Island arts: Guitarist Carl Weingarten
Carl Weingarten started his music career as a photographer. He started taking photos at age 7 and by junior high school had moved on to shooting Super 8 movies. His early career as a visual artist has informed his music, even as it’s changed and grown over the span of three decades.
“I’m attracted to music that’s instrumental, that’s evocative,” Weingarten said during an interview this weekend in a local coffee house. “I was taken with music that would sort of transport me in a way.”
Weingarten has released 19 albums, with his latest, “Lost in the Air” – a collection of acoustic performances of songs he wrote – newly available online and on the airwaves (more on that below). He’s got a new album in the works that he hopes to have out by the end of the year. Oh, and he’s also still shooting pictures: Some of his work is featured at Frank Bette Center for the Arts’ current “Wabi-Sabi” show (that’s his “Passengers” on the left), and he just got word he’ll also be featured in the center’s “Alameda on Camera” exhibition. He also runs his own record label, Multiphase Records.
Here’s our first Island artists profile (thanks Carl!). By the way, if you’d like to hear a track off his new album, you can click right here.
MUSICAL STYLE: Ambient Americana
INSTRUMENTS: (current release) Dobro, traveler guitar, slide, ebow
INFLUENCES: (Short list) Ennio Marconi, Brian Eno, Antonio Vivaldi, Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton, Duane Allman, Leo Kottke, Bill Frissell, Alvin Nikolai, Murray Louis
ORIGINS: Weingarten actually started out as a photographer at age 7, then moved on to making films. He taught himself how to play the bottleneck guitar in college and started writing his own compositions. “Every time I’d take a step and learn something, I would want to try to put in a film,” he said. When he graduated college, he had little luck breaking into the tough, insular film world. By contrast, the music business was starting to open up to independent artists. So he started recording and producing music.
EVOLUTION: He started out in St. Louis playing electronic music in the vein of Brian Eno and Tangerine Dream; he and some friends put out an album of electronic music that was well-received by the local and indie music press. He had a techno-pop band called Delay Tactics (“We were kind of called the Ventures of the ‘80s”), and then he moved on to a hybrid that included acoustic instruments. He wrote scores for dance companies, which pushed him to branch out in his instrumentation. When he came to the Bay Area in the 1990s, he started working with musicians from China, Pakistan and India. “I began developing a style that I would call cinematic music. Two records I composed are based on film scores. Every track on the CD is a scene in a movie.”
HOW’D YOU END UP IN ALAMEDA?: A St. Louis native, Weingarten moved to San Francisco – he’s got family in the Bay Area – in 1992 with the aid of a hefty severance package he got when his company was sold. He lived in the city for six years, until the dot com bubble lifted rents into the stratosphere. He’s been in Alameda, which reminds him of his hometown, since 1998. “I heard nothing but bad stories about Alameda, and the police. When I looked around, I said, ‘What’s the problem? There’s parking.’ I found a place, and I’ve been here ever since.”
WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW?: Weingarten has just released a live, acoustic CD, “Lost in the Air.” He put together the CD for fans who’ve asked him for an album of just him playing his guitar. It’s available online through Weingarten’s label, Multiphase Records, or through CD Baby or Amazon. You can also hear his music on Echoes radio online. He’s also got some photos in the “Wabi-Sabi” show at Frank Bette Center for the Arts.
WHAT’S NEXT?: He’s working on a new album that will include “a lot of electric guitar looping,” which he said is a form of improvisation, including new versions of the songs on his current CD. That should be done by the end of the year. He’s also got an upcoming gig with local trumpeter Jeff Oster and will be featured in the Frank Bette Center’s upcoming “Alameda on Camera” exhibition.