SkidMcSkidder talks to Coemgen Savage, front man, founding force & song writing strong arm of Exeter-based outfit COMEG. The band are no strangers to SkidMark.org regulars with rave reviews of three of their seven album releases resident onsite, & a past FAOTM (Feb. 2004) under their belts...
Hi Coemgen, firstly, thanks for agreeing to be SkidMark.org’s December
2010 "Featured Artist of the Month". It's been over six years
and five albums since our last interview – where’d you like
Coemgen Savage: My parents moved down while I was living at my Nan's and I eventually followed them. Yes I am still living in Exeter.
SkidMcSkidder: The last time we talked way back in 2004 you said the music scene in Exeter was pretty poor - has that changed at all since then?
Coemgen Savage: Yes it's changed dramatically, it's got even worse!
SkidMcSkidder: I hear you’re currently looking for a drummer to start gigging again – is so you can 'shake up the local scene' a little then?
Coemgen Savage: We're actually auditioning at the moment for Bass, drums and guitar and I have been lucky enough to be able to start choosing from the cream of the crop. Decided that as the latest album has a real live feel we will be doing it a disservice by not giving it a crack on the stage. I recently fronted a metal band in Bristol which ended up going down the Spinal Tap road, but I did get off on being on the stage again, so this live thing is a natural progression.
SkidMcSkidder: Talking of The latest album - since it's Oct. release it's seen some really positive initial reactions – personally I think it’s the most polished release to date with some seriously catchy stuff, tracks such as my favourites “The sound of Fear” & “Please Save My Rock & Roll” – have you had any ‘mainstream’ reaction so far?
Coemgen Savage: It depends what you mean by mainstream. All the reactions have mostly come from America, with their College radio system. Northern Europe has also been very positive and for the first time Britain seems to be picking it up and playing it.
SkidMcSkidder: By mainstream, I meant music industry rather than indie exposure – I’ve said it in every album review I've done to date - I can't believe you haven't had any label interest as your music is quality.
Coemgen Savage: As far as I'm concerned morons like Oasis killed the idea of the record deal in Britain forever and allowed dance music to take over. Throw X factor shows into the equation and all we have left is mannequins getting one ride on the Karaoke carousel and record companies refusing to take on bands which need a long term investment to allow them to seep into the media monster and hopefully take control of it. So in short if a record deal comes along that would be great but I'm not holding my breath.
SkidMcSkidder: I hear ya! So for now, the internet is Comeg's 'aural battlefield'? Well, you're slowly 'winning the war' as for instance, You’ve been getting regular airplay on the one of the longest running webcast radio shows, Bumpskey.com based in New Jersey, USA with more than favourable feedback from the webjay – are there many webcast / radio broadcast shows playing your stuff currently?
Coemgen Savage: Too many to mention and they really do seem to have picked up on this album, which in my opinion is quite different from the early material. I actually picked up the guitar style which probably dominates the new album's sound by watching the metal guitarist in the last band I was in. It's amazing what you can do with 2 strings.
SkidMcSkidder: Ahhh... Power chords.... gotta love 'em!! (Laughs Out Loud)
SkidMcSkidder: But talking of your style... When did you first decide you were going to pick up a guitar and become an indie rock legend?!
Coemgen Savage: I was a little kid when John Lennon died and I just remember the incredible grief stricken atmosphere across the world even seeing Red Square packed full of people holding candles and thinking "That's the life for me" When I became a teenager with all the angst, etc my Dad gave me a copy of the infamous Lennon interview with Rolling Stone magazine and finally finding that there was someone else out there with the same ideas and issues as me. I picked up an old guitar that my sister had never played and only had 4 strings and with no idea of tuning I just hit the thing and sang Beatlesque melodies over the top of it. Frighteningly bad, but we all have to start somewhere. I should also point out that I am one of the many who also learned from the famous "Bert Weedon's play in a day" book. And here I am now.
SkidMcSkidder: There is definitely a Lennon influence to a lot of your earlier work and like JL you're a prolific writer, I mean - 7 albums in as many years (not taking into account the 4 year break!) - What's your inspiration? Have you got to be in a certain 'mood' or does everyday life just fill your 'lyrical waterbutt'?
