Throughout the month of December, Jimmy Gnecco was in Los Angeles writing with Slash and Duff McKagan of Velvet Revolver. The supergroup have been on hiatus since singer Scott Weiland left the band on 1 April 2008. Last week on 12 January 2012, Scott Weiland returned to Velvet Revolver for a one-off benefit concert. Rumours persist about who will be the new permanent lead singer of the band.
Jimmy Gnecco released on 8 November, 2011 The Heart – X Edition, the full-band version of his solo album. Gnecco brought in his Ours’ bandmates to help rework nine songs from the original acoustic-based record and add one new tune. Back on 11 November 2011, Music Vice writer Laura Antonelli caught up with him again over the phone. They discussed the similarities and differences of the two albums, whether Gnecco will ever record under the name of Ours again, and the rumours of him being Velvet Revolver’s new lead singer.
Why did you want to revisit The Heart and re-record select songs with a full band?
Jimmy Gnecco – When I started to do the record the first time, the original intent was that it was not supposed to be a laboured process. It was supposed to be just my voice, my guitar, and these songs. I tried to pick songs that would sound best like that. But as I started to record the album, all these other songs started to present themselves. I was wondering if I should hold off on them and maybe do them on either a different solo album or the next Ours record. They just seemed to fit the mood of the album so I made a decision really early on. I was looking down the road a bit saying, “You know what? I can hear a few of these with a lot more than just my acoustic guitar, so I’ll record them this way and then down the line, I want to redo them.” It just turned out that it seemed like the best time to do that was sooner than later. It was a really quick process the second time around.
And did you actually re-work every song? Because some of these songs like “Mystery”, “Gravity”, “Darling” – they sound the same to me as the original recording, and maybe I’m just not musically inclined enough to hear the differences. But then I was like, ‘Oh, maybe he just didn’t touch those songs.’
Right. We added bass and remixed “Mystery”. I changed “Gravity” a bit. It’s weird. Unless you listen to them side by side you might not be able to tell, but I redid a bunch of vocals. I added more harmonies on it and I added that spacey-sounding guitar. We basically put Static on that one. Then we remixed it entirely as well. It’s not as drastically different as say “[These Are My] Hands” or “The Heart”. That was the tricky thing. I didn’t want them to lose the original spirit from those recordings. I just wanted to enhance them a bit. Some of them are more subtle than others. Like “Darling” is the same. I just did a different ending on it. I just faded it out. We added some reverb as well. So, yeah, some songs are more subtle.
Were you worried that fans would be upset that you were re-releasing this album instead of releasing new music? Because you have a lot of unreleased songs that haven’t made it to albums yet.
Yeah. Not entirely because [long pause] it was important to me to at least put a new song on it, to put “Bells” on it. And they are – if you listen to them side by side, they really are – it’s a completely different spirit about them now. Like I said, it’s kind of tricky. The reason why they might sound so similar is because most of the vocal performances haven’t really changed too much, so it’s still that same original feeling if you’re attached to the vocals. Also, I was thinking that maybe for people who didn’t get the first round just because they may not have been interested in an acoustic record, that maybe this would appeal more to them. The original The Heart wasn’t done from a standpoint of “let’s sell a ton of records” from me. It was more about the artistic choices. But they’re not all so drastically different, like one is on one version a ballad and not on the next version. When we were re-mastering this record and went back to listen to the old ones, I thought, “Wow, this is really a completely different record.” The whole feeling and the sequence of it, that’s another thing as well, just having it sequenced differently from the start to finish. It feels like a different ride.
Why did you bring in a band for this version instead of playing all the instruments yourself like you did on the original?
We had been playing these songs this way out on the road together. I just wanted to bring in some of that energy. As we played them live, I started to feel everybody else’s energy on them and I wanted that to be captured on the recording. With the exceptions of the drums, I probably could have done everything myself. I still did the bass on a couple tracks, but it’s mainly the drums I couldn’t do. I can’t really play drums in the way that Charlie did on say the “Bells”. He did a fantastic job and I couldn’t have done it. I’ve often played things myself out of necessity and this time I didn’t need to. I had everybody around, and I really enjoyed having them be a part of it.
Tell me about the tune “Bells”. It’s new that’s not on the original that you played live while touring The Heart. What’s the story of that song?
[Long pause] “Bells” seems like it’s a song I’ve been writing my entire life. There’s something about it when we play it live, it does a really, really strange thing to me. It gives me these weird flashbacks to when I was five years old of these dreams that I would have that used to actually haunt me all the time. It wasn’t a specific thing happening in these dreams, it was just a feeling. I always had awful nightmares growing up and I’d wake up in a panic with this feeling. I’ve been trying to put that feeling into a song for as long as I can remember. So that’s why it has that haunting kind of feel to it.
To tell you the full story, I’ll step back for a second, in order to make this make perfect sense for you with why “Bells” is on this record. We had never released an album in Europe. Our past three Ours records were never released overseas. Only on imports could people get them. So the idea that the first thing people were starting to hear from me was an acoustic record was a little strange to me. I didn’t really want that to be the first impression because it’s not what I normally do. And to make these acoustic albums is not something I really desired to do record after record. It was just a one-off thing.
