One of my favorite bass players for the “hairband” era was always a local guy from the next town over from where I grew up. His name is P.J. Farley and he played and still plays bass for the mighty Trixter. Back then, P.J. was the youngest guy in the band, which gave us all hope to make it, he had the long blonde hair we all wish we had, and he always brought it on stage. Today, he’s a husband, a father, an extremely busy musician with Trixter and now we can call him a solo artist since the release of his first solo record, Boutique Sound Frames, which is killer!
Despite a hiatus taken by Trixter, P.J. was able to stay relevant on the music scene with stints in the band RA, Lita Ford, and Ours, along with the plethora of cover bands he’s performed with on the Jersey music scene. Apparently, all the while, he’s been writing and recording his own songs for the better part of a decade, and this past May, he finally released it under the title Boutique Sound Frames. So, not only did I admire this talented bass player at one time, but I also get to call him a bud. I got to chat with P.J. about his solo CD, among other things, a couple of weeks ago, and here’s what he had to say about Boutique Sound Frames:
So, after all of these projects and all of the cover bands, you finally released your first solo record, Boutique Sound Frames. What took you so long?
I just kind of got off my ass. I mean I’ve had these songs for so long that I was always just waiting for a good time, but like you said, I’ve been so lucky and busy that I just couldn’t get my head into just putting it all together. It was always a work in progress. Finish a couple songs, go out on tour for a year, finish a couple songs, join some other band, and then become busy. So, I’m like, “Alright, I got ‘em! They’re done and I can put them out whenever.” And then they just got pushed aside. It was just kind of a blessing because in that period when I started recording them, they would have fallen on deaf ears anyway. There was no YouTube, there was no social media. So, it would have been that game of chasing a record deal, which was just something I wasn’t interested in.
So, it just kind of sat. And then, now after we did the Human Era record and I was in studio mode, I’m just gonna bang out a couple more songs and put this out now that I can do this confidently that at least all I gotta do is get it up into the cloud for people to hear, because essentially that’s all I want. I just want people to hear it. I’m not looking to venture out on this solo journey to become the next Bruce Springsteen. I just got a bunch of songs that I think people should hear. I wanna do some shows and have fun. Like I said, it’s nothing that’s going to change your life. As long as you’re proud of the product you put out, that’s it. Now, there’s iTunes, YouTube, and social media. You can push your own record and luckily I have a label that’s helping me too. Melodic Rock Records decided to help manufacture the record. So, I got a little help on that end too and it’s just out there like any other record would be.
So, the songs are really that old that you wrote them before YouTube and social media?
Yup! I know one of them I recorded 20 years ago…“The Fallen.” Most of the songs were recorded, I think I started in 2002, and then three of them I recorded last year, but all of them were recorded on Tascam DA-88’s…Real old school stuff. Three songs were recorded on Pro Tools this past year and that’s it.
When you went back and listened to that old stuff, did it bring you back to that time period?
Oh, it did! Absolutely! It was kind of cool and amazing that you really can’t tell, especially me being my own worst critic, and any musician and songwriter who makes a record always wants to go back and fix things. “Ah, that doesn’t sound right!” And you’re always worried about the continuity in production, but they all kind held up even though they were all recorded years apart. That’s some continuity there.
The CD sounds great! I love the lead single “You’d Stick it Out,” “Sucker Punch,” “A Place In The Sun” and “Things We Hold Onto.” Without comparing these songs to any bands, they have a feel that reminded me of Velvet Revolver. Have you heard that before?
Really? Never! (laughs) That’s a first! You know what? I have heard maybe Stone Temple Pilots. I think because some of the songs have that beat and I don’t know, maybe that whimsical side of Stone Temple Pilots. Maybe there’s a little bit of that, but yeah, there’s a little bit of everything in there.
Now, for the live band, you’re playing guitar and you’ve enlisted fellow Jersey musicians, Mazz on guitar, Cory Pensa on bass and Dennis Zimmer on drums, but didn’t you perform everything on the CD yourself or did they perform on some of the songs?
Yeah, when it came time to shoot the video [for “You’d Stick it Out”], I needed a band to do some of the full band shots, so literally, I just called them the week before to see if they were available on this Monday at six o’clock. So they were graciously at my beckon call that day. It was a snowy Monday night. So, yeah, they definitely stepped up for me.
But are they going to be part of the live band when you decide to tour to support the CD?
Depending on availability. I know everyone is busy. I haven’t really locked in a band yet. At this point in the game, I have to get who’s available. Everyone is working. Everyone’s got bills to pay and stuff. I said the other day, “It no longer exists where you start a band, you put out a record and you’re offering somebody THE DREAM. Now, I’m just offering you THE JOB.” (laughs) It’s like, “Well I got a gig that night,” or, “I have three gigs that weekend and I don’t know if I can make it.”