Coemgen Savage: 2 years ago after a rather out of control life, I was finally diagnosed with Bipolar. One of the few pluses to this condition is creativity. I'll write a piece of music and record it in the studio, I'll then play it back while singing any old rubbish over the top just to find a melody. Incredibly the rough scat singing I do always ends up being the finished result. So it's either bipolar or I have a muse that sits on my shoulder. I never stop writing; I think there are probably another 10 albums I could have recorded if my mind hadn't been in such a dark place, that I would physically destroy the material. Swings and roundabouts I guess.
SkidMcSkidder: I know it - my Mum has been that way since I was a kid, and although not musical, when she fell into the darkside from time to time she would paint the most vivid, surrealist canvasses - yet can't paint for toffee when everything’s 'under control'... It's great to know your pen isn't 'drying out' as each album seems to surpass the last - can't wait to hear next years! So how has the home studio improved since talked last?
Coemgen Savage: Dramatically! When I decided to buy a Mac after Logic was no longer in a Pc format. I actually use very simple equipment. But like a producer once said "If the Beatles could record Sgt peppers on an old 4 track tape machine there are no excuses for bad production with the huge technical advances we have today" I still play all the instruments myself, as I always have on every album, which means I have total control of the sound I'm recording. Without going into huge detail, I record in a very unconventional way, but as Joe Meek once said "If it sounds right, it is right"
SkidMcSkidder: You'll have to give me some tips! I'm in the process of migrating from hardware to software recording myself - going from a Korg digital 8-track to a full copy of Sonar... it's a steep learning curve! Let's talk guitars - there are a wide range of guitar sounds across the various albums - obviously a lot to do with FX set up but what guitars do you use that you particularly enjoy playing?
Coemgen Savage: For the first 4 albums I used a Gibson ‘E’ guitar with my Hohner Steinberg Bass. But for the last 3 albums I have been using a Strat through a line 6 pod. The second most perfect piece of hardware in my simple but effective arsenal. The first being my TC mixing desk.
SkidMcSkidder: Cool - you can hopefully help me here - I've a Line 6 floor pod - what's the difference between that and a standard pod?
Coemgen Savage: When you say a floor pod, do you mean the pedal board that can be added to Line 6 amps? Or a pedal board on its own which I don't think I've come across?
a stand alone pedal board - I bought it a few years back after a mate
of my RAVED about his line 6 amp and he had one of those red pods too
- so when I saw a stand alone I thought it'd be perfect for me because
I don't do live & most my recording I D.I. straight into my studio
without amping... but I don't think the FX are as good as those built
into my Korg 8-track (which I now use as an expensive FX processor!!)
It's got a great wah though!
Coemgen Savage: To be honest (and no disrespect) I've never really got on with the Korg gear, a bit too digital sounding for my tastes. Whereas the Pod is as close to the real thing as you can get. I have mine set to a Vox AC30 with a Mesaboogie pre amp setting and as far as I'm concerned it sounds the biz. U2, Metallica and Nine Inch Nails to name but a few all use a pretty similar set up. So if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me.
SkidMcSkidder: I agree your set up sounds sweet - I'm guessing the floor pod must 'entry level' as the pre-sets aren't described as simulated amps, they have 'jazzy sound descriptions'. Will have to check out the kit you use online... Going back to the live set up - do you reckon you'll be ready to hit the road soon?
Coemgen Savage: Definitely after Xmas. Will also be using a Mac with mainstage software to provide all the backing tracks, synths, strings etc. And a bit of guitar and drums to take the pressure off the musicians.
SkidMcSkidder: Nice. And where do you perceive will be the initial 'stomping ground' of Comeg? Local to Exeter? Or (hopefully!) taking the Comeg sound out on the road further afield??
Coemgen Savage: Initially we would be doing some rehearsal gigs in the Exeter area, i.e. The cavern and the Spinning Wheel, etc, we will then move on to places like The Fleece in Bristol where I have headlined Friday nights before and then maybe Northwards to places like The original Cavern and Liverpool's Echo arena, fingers crossed. The whole British ethos seems to have accepted that bands will no longer have a big presence in the new media and are much more open to the live music scene.
SkidMcSkidder: Well I for one are looking forward to catching a Comeg gig in 2011 - I'll definitely be up for travelling down for a show once you've a few under your belt, as one of the area's of the re-launched SkidMark.org that I want to grow is the 'Vids & Gigs' section, by travelling out to more listed artists shows and videoing them for the site.