We were talking about our European campaign and thought it would be great if people had more of a well-rounded impression of the music I normally make. I’m really grateful for The Heart coming out in Europe, but it just didn’t sit well with me or anyone else on the team that that was gonna be their first impression. That’s why it came up sooner than later. So I decided to revisit these songs because I believe in the songs. But the album still didn’t have that “Fallen Souls” or that “Miseryhead” or “Here is the Light” or “Red Colored Stars”, it didn’t have that kind of song. We had done “Bells” and I was really proud of it. So I said, “Let’s put ‘Bells’ on that record” and I’ll feel better about that being peoples first impression of what we do. That paved a path as to why we’re doing the whole thing. If there’s gonna be one song that covers the whole feeling of most of our work, I think “Bells” does that. Does that make sense?
Yeah, it does make sense, actually. The first time I heard it, I thought, “This is classic Gnecco” like it should be on Distorted Lullabies, so you saying that completely makes sense.
That was the thing, that’s why for our first impression to Europe I really wanted to put “Bells” out. Because I felt like this would really bring people up to speed in one record. I’m really aware of the kind of album I made with Distorted Lullabies. People would always say, “We love Distorted Lullabies. You should do that again.” The whole thing was that I already made that album. I know how I made Distorted Lullabies and I can make that record again if I wanted to, but why would we want to do that? That’s really boring as an artist if you’re not taking people to new places. In fact, I never even liked putting the same kind of song on the same album. But I wanted to show people that I still have that in me with “Bells”. So, yeah, good ear, good ear.
Thank you. I think the new version of “These Are My Hands” really stands out on this album, and your daughter sings backing vocals on it. Tell me about the evolution of that song.
Well, the quick story of that song is I dreamt it one night when I was in Windsor. We were in town playing a show there at the college. When I woke up that morning I had the whole song in my head. I actually originally had heard it as it is on this new record. I heard it sounding like this war song. Groups and choruses of people were singing this war song almost the sense of, “Let’s end this. Let’s bring our people home and stop fighting.” I heard it in more of a big group vocal, it’s just that I stuck to my original principles of how I was gonna make the first record which was not to put too much on it. So when I went back to do it, it made sense to me to have people singing that with me. So during the sing along section, my daughter’s singing with me and April is singing as well.
Do you like or prefer a version more of The Heart?
[Long pause] If I was out driving, or running, or more in a place where I really wanted to crank it up, I would probably play the new record. I think every album we’ve made was made to be played loud and to be an exciting experience for people. So I would probably gravitate more toward this one. [Pause] Here’s how I feel about it. Here’s the short of it [laughs] as I’m going on about it.
When I put the first version of The Heart on over and over again when I was making the sequence on it, by the time I got to “Mystery” [the third song], I was in tears every time. I just found myself so overwhelmed with emotion. It was just an emotional record for me to write and to create, and then listen back. Sometimes you don’t even know what you’re going through until after you listen back to it all. Sometimes it’s not for months or years after you’ve written something and recorded it. When you listen back you feel exactly what you were going through. So the original album was always such an emotional ride for me. Because it was such a personal experience, it was something I liked to put on and go on that ride all by myself.
Do you think that where you are in your life now personally and on an emotional level has changed since you recorded the original; ultimately, resulting in these new energetic versions of these songs?
Yeah, because we found a spirit that was very much alive in these songs when we went out to play them. When I was recording them, I was feeling nothing but death, to tell you the truth. I was overcome with the emotion of death, so that weighed heavy on those recordings. When we went out on the road, we started to find real life in these songs, and I think we brought more of that out in the new version.
The Deluxe edition on iTunes includes five videos from your concert for a Bright Antenna Sessions at FM Recorders. Tell me about this performance. Will the whole concert be released on DVD?
I’m not sure. I hope so. We have a lot of footage from it. We even have an extended version about the process of making it which was a lot of fun. I hope we get more of it out to people. Those were the videos that right away I felt the best about from the whole experience. I haven’t looked at it all but I think I feel pretty good about the rest of it, so I think eventually that will see the light of day. If not, we have a lot more of that on its way.
The future is gonna be a bit different now because I’m a free agent. I’m not sure if I’ll make records with a label, if I’ll sign another deal. Being on Bright Antenna was just for The Heart, so we’ll see. I’m gonna start looking at different ways to release music and see what is the best way. I’m not sure if being on a label is the best route for me or maybe it’s just about finding the right home, but I have too much music that I need to release. My real hope when I found Bright Antenna was to get a facility and just knock out a lot of music in a short period of time. It was just taking too long again. It’s been three years since Mercy came out and I’d like to just release more music more frequently.
One of the videos is your cover of Roy Orbison’s “Crying”, and the last time we spoke you said you were going to record it. I don’t think that ended up happening though, did it?
It did. I have a recorded version of it.
But you didn’t release it?
I don’t know. We were supposed to release that. I thought that we would be releasing that with this record. It’s what we were talking about, but I don’t know. But I do have it recorded. [laughs]