Trey Spruance Interview, 2017

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Today’s interview with Trey Spruance of Mr. Bungle and Secret Chiefs 3 and Mimicry Records was recorded in August, 2017.

While I’ve got you here, listen to this. I just released a trailer for an animated TV show pilot I’m working on starring Dweezil Zappa, Jon Schnepp of Metalocalypse, rest in peace, Mike Keneally, yes, that Mike Keneally, LeeAnna Vamp, Joanie Brosas, and Ebony Amber. If you go to, OracleOfOuterSpace, you can watch the trailer, and you’ll notice the main character, Gary, is wearing a certain band’s t-shirt, and I think those of you who came here just for this interview will appreciate it. 

Before we get started, quick shout out to my endorsement companies, Ernie Ball, Fractal Audio, Millennia Media and Toontrack. Come on, Cubase. Let’s get your name on here. Oh, whoops. So let’s go to Mike Stone’s garage near San Diego, also known as Metronomicon Studios, where I talk with Trey about composing the first Mr. Bungle album, music theory, orchestration, recording, the anti-business of music, politics and even a bit of religion, which was kind of uncomfortable. Holy moly. So, here we go, Trey Spruance. 

Trey Spruance Interview

The Interview

Carl King: How does it feel to be in Mike Stone’s garage? 

Trey Spruance: It feels good. He has way better headphones. I only have one pair of Realistic from Radio Shack … Radio Shack is now defunct, I guess, or at least the one near me, and I’m sad because I can’t get $25 headphones anymore. I’m going to have to buy one of these good studio pairs. 

Carl King: Yeah, I keep buying these Vic Firths. It’s almost become a fashion thing for me. Everywhere I go, I end up wearing these. 

Trey Spruance: I noticed last night at the show you had it as ear protection, which is smart. 

Carl King: Yeah, I’m usually working in video and I work around of drummers and a lot of shows, so I just … It’s so much easier than earplugs, with the dirty wax and everything going in and out of your ears. It’s just like, forget it. 

Trey Spruance: I mean, I totally agree- 

Carl King: Just pop them on, there you go. 

Trey Spruance: … and it’s really great that a drum company would be making … because the drums, that’s the problem. I stand right in front of them every night. Maybe Vic Firth would endorse me for just the ear protection aspect. 

Carl King: I actually tried, like when I was doing mostly video stuff, I was trying to … “Hey, do you think Vic Firth would give me a deal or something?” I asked one of my drummer friends. It’s funny. Didn’t go anywhere, but, oh well. 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, there’s always talk about all these endorsement things. I’ve never got any of them, but ear protection, that’s the new one. I think there’s a future in ear protection. 

Carl King: I want to briefly address something and then we can move past it. 

Trey Spruance: Like taking a really big crap and then we’re home free after that, okay. 

Carl King: Yeah, and then the interview’s over. I haven’t seen you in like 10 years. 

Trey Spruance: It has to be 10 years. 

Carl King: Yeah. 

Trey Spruance: Yeah. 

Carl King: And I want to go back and apologize for the Sir Millard Mulch stuff even though you always seemed to be cool with it and amused by it. 

Trey Spruance: I never felt victimized at all by it, but you’re on the edge. 

Carl King: I was. 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, yeah. 

Carl King: Well, I mean, I was annoying. I was a troll, professionally. 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, you were like a proto-troll, yeah. But you never did anything to me that I feel like you have to apologize for at all. 

Carl King: Yeah. I enjoyed our friendship back in San Francisco and then once I started kind of getting involved with the Sir Millard Mulch being on Mimicry kind of thing, I started getting really motivated by the ambition of it and feeling like “I’m going to be on Trey’s label.” I was really desperate. That started taking over, and I became very … wanting to prove to everybody that I was on a label or something. 

Trey Spruance: No, great. It’s great to hear you say … I mean, most people don’t have the guts to come out of the shell after something like that, but you weren’t … Again, you weren’t egregious about it. That was always the plan. To me, the satirical aspect of what you did was understood from the very beginning, and if I’m the butt of it, that’s part of the deal. 

Carl King: Yeah, and anyway, I know that I just wanted to put that out there because I do feel embarrassed that that happened and then I feel I’m not sure what happened but then we weren’t in contact for a long time, and I felt like I regretted that because I enjoyed just hanging out with you as a person. 

Trey Spruance: Oh, well, that’s nice. 

Carl King: And then once that took on the other thing, it totally, I felt like, messed up what was going on. 

Trey Spruance: Maybe interfered a little bit, but actually, frankly from my end I just became more of a hermit over time and like most of my friends sort of felt that I was withdrawing from them too, aside from any of this stuff. So there’s both. Both things happened. I just sort of- 

Carl King: Well I know you’re a hermit. You are very elusive. 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, and I was really just kind of putting my head down and then we started going on tour. This is a good thing, tour and having a social life. To me, two or three tours in a year is essentially all the socializing I can even take, and the rest of the time I just want to be completely alone or just with my wife. 

Carl King: I can dig it. 

Trey Spruance: You understand, right? It is enough. It’s enough sort of talking for one year, even just being on one tour. But I have never thought, “Oh, that fucking Mulch guy, I don’t want to hang out with that asshole.” We just didn’t talk. Really, that’s all that happened there. 

Carl King: Right. Awkward compliment. I’ve always found you much more even interesting as a person than as a musician, and I discovered that pretty quickly after hanging out with you. It was like, “There’s an interesting character here,” and I think that that ended up, later on when I got into documentary filmmaking and stuff like that, I think picking up on that is what later developed into filmmaking and all that, and writing and stuff like that. 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, you’ve been doing tons of stuff, right? I’ve seen a little bit of it. I even heard the thing you did … And I say this is well received, a kind of reinterpretation of Mr. Bungle music. 

Mr. Bungle for Orchestra by Carl King

Carl King: I was going to ask if … That is going to be one of the questions here, yeah. 

Trey Spruance: It was good. 

Carl King: So you did come across that? 

Trey Spruance: I heard it, yeah. 

Carl King: Cool, cool. 

Trey Spruance: I was like, “Whoa, this is pretty good.” Actually I think it was Trevor who heard it first, or said something about it. No, I had heard it. Trevor had mentioned it too. He thought it was pretty good too. There’s lots of people who do … Let’s put it this way, who sort of think they know what’s going on with that music, and when you focus on just the vocals or just the guitar part, there’s always like, “How do you do that guitar part?” Man, are you listening to this record? The guitar part is just nothing. It’s barely even part of the jigsaw puzzle. It’s just a teeny little piece. 

Carl King: I like that you describe it as a jigsaw puzzle. 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, I mean you caught a bunch of the stuff and then you also put your own sort of imagination into it, which is- 

Carl King: Either that or I just made mistakes, but- 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, lots of mistakes, lots of transcription errors, too many tritones. 

Carl King: Too many tritones? 

Trey Spruance: Yeah. Or too little. It’s hard to tell with tritones. But it was good, because it was re-imagined in a way that was entertaining for us to hear. Like, “Oh, cool.” All those little nuances are there and then you went a different way with it. It was pretty great. 

Carl King: Well, thank you. 

Trey Spruance: I mean, those MIDI bullshit sounds aside- 

Carl King: Right. 

Trey Spruance: It’s hard to get away from that, right? I mean, how do you get away from … If you’re not going to spend tons of money …

Carl King: If you’re not going to spend $10,000 an hour or whatever, a minute or whatever it is, there’s no way. 

