Q&A: Student DJ, musician Clay Finch


The Orion caught up with Clay Finch, senior music industry major and guitarist of folk-rock band Dakota Cree, about his band, inspirations and musical philosophy before his KCSC Radio local music show “Chico Homegrown” 7 p.m. Wednesday.

The Orion: Where are you from?

Finch: Glendale, specifically. It’s just north of Echo Park, in North Los Angeles County.

The Orion: How long have you been involved with music?

Finch: Fourth grade. I had started playing piano, but music has always been around my life.

The Orion: What else can you play besides piano?

Finch: I play guitar mostly, but I plunk around on the piano and the banjo. I’ve been playing the lap steel guitar lately. I’ll be playing some of that with the band I’ve been playing with called Dakota Cree. We got a show upcoming next Tuesday (Oct. 28). It’s going to be at the Night of the Rocking Dead.

The Orion: How’d you first get involved with Dakota Cree?

Finch: Well Seamus (Turner, a Chico State music industry student) got me into it. He was one of the first people I met when I first came into Chico. We had a similar interest in music and we would jam a lot. I lived with him during my sophomore year and now this year. We have always been playing and jamming with a bunch of different groups of people. We found Nate (Ward, a Chico State recording arts and music industry student), our drummer, who became a roommate, and just kept jamming. We finally have a solid set-up now with this girl, Emma Blankenship, who plays bass. She is a badass who used to play stand-up bass with (The Railflowers).

The Orion: Who are your biggest musical influences?

Finch: Bob Dylan of course, and all the old blues dudes. All of the old bluegrass guys like Earl Scruggs. I like Neil Young, The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. Y’know, I like everything, man. Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, surf music. All of it.

The Orion: Would you say that you have an interesting philosophy on music?

Finch: Maybe a bit more unique one than the majority, or a lot of the musical world. I’m pretty over the heavily digitized sound. Just like everything coming heavy to the floor with that 808’s drum sound. And I’m tired of people thinking they have to have a perfect sound using Auto-Tune to perfect their voice. A huge point of music is to be original. I don’t want to bash electronic music, but a lot of it just isn’t as moving to me, when you can hear some more human elements in other stuff.

The Orion: What’s one of the most interesting things you have experienced while performing?

Finch: The experience of writing a song and bringing it to a couple of your friends and having them put on vocal harmonies, bass lines and filling out is cool. Almost like starting with a skeleton and just filling it up. Sometimes it doesn’t come out, but when it does, it’s very rewarding. Playing live and doing improv stuff and having it work out really well is really cool. There is not one specific moment, nothing like seeing the Virgin Mary, but when you can feed off the audience’s energy and you can tell they’re feeling it and the band is jamming, it gets the adrenaline pumping. It’s like reaching a state of higher consciousness.

The Orion: You play local music as DJ The Bird every Wednesday night on KCSC Radio. How’s that going?

Finch: It’s going good. It’s fun. I’ve had a couple different interviews with artists who come in and play an acoustic set and just talk about local burritos. They’ll play some music, talk about their music, influences and we’ll just chat throughout the hour.

The Orion: Do you have anything in the works musically that you’re excited about?

Finch: Just the arrangement of this new set up that we have with (Dakota Cree). We have gotten a lot more ambitious and we are trying to be a harder-working band. I’d like to leave Chico thinking that I played an important role in the music scene.

Michael Quiring can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.