Friday, March 30, 2007

Mini-Interview: The One AM Radio

Hrishikesh Hirway is the one man studio junkie behind the name The One AM Radio. After scoring critical acclaim with his 2004 release, A Name Writ in Water, Hirway finally reemerged this year with a brand new album titled This Too Shall Pass, released last month on Dangerbird Records.

Brad Knutson, the EIC for our vastly superior sister-site Radio Free Chicago, interviewed Hirway recently when he stopped to play in the Windy City. Here's the piece again, in case you missed it before.

I’ve always thought that "The One AM Radio" had a nice ring to it. How did you come up with the name?

My mom used to work nights when I was little. I would go with my dad to pick her up, and we’d sit in the parking lot, me half-asleep in the back seat, listening to my dad listen to the radio. Sometimes the Celtics game, sometimes these old radio serials they’d re-broadcast. Something about the sound of AM Radio stayed with me as a soundtrack for late hours.

Fifteen years later, one of the first recordings I made was a 4-track cassette for my sister and a few friends. It was instrumental, these guitar duets. They were supposed to be lullabies, listened to at night, going to sleep. (I’ve always listened to music while falling asleep.) I over-dubbed these fragments of radio programs, floating in and out of the songs.

I really liked the intersection of the two meanings of “AM” and I labeled the tapes, when I gave them out, as "The One AM Radio." As I started doing my solo stuff with a little more focus, I decided to keep that as the name for it.

You’re probably best known as a one-man, home studio-recording machine. How do you like bringing your music out on the road?

I really enjoy it. It’s a totally different set of goals and parameters for me, though, than the ones I have for recording. The songs change a lot in those two settings, and I like that transformation.

What were the highlights and lowlights in making your latest record?

Writing and recording this album was one of the most solitary experiences I’ve ever had, and I think that brought about a fair amount of both happiness and frustration. Just spending that much time alone was odd.

I was in India for part of it, and at the house I grew up in for a part of it, and there were whole days, sometimes two, where I simply wouldn’t see another person. There was a set of four days where the only person I saw was the kid who worked the night shift at the 24-hour grocery store. That was a low point, I think. It, at times, got a little oppressive, that isolation.

I started learning to play the cello a bit ago, just before starting the record. I’ve always loved the instrument, but I figured I’m too far along to learn something that difficult. But then I thought, whatever, I should just try it. One of the most satisfying parts of the process was getting to the point where I could actually play some of the cello parts I wrote.

Mostly, I had Lara Cushing play everything, because she’s amazing, but I snuck in a few sections of my own playing, and I’m pretty proud of that.

What are you drawing inspiration from these days?

I’d been living in California for a few years, and going back to Massachusetts in November for those cold months was a bit of a shock to my system. I found it actually to be pretty inspiring, remembering the winter. -

Any stories from past Chicago visits?

I love Chicago. Once, when I was 19, I heard from a friend that she was driving alone to Western Illinois to see her family. I’d spent the summer in New Haven, working at school, and suddenly, the prospect of being there straight through another semester without even a small break seemed horrifying. So I hitched a ride with her and she dropped me off in the middle of Chicago. I’d never been there, and this was before cell phones and Google.

The only thing I had was a pamphlet for the Stone Soup Co-operative. I talked to them and they let me stay there – which, if you don’t know, is an awesome community center on Leland. It used to be a convent. For a week, I just wandered around Chicago with a map that I photocopied from the library downtown. I called Fireproof Press (RIP) and asked them if I could come visit, because I was getting into letterpress printing myself.

They gave me a tour of the place and an Archer Prewitt-illustrated Fireproof Press T-shirt. I was walking down Clark, and I found a theater that was doing one-acts based on Judy Blume stories. I wandered into Reckless Records and saw American Analog Set and Braid doing acoustic in-store sets. It was one of the best weeks of my life.

What’s next for The One AM Radio after this tour?

Another tour. Then, I think, I might do some touring. After that, I’m planning on going on tour.

The One AM Radio will play here in LA next on Friday, April 13th at Tangier.

- Download: The One A.M. Radio - Lest I Forget MP3


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