Human Drama have today released their latest album titled ‘Ten Small Fractures’. Being yet another turn of originality and creativity from true legends of modern music, we get an exclusive interview with Johnny Indovina and Mark Balderas of Human Drama.
‘Ten Small Fractures’ (playlist below) is more than a revisiting of past Human Drama songs. Call it a reinterpretation maybe? Possibly. I call it a re-envisioning. What else could you call each of these new tracks? Intimate and personal, in a way not meant just for fans, but for anyone who happens to listen. Honest and weathered, through experience and time.
My biggest impression has to come from how these songs not only endure, but introduce themselves all over again with a beautifully stripped instrumentation of each track, while retaining each soulful fingerprint that is the sweet hello from each song.
And in this video interview we get to talk to Johnny and Mark about ‘Ten Small Fractures’ and the process that brought this all to fruition. There is more than a story about ‘Ten Small Fractures’ here. There is a bit of themselves. And that is where the magic starts.
Get your online copy of ‘Ten Small Fractures’ HERE.
Check out our other features with Human Drama HERE.
About ‘Ten Small Fractures’
In 2019 we were invited to do a concert for the National University of Mexico UNAM. The offer was to perform an acoustic concert at Sala Nezahualcóyotl, a very famous theater on the campus of the university. When thinking about how best to do the presentation, myself and Mark Balderas discussed possibly doing a piano and acoustic guitar presentation, which we had done a few times over the years. But during those conversations we felt like we could really expand the idea and make it more special if we incorporated strings and flute, and did strategic new arrangements of all the material. So, we brought in our violinist Gerardo Pozos, and our flautist Claudia Gonzalez, and conferred with them about creating a new, exciting presentation of our songs.
The Sala Neza concert was one of our favorite performances as Human Drama, and with all of the work and preparation rearranging the songs for piano, violin, and flute, the concert felt very different and special. The old songs had a new life, a new “vibe” – a new way to express themselves 30 years later…
Upon returning home, Mark and I had another chat and I mentioned to him that “this should be our next album” – new presentations and arrangements of songs from our past albums. We agreed that Human Drama’s catalog was filled with acoustic guitar, so we should try to avoid that even though most of our songs have been written around the acoustic guitar. We felt this would sound too “normal” and possibly a bit lazy, which we as a band have never been. So we made the decision to limit the instrumentation to vocal, piano, flute, violin, muted bass, and add only a classical nylon string guitar that would play off of the other instruments. We also agreed to no double tracking or layering of tracks, with the goal being that the album should sound like six people playing together in a room, playing off of each other. That was the plan, and we stuck to it. This is as simple and pure of an album as we have ever made.
For me, the highlights of the album are the beautiful piano arrangements by Mark Balderas. This is the foundation of the album. We used as a loose blueprint the orchestration of a Human Drama track from 1995 called “The Waiting Hour (once again)”, a re-make of a song originally released on our first RCA album, FEEL. We had a couple of ideas for song selections from our Sala Neza concert set, but we intentionally stayed away from piano based-tracks from prior albums.
So we went to work choosing the songs and slowly getting the piano arrangements completed and recorded. We took our time choosing ten songs that we felt would translate well into this new musical configuration.
Over the course of a year and a half we recorded ‘Ten Small Fractures’. Mark and I were joined by Lynn Bertles and Gerardo Pozos on violin, Paul Pate and Claudia Gonzalez on flute, Steve Fuxan on muted bass, and Tim Grove, Steve Caton, and Richard Lo Guercio on nylon string guitar.
Regarding the title of the album. This came from many questions by interviewers over the years about the personal issues I discuss in my lyrics, and the honesty of my approach. “Is it difficult to expose yourself as you do? Are the songs painful to relive?” My answer to this in one interview was “No, not at all. I feel the story, write the story, record the story, and then let them go. The songs may be painful in the moment, but they are not like broken bones that stay broken. They are more like small fractures…”
Johnny Indovina, 2023
About Human Drama
Human Drama grew out of the new wave/rock band The Models, which formed in New Orleans in 1980, and included Indovina, guitarist Michael Ciravolo, bassist Steve Fuxan, and drummer Charlie Bouis. The band relocated to Los Angeles in 1985, added keyboardist Mark Balderas, changed their name to Human Drama, and soon became an integral part of the legendary “Scream Scene” – a handful of bands including Jane’s Addiction and Guns ‘n Roses that regularly performed at the infamous downtown Scream club.
