Tim Reynolds Talks ‘Venus Transit’, Creating in Quarantine, and More [Interview]
Renowned guitar virtuoso and former Outer Banks resident Tim Reynolds released his latest album of original music, Venus Transit, in July, giving us all the perfect soundtrack to the surreal year of 2020.
Dreamy and otherworldly, the 10-track instrumental album has a hauntingly foreboding darkness throughout, but always teasing the rays of a brighter, hopeful dawn just over the horizon. It is a meditative and atmospheric escape from the horrors of our current reality. Reynolds’ intricate acoustic playing is complimented with engrossing synth effects, as this is immersive music meant to be heard through quality headphones, taking the listener on a sonic journey into space.
Having toured the world with his band TR3 and with frequent collaborator Dave Matthews, Reynolds lived on the Outer Banks from 2007 until about two years ago, and the new album’s cover image is a photo of the sound at sunset on the Outer Banks.
I talked to Reynolds in July about the origin of Venus Transit, as well as finding time during quarantine to re-learn some of his older music, how playing virtual concerts makes him more nervous than being on stage in front of thousands, and how he loves to jam out to Eminem, among other topics in our wide-ranging conversation.
Read on for our exclusive interview with Tim Reynolds.
OBX Entertainment: How are you and how have you been doing these last few months during the pandemic?
Tim Reynolds: I’m doing alright. Obviously this shit is pretty terrible, and the shock of just the disarray that it has created. I mean I’m doing alright though. I’m in Florida and I’ve got a nice house where I’m able to, you know, stay away from people, and go for walks. I live in a quiet neighborhood. I’m not near a lot of the craziness that’s been going on, so I’m lucky.
Since I realized I’m going to be here for a while, I just got into a routine, taking walks, doing yoga, working on a lot of music, writing music.
The biggest thing I’ve been doing for a while is working on this Beethoven piece called “Moonlight Sonata”. It’s written for piano, so I don’t know what I got into. I was like, ‘This sounds like a pretty thing, it sounds simple enough,’ and then I started learning it, and I was like, ‘Jesus! Fuck!’ It’s meant for piano, so it’s got a lot of things that I’m having to figure out how to do, but it’s been a great education. At first I thought this will be a fun project I’ll never finish, because it’s really hard. But I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.
So that’s been kind of a great thing to keep me occupied, as well as doing these streaming concerts, because once I get a date for one of those, I become obsessed with practicing for it.
So I’ve been staying busy playing a lot of guitar. That’s probably what I should be doing, I guess. I can’t go out and do it on the road.
You live in Florida now, but do ever make it back to the Outer Banks these days?
I’ve lived here for about two years, and I think I’ve been (back) there once, and that’s the last time I’ve been there. Most of the time since I lived there, I’ve been on the road, but now I’m kind of forced not to be on the road. I just haven’t been off the road for years and years. It’s an adjustment but it’s good to be home for a while and just kind of settle in. Like I said, I’ve time to do things I never would’ve been able to do, like writing a whole bunch of acoustic solo tunes and learning some music I’d never have time for if I was on the road.
So just using my time, and going back to my back catalog, stuff that I recorded over the years when I had a studio in New Mexico. Anyway, I’ve been busy trying to stay with the music, and yard work and domestic stuff.
Not being on the road for a change is probably a bit of a vacation in itself for you.
Yeah, for a while it seemed like it was going just ever so slow, but now I’ve kind of got a routine going, so the day goes by faster, and the afternoon is usually start working on music, and then the evening it’s just get a real drunk and try to forget about the world. (laughs)
Let’s talk about the new album. It was released last week (7/15/20) online. Was it already recorded prior to the quarantine?
The story on that is I recorded it in 2005 while I was mixing another record called Parallel Universe, which was all kinds of crazy stuff; it was a double album with a lot of more exploratory, experimental stuff, as well as what I would call normal music. During the day we’d be mixing for hours, and your ears kind of get tired. I had just bought this really nice keyboard. I had never had one that was so nice. So our ears would get tired, and I said, ‘Hey, man, let’s take a break from this. Roll the tape, I want to play space music on this keyboard.’
