by Joshua (J.Smo) Smotherman June 13, 2022 12:00 pmTagged With: blues rock, Minnesota, progressive rock, Rock, rock n roll, United States
In the early 1970’s three members of the rock band Fingerprints formed Blackberry Way Recording Studios. The record label Blackberry Way Records was formed in 1984.
In the late 1970’s Twin/Tone Records signed three bands to launch the now infamous Mpls record label, Fingerprints, The Suburbs & Curtiss A’s band Spooks.
Blackberry Way recorded most of the early records released by Twin/Tone including Big Hits of Mid-america Vol Three. Considered one of the most important albums of the era it has been on display in The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for over ten years.
In this interview spotlight, I chat with Michael Owens about Fingerprints‘ album Where The Beat Goes On, surviving a pandemic, technology and more.
Full Q&A along with links and music below.
Where are you from and how do You describe your style of music?
My name is Michael Owens and I am from Minneapolis Minnesota. I am a songwriter recording engineer & music producer. My musical style has evolved over the years. My band from the late 1970’s Fingerprints (the main subject of this interview) is best described by Twin/Tone Records founder Peter Jesperson “In the fertile late 70s Minneapolis scene, the highly skilled and intense five-piece band Fingerprints both fit in and stood out. Bridging elements of basic Rock ‘n’ Roll, Blues, Glam and Prog brought a certain familiarity and yet they didn’t sound like anyone else.” As time went on my solo career retains most of the above mentioned elements plus Americana influences and a bit of country.
How did you get here? As in, what inspired or motivated you to take on this journey through music and the music biz?
As a boy growing up in the 1950’s into the early 1960’s I was attracted to everything from Sam Cook, The Beach Boys, Chuck Berry and my personal fave Ricky Nelson. In 1964, when the British wave came along I was head over heels with all of the great bands coming over the airwaves The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Zombies, The Who & most importantly The Beatles. Bob Dylan and The Band were also huge for me and as things progressed from there everything from The Allman Brothers to David Bowie and Roxy Music were huge influences.
How does your latest project compare/contrast with your previous release(s)? Were you setting out to accomplish anything specific, follow a specific theme, or explore different styles of creation?
As the record we are talking about Fingerprints “Where The Beat goes On” is a retrospect from the late 1970’s I’ll have answer this from a bit of a different perspective. As a majority of the tracks on the record had never been previously released my goal was to restore and then finish these recordings that were part of the bands legacy and needed to be heard. The band was one of the first bands signed to Twin/Tone Records and released an EP, a couple of singles and two tracks on the compilation album “Big Hits Of Mid-America Vol 3” that now resides in the rock N’ roll hall of fame. The band was an important part of the Minneapolis scene that evolved from Jay’s Longhorn bar that was the Minneapolis CBGB’s. We performed with Blondie, Per Ubu, Peter Hammill and Mitch Ryder to name a few. We broke up before the album was mixed. Three members of the band Kevin Glynn, Steve Fjelstad and myself founded Blackberry Way Recording Studios and found ourselves busy recording The Replacements, Soul Asylum, The Trash Men and may other cool bands and the Fingerprints project was never revisited until now. My band The Idle Strand that was formed after Fingerprints I guess would be considered Alternative Rock and my current releases “The Devil’s Doorway and “The Right Kind Of Crazy” are more Classic Rock.
Name the biggest challenge you faced as a creative during these unprecedented? How did you adapt? How have you kept the creative fires burning during all this?
The pandemic was a hard time for everyone but having the studio in my house was a blessing. We recorded The April Fools album “Wonderland” in addition to Restoring and remixing the Fingerprints album so thankfully I had something to keep me occupied through that time period. Both records were then mastered at Abbey Road by Andy Walter.
What was the last song you listened to?
Lutheran Hall by Dan Kelly & The Alpha Males. Aussie Dan Kelly (Paul Kelly’s nephew) is one of the most innovative songwriters of his generation. Highly recommended!
Which do you prefer? Vinyl? 8-tracks? Cassettes? CDs? MP3s? Streaming platforms?
I prefer CD’s and vinyl as they are the highest quality. Streaming platforms are convenient for people but I’m not sure if the general public knows how small the royalties they pay the artists are. Spotify and the like pay a fraction of a penny for several streams and since this has replaced purchasing music for a lot of people I believe it does more harm than good.
Where is the best place to connect with you and follow your journey?
I really appreciate Your time. Anything else before we sign off?
I’ll let Dave Pirner from Soul Asylum have the final word:
“I really loved Fingerprints. They were such an under-appreciated band. They had a rockin’ feel. Their live shows were incredible with the lead singer doing backflips during the show.” -David Pirner/Soul Asylum
The big gigs: 10 concerts to see in the Twin Cities this week By Jon Bream, Chris Riemenschneider and Rob Hubbard Star Tribune
#6 Fingerprints & "Jay's Longhorn": A punky, sax-tinged Minneapolis rock band big on the scene in the late-'70s, Fingerprints is reuniting to celebrate the CD/digital release of their "lost" album, "Where the Beat Goes On," via Blackberry Way Records. The 24-track collection was recorded for Twin/Tone between 1977-1979, but the band broke up before any of it was released. Too bad, because the recordings nicely fall between their would-be labelmates the Replacements' snarling bombast and the Suburbs' stylish groove. Members including Robb Henry, Steve Fjelstad and Mike Owens would move on to other notable ventures. Curtiss A, Robert Wilkerson and Chris Osgood will join their reunion, and a screening of the "Jay's Longhorn" documentary will follow. (7 p.m., Parkway Theater, 4814 Chicago Av. S., Mpls., $20, theparkwaytheater.com)