Human Drama signed to RCA Records and released their debut EP, Hopes, Prayers, Dreams, Heart, Soul, Mind, Love, Life, Death, followed by Feel in 1989, both produced by Ian Broudie (Echo and the Bunnymen, The Fall, The Lightning Seeds). Feel is an edgy, viscerally emotional collection of alternative rock with strong melodic hooks, deeply introspective lyrics, sweltering guitar and vocals ranging from tortured whispers to throat-shredding howls.
Unfortunately, Feel was a victim of label mishandling and did not approach its commercial potential. Tracks like “Death of An Angel”, “I Could Be a Killer”, and “Heaven on Earth”, could have been major hits on alternative radio, but the album went largely unnoticed. Undeterred by their disappointing experience with a major label, Human Drama chose the independent route for their next album, and despite working with a fraction of the budget, the result was their masterpiece, 1992’s The World Inside.
Human Drama set aside the searing rock of Feel for a more acoustic-based sound made magical by dazzling strings and Indovina’s powerfully resonant voice. Brilliant from start to finish, standouts include the single “Fascination and Fear,” the melodic folk-rock gem “Tears”, and the propulsive rocker “Look into a Stranger’s Eyes”. The album was showered with critical acclaim, and although commercial success remained elusive, Indovina and Human Drama had found their path for success.
The 1993 covers album Pin Ups, an homage to David Bowie’s 1973 classic of the same name, has Indovina taking on songs by Bowie as well as Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, The Rolling Stones, and Tom Waits, and features a breathtaking reimagining of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. A year later the band released the Human Drama EP including the newly arranged version of their epic “The Waiting Hour” utilizing only piano, strings and flute. In 1995 Human Drama unveiled Songs of Betrayal, a 25 track master class in songwriting with tense and raucous electric guitar-driven tracks like “Another Fifty Miles” and “It Is Fear”, and piercingly beautiful ballads like “Blue” and “This Forgotten Love”. The album was reissued four years later as two separate discs with the addition of several bonus tracks.
Human Drama’s blistering 1996 live album Fourteen Thousand Three Hundred Eighty Four Days Later, which refers to the exact number of days Indovina had been alive up until the date of the recording, then captured the full power of the band’s electrifying live performances. Particular highlights are a white-hot rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Who by Fire”, and a fervid take on their own early gem “Wave of Darkness”.
Another studio album followed, 1999’s Solemn Sun Setting, a deep, diverse collection, ranging from the exquisite ballads “Single White Rose” and “Love’s Way”, to the expansive and dramatic “March On”, to the deliciously eerie psychedelia of “My Denial”. Human Drama’s intended farewell album arrived in 2002 with Cause and Effect, where they set the strings aside and came out with guitars blazing on feverish rockers like “Goodbye Sweetheart” and “I Am Not Here”. However, Indovina did not abandon his gift for stunning balladry, and “Lonely”, swirling with sumptuous piano, is one of the finest of his career.
Human Drama then disbanded, and Indovina pursued a side project, Sound of the Blue Heart, with whom he released two albums: Beauty?… and Wind of Change. Indovina finally released his first solo album in 2014, Trials of the Writer, an intimate and deeply personal look at the intense emotional connection between the songwriter and the soul-bearing compositions that document his life with honesty, poignancy, and sometimes heartbreak.
But Human Drama’s fanatical following would not let their band die. Their relentless encouragement brought the band back together for two triumphant performances. The first was in August 2012 at El Plaza Condesa in Mexico City, and then again three years later, when the band marked their 30th anniversary by delivering a marathon performance on Halloween night at the Circo Volador in Mexico City. Forty two songs were played that night, concluding with the first new Human Drama track in 13 years, “The Liar Inside”.
The fans enthusiasm and the successful recording of “The Liar Inside” led Indovina into an intensive period of songwriting, which resulted in Broken Songs for Broken People, their 2017 release which delivers the essence of Human Drama – songs of both delicate beauty and aching pain.
An important moment in Johnny’s career was then captured in the 2020 documentary film Seven Days in Mexico. The film follows Johnny’s journey into rediscovering his musical purpose after years of feeling his creatively slowly drained by the music industry. A special bonus disc containing music from the film will be packaged along with Blurred Images to complete the two CD set.
SOURCE: Official Bio