Q&A with producers/musicians Jeremy Nesse and Deane Arnold, have been producing reimagined, new recordings of Gabriel’s song

"Peter Gabriel has always managed to incorporate both the weird and accessible into his music which makes for an intriguing combination that is relatable to many of his fans. And while his music can mean different things to many people - universal themes like love, self-discovery, dreams, loss, alienation, doubt, hope – these are all a part of the human experience."

Jeremy Nesse & Deane Arnold:

Through The Wire

Jeremy Nesse & Deane Arnold project "Through the Wire" is an international reimagining of the music of Peter Gabriel. Producers and Musicians Jeremy Nesse & Deane Arnold with world-renowned musicians released a re-imagining of Peter Gabriel hits with “Through The Wire”. Featuring Tony Levin, Jerry Marotta, Pat Mastelotto, Larry Fast, Pete Levin, David Sancious, Theo Travis, David Torn, Jakko Jakszyk and others! A collective of over 140 acclaimed musicians across 5 continents, including bassist Tony Levin, have come together remotely to celebrate Peter Gabriel’s musical legacy. Jeremy Nesse and Deane Arnold have been producing reimagined, new recordings of Gabriel’s songs. In a project prompted in part by the remote spirit of the global pandemic, the musicians have managed to collaborate from as far away as New Zealand, Europe, and Asia. Volumes 1-3 are currently available for purchase. Volume 4 released on May 6th and there will be another 6 to 8 releases in 2022. The interpretations will span over 40 years of Gabriel’s career, and will include well-known songs as well as obscure and previously unfinished tracks.                                   (Photo: Jeremy Nesse & Deane Arnold)

The musicians who worked on the project include current and previous members of Gabriel’s band: Tony Levin, Jerry Marotta, Pat Mastelotto, Larry Fast, Angie Pollock, Pete Levin, David Sancious, David Torn, Paul Richards, Donna Lewis, Elliott Sharp, Tim Bowness, Peter Chilvers, Gail Ann Dorsey, Stephan Thelen, Julie Slick, Steve Ball, Jon Durant, Theo Travis, Jakko Jakszyk, Dewa Budjana, Sidney Jake and Patrick Grant. The music is being mixed in Bearsville, New York by Robert Frazza of Ashokan Talent. Frazza has supported over 200 bands around the world, including Orleans, Todd Rundgren, and Peter Gabriel. He is frequently called upon to pull together international tours. Volumes 1-3 are currently available for purchase. Jeremy Nesse is a NYC-based Bass & Chapman Stick instrumentalist who has contributed to projects spanning multiple genres including rock, progressive, reggae, electronic, dance-pop and hip-hop. In 2020, he had contributed Chapman Stick, NS upright and keys to Pat and Deb Mastelotto’s ‘A Romantic’s Guide To King Crimson’. Deane Arnold is a studio rat who has managed to mostly avoid live performances. In addition to Peter Gabriel’s music, his influences range from Pete Seeger to King Crimson, and he is just as likely to find inspiration in avant-garde minimalism or progressive metal as in bubblegum pop. He is internationally known for his work as a pumpkin sculptor.

Interview by Michael Limnios          Special Thanks: Billy James (Glass Onyon PR)

How has the Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Deane: I’m not sure that the word “counterculture” still applies to rock, or to any popular music. People of all ages wear Ramones and Rolling Stones tee shirts simply because they’re trendy fashion statements. As I think of it, I’ve never considered rock to be a counterculture, at least not in my personal world. My family is musical, and my parents encouraged me to be musical. My mother gave me my first album (Revolver, by the Beatles), and my grandfather gave me my first progressive rock album (Prologue, by Renaissance).

If there was one early instance where I thought my music felt rebellious, it might have been when my father stopped asking me to turn down my stereo. It was the day I was listening to ELP’s Pictures at an Exhibition, and I was keeping it low because I thought my father would object to the idea of Mussorgsky being played with drums, bass, and synthesizers. Instead, we spent the afternoon playing records for each other. He told me that he’d buy me more albums like ELP. It was hardly a rebellious exchange, and certainly not a stereotypical “turn that crap off” moment.

