Bad Penny Exclusive: Ex-Red House Painters Guitarist Phil Carney Gives First-Ever Interview, Premieres Desertshore MP3
Phil Carney is no stranger to music. The gifted guitarist has performed in a handful of bands, including Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon and his latest venture, Desertshore. He’s toured around the world – Japan, Australia, all over Europe – with his good buddy Mark Kozelek. And he has written many, many songs.
But Phil Carney is a stranger to music interviews. Prior to Friday afternoon, when he spoke at length with the Bad Penny, he had never given one before. But now he has, and here it is.
[Scroll below for an MP3 download that Desertshore premiered on the Bad Penny.]
Some people go through life without ever discovering what they were meant to do. Carney is not one of those people.
Sitting in the bedroom of his apartment, which is located in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, he is doing what he does best: playing guitar.
Carney doesn’t go out all that much. He’s not a big fan of touring, either. He doesn’t keep up on new trends or even new bands.
But he does play guitar. A lot.
“I never practiced as much as I should have,” he tells the Bad Penny, “and there comes a point where it starts to get pretty good. You start learning quicker, and it just comes easier. I wish I would’ve been smarter about it when I was younger, but it took a little more work than I wanted to do.”
Carney, who is in his mid-40s, messed around with some bands in his youth, but didn’t formally embark upon his music career until he hooked up with Kozelek.
“I started playing with the Red House Painters in ’98, ’96 – I can’t remember,” Carney admits. (Other sources have him joining the ruminating, romantic band as early as 1995.)
A replacement for original guitarist Gordon Mack, Carney was a comfortable fit for the reconfigured band. He very much saw eye to eye with Kozelek.
“We’re fairly close in a lot of ways,” he says. “We both like the same artists, the same music. We’re both pretty easy-going. We’re the same age. We grew up listening to the same music. There’s a lot of connections. We get along.”
A music-head if there ever was one, Carney rattled off the names of some of the bands over which he and Kozelek bonded.
“We’re big prog-rock guys, so we were both into Yes. And also the rock stuff: UFO. Growing up as teenagers, [we] listened to the same types of music. And then, as we got older, we both started liking the Smiths.
“We have a similar path of things we liked musically over the years – although I think he was more into heavy metal than I was,” Carney continues, although he confesses to a fetish for Motörhead and Carcass.
For the introverted Carney, the impact of his deep friendship with Kozelek cannot be understated. Prior to joining Red House Painters, he had tried forming other bands but to little avail. The disincentives were too numerous: He had difficulty finding like-minded musicians, particularly ones without egos, and found the whole enterprise to be a “hassle.”
“Someone told me one time: ‘Band’ is a four-letter word,” Carney quips.
But collaborating with Kozelek – for Red House Painters; his “solo” shows; and his subsequent folk project, Sun Kil Moon – broke the ice. So much so that, last year, Carney spread his wings and forged his first formal affair without Kozelek as a member.
Desertshore is a perfectly named instrumental ensemble that Shiatsu practitioners would be wise to use as the soundtrack to their massages. Incepted last year, the group’s other linchpin is classically trained pianist Chris Connolly, whose gentle touch gracefully guides Desertshore.
Loose, atmospheric – and yet clutter-free – their Drifting Your Majesty debut will appeal to anyone inclined toward no-drama, reflective folk-rock. Flecked with brief interludes, the album’s cornerstone is the 10-minute title track, a froth of phosphorescent guitar.
Drifting Your Majesty is due October 19 on Caldo Verde Records, the label operated by Kozelek. He also co-produced the album and is largely responsible for its fruition.
“Mark said he’d put our record out, and once we were ready, he pressured to get us in the studio and get it done,” Carney says, adding that Kozelek helped sequence the album too. “He didn’t want us to put it off. Mark was the impetus to get in the studio and get the stuff recorded and get it out.”
Future Desertshore recordings may also rest in the hands of Kozelek, according to Carney.
“We’re not going to sell a lot of records, obviously,” says Carney, whose humility borders on self-deprecation. “But hopefully we can sell enough so that Mark says, ‘Yeah, put out a second record.’ But there might be a few things in our way. So we’ll see.”
• Bad Penny download premiere: Desertshore’s “The Town Alight”
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