Milwaukee Talks: John Sieger, 2008
Local boy John Sieger is one of our musical treasures. One of few musicians from Milwaukee who has made a lasting mark beyond our borders and earns the respect of his peers, both here and elsewhere, at the same time.
He was a driving force behind The R&B Cadets and Semi-Twang, which inked a deal with Warner Brothers in the mid-1980s. He spent years working as a songwriter in the Nashville music machine.
He's been back home for years now, leading bands like El Supremo, a reunited R&B Cadets and his latest outfit, The Subcontinentals. Through it all, his songwriting partnership with public radio personality Michael Feldman has endured and Sieger has released a clutch of varied discs. He teaches songwriting classes, has hosted concerts in his own living room and recently made his U.K. debut.
His latest CD is "The Shaming of the True," on his own Faux Real label, with 12 songs recorded in Nashville and Milwaukee and featuring guests like Phil Lee and Rosie Flores.
Sieger's self-stated goal these days is to entertain and the dozen slices of roots rock on "The Shaming of the True" do that, thanks to Sieger's knack for boogie and Feldman's clever, artful lyrics.
We asked Sieger about making the record and more in this installment of Milwaukee Talks, his first since 2002.
OMC: First off, tell me a bit about the history of this record. How did it come to be, in practical terms?
John Sieger: I started the recording two years ago in Nashville at Steve Allen's (from '80s power pop outfit 20/20) Blue Planet Studio. He's an old friend and it is a really comfortable studio in his home. It was him and me and Phil Lee on drums, getting the basics down. Rosie Flores consented to having her reputation dragged through the mud and sang a beautiful -- her part -- duet with me. I had an assortment of songs, old and new, some leftovers from a serious writing jag with Michael Feldman ... others as old as 15 years. So a mish mash.
OMC: Did you have experience recording at home?
JS: I had just purchased Pro-Tools and my learning curve is close to flat, so I had to call all my ProTools gurus to talk me through the hard parts, which was everything. I finished it in December and had the usual burnout syndrome of never wanting to hear it again. I'm slowly getting over that. The last formidable problem was sequencing it. It's a non-sequitor in every imaginable way, and I couldn't make sense of it, so I pushed the differences from track to track as much as I could. If you know me, you probably understand that continuity is not my strong suit.
OMC: How come it doesn't feature your band Ravi John and the rest?
JS: My band -- The Subcontinentals -- whom I love, can't always hit the road or commit to longer projects. We're all parents, but my son Sam, who's the drummer on one cut, is 17. Their young 'uns are 8 and under. Very different lifestyle. We are going to be putting out a recording of this line-up, which is an oddly happy and non-contentious crew with the ability play anything!
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