An interview with Ian Love
By Tim Den
Ian Love has had quite a life. After being accepted into and soon leaving New York’s famous High School of Performing Arts (immortalized in Fame), he played in numerous influential hardcore bands (including Burn) and fell deeply into heroin use. All before the age of 17. By the time he was 23, however, he’d begun to clean himself up after six straight years of substance abuse and a few near death experiences, slowly finding his way back to making and loving music. Over the next five years, he would join, write, record, and tour with Rival Schools, his own band, Cardia, and Onelinedrawing, all without any foreign chemicals in his body. With years of sound engineering beneath his belt, he’d also man the mixing board for New York rock club, Brownies, before opening his own recording facilities. Just this past year, he got married and had his first child. As you can see, this – Love’s first proper solo album – has quite the back story.
Leaving behind the epic rock of Cardia and the post-hardcore energy of Rival Schools, this album is a subdued affair, with Love playing most of the instruments, often softly pattering out a rhythm on an acoustic to keep tempo (“Butterfly”). The tranquillity of the songs belies the turmoil their creator has weathered in his young life, but in doing so, conveys a sort of deeper mystery, as if emotional storms are brewing beneath the surface. Let the melodies, mellotron flourishes, gentle acoustic pickings, and delicate falsetto sit with you for a while, and you’ll see what I mean. Power is often not found in volume. Within the soft musings of this album, there is strength and resolve. Courage and peace. That the songs can also be pleasing and passively listened to is just an added bonus.
Who knows where Love’s path will take him next? For now, it has led him to a hush hush scenery full of beauty and unspoken resilience, a wonderful aural experience that all should seek out.
The first question is…
Why am I so sexy? (laughs) Because I use the Stairmaster and the Bowflex.
The audience can’t handle so much sexiness!
It’s a one-two punch that’s very effective! (laughs) A very good combo.
Okay, seriously now: What’s going on with Cardia?
I don’t know, it’s kind of weird. We wrote a lot of songs, enough for two records or so, but can’t seem to find anyone who wants to put it out. We recorded everything a while ago and I sent it to everyone I know, but no one wanted it. So there’re these two dozen songs just sitting there.
Is the band technically still “together”? Meaning are there rehearsals, plans for shows, etc.?
I guess we are still “together,” but we haven’t rehearsed in months and months. And no shows. At this point, a lot of what we would do would be dependent on if any more records come out. Cuz you can only rehearse so much before it’s like, “What are we doing this for?”
Yeah, there has to be some sort of a progression…
Right. I’m redoing my website right now to eventually include everything I’ve ever done, so that way, people will still hear the music. Maybe down the line we’ll change the band name and send out packages to label again. (laughs) Maybe the same people who turned it down will all of a sudden magically like it.
These days, I have my own recording studio and am constantly doing my own thing – not to mention raising a daughter – so I’m not sure how much of the “band” thing I could’ve kept doing anyway.
How come Silverthree didn’t want to put it out?
I have no idea. There was some talk of it when I first sent them the music. “Yeah, next fall, we’ll get it out,” but this was the previous fall. I just never heard from them again. I figured they weren’t into it. Mike Harbin (label owner) and I are cool with each other, so there’s no issue. I was supposed to go see his band (Soft Complex) play, but something came up.
How have you been approaching this solo thing?
Well, the record just came out and seems to be doing pretty well, and I’m doing a week’s worth of shows with Jonah (Matranga). Basically, just taking it one show at a time.
How are you performing live?
For the last CMJ, I put a band together with some friends of mine, and that was fun. For the most part, I’ve been playing alone, sometimes with a lap steel, sometimes with just my iPod for the percussion and atmospheres. There’s not much of real drums on the album, so that’s one less thing to worry about. It’s cool, cuz I can sort of change it up every time.
You have a pretty rich back story, so let’s delve into it a little: Tell me about your days with Burn.
My memory’s pretty shot, (laughs) but I guess it was when I was 14, 15 years-old. I used to go to a lot of hardcore shows at The Anthrax in CT. I met Chaka (Malik, vocalist) and his friends there randomly and started hanging out with them. I’d go to Burn rehearsals and watch them play. At one point, a Midwest tour came up, and Chaka asked me to play guitar. I said yes, and that was it. After we came back, Quicksand got together, and Alan (Cage, drums) left Burn to join them. After that, we got a couple of new guys in the band, but it wasn’t the same. It was a bit strange. So it fell apart.
Are you on any of the recordings?
I’m not sure, but I think I’m on some old stuff that they just reissued. Like demo sessions that were never released. Not sure on what label. I think, at the time, Roadrunner were interested in signing Burn, so they gave us some money to demo with Don Fury. Nothing ever came of it.
What’s Chaka up to these days?
