One lucky morning around 11 years ago, I was passed a copy of an album called ‘Ma, They Broke Me’ by the Minneapolis band Rockford Mules, and asked to write about it. I’d never heard them before, but duly placed the CD in the player and pressed play. Something about it immediately struck me. I fell it love with the sound, and spun it more than once that day. Lead singer/guitarist Erik Tasa soon sent me a copy of his solo album, ‘Ballad of a Winter Beard’, a far more low-key, melodic affair that ever since has been one of my most played albums. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s one of my favourite albums, or how many late, drunk evenings I’ve spent listening to it. Now, finally, a new album is on its way, this time under the moniker Mudfoot Barker. Erik was kind enough to join me for a quick chat about about the new record ‘Murky’, and what’s been going on in the several years since his last release.
It has been 9 since my last, but there was one last album the Rockford Mules released the night of our last show. Kind of a “here you go, see you later” exchange with our in-town following. It was called “O tulip, I told you so”. It was a rocker. No lap steel, just dual, down-tuned Les Pauls in conspiracy with each other. It was a download release only. I will ask the bass player, Craig, if there’s any way I can get it for you if you don’t already have it. Since then, Ryan and I recorded an album of music under the name Bloodpine, and put out a record called Fever Prone/Circus Owned. The guitar has also done its share of hanging on the wall for months at a time. Literally gathering dust. But out of the respect for all they have done for me, I at least keep ‘em wiped off and tuned up. Then there will be the months that I cannot put it down. The need to get something out gets overwhelming. And on my stumbling to catch up with it, it drops another song idea on me. We dance for months and then it dries up again. So just when I think I have it figured out, all I really learn is how much I really don’t know. The mystery of it all goes deeper, and I love it and hate it all the more. But mostly love it. What was the question again? Haha.
Well I’ll definitely get my hands on those missed releases! I didn’t even know about them. But now, a long 9 years later, finally you have a new album coming. What more can you tell us about ‘Murky’. What’s the inspiration behind it?
They are my best songs yet. If I cannot say that about my new songs then I cannot put them out. Even if I cannot say that years later, I need to be able to say that initially. It tells me I am keeping up with who I am and documenting what I feel at the time. I have written some real crappy songs I once thought good. You think I’m an idiot now, you should have seen me then. Hopefully the distance between east and west closes up a bit more every time as I get older. The inspiration? It’s always life. I have a faith that I look at myself and life through. I look to relate and help relieve both myself and whoever might be listening. We’re all just trying to do our best and get through the day. Music is an easy hand to lend to someone you might never know or see.
My take on John the Baptist. The man wore camel hair coats and ate locusts and wild honey. He walked the shore of the river on a mission that ended with him losing his life. Nothing glamorous or pretty about it. But he stuck to task for a future promise he would not see while barking on the banks. I guess I like that.
You’ve enlisted fellow Mules man Ryan Rud (also making music under the name Frequency Collisions) to produce this album. What can we expect from it this time round?
Ryan-sounding things. We basically put one mic in front of my mouth and one in front of my guitar’s mouth and I recorded the songs live in his living room. He did the rest. He has been my dear friend forever and I have been a fan of his for just as long. I knew he would know exactly what to do. And I got to just sit back and watch these songs come to life in ways I was hoping for but had no idea of how to do. That’s my dear friend Ryan for you. He creates music universes.
Any plans to release a hard copy of the album, or will it be solely a digital release?
Digital for now. I have 975 copies of a former project of Ryan and I’s called Spurcut Factory Rider that I thought was going to set the world on fire. We pressed 1000. So, my gun jumping days are over. If at some point there becomes a demand, I will gladly oblige.
I hate to say it but I have not been a part of that scene for some time now. I have chosen recluse life of a musical hermit who sits on the south side of the river from mpls. I hear the faint sounds of banging drums and muffled guitars coming from that lit up beacon at night. Sounds like they are still alive and kicking. Just now without me. I have taken to keeping a backyard fire stoked and staring up at the sky wondering if that light is a plane, satellite or star.
What happened to the Mules anyway? There was almost a reunion recently that never happened?
The final show had a poster of the back of a mule (the ass of an ass if you will) and he was staring out into an open pasture. And that’s how it went down. The mule was let go out to pasture.
And so is that it for the Mules now?
Yes. Kind of. I have recruited them all to be the backing band on the next Mudfoot Barker record. It’s rather incestuous.
After the Rockford Mules finished you came out with the brilliant ‘Ballad of a Winter Beard’ within two years. But just recently I discovered you had produced more solo music, but it was never available. What’s that all about? And will it all be available at some point?
I have put out a total of 4 solo records. Only winter beard being released digitally. The other 3 hard copy only. Craig talked me into putting the second one out digitally because he really liked a song I wrote about my grandpa when my grandma died called Carl’s Waltz. I don’t know if they all will see the light of day on the internet because I am almost 20 years removed from them being released. But who knows.
So, what’s next for Erik Tasa/Mudfoot Barker?
Staying alive, staying in love, another cup of coffee, being the best husband and dad, mowing the lawn and putting up the pool, summers here!!
‘Murky’ by Mudfoot Barker is available now on Spotify & Amazon Music… Interview by Craggy Collyde