Milwaukee Talks: Willy Porter

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OMC: What about the challenges and opportunities of having Milwaukee as your home base. Do you see that as a positive more than a negative?

WP: I do. I think Milwaukee is a particularly competitive town in that there aren't a lot of places to perform here. It is expanding as time goes on. It's a hard town to "get over it" musically. There is a great quote and it goes this way "if your band is big in Southeastern Wisconsin there is probably something wrong with you." I think without being too negative towards Milwaukee, it's a great city and I think it beats you into shape. People here are very tough on their bands and they don't give praise very easily.

I found that as I got outside of this town that the music went over better in other communities and things. If I had a tune that people enjoyed here, I was pretty sure that it was going to work elsewhere and in that regard I think that it is a harder city than New York or Los Angeles. It is daunting for other musicians that don't get to go to other towns and have their music resonate there and they get discouraged here.

OMC: Do you listen to commercial radio in Milwaukee?

WP: I really don't. I listen to Lazer (103) somewhat, I think that Marilyn Mee has done some things to help the locals out and that's great. I listen to WMSE and WUWM. I like the college rock 'n' roll lead show on The Weekends on 'KLH (96.5 FM) -- I think that's pretty good. I think there is good radio here, but I also think there is a demographic that really isn't represented in radio programming in Milwaukee.

OMC: Let's talk about what's new in your career. Are you working on a live album?

WP: I am. I have a good deal of stuff already recorded for that and I recently opened a studio in town here called "The Engine Room" -- it is right on Water Street; it is a digital studio. So that's been taking up a good deal of my time. That's starting to bring in a lot of bands that are looking to record and do other things. That's been great and it's really nice to be able to mix the whole thing there and generate my own masters from my own studio, which is a first for me.

OMC: How is the tour for the latest album? How does the schedule look for you?

WP: Pretty good. I tried some new things. I tried to get into some new towns that I haven't played much before. That's brought some mixed results. But with every record you put out ... it's a difficult thing in the music business ... there is that tag line on the securities offering sheet that will say "past performances no indicator of future results." The music business is exactly like that. Even if your last record did very well, there is no guarantee that the audience is going to be as willing to greet you with what you are doing now.

This record is doing quite a bit better than the last one, and I am grateful for that. On a really basic level, I love my job. I am just glad to go out and play music at all and that there are people at every show. So it's going well, to be more direct.

OMC: How did you select Turner Hall to be on the cover?

WP: I have to give props to Deone Jahnke, the photographer on that. She is a great scout for atmosphere and stuff when she is photographing so she found it. I am just really happy that all the photographs are from Milwaukee on this record, it made me feel really good.

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