So, I’ll probably have an “A” and “B” squad in case something comes up unexpectedly because I honestly don’t know how I’m gonna work it for the live shows. I have one show booked right now and that’s not until October so I have some time. But I’m definitely entertaining the thought of doing whatever kind of comes up as long as I think it will be fun, I’m game. So, I wanna have a couple people prepared.
By trade, you’re a bass player, so was the transition from bass to guitar a difficult one for you?
Not really because I wrote all of the songs on guitar and I play a lot of guitar when I’m home. I play guitar more than I do bass live. I mean when I play the solo acoustic gigs and whatnot, I am really expanding my guitar playing as far as that goes. I’ve always been able to play guitar to the point of getting my point across.
It’s the same thing with drums. I’m a drummer at heart. It was my first instrument before picking up guitar for a little bit and finally moving over to bass, but I’m kind of a jack of all trades and master of none. I’m not amazing at any instrument and I never wanted to be. I couldn’t commit to just playing that one instrument when I knew there were so many other instruments to play and explore and that I had a passion for. I didn’t have a drum set and I didn’t get to practice drums, so my chops are limited and I’m a simple drummer anyway. I have simple taste in drummers anyway. Boom-Cha, Boom-Boom-Cha. You can say a lot with just that like Tommy Lee and Dave Grohl.
So, playing guitar and playing the drums and stuff, and anything on the record is all in my wheelhouse. I don’t know if I subconsciously wrote songs based on that or what, or is it just my taste? There is some of the guitar stuff like soloing and stuff like that, I needed to call in a ringer and luckily Steve [Brown] was there, engineering with me, so I could just hand him the guitar and say, “Dude, I need a real solo here.” Because I don’t do solos! Some of them I do on the record and you’ll be able to tell the difference between my solos and Steve’s on the record. (laughs) Mine are like little one-liners.
Was it natural to just have Steve engineer this CD since he’s always there?
Yeah, absolutely! I recorded these songs throughout the time where we were doing Soaked songs, Throwan Rocks and 40 Ft. Ringo. We were in the early 2000s and we were non-stop writing and recording and then sometimes I would just say, “I have this song and I just want to bang it out.” I knew it wasn’t right for whatever we were doing at that point. They were those songs I just wanted to have in my back pocket, so I would just record that and we would move on to another 40 Ft. Ringo song or something.
With all the music you and Steve have been writing, will there be another Trixter record?
I don’t know. The last two records we tried to make a conscious effort to dive back into some of the older Trixter archives and whatnot, and even some of the stuff that we did for 40 Ft. Ringo and so we picked some of the stuff that we thought could translate to new Trixter. I don’t know what’s left to kind of go back to. So, if we did another Trixter record, we’d probably be starting from the ground up. Maybe pick something else up from back in the day at some point in the archive, but I think at this point it would have to be from the ground up. Who knows? I mean, right now, Human Era literally just came out a year ago almost to the day. So, in our world, or in our genre, we’re probably the most productive band; releasing two full-length all original records with all original members. I think we’ve met more than our quota. (laughs)
Back to Boutique Sound Frames, is there a favorite track on it?
That’s always the hardest question for sure. I think that “You’d Stick Out” is definitely one of my favorites. I think that song came so naturally and I just think it has so many cool elements. It’s an emotional song. It’s a romantic song, but it’s got a lot of dick and balls to it too. It’s got a lot of attitude. It’s got a nice blend of attitude with being a little sweet and melodic without being too light. I just think it’s a tough track with a little bit of icing on top. I wrote that one back in 2002.
One last question before I let you go, my brother. What happens for P.J. Farley moving forward?
Moving forward, I’ll just keep plugging away. I’m lucky that people are interested in this record as far as talking about it, getting the press cookin’ and getting the word out. And I’ll see about getting some shows happening. Like I said, I have Rock ‘N’ Skull Festival in Joliet, Illinois, in October. That might actually turn into a little run of a couple shows. And then business as usual, really, I have a busy month with Trixter here and stuff over the summer. I’m busy locally, grinding away and singing for my supper, and who knows? Maybe the phone will ring, and I’ll go get on a plane and go out on tour with some other band. Who knows? I’m up for anything…
Check out P.J. Farley’s debut solo CD, Boutique Sound Frames, available now on iTunes, Amazon.com, Spotify and wherever CDs are sold. Catch P.J. live with Trixter this summer by checking out their tour dates at Trixterrocks.com. For more on P.J. Farley and his new CD, visit PJFarley.net.