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An Interview by Jessica Fraser of The Coffeehouse Magazine

October 21, 2015

             Coffeehouse Magazine sat down with New York singer/songwriter turned author Bill Sunkel to talk about his new book and album, Monsters Among Us, available from Infinity Publishing (https://www.buybooksontheweb.com/product.aspx?ISBN=1-4958-0650-2) or on Amazon.  Those familiar with the book, and its detailed “storyteller” notes for each of the thirteen tracks on the record – which Bill calls “Decoders©” – might think Bill had revealed all, such that there would be nothing left to talk about regarding the album.  They would be wrong.

Q.        Welcome to the Coffeehouse!  Let’s jump right in:  What made you decide to do a paper and ink book for Monsters Among Us, as opposed to just an album of songs?

A.        I was thinking about how much I missed going out and buying record albums, and then burying myself in the artwork, lyrics and liner notes while I listened to the records.  And I realized how most people haven’t had that experience for thirty years.  It began to diminish when CDs became popular and the industry went from these magnificent twelve-inch LP jackets to little five-inch plastic covers, and it disappeared completely with mp3s and iPods, which of course have no covers.  And I decided I wanted to try and share that experience with others.

Q.        Why not just do videos like everyone else?

A.        I think a book is more interactive.  For each song on the album, in addition to the text in which I tell stories about that song, the book contains one image – a photograph or artwork – meant to be evocative of the world or story or message of that song.  Then it’s up to the reader’s imagination to do the rest.  Sort of like the difference between reading a book and watching a movie.  And you know that the book is always better than the movie.

Q.        Since the Monsters Among Us book is supposed to be (in your words) “the ultimate album cover,” did you ever consider releasing the album in vinyl?

A.        Briefly, but to my ears CDs just sound so much better, and they don’t deteriorate like even the best cared-for vinyl.  I know people talk about the “warmth” of vinyl, but that feels like an affect to me, like it makes them cool or hip or something.  I think what they’re really talking about is hiss and crackle, which I don’t miss.

Q.        You say in the book that the late sound designer Carl Casella had a tremendous hand in bringing the Monsters Among Us collection to life.  Can you elaborate?

A.        Sure.  I’ve known Carl since we were back at Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx.  He and I did our first multi-track recordings together back in 1975.  It was Carl who originally encouraged me to record my new original songs, who offered himself and his studio for the project, and who suggested expanding beyond my “comfort zone” of players.  It was even Carl who, well aware of my technological limitations, suggested the home recording system I used to record my demos, the Zoom R24.  “Rain on Your Wedding Day” was the first song I recorded using the Zoom, and that was in November 2013 – although the version on the album was actually my second Zoom project, since I inadvertently erased the drum track on the first project.  Carl was a tremendous supporter, and he was key in bringing me back into an industry I had walked away from thirty years ago.  Monsters Among Us is dedicated to him.

Q.        Carl was diagnosed with lung cancer in early 2013, and he died in September 2014.  Had you and he completed work on all the songs by then?

A.        No.  In fact, the only tracks Carl had a real hand in mixing were “Frankenstein Walk” and “Rain on Your Wedding Day.”  “Frankenstein Walk” was Carl’s baby from start to finish.  He was at every recording session beginning with the rhythm section basics in West Palm Beach in October 2013, to the lead vocal session at his studio in Mahopac, to the horn session at Sound Associates’ New York City studio, and he did the final mix.  Which is probably why it sounds better than anything else on the album.  As for “Rain,” as I said I recorded that one at home, but after I sent Carl what I thought was my “final” mix, Carl said “Can I take a shot?”  And of course he raised it to the next level.

Q.        What about the other tracks on Monsters Among Us?  What was Carl’s involvement, if any, in those?

A.        I got into a rhythm with Carl of sending him demos of every new song I wrote, and we would discuss them at length, usually over the phone, while he was driving.  Anyone who knows Carl knows that he was never shy about expressing his opinion, and he gave me loads of notes, suggested changes, told me what he liked and what he didn’t like so much, about the song, the arrangement, even the lyrics.  And I always listened, although I didn’t always ultimately accept his suggestions.

