Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Interview: Derek Bishop Didn't Write About Lucky Charms

Derek Bishop
For quite awhile now, Derek Bishop and I were following each other on twitter with no real interaction.

We've all got folks on the list like that, and when I saw his sophomore record was coming out, I decided I needed to reach out.

Well, I ended up reviewing Bicycling In Quicksand. It turned out to be an album that surprised the hell out of me. Every now and again that happens, well seriously get thee to iTunes, Amazon, or his website and buy that album.

Going back and forth with him, turns out he's a pretty fun guy a good follow on twitter, so do that too.

I present to you his answers to my questions. They're long as he has a lot to say and plenty of time to work on it. I find oftentimes that if I like an artist as a person, it can color my opinion positively about said artist....

Check it out!

GM: Let's start at the beginning. Who are you?
Derek Bishop: 
My name is Derek Bishop. 

I'm a NYC-based singer-songwriter, stage-bouncing keyboard-playing kinda fella.  I just released my sophomore album, "Bicycling in Quicksand," which is a retro-ish disco album full of über-peppy, catchy, sometimes-twisty tunes that get your toes tapping, your ears snacking, and your brain racking. 

It's a fun album.

GM: I find your music to be a delightful cacophony of everything I grew up with as a child of the 80's. How can you possibly work these pieces into a song?

 am also a child of the 80s (and some of the 70s!) and I have been very fond of bands that are bringing back the keyboard sounds that I grew up with. 

As a young lad who grew up loving synthesizers, I relished the idea of creating an album that not only referenced all of those instruments, sounds and songs which I loved, but one that sounded like it actually was plucked from that era. 

To make the project work, the key was using as many actual old instruments as possible — and to record it the way that people did back then. 

Unlike today's dancey disco and pop music (which I feel sounds a bit over processed and computer-generated), I wanted to create an album that used actual musicians playing the parts, giving the music humanity, soul, and a kick-ass groove that you can only get using top notch players.

Throughout the album I feel you can tell that I'm actually using these old instruments because there isn't a sample or patch that has been created that can faithfully re-create the sound of most of these instruments. 

We managed to capture the rough edges, the mistakes, and the limitations that using vintage instruments brought. I feel it gave the album a warmth that it would not have had if it had been created on the computer.

Tell me which part of the album is influenced by Lucky Charms. I know it's in there!

Sad to say,  no part of the album that was influenced by Lucky charms. 

However,  there were definite parts of the album influenced by Atari games, Wonder Woman (the TV show), the Rockford Files theme song, Xanadu & Fame (the movie & sountracks), and of course a plethora of fun 80s artists like the Go-Go's, Berlin, Scandal, The Human League, ELO, Duran Duran, Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks, The Motels, Quarterflash, and the Bee Gees!

GM: Everybody's musical journey begins with that one album. What was your first album?

My musical journey began around 1978. I got Olivia Newton John's Greatest Hits as a Christmas present. 

It was my first album, and to this day, I can still recall tearing open the gift wrap and then the album’s cellophane wrapper. It was a gatefold album, and unfolded, it seemed so huge. 

Even then I was awestruck by the physical properties of a vinyl record. It seemed expansive, and each song was like map to an unknown land that I couldn't wait to drop the needle down onto to explore. I had started playing piano earlier that year, and I tried my best to start picking out every melody from that record. 

Even then, I feel I was listening to the layers of sound and being bewildered and excited by everything I heard: the stacks of backing vocals, the strings, guitars and those blissful melodies. I suppose then and there I was both set on a path to being a detailed musician and a pretty cool gay dude.

GM: How fully formed were your songs before heading into the studio?

I had written and created fleshed-out demos for every song on the album long before we went into the studio.  

I brought those to Jay Braun, my producer and guitarist. You could tell from the get-go that I was aiming for a wacky take on the 80s and late 70s. He suggested we go full-on retro and record the album to tape — not digital. 

To keep the budget down and to ensure that the album had a warm, live feel, he suggested that we record the songs live. From that point we brought the band and rehearsed the songs to death.  Because of the limitations and cost of recording to tape, we only had about 30 minutes we could fit on the reel. We chose to focus in on and record five at a time — essentially “Side A” — and then a few months tackle the other five: “Side B”.  

We went in knowing we had to nail the songs down in one take. There was little opportunity to fix mistakes. If someone messed up horribly while in the middle of the song, we stopped the recording, rewound the tape, erased it, and started over. 

At the end of the day, I went home with one complete live take of the first five songs. This contained drums, bass, guitar, vocals and the one keyboard I was playing. Once I had those I began the fun task of creating and layering all the backing vocals and keyboard parts. We used any and all vintage keyboards that we could find lying around.  

A few of those, like the Clavinet, made such a deep impression they became the keyboard base of the sound for the album. Luckily, I never throw anything away!  I had each and every synthesizer that I had from when I was a kid. 

So right off the bat, we had a plethora of accurate sounds from the 80s to just spread over each track. After I layered all those vintage keyboards on the tracks, Jay and I began to edit away what worked and what didn't in the overall scheme album.  

Some sounds left on the “cutting room floor” were much wackier and cornier.  It probably would have made the songs feel like they were part of a Muppet Show episode.

