Here's a Q&A with Pennsylvania-based musician Chris Huff, who added this nice note to the start of the message with his answers:
First of all, thanks so much, Mental Nomad! Fun stuff. Loving the podcasts as well -- holiday and otherwise...
Always an auspicious start. :)
Where are you from? How does living there affect your songwriting? I live in Bucks County, Pa. -- definitely affected by the beautiful scenery because it is so strange and wonderful to me (i.e. "For The Trees") ... I spent the first 30 years of life in New York City (the area now known as "SoHa" (:-P) but then known as Morningside Heights -- Upper West Side of Manhattan). So I would say that NYC is always behind my songs either directly or indirectly. I'm essentially a nature-lovin' city boy, lol.
Do you focus on any political themes? If so, please tell us in more detail about them. Death and Texas LP, my new CD, is inadvertently political -- the making of it spanned the years of the Bush Administration, and it occurred to me after it was finished that it contained a lot of good metaphors for what had happened (the title being the most obvious) ... but at the time, I was not consciously writing political songs. I am however always politically aware, from my years as a high school socialist activist -- I'm sure it informs my material.
I have an eco-song called "Choke" (a Pink Floydie kind of indictment of pollution) and a tune called "Little Georgie" that I played live a lot in 1999/2000; this material will see the light of day shortly in an outtakes record. I have bunches of unreleased songs in the can. But thematically, I suppose I tend to focus on anti-folk kinds of subjects -- anti-hypocrisy, anti-evil multinational corporation pumping us with drugs, etc.
How long have you been playing, and what was your first instrument? First instrument was piano, started playing at 5 and lessons at 7. That's a good 10+ years. ;-)
How much has heartbreak contributed to your songwriting? Bill Clinton answer -- sorry!
If by heartbreak you mean romantic heartbreak, then I would say not much; that's a well-worn subject, and honestly, Blood on the Tracks says it all. ... "When Autumn Comes" on North Cathedral Way (first CD) is, however, about a relationship ending ...
But if you mean generally having your heart broken by your own and other people's behavior because you're a big bad control freak, or by life's circumstances (i.e. people you love dying too young and in dumb unnecessary ways, people you love wasting away with disease) ... well, then I would say a whole lot.
What are your main musical influences? British rock from The Invasion to '80s, American country-based folk-rock (Byrds, Bob Dylan, Gram Parsons, Johnny Cash), and that Lou Reed fellow is quite entertaining. Also, Bob Marley.
What's the last album you bought that you're enjoying? Manu Chao -- Clandestino. I love him! He represents most things that I aspire to (right politics, combination of country and reggae, etc). He plays football stadiums in Europe and South America, yet no one knows him here.
Editor's note: Manu Chao has been on the Mental Nomad Podcast once, and I hope to play him again if more tracks become available for podcast play.
Have you seen any great live shows lately? Don't get to see many other acts as I am always playing (3-5 shows a week usually) ... but I am going to see Robyn Hitchcock at World Café Live tomorrow; he's doing I Often Dream of Trains in its entirety. Very excited!
Saw The Police in '07 (my last big live show -- embarrassing, but I gig a lot), who were brilliant. Very sad to miss the Dandy Warhols last time as I really want to catch them. Caught my friends America's Sweetheart last time they swung through town -- they rock!
What was the first album you ever bought? Glass Houses by Billy Joel. Still own it!
First concert you ever attended? The Cars, 1983, Kemper Arena, Kansas City. Wang Chung opened. Viva les 80s!
If you could create your own fantasy music festival, who would the top 6 headliners be? Talking Heads, Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Who (original band), Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and The Band, Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd.
Second stage: Spacemen 3, The Kinks, Nirvana, Velvet Underground, Miles Davis Quintet, Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians.
If you could craft an all-star band, who would play in it?
Guitar: Chuck Hammer (from David Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes")
Bass: Sly Dunbar
Drums: Robbie Shakespeare
Keys: Brian Eno
What is your favorite movie? The Last Temptation of Christ.
Robocop vs. Terminator ... who would win? Ha! It's been years since I've seen either ... Terminator was pretty unstoppable. I'll go with Ahnold, though I'm not a fan of his post-movie career.
David Johansen or Iggy Pop? Iggy kicks that scrawny little punk's ass!
Keith or Mick? Mick. I shall never forgive Keith for the show I saw in Atlantic City two years ago. What a disaster When Woody is carrying the band, you know there's a problem. Mick was brilliant. I do own a blonde '52 Telecaster reissue, though.
Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert? I'm looking for the Colbert bump, so I go with Stephen.
What's your favorite magazine to read? Mix Magazine is the only one I read regularly. Used to read Business Week until lately it became Doom and Gloom Weekly. I read a copy of Spin the other day and had nightmares for a week.
What do you think is the most alarming media story in the last few months? Local issue: The State of New Jersey requiring all school children to have a flu shot. These shots are filled with formaldehyde, aluminum and all sorts of other chemicals. There is no proof that it does anything to help you avoid the flu, in fact last year it was remarkably ineffective. Are we really going to let the government force poisonous needles into our children's veins?
Do you support any specific charities, and how do you give back as an artist? I do support many charities (MS Society, Philabundance, Holistic Moms Network, La Leche League, National Vaccine Information Center, to name a few) -- though it's hard to find the time to give back when you're spending all your time trying to support your own family, I do what I can. ... I'm sure this is a common sentiment in today's economy. ... I have played many Lifebeat (HIV/AIDS charity) shows in NYC; hoping to do some in Philly in the coming months. Debuted my forthcoming album of children's music (side project) at a Holistic Moms Network picnic in June.
Have you ever been inspired by an author or a book to write a song? If so, which one? There's a song on North Cathedral Way called "Edgar Allan Poe St.," though I only wrote the music, not the lyrics (lyrics by a gifted writer named Pete Savage). "Ghosts of the Past" on Death and Texas LP was inspired by Dylan Thomas' Under Milkwood, and a staged production of it in which I played Captain Cat.
Do you write books, short stories, poems or a blog? My blog is through my MySpace page or through HuffMusic.com. I have written many poems and a few short stories -- you are inspiring me to share them!
If you were a superhero what famous musician would be your arch-nemesis and why? Dave Matthews! We are similar in certain external ways and have overlapping audiences, but I find most of his music very bland ... yet he is fabulously wealthy and famous! Damn you, Matthews -- you may have beaten me this time, but not forever and not for long!!!!
Honorable mention to Jimmy Buffett for all the times I have been forced to play "Margaritaville."
What's the one food you won't eat under any circumstance? Hmmm. Sorry to be Clintonian about it (again), but it depends what you define as "food." If you mean food in Western culture, then the answer would be that there is probably nothing I wouldn't eat, though I am not particularly fond of zucchini. If you mean food in Eastern culture, I would have to go with cat or dog.
What is the most adventurous food you've ever eaten? I had crocodile in Australia (slippery chicken, no seconds, please) and turtle in China (one bite, not bad).
Do you read any online music magazines, if so, which ones? Jambands.com, CMJ, Magnet Magazine, Popmatters (favorite), Origivation (Philly local). ... I poke my head into Amplifier and Filter. Gosh, "indie" music is everywhere these days, right?
Chris Huff's music is available from his Web site and in digital download form from Amazon.