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Martha Rubenstein spoke with Rusty Anderson in his living room, as he restrung his guitars on the eve of his solo performance at LA's Roxy Theater on April 29, 2004.
© 2004 copyright Martha Rubenstein
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Questions about Undressing Underwater and Rusty's other bands

Martha Rubenstein: When writing songs, what comes first - the lyrics or the melody?

Rusty Anderson: It can happen any way. The songs on this record go both ways. For me, it goes back and forth. Hurt Myself started off lyrics first. I wrote the lyrics then I went back and put music to it. Pretty quick, really. It's a good way to do it. Sometimes you can tell. When you listen to the song, the melody may be really strong and the lyric may be good but might not be as developed as the melody. Or the lyric takes precedent. Usually the lyric is written first. That's my way of doing it. Whereas on Coming Down to Earth, I wrote the melody and the lyric at the same time. Damaged Goods, the melody was written first, that's a very melody-driven song.

Martha: How easy/difficult is it to actually finish a song - to know when to stop and finally say 'OK - that's it!'

Rusty: That's kind of a ridiculous question because there's writing a song, arranging a song, recording a song. In each of those you make discoveries about the degree of finish-ness. Or even after recording it. With Coming Down to Earth, all of a sudden, I had these revelations about stuff that should be in there that isn't.

Martha: When putting the album together, did you instinctively know which instruments to play in particular places or did a lot of experimenting take place?

Rusty: Both. Like on Damaged Goods, the vibes were the first thing I wrote. I was fooling around with them and that was the beginning of the song. So it was a given that I would play them on the song. Where as there's a pedal steel bit in Ishmael. Andrew (Murdock), who co-produced it with me, saw it sitting there. He said, why don't you play pedal steel on the chorus? So we did and I thought wow that's cool, a pedal steel on the heavy rock song, I like that. I always like mixing things. To me, you may not be able to do new music per se but you can do new combinations. Which I guess is the same thing.

Martha: Speaking of Ishmael, have you always had strong feelings about the issues in the book, or have they developed as a result of reading the book?

Rusty: I was ready to concur with the statement of the book before I read it. But I thought it was a fresh way at looking at those issues. Good read, very inspiring.

Martha: Ednaswap: how much of a creative input did you have into that band?

Rusty: Not enough (laughs). Ednaswap was five people all trying to write. It was sort of a cool band because of that. I liken it to the movie The Producers where they go: here, you can have 30%, you can have 30%, you can have 70%, you can have 90%, you can have 90%. It will bite you in the ass eventually, like it did in that band. But we had some good times, played some good music, played some cool shows and I learned a hell of a lot.

Martha: I think you've said it was too many type A personalities.

Rusty: Exactly. Astrologically, it was a mismatch. But it was a fiery thing while it lasted.

Martha: Eulogy: any chance of a reunion?

Rusty: Probably not. It's been a long time and everyone's in a different place. We were all really young. I started that band when I was 13. The strengths of that band probably wouldn't apply any more.

Martha: Is any Eulogy or Living Daylights music (like their versions of Electric Trains and Catbox Beach) available to buy anywhere online?

Rusty: I doubt it. I am hoping that the Eulogy stuff will get out there one day. There's a band called Soldier too, that I really didn't mention much. Eulogy turned into Soldier with different members. Dirk (VanTatenhove) and I were the only ones from Eulogy in Soldier. Both those bands have some really cool recordings.

Martha: Are those available anywhere?

Rusty: Not to my knowledge. I would think that eventually we'll want to get some of that stuff out. They're mostly demos that were never released.

Martha: Which song do you play on the new Courtney Love album?

Rusty: I play on a bunch of them. But the thing is that Courtney, bless her heart, didn't credit any of the musicians except the people that she wanted to pretend were in her band. I think that's a bit too Hollywood, don't you? I bought the record just to hear it and I listened to the first song, which I played on. I'm not listed on the credits but sonically I can hear myself unless someone played exactly like me on a song I played on, which I doubt. Then I noticed that Josh Freese, who's an incredible drummer, he plays with Perfect Circle and many others, didn't get credit and Justin (Meldal-Johnson), from Ima Robot, who used to play with Beck's band for years, didn't either. So then, I get a call from her guitar tech. He says Courtney wants to know how you played the guitar part on Hold On To Me. We're rehearsing for a show in Atlanta tomorrow. Man, she lives by a strange code of ethics.

