Wednesday, August 01, 2007

My Interview with Peter Himmelman,
Aug 01 2007

We're excited to have you coming into Madison in the next few days. And I'm excited to get a quick interview with you for Madison Music Review! We’ll get some of our friends excited about it too. How's the tour been going for you so far?
Well, it's going pretty well. . . I sure like playing on stage. The driving around and stuff, I can take or leave sometimes.

I followed your work in the early '90s - and my wife and I loved those albums. And then we lost track of you, as we got caught up in our own family-raising period. So I'm just curious about your path over the last 15 years.
Well, I started doing a lot of scoring for TV and films. I always kept making records - I just slowed down the pace just a bit. And so there was a period with three or four (almost five) years between recordings. Just recently – since about 2002 – I started upping the output a little bit more. Figured I had something to say. When the songs are there, I just go with it; it's not on a schedule.

I read a little blurb about your composition of Imperfect World. It sounds like that just flowed right out of you. How often does that happen? Does it sometimes take you 12 months to collect 12 songs, or is it usually a matter of lightning striking.
Yeah. It's always the lightning. I mean - if ever I feel I want to write, I do it. It's not usually a back breaking process. But sometimes, I just don't really write at all – I don't usually push it. I mean if I wanted to push it – if there was a reason – I could. You almost always need a reason.

Does the scoring give you more of that motivation?
Well the scoring has to be done by Tuesday to earn $20 grand. That's huge. Best reason of all - paycheck and deadline. I mean that ability to produce is really the test- from Michelangelo to God knows who – everybody! Short of that you just have to find your own pace.

Last time in Madison, you played the Annex and I had the chance to be there, and it was really fun. In a way, it felt like reconnecting with an old friend, I have to say. You were joking that night about playing this little bar with a bunch of people that really enjoy your music, but down the street an American Idol winner is filling up a stadium singing clich├ęs. . . Was there a point in your career where you faced this crossroads when you could have turned yourself over to management and had more success.

Well what was that decision process like for you?
It really wasn't one. The only decision I made was to have a family and put that first. So anything that kind of contradicted that – probably a number of things may have stymied the fame in the process a little bit.

But I'm always trying to do best shows and the best music I can come up with. People are always saying, "He never sold out." Geez, I’ve been trying to sell-out my whole career. I mean, I'm always trying to write the best stuff I can. It's not obscure or purposefully obfuscated somehow.

I just wanted to do stuff that I thought was cool. I never did any albums that I felt were embarrassing. I have a pretty nice career where I can make records and make a lot of money doing other things musically. I still wish we were playing the stadium, what can I tell you? I'm not going to lie.

I read an essay you wrote about when you got the news of your sister's [fatal] accident. And I saw you touring behind Imperfect World probably not long thereafter, in what I thought was a very powerful performance. Did you find writing those songs - and performing those songs - did that help you with healing your grief?
No, I don't think it did. I don't really think I connected my grief with my performance. Maybe, when I wrote the song. Really, once in a while you write a song that means something to you. Not very often. But then every time you play it, it's merely a recitation of that, you know. It's not the original impetus. The only time I got that connection is when I wrote it. Then after that it's just a reflection, like any other song.

Do you have anything to say about starting your new record label – Himmasongs? Is that something you did to capture a little more of the revenue stream or gain more artistic license?
No, I just did it because no major label would take my records and sell them. If they would, I would do it in one second.

It's a business you are doing to get your music out.
I wanted to make a record. . . The label doesn't mean anything to me. Maybe one day it will, but not right now. Actually, for me it's sort of a sad thing to be frank. And I'm being frank in this interview. It's sort of a sad thing that I'm so undervalued that I have to do this myself. Now someday perhaps I'll be saying "Wow, I’m glad I did that."

But that’s not going to draw more people to the club. You know what I mean? Its just where it’s at. The difference is between the people who do it and the people who throw up their hands in discouragement. It’s how you keep going. But it's not a desirable place to be.

How do you nourish and sustain your creative energy. You’ve been doing this a long time, and anybody that does anything for 20 – 30 years can get a little jaded, which you can't afford to do. How do you keep the creative juice going?
I don't know. . . I always try to be as honest as I can in these interviews. I'm not as flamboyant or sexy as you might like. . . I have really no idea. It's like marriage. How do you keep that going? If you love your wife, like I do, it's not really a big challenge.

I really love music. I never found it that hard to stay "inspired" or something. I guess I only do it when I feel like it. When I'm songwriting, I get all excited. I don't sleep for days at a time. I get all crazy and don’t bathe. But I'm not always prepared to go into that place.

Honestly, I must just take it for granted. I shouldn't, but I don't really worry about it. For me, it's more that "structure" needs to be in place. And I hope I don't sound repetitive or cavalier with "the check and the deadline." But it does mean so much. And it's not as mercantile or as prosaic as you might think. It's almost a mystical thing to have the acknowledgement and encouragement of the paycheck, and the metaphorical acceptance and the love. And deadline allows something that is amorphous to manifest itself. So the closer I can come to those two things the better.

Well I do appreciate your time and I hope to you have a great show at the Annex.
I look forward to it. Thanks for all the kind thoughts.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great interview... I have never seen Peter Himmelman live but that's going to change this weekend at the Annex!