Trey Spruance: I could put out so many records if I didn’t have this insistence upon having all these instruments be played by actual people, you know? 

Carl King: Yes, and I notice that when I listen to your Book of Souls: Folio A. 

Trey Spruance: Yeah. 

Carl King: I started listening to that, and it was right when I was kind of getting into the orchestration stuff, learning about sample libraries and everything. I started listening through it, and I was like, “How is he doing this with … Are the actual people playing this? Or wait, some of this might be samples. I can’t tell. But oh man, this would be very difficult.” 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, it’s a laborious … It’s like building a … well, we mentioned skyscrapers before. That’s what it feels like, because you have a superstructure. Very often I will have … I mean, I’ll use the same kind of MIDI sounds that I hear on the thing that you did, and to me it’s a perfectly legitimate mock-up, and what’s cool about that is that musicians will hear … they can hear the scaffolding and go, “Okay, I generally know my place in this skyscraper.” If you give them a part, have them play the thing, it just gives them more to latch onto, so it’s unfair of me to call it bullshit MIDI because I use those as scaffolding, and sometimes, to be totally candid, especially with string sounds, it’s tricky. It’s hard to get a full orchestral thing no matter how many overdubs you do. 

I do various techniques of having a violinist or viola take different seats in the section and do this … 

Carl King: Right, you can put the mics up and put up three or four chairs, I even heard of. Like a violinist I know will do that. He’ll sit here, sit there, sit there, sit there-

Trey Spruance: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. 

Carl King: … and overdub. 

Trey Spruance: They’re doing that since the beginning with this stuff, and also swapping out different instruments. I give motivations. I’ll be like, “You’re the first violinist, so you’re playing a little sharp, you’re really cocky. You’re trying to kiss ass to the conductor.” Then the second violinist, “Well, you’re competitive but you’re trying to show all of this nuance,” all the way down the line til you’re like eighth chair and every third note is a clam, you know what I mean? This shit matters, but even then, when it’s all said and done, it doesn’t matter how many convolution reverbs you add … I do all this stuff to try to make it sound like true orchestral. 

Sometimes those fake string sounds that I started with will make it into the background as like a reverb. If you use them as a reverb, you sort of get the … I wouldn’t say the best of both worlds. It’s actually a better reverb most of the time than using … I use even spring reverbs and go into various outboard gear, like real outboard gear, but I find that a lot of the times, if you use the tails of the MIDI strings as reverbs, it kind of solves a lot of issues and you still have all of the overdub stuff as the front end. 

Carl King: So do you build mock-ups for this stuff with samples? 

Trey Spruance: Yeah. 

Carl King: And then replace? 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, on the instruments that … like obviously I can do the bass and guitar parts and give people keyboard parts and stuff like that, but if it’s like an oboe, I don’t play an oboe, so I’ll do a mock-up of an oboe, so they’ll have something to … Usually when you’re hiring an oboe player, they’re going to read so you don’t really have to make a mock-up, but I find it’s better than … 

Well, one thing I don’t like to do is export out of Digital Performer into a standard MIDI file, bring it into Finale and spend a day writing articulations. Let’s just put it that way. It’s a huge amount of time, and if I just give somebody a MIDI file with rhythm and notes and basic dynamics, that’s way better. You just kill the … You save tons of time. 

Carl King: I’ve run into sort of both sides of that in hiring people that … I brought in a bassoon player one time and I didn’t over-articulate the notation. It was really basic. It was like basic dynamics, forte, piano, crescendo. That was as nuanced as it got, and he just interpreted it and he was happy to do that. He put his spin on it. First take, perfect. Boom, thank you. 

Trey Spruance: I think in this town, meaning Los Angeles, even though that’s not where we are, I think that’s where everything is now. These are good musicians. If you’re paying them to do something, pay them for their musicianship. You don’t need to micromanage them. 

Carl King: Yeah, however I’ve run into a guy recently, I just interviewed a guy named Artiom, a cellist from Armenia. He does a lot of movie scores and stuff, and if he shows up and there’s not enough detail and he feels like the composers are putting it on him, he’ll just say, “I don’t know what to play. What do I do? I don’t know. It’s not written. I don’t know what to do,” because he’s tired of being taken advantage of in some situations- 

Trey Spruance: Surely, surely. 

Carl King: … So it’s- 

Trey Spruance: I hear that argument. Yeah, totally. When there’s people who don’t even know how to score and they’re coming in and saying, “Well try it this way, do it that way, do it this way. We’re just going to sample it and make … then you’re going to write the whole fucking thing for me but it’s all mine.” Yeah, fuck that. 

Carl King: That’s exactly right, and then they take it and take the publishing and they sell it to someone else. 

Trey Spruance: Yeah. I mean, he’s right. You’ve got to write the part for them. I’m down with that. But I’m not down with when the … especially with string players when they’re like, “You know, I could play this as a harmonic if you had written … I mean, on the E string, I can do the B harmonic but maybe it would be better …” You’re just burning studio time with this crap. Like no, man. The part is pretty clear. I make it so that it’s clear enough. You end up not working with that kind of person. It’s like trying to busk through studio time with those people around, but there’s less and less of that shit going on. 

Carl King: But luckily if you’re just kind of vibing with someone and they’re into what you’re doing and they’re cool with it and you match up with someone who- 

Trey Spruance: Absolutely. 

Carl King: … who’s into what you’re doing. 

Trey Spruance: I’m lucky because basically I’m down here. At least it’s all Cal Arts alumni. There’s so many of them. They all know each other and they’re basically stoked to do stuff, and they have all the right instincts. Not like I do that much of it, but when I do it, that’s who I’m dealing with usually. 

Carl King: I want to ask you some compositional questions. Unfortunately it’s going to go back to that first Mr. Bungle record, which you’re tired of talking about, I’m sure, after I think … what was it? 25, 26 years or something by now? 

Trey Spruance: I guess, yeah, 26 … Jesus. Well, longer for the material. Some of the material’s been around for five, six years before that. 

Carl King: Right, yes. Something while I … You had mentioned you did hear that orchestral thing I did. While I was working through that, I decided I want to try to understand some of this dissonance that’s happening and how you guys build this architecture of what’s going on, and I just picked basically my favorite section from the record that highlighted that, and then wanted to struggle and bend my ear and try to fucking figure out what’s going on, because it just does not … it’s almost non sequitur to me. 

Trey Spruance: I think that’s why we liked it, because we heard that you actually did that work, something that people normally don’t do. I mean, like you say, we’re probably all pretty tired of thinking about that first record, but when somebody actually goes through the various layers of it to see what’s making it tick, that’s great. 

Carl King: It was really difficult for me because I think in a very … I went through music theory stuff and I quit before I got to the 20th century stuff because I just felt like, “Oh, well if there’s no rules then why am I going to learn the rules?” Or whatever, and I was just like, “Fuck this” and I quit. 

Trey Spruance: I can’t say I disagree with you at all in that. 

Carl King: Yeah, in some way, but then there’s this element of, “Well, what are these guys doing?” And I would start … I tend to be a fairly tonal person with the occasional mediant relationships or bitonal occasionally, or the occasional outside chromatic note. 

Trey Spruance: I mean, if you made it to the end of the 19th century, you got everything you need. 