Questions about playing and working and gear

Martha: What advice can you give young guitar players who have dreams to do what you do?

Rusty: First I have to say that I was blessed with ignorance. Playing the guitar for a living does not look good on paper. If you talk to a rational person, they'd say, what are you, high? Go get a real job. But for me, I just never had those people around me.

Martha: Your parents didn't say that to you?

Rusty: No. My mom said it to me once, right after high school. I hadn't gone to college yet. I knew I didn't want to go to college and get a degree and have this big collegefest. I ended up going to college and learning things I wanted to learn and taking classes that I wanted to take. Those were some good times. I think that going to classes and learning becomes harder as you get older, especially for a freelancer like myself. At one point, my mom says, what if this music thing doesn't work out? I said it will. And that was it. My parents were very passive and hands off when it came to that. I think it's because I'm the youngest. For the youngest it's like, whatever, do what you want. It made no sense on paper but it ended up working out, I think, because I followed my bliss. My passion. Somehow I was able to do that.

I did have some weird jobs as a teenager. I was a Fuller Brush salesman, door to door. I worked at Yamaha and Fender, doing sweeping, picking parts. I got fired at Yamaha. I thought, I really have to start kicking ass, so I started going at a brisk pace taking these parts off the shelves and putting them in plastic containers. I thought, this is pretty cool, I'm racing through the day, doing this for 8 hours a day for minimum wage. Then the guy calls me in and fires me for going too slow. All the people around me were just ripping, apparently. They were thinking this is a real job; I'm going up the corporate ladder. For me, it just wasn't my style. I taught guitar for about 5 years, I had about 50 students a week at one point. That was really cool, a luxury in a way because teaching guitar enables you to get better at your own skills.

Martha: Did you like teaching?

Rusty: I did, although sometimes it was a real grind. Especially teaching beginners. My favorite thing was, towards the end when I started playing on peoples' records, we did a workshop. The record thing wasn't constant. I was living in LA half the week with my girlfriend and going back to La Habra to teach at Whittier and going back and forth. At some point I said to myself, you know what? I'm just going to go do this record and quit teaching. So, I had this big workshop, everyone learned a song or two. They were really focused on the song, got their leads and rhythms as up to snuff as possible. My bass player and drummer friend came in and they all played. It was probably the first and last time half of them had ever been in a performance situation. Everyone was watching. It was really cool. I had the greatest time. That was the end of my teaching days. Of course, on the record that I was supposed to make ten grand doing, which at the time was a lot, I got fired. But it worked out. That's when I jumped off the lily pad. I haven't looked back.

Martha: So, any words of advice for a young person?

Rusty: I think that if you follow your bliss and focus your energy into something you really care about at least you'll enjoy life. One thing I've noticed on the road with Paul is that there are a lot of specialists that are very sharp at some specific skills. I don't think that it's a coincidence. That's probably the best advice I can give. The musician road is certainly not a straight line. I would hate to base something on my life. My life has been really random. The only thing I can say is that I was always incredibly focused and very tunnel-visioned about playing the guitar. I loved it. I forwent a lot to play the guitar. I was obsessive about it. I guess now you'd consider it obsessive-compulsive to avoid the pain of growing up, of pubescence. That's a very prolific time.

Martha: I think a lot of artists have that quality.

Rusty: That's right. Be a freak. Be obsessive-compulsive and do everything wrong and maybe then you'll stand a chance. It took me a long time to turn it into a career. There were times I would make money, then I wouldn't, then I'd make a little. But I was always sort of ignorant and blissful about it. My cousin Karl gave me some letters that I'd written to him when I was young. One of them said, wow, we're going to make it, we have this song on the radio, blah blah blah. Of course it was the local little show, recorded in a bedroom, but I was so excited. Then after that came another letter where I was all depressed and a realist. I said, you know that last letter I wrote you? That was all bulls**t. We may never make it, I realize that now, we're so far from it. Really interesting reading it. I was very self-absorbed, I'll tell you that. All I thought about, talked about, was music and myself and my band. I guess not much has changed! Ha ha.