I don’t know, I think just DJing a lot. I check out his MySpace page once in a while to see what he’s doing, but I think it’s mostly DJ stuff. I don’t think he’s doing music at the moment, but I could be wrong. It’s been a while since we were close friends.
Tell me what happened with Rival Schools.
I had an amazing time being in that band. Some of the guys are my closest friends. Basically, between Rival Schools tours, I’d been working on my own music on again, off again, with it eventually ending up being Cardia. I was getting a lot of attention from Sony Music who wanted to put it out, but because Rival Schools were signed to Island, there were contractual issues involved. Sony were not too hot with that. So I checked out my Island contract and found that I could either 1) submit Cardia to Island and see if they’d put it out, or 2) quit Rival Schools and get out of my contract. It was a hard decision for me to make because I really enjoyed playing with Rival Schools, so I decided to finish all the touring and responsibilities behind the full-length before leaving them. I figured that they would be regrouping to work on another record after the tour anyway, and that would be a good time to let them find someone else. But, of course, as soon as that happened, everyone at Sony got fired, and that was that. (laughs)
Rival Schools ended up spending a year demoing the next record, but then they got dropped too.
Really? They got dropped? I thought they just broke up on their own. Cuz the record did pretty well, no?
Maybe they weren’t dropped… I don’t know, don’t quote me on that. The record did really well in Europe and the UK, but comparatively, it didn’t do so well in the States. Think about it: It cost pretty much a million dollars to make it and put it out, but it only sold around 30,000 copies in the States. In major label terms, it was not a success. Maybe the next record could’ve done a lot in Europe and sort of reverberate back to the States, but it just didn’t come together. And by that point, Walter wanted to do his own thing and record his own music anyway. There were also some weird things starting to happen within the band that didn’t make it 100% comfortable. I don’t think me staying in the band would’ve made any difference.
The first time I met you, you were doing sound at Brownies.
(laughs) I hope I was nice to you!
You were! How did you end up at that job?
I worked there for a long time, and also at Coney Island High, Knitting Factory, all over the place. I’m a high school drop-out, so it was like “how can I make a living doing what I know and what I love?”
How did you get started in recording/engineering/producing in the first place?
I bought a 4-track when I was 14, and I just kept going with it. I recorded my friends’ bands, like the early Quicksand demos, and saved up and bought an 8-track. Eventually I got DATs and more and more gear, and just built it up from there.
When did you find your singing voice?
I’ve been messing around with singing since I first got into music. I took some vocal lessons, but that didn’t really help, so I just kept recording myself to find my strengths and weaknesses, what I could pull off, what I did well, and what needed improvement.
Did the desire to sing eventually make up your mind about leaving Rival Schools?
No. Most of the songs were Walter’s, and I was more than happy with just playing the guitar and really honing in on my instrument. I definitely came out of that band a better musician. I mean, I’d sing harmonies here and there, but I had a separate outlet for that. If I’d bottled everything up inside and not done my own music, there would’ve been issues, but no, it was never a problem.
Are you still a health nut? I remember the last jaunt we were both on, you were doing that insane water-with-cayenne-and-honey cleansing thing where you don’t consume anything but that concoction for weeks on end.
(laughs) Oh, I remember that! No, I’m not doing those kinds of things right now. I go through phases where I’m really into it. For a while, I was going to the gym everyday, running all the time, but now I have a baby daughter to raise, so I’m out of shape. (laughs)
My sister did that cleansing thing for three weeks. I thought about it, but you DON’T EAT for THREE WEEKS!
I think it might be even longer than that, like four or five weeks.
Is that what you did?
No way! I didn’t last a week. (laughs) I slowly introduced grains and steamed vegetables back into my diet. I’m not that hardcore! (laughs)
So whatever happened to Mr. The Verve Pipe (ex-Cardia bassist/backup vocalist Brad Vanderark, who quit the band without notice and left the other members extremely irritated)?
He’s buried in my backyard. (laughs) My dog runs around out there, no one will ever find him! This is off the record, of course. (laughs) He freaked out and left the state, moved to Michigan. He had his own issues to sort out, I guess.
How are you and your wife able to support yourselves in NYC while raising a daughter? Especially since you’re a musician?
We have a sweet deal. We’ve been living in this 2,500 square foot loft for the past seven years, and the rent will (hopefully) never go up. I gotta find a piece of wood to knock on. I have my own studio in it, we have a nice backyard, it’s great. I mean it’s definitely hard – both my wife and I work a lot – not to mention trying to raise a child.
So what are your plans for the future? Do you think this solo thing is a part of a “career plan”? How does it play into your family life, etc.? Cuz, for someone like J. Robbins, engineering/producing is supporting his family so that he can make his own music on the side. Do you ever think of doing the same?
I haven’t thought about it, really. The new solo record just came out, so my mind is mainly on playing and recording new stuff, not thinking too far into the future. But who knows, that might change when I get my first ballet lesson bill!