The Radiant Dregs

posted in: Articles, January 2013 | 0

Dorf Digs Down and Talks The Silver Chord

For those readers who don’t know The Radiant Dregs, this is a great introduction! Mike Indest has featured them on DTL’s Basement Tapes podcast, which is where I first discovered them. I love DIY music that is really unique and different, and the Dregs dole that out in quantity and quality. A bonus is that they offer all their music as free downloads from their website – not many people do that for really great music. The links are at the bottom of the page, so read and then download, listen and enjoy!

How long did it take to complete The Silver Chord from start to finish?

I started jotting down lyrics for Silver Chord about three years ago after our last project Boo was completed. Whenever an idea would cross my mind I would try to add it to one of my notebooks for possible use at a later time. Eventually I had pages of lyric fragments compiled and was ready to start the process of completing the lyrics and working them into musical arrangements.  Once we decided that we were ready to create a new project and set to work it took about four months of evening and weekend writing and recording sessions.

Just to clarify, The Radiant Dregs are you and your wife Cindy, who handles what task with the writing, or is it a collaboration of whoever has time to tackle which task?

I tend to write most of the lyrics and music and Cindy helps with the vocals and production. In the past she has contributed music and lyrics but I did the bulk of the writing for Silver Chord. As always, Cindy did the majority of the audio engineering. Silver Chord was recorded on a cheap KORG Sound On Sound recorder and mixed on free Audacity software. Neither of us have any formal training so everything we do is trial and error. Cindy is the one who makes the music possible by working out the bugs and preparing the final product.

I first heard of your music through Mike Indest’s Basement Tapes series, and I was stunned to see the free output of songs available through your website… pretty awesome to hand out stuff for free these days, how has the response been?

We have about 200 songs available for free download on our website Our motivation for writing and recording music is mainly as a means of expression and personal enjoyment. We create art for the sake of art. I have never really envisioned our music as having much commercial appeal. We’d still record these songs if nobody else ever had the chance to listen to them. The fact that people do listen and download these songs and offer feedback is just icing on the cake. And the response has been amazing. Over the years we’ve had people from the UK to Japan to you name it write and tell us that they stumbled across our songs on our website or on YouTube and were drawn in and hooked.

I know you are a family man, how many kids do you have and what is your “day job” if you don’t mind me asking?

Cindy and I have a 9-year-old son Adrian. He is our only child. When Cindy was pregnant with Adrian she developed preeclampsia  and Adrian was born 3 months early at 2 ½ pounds. He was kept in the hospital for 3 months before he was strong enough to come home. Doctors said that there was a good chance Cindy would run into the same problems if she were to get pregnant again so we have decided that Adrian will be an only child. Fortunately, he had no permanent problems and has caught up with his peers and is a perfectly healthy 9-year- old.  We’re a happy family of three.

I have been a used book dealer for the past 7 years or so. I sell unusual and hard to find titles on eBay and Amazon. For years I worked in construction but when the economy crashed and the housing bubble burst I decided to go into business for myself and do something I loved doing. I have always been an avid reader and enjoyed a good treasure hunt. It doesn’t get any better than seeking out and selling interesting used books. Being an online book dealer also allows me to work from home which gives me the opportunity to teach Adrian at home. He is currently attending a home school charter called Connections Academy. As for Cindy, she works in the payroll department at the City of Flagstaff.

I know that you are also actively involved in politics and are Libertarian (I think) in belief and practice, ever thought of running for office locally?

I have always been interested in politics but it wasn’t until 2007 that I got extremely active and involved in the political process. Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign drew me in and inspired me to do everything I could to stand up for liberty. Since then, I have worked with groups across the political spectrum who support and desire freedom. I am the founder of Flagstaff Liberty Alliance, a non-partisan organization designed to promote the philosophy of liberty at the local level. We’re currently working on gathering signatures to support Food Freedom Ordinances at the City and County levels.  A few years ago I started the Flag Liberty Blog which is dedicated to promoting libertarian principles.  It has slowly but steadily acquired a large readership and become very influential in the region.

I am asked continually by people to run for local office. A couple years ago I seriously considered a run for school board but my criticism of spending in the district would have made my run a very tough uphill battle.

