Gregg Hale has been treated well by the music industry, having a chance to play with the British band Spiritualized and go on tour. Instead of resting on his laurels and forgetting about everyone else, he’s decided to help give back to the music community. He can be seen judging music shows in Salt Lake City and recording promising new upcoming bands. He’s a valuable resource for many musicians in Salt Lake. PS – he’s nice. And approachable. You heard me.
When did you first start playing music?
A: The thought of making my own music never really occurred to me until after High School. I was more into playing basketball and football and listening to Rap and techno stuff like The Prodigy. My senior year (1995) I started listening to rap-rock hybrids like Onyx and Biohazard, Run DMC, Beastie Boys, and the Judgment Night Soundtrack. This led me to getting more into rock music. After an accidental listening of Stone Temple Pilots second CD, I decided rock music was the thing for me. That opened up a flood gate of music for me. I started listening to Nirvana, Green Day, Bush, Rancid, STP, The Toadies, Civ, Radiohead, NIN, Collective Soul, Smashing Pumpkins, Spacehog, Fugazi, Live, Alice in Chains… the usual ’94-‘96 stuff. After I graduated High School and knew I wouldn’t be playing football in college, I decided to start playing guitar; mostly because I needed something to do, and I wanted to be like my Dad and friend Brandon “B-Ride” Anderson, pretty much the coolest guys I know. I borrowed one of my Dad’s guitars (which I found out later used to belong to a member of the Kingston Trio) and had my Dad and my friend Brandon teach me a few chords. I played all day for 3 days, and went to Chesbro Music in downtown Idaho Falls and bought an Ibanez guitar and a 12 inch practice amp. After that, I just played non-stop. I didn’t get very good grades my freshman year of college.
Do you come from a musical family?
A: Music has always been a big part of my family, almost to an annoying degree. Many Saturday mornings I was woken up by piano lessons, or my sisters singing. If anyone ever needed a family to sing something or put on a little show for something, they called the Hale family; naturally I had to do it also. My sisters were always more into that kind of stuff than I was; they still love Broadway and musicals and all that, and seem to always be singing or listening to Hairspray or Wicked or A Chorus Line, or something. They are all amazing singers though! I like that stuff a little, but not nearly as much as they do. As annoying as it all was, especially growing up, I’m sure it has somehow influenced or enhanced my personal musical life. I suppose my parents were my earliest musical influences. My Mother is a phenomenal piano player, and I loved listening to her play. My Dad has always played the guitar, and always entertained at church stuff, work stuff, and anywhere he was asked. When he was younger he was in several folk music groups that did quite well. They got radio time, and apparently were being looked at by several record labels, including Capital Records. While I was growing up he was always playing and listening to folk and folk-country artists like the Kingston Trio, The Brothers Four, Peter, Paul and Mary, John Denver, Willie Nielsen, Johnny Cash, and early Beatles records, and he still plays with a great folk group called The Not Brothers. He also introduced me to the “Somewhere in Time” soundtrack, which to this day is some of my favourite music in the world.
How long have you been a member of the Church?
A: I have been a member my whole life. I’ve always tried to do my best, but I am far from perfect. I served a 2 year mission that I loved, and I was recently married to my beautiful wife in the Idaho Falls temple. I go to church as often as possible. It is a major part of my life, and who I am. Not only were my parents my earliest musical influences, but they have been my greatest life influences. They, along with my parents-in-law love the gospel very much, and show it in the way they live their lives. They are all great examples for me and our entire family.
How has your belief in God shaped your music and your life?
A: It has shaped most everything about who I am, and what I try to be with my life. As far as my music, I suppose I have always just tried to make music that I would not be ashamed to have my grandma listen to, or to have the Lord hear it. Not necessarily music that Jesus might go out of His way to listen to, but nothing He would be disappointed with. I suppose a combination of that and getting older has led me to expand on my lifelong love of instrumental music by listening to stuff like as Brian Eno, Sophorus, Eluvium, Amina, M83, and Stars of the Lid. I can listen to that stuff all day, and my grandma could probably listen and politely nod her head and say, “that’s not bad”.
