Robert Fisher of Willard Grant Conspiracy

A publicist friend of mine drew me aside in cyberspace one day and told me about someone that I needed to cover. I think it was his polite way of saying that I might not be acquainted with this person's music, but that I ought to be.

Of course he was right, as he tends to be in these matters. I was aware that there was a legend of sorts attached to the band called Willard Grant Conspiracy, but only that. It centers around Robert Fisher, the only current founding member of a revolving cast of characters spread the four corners of the globe. WGC has had over thirty members, in fact. (Robert says something like, "If anyone says that they play with us, they probably do...") It's set up so that people can contribute when that works in their life, coming in and out as circumstances allow.

The band itself is originally from the Boston area. Fisher spent several decades there, and he and longtime cohort Paul Austin recorded four CDs, three put out by Rykodisc, that have become cult favorites: 3 a.m. at Fortune Otto's (1996), Flying Low (1998), Mojave (1999), and Everything's Fine (2000). The new album, Regard the End, is on the Kimchee label. It's a beautiful folk Gothic kind of work, serious material joyfully rendered. After it was completed, Robert moved back to the home of his youth, the Palmdale/Lancaster area of southern CA, where both Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart grew up. The artist describes it as " agricultural oasis in the middle of the desert--turkey farms coexisting with aerospace, rural and high-tech, people in trailers in the middle of nowhere. There's space here and it allows you to do a lot of things."

Space is abundant, as well, in the songwriting, the arrangements, and the renditions of Regard the End. It is the first WGC record without Paul Austin, though he makes a token appearance. Robert talks with us about the fine studio where the record was done, in Slovenia. (In fact, the excellent German company Glitterhouse released a WGC record called The Green Green Grass of Slovenia.)

Robert is a magnanimous low-key person, at least on the phone, and we found our conversation with him particularly enjoyable, and his story captivating. It's a very interesting construct for a band, an idea initially inspired by Howe Gelb of Giant Sand, whose saga we hope to investigate in the near future. (We're also gathering the discs of Nashville legends Lambchop, to whom Robert also refers.)

As we uncover more great acts under the radar, the many ways to skin the proverbial cat and be some part of the entertainment scene and business are revealed. We hope it inspires you as it does us to keep doing whatever it is you do to express yourself and make a mark, and satisfy your soul. We loved this record Regard the End and it made me think about the songs I was writing and why, like good records always have. It features many good players and the singing of new members like Jess Klein and Kristin Hersh. You really want to pick this disc up, and will be convinced by the clips on the Listen page. We thank Robert Fisher for his time and Cary Baker for turning us on.
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