KEN STRINGFELLOW with KEVIN KANE at the Drake Underground (1150 Queen West), Tuesday (February 19), doors 8 pm. $15-$18. RT, SS. See listings.
The website for Ken Stringfellow's new album, Danzig In The Moonlight (Spark & Shine), paints a detailed portrait of a working musician, recounting through its blog, news and production pages the life of a man dedicated to his craft.
Stringfellow first caught ears in the 90s with his band the Posies, and has worked with countless musicians, including R.E.M. and, in 1993, a reunited Big Star. Eight years have passed since his last official solo record, Soft Commands, but Stringfellow estimates he's participated in 50 to 60 albums in the interim. He might've been a satellite member of the Seattle scene, but there's no evidence that he's a slacker.
"It didn't take me long to make the [new] record," Stringfellow says over the phone from Des Moines, Iowa. "I waited for the right conditions to present themselves. And lo and behold, they appeared in 2011, when a great plan came together to record at ICP Studios in Brussels with my friend and production partner JB [Meijers] and our favorite session musicians from Amsterdam."
On Danzig, Stringfellow delves into numerous genres. The first song alone segues from dreamy pop to Bowie-esque sharpness. Elsewhere, he plays with Cajun, country, soul and avant-garde. It's a confident record made by someone who's learned important lessons from his fellow musicians.
"R.E.M.'s fearless spontaneity in the studio changed how I make records, for sure," he says. "Alex [Chilton] was a master at saying, ‘Don't try and fix everything just because you can.'
"And I should mention Neil Young. Playing with Neil showed me that he or she who is the greater listener is the greater musician. When we were jamming, he was often eyes-closed and appeared to be in his own thing. But then you'd start clueing in to all the things he was reacting to and bouncing off of - things that were happening with every instrument."
Shutting up and opening your ears is as important to Stringfellow as it should be to anyone at a concert, onstage or off.
"I've been shocked since this tour started. I think Americans are so used to being in their iPhone cubicle of the self that they just don't think. I could understand if the shows were free, but I'm surprised how oblivious people are who just paid $15 cover. It might be cool to listen, or at least [realize] that other people might be bummed out that they spent money to hear you answer your phone in the middle of my song."