Drunk History: An Interview with creators Derek Waters and Jeremy Konners

dw2What began as a single short film for Derek Waters’ comedy act would eventually grow into an internet sensation picked up by “Funny or Die”. Now, seven years later, Waters and co-creator/director Jeremy Konner are bringing their “Drunk History” to Comedy Central (Tuesdays at 10pm).

Gathering comedic friends and notable fans, Waters and Konner film drunken narrators as they tell enthusiastic historic tales warped by inebriation and then reenacted by A-list celebrities resulting in true hilarity. While it’s hard to imagine that the participants are actually that drunk, Waters assures us that everything, even the vomiting, is the result of unscripted excess.

In their Comedy Central debut, “Drunk History” hosts some return guests, but also add a new echelon of A-listers. Jack Black and Michael Cera are back, and alongside Dave Grohl, Bob Odenkirk, Lisa Bonet, Bill Hader, Kevin Nealon, Aubrey Plaza, Winona Ryder, Fred Willand and Owen and Luke Wilson, the all-star cast takes on stories about Elvis, Nixon, Nader, Lincoln, Mary Dyer and the Kellogg Brothers among others.

I was lucky enough to catch up with comedian Derek Waters and director Jeremy Konners (separately) on the phone to discuss the past, present and future of their hilarious “Drunken History”. Below are the unedited and exclusive interviews that transpired.

Derek WatersPart 1: Drunk History: An interview with Derek Waters

Are you excited for the premiere?

Very excited. Very excited. I finally hear from parents, you know? No, I’m just kidding, I’m very close to my family, I hear from them every day. I hear more for them now.

I saw you talk down at SXSW, but could you reiterate how this thing came to be? Was it really just supposed to be one web episode until Jack Black contacted you?

Yeah, it was 2007 and it’s only intent was to be for a live show I was doing for the Upright Citizen’s Brigade called “LOL”. It was my own show and I was trying to show videos. I figured it was better to make people laugh than to put it online. It was right when the internet was being judged by hits over comedy. I’m still a snob, but I was a bigger one back then and I was hesitant whether people would accept just that. I sent it to Conan and the Daily Show in hopes that it could be a monthly sketch. But nothing really happened until we put it on the internet and it got on the front page of YouTube and then Jack Black who knows Jeremy Konners the director, he saw it and said ‘I always wanted to be Ben Franklin’. And that was that. So basically what you said is true. But those were the specifics. You can’t really turn down Jack Black. Why would you?

How did the show come together after all these years? Did you just keep pitching it around?

Well, it never really… people always said what about a “Drunk History” show, and I said it’s not a show, it’s a five minute idea. I never want it to get old and I know what it is. So I thought, well what is it going to be like? What if it’s me going across America trying to understand our country? But that didn’t feel right, so we just broadened the world so it’s just a history show. We’re trying as hard as we can to tell you about history; it just so happens that it’s slightly altered. But each episode is about a certain town and there’s a thru line between three stories and the idea of broadening the world of history so its not just about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Now there can be stories about Elvis and all kinds of new worlds. And we can do all stories now if we set the bar here.

How many States did you make it through?

Well what do you mean by that?

How many States do you touch on in the show by wanting to do it as a travelogue from city to city?

We did 7 cities, and the season finality is about the Wild West. But there’s Boston, DC, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Nashville, San Francisco. We’re still working. Oh my god, are we still working? Holy Shit, we have got so much to do. But it’s gotten through a lot of different stages. Comedy Central is the best and they had the best response to the pitch. Anytime you have something, especially if it’s your own project with your friends in your backyard and it becomes semi-popular, I don’t know many stories where people have said ‘Oh I got to do what I wanted at that big network’. Comedy Central has allowed us to stick to that tone where it still feels like you’re with your friends in your backyard making little videos… there are just more movie stars.

dw4Yeah, how did you get such big names? Are these people all your friends? How did the A-list cast come to be?