Carl King: Well, but I don’t go that far into it. I’m like, “Oh, there’s that stuff over there. I’m not going to go over the cliff,” you know? But I’ll throw in a tension note once in a while or a tritone, but I don’t know what I’m getting into there. But when I started analyzing that first Mr. Bungle record, those sections, I was like, “How did this note …” How did you ever come up with, let’s say, for example, the melody on Travolta? The vocal melody? The guitars and keyboards are sort of doing this augmented chord, I think. 

Trey Spruance: It’s like a D minor major 7th for the most part. 

Carl King: But I mean on the upbeats you’ve got the … which is, like it sounds like they’re augmented chords on the top, I think. 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, I guess that’s the- 

Carl King: That are a half step away from each other. 

Trey Spruance: Right, that’s if you take the third, the fifth and the seventh of the D minor major 7. Yeah, it’s kind of like an augmented chord, yeah. 

Carl King: Anyway, but when I started getting into that stuff and trying to place, “Okay, here’s the vocal melody,” and I would often not be able to relate the vocal melody to what was going on underneath it at all. It was almost like it was floating in the middle of nowhere, not related, and I’m like, what was the process of determining those notes? And then, getting a singer to hit those notes over these strange chords beneath? Is there a keyboard guide? Did you have to train the person to do that? 

Trey Spruance: It depends. On that specific case, actually it’s great that you’re being specific, because I can tell you case by case. Most or a lot of that song was written as like a big band jazz tune I had scored for college called A Walk Through Necropolis

Carl King: Oh, okay. 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, that part was one of those parts. 

Carl King: I heard something about this somewhere. Okay. 

Trey Spruance: But I didn’t write that melody as part of that thing. When we were putting it together as a Mr. Bungle song, Patton wrote sort of the penultimate riff where it slows down and goes … 

Carl King: Oh that, okay. 

Trey Spruance: That thing made the tune into a Mr. Bungle song because before that, it was like just my kind of attempt at a big band tune, but it never had a compelling bridge section. He wrote that part of it and it was like, “That works. We’ll make a song out of it.” So then we had to have the lyrics and the melody over top of it, and out of nowhere he just came up with that melody over top of that chord cluster-y stuff. So this was completely his native … that’s what he heard and he did it consistently. He never changed the notes. That’s just how he heard it, which was, yeah, it’s authentically bitonal, I suppose, but that’s because he’s hearing it in his own way. 

And then from there, we added a couple of other things to support his melody. Just a couple of other weird notes in those clusters. Like you know when it changes he does it twice and then the melody changes a little bit. There are a few little subtly embedded other notes that come in on those. 

Carl King: Yeah, and also singing harmonies to it over that thing and then trying to figure out the harmonies, I’m like, “Wait a minute, how do I even figure out …” It just does not compute as far as … So I’m really curious on how would you ever … 

Trey Spruance: That’s the strength of just some melodic … You know Stump, for example. That band Stump from- 

Carl King: No. 

Trey Spruance: Oh, you don’t know that band? 

Carl King: No. 


Trey Spruance: I’ll just bring that up as an example. You can check them out at some point. They’re from like late ’80s and early ’90s. I guess it was mostly the ’80s, but a British … I think Irish and British band, sort of like U2, but no, they’re like a really crazy, progressive, strange fucking band. Amazing bass player, totally out. Over all of this cacophony, you would have these really consonant song, like sing-songy type of things that the vocalist would somehow manage to do over top of this total chaos, way more chaotic than what we did. 

I won’t say that that is what we were thinking, but when it was happening, I totally accepted it as, “Yeah, you can make really compelling music where there are two different simultaneous worlds that are barely related to each other as long as the melodic thing … let’s say the melodic person is strong enough to just kind of barrel through it all.” 

Carl King: Yeah, and that’s what’s so hard, is if you try to go up and do karaoke to that- 

Trey Spruance: Forget it. 

Carl King: … it’s like how do you … you have to really put the note there as a vocalist. 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, absolutely, yeah. There’s no question. No question about it. 

Carl King: I started to find some of that in blah, blah, blah, Faith No More, but I did find some of that in Angel Dust where I was like, “Holy shit, this guy is actually hitting notes that are not there before and forcing them out, and they’re tense fucking notes that don’t belong-” 

Trey Spruance: For sure. 

Carl King: But they do. I mean, they work. 

Trey Spruance: They work. 

Carl King: They’re doing their thing, but who would think to ever sing the wrong note over this thing in such a strong way? 

Trey Spruance: My theory about that, because … I’ve known Mike a long time and I know that Trevor, Mike and I would spend a lot of time in Trevor’s bedroom just kind of hashing over stuff in the early days and Trevor and I were very much music nerding out, so we were experimenting with all kinds of chord extensions and learning jazz and doing all this stuff, and we would show that stuff to Mike. He’s really comfortable singing … Even back then he was singing Elton John kind of types of melodies, and I think over time he just sort of developed a thing of hitting some of those natural 7s when there should be a dominant 7. He just developed an ear for that kind of stuff from a lot of the stuff that we were all doing together. 

And then that applies … He has a strength of melodic contour he can do as a vocalist, and then he … believe me, he knows where the notes are when he’s doing them. It’s all very natural to him. 

Carl King: I hear a bit of a similar thing happening in some of Trevor’s stuff. What was that pop record he put out? Sort of pop? 

Trey Spruance: Oh, not Trio-Convulsant but the other one? Oh, MadLove. 

Carl King: MadLove. 

Trevor Dunn’s MadLove: Rats With Wings

Trey Spruance: Yeah. 

Carl King: I heard that and immediately, like, “There’s the thing.” 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, yeah, Trevor’s … Yeah. 

Carl King: I actually figured out that the first, what is it, Rats With Wings song … I don’t know if you even know this stuff very well, but there’s this song where if you completely get rid of the rest of the instruments, it’s basically Earth Angel. Like totally one, six, four, five, would go over that melody. But then he puts these completely clashing chords underneath it, re-harmonizing. 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, absolutely. 

Carl King: I just find that stuff really interesting and I can … I heard that in the Mr. Bungle stuff. I hear it, so I’m kind of following that-

Trey Spruance: For sure. 

Carl King: … and I’m like, “How do I …” 

Trey Spruance: I think Trevor’s maybe closer to what you’re … My wielding of polytonality is more … it comes from a slightly different place. Trevor’s really good with I think teasing you into thinking you’re hearing one thing, but you’re hearing this one X factor thing. He always does that. He’s very consistent with that, and he’s really good at it. My stuff, I’m more of a consonance versus dissonance. I don’t really do the idiomatic thing as well as he does. He’s really good with- 

Carl King: What do you mean by idiomatic when you say that, regarding this? 

Trey Spruance: Well, to me, when I hear Trevor, the way he constructs, like say dominant 7 related chord, and then the other note, the X factor note that he throws into that, I have the same reaction to you as you have. I can’t put that anywhere. What the fuck is that? I would have never done that. I have that same reaction. It’s very interesting. Very interesting what he does. 

Carl King: Here’s one more question, which I’m stealing from a Bär McKinnon interview that I did. I asked him the same question. I don’t know if you ever saw the interview, but I had this idea, like, “Man, I should try to do a Mr. Bungle documentary” and just fucking try to do it, and do it myself just because I want to do it, and even if nobody agrees to be in it or something. So I ran into Bär on Facebook and I thought … One day I had a bunch of coffee and I was like, “I’m going to fucking email the guy, ask him a bunch of questions.” 

