From the Vaults: An interview with Charlie Murphy… RIP Darkness

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Like everyone, I was completely stunned by the untimely death of Charlie Murphy. The man who made his way into our hearts after his roles on the Chappelle Show, Murphy had been doing standup for decades before finally getting the credit he was due, and he still had dates on the books when he passed away yesterday after a bout with leukemia. A Navy veteran and veteran of the comedy circuit, Murphy will forever remain a in our hearts and in the lexicon of great standup comedians. I was lucky enough to talk to Charlie Murphy back in 2009 as he prepared to film a standup special at the Wilbur Theater in Boston. It just seems right that I share it with you now.

The following is the transcript from out interview 8 years ago. Ladies and gentlemen, Darkness.

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Serving in the Navy until 1984, Charlie Murphy returned from the service just around the time his brother Eddie became an international comedic (and action) superstar. Boldly deciding to follow in his brother’s footsteps, Charlie lurked in Eddie’s shadow for more than two decades. Despite several small roles in blockbuster movies, it wasn’t until his recurring skits as the incidental and exaggerating storyteller in “True Hollywood Stories” on the Chappelle Show that Charlie Murphy’s name gained worldwide acclaim and became a household name. Now, five years after his infamous sketches of playing basketball with Prince and receiving the Rick James smackdown, Charlie now hosts a weekly sketch comedy show on Crackle.com and will appear tonight at the Wilbur Theater for a live taping of his upcoming DVD special.

It’s rare for two famous comedians to come from the same family. Was there some part of your family history or upbringing that provided both of you with the tools to become comedians?

No. Not that I can put my finger on. I’ve always been the person I am today. I never had aspirations to do standup. When the opportunity came, it came when I had all of the things necessary to do standup. I’d been writing for over 20 years. I had films, plays, videos and I was writing music. So my writing sensibility was already there. Then I had the experience of being the fly on the wall watching Eddie and Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence develop their routines. So I knew the process.

Did you feel like you had a lot to live up to with Eddie your brother?

Absolutely. When I knew I wanted to do this I knew I couldn’t be mediocre. I knew that I had to maintain a high level of space from the artform in the way he accomplished it.

Did your brother give you any tips when you made your way into comedy?

No, no one gave me tips, except this one: “when you start doing this, you can never stop.”

What are your comedic outlets now that “The Chappelle Show” has come to an end?

Well right now I have a sketch comedy show on Sony’s website Crackle.com [called Charlie Murphy’s Crash Comedy posted every Friday]. I got a movie “The Hustle” coming out in the summer and a book called “The Making of a Standup Guy” which is coming out in August.

How did you get involved with Dave Chappelle?

He called me up. He was a fan of mine from the movies I’d been in and I was a fan of his from the movies he’d been in. He had a show and he had a role for the part of “Tyree” and my name came up.

Do you miss being involved in that show?

I think everyone misses that show being around.

How true are the “True Hollywood Stories” that you became famous for on The Chappelle Show?

It’s every bit as true as every movie you’ve ever seen.

Did you consider yourself a comedian when you were in the Navy?

The Navy is where I became an adult and where I learned to pay attention to detail. The Navy is where I came to realize I was not a stupid person and could do anything I set my mind to. I wasn’t a comedian, but was I a fun dude to hang out with… hell yeah. There’s a distinction. Every crowd has a jester. Every barbershop has a jester. There’s always a classroom clown… blah blah blah. In every situation there’s someone who is the funniest thing going, but that’s not a comedian. You can’t just take those skills and make it as a comedian.

 

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Days of Why and How: An Unedited Interview with The Kills

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When the Kills were first introduced to the world in 2002, they quickly seduced the rock n roll realm with their sexy swagger and an intimate onstage chemistry. What began as a transatlantic, tape-trade collaboration between newfound friends has since grown into world-renowned force to be reckoned with. The thundering pulse of programmed drum machines and an avant approach to electric guitars elevates the sound of a boot-stomping blues and stripped-down garage rock taking it to new creative heights. With five solid records,  (the fifth, “Ashes and Ice” released this past June), Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince continue to evolve, and while their core dynamic remains in tact, some things have changed.

While Mosshart spent her downtime returning to the studio and stage as the lead singer of Dead Weather, Jamie Hince spent his time soul-and-sound-searching on the Trans-Siberian Railroad and on the island of Jamaica while trying to mend the tendons in his hand. When these two separate paths led back into the studio, the duo brought very different batches of songs to the table. I caught up with Jamie Hince the week before the released of the latest record. The following is the unedited interview with exclusive live photos taken at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston. Enjoy.

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Hello is this Nolan. Where are you?

Im in Boston and we are finally haven’t a nice week of weather. Last week seemed a bit wintery.

Really? Oh god, I wish I had this interview the other day before I felt London, because I was trying to work out what to pack. It’s so odd when you’re going away for a month and going all over the place. Do I need a warm jacket? Do I need raincoat? I got this straw colored raincoat and now I wish I had packed it because it rains in Boston.

Where are you right now?

I’m in Atlanta. I woke up really early and went wandering around and I thought, “oh gosh, I really love Atlanta.” It’s great. I really like the vibe and right near my hotel there are three places that I’m really excited about going for food at already.

With the new record, did you come into the studio with songs individually or did you write the songs in the studio?

Yeah, we came together with songs. That’s always, at least since “Midnight Boom” and “Blood Pressures,” it was the same thing where we’ve come together with songs we’ve written separately and we’d get together when we thought there were nearly enough songs for a new record. Normally the way I work is I will come up with a load of things and just discard lots of them and concentrate on the ones I think really work and slowly develop them. When we got together I had about 8, 9, 10 songs and Alison probably had 38 songs. She writes in this beautiful explosion where she just puts herself in front of a mic and writes whatever comes out. Sometimes she goes through a stage where she’ll have 5 Neil Young ballads and then there will be 3 Krautrock songs. So it’s really good to sift through things like that. We sort of met up in LA for the first time and played each other what we had. We never really had a break from each other, but LA was the place where we sort of auditioned our songs in front of our engineer. Alison said “Oh we have lots of songs, let’s go,” and I sort of depressed everybody by saying “I don’t think we’ve got a record yet. I think we need to keep on writing.” So that’s what we did. We kept on working on about 8 of the songs that were going somewhere and then kept on writing.

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Did you find that when you came together you were bringing similar stuff, or was it so different that you had to hone it in?

It was really different. It was to the point that I was frustrated to be honest. I’m always going in search of something and trying to find the things that’s like “oh my god, this is it.” I always think I’m going to be super excited about trying to find a sound, find a blend… finding a secret almost. I’d literally, physically gone in search of it and that’s what going on the Trans-Siberian Railroad was all about, or going to Jamaica. It’s always about physically going in search of it. Also, when I’m physically in the studio, I’m desperately hunting for the things that going to be the theme for me. Much of my rhythms were inspired by dancehall and digital dancehall, dub and R&B sometimes. I wanted to make a record that was really forward thinking and not just a retro bizarre record– and then I met up with Alison and her songs were very traditional—bluesy, Neil Young ballad kind of things and it was frustrating to me because, “You’re not doing what I want.” And then it kind of dawns on me that because it’s my job to make these things work and make both of our things to sit right in one place– it kind of dawns on me that that’s what the Kills really was– my lunacy about trying to reinvent the wheel and trying to take guitar music somewhere else, and it’s Alison’s absolute confidence and how sure she is about whatever snapshot is in her life at the moment. Not having crazy changing influences in the moment like I have, but having influences rooted in the Velvet Underground, Charlie Patton, Captain Beefheart– the things she’s constantly inspired by. And that’s the blend, her consistent inspirations and my ever changing, crazy, whirlwind ones.