It was craigslist, that’s all it was. It’s tough times out here right now. No, I knew some of them, but we had a casting director and we would dream a little dream and be like ‘Oh man it’d be cool if Jack Black and Dave Grohl would do the Elvis story’ and they would be like ‘ok here you go’. There’s no real way to say how this all happened, because I still don’t know. I mean, we got Luke and Owen Wilson to play the Kellogg Brothers, I’ve often thought I’m in the Make a Wish Foundation and I’m about to get really bad news. It was very surreal. Most of them, if we didn’t know them, we knew they had an interest in Drunk History or wanting to do it. I guess a lot of people know it’s a lot of fun or they have people who work on it and know it’s a lot of fun and really laid back, so everyone wants to be there and it’s a really rare place to be when you’re working.

Who do you play in the upcoming season?

I’m the host and then I play random parts throughout the series in every episode. I pop up in little parts here and there. I will play Davie Crockett in the season finale, which is probably my biggest role. I don’t want to give away the ending and what happens to me. [Laughs].

When it’s being filmed are you guys drinking or are you fictionalizing what it would look like if you were drunk?

When we’re shooting the reenactments? Never. I mean, definitely in the narration, but when we shoot it we , no—I don’t mean, no that wouldn’t be right—I mean, no we don’t because… There’s the drunk part, but then there’s the other part. I always think of it as ‘man we really want to tell this story so here’s the footage we have and here’s the footage we have of this drunk person’. The comedy comes from trying so hard from something that is so ridiculous that people try and take it seriously. There’s a preview we just put online of Winona Ryder getting hung in the 1600’s and a car drives by in the background. Those are my favorite things that happen during the show. The mistakes. The purposeful mistakes.

wrIn Texas you said you were going to get audience members to help out with the story ideas in each destination. Did that still happen? Is that how the story ideas came about or is it all you guys?

The on the road stuff was more about interacting with people about their towns and getting their reactions about the subject. The stages of filming were we had researchers and we would all dig through books and everything we could find and figure out which towns we would go through. Then we would assign our favorite stories to our favorite narrators out here, shoot them and then based off of our favorite stories, we would go on the road. Doesn’t that sound hilarious?

It’s hilarious that you have researchers only to blur the research.

Here, find something really good so someone can forget it. [Laughs] The people that do get assigned the stories DO have interest in it. I wouldn’t let someone do a story that they wouldn’t want to do. It has to be like ‘oh, oh, oh, oh’, or ‘oh my gawd I had no idea about that, I want to learn more’. There has to be a genuine passion about it, where mixed with alcohol is especially funny and hard for them to articulate why they love it so much.

sw6Who are some of your favorite portrayals of characters in the upcoming season?

MMM, so many. Jason Ritter, I call him the master of Drunk History—so good. He plays my favorite character, Stetson Kennedy. It’s in our Atlanta story. In our Atlanta episode we have a story about J. Edgar Hoover vs. Martin Luther King and we have the invention of Coca Cola, America’s favorite soft drink. Then this one, Stetson Kennedy, who in the 1940’s is the man who came closest to taking down the Ku Klux Klan. It’s really, really cool. He joined them in the 40’s and infiltrated them and learned their secrets and tried to learn a way to fuck with them. Back then radio was a big entertainment facility and “Superman” was the biggest show and “Superman” was looking for a new villain, so Stetson called them and said ‘I think I found a new villain for you; I infiltrated the Klan.” They loved it, so each week Stetson Kennedy would meet with the Ku Klux Klan and called the people at the “Superman” show and each week Superman would take down the Klan with the exact actions that were actually happening within the Klan. All these guys got freaked out and dropped out at the end because their own kids who loved Superman were running around the neighborhood dressed as these really stupid villains known as the Klan and making fun of them. That’s a story where I think it’s fun to get people drunk and have funny tales, but I want stories like that that are true where I’m like ‘holy shit, how do I not know that story?’

If you guys are not drinking during the filming, how do you guys get in character?

