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Brian Healy

For those of you who have been living in a box for the last decade or so, Brian Healy is Dead Artist Syndrome. He has been up, and he's been down, but he's never out. One of the things you'll notice about Brian is that he's more complex than a Rubics cube with 5 sides. He's just a guy who makes music, and he allows people to come along for the ride. He's not big on labels, but he attracts them anyway.

For more on Brian visit his site. Without further preamble, ladies and gentlemen I present to you Brian Healy.

Dead Artist Syndrome | reviews

Jevon: I'll get right to it and ask the hard stuff first and then move to the fun stuff. There has been some stuff written about you on various message boards over the last year about your health, and basic state of being. So how are you, and do you ever find it incredibly odd that people you've never met have an interest in how you're doing?

Bian: I went through the worst year of my life where I lost everything ... literally, save for my faith, That said it has all pretty much turned around thanks to the kindness and prayers of the very strangers you mention like the people on the various message boards that took the time to support and pray for me, I know my limitation and that truly is what sustained me I always have be a great believer in grace, both the divine and human forms and I receive an absolutely humbling and overwhelming amount of it from many people I will never know or get to meet who simply reminded me what wonderful things people can be to each other, I think sometimes we get in this mindset of seeing people as a by product of the evils we see around us that we by fallen nature cause and I was taught though this all that the reason we see the worst is because it stands out from the norm, it's like the news, you don't hear about planes landing safely because that is the norm you hear about the oddity that a plane crashed, I think I lost sight of the fact most people are doing their best to be good and change the world for the better but it's the norm so I tended to neglect that part of human nature far too much, that doesn't mean their aren't some real self serving prick son of a bitches out there , it's just those few are a loud exceptions to the rule and not the normal people , I lost sight of that, the down side of this is I have had some people say and do some very actual evil things to me in the past year as well and that darkness held up to the light of the vast amount of goodness in my life showed me I was underestimating both sides of the equation so I had to modify my world view in regard to that information and just re enforce my two basic rules in the light of the old "do onto others" so I require from myself and others in my life that they simply be themselves and they be honest, If you're an asshole fine be an asshole but don't bullshit me and others that you are some reasonable nice guy only to spring the trap 6 months later….In case you didn't notice I really have simplified my already simple life and frankly it is working.

Jevon: I've read that you used to double for the late John Candy (good Canadian kid). How cool was that?

Bian: Wonderful. John was a very kind and generous person who helped me very early on to understand what real class was, he was a great person and an incredible talent who died long before the world got to see how truly great and talented he was beyond comedy, I remember the day we shot a scene for Trains, Planes & Automobiles that tragically got left on the cutting room floor in the final film, it was a scene where Del opens up the trunk they have been lugging the whole movie and we are shown that it contains the last remnants of his life with his late wife and it was like watching Chaplin as John picked up items, totally improvisational, with such affection and care and simply talked about the knick knacks and a lamp and all these junk things to others, as if they were the most valuable thing in the world to Del to the point of even the most bored harden grip on the set had tears rolling down his face because John was so believable and he stuck a cord in the emptiness and fear all of us feed in the darkness of our souls at times so John is not only giving an incredible performance but as an artist he was writing the scene right before our eye's in his mind and it was real life, but the real life of a fictional character.

Jevon: Did you ever give him any tips?

Bian: He showed me what it was like to be in the presence of greatness and generosity and how giving the others you work with all the laughs as long as the final product of the work was improved, I can say from first hand experience no one ever stole a scene from John Candy they couldn't because john in his artist and human brilliance already gave it to them by letting others look good around him and letting them be the focus and get the laugh and the limelight. He also showed me how fame can be a asset to kindness I know of several times John catered food for the whole crew that would be cool enough but when John found out I was working with the homeless in downtown L.A. from that point on he kept accidentally order far too much food and would ask me if I would mind taking it to the homeless I worked with, that was the man I knew he would want to risk some odd scene of generosity so he just would over order by mistake and ask if I wouldn't mine taking it with me when I went down to skid row, Every time I tried to thank him he would claim to have done it by "mistake" but for some reason his "mistakes" were all always wrapped up in to go boxes where as all the other food was ready to serve on the spot, I always asked him how he never lost sight of his being a regular guy and he always said I'm just a lucky kid from Canada, that was so him he really saw himself as just a guy, not the star he could claim to be.