Read the Bar McKinnon Interview.

I’m curious since I picked up on that whole torturing the audience from you guys, I think, way back … I’m curious how you dealt with … Right out of the gate you guys got that Warner Bros. thing and you were so young at the time, but I feel like you guys dealt with that deal in a way that other people would not deal with it. 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, for sure. 

Carl King: You went out there and you were doing your thing and torturing people and feedback and screaming and not giving people what they expected at all, which I had never seen a band do before. I’m sure other bands have done that, and you guys probably saw other bands do that in San Francisco or somewhere, I’m guessing. 

Trey Spruance: We started, in a way, by doing that. Our very first show was death metal bands at a grange hall kind of out in the middle of nowhere up in Eureka area, Northern California. But at that show we played some ska songs. It was just the equivalent of garlic breath. It was the worst thing you can do, but skate punks were into it. You always have your cluster of people … There’s people who are being alienated or at least the audience is perceiving as you’re alienating them or messing with them, but really what you’re doing, we just were interested in both death metal and ska, so it caused this kind of shit storm a little bit. We got used to that. We just got used to the idea that, yeah, when you put various things together and it’s natural to you, it’s not natural to audiences and sometimes there’s a bit of controversy about it. 

Honestly, out of the gate, that’s what we were doing. By the time the first record came along and … I mean, there’s a backstory to how we even ended up on Warner Bros., totally weird. We had this very ambivalent feeling about that whole thing, so really, what happens, it just kind of exponentially multiplied. Once we got into the Warner thing and we were doing a national tour, it just really exponentially multiplied our … 

Carl King: So I mean you guys were- 

Trey Spruance: The premise we’d already established, I guess. 

Carl King: So you were already doing that, and you’re like, “Now we’re going to do it even more.” 

Trey Spruance: We took it much farther then, yeah, for sure. For sure. 

Carl King: I mean, you guys reacted in a way that most people would not. Living in LA and seeing people get record deals and all of this stuff, they’re like so desperate and clinging to it. It’s like this precious thing that you cannot mess up and it’s once in a lifetime, and you guys just went out there and were like, “Fuck it.” 

Trey Spruance: Yeah. I think we knew how … We fully expected that it was temporary. Nobody really cared about Mr. Bungle on Warner Bros. No amount of kissing ass would ever get you anywhere, anyway. 

Carl King: But to know that at such an age, I can’t imagine- 

Trey Spruance: Well we also had terrible attitudes. Extremely fucking negative people from this hick town, thrown into a totally unfamiliar situation for ourselves, but also, yeah, some of us had been taking … we’d been studying music really seriously, so everything was sort of clashing with everything else, and then the most important thing maybe is just there’s a groupthink going on and a group mania going on that maybe that just really took over. I would say it that way. The group mania just kind of wrote our behavior. We didn’t script any of that stuff out. I mean, it really just took us over. 

Carl King: It seemed fearless- 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, it was. 

Carl King: … to watch those old videos and see you guys standing there, like, “We’re doing our thing and if you don’t like it, we’re here …” You guys weren’t looking around at the audience to see if … “Do they like us?” There was none of that. It was just like, “We’re fucking here.” 

Trey Spruance: You know, I can tell you, Carl, it’s really a thing of we wanted to just play our music but we were in a situation where the audience wasn’t … the majority of the audience was not having that. So we just developed naturally over time a way of so to speak staring that down or triumphing over it and being sort of on top of that rather than being underneath it, you know? 

Carl King: Right, yeah. 

Trey Spruance: That’s really what happened. 

Carl King: It’s kind of amazing to see that united front of everybody- 

Trey Spruance: Yeah. 

Carl King: The only other time I’ve seen that in a group is maybe when I saw Sleepytime for the first time. I was like, “There’s that thing again that I haven’t seen.” 

Trey Spruance: And that’s a good example because look what they do. They make it so that they’re unassailable. They have their own vehicle. They’re self-sustaining on everything, so that if there’s a shit gig and there’s nobody there, it doesn’t really matter. Nobody’s feathers get too ruffled. It’s the same event as when they’re playing in front of a lot of people who really appreciate what they’re doing. 

Carl King: Or in front of a slug or whatever it was, a banana slug? 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, it’s similar. It’s like a … There is an “us against the world” thing that kind of has to happen when you’re doing something that’s outside the box enough that you don’t know what the reception is going to be. Yeah, you kind of have to have your own internal integrity? I would hate to use that terms towards the confrontational shit that Mr. Bungle was doing, but there is an integrity because I guess the root of the word is integration. We had an integrated understanding. 

Carl King: Yeah, very rare to see. So hopefully these questions are not your typical “poo poo, pee pee” questions. 

Trey Spruance: It’s pretty … yeah, so far, so good, man. It can all devolve from here. I might end up staring out the window, shaking my head. 

Carl King: Yeah. Oh man. I am curious, have you come across any of the Jordan Peterson stuff? 

Trey Spruance: Not until just now, honestly. 

Carl King: What do you mean just now? 

Trey Spruance: Oh wait, Jordan … Not Justin Pierce. 

Carl King: No, Dr. Jordan Peterson? 

Trey Spruance: No, I don’t know what that is. 

Carl King: Okay, well I was just curious about that. I don’t know how to exactly explain him but he’s getting a lot of flack right now. He’s a professor in Canada at a university there, a psychology dude. He recently got a ton of flack for fighting against the PC stuff up there where he refused to use multiple gender pronouns or something like … 

Trey Spruance: Oh yeah, okay. 

Carl King: You know what I’m talking about? 

Trey Spruance: Like the “they” and all that stuff? 

Carl King: Yeah, but it got really extreme where there was like 16 of them or something and he just wanted to say “he” or “she”- 

Trey Spruance: Right, okay. 

Carl King: … and he was like, “You can’t force me to use these words” and he got in a bunch of trouble with the university and the government or something like that? 

Trey Spruance: Oh, I’m not up on this, but yeah, sounds very current. 

Carl King: Yeah, so he’s getting tons of attention for that and I’ve been checking out his stuff quite a bit, and that led me to looking into the Big Five personality test. Familiar with that? 

Trey Spruance: No, I’m telling you, I’m out of the loop, man. 

Carl King: It’s been around for quite a while, I guess. I mean, it’s sort of the creative temperament. The creative temperament, the conscientiousness, and you basically rate yourself on these Big Five tests. My wife is a very conscientious person, extremely methodical about everything, and at the hotel room she’s got to put all the stuff in the suitcase in the right order and all that stuff. 

Trey Spruance: Okay, like my wife. 

Carl King: Yeah. 

Trey Spruance: That’s a good wife to have. It’s perfect. 

Carl King: Yeah, and I would say naturally I think that I’m quite a mess and not conscientious, but that I’ve forced myself through just beating the shit out of myself to try to become conscientious instead of creative fucking idiot running around, not knowing what’s going on. 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, totally. I hear you completely. Believe me, I do. 

Carl King: Yeah, and so I’m curious about your experience with that. I don’t know where you would rank on that spectrum or … What do you have to say about that? 

