Interview with Robin Krasny, Eddy Fischer and Denny Doherty – Part One
By Leon & Sheryl Olguin - 02/10/2003 - 03:43 PM EST
Session 31 is our TV show, and is shown here in Central Florida. The show is currently on hiatus, but we plan to start it up again soon.
Louis Armstrong said, “What we play is life.” Singer-songwriters artfully take vignettes of our lives and craft them into music that becomes a part of our lives and culture. What inspires a songwriter to write? What is his or her creative process like? What’s a typical day like in the life of an artist? Where do the songs come from? These questions and more are answered on Session 31 through live performances and interviews with performing artists. Session 31 connects the viewer with the artist in a new way, by examining the process of creativity. The goal is to create an appreciation in viewers for the art and craft of songwriting and performing. After watching Session 31 the viewer will be thinking “where can I go to hear this artist, and other artists like this?”
What follows is part one of an interview we did with the Melbourne, Florida songwriting and performing duo of Robin and Eddy. They have been working with Denny Doherty, who is well known from his days as a member of the Mamas and Papas.
Host: Leon Olguin
Show Director / Producer: Sheryl Olguin
Artists: Robin & Eddy w/ Denny Doherty
Air Date: 9/30/02
Featuring: Robin Krasny, Eddy Fischer and Denny Doherty with Leon Olguin as host.
Leon: How did you all meet? There is a good open-ended question.
Robin: Well, it all started before I was ever born, actually.
Eddy: I met Robin. I was looking for someone to play with. I couldn’t find anyone for years and years.
Denny: Music, play music with!
Eddy: Yes. Music, music. It was great. I mean, Rob and I met and we were playing and Robin just really made me happy and everything was great. So, I wanted to share my joy, so I called Denny, who I’ve known since 1969/1970. I said, “We’re gonna come up to Canada and say ‘Hi’”, cause we needed to get out of town…Well, we didn’t really need to get out of town (laughs), but I was just tired of the usual stuff and we wanted to play music. My daughter was grown up and out of school and she was away, so we went up to Canada, hung out with Denny for a while and his family. We played some music and it sounded really neat. We had a couple of songs. Denny and I had written quite a few songs.
Denny: Way back when.
Eddy: Yeah. Way back when. We got together, had some fun. Robin and I came back, went to California. Then we’d go back, and over the years, Denny would come and visit once in awhile.
Robin: Weddings and funerals.
Denny: Oh yeah, births, deaths, we’re all available for those kinds of things.
Eddy: Then we did a song I wrote a long time ago where Denny is singing with us on our CD. So, we did that. That’s how we met. Denny and I have known each other since…
Robin: Oh, stop! Don’t believe most anything they say.
Denny: See, Ed was going to go to Vietnam until one day, being Canadian, I said, “What are you going to do that for?” Then, myself and a few friends filled him with a few substances that would make all your “wires” go crazy, so he walked in and walked out and didn’t go to Vietnam.
Eddy: Well, my father was in the 3rd Army with Patton, so I thought I knew all about it…
Denny: He wanted to go, but I said, “No, you can’t do that, Ed”.
Eddy: The main thing is, that’s how we all got together to start singing. Got another question? (laughs)
Robin: He doesn’t want to ask it now!
Leon: You lost me in Vietnam.
Denny: Well, I’m a Canadian and Ed’s an American and he has definite views. I’m in a strange country; so I’m not gonna talk about what is going on right now.
Leon: America is a strange country; you will get no argument from me.
Eddy: Beautiful country.
Robin: (To Leon) Block the crossfire!
Leon: Now, Denny, I’d like to ask you a question about recording. You’ve recorded in the 60’s, you’ve recorded in the 70’s, and you’ve done some recording recently. What are the differences in recording today as compared to how it was in the 60’s?
Denny: Ah, Leon, they turn me right around, man. See, my philosophy was that I don’t go into their little room with all the wheels and bells and lights going and tapes and stuff. I stay out in the studio and I sing. The microphone is the closest I want to get to any of that stuff. Until about 10 years ago or so, or whenever it was that I walked in and said, “Ok, show me how this tape thing works!” They said, ‘There’s no more tapes. There’s only ones and zeros’, or something like that. “There’s no more tape?!” Well, I’m ready to learn now and they said, ‘There’s a new format now.’ Well, I’m back out in the studio now. So, it’s the same as far as I’m concerned. There is a microphone now. I don’t know what they are doing in there anymore. I never did and I still don’t know. That’s how I deal with recording then and recording now. It’s still the same.
