The Deltahorse is a new indie music project featuring Sydneyʼs singer-songwriter TJ Eckleberg, Berlin-based founder Sash and Bostonʼs Dana Colley, former saxophonist of Morphine. Weekly Podcast “sat down” with them for an e-mail interview about their new EP.
The Deltahorse Interview
Weekly Podcast: For those unfamiliar with the collaborators in The Deltahorse, tell us a little about your musical history before coming together for this project.
Dana Colley: I have been playing in The Boston music scene since 1980. I was a part of the Band 3 Colors in the 80's and then the band Morphine in the 90's since then I have had several projects Orchestra Morphine, Twinemen, A.K.A.C.O.D. and now Members Of Morphine aka The Ever Expanding Elastic Waste Band. I have also recorded with many artists as a side man.
Sash: I've been working in recording studios for quite some time doing mixes, remixes or production work for other artists. It was about time to channel my energy into a project that followed my own vision.
WP: Who are your musical influences? Your style on this EP is very distinct, so I'm curious who you listen to and take inspiration from.
Dana Colley: My major influences have been environmental growing up in the 60's/70's I listened to a lot of guitar Hendrix, Rory Gallagher, and have been influenced by those who express themselves distinctly through their instruments, Miles, Coltrane, Rashan Roland Kirk, Big Bands, Benny Goodman, DukeEllington, Count Basie, Johnny Hodges, et al, being a sax player I have been influenced by equal parts jazz blues and rock.
WP: That’s an impressive list of jazz influences. How about you, Sash?
Sash: Anything that puts me off-kilter and drags me back into shape. Could be one single word in a lyric or the sound of a band. So much incredible stuff out there.
WP: How did you come together as collaborators? I understand it wasn't as easy as sitting together in a pub over a beer.
Sash: Not in a pub. In a coffee shop over a coffee. No one can understand the truth until he drinks of coffee´s goodness. TJ is a coffee connoisseur, so he suggested we meet at his favourite coffee shop in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin. It is here where I played him some of my early demos. Of all the singers I´ve been in touch with it seemed to me like TJ was the only one to sense what I was aiming for with the sound I had in mind. This was actually at a time before I had even approached Dana. I met up with Dana for the first time in Slovakia while attending a show he played, this year.
Dana Colley: Sash contacted me through the internet and we became collaborators based on his rough mixes that later became this EP. Sash had my sound in mind and I loved his production and the direction it became an immediate collaboration.
WP: Can you describe the process of putting the music together, despite living across three continents?
Sash: I am not allowed to because we use secret Techmology or something.
WP: Hah! Sash, you mentioned that Dana Colley was the person you always had in mind for the saxophone parts. What about Colley's work made him exactly who you wanted for these songs?
Sash: Do you know the feeling when you immerse into someone´s work, sound or playing… and get lost? You begin to truly understand and experience why the other person does this or that and sometimes it feels like some riffs or notes seem to be exactly what you would have chosen to play, too! I came to that point of being very familiar with what Dana does. It felt like I knew him even though at the time I had started working on The Deltahorse the two of us had never met. It was a pretty shocking experience hearing his amplified, electric baritone saxophone over a PA system for the very first time. I didn´t expect a sound as big as that.
WP: "The Guy Who Walks Away" is such a compelling track. The bass line and sax immediately grab the listener's ears and hold their attention until TJ's vocals move in, smooth and smart and the band comes together for what we think is an awesome single. Can listeners expect a similar sound for the rest of the EP, or are there style changes?
Sash: Thank you for the flattering words. Recently some listeners wrote that our songs sound movie-ish. I think it´s safe to say for the EP that there´s continuity but with variations to style and sound, ha ha. Same same but different, as the Thais would say.
WP: What is your favorite track on the EP? Why?
Dana Colley: Love them all equally.
Sash: I sincerely love all of them but if I had to pick just one for the desert island it would be The Guy Who Walks Away. I am leaving it to your own imagination as to why.