Martha: But don't you think that you need that focus and absorption to get to your level?

Rusty: You probably do, but I don't know if those are good things to encourage in people. Social skills are really important as far as connecting with other artists. In one way, I think that being a really good musician works against having social skills. On the other hand, getting along with others and providing a good vibe for people when you're working with them means everything.

Martha: What FX pedals did you use on the Back in the World tour? Is there a certain pedal that is your favorite?

Rusty: I have millions of pedals. I have 2 racks and a stand alone pedal board. There are different things in each. I use my stand alone pedal board when I'm doing my own show. For the Back in the World tour, I used the rack.

Martha: What type of amp and cab do you use?

Rusty: Live, I've been using Divided by 13 amplifiers. When I'm in the studio I also use old amps, like Fenders, Laneys, Gibsons, Voxes, Matchless, stuff like that.

Martha: What picks?

Rusty: Fender extra medium.

Martha: On the Back in the US DVD, you were using a strap that looked like leather, about 2" wide. Where did you get it?

Rusty: It's not leather! It's vinyl. I got it from my friend Nick who finds cool things. I got a set of vibes from Nick, a Trans Am car from Nick, all sorts of stuff. He's a friend I've known forever and he's really in to collecting and trading unique things. He played with Ben Harper for awhile. Very good guitar player and friend. I've been thinking about getting another strap made. I only have one. It's an old, vintage thing, who knows where he got it from?

Martha: What's your fave guitar? And what models of SG and Explorer do you use?

Rusty: Well, I used to play a 335 a lot and I have kind of gone back to it. I have an old 59 blonde one that I played on the last tour and that I'll play on this tour too. The SG that I am restringing as we speak is a new-ish one, a 2001 model that Gibson made for me. When I play with my band I've been using the SG, a red 64 335 and an old Silvertone U2. I use different tunings for different songs. Also sometimes I have gear shipped to Europe while gigging in LA for example so I can't use the same instruments. The guitar I used a bit on the second tour leg was not an Explorer but a Firebird. Twas made by Paul Cummings and Doc (I forgot his last name.) Anyway, luthiers in Orange County. Overall, I'm primarily a Gibson guy - and I don't mean Mel.

Martha: What gear did you use on Vagabundo with Robi Draco Rosa?

Rusty: A lot of it was rented actually. We went to London to record. Phil Manzanera was producing or co-producing so we recorded in his studio out in the countryside. Me, Paul (Bushnell) and Carla (Azar) from Ednaswap were the rhythm section, guitar, bass and drums. I might have brought my guitar and maybe a pedal or two but not much. I remember getting a really cool Plexi Marshall and a Dallas Arbitor fuzz, things that are easier to rent there and harder to rent here in LA.

Questions about touring, Paul, and The Beatles

Martha: Do you plan on touring on your own anywhere besides California? Like the UK or Europe?

Rusty: I'd really like to and I hope we do. No plans right this second.

Martha: Having spent so much time touring with Paul and performing his music, how did it feel to finally perform your own music live?

Rusty: At first it felt a bit overwhelming. I was starting from scratch in a way and wearing a lot of hats. At the same time, I felt like I got myself in too deep to blow it off. Now it's getting really fun. One of the great parts is that when you're doing shows to support a record you have that specific body of work just waiting to be brought to life. There is some built-in glue. As we've been doing more gigs, it's starting to feel a little more like a playground. You start to feel the texture and the pulse of the band and play with the arrangements, actually have an effect on the music. So in other words were having an incredible time making music together.

Martha: What about making the record - did you have a hand in every aspect of it?

Rusty: Absolutely. That's when I first started noticing it. You have to pay attention to every single detail. Unless you're working with people that you can completely give up everything to, it's really not even a reality, unless you let everyone else insert their style in to your music, which can be great to a point or can be a disaster, I find that music needs definition. It really depends on your approach and the chemistry of whomever you're working with.