Trey Spruance: I mean, I think things like that are … if they’re not changing, then there’s something wrong. I mean, if you’re just getting more and more entrenched in … You’re the same. It’s like you meet creative people all the time. When people come up to me and they’re obviously kind of a mess and then they’re going, “Dude, you changed my life. All my guitar playing is influenced by you,” it’s like I feel like I should apologize to them. It’s hard to thank, to be gracious and be like, “You’re welcome.” I feel like maybe I did something bad or something because they seem like they’re off a little bit. 

But then I put myself in different stages of my life and I was totally the same. I was pretty overly obsessive about musical things. So I can’t really put it as a criticism, but I have to say that growing … You know, growing is a process of coming out of one shell, kind of crawling out of these sort of obsessive tendencies to see a bigger, brighter world, and usually it seems to me that other people are really important in that picture, you know what I mean? 

Carl King: Yeah. 

Trey Spruance: Because it’s, you know-

Carl King: It’s sort of lighting a fire under you. It’s almost like the people that I’ve surrounded myself with, a lot of times I end up having no choice but to improve myself. 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, I noticed that’s … You want to surround yourself with people like that. I mean, I really think that’s it, so it’s … for a natural born hermit like me, on the one hand you could go way down the wrong tunnel, but on the other hand it’s a way to kind of palate cleanse and choose the right people to be around and sort of motivate your better sides. Elevate you from your kind of crappy tendencies. 

Carl King: Yeah. Do you have a side that you struggle with in any way? 

Trey Spruance: For me, that one would be going too much into the work. I can just kind of disappear into it. In a day, if I’m in there working for like 14 hours, it takes at least an hour and a half to decompress where I’m actually a human being that’s worth talking to again. I’ve definitely learned that … I mean, with my wife, I’ve established a really good working rhythm that’s much healthier than it used to be. I come out of the studio every once in a while, go outside a little bit. Just these little things, and then cook once I’m done for the day. Like cooking with her, she knows, like, “Yeah, let’s not really talk right away. Don’t try to converse. Come out of your crazed mode,” and then everything’s really wonderful after that. You just learn stuff like that. 

But that’s when I’m in that uncomfortable thing of having a deadline and having to do it. I don’t really have the luxury of having my creative time be … It’s not something I can sort of wait to happen. When a creative idea comes, it comes upon me and it’s usually interrupting some other responsibility that I have, so the big thing there is I have to deal with the guilt of flaking on this responsibility in order to attend to this creative thing. I think that having a structured thing where you feel the responsibilities that you have, it’s like we don’t really have the luxury … And I see it as luxury, because most of what I do ends up just being hardship. I’m just editing constant … It’s not creative fun time. It’s all fucking shit work, you know?

Carl King: Yeah, I’m working on an album right now and I’m at the point where I’m like, “Okay, I’m done being excited about the idea and now I need to fucking do it for two weeks. I need to sit there and double the cello on something else and just fucking assign samples. This is going to take me 80 hours of work or something.” 

Trey Spruance: Totally. 

Carl King: I’m going to have to sit here, and I’m like, “I hate this.” 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, like right when I get the-

Carl King: Like if I could have someone brainless do this somehow, another me … 

Trey Spruance: I know. That’s it right there. 

Carl King: And I’m getting older, I guess? And my body doesn’t want to sit in a chair- 

Trey Spruance: Totally. 

Carl King: … and click on a fucking mouse and do these little micro-movements of dragging things around on the screen. 

Trey Spruance: I mean, this is part of why jumping at this tour was a great thing, because man, I’ve been sitting in front of this screen working on the Masada record and working on this Cube mixes and- 

Carl King: It’s physically just so unpleasant. 

Trey Spruance: Terrible, yeah. You’ve got to break that shit up a little bit. 

Carl King: Yeah. 

Trey Spruance: It’s the truth. There’s a dread for me, like when I get done doing the exalted time of working with a drummer, like we nailed those drum parts, we got all that stuff at the studio. It sounds better than anything I would do, because I don’t have a drum studio or anything like that. Then you get home and you’re like, “Okay, now I’m going to load all these stems in.” 

Carl King: Oh man, yep, yep. 

Trey Spruance: And it’s a week of this bullshit of just bringing in things, making templates, and oh my God. 

Carl King: What’s that little meme that was going around for a while of Bernie Sanders? He was sitting there with a computer, looking at the screen. It said something like, “Got to tweak my snare sound or something first?” 

Trey Spruance: These are super first world problems, but- 

Carl King: Yeah, yeah, yes, yes, yes. 

Trey Spruance: … but it is, you lock yourself in this prison. A friend of mine called it the wizard prison, in my case. I think that’s about right, just stuck in this two dimensional trapezoid where all you can do is what anybody would have to do. Cut before and after that file, move the things around, and just the same thing anybody who works in audio does. Slave to it. 

Carl King: Yeah. I just blanked out. I was going to say … Oh, one of the most enjoyable things for me in making a record, especially with this last record is I just … I didn’t want to work on it anymore at all, beyond the initial idea. That’s like the fun part of like, “I’ve got this huge idea. Let’s do this.” And then the tedious work, you know? The best part was having other people contribute their weird shit to it that makes it alive for me, it makes it exciting. 

Trey Spruance: Absolutely. That’s a way to invigorate it. I think that’s it right there, because when … When I mentioned the dread part of it, that can really demotivate, you know? And if you’re like me and you have this … almost like a forest, like a vineyard of things that are aging and you’re waiting for the right time to sort of finish them off, sometimes actually just letting them sit, letting that dread subside, you know? You planted it and actually subsequently you might have found a better workflow two years later, something like that. The things that have their moment, to me are very … They’re really lost in time. Their moment isn’t, “I just got done recording that stuff. That needs to come out next month.” I don’t think that way at all. Aging the stuff is the way to keep the workflow exciting and invigorating, and as you say, having … scheduling the moment so that when other musicians have their input on it, like their playing on it, it’s something that just brings all this new excitement and fresh energy to it. That helps a lot. 

I’m in a war against the dread because I just … I hate it. I fucking hate sitting there. You don’t want to hate what you’re doing, especially when you’re doing things that are big and exalted. You want to do justice to this idea that you had. You really owe it to yourself to not be sitting there with your head in your hands, going, “Uhhh …” There’s all kinds of ways to strategize around that shit.

Carl King: Here are a couple of ideas that go together for me. I get this idea that people think music is … That there’s this inspirational magic thing that happens and you … Trey or whoever goes into a room and he’s just a genius and all of this magical stuff comes out, and then it’s “doodly-doo” and, you know, they don’t realize that it’s a million hours of sitting there clicking on things. For me, at least, it’s a very long, systematic series of steps where I’m like, “We’re going to work on …” It’s almost like in cartoon animation, or like, “We’re going to work on the fucking eyebrows today, or work on the right eyebrow. We’re going to animate the eyebrow for this guy-“

Trey Spruance: Absolutely. 

Carl King: “… and we’ll sit there all day in Adobe Flash adjusting his eyebrow or moving his eyes.” 

Trey Spruance: Totally. 

Carl King: “All day long, and there’s a guy in a cubicle moving the ear or something,” you know? 

Trey Spruance: Mm-hmm (affirmative), oh yeah. 

Carl King: And that’s what it’s like, it seems, making these records. 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, I would put it this way, that, yeah, it’s that. It’s worse because it’s one person doing it. It’s not a team of people doing it, but the magic part of it is in the inspiration or the vision that you get for something. I generally will hear in my head or in my imagination what the thing is when it comes … It comes in different ways, but usually I’ll just get the whole impression, the whole big picture. I can hear the whole symphony, essentially. 