Q.        Give me an example of a note you didn’t accept.

A.        When I first played him “Vampira,” for example.  He gave me a hard time about the bass figure, thought it sounded too much like Steely Dan’s “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.”  I argued with him that it was only two notes, that the rest of the song didn’t sound anything like “Rikki,” and that Steely Dan had ripped off that bass figure from Horace Silver’s “Song for My Father” anyway (although again, other than those two notes, there is no similarity among “Song for My Father,” “Rikki” or “Vampira”).  Later, I learned that Carl – who always wanted me to record ballads, because he liked my voice on ballads and thought they would appeal to women – never wanted me to release “Vampira” because he didn’t like the lyric, which he felt was kind of misogynistic.  Because “Vampira” was and remains one of my favorite original songs, however, there was never any doubt in my mind that it was going to be on the album.

Q.        Is it misogynistic?

A.        No, because I’m not suggesting that all women are vampires, just that such women do exist.  Besides, the male in the song is a pretty flawed individual himself, and he seems to like having the blood sucked out of him.

Q.        So what about the issue with the bass figure?

A.        I tried changing the figure Vanilla Ice-style,[1] you know, adding a note or two at the end, or swinging it a bit differently.  But after trying a number of different variations, nothing sounded as cool and jazzy as that original Horace Silver piano bass figure, so I kept it.

Q.        Did Carl at least get to hear all the songs on Monsters Among Us before his death in September 2014?

A.        Unfortunately, no.  The last new song I sent him via email was “Ayn Rand.”  When he didn’t respond quickly by phone – which was our usual routine – I called his cell, and that’s when I found out he was in the hospital in Westchester, and I took a train up to see him right away.  I don’t think he ever got to hear that song, or “Little Pink Drink,” or “Do You Ever Think of Me?” – which I think he would have liked very much, since he always encouraged me to write ballads – or Tony Cultreri’s instrumental version of “Nothing Is Ever Good Enough,” which we titled “An Unfinished Life” in his honor.  Everything else on the album, his creative fingerprints are all over.

Q.        You say in the book that calling Monsters Among Us a “solo album” is somewhat of a misnomer, because so many people contributed to it.  So why is it a “Bill Sunkel” album, as opposed to a “Desperate Measures” project?[2]

A.        Because all the decisions about the album – and the book – are mine.  There were no compromises based on what anyone else wanted to put on or leave off the album, no negotiating over which take to use, arrangements, mixes, etc.  With respect to the book, I chose the photos, artwork and graphics.  I wrote the text, designed the cover and even did the initial layout.  There were lots of people along the way who helped me achieve what I was looking to achieve, but in the end it came out pretty much just the way I’d envisioned it.  So if you don’t like it, I’m the only one to blame.  This is the first time in my forty years of recording that it’s all on me, and it’s actually very liberating.

Q.        What do your Desperate Measures partners [bassist/vocalist Rob Sunkel and lead guitarist Tony Spatarella] think of Monsters Among Us?

A.        (Laughs)  You’d have to ask them.  But Rob and Tony have both written and said great things about Monsters Among Us, that it’s a tremendous artistic achievement, that they’re proud to have been part of it.  I think Tony called it a “masterpiece,” which is a pretty amazing word.  He also called me a “mad genius,” but I’m not sure where that’s coming from.  I do think I pushed both of them to do things that were slightly out of their comfort zone and I think it paid off.  Tony’s playing on this record is so different from anything he’s done before, including a couple of songs on which he played nylon-string classical guitar.  And Rob’s vocal harmonies – which were always world class – are just that much more soulful and “in your face.”  Rob’s bass parts are just perfect.  I love listening to both of them play.  That part in “Vampira” where Tony is wailing away on his guitar and Rob is singing “too far, too far gone” beneath it, is probably one of my favorite moments on the record.

Q.        Is there any song on the Monsters Among Us album that wouldn’t have made the final cut had Rob and Tony had anything to say about it?

A.        “Ayn Rand,” for sure.  She’s such a controversial, polarizing figure, and here I was defending her in song!  Rob wanted absolutely nothing to do with it, and I was afraid to even tell Tony about the song, much less let him hear it!  I wound up recording it completely on my own, which required me to stretch my guitar chops a bit.  When the album came out, Rob called me to say that he really liked the guitar part, even though he still found the song “pedantic.”  I haven’t yet talked to Tony about the song, but he is not a fan of Rand, so I’m still nervous.

Q.        Does Desperate Measures still exist?

A.        Interesting question.  I don’t know.  We’ll see, I guess.  I love playing with Rob and Tony and the guys, and I’d love to perform these songs for a live audience.  But whether that would be a Desperate Measures show, I don’t know.  Strangely enough, I’m not sure the name makes sense any more.  I’m not “desperate” any more.  I don’t care whether anyone likes these songs or not.  I don’t care whether they make money.  In my mind, Monsters Among Us is already a creative success.  And while I’d love for everyone else to love it the way I love it, that’s just not as important to me as it might have been a few years back.