Getting in character? I don’t know. Hold on, you know the narration part is the drinking part, right? The reenactments are sober. You’re saying because the people are acting drunk? I don’t know how to answer that.

Does Comedy Central impose any limits on what you say or do? Any quality control if you will?

The only quality control is we have a medic with us when we do it. Luckily having a little more money we have a real medic that stays there so every narrator is taken care of. It should be noted, that every narration is done at their homes. They’re always in good hands. Comedy Central was very good at keeping it in the same light. I don’t think anyone will say you guys changed what used to be good about this. There’s more puking, which I love, but it’s remained true to what the original web series was. It looks a little prettier though.

Is all the puking real?

Oh yeah! Do you know that it’s real.

No, not really.

It’s 100% real. The narrators are completely drunk and the reenactors are completely sober. It’s okay, it’s confusing, but that’s how it goes.

So what does the medic do?

She’s just there to make sure everything is okay. She has a breathalizer. Hilarious, right? A breathalizer! But they’re in their home, so they’re okay. It never gets too crazy. And all the narrators are my friends.

dw3What are your favorite drinks?

Um, Zima. 

But that’s hard to find nowadays.

It is. But I’m an oldie. I have to go to the vintage store to find it. Yeah, I’m going with Zima. I don’t have favorites.

Do you have tips for drinking etiquette?

Man, don’t drink. I don’t know. For this show—I would say it helps when you’re passionate and when you hold back bullshit, but as soon as you realize you’re repeating yourself, stop! As soon as someone you’re with says ‘you already told me that’, you go ‘okay I’ve had enough. I think it’s time to stop.’ And whenever you think you’re hilarious, you should probably stop.

Do you have any drunken regrets?

Jesus, Nolan. My God! I don’t think I can… How about drunken achievements? Well this is my only drunken achievement. No I don’t have any drunken regrets.

Well that’s good.

Yeah that’s alright. You should get a quote from my therapist though. Ask him about that.

Is there anyone you tried to get before the show that you were not able to?

Well yeah, I wanted Marilyn Monroe… um, yes, but I don’t wanna say their names because it will make them seem like they didn’t want to do it. A lot of it was scheduling. I mean also, if you’re an established actor and someone says do you want to make $0 for one day’s work for a comedy show called “Drunk History”. If you’ve never heard of it, you think where is the evolution of television going. On paper you’re just picturing a bunch of jocks running around and puking, so I understand if people don’t want to do our show in this first season.

Is there anyone outside of the show that you’d like to share a drink with?

Yeah, Eddie Vedder. Yeah, I drank a little bit of wine with him once, but it was too weird to even… sometimes you love someone…like you love Santa Claus, but you’re kind of scared of him too. But Eddie Vedder.

Well thank you, I really look forward to the shows. Congratulations man.

Thank you Nolan, I really appreciate it.

 

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Drunk History Part 2: An interview with Director Jeremy Konners

So you were co-creators with Derek?

Yeah, we started it together and we turned it into a television show together.

So what is your role as director on a show like this?

The role of the director is a lot of initial research and vetting of stories, and figuring out which stories are great and which stories will make great “drunk histories”. We’ll go to an interview and Derek will interview someone and I’ll sit behind him with the camera making sure everybody stays on point… because drunk people tend to veer off the path a little. So, I’ll make sure everyone is telling a story correctly and that we’re going the right way and when we get back it’s very collaborative. Me and Derek have to figure out how to edit these five hour monsters into an elegant drunk history. All of those aspects are collaborative. We don’t write it, but we write it through editing it. That is something that the narrator is responsible for, as is Derek and the narrator and the editor—to make it coherent with just the right amount of incoherence. And then once we get on set its much more of a director role.

dtDo these stories get warped off the cuff or do you guys know the way you’re going to take them? Or does the drunkenness allow the story to take its course?

