William Bates
By Ronnie

My love of power-pop music is no secret. So, when I heard that William Bates had an 8-CD box set of a decade’s worth of power-pop, I was instantly intrigued. I must admit that I was really curious about someone who had the balls to put out an 8-CD box set as an independent release (plus one video CD, which makes 9)! I mean, this person must really believe in their music.

E.C.: First off, what were your motivations behind the release of the box set? Did you feel the original CD's didn't get a fair shake when they were originally released? Are your intentions to get signed to a major label?

William:: This whole thing got started when I began to put the music I had recorded over the past decade together. I began to be quite amazed at the sheer quantity of the songs and was, (he says modestly), impressed with the quality of the material as well. Thus, I came up with the somewhat zany idea of a "box set" for an "unknown" artist. The thing kept growing, it seemed to have a life of its own. I had been doing the by the book send out 3 songs on a demo thing and had some lukewarm response but thought what the hell I am just going to send out and release the whole "kit and caboodle". My ultimate goal is to be signed by a major label. I don't have any allusions of stardom, I simply want to get this music heard, I truly believe it is worthy of that.

E.C.: How does t21 music fit in? How are they involved in the release?

William:: T21 is the name for my recording studio and for my own small label. I do a good bit of recording of a variety of genres in my area. I have sold my music independently under the T21 banner. And until the "big signing" comes, I will sell the music on my own.

E.C.: So, T21 is your "day job"? A lot of struggling musicians would kill to have that kind of job, ha ha!

William:: es it is my "day job", I’m lucky in the respect but it does take a lot of work to keep it going....plus I do have to record allot of music that I am none to fond of, but I try to find merit in all forms of artistic statement...

E.C.: What happens to T21 when a major label signing comes? Because, you know they will expect you to promote any release...

William:: T21 can go by the wayside for a bit, my major focus would be to get out and promote the music to the best of my ability...to do whatever it takes as it were...

E.C.: I’m curious…with 9 CD’s total, will it be cost effective?

William:: This entire box set can be had for $20 plus shipping and handling....I really want people to get bang for their buck as it were.

E.C.: That’s an amazing deal….especially when you think that you can only buy one new CD in the stores for $20. So much of the music biz these days is "marketing". What is your marketing plan?

William:: I am out to get this music heard by as many people as I can, thus if I make it affordable I feel I have a better shot at doing that, it is a grass roots guerilla marketing campaign, provide quality music at a great price, and hopefully those who buy will spread the word, I do plan on taking out some print advertisements in selected publications and getting airplay on stations that are receptive to new artists.

E.C.: One thing that I really like is that the collection shows your musical growth. You start out with some very REM sounding early work and progress through psychedelia and even experimental music (allot of which reminds me of the Liverpool Sound Collage, with Paul McCartney, Supper Furry Animals and Youth). There are just too many bands that churn out album after album with no growth or progression. Now this is fine for the Ramones, but not everybody! Is there a conscious effort to take chances with each release?

William:: I love a variety of styles in music. When I first started playing out in the early 90's my major focus was jangle pop with a lot of electric 12 string guitar up front. I still love that sound and there are quite a few songs of that nature on the set. But I also am a bit of a studio rat as it were and I love to experiment, using different sounds and textures, we did do some electronic songs and it was great fun, just got a little silly with it all, but I have to have fun with the music, I can be serious but I also have that zany side that has to come out. I love spontaneity and the ability to create as you go along, its like you are hitching a ride with the music, you don't know where it is going to lead...I am a Brian Wilson fanatic and that's what I truly love about the Smile period of his music, the total creativity he was able to bring to the table...that's the direction I have to go in...I also was fortunate to have a great string arranger and player on some of these songs...So yes I am more than willing to take chances with the music....

E.C.: Another thing I've noticed is how much your voice sounds like Roger McGuinn! Much more than Tom Petty does (or tries). Whose style vocally influenced you most?

William:: Don't get me wrong I love The Byrds and McGuinn but I have never considered him an influence vocally, although perhaps when you pick up and play a blonde Rick 12 string one can't help it at times, My fave singers are Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Brian Wilson, Neil Finn, Andy Partridge, Marshall Crenshaw, Michael Stipe, among others so perhaps I try to distill a blend of all of them...

