About a year ago, Dave Depper—best known as a super-sideman with groups like Loch Lomond, Norfolk & Western, Musée Mécanique and, most recently, Monarques—decided to step out of his usual supporting role and make his own record. But it occurred to him that, while he'd been in and out of recording studios his entire adult life, he didn't know where to start. So, in his quest for playing and recording know-how, Depper decided to play and record an entire album—Paul McCartney's second solo LP, 1971's Ram—on his own (Joan Hiller, who sings backup vocals, is the only other musician on the album). He began the project early last April, recording the simplest tracks first and moving onto Ram's more complex material as he went along. By the end of the month, he was done with Ram and—shockingly, he says—discussing releasing the album with Jackpot Records. Dave Depper's Ram, an amazing and slightly befuddling tribute record, is out now. We had a few questions.
WW: So, why this particular record?
Dave Depper: Well, at the time I felt like I just discovered this big secret—that Paul McCartney actually did a bunch of badass stuff, and I had spent my whole life trash-talking him. So it felt like a debt of honor to this guy to bring this to light. Not that Paul McCartney needs my help…but I wanted to celebrate this amazing record. And it was a technically appealing thing for me to do.
Did you have any intention to release the album?
Absolutely not. I wasn't even planning on putting it online, but I knew I had the potential to give up at some point, so I started a blog and shared it with people to hold myself accountable. It made its way to Isaac Slusarenko at Jackpot, and he emailed me right away and said that Ram had been his favorite album as a kid and he was interested in putting it out. I'm sure I would have finished it on my own at some point, but that really lit a fire under me.
Did you leave room for improvisation in these songs?
No. Wherever it differs from Paul's is definitely not a personal touch, it's more of a failure to reach my goal. There was one review I got from Europe the other day—this really hilariously written review—saying, "Why the hell did this guy do this? He doesn't sing as well as Paul McCartney, he doesn't play as well as Paul McCartney." I thought it was awesome, because it's true, I don't!
What's your biggest aspiration for the project now?
I'd like Isaac to make his money back! [Laughs] I do have a fantasy of Paul McCartney hearing it. I'd love to meet the guy.
What's the dumbest lyric Paul McCartney sings on Ram?
In "Monkberry Moon Delight" there's this line: "I know my banana is older than the rest/ And my hair is a tangled beretta." Every time we get to that in practice, somebody starts busting up.
If you had to do this again, what album would you cover?
I really want to call attention to what an awesome album Fleetwood Mac's Mirage is. This will, of course, be after I have a long and established solo career with my own work. So look for that in 2017.
SEE IT: Dave Depper, backed by Musée Mécanique, will perform Ram in its entirety on Saturday, May 7, at Doug Fir. 9 pm. $10. 21+.