Davey Von Bohlen Interview

This is an archived interview conducted by Liz in 2007 for Front & Center Rock.

Davey Von Bohlen
23 December 2007
The Social|Orlando, Florida

SR: Say your name and what you do and (what band you’re from).
DVB: My name is Davey von Bohlen, I play guitar and sing in a band called Maritime. And some other stuff but that’s probably what you want to know.

So what is up with the snake? What happened with the snake?
When I was rehearsing for tonight, I was playing on the porch…well, not the porch, it’s not really a porch, it’s just in front of the house and when I looked down there was a six foot snake with a bulge, of probably a rat and it was coming at me. I actually reacted as much like a person okay with that would have acted. But I went inside and I said, ‘I know that I’m a yankee, but there’s a six foot snake out there and I imagine you want it gone.’ And they said ‘you’re exaggerating, you’re probably overreacting’ and then when they saw it, they were like ‘wow, that is a big snake.’ And it did have a rat in its middle. Pretty gross. And it kept coming back, too, so it sort of ruined the preparation for the show (laughs) but it was pretty amazing cause normally when I see this type of animal it has a huge, thick glass in between me and it and my kids are with me and we’re at the zoo so I think that was cause for alarm as far as my life’s concerned.

Well, at least you weren’t really attacked.
No, you know, you gotta beef it up for the stage. Everything’s magnified for the sake of rock and roll!

Do you have any more collaboration plans? We’ve been listening to “A Praise Chorus” by Jimmy Eat World (on which Davey sang) a lot.
I have been collaborating, haven’t I? I’ve actually been collaborating a lot. I do have plans. Most of them are already enacted and are just waiting to come out. I sang the chorus in a Reuben’s Accomplice song, you know Reuben’s Accomplice from Arizona? The song is called “Start Now.” The jury’s still out whether that song goes on the record but it’s a great song, with or without me, so I was happy to be a part of it. If they don’t put that song on the record, they’re crazy. That’s on the record!
And I also just sang a bridge, kind of a weird, middle eighth type of part on a song by a Canadian band called Bad Flirt. They’re pretty great. It’s pretty cool actually! They just approached me about singing and I said okay, and went into the studio and recorded and I’ve never met them, which is kind of the coolest part. The music is what is the collaboration. It has nothing to do with…

Being friends?
Yeah, it’s the first time it’s not been like, ‘Oh, we’re friends, we should do this together!’ And we’re (Maritime) doing Japan with Jimmy Eat World so I plan on singing my 13 seconds in Japan with them.

That reminds me, how did this show come about?
I was a little inebriated the last time we were here and I was telling Jeff, from Mumpsy, who played with us when Maritime was here, I said I’m so stupid. Every year I don’t think until December, I should totally book a solo show in Orlando, and I’ve been thinking this for three or four straight years and finally, this year…Chris e-mailed me like a week later and was like, ‘you know what, we’re putting together Chris Rae’s birthday show and you should play.’ So I was like, absolutely! That’s kinda how it all happened.
And the “B Is For Bethlehem” thing kinda got sprang on me tonight. I knew that he wanted me to play it, but I was kinda blowing it off cause I listened to it and it’s pretty much a nightmare of a song (laughs) for me, for me to play solo anyway. Then he told me yesterday that they learned it and well, here we are! So that’s basically the whole story, long winded.

I read an interview with you from a few years ago and in it you said that Maritime wasn’t a band of just ex-members of other bands, so what did you mean by that and how is Maritime similar or dissimilar?
Well, I think cause….God, what did I mean by that? That’s weird that I don’t remember saying anything like that…

It’s the internet, I don’t know!
No but it’s great cause I can comment on things I don’t remember saying and still it might have value. The line isn’t really drawn back to the past. Especially when Eric was in the band which is, at that point (3 1/2-4 years ago) probably what I was referring to. It isn’t really like the in between of, oh this is what it would sound like if The Promise Ring had a guy from the Dismemberment Plan on bass, you know? And we never ever looked backwards, it was always forward. It never really felt like this is our logical next thing. It just started like this new band we’re starting, we’re just late and kind of older (laughs). So it’s sort of a new…I mean, everything’s sort of a new experience. And I really think that a band is as good as their relationship as a whole. I mean even though Dan (Didier, Maritime drummer and former drummer for The Promise Ring) and I have been together, that’s one arm of it, but I mean that whole the lines between all the individuals in that collective circle is huge. And to have that whole fusion of personalities is what makes a band, and to even add one new person is a different…and Maritime was in flux for so long that we played with like 9 or 10 people and so it’s definitely a new experience all the time. And definitely doesn’t have much to do with how we acted in The Promise Ring.