TJ Eckleberg: For me, probably Hey Yuri! It was written at a time when I was literally flying around the world (I think some parts were written on the plane back from Japan) and at a time when I was really wondering whether I should come back to berlin, move back to Australia, or move to Japan. It was a real call-out to me... reminding me to get my feet on the ground and my head down. It was also a turning point for me as far as The Deltahorse goes, because I felt really happy to be involved at that point - and had the feeling this would be something powerful. Of course I think the other tracks are great too though ;-)
WP: TJ, your lyrics are very poetic. How do you sit down to write them? Where do you get your inspirations?
TJ Eckleberg: I write all the time when I'm working on a project. While I have distinct work habits of generating each day, I think I've been writing songs for a long time (more that twenty five years) it's become part of the weave of my life. It's not automatic, unfortunately, but it is pretty entwined with what I do every day- so lots of daily events seep into the narratives and the imagery. For 'The Guy Who Walks Away I actually used an old song I wrote about ten years ago in Sydney about a break up - though now there's a lot of different things going on in that lyric, so it's become more about abandonment and failures and how you pick yourself up after setbacks.
WP: Do you think the rise of the internet as a content provider has been a net positive or negative for the music industry? Why?
Sash: Boy, was I hoping you wouldn't ask this question! Obviously, we´re still in the middle of a huge transformation shift with an uncertain destination. Looking at it from my own perspective I would say that the opportunities it has brought to artists are nothing less than amazing. The interaction and engagement I notice on SoundCloud... amazing! Is it really the internet and its anonymity that make people not want to pay for music? I don´t know. Or, is it that we have to look at our conscience and morals and the value we place on music in our lives when it comes to defining a fairer or better model that will allow musicians to live from their creativity? The same goes for other work! Because of the internet and music being omnipresent nowadays and available any time for most people artists need to have continuity in persistence and their sound has to stand out in order to gain attention. Even then there is absolutely no guarantee but rather than blaming the internet you need to realize it´s no pony ride. Are you ready for this experience? Because it's actually fucking hard on the nerves.
Dana Colley: This project would not exist if it was not for the internet. I have only met Sash once and this was after we had done the bulk of recording. As an independent musician the internet offers a vehicle to be heard around the world without the need for extensive budget or manufacturing. The downside is that everything is free the best you can hope for is that your music gets heard in the glut of free music that is available, to actually be paid for your music seems to be out of the question.
WP: After such a serious question, let's get silly. Instead of a musician, you're an animal. Which one and why?
Dana Colley: The Long Eared Jerboa because it has big ears and is nocturnal.
Sash: Centaur: Half man and half Deltahorse.
WP: Let's hop in Dr. Who's TARDIS and go back a year. What advice would you give yourselves, knowing what you know now?
Dana Colley: Don't procrastinate.
TJ Eckleberg: Maybe I would get a day job, lol. I think making songs is pretty hard work - and this project has not been without its demands. This year I've been working as a producer and mix engineer, making my fifth solo album 'This might feel like home', and also trying to keep up the energy with this project.
Needless to say without Sash's crazy hard work it would never have happened - he is a dynamo... But I guess any songwriter who wants to stay in the game has to work out both how to survive financially, and how to maintain their energy. I don't think Sash or I envisaged it would take this long for The Deltahorse project to see the light of day.
WP: Where can readers of this site pick up your debut EP on the 19th?
Sash: Thanks for mentioning it. Our EP will be available via Bandcamp.
WP: Last question: What are your future plans? Will there be more of The Deltahorse? What other releases should readers who dig your sound look for, either currently or coming up soon?
TJ Eckleberg: I feel pretty honoured to have been a guest on this project - I've learned a lot from watching Sash make it happen, and the interchange between me and the band has been fant
astic. For now I have to get on with the release of my next album early in the new year - but I'm really excited to see what Sash and Dana do from here.
Sash: We were very fortunate to have been working with TJ and I wish him best of luck for his album release. Dana and I will continue to push the bass and sax driven sound and experiment with some new and fresh elements. Please allow me to thank you, Weekly Podcast team! It´s been such an honour to receive your generous support! I truly believe that the Weekly Podcast concept is very special.
Your engagement and vision at offering a virtual stage and interaction for unsigned artists is invaluable and unique.
WP: Thanks for the kind words Sash! Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions!