Walking Papers: Storytelling in Song

Walking Papers is a Seattle supergroup formed by Jeff Angell (vocals, guitar) of The Missionary Position, Barrett Martin (drums, percussion) formerly of the Screaming Trees, former Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan, and Benjamin Anderson (keyboards). Why should you care? Because they are bringing back two of rock ‘n roll’s greatest attributes that have been lost in the recent flood of manufactured music: storytelling and musicianship.

As if that wasn’t enough, their self-titled debut album, produced by Angell and Martin, mixed by Jack Endino, features contributions from Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready. Angell has some pretty cool friends that he’s built relationships with over the years. One of them being former Guns ‘N Roses and current Velvet Revolver bassist Duff McKagen. “I called him up and asked if he wanted to play bass on a track and he did such a great job that I asked for another one,” says Angell. “We’ve been friends for a while and I’ve always wanted to do something with him.”

As for Barrett Martin, Angell says that he was always aware of Martin’s talent. “He’s a powerhouse of a musician and plays better than perfect. He played percussion on The Missionary Position (Angell’s previous band) record and then he asked if I wanted to jam. That is what led to the formation of Walking Papers,” says Angell.

Storytelling in songwriting is sort of a lost art these days. There simply aren’t a lot of artists who are doing it well. I asked Angell how he feels about the situation. “I’m a big fan of, if you can’t find it now go find it somewhere else in time.” Angell continues, “Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Springsteen, and Lucinda Williams; those are the hierarchy of the best storytellers in my opinion. Springsteen’s The River and Nebraska are both really huge influences on me. There’s a song on The River called “Highway Patrolman” that they made an entire movie from.”

Uproar 2013  shot by Jason Miller @Jasonmillerca-6-4

Uproar 2013  shot by Jason Miller @Jasonmillerca-5-4

Uproar 2013  shot by Jason Miller @Jasonmillerca-4-4

Angell reminisced about his first 45 record, “I remember the first time I heard “Heartbreak Hotel.” My mom was dating an Elvis impersonator and he gave us the 45 when we were kids. It was cool because it was ours, I mean we could take it off and put in on when we wanted to. After that it was “Rhinestone Cowboy.” I think both of those are visual songs with stories, but then when I heard Black Sabbath with “Warpigs” and “Sweet Leaf,” that’s when I realized those are the stories for me. That’s one of my earliest influences.”

Walking Papers is a remarkable record from start to finish. It’s a collection of stories from Angell’s past and present which masterfully portray a mid-life crisis, having too many drinks. “I’ve always got my filter open looking for something and then the pieces come together and it becomes a story. There’s lots of protagonists out there, but finding the conclusion to the story is the hard part,” says Angell.

One of the stand-out tracks on the debut is called “Leave Me in the Dark.” I asked Angell about the story behind this gem.“This one is about the connection between me and my girlfriend,” he says. Angell continues, “I feel like I have a darker upbringing than a lot of the folks that I know and she’s one of few people who understands because she has lived through some unspeakable things. It’s our common bond, a connection that either of us was able to find anywhere else. It’s a positive song about how can we turn the rest of the world off and just hold onto each other. It’s my song to her.”

Uproar 2013  shot by Jason Miller @Jasonmillerca-3-4

Uproar 2013  shot by Jason Miller @Jasonmillerca-2-5

Walking Papers is exactly the type of rock ‘n roll that will sound amazing on vinyl and he mentioned that they had just turned in the artwork for the vinyl release a few days ago. Asked if he’s a fan, Angell says, “I’m pretty much all vinyl at my house. My kids are growing up listening to records and reading the lyrics and I’m proud to say that’s the way we do it. Sure with digital you can cart it around, but I really enjoy the ritual of putting the record on and flipping it.”

Check out more photos of Walking Papers from the Uproar Festival here.

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