Interview with Luke Easter

I am currently working on a review for the first EP by Luke Easter and was able to conduct a phone interview with him before I was able to finish the review. It was truly an honor. For those unfamiliar with the name, allow me to give a little background.

Luke assumed the lead vocal slot with the band Tourniquet in 1993. After being the frontman for them for over 20 years, they parted ways. Various press releases and online comments left the public with a “mutual” separation from what drummer, Ted Kirkpatrick, referred to as “our musical paths are not quite going in the same direction”.

Since leaving the band in 2015, Luke intended to work on music that “better represents my musical sensibilities; a more personal project topically and lyrically”, according to the story that he posted on the Indiegogo campaign that made the process possible. He further expounded on the solo work by stating “Up until now, I’ve given voice to someone else’s songs; I’ve brought to life someone else’s musical vision.”

With that campaign a huge success, Luke was able to release The Pop Disaster on June 15th. The credits on the release reads like a Christian Rock Hall of Fame walk: David Bach, Jesse Sprinkle, Josiah Prince and bass on the opening track by Tim Gaines.

The following is the transcribed phone interview from June 26:

Finn: First off, I wanted to thank you for speaking with me this evening. Let’s talk about your new solo album that was just released June 15th. I read some of the details from the Indiegogo campaign that you did for it. When did you start that campaign?

Luke: I started it on March 30. Funding closed April 29. Backer downloads went out May 22 and swag began shipping a couple of days later.

Finn: And how long did it take to fund it?

Luke: It took 2 weeks to hit the goal. By the time it ended, we were 17% over the goal.

Finn: That’s awesome!

Luke: Yeah. I didn't know what to expect. I had never done a solo record and there was no information or samples of what that record might sound like. I’ve been fairly invisible since parting ways with that band. I was touched and pleasantly surprised that, for whatever reason, people took a shot to see what that would sound like.

Finn: Looking at the story you posted on there, I see that most of the material was actually recorded before you even started the campaign. Is that correct?

Luke: Yeah. Normally the way it works is you decide you want to do the project and then you raise the funds. Then you can wind up more than 2 years passed before you release your record. Sometimes artists will have no release date or say much about the project and I didn't want things to go that way, so I tried to get as much of it as we could as close to finished as possible.

Finn: I was definitely impressed with all of the front end work you did. Now, to have this campaign finished just a couple of months ago and already have this released, that's very impressive.

Luke: Thank you. I mean, it's understandable. There are so many variables that you can’t anticipate: people have other jobs, play in other bands, touring concerns, etc. There are a couple of projects I am thinking of that have taken 2 or 3 years and, other than some conversation or occasional mp3s released to their backers, still haven’t released their records. John Lennon said “life is what happens when you're busy making other plans” so, I get it. I don’t think anybody really goes into it with the idea that “we’re gonna take your money and you’ll get it when you get it”, but unfortunately that's kind of the perception people get sometimes, especially when there's not a whole lot of information forthcoming. Kris and I tried to do things a little differently.

Finn: It looks like you had an All-Star cast for this project. I'm sure that'll be a thrill working with those guys.

Luke: It really was. I bought the first Guardian record, First Watch, when it first came out when I was 17. If you had told me then that David Bach would have been playing bass on a solo record for me, I would have laughed. I was a punk kid from the Bay Area who thought I knew a whole lot about music but didn’t have anything to show for it.

I first heard of Jesse and Poor Old Lu back when I was recording Vanishing Lessons and remember being blown away by his drumming.

Now with Josiah, I've been friends with Kevin from Disciple for a long time and he actually told me “hey, if you do anything and need anybody to play, get up with some of my guys”.

It worked out really well. They were all very easy to work with, which was great as it was a  long distance thing. We were never together: Jesse is in New York, David and Josiah are in Nashville and Tim is in Arizona. I would just send an mp3 and they all filled in their parts. It was great that these guys all experienced and creative players so that there wasn’t a whole lot of back a forth, redoing parts, etc. I would just let them know what kind of sound or vibe I was looking for and, with just a few exceptions, what they sent back is what we used.

Finn: I saw a short YouTube clip where you mentioned you have no formal vocal training. Is that correct?

Luke: That's true.

Finn: Wow. I have been listening to you since Vanishing Lessons came out. You have an incredible voice. Who are some singers that you admire?

Luke: One of the first records I bought was I Want to be a Clone by Steve Taylor. He was one of the first singer/songwriters that I got into. I grew up in a Christian home and a church home, so I heard a lot Keith Green and 2nd Chapter of Acts. Second Chapter is probably a lot of where my love of harmony comes from. From there, Stryper, Bon Jovi, Extreme and John Corabi. I’m a huge John Corabi fan. I just love good songs by singers with raspy voices.

Finn: I was wanting to ask a few questions about your previous musical efforts. In your Indiegogo story you stated that you felt what you're doing now better represents you musically. I thought I read somewhere that you did some of the co-writing for your other band’s material. Was that not the same type thing for you or is it different?

Luke: I co-wrote a handful of songs. It's a different animal. In writing for that band, there was a certain body of work that you had to fit within. There was a certain pressures and certain expectations topically in terms of “this would fly or this wouldn’t fly”, partly in regards to what had been done before and partly because it was a metal band. It was a little bit more challenging writing in that box, if I could put it that way. I didn’t write any of the music. I would be given a track and occasionally I would say “hey, can we move this here or do this instead” and sometimes that would be agreed to, but more often than not, that wasn’t the case.

