Brian Olive goes solo
Former Greenhornes guitarist came back to town to record his new CD
By Allison Cayse
Special to Metromix
June 23, 2009
Local musician Brian Olive gained recognition in the indie and garage rock world as a member of the Greenhornes and the Soledad Brothers. His first solo endeavor, a self-titled album on Alive Records, comes out this week, complete with a couple of local shows. He will also be supporting The Fiery Furnaces when they play Fountain Square August 7.
You’ve been credited as Brian Olive, Oliver Henry and Henry Oliver. What’s up with all the names?
Well, one name—I’ve seen it printed as Henry Oliver—but I never actually used that name. It just kind of—you know, I don’t know where it came from. It was misprint or something. The name Oliver Henry, well a long time ago, I was simultaneously playing in the Greenhornes and the Soledad Brothers, and I noticed that the other two guys in the Soledad Brothers were using made up names. And I thought, "Sure, why not?" The idea was to remain anonymous, I guess. I don’t know, I guess there wasn’t a real reason.
You’re most well known for your work in collaborative efforts like the Greenhornes and Soledad Brothers, but There is Love is your first solo album. What is the difference between creating a solo piece of work versus being part of a band?
I was happy playing in the other bands that I’ve been in, but you know, there comes a point when I have my own ideas and everyone else has their own ideas. And I was never the kind of person—I realized that I was in a band and knew that there was a lot of different opinions coming to the table—but I was never the kind of person who was going to try to, you know, push other people into my ideas. So I just realized that someday I would end up just doing the whole thing by myself, or at least choosing the people who were going to play on it that didn’t mind being part of a solo album. And I found them, so it worked out.
Can you tell me about the process of writing the album?
You know I’ve been actually writing the songs and recording them for years. You know, just trying to put together something that seemed like it went together. A couple of the songs have actually been around for a few years. I wrote them and then finished them up in the studio when we were doing this record. But most of the writing was done—I would start on an idea and get the basic two other people to come in and lay down the foundation of it, and I wrote the majority of it in the studio. For the latter half of it, I spent about eight months writing and recording it.
There are a lot of contributors to the album, can you tell us about them?
Yeah, they’re all friends of mine. And actually Jared McKinney, the drummer on the record, I played with him in the Greenhornes when we started the band. A few of the people are from the band The High and Low, who are from here. They were friends of mine and I heard their music and recorded them a while ago. So when it came time to work on this record, I immediately went to them—mainly Mike Weinel. He was there through the entire recording process. He was right there helping me.
Apparently the album was recorded in the basement of an old pawn shop?
Well, the building that we have the studio in is down on Hamilton Avenue, it’s in Northside. It’s got a huge diamond sign on the front of it. We found out, just by asking around, that it actually was (where we end up building the studio), it was the vault where they kept the diamonds. I can’t really tell you much about it, but I know they cut the diamonds there, and there was a pawn shop there at one time. Actually when the ceiling caved in and the roof top came down…
Whoa, I’m going to need you to back up and tell me the whole story about this and how you ended up in the building.
Well, some friends of ours purchased the building about five years ago. And Mike [Weinel] ended up in there, and it was one of those deals where they were like, ‘If you want to help us renovate the building, you can have one of the apartments.’ So he said, ‘yeah,’ and started working on it.
When I moved back here—I was living in London for a little while—I got to talking to him, and we started saying maybe we want to have a studio. And I was like, ‘Well, I want that vacant apartment that’s in there.’ So I had to rebuild an apartment in there to live in. And it’s also the apartment that’s above the studio, so no one else would want it anyway, because it’s too loud. Anyhow, there’s a rooftop deck outside my window there. A couple of winters ago—you remember when that snow storm came, that huge snowstorm? There were snow drifts. The entire deck was covered in snow and ice, and in the control room of the studio, the ceiling started caving in.
We found out later that there was somebody that tried to do a break-in coming into the vault from the rooftop. And we found the hole where they had sawed into the roof trying to get in. That was the part that, after 20 or 30 years, had finally given way and started to cave in. So then we had to rebuild the studio again. That’s why it took us a little while to get the record done.
What’s it like living above the studio?
It’s great. I’ve got the apartment; I stay there a lot and I can walk downstairs—especially when we were in the thick of it, trying to finish the record. It’s a private studio, so there’s not a lot of people coming in and out. But it is loud as hell when people are in there playing. It’s not too relaxing, but that’s not too often, so it’s pretty nice.
You’ve traveled around and lived in a lot of different places. What brought you back to Cincinnati?
Well, I came back after travelling a lot, shortly before I left the Soledad Brothers. I went to Detroit because I had stayed there before. I was sort of, I don’t know. I like that town and I like all the towns that I went to and stayed. But you know, I’m from here and I missed it. You know I kind of had shed the attitude that I think a lot of people get being around here, that Cincinnati has something wrong with it. And in order to do something that is important or that you feel is important that you have to leave. I mean, I think it’s good to leave and I think that everyone should travel, but I like Cincinnati and I missed the place and wanted to come back.
Final question: What’s your favorite song on the album?
My favorite song? I don’t know. Each time I listen to it, it changes to a different one. Like one day, I’ll listen to it and I’ll think, ‘Aw that’s the best one on there, and then the next day it’ll change to something else. Then one day, I’ll think ‘Oh God, why did I do that?’ and then I’ll hate the song. But then the next day I’ll love it again. So I guess all of them.