Coemgen Savage: Sounds good. I'm very interested in the medium of video. I have put together a few clever slide show videos for the metal band I was in and without bigging myself up, they went down a storm. So yes, visuals are an absolute necessity in the new world of music.
SkidMcSkidder: Tell us a little about the metal band Coemgen - I did see the website recently and they look like they are becoming well established in Bristol (wonder if they'd be interested in a page on SkidMark?!) What was your involvement?
Coemgen Savage: I was asked to front the band TWISTED in April 2009. I came into the band and wrote a dozen or so tracks for them, they were a band that hovered on the peripheral of the Bristol music scene, but I felt that they needed pushing into a more mainstream sound to get recognition, which meant numerous headlines at Bristol's Fleece. Unfortunately they began to spiral down into the land of Spinal tap and not in a funny way. I decided to leave the band, which followed with them giving the front man job to a Scottish punk, who is circa early 90's Manic Street preachers. They haven't had many gigs since and for a band with such potential, it is quite sad to see their decline as they were worthy of much more. Maybe your site could give them the boost they could really do with. Don't get me wrong, we're all still good mates, I even host and update their website, but we were travelling on very different roads which is sad because I really did enjoy the camaraderie that we had.
SkidMcSkidder: Sounds a crying shame - and it sounds like you enjoyed your time fronting the band - having experienced both solo & band careers which one do you reckon suits you best personally and/or artistically?
Coemgen Savage: It's a tough call. I'm not very good at delegation, which is why I record everything myself. But some of the musicians we've auditioned over the last month are seriously good and I mean seriously. So we will have big Phil Spector-style wall of sound when we start gigging. I'm so looking forward to it. Although I have started recording the 8th album so I guess at the moment it's a 60/40 thing with a bit more leaning towards recording.
SkidMcSkidder: 8th album started already?! Brilliant! Look forward to that next year! Talking of which - what do you see as being your biggest priority in 2011? I.e. what is the one thing you want to achieve next year over all others?
Coemgen Savage: Hypocritically an album deal from someone like Geoff Lynne or Rick Reuben. I'm sending out a Cosmic Order as we speak. Hopefully we can get a live following, but I still love the creative process, and now that I have great musicians around me that should make the process so much easier.
SkidMcSkidder: I can dig that. Well, after following the Comeg sound for the past 6 years I've gotta say you've definitely put the work in musically and it's about time you got a 'lucky break'...
Coemgen Savage: Although you haven't asked the question, I will jump from the closet and tell you my favourite Comeg track of all time is "Jim Was Beautiful" from the Perfect summer album. It came to me in the early hours and with a belly full of Guinness and Nicotine stained fingers. It was recorded in one late night take with over dubs added the next day. For me it's the perfect song in every way.
SkidMcSkidder: I love it when a song just falls onto tape without any effort... Oh, and my all time favourite Comeg track is 'Come Undone' off ' the truth bleeds...' album. Like I’ve mentioned before, I keep an MP3 disc of my favourite SkidMark band songs in the van which I update regularly and 'Come Undone' has remained a firm favourite since I first heard it back in 2004
Coemgen Savage: Strangely enough that is in my top 3 of songs I wish I'd burnt. Really glad you like it.
SkidMcSkidder: If you had the opportunity to front a fantasy-football type 'super group' to play with, who'd be in it??
Coemgen Savage: Sean Moore on drums, Paul McCartney on Bass, The Edge on Guitar, Brian Eno on Backing tracks and me pounding out the vocal. With an orchestra choreographed by Mozart.
SkidMcSkidder: Rock on! Put me down for a couple of tickets - front stalls preferably!! Heheheh I'm going to wrap it up now Coemgen if that's okay with you - it's been an absolute pleasure talking to you tonight and I'm genuinely looking forward to you getting the band together and out gigging - You tell me when the time is right & SkidMark will be heading south for a mad videoing sesh (and a Newcastle Brown or two!!)
Coemgen Savage: Twas an honour, Sir. The Guinness and tabs are calling to me. Take care brother and thank you for your time.
it easy my man and I'll catch up with you soon.
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Virtual Interview conducted using Facebook Chat™ 26-11-2010
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