Q.        You’ve done a few solo shows down at The Bitter End in New York City.  What was that like?

A.        Honestly, I hated it.  The Bitter End is a great and historic venue, and the New York Songwriters Showcase is a tremendous project.  But being up there by myself was a lot of pressure, especially since I’ve never considered myself to be a particularly strong instrumentalist.  I like having company on stage, and being able to interact with other musicians who are truly outstanding at what they do.

Q.        Speaking of other musicians, who else is on the Monsters Among Us record, and do you see yourself working with them again in the near term?

A.        Well, as I mentioned earlier, Carl encouraged me to expand my horizons, work with new artists, and I really enjoyed that aspect of working on this record.  My horn guys – Brian Pareschi on trumpet, Mark Hynes on sax, and Mike Fahie on trombone – are amazing players, and I love Brian’s charts.  He’s got horn charts for a few songs on Monsters Among Us where we didn’t have an opportunity to get the horn players into the studio, so it would be great to play those songs live and get to hear the new parts. 

Q.        Which songs?

A.        Brian Pareschi did a horn chart for “Vampira,” which I’ve never heard but he says is terrific, which I believe because his chart for “Frankenstein Walk” is so great.  We never got around to recording that one after Carl died.  And I believe he also has a horn chart for “Rain on Your Wedding Day,” which I’ve also never heard, so that would be exciting for me.

Q.        Anyone else on the Monsters Among Us record you would like to work with again?

A.        E’lissa Jones, who played violin on “Let’s Not & Say We Did,” is such a great player, and is just such a warm and energized individual, I fell in love with her when we did the session.  I’d love for her to join us live.  My good friend, guitarist Tony Cultreri – who also did a great job of mastering the Monsters Among Us album – lives out in L.A., but he would also be a great addition if we could get him to fly back East for a couple of shows.  And Andy Maniglia – who as you know collaborated with me on two songs on Monsters Among Us, “Santiago” and “Do You Ever Think of Me?” – is a tremendous pianist.  Having him join live would free me up to get closer to and connect more with the audience, something I miss when I’m sitting behind the keyboard.  Oh, and Corrin Huddleston, who played chromatic harmonica on “Other Plans,”[3] is another great player.  I’d love it if he could make a guest appearance.

Q.        How about the live Desperate Measures vocal group?

A.        Well, despite his many talents, Rob can’t do three- and four-part vocal harmonies live all by himself, so having great singers like Joyce Stovall, Keith Fluitt, John James and Byron Crawford Smith singing with us would be great.  Ashley Gravlin, who sang with the group when we performed in Florida, is a really hot singer and a native New Yorker, so it would be great to have her on stage with us as well.  

Q.        Earlier you mentioned that you had personally selected all the photos and artwork in the Monsters Among Us book.  Let’s talk about them.

A.        When I was a kid, probably around twelve years old or so, a friend of mine’s dad had a book called The Beatles’ Illustrated Lyrics, which I became fascinated with.  The concept of the book was that various artists – photographers, painters, cartoonists, sculptors, graphic artists – each took one Beatles song, and created a visual image to represent the lyric.  Some of them were quite literal, some very abstract, some sweet, some edgy, but all were very evocative or even provocative.  That’s what I wanted to accomplish with the art in Monsters Among Us.  And so I called upon my friends and family who are visual artists to submit images for the book, and also conducted a pretty far-reaching search for additional images.  All in all, I probably looked at more than ten thousand images to select the thirteen that are in the book.

Q.        Do you have any favorites?

A.        I love the image of the thirteen zombies in the green mist advancing on New York City that we used for “Frankenstein Walk.”  I love the image we used for “Vampira,” very dark and sexy like the song itself.  But maybe my favorite is the last piece of art I found, the image of the two faces we used for “Do You Ever Think of Me?”  It’s so clear that each is in a different place, a different “dimension,” but also that each one is on the other’s mind.  The faces are so beautiful but also deeply scarred, like cracks in stone.  That photo tells a story in and of itself, and I think fits the lyric of that song perfectly.

Q.        You dropped a few names on the “About the Author” page of the Monsters Among Us book, including Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals.  Tell me how you came to work with Felix.

