Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ed Hale On Your Heroes And Villains

"These bands that get in the studio for two years and are forced to record 50 to 70 songs in order to come out with 10 tracks and the record companies are still not happy … they're looking for 'hit singles' rather than a great fucking album. Well, we haven't been working that way. — Ed Hale And The Transcendence

Nothing Ed Hale does is by the numbers. Even his band, Ed Hale And The Transcendence, isn't structured like others. It includes five core members, five guest members on every record, and another five musicians who sit in with the band for live productions. That doesn't count Karen Feldner, who has provided vocals for the band since their first album, Rise And Shine.

Yet, despite its sheer size and scope, the band has managed to maintain a distinct sound, even if it is one that can be hard to pin down. Their fourth studio album, All Your Heroes Become Villains, has been described as everything from a concept album of Brit-pop and world music to seventies glam rock and progressive alternative, but it is really something else all together.

"It wasn't supposed to be a concept album, but we were trying to make sure the songs were connected in some way because critics had said our albums 'weren't cohesive enough.' We didn't know that was one of the rules to making albums," Hale laughs. "It was only later, with a lot of it coming from DJ Kamran Green, that we started hearing how the songs could be tied together. This guy smoked more pot than anyone I had ever seen in my life. He's got this medical marijuana card, right? So he smokes out 24-7!"

It was also Green, Hale says, who would stay up after everyone else had called it a night between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. When the band would return in the late morning, Green would still be working — creating brilliant little snippets of music that would be incorporated in all the songs, tying them together, and giving it a "rock opera" like quality.

All Your Heroes Become Villains is a collection of personal insights. 

One of the most powerful songs on the album, Blind Eye, carries a potent message. Hale has always been regarded as an outspoken social and political activist, but this song throws its hands up in the face of everything, moving from protests that feed the system and toward passive apathy, just to survive.

"Sometimes I want to feel that way. I did when I wrote it. I mean, regarding how evil all the governments of the world are, yes, I feel that way," Hale said. "You and I know that I can't get into that here, in a public domain. But that's what the song is really about ... the fact that we are forced to turn a blind eye to all of it."

Instead, Hale points to a host of entertainers that mostly stay away from politics and take matters into their own hands. People like Bono for his work in Africa, Sting and his wife Trudy saving rainforests in Brazil, and Matt Damon attacking water shortages, he said. Instead of trying to change legislation, he points out, they go out and get it done.

Blind Eye isn't the only politically charged song on the album. We Are Columbine is equally poignant, laying the ownership of what Hale considers injustices on the societies that make them possible. Musically, it's one of the best rockers on the album. Lyrically, it is among several songs Hale says he didn't write as much as they wrote themselves.

"It's a hard song to stomach if you don't agree with the position it takes," says Hale. "It didn't take anything to write, but I had to ask myself if I had the courage to write it. To say those things."

Not every song addresses political letdowns. Solaris, for example, is written from the heart, about a girl that Hale has known since junior high school. He just happened to be watching the movie Solaris when he picked up his guitar. As he strummed, what came together was an amalgamation of his feelings and the movie.

"I had placed her in outer space … which I guess was easier than being real about it, with her living out in Oregon with another man," he said. "Fucked up, I know."

Messed It Up Again carries a similar theme, bottled up emotions that Hale felt a need to get out. The song is about a different relationship, a girl who took his ring, his love, and never gave it back. Listen carefully to the lyrics and you might discover Hale isn't singing about messing up the relationship. He says he messed up his life because he let her screw him over.

His favorite song on the album, however, After Tomorrow, is a dizzying seven-minute track that Hale calls his Magna Carta. On its own, the lyrics tell a story of a man who sounds like he's writing a suicide letter. But he's not as sad about it as he is celebratory, something that comes across because of the way the members — Fernando Perdomo (guitar), Roger Houdaille (bassist), Allan Gabay (keys), Ricardo Mazzi (drummer), and Bill Sommer (second drummer) — play together.

Houdaille, who is also in Ex Norwegian, recently agreed to pick up production duties on the next Ed Hale album. Hale says they cut enough songs to make two incomplete albums, work in progress after Houdaille flew up to New York and laid his air mattress down in the middle of the studio. It won't be like anything you've heard, Hale said.

Ed Hale And The Transcendence's All Your Heroes Become Villains Throws 5.1 On The Liquid Hips Richter Scale. 

Ed Hale And The Transcendence is infinitely listenable because Hale and company set down a sound well outside the mainstream. It's also hard to believe this is the same talent that recorded the confident Scene In San Francisco, which still reappears on top 40 lists almost three years after its release.

All Your Heroes Become Villains by Ed Hale And The Transcendence is available on iTunes. You can also find the album at Barnes & Noble or you can find All Your Heroes Become Villains on Amazon. If you want to hear how diverse of a singer-songwriter Hale really is, check out Scene In San Francisco, a rerelease from his album, Ballad On Third Avenue, three years ago.

Special thanks to Rich Becker for his help on the interview questions and contributions.
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