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Photo by Dennis Andersen
          Who is Reverend Stickman? He’s a self taught guitarist, singer, and songwriter with a story to tell. His riffs will melt your face off and move you into a whole new world of music. He’s quite the traveling man, having been born in Denver, Colorado and eventually leaping thousands of miles and an ocean to move to Germany with his family in 1976 and returning in 1979 to North Carolina. At age 16 he decided he needed adventure and hitchhiked from North Carolina the Flagstaff, Az. In 1984 he moved to Seattle, WA for several years before returning to North Carolina in 1997. In 2002, he once again made his way across the country to end up here in beautiful San Diego.

          I first heard Reverend Stickman’s wailing guitar riffs in 2003. At the time he was playing with cover band Point Blank going by the name Stickman. Reverend Stickman has been a featured artist in the San Diego Reader on more than one occasion, is sponsored by Taylor Guitars, and has been nominated three times at the San Diego Music Awards. He can be heard during The Homegrown Hour with Cathryn Beeks on 102.1 KPRI, during the Local Hour on FM 94.9, and occasionally on NPR.  He also won Best song of 2011 from San Diego Song Writer’s Guild for his song “Drinkin Bout Tomorrow”. I asked The Rev. (as people in the scene call him) some questions about his time as a musician, his new album which will be released in summer 2012 and of course the origin of his name.    

Time Machine - Reverend Stickman

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T: First I would like to thank you for taking the time to talk to me about yourself and your music. I must know, how did you get the name Stickman and how did it turn into The Reverend Stickman?

Rev:  I used to be married to a woman who got to be a lot larger than me and we had a good friend who would come over and make fun of me about it. He called her The Enforcer and me Stickman. She didn’t like that too much, but I thought it was hilarious. Then the Reverend part started in 2006 when two of my best friends asked me to perform their marriage ceremony and in order to become a legally ordained minister, you have to have a calling from God and so I felt that it was the same thing. So I became a legally ordained minister and became the Reverend Stickman.

T: That is very cool story. How long have you been playing guitar and writing songs? 

Rev: I got my first guitar when I was seven, but I don’t count that because then we moved to German and I never really played. But while in Germany, my older brother borrowed a guitar and I thought anything my brother did was cool, so I started playing guitar too. So I guess I started really started playing when I was ten. I wrote my first song when I was eleven called Sometimes. I remember most of it, but not all of the words. It’s still one of my Dad’s favorite songs. 

T: Who are some of your biggest influences? What artist would you most like to play with?

Rev: My influences have been crazy and varied. I would say David Bowie is a big one, King Crimson, 70’s Rock and the experimental psychedelic music. I love all of it; I grew up on 70’s Rock. I would love to play with Mozart. He’s the man and absolute genius.

T: I love your album Half Alive: Stories From Under the Black Hat. I’m having a hard time picking a single favorite. Do you have favorites from this album or are they on equal standing?

Rev: I do have favorites; one of them is “Time Machine”. That song means a lot to me personally and I also feel like that was one of the songs that came out on the album the way I really wanted it to be. Another song I feel that came out really well was “40 Dollars”. The saxophone part, played by Bob Bartosik, really made the song as raunchy as it needed to be.

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T:  Half Alive isn’t your only album though. Please tell me about your other album False Idols. How did that one come to be? Where can we find it?

Rev: False Idols is a collection of songs that I had recorded previously with another band or that I recorded in my home studio that I just really wanted people to hear. These were songs that I was proud of that I wanted to get out into circulation. There may be some physical copies on cdbaby.com however; you can download songs from the record on iTunes. It’s out of print though so it may be hard to find actual physical copies.

T: Your lyrics are amazing. Every song seems to tell a deep story. Do your lyrics stem from personal experiences? Is there a method to your writing or are you just a great story teller?

Rev: Most of my lyrics stem from personal experiences, but not all of them and I don’t always know what a song is about when I’m writing it. I just write the words as they come to me, so it’s more like being a channel for lyrics more than anything else. One things that’s true is usually when I have lyrics coming to me, they come with a particular rhythmic feel and so the one method I do have I guess, is that I try to take the lyrics and write some kind of music for them that fits the rhythmic feel and mood of the words. But where the words come from, I don’t know.

T: “My Only Son” is my favorite song on Half Alive. What is the meaning behind it?

Rev: Well, that song started out as a complete inspiration. I wrote almost the entire song within about ten minutes and I had no idea what is was about and it got darker and darker and darker. When I looked back I realized that the first verse really does seem to be about my Grandfather on my Father’s side. After that the song just really goes in a crazy direction. Again, I don’t know where these words come from, but this song wrote itself.

T: Your sound is hard to place in one specific genre. It is very multi genre; you have some rock, blues, and country sound to it. What genre do you feel your music belongs to? Is it difficult for you to find one complete label for it?

Rev: It is very difficult however; I have done my best to describe it with alternative American fusion. That’s the best I can come up with. There are definitely American styles that I use and it’s a little bit alternative and it’s a fusion of all of those things and more.

T: How do your lyrics and sound from False Idols and Half Alive differ or compare to your new album that you’re working on. What kind of sound can we expect from this album? Will it also be a multi genre record?

Rev: False Idols and Half Alive are collections of songs and this new record is a collection of songs that I hope will be related in the listener’s ears, that they’ll be able to hear the project as one cohesive piece. The other albums I was more concerned with recording the songs that I felt like recording and with this project I’m trying to create something that is consistent. As far as it being multi genre, I feel it won’t be as much, but I can’t help it with the way that I write there will be some of that, but I’m trying to find the songs that fit together well and make an album out of those.

T: Are you working with the same producer from your last album? What has been the most difficult thing about making this album compared to your last album?