I had these songs. Parthenon (Huxley) and I got together and did the first productions, then I got together with Andrew (Murdock) then David (Kahne). I think because I've worked in so many different ways already, in different roles with different producers. I could say, well this song would be good with this producer, this song I think Ill produce myself. I also used it as a way to find out what it was like working with different groups in different capacities. It was a lot of fun. Maybe it's just my personality to be that way, to experiment with different people.

There's so many random elements to this thing anyway. If you're going to bother to make music, you've got to go after something, it's got to be special, with an artistic focus. That's the approach I try take anyway. On artwork, recordings, playing live, everything. Whether I reach that goal or not is in the ears of the listener. Sometimes it feels like the gold at the end of the rainbow, an unreachable goal, but it seems to be how I want to spend my time. Sometimes it's hard work and sometimes it just magically comes together. When that happens it's the best!

Martha: Do you think you'll get a chance to perform any of your own music during the tour, maybe at sound check?

Rusty: It's Paul's show. And that's pretty much that. Although, whatever we jam at soundcheck usually starts off random.

Martha: Which do you enjoy the most: performing in front of large stadium audiences or in smaller, more intimate venues?

Rusty: The huge gigs are an incredible buzz. I can sit here and tell you about it but the experience is really indescribable. With my own band we've done some cool clubs and that's been an equally rewarding experience yet much more vulnerable. Basically, it's a bit more reckless, at the same time personal.

When I played with Paul at the last Land Mine benefit, we hadn't played in a few months and we got up and played maybe 7 songs and it was so fun. It wasn't just fun, it was this roller coaster ride, this thrill, this adrenalin. It hit me - you cannot get that feeling any other way, especially when the bands fine-tuned. Your fingers know what to do, your whole being knows how to flow with it, you can just enjoy it.

Martha: We know you like Paul, how do you feel about the other Beatles?

Rusty: The Beatles to me were like the perfect science experiment, the perfect organic combination, the stars aligning magically. The serendipity of it is just unbelievable. When I was a kid, I remember digging all of them a lot, especially John and Paul, and George too. The harmonies, all of it was just so resonant. They were this perfect balance, this prefect harmony, I mean as perfect as a band can get.

I just recently saw The Beatles First Visit and there's so much symmetry going on, it's amazing. Paul's told me how John was nervous that first Ed Sullivan Show. I could really see it, because John is such a leader type, but in that, Paul was really the leader. Paul was doing all the talking, John was kind of sweating and his eyes are darting around looking kind of nervous and he wasn't saying anything. He took more of a backseat role, which freaked me out. I always thought of John as a super outspoken, clever, sort of edgy guy and he was not that at all. And Paul was just unbelievably good-looking, almost like a mannequin, how could his facial features have lined up so perfectly? It's weird.

Ringo, the way that he was so relaxed, that's one of the things that blew me away. John's feel was great and he sang great, but Ringo was obviously having a good time, along for the ride, propelling the band perfectly. The tempos, which, when a drummers nervous, go out the window, were flawless. His feel, the playing was impeccable. For being - how old was he at that time? Twenty-three or something? And on TV for millions of people. Ringo was amazing.

George was fantastic. All his voicings were great. On the guitar, I never noticed his early-days playing so much. He has this Chet Atkins style. I really liked Taxman, If I Needed Someone, I thought that was brilliant. I Need You is a great song. Something. In Japan, George did a show. I saw a setlist for that show. Eric Clapton and George were trading off songs, it was one of the few live shows he did because after the Beatles he hardly played. They played mostly George songs and some Eric songs. What a great concert that must have been. But when I was a kid, John and Paul were art, they were my muse, they were my idols, they were my purpose for living, they were everything, the reason I started playing music.

Martha: Do you remember where you were when John died?

Rusty: Yeah, I had just come over to my girlfriend's house and she said, did you hear about John? I literally cried for two hours straight. I wept. I couldn't believe it. It just floored me, just f**ked me up. He was my man, you know, him and Paul, all of them but John - it's almost like I absorbed him into my roots, like a plant does water. I lived and breathed his personality, his melodic ideas, his lyrical ideas, his style, you know what I mean? To me, the Beatles as a whole were so much greater than the sum of the parts, which is the oldest discussion in the book. Anyway, he was one of my musical fathers. He was such a powerful figure for me. He was this living legend and he was a vulnerable guy that someone could just walk up to and shoot with a gun, a little gun. Bam. Just flesh and blood, no protection. So raw, so raw. As far as I can tell, Paul feels the same way. How could some freak just show up and shoot my best friend? That's what he said. He went and shot my best friend. It's still unbelievable, though I guess you get used to the idea of anything after awhile. That's not my favorite thing to get used to.

Martha: Do you read the message boards and forums for you or Paul?

No. I wouldn't mind it, I just haven't figured out how to do it without spending way too much time. You have to sift through a lot.

Martha: Are there any particular parts of Paul's solo career you like better than others?

Rusty: Of course. To me his early seventies stuff was great. I thought Calico Skies was a really nice song, very cool. I have all these songs on my iPod and I had it on shuffle mode and all of a sudden a song came on and I thought, this is a great song, who's this, and I realized it was Paul. I've never heard it before or since. I don't even know the name of it. By the time I got to the iPod, it changed songs. It was really brilliant. It made me realize that studying Paul McCartney can be a life's work.

Contents protected by © 2004 copyright Martha Rubenstein. No reproduction, for private use only. Interview and transcription by Martha Rubenstein.


Undressing Underwater available on iTunes and Amazon.com
Born On Earth available on iTunes and Amazon.com
Until We Meet Again available on iTunes, Amazon.com, Musicload and Soundcarrier

New album features guest appearances by Paul McCartney and Stewart Copeland

LOS ANGELES - Undressing Underwater, the eagerly awaited solo album by renowned guitarist Rusty Anderson, has been released.

Featuring guest appearances by
Paul McCartney and Stewart Copeland, Undressing Underwater shines the spotlight on the guitarist/singer/songwriter career of a consummate musician, who continues to break ground while working with some of the best of his peers.

Undressing Underwater showcases Anderson's musical background, which spins through Oscar-nominated and Grammy-winning work, from Paul McCartney, Perry Farrell and the Wallflowers, to Elton John, Joe Cocker and Sinead O'Connor. The ten songs on Undressing Underwater pair Anderson's vocal range with showcase of his talents, from rock guitar to hammered dulcimer and pedal steel.

Hurt Myself is the lead track, which is also the culmination of a childhood dream of playing with the Beatles, only in this case it's Paul McCartney playing on Rusty's own album, plus the rest of McCartney's touring band and producer David Kahne.

Anderson's background also includes a stint with Stewart Copeland and Stanley Clarke's Animal Logic, and over the years he and Stewart have continued working together. The former Police drummer returns the favor on rocker
Catbox Beach.

"My house is filled with billions of cassettes, little scraps of paper and journals. Somehow these bits bonded together and became the CD," said Anderson. "Most of the recordings were done in between touring with Paul. In fact, the
Hurt Myself session was booked in lightning speed, because after Paul said he wanted to record something, I realized we only had three days in LA before flying to Mexico City to play shows. The songs are mostly about facing one's demons and attempting to bottle them."

Undressing Underwater was recorded at Oxide Studios in Southern California, plus Sunset Sound and Henson Studios, and was self-produced by Anderson, along with David Kahne, Mudrock and Parthenon Huxley

Undressing Underwater available on iTunes and Amazon.com

Album Credits


ARTIST: Rusty Anderson - vocals, electric & acoustic guitar, bass, pedal steel guitar, vibes, fake strings, fake drums, tambourine, hammered dulcimer, key fx, organ, autoharp, reggae bass.

Los Angeles, California

Song Credits

Hurt Myself (Anderson)
Produced by David Kahne. Mixed by Greg Collins. Engineered by Clif Norell, David Kahne, Rusty Anderson. Paul McCartney: bass, backing vocals, addl. electric guitar. Abe Laboriel Jr.: drums. David Kahne: keyboards, programmed drums. Probin Gregory: flugelhorn. Brian Ray: addl. acoustic guitar. Paul Wickens: addl. keyboards. Go To Bed Baby Music ASCAP.

