Chris Simpson is the singer-guitarist of Mineral and a solo performer under the name Mountain Time (formerly Zookeeper). After a four-year run and two albums, Mineral broke up in 1997, with Chris moving onto the Gloria Record. In 2014, Mineral reunited for a tour and has since hit the road again, in addition to releasing a retrospective book compiled by writer Mischa Pearlman called One Day When We Are Young: Mineral At 25. It includes a 10” of the group’s first new songs in 20 years.
(Photo Credit: Peter Beste)
I think it took all of that time—20 years, or whatever—to get over the mental hump of performing with Mineral again. For me, I just didn’t think Mineral would ever play again, and I wasn’t interested in the idea of Mineral playing again. I didn’t even really want to talk about Mineral. I was kind of annoyed that nobody wanted to talk about what I was doing now. I think a lot of it was just youth and arrogance, and not wanting to be defined by something that was so short-lived that happened when I was so much younger. I was very obsessed after Mineral—for many, many years after—with being allowed to have a fresh start, being allowed to begin again with something else without it being in the shadow of Mineral.
Probably a couple years before the 2014 reunion, I started to soften to it and accept what a big part of my life Mineral was, and look back at it and accept the special connection Mineral fans had with that music. I don’t think I was actively thinking, We should do something. We should play again. I just softened to the idea of Mineral in general. I was able to look back at it more fondly or nostalgically, and just embrace what it was and that it was such an important part of my life.
Once the band ended, it’s not like we were hanging out all the time and had the opportunities to talk about the breakup. Even though we all live in the same city, we went our own ways in a lot of senses. I think even the guys who were more upset about the band ending—who felt kind of slighted by those of us who instigated the end of the band—probably didn’t want to talk about it, either. It’s natural to go inward with things like that. Although that’s true, it would probably be healthier to talk them out, but we weren’t really in a position to do that. I don’t know if it’s just a certain characteristic of our maleness. It was uncomfortable. It was a conflict when it happened, and I think once we got away from it, everyone kind of processed it on their own.
I thought about that as we were sitting with Mischa [Pearlman] and hanging out with him and doing interviews for the book. I don’t know if he came in with that on his agenda, like, “I’m gonna get them to talk specifically about this.” It didn’t feel that way. It felt like something that just naturally came out pretty immediately. It was our starting point to our conversation, so it was cool that it happened that way. But I remember thinking at the time, “It’s weird that we didn’t talk about this four or five years ago.” It’s just that we were so busy. There was so much work to relearn the material and get ready for that tour. We all have very busy lives, separate lives, and when we come together, we have our work cut out for us. It’s time to work. It’s time to rehearse and learn the songs.
Prior to reconnecting with Mineral, I think that I had a certain amount of a youthful arrogance —”That’s not me, I’m different than that now,” or whatever. But I think an important part of reconnecting with Mineral has been realizing that you never really lose that younger self. You have new experiences and things get added to it, but it’s always a part of you. So for me it’s just been about letting go of my own perception of that self, or my own critique of that younger self, and embracing that it is me, it was a part of my journey.
There’s something to be learned from the way I did things back then too, where sometimes you just have to put it out there. Some nights I can feel my voice going out. It got stronger each show, but it takes a lot to get back in shape to be singing whole sets every night, of this type of singing. It’s fun to just let go of expectations of perfection and just go for it. That’s what I’ve been trying to do. Ultimately, what people respond to about the vocals is that it’s an expression of myself. It’s not so much important that it’s “professional”—it’s that it’s kind of confessional, I’m putting it out there.
Creative work is just so much work. It’s like digging a tunnel or something, and there’s, like, a thousand reasons to give up and just feel like it’s impossible. But it really is just keeping your head down and continuing to grind, and eventually some sort of breakthrough occurs. I feel like that happened for me with the lyrics and vocals for these new songs. A lot of it is just, over and over, working with ideas that I know don’t feel right, just continuing to mold them. There are periods where you have to take breaks and just throw out entire ideas and decide, “This isn’t going anywhere. I need to start fresh.” But for the most part, you just know when you’re in the right neighborhood.
We really enjoy this freedom, and it puts us back in a place that feels true to what Mineral was in the beginning. This is just doing it for the right reasons, because you want to, and because it’s fun, and to express yourself. I mean, maybe there are people who need it to be defined whether or not we’re really a band again or not, but I don’t think there’s any reason to define that.
I think so much of my ability to reconnect with Mineral and reintegrate this younger self is just about being present in the moment and enjoying the moment for what it is, and not so much worrying about planning, or what the future may or may not hold.
As told to Kyle Ryan
(Photo Credit: left, Peter Beste)