Terry Scott Taylor: Daniel Amos Hits the Road Again

posted in: Articles, May 2011 | 0

To anyone who reads this little ‘zine, Terry Taylor needs no introduction. He has had a career that spans more than three decades in an industry that can be fickle at best. He has not only defined more than one genre, but he has also set a standard and a bar that is difficult to match. He has a massive back catalog of records, videos, DVDs, and guest appearances, as well as numerous credits as a producer, writer, and just about any other title that you could earn. He has played with, influenced, and worked with bands ranging from punk to country to metal to rap and everything in between (including television, video gaming, and children’s programming).

Taylor’s bands have run the gamut and progressed as they grew – but he has always been ahead of the curve. Whether it is country, Americana, new wave, alternative, straight up rock ‘n roll, or Dr. Edward Daniel Taylor’s comedy, there is a short list of individuals who have such a distinguished body of work. Terry Taylor is at the top of that list. He continues to put out top notch music in The Lost Dogs as well as doing solo recordings that still offer the fans something unique, different and pleasing.

I was pleased to catch up with Terry and be able to ask questions that satisfied my curiosity. But I also got the scoop on the upcoming Daniel Amos tour which will catch the band back together for the first time since they recorded Mr. Buechner’s Dream a decade ago. I admit that I was really nervous interviewing Terry because his music has been a constant through my life as long as I have listened to music. I have purchased albums simply because his name was credited on them and I knew that they would offer something fresh, unique, and good quality. It was a great conversation and Taylor is one of the kindest people that I have interviewed thus far. I hope you guys enjoy reading as much as I did listening.

The DA website last October was talking about new music that was coming, I just wanted to ask how that was progressing and see if there is anything you can tell us in regards to that?

What has happened is that this tour began to kind of snowball in terms of the initial idea which had been for Jerry Chamberlain and I to go out as a duo and once we were sort of tossing that around Ed McTaggart came on board so we thought we had a trio and then Greg Flesh got a hold of us and said that he could take some vacation time and then I started to think to myself that we had a band here. I never thought that would happen with all of us getting to tour again simply because of logistics, everybody has different things they are doing and are in different parts of the country. So I threw the idea out to our booking agent and she reacted very, very positively and so it just started snowballing and now we’re going on tour.

Initially, before all this happened, it was about time we did another Daniel Amos record. The last one was in 2001 with Mr. Buechner’s Dream. The new record is what I had set my sights on and then when the tour started happening I set that aside because this is all consuming. What we’re hoping is that sometime after the tour which takes place in the middle of June, we’ll be able to get back in the studio at some point and do another record…but, we have kind of put that on the back burner at this point.

If I got my information correct, the tour ends at Cornerstone Fest?

Yeah, that’s the last gig on the tour for Daniel Amos, but I think after that Jerry and I will go together for a couple of more weeks with the duo team. So yeah, Cornerstone, the main stage, we’ll be doing a few oldies mixed with some new things.

What part of the country are you guys hitting with the tour?

St. Louis, Illinois, Chicago, Ohio, Virginia, Minneapolis, New Jersey as well as a few others and there is also some talk of doing a little West Coast thing, but that wouldn’t be on this tour, that would be a little later on.

That’s a lot of dates; you guys have a busy schedule…

We’ll be out for a couple of weeks, playing just about every night. It’s going to be challenging but it will be a lot of fun to be back with the guys. It’s been many, many years since we did any touring and I never thought it would happen. The camaraderie will be great and making music again will be great. We’ve always felt that we never stopped being a band, we all stayed close and I knew if the call went out to make another record we would do it. So Daniel Amos has never really gone away.

You guys have been doing it since what, about ‘76?

I’m not real good with dates, but somewhere around there… maybe ‘74 or so, but the last record we did together was in 2001 with Mr. Buechner’s Dream.

Mr. Buechner’s Dream was great, plus it was a double CD as well as the DVD release.

Yeah, there were 30 some odd songs, we had a real burst of creativity there. That’s what happens when you hold the horse in the pen long enough; once you let it out it kind of goes wild. We started off and we were just going to go do a record and then the creative juices started flowing. That’s what really just happens with this group of guys. At one point during rehearsals we saw that we were going on 15 or so songs, and I said “maybe we should do a double record” which seemed kind of crazy at the time, but everybody said “yeah, let’s do it” and we recorded some 30 plus songs.