Jeremy: As a child of the 80’s, there wasn’t much to rebel against. My earliest exposure to music was through my father’s vinyl collection – The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Frank Zappa, Bob Marley, et al. The attitudes in both the music and lyrics of these icons offered a glimpse of what it meant to resist and stay true to one’s nature. MTV later offered a visual component to music that I immediately fell in love with – the music of Peter Gabriel. It wasn’t until the emergence of grunge that I developed any form of a rebellious streak. Taking up an instrument was perhaps the most rebellious act of my formative years. But while I don’t consider myself a trailblazer, I do surprise myself occasionally and break a rule or two…               (Photo: Jeremy Nesse & Deane Arnold)

"This project is about the community of contributing musicians. Each song includes a different lineup of people, many of whom have never met in person. Some of us already knew each other, but most are collaborating for the first time. Working together in a creative way is the best part of being human."

What characterizes your music philosophy? If you could change one thing in the musical world, what would that be?

Deane: I would remind audiences and listeners to actually connect with music. Music is too often treated like fast food or room decor. Or even worse, as a sport. Most listeners don’t really listen.                   

I love music of most kinds. In addition to rock, I grew up with folk, classical, stage musicals, and jazz. And also comedy music, like Stan Freberg, Abe Burrows, Spike Jones, and Danny Kaye. I think music should have an emotional element, whether it’s nostalgic, sentimental, inspirational, satirical, or rage. Popular music has become superficial. If I could change one single thing, it would be to replace all television shows like American Idol, The Voice, America’s Got Talent, et al, with showcases more like Later with Jools Holland, and The Ed Sullivan Show. The competition shows have bludgeoned music into a narrow, sports-like formula that audiences have come to accept as the only worthwhile approach. One of my favorite television shows of all time was Night Music, hosted by David Sanborn.

On one hand, it’s easy to think that rock music has seen its day. On the other hand, there are a lot of young musicians who are taking up the mantle. I’m optimistic when I hear kids say that their heroes include David Bowie, John Bonham, or Jaco Pastorius.

Jeremy: Artistically, growing as a musician has always been the main motivator for me. Practice. Analyze. Repeat.

If there was one thing that I could change in the musical world it would be that as artists and creators, we need to collectively adopt the idea that we are a service industry and not simply a commodity to be given away for free. I liken it to this meme – A MUSICIAN IS SOMEONE WHO LOADS $5000 WORTH OF GEAR INTO A $500 CAR TO DRIVE 100 MILES TO A $50 GIG. As musicians, we have the power to say no to inflated ticket prices, exposure, poorly paid wedding gigs, drink tickets, Spotify and chicken wire…

I do applaud those who recognize the time, money and effort that we, as musicians, put into our craft. After all, we do attempt to entertain and bring happiness into people’s lives. We provide both engagement and escape for the masses. If enough artists push back, we may be able to regain much of the ground we’ve lost over the past 20+ years. If we don’t, we may get replaced by a playlist.         (Photo: Jeremy Nesse & Deane Arnold)

"Peter Gabriel kindled our love for art-rock and world music. The commingling of differing cultures and international perspectives has been a driving force in our musical journey. With the advent of the pandemic, over 100 artists, who have a shared love of PG’s music, donated their time and talent to this magnificent experiment that would never have happened under normal circumstances."

Why do you think that Peter Gabriel’s music continues to generate such a devoted following?

Deane: He’s definitely a rock artist, while at his core he’s a pop musician. That puts him in accessible reach for the widest audience possible. But he’s always gone after unusual avenues of music. Maybe the combination of mainstream and obscura puts him in his own genre.

I think that maybe the main reason his following is so loyal is because he writes music and lyrics that matter to people. We connect with it. He doesn’t restrain his work so it only fits one generation or audience. I’d be very surprised if he ever considers the marketing demographic when he creates music. I’d compare him to Pete Seeger. Both artists have been intensely curious, voracious cultural explorers, and they both incorporate what they learn into their art. Blend that with an earnest desire to share, and they’ve both helped unite people.

Jeremy: Peter Gabriel has always managed to incorporate both the weird and accessible into his music which makes for an intriguing combination that is relatable to many of his fans. And while his music can mean different things to many people - universal themes like love, self-discovery, dreams, loss, alienation, doubt, hope – these are all a part of the human experience. When I started to produce tracks for this project, PGs lyrics felt more prescient than ever and they magnified my own feelings over the past 2 years.