How was the Siberian Express? Was it as romantic of an idea as movies suggest? Did you bring anything back from it?

It’s like a working train really. It’s not like the Orient Express. It’s like a pedestrian train and there’s a lot of military on there returning from Moscow to their various Siberian villages. Gentry people going to camps and villages along the way. I would say a tiny percentage of the train were taken up by people like me who were doing this TransSiberian journey. I think there’s another version of it you can do on another train, but it takes about 3 or 4 weeks and you stop at places and you have a guide that takes you places and shows you what to do. That wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted to ride this retreat where I didn’t feel stuck or stagnant and I was constantly moving.

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Did you get anything out of it?

Yeah, I mean I always go by that adage– I think it’s Flaubert… “You have to drink an ocean to piss a cupful.” It’s really true. I think he was talking about writing history, but it’s true with my writing. I don’t just write lyrics to a song. I always just write pages and pages and pages of stream of consciousness and that turns into prose which turns into poetry and then it goes back to stream of consciousness, and at some point I find things that I like and they jump out and I’m inspired to finish a song. And of course “Siberian Nights” was written on that train.

Did you guys do anything differently in the studio?

Our whole approach was completely different. We rented a house in LA, which was different because we used to just hide ourselves away in the middle of nowhere in Benton Park, Michigan. In LA we were excited to make a record in the chaos and noise of LA. I wanted it to be a change as life went on. I wanted to bump into people and have them come over and play… which happened, you know. We had Carla from Autolux play some drums and we had Homer who played on Amy Winehouse records. As opportunities arouse, we made the most of them.

How is your hand doing? Is it fully recovered?

No. I have about ten percent movement in my middle finger on my left hand, so I don’t use it to play guitar. It just hangs out stiff, flicking everyone off while the other three go change the dozen.

Were you or are you nervous that you’d never be able to play guitar again?

Yeah I was. One of the things that came out of it– one of the most impactful things– is I realized I’m really fucking positive. I just thought, “How am I going to make this work?” And part of that was considering I may not be a guitarist anymore. So I immediately started putting a studio together. I bought myself a 1968 Neve mixing desk, which was my dream come true. I knew I wanted to make a record using dub production, so I bought lots of gear like that: reverb units, echo. I just made myself busy by building a studio. I thought maybe I’ll just be a producer.

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So is your studio in London?

Well it’s a mobile studio. My mixing desk is a 10-channel desk that wraps up in a flat case and I have all of my compressors and stuff in another unit. Right now they’re in LA, but I always wanted it to be that if I to decide if I wanted to make a record in Jamaica, I could just fly my studio out there.

Would you say this record has taken on a more introspective feel? It seems to have a more tender feeling and the lyrics a little less wrapped in metaphor, maybe?

Yeah. It’s less cryptic. Being cryptic is easy because you can blend meaningless rock n roll clichés with code that means something and people will actually never know which is which, but they might hopefully confuse clichés for something meaningful. I’m not ripping up what we’ve done apart, I’m just obsessed with the way rock n roll music is gong and where electric guitar music is going. I’ve been obsessed with why it’s so retrospective and why it’s so referential and why its so stuck in the 90’s or the 80’s or the 70’s, but never trying to invent something new for itself like hip-hop and R&B, you know. One of those things was maybe I had too much time on my hands because I only had one hand, but I started thinking about lyrics and I wanted to write a guitar record that spoke to people in a language that I was proud of, that I understood, and that other people would understand– and not dip into the skulls and devils and that kind of shit, which has been a sort of staple industry for rock n roll music in one way or another.

Would you say the general dynamic of the Kills has changed?

Not really. I mean we’ve never really had a mission. I remember saying that in 2002 when we were doing interviews that I don’t think its really smart to make a mission statement or have a plan because when we started a band it was at the beginning of the cyber revolution which changed the fucking world. And it changed it so much that it was apparent even then that to have manifesto you were going to have a cult that was like the dinosaur. You know? It changed so much, capitalism was going to implode on itself back then and a new thing was going to work out. I think we’ve always just changed with what’s going on. People have always told us that we’ve done our own thing. Well, it doesn’t feel like that. It really doesn’t. It’s always when you look back and say, “Fuck, I always think we’re hindering ourselves by doing this and not doing that,” but I guess we’re proud of what we’ve done.

The single is a song called, “Doing it to Death.” You obviously don’t think you’re beating a dead horse when it comes to the band?

No, I don’t think that. It’s not a song about the band; it’s about constant pleasure-seeking. It’s about partying and addiction and having so much fun that it’s boring. You get so high that you’re low. That sort of shit. That’s “doing it to death.”

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The Kills live vs Recording? What do you have the most fun doing?

It’s funny because we always used to say, “We like them both.” One was a good anecdote to the other. These days the studio is my domain and it’s what I’m most excited about and the band’s moving forward in terms of writing new things. That’s what I’m most inspired by—that’s where my heart is… making new things. Also I’m the King in the studio. I’m the king of the Kills. I’m the boss and I like it. When we play live I’m completely usurped and Alison is the King or Queen or boss. That’s her domain. It works really nicely like that I think. I get more out of the studio, and for Alison, her place is the stage.

Do you guys still tour with the drummers in the background?

We have a different setup now. We have one drummer and we have Scott who is playing bass, keyboards, sub-bass and reverbs.

Would you say it’s a more live band set up?

Yeah, I guess. But we’ve always got heavy drum machine and sequencers. I never want it to be live where there’s no sequenced drum track. That’s what I love about it– it doesn’t speed up or slow down.

You guys seem to have an affinity for Boston. Last go around it was one of your only US dates, and this time you’re doing two shows in one week.

We always say that. The last time around we got really superstitious about Boston because the last couple of times it’s been the show that has completely woken us up and turned it up a gear. I don’t know what it is. I have no idea, but this time around, because we sold the first show out, we wanted to do a second night. There were bands playing the next night, but we were so superstitious and concerning that we decided to come back a few days later.

Alex Ebert on his new “PersonA”: An Interview with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

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After witnessing Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Field perform live, you get an almost cultish vibe from the cast of characters… but founder Alex Ebert prefers the word “communal.” Earlier this year, this community of musicians released their fourth studio album– the first without Jade Castrinos, and their first in Ebert’s recently acquired Piety Street studios in New Orleans.

From record-to-record and song-to-song, the Magnetic Zeros’ sound varies immensely. Their recent release, “PersonA” is no different. From sunny 60’s psych-pop to somber, sensitive serenades, their music continues to run the course of emotions.

