The Man with the Mask: Interview with Attic Ted Founder Grady Roper

todayJuly 20, 2022 98

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Lexi Delarosa

Music Journalist

Local San Marcos band, Attic Ted will be performing from 9 PM to 10 PM this Thursday, July 21st, 2022 at The Porch for KTSW’s monthly Third Thursday event. Prior to their performance, I sat with the creator of the band, Grady Roper, to get more insight into his artistic process and drive. This interview took place on Thursday, July 14, over a Zoom video conference.

Lexi: How are you?

Grady: Yeah, very good. Jumped in the river. Just been relaxing since then.

Lexi: Oh, nice, nice. I have not been able to go to the river this summer, it has been way too busy for me. But anyways, let’s jump into these questions so I don’t waste up too much of your time today.

Grady: Okay, alright.

Lexi: So just to start, your name is Grady?

Grady: Yes.

Lexi: Okay, I’ve tried to do some research, but there’s not a whole lot I can do with local artists and whatnot because I can’t find a whole lot online. So, is it just you in the band or is it you and other people?

Grady: I mean Attic Ted is like my baby. But a lot of people have played with me off and on through the years. Local shows, a guy, Coby Cordosa plays drums and he’s played off and on, for 20 years. So, I mean, I started this project in 2002, so it’s been a long-time and it’s always evolved, but it’s always been me, plus other people, or me by myself.

Lexi: Nice, nice. Alright so, from what I could find online, it says that your sound is considered “weirdo Gothic carnival musical theater.” Is that what you would still continue to describe it as?

Grady: Yeah, sure. Yeah. It’s real theatrical. And all those things. So, yeah, that’s a good description.

Lexi: Right. What are some of your musical inspirations?

Grady: Classic literature, criterion collection movies um…

Lexi: You got any examples?

Grady: Yeah, of books and movies? Like any films by Tarkovsky or David Lynch or Pedro Almodóvar. I don’t know. Just fine art in general, I mean. And musically, a lot of my friends have probably been my biggest inspirations. You know, I’m from Texas, in the 90s, the Butthole Surfers were pretty much like the gods of rock music. And I still kind of think of them as that. It got a lot more electronic, but in the old days, I would say the Butthole Surfers and The Residents are probably two of my biggest musical influences. But yeah, I like people that are doing an original, unique sounding thing.

Lexi: Nice. So, the masks, are those like a separate thing that you do, or did that come specifically with music, or did they kind of just blend together?

Grady: I went to Texas State for visual art for college and stayed here. So, my background is more in visual art and theater than it actually is in music. But now, pretty much, Attic Ted has always used masks; the project started right near Halloween, so it just happened to be that on Halloween time we had masks and played shows. And just, it was more fun with masks. So, I really leaned into that. And now, even on tour, I’m doing mask building workshops. So, I think it’s an important element. I mean, at this point I’m usually using like three masks. Sometimes I’m a woman singing operatically. Sometimes I’m like a cockroach or insect. Sometimes I’m kind of this disgruntled old man. It’s totally integrated at this point. But, I mean, I do other visual art and stuff too. So yeah, it’s all connected.

Lexi: Are there specific masks that you wear dependent on, like, what kind of sound you’re going to create at that time?

Grady: It fluctuates some. I have like three main masks that I use right now. And every ten years or so, I’ll have to make a new one. So, I’m on my third Attic Ted mask at this point. But uh, but yeah, it’s- I can kind of do what I want. We played a show last week and instead of wearing any masks, I built this- this tall, funny dunce hat. And so, I wore this dunce hat instead of the masks. I have it right here.

Lexi: Oh! Let me see.

Grady: So, you know, it’s like I can just kind of do what I want. But I just try to make it fun and interesting.

Lexi: Yeah, that is something I really haven’t seen a lot with the music itself. People either try and stick to one mask or hide their identity, but this is definitely different. And I think it’s really nice and interesting.

Grady: Thanks.

Lexi: Which one of your songs do you consider like the sound of Attic Ted? Like if you could pick one song to be, like, the heart and soul, like I want all of my songs to sound like, you know?

Grady: Well, I mean I try to make a point of having a lot of variety, you know? But a few years ago, we came and played at KTSW, Coby, my drummer, and I. And they asked if they could record it and make a video. And we said sure. And we were performing for the radio, so we actually did come with no masks, because we didn’t realize what they were going to film, but the song that they produced and released is called “So It Goes,” and it’s been one of my favorites for a long time. And we often save it as an encore song. It’s a real carnival-ie and dancy. So it’s a good one for people to dance to and have a good time. And KTSW did a fantastic job of- I mean, they had probably five or six cameras in the studio and the sound is really good. So that’s a super video to check out. And I would say that’s a pretty classic Attic Ted Song.

Lexi: Nice, nice. I know you came out with something around February, but do you have anything in the works that you kind of want out sooner, or do you have anything planning ahead?

Grady: Yeah. I write all my songs at home using a four track, just a simple cassette old style recorder. And just at the end of Spring, we went through and collected a bunch of at-home recordings that were songs that never made it to any albums, and this is spanning like 15 years. And so, we made 13 song selections that are being mixed and mastered right now, and hopefully, by the end of the summer, we’re going to have this released on cassette tape for a tour I’m doing this fall. So that’s kind of exciting. It’s a lot of home recording, so it’s real low-fi. And then there are even a couple of songs that we’ve made real recordings of and put on records. But for this tape, we’re going to release the demo version, like the first time I ever sang it or played it. Which, you know, the first-take demos always have a real special charm to them. That if something changes after you play at 100 times and then decided to go in the real studio and record it. So, yeah, it’s going to be exciting. Doing this release of just some special nuggets, some home recordings. But we have a good number. I have five or six songs that we plan to go into the studio probably next year to make another record, another vinyl press. So doing this home recording release, is kind of like a special treat in between. So yeah. So yeah, that’s coming up and I’m excited for that.