Carl King: But what does that mean exactly when you say that? 

Trey Spruance: It’s like- 

Carl King: Because I get parameters where I’m like, “I want to do a 20 … like literally, I want to do a 21 minute horror track with strings doing this type of thing, with these harmonic elements.” 

Trey Spruance: Sure. 

Carl King: And start with that, and then just start filling that in. So, for you, are you saying you actually imagine these sounds and harmonies? 

Trey Spruance: Sometimes, yeah. I mean, how you described it is very practical because that’s what I did with, for example, the Le Mani record. You just define a harmonic language and take the musical themes that you have and work within that, but on Secret Chiefs albums in general where it’s just kind of all over the place, it is … I can hear the whole … sort of the whole thing. I just don’t know what all of the details are, and like the cliché with the sculpture and the un-carved block, I just start chipping away at it, on the practical side of it, yeah, starting with the drums and the bass, and then just honing it down, honing it down until … 

The word I use is archetype. To me, it’s the inspiration, that romantic magical thing of the big moment of inspiration. I mean, that’s a real thing, but it’s in this archetypal realm, and then me as this lowly human, I have to sort of craft my way to it, which involves that working on the eyebrow meticulously and going in there and doing that work every single day like a slave, like a ridiculous slave. But if I didn’t have that motivation, like that original thing, if I wasn’t … I have to keep that thing that I heard front and center in my mind, otherwise I’d give up and be like, “Why am I doing this bullshit?” You have to sort of find a way to maintain the flame of that original inspiration, which I agree with you, it’s not done the way anybody thinks it’s done. Not even at all, not even close. 

That’s why I mean bringing in a different voice every once in a while kind of reinvigorates it because you hear that idea bouncing off of somebody else. You’re like, “Okay, it’s real. They hear it too. It’s a little different, but they got it, and then you just sort of coral everything into the shape that it’s supposed to be. You basically know when you get there. You kind of throw yourself like a beached whale on the ground and you’re done. For me, that’s the way those things end up. It’s a painful, laborious thing in the here and now, but in the other dimension where you’re hearing the stuff, it’s a different story that sustains the whole thing. 

More practical stuff, like the Le Mani record where, like you say, setting parameters, I mean, to me that’s the best way to work. It’s pleasurable and has a … You kind of have a start point and a finish point that’s clearly defined and … That’s a good workflow. I hope, I wish all of the things that I did kind of came that way. 

Carl King: You do start to pick up on almost patterns on what you’re doing. Like I’ll check out Folio A and I obviously don’t pick up on all the patterns because I know you’re a very symbolic creative person as far as you were once playing me some Secret Chiefs 3 demos in the car a million years ago and you were like, “This moment represents this and this moment represents …” And I’m like, “That’s a lot of stuff.” That would take a while. And I don’t get to that level at all, you know? But you do pick up on that stuff when you’re doing things, so I can see how there’s these archetypes and sort of parameters of meaning, of what you’re trying to accomplish. 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, and you just stay true to those things. To me, it’s that. It’s not like, “I’m doing this thing.” It’s really just staying true to … If something is representing something, it’s because there’s a literal connection. I don’t really think in terms of, “To me, this means this. This is the moment where the light shines,” you know? It’s actually there’s usually visceral justifications for that kind of stuff. But that’s what I mean, I’m following rules. When it comes down to it, it’s just different than the … Maybe a little bit different than strictly music theory rules, but they’re rules nonetheless. 

Carl King: Now, on the topic of music being a business, I guess I’m at a point where I’m getting older and I start to realize that my time and energy is limited. When I do video work, a lot of times it’s very profitable for me, which is great, because it helps me solve so many problems, you know? 

Trey Spruance: Good for you, man. I’m jealous. 

Carl King: Yeah. But then the music thing is just like, “Oh man, this is losing money.” 

Trey Spruance: Total disaster. 

Carl King: Yeah. I wonder … I guess I’m getting to this point where I’m like, “Man, I don’t …” It’s not necessarily about the money, but the loss of energy that I feel a lot of times when I create something, and I’ll be totally in love with the thing that I just created and think it’s fucking hilarious and brilliant and I get so much enjoyment out of it, and then I put it out there and nothing happens, and people are just like, “Why did you do that?” They don’t even ask me why I did it. It’s just like, you know, somebody listened to it because it got clicks, but I’m like, “Never heard anything back from the world,” you know? 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, this is more … because the economics of it was depressing for a long time, but now there’s this thing of just everything’s just being ignored, just going in one ear and out the other. 

Carl King: Yeah, it’s almost like you can’t even get attention now, when that was something that was taken for granted. As Sir Millard Mulch, I could be annoying and get attention, but now that I don’t want to be annoying, I have put out a record and 12 people buy it or something. It’s like, “Hm, I just spent two years working my ass off and spent thousands of dollars of my own money.” I wonder, what’s your whole perspective on this? 

Trey Spruance: Oh man, I know. 

Carl King: I guess my thought is, if … I mean, you’re obviously a very intelligent, capable person. I don’t know how much money you make off of Secret Chiefs 3, but I’m sure that if you put your work … your mind toward some other career, that you would probably do a lot better than music. 

Trey Spruance: Oh yeah, for sure. 

Carl King: Because music is just like you’re throwing it into a hole and it’s like … 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, it’s all down. It’s just a pure downward spiral. It’s true. That’s the truth. That’s just the reality. 

Carl King: Yeah, and I hear that Devin Townsend did an interview a while back and said … He revealed how much money he makes a year. It’s like $65,000 a year. 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, sounds about right. 

Carl King: And I’m like, “In one way, holy shit, that’s worse than the average computer programmer, probably, and if that guy only makes $65,000 a year, what hope is there for …” 

Trey Spruance: If that guy’s making $65,000 a year, Trey Spruance is making less than that, and that’s the truth, you know? But there are things that happen sort of randomly. I don’t want to give too much to serendipity and all that, but every once in a while … like this tour came along at a good time. Actually a terrible time, because it was so hard at work in the middle of a Masada record and had this other work that I was doing for this thing at Virginia Tech. 

How perfect, if I just put in the extra push to get all of it done and be prepared for all of it, then in the end, all of it works together. However much excessive time I spend on the Masada record, not able to justify the amount of work for the budget or whatever, and also for the Cube, doing this immersive 3D listening thing, at the same time when we do a Masada gig, everybody gets paid pretty well. The payoff is sort of down the road on those things. We get invited, and if we do a really good job, we get invited on a lot of those things, whereas if I just half-ass it or just phone it in, it’s going to go nowhere. 

So my natural instinct is to never do anything half-ass, to go all the way on it, and that ultimately in the end has paid off, actually, because … Not the sales, not any of that stuff, but just a bunch of kind of random things that come into the picture every once in a while. Those are the things that end up sustaining it. Right now it’s a big sort of mess of different things. We’ve got some Bandcamp income, we have tour income, we get on the Masada gigs … basically just hopping lily pad to just keep it going, you know? 

But I’m not complaining because I see what’s going on with everyone else and it’s fucking horrible. The fact that we can even sustain it is almost a miracle, and sustain it at the level-

Carl King: You’re using the word “miracle” and that’s what I’ve been using to describe some of these situations, that it is a miracle that some people are able to continue doing what they do. 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, yeah, but I think that has everything to do with just throwing everything into it, and not half-assing anything. 

