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Music Reviews

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April 6, 1994

Interview with Miss Alans

The debut major label release from Fresno's own Miss Alans is set for April 12, 1994. The album, Blusher (Zoo), is a kaleidoscope of modern alternative rock; drenching guitars and sonic surprises abound on the 14 cuts, which feature Scott Oliver on vocals and rhythm guitar, Manny Diaz on lead guitar, Jay Fung on bass, and Ron Woods on drums.

Miss AlansThe band, who hail from Fresno, has a record release party scheduled for April 14th at Club Fred, followed by an all-ages show on Saturday, April 30th at 8 p.m. at the Fresno State University Satellite Student Union.

I spoke with the group about their album, their seven years together, and the trials and tribulations of life as a working band.

Metronews: What are your musical influences?

Scott: We like a lot of things. It ranges from jazz and rap through sonic thrash.

Jay: The bottom line is, we've been together long enough that when we start playing, whether it's live or on record, what you hear is us, not someone else.

Metronews: Who writes your songs?

Scott: We all write them together. I tend to write a lot of the lyrics, but we all come into the studio with some ideas. I mean, some of our best songs have come in from a hook that Jay started.

Metronews: Tell me about the recording of Blusher.

Jay: We had reached the point where we had decided that we needed to do a project on our own, and for whatever reason, there was a kind of a lack of what we were looking for as far as label interests...So we just recorded the whole thing, we found a producer -- we got very lucky, had a mutual friend, Tracy Chisholm, who just worked with Belly ... It was lucky, we got him right out of a project, so he was willing to work with us.

Metronews: What did Tracy (Chisholm, the producer) do for you in the studio?

Jay: Scott could probably best answer that.

Scott: Busted our butts. It's always good to have a producer that runs you through the ringer...We made up our mind on our first project that we just have to let the producer, you know, we really have to listen to what he says, and unless it really, really turns our stomach, we have to go with it.

Metronews: So in some sense, he's like an editor.

Scott: Yeah, that's pretty much it exactly.

Miss AlansJay: Or like a movie director at times too. Plus, I think we got really lucky with chemistry, which is another difficult thing. Just like you'll read about some movie star walking off the set, that's why I was kidding when I said Scott could probably best answer the question. Tracy was trying to elicit something out of Scott that he wasn't used to, and it was a tough go...We had to totally give up almost, just like you've got the blindfold on and the producer is leading you out on to the plank, and you just hope that when you get that final product and you throw it down and listen to it, you'll like it. And with Tracy, it all worked out right.

Metronews: How long did you spend in the studio?

Scott: We tracked in seven days and mixed in about the same amount, so it was about two weeks, which was extremely fast for any normal recording band.

Jay: That was a long time for us too, usually we're in for about half that time.

Manny: We do a lot of pre-production. Before we go into the studios, the producer will work with us re-arranging parts of a song...A lot of the times we do things on the first or second take rather than having to keep on doing it over and over again.

Metronews: To what extent do you use electronic effects or reverbs or overdubs or whatever on Blusher?

Manny: Well, we basically do our tracking live. The rhythm tracks are almost all live. The drums, bass, rhythm guitar, my basic guitar part, or Scott's basic guitar part are all done at the same time and then we'll go back and overdub any guitar parts that are needed or keyboard parts or percussion parts and vocal parts as well.

Jay: It's kind of an age-old argument, how much stuff do you do to the songs, how real are they compared to the songs that you actually play live in front of people?...Most of our songs are geared towards the live performance.

Scott: One interesting thing is that on every song we found one thing to run through a Leslie speaker...We had an old Leslie speaker in Oregon, and so on either one guitar part or even on a vocal or on a bass, it just kind of became a common thread on the album...On one song, Patti Smith Fan Club, I couldn't get it slithery enough, so I said, "Let's just cram the whole entire mastered version of the song through the Leslie speaker and mike it and then put that down on tape." That whole song is through a Leslie speaker.

Metronews: A couple of years ago the Supreme Love Gods were interviewed and there was that quote about Fresno being a "cultural wasteland." Any response or counterpoint or agreement?

Scott: No, not at all in agreement. We like it here, and the people who come to see us have been really good, and we're looking forward to doing the record release shows, 'cause our last show at The Blue was really, really good.

Manny: We usually have them introduce us as "From Fresno, California, the Miss Alans."

Scott: I've always thought that R.E.M. is a band that reminds me of our band a bit because they say, "This is where we're from, we're not going to put on the funny clothes because you wouldn't buy it anyway if we did" ... We don't mind telling people where we're from, we like living here, and we are never going to dress in a way that we wouldn't get up in the morning and dress anyway.

Miss AlansManny: I think bands in Fresno keep their own personality and while they're influenced say, by a record or other things, we don't have the situation you find in big cities where there are 20 bands that basically sound alike. That will never happen here because one band practices over on one side of Fresno and we practice over here, so everybody develops and keeps their own personality.

Metronews: I took that line -- to the extent it signified that there could be more cultural happenings in Fresno, I didn't disagree with it, but to the extent it got twisted and turned into a mean knock, I don't think that is where they were coming from.

Scott: I don't either.

Jay: Well, he did say something about it being a vacuum too, and I think that, you know, it's easy to fall victim to the whole idea that there isn't ballet, opera and classical music going on- Manny: Is that culture? It depends on how you want to define culture.

Jay: I know, but what I am saying is-

Manny: I had the same argument with my sister. In August we have all those great festivals, the Greek, Armenian-

Jay: What I am saying is, there is a perception that "culture" is defined in certain ways and maybe we don't have a lot of that, but like you and Scott are saying, we have a lot of different cultures in the Valley, then you have exactly a point well made.

Metronews: We have an amazingly vibrant live theater scene around town.

Manny: See, that's the thing. There's stuff to do. I think it is just easy to fall victim to, like, "Well I can't go see seven bands in one day."

Ron: You wouldn't want to see seven bands in one day.

Scott: I think if you picked any of the arts, you can find somebody that does it in Fresno as good as anybody can do it and they should do it here, and they should get in their car and drive down for a weekend and do it in L.A., and come back here and do it some more and then drive to San Francisco for a weekend and show other people that "I'm the guy from Fresno, and I can do it just as good as you can."

Metronews: Does the band have a political view, or a world view, or a life view that you try to get across in your music?

Jay: No, it's so diverse. I think we're always trying to be as positive as possible. If people walk away feeling better than they did when they walked in, then that's essentially what we're trying to do...I think that we all have a collective idea that we are trying to come across with, this is us, this is our music, and we hope you like it.

Metronews: What are the future plans for the band?

Ron: We're just going to go for the ride, you know, see how far it takes us. When we finally saw the contract, Scott had a good point. He asked if there was anything in the contract that they could come after us for. I own a house, so the question was, "Could they come and take away my house?" No they can't, so away we go.

Jay: So, if we're totally flops, they can't take Ron's house.

Ron: Honestly, considering all of the bands that are out there, we're pretty lucky to be where we are, to know that someone is going to pay for us to play our music.

Manny: Remember, buy the album, and make sure they don't foreclosure on the mortgage to Ron's house (laughs).

-- Randy Krbechek

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