Aaron’s Radio Show

Episode 25

My Three Songs with Jason Staal

 

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Notes

Episode Notes

EPISODE 25 – My Three Songs with Jason Staal:  Welcome, everyone, to Episode 25. This is the fifteenth in our series of episodes called My Three Songs where my guest chooses three memorable songs and we listen to the songs and talk about why they are meaningful to my guest.

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Three Songs

  1. I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) – Genesis (1973)
  2. Blitzkreig Bop – The Ramones (1976)
  3. Have a Little Faith in Me – John Hiatt (1987)

Aaron’s Radio Show has been licensed by ASCAP and BMI to include songs from their repertories in performances on this website.

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Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California. It's Aaron's Radio Show ... The Podcast ... with your host,

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode Aaron Gobler. 25. Welcome to My Three Songs, where I play three special songs chosen by my guest, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today, my guest is my college roommate, Jason Staal. He's an accomplished guitarist and composer. And by day, he's a prominent psychologist in Manhattan. Jason and I have kept in touch over the past 30 plus years, but haven't spoken in a while. I'm looking forward to catching up with him and talking about his collection of songs. How are you today, Jason?

Jason Staal:

Excellent. Aaron, and thanks so much for having me on your show. I have to say I really enjoy it. Great. Thank you.

Aaron Gobler:

Jason. This is the point of the show where I asked my guests about how music fits in their life. But from knowing you I'm certain music is an integral part of your life and always has been you've performed in several bands and recorded several albums. How is music fitting into your life nowadays?

Jason Staal:

So one of the things that I'm working on is my first solo release. Right now I'm in pre-production. I'm a songwriter, composer, so I've amassed over 34 songs. The difference, though, is that I'm actually coming at this based on everything is self-produced. So this is the first time that instead of being a band guy, it's a me guy. And so I'm actually you know, playing guitar, bass, using, you know, a drum sampling, writing all the lyrics, melody, all the music as usual, and even taking a stab at some of the vocals, although I'll probably get some help from my friends there. Because that's one area that I'm not really that strong.

Aaron Gobler:

It sounds like a brave new venture for you. Like you said, like you've been in bands, you've been part of a team and this is your foray into doing all of it by yourself. Pretty much.

Jason Staal:

Yeah, the thing is that when you see how things like have like a logical kind of extension. So I've been at this for, you know, 46 years. And so I've had a chance, I was just reminiscing about, you know, some of the folks like Chris Eska and Jim Sparling, who were the early engineers that I had the chance to actually work with. And so what's happened is, I've always been into audio engineering. Matter of fact, at Hofstra University, I took a course in audio engineering, the first time they ever offered it there. So that's the other side of it is that I'm actually have been one of those guys who started off when everything was analog, and now everything is digital. So I'm really, you know, developing, you know, the skill sets to work in, you know, in a digital medium. And so I'm using, you know, DAW, and all these kinds of more modern focuses, so there's no more tape.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. And as we were talking, before we started recording, you had mentioned now, I know that, that you've been a psychologist for for quite some time. And you've also ... you and your raising a son ... and that you mentioned to me that now you've got more time in your life for music. So you've kind of gone really kind of jumped in with your full body, or most of your body, I mean, part of your body still in your daytime profession, but you're, you seem very enthusiastic and excited about this new venture.

Jason Staal:

Yeah, so one of the things is that I wanted to have a life, you know, I ended up you know, being on the circuit, you know, from like, age 15. And so I've been doing this for so long that if I kept on doing it, I would just been kind of like a uni-dimensional kind of person. So I needed to take time off. And it just happens to be that I was also open to academics, and so that I really hung out, wasn't doing music for several years in the house of academia. And then that shifted into more profit soil and publishing and doing some seminal research work in dementia care using Snoezelen and the like. So it's been an interesting, you know, kind of ride. But what I think happens is that, you know, you have a phase of life. And so that also included, you know, having more normal hours and having a son and being a family guy, which is something that's hard to do when you're really being a musician, so I really had a chance to do that. And fortunately, you know, he's doing his own thing at the University of Rochester. And so it gives me a chance to kind of have some more time and for Sue, my wife knew what she was getting into. So this doesn't seem like anything other than Jason doing his thing. So very supportive. And she actually sings. So we do have a husband and wife, you know, approach here. So she will sing back. And since she sings backups professionally on our own separately from me,

Aaron Gobler:

Oh, wow. Okay, when do you expect this project to ... you said it's gonna ... you're basically gonna put out an album ...

