Published Sep 01, 2006These days, former New Yorker Wooden Wand (aka James Toth) lives in Knoxville, TN. Although he insists the move "was a personal choice, and had no bearing whatsoever on my music, the conscientious listener has to wonder if a record like Second Attention could have been concocted north of the Mason-Dixon line. Because, on these ten songs, Wooden Wand inhabits the kind of world where people memorise the Old and New Testaments, and God still has a "Portrait in the Clouds. And even though it was recorded in San Francisco and Brooklyn, its back-of-the-barnyard acoustic intimacy, its spare lining of myth, superstition, harmonica, and Biblical admonishment deep-fried in the brine of 70s country rock, situate it on the acid-baked, shamanic side of another faux-South record, Neil Youngs Harvest. This is Wooden Wands third proper release this year; hes prolific, but surprisingly consistent in distinguishing his projects as their own entities. Whereas other prolific musicians Ariel Pink comes to mind release the same album over and again, Wooden Wand treats us to a singular expression every time; youd be done just as well by Gipsy Freedom or The Flood. All of which is to say, Wooden Wand is a versatile talent.
Can you tell me a bit about your recording habits, and how you decide what gets a full release versus, say, a CDR release? My natural ability is songwriting. Its what I like to do, and arguably what I do best. I was raised with a strong work ethic, so to expect me to write ten songs, which takes me about a week on average, and then only play those ten songs over and over again for the entire year, is absurd. I much prefer "legit releases for obvious reasons, even though I usually make more money from making CD-Rs and tapes.
Can you describe your relationship to the music and musicians who have influenced you, and how that affects your recordings? Im only consciously influenced by a handful of American artists that is, when someone says "that part sounds like Neil Young or "that sounds like Royal Trux, my reaction is joy. Most of the music I listen to is very un-Wooden Wand like, and I draw most of my inspiration from the world around me. My songs are lyrically based, so Im not thinking about arrangements or guitar solos when Im writing a song. That said, I absorb tons and tons of music. (Kill Rock Stars)