By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Mar 10, 2012 at 9:02 AM

Feast for famine for local musician and songwriter Eric Blowtorch, who has two new records out at the same time.

Though they both draw on Blowtorch's multi-faceted musical tastes (punk, jazz, soul, ska, reggae and beyond) "Eric Blowtorch Plays Himself" – available only on wax from Simmerdown Productions – and "The Promise of Power" – out only on CD on his own Bopaganda imprint – couldn't be more different.

"The Promise of Power" was recorded by Blowtorch in his bedroom in November with a handful of guest appearances. It's stark, immediate and intimate.

"Eric Blowtorch Plays Himself," with its awesome cover art depicting Blowtorch as a one-man Pied Piper band marching down the middle of Center Street (Blowtorch's politics have not moved to the center line, as is evidenced by both sets), was recorded over 10 years, with Blowtorch playing all the instruments himself.

In the spirit of Blowtorch's two differing DIY approaches, we did what any self-respecting media outlet would do. We asked him to interview himself. And, boy do the sparks fly when you get these two in a room... You really played yourself on this one – railing against Dick Cheney, Tommy Thompson, blah, blah, blah. Just a little dated, smartass.

Eric Blowtorch: Yeah, I wondered about that line on "Plastic Yellow Ribbons," but I thought the tune captured a moment in time. Plus, the alliteration of 'Cheney' and 'chickenhawk' was too good to delete. So I erred on the side of museum piece. File under zeitgeist.

OMC: 'Chickenhawk' – nice homophobic language, Mr. Hip Politico.

EB: I meant it in the sense of a war hawk who dodged the draft, and Cheney is just that. As for the homophobic connotation, I thought, Let's see how these gaybashers like a taste of their own venom.

OMC: You say this album took 10 years to record, mix, etc. So why is your trumpet playing on it so rubbish?

EB: I had a lot on my mind, and a lot of other instruments to play. The Inflammables came and went during the making of, so that dominated about five years of my musical life. Plus, I played a rough mix of "Enter Password" to Andy Noble, and he said, "Sometimes bad trumpet can work in the right place." I'm not Andy Mayeshiba, OK?

OMC: What did Your Highness allow Shane Olivo to contribute this time around?

EB: Shane actually took a sort of control over the album by subterfuge. He mixed as we recorded each instrument to save me money, without telling me. He knew I had grandiose plans for this thing, so I thank him for that. He did suggest ditching a lot of the guitar tracks. I don't know why, since some of the New Loud tunes have 80 guitar tracks on them, no exaggeration. Maybe he doesn't want me to be the Manic Street Preacher.

OMC: You know so many musicians who could have played the hell out of these songs – why made you think you could do half as good a job?

EB: When recording the bass parts for "The Powerbrokers" and "Veterans' Day" I did think, "What would Jeff Villwock do?" And then I remembered Jeff's famous "Lost in the Supermarket"-coda octaves, and it was easy. Thank you, Spirit of Jeff. Andy Noble wrote the bassline for "Burn! Burn! Burn!" and taught it to me, so the timing is a little wack, but the tone is good. Thank you, Andrew, for the dope voicings.

No way did I think I could play half as well as Jeff, Andy or my many collaborators, but I reckon I did. Still, "Half a Loaf" is a lousy album title.

OMC: Let me guess which tracks required the most edits.

EB: That's easy: the ones with marching bass drum. It feels so great to just smack that thing in 2/4 time, but it's hell for the listener. So, for "Plastic Yellow Ribbons" and "Albion Begat Columbia?" Shane and I did go in and just delete every possible bass drum hit, so it became decorative rather than this annoying pulse.

Why don't you ask me about "Nowhere," the song with the quietest drum kit ever?

OMC: Because I can't hear the drum kit.

EB: Figures.

OMC: Hey, I'm not Lester Bangs, and you are not Lou Reed.

EB: And you're not Serge Gainsbourg, either. How well can you sing, huh? I'll bet you don't even play the triangle.

OMC: Typical reactionary dilettante paranoia – 'Don't you dare criticize us until you too have played 8,000 open E chords.' You ever ask your listeners if they play instruments?

EB: No. You got me there.

OMC: What's with all the old Blowtorch chestnuts? "Enter Password"? "The Powerbrokers"? "I Kissed You Twice"? Muse dried up, genius?

EB: No, I got a million of 'em, you know that. I brought those in because the original idea was for this to be like those Ella-sings-George-and-Ira-type songbook albums of yore. You know, the canon, maaaan.