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100 Musicians Answer the Same 10 Questions

Part Seventeen: LD Beghtol (LD & the New Criticism)

instigated by dave heaton

Pop songwriter/performer extraordinaire LD Beghtol has made music under several guises, with different groups chiefly Flare, Moth Wranglers, and, most currently, LD & The New Criticism. The latter group's recent album Tragic Realism (Darla) is an erudite look at death and depression that's both humorous and touching, not to mention filled with great melodies. Everyone should be listening to it. A writer as well, Beghtol's working on a 33 1/3 book about The Magnetic Fields' classic 69 Love Songs, an album that he (of course) sang on. LD & The New Criticism songs can be heard on their MySpace page.

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What aspect of making music excites you the most right now?

Making recordings that even remotely live up to what I hear in my head.

What aspect of making music gets you the most discouraged?

Trying to sell mine.

What are you up to right now, music-wise? (Current or upcoming recordings, tours, extravaganzas, experiments, top-secret projects, etc).

A. LD & the New Criticism -- reorganizing, planning/recording a mini-album for this fall, and a tour; a full-length album for summer 2007, and European dates for that, too.

B. Moth Wranglers -- finishing up a new CD with Chris (Xefos) slowly, slowly.

C. Flare -- in limbo. I have most of an album recorded, but not mixed. I'll probably cannibalize it for other stuff.

D. Possibly a new project called the Locust Street Rod & Gun Club with Greg Jamie of O'Death, a band I sort of have a crush on.

E. My book about 69 Love Songs by the Magnetic Fields, due out as part of Continuum'sesteemed 33 1/3 series in September. Almost done!

F. A weekly podcast for the Village Voice called "Uncle LD'sHigh Bias," which features music old and new, of all sorts.

G. Learning bass, contemplating the accordion.

What's the most unusual place you've ever played a show or made a recording? How did the qualities of that place affect the show/recording?

The most unusual place was an old tug boat docked on the Hudson. We played in the engine room for a friend's birthday party. It looked and smelled amazing -- very Sludgemaster videos. All the extremely sexy androgynous guests were dressed very beautifully in Rocky Horror/new wave/fetish attire. It was like being 17 again. But the sound was just dreadful because it was so airless; zero resonance. The soundwaves just seemed to drip out of our instruments like melting clocks in a Dali nightmare. And of course the slight rocking motion was a little unsettling.

All recording situations are unique and interesting, save for a 3 am piano session at Dubway for Flare that was just torture. Nice piano sound, though. Pity no one will ever hear it, probably.

In what ways does the place where you live (or places where you have lived), affect the music you create, or your taste in music?

New York means access, really. I started writing pop songs (sort of) and making records at age 30 when I moved here, ten years ago. My life totally changed, and I really credit that to moving here. Also, I've met many collaborators and developed friendships here that probably wouldn't have happened in the same way elsewhere. It's great as an influence, a stimulus, a resource.

When was the last time you wrote a song? What can you tell us about it?

I'm always writing stuff, but the last song I finished was about a month ago, and it's called "Love Theme from LD & the New Criticism." Live, it's arranged for baritone uke, Melodica, mandolin, glockenspiel and cowbell, and it outlines the basic tenets of the literary theory after which I named this project. It'sabout 20 seconds long and everyone in the band sings a line. We premiered it in Barcelona this summer; I'll record it in some form for an EP we're making now called Amoral Certitudes. But there are always little fragments of new songs -- scraps of melodies and shards of text -- hanging over me.

As you create more music, do you find yourself getting more or less interested in seeking out and listening to new music made by other people...and why do you think that is?

Less, I think. It'ssort of distracting. I'm not particularly entranced with much of what I've heard in the last five years or so, save some I've heard by friends of people who then became friends. Also, since I record so much (my own and occasionally other people's music) I just get tired of hearing music casually -- my ears just need a rest. Also, I like silence and ambient sounds enormously, and music intrudes.

Lately what musical periods or styles do you find yourself most drawn to as a listener? (Old or new music? Music like yours or different from yours?)

Always the same stuff: Tin Pan Alley, obscure experimental stuff, Brill Building, Bach for cello, plainsong, early polyphony, Chopin waltzes and mazurkas, out-of-tune Eastern European folk, anything recorded really loud that sounds good really quiet (Xiu-Xiu, Loop, Scriabin, old Jesus & Mary Chain), slow ragtime, Italo disco, 1920s dirty blues and party records, rembetika songs!

Name a band or musician, past or present, who you flat-out LOVE and think more people should be listening to. What's one of your all-time favorite recordings by this band/musician?

A. Musician: Mr Doug Hilsinger (saucefaucet.com ), who played guitar, banjo and pedal steel on Tragic Realism and I hope will play on every record I ever make in the future. As a person I simply adore him -- he's amazingly funny, smart and weird, and extremely generous with his talent. If I though I had a chance in hell I'd propose to him, or maybe proposition him. But like I said, I'm happy just to make music with him. His cover of Brian Eno's"Taking Tiger Mountain" is exquisite, and the band Waycross he plays bass in is criminally unknown.

B. Band (by which I assume you meant contemporary and pop/rock): Undoubtedly Wire. Everything they've ever done is fascinating, even if it isn't "good." I worship them.

C. Otherwise: Everyone songwriter would profit from studying the Carter Family, 19th century English/American hymns, French chansons, Italian art songs from the 18th century, the box Rhino Girl Group box set, the Phil Specter and Joe Meek collections, the "French moderns" of the 1920s!

Oh, how I do run on.

What's the saddest song you've ever heard?

I may be the precisely wrong person to ask this, since some pals of mine and I once did a three-hour theme show based on that very notion. It was utterly impossible for me to get through "The Butcher Boy" in rehearsal without sobbing uncontrollably, though I did -- somehow -- at the show. Not so with Stephin Merritt singing "Send in the Clowns" or Dudley (Klute) singing "Last Rose of Summer" -- both of which elicited floods and floods. I also routinely burst into tears when Kiki & Herb do "Running Up That Hill" by Kate Bush. And recently I heard Laurie Anderson's "Born, Never Asked" at a bar -- which I'd not heard since I saw her do it live at the Manhattan Town Hall on September 16, 2001, where the entire audience was awash in snot and tears. I couldn't stay.

To check out the rest of the Q&As, click here.


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