So over the course of however long we did it, I had about 10 of these ambient, spacey, soundscape kind of recordings, and then after a while I put guitar on it, and then it just seemed to be a whole package, but it’s so different than anything else I’ve ever done.
There was never a tour for it or live playing, so it’s just always sort of sat in the back, and once in a while I’d break it out and play it. I always thought I should put that out some time when people are in a listening mood.
So this year, everybody’s kind of listening a lot more, because you can’t go out, so I’ve been going back through some music that was in the can, as it were, and it was one of them. I thought wow, what a nice thing to have some relaxing, droney, different kind of music for this time.
That’s interesting that it’s been in existence for 15 years but never put out into the public until now.
It’s such a different thing. It’s almost like meditative music. I used to listen to it when I lived out west and would do these all day drives across vast spaces, and that CD is awesome for that kind of shit.
And really what inspired me to do something like that was years ago Peter Gabriel and certain artists that I really like, even Trent Reznor, they’ve been doing these movie soundtracks that are really moving like that, and I’ve always loved that kind of music. So I guess when I was recording them originally, it was a kind of built up inside of me, a need to express myself in those ways.
I had this guitar I had just bought while I was also doing that with the keyboard. It was a nice, old Martin. It sounded really nice, and I started recording with that guitar, and then I use a 12-string on one song. It just kind of gave the whole recording a neat voice.
I love instrumental people that go apeshit and make your head spin, but then there’s something like you don’t know what it is, it comes in you, like a great song. To me, that’s the power of music. I still spend as much time as a I can just listening to music for that experience. That’s what keeps me inspired to be neurotic about having to make music.
You mentioned being inspired by movie soundtrack music, which make me wonder if you would ever want to score a film, like how Trent Reznor has done in recent years?
I would do it in a second, man. Actually, I want somebody to make movie based on Venus Transit. I’ve got the music, make the movie, man.
The other part of the answer to that is, while I haven’t gotten to score films yet, my wife actually, her dad has for his whole life worked the industry. He wrote the theme for the Good Morning America show. He was in the circle of those people. He knows people that will take music and show it to the right people. So anyway, I’ve got a tiny foot in that door, not in the music soundtrack door, but I did a recording for him just as a trial to so how it would go for some music for a public TV special about these Latino kids in Colorado.
So I recorded some bits, and it’s going to eventually be some brief snippet of a couple seconds of guitar playing on some show on public TV, so that’s my little tiny toe in the door and hopefully we’ll move forward with more things.
So tiny little steps, but I’d do that in a second if somebody wanted me to.
How have the virtual shows been for you after so many years on the road?
It’s been really good, and I’m glad that there’s a way in our digital world to do that. It’s made me look at some of my older music. My publicist said, ‘Let’s go back to the first (solo album) you did, and let’s do, at least for a while, concerts based on your early acoustic records’. So we did one called Gospel of the Neurons, and that one was almost all improv, so it forced me to go back and learn my own improvs, so I could represent the records instead of just freeform another one, because all the improvs had a lot of cool little things. So it made me go back and learn my older, younger, crazy I’m-not-following-the-musical-rules stuff, but it was really interesting just to explore that. Actually, that’s what made me realize I could learn the Beethoven.
Learning that album took a couple weeks, to decipher these crazy improvs and write down a way to read it. I don’t read regular music, so I have to write down these crazy notes. It made me work really hard to dig something out of the CD player. So it gave me confidence that okay this Beethoven thing is going to take a long time, but now you’ve don’t that. So I’ve been working on the Beethoven for a little over a month.
It’s a slow process, but it’s been very rewarding to make this music. I’ll probably safely record it and then put it out on YouTube, because it’s a beautiful piece of music.