Leon: That’s one way of approaching it.
Eddy: It’s true. It’s changed so much. I mean, you can do so much with just a computer now.
Robin: Anyone can make a CD now.
Eddy: And you can make a CD now that would cost $30,000.00 in the 60’s, today.
Denny: Well, back then, the equipment to make a record would be half a million dollars, now you go to Radio Shack, spend $3,000 and get the same thing.
Eddy: They used to have to make the vinyl, now there is such a jump in technology.
Leon: What effect do you think that has had on the music industry or on the quality of the music that is out there now?
Robin: It’s flooded the market with a lot of things I don’t usually listen to.
Eddy: But, there is some such really good stuff, too.
Robin: That’s the thing; there is so much of everything.
Leon: There are some folks who wouldn’t normally get a chance to record, but they’re good enough to do it. The industry doesn’t take note of them so they go to their own studio.
Robin: You mean like……Robin and Eddy? (laughs)
Eddy: Try to sell a car part without having its picture in every Sears and Roebuck. To sell things, you have to advertise. To advertise, you have to have money.
Denny: But, over the years, people have thought that having an album was the end all to end all. Ok, the album is done, it’s gonna sell a million and we’re gonna make all that money. That’s not the way it has ever worked. You can go in and spend your own money, but unless you have the millions and millions and the [publicity] machine to back it up and distribute it around the world, it’s just going to be a labor of love.
Robin: It’s a nice piece of plastic…(holds a CD up for the camera)
Denny: What does that say?
Robin: It says ‘Masters of Love – Robin &Eddy’. Ha! Imagine that!
Denny: Can you see it? (facing CD toward camera)
Robin: (singing) “Can we see our CD?”
Denny: At any rate, to have an album, distribute it. You’ve got to sell records. But, everybody can make them. It’s just that now, with that….what’s that? The computer! Aah! You can sell CD’s over the computer. You don’t need the record companies anymore, you guys! You don’t need them anymore! If you’ve got a computer, you can open a record company. If you can connect with people, you can ship your product, you can make it yourself.
Eddy: There is really so much good music. I mean, people sell them on the Internet and sell as many as they need to.
Robin: You can get our CD on the Internet.
Denny: Still, radio rules.
Eddy: Radio rules, but it is very expensive, there are only two stations and they own everything. That’s all right if they’re your friends.
Denny: Nice! If they’re your friends, fine, if not, well…
Leon: Eddy; tell me about some of the other people you worked with way back when.
Eddy: Bob Gibson. A folk singer from the 1960’s. I had a couple of my own bands. I grew up in Cleveland. I had a lot of rock-n-roll bands when I was 13 or 14, that’s why I didn’t finish school. Well, I did go to school in Ft. Lauderdale, though I really wasn’t there much.
Denny (to Eddy): What about the ‘James Gang’?
Eddy: Joe Walsh was there, all up in that area. We all came from up in that area in Ohio. There were other folk people there, too.
Robin: Barry Maguire?
Eddy: Barry Maguire, Potter St. Cloud… I made an album with [them]. For a minute, I was like a regular person with ABC Dunhill. I was a staff writer. Ya know, music was always music. You play music and have fun and then Songwriter magazine came out and it started becoming a career. I said, ‘Whoa!’ If I had wanted a career I could’ve become an electrical engineer! I didn’t want a career, I mean; you gotta send this to this person and everywhere. So, I just kept writing my own songs and working with other people and not really thinking about my career. My career was ‘me’. I already had my career.
Robin: Your career was raising your daughter.
Eddy: No, that was later. Back in ’77 was when my daughter was born.
Denny: That was another career.
Eddy: When my daughter was born it became really clear to me that there was more to life than nihilistically trying to change the world that I didn’t know anything about. But, people still do it.
