A Few Words With...Rob Fetters
Raisin, Bear, psychodot, studio musician, dad, guy with big hair - Rob Fetters was/is all of these. On the heels of a tour with the reconstituted Bears with Adrian Belew, Bob Nyswonger & Chris Arduser, ProgSheet cornered a frightened Fetters into confessing all!
Q: Just before you started digging into this interview, what was the last piece of music you listened to?
RF: I listened to a song called, "Beautiful" by Lucky Spaulding that I produced last year - to see if it still sounded OK. It was better than I remembered. He's really good. I didn't over produce, to my great relief.
Q: Let's pick up from the "Rise And Shine" album and the tour following it. Why did the Bears stop at that point?
RF: We lost our record deal. Adrian landed a solo contract and had some success with that. We just gave up at that point, and stopped beating our heads against the music biz wall. It wasn't an acrimonious divorce. It hurt, though.
Q: After the Bears, you, Bob & Chris formed psychodots. What made it different than the Bears or the Raisins?
RF: In a general way, due to the line-up, the Raisins had a slight R&B slant at times. it was unfocused and fun. And it had a potential for violence. Someone who hated psychodots called us "Yuppie Punks". It sort of fit the band. We played anything we wanted regardless of perceived consequences. Hipness was avoided if possible. Angry at times, sincere at other times. Intense, usually. A songwriters workshop. Fun.
Q: n the course of the 3 psychodots studio albums, I noticed your lyrics including several bits of religious imagery. Was it becoming a bigger part of your life at that time?
RF: I've always wondered what the heck God was up to, and what He/She/It wanted me to do. The 'dots allowed me to vent without editing that stuff out.. I've never felt at home with any "religion" per se, but I do believe a higher consciousness is possible for me. I'm a slow learner and it's hard work.
Q: In what ways has your family effected your writing?
RF: I think I understand the nature and power of love better. I'm not looking for relationships to fulfill me like I used to, so I'm not writing about that stuff anymore. I'm not just thinking about myself and how the world effects me and my plans and designs. That's all dull shit compared to helping baby humans grow up. I think parenting is life in the ultra-fast lane. It requires much greater creativity to do a good job than merely writing music. It has probably raised the bar a bit for what I am willing to parade before others as examples of my songwriting.
Q: In '98, you released "Lefty Loose-Righty Tight." Why a solo album as opposed to another psychodots disc?
RF: I had my own little studio at home. It didn't cost anything except my most valuable resource - time. I wanted to be my own little Hitler and run the show. It was a challenge, because generally speaking, I like collaborating with other musicians. It was still committee work though - the committee in my head.
Q: Speaking of your solo album, what's the story behind "Where's Dad?"?
RF: You don't qualify as a decent parent just because you manufactured the sperm. Trust no one. Question authority. Run like hell if necessary.
Q:Around that time, the seeds were sown for the Bears to write & record again. What set it all into motion?
RF: Adrian suggested we make a record for the sole reason of doing it well, with no other upfront goal. Music for its own sake. Who could say, "No", to that?
Q: I hear the album was written & recorded in a much different way than the first 2 which had alot of tunes road-tested first. Was it better/worse, or just different?
RF: Just different. It kept it fresh. We played from instinct.
Q: In the interim, Chris has grown more and more as a singer and a writer.. Did that increase the competition for space on the CD?
RF: It is the most painful part of being a Bear. Having your work passed over by people you know, love, and respect. Argh...competition is good. I guess that's why I hate it! Chris has been writing really good music for a lot longer than people realize. It's his confidence in himself that has grown.
Q: You have a very interesting song on "Car Caught Fire" called "Dave." What's the story behind it & how did Robert Fripp come to play on it?
RF: I believe "the story behind the song" is that - to quote Heinrich Boll - life does not go on, but death does. It's about the suicide of one of my best friends when I was 14. It just popped out of thin air one day a few years ago. After recording it with the Bears at Adrian's studio, Robert was staying there and graciously agreed to play a solo for us. It was eerily appropriate for him to do so, because Dave was a huge Crimson fan at the time of his death. I had always wanted to write Dave a beautiful song.
Q: How did the psychodots tune "Feed That Chicken" become "Success"?
RF: I wrote "Chicken" and "Success" I ripped myself off. I love doing that. Oh, the shame. I thrive on it. Pass the guilt, please.
Q: Will there be a 4th Bears studio album in the near future?
RF: We are already talking about the method we will use to make it happen more quickly than the last one. Maybe by 2003?
Q: When can we look forward to the Bears live CD & DVD?
RF: We hope by fall 2002, for both items.
Q: Are the psychodots effectively kaput, or is there more to be said in
RF: psychodots can only die when one of us does. We may do a gig or two this summer - certainly our annual Thanksgiving show will happen unless the Bears replace it.
Q: You work in a studio composing & playing on jingles and a myriad of projects. What have you learned from it that you apply to a band situation?
RF: Actually, my band experience and survival is my strength in the commercial music world. The rejection I have received as a working musician has made me tough enough to face the silliness and ruthlessness of the world of advertising. I just try to not take things personally (which is ridiculously difficult for a guy like me) and have fun doing the best I can with whatever/whomever I am lucky enough to work with. I like working with creative thinkers, and I have always felt fortunate and successful in the fact that I get to make noises for a living.
Q: What are 6 albums you never get tired of listening to?
RF: There are a lot more than 6 but these come to mind... Smiley Smile / "Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart" by Camper van Beethoven / Bernstein playing and conducting "Rhapsody in Blue" and "An American in Paris"/ Beggar's Banquet / "Allow Me" by Jules Shear / The Ballad of Todd Rundgren / And any Beatle Album from "Rubber Soul" on. I had to cheat....
Q: What was the very first guitar you ever owned?
RF: A tiger-striped "Stella"! Actually, that was my sister Wendy's guitar. The first guitar I "owned" was a white '66 Fender Musicmaster. Thanks, dad.
Q: What was the last CD you bought?
RF: A fresh copy of "Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart"
Q: If you could turn people on to any band in addition to the Bears, who would it be?
RF: NRBQ. Terry Adams is my favorite guitar player, even though he doesn't play one. Go see him live and you'll understand....
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