Jevon: Saving Grace is a pretty solid album. Thematically I would guess it was like shooting fish in a barrel. Didn't you even feel a little guilty about picking such an easy target?

saving graceBrian: No, Not in the least, those who are dragging other astray with their borderline heresy are the ones who should feel guilty, not me for pointing out the sickness of the power hungry in the evangelical subculture, I have never bought into the myth that judging something wrong and calling it that is worst than the wrong being judged for lack of a better word, besides I haven't made my comments in secret I am very up from about biting the hand that bleeds me, I also feel if some of these right wing idiots who spell God G-O-P were held accountable for the words and actions by people of faith maybe those who are in fact sincere but, misguide by zeal or arrogance can be brought back on to the track of true redemption though God's grace and mercy.

Jevon: I guess you're not holding your breath to appear with Carman on a TBN special. I think you guys could remake the Little Drummer Boy for a Christmas special. If Bowie and Bing can work together, my mind reels at the possibility of you and the tuxedo clad megastar belting out a tune. Perhaps you could re-enact "The Champion".

As I listened to Saving Grace, one thing kept running through my mind - this is all familiar somehow. And for the longest time, I couldn't put my finger on it, then it came to me - it sounded like a Jeff Elbel solo album, with a singer who could actually sing. I mean, was the deliberate?

Brian: Boy, I don't know who should be more insulted by that ridiculous statement Jeff or me. In fact I can't think of anything DAS or Ping has ever done that make us sound even remotely similar in our work, it is totally different, I have no role in Ping and Jeff's role in DAS was to do what I wanted and what I asked him to do as a player not his personal taste as he would in his own projects so I doubt either of us would agree with your assessment nor do I believe would any DAS or Ping fan, Ping does folk rock DAS does not, Nor would I venture to say anyone would see anything in common between Ping and the Goth Rock DAS does. I mean it's like saying a Yugo and a Rolls Royce are the same because they are both cars. Outside of the fact both DAS and Ping projects involve music they otherwise have nothing in common at all. Save for one song for DAS that we co-wrote they are written by two totally different people, They have nothing in common lyrically or stylistically outside of Jeff playing on both and nothing he did in Ping or DAS sounds anything like the other project, And I think Jeff has a great voice and uses it well in his work of course you are entitled to your opinion but to imply Jeff can't sing is a cheap shot at best and out and out mean at worst. Beside, the statement is factually incorrect in light of the reality of the situation. But hey what do I know I'm just some guy in a band ...

Jevon: This whole Goth thing ... what is it all about?

Brian: Oh just another label people toss out so they can hold the preconceived notions intact.

Jevon: Was it just a label that more or less fit, or did you set out to fit the mold?

