INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Boston Herald APRIL 28, 2005 - by Ed Symkus
'X' MARKS THE TRACKS FOR LOCAL PHYSICS TEACHER-MUSICIAN
When Tim Casey isn't teaching physics at West Roxbury High School, he can usually be found tinkering with keyboards and guitars and microphones at the Kon Tiki Lounge, a small upstairs room in his Roslindale home that's been converted into a recording studio. But when he enters that room, there's a chance that he might not respond to anyone calling him Tim. Once through that portal, he becomes Lowbudget Records artist Dr. X, the mysterious fellow who has created a number of CDs, including Lost In The Psychedelic Sixties - covers of off-beat tunes such as Pictures Of Matchstick Men and 2,000 Light Years From Home - and Blood On The Multitracks - covers of twelve Dylan songs.
His newest, Oblique Strategies For A Squelchy Life, a collection of thirteen Dr. X-ed versions of Brian Eno songs, gets a CD release party treatment at It's All About Arts in Roslindale on Friday.
Casey feels that the transition from doing new versions of Dylan songs to new ones of Eno songs wasn't much of a stretch.
The idea for Dylan was suggested to me by a friend, he says. I had played a couple of songs of his at a coffeehouse, and she said, 'You should do more of those songs.' I gave it some thought and realized I knew [how to play] about eight of his songs. So I did the album, and when I was finished, I was really impressed by it.
That was last year. Then came the Eno project. Brian Eno was a founding member of Roxy Music, who eventually left the group, started playing on some David Bowie albums, later started releasing solo projects, became a producer and eventually abandoned singing for what is now known as ambient music.
I started listening to him as an adult, says Casey. I never listened to him in the '70s. But I loved the Bowie albums he played on, and later he produced the Talking Heads albums, and I worshipped Talking Heads. So I kind of knew what I was getting into. I bought a sampler CD of Eno's music, and it blew me away. Then I got a box set.
And he found some similarities between Eno and Dylan.
Eno works fast, just like Dylan does, he explains. Because of that, there were a few things on his songs that aggravated me. Like when he was singing one note, he should have dipped down because the chords went down. He's into the lyrics, but I think he's more into the sound of them. It doesn't matter to him what they're saying. So sometimes, they're made up, and you can't understand them. If you really get into analyzing into it, you realize he's talking gibberish.
So it was time to do an Eno album, even though he's never been considered a big name in pop music.
If you read liner notes, Eno was a huge name. But the average person probably never heard of him, says Casey, then spins the story of how he invented ambient music.
He was in a car accident, and laid up in the hospital, and because he couldn't get out of the bed, he asked the nurse to turn on the radio. She turned on a classical station, fluffed his pillow and left the room. But the radio wasn't on loud enough, and the window was open, and he could hear the birds outside. And it all kind of mixed together. I guess it was a brainstorm where he said, 'Wow, it would be nice to have music that kind of mixed in with the sounds that are already around you, that you didn't really notice.' And his stuff is really like that.
Even before Casey made Oblique Strategies, he knew that Eno's music - especially the later-period instrumental pieces - was more than just pleasant listening. It worked on a number of levels.
I put it on at school, he says. When the kids are taking a test, I put on an Eno ambient album, and they do better on the tests. When the music stops, maybe five minutes later, one of them will look up and say, 'Mr., Casey, were you playing music?' They don't even notice it's gone. It just helps them relax and focus.
When he did sit down to tackle the project, it started off easy, then became a little complicated.
I recorded all the basic tracks in a week at my studio during Christmas vacation, he says. I played keyboards and guitar and I sang. Then I decided to ask a few people to solo on it. So I posted the basic tracks on the Web and said to everyone I knew, 'If you're interested in contributing, to go to the Web; if you like any of the songs, download it, record something - maybe a guitar part to the song - and send it back to me.' And if I liked it, I'd add it into the song.
Some of the local music luminaries who participated include Mr. Curt (e-bow guitorgan on St. Elmo's Fire), T Max (panning guitar on Needles In The Camel's Eye) and Terry Kitchen (ruminating electric guitar on Taking Tiger Mountain).
There are a couple of contributors who I never even met, says Casey. I contacted them, they mailed me stuff, we went back and forth, but I have no idea what they look like.
So it took a week to record the basic tracks, he adds. And then about three months to get people to mail me stuff and get it mixed and mastered.
Because Eno sometimes wrote positively lulling music, and sometimes absolutely rocked out, there are some interesting segues between songs on the album, the most shocking of which is one connecting the ethereal Tiger Mountain and the explosive Camel's Eye.
For the record, Dr. X doesn't just make covers of other people's music. He's also put out plenty of his own material.
I did a really angry album of original tunes called Bring Me Your Tired, Your Poor after Bush got elected the first time, he recalls. I just couldn't believe he got elected. So I had a couple of songs in the can that were about, 'Why would people elect this creep?' I finished it, and when I was dropping it off to get it copied, the planes hit the World Trade Towers. And when the album came out, I got slammed for it. It was like, 'How can you say anything bad about America at this point?'
But Casey insists that nothing bad was being said about America on the album. His anger was all aimed at one person. Yet on the occasion of Bush's re-election, he didn't write anything.
No, he says. I think I was so depressed, I couldn't pick up a pen.
On a happier note, Casey is getting ready for the CD release party for Oblique Strategies.
We'll have finger foods, he says. And for about an hour - when the people on the album finally get to meet each other - we'll spin some music by other people on Lowbudget. Then everyone will listen to a surround sound version of the album. There won't be any performing that night. Just eating and listening and talking.