Greg Gibbs is a Chicago based home-recorder/songwriter who recently released his electropop album, “The Lights,” on Jamendo. Read on to learn more about this talented, sandwich-making musician.
- If you could describe your music in three words, what would they be?
Quirky Brain Food
- What inspired your musical style?
Close Encounters of the Third Kind, drum machines, and turntables! Artists/styles that have inspired me include 80’s raw hip hop, Parliament-Funkadelic, Frank Zappa, Prince and Boards of Canada. I obsessed about P-Funk and Zappa in college, and figured I needed to learn to play guitar. I think you can hear those styles in my stuff. I covered two Public Enemy songs on my Raincoat album, including singing “She Watch Channel Zero” in the style of The Beta Band with a Jazz/Disco rhythm accompaniment. It’s like a genre casserole.
- Why did you decide to go the same route as all of the other awesome musicians on Jamendo by licensing your music under Creative Commons?
Creative Commons always seemed like a good way to get music into the hands of others for their purposes; listening, manipulation, etc… I’m not sure how much of a market there is for what I do, so I decided to keep a day job :)
- Do you ever perform out in your current city of Chicago? Tell us about your live shows.
Chicago jazz guitarist guitarist Jon Wall put together two bands for me in 2008-2009. The first one, Greg Gibbs & the Lizards of Seitan, played a couple of gigs at The Tonic Room – a small Chicago club. The owner of the club muscled his way into the band and we reformed a few weeks later as Scary Spider – also the name of my 1999 compilation album. Our last show was May 2009. I shut it down for many reasons, one of which was heavy gear…The Lizards or the Spiders will one day infest Chicago again.
- Tell us about the recording process when you're working on a new album. Do you do everything completely on your own? Do you record at home?
It’s all me. I do everything in my home office with the exception of live drums and field recordings which are sometimes included in the tracks. The drum set is in my restaurant basement. My songs are almost always “first takes” that have been embellished and layered over time. My goal is to capture something I like and the emotion associated with the creative experience, then refining it to hide some discrepancies and to enhance the song overall. I’m really a pretty slopping self-engineer and I tend to just try to jot things down and fix them later in the mix. My microphone technique hasn’t changed much since the days when I used to beatbox into a $15 Radio Shack mic with a tennis sock taped over it. However, once it’s in the machine I’ve learned a few ways to enhance it. Other than raw drum machine samples and piano samples, I never (rarely) used sampled instruments and loops. My looped and repetitive parts are always bits and pieces that I mesh together. I record guitars, percussion, room noise, etc, acoustically. I almost always record synthesizers and electric guitars straight into the computer and add effects in the box. For example, the percussion on my song “Slow Down” is me tapping sliding across a piece of paper on the desk with a Sharpie®. I think it’s actually two loops with a reversed version of the first played simultaneously in an adjacent channel. The bass arpeggio is one of the Ablelton Live Synthesizers synced to the song tempo. The percussion in “The Lights” was the gulping beat sound tuned down an octave or so and mixed back in with the original. That pitched version gives in the crunchy sound. The typing sound is a Sharpie® again, I think, possibly on the computer keyboard. I usually go with whatever is in reach. The shaker sound was done by scratching my leg. It’s pretty funny to listen to just the percussion part and pick apart the pieces.
- What do you love to do when you're not making music? What's your day job?
I own a sandwich shop called Chicago Bagel Authority. It’s the best sandwich shop in Chicago. I can say that with a straight face because a) I’m a foodie and b) I’ve eaten there 300+ times a year for the past 13 years! Check it out when you’re in Chicago. We listen to Creative Commons musicians at work quite frequently. You might hear your song!
- At what age did you start making music? How has your music evolved since you started out?
My parents used to have me sing my creations when I was three. “Devil On Again” was a song so simple even Neil Diamond would blush. My music began to evolve when I started caring a bit more about the listener. As a result, I learned some of the techniques to satisfy the listener just long enough to get half of the song in. Much of it is just aesthetic. That alone has been a great challenge, mixing, mastering, etc…I’ve gotten much better at filtering and focusing my ideas. Depending on which of my styles you like, that could be good or bad. There’s always tomorrow.
- What is the best part about being a musician and what is the biggest challenge?
The best part of being a musician is having a place to escape to at all times. I like to think about music. The biggest challenge is to remember to challenge yourself. It’s easy to pump out the same old crap. The challenge is to grow, invent, take risks and be unique.
- Tell us a little about your newest album, The Lights.
The Lights is filled with secular anthems, songs of regret, and some playful ditties. I wrote most of it over the course of a separation and subsequent divorce from my wife. I guess you could call it a break up album, but it’s really more than that. I wrote a song a week in 2009. Some of my favorites from that year are included on the album. I picked the ones that fit the overall mood of the album. I spent about 3 months mixing the tracks. I probably could have mixed for 3 more, but I woke up one day and decided DONE! I had many more energetic and off the wall tunes that didn’t make the cut, but will find their way out there soon.
- What is one thing you'd like your fans on Jamendo to know about you?
I love music and food! Come visit me and we’ll write songs and eat meals.