Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Kinski Interview

with Chris Martin, Matthew Reid Schwartz, Lucy Atkinson & Barrett Wilke
@ Berbati's Pan (Portland, Oregon) September 2002
photo & text: Dan Cohoon
When I am asked to describe Kinski I say they are the west coast Bardo Pond--which, coming from me is a very high compliment. They are not derivative of Bardo, but they share the ability to alter your whole being through music alone. If you ever need your head cleared out, put on “Semaphoreoff their album Airs Above Your Station. After the six minutes pass, you can not help but be in a great mood. That is the song I feel in love with Kinski for much like I fell in love with Bardo Pond the first time I heard “Dragonfly Lying on the Floor”. Live is the best way to experience them. Chris says he tries to craft the sets like a roller coaster ride. It is quite an amazing ride. I sat down with them in the early fall of 2002 at Berbati's Pan. Besides making extremely nice music, they are extremely nice people as well. –Dan Cohoon (September 2002)

Kinski @ Berbati's Pan (Portland, Oregon) September 2002
Photo: Dan Cohoon Posted by Picasa
Dan Cohoon: When did Kinski start & what bands were you in before?
Chris Martin: We started in 1998. I was in a pop band in Seattle called the Deflowers which I don't mention much. I was in some college bands in Bozeman. This is Lucy's first band. Matthew the guitar player was in a couple power-pop type bands in the early 90's--one of them was called Sugarbuzz. Our old drummer was David Weeks and our new drummer is Barrett Wilke. He used to be a drummer for this band called This Busy Monster. We all come from a pop background.

DC: Who is Klaus Kinski?
CM: It was sort of a joke. I was and still am hugely into Krautrock stuff. My friend said we should call ourselves the Klaus Kinski after the actor. It was just a play on that. Someone just making fun of our German rock thing....

DC: Are you guys originally from Seattle?
CM: I am from Denver originally. Matthew is from New York City. Lucy is from Montana. Barrette is the only one originally from Seattle.

DC: How long have you lived in Seattle?
CM: He and I have lived there for twelve years. I got there right before Nirvana got signed and the whole grunge thing happened and I was kind of stuck.

Chris Martin @ Berbati's Pan (Portland, Oregon) September 2002
Photo: Dan Cohoon Posted by Picasa
DC: How did that affect your music or how did that affect you with all that going on around you?
CM: Seattle was a horrible place to be then musically, I think. Matthew might have a different opinion. It was the wrong place, wrong time for power pop stuff. There were other places in the country you could be but Seattle was the wrong place. Now it is sort of the right place for that sort of stuff. For me it was totally the wrong place at the time.
Matthew Reid Schwartz: I would agree to some extent. For me it was an exciting place to see music. Obviously there was a lot of music happening-- while it wasn't what I was into; there were a lot of bands coming through. There was sort of an exciting feeling. I was in a power pop band too, and it was more difficult then, not just because of everything else that was happening.

DC: I have noticed that a lot of the avant rock on the west coast is more jazz-influenced (especially here in Portland, Oregon) while you guys are much more rock-oriented. When I hear you guys I think more east-coast space-rock from, say, Boston or Philly. Who do you identify with sound wise?
CM: Definitely Bardo Pond. The three of us, I don't know about Barrett, are just big fans of what they do. The whole Japanese bent of things, Acid Mothers Temple, Fushitsusha, Mainliner & High Rise. We played with all those bands and toured with some of them. It is a huge influence on me. The space-rock thing there is not a lot of current stuff that we are listening to but all the obvious things like Spacemen 3.
MS-R: It is interesting, I think it is fairly accurate, your question. Thinking about bands like Jackie-o Motherfucker, I am thinking of influences in a more experimental vein whereas Kinski is very space rock. I think we have an element, not to say jazz, but more sort of ambient improv.
CM: When you say jazz I think sort of prog. There are bands that play in Seattle that are sort of out-rock but it’s got a real proggy tinge to it. Not sort of Neu! And Orb mixed with space rock, which is what we identify more with. I think there are definitely more interesting bands here in Portland.

DC: Terrastock was the first time I saw you guys. How did you meet up with those people and what were your impressions of the festival?
Lucy Atkinson: I thought it was great. We saw every band there actually. It was really fun.
CM: We were just kind of fans of the magazine. When are first record that we put out came out we just sent it to Phil (the main guy behind Terrascope). He immediately sent us a letter back saying that he liked it. He is amazing because he seems like such a huge music fan and also pretty accessible and he gets back to people. The festival I thought was amazing. Matthew missed a lot of it because he was sick.
LA: We wish there were more Seattle representatives not playing but in the audience. It was kind of disappointing.
CM: All these people from the east coast....
LA: flew in for it. There were not a lot of local people who knew anything really about it.

DC: I felt like I was at a show in Boston.
CM: We didn't know anyone there. We didn't know a lot of the bands. We knew Bardo Pond and a couple other people. We didn't play till Sunday. So we were not really talking to people too much. It was kind of strange being in Seattle & not knowing anyone there, which was actually kind of cool.
LA: We are going to go again in October to Boston

DC: You use a lot of pedals. Do you find pedals freeing or restrictive?
CM: Except for battery costs (laughs). It opened up a ton of ideas. I used to plug directly into the amp kind of thing. I think unless you are a really great player or super creative it’s hard.
LA: Even Nels Cline who is a really great player has lots of pedals.
CM: Have you seen him play?

Lucy Atkinson @ Berbati's Pan (Portland, Oregon) September 2002
Photo: Dan Cohoon Posted by Picasa
DC: Yeah.
CM: He is so amazing. I am all for pedals. How about you?
MR-S: I am all for pedals. I am less involved with them than Chris. I guess I sometimes see my role… I guess there are two things--the opportunity is there to explore that. I think sometimes I want to step back to add a little bit less effected sound. It is such a learning curve as well because you have so many options. It is easy to get lost in it. I think it is a real challenge to work with it until you find something good.
CM: I think it is the song. I think the goal is to have the casual listener not know anything has changed. People in bands will notice it sonically. Do you play?

DC: Yeah I play prepared guitar. Sometimes when I use pedals I feel like I am cheating.
LA: I don't think so though. It is all about just experimenting with sound. If you are in a power pop band you don't really need all that. If you are in a band that wants to experiment with sound to see what it can do then pedals help to do that, to make it more interesting. You have a wider palette of sound to choose from.
MR-S: Some times I see bands that use pedals to over-saturate a sound. That doesn't particularly appeal to me if it is just a barrage of that process.
CM: Some one like Keiji Haino uses tons of pedals to get the full thing with one big roar which is interesting.
MR-S: I agree, I guess I am talking more about when it is used to an effect that doesn't distinguish itself. It is potentially something that is easy to use that doesn't distinguish your sound; it just creates another sound that is just flat.

DC: I have only seen you guys live. Tell me: how does your sound on records differ from when you play out?
CM With the records we spend a lot of time on making the records in the traditional studio sense. A lot of people told us that Be Gentle with the Warm Turtle did not capture our live sound at all. We see it as two different things. We want to make a really beautiful record.
LA: That you would want to listen to at your house.
CM: That kind of flows. We try and do that with our sets but we want them to be a big powerful rock thing. The new record is kind of a trajectory and is planned out. The recorded and live thing is pretty different. We are trying to get it so both live and the record is the same sort of thing.
DC: When I see you guys live it is very cathartic. I feel really great after your set. Is that intentional? Are you trying to affect the mood of people?
CM: It is intentional in the sense that we structure sets so they are not boring. If there are mellow things it is like a roller coaster. Some shows it feels like we are on a roller coaster with no brakes. It is awesome to hear that from you--that it is a cathartic thing. I don't know how we can plan that exactly.
LA: We could say that we plan it (laughs).
MR-S: It is in a book we once read.

DC: How to rawk out.
MR-S: I would like to think that at are best when we play live--it is cathartic for us as well. We all have the ability to really get into the music, which is hopefully what bands do all the time. Not to say they don't. Like Chris said it is very gratifying to hear that. It can also be really gratifying to be playing that.
CM: When we first started playing (before Matthew joined us) people would give us shit “Oh you don't talk to the audience. You are building this wall between you and the audience.” We don't do the typical, "Hey how is everyone doing tonight? We got t-shirts out there." Nobody gives a shit about that. Everyone’s been to rock shows to know how it all works.

DC: How do you go about constructing a song?
CM Can you take that one? I am going to get another beer.
LA: Me? Well I come up with all the ideas (laughs). We have two different ways we go about it. With some songs they start out as just sort of jamming (making it up as we go along). We tape as we play. We go back & listen to it and hear what we like. It is kind of a group writing process. Most songs, Chris gets some sort of idea and he brings it to us. We all play around with that idea. We tape it & talk about where we want it to go or how it is doing & structure it that way. We tape everything then Chris will take it back again & play around with all the ideas we generated. He then brings it back and we finish it off.

DC: Your songs are very structured but you have improvised parts. How do you go about balancing the two?
CM: I think that there is less improvisation than what it seems; at least that was the case a year ago. Now we are trying to work that in. Tonight there is a section where everyone can do whatever. We have been doing this alter ego thing called Herzog. This is all of us playing improv at separate shows. We are trying to develop that. Right now that is pretty much separate from Kinski. Hopefully that will interweave more. I don't think we have that much improv.
LA: We have a little.
MS-R: In some respects more with Lucy and me. Maybe it is not quite improv, parts where we are making sounds. I think there are a couple of very gratifying moments playing off each other. We know how we are approaching it; we are not necessarily changing technique. Like you said the songs are very structured so there is a set time when this stuff is happening.

Kinski @ Berbati's Pan (Portland, Oregon) September 2002
Photo: Dan Cohoon Posted by Picasa
DC: There are sections of the songs where there is, maybe not random stuff but not really tight stuff either.
CM: You might be talking about the parts that we want to be super tight but are playing really, really poorly (every one laughs).

DC: You were talking about melding the improv with the rock. Is there anything else you are looking to do?
CM: I use a Big Muff distortion pedal and on the last two records it was all over them. I want to get away from that. Maybe have things a little quieter occasionally, not always having to rock.
LA: Except the two new songs there is a lot of rocking.
CM: Yeah… We can never seem to plan it. Barrett has been with us only a month. Things have already changed. The new material is going in a different direction, and I am not even sure what that direction is yet.

DC: (to Barrett) You are the new addition to the band. How are things going?
Barrett Wilke: I started a few months ago. Things are going really good. I was struck by how things seem unplanned but are very planned out and secondly the use of space. It is very different—sometimes the best effect we are using is space--at other times it is a lot of notes clustered together. It is fun to do really heavy stuff and really stretch it out. I like when we talk we don’t say how many phrases or bars but how many minutes it is going to go on for. I like the extended structure that struck me right away.
MS-R: Sometimes we talk about how many cycles of the sun for particularly extended pieces.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Xiu Xiu Interview

Interview with Jamie Stewart, Jherek Bishoff & Sam Mickens
Conducted @ The Blackbird (Portland, Oregon) Fall 2002
Photos & Text by Dan Cohoon

Sometimes sad songs are the only songs that make you feel any better. Sometimes angry songs are the only songs that make you happy. The summer 2002 I listened to Xiu Xiu: Knife Play almost non stop. It is one of those dark summer records that haunt you for years after. I sat down with the fine folks in Xiu Xiu and was pleasantly surprised that they were not all doom and gloom. They were pleasant, even funny. -Dan Cohoon

Cover Art for Chapel of Chimes Posted by Picasa
Dan Cohoon: How long has Xiu Xiu been together?
Jamie Stewart: Xiu Xiu has been a band for two years, of this November and Sam & Jherek have been in the band since the beginning of this last tour for about a month.

DC: You incorporate lots of different genres in your music. Did you set out to do that?
JS: Having disparate elements to exist in the band wasn't totally an intellectual process initially. It is hard to say. There are three kinds of main influences and I would be interested in maintaining those three influences. It wasn't the plan innately. There is defiantly gay house music. Then there is death obsessed 80's British pop and then there is modern classical and experimental electronics and free jazz stuff. Those are the three types of music I listen to most. (pause) I am totally not answering your question. Just make up an answer. You might want to ask Sam & Jherek what their plans are. They are going to be writing stuff also.

Xiu Xiu @ The Blackbird 2002 (Portland, OR)
Photo: Dan Cohoon Posted by Picasa
DC: How is the songwriting divided up? Are you the main songwriter?
JS: That used to be the case. But you might want asks them what their plans are for influences for the future.

DC: What influences do you see the band taking on?
Jherek Bishoff: I am personally really into modern classical, free jazz and experimental things. I like 80's Britpop
but I am not well versed in it. I am interested in what will happen when we start writing songs together. I write stuff that is like lots of chords and lots of melodies and sub-melodies to it. Jamie does too. I was talking today how lots of his stuff is that lots of his chords are real simple and what is going around it is very complex, whereas my stuff is more chord oriented. For me it is going to be interesting to see what is going to happen.
Sam Mickens: I think all those elements should stay in Xiu Xiu. I can imagine there being more organically weird stuff, acoustically weird stuff, as opposed to just computer music. There is lots of that in the recordings but I can see that being taken even further.

DC: As far as playing what is your set up on stage?
JS: Assload of stuff. Anything that is heavy, uncomfortable to carry and inconvenient to tune is what we use. That is sort of the criteria that if it is a pain in the ass to use on stage we are going to use it. Harpsichord, Sousaphone, Pipe Organ, Pump organ...
SM: Stalactite Organ.
JS: We have this wire that is 7,000 miles long that we have nailed to a post here and nailed to a post at our apartment that we also put contact mics on…Bombs sometimes.

DC: For people that write really depressing music. I don't see you guys as that depressed. Is the song writing out of an abstract experience or is it personal?
JS: It is very, very definitely personal. All of the stuff is about real stuff that has happened to people that are close to us or stuff that has happened to us specifically. I am really mostly irritated by and completely uninterested artistically in things that are not totally realistic. I really don't see the point in making something up I… guess. That makes me sound like a total dick. Any music that I have ever listened to that has been really; really important to me is music that defiantly seems to be about somebody's singular and real experience. It would feel bad to me to make up a song about finding a bloody sock. It just seems totally pointless, because music is something that is totally physical and totally emotional. Making something up in that sphere seems to be the wrong thing to do.

DC: We just had the Electroclash tour come through town. To me that whole genre of music is really empty and something that I just can't get my head around. I don't get it. You were also influenced by the dance music of the 80's. I was never really happy in the 80's and I don't really have good associations with that type of music.
JS: With the exception of Peaches everyone who is making that type of music is like 20. So its not really people who had direct contact with what the music was about at that time. Any one who is doing the recurrent subgenre like Gang of Four stuff is people who were not alive at the time. They are looking back at it in a kind of fond way as opposed to something at the time had very real political and emotional feelings. If I look back at say Petula Clark it seems really campy and cute to me. But I am sure at the time she really meant every syllable of “Downtown.”

DC: How do you feel about nostalgia?
JS: As a genre of music?

DC: There seems to be with the whole 80’s recurrence a group of people who are definitely exploring the same thing. Your take on it is different from 99% of what is going on. The rest of them are very campy and light, whereas you guys are taking the darkest elements of it.
SM: I don't know if it is such an issue in Xiu Xiu of looking back at the 80's. A lot of that music has had a tremendous effect on all of us. As far as the dance music elements in Xiu Xiu, it is more about being that music, being in the club and all the feelings that go into that. As opposed to the craft of electronic music or the nostalgia of music that used to sound like that.

Xiu Xiu @ The Blackbird 2002 (Portland, OR)
Photo: Dan Cohoon Posted by Picasa
DC: Like the physical?
JS: Dancing at clubs is a tremendous influence on Xiu Xiu, just all the mixed feelings that go into that. You get this hyper euphoria from dancing for a while and then you get super, super, super insanely depressed. (Interrupted by sound man telling them they can set up) It is about going to dance clubs right now. It is not about looking back at all. It is a very current real experience. How great it is and how depressing and sad it can be.

DC: How did you get into music?
SM: For me as a kid I listened to lots of middle age pop music with my mom, then crazy really hard core punk stuff and heavy metal and rock stuff from my brother (Pop stuff like the Beatles and the Staples). At 12 or 13 I got into jazz and pretty much right away got into experimental jazz and later on experimental classical.
JB: It is really similar for me. My first tape was MC Hammer. My dad was really into experimental music. He bought me a Rahsaan Roland Kirk and was like; this is what you should really listen to. I was immediately blown away by it. So I listened to that along with MC Hammer, the Beatles from day one. I got even into death metal for a while. Then I got into jazz and experimental jazz & classical.
JS: Big fucking surprise: the first record I had was a Beatles record. When I was in 9th grade I started listening to a lot of dub and reggae. I was obsessed with the radio growing up. But that was the first genre of music that I was into. In high school I was super crazy, crazy into Goth. I never really listened to rock particularly (specifically I never really was into metal or anything like that). At that time I really got into field recordings of different indigenous music. I never really knew if it was good or bad in that type of music. I never really thought too much about it. And then I got super into industrial and stuff like that. In my early twenties I started getting into A Love Supreme. In the last three or four years I got really into avant-classical stuff. I got into house music and stuff like that in the last two or three years. Where I lived for the last couple of years there were a lot of pirate radio stations that played a lot of dance music.

Xiu Xiu @ The Blackbird 2002 (Portland, OR)
Photo: Dan Cohoon Posted by Picasa
DC: You kind of already sort of answered this question: where do you see Xiu Xiu going?
SM: I think we all share a mutual interest in experimenting with songs that are built up less with the computer and prerecorded less with the computer and based more on unusual instrumentation and unusual parts.
JS: Having that stuff but still having it be pop songs.
SM: Hopefully Xiu Xiu will be able to integrate more and more experimental influences while staying completely pop.
JS: I am personally interested in doing more...taking the different influences we have more, but doing them more extremely in explicit kind of ways. Like doing stuff that is more dance or more experimental or more pop. I am definitely interested in having like half the Xiu Xiu songs be good pop songs that you can play on guitar by yourself with kind of dissonant and experimental sounds. Then do stuff that, although it has singing and stuff, you could never play by yourself on your guitar by your window when it’s raining.