Jason Staal:

What I'm doing is, since everything is self-produced, it's gonna take some time to kind of get some of the audio engineering stuff. And then you know, it's because it's all me and I still have a day job. So that's what really slows one down. So probably be like, in a year or two, you know what I mean? Without, you know, stressing myself over it, you know what I mean? So it'll be a labor of love, but it will be, you know, aiming to, you know, through DistroKid and stuff through, Spotify and stuff like that.

Aaron Gobler:

There's no ... you're not pressing vinyl for it?

Jason Staal:

We'll see how much you know ... we'll see how many, you know, different formats it needs to be in that it's all expensive, you know what I mean? But yeah, it'll be under my name. And that's the other thing is, I finally feel confident enough to, you know, release it under my own name. So, you know, like I said, you know, music is, is it has value. And that's why I really like your show, because as I listened to other people talk about their personal experiences, you help people to share their their own, you know, experience. And so for me, it helped me to kind of organize, you know, started me off doing this, because I identify with being a composer. And in all the bands and everything, I've driven everything with all of my composition. So that's why, you know, it was really cool when he asked me to do this. And I've been, you know, listening to, you know, your other episodes, and it's really great contribution, because music has value, and you really hear it when you hear your show.

Aaron Gobler:

Thank you for that observation. I have several guests have said to me that they were eager to do the show, but we're kind of reluctant in that they couldn't find those three songs. They didn't know what those three songs were, and that they actually really enjoyed the process of coming up with the songs.

Jason Staal:

Yeah, no, it's absolutely, because it was a process of introspection, especially if someone were to know my work. So yeah, so Home to Henry, you could hear it also, you know, that's where you'll get a sense of where I selected these, these reflect, to see my evolution as a composer.

Aaron Gobler:

Right. Just before we go into the list to start listening to them, can you categorize or generally describe the style or flavor of the album you're composing?

Jason Staal:

Thanks. No, I really appreciate that. Because that I'm already starting to think about that. I think the differences this time ... and I've been ... when I worked with Glenn Raucher ... and he really wrote some really, really awesome lyrics. And so that certainly helps when you're surrounded by, you know, talented people. I think this one is speaking more from a more mature perspective, it's really tackling issues that are age-appropriate. It's the phase-of-life thing. I've already written songs about trying to get girls and dating, you know, what I mean? And, and breakups and stuff, you know, so that now, you know, at this age, you know, so I think some of them have a political stance, not in the sense of stance, but just in more of an observation. So like, one of the songs like "Collision Course" has a sense, obviously, by the name, you know, where the United States is in a lot of friction, you know, other songs, explore relationships, but I do bring, you know, having a certain kind of acumen from my professorial kind of work. So, based on like, listening to folks like John Hiatt to give us an example in today's episode, but also that background of being a student of people, that's my profession is the student of the human experience, but unfortunately, it focuses a bit on misery. So what I do think that I bring is, you know, in relation to lyrics, you know, is a very interesting character study. That's probably deeper so some songs will really talk about the twisted nature of like fighting for you where person realizes they were fighting for somebody and that person's actually disturbed and now they're fighting to get away from that person, you know, so they have interesting kind of takes, and others will speak about the joys of being a parent. I think it's more mature material but with the real strong power pop kind of fun melodic, what would be considered modern country, you know, kind of flavor.

Aaron Gobler:

I can't wait to hear it when it's done because I'm sure I'll hear influences that I know you've been interested in. So why don't we jump right into the songs. Your three songs were "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)", by Genesis and that was 1973; "Blitzkrieg Bop", by the Ramones, from 1976; and "Have a Little Faith In Me", by John Hiatt, from 1987. I'm eager for both of us to listen to these songs together. And I'm really interested in knowing why each of them is meaningful to you. So first, let's take a listen to "I Know What I Like" by Genesis. Jason, I first really paid attention to Genesis when we were in college in the 80s. And their sound at that point was really becoming more of a pop sound. And it wasn't until after college that I really started exploring their earlier work from the 70s like the song. So why did you choose the song to be in your list?

