by Tyler Hayes
Published Sep 10, 2012
Peter Munters has been in several bands over the years and has just released his new solo album. You can grab 3 free songs from the album, Wood and Wire, on his NoiseTrade Sampler.
Can you give a brief history of the bands you’ve been in and the music you done up until this solo album? What made you decide to to go on your own?
In middle and high school I was extremely fortunate to find a niche, I guess you could say, among a tightly knit circle of people who were neither misfits, nor cool kids necessarily. What brought us together was our love of music; in particular the sense of discovery and rebellion that we got from finding common ground in knowing bands that ninety percent or more of our classmates would never hear or, for that matter, understand. Together we fell in love with the guitar as a voice of the little known underdog who just might have enough talent and inspiration to rule or simply charm the world- from the Beatles, to Kurt Cobain, and Propagandhi. This love of punk rock, loud sound, raucous feelings and acceptance spawned my first band, Over It. After high school, we went on our first exploratory tours of the Mid-Atlantic US and the rest of the East Coast and expanded from our home base in Virgina, just South of Washington DC.
This eventually led to a full-on commitment and move to Southern California in 2003 after our drummer finally finished high school and the rest of us vanquished our parents in the battle to leave college on punk hiatus. After about a thousand shows with bands like Yellowcard, MXPX, Relient K, and a slew of other greats, and working with several independent labels in California, Over It signed to Virgin Records and we made a record that I still love today, although it was truly lost in the shuffle of a shifting regime at Virgin, and creative dissent between various influential parties attached to the project. This left Over It at a pretty significant crossroads and loss, where we were locked into a contract leading to oblivion, with a record that felt dead in the water, despite the extraordinary support of a small, but amazing group of fans across the world, from DC to Tokyo and Guadalajara and back again.
That being said, we regrouped for a year in 2007 at our band house in Huntington Beach, California and began to write new material, much of which never saw the light of day. Some of that music came from our recently acquired secret weapon vocalist and guitarist, Ryan Ogren, whose band Don’t Look Down had been our frequent brothers of the DIY tour circuit and great friends. At some point as we crafted these new songs, we caught the attention of Tommy Henriksen, an amazing producer who took us under his wing, and helped us crystallize our vision for a new band. We called the band Runner Runner, as a sort of good luck nod to Ogren’s smouldering love of Texas Hold ‘em, and the two of us switched roles – him taking on lead singer duties, and me becoming the secret weapon, which felt right at the time, given the songs we were all writing together. We had a great chemistry, his voice making the lyrics instantly accessible, as though they came right out of the radio; my voice lending a character that didn’t really sound like anything else. We embraced this new sound, a fusion of pop rock and 80s infused synthesizers and electronica and went to the wall with it, eventually catching the attention of a manager who would help us get signed as the extremely lucky guinea pig flagship project of David Letterman’s record label, Clear Entertainment, a division of his production company Worldwide Pants. As we narrowed the extensive list of songs down to the dozen or so we though would make a killer record, we garnered the attention fo EMI once more, although with a completely fresh cast of characters and eventually partnered with Capitol for the debut Runner Runner album. This project kept us touring and promoting our songs for the next twenty-one months straight, and for me, was an intensely amazing and educational experience. The band truly honed our performance and political skills, charming radio programmers across the country and putting on shows the memory of which still make me grin today. We had the time of our lives and landed one single “So Obvious” in the top forty radio charts for several months in 2010. Also attracting the support of Sirius Satellite radio, we turned out a series of singles which to this day receive decent recurrent rotation in the Satellite department.
By the fall of 2011, it was abundantly clear that things were not going as projected with Runner Runner. We were not moving units to offset the tremendous promotional costs of our project and were having trouble finding the tours we felt we needed to stay on the road. All along the way, I continued writing by myself and with friends outside of the band, harboring a catalog of music that simply would not work for Runner Runner, based on the increasingly radio hungry vision the band set forth for itself. I struggled with these feelings of alienation and doubt, worrying that i was not a valid contributor, and that the band did not need me the way I felt we needed each other during the time when we stuck together and in effect rose from the ashes of the Over It major label fiasco. Runner Runner was always that phoenix to me, but by the end of last year, I decided it was time to devote my energy to my music; to the very personal story I had been telling myself piecewise on the sidelines, while we grinded away on the road. Overall the adventure was amazing, but I had definitely neglected these songs, and I always felt it really hard to write on the road, beset with obligations, ever-changing schedules and the obvious distration of focusing on the tight rhythm i needed to live just to survive and give every show my all every night, night after night.
