have been said. These sketches are later flushed out with real drums, guitars, organ bass, noises, and what not for the albums.
ANON: When performing live, do you have any pre-show preparations/routines to help you get into character?
Grady: No, I am always ready. I have been performing for so long, it feels really natural, and it is still totally fun.
ANON: How labor intensive is it to totally create an album without the use of computers? What benefits come from producing an album this way? What struggles do you face?
Grady: Paul D. Millar is a complete mad man/genius, and he hates computers. When he agreed to record/engineer/produce this new album, I gave him full control of the process. This is the first time I have had the pleasure of doing an album like this, with someone I trusted completely being in charge instead of me. It was fantastic. He brought out huge tape machines, and multiple old weird filters and effects. We spent a few months in and out of the studio, even flying our original guitarist in from San Francisco to add the crazy hickoid sounding guitar licks on a few songs. Paul would spend days just mixing down a single song, taking all of the raw material and making choices about what parts to bring in and out, when and where, transforming some sounds, like a violin or clarinet, into something nearly unrecognizable. Paul definitely added to the crazed, over the top carnival nightmare sound aesthetic, actually making the songs more dynamic.
Can one listen to this album and notice that no computers were used? I doubt it. But its fun to break from the norm, and then brag about it.
ANON: Is there anything else you’d like people to know about Attic Ted?
Grady: This new album, Parade Dust Mischief, is our 10th release (preceded by five cds, three 7″ records, and one tape), and all of these have not only been self published through Pecan Crazy Records, but also all of this material is available online for free downloads and sharing. Free music sharing has always been important to me. I also tour as much as possible, and again the DIY model has always been adhered to, favoring house parties and indie run art spaces, promoting and sharing the weird life, while deploring the capitalistic model of success.
You can check out more of Attic Ted’s music here: http://freemusicarchive.org/