Tod Weidner – Dayton’s Music Whore

Tod Weidner – Dayton’s Music Whore

(Winter 2005)

I was so excited that I was finally doing my first interview alone. What better person to do it with than Tod Weidner from Shrug, a local Dayton, OH band that has been around since 1994. Tod has also been involved in many other bands both before and after Shrug. Some of his list includes Tim, Freakstrobe, Mystery Addicts, and Stranj. He also plays out solo and helps back up many others. He is a strong asset to the Dayton local music scene.

Luckily, I got a little bonus and Dan, the drummer, also joined our discussion. Although, he was not the only person to join us, there was a man who decided that he wanted to join our conversation and put his two cents in also. He at least provided us entertainment.

CF – I have noticed that there are recurring themes in your music, like space, spacemen and diseases, interesting things. Why is that? Is it even conscious?

Tod – I notice that there is a lot of imagery that comes up over and over again and it’s really completely subconscious. I feel like a fairly happy guy but a lot of the songs are really dark and contain a lot of references to disease and sickness, which really kind of surprises me as well.

CF – I know that a lot of people who write music are happy because they it helps to get rid of some of their aggression

Tod – Yeah, that is my theory too.

CF – So what about space and spacemen?

Tod – I don’t know the only thing I can think of I grew up loving airplanes and space and all of that, maybe some of that is coming up and bubbling to the surface or something.

CF – Anything to do with Ziggy Stardust and David Bowie or anything?

Tod – That’s probably why that album appeals to me. It’s the sci-fi thing.

CF – I just thought that was interesting.

Tod – Yeah, yeah good insight. I never, yeah, I guess when you think about it, I hadn’t really thought about the space stuff. Yeah, I guess it does sort of pop up a lot.

CF – When did you first realize that you had a passion and a talent for music?

Tod – I guess to get back into the airplane thing. From about kindergarten to about sophomore year in high school I was dead set on becoming a fighter pilot in the air force. I loved airplanes; I was completely obsessed with them. Then I started listening to rock n’ roll about 8th grade and it sort of turned into a. It was strange.

I remember asking my parents for a guitar one night at the dinner table. I think I was just as surprised as they were. I remember that very vividly. It was like you know I heard Prince on the radio, “Let’s go Crazy” and that guitar solo he plays at the end, its like I wouldn’t mind knowing how to do that and I didn’t really give it much more thought until a little bit later and all of a sudden I’m asking for a guitar and I never looked back. My dreams of being a pilot went right out the window and I started listening to more and more rock n’ roll, it’s your typical corruption story.

CF – Well quite possibly the band was a more realistic goal.

Tod – I think so, yeah. I suck at math I know that.

CF – What process do you go through when you write a song?

Tod – It changes every time. Most of the time, though, I think I come up with music a lot easier than I do lyrics. I really agonize over the lyrics and the music comes a lot freer to me. So most of the time, I have a little boom box at home, the cheapest thing you could possibly get, cassettes. I have these little song snippets that come along and I put them right down without having to worry if I things cued or plugged in right. I just turn the boom box on and it’s like my little sketchbook. Sooner or later all of those little ideas turn into songs. Sometimes I’ll come up with a melody right over the music and a lot of times I’m just fitting words into the melody line.

CF – Do you write all of your lyrics for Shrug?

Tod – They’re all mine.

CF – I figured so; they kind of all have the same feel to them.

Tod – Yeah it’s a similar vibe, but yeah usually lyrics come a lot later.

CF – Do you ever have lyrics that just kind of pop into your head all of a sudden?

Tod – Occasionally, but not near as often as the music. It’s really rare for me to get a lyric idea without having any kind of melody or music behind it at all. Sometimes it will happen simultaneously.

CF – How autobiographical are your lyrics?

