Steve Hale, known to Macjammers as I. Spike, is one of the most colorful songwriters on the site. I always look forward to his posts, not knowing what cultural taboo or musical rule he’ll parody next. He combines a wicked sense of humor with sophisticated song writing skills. His exacting ear for production enables him to create everything from 60 second funk to twisted musical theatre, navigating musical genres from synth-based ElectroPop to acoustic Soft Rock to electric Punk/Grunge with ease…
Some of my favorite I. Spike tracks include:
– Luv (highlighted in MacJams Music Podcast #1)
– Mommy, I Want To Be Swedish
– The King Of Nothing
– Give Her Life
– Icy Waters with onesweetworld (Linda Courtien)
– Squirt Gun
– A Little Original Sin
– She Opened Her Mouth and the World Fell Out
– Mighty Cracker Fly
– Sometime I Feel
Steve has also contributed his perfect pop rock voice, melodic sense and bass work to many collaborative tracks, including:
Steve is Operations Manager at a television station in Portland OR. He’s also a professional producer whose produced recordings for many other artists. In addition, he’s been a background vocalist on tons of albums, sings commercial jingles, plays solo gigs, and just a couple of years ago co-wrote four songs and did backing vocals on Gino Vannelli’s album These Are The Days (available on iTunes). In the past few years he’s recorded over two hundred songs and released two solo albums. (His voice is so youthful, I thought he was 22, but it turns out he’s twice that.)
What I really want to know… where did the monicker “I. Spike” come from?
“I invented the name years ago as my punk alter ego. Since then he’s (I’ve) been credited for everything from graphic arts to group screaming. He now sings lead vocals in my power punk rock band called The Imploders, along with Snig Wetly on guitar, Flendon Crispenshank the III on bass, and Humanhead on drums.”
You sound English on certain tracks and even spell certain things that way. Where were you born? Ever live abroad?
“No, Im not English, but funny you should ask. I was born and raised in Salem, Oregon and now live in Portland, Oregon. I’ve lived in Los Angeles a couple of times as well as San Diego. I have done a lot of traveling over in Europe, but my fascination with the culture from over the pond stems directly from Monty Python. I grew up watching the reruns on the public television station in Salem. When I first saw this stuff I thought it had been specifically written to make me laugh! Everything they did broke me into a million tiny pieces. So when I turned 40 not too long ago, I bought myself the entire DVD TV show collection! It is most excellent! I also have a tendency to do a lot of different accents all the time – yes I’m that annoying guy who does the accents – I especially gravitate towards the Scottish, English and Irish accents, although I will babble and dabble occasionally with Indian, French and Russian. I had a pretty damn good childhood and I don’t think I ever stopped playing make believe to some degree…”
Who was your first mentor?
“I started with the clarinet in 3rd grade. Satan, the horned one, was my teacher. He had this beat up Manhasset stand that we were to soon find how it came to be in this condition. The first few weeks were okay but by the 3rd or 4th week none of us in the class were having very much success making our horns make any kind odd musical sound, a squeak here and honk there. Well Mr. Beelzebub was none too impressed so he reached into his valise and produced a monkey wrench, which he then proceeded to smash on his lovely bruised stand all the while screaming at the top of his lungs about how pathetic we were. Just the perfect motivation for little kids that were now staring in horror, horns on the floor, tears welling up in the eyes, an ever spreading wet puddle dripping from our pantaloons… What was the question again…?”
You have a theatrical flare. Where does that come from?
“My grandmother, who we called Nana, was on the Vaudeville stage and part of a singing and dancing duet with her sister called the Gorgeous George Sisters. She was third runner up in the 1929 Miss America pageant and was constantly courted by Zigfield to join his follies which she always rebuffed believing the group was far too risqué! She was a warm, ebullient and slightly dingy woman who was filled with laughter and song, a wonderful treat for a little hamster like myself.”
What are some of your memorable stage appearances?
“Right out of high school I played in a mostly original band for four years called Kashmir. No, we didn’t play any Led Zeppelin tunes. We were more of a pop-rock band of the day in the spirit of The Cars, Greg Kihn Band, Cheap Trick, The Producers , U2 and The Beatles. The covers we did play were a few Beatles songs, some New York Dolls, INXS, U2 and others of that ilk. I was the 2nd guitar player, keyboards, and one of three lead vocalists, we had big harmonies with all four of us singing. We were a performance band, big opening, wild stage show with cabaret kicks and crazed romping about. We played in clubs, colleges, small theatres and festivals in mostly Oregon and Washington.
“In the late eighties I was the lead singer in a glam-funk/soul band, big hair and all (Aquanet was my religion) called RIA. Our sound was Kaja Goo-Goo meets Duran Duran for breakfast with Tower of Power cooking and Hall & Oates doing the dishes. We had many different incarnations, had a lot of label interest but broke up before we could land a deal.
“Early 90’s I landed a lead singing gig though my drummer friend, Mark Schulman. The gig was with a guy by the name of Steve Farris, who had been the lead guitar player in a band called Mr. Mister. Our sound was this kind of slick LA cowboy rock. The material was all written by Farris and it was quite good. We put together a demo tape that was shopped around the industry and helped us land a showcase with ten labels in attendance. During this period I had a chance to meet and hang out with some of my heroes from the music business, such as Micky Dolenz, Steve Perry, Lou Gramm and a little known singer/songwriter who played piano by the name of of Tori Amos. She was still playing in the lounge at LAX when I met her. Anyway, the band did not get a deal, I won’t go into all the nastiness, but suffice it to say it wasn’t a pleasant ending. Even if the band would have been picked up the window for success would have only been opened for a short time as the grunge sound was just about to come smashing through.