But yeah, doing these streaming things has been really good. It gives me a sense of purpose too as a musician, although the only thing is there’s always a couple moments when I first start it, even though I’m in my living room and I should be really relaxed, I’m very nervous.
It’s different when you know that there’s a camera two feet away from you, whereas when you play a gig, there’s so much more space in the room you don’t feel so under a microscope. When you improvise a lot, you always make tiny mistakes that not everybody would notice, but you notice them, so every beginning of one of those shows, I’m always a little bit like, ‘Oh God, when is it going to happen, when am I going to fuck up.’ And then it would happen, and I’m like, (exhales) ‘Okay, now I can get on with it.’ And then you’re not nervous anymore.
It’s just the fact that you’re doing it in your living room, and it’s not just my wife sitting there recording, it could be a lot of people watching. But it also makes me practice like crazy. If nothing else, it fulfills my purpose of practicing like a crazy person to get it right.
I think that’s good to hear that even Tim Reynolds gets nervous before a show.
Playing gigs, it’s more like you get pumped up, and here it is too, but then it’s like, ‘Oh God, these people can look at my fingers like really close up.’ There’s no room for error. And I’m just an error making – that’s what you do as a musician, you learn what the perfect thing is and you realize you can’t really ever play it perfect, but it’s like the wave function in physics, you kind of come close every time, and then hopefully the next time you do a better job. And then you keep doing it. (laughs)
Do you think you’ll continue to do virtual shows even after touring resumes?
I haven’t thought that far, but once it’s cool to go back on the road, I’m not really sure that I can do both of those, but I don’t see why not. Now that that’s a thing, I might get addicted to it. (laughs)
You’ve always been open to experimentation, using the keyboard.
I used to record whole albums in New Mexico. …Made a 20-minute improv with Neptune sounds from NASA.
There are some TR3 live recordings that I think I want to put out next. I have a couple other projects from my time in New Mexico when I spent way too much time in the studio. I think back in those days, I wasn’t touring with DMB, so in the summer I had a lot of time off, because it was a slow time for personal touring then. So I was just up to no good making CDs. So I’m going back to that, going back to the lab, motherfuckers!
This is the perfect time. These are recordings that weren’t for going out on tour, they’re really listening things. After hearing these things for years and getting sick of them and putting some away, testing them out over the years, I enjoy them, so I want to share something that I like with other people.
I think people going to be hanging tight for a while, until they come up with a vaccine. And then once a vaccine comes up, there will be the bigger issue of making enough of it, and the people who have it are going to want to wield power with it. ‘Well if you don’t do what I say, you don’t get the vaccine.’ I certainly hope it doesn’t come to that, but I wouldn’t put it past people in this crazy day and age.
I keep my fingers crossed that there’s more desire to fix things than there are to fuck up things.
Remember the movie Titanic? At the end, the ship is sinking, and there’s musicians, they’re the boat band and the water’s coming up, they can see the water, they’re going to die, and they look at each other, ‘Okay, boys, let’s play one last song.’ I’m going to be playing music until I fucking die, so I might as well just stay focused, right? (laughs)
What are you listening to these days?
There’s a band called Rival Sons. They sound like a great ‘70s band, but they’ve been around since 2009. I just love them. They’re like comfort food.
There’s this guy called Anderson Paak. He’s just great like soul music, like classic. He’s got an album called Malibu that’s just so good.
Actually, of all things, the last Eminem record was amazing. And I don’t even have any Eminem records. I’ve got a few rap records, like Ice-T Original Gangster, you know real old school, and some Kendrick Lamar. Eminem is exceptional in that he’s so funny and technically, like I like to practice to it because he double times. And it’s fun to follow that on a guitar. Musically it’s really simple, but rhythmically he’s got some skills.
I’d love to hear a Tim Reynolds remix of an Eminem track or you guys do something together.
(laughs) I’d have to get his permission. It would open up a whole new avenue, right?
Well I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me today.
It’s been my pleasure, man.
You can listen to Venus Transit via Spotify below.