Galactic Cowboys Reunion Interview, Part 3: Alan and Wally

Galactic Cowboys (Alan Doss, drums; Ben Huggins, vocals; Monty Colvin, bass, Wally Farkas, guitar) will be playing their first live dates in 10 years just over two weeks from now. Three dates in Texas in three nights: Aug. 13-15; Dallas, Austin, and Houston. The band agreed to talk with GonzoGeek in advance of these dates to let you know what’s going on.spacebaby

Part 1 of this three-part interview saw Monty and Ben discussing the reunion. The second part—still with Monty and Ben—addressed the past: good memories, the tour with Overkill, getting dropped from Geffen, Dane Sonnier’s departure, and ‘Machine Fish.’ Now, in Part 3 (and final), Wally and Alan get extra-dimensional, jump into the black hole, and tackle past and present all at once!

GG: So why do this now? How did it all come together? If it works do you think you might start making a habit of it again?

WF: “The phone rang one day and Alan was on the other end and said, ‘Hey we’re gonna do some shows if you wanna do ‘em.’ It sounded like it’d be fun and it was just presented as us getting together and doing some stuff for fun; these three shows. So I said ‘Sure. I’ll do it. It’d be fun for us to do.’ It doesn’t sound that glamorous but yeah, it was basically just answering the phone.”

GG: That’s how things happen a lot of time.

AD: “I answered the phone earlier, then called Wally.”

GG: See.

AD: “We weren’t the instigators. We’re fulfillers. We’re fulfilling somebody else’s fantasy.”

GG: Nice. You get gold stars already for acting as the fantasy fulfillment department.

AD: “As far as the future…I think we’re just looking at the three shows and wanting to have fun. A lot of people have wanted to see us play for a good 10 years. The other guys thought it might be fun and asked us our thoughts, and the feeling was ‘we want to do it.’ We’ve all got stuff going on, but this seemed like the time to do it. As far as anything beyond this, there’re definitely zero plans.”

GG: That’s the picture I’ve gotten.

AD: “But you never know. If somebody out there actually wants to participate in something we do and we’re all starving to buy a jar of peanut butter, I’d entertain it. But peanut butter’s pretty cheap, so…”

GG: So Dane’s going to play at some point during each of these shows. Are there going to be two guitars at once? Or a separate Dane part of the set? Or has that been organized?

WF: “Actually, we’re still organizing it. We don’t have a finalized set list. We’ve got about 75% of what we’re going to play figured out and agreed on and are just trying to fine tune the pacing of everything so it’ll flow right for a good show.”

“Dane’s gonna join us at some point in the show, and it’ll be all five of us for that. When it’s going to happen in the set, or what songs, or how many of them, hasn’t been locked in yet. But yeah, he’ll come out and we’ll all five do an abbreviated set in the middle of our set.”

GG: That’s a really cool thing ya’ll are doing in that regard: for all five of you to get together basically for the fans’ sake. So many times egos, or bad feelings, or any number of other things can get in the way of something like that happening.

AD: “We acknowledge Dane’s part in the band in the early days. But Wally is the guitar player. We appreciate Wally being open to that for the fans’ sake. It’s all good, ya know?”

GG: Looking back to the recording of ‘Machine Fish,’ you each had new and large roles in the band—Wally as guitarist and Alan as producer. How did you approach these?

As an exciting new opportunity? As an intimidating necessity? Something in the middle?

WF: “It wasn’t intimidating for me. It was exciting and fun. I’d been friends and a fan of the band since before they’d gotten their initial deal with Geffen and had toured with them doing some tech work and stuff. Dane had already left the band and I guess there was interest from Metal Blade, because Ben had already been talking to them before the band broke up. Because it had actually broken up for a while.”

“Basically, I once again answered my phone [laughs] and they said ‘Hey, we’re gonna have a go at this again…you interested?’ There wasn’t any casting call or auditions with other people waiting outside the door or anything. I already knew the songs and knew how to play them so I just went down to the practice room and started jamming with them and a few months later we were in the studio recording ‘Machine Fish.’ So it was pretty exciting time and all happening very fast and just easy to get into.”

GG: Did you participate in writing for ‘Machine Fish’ then? The record, even on the longer songs, seems a lot more straightforward in its approach; less prog-rock than the first two.

