Interview with Spiney Norman (5-26-04)
By Ronnie

Right: Spiney Norman photo by Mark McKay

Spiney Norman is a band that you might not hear on your regular radio station - but it sure ain't for lack of talent or ability. The band simply falls through the cracks because their goal isn't the cut-throat global domination of the music scene. They are your classic "purist" musicians who are content to put CD's out and play music live, letting their music alone do the talking.

I talked to George Dussault, the down-to-earth guitarist and vocalist of Spiney Norman about topics ranging from the band's modus operandi, their attitudes/goals and their great new CD.

E.C.: First - I know this is an asinine, clichéd question - but I've got to ask it because your band name is unusual. What does the name Spiney Norman mean and how did you choose it for a band name?

George Dussault: Monty Python. Spiney Norman was a very tall hedgehog who stalked Dinsdale Piranha, the gangster. I can't help it, I'm a Python freak, you know. Rob (the bassist) and I were just starting the band, looking at drummers, and the name popped into my head. So I called him and left a message on his machine saying, "From now on we are a Norman with Spines."

E.C.: One thing I've noticed in your lyrics - although some might have some "dark" subject matters (I prefer to call them real life situations) there is ultimately a message of hope in the lyrics of Spiney Norman. When you write lyrics is this intentional?

George Dussault: Not all real life situations are dark. Many of them are, but life has its good moments too. I mean, no offense to any of the bands out there, but I get tired of hearing singers complaining about how nobody loves them.

When I'm feeling dark, I get dark lyrics, like on "In The Shadows" from the new CD. I was in a real bad place at the time. But it’s OK to write about good things too. As far as hope is concerned, I believe that there is ALWAYS hope. If I didn't hold onto that Id have killed myself years ago.

E.C.: Is there a lot of thought put into the lyrics, i.e. a message?

George Dussault: The only sort of premeditated agenda I put into writing lyrics is that I want them to be honest. That's it, really. I think we all feel that way. The lyrics on this CD were more of a group effort than on the last one, and while we were throwing ideas around, that "message" of hope was always there. Maybe we're just trying to reassure ourselves.

E.C.: With your "day job" in a recording studio, does this mean you prefer the creative studio side of music to live performance?

George Dussault: I love the studio and the stage equally and wouldn't want to live without either. Getting on the stage was one of my personal reasons for putting Spiney together in the first place, because I hadn't done any gigging for a few years before. I was getting the itch.

The studio is where the ideas come to life for me. I absolutely love the process of putting an album together, and its great that I get to do it all the time. But I always wanted to be a singer and a guitarist, and the stage is where I get to do that.

E.C.: Also, will your job hamper any possible touring plans?

George Dussault: No. If the gigs line up right and the offers are there, we will make the dates. I make my own schedule, you see.

E.C.: And, what does the live performance mean to Spiney Norman?

George Dussault: It means a chance to have fun and play our asses off. It means a chance to prove that we are as good live as we are in the studio. (I think we're better live a lot of the time.) We love performing and we go balls to the wall at every gig.

Spiney is a really improvisational band on stage as well, believe it or not. We rearrange songs and have fun with them at every show, and that's a great buzz. We opened up our last show with "Are You Experienced!"

E.C.: Your new CD, in my opinion, shows a marked development in the band's style. I feel that Spiney Norman has really come into their own.

George Dussault: Thanks.

E.C.: What mindset or goals did you have going into the recording of the new album?

George Dussault: I think we all subconsciously wanted to top the first one, which we we're proud of. But the general goal is the same every time, just trying to make some music that we can listen to and smile.

E.C.: Another great aspect of the new CD is the variety of musical styles represented. You have rock, "world music", jazz-style fusion and even blues/bluegrass. But it still feels like a "band" album. Is this the result of the band sharing the same musical goals?

George Dussault: Sure. We have a lot of different influences but when we get together we jell. That's why I love this band.

E.C.: What music "moves" you these days? Not necessarily as "influences", but as music that inspires you?

George Dussault: I've been listening to "Forever Changes" by Love a lot lately. I also listen to a lot of jazz. I get off on great songwriting and improvisation. I'm not sure what the others have been playing.

E.C.: How does the band know when it is time to do a new CD?

George Dussault: When the feeling hits. We write and record all the time, since we do a lot of our rehearsing in the studio. It took us awhile to get Weather the Storm out there simply because life kept intruding on our plans. There were three babies born during the making of this one!

E.C.: When will we see a new release from the band?

George Dussault: Hopefully in the fall of 2005. I was thinking of calling it "John's Petting Zoo." Haven't discussed it with the guys though.

E.C.: Are you a perfectionist in the recording studio?

George Dussault: To a point. When it feels right we keep it. That's why the CD covers say "Produced by Spiney Norman." We produce each other keep each other in check.

E.C.: In this day and age, "success" for musicians often just means obtaining that major label record contract. What ultimately defines success for Spiney Norman?

George Dussault: First of all we want to be satisfied with our music. Second, we want to get it out there to as many people as we can without having to be something we're not.

The trend around our neighborhood is for cover bands and tribute bands, and there's really no local original music scene. It's amazing really, because when we go out and gig it's obvious that the concept of "original music" is completely foreign to so many people. We're just doing what comes naturally, but people keep telling us that we have big balls for doing our own music. Fortunately, our shows always go down really well.

It's almost like trying to start a grass-roots movement away from pre-packaged music. I don't regard myself as some kind of crusader, but we have to get people to leave their comfort zone for a minute if the music business is going to survive.

Personally, I feel successful when our audience is nice and big and having a good time. I'd like to see our following expand over the whole US. Id like to tour regularly, keep making records and enjoy the music until I die.

E.C.: Finally, would you like to be a judge on American Idol?

George Dussault: Only if I can judge the judges.