Xiu Xiu
Absolutely Kosher
5 Rue Christine
Kill Rock Stars

a=1/f squared * archives * phonography * photography * links

Friday, December 30, 2005

Mogwai Interview

interview with Stuart Braithwaite
via e-mail (1998) & Phone (1999)
text & photos by Dan Cohoon

Mogwai @ T.T. the Bears (circa 1997)
Photo: Dan Cohoon Posted by Picasa
Dan Cohoon: How has growing up in Scotland affected your musical outlook?
Stuart Braithwaite: I don’t honestly know as I have never lived anywhere else.

DC: How are you received by fans and press in Scotland vs. the United States?
SB: People have been more than kind to us both here and in America.
DC: Is there a main song writer in the band or is it more of a collaborative effort?
Most of the songs are written by either Dominik or me, or as collaborations. John did write a song on the LP (Radar Maker). We are all doing stuff at the moment.

DC: Are the songs planned out or do they spring forth from improvisation?
SB: Some were born during improvisations (“Helicon” & “Fear Satan”) but a lot were written at home.

DC: Do you prefer playing live or in the studio? Do you play live in the studio or do you lay down tracks separately?
SB: We like and hate both. I personally prefer live but it gets tiring. We always try and play live in the studio.

DC: Talk to me about the song “Tracy” on the Young Team album. Is this phone call in the song some one you know, or was it picked up on a scanner? It is one of my favorite songs on that album.
SB: It is a hoax call between our drummer and our manager.

DC: When I saw you play @ T.T. the Bears in Cambridge, MA USA. The crowd reacted very positively towards you. They remained quite during the quietest parts of your set. Do you always get that good of a reaction from a crowd or do you have problems with them being too chatty during your sets.
SB: People vary in different towns. It is nice to be polite.

DC: The piano is featured more on Young Team than on Ten Rapid. Is there any other musical instrumentation you wish to incorporate in future projects?
SB: It was lying about the studio. We want strings and children’s choir on our second LP.

DC: Your music is so emotionally charged. Are these compositions based on real events or are they more abstractly based?
SB: Totally abstract, just music. Make of it what you will.

Mogwai @ T.T. the Bears (circa 1997)
Photo: Dan Cohoon
Posted by Picasa
I did a second interview with Stuart Braithwaite over the phone in the winter of 1999 just as Mogwai was about to release Come On Die Young. -Dan Cohoon

DC: Tell me about the new album?
SB: It’s called Come On Die Young. It has 12 songs, it’s a lot quieter than the last one (ed. Young Team). This fist song got a big kinda speech that we took from
Iggy Pop interview in the 1970’s
DC: Why did you record in the US?
SB: I think we really needed to be away from any distractions…Had the opportunity to just get on with things, than rather kinda forget to go and stuff.

DC: How did you like upstate New York?
SB It was kinda nice, it was quiet. It wasn’t really jumping.

DC: Tell me about the album title Come on Die Young.
SB: The gang Come On Die Young was the gang that Barry, our new keyboard player, his dad was in, in the 1960’s.

DC: I guess they are a little bit different than the US versions?
SB: Of gangs? (Laughs) Yeah…They are very different. I don’t know any real American gangs. People in Scotland don’t really have guns. That’s a pretty major difference. They don’t shoot ya; they just kinda stab ya…much more stabbing.

DC: Tell me about the “No Education=No Future…Fuck the Curfew” EP. What role do you see the musician to effect political change?
SB: Not really any to be honest that was just something we felt strongly about. We never really had any agendas as to what would happen. It turns out nothing happened. The main thing we did make little stickers that said “fuck the curfew.” We probably pissed some people off. So we pissed some cunts off. That is really as far as things went.

DC: Tell me about “Kicking a Dead Pig.” I grew up listening to mainly classic rock, so I don’t have much knowledge of dance music. I really like that album because it’s really not danceable.
SB: No, no, no, nothing we ever did was it possible to dance to. It’s always too slow. We really liked classic rock as well. At the same time we really like the music like Kraftwerk & Aphex Twins, that kind of thing.

DC: On “Young Team” there are several biblical references in the song titles. I was just wondering what kind of religious upbringing you had and what effect it had on your music.
SB: The only member of the band who is religious is Dominic. He is a Catholic. I suppose things like “Mogwai fears Satan,” that’s kinda of connected directly to Dominic’s fear of the devil from his Catholic upbringing, which kind of continues to this day. None of the rest of us is religious at all.

DC: What kind of music were your parents into?
SB: I don’t know. Just kinda folk music & Scottish traditional music, My Mum’s from the highlands. She listens to a lot of Gaelic music. I don’t know if that made an impact at all.

DC: The song “Tracy” uses a crank phone call. Who was it on and what was the joke?
SB: That was Martin, our drummer, fooling up are manager Colin, telling him that me and Dominic had a fight and that the band split up.

DC: How long did you pull his leg for?
SB: For about 15 minutes. He started phoning people up, it got quite complicated.

DC: What kind of music did you listen to growing up?
My favorite band growing up was probably The Cure. Then I really got into bands like Dinosaur and Nirvana (those kinds of things). I really liked Bauhaus & Sonic Youth. I got really into them.

DC: Which instruments do you play?
SB: I play the guitar. Sometimes I play the drums, the bass and the piano as well.

DC: You also did some of the remixing on Kicking a Dead Pig? Did you have any experience before doing that, with that sort of thing?
SB: I did some music in college. So I know how to work computers and sequencers and stuff. That’s really the only experience before that. I did some remixes since then as well, David Holmes, Paradise Motel, Manic Street Preachers.

DC: How do you guys like playing in the US?
SB: It is pretty nice. A lot of bands come over from Britain and they play to absolutely no one. When ever we play there are always some people there. That is good. It not that different then playing here than Britain. I quite enjoy it. We don’t play really big shows. We can’t afford to bring as many sound guys as we normally have.

Mogwai @ T.T. the Bears (circa 1997)
Photo: Dan Cohoon
Posted by Picasa
DC: Is the set up different?
SB: There is usually more when we play in Britain. When we play Britain we have more stuff going on. Our sound guy puts the whole mix through an analog keyboard. He’s got lots of tape loops and shit, as well.

DC: How did you guys choose to do the new album on
SB: It seemed like a good idea. To be honest we sorted that out after we finished the record. We just try and do these things to the best we can. It seemed like the best thing to do. It seems to be working out pretty well too.