“I moved back to Portland and became a musical director/guitar player for a singer/songwriter by the name of Mckinley. I produced her first two albums and worked with for about 4 years. She’s an amazing artist and I will always be proud of the work I did with her.”
Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
“It was called ‘Lifeline’ about my best friend stealing my girlfriend…. ouch! It was a sappy ballad and I could not play it today… (thank gawd!)”
Currently, what keeps you busy?
I mostly play with myself…. wait, can I say that on this blog…?
Do you engage in much music production during your current day job?
“We do a small amount of music production. It’s mostly a private studio where my boss and I do our projects. One of the groups my boss and I have put together is an ensemble that writes cowboy music called ‘The Bushmasters’. Never knew how much I loved this idiom until I started writing in it. Then I realized I was raised on a lot of this stuff, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Johnny Cash, Bobby Gentry, Marty Robins, and on and on…. So I guess it was in my blood, telling stories and capturing moods.
Is there something about you most Macjammers don’t know about?
(that you can share in public, that is…)
“I have a pet kangaroo. Okay, no, that’s an untruth. I’m a wine geek, a foodie, and I love to go to dog shows even though I don’t have a dog. Do you know what a Basenji is? A bark less dog from Africa that prances like a show horse and cleans itself like a cat.I’m not sure many people know my name is Steve Hale and Lulubelle Phuquedewaffle, Flendon Crispenshank, Snig Wetly, Farzan Increpi…. and on and on and on….
You’ve already had great experiences and produced wonderful works. What are your current musical aspirations?
“The ability to keep creating freely. If one of my songs lands on someone’s album, or in a movie or TV show, great, if not I will still have the need to write music. I’ve got to keep my sanity!
“I’m working on two maybe three albums for this year. One will be a collection of my singer/songwriter type songs, one is going to be my interpretation in a singer/songwriter way of The Sound of Music. Yes that’s right, I will be Julie Andrews, habit and all! Okay, not really… about the Julie Andrews bit, I am going to do the album. There are so many great songs from that musical and treated in a new intimate way with a male voice could be interesting, it also could be a huge train wreck and if that’s the case no one will ever hear this little endeavour.
I would also like to put together some of my rock stuff, but there’s also the soul album I want to do, the cover album and the album where I cover songs my friends have written, then of course there are my attempted humour songs…. see what I mean!? Too much to do and not enough life to do it all”
What instruments do you play?
“Singer first, guitar and bass second and I dabble and sometimes dribble on the piano. I love to play my djembe!”
“Taylor 414 acoustic guitar, Larrivee all mahogany acoustic guitar, Martin backpacker acoustic (a poor mans banjo like sound, I love recording with this little bugger), Fender Tele, Ibanez 5 sting bass with Bartolini pick ups, Yamaha nylon string, Dean hollow body electric, a myriad of keyboards, shaky rhythmic thingies. The studio I work in , which is at my work and I have access to 24/7, has an excellent selection of mics and mic-pre’s. Mic-pre’s we have are; Massenburg, Focus Right, and a Summit. I use an AT-4033 for my vocals, I love the bright quality it gives my voice. We have some beautiful old Neuman mics that I use for my acoustic guitar, as well as some Neuman and Audio Technica pencil mics.”
All your stuff has great production. What’s your process?
“I used to work in DP4 but have since changed to Logic. Love the improvements to Logic 8. I’m always mixing as I’m tracking, so by the end of tracking there’s really no surprises and it’s mostly mixed. I use Waveburner to master.”
It seems everything you do turns out well. What do you consider your weakness and how do you compensate?
“I’m such a fan of great drummers and wish I could play, but I’m a retarded monkey when I get behind a kit, just can’t play at all! So, I look for companies who make live drum loops and then cut them up as best I can. When I really need to have a drummer, I take my tracks to them.”
What is your song writing process?
“I don’t have one specific way or order in which I write. Sometimes it could be a lyric idea, or a concept, or maybe a guitar riff, or a feeling, or there’s a subject I want to write about, or I’m able to modify a poem into a lyric, it could be melody or even a groove. I also give myself no limits. If there’s a style I want to write that I’ve never done before I do some research and figure it out. So if I want to write a reggae/polka/swing/candy pop tune, or a sonic poem about a chickens lips, or an opera done entirely with ones nose, well damn it all, I’ll just go there! Sorry, I got a bit over excited… but here is so much to write about! I don’t have enough time in this life to write everything bouncing around in my tiny warped noggin….”
“Be willing to write a piece of crap. Never think you are better than you are but believe you are the best in the world.”
What is your favorite aspect of Macjams?
“All the collaborations I have been able to do have been really enjoyable. Not to single anyone out but Sil-VER has given me some of the coolest tracks to play with. I have made some really good friends at MacJams as well, specifically Mystified and Miss Chaos (who let me master her upcoming album).”
What is your favorite Macjams song you’ve submitted?
“I love all my little song monsters… so I can’t pick just one, how about three?
The Last Few Leaves of Autumn – collaboration w/Mystified
Voices of Arctic Insomnia – collaboration w/Miss Chaos
Icy Waters – A duet with Onesweetworld lending her lovely voice.”
Any final comments, something you want to share but I didn’t ask?
“A carrot, a mongoose and a walrus go into a bar…”
Steve is working on his Official Website. In the meantime, you can listen to all his MJ music on his I. Spike Profile page.