"On one hand, it’s easy to think that rock music has seen its day. On the other hand, there are a lot of young musicians who are taking up the mantle. I’m optimistic when I hear kids say that their heroes include David Bowie, John Bonham, or Jaco Pastorius." (Deane Arnold / Photo by Deborah Wright)

Do you have any interesting stories about the making of the new project album “Through The Wire”?

Deane: Many! Every song has a different lineup of musicians, so every song has a different story. Most of us have never met face to face, but there are exceptions. Jeremy Nesse and I met at Three of a Perfect Pair music camp which is hosted by Tony Levin, Adrian Belew, and Pat Mastelotto. The TOAPP experience is very hard to accurately describe unless you’ve been there. I think Tony once called it a “phenomenon.” That’s not an exaggeration. Several TOAPP campers have participated to Through the Wire. Tony and Pat both contributed to several of our early tracks. I suspect that their involvement opened the door for a wider range of artists to join us.

One particular story that I really like is the one where I asked my friend Todd Tucker to drum on an as-yet unreleased track. Todd’s a top shelf musician, but he’s far better known as a special effects makeup artist. And he’s a director of horror movies (I’ll let that sink in for a moment). My other career is as a pumpkin sculptor, and I met Todd when I was working on a Food Network television show called Halloween Wars. If TOAPP is difficult to explain, then my pumpkin art is even more difficult to explain! Anyway, I was a competitor and Todd was a judge. We clicked and we’ve kept in touch. I like the idea that my musical and pumpkin worlds have come together.

Jeremy: A true highlight for me was working with Famoro Dioubaté, a Guinean Bala instrumentalist.  He is the grandson of the late El Hadj Djeli Sory Kouyate, one of the most renowned West African Bala players. A Balafon is a gourd-resonated xylophone with an incredibly unique sound. Both Famoro and I are based in Harlem NYC and we recorded multiple takes at his apartment in early 2021. To experience generations-worth of musical mastery first hand was a moment I’ll never forget. The results of that session are featured on the Volume 4 track ‘Don’t Break This Rhythm’.

"As a child of the 80’s, there wasn’t much to rebel against. My earliest exposure to music was through my father’s vinyl collection – The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Frank Zappa, Bob Marley, et al. The attitudes in both the music and lyrics of these icons offered a glimpse of what it meant to resist and stay true to one’s nature. MTV later offered a visual component to music that I immediately fell in love with – the music of Peter Gabriel." (Jeremy Nesse / Photo by Alex Potemkin)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future?

Deane: The album era. I don’t see it returning any time soon, at least not to mainstream audiences, but there are certain niches who still connect with long form music.

I think that the state of music technology has always been a two-sided coin. It allows music to evolve, but it also inhibits music from evolving. Every new form of distribution comes with limits. You can only fit so much content on physical media. Old 78s could fit about 5 minutes of music per side. 45 singles can handle 2-4 minutes per side. LPs allow roughly 25 minutes per side, which opened up the progressive long form recordings of the “concept album.”

Home studios are everywhere. Anyone with a laptop, or even a smart phone, can record their own music and release it to the public. I love that. But I also recognize that the downside is that “anyone” doesn’t allow for skill or quality. There’s a huge amount of great music that hasn’t been regulated by AR people or record labels. That’s the good part. But there’s an even larger amount of average music that you have to wade through to get to the gems.

Jeremy: I really do miss the experience of going to a music store and buying records, tapes and CDs. Flipping through physical artwork & booklets. Sampling a record or CD. The act of taking a risk and discovering something new.

For better or worse, technology today has enabled just about anyone to create music. Unfortunately, I find the search for music that I connect with very overwhelming.  There’s just way too much to sift through…

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

Deane: So long as you actually listen to it, music should make you feel. It should make you think. It should make you move your ass.

Jeremy: In my opinion, music has always been a reflection of its purpose - for devotional, for escape, for mourning, for introspection, for protest or for celebration.

Peter Gabriel’s music offers a very subjective and personalized experience to all of his fans. For me, Through The Wire served as the most meaningful way to spend the past 2 years of my life. It nurtured relationships that wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for the pandemic. Although we’re treading on hallowed ground, I do hope that listeners enjoy what we created…

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Deane: Community is everything.

Jeremy: I echo Deane's sentiment. Music is about collaboration, communication and community.

Jeremy Nesse - Home

(Photo: Jeremy Nesse & Deane Arnold)

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