The Lamps...an Honest Interview with Monty Buckles
Raven Simone is a Goner & The Lamps are huge!
By: Rich Tupica
"Monty recently told me he wanted their new record to sound like 'someone has thrown a grenade in the room'. I think that's a perfect way to describe their sound," said Larry Hardy, owner of In The Red Records, about the new album by the L.A. based band The Lamps.
Monty Buckles (vocals/guitar in The Lamps) and Hardy were close friends before he signed them, but it takes more than that to get a record deal said Hardy. "Monty buckles is actually one of my closest friends, that has nothing to do with him being on my label, I have lots of friends in bands that I would never have on my label. He (Buckles) started The Lamps out of the blue, I had no idea he played an instrument or had any ambitions to be in a band. I went to a very early show of theirs, maybe their first show, I can't recall and I was shocked how good Monty’s band was, and they keep getting better all the time," said Hardy.
Guitars spewing feedback and distortion, mashed with seemingly pissed-off vocals are just the top layer of The Lamps. Mr. Buckles filled me in on some of the details that make them the most original band in Los Angeles today.
So Monty, Is there a noticeable difference between the new LP and your previous on In the Red Records?
"It’s difficult to be objective, but I like it way more. The first record turned out fine and all, but it was the first time I’d written any songs or we'd recorded in a real studio. After that our playing has solidified a bit and I like the songs much more, they just seem more concise and I like the song-writing more. We had more knowledge under our belts, and I wanted the record to sound like a hand grenade being thrown into a party, so it was easier to realize it. I think it's much better."
How is life in L.A.? Your music has some dark tones for being from such a bright city.
"L.A. isn't really a bright city and it has a vast and well documented history of darkness. It’s a really dehumanizing place. The quality of life is terrible and it's just getting worse. If you want to drive ten miles away at five p.m. it's going to take the better part of two hours. The housing costs are skyrocketing, you’re surrounded by vacuous, rude, self-centered people, and like everywhere else in America everyone is getting steadily more stupid. Every time I go outside I know I'm going to see at least one person that is so obviously objectionable that I’m going to have a very real urge to staple their lower lip to my bumper and drag them around the city."
What about the warm weather there? Michigan is always either too cold or too hot.
"I hate the weather in Los Angeles. I love rain and fog and not just because it's rare here, I loved it growing up in northern California. Sun and heat saps me of my energy and puts me in a foul mood. I work hard and make good money, but I’m up to my eyeteeth in debt and spend a good portion of each month broke and I don't see any way out. I need to live in L.A. because it's the only place in the entire world where I can make my living doing what I do, but I think no matter where we lived the band would sound exactly the same."
Is there anything good about L.A.?
"I don't hate everything about it, I’ve always been kind of a loner and if you keep to yourself nobody notices you. You have the advantages of any big city, but without the population density. It's hard not to sound defensive, but L.A. is nothing like you see on television. It’s like a collection of suburbs that are stitched together and nobody knows or cares about each other. It’s huge and there is enough cool stuff to keep you occupied and with a bit of elbow grease, you keep the more egregious objectionable elements like Beverly Hills at bay."
Where did you grow up at in California?
"I grew up in a rural town in northern California and went to a catholic school. I had idiot teachers that would offer daily proof that god existed in situations like: "I couldn't find my keys, I prayed to God and he helped me find them." Meanwhile there is mass genocide in Rwanda, but they think there is a God because he guided the hand of a white middle class person in California and allowed them to find their car keys. I was taught as part of the curriculum that abortion was wrong, gay people would not be admitted to heaven and that efforts to increase tolerance were best brought about by massive intolerance of beliefs that divulged from yours. So when I moved to a big city, even though it took me a awhile to see that those people are often just as stupid, they just have minor aesthetic tweaks, it was still far superior to living in a small town."
What band has the biggest influence on you when you decide to write a song?
"I'm not a good guitar player, I can't pick things up by ear and I am not accomplished enough to try and write a song that sounds like somebody else. I just have to roll up my sleeves and make use of what little musical skill I have. I despise writing lyrics, it's far and away my least favorite part of coming up with a song."
What kind of lyrics do you try to write?
"Overly poetic lyrics irritate me and excessively crafted lyrics that take away from the music aren't my cup of tea either. I tend to try to avoid verbal conflict with people because there is no good that can come from it. I internalize a lot of my anger and dissatisfaction and take it out on those unfortunate enough to be close to me. I think there's plenty of tar bubbling around in my subconscious that manifests itself as a song when I have to come up with lyrics, I think it's probably similar for Josh. I have no idea what goes on inside Tim Ford's head and I choose not to think about it."
