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World’s Tallest Water Sphere Interviews World’s Tallest Watersphere Band Splooge

Recently the “World’s Tallest Water Sphere” site had a chance to interview the band Splooge and director Peter Ventrella about the movie “One Step Back”, Splooge’s past albums, and new music. We also got the chance to hear their impressions about Union’s wonder of the world, the World’s Tallest Water Sphere.

Splooge movie One Step Back directed by Peter Ventrella
Splooge movie poster for One Step Back directed by Peter Ventrella

WTWS: Why did you name your first album “World’s Tallest Watersphere”? What is your affinity to the water tower? Do you have any personal stories?

Lead Singer Tommy Diaz: I thought it was funny that it was called “the worlds tallest” when it wasn’t really that tall.
Guitarist Mike Novy: The largest one is in Saudi Arabia.
Bassist Jeff Phillips: We were being ironic because we questioned the validity of the sign. It seemed like some local propaganda.
Director Peter Ventrella: That was the album that convinced me to do the documentary, not only because the songs are great but because it captures the heart of New Jersey. The dive bars, working Joes, highways and, of course, the water sphere rising above it all.

WTWS: (Note that the “One Step Back” movie poster shown here has a fanciful position for the WTWS and its billboard, somewhere near Newark airport. Recreating the “Abbey Road” album cover on Interstate 78 is not recommended.)

Tommy Diaz Splooge lead singer
Tommy Diaz Splooge lead singer

WTWS: I listened to your “World’s Tallest Watersphere” and “Chunky Pop with a Fizz” albums. Can you straighten us out on when the albums and the songs first came out? Also can you clue us in to when the latest “From the Shed” album will be available?

Tommy: “Watersphere” came out in 2000 and “Chunky Pop with a Fizz” was released in 2003 during the filming of the documentary. “From the Shed Part 1” will be on iTunes August 1, 2019. “From the Shed Part 2” has already been recorded but we haven’t figured out when to drop it on the world yet!
Mike: Dan Jeram mixed and recorded both albums. Billy Siegel is mixing the new album. He plays with Dramarama as a keyboardist and also plays the keyboards on “From the Shed” and “The Irish Folk Song”.
Pete: Billy can be seen in the opening and closing chapters of the movie.

Mike Novy Splooge guitarist
Mike Novy Splooge guitarist

WTWS: Who writes the songs for Splooge? How much of the songs are done before playing them in the band setting? How much (such as the lyrics and the bass, guitar, and drum lines) are made in a band collaboration?

Mike: It’s a fluid situation.
Tommy: Every song is a collaboration. I write the lyrics after the rest of the band comes up with a riff or the music.
Jeff: We work on it as a band.
Drummer Drew Koski: Every time we play live we refine the songs. They are ever evolving. That’s what keeps it fun.
Tommy: That’s our cover story. Drew really writes all the lyrics and music himself. (Entire band except Drew laughs)
Pete: One of the things I liked about their music especially were Tommy’s lyrics. They are cryptic yet evocative. At one point during the filming, I thought I had deciphered the meaning to the lyrics on the song ‘Wildebeest’. And when I told Tommy, he said I was completely wrong.
Tommy: The great thing about lyrics is they mean something personal to each individual. So, I never talk about what they mean.

Jeff Phillips Splooge bassist and singer
Jeff Phillips Splooge bassist and singer

WTWS: You have a beautiful song “Water”. Was the song the inspiration for the album title or was the water tower an inspiration for the song?

Mike: The tower was not the inspiration for the song.
Jeff: We wrote the music first.
Tommy: I was in the studio listening to the music and saw a bottle of water and used the nonsense lyrics “water, water, water” as a place holder. I ended up liking this. The song took on more meaning as we developed it, but I don’t like talking about what it means to me. It’s more important how people interpret it.

WTWS: Have you visited the World’s Tallest Water Sphere site (http://www.worldstallestwatersphere.com)? If so what was your favorite article or aspect about the site?

Jeff: I thought it was amazing that there was a site devoted to this.
Tommy: Your site inspired us to want to play the album “World’s Tallest Watersphere” at the actual water sphere. Maybe we’ll do that one day when we’re 70 and finally hang it up. Like Splooge’s “Let It Be”. I can see it, people stopping their cars along the highway and crowding under the water sphere.
Mike: We’re not hanging it up until at least 85.
Jeff: Well, maybe 80.
Drew: But if we’re 80, we might not be able to get all our gear up to the top of the water sphere to play there.
Tommy: But seriously, we’re psyched someone else noticed this landmark like we did.