Lexi: Do you have dates set for your tour in the fall?

Grady: I’m still kind of working on the tour, but I’m going to start in Berlin on September 24th or 25th and I’m playing some shows in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Switzerland For the last 10 or 11 years, I’ve gone to Europe for a tour once or twice a year. So yeah, let’s find the next big adventure! Well, we’re going to play in San Marcos at The Porch for the KTSW event next Thursday. So, a week from today, that’s my next local show.

Lexi: So, what is the end goal? For you as a musician, is it just playing to make you happy? Is it a certain number of Spotify listeners, like, what is the ultimate goal for you?

Grady: Um. I mean. I think what I’m doing, it’s just right. And you know, to be able to travel Europe and it pay for itself by being a musician, by having the chance to interact with a lot of other, really special artists all over the world. To be able to make friends with special people, cool artists making, fantastic art. Attic Ted gives me a vehicle to really explore all the things that I love in life, art, music, and traveling and you know, so yeah. Well, I think it’s cool to play some big festivals. You know, we’ve played some small festivals and that’s fun, but really playing the small parties and shows is way more fun. So yeah, my end goal is just to collect all the cool weirdo artists, and musicians, and call them my friends.

Lexi: Nice. Do you ever try and, like, communicate any specific messages through your music? AT: Sure. You know, writing the song is kind of a spiritual process; it’s a good way to explore ideas that you’re having and/or commentary on the world. I always seem to be able to write a lot of good songs when I’m in a bad relationship, you know, or stress and turmoil can feed the artist. Yeah, sometimes when life feels really happy and good, I don’t feel the same motivation to make art. So no, I like being happy. But you know when life is rough I try to use those experiences and make art, music, visual art, any of that. I think it always conveys a message. A lot of times I’ll make a song not knowing what the message is and then afterwards reflect on what lyrics came out and what spirit is shared. And let it kind of tell me something as opposed to me telling it. You know what I mean? Like when you have a dream and then you later interpret what the dream could mean.

Lexi: Nice. Yeah, I didn’t know if you had, like, something specific that you wanted to portray or like, just anything that comes up. So, I’ve always got to ask.

Grady: It depends, it rotates around. My latest song was “Disco Ball in the Sky,” and the last time I was on tour in Germany we played this festival out in the country, and they had this crane set up. With the crane all the way extended, 30-40 feet in the air, and then they just had a disco ball. But it was like outside. And so, this disco ball was 40 feet above a huge campfire that they had, and it seemed kind of surreal to look up at the stars and there be a big disco ball there. So, I was like, “Oh, I need to I need to come home and write a song.” This field ball is in the sky. I like that.

Lexi: I’d be scared that it would just fall.

Grady: No one got hurt that I know of.

Lexi: What’s your thought process before a show?

Grady: Oh man. I don’t know. I’m pretty relaxed these days, so I’ve played so many shows, and I don’t know if I think too much at all. It’s like when you get in the car to drive. I love playing shows and making people dance. Taking a two year or year-and-a-half break, when COVID happened, we came back to play our first show, it’s been over a year, and I was really nervous before the show and was like butterflies in the stomach. I had forgotten what that was like because I don’t really get nervous anymore. I feel pretty confident in what I’m doing and so it’s-

Lexi: Basically, just second nature now.

Grady: Something like that. Yeah, I think so. It’s always interesting, and exciting.

Lexi: What’s your favorite part about playing in shows?

Grady: Well, you know, I mean as an artist, when you’re playing music, you’re sending something out to the audience. And when what you’re sending out, people are connecting with, it creates this energy that they send back to you on stage. And when you feel that it inspires you a little more. And you give a little more in, that inspires them, and then it’s just like an exchange. I think that happens. I would say my favorite thing is after a show when someone comes up and they say something about feeling inspired to go home and make music on their own. I think the best we can do is just to inspire each other and that’s my favorite part.

Lexi: Do you have any weird stories from shows? Basically, something that resonates with you as an artist?

Grady: Something recent happened. At this same show where the disco ball was in the sky, it was in the countryside in Germany, and it was a big festival. So, there were a lot of kids and families there as well as freaks and anarchists. But I played kind of early and so there were a lot of children still there watching and this little kid got up on stage in between the songs. Man, I took a mask off or something and saw him. I was like, “Whoa, what? Can someone translate what he said?” He asks, “What are you doing?” And I thought that was pretty beautiful that some little kid would just get up on stage to look at me and just ask “What the hell are you doing?”

Lexi: How did you respond to him?

Grady: What did I say? I don’t know. Do you remember what I said to that little boy? (Talking to bandmate) Yeah, I don’t know. I think I just laughed about it.

Lexi: I only got one more question just. How did you come up with the name?

Grady: Well, I live in a house that has an attic. And in the old days, that was like the music studio, was up in the attic. Then also I like to play on words, you know the wordplay is addicted or Attic Ted. So, I thought it was really clever when I first started, but now it seems a little cheesy.

Image Credit: Attic Ted

Written by: ktsw899

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