I caught up with Alex Ebert over the phone just before the album’s release. Below is the unedited interview, portions of which appeared in the Boston Herald. Enjoy.

Where you at right now?

In New Orleans.

That’s where you have your studio, right?

Yes.

Is this the first record at your new studio?

I mean not the first record ever, but the first record we’ve ever made there.

How did you decide on New Orleans?

I just wanted to move here. I didn’t know we were going to record here necessarily. I was having a kid and we wanted to move away from LA and I had wanted to move to New Orleans for a while. So about four years ago we just up and left and moved to New Orleans.

What’s the history of the studio?

Yeah, it’s called Piety. It’s where I am right now and where I live right now. It’s amazing. It was the Post Office for the Bywater Area, then it was the “Center for Retarded Citizens” for a long time. Then in 1994, I think, the Piety Street Studio started. Since then it’s been a mainstay and institution. Every day I am in it I’m just in awe. I was going to buy a house right down the street and found out this was for sale and got this instead. It was half-selfish because it’s a studio and I’m a musician but also because this neighborhood’s experiencing that typical gentrification, you know, and this particular building would be a lynch pin. Like if American Apparel bought it I feel like it would all crumble. That was the other reason. I allowed a lot of the graffiti to stay up and I guess I get in trouble for it. It’s a giant old building.

I’ve been reading that the approach was totally different on this new record.

Yeah, yeah. More or less we really tried to. We had always talked about being a communal entity that shares its money and all that, but I had always put in and written 80 percent or more of most of the albums and carried most of the weight when it came to the recordings and the writing and all that. Yet we had become a band that was capable and ready to take that step and making music all together. So everyone came with that in mind. Writing songs with ten people in the room can be difficult because it’s not like everyone can write all at the same time. Some people have to just sit there for quite awhile. It takes a lot of patience when someone is hacking away at chords incessantly. But that’s what we did and it was really great man. It brought us together and it really felt good. I think some amazing songs came from it. About half of the songs on the album we wrote all together.

So it was more spontaneous instead of everybody bringing something with them?

Yes, the songs that we all wrote together were all spontaneous. No one had brought any ideas in and we would just start playing and I would start arranging—everyone was arranging—but that was my main role. People would start playing something. Then someone else would start playing something and we’d say ‘okay,’ and started working through it. I mean we really have gotten so close together that there was no glass on the floor. There was very little ego in the room and rare that any ego popped up at all. We all sort of knew that the whole premise was the songs themselves and try and chase down little leads. And it was really fun man.

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The record title has an obvious double entendre there. Do you want to talk about that a little?

Yeah sure, I guess its sort of begging to be asked. It’s several things. It’s a transitional period in our band and from ourselves, and the death of one thing being the rebirth of something else. But probably more importantly for me is confronting this notion in an artistic way that a performance is a postured thing and everyday experience is the real thing. I, in fact, think it’s the opposite. Every time you’ve ever seen a show that you subjectively considered a great performance I would bet that that performer was probably relaxed and far more so than they are in real life. Allowing whatever it is to flow through them. When you go to an acting class, the main technique or methodology of method acting is relaxation. I remember the first time my mother took me to an acting class—she was a stage actress—and it was like being in a loony bin. I was 15 and I was totally shocked. Everyone was on the floor grunting and groaning and pretending to be a different animal and that’s all about losing your inhibitions. If you did that in the street, you’d get arrested. There’s a certain irony there that I experience in particular that this guy Alex Ebert is untrustworthy because of this idea that I’m wearing a mask onstage and the messiah thing– this persona. I just wanted to address that regardless of the name and that the band is not called Alex Ebert and the Magnetic Zeros. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros was just a joke name. I didn’t mean anything by it. I in fact tried to change the name early on to something far more memorable and easy to remember, but the rest of the band loved it. It all came from a story I had written and more or less it ended up this presupposition that I was putting on a character when I was on stage. It’s not that that bothers me that the entire thing is postured thing. You can’t trust someone who went from IMA Robot to Edward Sharpe because those are just too different. I’m not Tom Waits and the band isn’t Tom Waits. We’re not a band and I’m not an artist that’s remotely interested in each song sounding the same, let alone an entire career where everything is relatively identical. I appreciate those artists and I love them dearly, but I don’t find it artistically fulfilling, not even on a single album, let alone a career. So yeah there’s all that.

The first time I saw you was at the Newport Folk Festival and there was definitely a cultish vibe about the band. You used the word communal. Then I read about the book and it seemed to add to the mystique.

It’s almost by happenstance, but the book and the cultishness of the band, as much as anything can be, is coincidental. Obviously my mind was on that kind of thing. Growing up in LA, which was an intentionally uncommunal city where they made it a sprawl and you don’t have pockets of community at all. You have to drive to a coffee shop. There are no neighborhoods. I mean there are some. You had Echo Park. You could call Silverlake a community. Venice is a community. But where I grew up in the valley there was very little in the way of that. My mother showed me this thing that I wrote when I was six that said, “Once there was a boy who had a crew” and the second line was “and he also knew Kung Fu”. It’s funny that she showed me that because I guess all I ever wanted was a crew because I didn’t have one. I didn’t have a community. That’s all Edward Sharpe is for me is. I wrote these songs with all of these parts because I had this idea of a crew, like a traveling band of troubadours and friends. That’s all it is. Not a cult, but a crew. I think it goes all the way back to that story I wrote when I was six, maybe even before that.

How does it feel to have a song like “Home” that has such staying power? Did you ever dream something like that would come to be?

I knew as soon Jade and I were making a demo of that– or singing over the demo I should say– I knew there was something. As an artist you look for these holes that you might be able to fill in culture. I instantly felt “wow, there is a giant hole that this is going to fill that hasn’t been filled for a really long time—for deacdes.” The un-ironic, un-darkened, un-tinted love song that isn’t overtly sexual and has a very naturalistic approach to a love song– and a back and forth at that. And that being said, it took years for that song to catch on. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that song on the radio. It wasn’t a radio hit… it was a cultural hit. And in fact, by the time it was a cultural hit big enough we tried to go to radio, but radio wouldn’t play it. Triple A would play it, but the big stations wouldn’t touch it. It didn’t sound like anything else, it had a lo-fi sound, and also back then no one else was doing it. By the time it was to go to radio and we did a campaign with a radio company that wanted to help the album had been out for four years and they were like, “we would but the albums been out for four years.” So it was an ironic thing. It was more than just a cultural hit. I mean I love it. I absolutely love it. I’m absolutely honored by it. Just the other day we were at dinner and someone came up to me and said, “My sister-in-law killed herself and we would sing “Home” together and it was one of the only things we could do where we would feel great.” There’s a lot of stories like that. People got married to that song or had their first dance. To be a part of people’s lives in some sort of integral way like that is pretty magical.

When you play it now, without Jade, what do you do? Obviously the audience wants to here that song.

