Bill Callahan

Bill Callahan Biography

Callahan (also known as Smog) started out as a highly experimental artist, using substandard instruments and recording equipment. His early songs often nearly lacked melodic structure and were clumsily played on poorly tuned guitars (possibly influenced by Jandek, whom Callahan admires), resulting in the dissonant sounds on his self-released cassettes and debut album Sewn to the Sky. Much of his early output was instrumental, a stark contrast to the lyrical focus of his later work. He used lo-fi techniques not because of an aesthetic preference but because he didn't have any other possiblitiy to make music. Once he signed a contract with Drag City, he also started to use recording studios and a greater variety of instruments for his records.

And so from 1993 to 2000, Callahan's recordings grew more and more "professional" sounding, with more instruments and a generally higher sound quality. In this period he recorded two albums with the influential producer Jim O'Rourke and Tortoise's John McEntire, and collaborated with Neil Hagerty. After 2000's Dongs of Sevotion, Smog began moving back to a slightly simpler instrumentation and recording style, as on the albums Rain on Lens, Supper, and A River Ain't Too Much to Love.

Smog's songs are often based on simple, repetitive structures, consisting of a simple chord progression repeated for the duration of the entire song. His singing is strikingly characterized by his baritone voice and a style of delivery free of over emoting. Melodically and lyrically he tends to eschew the verse-chorus approach favoured by many contemporary song writers, preferring instead a more free form approach relying less on melodic and lyrical repetition. Themes in Callahan's lyrics include relationships, moving, horses, teenagers, bodies of water, and more recently, politics. Smog's generally dispassionate delivery of lyrics and dark irony often obfuscate complex emotional and lyrical twists and turns. Critics have generally characterized his music as depressing and intensely introverted, with one critic describing it as "a peep-show view into an insular world of alienation." Despite this there is also a broad swathe of joy throughout Callahan's work and more attentive critics have picked up on Callahan's tendency to black humour, a tendency often confused with a depressed mental state or a genuine obsession with the morbid, a confusion no doubt caused by his deadpan vocals.

Smog's Cold Blooded Old Times appears on the High Fidelity soundtrack.

As of 2007 he lives in Austin, TX where he is recording the follow-up to A River Ain't Too Much to Love, currently titled Woke on a Whaleheart scheduled to be released in April 2007.[1] It will be his first record release as Bill Callahan. In 2006, he also began touring under his full name.

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