Peter Himmelman—who came to fame as the frontman of '80s new wave group Sussman Lawrence before starting a successful solo career—is back with a new group venture for the first time in more than 25 years.
The simply titled Minnesota brings Himmelman together with screenwriter/filmmaker David Hollander, along with a cast of other musicians, including singers Kristin Mooney and Claire Holley. With Minnesota's debut release "Are You There" due out next month, Patch chatted with the St. Louis Park native about his new band, what influences him, and what's next.
St. Louis Park Patch: What was the inspiration for forming Minnesota?
Peter Himmelman: There was no grand moment of inspiration. The idea just developed over many conversations I'd had with my producing partner David Hollander as to the best way to frame this project.
Patch: I read that you haven't released a "band" album for more than 25 years. Was it challenging at all collaborating with other artists for this release?
Himmelman: No challenge at all. Just a series of interesting pleasures.
Patch: Speaking of other artists, how did you meet David Hollander?
Himmelman: He's a neighbor of mine in California and we've become close friends and collaborators on several different projects.
Patch: How does your St. Louis Park upbringing influence your music? Are there particular tracks on the new album that reflect this influence?
Himmelman: Saint Louis Park always reminds me of train tracks, the shot gun suicide at Oak Hill Park when I was in eighth grade, (and) my friend who did angel dust and wore a chicken's foot as an earring back in 1974. All those elements are in the music somewhere I suppose.
Patch: I heard female vocalists on a number of tracks. Would that be Kristin Mooney and Claire Holley? What do you think they bring to the mix?
Himmelman: Yes, those talented ladies are a big part of why this record is so special. Their voices added a richness and coloration that carried the songs to a newer place than if it were my voice alone.
Patch: What are you trying to convey with the album's title, "Are You There?" Do you feel the album has a singular theme?
Himmelman: There are many themes that occur to me when I listen back to the record. However, they're ephemeral and can't easily be described. A sense of shifting, change, looming. The title suggests a feeling of being swallowed up in anonymity. A fear of becoming lost to others, perhaps even lost to one's own self.
Patch: Do you have a favorite song on the album, or one that you're most proud of perhaps?
Himmelman: From time to time various tracks present their special qualities to me and take the lead for a while. My favorites change. One track that's essential to the record is "Deep Freeze," the opener, in that it sets the tone for rest of the piece.
Patch: What's next for you? More work with Minnesota? More solo work? Something else?
Himmelman: Since this is about the new record, I'll keep my answer focused on that part of the question. Yes, it's very probable that we'd see a new Minnesota record in the future. That of course depends on many factors. The most important being the level of joy and inspiration both David and I feel going forward.
You can listen to three track's from Minnesota's "Are You There" on the band's website. The album is due out Oct. 2.