I just sing it back and fourth with the audience. In fact we do it almost entirely a-cappella. I count on the audience to sing the whole thing and I’ll join in on the chorus. It’s sort of like a sing-along in elementary school. I sing the first line just to remind them and we all sing it together. The reality is, and always has been, that this is a universal song and it’s meant to be shared and it’s about the big YOU. It’s not about her and I. Her and I wrote it as friends. We weren’t together when we wrote that song. And yet we loved each other. To me that song is even more potent and much more pure now that it’s not actually a duet between me and1 person. It’s a duet between me and all of us together as one. It’s pretty special.

On the new record you seem to mention “Home” a lot too. Or am I imagining that.

Home does rhyme with a lot. It was started happening and when it started happening, I just let it happen instead of avoiding it. I don’t have a clear answer for you except I didn’t want to run away from what was coming out of my mouth.

You have been on the road nonstop, not to mention scoring movies? Now that you’ve had a kid, do you think you’ve finally found a place to be?

It’s interesting. In a way, yes. I have to modulate the intensity with which I create so I can spend time with my family and myself and not constantly be on the move. So, in that sense, yes. But I’m just getting my feet wet in that realm. I don’t even think I know what that’s like to let go enough to just be there and not have a creative impulse that distracts me from just hanging out. So I’m working on that. I’m working on trying to suppress that.

Do you sing to your daughter a lot?

Yes, and I love singing to her. And sometimes she’ll tell me to shut up, but whatever. It’s one of my favorite things. I started singing to her early on and there were some times, I wouldn’t say times were rough, but there were some great moments where she needed to be sung to and I’d have her in my songs and just sing to her. It’s nice, just making up songs and singing to her. It’s fun. She calls the band “the guys” and asks “where’s the guys?” It’s really sweet and the band has a bunch of babies in it too, which is great.

Did she participate on the record?

Not directly as I would have liked to. But certainly “Lullaby” is about her and every time I’d sing “Somewhere” she’d come in and start twirling around. We recorded the song for two months and then mixed and then I wrote lyrics for the next nine months with Nico We live in the studio so she was constantly coming in when I was singing that song… constantly coming in to bother me. It was great.

An interview with Eric D. Johnson of Fruit Bats

After 16 years and five records as Fruit Bats, Eric D. Johnson decided to retire the moniker in 2013. Continuing to make music, the multi-instrumentalist, and former member of Califone and the Shins, stayed busy scoring films and released a solo album under his initials EDJ in 2014. But it wasn’t long before Johnson realized how much weight remained in the name of his previous project.

I was lucky enough to chat with Johnson over the phone for the Boston Herald the week before his album Absolute Loser was released. Below is the complete interview for all of the Fruit Bats fans out there. And if you haven’t heard them yet, keep reading, and give them a listen—you’ll love it.

Fruit Bats Press Photo 1 by Annie Beedy

photos by Annie Beedy

I remember when you announced when you were retiring from Fruit Bats. What led to that?

That whole thing was kind of weird. I know a lot of bands breakup and they get back together to headline Bonnaroo or something like that. That’s obviously not the case. Fruit Bats is not like that. It’s not a money grab because Fruit Bats never had any money, so there’s no money to grab. I’m a total hundred-aire. I always said Fruit Bats is a band that came out at a weird and interesting time in that five year period after accessible indie rock, but before the digital age. We were a lucky little band and we got to get signed to Sub Pop out of nowhere really and got kind of lucky with the timing. I think I was living in this bubble at the time and had some tragedy in my life and the Fruit Bats have always been me with a rotating cast and it’s always been me. I knew it wasn’t working for me anymore. I was doing film scores and thought maybe I should just record under my own name, and nothing happened with that. Basically I copped to the fact that that was a completely dumb move. And I was going to experiment by coming back as Fruit Bats and see what happened– and a bunch of stuff happened immediately. It really came down to coming back with my tail between my legs and really just changing two words back to something and being able to resume this modest career that I’ve been building for the past 20 years. I don’t know if that’s the world’s most boring reason or what. I think I came back and this friend of mine said when you say it’s an EDJ show you have to have Fruit Bats in parenthesis just to get five more people to buy tickets. This is the removal of the parenthesis.

I remember seeing you at TT’s in 2002.

I bet we were terrible! That was super early on. That may have been the first Fruit Bats show ever in Boston. Who were we playing with? We played at TTs a million times, but I bet you could Google that.

Speaking of the Fruit Bats being only you and the band constantly changing, did the cast of characters affect the sound from record to record?

Yes and no. Definitely with The Ruminant Band. I had put together a band and it was very much all recorded live and it has a band sound and we toured on it in that way. People really loved that and I was surprised how much people responded to that. I think it’s just being a product of being a child of the 1990’s indie rock stuff. I liked bands like Guided by Voices and Palace, where it’s a dude, but it has a band name. That’s kind of where it all came from for me. When I went back to Tripper I was kind of still using these guys, but returned to that veteran type of recording method. It’s more of a headphone record. I think with this one we did a bit of both. It was very organic, but it was also very digital at the same time. I come from that late-night 4-track realm. I like to be by myself for a lot of it. I like to walk down a path and walk down the wrong way before coming back. I don’t think a lot of people have patience for that. I think weirdly the digital age has been good for people like me because you can make a million mistakes and still come back and honing things.

Tell me about the title of the record what led up to such an eerie sort of title?

It’s sort of a play on words. If you call someone an “absolute loser,” it’s a pretty big insult to somebody, but it’s sort of designed to trick you into hearing that, but really it refers to an absolute loss and someone who feels that absolute loss. That’s the title track and it has some darkness in the lyrics, but it has some positivity too. It’s a lot about this whole fruit Bats thing and this clean slate and blowing something up, being let down to zero, an absolute loss and burning down into nothing and the person who has the absolute loss is an absolute loser. It’s not intended to bait people or a bait and switch where they say “Absolute Loser” is an “Absolute Winner”.

I bet you’ll get a few of those.

I hope so. And not “Absolute Loser is an apt title.” The title of the album was up for debate. I was hesitant to call it that, but I polled people and they thought that should be the title.

Do you think it was a rebirth of sorts?

For me I didn’t realize what a rebirth it would be. When I was doing the solo record I just kind of believed that that would just be a continuum. That EDJ thing didn’t get out there much, but I’m really proud of it. I’ve always been in love with the lost classics and now I’ve made my own lost classic. Hopefully it’ll be classic, but it’s definitely a lost album. So, it feels like a rebirth in a dumb sense. After doing that solo thing, I lost a lot of things. I wasn’t in the game anymore, I wasn’t in a band anymore. It was very much a DIY thing and I’m a DIY type of guy, but there were things I couldn’t do. I was curious if there was even an interest in this, and there was. As soon as I got it going again, I got a new manager and everything starting coming together—again proving that it was just those two stupid words of a name that seemed to make a difference. It is a rebirth and I’m super humbled and feel very lucky.

Would you say this album was cathartic?

I had always written from the heart, but it was impressionistic and universal. I always had that way of projecting lyrics out there. They were about me, but I like telling vague stories a little better. It felt super cathartic and it was fun to get a little anger out and a little sadness and a lot of stuff that I haven’t had before in writing. It was fun. It was me throwing some stuff out there. It’s me comforting myself in a lot of ways.

You have a good way of hiding the sadness through the music and your voice. You can make a sad song sound happy or hopeful.