E.C.: Speaking of the REM-reminiscent sound of your first album, some of the tracks were produced by Mitch Easter. How did that come about?

William:: The band I was in at the time, The Parlophones, cut a quick demo and sent it to him. He liked it and we did 4 songs at his drive in studio, in Winston-Salem. It was great fun and he is a nice guy to work with, plus he let us use some of his eclectic and vintage stuff, got to play out of an old orange stack and also used an electric sitar on a cut. I used my Rickenbaker 12 string on some tracks and since I am a huge REM fan, I guess their influence could not help but come through. Plus being where Radio Free Europe was first recorded...now that was nice...

E.C.: Do you consider yourself power-pop or rock?

William:: Some of what I do is definitely power pop. I use a lot of major/ minor variations in my songs and I try to always have a good beat to go with them. I would consider a lot of the songs to fit that genre actually. Power pop to me is melodic rock, beatlesque as it were, and that’s what I try to do...(although I believe it was Pete Townsend who first coined the phrase power pop) but I do have that other experimental side as well.

E.C.: Although the box set represents your work with various groups, you are the primary songwriter. What is the Holy Grail of songwriting to you? Is it to write that ‘classic’ 2 1/2 minute song that is timeless and people would be humming?

William:: My all time favorite song is God Only Knows. The way Brian built that song is incredible and the emotion it conveys gets me time after time....memorable and lasting and all under 3 minutes. Of course John and Paul are the masters, they were willing to take risks in their songs, use unconventional chord changes and make them work... I mean the early stuff like Please Please me is so dramatic, I went for a similar ending in one of my tunes. The way they end She Loves You with a 6th chord, I could go on and on...I just saw Marshall Crenshaw doing an acoustic set, just himself and guitar, God he is so good, Someday, Someway is of course a classic and so many others...I love the guy...got to meet him too that was a real treat for me.

E.C.: Do you prefer to work with a group or as a solo artist?

William:: I like both actually. I was in bands for a while and it is so great when you all can click on all your cylinders when you are playing live. Love the feel of being in a room and making music with good musicians. But I also love to create on my own with totally my vision, no need for compromise, on some of these songs I played everything and I still got a band feel, playing the drums has made me appreciate drummers, thank you RINGO, and I love playing bass, I try for the McCartney melodic line approach and of course I love guitars and spicing things up with keyboard textures...it is all good as long as it is creative and doesn't rehash...I still believe there is good music to be discovered, it hasn't all been done before.

E.C.: The one benefit of a regular group is that you can play live shows. How does live performance fit into what you want to do now?

William:: I love playing out live and I am fortunate to have a group of good players I can call on. In 1999 for example, I took a 3-piece band to New York City and we played a series of clubs for a week including CBGB's. It was so great, I had been playing with these guys for years and we just clicked and we rocked as a 3 piece. I am in the process of doing rehearsals for some live shows and if this collection of music does as I expect it too, be looking for me in your area.

E.C.: And finally, the obligatory, "when can we expect a new release" question! What are your plans?

William:: I am constantly working on new material. The newest idea I have is to do a Pet Sounds type album using orchestral players from the university in my town. I orchestrate a lot of parts on the keyboard but I want to hear the real thing in total. I do have some good real string parts on Days I Knew, however. So that and getting my box set collection heard and getting signed is the main thing on the table now. Going to keep rehearsing the live act as well, I want the music to be given its proper presentation live.

E.C.: That's a very cool idea, but wouldn't that be inviting undue criticism from the the 'intelligentsia' of record critics?

William:: Yes it probably would but so be it, I won't pretend to reach the lofty peaks of Pet Sounds, but why not keep one's eyes on the prize as it were, and at the same time I love Dylan's new CD "love and theft" so I want to just kick back and make some rock as well with well crafted lyrics, got so much music in me head, it has to come out, you know, its all there for the taking, we just have to tap into it, relax all thoughts and surrender to the void as it were.

E-mail William Bates at t21music@charter.net
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Hear mp3's from this artist at www.mp3.com/language