A.        Our management got us hooked up with Felix in the early eighties.  He needed a lyricist and was looking for someone younger and more involved with the New Wave scene, which we were at the time.  We wrote some fairly nondescript songs together.  At the time, I think Felix wanted to be Steve Winwood, and I wanted Felix to be himself, so soulful, such a great voice!  I’d go up to his house in Danbury, Connecticut to write, and before we started, he’d always ask me what new material I was working on.  And I’d play him my band’s latest demo, and he’d critique it and offer suggestions, and then he’d say, “What else you got?”  And I’d play him some unfinished recordings, and he’d say “Anything else?”  And one day I remember saying to him, “Well, I don’t have anything else on tape, but I do have one other new song I could play for you, kind of a Ray Charles country ballad.”  And he said sure, and I sat at the grand piano in his living room and played him the song.  He was sitting on a sofa behind me, out of my line of sight.  And when I finished and turned to him to get his reaction, there was this painfully long pause, and then he said, “Well, if that’s not a hit, I don’t know what is.”

Q.        Wow, you must have been very excited to hear that coming from someone who is a member of both the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame!

A.        Believe me, I was.  And he said, “I’m good friends with Willie Nelson’s manager, and I think this song would be perfect for him.”  So I recorded the song the next day on my lunch break – I had a day job at a Chevy dealer in Mount Vernon, New York, selling cars at the time – and I sent it up to him.  And a week later, Willie Nelson got indicted for tax fraud, and that was the end of that opportunity.

Q.        Bad timing.

A.        You think?  But it did encourage me to write and record my songs outside the band context, and that was very liberating.  Prior to that time, I didn’t think that much of myself as a songwriter.  Felix gave me a lot of confidence.  He also introduced me to producer Jimmy Ienner, who was very positive about my voice, and about one of my songs called “I Want To Be.”  I remember Ienner telling me that he loved the idea of the song more than the song itself, “I want to be the one you come to, want to be the one you run to,” etc., and that women were going to love that message.  A year or so later, Joe Cocker released a single called “When the Night Comes.”  And the chorus lyric was “I just want to be the one you come to, want to be the one you run to, want to be there beside you, when the night comes.”  I didn’t think much about it, but when I picked up the CD, I saw that the producer was Jimmy Ienner!  So I guess he got to use the idea after all.

Q.        Why didn’t you sue for copyright infringement?

A.        The Cocker song was a very different song than my song.  He had borrowed the idea, for sure, but not the song itself.  I didn’t think it was actionable.  Honestly, I think I was also pretty jazzed that Ienner liked the song enough to steal it.  And that it was a hit!

Q.        Any other songs stolen from you?

A.        We recorded a song called “Centerfold” in 1979, and when J. Geils’ song of the same name came out a couple of years later, some of our people believed they had ripped us off.  Again, same idea, same story actually, but a different song.  As my legal training later confirmed for me, you can’t copyright an idea, but only a particular manifestation of that idea.  Besides, unlike the Jimmy Ienner situation, I never had any specific evidence that J. Geils had ever even heard our song, although we were shopping labels pretty heavily around that time.

Q.        You also recorded for Laurie Records in the late eighties.  When and how did that come about?

A.        Funny story.  I was in law school at the time, and performing in the annual law school talent show with a bunch of other law students.  And after the show, this girl came up to me and said, “I love your voice, you’re great,” and I thanked her.  And she said, “Do you have a demo?”  And I said I did.  And she said, “Is it original material?”  And I said it was.  And she said, “I would like my father to hear it.”  And I said, “Who’s your father?”  And she said Gene Schwartz, President of Laurie Records.  Now, Laurie Records was a legendary indie label that had a bunch of hits in the sixties, so I was definitely interested.  Gene signed me to Laurie, and we made some terrible records together.  (Laughs)  But while I was recording for them, I met Ernie Maresca [the writer of “Runaround Sue,” “The Wanderer” and others, who also had a hit of his own with “Shout Shout Knock Yourself Out”], and he told me “Kid, you’re going to be bigger than Dion!”  So that was exciting, even if Ernie’s prediction didn’t quite pan out.

Q.        Any other brushes with greatness?

A.        In 1984, Meat Loaf really wanted to record my song “Kids Know How to Dance,” had a video concept and everything.  But then he got a new German producer, who had his own ideas about what kind of material Meat should be recording.  When I called his publisher to ask what was happening, he explained “Meat’s a chameleon,” but he pronounced it with a soft “ch” sound, like “schlemiel-eon.”  Pretty funny.