Carl King: What worries me is, is that really sustainable over a lifetime? And I think about the idea of getting older, and I’m like, “Man, I don’t know … I couldn’t do it.” 

Trey Spruance: It’s a good challenge to have though. 

Carl King: What do you do when you become … In some ways I’ve projected some disgust on musicians, where I’m like, “You guys are fucking idiots trying to do this.” But then at some point I’m like, “Man, I really respect that in a way because I would not put myself through that. I don’t have the …” You know? The people that I know who are doing decent at music, who have a … I grew up in Florida, two-bedroom house with my mom and dad, blah, blah, blah, and the people who are doing … have a two-bedroom house and a car, they’re the ones who are working insane hours, touring all year, recording record after record. They’re just at it all the time to be able to have that traditional middle class situation. And you never see anybody in another career working that hard, maybe. I mean, I’m sure there are CEOs or something, but who works as hard as a musician? 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, in this day and age, I think it’s true. 

Carl King: And gets paid 10% of what they would normally make in a job doing something else. It’s amazing. 

Trey Spruance: No, and you look at it … You see it when American bands … This is still from a few years ago, but they want to go to Europe and it’s sort of like the UK promoter’s like, “Well, you want to go to Europe? You’ve got to go through us. We’re the English speaking …” you know? We worked around that for our own weird … Weird, I shouldn’t say it. Our music works very naturally in the Mediterranean. It’s kind of natural to the way people feel and hear music. A lot of what we do. Like in the Anglo world, it does work well to, but you know what I mean? Sometimes you get forced through these gauntlets that ultimately you have every American band competing with every other American band on the same little circuit and agreeing to lose money and have a terrible time.

And those bands will die and there will be another one to replace them next year. It just happens like this cycle, people just [crosstalk 00:55:05]-

Carl King: You’re talking about in America? 

Trey Spruance: In Europe. 

Carl King: In Europe. 

Trey Spruance: Just European touring. 

Carl King: Oh, Europe. 

Trey Spruance: And American bands, it’s like, “Well, we want to go tour Europe. We want to party and blah, blah, blah,” and then they’re dead the next year and there’s people to replace them right after that. It’s kind of like a prosumer market. I’m seeing a lot of prosumerism among musicians. People are willing to lose money. They have money from somewhere and they’re willing to throw it at their dream of being a musician, and then it’s like you can’t … For Secret Chiefs, we can’t really compete with that because we don’t have money to throw at the thing. I’m not trying to put a disdainful thing on it. It’s just we don’t have deep pockets to spend on our dreams when it comes to that, and we’re real serious, like workaholic band. 

So, sometimes you get the treatment, like, “Oh, you’re one of those bands. You just want to …” sort of exploiting musicians that are willing to throw money at stuff, whereas we’re not that … 

Carl King: There’s a whole parasitical thing of people who are after musicians, that are willing to dump money on things. 

Trey Spruance: Because those musicians just want to stand in front of a crowd and feel like they’re famous, so it’s a supply and demand market. It’s the same thing that happened when Guitar Center started putting pro audio in there and then the companies started creating inferior quote “pro audio” units for everybody to use, so there’s always a market for this kind of thing. So to me, standing outside of that is part of the longevity, also, of Secret Chiefs 3. It’s just never getting caught up in any of that crap, never working with promoters who are like that. I’m talking about Europe there, because US is totally different. 

But yeah, you kind of have to watch out for getting swept up with the transitory world of the consumer musician that’s- 

Carl King: Yeah, I mean I see someone who wants to put out their first record. They put it out and then immediately they blow all … come up with all this money and blow it on things that they think they’re supposed to spend money on because they’re in a band renting a huge tour bus. 

Trey Spruance: It’s just amazing, isn’t it? 

Carl King: And like wow, these people are just standing around waiting for you to spend money on them. Like they’re tricking you into thinking you’re supposed to do that. 

Trey Spruance: You’re supposed to bring your light rig and your … 

Carl King: Yeah. 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, it’s crazy. I think there’s a lot … I don’t know, maybe there’s a little bit less of that than there was a few years ago, but it’s still just … We have to navigate around that paradigm, because that paradigm is everywhere, you know? 

Carl King: It is a cargo cult. 

Trey Spruance: Exactly. 

Carl King: I mean, you probably know what a cargo cult is, right? 

Trey Spruance: Oh yeah, I love that stuff. 

Carl King: I want to ask you before we quit this, the political stuff that’s going on. Can you talk about that? Where are you at on this stuff? What is going on? What are we doing? 

Trey Spruance: I’m just so glad that we’ve entered into this new age of peace and harmony. 

Carl King: Yeah. 

Trey Spruance: I find myself more and more like a … I’ve never even been able to sort of manage to empathize too much with really far right wing stuff but it is … maybe it’s a natural habit of mine that when people who are more in my sort of native way of being on the left are starting to act like total fucking assholes, that I start to try to think about empathy a little bit more seriously, because it’s disturbing to see people turn into total intolerant dicks just because there’s a bunch of other intolerant dicks, you know? To me that’s the crisis. From where I sit, I’m concerned about that, like everyone turning into dicks. That’s my take on modern politics, I guess. 

Carl King: Wow. 

Trey Spruance: There has to be some … There has to be a blurry area where things being fucked up is okay. There has to be a little bit of space for things to be a little bit fucked up. There’s a lot of intolerance on every side of this thing, and I’m afraid that people on the left aren’t seeing that. It’s really easy to see it on the right. I mean, duh, it’s a no-fucking-brainer, but what’s happening to us? It’s really getting gross, getting disgusting. So, makes me glad I live on a mountain, that’s for sure, but I don’t want to feel like that. Like, “Well, that’s for those assholes to figure out. Fuck that, the world’s coming to an end.” I mean, I’m not like that, you know? 

But it’s sad. It’s sad to see people I know becoming totally intolerant dicks and- 

Carl King: I guess you also … Well, you live in a different area than I do, so you’re Santa Cruz area … 

Trey Spruance: Bay Area, very PC. 

Carl King: Yeah, and we don’t have that much of that in the LA area. We’re more just Sunset Strip douche bags and LA dudes. 

Trey Spruance: Well, there’s Echo Park and, you know- 

Carl King: There is, but that’s not … I don’t run into that very much, so it’s not a super left … I guess I’m not exposed to the left being the way that you’re talking about. 

Trey Spruance: You’re right, Southern California’s a really … I mean, California itself is a completely unique entity. Everybody thinks that it’s left wing, but well, okay, we’ll drive 20 miles east of where you are and ask yourself again. Again, I don’t place myself left, right. I don’t do it, but of course I’m in circles that are left wing because I’m a musician and playing the kind of challenging music that I do, that’s just where I end up. My personal political beliefs don’t square with really anybody, you know, on any side of any political spectrum, but friends, I’ll put it that way, like people that I share sort of a cultural unity with, that’s what I’m … only thing I’m really referring to is seeing them getting heated up and some of it’s starting to get a little ugly. That definitely concerns me. 

Carl King: Hey, was there anything to Book of Souls: Folio A being sort of a … This is the impression I got. Kind of a post-apocalyptic radio transmission? It seemed like there were station IDs that were happening. It was almost like it was a radio … I don’t know. [crosstalk 01:01:17]

Trey Spruance: Yeah, for sure. There’s a bunch … 

Carl King: … little bit of vibe to that? 

