Choose Your Own Interview: Dr. Pants

This interview was used as a basis for a write-up on Dr. Pants that you can read here.

In this interview format, the subject chooses from categories to determine which questions are asked. Each category has a varying degree of control, both on the part of the interviewer and the interviewee. This structure is designed to empower the subjects interviewed as well as broaden the topics discussed.

​{{Legend}}

Le Menu—a list of general music-related questions from which the interviewee “orders”
 

Jarvix Asks—questions asked specifically with the artist(s) in mind, prepared or otherwise
 
 

The Envelope of Introspection—an envelope of blindly-drawn paper slips with open-ended life questions printed on them, courtesy of thoughtquestions.com

Picture    What’s in your current playlist/CD player/phonograph at this very moment?

The new cassette by Power Pyramid is in the cassette player of my car, and it’s very good. I also bought the vinyl Bowie album because I’ve been just really behind on buying things, but I have not had a chance to listen to it yet.


PictureHow has being a parent affected your music?

It has generally diminished the overall amount of music that happens, both in terms of what is performed and what is composed.

I’m just now starting to detect a shift in the perspective I want to write from. I think maybe it is due partially to parenthood. It could also just be due to age. Once I do get back into the swing of writing things that aren’t for my master’s degree, I think things will feel a little bit different, possibly because of parenthood. I don’t know that I can be more specific than that because it’s really, really new.


Picture How does social media affect you as a musician?

Social media is probably the only reason anyone gives a shit about me at all. That’s probably an exaggeration, but at the same time, the social media revolution really started to pick up speed right around the time that I started working hard on Dr. Pants in a lot of ways. 

Gardening in a Tornado came out in 2006, and that was pretty much the height of the Myspace era. Once we got to The Cusack-Loggins EP, Facebook was a thing. Twitter was starting to be a thing.

I was very conscious of the fact that if I stood a chance of getting anyone outside of Oklahoma to care—even to get a lot of people in Oklahoma to care—it had to be something I was really engaged in. It hasn’t always been the most popular thing in my household. (laughs)

Also, it sometimes frustrates me as a musician because most of those people outside of Oklahoma who do care have been waiting seven or eight years for me to come play for them. I still have not done that, but I think it’s possible that I might, eventually. We’ll see.


PictureYour song “Bigger on the Inside” was featured in “Inside a Blue Box,” a recent documentary short about a very specific branch of Dr. Who fandom. I imagine that was the result of social media?

Absolutely. I met Sarah Buck, who is the filmmaker, on Twitter in 2010 or 2011. We’ve been friends for a while, and we knew we had a lot of common interests. I think she just asked me, straight up, “Hey, I’m making this movie about people building TARDIS replicas…” I was like, yes, please use the song. Especially if it’s so obvious that the song and the film go together, I’m not going to be precious, like “but you must pay me $500.” Sarah and I know each other well enough that I know she would have paid me if she could have. Plus, she’s my friend, and I want to support her.

It’s getting screened at small conventions, predominately in Oregon and Washington. That’s great. All the feedback she gets says it’s the perfect song. It’s fun. I’m really glad we got to do it, especially in light of the fact that, in this time of my life, I’m not doing as many things on that front. It’s great to have little things like that happening out there on my behalf. All I had to do was say yes to something, and now there are rooms full of people at sci-fi conventions hearing my song.


PictureWhat positive changes have you made in your life recently?

Deciding that I was not going to let the constructive criticisms of my composition teacher affect me negatively. He’s a great guy, and he’s incredibly kind. I just haven’t been the student in a teacher-student relationship in a really long time. There was a part of me that was not ready for him to be like, “well, there are x, y, and z ways that this could be so much better and more interesting.” I’m finally to the point where I know that’s what I can expect no matter how hard I worked that week, and now I feel a lot better when I come out of there.

When you’re a parent, on some level, there is at least a thought process toward making some sort of positive change almost every day. Some days you find a way to make those changes, and some days you do not. You do the best you can. I think the same goes for maintaining a marriage in the fray of parenting.


