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Worldstallestthing - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 13 / 1 / 2002

Worldstallestthing - Interview


Ian Baker is the front man and vocalist in 'Worldstallestthing', a band which he formed, with a fluctuating line-up of friends and fellow musicians, as an outlet for his songwriting talents in 1998. B

Ian Baker is the front man and vocalist in 'Worldstallestthing', a band which he formed, with a fluctuating line-up of friends and fellow musicians, as an outlet for his songwriting talents in 1998. Baker has had songs compared to those of Paul Weller, Paul Westerberg,Neil Finn and Elliott Smith,and Worldstallestthing's debut EP, 'Be Prepared to Stop', which is limited to 1200 copies and has been put out on Baker's own label 'Midair Collision Music', was released to both criticial enthusiasm and acclaim last year. Baker, who is now in his mid thirties, and who is originally from Wisconsin, began playing music and working in bands at an early age, but for over fifteen years abandoned music. Now firmly back in its fold, he is planning to release with Worldstallestthing both a split single and also his first album later this year. "From the age of about thirteen onwards, and throughout High School, and at the beginning of college, I played in bands and then I got fed up with it." he recollects in an interview with Pennyblackmusic. " I wasn't doing anything that was any good. I was just writing the same crap songs that everyone else seemed to be writing, and I got frustrated with it. I gave all my instruments away, and I just quit." " I can't remember most of the songs which I wrote then now " he adds. "But there was this bad Chuck Berry rip off kind of thing, and I remember songs that sounded like the early 'Police'. They were terrible and all full of cliches. When you're fifteen or so though, I guess that you don't know any better." While remaining a rock fan, Baker, who moved to Boston, spent most of the eighties and nineties out of music, holding down various jobs, and for some years ran his own publishing firm and has also since worked for a holding company. Two years ago, however, he met another musician Mark Yurkovich, who,as well as playing sporadic keyboards in Worldstallestthing, has also since become the band's regular producer, and this proved enough of an inspiration to start him songwriting again. "The catalyst for everything was that I bumped into Mark" Baker reflects. I knew his wife, and he had been in a couple of bands, but he was sitting at home writing these monster pop songs all by himself in his room. When I saw that, I just jumped back into the fray, and what I did was I sat down and wrote three songs over the course of a weekend." 'Be Prepared to Stop', which runs to four tracks, and which includes some of these songs, was recorded at the tail end of 1998, and was released in January of last year. As well as Baker and Yurkovich, it features three other local musicians, Andy Schulz on guitar, Jeff St Pierre on bass, and Larry Finn, who plays on drums on the opening track 'Free' . Baker's brother, David, who lives in Los Angeles and who was visiting at the time of its recording session, appears on drums on the final track 'Where You Gonna Run'. The EP has met with glowing accolades and descriptions such as "quality stuff" ('Pathetic Music Archives') and "nice, simple, soulful tunes that leave your head bopping and your toes tapping" ('Indie-Music'), while Baker himself has been singled out as "a gifted artist who creates music from the heart" ('Independisc Review'). He himself, however, is unsure of why he has been able to make a success of songwriting now while he failed in the past. "It is probably just the product of being a little older" he says, after some deliberation. "I've got no real clue though." While the buzz and the kick he gets out of songwriting and recording are enough alone to keep his interest, he also remains genuinely uncertain of his talent. "A lot of me needs the excitement that goes with it" he reflects. "Half of the time it makes me feel like a teenager again. Sometimes I think that what I am doing is great. Sometimes I think that it is crap. As a kid, I was the same. I find it really strange to put something out and to hear what other people think." One of the pleasures of 'Be Prepared to Stop' is its diversity and range. While 'Free' and 'Where You Gonna Run' were recorded on electric guitars, the middle two segments of the EP, 'The Greatest Thing Could Have Been' and 'Lollipop Up', are both acoustic numbers. 'Free' isthe first of the songs that Baker wrote the first weekend when he turned to songwriting again and, based partly on personal experience, it is about the rise and collapse of a love affair. "It has the upswing, the questioning middle, and then the whole thing falls apart, and there is shit at the end" Baker says about it. It begins gently and optimistically with a couple starting out together, then with increasing layers of guitars and vocals being added to the mix doubts start to emerge between them as they become bored with one another. Finally, with a Hammond organ bringing the song to a dramatic close, the relationship disintegrates. The second song, 'The Greatest Thing Could Have Been', is an acoustic ballad and about self-doubt and being afraid to express one's feelings, is described on the packaging of 'Be Prepared to Stop' as a demo. "It was done on a little four track tape recorder at home. I went over to Mark's house, and plugged it into his system which is nicer than mine and has a couple of Adats, did the vocals, and then Jeff St Pierre who plays bass, came and added a solo. It is very much a demo because we have another version of it on the full forthcoming CD which is louder and rockier." The third song, 'Lollipop Up' is again taken from fact and, the most nakedly charged of the four songs on 'Be Prepared to Stop', is written from the perspective of the seperated husband of one of Baker's friends, who was knocked down and dragged by a car for a block in an accident. Baker appears unaccompanied, his voice delicate and raw with emotion, sparsely strumming a guitar, and the song, written in a day, was recorded on the next one in just one take at Yurkovich's house. "Mark was putting up the microphones and we were doing a ground run " Baker recollects. "And I noticed that about half way through the recording that he wasn't