Eric Salt (a.k.a. “Eric Saulnier”) began playing guitar as a teen. I first heard the Glen Echo album from 1999 (which he sang and played guitar for) when his brother Denis turned me on to his stuff, but by that point he had already been in Dog and Stepmother Nature. Later he released a solo album (Rock Meadow) and has also played with Schnockered and Deep Purple Helmet. This is the first album by his latest band, Eric Salt & the Electric City. They play this Friday (5/30/08) at T.T. the Bears.
(Photo courtesy of Beth Oram)
Snilch: First of all, thanks for taking part in what is our first (and very possibly last, depending on how this goes) Q & A here at The Snilch Report. You've got a new album out, The Hail Mary -- what (if any) significance is there in the album title?
Eric Salt: There are a few answers to this. Being in my 30's and currently mulling over the whole kid thing with my beautiful wife Ann :), I came to the conclusion that this album could be my last for a while, or at least my last big produced album since money would be tight. Just make the best record I can, close my eyes and THROW! It's also my first record in a few where I left the studio work to Ed Valauskas and Rafi Sofer at Q Division. The best team Boston rock production, period! I needed to stop being a control freak and let someone else have the vision. I wanted to be "artist only" on this one. Getting a producer was the best thing I ever did. You simply cannot do both. It's not a good idea to turn your own knobs. :)
Secondly, I grew up in Natick, MA, where the whole focus of the town was sports. I mean, they'd let class out early just so we could get to championship games on time. At the time, it was ridiculous to me cuz I wasn't a jock. Flutie set the bar. :) "Home of Champions" is our motto! I love that guy, though. A true hometown hero in every way and an enormous athlete and inspiration! Does a TON for charity, but I guess I was a little sad that this musician kid from Natick never got HIS Hail Mary pass. I have to admit, there's a bit of jealousy there. :) When I was very young, Doug would play pick up hoops next door to me. He probably wouldn't remember, but I was the little kid who'd race after the basketball when it rolled down the hill if they missed the backboard. They'd laugh and had nicknames for me. It was funny. I have two words for Doug Flutie... "Gerard Phelan!"
S: We will leave “turning your own knobs” (or Doug Flutie’s) alone, I think. Actually, when I saw title "The Hail Mary," what immediately came to mind was how (in some ways) it was a miracle that you were even making music at this point. Did your mountain biking accident change the way you write or play, or does it even cross your mind anymore?
ES: I shattered the two bones that connect my wrist to my right picking hand. They told me I'd probably lose all motion. They were gonna heal what was left to my hand bones. Lose my wrist, basically. Three reconstructive surgeries, a bone graph and a lot of stainless steel. It sucked, but a surgeon tried a new procedure on me and saved my wrist. For a long time all I could do was fingerpick so I got pretty good at it. I still have no cartilage in areas, so every now and then the bones knock on each other and I get a swift reminder, but I've been lucky. Back to normal. The worst is actually recurring nightmares of waking up from my first six hour surgery with no pain killer. The morphine drip was somehow unplugged. Re-defined pain for me. Then they pumped me full of Ibuprofen which I told them I was allergic to. I blew up like a Christmas tree. Hospitals suck.
S: That's a heartwarming endorsement of the healthcare industry. So how were you able to get back into playing after the accident? Did your previous range of motion return?
ES: The accident was in 1999. The next year spent in physical therapy. I was soon able to lower my hand below my heart without it hurting, so I could use the few fingers sticking out of the cast to softly fingerpick. That was probably at the six month point between surgeries. I could only play simple patterns. I was also listening to a lot of Nick Drake, forced to learn about "space" in music. By late 2000 I had written a handful of soft riffs that became my Rock Meadow CD. Rock Meadow is the park where I crashed my bike. By 2003/2004 I was pretty much back to normal but had some extra guitar skills. :)
S: That's pretty remarkable! This album has a "bar band" feel to it when I listened to it in the car, but as I mentioned here, this definitely had a different feel when I played it at home -- there is a lot of subtlety and depth to the songs that don't come through on a car radio/boom box listen.
ES: Our new record I think appeals to the car listen and the headphone thing. Personally, I'm a headphone, CD or vinyl only guy. MP3s make me hate my favorite music and I honestly feel when I listen to MP3s of older albums that I'm remembering more than I'm actually hearing. The format is all wrong. Rafi and Ed went through a lot of hard work with subtle, realtime guitar effects etc., on this record that you really only get a sense of on headphones at high quality. For example, I'd be playing a solo and Rafi would be on the floor turning knobs on my pedals. They'd mix this stuff way in the back to give it depth. Some of these sounds would be impossible to recreate. Also, the basic rhythm tracks were recorded to tape and the final master was sent to tape before it went to the mastering house. I wanted this record to really shine on many levels and I think they accomplished that.
S: I agree on MP3's, and I do like the way the record sounds. Tell me about your favorite track on the album.
ES: My favorite changes. Lyrically, I like "Pearls". It's a song I wrote about getting out of depression after my Mom died and taking the bull by the horns. A success story. I also find myself listening to "Never Intended" cuz I never write songs like that. It almost has an 80's dance cheese to it that I'm proud of. :) It's also a song written from the point of view of someone else. A friend of mine who went through a bad break up. That's also something new to me. I like it when it's not all about me cuz I can be a giant egomaniac. :)
S: Aren't we all? :-) Now tell me about my favorite, "Mean 'Ol Mile." (It’s all about me, and I am always a giant egomaniac.)
ES: Glad you like that song. That's one of those songs that comes out and you look back on it and say "Wow, I had a bug up my ass THAT day." :) I was originally gonna give it to Andrea Gillis (Andrea Gillis Band/Red Chord). It has a bluesy feel that she would probably take to an incredible level. I hardly ever write songs for other people, but I just kept hearing her sing it. She's phenomenal! Then I jammed it with the band one night and that sealed its fate. The dudes like to rock so the rockers get moved to the front of the line. They wanted to keep it. Have I mentioned that my band rocks? Anyway, they rock! I'm very lucky.
S: I think that's all of my questions... however, we do have a question from a celebrity guest.
Eric Pepa: Where are my royalties from "Whatta Man"? And why won't you talk to Spinderella?
Eric Salt: I spent all the royalties on beer and hotdogs.
Eric Salt and the Electric City play this Friday (5/30/08) at T.T. the Bears.