So, I began to record these tunes, one by one, with my acoustic guitar, at my new home in Hollywood, and I soon confirmed my suspicion that this process of digging and purging would be my refuge of healing and an oasis of creativity for a jaded heart that still loved music as inexhaustibly as it had ten years earlier, when i never for a moment considered that I really was in for at least a taste of all my wildest dreams.
I know you have that ‘Wood & Wire’ was written over the course of a few years, is there any theme that flows through it though? Anything that connects all the songs?
Wood & Wire I think has a little bit of everything I have ever done. A tiny hint of punk-pop roots, a lot of introspection, reflections on the lessons of popular song that courting the radio and learning to record and use studios lent me, love, bitterness, alienation, redemption, and mostly the freedom to open up and sing absolutely anything that comes to the tip of my tongue. This album wasn’t meant to climb a chart, and I’ll never deny that it would be exceedingly cool if it did. It exists more to prove to myself that I am capable of making music one hundred percent on my own, and to give something back to the small group of fans who actually care that i love making music, especially the ones who believed that Runner Runner did little more than to marginalize me. I am very pleased to discover that the others, the ones who love RR are receiving it with open arms as well. The support means everything and guarantees that I will do this again and again.
The title has a two fold significance. On one level it muses about the miracle of human art and innovation; the synthesis of organic materials into something completely new, endlessly diverting and inspiring like a guitar. On another level it is about working with what you’ve got. The idea is that the solution to every and any problem is right there in the room with you already, the moment you face a problem seeking that very solution.
Any specific influences for these songs?
I hate to be elliptical, but the truth is that there is one significant influence on this record, and it is the simple, primal, confessional need to to write. Apart from your typical influences; seeking and finding and cherishing true love, wondering who the heck we are supposed to be in the world and why we are here at all, and the tragic battle between advancing a career and holding on to the innocence of friendship, the album is in a way, free of influence, and the songs are all just my unbridled effort to let unfinished ideas out into the world, as finished songs.
In terms of production I certainly drew from many places. I turned to artists like Nine Inch Nails, Ken Andrews and Our Lady Peace for help with drum sounds and mix reference. I modeled my mellotron sounds in songs like “It Happens Every Time” after “Catapult” from the Counting Crows, “Recovering The Satellites” and “Smother” by the Smashing Pumpkins. All in all I tried to channel elements of all of my favorite artists, from Tom Petty and They Might Be Giants, to Dirty Dancing.
My mantra was something like, if Jeff Lynne ( Of ELO and George Harrison/Tom Petty/Wilbury’s/Other) fame can make records that sound that original and inspiring at home, I was up for the challenge of figuring out a way to do it my way, with my sounds, and my songs, from the creature comfort of my home.
Based on your experiences, is it still preferable to be with a record label or should bands/artists all be going independent?
I don’t think this is a black and white issue. Labels are just as indispensable as ever, when they go to work under the right constellation of circumstances and forces. The most critical thing of all is still the same as it ever was: the only real way to enchant an audience and convert them to true, loyal fans, is by singing in front of them, and making them realize that you are inviting them, with open arms, into your world- into faith in magic and rock and roll and the soul piercing feeling of experiencing that something so much greater than us, which great music somehow puts indescribably into perspective.
All that considered, it has never been easier or more competitive for artists to harness the kind of marketing tools and promotional muscle that major labels have always used. Even without millions of dollars, a budding artist can connect with new fans using the internet, and his or her wits alone.
As an independent artist what are some of the best sites and technologies you’re using to find fans? Where do you find most people are discovering your music?
I am a bandcamp devotee for sure. I love the interactive nature of the site. Every person who buys my music or donates to my creative cause lands right in my mailbox for me to inspect, cherish and thank directly. It fosters a great relationship with avid music supporters and puts the artist and their craft a single click away from the listener.
Other sites like soundcloud, noisetrade, facebook and twitter obviously serve a similar purpose in their own unique, subtle ways. I love that twitter has this inexplicable power to make people “dance like no one is watching” so to speak, only with their words, current events and perspective. It is amazing what that ironic sense of anonymity will do to the most obnoxious tweeter, sending them on tirades and confessions that would never see the light of day in a face to face conversation. LOL ROFL DIY FTW.
What’s next? What are your hopes for the solo album?
Next for me, is more music, more filming of videos, more thought into new ways of reaching the countless people who have no idea who I am. I want to become a regular performer again, and hopefully tour with a newfound passion for never spending more than a night in any given place at a time, for cherishing all of those beautiful, fleeting moments, singing for anyone who will listen. I want to be part of the redemption of any person who has missed me in the slightest. I want to be more than a memory.