Coming Down To Earth (Anderson)
Produced by Rusty Anderson & Parthenon Huxley. Mixed by David Kahne. Engineered by Bob Wartenbee, Rusty Anderson, Evan Frankford. Abe Laboriel Jr.: drums. Parthenon Huxley: backing vocals, addl. guitar. Wayne Rodrigues: programmed drums. Go To Bed Baby Music ASCAP.

Damaged Goods (Anderson, Plagens)
Produced by Rusty Anderson. Mixed by Evan Frankford. Engineered by Rusty Anderson. Abe Baruck: drums. Jim Cushinery: harmony vocals. Luis Conte: percussion. Go To Bed Baby Music ASCAP.

Electric Trains (Anderson, Huxley)
Produced by Rusty Anderson & Parthenon Huxley. Mixed by CJ Devilliar. Engineered by Randy Wine, Bob Wartenbee, Rusty Anderson. Gorden Townsend: drums. Parthenon Huxley: backing vocals. John Krovoza: cello. Ted Falcon: violin. Wayne Rodrigues: programmed drums. Go To Bed Baby Music ASCAP/Parthenon Huxley Music BMi.

Sentimental Chaos (Anderson, Huxley)
Produced by Rusty Anderson. Mixed by Greg Collins. Engineered by Paul Dugre, Randy Wine, Rusty Anderson. Abe Baruck: drums. Parthenon Huxley: backing vocals. Go To Bed Baby
Music ASCAP/Parthenon Huxley Music BMi.

Ol' Sparky (Anderson, Huxley)
Produced by Rusty Anderson & Parthenon Huxley. Mixed by Randy Wine. Engineered by Randy Wine, Bob Wartenbee. Gordon Townsend: drums. Lenny Castro: percussion. Parthenon Huxley: backing vocals. Go To Bed Baby Music ASCAP/Parthenon Huxley Music BMi.

Ishmael (Anderson, Plagens, Cushinery)
Produced by Rusty Anderson & Mudrock. Mixed by Evan Franford. Engineered by Mudrock, Rusty Anderson. Scot Coogan: drums. Paul Bushnell: bass. Parthenon Huxley: backing vocals. Go To Bed Baby Music ASCAP/Rodan Music BMi.

Devil's Spaceship (Anderson, Huxley, Plagens)
Produced by Rusty Anderson. Mixed by CJ Devilliar. Engineered by Bob Wartenbee, Rusty Anderson, CJ Devilliar. Scot Coogan: drums. Paul Bushnell: bass. Karl Brown: piano. Parthenon Huxley: backing vocals. Go To Bed Baby Music ASCAP/Parthenon Huxley Music BMi.

Catbox Beach (Anderson)
Produced by Rusty Anderson. Mixed by Greg Collins. Engineered by Randy Wine, Rusty Anderson. Stewart Copeland: drums. Brian Ray: bass. Nicky P: reggae guitar bends. Go To Bed
Baby Music ASCAP.

Everybody Deserves an A in This Country (Anderson)
Produced by Rusty Anderson. Mixed by CJ Devilliar. Engineered by Rusty Anderson, Gene Nash. Dusty Rocherolle: drums. Karl Brown: backing vocals. Go To Bed Baby Music ASCAP.

Mastered by: Louie Teran at Marcussen Mastering.
Recorded at:
Oxide Studio, except Hurt Myself recorded at Sunset Sound, Oxide & Valhalla Studios; Catbox Beach recorded at Henson & Oxide Studios.

Cover art: Chad Robertson. Cover concept: Rusty Anderson, Ofer Moses, Chad Robertson.
Ralf Strathmann, Laura Anne. Design: Gregg Bernstein & Anna Kalinka.

Management: Jonathan Daniel, Doug Neumann at Crush Management, 212/334-4446

Chris Graves, Martha Rubenstein & Rusty Anderson.

Paul McCartney appears courtesy of Capitol/EMi Records.


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