It’s a great record…

I’m really, really proud of that record. I think that Buechner and Darn Floor are probably our best and I would probably play that for anybody. It really is consistent and it has a vibe in it. Plus I think that it has a depth lyrically. You know… as you grow, as you experience, as you meet new challenges in life, your relationship with Christ and your religious faith deepens and matures. We’ve never been afraid to ask the tough questions or to live the examined life. These are the kind of themes that are the record of our hearts and our lives… so you really feel that that particular record that you are working on at that particular time is the best reflection of who you are as a person and your relationship with God and your relationship with those around you.

I think Buechner’s is a brutally honest record that expresses allot of different themes. Musically it was an incredible challenge. After the band had laid down the tracks and I went in to do vocals I found myself being very obsessive about the record. One night I was in the studio late at night recording the vocals… it must have been around 2 AM in the morning but at the time I didn’t even realize what time it was. I was there by myself and I was in the middle of a vocal and I actually hallucinated. I thought I saw a rabbit cross the floor (laughter), I was (more laughter) so exhausted (even more laughter) but so consumed by this process. I thought to myself “that is the rabbit that was leading Alice down the rabbit hole”, and since I wasn’t ready to go there yet I just knew that it was time to stop. So I reluctantly closed up shop and came back the next day and started up again. You know I had essentially 33 songs to do vocals on and sing backup, so it was good that I was passionate and obsessive about the project, because if it had been something I was less interested in I don’t think that I would have made it.

Wow, yeah that is a massive undertaking…

It sure was.

How long did the entire process of making that album take?

Recording on that went fairly fast, we knew going in that we weren’t there to do something that was like ‘every hair in its place’, we wanted a noisy and somewhat loose record that is extremely accessible at the same time. Melodically it’s very accessible. We kind of approached it with an ‘anything goes’ type attitude, relying more upon a four piece live feel approach. The structure that I go for on any records that I do kind of come from the 60’s influences that I had which were that sometimes the mistakes actually lend an extra punch to these things which can be enjoyable in and of themselves and really make things work. So we came into that recording process with that in mind so we didn’t have a lot of re-takes. We had probably three or four retakes at the most. A lot of the songs we had rehearsed prior to going in, we kept it loose and once we got in then we ironed them out a bit more. It was still kind of ‘on the fly’ which worked for that record and the feel of it.

What about the upcoming tour…are you guys going to get a good chance to get together before hand and practice?

Yeah, we have to practice. What you go through in any situation like this is that we don’t have the luxury of being able to rehearse for a couple of months, so what you usually find yourself doing on any tour is you get together and rehearse…you feel a bit uncomfortable for the first few days and find yourself thinking about what cord you are going to play next, or what lyric you are going to sing next, and then it comes together…there’s that magical moment when things start flowing and you’re working on nuance and subtleties that you weren’t concerned about at the beginning when you just didn’t want to make some kind of horrible mistake.

It’s always been a little rough for Daniel Amos in the past doing these sort of Cornerstone things where we were just doing one show because you haven’t gotten to that point where you’ve gelled, but for the fans who really love it they’re just happy that you’re together again and they are a lot more responsive. So you kind of rely on that to get you through this sort of rough and tumble show you’re performing. When you’re are on tour though it’s great because by the time we hit Cornerstone we should have gotten over the tough stuff and come together and really gelled.

You guys are playing main stage at Cornerstone too right?

Well it’s going to be a little bit of a variation at Cornerstone. There is a bit of apprehension because we are going to be doing a few songs at Cornerstone that we probably won’t be doing during the tour. At Cornerstone their emphasis is sort of more on the early days of the band. We’re going to be throwing in a few tunes that are very early songs and we might be doing those for the first time.

Are there going to be any special guests on the tour?

I don’t know…not at this point that I know of. There is one particular thing that we’re working on but I wouldn’t want to say anything about that.

Well, just having the band back together is good enough!

It’s a small miracle, it really is. We’re older guys now and I’m not particularly attracted to nostalgia in terms of my own music. I’m not interested in getting up there and trying to rock out the place, and coming off as kind of pathetic you know (laughter)…so, that’s one of the things about Daniel Amos. When we recorded our records I think we have something to offer that is current, accessible and relevant. I’ve always wanted to be able to bring that into the live shows, this isn’t something that older people are going to love and the younger people are going to be scratching their heads over. In terms of touring that is something that has been part of my thought process. We need to bring a modern sensibility to what we’re doing, but at the same time please the fans and give them something that they’re going to love.

Let me ask you about Swine Before Pearls…how did that turn out for you?