I’ve been told that many times and I think that’s good. It’s weird because on previous records people would say that I was happy all the time, but not really. But this record is about some really heavy topics and some really heavy shit that happened to me. Hopefully it just doesn’t sound like sunshine and rainbows all the time.

Fruit Bats Press Photo 2 by Annie Beedy

Would you say you made this out to be your most personal Fruit Bats record?

Definitely. No it is. It’s always personal. It’s always coming somewhere from your head, but this was certainly the most confessional. It’s personal and I’m being a little more blunt and candid in the lyrics. I’m not really hiding them behind any sort of abstraction. Sometimes songs mean nothing too, but on this record every song very specifically means something.

When you were scoring films did that influence how you wrote songs after that?

Definietly the EDJ solo record was very cinematic. There were some very score-y pieces in it. At the very least, when you’re a singer/songwriter and your scoring films you very quickly have to learn how to engineer and how to use the studio as a tool. That right there informs my music a little more than just sitting down with a tape recorder and an acoustic guitar. I’m starting with a more expansive palette now in what I’m thinking about and I can sit down and use the studio as a tool. But yes and no. I’ve always thought cinematically in a lot of ways and have always been obsessed with making movies and mini-movies with my songs. So that’s always been there. That’s probably why I got film work in the first place, even though I’m not doing orchestral arrangements or anything. Well, actually I have done a few of those now, but they didn’t come from a classical background or anything. I think the first few filmmakers that hired me heard that in there, even in the earlier stuff. It’s always been in there, but it’s had a bigger effect now.

 

Skateboards and Guitar Chords: Tommy Guerrero Reflects on a life of Skating and Music Making

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Skate legend Tommy Guerrero was one of the biggest names in skateboarding in the 1980’s. As one of the Bones Brigade, Powell Peralta’s famous skate team, Guerrero would go on to head up Real Skateboards and produce instrumental California chill records on his own label, TOO GOOD. Blending rock, soul, jazz and funk, his albums contain some of the best, soothing summertime grooves you’ve ever laid ears on. This past year, Guerrero released his latest work, “Perpetual” which just continues to prove his prowess in the music world. Ladies and Gentlemen, Tommy Guerrero.

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On your website it says Perpetual is a continuation of a Japanese release. Could you talk more about that?

“Perpetuum” ( ficticious word) is an album that i released in Japan
exclusively in 2014. “Perpetual” has a few new tunes and a  different cover design-by Chris
Johanson.

Are there certain moods or thematic threads that tie each of your records
together? What were you thinking about when you went into this record and
what ties it together?
There are no conscious threads but my style is what binds them all.
The intent was to strip the tunes down and create more of an atmosphere
than being concerned with writing “songs.” Though there are some
constructed tunes the album is about the journey and not the destination.

Do you see the album as one complete product, or a series of songs?
As a whole, all the tunes have a similar feeling/sound/energy.

How long were these new songs in the works?
It’s hard to say as I don’t block out a window of time when starting a new
project. I don’t have that luxury. Does it matter? It’s where i’m at now.

Would you say this record sounds a bit more sinister than the others?
Not even. The last one, “No Mans Land” has a dark feel to it.

You are the only musician on the record besides an occasional addition? Do you
always record alone?
Yeah, because I don’t have a band. I’m all I have!!!

If so, how do you know when a song is done? How many layers do you
traditionally put down? Is it harder to record alone and know when a song
is complete?
It’s all about the feeling of the tune. It will tell you what it needs and
when to let go. There are no set rules/approach etc. It’s the same as any art-it’s about
the moment and your mood.

Is this your first album with your own studio? How does having your own
studio change the recording process? Do you have to set personal time constraints so you don’t get in too deep? Do you tend to labor over the final product more than if you were had a set
schedule in someone else’s studio?
I have always recorded in my own space, whether it’s a bedroom or rehearsal
space -it has to be on my own time/terms/wallet. I don’t make demo’s or layout rough idea’s. it’s all in the moment. What you hear is where i was at at the time of the recording.
Now that I have an actual studio i can be loud…! So this changes the way I record as well as the tones of the instruments and setting up mic’s, amps, percussion, drums, etc is a more recent challenge. It can be creatively draining as it takes a good deal of time.

How do you go about starting a new record? Your albums seem very cinematic.
Do you have visualization in your head of what the sound will be?
Man I never know how it all starts. it’s usually a spark of inspiration. It can be a song or the tone of an instrument or just the need to be creative. The cinematic aspect comes from an emotional space, in the moment at that time. The visual  comes after the recording.
How often do you tour? Who do you bring along? Do you/will you ever hit the
east coast?
Very rarely! No band- no label for tour support- no funding etc. It’s all very DIY.
I have to hire friends to play so it all costs me $$$. Lately it’s been Josh Lippi-bass, Chuck Treece-drums… a trio. I usually go to Japan every year as i have a label that supports me there. I bring whatever is necessary for the gig. i try and keep it as minimal as
possible. I travel light.

How did you develop your style? When you started out you were playing more
punk rock, but certainly developed a completely different signature sound
over the years. Who were your influences and inspirations?
It happened over time. There is endless inspiration out there-just be receptive.
Musically, for this album, I’d say these artists are some of what inspired me. I’m still on the same trip now. Gabor Szabo, Mulatu Astake, Marc Ribot, John Zorn, Coltrane

How much do you think your setting influences your sound? In Boston right
now it’s cold as hell and I listen to your records and dream of the Cali
Coast. When I play your music while I’m driving the Cali Coast it seems
perfect. Does it just seem natural to you based on your roots and setting?
I have heard that you are a product of your environment-i tend to agree.
You are influenced by everything around you even if you are unaware.

How long have you had your own label? Is it primarily formed as a way to
release your own records, or do you have any other bands on the roster (I
couldn’t find any info on it)?
It’s just a vehicle for my stuff-for now… ( TOOGOOD )
But i did release my brother’s band( EL DIABLITO’S) album-“COME HELL OR
HIGHWATER” earlier  this year… killer surf rock. I have some plans/possible release’s in the works but it depends on other’s and that’s always a difficult position to be in.

What kind of guitars/gear do you play?
Fender tele’s now-80’s Japanese models. Fender amps. I have way too much gear to list!
I’m going to have a flea market gear sale soon… need to divest.

What do you envision as the ideal setting for listening to this record?
Anywhere and anyone who wants to lend an ear.

As an instrumental artist with a certain playing style, is it harder to
develop new songs whereas rock bands can play the same chords and can just
vary the tempo and change the words?
YES! I am constantly trying to shift my approach as I get tired of myself.
I was over the standard rock chords years ago- I don’t even know how to
play em! It’s to ensure that I don’t write crappy 3 bar chord tunes-the
greats have already shut it down. Many do it well though-it’s just not my
thing.

I feel like I first heard your music from a Thomas Campbell surf movie. Is
it true you don’& surf or even swim?
Can’t swim so i have never surfed-never snowboarded either.

My friend’s first deck was a Tommy Guerrero and he wanted me
to ask you who your favorite skaters of all time are.
Jay Adams-Tony Alva-Duane Peters-Steve Olson-
Christian-Lance-Gonz-Natas-Julien-Curtis Hasiang
Ethan Fowler-Tony Trujillo- Grant Taylor-Raven Tershay-
Dennis Busenitz-so many rippers now.