We absolutely allow the stories to take their course. We go in with a plan and the plan goes out the window immediately. What’s been funny and interesting in this process is that people who are funny and know the story very well, they are very ready to tell the story. Before the story they do the research– which they should– they brush up and read over their books. We think we know how the story is going to go—but no. We sat down with [the person] who was doing the Scopes Monkey Trial. We sat down and said “tell us about the Scopes Monkey Trial” and he says, “it’s all bullshit. It’s all propaganda.” And we said, “well what’s the story?” and he says, “it’s all propaganda to bring tourists and to sell trinkets.” But it’s the trial of the century and he says, “no it’s all propaganda and it’s a metaphor for McCarthyism.” So we told the story that he told us. Which is more factually correct. Inherit the Wind is not the Scopes Monkey Trial. It’s an inherent retelling of the story with and agenda. And it was not our agenda. We’re very open to how stories are told and who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. I think we’ve done some really cool episodes. We deal with the Haymarket riots in Chicago. We have the story of Ralph Nader’s rise to fame when he took on GM. We have the fact that we have Watergate from someone who knows who Mark Phelps is and we know who Deep Throat is and we do the story on him.

Did you find yourself having to “can” any footage because people were TOO drunk?

There’s a lot of unpredictability. People are drinking excessive amounts. We have never pushed people to drink to their physical limit. That is not our interest. We like people getting drunk and telling stories– they don’t need to get sick and they don’t need to pass out—but, it sometimes happens and we have to roll with the punches. The great thing is when people throw up they feel great. If there’s a moment when people are getting sick we always think well, in five second they’re going to feel a million times better. I like to say that is it very strange that people are getting drunk and sick on television, but if everyone at home who was getting drunk was talking passionately about history, it would be an awesome world. So, I’m alright with this. I don’t think it provokes bad behavior, I think it’s a cautionary tale.

So when this first came together was this something that came together randomly when hanging out and you thought ‘let’s film this’?

Yeah, we were hanging out a lot and we were friends and we were making a lot of shorts together and Derek came to me and said I was talking to my friend Jake Johnson and he was talking about Otis Redding and he was really wasted. And we thought it was really funny and we could get someone wasted and have them tell a story and reenact it. I said “that’s fucking great, let’s do it”. But you know what, it didn’t go so well the first time. It was a mess. He didn’t tell any of his story. It was boring and it didn’t work. Then we went over to our friend Matt Gaglioti’s house. We got there late, so he already had way more than he thought he was going to have. He was getting pretty tipsy and he asked “Can I tell you about Alexander Hamilton”? Then he literally goes on a 4 and a half hour rant on Meritocracy. He would be like “Do you know what Meritocracy is?”. And we are like “yes you’ve told us, please tell us there’s a way to weave this into the story”. And like magic, he told the story about the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr and it was so amazing the way he did it. It was so simple and funny and the way he said Hamilton called his wife and family. Everything he said had us crying laughing. We had to bite our lips because he was so into the zone and his eyes were closed. We were like little kids at the back of the teacher’s classroom and we didn’t want to snap him out of it. He told it so quickly. What happened with the first one, he told us so quickly as opposed to the other ones, which have lasted hours. We knew we were onto something the second we left. I was such a huge History Channel guy. I love that stuff, but I love it and I was so excited to make fun of it, because MAN it takes itself so seriously.

Describe the setting… You go to the narrator’s house? You drink together? Who knows when it’s time?

Well we’ll ask them to have a couple of drinks before we get there. It is a requirement that it is their booze. We’re not feeding them booze. They’re drinking their own drinks. We’ll get there and because of camaraderie we’ll have a drink with them so they feel comfortable. It’s a strange thing to have a film crew staring at you when you’re getting drunk. But yeah, we’ll hang out and eventually start filming. Derek will go around with them and ask them about pictures on their wall and get comfortable with them.

sw5Have you ever been unable to perform the roles of the director because you have had too much to drink?

I have never indulged too much. I waited for the wrap party to indulge too much. And then I caught up. At the wrap party I was a mess. It was embarrassing.