GM: There was an interesting cast of characters backing you up on "Bicycling In Quicksand." How did you hook up with that group as an indie artist?

ach member of the band individually brought so much to the table. 

While I had fully formed demos, they were only keyboard and vocal demos. I had some loops, rhythms and beats in there to give them the correct feeling I was going for, but I wanted each player to create the part they felt suited song the best. 

And truthfully, I couldn't have been more pleased with what they created. It took the songs to a entirely new level. My drummer, Luis Illades, of Pansy Division, provided us with a kick-ass backbone of strong beats and grooves. 

Emily Panic, the bassist, created outstanding counter melodies floating around in her bass parts. She had a keen understanding of where to put the parts around my already-busy songs. Her parts weave in and out of my synthesizer and vocal lines like a miniature symphony. 

And of course none of this would have been possible without my producer, Jay Braun. He's the one that brought all the players to me and created the foundation that would become the band. We are pretty much the same age, so he was on the exact same page with me and you exactly what this album needed. Plus, he provided some really superb funky guitar parts.

GM: As someone who plays music, but never made it into the studio to record, what's it like to hear the album for the first time?

The fun of creating an album is hearing how the songs evolve and progress while you work on them. There's a great joy the first time you hear the background vocals, or the new lead vocal mixed in on the track. 

But there's nothing quite like getting the final, mastered mixes back and listen to them. At that point you know you are finished — everything sparkles and all the hard work you put in is there for you to enjoy. Up to that point you are continually scrutinizing and editing every idea. 

For me, there's a lot of back-and-forth and a lot of second-guessing before I finally decide on which parts to keep in, and which parts to delete. However, as fun as it is to listen to the finished mixes, nothing really compares to receiving the actual 12-inch vinyl record when the UPS guy drops off that massive box at your apartment. 

It's like the biggest Christmas present ever. I was so excited and over-joyed to rip through the packaging tape and look and see what was inside the box. This is the first record I’ve released on vinyl, and it is so much more of a thrilling experience than seeing your CD for the first time...probably because the package itself — the physical size of the record — is so much larger.  

It just seems massive in comparison. On vinyl, your finished project is tangible in a way that it is not when it's digital or on a small 5” CD. You are holding a physical manifestation of two years of your hard work. You get to slide out the record from the album cover, out of the inner sleeve, and put that record on the record player and drop the needle to the vinyl.  And I know it sounds dorky  — but it is simply is magical.

GM: Friday 6/26 was a big day for me, as a straight ally, but how did Decision Day affect you personally?

What a wonderful question! 

Wasn't that just a great day?  I have to be honest, what made it so special for me was not just the big decision of gay marriage being made legal nationally, but it was what came afterwards. Suddenly all this joy came trickling in as I started seeing nearly everyone I knew on social media, (regardless of if they were gay or straight) start posting all those rainbow profile pictures.  

I would've never expected or predicted that. I grew up in the Bible belt of the south -- and as soon as the announcement was made on decision day, my knee-jerk reaction was to wait and see what kind of negative comments would start popping up… 

But what made me so overjoyed was the surprise of not only NOT seeing any negative comments but instead seeing thousands of rainbows smiling back at me.

What a tremendous change — such overwhelming support!  That's what made it an amazing day.

GM: How much touring have you done and where are you planning on going?

I took some small east coast tours to support my last album "Resistance is Beautiful." 

For the new record, instead of planning a big tour, I'm instead doing little pocket tours: a few dates back to back in adjacent states. If I'm headed down south for a wedding or event, I'll stay an extra week and plan as many gigs  as I can while I'm there. 

That way, I’m not absent for 6 weeks at a time.  Just a week here, then back home, and then do again in a month. It’s makes it more practical to plan your life.  

With this in mind, I hope to to bring the music all over the East coast, West Coast, and Midwest too.  I'm trying to work in a London trip perhaps in the winter. 

The more I play, the more I get to connect with the fans and friends I’ve made — and hopefully make new ones too! So I'm all about making feasible, fun travel plans and getting out there to play a show!  
GM: Is there anything else we should know about Derek Bishop?

Coming up in the next month I'll be releasing my second single and video off the album.  It's called "Shutting Down" and it's a really fun lively track. It's VERY 1983 sounding!  I'll also have some remixes and acoustic versions of the song coming out too.

I've also got some brand new merchandise out too: t-shirts, vinyl... All that good stuff. You can find all that at my website:http://derekbishop.net/store.html
And if you're the least bit interested in my music, I encourage everyone to follow me on Facebook, ( www.facebook.com/DerekBishopMusic ), YouTube ( www.youtube.com/user/DerekBishopMusic ), and Twitter ( www.twitter.com/MrDerekBishop ).  I update content regularly -- and I'm usually (hopefully) funny or entertaining.

I also just want to thank YOU and your blog/website for all the great support you've given me and my music. It's hard to find authentic music writers and reviewers who are also down-to-earth great people.  It truly means so much and helps sustain my drive to keep making bizarre, funky pop music!

(Note: I'm just a guy who loves music that has taken some writing courses. When I get my hands on great music, I want everybody in the world to hear it. That's all, but your kind words are greatly appreciated!)


  1. Sounds fun, thanks for sharing, Nik! Keep up the good work

    1. He's truly an interesting artist who make some very interesting music.

      It's synthy, but played by human hands...giving it that soul...