WF: “That wasn’t because of my entrance into the band. I’m just me. And I do what I do guitar-wise. But the majority of the songs had already been written for ‘Machine Fish.’ There were a few of them that we worked up together that had not been written before I joined the band. ‘Psychotic Companion’ was one; and ‘Paradigm Shift’ which came out on the ‘Feel The Rage’ EP. But most of the other songs had already been written. I put my flavor on things. But I don’t think it would be accurate to say that I came in and changed the sound of the band or the way the other guys were writing at the time, because the majority of it had already been written.”

GG: Got it.

AD: “At the time, it was a new beginning. I think you can tell from ‘Space In Your Face’ to ‘Machine Fish’ there was a little bit of a change [chuckle]. Especially for me, I was excited that Wally was playing. Wally’s more of a players’ type player if that makes any sense. Besides just being a great player, his mind artistically works differently than say, Dane’s.”

“I feel that Wally added a lot artistically to ‘Machine Fish’ just by his playing. He may not have written anything directly as far a melody or music per se, because most of it was already written during that period between records. Wally definitely influenced it though by bringing out the best of us in his playing; the artistic way he uses effects and just his way of playing something. It was really exciting.”

‘Machine Fish’ was a pretty angry record and Wally’s playing really brought that anger out, even though he didn’t experience it [laughts]; although he did kind of from the side, just because he was always around. And it just continued on through the other records; adding depth and dimension to the band. It was definitely exciting.”

GG: ‘Machine Fish’ also marked the first time you produced the Cowboys, Alan. Was that something you just slipped right into? Or did it take some time to get your head around it?

AD: “When we did demo’s in the rehearsal room for a song, I was usually the one playing engineer/co-production with the other guys. I mean it says produced by me, but we all produced it in general. We all worked the arrangements out. I was just trying to lead the process; to make sure that whatever we were doing we were getting the best out of ourselves.”

“First, it was just—for lack of a better term—cheaper than hiring somebody else. We already knew who we were and it was just a matter of fine-tuning what we were creating. So it wasn’t really a specific role that was stressful to walk into.”

GG: So what did account for the more concise version of song-craft evident between say ‘Space In Your Face’ and ‘Machine Fish?’ Things also continued to evolve after that, so maybe it was just part of the natural process.

AD: “I was kind of growing tired of the whole super-heavy thing. I still liked to incorporate it, but I’ve always been a pop guy. So whenever I was trying to write it always went more that way. Monty would right the heavy riffs. But at the same time, he was writing pop songs too. They were all kind of pop songs. Then it just kept going that way. Wally came out of the gate and it was just like, trying to be as weird as we could be and still have people get what we were doing.”

GG: Sounds like maybe ya’ll were coming from just a different perspective as a whole.

AD: “Yeah.”

WF: “Obviously I wasn’t there on the first two records. But I do know that many of the songs from the first two Geffen albums were written all around the same time. A chunk of them from ‘Space In Your Face’ were actually written for the first album; before the first album as part of that same time. In general music changed a lot, with grunge and everything, and we weren’t trying to follow a trend or play to some particular audience.”

“The first two albums are more like each other—musically and every way else—than the other ones. But if  you look at the first two albums together, and then look at each of the following albums, none of them are really like any other one. It’s all us; the same band except for the guitar change. But from ‘Machine Fish’ to ‘The Horse That Bud Bought,’ ‘At The End of The Day’….they’re all kind of different. The music scene around us was changing, but we really didn’t care what everyone else was doing. We just didn’t want to rehash or do the same thing every time. We just wanted to do what we felt like doing at that moment. I think each of the albums were different and eclectic in their own way compared to the other albums in our catalog.”

AD: “We never set out to be necessarily a prog-rock type of band. The twisting up and all of that on the first two records, which definitely got more simplified on the second record….Sam Taylor had this big vision of us being some crazy prog-rock band, with all the vocals and stuff. Especially on the first record, he was trying to really twist it up. Once that influence was gone, it was actually just freeing to be able to do what we wanted; and that obviously meant going more toward the heavy pop than the heavy prog.”

GG: You can definitely hear what you’re saying now that you’ve said it. Is there anything else you’d like the world to know?

AD: “A big thank you to everyone who liked our music through the years. Thanks for being a fan. Even though it seems like a few, it’s still important and it means a lot.”

GG: Absolutely.

AD: “There’re people who have e-mailed or sent messages saying that we had some kind of influence or effect on their lives at a certain moment. And for me, I think of that as success. It’s not about money or anything else. If you’ve had an effect on anybody…that’s a cool thing. I just say thank you to everyone.”

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