A few years back, a friend of Steve Schecter's gave one of his CDs to Nick Cave's band, the Bad Seeds. Schecter was living in Austin, Texas at the time and he had been playing solo shows under the moniker Ghostwriter for a couple of years.
Schecter and his wife moved back to Central Oregon about a year ago, 30 miles north of where he grew up, so his wife could attend nursing school and he could focus on recording a new album and, in theory, take a little break from the non-stop touring he had been doing back in Austin. His home is comfortably close to Portland, Ore., but far enough removed from the hustle and bustle of city life, to focus on other things.
Earlier this year, Schecter was contacted about an opening slot for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds for their Portland, Ore., show in September. It turns out that the band books their own openers and “if I hadn't been in Central Oregon, that wouldn't have happened,” says Schecter.
Schecter, the one-man operation that is Ghostwriter, sings and plays guitar and “a little foot percussion thing,” which is operated with one foot, he says. “It's a very simple driving rhythm, so it's not like (other one-man bands) John Schooley or Homer Anderson, the guy that's sitting down and actually playing a drum line with his feet.”
Having lived in Austin for a little over a decade, Schecter spent plenty of time playing with full bands, anywhere from two pieces to four pieces. As much as he enjoyed his time in bands that spanned from “stripped down rootsy type of rock 'n' roll” to rockabilly to “ranting two-chord stuff,” Schecter decided to break out on his own when his last band, End of the West, crumbled.
Schecter's solo project hit the ground running because End of the West still had shows booked at the time of its demise.
”It was like I could either cancel these gigs or I could kind of bullsh*t them,” says Schecter. “I had played solo around Austin a lot, just acoustic, but aggressively. I'd tried to bridge the acoustic stuff I'd done with a louder sound and so I was looking around the house and I rigged up these old kick pedals onto a board, so I always had that. Even the first shows I did solo like that.”
Schecter had listened to different one-man bands, like Bob Log, and seen the concept done before, so when he wanted to amp up his solo show for rock 'n' roll dive-type venues, a little kick drum was the way to do it.
Now, says Schecter, “I can't even imagine having to work with other musicians.”
As Ghostwriter, Schecter has released multiple studio albums, the last couple of which were recorded at the house of a friend of his in Austin. For the new album, called “Wreck the City/Simplify Your Life,” which was just released at the beginning of this month, was recorded at Schecter's home in The Dalles, Ore. The album was released as an actual 12-inch record, with names of the record printed on its opposing sides.
There are a lot of differences between this new record and the older ones, says Schecter, “because I did this one at home with my own equipment and stuff and the last couple I had done at a friend of mine's house down here in Austin.
”The other ones are so stripped down,” he continues. “They're pretty much like a live set at the time that I recorded them. This one, the theory is if you were familiar with the live set, you would like this record, I hope, and if you weren't, it would maybe be a little more accessible, because it has a little more overdubs and it's a little more musical than just the real stripped down live thing.”
Schecter played almost all of the instruments on the new record. His friend Ralph White played fiddle on the song “Blue Eyed Girl.”
Despite his multi-instrumental tendencies, Schecter prefers not to be lumped in with all of the other one-man bands on the scene. For one thing, not all of them play the same genres of music, he says.
Scott H. Biram, the “dirty old one-man band” from Austin, who tours through Humboldt fairly regularly, opened for Schecter's pre-Ghostwriter bands and “I played with him doing the Ghostwriter thing at least a couple of times,” says Schecter, “but Austin's actually a pretty big town as far as the scene and what he and I do as far as the crowds we draw down here are like night and day. You wouldn't think it was so far apart.”
The second biggest criticism that Schecter has for one-man bands is the lack of substance.
”I feel some of them are a bit self indulgent,” he says. “And since there's so many out there, I don't want it to taint--like if somebody just went and saw a bunch of one-man bands and they weren't very impressed, I wouldn't want them to read about the Ghostwriter thing coming and write it off.
”My criticism of the substance, you can apply that to a three- and four-piece and a two-piece band too,” he clarifies. “But when there's a three- and four-piece, if they don't have that substance, I think there's more to distract you.”
Ghostwriter will be at Big Pete's Pizza tomorrow night with Yer Dog, on the second-to-last date of his tour before heads home. Schecter's music can be heard at www.myspace.com/ghostwritertexas.