Trey Spruance: There’s seven station IDs, yeah. I don’t know about post-apocalyptic though. 

Carl King: Well, okay, yeah. 

Trey Spruance: Maybe it’s pre-apocalyptic or something. I mean, I think apocalypse in a way … I mean, Revelation, it is a matter of revealing the fullness of time to the limited, linear nature of time, so it’s kind of revealing the fact that there isn’t actually linear chronological time. So it would be both pre- and post-apocalyptic, I guess. 

Carl King: Did you follow Harold Camping at all? 

Trey Spruance: No, what’s that? 

Carl King: The guy who predicted the world would end May 21, 2011. The preacher. 

Trey Spruance: No, but I mean I’m very familiar with a long list of people who have been doing that for the last 2,000 years. 

Carl King: So do you believe Jesus was an apocalypticist? Any of that? Do you get into that Biblical scholarship type stuff? 

Trey Spruance: Well, yeah, it’s good to get into that because even when you look at like the Council of Nicaea condemns as a heresy the idea of putting a date on apocalypse. It’s actually heresy, according to the Christian church that was established in the beginning, let’s say. The beginning of Christianity. Really, one of the first heresies that was pointed out was this ridiculous habit of putting a date on the apocalypse. So, I mean, as far as technically speaking, the Christian religion has its crap together on this question. I don’t know who these cranks are that have been trying to say the end is nigh for 2,000 years but they don’t belong in the Christian church. 

Carl King: Wow. I was involved with a documentary on Harold Camping, so I wondered if you had heard of him. 

Trey Spruance: No, I think I know about … I heard about that stuff, and I remember thinking, “Oh, another one of those chiliasts.” 

Carl King: What’s that? 

Trey Spruance: That’s the term, chiliasm. That’s the heresy. 

Carl King: Chiliasm? 

Trey Spruance: Chiliasm is the belief that one can anticipate the end of all things. 

Carl King: Okay. I’ve not heard of that. 

Trey Spruance: Yeah. 

Carl King: Well, is there anything that I should have asked you, Mr. Trey? 

Trey Spruance: No, we covered absolutely everything. Every possible thing. 

Carl King: Oh, here’s one. Here’s another one, and then that’s it. This is the last question. 

Trey Spruance: Okay. When we get to Revelation, we’re really opening the umbrella up wide there. We pretty much covered it. 

Carl King: Have you considered being a teacher as a profession? 

Trey Spruance: I think I could do some things like that, but it would be hard. My personality isn’t … it doesn’t really work. I can’t really keep lucid in front of a group of people for very long. I am going to be doing a thing at the New School in New York in April, like a three hour seminar of some kind. So I’m going to try my hand at it. I’m open to it. I like the idea of it, because there’s so much to talk about, and I get asked questions, like in this interview, if we wanted to go really deep into specifics, I love it. I want to be able to do stuff like that, and that’s where all the good stuff is, so yeah, I would love to have a course of some kind. I haven’t really figured out what shape that would take, but that Geek Pack is kind of the first step that I’ve taken into a kind of educational direction. 

Even that is sort of tricky because it’s like … It gives you a little window into what’s involved in working in the digital audio workstations, a little window into what- 

Carl King: Yes. 

Trey Spruance: … what performances make up an arrangement. I would love to expand on that premise and really go into what the nuances of arranging for a big ensemble are, what the challenges of putting non-Western tonality together with Western tonality. There’s a lot to talk about. 

Carl King: I saw your guitars have a lot of unusual frets- 

Trey Spruance: Yeah. 

Carl King: … But I notice that I don’t think your bassist changed temperament. 

Trey Spruance: It’s very deceptive. That’s a fretless. 

Carl King: Oh, it is? 

Trey Spruance: But it has frets painted on it. 

Carl King: Okay, didn’t catch that. 

Trey Spruance: And his ear is … he’s been acclimating to our tuning system very well, so it’s … Yeah, it’s pretty seamless at this point. We don’t even … but to me that’s also … that’s an achievement. We’re able to put together a band that is fluent enough in some non-Western tonalities and it’s doable. It is something that I could probably teach people how to do, given a few hours, you know? 

Carl King: Have you thought about doing a Patreon? 

Trey Spruance: I have, but I’m not sure. I don’t know if that’s the way to go. Maybe it is. I don’t know. 

Carl King: It’s a real easy way for people to just support their favorite artists. 

Trey Spruance: I know, I- 

Carl King: It’s like, super clean way of doing it. There goes the money to you. A lot of people are just happy to do it. 

Trey Spruance: I’m so stubborn. The thing is, maybe it’s very stubborn American pragmatist thing that I have of, I’m going to give you a product if you’re going to give me money, you know? 

Carl King: Right, and I think that’s what people get caught up on, but I think the urge is … It’s just, “Hey, I want this person to continue to exist and do their thing.” Like, right on. Here’s five bucks a month. 

Trey Spruance: Wow. 

Carl King: And that’s it, or a dollar a month, and those all add up, and Jordan Peterson’s doing $60,000 a month now on that thing. 

Trey Spruance: Whoa. 

Carl King: For making YouTube videos. 

Trey Spruance: Whoa. 

Carl King: So- 

Trey Spruance: You see, there’s part of me that’s like- 

Carl King: There’s your orchestra. 

Trey Spruance: I know, it’s very tempting. Very tempting. The things I could do with having a little … How much easier it would be to be able to fund projects and not just lose money on everything. You’re probably right. I just still have this … people should be motivated to buy the music, but maybe that’s stupid. 

Carl King: I feel like a lot of people, when they go to a show, when I’m there at your booth and I’m like, “I feel like I want to buy something to help you guys,” and I’m like, “Well, I paid for a ticket so that might be good enough, and then we’re doing the podcast and maybe that’s something.” But a lot of times I’ll buy a shirt even though I don’t want the shirt, you know? And I help people on Patreon because I’m just like, “Fuck it, here’s five bucks a month.” 

Trey Spruance: You’re right, I’ve seen lots of people, because I’m at the merch booth and lots of people will be like, “I want a shirt and a CD.” “Okay, that will be 28 bucks,” and they give you 40 and they’re like, “Keep it.” I’m just like, “No, that’s 12 bucks. Here’s another CD. Take it.” I still have- 

Carl King: I think it’s really not about that. It’s not about bang for the buck. 

Trey Spruance: I guess you’re right. 

Carl King: It’s like, they’re here to help and … You know? Building the thing. 

Trey Spruance: That’s the part of the new world that I have to get used to. 

Carl King: You damn capitalist. 

Trey Spruance: You know what I mean? Yeah, I’m way too much of a capitalist. I guess that’s what it is, right? 

Carl King: It’s been revealed on the Carl King Podcast. 

Trey Spruance: Oh, that’s terrible. Our French promoter’s going to be so disgusted. He’s a total anarchist. You know how it is when you’re a quote “anarchist” and a- 

Carl King: I don’t know. 

Trey Spruance: … a country that has funding for, you know, everything. Everything. It’s different than here. Let’s put it that way. I mean, I’d be an anarchist too, in a heartbeat. 

Carl King: Anyway, good shit. 

Trey Spruance: Yeah, man. Great talking with you. 

Carl King: Thank you very much for doing this. 

Trey Spruance: My pleasure. 

Carl King: And that’s all I got. 

Trey Spruance: All right, man. 

Carl King: Bye. 

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