Thomas Jane, the talented and versatile actor who is best known for his starring roles in the 2004 film The Punisher and in HBO’s Hung, has also won critical acclaim for his embodiment of Mickey Mantle in the Billy Crystal-directed 61* and his portrayal of Andre Stander in the indie film Stander. Tom’s involvement in the entertainment industry goes well beyond acting, as evidenced by his film directorial debut Dark Country, comic book collaboration Bad Planet, and creation of the media company RAW Studios. Tom takes it one step further by adding ‘music producer’ to his repertoire. A chance meeting with street musician and kindred spirit Rusty Blades in New Orleans last year has led to Tom producing Rusty’s new gritty and heartfelt EP, Don’t Come Home. Tom took some time out of his super-busy schedule for this exclusive scoop about Rusty Blades and other current and future projects.
Hi Tom! It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be interviewing you about a new music project that you’ve been involved in. You run your own media company named Raw Studios, which is in the vanguard technologically, where you release all things wild ‘n’ weird ‘n’ wonderful (noir, horror, sci-fi, Western, more) in the form of graphic novels, film, and digital entertainment – and now music.
You recently released an EP titled Don’t Come Home by a previously unknown musician named Rusty Blades, who you bumped into while on a trip to New Orleans. Were you on the look-out for musical talent to add to your Raw Studios roster? What made you stop and listen to his tunes as opposed to other New Orleans street musicians?
Well, New Orleans is all about Jazz. But it’s a great spot for musicians of all creeds to come and hang out and play, both in clubs and venues and right on the street corner. That’s where I found Rusty, quietly strumming away on a little street in the Marigny. I used to busk myself a little, back in the day and I make a point of always giving a little something to my fellow busker. Little did I know at the time that I would end up recording Rusty and putting out his first EP.
Is Rusty originally from that locale? How did you convince him to uproot and travel all the way to California to record his EP?
Rusty is not from New Orleans. Like a lot of musicians, the road is his home. I’m not really sure where he hails from, and I think if you asked him, you’d get a different answer every time. I told Rusty that if he ever found himself on the Left Coast to look me up. And that’s what he did.
From what I understand, you’re listed in the production credits. Was this a job you took on easily or was it hard work to get the songs recorded and finalized? What was Rusty like to work with? Where did you end up recording the EP?
We ended up at Dig it! Studios near Eagle Rock, which is not too far from me. Max Allyn had the pleasure of recording Rusty, as well as playing all the back up instruments – which I hear was trying at times, getting Rusty to stay on tempo, but rewarding when he got it right. I personally didn’t have a lot to do, but I was there during the mix, long after Rusty had hit the road again.
The EP is available on iTunes and it’s also at Amazon in CD and mp3 formats. On Amazon I noticed that the 4-song EP is actually being sold as a 10-song CD/mp3 files, which includes Rusty’s original 4 songs, plus 4 “acoustic” versions of said songs, a brief, untitled number that has the lyrics “…love meets the devil…”, and a Bonus track. Is there an actual 4-song EP for sale too, or just this sweet deal? Will you be releasing the EP on vinyl?
There should be both versions on iTunes and Amazon. The extra songs were included for fun, but the real meat of the 10-song version is Rusty’s acoustic tracks, which is just Rusty and his guitar. We always planned on filling the songs out with other tracks, and Rusty was very excited to hear his stuff like that. But the ‘raw’ tracks were so moving, so spare and haunting, that we wanted to give the listener a chance to hear what we heard when we first sat down with the songs.
I’ve had the good fortune to listen to all of the original songs and I am enjoying Rusty’s upfront, emotionally raw, changeable vocal delivery, his succinct, tell-it-like-it-is lyrics, and the gentle, non-ostentatious guitar-work that lightly adorns his words. Rusty lets his sentiments shine through in all their rough glory and pain. But sometimes he plays it close to his vest, like on the shadowy-cool, Western-tinged “Building the Walls”. Rusty sings in an ominous, deeper tone about how he was “…changin’ my identity / I didn’t wanna be / a wanted man.” That’s my most fave tune on the EP. What is your most fave tune and why?
I have to say, I like ‘em all. Rusty has a pretty good cache of tunes, and after listening to him play for a couple nights, Max and I chose the four on the record. I really like “Rebecca’s Song”, which is only on the 10-song version, because it didn’t really go with the other four. But that song gets me every time.
I dig the concise lyrics on “Just Can’t Win”, where Rusty sing-talks “I guess I’ve reached my end / I’m done with talkin’ / …and pretendin’ you were my friend.” Do you relate to Rusty’s lyrics? Maybe not exactly that line, but his overall outlook?
I think Rusty’s songs would work on their own, just as poetry. That’s what makes a good song for me. You hear a lot of stuff that is nonsensical or repetitive, and I think that’s lazy. Writing is hard, but it’s magic when it all comes together as a slice of emotional life.
I find “New Valentine” to be a refreshing surprise because Rusty sounds like such a young whippersnapper on it, emotively singing with his heart on his sleeve amid lighter sonic accompaniment. I guess he can change his vocal delivery up like that? I mean, it’s so different from menace of “Building the Walls” that I almost feel like it’s a different singer.
