Renner interview December 13, 2005
I first found out about Tim Renner because of his involvement as an illustrator in the zine scene (most notably in The Broken Face). Then I found out he was the same guy in the legendary underground band Stone Breath. And I am not his only fan, in fact this interview was conducted by our ace friend & ace reporter Tara VanFlower.
QRD – Could you talk about your affinity with moths?
Tim – Well, I don’t know why, but I’ve always drawn pictures of butterflies and moths. I’ve always loved them – from earliest memory. For some time, my interest was focused mainly on butterflies. I liked the idea that they would “die” in a sense – from their worm-form; they wrap themselves in a shroud and then are reborn as this beautiful winged creature. One day it hit me that moths were probably more my cup of tea. They carried the same transformative element but are night-flying, often ignored by people and overshadowed by colorful butterflies. I started to see all of these moth-metaphors to my own life and creative works and I became obsessed. A little bit.
QRD – Talk about your side projects. Will there be any more Moth Masque releases and do you have any other projects planned with anyone? (Besides Black Happy Day with Tara VanFlower)
Tim – There is going to be more Moth Masque, it’s just a matter of scheduling. Alicia and I have 5 kids between us and we wanted to do the next album together in a professional studio, so, making time for that can be difficult. We did record some songs for an EP to be released at some point - to hold people over until we can make the next album proper. I’m always starting one side-project or another. I’m really trying to limit them at this point, but it’s so difficult when I hear someone’s voice I really like or think “that guitar would sound really great in my song.” So, I’ll start all of these projects and each one truly sounds different to my ears, so I end up giving each a different name and driving people crazy. Though I think it’s somewhat expected from me by now.
QRD – You always seem to have a lot of different musical projects going on, how do you know which pieces belong to which project?
Tim – I think they all really have their
own sound and I just know it when I hear it. I was talking with Prydwyn
and Sarada (my Stone Breath bandmates) about this recently and said, maybe
we should just call EVERYTHING I do Stone Breath for simplicity’s sake.
But they said, no, Stone Breath has a certain sound - and I do agree.
QRD – How did you arrive at the decision to become a Christian? Was there some specific event or was it gradual?
Tim – It was both, if that is possible. I was returning slowly to the Catholic tradition of my family when I was hit by a series of miracles – or perhaps just one huge miracle in several stages - it was a bit like lighting a match and then having lightning strike it!
QRD – As a Catholic, how do you deal with Christians who say you’re not a Christian?
Tim – I could find arguments from Catholics that would say they are not true Christians for being outside of the Church. In general, it’s not an argument that is going to win you a lot of sympathy from either side, so I find it best to walk away. People believe what they believe. In my heart, I think I am on the right path.
QRD – How has your Christianity positively & negatively affected your musical career?
Tim – I don’t really feel an effect either way. No labels have asked me to tone down the Christian content in my music and, to my knowledge, I’ve gotten no more and no less show offers because of it. Our records are selling better than ever, but who knows why?
QRD – What do you think of Contemporary Christian Music?
Tim – Not much. It seems to me there are artists who happen to be Christian (Johnny Cash, 16 Horsepower, Nick Cave, Current 93) who make wonderful music... and then there is this “contemporary Christian music” which is so saccharine and often associated with false prophets, that it may just be a product of the devil!
QRD – What is the most annoying thing about being categorized as “folk”? Is it as much of a “dirty word” as Goth is to some people?
Tim – I don’t mind “folk” at all. I really see myself as a folk artist. I actually had a lot more problem with “psychedelic” and “psychedelic-folk” before the terms gained so much popularity. When I started out people would say: “o, psychedelic-folk - you mean like the Grateful Dead?” I really never liked them at all, so I found that particularly annoying. Of course, now people say “o- psychedelic-folk - you mean like ___” and then they will name some band that started 5 or 10 years after I did, so that carries its own annoyances still.
QRD – Do you feel more connected to the “old time music” audience or the “wyrd folk” audience?
Tim – We’ve always been a bit too experimental for the “old-time” crowd. I’m not sure there is a “wyrd-folk” audience, is there? There is a kind of New Weird America bearded corduroy hipster crowd who seem intent on looking bored and/or being ironic so I can never tell if I am connecting with them or not.
QRD – Where would you like to see your label going? Would you like to add more bands or keep it a somewhat small family?