There’s a picture of you skating on the album jacket. Is that
still very much a part of your life?
I skate when the body permits… a couple times week if it holds up.
Always roll my zinger. I have been at dlx for 25 years so i’m surrounded but skating on the daily.

Are there similarities btw skateboarding and guitar playing? Do you see a
similar way in which you approach both?
They both keep me sane… it’s my way of escaping the world.

Nikki Sudden: Ten Years After His Death… an 8-year old interview emerges

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Nikki Sudden says he was born ten years too late. After his post-punk outfit, Swell Maps called it quits, Nikki worked his way through the underground and watched as much of the world turned their focus to the miserable mainstream of the 1980’s. Through various side-projects, solo endeavors and his work in the Jacobites (a band he co-founded with his brother, the now deceased Epic Soundtracks) Sudden has been making music continuously since he began. Though he’s earned the respect of his heroes and influenced many present day underground success stories, his music still remains under-the-radar to much of the listening world. With a series of reissues released brought on first by Secretly Canadian and Sudden’s a self-proclaimed masterpiece on its way at the time of our interview, we thought all this would change.

Two years later, on March 26, 2006, Nikki Sudden died while writing in his journal. Luckily, Easy Action in the UK has put out a 3-album compilation and some LP rarities, while the Numero Group has recently released Sudden’s Jacobites records and some of his best solo work in a beautifully packaged boxed set.

I caught up with Sudden back in 2004 over the phone as he enjoyed a day off in the UK and readied for one of his last tours to America. I remember watching Scout Niblett play the Middle East that night. Back then she was his labelmate and fellow countrywoman. Mid-set the soundman told the crowd Nikki Sudden had died. It was a sad moment for all of us informed enough to care. Ironically enough, he died of a heart that was too big. Below is the interview from 2004.

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I heard you broke a rib. What’s that all about?

I haven’t broken my rib; I thought I had. I only bruised it. I fell off the top bunk three times in one night on a sleeper car from Moscow to the Ukraine. I kept climbing back up and then I’d fall back down ten minutes later. The guy I shared the compartment with said ‘I think you should sleep in the bottom bunk’. I was drunk, but I wasn’t that drunk. There were two mattresses on top of each other, but there was no friction. They just kept sliding off. Russian sleeping carriages don’t have any safety rails. My bass player says I’m lucky to be alive. I’m always lucky.

I’m writing from the States and for us most of our Nikki Sudden access is through the Secretly Canadian reissues. How did this come to fruition? Were you searching for labels or did they find you?

Chris Swanson, the guy who runs the company kept calling me and I never called him back. One time he rang me and I actually answered it and we got to talking. He seemed like a nice guy and I figured anybody with that much perseverance was worth doing something with. Usually when people write to me I tell them that I don’t need another label. I don’t know why I thought that.

Were you in total control of choosing what records were chosen?

Everything was totally up to me. I compiled all the reissues, remastered the tracks, did the sleevenotes and the layout. The only thing they insisted on was the back cover of the tray, which I think looks pretty bad.

 You’ve been recording for over 20 years, but have only toured the states a couple times. How many times? Why is this?

I’ve been on four or five American tours. Every time I come to the States I play a bunch of shows. I’ve driven across the whole country, which is more than most Americans can say. I first played there in 1985.

Would you say you’re more popular in Europe than in America?

In LA, San Francisco, New York people always come see me, as much as any German city anyway. It’s the small towns you never know what’s going to happen. I’d say America’s my second biggest market. Germany seems to be my biggest which is why I live in Berlin. I’ve got to leave Berlin soon. I’ve been here for six or seven years and that’s too long. The problem is I don’t know where to go. I fell in love with this city in the Ukraine the other day called Ternopil. It’s a beautiful place. It’s like the 1950’s. There are hardly any cars, most of them are totally fucked up wrecks falling to pieces. There are big potholes everywhere, never a traffic jam and you can walk down the middle of the street in the middle of the day. I think this is the kind of place I can live. I was asked yesterday by these Italian publishers if I could write a book. I was like ‘I have nothing to do in June’, so I could go there in June and do it. Then I found out that my new album is being released in June and I won’t have a chance to do it in June. A whole book in one month—10,000 words a day. It shouldn’t be a problem.

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What’s it on?

It’s kind of my journal mixed with my autobiography—a diary with flashbacks to the Jacobites and various friends of mine like Johnny Thunders. That’s what the publisher suggested to me. I don’t think that would be hard to write, but I’ve tried to write a novel– 130,000 words and I haven’t even looked at it in three years. Then there’s this book I’m writing on Ronnie Wood. He knows I’m writing it cause I’ve told him several times, but I haven’t even gotten an interview with him yet.

 Why Ronnie Wood

I was always fascinated by his first solo album and no one had ever written about him. I thought I should do it. Now I wish I hadn’t even started. I’ve got 120,000 words and I still haven’t interviewed Ronnie yet.

Would it be correct in saying you’ve been making music non-stop since you began? Have there been downtimes, hiatuses?

Only when I can’t get gigs. If I’m not playing gigs I’m not making money. I wrote in my diary a couple days ago: all I ever do is make money to pay for a flat I’m never in and pay phone bills for a phone I never use. I think if you’re a musician you should either be playing gigs, writing songs or in the studio. I wish I could play 200-300 gigs a year and spend a couple months in the studio. That’s the ideal life I think. Being on tour is a totally surreal experience. You never have to think about anything. You just have to get on a bus and hope you get something to eat. You do a soundcheck, do a show and talk to some girls. Then what happens, happens; what doesn’t, doesn’t.

How do you account for the fact that after playing music for the past 20+ years you are still somewhat under-the-radar?

Bad luck basically. I’m sure if I’d been born 10 years before we’d be as big as Dylan, the Stones and people like that. But we’re not. That’s the trouble. I can never explain why. I still don’t understand why I’m more popular. It doesn’t make any sense at all. You just see all these useless bands come along like the Strokes. They get so much press and you hear them and they’re so average. And there’s the White Stripes. I’ve heard Led Zeppelin III, I don’t need to hear the White Stripes. Something is going wrong.

 In your mind what is the best record you’ve ever made?

I know musicians always say this, but my favorite album ever is my new one, Treasure Island. I’ve heard it about 500,000 times now and it still sounds great. Everyone’s been telling me this is the best album I’ve ever made.

Will you be performing solo this time?

Yeah, I can’t afford to bring the band over. Basically I want to release this new album in America. When you play solo it’s different thing than with the band because the band doesn’t know all the songs. Solo I can play whatever I want.

Obviously the Stones are one of your favorite bands, do you enjoy what they’re doing now? Is there ever a time when bands need to stop?

I think as long as you’re playing from the heart and soul you can do it until you die. The Stones are still doing it from the heart and soul. There’s no way they’re doing it for the money because they don’t need the money. I don’t think they ever need to stop. The only reason people say that is because they’re jealous of them. I saw them 22 times on their last tour. I think they’re the best band ever and that ever will be. I just wish they’d get some of the background people out there.