DC: What is different from the album Come On Die Young and Young Team?
SB: It’s just a progression really. We just left a lot of the stuff that was becoming quite repetitive, we kind of stopped that. We are trying to make stuff a bit more interesting, changing a lot of the time changes, and a lot of new sounds.
DC: What kind of sounds?
SB: Just sampled things and just mixing them around, mixing things backwards.

DC: On the first song on “Young Team” what is that speech from?
SB: That’s a friend reading out loud a review we had in Norway….a bit over the top. We kind of just exploit that.

Matador Records

Monday, December 26, 2005

Come Interview

interview with Thalia Zedek & Chris Brokaw
@T.T. the Bears, Cambridge, MA (circa 1997)
photo & text by Dan Cohoon
Come was a Boston based band. It featured Thalia Zedek & Chris Brokaw. When I interviewed them in the winter of 1997, they were a band in a state of evolution. Their original rhythm section left a year before the interview. They had gigged around with folks from Rodan & Gastr Del Sol. They had left the full on rock behind, for the time being and were doing their songs in a quieter setting. The interview was conducted in the back room of T.T. the Bears in Cambridge, MA. We talked during sound check so we were shouting over the bands warming up in the next room for most of the interview.

Thalia Zedeck @ T.T. the Bears (Cambridge, MA)
Photo: Dan Cohoon
Posted by Picasa
Dan Cohoon: What is up with the new line up?
Chris Brokaw: Well the new line up is just our current touring line up. It is me and Thalia playing guitar, Beth Heinberg playing keyboards & Nancy Asch playing percussion (both of whom played on Near Life Experience). We have been doing sporadic touring over the last couple of months with this line up, the west coast, the east coast and a little bit of the mid-west. We are just reworking a lot of our stuff in a quieter setting. I don’t necessarily think of it as the new line up of the band. It has been fun and real easy to do. I think we want to try playing loud and electric again some time real soon. This is what we are doing now.

DC: Is Come basically you two and who ever you are playing with?
Thalia Zedek: It is pretty much me and Chris. Beth and the keyboard player have played on a couple of different versions. She was playing when we were playing with Tara and Kevin (ed. of Rodan fame) this summer. Hopefully, there will be people who we will work with again and again. Right now, we are working with people that are free on songs and doing it on that basis.
DC: I really like the quieter stuff on your older material. This style also seems to be a focus of what you are working on currently. Is there a reason why you have moved to a quieter sound?
TZ: It is something we are doing right now. I think on the new record we will do some of this stuff. I really like the way it sounds. We kind of just started doing it ‘cause this engineer we were working with—Wally Gagel. Just for the fun of it, we were doing mixes of one of the songs “Hurricane” with just piano, violin vocals tambourine, and slide guitar at the end. He did it when we were in the other room watching T.V. or something. When we took it home, we were like, “Wow, what is this?”

We thought it sounded good. The bass player and the drummer were with us from Louisville. They had to go back down to Louisville. We wanted to keep doing shows. We started asking Beth to start playing along with us & Nancy too.

DC: These people you are playing with now, were they involved in any bands or other projects before this?
TZ: Yeah, both Beth and Nancy were in a band called Q-Set….
CB: They were both in….
TZ & CB: Adult Children of Heterosexuals.
TZ: Nancy was in a band called Pop Smear…God what else?
CB: Nancy played on the Uzi record.
TZ: She played percussion on that.

DC: Where do you see your band going?
CB: Since we have been touring with this configuration and just talking with different people and getting different people’s reactions….I love to have a band that could do real quiet ballads and loud assault-ive rock.

DC: Who were your biggest influences?
CB: Of all time? Stones, Charles Mingus, and Al Green.
TZ: Who?
CB: Al Green.
TZ: I thought you said Howe Green.
TZ & CB: Howe who?
TZ: Probably The Birthday Party...They were a really big influence on me. Subsequently, The Bad Seeds. Both those bands were doing stuff totally different than what anyone else was doing. They sort of opened up a whole new sound as far as rock bands playing…
CB: I’ll go with that too.

DC: What kind of music did you listen to when you were growing up?
TZ: I listened to the radio a lot. I don’t think until I was 13 or 14 I bought my own records. I listened to what ever my brother had around, which I didn’t really like very much. He was into…
CB & TZ: Gentle Giant
TZ: Griffin and shit like that…
CB: (laughs)
TZ: I think I got a Bob Dylan record from the library. I don’t think I really got into listening to records until like Patti Smith. When the whole punk thing happened is when I started buying records. I listened to what ever was on the radio. I was really into the N.Y. Dolls. I think I bought Bungle In The Jungle and Jethro Tull and shit like that. I wasn’t a really big record buyer.

DC: What about you?
CB: Pretty similar…I listened to A.M. radio a lot in New York. I am told that my favorite record was the soundtrack to Mary Poppins. That was the first album that I was massively into. I can’t remember now. That was at the age of two and three. I got really into punk rock when I was 12 or 13, when it all started to happen. I used to go see a lot or really good rock bands in New York: Heartbreakers, Suicide, The Bush Tetras, The Dead Boys, Voidoids and stuff like that. Then I got into all this stuff like Jimmi Hendrix, Hot Tuna & The Doors. All the people in high school were into 60’s rock.

Chris Brokaw @ T.T. the Bears (Cambridge, MA)
Photo: Dan Cohoon Posted by Picasa
DC: Why did you choose Boston as the area you live in?
CB: I grew up in New York. I went to school in Ohio, and when I finished school I wanted to be on the east coast. I was kind of burned out on New York. I had been here only twice before and it seemed fun so I moved here.
TZ: I moved up here to go to school, but that only lasted a couple of months. There was a real good music scene when I moved up here. I grew up in D.C. In that area, there wasn’t really anything happening there. I was kind of in some bands in high school. When I moved up here, I started playing with people kind of right away. I just stuck around.

DC: Plus 18+ shows.
TZ: Actually, I was lucky…. I moved up here before they changed the law to 21. So I was all ready in. If you were all ready legal they didn’t take it away.
CB: Oh really?
TZ: I think a year after I moved here, I moved here when I was 17 or 18, I think the next year or six months later, it’s when they moved the drinking age up to 21. So I was already in…
CB: You were in.