Q.        Anything else?

A.        I’ve always continued to write, record and perform live, even after I became an attorney in 1988.  For a while, I played with a group of guys who had kind of a Blues Brothers R&B thing going on in Westchester, and they were true musicologists, real music historians.  They had a revolving roster of great players including, among others, guitarist Drew Zingg (Steely Dan), bassist Huey McDonald (Bon Jovi), saxophonist Joey Stann (Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes), and the late Joel “Bishop” O’Brien on drums.  Bishop had played on all the hits on Carole King’s Tapestry album (“It’s Too Late,” “I Feel the Earth Move,” etc.), and he had been in James Taylor’s band Flying Machine before that, and he was always pushing me to record with him, “We gotta do something together, man!”  And Bishop was a great musician and such a sweet guy, but he was also pretty banged up by a lifetime of drug abuse at that point, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in the studio with him, so I put him off.  Years later, after he died, it struck me that this was a guy who played with giants like James Taylor and Carole King and he thought I was good!  And that meant the world to me, like vindication that maybe I could have played in the big leagues, you know what I mean?

Q.        You’ve said that you see yourself, first and foremost, as a songwriter, as opposed to a recording artist or performer.  Who are your favorite songwriters?

A.        Wow, that’s quite a list.  Okay, Lennon and McCartney, for sure.  Brian Wilson, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, Elvis Costello, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Jimmy Webb, Paul Simon, Randy Newman, Laura Nyro, Smokey Robinson, John Fogerty, Joni Mitchell, Bob Marley, Lerner and Lowe – to name a few.  Dylan and Springsteen as lyricists.  More recently, I love the guys from Fountains of Wayne.  And I thought that Amy Winehouse was the real deal.

Q.        Is there anyone making hit music today who, in your opinion, will be remembered as an iconic songwriter?

A.        Today there are some people – lots of people – who know how to make an incredibly good record, I mean just flawless.  I loved Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy,” and Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars are definitely major talents.  I was really pleased to read in an interview that Pharrell is a big fan of Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, who is one of my favorite songwriters.  But will the new guys’ original songs stand the test of time?  I don’t know.  I tend to think not.  They’re just not that memorable.  I don’t see future artists covering their songs in fifty years, the way they still cover Beatles songs.

Q.        The autobiographical blurb in Monsters Among Us says that, as a child, you displayed “an inexplicable, savant-like affinity for all things automotive.”  What exactly does that mean?

A.        (Laughs)  My mom always said that when I was a really little kid, like maybe four years old, I could tell you the year, make and model of every car on the street, even before I could read the nameplates, and even for cars that were older than I was.  Cars were like people to me, I could see individuality in them.  Even when they’d build hundreds of thousands of a particular  model, I could spot a car from a distance and say, “Hey, that looks like your old Monte Carlo,” and sure enough, it would be.  Weird.

Q.        Do you still have that same love of cars?

A.        Oh yeah, always have, always will.  Tony [Spatarella] loves to tell the story of when he came down to rehearsal one night and the drummer and I are sitting there going crazy over this centerfold in a magazine, and he comes up to us and it’s not a photo of a nude woman (like he thought it was going to be) but of a classic Ferrari California.  I love driving, especially a great sports car.  It can get kind of expensive, but for me, a great car is mistress, therapy and addiction all rolled up into one.  Viewed in that light, it’s not really all that expensive.

Q.        You dropped out of the business of music right around the time MTV came into being.  Why?

A.        As they say, “I have a face for radio.”  (Laughs)  Seriously, I never wanted to make movies, or videos.  I wanted to make records.  And when MTV came in, it just wasn’t the same business any more.  The songs didn’t matter the way they used to matter.  I think the key moment for me was when I asked someone “What do you think of so-and-so’s new song?” and he responded “Yeah, I like the video.”  No matter how hard I tried, I could not get this person to separate the song from the video.  To him, they had become one and the same.  And that’s when I knew it was over.  Of course, having (in my opinion) wrecked music, MTV is now out of the music business.  So, thanks guys!

Q.        What made you decide to become a lawyer?

A.        MTV.  No, that’s not true.  At the time music videos were coming in, we had been courting record companies, doing whatever they wanted us to do, and making music had become kind of a drag.  It wasn’t fun, we weren’t doing it for ourselves any more.  So, I made a conscious decision to make music for myself, and to do something else to make a living.  I decided to go back and finish college, which was actually great fun after being out in “the real world” for the prior seven years.  Originally, I had wanted to continue on, get my Masters and a Doctorate and then go teach at a college level.  But while I was finishing up my undergraduate degree, I took a legal philosophy course, and found it fascinating.  So I decided to give law school a try, did really well, joined a great law firm and have been there for the past twenty-seven years.