It has done very well, yeah, it has been good. I had many of my musician friends, people that work with me and the website, many years ago suggest that I do a ‘home brew’ approach to making these little records and doing demos and stuff like that. As these things do, I tend to take any ideas that are thrown my way and then there’s this long period of me sort of mulling it over and figuring out how to approach it. Recently I had come up with the idea to do a kind of surprise grab bag where everything goes kind of deal which also allows a certain kind of freedom so I don’t lock myself into a way of doing it. That gave me the freedom to explore it a little bit and I came up with a little formula and I’m really enjoying it. Now that you can do pretty decent home recordings, the technology is there, so I thought ‘why not’, and the response has been really good.

Photo by Tom Gulotta

Do you have your own studio at home?

No, I have a bedroom, sometimes a dining room or a living room. You can take the computer anywhere you want to go. So when I say home recordings, it really is at home. This last one I did, the Part 2…well, I have this airport close to me and between that and people walking outside in the parking lot, some of those songs I would have to start and stop and start again. You just have to wait for the plane to clear and sometimes I wasn’t that successful, but what’s nice about a grab bag idea like this is that all these sounds sometimes add to the ambience of the whole approach.

Yeah, it’s almost like it’s something you expect.

Yeah, exactly and the fans are forgiving that way and as a matter a fact it’s those kinds of things that they really love.

Is there any chance that there will be personalized versions again for Volume 1?

We’ve talked about opening up again to that; we’ve talked about future volumes doing something like that again as well. It’s a fun and challenging process and I think we’ll probably do that again when the time is right and I can really put time into it.

At one point there was the talk about the deluxe edition of Horrendous Disc, do you think that will ever come to fruition?

Well there’s always talk of these things happening, I tend to stay out of them because there are just so many factors involved. I have people working on it and the last communication I had about it was that it looked highly likely, but I’ve also been in that place before. We have a lot of great stuff once we have the go ahead, and I think people will be really satisfied. All the parts are there, we just have to bring it in and make it happen, but like I said, I’ve been in that place before and it always a bit precarious when it comes to Horrendous Disc, you just never know which way it’s going to go.

Any other re-releases in the future that are being discussed?

There’s always talk of re-issues. We’ve got a lot of outtakes and live stuff from early recordings like Shotgun Angel and stuff like that. Buechner’s out of print, I would like to do a re-issue of that at some point. Because of our limitations with packaging on Buechner’s we were only able to print part of the lyrics, just some quotes really, and I would like to do a really colorful lyric book and some bonus material and things like that.

Any of our recordings are sort of prime for re-issues. When you do these re-issues you really want to make them special. My friend Tom Gullota who is very close to me and does a lot of my management stuff, he’s really in charge of these things. When we did Darn Floor, Big Bite we didn’t want to do a reissue and just put it back out there, we want it to be highly collectible and have a lot of visual stuff there and a lot of bonus material. These kinds of things can be costly and you can’t just pick up a phone and say ‘do three reissues’. The process is kind of to pick one and really do it right.

In the early days with Vox Humana there was a company that originally released that record, and they put out a reissue that was just really terrible. It had a lot of mistakes, the mastering was bad on it, it was an unofficial release and we were just horrified with it. Now that these things are sort of in our hands we feel a duty to our fans to really handle these things with respect and to handle the fans with respect and do really great reissues. So, in light of that it’s really a slow process.

It has to be frustrating as an artist to have something like the Vox Humana reissue come back out, and for it to be sub average and not of your doing.

Yeah, well we’ve had horrible suggestions from people or companies that have bought out other companies to do the “two-fer” deals where you take two of your records and put them together. That would make sense if you did something like A Briefing for the Ascent and Knowledge and Innocence because they’re similar and production wise they’re similar. So you could take those a do something really nice as a two disc release. However, when you want to take our first record and Alarma or something like that, you kind of know that this is just a company that wants to make back its money and has no regard for the fan and especially for the artist. When you put your heart, your soul and your life into something and then just for the sake of commerce someone wants to take it and somewhat bastardize it and make it into something it’s not it really is upsetting.

The fans are savvy though and they’re on to that kind of stuff.  Now that they know things are in our hands and that it is the authorized edition, they know they’re going to get something special.

Let’s switch over to The Lost Dogs for a minute. The Route 66 tour… how was that and what were the highlights for you?

Well the highlight was essentially going down the road itself. It was an experience that was so rich and inspiring and it was over too soon. We could have really stayed out for months on end and constantly been discovering new things, especially with all the people that we met along the way. We talked to so many business owners who had families that had businesses that had been there for generations. Just experiencing the road itself was wondrous. I had traveled the road with my family and my grandparents when I was a young boy, and to be able to tap into our own childhoods and remember the wonder of that whole thriving road. Over ninety percent of that road is still intact and you can travel most of it, it is broken up and there were those times where we had to get off of it and get on the dreaded interstate.