Jason Staal:

Even just like hearing the song just now with

Aaron Gobler:

Did it strike has just being more complex than you, which is great, because it brings back so many memories because you know, you're so musically inclined. And we did listen to many a song together ... a song like this became a other songs you've had heard and that it gave you some idea like song that I could inhabit. I don't know how to describe it. Look at the date, 73. This was some of my early exposures with ... bubblegum, and then I went right into Genesis. So it was literally listening to like the Partridge Family and things like

Jason Staal:

Yeah, definitely it was the sense that I didn't know this. There was this guy down the street, Andrew ... and it was his older brother, who was a couple years older, and he was how complex it was. And these guys are genius. I think Banks like, Guys, this is what you need to listen to. And they were went to Conservatory I mean, it's, it's unbelievable the time very cool. You know, I was listening to this music. And what I realized is that it was like a physical structure was like a whole, you could get like, kind of hang out in a song like this, and the music, the lyrics, and the whole entire vibe were really transportative. So and I never experienced anything like that. And never since so it had like a really kind of an anchoring effect. signatures, this is like incredible music. And I phased-out of them when Phil Collins took over, because it became a different band. Now for me personally, though, it was the notion of being in a structure, and it being transportive that really had the moving effect of it. And then like as a kid, I would like sit and listen to this stuff. Remember, this is like there's no YouTube. So there's no, there's no visual media here, this is pre- any of that stuff. And so I would literally sit ... and that based on my neurology, it's like it was always interesting was like, what would really hold my attention in a song like this, we'll discuss in a second, like really held my attention. And that's what I use, when I write a bridge. In my own music, you see, I want that transportative notion. And that's what that's the vibe that I got from these guys. So that's the meaning that these guys have is so this is where I learned how to write bridges, because they can take you on a journey. And to me that's even in his song, the bridge is part of like a song within a song and it's transportative.

Aaron Gobler:

The process is scientific, it sounds like in a sense that you're not just listening to music, from all these years of your life. And then just constructing something that kind of sounds like the music you've heard, but you really appreciate the artistry of like you're saying a bridge, or just the lyrics or just the composition of the song. And really, like you said, creating something that takes the listener in a certain way, the way that you felt from those songs, you're trying to parlay that into your music now.

Jason Staal:

I think it's in a certain sense, much more simple with myself. I mean, I never went to Conservatory ... I'm learning disabled. And so that everything for me is kind of, you know, just finding my own path. It's just that the emotionality of the song, like what we just heard really struck me, you know, as a child, you know, and then as I've grown into actually my own music, I always wanted to ... it's like just tipping your hat. And that's what I really got from from a song like this is not only you know, the actual stuff, you know, some of the themes I think are wonderful. But it's really the impression that I got was like in how to be moved, you know, especially what I use for moving people within a song there's this other part called the bridge and when the way I view a bridge is that it's a musical journey within the song that you've actually created. And so the notion is that from these guys, I got the emotionality you see not the technical stuff because they're at a level that is like the Wayne's World "We are not worthy!" The emotionality you see of what it's like to actually take somebody on a journey. And that's what I get. Every time I hear this is like go on a journey. Like I mean, if you listen to like in the beginning, you can see like right away with that sound effect. It's like mind-expanding. And to me, it just kind of like brings me like right into the song. And like, look how the song starts off. "It's one o'clock, it's time for lunch. dum de dum dee dee dee dee. When the sun beats down and I lie on the beach. I can always hear them talk." Like what is What What is this? I never heard this before, you know, like, So, who is the narrator? You know, who is the narrator? What's he talking about? What is the story? You know, and so that's the kind of stuff that was just like, it got my, you know, interesting curiosity. You know, and as the song progresses, what actually it turns out, they weave it back in and later on the the intro comes back with with a beat this time, right and you find out that the narrator of the song is actually

here:

"me I'm just a lawnmower, you can tell by the way I walk." And so you see right away that these guys are like fucking genius. Look at the British whimsical that they're bringing into this extremely, you know, complicated piece of music. It's amazing little, you know, like vehicle that you can get into and drive.

Aaron Gobler:

Do you feel like, each time you listen to it, you get something different from it?

Jason Staal:

Yeah, I mean, some of it, like, you know, for me, what, at a certain age appealed to me because, like, one of the themes is like self-development. You know, if you listen to the lyrics, it's about getting jobs, you know, you get a job in the fire escape trade, you know, it's everyone, right? So it really has this, you know, phase-of-life kind of notion about growing up, you know, it's watching others developing grow, that's what the lawn mower is doing is watching other people developing grow, you know, the lawn mower, you know, so that, you know, it did appeal to me. Yeah. And I mean, in relation to, you know, just growing up finding my own way. So, it was definitely one of those kinds of songs, you know.

Aaron Gobler:

Do you find yourself you know, reaching for the Genesis music ... I know, "reaching for" sounds kind of outdated, because we don't reach for albums anymore. But do you? You know, do you pull up pull up Genesis music to listen to, in general.

