The Tim Buckley Archives


Evan Cohen 2000 - Part Two

Manifesto's Tim Buckley Tribute CD Sing A Song For You

Before we begin part two of our interview, we’d like to make our members aware of the fine job that you folks over at Manifesto have done with your web site. The amount of information relative to the new Tim Buckley Tribute CD entitled “Sing A Song For You” is quite comprehensive.

You’ve provided listeners with a picture of each group or artist, a brief paragraph about them, and a link to all their web sites. Personally, I found this information most helpful simply because I am not that familiar with most of the groups on the cd.

Jack…My first question is: who or what encouraged or inspired you to attempt this tribute in the first place?

Evan…First of all, we wanted to do something special for the 25th anniversary of Tim’s death. There are only a few of us, really, who are in a position to “do” something in the public eye with regard to the catalogue of songs, and I feel a certain responsibility here at Manifesto to undertake worthwhile projects. So, with all of the various reissues and enhanced CDs planned, I thought this would be a good way to compliment those other releases.

And, of course, a Buckley tribute hasn’t been done before. Which, in and of itself, is not a reason to do a tribute album -- as you know, there have been an outright glut of these sorts of projects for the last six or seven years. There have been tribute albums for almost every artist you can think of (and sometimes more than one!), and most of them are just not very interesting. I don’t mean artistically awful, necessarily, I just mean not interesting.

It appears to me that most of these albums involve people sitting around at major labels and thinking “who can we get to do this?” without any thought as to whether the artists have any sort of sensitivity to the material, or whether the chosen artists fit within any genre in a consistent way. It’s some sort of popularity and/or marketing contest, with the hope that the “big name” will “sell” the record. I’ve really tried to move away from this trap.

As for inspiration, it seemed to me that the most thoughtful covers of Tim’s songs were those done by This Mortal Coil and, by a somewhat related artist, Brendan Perry. Not that there were that many Buckley covers in any event – think about it, there just aren’t. Nevertheless, there is something really great about the way that Song to the Siren fits with Liz Fraser’s voice, and the way TMC did I Must Have Been Blind and Morning Glory.

Also, let’s face it, the British are much more into Buckley than anywhere else. The average intellectual UK music fan knows Tim. And I don’t mean the older music fan who knew Tim’s work when Tim was alive, but fans my age and younger. I can think of two reasons for this – one, the popularity of the TMC version of Song to the Siren in 1984, and two, the success of Dream Letter when it was released in 1990.

So, given all of that, I thought, why not do a whole album based upon this genre – dreamy, poppy, ethereal, British, the 4AD sound.

Jack…Do you personally have a deeper appreciation of Tim Buckley’s music since the last time we did an interview?

Evan…I think I have a deeper appreciation of the depth of the Buckley catalogue…so many great songs to choose from.

Jack…How complicated was it for you and your cohorts to put this project together?

Evan…It wasn’t easy, let’s put it that way. We did a lot of research and thinking to find just the right group artists to do this. As I said, not a popularity contest, but a genre-specific search. On the business level, it’s never easy to do anything when you’re an indie label. When your letterhead says “Capitol Records” or “Warner Bros” on it, it’s easy to get people to do things. But when it says “Manifesto,” you have to explain who you are and what you’ve done and why it makes sense for us to do an album.

The fact that we have five Buckley albums in our catalogue helps tell our story. But even with that, it’s still hard. I will say that the 4AD people were just great (they had to give their permission for us to record Mojave 3 and Brendan Perry), as well as almost all of the people we dealt with. The British have a music culture that is much more open to the idea of an indie label doing something. I will say that a few artists just didn’t “get it” (or, perhaps more accurately, their managers didn’t “get it”), but I think they’ll be sorry when they see the finished album.

This was an immense amount of work, from choosing the artists, locating them, sending faxes and emails, sending packages of CDs to England, making the deals, funding the recordings, writing the contracts, negotiating with managers, lawyers, record companies, etc., gathering the sheet music and choosing the songs, shipping tapes, sequencing, art direction…well, you get the picture. And that’s just the beginning.
"Who could have known that Ian Masters would sing Because of You like that? It’s absolutely haunting. These artists were chosen because they have a certain style, and their collective styles fit together. But they have ideas of their own..."
Jack…Who recruited the artists and who chose the songs that they recorded?

I chose most of them, and Phil Bird of Carlin Music in London chose a few of them. Moose was an easy choice, they’re huge Buckley fans. They were the first to commit to this project, and very professional people. They chose the song. Simon of Cocteau Twins is a huge Buckley fan, and wanted Anneli from Bel Canto to sing Morning Glory. This was great, because I wanted people from both bands. Of course, Brendan was at the top of my list for this album – in fact, can you even have a Buckley tribute album without him? I mean, no performer has done more than Brendan to honor Tim’s legacy; he does three songs in his live show!

You certainly can’t tell Brendan what Buckley song he should sing. Originally, he was going to do Song to the Siren and Chase the Blues Away (both songs he has done live), but he changed his mind and did Dream Letter. Then Simon Raymonde suggested The Czars for Song to the Siren, and he was right. As for Mojave 3, I just love their sound – the modalities and instrumentation they use are just perfect for a Buckley song (check out their song Some Kinda Angel from their last album).