It really hits home what a different, and almost, spiritual ambience there is between the two roadways. You have Route 66 which is adventurous and you don’t know what you’re going to see around any given corner. The interstate you just get on and it gets you where you want to go, but the trip itself is just a bit repetitious. So Route 66 and traveling with the guys in the RV, marking the places that we wanted to go see and being inspired to write songs about it, the whole endeavor was more than we thought it would be.

Camping itself was quite an experience. I had done some camping when I was a kid, but I hadn’t done any kind of camping in many, many years. Steve, and Derri to some extent, was the only guy who would actually get out his pup tent at night and sleep outside of the RV. He roughed it a little more than the rest of us. We would set up camp, have a campfire, and sing around the campfire…we played Woody Guthrie on the stereo, we watched The Grapes of Wrath on the TV and we really got into the experience.

In some ways we were experiencing all the years of the road and trying to connect with that festival experience. In the modern experience today, seeing the road is somewhat sad because so many businesses and life along the road have disappeared, and then some of it has also been revived. Then that middle era of the road, with the neon signs and the old hotels and drive-ins, we were able to play in a couple of places there. The old teepee hotel, we slept in the teepees and did a concert at night under the neon’s, the fans knew we were going to be there so we played for them and some of the locals. I could spend this whole time talking about everything we experienced.

The whole thing had an incredible impact in a creative way. When we got back we polished up some of the songs we had written on the road and then we were inspired to write more, so we wound up with a record that I’m incredibly proud of and I think captures the history of the road, the people and the places that we were exposed to.

That is really cool, that would be something really neat to write a book about, all the sights and experiences.

Well we’ve got a lot of plans about our experiences. We released this record Old Angel but that was sort of the first step in embracing this whole experience and bringing it to the fans. We’re working now on the editing process of the DVD and we want to marry those two, the soundtrack and the DVD. We’re probably going to do some coffee table type things with lyrics, band experiences, and we had some beautiful photography taken while we were out there. If you open up Old Angel you’ll see the beautiful shot of us out there on the road, and we have hundreds of just beautiful pictures that Jimmy Abegg took of us and he filmed our experience as well. There’s a lot of different ways that we can go bringing that experience to our fans, so we’ll see what develops.

Lost Dogs, you guys are playing Cornerstone this year?

Yes we are.

Photo by Tom Gulotta

You’re a busy man right now…

Yeah I’m trying to stay busy, as I said it’s challenging, but also deeply satisfying as well. I think the Dogs will be touring later on in the year. We want to tour around the release of the DVD and bring a really special presentation to our fans. Like I said before, we really want to bring them into the experience.

In a way I think that experience is one that defines the band. We were out there on the road that has seen better days, but still has relevance and a certain ragged glory. I think we really identified with that and in wanting to marry the band to the road I think it’s a great metaphor. We’re really going to be concentrating at the end of this year, and the following year, to really present that in all its ragged glory.

Looking back over a career that so far has spanned over 30 years in the industry, and you have not just a large quantity of work, but there’s also a great quality to the output with each of the various bands you have been in, looking back on that what are some of the best things that have happened, and some of the hardest things that have taken place? I know that’s a really broad question…

No, it’s okay; I see where you’re going. As far as the best things are concerned, that’s a bit rougher because as far as my artistic life is concerned, it is so married to my personal life that the line gets blurred a little bit. Like the birth of my children, and subsequently Knowledge and Innocence came out of the birth of my daughter and my son who is the center of that record in so many ways. That was a truly inspirational time. That was also a difficult, transitional time because I was doing solo stuff and coming out of the Daniel Amos thing. Daniel Amos was still going on but I was focusing on my family life and we weren’t touring, and that transitional time was one fraught with some degree of fear. I didn’t know where things were going to go. We had come off with a lot of controversy which would probably be the worst time…the Horrendous Disc scandal and subsequently the fallout from that was probably the lowest time and I think that changed me in good and bad ways. In the bad ways there were things that I really had to take before the throne and the mercy seat, and then try to really get through any bitterness and sense of deep loss that I had experienced and go on to whatever God had for me.

I would say it’s easier to talk about the worst time because usually in our lives we remember more the painful moments more than anything. The time you fell off the roof and broke your leg as a kid you’re more likely to remember than the time your Mom made you that roast dinner, you know? The best would be things like the first time we listened back to Shotgun Angel. We developed this idea of a concept record and we had to put together all of the parts. It was orchestrated, and once it was put together with all of the overdubs and cross fades and things like that, we sat in the studio, dimmed the lights and sat and listened to the whole thing. There were tears in our eyes, which was an incredible high point. The first night we played at Calvary Chapel and to see that sea of people out there, or the night we played the John Wayne Theatre, Knott’s Berry Farm, and the people just went crazy. Those are sort of the musical highlights.