How has coming from Milwaukee helped or hurt, as opposed to coming from a huge city…
Like LA? Well that’s exactly it: it’s helped and hurt. It’s helped in the fact that there’s no scene cred, there’s no pretention, there’s no, ‘Oh, you’re the guy who’s in that band.’ People are people, that’s what Milwaukee…That’s why people laugh at Milwaukee and that’s why Milwaukee’s great. It’s like we’re all kinda stuck in this place. It’s one of those towns where you can’t be tough, you can’t be cool, cause like, we live in Milwaukee! And everybody realizes it, so everyone is really nice and really friendly and pretty cool and doesn’t have all this chip on their shoulder. So it helps us and grounds us as people. There’s no rockstars in Milwaukee cause that’s ri-diculous, you know? And that helps. But it hurts us probably cause promotion…the promotion monster doesn’t really envelope us so we kind of have to do a lot of things ourselves. So, once again, that helps us, too. We don’t become this glossy, 8-by-10 of ourselves; we’re actually just ourselves. I feel like people respond to that, and they always…I hear it a lot…which is so shocking to me, when people are like, ‘Wow, you’re so normal, you’re like a human being.’ To respond to that is like, ‘Wow, I’m a human being! I would hope!’ We’re musicians, which basically means at some point we started by being completely shunned and locked ourselves in our bedrooms for a couple years during our formative years. It’s just funny that being in a band all of the sudden becomes this ultra cool thing that you have, that you’re super hot! and super cool! and you have all this awesome things about you that are no different than when you were the absolute invisible loser. It is funny, and it always amazes me, where it’s like, Yeah, k, I’m gonna go home tonight and have the exact same experience as I did without this.

Well, it’s just people see you only in a band and then if they see you out of it, like this, or just hanging out or something, then it’s just like Oh my G-d! Band members do that?!
Yeah, yeah, no totally! It’s like teachers when you’re in 4th grade, it’s like, “Oh my God, they’re at the grocery store, what do they need groceries for! This is insane!” It’s totally the same thing, you just don’t…Because you have so much attachment to something that’s not necessarily their actual personality, which is interesting. I mean, I love it, I mean, it’s silly to think that we’re not in some way entertainers, that we’re not bringing forth something that’s not necessarily real or our actual persons. So, I’m comfortable with that and I enjoy it. I’ll miss it when it’s gone. Maybe not next week but in 50 years when I finally kick the bucket (laughs).

That’s a few more albums!
Yeah, 50 years, that’s when I’m gonna stop putting out albums. Start counting!

The last time we spoke you said Maritime was going to take a break (from touring) after this tour, so what are you going to do in the mean time, going on hiatus, breaking up, anything like that?
No, no, no, we’re not doing any of that stuff. We’re still a band. We’re just a band that’s not gonna be able to tour as much as we were. We’re just taking a shift more towards our personal lives and where the band fits into that is still kind of questionable. I mean we don’t have any problem getting together and rehearsing on Thursday night or playing and making songs and therefore releasing records. We just can’t be away from our families. I think one of our collective fears is this idea that we’re gonna one day decide that we can’t feasibly be in a band anymore, and then we’re gonna be like, ‘Okay, so what do I do?’. Well, I’ve bartended. Ya know I think we wanna make some strides and I think that’s a good idea.
So this year will be more a focus towards that, away from touring, but we have some ideas of ways to stay visible. We’re gonna try and release an EP, maybe, hopefully, free and online. Just the kinda stuff to keep music moving. We just won’t be able to tour as much. And that may last for a year or it may last for five years, or who knows, it might be forever, it’s hard to say. We’re older, I’m not the baby anymore but I’m one of the babies (in the band) and so at this point we have a lot of life…there’s a lot in our lives. We have to respect all that. The band is just a part of that and not necessarily the whole. And it’s a matter of respect for everyone else in our lives. And that’s nothing to do with the band. It’s really just the reality, we have to do more for the other parts.
We’ve committed a lot of time this year to touring, as much as we could. We’ll see. It changes all the time (laughs). We’ll do what we can.

Now, when you’re playing a solo show, how do you decide what you’re gonna play?
I have a setlist, but I have a setlist next to my setlist, with all the options. It’s kind of a choose your own adventure book. And it depends, you know, cause I have comfort zones with certain songs, like tonight I started playing comfortable songs because I was actually really nervous. I’ve only done (solo) shows at home or in Europe. And Europe shows are kind of like, you have this weird detachment where it’s like if I explode on stage and everyone sees it and they’re like ‘Wow, that’s crazy, he exploded on stage!’ But in two weeks, 2 months, 2 years, they’ll forget about it. I’m not going to explode, so they’ll forget faster! It’s just so far away that you feel less stressed about it. Here the information line is quicker. This is always a pretty big show for us as a band.

It being Christmas and we’re not on tour… we’re always worried about my voice, blah blah blah. So I was really nervous about it.

And this whole “B is for Bethlehem” thing that I did with (Mumpsy) I was pretty nervous about, cause I started listening to it on my iPod…when I got here (laughs), so it was pretty scary. But I think it went really well! So that’s good.

My voice held up, which is always the ball in the air, you never know where it’s gonna go. And I can’t believe it, cause I was jabbering a lot before I played.

I like it when you do the jokes on stage.
Yeah you gotta (laughs), especially with solo music, especially the way I do it. I’m a rhythm guitar player, I’m not gonna do anything interesting on guitar, or anything you haven’t seen already tonight. And I’m not the greatest singer, so it’s all in the songs. But then the songs are presented in a very similar way. Yeah, I try and mix it up with talking. And sometimes I have a few more drinks and I talk a lottt. Maybe, it depends on what kind of person (is in the audience). Sometimes it’s better for those people and they think it’s better, but tonight was fun. It was enough. 3 or 4. We’re not gonna come down here and play a solo show next week either so I wanted to play songs that I thought maybe people wanted to hear. But really, if I can play it, I will! That’s the rule of thumb. The real bottom line. If I can I will. There are certain songs that people wanna hear that just aren’t possible.

Like what?
Someone asked for “Red Paint” tonight. I don’t really play that much in “Red Paint.” I mean I played a little bit of guitar on that song, but mostly it’s filler. So for me to come and play what I know in that song is kind of a joke. “E. Texas Avenue” is another one. Somebody asked me for it and I was like ‘that’s a long time ago.’ (laughs)

What about “Picture Postcard”?
Well, that’s another one. That’s actually another really good example. I don’t play very much guitar and all I do is a little du du du du du du.

The part in the beginning?
Nah I don’t play the bling, bling. I play the little note-y thing over the top.

That part in the beginning is like…my favorite part of any song ever.
It’s a great bass line. Which is another thing, great bass lines do me in solo. So I can’t really do those songs as much.

But…well, it doesn’t matter. You played a bunch of amazing songs.
I try to mix it up, too. I was talking to someone backstage who was really into Wood/Water and I was like ‘Ah, I’m gonna play a few more Wood/Water songs! I was either gonna play “Become One Anything One Time” or a cover, and I didn’t play (the cover). I played that instead of the cover. And someone asked for “Bread and Coffee,” so I was like, ‘Oh we’re rollin’ here! Let’s just go!’ Those songs are catered to the acoustic guitar, so that’s easy, that’s a piece of cake.

I said that on the way here, ‘he’s gonna play a bunch of Wood/Water, I can feel it.’
Cause yeah, it’s really easy, it’s really easy. And a lot of those other songs are really high. I was 20 years old when I wrote a lot of that other music and I hadn’t officially found my low voice yet. Even “Why Did We Ever Meet?”, by the end of it was like, ‘alright, that’s enough ba ba’s and do do’s up there’ cause it’s really high. It’s a loud room too so I tried to play really loud which tuckers me out a little bit too. There’s a lot of factors. Normally I play really quiet and I play different versions of songs but tonight was not the night for that. Tonight was a belt it out, play it like you know it, just go for it.

What has someone told you was their favorite memory associated with any of your songs? Like has someone come up to you and said ‘I proposed to my girlfriend during this song’?
We actually have had people propose on stage. It’s mostly to “Picture Postcard,” too. It’s funny.

That’s sweet!
It is! But you know what I’ve noticed, is that it’s too sweet and it’s too sugary. The song’s pretty sugary sweet as it is and then to have somebody stopping right before we play it to propose to someone is a moving moment. And those can go over the top, too. We’ve done that 2 or 3 times. And it’s just someone comes up and is like ‘I wanna propose to my girlfriend during this song.’ We’re not gonna be like, ‘No no no, we got this show going on. I know we played one last night, we’re gonna play one tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow but yeah we can’t be stopped.’ Of course you’re gonna say yes. That’s pretty memorable. But there’s one couple that I know broke up. It’s bound to happen. Most engagements don’t go all the way to the end so it’s not that shocking. And he asked her at like…a concert. I mean, you know? (laughs) Sure he had the guts to go up on stage and do it but there might be more private moments that might be fitting. Just saying. That’s pretty good as moments go.

I have a question about Heresy and the Hotel Choir: what does that title mean, where is that from? I’ve been trying to figure it out and I just can’t.
Yeah you’d really have to have a long conversation to totally get it probably. Only because it’s this new thing we have called a band (laughs) and a democracy and everyone has to be on the same page. It started as like…heresy was the last piece..you know you’re in the studio, I tape a piece of blank paper to the wall, they say they all stink, I put 90 more up they say they stink, then we start to come to terms with some, 2 people like one title, 2 people like the other, fight fight fight fight fight fight, then you come up with…then we all agreed, the original title was “All the Maids in the Hotel Choir” and then they decided that ‘all the maids’ wasn’t quite right, so then we needed something in front of ‘The Hotel Choir’, and at long last we came to heresy. What’s funny about it is, I know what ‘all the maids in the hotel choir’ means to me, but ‘Heresy and the Hotel Choir’ has this weird…after having this whole debate and this whole band member shifting ideas, now that it’s over, it’s the words that everyone can agree upon, lined in a row. It actually sums it up better. It’s kind of a strange idea.

I don’t know what a hotel choir is.
There’s no such thing. I guess in theory, what i was originally thinking, if there were a hotel choir…especially all the maids in the hotel choir to me was like the most invisible station in life. So the hotel choir stuck as that part to me. To me! There’s 4 people in the band plus a million other people attached to the record. Heresy to me brings it into this idea of anthem for the forgotten. Those of us in society who aren’t like part of this huge majority. And heresy is such a great word cause of the whole idea of religion and the evangelical…’if all the evangelicals vote they will win every time’ kinda thing. It’s a religious war in our country kind of. We’re putting religion behind all the wars overseas and when it comes to politics it’s all religion, blah blah blah. It kind of seemed fitting to be like ‘this is the world we live in.’ And we feel like sorta on the other side of the glass kinda. So, that’s sorta what it means to me in so many words.

I never would’ve gotten that from the title.
Everyone has a different idea and I think somebody could come up to me and say ‘it means this’ and I’d say ‘yeah that makes sense, too.’ Perception isn’t special to us because we made the record. Perception belongs to everybody which is what is great about art in every form. Once it’s tangible, it’s yours as much as the next guy and the next guy and the person who made it. It’s a public record, which is awesome.

I have one totally random, stupid, pointless question.
Lay it on me.

If you could be any superhero who would you be or what would your magical power be?
(thinks) Seems like every magical power is a curse in the end. To be invisible would be great and bad at the same time. To have premonitions of the future would be awful, as much as totally awesome. So I don’t think I would want…no. I don’t know, anything that I would want I’d want to earn, which is so sad and lame! But I would love to be really athletic and be able to do…for all my life! I’d like to not grow old, and not fall down and be unable to roll on the floor and get on my knees and stuff like that, but of course that’s not possible. But I guess that’s what I would like. But I don’t want it unfairly either, like ‘Oh you’re old, I’m not cause I got this thing!’ That wouldn’t be any fun either cause you’d be like not deserving of it. That would be it though. I’d like to keep my motor skills, that’s all I want. (laughs) I think that becomes the most frustrating part of aging is not having your knees and things start to go.

That is it so thank you so much and if there’s anything else you want to add go ahead.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to me.


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