Tod – More than I realize actually. A lot of times other people have to point it out to me. Kind of like what you had mentioned, you’re seeing patterns that I don’t really pay attention to because once I write something I’m just onto my next idea. I don’t really dwell on it too much. Yeah, a lot of them are blatantly autobiographical and others I don’t find out until a couple of years later. Oh wow, that’s what that was about. A lot of the times I have no idea what the songs are about.

CF – You just sing them until you get the insight from them afterwards?

Tod – Yeah, a lot of songwriters don’t really work this way, but I am a lot more interested in stringing together interesting sounding phrases, something that makes you picture things. And than if a narrative thread comes through that then so much the better. However a lot of time in my songs I’m just trying to make the lyrics sound cool.

In having said that, there are times that I have actually wanted to sit down and say something, so it’s different every time. In general, I have no idea what the songs are actually about. It’s kind of fun to have people come up a sort of tell me what the songs are about.

CF -Have you ever considered yourself a musical whore?

Tod – Absolutely, I would be the first one to tell you.

CF – Because you play with so many different bands?

Tod – Yeah, I just love playing music, more than I can describe. There is just something amazingly cool about getting with a group of musicians and just making music with them. I was playing bass for both Maery Lanahan and the Mystery Addicts at the same time and stylistically one is way over here and one is way over there. They were both recording their CDs maybe just a few weeks from each other and, it’s all kind of science to the stuff I like. So all of the projects, all of the many projects I’m involved with they all express a certain facet about what I like about music. So, it kind of keeps things pure and gives my music its own direction too. There was a time when I was just doing Shrug and the music kind of reflected that, it was a lot more eclectic and schizophrenic and all over the map, which is kind of cool, but it’s nice to have a kind of identity.

Once I started doing the other outside stuff I was able to focus in each direction and make it purer and kind of figure out more of what Shrug really was than just relevant, okay I like punk I like folk we’ll just throw it all in here.

CF – We’ll just call it polk.

Tod – Yeah, polk right, or funk. Well it can’t be funk, so it must be polk. I would get really bored playing any of those things exclusively, so yeah, I am totally a whore. I am the music whore of Dayton.

CF – Well the first step is admitting it.

Tod – Yeah.

CF – Since you are a musical whore, you’ve worked with a lot of different musicians, all with their own diverse style. How do you approach that? How do you approach going into the different viewpoints that people have and the different outlooks?

Tod – It helps that I listen to and really genuinely love a lot of different styles and that I’m fairly literate to a lot of different styles. When I was playing with Maery Lanahan and the Mystery Addicts, I knew where Maery was coming from to the point where I could communicate with her, knowing her influences.

(Dan the drummer from Shrug enters)

Tod – Hey Dan. It’s Dan.

CF – Hi Dan.

Dan – Do you need me? Should I go? Or stay?

Tod – It’s up to her. It’s her first interview.

CF – Sit down.

Tod – It’s an actual taped interview. My dreams have come true Dan. No more scribbling.

So yeah, I know what Maery’s influences are. I know enough about them so I can talk to her with what she wants she can kind of describe what she’s looking for and I know who she’s talking about. At the same time I know that Jamie’s going for New York Dolls or Dead boys or something like that so I can kind of figure out what he’s looking for.

CF – So you just kind of jump in and follow?

Tod – I’m just a junkie, a music junkie and a whore. I’m a junkie and a whore.

CF – And submissive.

Tod – I sound dysfunctional.

Dan – Oh, that’s enough for me.

CF – Looking back is there anything else that you might have done differently?

Tod – Since Dan is here I will include him in on this. We both love music, we are definitely better musicians than we are businessmen. There have been a lot of times where we should have taken the initiative to do something and didn’t because we were more interested in writing the next song. And that’s hurt us a little bit. At the same time it’s gotten us where we are today and I’m very happy with the stuff we’re making now. We’ve made some odd choices or no choices, which is sometimes even worse. You know that stuff will sort itself out. If people are meant to hear our stuff then they will hear it, that’s how I look at it. I don’t worry about it too much. The business end is a good way to get an ulcer.