I would say, make whatever music you are passionate about, but don’t do anything you will regret later in life. It is surprisingly not hard to do in the music world. My personal philosophy about that is to be very accommodating and overly respectful of other people’s lifestyles and personal beliefs; if you are, it is not asking too much for them to be respectful of yours.
You spent some time in England playing with the alternative/experimental rock band Spiritualized. How has this experience changed your view of the music industry?
A: The time I spent filling in for them was not long, but it was a lot of fun while it lasted. The main thing it showed me is that there are many amazing bands out there that will likely never be seen on MTV, but are just as, if not more talented and worth listening to, and can still have a very large and devoted fan base. Prior to then, I had lumped Spiritualized with well known pop bands like Radiohead, Pink Floyd, The Verve, The Sundays, Mazy Star, etc. After I realized the vastness of lesser known, but just as relevant bands out there, I started to associate them more with my favourite post-rock/space-rock-type bands like Sigur Ros, Explosions in the Sky, the Lassie Foundation, Godspeed you Black Emperor, Mum, This Will Destroy You, Mono, Stars of the Lid, God is an Astronaut, Low, Slowdive, The Flaming Lips, Mogwai, Mercury Rev, etc. The main thing I learned is that just because it isn’t on the radio or on MTV, doesn’t mean it’s not worth listening to… in fact, odds are it may be better than what is on TV and Radio, you just haven’t heard of it yet.
Do you have plans to work with Spiritualized in the future?
A: Not really. All the members of Spiritualized that were in the band when I knew them are no longer in the band, except Jason Pierce. I keep in occasional contact with Jason and Sean Cook. I have told Jason (half jokingly) a few times that I am ready to join the band, but he has had the same lineup for about 9 or 10 years. Next time he rolls through town, we are hoping to record a spoken interview with him to use as background in an Our Dark Horse song, we’ll see if that pans out though, probably some legal issues to work out anyway.
Tell us about Our Dark Horse and Last Response.
A: Last Response was the first band I joined after moving to Salt Lake City. I was looking for a project, and I saw a post saying they were looking for a second guitar player. I listened to their stuff, which at the time was a pop-punk CD. Their music was not really what I was into at the time, but the singer had a great voice, and they had catchy songs. I auditioned and got it. The first CD we released after I joined was called “Have You No Sense of Direction”, and it remains one of my personal musical highlights. I have always been very well pleased with that album. Joel Pack recorded, and did a great job. We then started getting more into 60’s influenced garage-type rock, which was reflected in our next recordings, highlighted by the song New York. That recording was done by Mike Sasich, again, the perfect man for the job. Last Response took a lengthy hiatus, but recently got back together to start making music again, which makes me really happy. Mike Angelastro is a great singer and songwriter, we compliment each other well, Aaron Evans is a very creative bass player, and a fun guy to be around, and Brandon Hansen is possibly the best drummer in Utah, just an incredible talent, and an extraordinarily hard worker!
While Last Response was on hiatus, I started recording on my own, and recorded my friend Darren’s post-rock band Our Dark Horse. I immediately fell in love with their music. They had 3 guitar players at the time, and 2 of them moved out of state within about a month of each other. They asked if I was interested in replacing them, and I jumped at the opportunity. It was exactly the type of project I had been interested in doing for several years, they are all very creative. We have recorded a few songs, and hopefully we can get in my studio and record some more. Usually our songs are planned out, with room to experiment in them, but we recently played an entire “impromptu” show. We got our instruments, and just played. I had never done that for a show before. Very liberating! Brian Walker is on par with any post-rock guitar player I have ever played with or seen, maybe with the possible exception of Kristian Dunn who is in a different stratosphere from every other guitar/bass player (if you are not familiar with him, look up El Ten Eleven on Youtube). The rest of the band is equally talented. Darren enhances the mood of every song with his keyboard and Steve makes every song better with his diverse bass styling. Amy, the drummer really helped take the band to the next level also, she is very dynamic; and she is a delight to be around.
