A Conversation with Tom Ferrier (1987)
The Call have always upheld an intuitive approach to music. They've relied on interaction and have avoided technical excess. The personalities and strengths of the bands members are tantamount to the highly individualistic sound of the Call. Tom Ferrier's superlative guitar work reflects his early influences of rhythm and blues. At the heart of toms playing is feeling and expression, and he has kept his playing very close to its original inspiration
WERE YOU INSPIRED TO TAKE UP THE GUITAR BY OTHERS EXAMPLES?
I was very influenced by blues guitarists like B.B. King, Freddy King and I loved Ray Charles. I think the fundamental thing that links all music is the blues. When I was about seven years old I got a walkie-talkie for Christmas and I would pretend to have this radio show and play all my favorite music. After I got my first guitar it became an obsession pretty quickly. I was diligent about practicing by playing along with records, playing them over and over so I could hear every little thing the guitarist was doing. I gigged around in different bands rowing up I California. Back then surf music was the rage but I played in blues-based bands. I really liked Clapton, Beck and Page - - the white boys interpretation of the blues. When youre learning your craft you copy others, then suddenly theres a time in your growth when you have your own style.
HAVE YOU BEEN WITH THE CALL SINCE ITS BEGINNINGS?
Actually before because we were Motion Pictures before we were the Call. Scott, Michael and I were in different bands playing in bars, doing covers, wanting to do original material. And it was a fluke really that we got together. What happened was Scott and Michael were in a band and their guitarist didnt show up for a gig one night and someone called and asked if I would sit in. We played so naturally together - everything just clicked. We made some demo taped and when we were ready to send them out we discovered, after a name check, that there already was a band called Motion Pictures, so we had to come up with another name pretty fast. We thought of all the names in the world and decided on the Call. It was just the obvious choice - - it seemed to fit.
THE CALL ARE SOMETIMES PERCEIVED AS A SERIOUS BAND - ARE THEY?
Were serious about our music and if you want to compete on a high-level you have to be serious. We just do the best we can musically to make ourselves happy and we try to do this as honestly and sincerely as we can. But I think we got labeled a serious band during Modern Romans. We had good success with that album, but the downside was that it pidgeon-holed us. The social justice message is just one part of the Call. The songs are about many things.
THE CALL MAKES PLAYING MUSIC SEEM SO EFFORTLESS BUT WE KNOW IT ISN'T
Well, unlike a lot of other bands, we have a respect and natural flow with each other. Creating the songs is effortless in that we each understand whats required of us in terms of playing together and coming up with song ideas. One reason for this is that Michael is always writing songs, so were never at a loss for new material. And also when youve been playing together as long as we have, you tend to know each other pretty well in the studio. Another reason is that the Call has the best rhythm section there is and if the beats not there, everybody can go home.
EVERYONES EMOTIONAL PICTURES OF A SONG ARE DIFFERENT AND THE CALL IS A BAND THAT PEOPLE TEND TO FEEL AN EMOTIONAL BOND WITH THAT GOES BEYOND, YEAH, GREAT BEAT!".
Thats true. We have fans who hang on every word of a song and a particular song will touch them deeply. People are affected by what they hear in our music.
IT"S AN INHERENT THING - - WE TEND TO GRAVITATE TOWARD THOSE PEOPLE WHO POSSESS THE SAME QUALITIES WE POSSESS. WHEN YOU HEAR FROM YOUR FANS TALK TO PEOPLE AFTER SHOWS WHAT FEELINGS ARE EXPRESSED?
We get all sorts of comments really. The pure essence of Michael's lyrics is very spiritual and people get a lot of spiritual images from the songs. But, actually, it runs the full gamut. Some are serious images and some just want to take us out for a beer. We take time to talk because we get a lot out of those conversations, as well. Especially when were on the road - - it keeps you going to hear its not all in vain.
THE CALL SEEMS PRETTY UNAFFECTED BY ALL THE RAZZMATAZZ OF THE ROCK MUSIC WORLD.
We've been in this business long enough to know that fame is erratic. We have a real need to play and thats what we love and do best, and that's enough for us. Of course wed like to have that hit song but it has to be something we feel comfortable with. We believe in doing songs about the process of living and lot of music today is pretty removed from the real world. We have our own ideas on what makes a song great.
MY IDEA OF A GREAT SONG IS WHEN AFTER YOU'VE LISTENED TO IT TWENTY TIMES IT STILL BOWLS YOU OVER.
I agree. When a song is revealed too easily there's nothing to think about or interpret. We've always been more concerned with making a good record that will stand on its own several years from now.
IF THE CALL WERE TO BE OBSERVED IN THEIR WORKING ENVIRONMENT, THE STUDIO, WOULD THE CHEMISTRY BE UNPREDICTABLE?
It probably would but that's what makes us more creative. None of us is insensitive to the others ideas. Were musically compatible.
I GUESS THE QUESTION I WAS ALLUDING TO WOULD BE - IS THERE ANY HEALTHY FRICTION IN THE BAND?
Sure, but it doesn't come from ego - it comes from a passion about the music. All great bands have had it. It keeps you from becoming complacent. Its easy for a musician to get in a rut and always play the same. Everyone has blindspots.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST OBSTACLE THE CALL HAVE HAD TO OVERCOME?
The music has always meant enough to us to stick together through all sorts of adversity. We've tried to maintain the highest musical standards and that's tough in this business and its real tough when the bills are due. Its a strange profession. Just applying yourself to this thing everyday is a struggle. But we have a great time. Some bands get so jaded that they break up because they cant take the road or because of psychological reasons. But we have a lot of fun or we wouldn't be doing it.
THE CALLS SIXTH ALBUM IS DUE OUT EARLY NEXT YEAR AND YOU HAVE A NEW RECORD LABEL. ANY COMMENTS ON EITHER?
We have some great songs on this album, and the sound we got is very live, with few overdubs. The studio we recorded in had a natural resonance like a big club. I'm really pleased with the guitars on this one. As for the new label - we've signed with MCA records and were just being cautiously optimistic. The possibilities are wide open.
WHAT MUSIC HAVE YOU BEEN LISTENING TO LATELY?
I got into the Living Colour album for awhile. I like some of their songs; Open Letter to a Landlord is a good song, some great choruses. I also like the new Stones record and Dylans new one. And then late at night I revert back to this record I don't think anybody has - - its a strictly blues album by this guy Robben Ford.
A FAVORITE MOVIE: Kid Creole. That was Elvis at the height of his game.
NAME A SONG YOU WISH YOU HAD WRITTEN:
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down by the Band. Every time I hear that song it makes me kind of well up, almost cry, because its such a clear picture and emotional message of the Old South and how we destroyed it in one night. The story is as big, and I mean as big as in the hugeness and vastness, as any told in a song.