What are some of the more outrageous or interesting cues you give to actors while they’re playing the roles?

They only thing that I’ve had to do is make sure that people tell the historic parts of the story. Like one person told the story and then started talking about his thoughts on circumcision for an hour. Which really happened. At a certain point I’m like “Hey let’s make sure we get the end of that story because we could easily walk away and not get that story.’ I try not to direct them to change how they are acting. You just try to get them to talk about certain things.

Have you ever had to scrap a story because it wasn’t funny or outrageous enough?

There were stories that we filmed before television, yes. We were very lucky because we have been able to incubate this show for 7 years before having a television show, so we know what works and what doesn’t. Someone would say ‘I know everything about Garfield. Let me tell you about Garfield.” And they would start saying all of the facts and about his life and they knew everything and about every war. But at the end of the day it was a list of facts and not a story. After filming a few of those we had to make sure to that the stories are great, but it’s such a weird thing to have your friend go through with that and not have a finished product for them.

So needless to say you probably don’t do this in your drunken spare time any more.

It’s not what we do in our drunk spare time anymore, but it is the same amount of fun. We haven’t lost that. It’s the same show. Comedy Central has been great. It’s still all the things that we love. It could have very easily been one of those things that was once one thing but then got bigger and everything changed. And then everyone would hate it because it was bigger and everything changed. Everybody can hate it, but it’s the same thing that it always was.

wrDo have anything that sticks out when you were filming where you said “this is genious, this is gold”?

Aha. Ha. A highlight… it was pretty crazy working with Alfred Molina. We were in this incredible theater downtown. He was having so much fun. Having Alfred Molina say, “This is so great. This is so much fun. I love this.” It was really a surreal moment and it had taken on a whole new level that I had never ever expected.

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The Band Who Helped Define Punk and Refused to Live Within Its Confines: 40 Years of the Stranglers

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While punk rock veterans and astute audiophiles are no strangers to the Stanglers’ punk pedigree, the band feels as though they’ve never received their due respect in America—to the point they even started ignoring us.

Their new record, “Giants”, was released in the US this May, but has already been out in Europe for a year. And their North American tour, which starts next week, will be their first in 17 years.

If the Sex Pistols gave a snarling face and attitude to the genre while the Clash and Ramones would go on to define its boundaries of sound, the Stranglers’ legacy lies in their longevity and diversity. They preceded the previously mentioned bands, and their music never stopped— it only progressed.

With a career spanning 17 records and closing in on 40 years, perhaps the term “punk” is just too simplistic and vague to describe the band’s vast catalogue. Their sound has always been far more complex and diverse than the three-chord, two-minute anthems of their contemporaries. With classics as disparate as the bass-heavy rumble and crass spoken-word, “Peaches”, to their sinister harpsichord waltz, “Golden Brown”, the Stranglers’ never subscribed to a specific attitude or formulaic sound.

I was lucky enough to catch up with founder/songwriter/bassist JJ Burnel over the phone to preview his recent North American tour. Cynical and smart, his attitude provided the perfect and appropriate repartee for a seminal punk pioneer still hacking away at socio-political boundaries. For the privvy, the punks and the poseurs alike, I give you JJ Burnel.

So the new record comes out next week in America. Is it already out in Europe?

Yes, it’s been out in Europe for a year.

Wow! Why was there a delay for it getting to America?

We didn’t consider releasing it in the States until people asked us if they could release it in the States and North America. We’ve accepted and we’ve accepted to come and play in North America as well. I’m not sure which came first. And for once we’ve accepted.

Why is America still the last frontier for you guys? Why has America been off the grid?

Well we’ve just been doing other things you know. It’s been quite a few years since we’ve toured the States and we’ve been offered a few tours, but we didn’t feel ready for it or didn’t feel like it. And now we do. The band is very strong at the moment and we’ve been breaking records all over the UK and we’ve just been asked to do the BBC London Proms, which I don’t know if you know about…

I was just reading about that actually.