Rev: I’m not working with the same producer as last time. I loved working with Sven-Erik Seaholm and we had a great time recording Half Alive. I wanted to move forward in a different direction and Bob Bartosik of  SDjazz.com a local record label is a fantastic horn player and a fantastic arranger and is working with me to make this record a little bit more cohesive. The most difficult thing compared to the last album would be not having my band with me to make the record. This album is truly a solo effort with hired musicians as opposed to Half Alive which was an effort by my band and assorted additional musicians, but it’s a challenge to be responsible for more things.

T: Are currently signed to any label? What label are False Idols and Half Alive on? Will your new album be released on the same label?

Rev: I am not signed to any label, I am and independent artist. False Idols and Half Alive were release on my own label called Stick Songs, but the new album will be released on SD Jazz.

T: I was told you’re sponsored by local guitar maker Taylor Guitars. How did that come to be?

Rev: It was a complete surprise to me. It was orchestrated by Frank Kowalski who is a local guitar legend who plays for Verge of Distortion and is also the guitar technician for Pat Travers, showed up at a gig with a brand new Taylor Big Baby that was fitted with a LR Baggs pick up and he presented it to me. I’m not sure of how it really happened; all I know is Frank took care of everything.

T: Speaking of guitars, what are your equipment specs? Do you have a favorite guitar?

Rev: I play Big Baby Taylor with the LR Baggs pick up. I also play an Epiphone Del Ray electric and I use and old Marshall 20 watt amp which gives me a nice clean sound. I also use some effects processing to get other sounds that I want from it. My favorite is definitely the Big Baby. It’s the one I write most of my stuff on. It’s not one of Taylor’s high end guitars, but it is one of their easiest to play and the action is just awesome.

T: I’ve noticed that you’re not just a one man band all the time. You also have a background vocalist who is your hand percussionist as well. Can you tell me a bit about Neener and how you came to play together? Will Neener be on your new record?

Rev: Several years ago, Neener and I were both at a talent show case and we started talking and discovered that she was a singer. She said that she was interested in doing some original music. So I got some music to her of my owns songs and the next time we met she had done a lot of homework and was ready with harmony vocals for my original stuff and none of the other band members were ready so that really stuck in my mind and ever since then we’ve been playing together and have been musically inseparable. Neener’s a big part of the new record. She sings back up and will be doing a lot of the hand percussion on a lot of tracks and she also will have a lead vocal track which is a new experience for me to have someone else sing one of the songs I have written, but again her loyalty, hard work and talent makes it a natural choice.

T: Are you currently playing with any other bands aside from your own?

Rev: I am actually. I play with B Violin and the Gypsy Knights as well as Charlie Imes and the Hodad’s Surf Club. I occasionally do gigs with the Kirtan Meditation Ensemble.

T: Are there any local musicians that will be featured on your new album?

Rev: Absolutely, an incomplete list would include, Neener, Bob Bartosik, Michael Mooneyham, Jeremy Eikam, Billy Wear, and Harry Williams as well as some others.

T: What has been your favorite show that you’ve played since being in the San Diego scene? What’s the biggest crowd?

Rev: Probably the CD Release show for Half Alive, 4th & B was also fun. But the CD release was fun because it was a theater show. There were about 25 people involved in the show itself and I learned so much from it. It was an incredibly wild experience trying to do a theater show. It was held at Swedenborg Hall which is a small theater type auditorium. The biggest crowd I ever played for was 3000 people at Thalian Hall.

T: How is the San Diego music scene compared to other places you’ve played? Is there something you would like to see more or less of?

Rev: San Diegans are lucky enough where there is so much to do that it sometimes can be difficult to fill a room for local music. It would be nice if there was a little more status attached to local music in the San Diego area. It’s a cool scene here and there is a lot of talent, but without support it’s never going to compete nationally. So get out there and support your local musicians and go see a show.

T: What is something you want your listeners to know about your music?

Rev: My music is designed to be something different every time, every song. I’m not trying to repeat myself, so people who are looking for one sound or one exact style probably will be disappointed. It’s not meant for stupid people. The lyrics that have always been important to me, so there’s going to something there for someone who wants to look further and delve into the lyrics, there will be something there for them to delve into.  When I say it’s not for stupid people, it sounds worse than it is. What I mean is that my songs aren’t about let’s dance, let’s fuck, or boy I miss you. There are other things in life besides those three things.

T: We will be putting a mini playlist with this interview on the website. Can you give me 3 songs that you would like featured and tell me why you picked them?

Rev: “Time Machine”, because I think it’s one of the best ones, “40 Dollars”, because it’s my big radio hit and “Drinkin Bout Tomorrow”. It’s the one I won best song of 2011 at the San Diego Song Writer’s Guild. There is another one and it’s from False Idols called “My God”. I think it’s one of the best songs I’ve ever written.

T: Reverend Stickman, thank you so much again for taking the time to be bombarded by my many questions. I’m really looking forward to hearing your new album. I like to end my interviews with a question that people don’t expect. Please tell us something personal about yourself.

Rev: I love flowers. I will cross the street to smell flowers growing in somebody’s yard.

          You can catch Reverend Stickman at Mission Bay Boat and Ski Club on April 20th from 8:30 – 11:30 and grab his album Half Alive: Stories From Under the Black Hat for $10 at his shows, on iTunes as well as cdbaby.com. If you would like to know more about him please stop on over to his site at www.reverendstickman.com  and be watching for his new album to be released in summer 2012.    

         We've made a playlist of both Stickman's and Lili's favorite songs of his albums that you can check out in the media page, and don't forget to cruise on over to the poster gallery page to see our exclusive design for Reverend Stickman!

- Tunage

Written by Lili Mooneyham
 


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