CF – That’s why you need to hire somebody that’s really cheap and willing to get an ulcer.

Tod – Exactly.

CF – Well I know that you played at one of the early X-Fest in Dayton, would that have anything to do with one of those business choices that you decided not to make?

Tod – No, actually that was probably the closest we have ever been to exposure. You know a lot of people there probably thought we were doing it for a living.

CF – You sound way better than half of the music that’s popular.

Tod – Thank you. You can say that. If I say that it sounds weird.

CF – No weirder than being a musical whore and junkie.

Tod – Right. I remember it was really funny I signed autographs that day. Maybe dozens.

Dan – I didn’t.

Tod – You did too.

Dan – I think I signed maybe three, but everybody didn’t realize who I was. I changed my shirt.

Tod – There you go, never change your shirt. I signed dozens of autographs. It was really weird and it was just really surreal. Then the next day I was back at my day job cleaning toilets.

CF – Is that what you do for a living?

Tod – At the time I was kind of a custodian. So that was sort of a harsh reality. Yeah, the X-fest was really cool and it looked like things were really. It comes in phases, sometimes things really roll and it feels like your accomplishing a lot as far as exposure and then there’s times where that kind of goes on the back burner and it’s like the situation that we’re in right now. We’re coming up with new songs that we’re really excited about. That’s more home for me. Kind of being in the creative mind then the get out there and prove it to people mind.

CF – Do you prefer performing at a smaller venue like Canal Street over the large setting like X-fest? And didn’t you open for Carrot Top once?

Tod – We were supposed to but we didn’t. Yeah it turned out that he didn’t want any openers after all. So that did not happen. I won’t lie to you and say big shows aren’t as fun because it’s just a whole different. it’s apples and oranges.

Dan – I don’t think we’ve had enough experience with really big shows. I mean the ones we’ve had; we played much better in front of a big crowd of people that don’t really know us.

Tod – Yeah, cause you feel like you’re proving yourself. People who haven’t seen you, you go to a different town or a bigger venue where there are a lot of people who have never seen you they kind of cross there arms and say show me what you’ve got. That brings out a whole different kind of energy than playing at Canal Street to 150 of our friends, which is more like a get together party.

CF – It’s a little less awkward?

Tod – It’s a little less awkward, a lot more natural. I would certainly not turn down a chance to do that again in front of big crowds and stuff.

CF – What kind of feeling do you get when the crowd starts to sing along with you and knows everyone of your lyrics?

Tod – That’s one of my favorite feelings in the whole wide world. Somebody who has not been in that position just cannot imagine how cool it is. When something that you put your time into and you came up with has not only been heard by people, but has been assimilated and learned by them and they identify with it and sing along with it, it’s just amazing. I can’t stress enough how cool that is.

CF – So have you ever considered making a music video? Mite has a great idea for Lady Malaria.

Tod – Oh really? What is it?

CF – Something about 60 year old women wrestling. You might want to talk to him about it later.

Tod – Dan’s ears just perked up. Dan is our idea guy for music videos.

Dan – Not always great ideas, but .

Tod – But they are always interesting.

I really can’t decide how I feel about videos. Some of them are done really well. Radiohead makes great videos. I like the more off the wall videos. I can’t remember which Replacements song it was but it was just a picture of one static stereo speaker. You know the one I’m talking about? I think it might’ve been Bastards of Young. This was a video where the camera was just focused on a stereo speaker playing the song. People just don’t have imagination anymore when making videos. Everything looks the same. Certain genres are more susceptible to that than others. I literally cannot tell one hip-hop video from the other because.

CF – It’s all a bunch of girls wearing skimpy clothing dancing not all that great…

Tod – . Yeah and cars. I understand that’s the lifestyle they’re portraying. If that’s the kind of music video, then no I don’t want to make a music video. I would rather have it be a little bit more song centered, even if we’re not even in it. It’ll be great.

CF – Well, you could always direct your own video.