What is some crazy shit that's happened on tour with The Lamps?
"Our stories don't get too crazy. We’ll drink and whatnot, but off the top of my head I can't recall any real epic stories of misbehavior. There was the time we killed that guy, but it's kind of a secret …"
How & when did The Lamps get together and start the band?
"I started playing a little bit of guitar in high school. I took lessons from a long-hair at a music store. I would bring in songs and he would show me how to play them. He taught me some scales and such, but I never advanced beyond a certain point. I just lacked musical aptitude and I had tin ears, which made me incapable of figuring out how to play a song by listening to it on the stereo. I wanted to start a band back then but I could never find people whose taste even slightly overlapped mine."
What were the bands like in your hometown?
"Our town's scene was pathetic. There were some local bands but they were all fucking horrible. There were a few 'punker' types at my high school, but it was more a group of people that were all exactly alike, that thought they were nonconformists. They either listened to juvenile, innocuous 'pap' like the Dead Kennedys, or just utter horseshit I couldn't stand then and can't stand now, like Operation Ivy. I tried to recruit my friends into playing instruments and having someone sing so I could play my guitar, but all my friends were too lazy. When I got into college I had long since abandoned all hope for humanity and any faith in myself, which took up too much time for me to start a band."
THE LAMPS! Photo:Theresa Kereakes
So when did you finally decide that you wanted to play some music?
"After college I was going to shows and seeing bands regularly enough that it started to look fun. I was extremely shy and lacked any semblance of self-confidence, the thought of standing in front of a group of people made me want to cry. I figured playing in a band would be less humiliating and less expensive then therapy. It also looked fun and I saw that girls often came to shows and I was very lonely. I started playing with Josh and Tim and they were patient enough to wait for me while I figured out how to play guitar.
I'm sure there are a lot of perks about playing in a rock band. For you, what is the shit of playing in a band?
“The shit far outweighs the perks. It can be fun just playing. There's something really satisfying about turning up an amp really loud and hearing the drums crashing behind you and being part of this god awful racket. Being around other people in bands, especially in LA, can be sheer torture. I try to be polite and it's a real pain in the ass. For every band where everyone is very nice, there are ten more that are filled with deeply unintelligent people who think they are going to be famous and have considerable egos to match, some adult costume party bozos with clothing emulating whatever era they are trying to pattern themselves after, or some pretentious asshole whose band is six people under a blanket with a delay pedal and a synth who paint faux outsider art on their lousy records and think that you're a wallet chained knucklehead with a flaming dice tattoo because you're not a non structured free experimental outfit."
What kind of bands do you not like playing with?
"I hate having to play with bands that take themselves too seriously and are all incredibly ambitious. I want to kill those peoples' mothers. The people at shows can be so grating, there are times when I go to a show and consider doing a Julio Gonzales and leaving, going to a gas station and them coming back and molotoving the entire place. The clubs treat you like shit, like they're doing you a big fucking favor allowing you to play, the employees are brain-dead scum with holier than thou attitudes. There are exceptions, like the scene in Glendale, the Tower Bar in San Diego, or we recently played at Little Pedros and everyone was very nice, but most bars are terrible places. I was just at a show for some half-assed bullshit festival where The Ponys were playing, they were great and I was hoping that the cowboys from Blood Meridian would come in, line up the audience against the wall and shoot them all in the back of the head, myself included. The soundmen are usually totally incompetent assholes. The bartenders think because they tilt glass bottles, allowing overpriced liquid to pour into a glass, they should be treated like royalty. The bookers all think they are cosmically far more important then they actually are. Then you get every asshole in the world trying to shave a buck of two off the purchase price of a record or a shirt."
So playing in a band invloves a lot of shit, huh.
"Just the logistics of getting all the equipment and all the people from point-A to point-B gets much more elaborate and difficult then it sounds. It all boils down to going through a bunch of bullshit to get up and play half an hour for a drink ticket that means you get two dollars off of fountain drinks or, often, nothing at all and then trying to play well to a half-assed crowd of completely indifferent people.
Having to explain to people who I know would hate and/or not understand what The Lamps sound like is no fun either."
Do The Lamps plan to tour again anytime soon?
“Yeah, it's hard for us because we all have jobs. Tim and I work freelance, so if we want to take time off, we can, but it's hard to turn down work to go spend all that money renting a van and buying eighty-dollar tanks of gas to play a few shows. Having said that, I like touring, I like being in a van with my friends, shooting the shit. I don't mind long drives as long as I am driving and I like seeing friends in other cities. After the next record comes out we plan on going to Europe and doing either the Midwest or the East Coast, but not both.”
