An Aries, Chopper wrote his first song in 1977 at the age of five. He learned to play organ, trumpet, trombone and piano before switching to the bass guitar at age 15. He formed his first rock band at 16 and began playing jazz professionally at 17. At 21 he took up drums, and recorded two albums in Texas with local legends Cornhole. In 1994 he moved to DC to join Vertical Horizon as a bassist. He toured and recorded with them for three years.
After nearly 1000 shows, he left Vertical Horizon in 1997 and moved to Austin, TX to write songs for Kissinger. After one year of live shows and two years working days and recording at night. Kissinger released their first album, CHARM, in November, 2000. The album features 10 songs and a video for “Rock n Roll Asshole.”
Chopper: We looked John up in the white pages, and asked him to record three songs for a 7″ single that we self produced. The recording went so well that we began talking about doing more work together. He was already thinking of starting a label, and we seemed to fit what he was looking for. After showing him the other material that we had written, we decided to start recording a full-length. We worked in the studio that he was then purchasing, working when other acts cancelled, or when we could fit in some spare hours. About two-thirds of the way through the project, he sold the studio and moved to San Francisco. I flew out there to finish tracking, and he mixed and mastered there. The entire process took two and a half years. The label is sort of in my hands now, in terms of promotion and whatnot. John doesn’t care to get involved in that too much. He focuses on recording and producing, which is fine since he’s such a master at it. I don’t care for the promotional work much either, but it’s a necessary evil. It’s exciting in that I can watch the momentum for the record building, but it’s demoralizing in that I spend 12 hours a day working on things that aren’t artistically interesting. I yearn for the opportunity to pass this work on to others I trust so that I can go back to spending 12 hours a day writing new material. As it is, I have to do all my writing in my head while driving around town, or walking to work. It’s better than nothing, but I can’t wait to have my life back.
thereivers.net: What kinds of music and/or what musicians would you like to release on WCI in the future?
Chopper: There is a band called Girling that features Andy Sharp. I play bass in the band (though not on the recordings) and both John and I are in love with the songs. They would be the next obvious choice, but we’re having to put all of our resources into the Kissinger record at present. If the Kissinger record does well, and we’re able to recoup our losses, then the Girling record will be next. I highly recommend them to anyone who enjoys great songwriting. We aren’t scouting for other acts right now, as all of our energies are already overextended. But if I were to describe what Girling and Kissinger have in common (besides ing roots) I would say the ability to tell stories through songs. That’s what interested John in Kissinger, and that’s what he helped me to bring out in my own songwriting. It’s also what he and I both react to in Andy’s songs (Girling).
thereivers.net: What are your goals for the label?
Chopper: Our first goal is to break the Kissinger record. We’re very proud of the work we put into it (two and a half years is a long time!) We feel that this record can have a wonderful audience because the songs tell stories, something that’s become rare in pop music. Once we can break one record, then that will pave the way for others, like the Girling record, and future Kissinger records, if need be.
thereivers.net: I’ve seen it mentioned that Kissinger was signed to “Croslin’s own label, Irregardless Records”. What’s the story on Irregardless- did WCI take its place or is it still in existence?
Chopper: Irregardless was the first name for WCI Records. The word is quite hilarious in and of itself, but it was too hard to make a logo, so we switched to WCI, which instantly adapted itself to art.
thereivers.net: What’s the origin of “Kissinger” as the band name?
Chopper: The name Kissinger is part of the word play that we like tinker with. It’s a subliminal message to our listeners to Kiss the Singer.
thereivers.net: Were you familiar with the Reivers’ music before working with John Croslin?
Chopper: No. I had just moved to Austin, and a friend recommended I get in touch with John once I had some material I was ready to record. After I initially talked to John on the phone I went out and bought a Reivers record, and a Spoon record. Both of them blew me away, and I couldn’t wait to meet him. I was very intrigued by the name of his band “The Reivers” and one of the first common intrests we discovered was a mutual love for Faulkner and his writing.
thereivers.net: What would be your top ten favorite albums? Your “desert island discs”?
The Girling Record
Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain
Archers of Loaf – Vee Vee
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Suger Sex Magic
The Police – Regatta de Blanc
Chomsky – A Few Possible Selections for the Soundrack of your Life
Wynton Marsalis – Standards Vol. 2
Pavement – any record
Rod Stewart – Storyteller
AC/DC – Back in Black
(photos courtesy of Chopper, from the Kissinger website)