Jason Staal:

So what I find is that the older Genesis, you know, a lot these days with Spotify gets just chopped. So you're never listening to a full, you know, conceptual album, or something. Although, you know, a song like "Supper's Ready" can clock in at 23. They're works of genius, actually, they really are.

Aaron Gobler:

As a slight digression or tangent. You made me think of things like Abbey Road or other albums by the Beatles that you really can't listen to the songs individually because they were intended to be in a particular theme. And Genesis; their early albums were similar in that way that it was a cohesive group of songs, and they put them in that particular order. And some of them would flow into each other, almost like it was one long performance.

Jason Staal:

Yeah, that's an excellent point. And that it's also as we'll talk in the Ramones song, and that's why it's so interesting to have these types of songs for our talk, is that this was a time when people actually listened to music. I'm not kidding. I mean, it's like if you look at what's going on now, which we'll get into in a second, but the notion is that this was an era when people would literally ... especially in concert ... you know, everyone would just sit and everyone would just literally pay attention to what you know Peter Gabriel and company you know, Steve Hackett, you know, Phil Collins, we're doing.

Aaron Gobler:

So your next song, which you alluded to, by the Ramones is "Blitzkrieg Bop". And stylistically, seems 180 degree different than, than the Genesis song. So I'm very eager to listen to that again. (I haven't heard it in a while) and then hear what you have to say about it on the other side. So let's give it a listen. I just love the way that song ends. That's great.

Jason Staal:

Oh, it's awesome.

Aaron Gobler:

Jason, I don't know much of the Ramones catalog, probably just their biggest pop hit, "I Want To Be Sedated". I think maybe "Rock and Roll High School" and some other songs that were used in 1980s teen movies. What inspired you to include this song on your list?

Jason Staal:

Several things. So one is that I love these guys, you know, forever and they were huge in my life is I'm gonna get to in a second. So it's like a New York thing. You know what I mean? So it's like, I've been in New York and so it's like, there's a sweet spot, you know, for these guys. And fortunate enough to just have any touches with anybody who's connected with them. So you know, it's like to me, you know, on one level, these guys represent the alienated; they represent you know, folks who have Attention Deficit Disorder; there's an appeal for like this band and then look when they were a hit and 76 nobody was doing anything like this, you know, this was the the birth of Punk Rock. And so you know, when I first heard this, you know, you get a sense of I was really into music and into Genesis. And then you know, it was hard because other guys were like listening to like, you know, the Grateful Dead and like the Doors and I was like, I can't deal with it. This is this was boring, you know, it just became boring meandering, and I didn't know why. And then the minute I heard this, the first I remember this guy, Jamie Hirsch, he called me up and he said, you know, you gotta come over to my house, this is what it was like that. You literally have to come over to my house, you know, to listen to this album. And so I literally did that. And I couldn't believe; we couldn't believe it. We never heard anything like this. We were just dumbfounded. And the reason why is from from the beginning, is it's the pulse. This music has a pulse, and it grabs one and never lets go. It's perfect pop bliss at two minutes and 14, but it's the pulse. And what I learned and later on is this guy, his name is Matthias Eklunhd. He's the main guy behind Freak Kitchen. And he's onto something. So his quote is "for music to have a purpose, it must have a pulse". And he's right. And these guys really taught me you see what it's like to have a pulse in music. And it's amazing how they can rivet a pulse. And that's what this is, it just has you see that aspect of from the beginning to the end. It's unrelenting pulse, and it just draws you right in.

Aaron Gobler:

I don't know. Like I said, I don't know a whole lot of their songs. But all the ones I do know are pretty frenetic. They're just ... there's no ... they're not calming by any means. They're not angry, or violent in their sound. It's very, like poppy, and lyrically, like "I Want To Be Sedated" is wonderful lyrically.

Jason Staal:

