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The Man from RavCon

Interviewed by Gary Hill

Interview with Mike Brown aka The Man From RavCon from 2018

MSJ:

Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – sort of a "highlight reel?"

I was drawn to music at an early age. At first, I jumped around the room to my mom’s Elvis records, then I discovered The Beatles, which led me to take up guitar when I was in elementary school. I got frustrated and quit,  but eventually picked it back up again and formed a band in high school. I started to major in music in college, but soon found that tedious and boring and changed majors. I took another break from music for a few years, but eventually started experimenting with home recording, which led me to form The Ravelers, who I sang and played guitar and keys with for 15 years or so. We played original music influenced by what we liked… power pop, psychedelic rock, folk rock… I guess our highlight was a trip to New Orleans to record at Allen Toussaint’s Sea Saint Studio as part of a production deal that never really went anywhere. We eventually released two albums: So Long…, and Ravel On. After that, I started spending more time exploring soundtrack and instrumental music, which led me to The Man From RavCon project.
MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
I have no clue. Although I have a business degree, I’ve pretty much worked what some might consider dead-end day jobs. Music is my focus, and I’ve never considered anything else interesting enough to pursue as a career. Luckily, my wife Peggy has always been very supportive.
MSJ: Your project is a solo endeavor, but has a name that seems more like a band. Why didn't you just go with your own name?
For the kind of music I was making, “Mike Brown” just didn’t seem to have enough flare for the project. Besides, there are quite a few of us out there.
MSJ: What's the significance of the name?
My creative friend, Mike Bozart (who was a huge supporter of The Ravelers) came up with the concept of RavCon (Ravelers' Consortium), which basically included all the folks that were involved in the “scene." Lots of folks mistakenly think RavCon is a place, which is okay. Anyway, when I had to choose a name for my first solo music site, I figured there were too many “Mike Browns” in the world, and on the spur of the moment I thought of "The Man From RavCon."
MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
As The Man From RavCon, I set out to explore my soundtrack/instrumental influences, such as Ennio Morricone, Roy Budd, Goblin, Isaac Hayes, The Shadows, Duane Eddy…  Later on, I decided to let my love for progressive rock seep into the mix… Genesis, King Crimson, Focus, Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Alan Parsons, Mike Oldfield…  Nothing I do is very technically complicated, which a lot of folks associate with progressive rock, but what I’ve always appreciated about the genre are the moods, melodies, instrumentation and arrangements. I prefer the pretty bits that fall between all the displays of technical virtuosity. That’s probably why I’ll  never record a song much longer than seven minutes!
MSJ: What's the best thing that's ever been said about your music?
That it took the listener somewhere they didn’t expect to go. If my music can take the someone’s mind off of  the day-to-day drudgery of this world for a while, and let them do a bit of mind traveling, I think that’s great. If it can be done without force feeding a meaning with lyrics, I think that’s even better.
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
I don’t perform live, so I usually take a bit of a break after releasing an album. How long depends on when the ideas start coming around again. I may try to produce a couple more videos for Another World in the mean time.
MSJ: I know many artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
I do hate doing this. Elevator Music? (laughter) I miss the days when you could go into shops and not be forced to listened to awful contemporary vocal pop music. I love what we used to derisively call “muzak." It was instrumental - unobtrusive, but calming and melodic. My music has some of those properties, but also a bit more going on should you decide to listen more actively I hope. Honestly though, describing what I do is something I’m not very good at!
MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play in the future?
I only like to work with outside musicians if a song needs something I’m unable to provide. So far, on the nine Man From RavCon albums I’ve released, I’ve worked with three outside musicians on five songs: Larry Smith, Jeff Eacho and Joe Diaco. All three have managed to take the tunes they worked on to a higher level than I could have taken them on my own, and I’m extremely grateful. If the need presents itself in the future, I won’t hesitate to reach out for help again, but generally speaking, I prefer to remain in my comfort zone and do the majority of the work myself.
MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading or streaming of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
While I’m not opposed to friends sharing my music with their friends, I’m not sure about taking someone else’s work and making it available for download to any and all comers without the artist's consent. However, I’m sure many people that would not have been exposed to my music otherwise, have been able to hear my stuff because of that. I just hope there are enough of them willing to do the right thing after they determine they like it, and make an actual purchase so I can keep doing it.
MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them or posting them online?
I don’t really have an opinion on that. If I performed live and tried to sell copies of the performances, I imagine my feelings would be the same.
MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
There’s plenty of music I don’t care for, but I can’t think of anyone doing something close to what I do that I dislike to that degree. I do hate being forced to listen to bad music in public places though. It drives me mad!
MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?
Paul Thompson of Roxy Music on drums

Paul McCartney on bass

Tony Banks on keys

Jeff Beck on guitar

John Helliwell of Supertramp on sax/woodwinds

Tater Sims on pedal steel

All instrumentals. Why those guys? Because they’re great!

MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
The Beatles - White Album era (I can dream!), The Who - Live at Leeds era and Genesis - The Lamb. Three bands is enough for me. Anything else is too long!
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
I recently replaced my long lost cassette of Jeff Beck’s There and Back. The simplest song on it is my fave of course… “The Pump."
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
I’ve been reading a lot of Robert McCammon recently - also Dennis Wheatley and Alister McClean.
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
I don’t go to many live shows these days. A couple years back, my wife and I went to see Goblin. It was a good show.  I’d rather just listen to the albums, though. The volume was way out of proportion to the size of the club. My ears are still bleeding.
MSJ: Do you remember the first concert you attended?
I saw Ricky Nelson at a theme park with my family, and my mom took me to see John Denver around ’75. The first concert with friends was Styx on the Pieces of Eight tour.
MSJ: Have you come across any new gear recently that you love?
I ordered a cheap fretless bass from Rondo Music a couple years ago to use on a tune I felt needed it on the Strange Universe album… I think it was the title track. I cheated and got one with markers. It’s much easier that way. I figure I’ll only be using it in the studio anyway, so I’ve got no one to impress! I use it a lot, even for stuff without a fretless sound. It’s very easy to play.
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
Well, I’m still partial to some of the early Kiss albums I grew up with and some of the old Ted Nugent stuff, regardless of his politics. He never stops running his mouth, but somehow, he managed to produce some pretty decent instrumentals in the early days… "Hibernation," "Free Flight," "Homebound" and "Migration" (with The Amboy Dukes).
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Well, there was a Ravelers show in Atlanta, Georgia where I tripped over my amp and fell on my a** in the middle of a guitar solo. That was fun.
MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut and Ken Scott, who produced the best sounding album of all-time: Supertramp’s Crime Of The Century.
MSJ: What would be on the menu?
Pizza, BBQ and peanut butter cookies.
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
People shouldn’t get hung up on their format preferences for consuming music. I’ve heard people say, “if it’s not on vinyl, I don’t want it.” That’s just ridiculous. Good music on the “worst” format is better than bad music on the “best” format. If that’s the only way you can get it, just go ahead and buy it!
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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