PictureDo you think your music has a purpose?

Yes.


PictureWhen have you been discouraged by the music scene/industry?

I have an answer to that question, but I feel like it’s just going to be a lot of complaining. I’d be surprised if there was anybody that you interviewed who wouldn’t say they felt discouraged most of the time.

I know for me, for the Dr. Pants project, the Oklahoma music scene has always felt like a strange place to be. We’ve never fit in, but then it’s not a project that tries to fit in.

It may be less discouraging and more frustrating, but I kind of just don’t know how people feel about the project. There are people who I know in positions of influence in Oklahoma City who feel positively about it, but then there are other people whose reactions I can never gauge. That’s the reality, and the emotional experience of that is like a pendulum between “who cares? That’s fine. I’m just gonna do what I do,” all the way over to “God, they must hate me.”

These days, there’s so little of it going on that as long as somebody at all listens when something does happen, then fine. The [acoustic] show at Full Circle last fall was fantastic. It was a full room. They had to bring in more chairs. It was the first thing I had done like that since SoonerCon in the summer of ’14.

This thing coming up at the end of March is actually going to be a full electric show. It’s at the ACM@UCO Performance Lab, so it’s a bigger room and needs big music. And it’s a faculty concert. I feel like the students should get a picture of the full-on thing that I did, since I’m probably not going to do it quite like this for a while. I want to play all the most challenging songs from the repertoire. I want to do things like “Collections.” and “The Trip.” I want to do “Sweet Natasha” and do “Gas Planet” for the whole deal. I feel like the people who are gonna work on the show are willing to do whatever I ask them to do, and I want to take advantage of that and do some of these things that don’t get played.

That was kind of a tangent.


PictureIs your music composition education influencing Dr. Pants at all, or do you see them as two separate things?

In light of what I have learned in my composition lessons, there’s a lot in terms of process that is different than what I’ve done with Dr. Pants. I have a feeling that, at least for a time after I have my degree, whatever I do will be a reaction to being free from some of that.

I don’t hate on the classical world at all. People dismiss classical music as stuffy. What some people don’t tend to realize is the incredible discipline that has to take place, no matter whether you’re a performer or a composer. It’s not for the faint of heart.

My utopia is that there would be no separation. Even though I’m sure I will react to being free of certain things, I look forward to the day where I’m actively trying to integrate orchestral instruments or certain things I’ve learned about composition. I want the box to be bigger. Time’s a-wastin’. Rock bands and guitars are great, but I like other things, too.


PictureHow do you feel about zydeco* music?

I got to go to New Orleans twice in 1999. If you walk through the French Quarter, there is generic zydeco music playing out of storefronts and bars, everywhere. It’s a genre that is not diverse enough that you don’t feel like you aren’t hearing the same thing over and over again, just as you walk through the city. No animosity, but at the same time, if you’ve been to New Orleans, you’re like, “yeah, I don’t need to hear any of that for a while.” (laughs)

[At this point in the interview, local rapper Jabee, who has been chilling in a nearby corner of the coffee shop, comes up to David Broyles and shakes his hand, giving him a slight hug, then leaves. The two had previously collaborated on a Christmas rap tune.]


PictureHow would you feel if you became a legitimate one-hit wonder?

Sometimes I already feel like one.

Are you referring to “Donuts”?

Oh, absolutely.


PictureWhat’s it like being a go-to for donut references?

What I’ve always said about “Donuts” or “If I Were John Cusack” or any of that stuff is that if one of those songs helps foster a world where I get to continue to do Dr. Pants things, who am I to complain? There are so many people, some of whom very much deserve it, who have not gotten anywhere near the level of exposure that I have.

I was reading the liner notes to a “Best Of” CD by Barnes & Barnes, the progenitors of the song “Fish Heads.” All I remember is reading the sentence, “But don’t get us wrong, ‘Fish Heads’ has been good to us.” Ultimately, I have to say the same thing about “Donuts.” It got me on the Dr. Demento Show for crying out loud. That’s a dream come true.

