Michael Been:
heeding The Call
July 1994

Michael Been, the voice and creative force for The Call since its inception in the early 1980s, didn't think his last batch of songs fit the band's normal style.

Been's producers agreed. So did musicians Tom Ferrier and Scott Musick, who with Been make up three-fourths of The Call.

That's why their new album doesn't mention The Call on the cover. Although Ferrier and Musick are still in the band, the album -- On the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough -- is on the racks as Been's first solo debut.

"Music is so categorical," he said during a recent telephone interview from Chicago."You get stuck in a name, and people want you to sound a certain way."

If there's one thing Been dislikes, it's being tied down.

"As a writer, it's an uncomfortable feeling," he said. "It puts restrictions on what you're doing. It doesn't feel free enough."

But Been said he wasn't planning to go solo when he started writing the songs.

"I didn't have that in mind at all," he said. "It was more after the fact."

The Call stopped playing as a group in 1991, Been said, when keyboardist Jim Goodwin left the band. Been, Ferrier and Musick each spent time working on other projects, he said.

The band already had six albums to its credit, including Modern Romans, Into the Woods and Let the Day Begin.

When Been started writing songs for a new album in '93, "they didn't really sound like The Call," he said. "I played them for the record company and they didn't think it sounded like The Call, either. ... I guess that's good and bad."

Although he wasn't shooting for a solo project, he didn't set out to write music specifically for The Call, either.

"For me, it's just a continuous process of writing," he said. "I didn't want to have to sound like The Call. I know what that is and I know what that isn't. ... I wanted to do something different, but it wasn't premeditated."

Without the band's keyboardist, Been said he wanted to place more emphasis on guitar. The result is a sound more raw than what Call fans might be used to.

"It's a bit of a harder sound," Been said.

In addition to vocals, Been provides guitar, bass and keyboards for the album. Ferrier plays guitar and Musick does percussion and drums. Also playing on the album is guitarist Ralph Patlan, who previously worked with Been on the soundtrack for Light Sleeper, and several other musicians who filled in on some of the tracks.

In addition to 12 songs written or co-written by Been, the new album includes a cover of The Yardbirds' hit, "For Your Love." The song "Now That I Know High (Part 2)" features Been's teen-age son, Robert, on bass.

The tour lineup is Been, Ferrier, Musick and Patlan. Shows will include a half-dozen or so Call tunes, Been said, but will focus mostly on his new stuff.

Their first show last weekend in Chicago drew a mix of old Call fans and new fans attracted by the fresh sound, he said.

When the band last passed through Lancaster, Pa., in 1989, Been said it was on the brink of commercial success. Five years later, widespread recognition still eludes them.

Been doesn't seem bothered by it.

"You always hope for that," he said, philosophically. "You always hope for a hit."

So is another album from The Call next, or a second solo effort from Been?

"I don't know," he admitted. "I haven't thought that far ahead. ... If we do it as The Call, I think it would have to be a looser sound."

interview by
Tom Knapp

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