Q.        In your view, do you think there is any connection between what you do as a lawyer, and what you do as a musician?

A.        People have asked me why musicians seem to make good attorneys, and I tell then three reasons:  First, both music and law are disciplines that require their practitioners to spend great lengths of time working in solitude like monks, perfecting their craft.  Second, unless you go into politics, law requires logic, and music is all about mathematics, which is probably the purest form of logic.  And, finally, there is a theatrical “performance” aspect to both music and law that appeals to the same types of personalities.  So yes, I do think there is a connection.

Q.        What do you think makes a great song?

A.        Depth, texture, the ability to surprise, to reveal something you hadn’t seen before, or in a way you hadn’t noticed before, to touch, move or stimulate you in some way.  A great melody, and lyrics that take either something microscopic and explore it brilliantly, or something huge and universal and reduce it down to its essence.  A great song is also something you can listen to over and over again, and still hear something new and fresh on the thousandth listen.  I hate songs where, halfway through the song, you know exactly where it’s going, so much so that you could pick up a guitar and play along with it.

Q.        How much of what you write about is truth, and how much is fiction?

A.        It’s a mix, some fact, some fiction.  Some of it based on people, places and events in my own life, some based on others’ lives, some based on what I read or hear or see in the media.  I think that, as a songwriter (as opposed to, say, a journalist), sometimes you need some fiction to get to “truth.”

Q.        Are the characters in “Little Pink Drink” based on real people, and if so, who are they?

A.        Hah, you went right for the jugular!  Those are some really dark characters in that song!  The man in the song is probably based on the worst parts of me, but the woman is more a conglomeration of several individuals, with some of whom I am intimately familiar, and others of whom I have only passing acquaintance.  I won’t name names unless they themselves ask.

Q.        Same question for “Do You Ever Think of Me?”

A.        Well, Andy Maniglia gave me the title and concept for that song, along with the music.  But when I wrote those lyrics, I was in that big old chair, and I was that person, and it was way too easy to write for those characters to be fictional.

Q.        Who is “Casey” in “Casey’s Gone”?

A.        Next question.

Q.        Do you think that, by revealing so much about yourself and your songs in Monsters Among Us, you may be somehow “demystifying” your art?

A.        No.  I mean, it’s been suggested to me that I may be doing that, but I don’t believe I am.  We live in a world filled with distractions of our own making, and it’s not easy for people to take the time to absorb things like music and art.  I think people need a catalyst, an invitation, some impetus to get them more deeply into things like songs.  And I think that, if people could find that way in, they would appreciate music in a much deeper, much more satisfying way.  And that’s what I’m trying to do, let people in, give them something to think about, to meditate on, something that doesn’t shout at them, but calls to them.  I think people want stories – stories about themselves, human stories – before they will take the time to get involved with something new.  And that’s what this is all about, trying to get people involved in something new.

Q.        Do you think that people are less interested in music today than they were when you were a kid, in the sixties and seventies?

A.        I think that younger people are less interested, but that’s partially because a lot of new music just doesn’t have the depth and texture to warrant that kind of interest.  As for the older people, they were more deeply involved with music back in the day, but they’re also less willing to listen to anything new.  Which is why Billy Joel can and does sell out Madison Square Garden every month, even though he hasn’t put out a new album in something like thirty years. 

Q.        Do you think Monsters Among Us will be a success?

A.        From an artistic standpoint, I think it already is a success.  It’s exactly what I wanted it to be, and I’ve gotten wonderful responses from listeners who really seem moved by it.  As for it becoming a commercial success, I honestly don’t care.  As I said, I decided a long time ago that the best way to be true to my music and to myself was to make the music I wanted to make for myself, and let everyone else decide for themselves.  And I think I’ve done that here.

Q.        Thank you for your time today, and thank you for this very special book and album.

A.        You’re welcome, this was fun.

 



[1]             This is a reference to “Ice Ice Baby,” where white rapper Vanilla Ice took the bass line from Queen’s “Under Pressure,” added one note at the end and called it his own.

[2]             Desperate Measures is the group formed by Bill and Rob Sunkel to record and perform their original music.  They have released three CD albums on CD Baby and iTunes, True Confessions (1999), Two Can Play (2003) and Speaking in Tongues (2007).

[3]             “Other Plans” does not appear on Monsters Among Us, but is available for streaming and as a free download on the www.billsunkel.com website.

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