Yes, it’s quite a big deal over here actually. We feel in a good way and accepted to come over to America. It’s not the be-all end-all, you know. Also we’ve never really busted our balls in America. It’s wonderful and we’re very excited to come over to the other side of the pond. 

Do you remember the last time you played America?

I think it was 17 years ago.

Wow, do you remember any specific times from Boston or New York?

No, I remember I have played in America since then. I played with my friend Pat DiNizio, a member of the Smithereens, an American band. And he invited me to do a tour with him. It was a good education for me and I must say I learned a lot from that bloke, but no its exciting and so long ago, it’s almost like I’m a virgin.

[UNINTENTIONAL] Is it harder? Is it a bigger commitment to go on tour you’re your drummer being over 70 and your ages?

Well, you are being very diplomatic, the drummer Jet doesn’t travel with us any more. He plays with us occasionally, when his health can stand up to it. But for instance these past two UK tours, which were quite extensive, he was only able to come in for a few songs. The fans and the band are very happy to see him but he’s not really part of the touring party. To be diplomatic as well, he… well… he lived the rock n roll lifestyle a bit too much. The rest of us, we’re fine.

Did the Stanglers ever officially break up or was there just a periodic break?

We have NEVER ever split up. We have continuously been busy, but we have had 6-12 months sabbatical because we had other things to do. There is life outside of the Stranglers fortunately, and that’s what gives us our freshness and zest to continue. You don’t live in a musical vacuum. I think you’d have nothing to say. Plus, we been learning and absorbing different influences past and present along the way. I’d hate to think we were on an assembly line, you know?

Right. You guys are continually grouped into the category of punk. Where do you think you fit into the punk rock lexicon, and is that too simple of a word to describe the band?

Well, the term is interesting because it has meant more for us over the years. The first time it was used it was a bit of a broad church, I think the first time I heard it used was 1975-76. I’m not sure if that was the reason we were the first band asked to play with Patti Smith in Europe or the first band ever to the play with the Ramones in Europe, but the term quickly got ambushed by fundamentalism, and it started to describe a much narrower field than I was able to accept. Joe Strummer of the Clash used to come see us regularly when he was in a rhythm and blues band and certainly the Pistols were coming to see us before they started their bands. I’m not sure if we really subscribed to their philosophies, but certainly we were slightly ahead of the game, and of that whole generation of bands we were definitely the first. I hate to interject, but we’ve actually outsold the Pistols in the 70’s. But we didn’t do the big American thing. We didn’t want to do 9 months in America. That wasn’t our agenda.

What does “Freedom is Insane” [the title of a track on your new record] mean to you?

“Freedom is Insane” is… have you heard it?

I have, yes.

Generally speaking it’s about the West and how it supposes its vision called democracy, and it imposes it on the whole world, when it actually isn’t appropriate. We’ve taken 2000 years to get to something we call “approaching democracy” and however, people in other countries have no concept of it and it breeds a kind of mischief that we are sort of inheriting now. I mean attacking in Iraq and Afghanistan, did it really make the world a safer place? I don’t think so. We impose this Western vision on the world by force of arms and we harvest the results. I don’t think it’s well thought out. So, freedom is insane. I’ve put myself in the position of an Iraqi veteran who is on a desert island and who does not want to be liberated. We thought they were going in as liberators and they were thought of as conquerors or invaders. There are heavy losses of life as well. I think the invasion of Iraq was more revenge of the Twin Towers more than anything, and of course American public opinion was in favor of it and the Allies were in favor of it, but they didn’t really think it through. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that is how it is. It’s like Robinson Crusoe, but the opposite—he doesn’t want to be liberated.

Would you say this is one of your more political albums?

