'Songs From The Big House'
At age 21, Damon moved away from home. Along with his brother Alexander and their friend Ian, he formed Inouk. They released an album called No Danger and played shows with the Double, the Occasion, Modest Mouse, White Magic, the Secret Machines and more. Inouk dissolved after a few years, but in its final and most tumultuous period, Damon decided to record - alone - some of the bedroom songs he never got to play with the band.
He tracked 22 songs in the two days before Christmas Eve, almost all of them first or second takes. A year later the band broke up and he was left with the collection of spare recordings that would become 'Mansions'.
Although he sometimes plays gigs with a live band, most of the songs on Mansions are simply Damon’s vocals and guitar. The album is a rock & roll record - intense and grabbing - without a crutch to lean on; a psychedelic record - imaginative and uneasy - with nothing to hide behind. His guitar picking is laid back, but vocally, every syllable is laboriously annunciated and smattered with an unmistakable vibrato.
'Mansions' is a record that is quiet and simple but explosively pained - the sound of inner troubles turned outwards and transformed in the process.
Chatting recently with Damon, I first wondered whatever happened to Inouk and will we ever see a CD of theirs in the stores? "With Inouk I guess what happened was that we started to realize we were on different pages artistically and creatively and conflicts arose because of that, also personal problems. First, my brother and I started working separately from the other three members of the band, and then we realized that between the two of us there were two different paths that needed to be followed. So we decided we too should do separate projects. I think my brother felt a more of a musical kinship with the three of them so now he is actually playing in a band with them, not sure what will happen with that though."
Your new album title 'Mansions' is an interesting one, but I'm wondering if it originates from a more personal standpoint? "I kind of just liked the way it sounded. I thought it applied in the sense that it had kind of a proud feel to it but also kind of a vacant; sad feel to it as well. I think Green Mansions was the title of some short story I read and I shortened it."
If there was one track on this new album that truly encapsulated Damon McMahon at his musical and lyrical finest, which one would it be? "I think 'Elizabeth Taylor' is probably the most instantly appealing one. Maybe it's a comfortable melody or something, but I think they all have something I think is individually strong about them. I don't consider any of them to be less than any other or filler of sorts. My favorite is 'The Gift' or 'Up Out From The Leaves,' ... also really like 'Not A Slave'."
And whilst we're revealing things, it's been said that you used to keep all your songs stowed away in a drawer in a plastic bag ... is this still true of you today?! "It is! I have a bag, probably two or three now that I keep in a shelf above my stove. Probably not the best place for a bag full of paper, but it just happens to be where it ended up!"
As a lot of the songs on this record are so-called 'mean-spirited love songs,' I'm wondering what has happened in your life to creative this form of lyrical writer?! "Maybe people piss me off, I don't know! I think music is a good tool to feel stronger about something, or of releasing feelings about certain things that happen. Also I always liked writers who could attack with music or with their songs. I always admired that and related to it."
Also, please tell us more about the cover art for this CD in which someone is seated at the bottom of some stairs, a blanket spread out beneath their feet!! "The cover is a photo my ex-girlfriend's dad took of her when she was a little girl. This record was finished around the time she and I were sort of separating so I thought it was even more potent at that time. Just carried significance for me. Also it had a sad loving feel to it, but felt kind of weird and dark too."
Do you have a funny, possibly embarrassingly story you can tell us that may have happened to you on this road to stardom?! "Hmmm ... nothing comes to mind at that moment. My brother got electrocuted while playing once!"
Please tell us more about the song 'Somewhere In France' and how it came about? "'Somewhere In France' was about France because my girlfriend was from France - and the whole beginning of the song is describing a picture I found of her family from when she was little in Marseilles."
Finally, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) song would you love to cover today if asked ... and why?! "I love Madonna and just did a sick ass version of 'Like A Prayer' at karaoke the other night!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
If you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Damon's new CD, just answer this easy question: Not too long ago, Damon McMahon was in the short-lived rock band named above called Inouk ... but from which US city did they originate?!
Send me your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these great new and AUTOGRAPHED CDs! Just send us an e:mail here before October 15th with your answer and the subject title 'CONTEST: DAMON McMAHON SIGNED CDs' to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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