 Another of your favorites, the New York Dolls, are reuniting? How do you feel about that?

My take on it is this, if Johnny and Joey will be there, I’ll be there. Chrissy Hines is gonna take Johnny Thunders’ place. She plays nothing like Johnny. It should either be Steve Jones or Kevin Key. Kevin is a total Johnny wannabe and he does it quite well. Steve Jones basically saw all of Johnny’s leaks and he could do it quite well.

Are there any new bands out there that you find intriguing?

That’s the question I always hate because I don’t like any new bands. I like Primal Scream, but they’ve been around for 20 years.

You’ve worked with members of several American bands, some of whose music you do not like (like Sonic Youth). How did you end up working with people from bands you don’t like?

That’s a good question. I like them as people. I get on fine with Thurston, Steve, with Lee and Kim. I think Steve is a really good Epic Soundtracks inspired drummer and I think Steve would agree with that. I didn’t say I didn’t like their music. I just said you can’t blame me for Sonic Youth being influenced by us. I wouldn’t say I dislike them. I just don’t go for what they do, but they do it well.

Anything else?

Just make sure you use a cool photo.

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Like Bubblegum Wrapped Around Razor Blades: Jim Reid Reflects on Psychocandy’s 30th anniversary

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As the Jesus and Mary Chain wraps up a year full of shows celebrating the 30th anniversary of Psychocandy, I bring you an interview with Jim Reid conducted earlier this year.

The record was the band’s debut release– and most continue to say– their definitive recording. Jesus and Mary chain was founded by brothers Jim and William Reid and Psychocandy combined their love for 60’s girl groups, the Velvet Underground and the up-and-coming generation of noise bands to create a unique juxtaposition that would not only define the band’s sound, but become a sonic blueprint for the next several generation of psych bands to come.

When the album was released in 1985, no one had heard anything like it. Like bubblegum wrapped around razor blades, Psychocandy had an inherent pop sentimentality that shined through even the darkest, most turbulent moments. With 14 songs clocking in at just under 39 minutes, the album began with the devastating and now iconic “Just Like Honey,” only to be followed by an onslaught of distortion– heavy at the time, and still seething today. Bouncing back and forth between a reverbed quietude and the angry hiss and haze of lo-fi fuzz pedals, the record sputters, slices and shimmers into a controlled chaos and impending sense of danger with an intriguing nonchalance.

While this bond and band of brothers eventually led to constant feuds and the band’s ultimate demise, the Jesus and Mary Chain are back and touring the world to celebrate their seminal record in its entirety. We were fortunate to catch up with founder and lead singer Jim Reid to talk about the making of Psychocandy and the legendary highs and lows of the Jesus and Mary Chain.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Jim Reid…

Hello, is Jim Reid there?

Yes, speaking.

Where are located nowadays?

I live in the southwest of England in Devon.

Besides your solo project, what have you been up to from the end of the Jesus and Mary Chain until the revision?

What have I done between the end of the Jesus and Mary Chain and the getting back together? I had children. I made two human beings. So that’s something. To be honest with you I didn’t do a whole lot. When the band ended in 1997, I just didn’t want to do anything with music for a while. Then after 2 or 3 years I started another band with some of my friends, but it was more of a drinking club than an actual band. It was three alcoholics in the band and we would go anywhere where people supplied free drinks. That band was called Freeheat. And that was it. It’s funny, I toyed with the idea of getting a solo career off the ground, but I’m just the laziest man on earth. I had one gig every two or three years and expected great things. That’s not really the way it works.

How hard was it to get the band back together? Was it something you even wanted to do or was touring again a necessary evil?

Well in 1997, I couldn’t have even believed that would ever be imaginable. When we walked away in 1997, it was forever. I really, really could not have envisioned a time when the Mary Chain would tread the boats again. You know, time heals as they say. Ten years went by and everybody kept trying to get us back together. It had been going on for several years and I think Coachella was the most persistent. They just kept coming by and making one offer after another. By this time, me and William were talking again. There was a period that lasted a few years where we wouldn’t speak to each other. That time had passed. I wouldn’t say that we were best buddies. When we weren’t talking I thought he wouldn’t want to do it, and he thought I wouldn’t want to do it. And we discovered we were each into it. So we thought, “Christ, let’s do it. It should be a bit of a laugh.” So we got back together.

Did you enjoy touring early in your career? And do you enjoy it more or less nowadays?

Well, it’s different now. I enjoy it in different ways. In the very beginning I was very nervous on stage and lacking in confidence. I never felt good enough. I always felt like someone was going to jump on stage and say, “Look at this. He can’t even sing.” I felt like I was going to be exposed at any second. My way of dealing with that was that I would get very fucked up on stage. It was a bit of a rollercoaster ride back then. But I did enjoy the traveling and seeing various places. Now, I am a bit more comfortable being on the stage, but the traveling around can be a bit tedious. Driving around anywhere when you’re 53 years old can be a drag to say the very least.

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When you went into making Psychocandy, did you know it would be well accepted? You went from not being able to get shows to having a record that people liked? Did you know it would have staying power or that it would even be successful when it came out?

We felt quite quietly confident. We were listening to a lot of bands from the 60’s when we made the record. We kind of hoped that we would have that kind of appeal to generations down the line. We thought it was going to be around for a while, but 30 years? It’s kind of hard to imagine those kinds of things when you’re 23 years old, which I was at the time. It just seemed unthinkable that in 30 years people will still be listening to your record.

When you wrote “Just Like Honey” did you know you had a hit. It seems to stick out from the rest of the record, and it even begins the record. Was it as big then as it’s come to be? It’s become iconic over time.

Well, my brother actually wrote that, but yeah you don’t know anything at the time. I remember recording it and feeling good about it at the time, but you don’t really how it’s going to affect people until it gets out there. Then you can test people’s reactions, you know. It hit pretty quick, that song. This was during a time where there would be riots at Jesus and Mary Chain shows. There would be people knocking seven kinds of shit out of each other and then we’d start playing “Just Like Honey” and people would stop for a couple of minutes and it would be like “ah, isn’t that nice.” And then we’d start playing “The Living End” and it would be back to the baseball bats again.

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So those shows were as violent as the legend tells?

It was getting that way. Not all of them. Towards the end of ‘85, it became the thing to do—go to a Mary Chain show with a metal bat up your sleeve. It was getting silly. We didn’t want that. It’s not something we had planned and we were worried someone was going to get seriously hurt. So we went away for a while and hoped that people would forget about the riot shows. And it worked. We came back in ’86 and it seemed like a different thing.

Is it interesting now to play to more mellow, older, mature audiences 30 years later?

Yeah, but it’s been that way for a while. On non-Psychocandy tours, we’d gotten used to the fact that it wasn’t just a bunch of little lunatics running around. That’s long since gone.

What did you use to create that distorted sound that made this album so different and distinctive? Did you have an arsenal of guitar pedals?

