Best Policy Feature
Munro: the Interview 2018
by Ichabod Broccoli
January 22, 2018
One of our favorite meat-eaters, David "Munro" Coutant, multi-instrumentalist/songwriter, took the time to answer a few questions for us. David's music can be sampled at most online music sites such as Soundcloud, Spotify, Bandcamp, etc.
Where did you get your start? What inspired you to start playing music?Anything I say here is going to sound like such a cliche, but... I've always loved music, and was always in awe of anyone who could make a good, orderly sound come from an instrument. I wanted those skills; I wanted to be able to turn an object into an entertainment machine. Also, my brother and his friends wanted to start a heavy metal band, so that's kind of where it started.
I see that you're all over the internet. How has the www changed music, or the way you sell/market music?The internet has made it possible for just about anyone to get that "viral" phenomenon going without record labels and industry shills. You no longer need to burn CDs or dupe cassettes or press vinyl; as long as you can make a recording and get online, you can sell music. It's a lot of things: it's both great because it sort of levels the playing field for those of us who haven't gone the way of corporate radio, and at the same time it causes the online music industry to be flooded with so many artists and options that it can be hard to find/be found.
What instruments do you play?I'm primarily a bass and guitar player, but I will attempt to learn any instrument I can get my hands on. I'm decent on the ukulele and keyboards, I play a little bit of saxophone, and I've also dabbled in violin, harmonica, percussion of all sorts, banjo... if I've had one I've played it.
Is your family musical?My dad played saxophone in high school, and taught himself to play the piano/organ using Mel Bay books. My brother played guitar in Press Darlings, Tongue, Gitane Demone Quartet, and more. Oh, and my cousin Cynthy is married to Jim Keltner.
Which famous musicians do you admire? Why?I guess I mostly admire musicians for their songwriting. Among my favorites are Paul Simon and Leonard Cohen. Despite my early beginning playing heavy metal, I was always drawn toward folk music. One thing I like about folk is that it can be just you and an acoustic guitar. You can go anywhere like that. Don't need a band, don't need electricity, just a voice and strings, and you've got a song. I always liked the versatility of that, and I like taking songs of many genres and doing them solo acoustic guitar style.
I noticed that you have a lot of "solo acoustic" covers on your YouTube channel. What criteria do you use to decide on songs to cover?Most of the time the lyrics have a lot to do with it. I'll hear a song, and some line will just jump out at me, and then I'll see how hard the song is to play, and whether it would be a viable cover. I like a good melody, and I like an accessible enough chord progression that it doesn't feel like a final exam in Jazz improv to pull it off.
Why are so many of your recordings done in a car?Ah, the Car Songs. Well, that's simple. See, when I'm at home, I'm dad, I'm bug-master, I'm trash guy and dishes guy and go-get-gas-in-the-car guy, not to mention keeper of the yards, the garage, household maintenance, etc. So my breaks at work are some of the only times I get to work on music. Even if I carve out time at home, I won't be left alone long enough to get through a project. My daughter is still young, she's only in 3rd grade, so that's kind of what I'm focused on at this point in my life.
Which famous musicians have you learned from?For guitar playing, I've learned a lot from listening to David Gilmour. My bass playing is largely influenced by Dennis Dunaway from Alice Cooper, and my piano playing is inspired by everyone I've ever seen who can sit down and make those keys sing.
Who was your first teacher? Other teachers?My first guitar teacher was Linda Jones, who taught beginning guitar at Charles W. Eliot Jr. High School (as it was known at the time) in about 1983. Since then my brother took years of private lessons, and he shared what he learned with me.
Describe your first instrument. Other instruments.My first instrument was an electric bass guitar, in the style of the Fender Jazz Bass. Later I got a Kramer Focus 3000. It was a Strat-style guitar (red with black pickguard) with three pickups and a Floyd Rose.