DC: That is good.
TZ: Yeah (laughs)

DC: How do you go about writing a song?
TZ: Sometimes either one of us will write more or less a complete song, sorta brings it to the other. We’ll each get together and bring in little doo-dads we are working on and just play until it turns into a song.

DC: Are you actively involved in the recording process?
TZ: Yeah we usually co-produce it. We have people who know what they are doing in the studio. But also we always kind of have the last say. A lot of producers are like, “You played the music. Now it is my job. Go away!” We are definitely not into that. On the other hand it is good to have a more objective person.
CB: We are always there for the mixing 99% of the time. If there is different instrumentation, it is stuff we thought of.

DC: Do you record on analog tape? Is that important to you?
TZ: I prefer to do it that way. I am not into the whole thing of how things are recorded. If the record is good, it does not make much of a difference. There are factors that are a lot more important than that. But that is definitely our first choice.
CB: We haven’t done it any other way. So I don’t even know the pros and cons. We take those things into consideration, like on the Near Life Experience album. We recorded…there is a way of recording where you can run the tape machine at 15 i.p.s. or 30 i.p.s. (which is basically how much tape gets used). I guess the slandered is 30, if you record at 15, you get more time on the tape. There are pros and cons to it. The main con is more tape hiss, but you get more low end. We chose to go with that.
TZ: The main reason we did that was to save money; that was a big reason. It saves a lot of money. That’s what definitely what piqued our interest. We recorded with Steve, and he had done it that way. We could do a whole album on one reel of tape as opposed to like four. We asked people about it. They told us what the difference in the sound was. We thought it would work out good. At least that is why I did it.
CB: I did it for the low end….

Thalia Zedek
Thalia Fan Site
Chris Brokaw
Matador Records
Kimchee Records
Thrill Jockey

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Tim Prudhomme

Tim Prudhomme interview
via e-mail by Dan Cohoon (circa 2002)
Dan Cohoon: What bands were you in before Fuck? Does Fuck still exist as a band? If not what brought an end to Fuck?
Tim Prudhomme: I was in a band called Bobbo for a few years. Based in NYC, we put out a slice of vinyl moments before we disbanded. Before that, I was in an assortment of under-achiever bands. Fuck still exists. We leave for Italy this fall where we will record a new album of dubious quality (after all, it'll be recorded in Italian, fer chrissakes.)(or at least, on Italian recording equipment [read: broken]).

Tim Prudhomme (promo photo) Posted by Picasa
DC: Where did you grow up and what effect did it have on your musical upbringing? What were your folks into musically?
TP: Unfortunately, I grew up in the suburbs of Baton Rouge. One may mistakenly believe that I heard blues, zydeco, and the ilk at a tender age. But I must restate: I grew up in the suburbs…USA. So I was exposed to the likes of Billy Joel, Elton John, and whatever else crap was on the Top 40. It was no less than hard work and determination that I was able to find my first punk rock record. And once I found it, I realized that I needed to always search for something better, and to never go back to listening to whatever was being spoon-fed by the radio-corporation motherfuckers. As for my parents’ record collection, it was rather sparse; a little Willie Nelson, a couple of Broadway show collections. Though, I was also rather fortunate in that they had The Platters: Encore of Golden Hits, which continues to be one of the best records of all time.

DC: Do you write from personal experience or are the characters in your song made up?
TP: Both; I usually make them up, composite-style, from personal experience. However, on occasion, I just might invent these weirdoes out of thin air. It depends on my hold on reality
DC: How do you go about writing such sad songs?
TP: I'm usually a somewhat sad, depressed, down-on-his-luck kind of guy. So, it's easy.

DC: Is quiet the new loud? It seems more and more folks that were in real loud and bombastic bands are now making real quiet and pretty records.
TP: My excuse is that I'm generally too tired to play any way but slowly and gently. I generally don't even have the strength to pull the wings off of a fly. But for all others who are doing the quiet thing, yes, they are being trendy…everyone but me.

DC: How did you hook up with Doug Easley? What was it like to work with him as a producer?
TP: It was like pulling teeth. He would much rather be hired to build some kitchen cabinets. Actually, I was helping him with that kind of work when we started talking about recording this record. After I popped him in the head a few times with my hammer, he came around to see things my way and we commenced with the recording. Also, I've known Doug for about 15 years, and we always planned to work together. It just took a little while to coordinate it.

with the hole dug (cover art) Posted by Picasa
DC: Why did you move from Rock to Country?
TP: Do you mean "why did you move from NYC to Tennessee?" I've always enjoyed moving around. And I don't just mean spatially. Change is good; tonic for the soul; and all that bullshit.

DC: What song writers do you admire?
TP: Besides the obvious (Cohen, Dylan, Beatle Boot Boys, Satie), I'm probably the biggest Joey Levine fan in the world. (He's the guy who wrote and sang “Yummy, yummy, yummy", "Chewy Chewy", "Sweeter than Sugar", and a bunch more big hits from the genre of bubblegum. Nowadays, you can thank him for fucking your brain with such ditties as "just for the taste of it...Diet Coke!" or one of my faves… "Come see the softer side of Sears."

DC: You came to song writing fairly late. What made you start? (This question was a mistake resulting from reading too many press releases at once.)
TP: Actually, I started fairly early, when I was about 15 or 16. Though I suppose that that can be considered late compared to Mozart. I got a guitar when I was about 13, but I couldn't figure out how to play anything. Then I read an interview with the Ramones, who said that anyone can play and write good songs if they just put their mind to it. So, I decided to quit trying to figure out other people's songs and just make up my own. And I'm so glad that I came across that interview.

DC: What is up with your bio saying you are dead? For the first time listening to the record I thought you were dead. It made it very poignant. Then I re-read the bio and figured it was a joke.
TP: It's not a joke. I really am dead. Is that funny to you?