Brian: Well the father of Christian Goth label was applied to DAS and me by the late Roz Williams of Christian Death when he heard our stuff back in the day; I'm not one for labels… DAS sounds like it does because that is what I was doing as an artist at the point in time whichever project was recorded and when it's finished I walk away from it. I don't really care what people call it, when I use the term Goth it's simply because it seem to be in most peoples glossary not because I agree with it. That said there are very dark elements to my DAS recordings I have a low vow voice so I'm sure that adds to the label, But I have heard others do DAS songs and some of them are borderline pop songs stylistically, I guess it has do with what you grew up around to a lot of people, deep voice = means dark, to a little old lady in Nashville It's not considered dark at all because they were raised on Tennessee Ernie Ford or Bing Crosby, Johnny Cash and Frankie Lane, To me the father of Goth Vocals in the modern era would be Neil Diamond yet I doubt you would fine anyone who considers him a Goth artist But he was perhaps the most obvious singer who would go for the low note at the end of a line instead of a high note, Hell even Elvis started doing that once Neil had a few hits that way, I also think the ever-overrated Jim Morrison had a lot to do with deep voices somehow being consider dark, either way, that is the perception these days so I'll live with. I also think because I do use a lot of drama and dynamics in my style of singing it is hard for people to label unless they grew up listening to old Broadway musicals, when I do a song I always think of it as a story or soundtrack to an unwritten film, I really care more about turning a phrase and song craft as being of the utmost importance, I'm a storyteller and an actor playing the role of the singer/Artist in DAS. So in that sense we are dark romantic and at times dreamy sounding and yet out of the blue when we do the harder stuff will hit you like a truck because of my punk rock Alice Cooper and 70's glam rock roots that I grew up hearing pre-punk, toss in the Bowie-Ronson- Ian Hunter-T-Rex-Lou Reed-Iggy Pop and my never ending love for Roxy music and the music of the early eighties and I think it a pretty easy to follow the map of why we are such a interesting hybrid of songs and style.

Jevon: Is there any truth to the rumour that you're trying to buy the Munster's old hot rod off of Rob Zombie?

Hired guns. Over the years you've wrangled some pretty impressive talent to work on your terms - how do you approach the studio versus the studio?

Brian: I'll assume you mean the approach between live and the studio, in the studio I just boss around really talented people who know my talents and trust me I like to have a very solid frame work of what I want to do and as I add players and their talents to my ideas I will drag them into my vision of what a work should sound like or I may just take them down a rabbit hole in the spur of the moment if I get and idea and run with, that either works or it doesn't, for everything I love that turns into a magic moment there is also some parts I have put in I've hated myself for adding, the up side is once I put a album in the can I walk away from it. Of course now DAS is starting to play live full time I have to visit the songs all over again, some I love others have things I now would do very differently but in the live set I can always make changes to the songs and the set list while the cd are sort of lock in digital media so the key is to entertain my audience and enjoy it myself. Yes it's my job but hey I want to enjoy what I do… When I work with people like Mike Roe, and the seven's or Derri, Steve & Dan the choir guys that is always fun, what I have had the a lot of fun with is just doing DAS at some big festival without rehearsing at all and letting it fly. Anyone who has seen a DAS Cornerstone set can tell you it's always interesting I won't say it's great or terrible but it always is memorable, without artist trust it could never happen but I stand on the shoulders of giants and they never get to just let it go in their own bands in DAS the moment is more important than any career implications so we are free to go anyway we like and not care beyond let put on a show kiddies.

Jevon: Mary Anne, Ginger, or Morticia Addams?

Brian: Mary Anne

Jevon: If Ted DiBiase approached you to take part in a Christian wrestling event would you take a chair shot in the head for Christ?

Brian: Just the concept repulses me, sort of like crack whores for Christ, some concepts for exploiting Jesus are simply evil.

Jevon: Is there any truth to the rumour that you're a closet Celine Dion fan?

Brian: Can't stand her stuff or that lame song from Titanic, twenty minutes of that flick and I was rooting for the iceberg.

Jevon: You're working on a new album - what is it that drives your creative process? I mean, no offence, but I'm pretty sure it's not the money.

Brian: Hey the money don't suck but No I have been very lucky to get to do what I do with very talented people and was simply doing the right thing at the right time and people liked it, for me I just start with a thought or a story in my head or maybe a melody and I sort of just play with it for a while and either I see if it writes it's self or if I should put it in the idea section of my brain for further work at a later time or maybe program it out on the old G-5 to see what comes of it, most of the time I seem to get the whole song at once and just keep reworking it till I happy and then I walk away from it for a few weeks and check it out later to see if I still like it or if it worth doing. Most of the time in the studio is just seeing where the song takes itself and following that course. By the time I bring in other player it is at the point of me just telling them what parts I want them to play and capturing that performance, which is where the magic happens, I can give Derri, Mike Roe and Jeff the same exact part and get totally different results on style and feel or texture. At that point I can pick one or blend them all into one part or track. Every level offers a whole new world of choices and options to explore and I try to simply find the best of many versions to complete my vision of the song. So I while I openly admit I can stand on the shoulders of musical giants they are standing on the floor and foundation I built under them.