(In walks some guy who thinks he knows what he’s talking about, let’s call him 2 Cent.)

2 Cent – Is this your guy’s magazine {sic}

CF – Oh we just piled them there.

2 Cent – No, I’m saying is this your guys’ magazine.

Tod – Oh, it’s an online thing.

CF – We’re TheChickenFishSpeaks, it’s only online.

Tod – It’s an offshoot of Mutant Renegade

2 Cent – (found a patch in the magazine he was looking at) Oh I thought this was a really cool patch. You should think about giving a patch away.

Tod – An online patch?

2 Cent – Yeah, you should just give a patch away. Just send it away. Ummm, that Mark Curry video from a long time ago, where it was just a. the video was him on a little TV screen and your watching him play and on the outside of it there were people arguing and you can hear the argument the whole time.

Tod – Yeah, there’s just a little TV between two people have a discussion and every so often the discussion gets louder than the music.

CF – My last question would be, no offense to you Dan, but what would your dream band be? If these guys just disappeared and you had a whole bunch of famous people to pick from who would be in your band?

Tod – Wow. There are times. and I was just thinking about this today. I have just been on a real Steve Earl kick. Sometimes I think it would just be really cool to be a guitar player in his band. Stand up there and just play guitar and not even worry about singing sometimes. But, oh my god, that’s a really tough question actually. I get questions like that and I think about all the CDs I have at home and I am so afraid of leaving someone out. I know I’ve got to have Paul McCartney in there somewhere. Are we talking living people?

CF – Or dead. I can limit it to living to make it a less difficult for you.

Tod – Yeah, yeah let’s limit it to living because most of my heroes are dead anyway.

CF – See that right there sounded dark and depressing.

Tod – No seriously, most of my favorite albums are about my age. Anywhere from like 68′-74′, I bet about 80% of my favorite albums were recorded during that time. Stuff that comes out now occasionally is pretty interesting, but it just doesn’t resonate with me the same as it used to. The stuff that comes out now that does resonate with me was influenced by the stuff that came from that time period.

CF – Most of the stuff that comes out now doesn’t resonate with me either. I like local and some underground stuff, but the music that’s popular just isn’t very good.

Dan – I’m working at that music store now and it’s out there it just doesn’t get that push like the other stuff does. They don’t send it to you. You have to go after it.

CF – It’s sad because, the way I feel about it, the people that really deserve to be famous and really deserve to have their music out there don’t get half the credit they deserve.

Dan – The problem is that you have to look at the yokels that are buying this stuff. I’m not trying to be mean, but the reason that Creed sold a million albums.

2 Cent – (returns): Because they have a prior fan base of Christian rock groups and then they moved on into mainstream.

Dan – I don’t know, maybe Creed was a bad example.

CF – I don’t think so, Creed sucks pretty bad and a lot of people did buy their stuff.

Tod – Okay let’s see Paul McCartney on bass, Keith Richards on rhythm guitar, and Richard Thompson on lead guitar. I think Jeff Sweeney should be in there somewhere, doing whatever it is that he does on a day-to-day basis. I am not sure what I would be doing. I guess I would just be carrying the amps around.

CF – Well, whose going to be on vocals if your not?

Tod – I’ll kind of do what I do, just way in the background. The drummer, well I guess if you’re going to have Keith Richards you have to have Charlie Watts. So yeah, they kind of come as a pair. So there’s my band.

2 Cent – (returns again): So what are you guys putting together a best of list?

CF – It’s an interview. This is Todd the lead singer of Shrug and the drummer Dan. It’s an interview.

2 Cent – So you guys are playing in town now?

Tod – We’re a Dayton band.

2 Cent – Okay cool cool. Are you guys getting gigs then?

Dan – Trying to.

2 Cent – You’ll get them. The issue is barely ever getting gigs in town; the issue is how long do you let everything boil before you go.

Tod – Uh huh.

http://www.shrug.com/

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