No, it might be for you, but no. I’m not trying to ram it down people’s throats. The Stranglers have always written about the world that we live in. I think that it’s our right and prerogative. If the world was just a bedroom where I was fucking, or a blingy thingy, it would be appropriate that way. But we have a “world view” like anyone. Even a cab driver has a “world view”, and no one’s “world view” is less valuable than the next man’s. Maybe some are less informed, but we try to stay informed and have an opinion. We try to approach it in terms that people will listen to it. I wouldn’t say we are more political than usual on this one though.

Is it strange being defined by charts and singles? Has it changed in Europe like it’s changed in America– for the worst?

In the past it was, but now the charts mean ‘fuck all’ right now. I don’t know who they serve and they have less value than ever right now. We managed to sell out more than anyone else in the UK last year and this year without getting really any huge chart action or even being played a lot. Maybe there’s some sort of resurgence in underground, or maybe it’s a reflection of the fact that people can find out and access music in different ways now. They’re not spoonfed anymore. So if we don’t get much radio play and people still know about us, it must reflect something else. Also, people don’t necessarily want to be spoonfed. Some people do, but more inquiring minds want to find out from themselves.

How did the US release come to be? Is this a different record label?

I believe it is. And yes, I believe they did. This last album for some strange reason had the best reviews ever in the history of the Stranglers from Day 1. So, I think a few people must have sat up and taken notes outside of the places it was released. We had a very successful European tour and also doing 15 different countries, so someone may have noticed.

What do you feel about the rebirth or re-education of a song based on movies like Snatch? I know much of my generation found out about you through “Golden Brown” when it played such a key part in a movie role. What do you think about the cultural impact of something like that on your past career?

I think in a roundabout way you’ve sort of answered your own question. Don’t you think?

Yeah, but is it something that you’ve noticed too?

Yeah, I mean it’s great from my point of view, but a song, which has been hugely successful all over the world, gets recycled. I mean lots of songs get recycled. If you have a song that’s obscure, it has less of a shelf life. But if a record that’s slightly successful or highly successful then it gets played. I mean the dictatorship of the airwaves and the commercial imperative kind of obscures the fact that there’s a lot of talent out there that doesn’t get played. There are a lot of artists out there struggling to make a living and maybe even to be heard. And it’s not even a reflection on the quality of their output, it’s on the powers that be that dictate what gets played and what gets get exposed. Of course I’m pleased that a song like “Golden Brown” got played in a movie like Snatch. I wasn’t even aware that the movie had been released in America… it’s great.

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What does the cover of the new “Giants” record signify to you?

Well, you have seen the artwork?! Well if I tell you I will have to kill you [laughs]. Is that an option? You don’t really want me to spoonfeed you anything? You wanted a shortcut.

What do you think the Stranglers legacy is and will be?

Well that’s what the French call nominalism…”bellybuttonism”. It’s something that I really don’t spend any time thinking about. But it is perhaps something that journalists and commentators will mire over if we’re lucky and talk about. But we’re still alive and kicking, so the legacy can wait a bit longer.

What do you do when you’re not focused on music and the Stranglers?

I teach in London. I am the chief instructor in the UK of Shotokan Karate. I also love to ride my motorcycle around the UK and Europe, because I can. But the Stranglers are quite busy. Last year we played God knows how many countries– maybe 20 countries. The fact that it’s taken all this time for the US to seduce us back is more a reflection on you guys than with us to be honest.

Did you headline the last time you were in the US?

Yeah, we headlined, but I think it’s a bit pretentious for some of the small places we played. Some are a bit bigger than others, but it’s such a vast country, the U S of A—some places you are virtually unknown and some places you are hailed as a star. Especially when you haven’t really worked it so much, every state is almost like a different country isn’t it.

Thanks I look forward to the show. Thanks for taking the time.

Oh thank you very much. Hey, do you know where we’re playing in Boston? What’s the venue like in Boston? Do you know remember or heard of the Rat? Or is it still going? Because that is very first place we ever played the first time we played America. Look it’s been a pleasure speaking to you.

Well I look forward to seeing you.

Well we’ll be there. So if you’re not there I reckon you’ll be somewhere else.