Drew Koski Splooge drummer
Drew Koski Splooge drummer

WTWS: From the movie, I see you have played many venues in New Jersey while holding down full time jobs. Did New Jersey music scene give you all the gigs could handle while juggling jobs and family? Did you have the desire to visit other US music hot spots like Boston, Nashville, Austin, or Los Angeles?

Tommy: I always had a desire to play Austin and Nashville.
Jeff: I’ve been watching Austin City Limits and have always wanted to play on that. Also, I’ve wanted to play Forty Watt club in Athens, Georgia where REM started.
Mike: Besides Madison Square Garden, I’d like to play a more intimate place like Irving Plaza.
Tommy: I’ve been to Austin and would love to play the Scratch House on 3rd Street.
Pete: Can you see a theme here? What venue do you think would be receptive to Splooge in Austin?

WTWS: Austin would love to see Splooge live! Venues like “the Mohawk”, “Stubbs”, or “Cedar Street” would be perfect. If Splooge played any bar during Austin City Limits festival or South By Southwest, the place would be packed.

Peter Ventrella "One Step Back" director with Splooge
Peter Ventrella “One Step Back” director with Splooge

WTWS: There are many poignant scenes in the “One Step Back” movie:
the personal struggles and tragedies, loss of family, and tension between making a living at good paying jobs and breaking it in music are engaging. Do the band members feel the last ten years have been more oriented towards work/family or towards music/band? Will “From the Shed” answer these questions?

Pete: I think the Splooge story is ever unfolding. The documentary is just a look at these two points in their lives. Whenever we get together now, I’m tempted to grab my camera and start filming again. But then I realize the first time took 14 years, and I put my camera away.
Tommy: In the last ten years the band has taken on a new importance for me. Now we’re focused on getting our music out to an audience, especially since the movie is out.
Mike: More questions will be raised than answered in “From the Shed”.
Jeff: “From the Shed” shows we’re still evolving as a band.

WTWS: For me the highlight of the movie is the gig in Lahinch, Ireland. The audience starts off extremely hostile. By the end of the night the crowd, the owner, and the band all appear happy. Have you had other shows where you felt it started poorly and then got back on track?

Tommy: There was the one time at a famous southern Jersey music venue where our original bassist got into a brawl with the sound guy and it erupted into a bar fight. We didn’t get back on track that night.
Pete: I think what was significant about the Lahinch gig in the movie was that Splooge were playing in front of a completely foreign crowd who were already antagonistic toward them because they didn’t show up for the Saturday night gig. To get an audience from what I thought was the point of no return to a room full of ardent fans was something you usually only see in Hollywood movies.
Mike: But we all lived it and so we know it really happened.

WTWS: Peter Ventrella, it seems you had all this Splooge footage, and then you did other work, so the Splooge documentary was put on hold. What effect did the 15 year gap have on the movie?

Pete: The film occupied much of my think time outside of work. I kept strategizing how I was going to cut it if I ever got the time to devote to the edit. Certain scenes like the Lahinch bar scene I would watch over and over late at night thinking, “I’ve got to get this out there somehow”. And finally, I found two great editors: Pam Raymer-Lea and Lauren Saffa who, through their deep understanding of what I was going for in the movie, made it a reality.
My personal take is that the gap between the first phase of filming and the last brought to the movie that sense of gravitas and simultaneous emotion of hope and wistfulness that I feel when the movie is over. So, I guess I can’t imagine what the movie would feel like any other way than with those two sections. You see the arc of several lives over a long period of time and it can’t help but make you think about the choices each of them have made. We wouldn’t have had this if we had stopped filming in 2004

WTWS: Thanks for answering our questions. What’s the best way to find out about upcoming Splooge music and shows?

Splooge: The best way to get the latest info on Splooge concerts and events would be to like their Facebook page @theRealSplooge. You can read about and stream the movie at the site “One Step Back Movie” . The new Splooge album “From the Shed” will be available on iTunes on August 1st, 2019.

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