They have, you know, a broad range so that they have some stuff. And then like Johnny was really conservative, like "Rocket to Russia" is really about giving the middle finger you know, to Russia. And so there's a big political thing going on. That's why they had a huge appeal to the alienated. The other thing though, going to what you're saying, though, is that this is like the beginning of the attention economy. So if you get a sense of what I was saying before that, like everybody was sit and listen to Genesis, the Ramones were not the band, you'd sit down and listen, see, and that see what I mean? It started off with a very different notion of what music could be. The other thing is that for myself, and for guys, my age, it was that this was still the time when people would like do things like actually pick up the guitar, you know, kids tend not to do that these days. You know, hopefully they are in the pandemic, you know, got some kids to get back into it. But back then, you know, people would like start to think about, like I mentioned, Jamie, you know, he started playing before me. I was the only one I think he really kept on going, you see what I mean? So these, it was a group of us, you know, that we all started to do this. And the thing that I really got from the Ramones is the concept of the music, you see is the every man like any man could do this. You see, compared to Genesis, which had this elite progressive, you know, everyone's Conservatory trained or had the era of it. They're playing in intricate time signatures, like who can do this right? You know, right. When you when you heard the Ramones it's like, you know, you could do this, and this separation between the band and the audience wasn't so great. So that ethos you see really, you know, really had a lot to do with spring, you know, me and some of the guys on, you know. This song has an authentic chant. You see, that's the other thing is that that "hey, ho, let's go!" you see is very visceral. And that that's the other thing and rock music you see that sense of appealing to the alienated you see, and you can get unity on a song like blitzkrieg bop. And that's important and rock music you see is joining everybody together, you know.

Aaron Gobler:

The third song in your list is much different than the first two, but I'm sure we'll hear some connection you have between this song and the others. "Have a Little Faith In Me" by John Hiatt. Let's listen to that. Jason, I confess, I don't think I knew any John Hiatt songs until I listened to this tune. It's a really beautiful song. And, you know, I did some research quickly on John Hiatt, and it seems like he's released like 22 studio albums, and that dozens of more well-known artists have covered his songs. So why did you put this on your list?

Jason Staal:

When you really get a sense of being moved by an artist and this is a guy who's one of the like top American songwriters. He's just like, so amazing. When I first started to hear him, I was just like, thunderstruck ... I'm just like, oh my god, what a talent. And to me what it is is why I get so moved, especially in a song like this look at the arrangement. It's simple. He's got a piano and it just sets up this vocal and the story, you know, and what is the stories their Raymond Carver-esque interpersonal narratives woven into American tales of ... hope and struggle with memorable melodies and lots of musical information. And this is what he just captures slices just like Raymond Carver, you know, the novelist as a songwriter and he became the guy that really brought me into my more modern version of songwriting. And the theme is that the transportative as I was talking emotional content of Genesis, having a pulse you see from the Ramones and then to have the emotionally evocative, you know, like the romantically hopeful and the melancholy, you know, all combined with these American narratives of John Hiatt, I was like, wow, this is a well, I could drink from, you know, so I have all those 22 albums.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay. Is each one inspirational in its own?

Jason Staal:

Um, you know, it's just like any artists, you know, and he's had substance abuse issues and stuff. So if you follow Him, you can really see the growth within, you know, his own work, and there's different incarnations of it. Yeah, he's, he's a deep artist. And as you said, that he's gotten a lot of accolades, because like Bonnie Raitt "Thing Called Love", you know, people will know, you know, a lot of his other, you know, hits, Marshall Crenshaw has done, you know, even one of his songs, you know, so it will always show up, okay, you know, somewhere like, oh, wow, that's a John Hiatt song. Yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Is there something poignant about this particular song that you chose this song for your list, considering he has hundreds of songs. Yeah, I think, you know, the whole notion of just belief in somebody else, though, has always been important. So I think that obviously, you know, struck an emotional kind of chord with me. And so I can't place it in anything in particular in my life, but I think that particular phrase and in the bridge, just as such emotionally evocative in a great manner. So that's the, you know, the real attraction. Yeah, always moved by it. If you look at these three songs to me, as they move me emotionally, so you know, they get connected to the fabric of your life. Well, so on that point you just made, is there anything else you'd like to share about the selections, anything that you are thinking about now, after talking about all three songs, or anything I didn't ask you about that you wanted to share about any of these songs,

Jason Staal:

I'm really filled with good emotion, you know, obviously, you and I have a good rapport. And, you know, we're used to listening to music. So that's really welcome. And at the same time, just having listened to those, you know, has really given me the sense of like, yeah, these are the kind of like benchmark-y kind of songs in a composer's career. And that's, to me the emotional connection, which is really the development of me being a composer.

Aaron Gobler:

Jason, I really appreciate your time today. And it was great catching up. I had a lot of fun.

Jason Staal:

Excellent, me too. You know, it's a wonderful experience to be able to connect to you and also to connect to people out there listening, because music has value and it's a way just to share our own personal stories and how we're moved by the music and the artists that we love.

Aaron Gobler:

I want to thank you again, Jason. And I want to say to my listeners, if you want to be part of the show, start by going to our website, Aaron's Radio dot show, and clicking on the My three songs button on the homepage, and you can also sign up on our mailing list so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

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