Local music phenom Ed Ackerson eats, sleeps, and breathes the Minneapolis music scene. He's been in Twin Town bands since Bush One was a veep, and his band Polara has been through the whole We Got a Major-Label Deal, Yay!/We Got a Major-Label Deal, Damn rollercoaster ride. His own recording studio is familiar to practically every artist 'round these parts. Ackerson's latest project is a self-titled solo release, so we hauled him into City Pages Headquarters to demand some explanation for this oddly isolationist behavior.
City Pages: Ed Ackerson, aren't you usually a collaborator? You're part of the Susstones collective, you produce records at Flowers Studio, you're in Polara—so why'd you go solo? Is it because the rest of the band doesn't think waterboarding qualifies as torture? Because that is bullshit. You should ditch 'em, then.
Ed Ackerson: Well, I've not actually "gone solo" at all. I came up with this group of songs over a very short period, and to me they had a non-Polara tonality. So I decided to just bang out some simple recordings by myself.
The other members of the group may tell you that listening to me do guitar overdubs on a Polara record is a form of torture. My research, however, finds no international agreement to support the claim. In any event, finding an authority with jurisdiction to stop me from feeding back would be difficult.
CP: The new release, Ed Ackerson, is straightforward guitar-pop. What happened to the noise, man? Where are the bleeding grooves and experimental feedback squalls twisted neatly into catchy hooks?
Ackerson: The idea on this record was to keep things simple. If you took the weird stuff off Polara records they would sound a lot like this. Conversely, if you run this album through a Big Muff, or other fuzz device, you'll arrive at something like the sound of the new Polara album. So anybody out there who needs this record to be more like the other records I've made can simply do that.
CP: The track "Three Great Days" is a real pulse-raiser, with all that fingerpicking and country road drag-race strumming. You sing, "It's too late to take it back now/Three great days/The consequences dire...Seemed like a good idea at the time." It's the story of some wife-swapping weekend out in the sticks, isn't it? Confess, Ackerson, you sinner!
Ackerson: Just because the song has the words "you" and "I" in it doesn't mean it is written about direct personal experience. I am frankly concerned that an editor at a reputable alt-weekly publication would have the sort of mind it would take to dream up the scenarios you suggest.
CP: I'm loving those delicate "Ah-ha ha ha"s on the chorus of "Talk About Your Tablets," your sad "friend who Quaalude dials me" song. They remind me of the Beatles—are they a point of reference for you?
Ackerson: That song is about a pretty messed-up situation, but musically it is a lovely thing.
In a lot of ways this record is about me exploring my pre-noise roots, the influences at the beginning of my musical life before I got into more experimental stuff. Sixties stuff, like Beatles, Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel—the first material I learned to play on guitar. The tight harmony singing, odd juxtapositions of instruments, and playful production on records from that time is still very appealing to me.
CP: What's next for Ed Ackerson? Another Polara record? A hip-hop side project, working title MC Mackerson: Graveyard Flowers?
Ackerson: Well, the new Polara record will darken the world's door in late March. And there's a second Ed solo album in the works; it's about 75 percent done already and is a good bit sparser than this current one. My mod/R&B instrumental group Sideways is in the process of doing a new record. Also, Susstones will be very active in '08. We're planning on releasing about half a dozen albums and stepping up our visual and electronic media mischief. So all in all, lots of stuff to look forward to for the people who bother about it!
ED ACKERSON performs a CD-release show FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 23, at the VARSITY THEATER; 612.604.0222
BONUS MP3 DOWNLOADS FROM ED ACKERSON'S SELF-TITLED CD