Interview with Josh Haden – Spain – Part Two

Interview with Josh Haden (Spain) – Part 2 by Killian Laher

In the second part of this interview, Josh talks about his favourite music and also the state of the music industry today. You can find part one of the interview here. You can see the results below…

What are some of your favourite albums by other artists, ideally a mixture of albums you’ve always liked along with some newer discoveries?

Oh lord. That is a good question. My top ten albums of all time are:

Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra (1970)
Charles Mingus – Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus (1963)
Cream – Fresh Cream (1966)
Creedence Clearwater Revival (1968)
Flux – Uncarved Block (1986)
John Lee Hooker – It Serve You Right To Suffer (1966)
Minutemen – Double Nickels On The Dime (1984)
Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)
The Ornette Coleman Quartet – This Is Our Music (1961)
The Residents – Meet The Residents (1974)

I try to keep up with new music as much as I can, but I have to admit I’m not very good at it. I really love the new album from Lucinda Williams, The Ghosts Of Highway 20, and all of Brian Jonestown Massacre’s recent releases, starting with 2012’s Aufheben. I love Bon Iver and am waiting for their new album.

There are two younger (from my perspective, from a five year old’s perspective they are pretty old) artists who I really like. One is Julien Baker who I first heard when my friend Adam Pfaler from Jawbreaker posted her impromptu cover of Jawbreaker’s “Accident Prone” on his Facebook page. Spain played a couple of the same festivals this Spring that she played so I got to catch her set and I was really impressed with her passion and songwriting.

Another young artist I really like is Declan McKenna, he reminds me of me and my friends when we were teenagers. We were all learning our instruments and playing punk rock music, we didn’t care about what our peers thought of us and all our songs were political. We were singing about global warming, the destruction of the earth, fascism, nuclear war, Ronald Reagan, and this was in the 1980s! We were so young. Most musicians these days are scared to write political songs but Declan is meeting it head on, at the age of seventeen he’s confronting some really serious issues in an inventive and creative way that his peers aren’t and artists twice his age avoid and I’m so proud of him for doing that.

One thing I’m scared of for both of them are these predatory major labels. When I read that Declan had “forty record labels” wanting to sign him at the age of sixteen and he ultimately went with Columbia my heart just broke. Columbia Records is the devil. I wish I could have talked to him and told him about my experience with major labels, how they almost destroyed my life and my love for music. Why does any artist need a major label these days? With the internet and everything, and especially with such a buzz behind these guys. What was Columbia telling Declan they could give him that he couldn’t get on his own? When I first signed with Restless in 1994 I knew it was a bad contract but I needed to start somewhere. David Geffen said months before, “I like your music but I don’t know how to market it, I can’t sign you.” Restless was the first label to offer me a little money to get started and I took the deal. My lawyer and music friends all advised me against it but I did it anyways. Without that horrible contract the debut Spain album, 1995’s The Blue Moods Of Spain would never have existed. I knew I had to take that lousy deal to get started.

Then the major labels moved in and it was all over for me. I couldn’t record or play live gigs for years, and when it was finally over I lost the passion for it and I wanted to quit music entirely. Thank god for Dan the Automator bringing me back in. But why does Declan need a major label? The recording process is so democratic now. You don’t need a lot of money to make a great record, and promotion is free.

There are still great indie labels who care about music and artist’s rights over profit margin and tax write-offs. My European label, Glitterhouse, saved my career. Dangerbird is doing a lot of good stuff. So there’s hope for the business side of music.

Anything in particular you’ve loved musically this year?

Aside from Brian Jonestown Massacre, I really love Kamasi Washington’s The Epic. I’d do anything to play just one gig with his band. I went to see the Residents show for their latest album earlier this year and that was really great. I saw the new Residents documentary there as well.

Killian Laher