Jevon: What's playing at the moment in your CD player?

Brian: The Choir Oh How The Mighty Have Fallen which is a brilliant masterpiece.

Jevon: What song do you wish you'd written?

Brian: Artistically speaking "Five Years" by David Bowie, Commercially anything that sold 20 million or any U2 song. Best of Both worlds A Day In The Life or Hey Jude by Lennon and Mc Cartney I will say narrowing it down to only one tune is impossible because I listen to everything how can I compare Rhapsody in Blue by Gershwin to London Calling by the Clash or Johnny Cash to Peter Gabriel there is simply too much great music available to the world today I mean how do I compare Leonard Cohen to Sinatra or Elvis or John Williams to Mike Roe… my life has a very weird soundtrack.

Jevon: I'm about to open the whole CCM can of worms, mainly because I'm too lazy to think up anything. The one caveat I have is that you have to try and differentiate between radio CCM, and the majority of the stuff that gets released with no real radio support.

Brian: Sadly most Christian music played on the radio is just something like a commercial for Jesus simply to fill time in between commercials for Christian chiropractors and to entertain bored and unhappy Christian housewives.

Jevon: If you could pick any act to play with live who would it be? Personally I think you and John Tesh (another big guy) would make an interesting double bill. I can almost picture the two of you together at Red Rocks doing a special for PBS and asking for donations (or perhaps TBN, you could pray your way to financial freedom!)

Brian: Billy Graham, Alice Cooper or U2

Jevon: Prints of Darkness - I'll admit it's not an album in my collection, but I get notes from people fairly often telling me it's a killer album (maybe I should buy a copy, know anyone who could get me a deal?). I heard a couple of tracks, and the Christmas song was wicked. Are you ever surprised at the shelf this project seems to have?

Brian: Well anytime something takes on a life of it's own you kind of have to sit back and enjoy the ride, I really don't view it in a success or failure mode I just see it as this is what I do and you can take it or leave it, But something about certain records or a song does appeal to people on a universal level and you catch a break that keeps it alive and on Prints I guess I caught one of those breaks as it's has never stopped being in demand. In fact we just recut a new version of "Christmas" that will be out this fall on a compilation for Psychoacoustix.called "Shadows of Christmas" that we are real happy with, I recorded it with L. Ron Jeremy of Frankenstein and who has been in some of my all time favorite bands since he was a kid in the whole LA Goth-punk scene. He and Steve of Frankenstein did a great job playing and I will pretty much be working with them in the future for the new DAS album.

Jevon: If you were able to clear up one misconception people who don't know you have about you, what would it be?

Brian: That I'm a total nice guy or a complete asshole, both are wrong I'm just another idiot in a band stumbling toward the light in a dark world.

Jevon: What's in the future for Dead Artist Syndrome?

Brian: Mainstream releases and just playing club it's a lot more fun than the big rock shows we have done in the past I'd rather play for a hundred people who are into the music we do than 2000 where a lot of them are just waiting for the next band in the old festival mix to hit the stage. We are getting incredible mainstream press and attention and we will continue along that path as far as it goes. Jeremy and I plan to start work on the new DAS project Kissing Strangers in a little bit here we start recording yet again. Also nailing a better mainstream deal for DAS in the US and Europe and a bunch of live gigs.

Jevon: Well, I think that's about it ... I think I've pretty much run out of wind, and I don't want you to think I'm totally unprofessional. Wait, unprofessional would be to introduce potty humour into a serious interview with a serious musician. Brian, do you ever pull your own finger to see what happens?

There, I've officially overstayed my welcome. Once again thanks to Mister Brian Healy for taking time away from his busy schedule to play the home version of "Interview with a professional." Visit the official DAS site and learn more for yourself.

Jevon the Tall
October 2005 | the music interview section

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