The only time it has bothered me at all is at the Kerrville Folk Festival. There’s a large, large campground, and they have song circles all over, every night. To me it’s ironic that when I go down there, all anyone wants to hear me play is “Donuts”. Like, this is a songwriter festival! I have other songs, some of which have substance, with sentiments that are well-expressed.

Once every 4-6 months, someone shares [an image] with me. There’s a picture of a whiteboard, and there’s a list of things about donuts. One of them says “listening to donuts.” The only thing about that is that the late producer J Dilla had a hip-hop album called Donuts. There’s always a part of me that wonders if they’re talking about me, but no, they’re probably talking about him.


PictureWould you rather lose all of your old memories or never be able to make new ones?

I’ve seen the latter. My wife’s maternal grandmother had sustained a brain injury some time before my wife and I met that removed her ability to make new memories. It was really strange. They had to reintroduce me every time.

I guess I would have to pick losing all my old memories, although that’s really hard. I’m someone who retains a lot of memories in a way that surprises other people, and I probably assign an unhealthy level of value to them. But I can’t imagine, starting now, not getting to remember everything that happens. Especially in light of being a parent, that just sounds like a terrible idea.


Picture What is music?

Music is anything you declare it to be. That’s my composer-y answer.


Picture

Tell me about your side project Weird Files.

I call it “the unfiltered musical id of David Broyles.” I have impulses creatively. I like to make weird sounds, and I like things that other people may potentially find annoying or hard to listen to. I just find it incredibly entertaining. It helps me out a lot to just be able to do it and throw it out there. Maybe it only works because it’s the other thing, not “the main thing.”


PictureLastly, why acoustic? I recall you saying that it draws a different crowd?

Well, it does draw a different crowd and a more attentive listen, yes. Also, it is much less awkward to play an acoustic show to 5-10 people than an electric one. I am tired of playing electric shows to mostly empty rooms. Those are partial motivators. I also am drawn to it because acoustic acts seem to be able to play more all ages shows/venues and start their sets at more reasonable times (8 or 9 pm rather than 10 or 11 pm). I don’t understand why an artist has to be able to fill a 1000 seat venue in order to just play a damn show at 8 pm. It’s ridiculous.

Also, more now than ever, Dr. Pants caters to a broad age range, from children to 60 somethings. I want to play places where all those people will be welcome and also feel (at least fairly) comfortable. I think this can and will greatly affect audience size at gigs in a positive manner.

Finally–and I did allude to this briefly–I think the acoustic format will be key in terms of creating a scenario where Dr. Pants (in whatever form) can finally go out and play for some of the people across the country who have been big supporters or fans over the last 8 or 9 years. It’s easier to fit the gear in a minivan and still have room for the people…and it greatly increases the likelihood that we could play in a non-traditional venue, or a venue that isn’t prepared or appropriate for the volume of a full on rock band. I think it really opens up options in terms of what can be accomplished rather than limiting them. I can write to the strengths of the new iteration, just like I’ve always written to the strengths of whatever version of the band I had. And I haven’t even begun to dip my toes in the water yet as far as that’s concerned.

I understand that there is some element of the full electric version of Dr. Pants that will be lost in this new iteration…and I don’t take that lightly. But what I said back when I started to seriously consider all this was that if a gig should arise that the full electric version of Dr. Pants needs to play, the full electric version of Dr. Pants will emerge to play it. And I still think that’s true. I just will not be pursuing those gigs. The universe will have to decide that’s what it wants from me and be very clear about it for it to be a thing that is going to continue to happen regularly.


Picture [fortune cookie] Disease can be cured. Fate is incurable.

Yeah, ok. (laughs) I don’t know about fate. The more time passes, the less certain I am that anything is preordained at all, but you never know. I could change my mind later.

*this question requires a genre chosen on the spot by Jarvix

This article was originally written for Cellar Door Music Group (cellardoormusicgroup.com). It is archived here with the publisher’s permission.

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