There was one particular fuzz pedal that we had at that time. There was this guy who lived up the road from us and he sold us a fuzz pedal for a fiver and he thought he was ripping us off. It seemed like it was broken and then when we plugged it in it was like 15 jumbo jets. He was kind of running away with his five quid thinking “oh I sold these idiots a broken fuzz pedal.” But we were like, “fucking hell.” You plug this thing in and it would start to play by itself, you know what I mean? So we immediately went out to try and get as many of these pedals as we could. I think it was called Shin-ei. It was some kind of Japanese pedal. We snapped them up and that became the Jesus and Mary Chain sound for years.

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With all the new technology out there, do you play it differently now?

It’s more or less the same. All of the old ones more or less bit the dust. But then we bought some more of those Shin-ei pedals online and we’re using them now.

Did you guys really flip a coin early on to see who would be the singer? Is that a true story?

[Laughs] Yes, that is actually true. I didn’t want to do it and he didn’t want to do it. We are both really quite shy people. People always had these assumptions that we were pretty outgoing and things like that, but we were quite timid and shy. So I didn’t want to do it; he didn’t want to do it. So we flipped a coin and I lost. So I became the singer. Then when I started to get a lot of attention, shall we say, he became very jealous of that and we had another fight over the singing thing again. Of course now he wanted to do it. I was like, “no I’m the singer now so bugger off.” And that was that.

Lots of people say you paved the way for distortion and the waves of bands to follow. Who did you get your initial inspiration from?

The obvious thing to say is the Velvet Underground. We were listening to the Velvets quite a lot at that time. But the big influence on us at the time is we were listing to 60’s garage music. We’ve said it before, but we were listening to Einsturzende Neubauten and the noise bands, but we were also listening to 60’s girl bands like the Shangri-Las. I remember having a conversation with William and saying, “wouldn’t it be great if Neubauten had songs like the Shangri-Las. We thought, “Whoa let’s do it.” And that became the blueprint for the band.

Does it give you a sense or pride to hear that bands are influenced by you? Or do you feel like you have been ripped off?

I haven’t heard anyone that is an out and out pastiche. That would be pointless and I would find that rather irritating. I hear bands sometimes that have picked up some of our influence, but that’s fine. That’s what it’s all about. We got ours from the Velvets and the Stooges. It’s all there for the taking. You have to be careful that it’s not an outright emulation. You have to put your own personality in there as well.

Tell me about what John Peel meant to the band and his role in your initial success.

At the time there was nowhere to go with music. There was nowhere to take it. With the way record labels were, it was hard to get exposure anywhere. Here you have John Peel on national radio that would get a band like the Mary Chain a session. He would bring you in, you’d play four tracks and he would play them for several nights in a row. It was just amazing to us. We had no record deal. We played a string of shows, but basically nobody knew us. And this guy gives you an opportunity like this. John Peel… there was no one like him and there’s been no one like him since. He was incredibly important to the British music scene at that time.

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Do you remember the point where the band went from being a hobby to a career?

It kind of happened over night for us. From the get go, Mary Chain gigs were not the kind of shows you went to and forgot about the next day. There was an extreme reaction. The old love or hate thing. Very few people went, “That was okay.” People either thought we were the best band in the world or they’d be waiting on the side of the stage to beat the living shit out of you. There was no in between it seemed. With that in mind we thought we had kind of hit on something here. I remember there was one gig we played in London. The usual chaos and confusion occurred and we buggered off to do this Creation Records tour of Germany. When we got back, that gig had been reviewed in both the NME and The Sound. The Sound said we were the worst band they’d ever seen…ever. And NME said we were the best band since the Sex Pistols and a mix of the Sex Pistols and Joy Division. That was it. We knew there and then that there would be guys in Armani suits coming with checkbooks. Sure as hell, there were.

When I look at the old interviews you guys did for TV, you had a very disenchanted demeanor. Was that an act? Was it youth?

It wasn’t staged. It had to do with being young and being awkward. It was lacking confidence and trying to look incredibly confident. That’s what it was really. We didn’t know how to present ourselves. We just compensated for that. When I look back at those old videos now, I cringe quite a bit. It’s part of growing up.

Early on, with the volume and noise, did you have a negative reaction from venues? And did that change when you became accepted into the mainstream?

There was no kind of period where we were playing and then we were successful. On the Psychocandy tour, I remember there were a lot of PA companies that wouldn’t rent us any equipment because there had been some incidents.

ww-1When you look back at the songs now? Are you still excited about them? Are there ones you don’t like play? Are you nervous that you will you get tired of playing these songs every night?

It may, and if it does we’ll stop doing it. But I imagine there’s a ways to go before we get to that point. I remember for a while we used to do “April Skies” at every show. We did it because we thought people expected us to. After awhile, I couldn’t stand the fucking song. So one day I said, “Let’s not do ‘April Skies’” and everyone agreed. Now I quite enjoy doing it again. If it gets to that point we’ll move on and do something else instead.

What’s your favorite Jesus and Mary Chain record?

I don’t know. I don’t have one. Although I don’t have a favorite record, I feel like I still want to bring Munki to people’s attention. It’s the one that got overlooked. It came out at a time when the Mary Chain were falling apart. It came out at a time when we were considered to be uncool. We were considered to be yesterday’s news… at least in the UK. But that one got overlooked and I think it’s at least as good as the other records. I would just love it if it picked up some momentum.

Right after Psychocandy and pioneering that distortion, you immediately went with a quieter sound. Did that have any backlash? When you considered following up Psychocandy was that always how you imagined you’d do it?

At the time we just didn’t know what to do. There’s a two year gap between Psychocandy and Darklands and we just thought what next. There was a vibe in Britain at the time where people thought we shouldn’t ruin it and we should split up and just leave it at that. I thought, “Fuck that.” We want to make more records. But we were generally confused as to what direction to go it. We just knew we didn’t want to make Psychocandy 2 if you know what I mean. So we did something totally different, something that absolutely, unmistakably is NOT Psychocandy. So that was that one. Plus people were always talking about the guitar sound and not the songs, so we thought we should push the songs. That was the thinking really. It was also the bold thing to do. The easy thing to do would be to do another Psychocandy. And we did take a lot of flak for that at the time.

How were the songs written? Did you have your songs and he had his? Did you collaborate?

Well we never really wrote together. We would write together on the b-sides at the studio. He had his songs. And he was always more prolific than me. By the time we got to Darklands, he was in the driver’s seat and I was happy about that. For a long time, I thought as long as a good Mary Chain record is coming out, I don’t care who writes them.

You guys released one song called “All Things Must Pass” back in 2008 with the tease of a potential forthcoming Mary Chain record. Is there one in the works?

We are closer now to making a new Mary Chain record than we ever were. When we got back together we just didn’t know where and how to record a new record. At that time my kids were quite young and I didn’t want to disappear for months on end to make a new album. Then there was also how to record it. William wanted to do it in a studio and I thought we should just make it ourselves with ProTools. Now my kids are a little older and its not as nightmarish as it once seemed. It’s looking good.

What do your children think of you music?

They’re still quite young. They are 8 and 12. They’ve gone from being quite embarrassed to—I wouldn’t say proud—but kind of getting that way. They don’t really get it. They came with me to a festival in Spain and they were astounded that anyone would ask for my autograph.