Clovis Mann

An interview with Clovis Mann
by Sal Serio
August 2010

Clovis Mann  - photo by Erica Krug

Clovis Mann
photo by Erica Krug

MAXIMUM INK:  Can you give me a quick history of the band?

DANIEL WALKNER:  Well, I had some gigs lined up and everybody quit the band except for Stosh. This was about 2004. Ethan moved back from New Orleans.

ETHAN NOORDYK:  The Polish Mound Of Sound.

DW:  That’s right, Stosh Jonjak, (our) former bass player. We had a bunch of songs written up, and we had a gig Friday. There was a Battle Of The Bands on Thursday in Whitewater. So, Ethan came back, we practiced on Wednesday, we went into the Battle Of The Bands, and we won it. Then we went and played our gig at the Waverly in Two Rivers, and that was it.

EN:  We recorded in Milwaukee that weekend too.

DW:  Oh, that’s right. That was Saturday, at… wherever that place was. Then, about 1,000 shows later, here we are.

MI:  So you knew each other already.

DW:  Right, I knew Ethan from playing in blues bands years ago, and from doing pick-up stuff. Then we were in a bigger band and we kinda separated because we wanted to do a three-piece, because we were writing our own stuff and getting sick of doing that “Mustang Sally” routine. Stoshie and I had written some material together, “When You’re Gone”, “Stone Moses”, “War Child”, some of that stuff, and then we just started playing out. It kind of grew from there, and we rocked it as a trio. We did the first Clovis Mann album, and then the second album was Dues. Now we’re moving on to the Metamorphic album, with Danny Plourde on bass, Vince Farris is playing keys on almost everything, Craig Baumann from Fat Maw Rooney is playing guitar on one, and Pat Ferguson from Smokin’ Bandits is playing guitar on our gospel rave-up manic insanity church picnic theme song “The Light”.

MI:  Metamorphic is the title of the new album?

DW:  Yes, for a variety of reasons. The “metamorphic” thing is like pressure. Stoshie was a big songwriter in the band. On the first (CD) he wrote about a third of the material, and on the second one he wrote about half, so this one was kind of a lot of pressure to write another good one, because people seemed to really like the first two. So, you’ve got that, and then the pressure of Dan stepping in for Stosh on bass, who was a very popular guy and (had a) gargantuan sound… tough act to follow. It’s pressure, but on the other hand, it’s working to (our) advantage, like the whole “pressure makes diamonds” thing. If we’re the judge of that, I think this is probably our strongest album. We’re mixing it right now.

EN:  What’s Kenny Koeppler’s studio called?

DW:  The Sound Garden. Kenny is the engineer on it, (and) we’re producing it ourselves. The first of August is our deadline. August 19th at the Majestic is the CD release, with The Moustache.

MI:  You touched on a couple things that I’d like to expound on. I’m going to hand this over to Dan (Plourde). He said you had big shoes to fill. Did you feel that way, or did you think you were just going to bring your own color and personality in to the band?

DAN PLOURDE:  That’s definitely the way I approached it. In the beginning, when the offer was made, there was obviously no doubt that you think about it for a little bit, because Stosh plays the bass harder than about anybody that I’ve ever seen. But I realized too that it would be (to) my advantage to play as me, as opposed to try to play as him. And I think what that’s done, is we’ve found a new shape to some of the older songs. New directions are refreshing, it’s a good thing. So, I think that’s why, for me, it wasn’t too hard to say I gotta be myself and it will fit in, and find the right spot in the group.

MI:  I was listening back to the Dues album today and noticed that Stosh wrote a lot of the lyrics. So, is that all on you now? (looking at Dan Walkner)

DW:  Yeah, this new album is ten songs, and I wrote all the lyrics and most of the music. One song was an old timer from Vince… in the Danger group… was that?

EN:  Yeah that was back from our Stevens Point days.

DW:  I had a song, and I liked that song (of Vince’s) so I wedged that riff into this thing I was writing. They used to call it “Whiffle Ball”, and we just call it “Whiff”, for reasons I have still yet to figure out.

EN:  It’s in 6/4, which is a little different.

DW:  Yeah, it’s a little complicated.

EN:  There’s some poly-rhythms going on.

