Multi-instrumentalist Tommy Walter began his musical career as one of the founding members of trip-rock innovators the Eels. Since then Walter has moved on to producing, writing music for television and film, and fronting his own solo creative endeavor Abandoned Pools.
August 4, 2011
MUSICAL PRODIGY TOMMY WALTER ABANDONS SIDE PROJECTS IN SEARCH OF HIS OWN SUBLIME CURRENCY
With a brand new album in the works, Walter has pared down his other “side projects” to focus on what truly makes him sublimely happy: writing and honing his own unique musical vision.
Catch Walter and Abandoned Pools at the Viper Room this Friday, August 5, as he showcases new material from his pending third record.
The new album Sublime Currency, care to explain the title? Also, what can we expect? Any special guests?
I love music. I love being a musician, but I don’t love a lot of aspects that surround the entertainment business. Sometimes there’s phoniness, posturing, deception and a glorification of shallowness. It’s important to be knowledgeable in the business but a lot of people get lost in the extra musical junk and there are a lot of dysfunctional personalities that can steer you wrong.
Sublime Currency is about getting back to the essence of what gives me joy in my life and has since I was really young. Music is something sublime that should bring happiness to everyone, something that expresses things we didn’t know we felt. You can then take that concept and apply it to spirituality, psychological health, and finding joy in science and nature. That’s the intention I have with this album. So far, no special guests but there will be before I’m done.
Lenny Kravitz, Billy Corgan, Garbage, A Perfect Circle, who was your favorite band to tour with? Who have you remained close with?
I’m still friends with Billy Howerdel of A Perfect Circle and he was a guest on my last album (on the song “Renegade”). Lenny Kravitz was a lot of fun, too. His crowds were great and his crew was fantastic.
I read that you actually teach classical music theory. When playing in a traditional sort of rock incarnation, how do you straddle that line between creative simplicity and keeping things interesting for yourself on a “theory” kind of level?
You can get caught up in “doing the math” – what you think you’re supposed to do, what is right on paper – so I don’t think in theoretical terms when writing songs. You’ll miss out on something great if you try to force it in a particular direction. What’s appealing and interesting about writing rock music is the combination of elements, not just the building blocks underneath it. All the best stuff is unexplainable.
You do a lot of writing/composing for TV and commercials. Do you find it creatively limiting writing jingles? How do you communicate with non-musicians trying to convey ideas of what they want without use of a musical vocabulary?
It’s creative, but in a different way. Commercial music is more sophisticated these days and the clients want music that’s similar to some very good artists so that makes it challenging and interesting.
It’s good to listen to their needs, and most of the time if you give them what you think is right they’ll be happy with it. Otherwise, you can end up going in circles.
Three bands (Glacier Hiking, Oliver The Penguin, Abandoned Pools), composing, producing, what do you find most fulfilling as a musician? What do you do to unwind and get away from music all together?
I’m down to just one band now. The side projects have been dissolved and I’m concentrating solely on Abandoned Pools. That’s probably what I should have been doing all along but it was good to have a break. It also helped me develop as a songwriter. What I find most fulfilling is when I know I’ve written a good song, I’m onto something good, and I can just spend time in production honing it until I’m completely satisfied. I live near the beach, so I think my new unwinding activity is going to be fishing from the pier.
Abandoned Pools hit the Viper Room stage tomorrow, August 5. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 at the door.
-- Brent X Mendoza
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