So, after hearing those three versions of Love from Room 109 on Works In Progress, I sent that CD to England (with about six other Buckley albums!) to their management, with the strong suggestion that they do that song. They agreed, and it turned out great. I think most of the other artists chose the songs, as most of them were very familiar with the entire Buckley catalogue. For instance, Dot Allison had already sampled Dream Letter for a song on her last album, so I knew that she was a fan.

Jack…Were any of the performers unfamiliar with Tim’s work before they signed on?

Evan…I think the only singer on the entire album who was unfamiliar with Tim was Heather Duby, a young singer from Portland who records on Sub Pop. She has quite a voice, ethereal yet powerful. Jen Casebeer, who does A & R for Manifesto, heard her album and thought she would be perfect. And she is! As I said earlier, all of the British artists were familiar with Buckley’s work.

Jack…Some artists went for the straight cover renditions of Tim’s songs while others tried to be a little more inventive by changing the tempo and the melody at times. I feel Shelleyan Orphan was successful at what she did with Buzzin’ Fly, but I’d be very much interested in hearing what people think of Lilys’ version of Strange Feelin’ and Tram’s rendition of Once I Was. Were you surprised to hear such daring changes in a few of the songs?

Evan…Well, that’s a tough call. I was only half-surprised, in a good way, for many of the recordings that the artists turned in. For instance, who could have known that Ian Masters would sing Because of You like that? It’s absolutely haunting. These artists were chosen because they have a certain style, and their collective styles fit together. But they have ideas of their own. So Kurt of Lilys hears Strange Feelin’ a certain way – and if you know him, you would know that he does not take these sorts of things lightly. Paul of Tram heard Once I Was in his own way, and, as I suspected, Paul can really hit those notes.

Jack…With the exception of I Woke Up, Sweet Surrender, and Because Of You it seems that your tribute collection leans heavily on the songs that were recorded prior to Starsailor. Was that intentional?

Evan…Well, not really. As I said before, Dream Letter was an immensely popular album, and most of the artists wanted to do songs from that general period. So all of the most popular Buckley songs are represented. But I’m very happy that Because of You got in there as well.

Don…While there is a mixture of styles on the cd, the songs all hang together remarkably well from a production and engineering standpoint. Is that a happy accident, or did you apply some studio production techniques to the final product?

Evan…Well, I can tell you it’s not in the production techniques. With the exception of the tracks by Mark Lanegan and Mike Johnson (which were recorded by the same musicians at the same place and time), and the tracks by Mojave 3 and Neil Halstead (Neil is the singer of Mojave 3), the other tracks were all recorded at different times and places and studios. We had no input at all once they got in the studio. But if you feel that the songs work well together, it has to do with the selection process, making sure that each artist has the sound that I wanted. That’s the key. Then it’s a matter of deciding on the right sequence, and getting the mastering perfect.

Don…Do you have any personal favorite tracks on the cd?

Evan…I’d really hate to single any of the tracks out, because it implies that I don’t feel strongly about the other ones. But be that as it may, I do like Mojave 3’s Love from Room 109 – it’s such a powerful song, approaching some sort of an emotional core of the album. They are such great arrangers. I think Ian did a great job, Moose is perfect, Anneli’s vocals and Simon’s keyboards are beautiful, and Brendan’s work is as thoughtful and talented as you would expect from him. I’m also thrilled that Shelleyan Orphan re-formed just for this project. I think Heather’s vocals are very powerful. I hate to leave anyone out.

Don…Will Manifesto be doing anything special to promote this release?

Evan…Aside from the usual publicity, radio promotion, advertisements, etc., we were thinking of organizing a Tim Buckley tribute show in London, with four of five of the artists from this album. That might be in late September. If anything interesting comes up, I’ll post it to the site.

Jack…Thank you Evan for sharing your thoughts and insights with us, and on behalf of all our members I wish you all the success in the world with this new release.

As far as my gratitude is concerned, I’d like to point out that it was you who heard the call and delivered the goods. Congratulations on a job well done.

I recommend that all our members and guests check out the Manifesto web site for more details concerning the Tim Buckley Tribute cd entitled "Sing A Song For You". It’s located at

Here is the track list.

Disc One
Moose - Sing A Song For You
Simon Raymonde & Anneli Drecker - Morning Glory
Brendan Perry - Dream Letter

Mojave 3 - Love From Room 109
The Friendly Science Orchestra(with Ian Masters) - Because of You
Mark Lanegan - Cafe
Shelleyan Orphan - Buzzin' Fly
Mike Johnson - I Woke Up
Cousteau - Blue Melody

Disc Two
Heather Duby - I Must Have Been Blind
Dot Allison - Sweet Surrender
Geneva - Pleasant Street
The Lilys - Strange Feelin'
The Mad Scene - Happy Time
Neil Halstead - Phantasmagoria in Two
Tram - Once I was
The Czars - Song to the Siren

© 2000 Jack Brolly/Room 109


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