Tim – It has gotten somewhat out of hand lately. I originally started this label to release my own music in between releases by other labels. Either EPs or albums they didn’t want to release for whatever reason. But people keep sending me music that I love and think “I have to release this!” Now I’m trying to reign it in a bit. I’ve got the Trees Community 4CD box set upcoming and then releases by Lamp of the Universe and Nick Grey. After that, I’m going to try to keep it more in line with my original plan with releases by bands I’m in or people somewhat “in the family” – bandmates and close friends.
QRD – Write something new for us. It can be a sentence, two words, or a paragraph...but give us something new.
Tim – Spread your wings and dream, then sit upon the moon.
QRD – What are the three most important albums to you? I know it’s hard to pick only three, but try...
Tim – rock: Love Forever Changes
because it is possibility itself.
QRD – What fictional character do you most identify with and why?
Tim – Perhaps one of the ents from Lord of the Rings – because I do feel myself a part of something that is fading.
QRD – I know you do a lot of graphic artwork as well as writing music & running a label, how do you balance all your artistic endeavors with each other & with your life?
Tim – I don’t do as much illustration work anymore. The music kind-of took over. It’s a difficult balance. The kids come first. Then my marriage, though my wife is incredibly understanding and knows the value of creative pursuits, so that’s not much of an issue. Following that, my creative endeavors and the label vie for time. I tend to work in periods – like I’ll spend 3-4 nights working on label stuff and then 3-4 on music. Or if I get particularly inspired to paint or draw or play banjo one night then I’ll just do that. I don’t really hold myself to any deadlines or anything so, my free time is fairly “free” in that sense. Things get done when I finish them, no sooner or later; much to the frustration of bands on my label – sorry everybody!
QRD – If you had your druthers, would you rather work on music or art fulltime?
Tim – Music, if I could have my choice of which music, who I played it with, and where.
QRD – How has becoming a parent changed your perspective on your work?
Tim – I definitely consider how things will sound to my children. What they will think. Will they be embarrassed or proud? It also makes me want to leave them something lasting.
QRD – Do you believe the Apocalypse is upon us? Either way, why?
Tim – I do not know. I’ve read books on prophecy and even the experts disagree. I don’t think we are supposed to know. The short answer would be: I wouldn’t have brought children into the world if I believed the horrors of the Apocalypse were directly upon us. That said, what do I know?
QRD – If you had the chance to work with one musician alive or dead, who would you want to work with?
Tim – Probably Johnny Cash. I don’t think that needs explaining.
QRD – Who is Richard Crashaw & why was it important to you to cover his songs?
Tim – Richard Crashaw was one of the few Catholic metaphysical poets. I found a book of his poems and fell in love. His words are very melodic and his rhythms unique. I love the metaphysical poets but England at that time (1600s) was protestant, so very very few are Catholic. Crashaw wrote many of his poems in exile, I believe. I just set his words to music, so they aren’t cover songs per say.
QRD – What is your favorite musical instrument to play & what one do you wish you could play that you can’t?
Tim – 5-string banjo is my favorite. It’s the one I know best and I’m still in love with that sound. I would love to be able to play the harpsichord – I’ve never even touched one, but I love that sound as well.
QRD – I know you’ve said you’d just as soon play in a forest to the trees as to people in a bar, why are the trees a better audience?
Tim – It sounds so dismissive of humans when I read that now; but I did say it and, in general, it’s true. I have had some great experiences playing in bars – attentive audiences and people who came to listen – but also I’ve had some nightmare experiences: drunk or angry people heckling or worse; people talking who couldn’t care less about the music. In the case of the latter, it would be better for me to sit alone and play for myself or for the trees. Playing in bars is a sort of necessary evil. When it can be avoided, I avoid it. I think there are just better settings for acoustic music.
QRD – Do you have a story about the paranormal you'd like to share?
Tim – I do believe I had several paranormal experiences while involved with the occult – real or not, they were real enough to me – but I also believe that these stories can kind of glorify and romanticize the occult. It was such stories which drew me in, in fact. I desired to experience things as I read in others' experiences. So, I won't relate those stories, for this reason and perhaps also for superstition.
QRD – And my favorite QRD question of all time: Which monster do you most relate to?
Tim – Perhaps Frankenstein's monster, minus the murderous rage. Or the Hunchback. One of the misunderstood.
QRD – And lastly, what’s your favorite candy bar?
Tim – Anything with dark chocolate.