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A Muse's Muse Interview with singer/songwriter,
Brad Roberts of the Crash Test Dummies
conducted by: Jodi Krangle

When you hear the Crash Test Dummies, it's very likely you'll recognize Brad Roberts' distinctive deep voice almost immediately. But the group has also relied heavily upon his song writing and can attribute much of their success not only to their unique sound, but to their unique songs. Here is an interview with this very talented songwriter, singer and performer, conducted via e-mail when Brad and the band were in the Toronto area to help promote the Crash Test Dummies' newest CD, Give Yourself A Hand. I think you'll find that he has quite a unique sense of humour too. ;-)


Question: What was your first musical experience as a kid and how do you think it contributed to the music you're making today?  Is there a particular incident that sticks out in your mind as a "defining moment"?
my first musical experiences were probably that of listening to my dad play the piano and my mom singing along. then i began taking piano lessons myself.  but my teacher was a horrid old bitch, so i quit. (years later, as a bratty teen, i egged her house.) at age 8 i began buying those K-tel 22 greatest hits packages. listened to them hundreds of times. at age 10, i bought an archie comic with a story in it about the "cave archies". the last frame showed jughead and reggie sitting around a campfire playing prehistoric guitars, called "plinka plunks". the idea of playing guitar around a campfire was very appealing to me, and made me want to take guitar lessons. at age 12, i bought my first "kiss" record, their third album, called "dressed to kill". i listened to it hundreds of times, and decided i wanted to be able to play guitar just like ace did. so i found a guitar teacher who i liked, and took lessons for about 4 years after that. all of the above are factors which contributed to my growing fascination with music throughout my early years. but the most "defining moment" of my musical life was the realization that i was a loser at school, that i couldn't play hockey, that girls didn't like me, and that the only way i could dig my way out of the land of nerds was by becoming a rock star. which i did.
Question: I hear that you studied English and Philosophy in University.  What did those studies do for your songwriting?  And how have your philosophies changed since you first started out?  Do you see things differently now then you used to?  Do different things inspire you?
my studies very much influenced my earlier songwriting, which tended to be more cerebral than my current work. nowadays, i have grown bored of trying to figure things out. i don't read anymore. at present, i am inspired not by philosophy and literature, but rather by alcohol and prostitutes. ctd's new record is mainly about getting drunk and masturbating and going to strip clubs. it's the best work i have done, and i am very glad to be freed from the shackles of the mind.
Question: have to ask this - and you probably knew it was coming.  (No, it has nothing to do with the silly story about your third testicle. ;)) Do you experience the dreaded "Writer's Block"?  And if so, how do you get yourself over it?
when i have writers block, i just stop writing. i have learned that i have to get away from writing and recharge my batteries, in order to be able to continue more writing at a later date. in other words, the time spent NOT writing is as important as the time spent actually doing the work. if i'm really desperate to write something, i'll go on a bender and get drunk for days. then i get ideas during my hangovers. i don't know why, but a hangover often puts me in a writing mood.
Question: Out of all the songs that you've written, which is your favourite and why?  Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to write that favourite song?
this is an impossible question to answer. when i'm writing, i always think that whatever i'm currently working on is the best thing i've ever done. then, years later, i look back at it, and i think its crap. for example, almost everything on "the ghosts that haunt me" is, as far as i'm concerned, total garbage. but hey, those were the first songs i ever wrote, and they paved the way for me to do better work later. everthing on our new record ("give yourself a hand") is my favorite stuff.
Question: Having recorded numerous albums at this point, you've probably been able to do things differently with this newest release.  What have you changed since your earlier recordings?  What about the process has become more satisfying as time progresses?
our recent recordings are different from our earlier recordings in that they are more about attitude and less about ideas. also, in our new live shows, i get to strut around the stage like a rock-star-jack-ass and hurl abuse at the audience, something which they seem to love. go figure.
Question: What's in store for CTD in the future?  I know your latest release is coming out in a few weeks.  Will there be a tour to promote it?
yes, we will tour all over north america, europe, australia, south africa, and parts of south america. it'll take about a year. then i will collapse and swear never to do it again. then i'll write another record, and do it all again. and again. like a hamster on a treadmill.

******

brad roberts was born and raised in winnipeg, manitoba. he moved to london, england (not london ontario) when he was thirty-ish. he stayed a couple of years, drank many pints of beer on tap. then he moved to new york city, where he currently resides, when he is not beating his brains out with constant touring.


More information on the Crash Test Dummies can be found HERE.
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