ERIK KOSKINEN: sorrowville(interview with Ripsaw News www.ripsawnews.com)
Erik Koskinen, a latter day Hank Williams Sr., will release his latest batch of recordings, Sorrowville, this Saturday at the NorShor Theatre. The Ripsaw recently spoke to Koskinen about Sorrowville (recorded and mixed in three days at Sacred Heart with Bernie Larsen and Tom Fabjance), his travels and the Misery Sessions.
Ripsaw News | You're from Michigan?
Erik Koskinen | Born in Colorado, raised mostly in Michigan, but my high school years I started playing music in upstate New York.
RSN | Whereabouts?
EK | Plattsburg.
RSN | How did you get into playing and writing music?
EK | It was something to do, but I've always had a love for music. I played in a [school] orchestra and in a band. Then I had a guitar that my dad gave me that he didn't play anymore, so I started playing around 12.
RSN | When did you move to Michigan?
EK | Around four or five, from Colorado. I've lived in California, Florida for three months and Nashville for a year and in Vermont for a year.
RSN | That's quite a bit of traveling. Was that your parents moving around or you?
EK | It was me just getting out of [Michigan] and playing music other places; traveling and trying not to be stuck in Michigan all the time.
RSN | You probably met quite a few interesting people in some of those places.
EK | Yeah, all different sorts of people. I worked a lot of different jobs.
RSN | How did you decide where to go? Did you just throw a dartboard at a map?
EK | When I moved to California I didn't know anybody. I just kind of picked up and went. A week in I got a gig at this Irish pub and a job building log houses up in the mountains by Lake Tahoe.
RSN | When were the first recordings that you made? Were those the ones for Spinout Records?
EK | Yeah, the first ones were for Spinout. Actually, I think the first ones were for a compilation record called the Misery compilation. It was the second [compilation], I was fifteen and it was probably ... 1994? I think it was '94.
RSN | I've heard a bit about the Misery compilation, and from my understanding it is a bit similar to the Homegrown Festival here in Duluth.
EK | A little bit, yeah. It's all local, or if you're living here at the time, Northern Michigan musicians. It doesn't matter what kind of music you're doing. There's anything from country music to ... most of it is sort of an indie kind of thing. There are no cover bands or bar country cover-bands.
RSN | It's all original music?
EK | Yeah, the songs [on the Misery Sessions] are all original music. Some of the bands on it have done some covers, but the songs on the comps are all originals. [Misery Sessions] is produced by Bernie Larsen; he owns a club in Houghton and he wants it all to be original, he wants it to be your own thing.
RSN | I checked out all of the Misery Sessions volumes, and it looks like the first gathering started out with only five bands, but each subsequent volume was, like 25 bands. It seems like it's grown into a relatively large festival.
EK | Oh yeah, but you know what? We didn't even get to have a show for it this year. Bernie just moved back to town and there wasn't a lot of money and nothing worked out. The fire marshal wanted to shut Bernie's place down [Exurban, where the shows takes place] because of fire codes. So it's been kind of a battle.
RSN | On records your songs have a definite moodiness, but live you can really get rocking out. What are differences between recording and live gigs for you?
EK | A couple of reasons for that might be the audience. In a bar it's pretty hard to hold somebody when [the songs are] gloomy and mellow. Another reason is the energy of playing with a group of guys and musicians in front of an audience that might be dancing or whatever. Either way, there is an energy live that you don't get recording. We have a new record coming out with a song on it called "Club 13"; it's got kind of a Bo Diddley thing that I just stole like everybody else.
RSN | Bits and pieces here and there ...
EK | Yeah, just the rhythm of it. It's a total rock 'n' roll thing and it sounds upbeat and people dance and they like it, but the lyrics are the exact opposite. I don't listen to happy songs very often. It's hard for me to listen to a happy song and drive away smiling. Maybe it's pretentious, but...
RSN | What's the name of the new record?
EK | Sorrowville
RSN | Saddleville?
EK | Sorrowville.
RSN | Oh ... OK, [laughing] that definitely doesn't sound too happy.
EK | [Laughing] You know, that's the name of the title track and it's supposed to be kind of an uplifting song-even though the title would suggest otherwise. It's just about looking at life and being OK with it, because being OK with it is sometimes all you can do. Life isn't always good, but we have to ...
RSN | Keep on keeping on?
EK | Keep on keeping on, yeah, exactly. If you live in Sorrowville all the time and you don't deal with Sorrowville in a good way, then that's where you're going to live your life. Hopefully you try to get beyond that place.
Check out the artist's website:
3. No Place to Hide
4. I'll See You Tomorrow
6. Could Have Been a Saint
7. Keep the Change
8. Club 13
9. Johnny Bedford
10. Used To