I didn't know that I could write anything by myself until maybe 10 years ago. I just always worked as a team in any band I’ve ever been a part of. With my last band, I just wrote what I could, always kind of knowing that those songs were never going to be performed live and would probably always be relegated to what in the past would have been the “B-side” of the album.

Branching out doing this project, some of these songs are new and some of them I had in various forms for a few years because none of them would have fit the band I was in. To be honest, I didn't know if they were any good.

Finn: I guess most folks would assume when you’ve been with a band for 20 plus years, you would have had more input regarding the creative direction.

Luke: You would think that's the case, but it was not necessarily the case. In that situation, I was free to give my opinion, but most of the time that was all it was. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. Somebody's got to be the quarterback, and in that set up, Ted was. He knew where he wanted things to go and my job was to sing it. It wasn’t my band. I was taking over on vocals for somebody else, and I get that. It was just always in the back of my head that this is my job.

Finn: I really hadn't kept up with any online chatter about anything, so when Onward to Freedom was released, I was in shock. It was a great collaboration album but it didn’t seem to be a standard Tourniquet record.

Luke: That was a Ted Kirkpatrick solo project. It was pitched as a side project to raise funds for animal rights causes. Initially, it was going to be released as The Tourniquet Ark (he has a Facebook group that's all about animal rights issues).
It was literally at the 11th hour, there were some issues with the artwork and a friend of mine stepped in to polish it up. When it ended up being the final cover art and I saw that it was the Tourniquet logo with Ted Kirkpatrick’s name on it, it was explained that “it will be easier to market it, people won’t be confused this way”. I pushed back that I was not comfortable with that, and that was the end of it.

Finn: Moving away from that, looking over the digital CD booklet I see you have a huge thanks to your wife, Kelly. How long you guys been together?

Luke: We met when we were 20 and we've been married almost 21 years.

Finn: Wow. Congratulations. Any kids?

Luke: No kids.

Finn: What are some of your hobbies? What do you do for fun?

Luke: We like to watch a lot of movies and we like to hang out with friends and family. We are fairly boring homebodies.

Finn: What type of music are you listening to these days?

Luke: In my Ipod at any given time I've got a mix of old stuff, new stuff and generally popular stuff. I’ve been listening to a lot of Pantera lately in light of Vinnie's recent passing. I've been loving the new Def Leppard reissues. It's the first four albums remastered and High and Dry is amazing. There's always a lot of Butch Walker and Bon Jovi as well.

Finn: Any advice you have to aspiring musicians out there?

Luke: Get it in writing. Make sure whatever you're doing, you get it in writing but also, it's going to sound like a cliche, believe in yourself. Don't give up. There’s a time to cut bait and move on,  but if you're passionate about it, stick with it. That doesn't mean that you're going to get exactly what you want but there is still fulfillment in it. Sometimes the chase is more satisfying than the catch.

Finn: Looking over some of the current songs, one of the recurring themes seems to be about broken relationships. Is that safe to say?

Luke: I guess that's fair to say, but it's not by design. It's not like I sat down intending to do that.
I'm 47 years old and I’ve seen a lot of relationships come and go. I think that loyalty and friendship are huge for me. They’re important core values to me and I don’t take them lightly. I think that because those things are important and because of some of the things that I've gone through in the past decade or so, those things are threaded through these songs, intentionally or not.

Finn: What's the oldest and newest songs on the record?

Luke: The oldest song on the record is Misspent and the newest one is Life Goes On.

Finn: What are your future music plans: any gigs, tour, new projects or anything that you're looking to do?

Luke: The Pop Disaster has been out 2 weeks and I'm still trying to figure out if I will be playing it live and how that would be possible. If the opportunity comes up to to do some of that stuff live, I would love to play. It’s been a long time since I've been on stage and I think that the songs would do well in a live environment. Hopefully, I will do well enough with this one that I can do another one in a year or so.

Finn: Are you looking to be affiliated with a label or just do independent works?

Luke: I’m open to either. Independent allows for a lot more latitude, but being affiliated with somebody, whether it was directly as an artist or whether it was some sort of licensing thing, also has its advantages. I'm just taking it a day at a time. I'm happy that people like it, so I’m trying to maximize that as much as possible and see what happens.

Finn: Any closing thoughts or ideas that you'd like to share that we haven't already talked about?

Luke: I'm just overwhelmed at all the positive response to the album. It's very cool to see people reacting positively to this project. Going into it, I wasn’t sure it would find an audience at all. I've seen very little negative. It's been pretty much all positive. I'm very thankful for that and I don't take it for granted that there's an audience out there for what I do. I mean, I kind of made a name for myself over the past however many years in the metal scene, but that doesn’t mean anybody is going to pay attention. It's gratifying and humbling and I am very appreciative.

Finn: It definitely is a shift from your previous work. The first track I heard from it was After I’m Gone, and I was blown away. I can say it's a change but it's a really fresh change and I really love the direction the music is taking.

Luke: Thank you. I suppose the easy thing to do was put out a metal record or something in that vein, but that’s not how my brain is wired. I like metal and I enjoyed playing it for a long time but left to my own devices, that's just not how my brain works musically. This is intentionally a little bit “poppier” than other stuff might be somewhere down the line, but I figured if I was going to do something different, I should just go all in. That’s kind of where the title comes from because it could have just blown up in my face so I figured just take the sting off it all at once.  

Finn: I thank you for taking the time to speak with me this evening and I wish you future success.

I thought to end this post with the newest song from the disc, Life Goes On. Enjoy.


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