Greg Hoy - 10 Questions Interview
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
My mom was a huge music fan & belonged to Columbia House Record Club in the late '70s and '80s. We'd get shipments in the mail of LPs by all kinds of artists: Herb Alpert, Barbara Streisand, Huey Lewis & The News, The Commodores, Neil Diamond. My brother played sax in a funk band. They opened for Kool & The Gang which was a big deal at the time. My oldest sister played guitar & sang Joni Mitchell songs, and my sister closest in age to me took me to her marching band rehearsals when I was a toddler. So I guess you could say my world was instantly surrounded by rhythm and melody...
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
Ah, hm, I'll go with my story about meeting David Byrne while busking. In the early 2000s, we had a rehearsal space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This was right around the time of my obsession with buying old Casio keyboards on eBay. One day, I'd gotten one delivered to space. So I took the keyboard out & set it up on the corner of North 6th & Bedford near the L Train. My artist friend Chris Potocki was in tow & being who he is, took the shipping box and put it over his head, dancing like a robot while I played the Casio. You know, they have these little lo-fi drum beats. We just sounded like the song 'Da Da Da'.
At some point, Chris took a break to answer his cell phone. It was at this moment David Byrne & his companion snuck up to me, tapped me on the shoulder handing me a dollar, and said 'Love the act, hate the cell phone'.
What has been the high point of your music path?
This album is special to me. It was written in a flurry, recorded in a week, and then we're slow-cooking its release over a full year with singles & videos. And I knew it would be the last recording before becoming a parent. Without the interruption of touring and performing, we've been able to work with some amazing artists like Anna Copa Cabana, September, and Ice-T on the videos. The next video coming in March, 'Here Comes The Light', features this incredible visual animation by a couple of incredible artists out of Canada. I've been fortunate to record and learn from incredible artists: Sylvia Massy, Steve Albini, J. Robbins, Glenn Branca. All that wisdom comes with me every time I make stuff.
So, how do you approach songwriting, or what is your creative process like?
These songs were demoed in a weekend in my garage. My method this time out was a guitar, mic, suitcase kick drum, notepad, coffee. Boom pick a tempo & hit record. Most albums have a band I steal from. For this one, I used the tempos from INXS's 'Kick', wrote them down in order, and then set each song's metronome to that BPM.
My kick drum is unique: my friend Myler takes vintage suitcases & makes these incredible drums (check them out at https://onemanbanddrumco.com/). I used my first one on the Airstream tour for solo gigs in 2019. Then he made me a smaller one he calls 'The HoyToy'. As a result, all the songs had a steady, almost dance beat in their demo form. Jason Slota, a fantastic drummer I've worked with for a decade, dissected the beats to bring the rock n roll.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
My fast answer is #saveourstages. Our tour planned for April/May 2020 got decimated. Some of the clubs we were booked to play have closed *forever*. The economics of music and art struggle even during non-pandemic times. My politics aside: artists should have an economic cushion to create. The myth of the starving artist as some sort of barometer for value is bullshit peddled by top-heavy fast food industries. Let the old systems die. It's telling that the money I've made with my music has come from having it used in other mediums: television, movies, advertising. Let's take a look at what our culture truly values and work from there. For every package Amazon delivers, there could be an artist supported. Why not have those brown boxes covered in unique art? It's ridiculous.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
This answer is always easy because it would be Paul McCartney — although I don't think he needs an opening act. Other bands still performing I'd love to share a stage with would be Spoon, Guided By Voices, Bad Religion, Jim James, PJ Harvey. At this point, if there was a safe stage to play, we'd play with anyone.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
Great question as we have our first full-band live show this weekend! Since the quarantine, my vocal voice has been unutilized. This week is all about more vocal exercises and less dairy. My rhythm section for live gigs always rotates, however, these cats have played with me for almost 10 years so we have an intuitive style as far as performance. I loathe rehearsing — always have — and would rather write songs that my band can play pretty much from the first try. Live gigs are loose and fun. I guess what I'm saying is we don't rehearse at all!
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
One song on the 'Cacophony' sessions was just called 'Disco'. And that's all it was: a disco beat with 4 chords. In the studio, he and bassist Ian Miller funked it up. It was instrumental until the last day of recording vocals. It's on Part !!, and side two of the vinyl, and it's just me improvising a conversation with me about, well, being bored at home. Our mastering engineer Steve Turnidge said it's his favorite on the record, so who knows?
What's coming up in the future?
There are a few more videos in the works. Part II of 'Cacophony' (which is side 2 of the vinyl LP) will be on streaming services in the spring. My team is finding outdoor, socially friendly spaces to perform the new songs, and we have some great spots in states more COVID-adjacent we may look at touring this summer. The original plan to tour Europe in 2021 totally fizzled out! That will happen when it makes sense, hopefully.
Tell us where fans can access your music?
About Greg Hoy
Musician Greg Hoy has issued over 30 albums under various monikers, including The Royal Panics, Greg Hoy, Greg Hoy & The Boys, and Twice As Bright. For touring, he fires up Greg Hoy & The Boys, a loose collective of friends and trusted musicians (that includes boys & girls). But that usual cycle of recording & touring got a little sidetracked this year. 'Cacophony', this latest release, wasn't planned. It was recorded mid-pandemic, socially distanced, and mostly live to 2-inch tape with his band at Tiny Telephone Studio in Oakland, CA. And *that* took the creative place of a planned tour in support of 'Enjoy The View', an EP recorded by audio legend Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies, PJ Harvey) in Chicago & mixed in Oregon by the equally amazing Sylvia Massy (Tool, Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, Red Hot Chili Peppers). Sadly, there was no touring to support it. So Greg wrote 10 songs in a weekend, gathered the band, and took a week to make 'Cacophony' now out on gold vinyl & digital. Greg issues diverse albums aligned in spirit with such singular artists as Jack White, Dave Grohl, Neil Young, Queens Of The Stone Age, Spoon, The Jam, The Who, The Beatles... “All the ‘the something’ bands,” Greg would say, and the themes and styles of 'Cacophony' are no exception.
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