We wanted that song in there at the end because it’s a ray of hope in the dark night of love. The record is called Don’t Come Home and all the songs are about the dark side of love – love’s end. And how soul-crushing that can be. “New Valentine” says, after all is lost, love, or the dream of love, still remains. It dies hard.
You mentioned that “Rebecca’s Song” gets to you every time you listen to it. What can you tell us about this half-a-minute bonus track? Did you ever find out who Rebecca is?
I know that Rebecca was someone very close to Rusty, who had died. I lost my sister recently, and Rusty and I had talked about that one night. A couple nights later, I found that song, vocal and guitar, sitting on my desk. I never got to thank him for it, because when I rushed over to the studio, Rusty had gone. I hope he doesn’t mind that I included it.
You have a few guitars in your arsenal. Did you let Rusty record his tunes with any of your guitars or did he use his own? What does type of guitar does he play?
Rusty has a beat up old Yamaha from the late 60’s or early 70’s. You can tell it’s been with him for quite a while. And one of the things we were excited about was letting Rusty play some ‘better’ guitars that Max had and that I had. Rusty played around with all of them, but in the end he stuck with the Yamaha. And I’m glad he did. “The devil you know” I guess.
So Rusty skedaddled fast after his recording was in the can and you haven’t heard from him since. What do you make of the elusive Rusty? Do you think he’s back in New Orleans or somewhere else by now?
I know that you might take Rusty off the road, but I’m pretty sure you can’t take the road out of Rusty. He lives the kind of life that I think young poets and romantic types dream about – no attachments, no obligations, no commitments. Usually, we grow up and find ourselves with jobs and houses and kids and cars. Rusty never let that touch him. Where is Rusty? I have no idea. Will I see him again? I hope so. I hope that when I do I’ll have a check for him, so he can blow it on a woman. Rusty asked that I put the songs under my name, so the checks have a place to go. As far as I know, Rusty has no address. But I can guarantee that if he finds himself in LA again, he’ll have couch to crash on. And maybe we’ll record some more songs. I’d like that.
Who did the artwork for the EP? Is the drawing a representative sketch of Rusty?
That would be David Mack, of KABUKI fame. David stays with me from time to time, and when he does he usually has a woman or two come over to sketch and do life drawings. He stopped by and Rusty happened to be here, and it turned into a long night of drawing and taking photos and playing music. The album cover is a sketch of Rusty from that wonderful night.
You yourself are no stranger to the realm of music, busking on the streets of L.A. when you were an aspiring actor, and appearing on Lopez Tonight in 2010 and giving a rad interview where you broke out a guitar and played and sang with a twang, sounding like a less raggedy Neil Young, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdL9GQF2vgY; Song is 5 minutes into video). I have to say, I was enraptured by your performance. Did you ever dream of being a musician instead of an actor, director, producer, ummm…, jack-of-all-trades, master of all?
If I could, I would be a musician. I think music is the highest form of pure emotional expression. But I’m not. I don’t have the ear. I’m stuck with acting and storytelling. It’s been pretty good to me.
Speaking of music-related projects, what is the latest about a movie on about real life country singer-songwriter, contemporary of Johnny Cash, and Folsom Prison inmate Glen Sherley? Is it still on the table as a future project?
Glen Sherley is a passion project of mine. We have a fantastic script. They say bio pics don’t make money, and country music pics make even less. It’s been an uphill battle. But I’m still fighting.
Are you planning on recording and releasing any more music via Raw Studios in the near future?
It was fun. I’m glad Rusty’s music is out there in the world. I’m going to try and promote it some, so it can get into the right ears. As for more, who knows?
Now, I know this interview is geared towards music, but please feel free to give us an update on any and all projects you’re involved in now, whether it’s your badass fan video about The Punisher titled Dirty Laundry, which has almost 2 million views in just over a week on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWpK0wsnitc; Yes, if you film it, they will come!), a possible Bad Planet video game, Dark Country as a graphic novel, and/or TV and movie info.
The Dirty Laundry short was a blast. Phil Joanou is one of my favorite directors, and it was such a thrill getting to work with him. Right now I am getting ready to direct my Western, called A MAGNIFICENT DEATH FROM A SHATTERED HAND. I’m very, very excited about it. The money has just come through. It’s a terrific script – one of those that just seemed to write itself, although I had some great help in Jose Prendes, who wrote the original draft. We’re shooting in Utah in the Spring.
Lastly, can you please list the links to your official Raw Studios site and fan Forum? Thanks so much, Tom! It’s been a blast to touch base with you.
Thanks very much for the interview! I like this site. Lotta great music on here. For more about Rusty Blades, check out his Tumblr page: http://xrustyxbladesx.tumblr.com/
Come say hi and tell us what you think of Rusty’s music on our RawStudios Forum: http://rawstudios.invisionzone.com/
And for updates on our comic and film projects, (and the occasional record) check out RAW STUDIOS at: http://rawstudios.typepad.com/
“Here is the official link to Rusty’s songs on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/