Monday, August 08, 2005

Silkworm Interview

Tim Midgett & Andy Cohen
interview conducted via e-mail
by Dan Cohoon & T.W. Walsh
(circa 1997)
Sadly Silkworm is no more. Michael Dahlquist, the drummer for the band, was killed by a woman's failed attempt of killing herself in her car by crashing it into his car at a stop light (she managed to kill Michael and two of his friends who were also in bands). This random, pointless, selfish and senseless act brought an end to one of the finest rock band of the last two decades. Tim Midgett has stated that without Michael there could be no more Silkworm--he could not be replaced.

Silkworm (promo photo) Posted by Picasa
This interview was conducted in 1997 by TW Walsh and myself with Tim Midgett and Andy Cohen from Silkworm via e-mail. Sadly Michael did not participate in the interview. Tim Midgett mentions on several occasions in this interview what a great guy Michael was, and according to everything I have read about him it seems to be true. I have only seen Michael in concert, spoken to him briefly after a show, but I will never forget his big shirtless grin from behind his drum kit. Michael and Silkworm will truly be missed. -Dan Cohoon July 2005

Dan Cohoon: Who are your musical heroes? One of them has to be Neil Young.
TM: I told someone just the other day that Neil Young is one of the only musicians who has had a big influence on all of us in the band, so you are right about that. We really don't think much in terms of other people's music. If we are having a difficult time getting a song to turn out well, we might break it down into "the Rolling Stones part" and "the ZZ Top part," or something, but just as often the guidelines are more like "play it like you're out of your mind on heroin."

DC: Andy's guitar playing is amazing. How did he develop his style?
TM: I am referring this question to him. He should send you a response via e-mail pretty soon.
Andy Cohen: You sent Tim an e-mail asking how I developed my guitar style. The answer is through untold hours of practice. When I started playing back in high school, I would practice sort of obsessively, at least an hour a day, and usually four or so when I had extra time. At that point I had a great thirst to improve, and like all rank beginners, I had a lot of room for improvement. The first couple of years are pivotal for any person learning to play; it is during this time that all your attitudes towards playing and habits form. This period was a good one for my playing. I recognized that I had an emotional impact I wanted to convey through my playing, but that I wasn't yet proficient enough to realize that goal. That realization was my primary motivation for practicing and listening; I could hear that other people such as Neil Young, Hendrix, Sonny Sharrock, Steve Albini, and Bob Mould (at that point in his career) had the ability to make me feel things in their playing that I couldn't yet match in mine.
When we moved to Seattle I had the technical proficiency to attain my goal--the raw ability to move my fingers over wood and wire--but my ability to project complex emotion therewith still lacked. Luckily for me, we spent our first three years or so practicing as a group as much or more as I had previously practiced as an individual. This was the period when I began to put the pieces together and forge my present style, aided by the example of our former guitarist, Joel Phelps. Joel is a great guitarist, which was more evident back then because he played more and more flamboyantly than he does as a solo artist.

At any rate, I know through the experience of playing with, against, and off of Joel, that nothing can make you better faster that playing a lot with a great player. Those were the building blocks of my style. Of course, frequent touring and seeing other good bands always helps me refine what I do, but the learning experience I describe above provides the foundation for these refinements.

DC: How long has Silkworm been together? Were you in any other bands before Silkworm?
TM: I started playing in bands when I was thirteen, but I've only been in three bands that ever played out, including Silkworm. Andy and I started playing together in a basement-only band called Children of Habit, when I was fourteen and Andy a year younger. Andy, Joel Phelps, and I were all in Ein Heit; our first really good band, it started up in 1983 without Andy and I and broke up in 1987.

Silkworm started without me in late 1987. I joined in January 1990, when the three of us moved to Seattle, soon met Michael Dahlquist, and the rest is history. Michael was in a few other bands, the most notable by my reckoning being Dungpump.

DC: Why did you guys move to Seattle? Do you get tired of saying that you're not one of "those" bands?
TM: Seattle is the closest large city to Missoula, Montana. We knew a few people here, and were sort of familiar with it. We knew it was unlikely to eat us alive and that we could make livings pretty easily. Worse than having to tell people we ain't a grunge band is getting fifty or sixty articles and reviews written about us that have as their only point: "Silkworm: from Seattle--and not grunge!" I think that fact is obvious to anyone who sees one of our record covers, much less happens across more than a half-second of our music. I realized the other day that all the "big" Seattle bands are either broken up or barely in existence, and/or doing far worse that they used to do (exc. Kenny G).

DC: How do you guys go about songwriting?
TM: Andy and I write songs individually. Sometimes we bring songs into the band fully arranged, and even more rarely have specific parts for the other two to play. Most often, the material is arranged as a band and often it is dramatically changed. Michael's input, in particular, shouldn't be underestimated. It is a true cliché that bands are only as good as their drummers.

L'ajre (cover art) Posted by Picasa
DC: I love the last two tracks on l'ajre. Are there any plans for a live album?
TM: No. There's not much point in us doing a live record per se, since the way we do things in the studio now is essentially live. Vocals get overdubbed almost always, but it is rare for us to add instrumental tracks over our basic recordings; any such work is done to rectify mistakes that we don’t feel comfortable leaving on the finished track. Also plenty of technical limitations are involved in recording live shows, and we like the flexibility of the studio; recording in a controlled setting allows us to capitalize on the expertise of the engineer with whom we work. I really do like those tracks on l'ajre, though. I think they are the most successful things on that record; we were inexperienced in the studio and doing the songs live made them at once looser and more urgent. A few other unreleased tracks from that live session will likely end up on a compilation of old stuff we are putting together for Matador.

DC: What does l'ajre mean? It took me three years to fail two years of French (let's just say French ain't my strong point).
TM: Don't waste your time looking it up. I long ago checked French, Italian and a few other foreign-to-English dictionaries and the word does not seem to exist.

The full story is: Michael came to practice one day, told us all about this guy he saw walking down Broadway, wearing a beret, little goatee, smoking a cigarette in a holder. This dandy had on a homemade T-shirt with the word “L’ajre" painted on the front. We thought it was a ludicrous example of pretension, so naturally the term ended up as the title of our fist album. We almost called the record our days in ‘nam because we really like the idea of an album so named being released by a bunch of young dorks who were barely out of the womb when the war was on. Often people read satires of pretension as pretension themselves, so it's probably good we didn't do it, though we will be forever stuck with the word l'ajre.