The spiritual highlights are just too many to name…the times I saw God’s hand along the way when I needed His help and His presence. My years as a musician have been filled with incredibly moving moments of joy and happiness, and then incredibly crushing…the loss of Gene was probably one of the greatest losses of my life, and that is still very fresh to me.

I thought about Gene as I was writing that question…You’re in my top 5 favorite artists of all time, and you have a very unique gift and ability to translate your experiences for your fans. Like I said earlier, it’s the quality, not just quantity, of work that really speaks on a deeper level. I want to say ‘thanks’ to you and encourage you because your music has been a big part of my life as I have grown up, and it will continue to be there as long as you continue to make music.

I really, really appreciate that…you know I was just thinking about your question ‘what’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me’. I can’t name just one, but I remember one of the most poignant experiences that I ever had. I was in Southern California at the time and this was a few years back. I think any artist who makes a living doing something like what I do, and being in financial flux and constantly living with this sort of low level hum of fear concerning whether you can get through the month, or even the week. So you have that and other personal things happen and it all just gets piled on and just increases and so you kneel before God because sometimes the only prayer you can pray is just “Help me!.”

So I remember this time a couple of years ago as I was going through a particularly dark and tough time that did not apply to my family life which has always been an incredible source of strength to me. My wife is an angel and so are my children. It had to  do with my artistic life and what I was going to do, not a lot was happening…a friend of mine had his Mother just pass away, she was Catholic, and my friend asked me if I would come and play a song. The song that I had chosen to play was “You Lay Down” off of John Wayne. I selected that song and I went to this fully Catholic funeral, the priest was great and he knew there were people there who were not Catholic, and he graciously took the time to very humbly explain the various rituals. I was very nervous, the place was packed, and I got up and played the song and then I went and sat back down. The service went on and then at the end the priest stood up, and he was thanking various people who had participated and talking about the family and he said, “I need to say this…Terry Taylor; you have a gift of God.” That can sound like a cliché, but it was such a powerful moment and message from God Himself, through this Catholic priest because it was the very thing that I needed to hear, and I heard it in a different way. I heard in it God’s voice, I heard in it the calling of God and the sort of reminder that He was still present with me in the gifts and talents that He had given me, but also with me as a person. He used this Catholic priest to remind me and to assure me. So, I think that was one of the most joyous and humbling moments of my life.

That’s cool, that’s one of those moments of clarity where it all comes together and it makes everything worthwhile.

Yeah, God peaks through the clouds every once and awhile. The clouds cover Him and sometimes He seems to be hiding, He hides for His purposes and I understand that now. He was giving me a drink of water then and one that He knew I needed desperately.

And that sustains until we need the next one…

Exactly right and our obligation is to do that in turn. Mike Roe told me that one time when I was in another particularly discouraging time, he said, “All we can do is what God asks us to – take a little bucket of water to the people.” We may be thirsty but in bringing a cup of water to someone else, my thirst is quenched as well. When I hear someone say “you’ve meant this to me in my life,” or “God has done this for me through your music”; I had a book sent to me the other day and the author wrote in it and said, “I don’t really listen to Christian music anymore, but your honesty and your craft continues to move and inspire me”, and  I’m not great with compliments, that has always been hard for me, but when I hear these things I don’t take them as I’m admired or I’m ‘top dog’. I really do take it as God’s voice saying to me “I’m with you; I’m present, keep doing what you’re doing.”

Is there anything Terry that you would like us to add in here that you want people to know?

I continue to covet the prayers of my brothers and sisters and that means more to me than anything. I hear from people all the time who say they’re praying for me. I’ve had whole churches praying for me and I think having prayer has got to be the most important thing. In terms of what’s going on musically, I hope the fans will turn out for the Daniel Amos tour. Come out and support the band and hear some great music. Come be inspired and challenged and all those good things that we all need as people of God.

As a closing word I also wanted to remind our readers that Terry has endured numerous difficulties financially as it pertains to his health and the health and well being of his family. There has been a tremendous outpouring of love for Taylor’s family and it is a testament to how deeply his work and art has touched, inspired and affected many people on a deep level. Please check the Daniel Amos website and follow the link to donate if you are able, it’s good to support and bless those who have left a mark on us all. Please continue to pray for Terry and his family and make sure you come out and catch Daniel Amos on the road…see you there!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *