Barrett Martin, Ben Anderson and Duff McKagan took time out of their day to talk everything Walking Papers with RoomThirteen.
R13: For those who don't know, can you provide the background to Walking Papers and explain how you came to be a band?
BA: Jeff Angell and Barrett Martin started playing together last year, we've all been friends for quite a long time but those two were the driving force behind getting it started. They ended up bringing in Duff, myself and some other people in for recording and we had such a blast that it just stuck.
DM: I think it began as a project and it became a band; it really became a band after the record was made. They weren't playing any gigs; they just recorded it. This make up of four guys is really quite spectacular in terms of chemistry, and I'm not saying that because I'm in it, but there are certain chemistries that work and I've definitely come across some that don't work.
R13: Considering you are all in your own respective bands, do you refer to this as a band or a side project?
DM: It's a band.
BA: It's definitely a band. Every one of the four of us has other things that we do but this is definitely a band.
DM: He has Led Zeppelin.
BA: And The Doors.
R13: Just small things!
DM: He keeps busy.
R13: Is there anything you get out of playing with Walking Papers that you haven't got out of other bands?
BM: This is the only rock band I've been in since the Screaming Trees, I've played on lots of lots of records for other people but wasn't in their band. For me this is the most important band as it's the only band that's out playing shows. The other guys are all in two bands; I have my jazz group, The Barrett Martin Group but we pretty much only play on the west coast of the USA. It's a seven to eight piece band so it would be very cost prohibited anywhere else but we have a good time playing locally.
BA: I get to play with the greatest rock and roll rhythm section, so I get that out of it!
DM: I don't think as a musician you go searching for those pretend voids that are supposedly there; things just happen. Music is this thing that just happens out of thin air, just like when you write something there was nothing there before but then you fill in the void. A band like this is no different, I don't think for any of us this is filling any voids, it's just happening and it's fucking wonderful and great and we're just going with it.
R13: You've been referred to as Seattle's supergroup, how does that make you feel?
DM: It's just a group.
BA: Those words have not come out of any of our mouths.
DM: You're too young to remember but Velvet Revolver was called a supergroup and I was like "What the fuck? Slash and I have played together for 27 years!" and Matt and Kushner were from Wasted Youth and nobody had a clue who they were. I remember there was a band called Asia in the early eighties; one of the first MTV bands and they classified themselves as a supergroup and ever since fucking Asia used the term supergroup it just gets branded around all over the place. If it wasn't for Asia we would just be Duff, Ben, Barrett and Jeff.
BA: Asia and The Eagles may be the only two supergroups that ever really existed.
BM: I don't like the term supergroup, are you automatically a supergroup because you have played in other bands? If you live long enough and you play in a number of rock bands at some point you're just that guy who played in all those rock bands, you should be able to play with whoever you want to play with. The cool thing about this band is that we're all friends, I've known Duff for almost 20 years but I've never been in a band with him, sure we've jammed and had some fun together but we're just friends. I've known Jeff and Ben for a few years, mostly because I love their other band the Missionary Position, I would go to their shows. All of us decided to form a band and go out on tour and it's enjoyable. Duff and I have been through some hellish bands and dark situations so we have a seasoned understanding of it all.
R13: How do you describe the music that Walking Papers create?
BM: I call it hard blues, it's a rock band but we have a blues and jazz influence. If you noticed from the dynamics of the album you can play a heavy song but it might just be piano, vibraphone and marimba and obviously great lyrics, but you can also create that with guitar, bass and drums and that's what I love about this band; there's the depth of scope to do that.
R13: I believe you're already writing your new album and will start recording new month, will it be in the same vein as the debut?
BA: Some of the songs are being written at sound check on this tour, so it's a work in progress.
BM: Tonight we are actually going to play two new songs, we have studio dates booked in Joshua Tree, California and in Seattle in mid-December. It will be a progression, we're growing as we're working together on the road. We'll be using similar instrumentation, we have some songs that have piano and upright bass but there's also some good rock tunes.
DM: That comes under the same subject matter as the chemistry, things just happen. Barrett actually said to me "Tomorrow in London we're going to do some work on the new album." I was like "Dude, I've got to do this thing for the Classic Rock Awards." He says "Can you squeeze it in before rehearsal?"
BA: He has an unquenchable fire, which is good.
R13: Are you planning to produce that one as well?
BM: I'm sure Jeff and I will produce it again, I have produced quite a few records, I automatically think like a producer. I think drummers can be very good producers, you just have to learn how to do it. It's a skill and you have to develop pretty big ears and be able to hear things in their totality. From the perspective of a drummer you think about things in terms of feel, groove and sections because of arranging techniques and being a multi-instrumentalist I can understand how to put those parts together. Admittedly, you use a different part of your brain, it's almost like pulling out of yourself and hear it with an open mind and develop it.
R13: Will there be any new additions or special guests coming in on the next album?
BA: That's what I hear, there are people in line that want to do it but you never know for sure.
BM: Mike McCready will play with us again, and Peter Buck from REM is going to play on a couple of songs; it's easy because we all live in Seattle.
DM: The thing about Seattle is that it's a small town, we're all friends so if musician X comes in and plays on it, he is probably going to be from some band so that will be another addition to the so called supergroup. In reality, it'll just be our friend and we had a six-pack of beer in the studio.
R13: Barrett, is there anyone you aspire to work with on a producing level?
BM: Brian Eno, I don't love every record he has produced as I'm not really a fan of pop music but he thinks the same way - serve the spirit of the song, be open to accidents happening, explore new ideas that you normally wouldn't think about doing as coming from different angles and direction will in itself spark new ideas, new songs, new compositions and new ways of producing. He's a genius at seeing all the possibilities of seeing all the different ways music can be produced and performed. There's no-one else jumping out at me, on the plane over I read a lengthy interview with Eno so he's fresh in my mind.
R13: Musically, how does Walking Papers differ to what you have done previously with other bands?
BA: It's just an accurate representation of those involved; it differs as different as the elements are that are playing, it's like a soup.
R13: You've all been making music for a long time, does perspective and experience influence you?
BA: Absolutely, probably I would say more than anything. Walking down the street, looking in the window and catching a glimpse of something is probably a bigger musical influence at this point than another band. Experience is everything.
BM: I've learnt that space, mood and atmosphere are the most important things in a great song, it's not playing the fanciest drum fill or guitar lick. Capturing of the essence of the song and realising every song has its own spirit are extremely important, and you have to do what best serves that and if you stay open and intuitive to it, the spirit of the song will tell you what to do and what extra instrumentation it needs.
DM: I would hope so. Being a musician you're not who you were when you were 21 or you would hope so at least when you're 48 like me.
R13: I hope I'm not who I was when I was 21.
DM: Right, so you're a writer, remember the stuff you wrote in high school that you thought was fucking great? If you looked at that now you'd be like "Holy shit!" but it was great at the time. You take some good stuff from those times, meanwhile you're reading authors that move you and you hope that you can get a little piece of that in your work too. I'm not who I was at 18, I'm not who I was at 32. You're constantly improving things that you hope to be better at.
R13: Duff, you write as well, how do you balance that with this, Loaded, your family?
DM: Writing is something you can do to fill the gaps on the tour. On the Loaded tour we just did there was a lot of down time, I would go to the gym, and there would still be five hours between the gym and the gig and I'm not with my family so I would write. Columns are great things for me as I have to think about what I'm going to write about and pull it together. I write while I'm travelling, on the train, on the bus, wherever.
R13: I can't do that, I get too distracted by everything around me.
DM:I guess it's something I learnt to do because of having kids, I'm used to writing with everything going on around me, it's almost comforting to me. I think from the outside I'm doing a lot of stuff but I'm just doing what I'm doing, right now in this very moment I'm doing an interview with you.
R13: You're hosting the Classic Rock Awards this week, how did you get involved in that?
DM: I'm not sure, I'm really not even sure that it's actually happening! I've received like two emails about it. They asked me, I'm at this point in my life where I like challenge and being scared to death so I climb mountains and host awards. I've never hosted anything, it will be terrifying and it will be great. The fear will pass and I'll be in that moment and I'll try to enjoy that moment and probably something funny or embarrassing will happen but I'll work through it and it will be ok because I didn't back down. The worst thing that can happen is embarrassment or freezing up, which in turn will be embarrassing. I'll drink a whole load of energy drinks and buzz my way through it.
R13: It's just been confirmed that you're going to play at the Classic Rock Awards.
BM: Yeah, we're going to do it acoustically, I think we make a pretty good acoustic band too. We'll play The Butcher and A Place Like This simply because they're really the only two that we can do at short notice but they go across really well.
R13: Who are you all looking forward to being trapped in a room with?
BM: I heard ZZ Top are going to be there and I think they're performing. I have never seen ZZ Top live. Lynyrd Skynyrd will be there. I've gone to the Grammys in LA a couple of times but nothing particularly eventful goes on.
DM: The Damned.
R13: You're currently on your first run of international shows with Walking Papers, how have they been going?
BM: It's been great, we started out in Manchester and so many great bands come out of there. It's almost like the Seattle of England. We played one song twice in Manchester because we kind of fucked it up, Duff wanted to play it again at the end of the set. We played in Rugby, Grimsby, Brighton, we all grew up in small towns and appreciate what it's like not to have bands come and play in your town, everyone loved the show and appreciated us being there which made all the difference. We stay and sign CDs and take photos with people, we've been doing that this whole tour, meeting the fans directly after the show and just hanging out for a little while. You can't always do that simply because of time and itineraries but will do it again tonight. We had a phenomenal show in Paris, I have been to Paris four of five times but have never played a show there. I was there with Screaming Trees and Alice In Chains and there was a riot and the whole venue got trashed, they stole all our merchandise. The Screaming Trees never made it back there. The last time I was there I broke my leg, which is why I have a limp.
R13: What happened?
BM: It was a stupid accident, I fell off a wall. I wasn't trying to do anything but I slipped and shattered my lower tibia and my ankle, and now I have titanium in there. It's fused. To finally get to play Paris and have such a great show is a great memory for me. The last time I was in this room was in 1986 as a college student in London and I saw the great guitarists play here; Joe Pass, Barney Kessel. I came here because Jimi Hendrix and the The Rolling Stones have played here, and now I finally get to play here. I also got to play CBGBs with Skynyrd in 1991 and I'm glad I got to do it, but it was a pretty grimy club.
R13: I've only ever been at 100 Club once before and it was Queens Of The Stone Age.
BM: They're awesome, I played on the Rated R album, and Josh was the rhythm guitar player on the Screaming Trees last tour, our last show in London was at the Astoria which is sadly, no longer there.
R13: Are there plans for a US tour?
BA: As soon as we get back we're doing a string of west coast shows. We're waiting to hear where the schedule will go from there, I imagine we'll be back here before too long and in other places in the states but nothing is confirmed as yet.
R13: Duff, you just finished a run supporting Alice Cooper with Loaded, how was that?
DM: It was good, people showed up, we played, the crowd had their fists up in the air whenever that happens it's great. It's been great just to be out playing music firstly with Loaded and now with Walking Papers.
R13: I saw on your Facebook page that you've been doing some of the tourist stuff in London, where was your favourite place?
BM: We did that right when we got here, I've been writing little paragraphs about our adventures and posting photos. I'm a few days behind as we've travelled to Paris and come back, I couldn't get my computer to work. Today's the first day I've been able to check my emails in three days.
BA: We have been doing a bit of that, it's been very enjoyable. We went to the British Museum, The Tate Modern, walked around the Houses Of Parliament, saw Big Ben and the Eye.
R13: I've done none of that apart from the House Of Parliament.
DM: You've got to do it, I didn't do any London stuff until we came over with our kids when they were old enough. The Tower Of London is fucking fascinating, and it's just right down there! You go up in the Eye and you can see everything, we've done the Natural History Museum which is killer.
R13: I've heard that's amazing.
DM: You haven't visited - are you kidding me?! Are you a Londoner?
R13: I grew up in Portsmouth, spent some time in London before travelling so I've only been back in London for a few months.
DM: Please tell me you've been to the D-Day Museum in Portsmouth.
R13: Yes, I have been there.
DM: Ok, you're not a total lost cause!
BA:A lot of museums here are free which is great, I'm not used to that.
R13: All of you would have seen the music industry change a lot over the years, do you think it has changed for the better or worse?
DM: Wow, that's a whole different interview!
BA:It has definitely changed a lot, I think the one thing that hasn't changed is the one thing you get you of turning up in a room and playing rock music and the energy you get off of that is the same whether there is a big industry behind it or not. That feeling is priceless and makes it worth doing every day.
R13: What can we expect to see from you over the next 12 months?
BM: There will be another Walking Papers album, we'll be coming back in the spring to do a more extensive UK tour, we'll do some festivals and then hopefully be back late summer or early fall. There's a Mad Season's box set coming out in March that Mike McCready and I have overseen, it's a beautiful tribute to our departed friends. I'm always playing with people, either on their records and occasional at live shows.
R13: Thanks for you time guys, look forward to seeing you next time.
Barrett Martin, Ben Anderson and Duff McKagan took time out of their day to talk everything Walking Papers with RoomThirteen.