DC: Are there any Silkworm side projects we should know about?
TM: There's a great Ein Heit record in the can. It features all of us, Joel, and two of our mentors who were the founding members of the band. It's a damn shame it's not out yet. With any luck it will be available for public consumption at some future date.

Silkworm (promo photo) Posted by Picasa
Tim Midgett: Laying it down in full view
as interviewed by TW Walsh

TW Walsh: At your show in Boston with Kelly Deal 6000, I interrupted you while you were making some phone calls just to meet you and you were really nice. I definitely appreciate it when bands are nice to their fans. Is that a conscious effort on your part, or are you just great guys?
Tim Midgett: Oh, stop. There are more than a few people I can think of who think we are assholes, so you must have caught me on a good night. Come to think of it, no one dislikes Michael, except his boss, unfortunately.

TW: Tell me a little about Missoula, Montana...
TM: Well, it's a town-city of twenty-some thousand people, not including the outlying areas or the non resident students at the university. It can seem bucolic in spots, but it is warped in many subtle ways, some of them uncommon.

Hard place to describe in a nutshell: full of truck drivers, waitresses, acid casualties, disaffected youth, ex-hippies turned entrepreneurs, all kept there by aggressive inertia and the fact that it is an easy place to bet by. If you saw Blue Velvet, Lumberton has a lot in common with Missoula.

TW: I know that's where Steve Albini's from too. When and where did you meet, and what's your relationship with him like now? Who wins your high-stakes nine ball games?
TM: Met Steve briefly on a couple of occasions during my college years, first recording with him October 1992. We are all big pals now. Steve is a good pool player. He almost always wins, against us anyway. Michael can beat him occasionally; I might have once or twice on lucky shots or if Steve beat himself.

TW: Do you do any recording engineering?
I wouldn't say so. I've helped with the recording and mixing of a couple things not including Silkworm, but my knowledge of the process is mainly on the playing and listening ends: what isn't happening with the playing that needs to happen, or what needs to be changed in the mix to make the recording work. It’s the in-between (read: hard) stuff that I don't know much about.

TW: What do you think of the northeast?
TM: I like it up there pretty well. I've never had much of an affinity for Boston I have to say, though Matt and Tench of Bedhead really like it, so maybe I missed something. New York City is a nice place to visit, not live. Maine reminds me of Montana, so I like it for that reason. I don't know how you put up with all those tolls, All in all, we've seen the entire country more than once, and I'm convinced no place in the US is as impressive all-around as the Northwest (snooty).

TW: What's your relationship with Joel right now?
TM: We don't see each other often. When we do, it is on unfailingly pleasant terms. He's a gentleman and I do my best.

TW: What do you think of his record?
TM: Parts of it are really great. I heard an EP, supposed to be out sometime soon, that is something of a departure for him (piano, horns) and I believe he's making a new record starting the end of this week.

TW: The band has only one publishing company. Did you do this to ensure even royalty splitting?
TM: Regardless of how the money is split up, there is really no need for band members to each have their little individual pub. comp. Some bands do that, but it's more of a territorial issue than anything else. All the publishing money goes back into the band, pretty much.

TW: I heard that Matador is pretty "hands off" when it comes to tours and promotion. I also read an interview where you guys said you were pretty happy with how things were going with the label, but has that changed at all?
TM: I wouldn't say they are hands off when it comes to promotion. They employ many people for the purpose of promoting bands to press, radio, and in record stores. It is true that they don't meddle in their bands' affairs when it isn't necessary, for which all of us are grateful, I'm sure. We are happy with Matador.

Firewater (cover art) Posted by Picasa

Firewater did well; not unbelievably great but far better than any other record we've put out. I think we came to terms long ago with the fact that we aren't likely to ever set the world on fire with our record sales. We work hard, but selling hasn't been a big goal of ours, and Matador seems capable of getting the most that we can out of the records we make.

TW: When is the re-release of l'ajre and his absence is a blessing? What kind of work does this entail?
TM: A bunch of shit work. I don't know when it will come out. I have been telling people late 1997/ early 1998 but last year at this time I was saying late '96. I need to get a hold of all the master tapes, compile them, and go get them mastered. It sounds easy. I say "I need to" because I think the other guys are even less likely to perform those tasks anytime soon. I would like to be able to wave a magic wand and have it all done, but last I checked Billy Corgan has cornered the market on wands designed for that purpose.

TW: The "Slipstream/Inside Out" 7-inch sounds really slick. I haven't been able to get my hands on "l'ajre" and "his absence is a blessing," and I was wondering if they have a similar sound?
TM: Way, though it's even cleaner--interesting that you call our first single slick since a local reviewer thought it had more of a sonically "abysmal" quality. "his absence" was the first thing we did with Steve Albini, so naturally it sounds "noisy."

TW: On the back of the single for "never met a man I didn't like," there's a picture of all three of you guys’ taxi drivers’ licenses. Are you really all cabbies in Seattle?
TM: Andy shit-canned his hack licenses--too scared of getting killed; oddly enough Michael has one and did it for many years, but works a slave temp job at Adobe Software at the moment. I drive three times a week. Too bad I don't have a cell phone number to give all the Boston tourists.

TW: This may sound corny, but you guys definitely have a "timeless" sound. I mean, there are quite a few perfectly valid bands out there (say like Pavement) that just seem to have impermanence to them. Clearly, however, the rock is eternal. Because you play a more "rock" version of rock music, I can see how you might feel a little separated from both popular and underground music. Is this the case?
TM: Most of the music we listen to isn't particularly current. I don't believe in wearing clueless-ness as a badge of honor; I wasn't proud when I tried to think of my favorite albums of 1996 and came up with four--three by bands we know.

It's just that between doing what we do together and trying not to get evicted, and not having (or wanting) a record store job anymore, I don't have the time or energy to wade through the effluvia and dig into the silt to find most of the good music that is out there. It is undoubtedly out there, but there's an extra lot of shit at the moment. The shit is real easy to find. Have to disagree with you about Pavement's "impermanence." Maybe I'm misreading you, but long after Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins have gone the way of Grand Funk Railroad people will be gleaning enjoyment from Pavement records. Also, I don't know what you mean by a more "rock" version of rock music. I think there are distinctions between "rock" and "rock and roll," but I don't know if that's what you are talking about.