Josh Fix Speaks – Interview Pt. 1

The more I listen to “Free at Last,” Josh Fix’s recent powerpop opus, the more I think it’s probably the best album I’ve heard all year. But man can’t live on liner notes alone — I needed to know more.

So I asked.

Give me pensive.

Give me "pensive."

Hey, Josh! On my iPod, you are sandwiched directly between Jools Holland and Journey. Care to comment?

Well… simply BEING on someone’s iPod is awesome in and of itself, no matter whom you’re sandwiched between! But your question prompted me to check where on MY iPod I was: between Johnny Cash and… Journey (and I didn’t even know I HAD Journey on my iPod, haha!)! If you do it by album, “Free At Last” is between “Franz Ferdinand” and “Fresh” by Sly And The Family Stone. Either way, pretty cool. Jools Holland is a badass, by the way.

What did you learn after making/distributing your EP [“Steinway the Hard Way”, 2004, out of print]? Was it a painful experience?

The making and distributing part of it was mostly a cinch — basically it was all free, courtesy of a demo contest I won through the Grammys. Most of it was done in my bedroom, but I also got to have my first time in a proper studio and in a mastering house (thanks to free time from the Grammy thing), so it prepared me for later recording sessions I would do.

Anyway, I thought it was just going to be a 3-song EP, but my then-manager persuaded me to release 7 songs that were basically just demos, and not ready for serious public consumption, in my opinion. I’m not too psyched about the mixes (because when I mixed them myself, I had zero experience and NO idea what I was doing, and in my inexperience I had recorded them in such a way that they couldn’t be remixed anyway…).

One of the songs (an early demo of “Jethro”, actually) wound up on KFOG Radio. KFOG’s the big rock station out here in San Francisco. It was a little bit of kick in the balls to hear my amateurish demo played right next to the sublime recording masterpieces of Zeppelin and the Beatles, etc…  On the flip side, there are a lot worse things that can happen to an unknown musician than finding one of their demos being played on the radio. (like ACTUALLY being kicked in the balls! Haha.)

Imagine yourself dealing with recording companies and producers 20 years ago… how would your album sound?

I’ll answer your question with a question: would there even BE an album?

I don’t exactly fit in now, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have fit in then. Having said that, I HAVE recorded with some big producers on some major labels’ dimes: I did some tracks with Babyface of all people about a year ago, believe it or not. Also, I struck up a great friendship with producer Paul Ebersold (who ended up mixing “Free At Last”) through a similar situation. But I lucked out in that I was finally given the opportunity to make a proper record and produce myself. For a debut, that’s a pretty cool thing.

I’m proud to be an opinionated, prickly, independent, outsider, bastard-child of the post-grunge era. Twenty years ago would have been the mid ’80s, and man I can’t stand most of the so-called “rock” from the mid ’80s. I was young and impressionable and that period actually turned me OFF popular music for a long time and started me down the road to studying classical music. That’s also the time I started digging through my parents’ record and tape collections and found all sorts of cool stuff.

I’m assuming, from listening to your album, that you started out as a guitarist, and then progressed to piano, bass, vocals, etc. Tell me a little about a 13-yr-old Josh learning on a knock-off Strat…

Piano was actually my first instrument, but I have the hands of a ham-fisted 4-year old girl, so a career as a concert pianist was probably out of the question. My sight–reading sucks too. I started playing guitar at about 14 [good guess, eh? – ed.]. I taught myself and I practiced a lot (I mean like a SHITLOAD) and got relatively good in a pretty short time. Steve Vai was probably my favorite guitarist. I’m a huge Frank Zappa fan, and when I found out that this “MTV guitarist” had gotten his start in Zappa’s band, I checked him out more closely, and was just blown away.

A friend of mine had an older brother who introduced me to Iron Maiden and Van Halen, and of course I was listening to my parents’ Queen records. I don’t practice nearly as much as I used to, but all those scales and exercises from my teenage years have served me well. Incidentally, my first band in school was a Police cover band, and I played bass and sang.

Did you have a vision in mind for “Free at Last”? It feels very complete, like a true “album” – not just a collection of songs.

That makes me feel really good to hear you say that, man! That was the intent, at least. I didn’t have too many arguments with the folks at the label during the making of the album — they were really good at letting me do my thing — but it took some convincing on my part to leave off some songs that they thought would be more “commercial” in favor of tracks that really contributed to the album as a whole. “Don’t Call Me In The Morning”, “Rock N Roll Slut”, “Whiskey & Speed”, and “Tiger On A Treadmill” were all in danger of not being recorded!

Josh in studio

Josh in studio

Part 2 of the Josh Fix “Free at Last” interview later this week! In the meantime, go [legally!] download that sucker so this guy can make more albums.

3 Responses to “Josh Fix Speaks – Interview Pt. 1”

  1. […] Fix Speaks – Interview pt. 2 Here, as promised, is the continuation of a conversation I had with Josh Fix a few weeks ago… If you squint, it's almost like I'm holding my arms around a giant […]

  2. Thanks so much for this. I saw Josh open for ABC at the Independent in SF back in Aug 08, and despite being totally exhausted and ready to ignore whatever opening band I was going to suffer thru before Martin did his thing, Josh won me over. Best 10 bucks I spent on an artist unknown to me’s compact disc EVER.

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