Leon: Robin, I really like the way you play the flute, clarinet, penny whistle – not all at once of course.
Robin: Well, that’s a little difficult, but…. (laughs)
Leon: Have you ever played in an orchestra? Did you study these instruments formally?
Robin: Oh, well, oui! I played all through Jr. High and High School. My Mom plays clarinet, and was a charter member of the Melbourne Municipal Band. Of course, I get in [the band] very early because I was very good on the clarinet as a kid. I also played the piano. Then, in the 8th grade I wanted to play the flute but no body would let me. So, I bought my own flute and paid for it on time. I think I mowed yards for it and paid it off.
I taught myself how to play the flute. The penny whistles, my brother brought back from Ireland. He married an Irish lass. I came in one day, he was playing it and I said, “OH!” He said, “Here, take it.” (laughs). He just knew he was going to give me the whistle.
Eddy: That’s right when we were getting together.
Robin: Right, yeah, that’s just about the time and fit right in to what we were doing. It sounded really cute. This was the end of 1995; beginning of 1996 is when Eddy and I got together. So, anyway, we’ve been doing this for a while. And to answer your question about bands and orchestras, yes, been there, done that. In fact, I just played for the Montessori School children. They are going to see Peter and The Wolf. They were wanting me to teach them about the different instruments and wanted to hear about the different parts and stuff so I brought in my flute and clarinet and oboe, which I cannot play. I said to the kids, “You guys, I can not play this instrument, but I will try.” I made a sound out of it. They were like, “Play the duck! Play the duck!” (The oboe solo from “Peter and the Wolf.”)
Eddy: You made a sound out of it. I love the oboe.
Robin: I was like, “I can’t play the duck!” But, it’s fun to educate kids. We do a lot of playing for children, playing for people who need help, playing funerals, playing old folks homes, playing benefits. We play for benefits. We play a lot of benefits.
Eddy: There really aren’t a lot places to play. We’ll play anywhere we can play, but we don’t really play bars and take requests. We’ll play where we’re asked to play. If you want to listen, great, if you don’t, fine and we’ll all be happy.
Robin: See, I’m [also] a yoga instructor and massage therapist. So, I do healing arts and integrating the healing arts into what I’m doing. That’s what I’m all about. I have to wrangle in Eddy every now and then. So, yeah, I love bands, orchestras, concerts….
Leon: Well, you’re very accomplished on those instruments and it’s very fun to watch you play.
Eddy: We usually play about 4 hours.
Leon: Well, you gotta keep that lip up. Well, I guess that’s for a trumpet player or something.
Robin: No, you still have to keep your armature (sp?) up.
Robin: Armature, boys, where have you been? It’s French, too. It’s the way you hold your mouth.
Denny: (singing) “The way you hold your mouth… The way you sip your tea…
Leon: (singing along) …they can’t take that away from me.
Denny: They can’t!
Leon: Ok, I admit it. I know old songs. I used to play in a society band and the folks used to ask for stuff like that.
Denny: What did you play?
Leon: Oh, I played keyboards. In fact I still do.
Denny: Really? Did you study piano?
Leon: Yeah. I’m a classically trained musician.
Denny: You mean like Beethoven? The whole thing?
Leon: Yeah. The whole thing. I’ve played Beethoven, Chopin, Bach, sometimes all in the same piece.
Denny: Why’d you stop that?
Leon: Well, I still play.
Denny: You found out there was only 12 classical pianists working on the planet?
Leon: Yeah, that’s true. Everyone thought I was going to be a classical pianist. I fooled them all and I ended up being a record producer.
Robin: What! We need to talk to this guy. What’s your number? We have 4 hours of material we’ve never recorded.
Leon: Well, actually the last album I finished was a folk album.
Denny: Who was that?
Leon: For a lady named Janine Chimera.
Eddy: Oh, yeah, I know Janine. She’s great.
Robin: Janine, Janine? Our Janine? We know Janine. She’s a sweet lady.
Denny: Small world!
Leon: We’ll have Janine talk about Janine at a later time.
All: Ok. Ok.
Leon: Let’s talk about what this show is about, which is the writing process.
Denny: How much time do we got?
Robin: This is going to be a forever interview.