If you guys ever get signed to Geffen or RCA, what would you demand to be on your Tour-bus? I hear Britney has a tanning bed...
“I know Tim would insist on a pinball machine, Tim is a pinball fanatic, but I don't think the physics of bus travel would allow for it. I’m pretty easy to please, so I think I would be okay with any bus, provided something good was on the stereo.”
Besides The Lamps, what are some great bands out in L.A. that you go out to see?
“I am looking forward to seeing Spider. But the other bands, The Starvations, who mutated into Fortune's Flesh, The Flash Express, The Red Onions, and The Guilty Hearts. We've all played together so many times that I don't feel a pressing need to go out and see them any more and I am certain that the vice versa is true as well. I don't really go out unless someone is touring out here. I dislike the bars, I hate the fucking clientele, I dislike the people and I try not to get involved in anyone's social circle. I have tried not letting my natural wellspring of negativity, bitterness, and hatred take over, but I have thrown in the towel on that one. Actually, let me correct that, I just saw Wounded Lion and I enjoyed them quite a bit and would like to see their next show.”
Can you tell me a little bit about the new album?
"It’s recorded and mixed, but not mastered, and the cover art is almost done. It will come out on LP and CD on In The Red sometime early next year. As for the inspiration, we, and I imagine this is true for most bands, don't really have that consistent M.O. for writing songs. What usually happens is I’ll come up with a riff or one will emerge at practice, then we'll come up with a title and the rest of the song goes from there. If I can't figure out a way to sing it properly, Tim or Josh will sing."
What are some of the songs inspired by?
"Tim has been on a big NASA and space-kick lately, he suggested doing a song about the space program, so we did 'U.S. Core Complete'."
'Now That I'm Dead' is just typical dumb self-pity shit."
Tell us about the abused cat song
"Tim really didn't like the song that became 'Bob The Cat', saying that he thought it sounded like an Austin bar band called 'The Bobcats'. We all had a chuckle and I thought it should be called 'Bob The Cat' and it could be about a kid who’s abused his cat and it ran away, but the kid doesn't understand the connection. We also tried to do a song about people who bellyache, myself included, about misfortune that befalls them when it is obviously completely their own doing."
What's "Poolfish" all about? Your vandalized fishtank?
'Poolfish' was originally entitled 'Goldfish' after I had this nightmare about a girl coming into my apartment, picking up my fish tank, drinking all the water and swallowing all my fish whole. Mike McHugh asked us,'what's the song called? Poolfish?' and it stuck."
I hear you have a song about a classic way to murder someone?
“'Anvil' was about a guy who was really bothering me at the time. I wanted to invite him over, then hide in the big tree in front of my apartment, and when he came walking up, drop an anvil on his head. It was just a really archaic, cartoonish way of killing someone that I hadn't seen in awhile."
There is also a military influence on some lyrics as well?
“'Axis Sally' was just a title that was floating around in my head because I had been reading a bunch of W.W.II books in quick succession: 'The Naked and the Dead', 'The Big Red One', 'To Hell and Back'. Then I read about some of the PsyOps stuff in Vietnam, where the U.S. did similar stuff to what the Germans did with Axis Sally, like trying to scare the Vietnamese with speakers in the jungle, playing audio that was ostensibly ghosts to frighten the NVA (North Vietnamese Army)into submission. I was driving to practice wondering about that and if anyone had written a comprehensive biography of Axis Sally. Afterwards we came up with the song, and I suggested the title to Josh.
On the new album there's a song called "Gozzler". What's a Gozzler?
“'Gozzler' is an old-time slang term for a type of mugger who would strangle his victim then take all their money. I thought the Onomonpia was hilarious, as well as the fact that there were enough specialists around that it warranted having it's own name."
There is a new song for your grandmothers, what's that all about?
“'Javelin' is about me, thinking that I had never met either of my grandmothers, both of who were institutionalized. I figured if I met my grandmas now, a good activity for them to partake in would be going on a see-saw, that way neither could accuse me of playing favorites."
There is the song "Eliseo", who is he?
“'Eliseo' is about our friend who has the thickest, most impressive head of hair I’ve ever seen. I think it is actually descending and will eventually just grow part & parcel directly out of his eyes. Also, everyone likes him.
If Monty could have anything in the world, what would it be?
“Total contentment, much of my contentment would be contingent on the happiness and well-being of people I care about.”
The Lamps on Myspace (check out their new songs)
In The Red Records on Myspace
Punk Turns 30 - Punk Photos By Theresa K!
What's Blood Meridian?
Learn about Axis Sally
Learn about PsyOps
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