I have been elected as a precinct committeeman in the Republican Party which is the lowest elected office an individual can hold but it is recognized as a political office. I was also elected as a State delegate in the Republican Party and supported Ron Paul earlier this year at the Arizona state convention. While the Republican establishment did everything in their power to fight the liberty delegates, we were able to pull off several wins and send three liberty delegates to the National Convention. Politics is a very dirty game and both major parties will cheat and do whatever they can to maintain power but I am driven to do everything I can to try to make a difference and fight the corruption that exists.

How do you feel about the outcome of the election, and what are your thoughts and opinions about politics and spirituality and where they should, or shouldn’t, intersect?

I was amazed that people were surprised at the outcome of the election. It went exactly as I expected. Romney could not energize and excite Republicans and Independents because he refused to take a principled stand on anything. During the campaign I wore my reporter hat and attended a Tea Party Express Romney rally and it was dead. There was no enthusiasm or belief that Romney would be a good president.  Issues like the NDAA, The Patriot Act, unconstitutional wars, civil liberties, drones over America and the Federal Reserve were hardly addressed if at all. People looking for positive change did not see Romney as the candidate to bring that change.

Cindy is currently running for Chair of the local Republican Party so I could not officially support or endorse third party candidates without hurting her campaign but I think Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson got most of the major issues right. I had the opportunity to meet him and hear him speak at Arizona State University and was very impressed.

On a local level, I was very pleased with the outcome of the election. A good friend of mine (Bob Thorpe) was elected as our State Representative. We got an excellent candidate elected to the State Senate and the Top Two voting system initiative (which would have destroyed third parties in Arizona) failed miserably. I was happy on election night.

I am always disturbed when I see any religion pushing for some kind of theocracy. I was raised in a very conservative Christian home and the Christian Coalition mentality left a very bad taste in my mouth. We all have free will and we all should have the opportunity to live our lives the way we feel is best as long as we are not hurting someone else. Spirituality may have a place in politics but religious views should never be forced on anyone.

What is your favorite track from Silver Chord and why?

When I listen to Silver Chord, “World of Lies” is always the stand out track. I love Cindy’s haunting vocals and the lyrics walk a fine line between human emotion and spirituality. It creates a mood and tells a story but it’s up to the listener to decide how it makes them feel and what the song is about. The best art is always open to interpretation.

I know that you guys are covering “Am I Winning Something?” on the forth coming Michael Knott tribute album, why did you pick that song and how did it feel to cover an artist like Knott?

We experimented with several songs before settling on “Am I Winning Something.” After giving it a try it just felt right. I always appreciated the lyrics of Strip Cycle and when we were invited to be part of the Mike Knot tribute I knew I wanted to do something off that album. Knott is a legend and an incredible songwriter. I don’t think we could ever do his music justice but hopefully our re-worked arrangement contributes a little something to the spirit of his music.

Let’s talk about some of the instruments you use, are you typically looking for a specific sound for songs, or do you hear something and find a way to incorporate it into the music…what is your writing process?

Silver Chord is the first album the Radiant Dregs have recorded without any keyboard. I intentionally set out this time to create a project that was strictly guitar. We switched back and forth between acoustic and electric with the occasional drum machine beat added to the mix (the biggest thing lacking in our music is real percussion). I love experimenting with effects but tried to tone them down and use them to a minimal degree this time around. I went into this project knowing I wanted to make something a little more folk sounding with more traditional arrangements (verse, chorus, verse).  Besides that, it could have gone anywhere. Everything I write seems to slowly evolve into the final product. I go into a song with an idea and come out with something completely surprising and unexpected.

Can you give me the back story to the song “Rocket” and where it originated? I am drawn to that track in particular for some reason, it has a “Rockstars on H” vibe to it, and I think Cindy’s vocal are disarmingly beautiful and catch the listener by surprise.

“Rocket” is about the military industrial complex and how American culture works so hard to make war seem appealing and sexy. The song also contains lots of overtones and innuendo which tends to be very common in Radiant Dregs lyrics. “Rocket” is pretty much the only song on Silver Chord where politics openly slips in.

What music inspires you creatively these days and who are you listening to right now?

My musical taste is all over the map these days. In my car I currently have the second album by Crystal Castles in the CD player. A few weeks ago I purchased West by Lucinda Williams which struck a poetic chord with me. Over the past couple years I have been very inspired by Frank Black’s Fast Man Raider Man which never gets old no matter how many times I listen to it. I find myself increasingly drawn to modern folk and alternative country acts and especially those bands that seem to be highly influenced by great lo-fi songwriters like Neil Young and Dylan.

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