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Our Interview with Michael Truckpile




Michael Truckpile's music dances across the boundaries of folk, country and gut-bucket rocking. With his intently explorative voice and steady acoustic guitar playing, Michael spins yarns of frustration and hope around the question marks of life. Having grown up in a house full of music with a mom who played keyboards in rock bands and a music writer for a dad, Michael went on sewing musical seeds in the d.i.y. communities of upstate NY. He'?s played drums and sang since adolescence but only recently took up song crafting on guitar after clandestinely purchasing a beautiful, old beat up 1940's arch top at a garage sale in Kingston. That was in June of 2003 and Michael has since written, recorded and released a full length CD on Art of the Underground Records, played shows in venues as varied as barns and big rock clubs and toured around the U.S. Michael is also the drummer and singer for the hyperactive pop duo The Kiss Ups. Biography supplied by Please visit Michael's site to hear his music and learn more about his upcoming projects and tour dates.



EWR: Where do you usually find your inspiration to write your songs?


Michael: Song writing is a delicate animal for me.  Sometimes I try to pet the animal and give it a nice little loving scratch on the head or a pat on the belly and it knocks my lights out, then I can't pick the guitar up for another two months.  Other times I just push a bunch of crap to the side in my mind somehow and it just flows out like a stream.  I would love to say that I can just turn it on and off, but it's quite a bit more taciturn and temperamental than that.

Sometimes the inspiration is in a specific topic and I know that I need to write a song about a specific thing and then I find the words and melodies to express it.  Sometimes I'm just messing around with some guitar parts and a melody comes to my mind and I sing nonsense syllables until they start to transform into words and those songs will direct me toward what the song's about.  Many times a song just starts with the first line and I'm drawn into following where that first group of words that sound so good together are going to take me.

EWR: It seems many of your songs are about friendship? Do you find creating music with other musicians helps you in the creative process?

Michael: My friends and community are quite dear to me.  I've been blessed with friendships and circles of friends that seem to continue to deepen and grow, and I guess that thread has made it's way into a lot of my songs.  Interestingly enough, the Michael Truckpile stuff is almost always written in total isolation.  I have a hard time even writing if my partner is in the room and never around anyone else at all.  I was noticing the other day when I was working on a song and Jacinta was in the room that I was censoring myself before it even got outside my mind.  I need to have the safety to know that I can sing a line or go off in a direction with a lyric or idea and know that I may be the only one that ever hears it!  Because frankly, sometimes the first thing off the top of my head is completely embarrassing or cheesy, and I need to be able to let that type of stuff fall flat on it's face or just trickle down through version after version until it gets distilled down to how and what I actually want to say.

In band situations writing music with other musicians has been great, and I actually miss that and still hold the hope that I'll be able to find some other musicians to write with for Michael Truckpile, but have yet to go out and seek them.


EWR: Your father is a music critic. How does this usually play on your songwriting? Do you feel he is overly critical?

I can't figure out whether he's overly critical or not.  I know I'm overly critical on myself.  Does that trickle down from him or am I just a neurotic self-effacing bastard?  My dad has heard truck loads of music in his life and doesn't necessarily have the same tastes as me.  For example my dad thinks the Beatles are pap, and I would argue that the Beatles are one of the greatest bands of all time.  But my dad is also supportive and gives the occasional suggestion that helps.  The worst is if he doesn't say anything, then you know he's either not feeling it or he's just off in his own world.


EWR: What bands or musicians most influence you? Would you classify the music from your CD as folk?

Michael: The best genre classification that I've been able to come up with is "Garage Folk."  Just like the garage rock bands of the sixties didn't have a lot of training or grooming, they just busted it out and laid their guts out in front of themselves and rocked.  I have the same effect, but I'm playing an acoustic guitar and taking influences from not just rock and roll but all types of American and non-American music forms. It seems anything can be classified as folk, but as for traditional folk influences, I have few.  I'm not sitting around listening to Phil Ochs , or Odetta, or Pete Seeger very often.  I know and respect them, but haven't really dug my teeth into traditional folk.  My music is probably some derivative sub-division of some leg of indie rock or another, who knows.  I grew up listening to 70s and 80s rock and new wave with my parents and then got into hair metal from about 7-12 years old and then got seriously into punk and then almost every other form of music I could get my hands on after that that sounded good to me.  I listen to a lot of different genres, but I think specifically with the Michael Truckpile stuff I can say there is some Joni Mitchell, some Dylan, Neil Young and some Billy Bragg in there among other things.


EWR: Please tell me about your solo album and what you hoped to achieve by publishing it. How did you hope it would have a particular impact on your audience? Did people react the way you had hoped?

Michael: My first CD is just a bunch of songs that I had written while teaching myself to play the guitar then I realized, "Hey, these are good, I should do something with this!"  First, I recorded seven of these songs in one quick day with Dean Jones, here in Rosendale, and I made some quick cover art and slapped it together as a holiday gift for my friends and family.  I gave a copy of that to Alex Kerns at Art of the Underground in Buffalo. He had just released a split LP for my band The Kiss Ups whom I played drums and sang for.  He really liked it and asked me if he could put it out.  I was somewhat taken a back, but of course said “Yes, but let me work on it some more.”  I ended up writing a bunch more and tweaking and re-recording until I got it to a point I liked it. The result was the 13 song Michael Truckpile debut cd.  The only impact that I hoped it might have on people was for them to relate to it and for some of the songs or words to help make dealing with our crazy lives a bit more bearable and less isolated.  And it's been sweet because I've gotten some feedback to that effect and it helps me realize that it's good for me to continue writing and making music and sharing my ideas and spirit with the world.



EWR: Tell me about the Sparkle Kids Action Network. How would you categorize the music, if possible, and do you feel you will put out an album with the group?

Michael: The Sparkle Kids Action Network isn't actually a band, I guess we're more like a gang.  It's just me and Jacinta Bunnell, my partner, who is the author of these amazing coloring books Girls Will Be Boys, Will Be Girls, Will Be... and Girls are Not Chicks that challenge traditional gender roles, and my other musician friends Dave End and Julie Novak.  We all had separate sets on tour. Jacinta did a coloring book making (zine) workshop, and then we all did a song together at the end of the night.  We all wanted to go on tour together and we wanted to have an umbrella identity to unify us and bring the whole package together.  S.K.A.N. was a powerful force to reckon with throughout the Midwest as we toured in a used vegetable oil powered diesel luxury touring sedan, with one acoustic guitar between us!  


EWR: You are the drummer in The Kiss Ups. You've are a solo artists, and you are also part of the Sparkle Kids Action Network. Your music seems so varied at times it seems you need multiple outlets. How do you deal with creating such varied music?

Michael: I actually just started a really far out project with my friend Julian Velard who is a fantastic pianist/singer/songwriter this past weekend.  I don't know if I'm even at liberty to talk about it! I love multiple outlets, there are so many different ways that one could express one's self, it's a thrill to experiment and inter-mix ideas and influences with other folks.  The Kiss Ups are pretty much on hold right now until further notice.  But mostly the Michael Truckpile project has been my main thing, I'm excited though to get back on the drums in some of the newer projects in the works and rock out a little. 

EWR: Thanks so much for doing this.


Michael: Thanks again so much!  It’s been fun.