What are your fondest musical memories? In your house? In your neighborhood or town?Pretty much all of my musical memories are great. I love playing music. I'll play as often and with as many people as I can. One of my first public performances was in Sierra Madre, where I grew up, opening for a band that later became Winter Kills (of Sierra Madre). I was the guitar player/lead singer of a band called V.D.
Were you influenced by old records & tapes? Which ones?Like I said, Pink Floyd records were a huge influence. Also Peter Paul & Mary, Simon & Garfunkel, Alice Cooper, The Sweet, Adam & the Ants, The Cure... seriously, this could take some time.
Do you perform in public? Describe those occasions? Concerts, radio, TV?Performing in public is my favorite. I played a festival in Germany with 4000 people in the audience. I think that's the biggest crowd I've ever played for. Some of that may have been on TV in Europe. I played the Red Bull stage at Austin, TX's SxSW (South by Southwest) festival. I once opened for Siouxsie and the Banshees/Creatures in Germany. On these occasions I was playing either with Gitane Demone, or with Atlanta's Tx/Rx.
What groups or artists have you played with, and are you currently playing with?I played bass in 13 Knots in the ’90s, where I caught the eye of Gitane Demone. I did a tour of Germany in 1998 with her, as bass player for her Am I Wrong? tour, along with Kenton Holmes (guitar) and Justin Bennett (drums). Then we toured the U.S., with Kenton and Kevin Steger. In 2000 we went back to Germany to record the Stars of Trash album. I did a small U.S. tour with just me and her, acoustic guitar with her singing. I was invited to join Bis Ende, with Christian Omar Madrigal Izzo and others. I played keyboards for one show, and bass for another. I think that was about it. Then I moved to Atlanta and I joined Tx/Rx.
Since I’ve come back from Atlanta, we’ve done a couple of 13 Knots reunions, I started a band called Orange Cones, and we recorded one CD, “Masterpieces of Entertainment,” a lofty title taken from a CD of classical hits my dad had on his desk. At one point I put together a variation of Orange Cones, only with different people. Jeromy Furguiele on drums and my brother Ivan X on bass.
I play with the church band, and the “alternative choir.” Now I’m playing in Reverse (the band) of Whittier, doing guitar, bass, saxophone; whatever needs doing, really.
How do you handle mistakes during a performance?I panic, I drop out, I cover my head. No, really, I have been known to pause, stop playing for a second while I find out where everyone is, and then jump back in. One thing my brother told me was that, if I hit a wrong note during a performance, hit that note a couple more times to make it sound like I did it on purpose.
Do you get nervous before a performance or a competition?You could say "nervous." You could also call it "excited" and "amped" and other things to imply how wound up I get before a show. I don't really think it's nervous in the traditional sense. There's no fear or apprehension.
What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?Just focus on what you're doing. Think of the song(s). Immerse yourself in what you've learned, blocking out the rest, if you can. Then look at the faces of the people in the crowd. Do they look happy? Are they moving to the music? If so, you're succeeding! Ride the high! If you start getting really into it, chances are that's when you'll make a mistake. Don't let it get you down. It's unlikely anyone even noticed.
How often and for how long do you practice?Privately I like to play every day if I can. With a band, I like to get at least 3 or four 2-hour rehearsals in before a gig.
What do you practice - exercises, new tunes, hard tunes, etc.?A lot of the time I'm learning a new song. When I get a set list for a performance, I will work on those songs incessantly for as long as I have before the show. I also practice scales/licks/solos to backing tracks such as QuistJam tracks.
Do you teach music?I do teach music. I have two regular weekly guitar students who I have been working with for a few years now.
How do you balance your music with other obligations - mate, children, job?It all has to be scheduled in advance. That's really all I can do. "Hey, sweetie, I have a gig coming up next Thursday." "That's fine." "We're going to practice Monday night." "Okay, but I still need you to [insert domestic task here]."
"I like a good melody, and I like an accessible enough chord progression that it doesn't feel like a final exam in Jazz improv to pull it off." - Munro