Today, we are speaking with Robert from DownTown Mystic. Can you give us a little background information about the band?
DownTown Mystic started about 20 years ago as a side project for myself. I was managing a few artists at the time and working with them in the studio. I had started as a writer/musician/artist and put it all aside when I started my company Sha-La Music, Inc. in 1987. Working with young bands made me miss my creative side, so I decided to record some of my songs with the bands I managed. I would finish a track when I had some down time and put it on a music industry CD sampler that would go to Radio. More often than not, some Tastemaker would hear the track and play it on their show, which was very cool for me. Eventually I got out of artist management and decided to go back to being an artist again full time. You could call it a mid-life crisis I guess. (LOL) I started writing and recording albums again and started to put out cds as DownTown Mystic. My 1st cd “Standing Still” was released in the US in 2010 and was largely ignored but made the EuroAmericana Top 25 Chart. Suddenly I was on the musical map! I got a Licensing Deal in Germany the following year and released “Standing Still” to critical acclaim in Europe and was on my way.
You have just released a new EP, “On E Street”. How does it add to the body of music that DownTown Mystic has created in the past?
First of all, the full title of the EP is “On E Street featuring Max Weinberg & Garry Tallent”. I don’t know why you music journos seem to omit that in the reviews. (Editor’s Note: Features typically are excluded from album titles) Max and Garry are of course, the rhythm section (drums & bass) for Bruce Springsteen’s world famous E Street Band, who are stars in their own right. The reason I’m featuring Max & Garry in the title of the EP is because the 4 songs they play on are kind of rare for them. They’ve backed Bruce for over 40 years but have only played together on a handful of outside projects, including Ian Hunter after he left Mott The Hoople. I think there’s only been a total of 4 projects including mine, so this is a pretty big deal. There’s no other artist in the world right now (including Mr. Springsteen) who can say they have these 2 E Streeters on their project, which is why it deserves to be promoted as such. 3 of the tracks are on the Rock’n’Roll Romantic album, so they figure prominently with the music I’ve already created. They also add to my mission of bringing Rock’n’Roll into the 21st Century.
How did you become friends with Garry and Max [Weinberg]?
I met Garry via a 45 single that the band I was in had put out. We were playing a club in NYC where Garry’s girlfriend was a waitress. She came up to me after the show and asked if she could have a copy of the 45 for her boyfriend. I gave her the 45 and as an afterthought, asked her who her boyfriend was. She said Garry Tallent and I choked out ”from the E Street Band”? The next time we played the club she came up to me and said Garry wanted to meet me. The rest is history. Actually, Garry became our defacto bass player for about 8 months and recorded with us on a production deal we had. After the group broke up we stayed in touch and continued to work together.
The funny thing with Max is that I didn’t meet him until Garry brought him down for the first session we did together. I say funny because I went to high school with Max (Columbia HS in Maplewood, NJ) and had friends that knew him. Max is a year older than me and I had friends in his class. When he came to the session I started to rattle off names to him, which he knew. He asked me to give him more names and it was like a high school reunion. Then he looked at me and said “do you remember this girl…” and simultaneously we both said her name! Garry’s watching all this and he can’t believe what he’s hearing. (LOL) She was the hottest girl in the school and we went on about her for like 10 minutes and Garry goes “I’ve got to meet this girl!” (LOL) As I look back, the ironic thing is that we were about to record “Hard Enough” and I probably modeled the girl in the song after this girl in our high school.
How has the popular response been for the songs on this EP?
The EP was just released in the UK and Europe via another Licensing Deal I signed last year with a UK label and so far the response has been very surprising and successful. Over 60 radio stations in the UK and Europe are playing the single “Way To Know” and it’s hit the Top 20 on 2 charts! I think a big part of the response is that the songs live up to the billing. What I mean is that you have 2 well known E Streeters playing on this project and I think listeners and fans expect to hear them playing on the kind of songs that are on the EP. I also think people are surprised by the songs because they’re probably expecting something along the lines of Bruce’s style and 3 of the 4 tracks are more up-tempo and in your face.
How can interested NeuFutur readers locate samples of the On E Street EP?
We’ve asked you previously about your recording set up. Have you had any new additions to what you use to record? Have you any new favorite tools to use during your recording process?
Not really. I demo my music on a digital 8-Track Tascam recorder to work out ideas and vocals before I go in the studio. I keep it old school as much as possible. The 8-Track forces me to keep it to only the essentials and refine the ideas I have.
Which sort of social media website have you had the best successes with lately?
I primarily use Twitter, which gets sent to other sites like FaceBook. I’ll eventually use Instagram more when I start using more photos.
We heard that And You Know Why was chosen for television. Can you go into a bit more detail?
I have a very good friend/ business associate in LA named Eddie Caldwell, who needed tracks for the short-lived TV series “The Carrie Diaries” (the pre-quel to “Sex And The City”). The music supervisor for the show, Alexandra Patsavas, is considered to be one of the top music supervisors working in LA. So this was a very big deal for Eddie as well as me. Alexandra P. was looking specifically for tracks that had been recorded in 1984 when the show takes place (talk about authenticity!). Eddie emailed me to see if I had any tracks recorded back then and I just happened to have some—what are the odds?! I sent Eddie like 6 tracks, one of which was “And You Know Why” with a female singer. I wrote the song and recorded the track in 1984 and it never saw the light of day until I recorded it with Max and Garry. Alexandra P. must have liked what Eddie sent her because she picked 3 of my songs for the show and one was the female version of “And You Know Why”, 30 years after the fact. You can’t make that up!
What does 2018 hold for your music; do you have any singles or releases that are on the horizon?
I’m currently working on the follow-up to “Rock’n’Roll Romantic”. It’s called “Lost and Found” which was a project I started in 2011 and abandoned. It’s got a more positive vibe overall and I think we all could use more positive vibes out there right now. It raises the bar musically for me and I’ll probably release some singles as a lead-up to releasing the full album later this year.
Ph.D. in Political Science, Kent State University.I have been the editor at NeuFutur / neufutur.com since I was 15. Looking for new staff members all the time; email me if you are interested. Thanks! View all posts by James McQuiston