Do you prefer playing music for money or recording?
A: To be honest, I have never made much money playing. I have made much more in the studio, running live sound, and judging various Battle of the Bands competitions. Most people who start a band to make money or meet women will be very disappointed.
I love playing shows with my friends. I love writing songs and performing. I also love recording bands. I love it when a young band has finished throwing down tracks for a song, and they listen to it for the first time. They just smile and get a look of pride and accomplishment. That is a lot of fun for me, knowing I helped them musically. That’s the cool thing about recording. You will be able to have a copy of that CD, and be able to tell your grandchildren, “Listen to this, I did this!”.
You’ve probably recorded some bands that are really worth checking out. Any examples?
A: I have recorded some great bands! I built the studio so I could record my own bands without watching the clock and feeling rushed. It eventually led to me recording my friends’ bands, and referrals and stuff started keeping me busy. I am a little picky about who I will record in my studio. Maybe that sounds snobbish of me, but I have to enjoy the band I am recording. I didn’t start this studio to make money, I did it to help local bands. I set it up to be inexpensive for young bands who don’t have a big budget, but still want a quality recording (usually around $20 an hour with free editing and mixing etc.); and I am wiling to record most anyone who has a good attitude about life and music. I have totally enjoyed recording and getting to know every band I have worked with so far, but a few of the highlights for me have been a Christian Rock band called Jeremiah’s Fire. They were one of the first bands I recorded in my new studio, so I was still learning a few things with it, but still one of my favourite recordings. I recorded a band called Unknown Anthem. Unknown Anthem has very catchy songs that I enjoy, and are very nice guys. I just completed a very technical recording with a progressive band called American Hollow, I learned a lot from them. I also recently recorded a band called Echoed Illusions. They are a very new band and still pretty young. This was their first recording, but I think this recording shows they have a lot of potential to become one of the top bands in SLC.
How is the music scene in Salt Lake City?
A: Overall it is pretty strong. When I first moved here, it seemed you had to be a screamo/scream metal band to get anywhere. I suppose that was just what was in at the time. Things have diversified a bit, and while there is still a very talented scream/metal scene, there are many other types of music that are doing well. I have always been impressed with the quality of music and bands coming out of Utah, and I think that quality is starting to shine through on the national scene. The main thing I noticed when I moved to Utah is that bands don’t work well together. It seemed they spent more time tearing each other down than building themselves and the local music scene. Last Response was in a group called the F-9 Faction, and it was a great network of bands that liked each other and supported each other, and we always had shows with those guys. I think there needs to be more organizations like that in Salt Lake. There have been positive steps made, but I think there is still a lot of room for bands to unite and support each other.
When can we see you next as a performer? Any shows coming up?
A: Neither band plays a lot of shows. We used to play several each month, but after a while it just seemed like too much. Now shows are more of a special thing for us that we look forward to. You can always check our Myspace pages. ODH has a show set up next month opening for Wolves in the Throne Room which should be an interesting show.
How can we as listeners support what you do?
A: I love listening to local bands. I judge many MANY local Battle of the Bands competitions, and I LOVE it! I love hearing bands, I love being able to give constructive help on their songs, and I love meeting them after the show. I consider myself to be a nice, approachable guy, and I’d love to listen to your music. If you are in a band, hit me up on my studio webpage. You can Google “Lincoln Street Sound Studio” or go to www.myspace.com/knutpunch.
If you are looking to record, give some of my recordings a listen on my myspace page. I have tried to include a few different genres on there. If you like what you hear, send me a message, or e-mail me. You likely won’t get a much better recording for the price, I am fairly confident of that ($20 an hour). My contact info is on the studio MySpace page.