really moving or fiddling around with anything. At the beginning you can hear him adjusting the microphone, but by the end you can tell that he just wanted to capture that take." "It struck a lot of nerves" he adds, speaking both about the song's recording and also its meaning. "I was trying to write about something that meant a lot to me, but I didn't want to give away entirely at the same time what the song was about." "When you're writing that type of song, you don't want to seem like you're over-dramatising the story, or you're trying to milk it for your own gains, so you try to be general enough but without saying what it is about so that you can still capture people. You try to strike a balance between writing something that gives enough away so that people can latch onto it emotionally for whatever reasons, but at the same time not so much that you bore them with a story that may not mean anything to them." The final track, 'Where You Gonna Run', is a cover of a long lost song by 'Spooner'. Spooner were from Madison, the same town in rural Wisconsin that Baker was brought up in, and played together in the early eighties for some years, before, after membership changes and a period working under the name 'Firetown', they eventually evolved into the supergroup 'Garbage'. The line up of Spooner included Garbage guitarist, Doug (now Duke) Erikson, and drummer Butch Vig. "They were a big group where I was growing up,and they were almost like our High School band. They put out a couple of singles and 'Where You Gonna Run' is the 'B' side of the first one. I think they probably pressed a 1000 copies of it. The Spooner stuff was very kind of skinny tie new wave, like old Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello or Graham Parker, or any of that new wave pub rock stuff which I loved at the time. It was always exciting to see them, and you used to to get a real sense of "Here we are, in the middle of fucking nowhere, and people can still do this. We can still make great records." That first record is fantastic. I still listen to it. There's probably noone but me listening to it nostalgically, but it bonded with the rest of the EP and it makes me feel good, so we stuck it on the end." While 'The Greatest Thing Could Have Been' and 'Lollipop Up' were recorded in Baker and Yurkovich's living rooms, 'Free' and 'Where You Gonna Run' were both recorded at Wellspring Studios, a small Boston studio which Baker has been using regularly since he formed Worldstallestthing. Wellspring has also been used to record both the new Worldstallestthing single, which will be released on 7" vinyl at the beginning of June, and the band's first album which has a provisional debut date of August. 'Wellspring's great" Baker reflects. 'It is at the bottom of this industrial park, and it is like going to the dentist's or an accounting office. There is absolutely no sense of vibe. There is all this gear, all stuck at the bottom of this office building. If you can get over the fact that it is not pretty to look at, everythingthat comes out of there sounds great and it is also dirt cheap." The single, which will have two tracks, will be a split release and will also feature Mark Yurkovich's new band, 'Shecky'. Worldstallestthing will be covering one of Shecky's songs, and Shecky in return will be covering one of Baker's songs. Final details are still being worked out, but Baker and Yurkovich are aiming to put it out as a limited release of between 200 and 500 copies. "Mark has actually got an album out by Shecky now,which is called 'Yummy'. The first song on it is a thing called 'Cowboys in Dementia'. It is this huge spaghetti western eighteen track recording, and I stripped it down, and did this cheesy acoustic version of it instead. When Mark heard it, he loved it and went "This is fantastic ! I should have done the song that way, and I wish I had done the arrangement like that." I said "No, it proves that it is a strong song. You can do it in all these different styles and it still works." "He then suggested "Why don't you do something with that version ?", and we then decided that he should also cover one of mine. The song to make matters even more bizarre is not out yet. It's going to be on the full album, and it's called 'Butter Side Down', and Mark has changed it into something which even I don't know." The album, which will be limited to 1000 copies and which will have eleven tracks, is currently being completed and will feature many of the same musicians who appeared on 'Be Prepared to Stop'. Mark Yurkovich is once more playing keyboards and the producer. Jeff St Pierre is again the bassist,and Andy Schulz is playing about a third of the guitar parts, while Baker is playing the rest. David Baker will also feature on two of the songs as the drummer, and on the others is being replaced by another local musician, Phil Antoniados. The album has a working title of 'I Was Just Being a Pill". "I don't know if I want to keep that, but it fits" Baker jokes. "The album to a certain extent will sound melancholic, so it would be nice to have something poking a little fun at that in the title." The CD is being recorded slowly over sporadic periods, and carefully with an emphasis being put on quality. "Because Wellspring is a cheap place, you can keep going in there every couple of weeks and just show for a few hours and bang away" Baker reflects. "It is nice because we get the time to reflect on it without having to spend any money, and we can do it on no budget." "Nobody has heard most of the parts but me before we go in, and that makes it kind of fresh" he says. "We have had some good, happy accidents and it has been turning out very well." He also hopes to play some gig dates with a full band soon and this year is promising to be a busy and an active one for both Baker and also Worldstallestthings. This is an indie act that seem certain to have a higher profile in the near future, and are a group that we will be hearing much more from in the forthcoming months.

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Worldstallestthing - Interview

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Be Prepared To Stop (2001)
Worldstallestthing plan to release records that have an emphasis on quality rather than quantity, and this is reflected on ‘Be Prepared to Stop’, their four track debut EP which, running at just under

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