DW:  I just have to focus and stamp my foot six times, over and over. But, yeah I wrote all the lyrics on this one and it kinda runs the gamut of… there’s one song “Blowin’ Up The Shack” which is about a family reunion when I was a little kid and my cousins set fire to a shack in the woods, and I saw it happen, and “The Light” is kind of a “somebody say yeah” type of a screamer and shouter and clap your hands… “Whiff” is kinda our jazz fusiony type song but not in kind of a creepy way. It’s kinda bluesy. Then this one we’ve got, “Water’s Edge”, which Craig Baumann plays on, is probably about as heavy as we’ve gotten. He’s doubling up some lines. We did a couple overdubs on that one. I just played an acoustic guitar and turned him loose on the lead, and he did some awesome stuff on there, harmony leads and stuff. I would say it competes with some of our earlier material as far as heaviness goes, and it’s going to be fun to do that one live once we get this thing done and can really pound out a live version of it as a trio. Or, if Craig’s playing, quartet. “Big Sky” is kind of like a reggae country thing, which is kind of weird, but it really works. I wrote that one when I was out in Wyoming and I was in this canyon (that) had burnt down the year before… all the trees. And there were caves in there where all these cowboys, gamblers, low-rents, and hoodlums used to commit their crimes then go and hide. So, I just sort of assumed there was some kind of a curse there because of all the bad guys hanging out, so I put the two together… and I found an ancient Schlitz can there, which was pretty cool. Untouched. Undamaged in the fire.

EN:  And it was still full?

DW:  No, sadly. It was one of those old, metal, the “don’t try to break over your head” kind.

EN:  Pull top?

DW:  Yeah. And “No More” is kind of our political-ish song. Not really overly political, but it’s just, basically, we got all this time on our hands, we don’t have time for any of this war and stupidity, although it’s quite prevalent.

EN:  That’s the up-tempo shuffle.

DW:  Yeah, that’s the “shuff”. That’s probably one of the more bluesy tunes on the record, but it’s got some jazzy breaks. There’s an organ solo in there that’s very… it’s almost organ trio-y. I’m kinda hanging out in the back doing some rhythm stuff.

MI:  That was the one I thought had an early Chicago-y sound, back before they got into the soft rock thing and still had a grittier sound.

DW:  Right, when we play with Vince, we do “I’m A Man” from time to time which is from that album you were talking about. I really like that album. Those guys had a really cool sound. What they were doing was all guitar into an amplifier, no effects or anything, and that’s pretty much what I’m doing. We put a little something on at the end, but everything we do is clean as a whistle.

MI:  I noticed a lot of different textures to the songs, at least the ones I was hearing in the studio today. It just seemed like a huge transformation from the last album. Was a lot of that stuff worked on in the studio with Kenny, or did you have it all worked out in your head before you went in there?

DW:  Well, I think it was a little of both, but mainly it was, you start and then chip away at some stuff, and then you just bring up whatever you want to feature, and, with like, Vince, obviously he can do a lot, and you can speak to him in platitudes and tell him you want a Chuck Leavell piano sound, or want Emerson Lake & Palmer’s stabbing a knife through a Hammond organ on fire tone. He’ll know exactly what you’re talking about and put it on there. So, having guys like him, Craig, and Pat come play, they’re kind of mind readers, and they’re in with our “feel” so much that if we’re layering it up, there’s not much conversation. In fact, we were doing very minimal practices. We’d write the songs and then come in and maybe practice them like twice, and then go in and cut it. So it was fresh and we didn’t have a lot of preconceived notions or whatever.

DP:  A lot of the songs have changed since we’ve played them live, 25, 30 times now. And they’re a little different than what the album cut is going to be, but that’s the way a song develops.

DW:  Right. That’s the way they were on the other albums too, but it wasn’t like we were going in there and taking six hours to record one of these songs. We were practicing in Danny’s basement in the wintertime when we first started recording some of that stuff, you know, we were down there in our winter coats and hats freezing our asses off, so we just wanted to get it done. We’d go in to the studio, and three takes, we’d be done, and that would be it. I don’t think anything took more than five takes. Then some overdubs, but for the most part, it’s back to the “live” album. On the Dues one we did a lot of overdub stuff and it seemed to be a little more thought out whereas this one is back to, like, “gut punch” live sound, bleeding through the microphones, and then worry about it later.

MI:  Are you going to try to market this album in a different way?

DW:  I think so. I want to send it out, make more of a national push at least to see if we can get any heat off of it. When I hear some of the things that are coming out of Madison that are getting a lot of press, I think there’s no reason why we shouldn’t, because we work as hard as anyone, and we’ve paid our dues.

MI:  Do you want to hit the road at some point?

DW:  I think so. We have some personnel issues that are coming up. It’s going to be dictated by that. So, it’s a matter of if we can get a good push off of it, then we’ll take it as far as we can. And, we’re starting to play big venues. We did the Barrymore, we did the Majestic, we’re doing the Majestic again. We were popular out West when we went out there. I went down South and Southwest and played, and had a pretty good reception solo. So, I think people will like it. We like it, and I think that’s the most important (thing), and it’s good. We put a lot of time and effort into it, and it’s as real as can be.

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Clovis Mann
CD: Metamorphic Record Label: Wrenclaw Records
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