Leon: Well, let’s start with Denny since he hasn’t talked in awhile.
Leon: I went through all of the credits on the Mamas and Papas records and saw that you had co-written a few things. And then, you’ve written a few songs for your play (Note: Denny’s one man show…)
Denny: Yes. I wrote a song, as a matter a fact, in 1970 that I’m using in the play that hasn’t been used since then. Yeah, there’s been a bit of writing in my past.
Leon: How would you compare the collaborative process with writing on your own?
Denny: It’s longer to write on your own, because usually somebody else that you’re writing with, well, ideas get finished sooner. When you’re left to your own devices you can change it or leave it or maybe do it this way or not. Somebody can say, “No!” “Do it this way!” “No, just pick one!” It gets down to that kind of thing. When you have a catalyst, you can throw things off, throw things back to you. If you’ re lucky enough to find someone who writes poetry or lyrics and you happen to have music that just fits. Then again, there are songs that take 10 minutes or some that take 10 years that I’ve never finished.
It’s more solitary by yourself. I think it takes longer. It’s always an ongoing process no matter if you’re writing with someone or by yourself. It’s work.
Leon: Did John Philips work really hard at his song writing or did they just come to him sometimes or a combination?
Denny: He’d just pick up his guitar and start walking around. When we were doing the Broadway show Man On The Moon, an Andy Warhol production (that’s a whole other inner story altogether, sufficed to say that some of the music was changed because, initially it was a screen play called Space. He came to New York and changed it to Man On The Moon and made it a Broadway show. Doing so a lot of the music changed.) I was staying at his placed when I first arrived and he was changing some of the music. He would walk around, in his shorts, in the kitchen of his townhouse with his guitar on, changing lyrics at will. Writing them down. He said, “ You write them down, I gotta keep on playing!” I’m writing down the stream of consciousness that eventually wound up on the Broadway stage! (laughs) Uncut, just like they came out. Some songs we didn’t use. (singing) ‘It’s awfully blasé being a real live flower when fake bouquets go on stage every hour’. He was just coming up with these lines; he just had that kind of mind.
Eddy: He had a great mind.
Denny: It was really easy to work with him. I mean, you give him an idea and, bam! there’s a song finished. Well, for, ‘I Saw Her Again Last Night’. The music was pretty well finished, John wrote the lyrics. I don’t know if you know the story?
Leon: I do know the story.
Denny: Enough said! Sometimes the story is right there in front of you, you don’t see it. (laughter)
Robin: With Eddy and I, it’s a little more pulling hair, pulling teeth, scratch, fight, knockin’ drag out….
Eddy: Well, the songs get done, we write songs together…
Denny: That’s good, too. As long as the process works.
Robin: That’s good, too. Something’s beautiful that comes out of it.
Eddy: Songs are the easy part.
Denny: Songs are the easy part?
Eddy: Well, some people say, “Well, we have 900 songs”, well, who cares. We want to hear one. Then you gotta pick one.
Denny: What. Then you gotta look for the hit? Ah, prospect for gold; it’s the same thing.
Robin: Find the needle in the haystack.
Leon: So, songs are the easy part, but finding a good song is the hard part?
Eddy: Finding a place to play it. Finding an audience. Finding a record, you know, someone who will play it. For me, the song writing is easy. Remembering the songs and playing them correctly…
Robin: That’s getting hard for Eddy, actually. Remembering things. We won’t go there either…. But for me, I write poetry. I write a lot of poetry and there is some on our website actually. But, I write a lot of poetry and some of my own songs on piano. And sometimes I’ll write something on the piano and I write the words to something and lo and behold they actually fit together! And you know, I didn’t start out to fit them together and then sometimes a poem will come through me in less that 5 minutes. Then at times I’ll really struggle with the last line of a poem, because it just has to really wrap it up! It’s got to take it all together. So, there are different times, different ways to go into that space. That creative space.
Eddy: That makes each song different, too.
Robin: Totally. I write a lot from healing. From trauma and tragedy and emotional stuff.
Eddy: I write when I have money. (laughs)
Denny: I write when I’m awake. (laughs)
(Next month we will present the second half of this interview)
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