Interview: Cannonball Statman

One of our writers // friends // contributors (Alex Norelli) just scored this interview with Cannonball Statman for our series of Words for Northside Festival. Check it.

Alex: I saw you play a show with an acoustic guitar that you put a vocal mic into as a pick-up.  It was really awesome. Are you always trying DIY ways to make a unique sound?   Do you have any do-it-yourselfers who you look up to?

In the past year or so, I’ve been getting more minimal – performing and recording with just acoustic guitar and vocals. But the ways I write and perform songs now evolved from those kinds of experiments I’ve done, like with lo-fi home recording, building and modifying instruments, and experimenting with song structure. The guitar you’re talking about is the Frankenguitar, which might be haunted. I’ve owned it since I was 9 years old, when it was a black Fender acoustic-electric, and for some reason, the action was set up so high that it was almost unplayable. When the original pick-up broke, I started using that vocal mic instead, and lodged an overdrive pedal inside the sound hole for awhile, too. As for other DIY’ers, I first saw The Purple Organ perform about a year later, and was pretty amazed by how he modified his guitar. He has bass strings, drum triggers, and all kinds of modifications that make his guitar sound like a four piece band.

Alex: The energy you bring to the stage is frenetic, wild, and exciting … did you barter it from a banshee? Or dare I ask, are you a banshee? and if not, where do you get your energy from? inspirations?

It’s kind of a mystery to me, too. In March 2012, my left wrist was injured in a sleepwalking accident. While it was in a cast, I started writing songs in a tuning where I only needed to use one finger on my left hand. My hand healed, but ever since then, I’ve done all my guitar work in that tuning (open D5), which makes a guitar sound like a very angry 6-string sitar. Before that injury, I didn’t have much energy on stage at all. But after the injury, my energy got progressively more intense and frenetic. A lot of that feels like a natural process, and I don’t know where it comes from. Most performers and bands I like have a very different stage presence from me, too. Brook Pridemore is the only one I can think of who’s similar. Maybe the surgeon who fixed my hand was a banshee in disguise?

Alex: What is Cannonball Statman listening to right now?

Yeti’s new album “Shadowhead”. They’re this great dreamy/downtempo punk band from Staten Island. I wouldn’t be surprised if they bartered something from a banshee once.

Alex: Hair has a mythology all its own, its a source of energy, power, symbolism, mystery. Do you have a hair-spirit who inspires your hairstyle?   

My hair seems to have a mind of its own, and it doesn’t communicate with me much. So if there’s a hair-spirit inspiring it, I wouldn’t know, but it would. It’s been curly and unusual for as long as it’s existed. I don’t think it minds being cut, but it’s a lot happier when it’s growing out. I’ve learned from experience that it hates getting knots in it, so taking care of it isn’t an easy task, especially when it’s longer. Some people claim it’s red, others claim it must be dirty blonde, and others say it’s brown. I can see a good case for all three of those.

Alex: Dream band, who would you be playing with?

I’d be the guitarist/vocalist, and I’d have Moe Tucker on drums, Lou Barlow on bass/vocals, and Eddie Hazel on lead guitar. Salvador Dalí would be our manager, and he’d insist as part of our contract that we only play one show, and not record or document it in any way. But somehow, Mike Rechner  (of Prewar Yardsale) would be able to make a bootleg recording of that show, and distribute it internationally on micro-cassettes.

Alex: Where do you want to be in a year?

I’m hoping to record and release the follow-up to Icepick, the album I released in April. And I also want to start touring more frequently. I did my first US tour last December, with Phoebe Novak, which was great. I’m touring again in July, with a band called The Grasping Straws, so that’s also exciting.

Alex: Are there any shows you are looking to catch at the Northside festival? 

I’m hoping to catch Shilpa Ray on Friday at Knitting Factory. I saw her with her band when we played the same night at the Antifolk Festival last summer, and I was blown away!

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Also, yes:

Tunes and image copyright Cannonball Statman.

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