Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Ben Blackwell Interview! Cass Records, Dirtbombs & Beyond!

Ben on the 2003 Euro Tour & Ben 2 weeks ago...

By: Rich Tupica

Almost eight years-ago Ben Blackwell was folding record sleeves for the Detroit based Italy Records, records that would later become a testament to the great music that Detroit was producing at that time.

The year was 1999 and the young Blackwell was taking mental notes that would one day help him start his own label. He was learning the ropes of the business while witnessing some gigs by The Clone Defects, Bantam Rooster, Rocket 455 and so on… shows that only a time machine could get you a ticket to nowadays. When asked about all of the great music that was coming out of the Motor City from the late ‘90s into the 2000s, often the bands involved would dismiss or downplay the attention as simply being media hype, but the fact is there was an extraordinary number of great bands making noise in the Cass Corridor, releasing handfuls of kick ass LPs and 7” singles, who in between beers would also give you a kick ass live show.
Anyway, if you are reading this I’m sure you know that Ben Blackwell has been drumming for The Dirtbombs since he was 17 years-old and when he’s not on tour or catching a show at the Magic Stick, he’s keeping his ears open for music that will soon be pressed and stamped with his signature, the Cass label.

So Ben, Cass Records has put out some really great bands, how do you decide which band you'll release something by?
"Well, there's no huge meeting with PowerPoint presentations or lobbying amongst board members. I basically put out music I like, nothing more than that. Something like the Sagger single I did, I honestly believed and still do that they were two amazing songs. The rest of the population of earth felt otherwise. So when I realize that most other people don't hear music the way I do, I start to tell myself that if the rest of the world had my taste in music that it'd be a dull and boring place. Sometimes you just have to temper the not-so-great sellers by just remembering how many great bands never sold squat to begin with. But a month or two back, Ian from The Piranhas came up to me and told me how much he loved Sagger and how they were ahead of their time and didn't get their due. I respect the guy's opinion so that made me feel a little better."

How did Cass Records first start? And is it more or less work than you thought it was going to be to operate a label?
"I officially started doing legwork for the label in January of 2003. I had talked to a few bands at the end of 2002 about possibly doing releases, but it didn't get proper and serious until 2003. As for the start up, Brian Muldoon innocuously told my mom something along the lines that I knew so much about music and knew enough people in bands that someone should just give me money to do a record label. My mom happened to be refinancing her house at that point and asked me if Brian was correct in his assumptions. I said 'Yeah, but who's going to give me any money?' She made the justification that because I earned a full scholarship for college and because she paid both my brother and sister's college tuition, that I was owed at least the equivalent amount, I jumped right in. Let me also give the disclaimer that the family is in no way well-off and I pretty much spent the 'scholarship reimbursement' in the first year and have put all the profits back into label operations and occasionally subsidized it with my own glamorous Dirtbombs' earnings. I'd done stuff here and there for Italy Records starting when I was still in high school and had visited Larry at In The Red enough to know what was involved in running a record label, so I'd say it was just as much work as I'd imagined there'd be."

Ben at a train station in Munich

You have mentioned that Dave Buick from Italy Records helped you understand the vinyl business, how was that experience and is Dave still releasing records under the Italy Records name these days?
"Dave is reviving the Italy imprint as we speak. He's going to re-release the 'Hentchforth' record on CD with bonus tracks and also has a 7" by The Go coming up. I got started with Dave by just begging, really. I wanted to be involved with Italy Records so bad, I kept telling him every time he had a new record out to call me up and let me help fold sleeves, do mail-order, anything. He probably didn't want some snot-nosed high-schooler around, but finally, September or October of '99 he gave me the phone numbers to all three of the distributors he used, Revolver, Get Hip and Subterranean. He hadn't sent them records in God-knows how long, just told me to place orders with them. So one day after school I call up all these places, have my little spiral-bound notebook with all the Italy catalog numbers written down and get all these places to order stuff. The exact amount escapes me, but I think it was around $1700 worth of records I'd sold for him that day. I couldn't believe that much money even existed, let alone how easy it was getting these places to order 100 or 200 copies of singles by The White Stripes who'd barely even left Detroit at that point. From then on I was a little more involved...I finally got to fold the sleeves and pack up mail-orders and junk like that. He eventually gave me keys to his house so I could go and do work while he wasn't around. Things could get frustrating at times, we'd routinely send people their orders a second time, even though they received the first order fine...we were just so unorganized, but I look back on it and have nothing but fond and funny memories."

"Alone time" with Nirvana's 'Bleach' gold record at Sub Pop

You started playing with The Dirtbombs when you were 17 years-old, how was it playing in a band with Mick Collins at that age, was it ever intimidating jamming with a Gorie?

"I can't say I ever felt intimidated. In awe...yes, but only the first rehearsal and the time we played the Gories song 'Feral' in Groningen in 2001. Otherwise, I was lucky in that Pat Pantano, the other Dirtbomb drummer, accomplished photographer and oenophile(a connoisseur of wines), actually knew what he was doing. I didn't really feel a part of the band until we started recording 'Ultraglide in Black,' which was originally supposed to be called 'Standing on the Shoulders of Giants' until Oasis used it as an album title."

What's a Dirtbomb horror story for you?
"Never mind the fact that I'd been playing with The Dirtbombs for almost a year when Mick turns to introduce me to Shelia Holmes who's a professional vocalist that's on a bunch of Dirtbombs tracks and he (Mick) says to me...'What's your name again?' Safe to say that was my ultimate low-point in The Dirtbombs, which isn't that bad."

Right now, what's your favorite newer band out there?
"I honestly love The Muldoons more than words can describe. I first heard them just visiting their house, Brian is a close friend and he started showing me lyrics that Shane had written. Imagine looking at the lyrics to 'Destruction Boy' in a 7-year-old's messy's amazing and inspiring. Hunter started putting music to the words not long after and before we knew it they'd recorded a single and were the surprise openers for The White Stripes. I watched with a feeling of pride that I can only assume is how a father would. I almost shed a tear, almost. As far as stuff I've been digging that I haven't put out, I'm really into this label from L.A. called Not Not Fun, really exotic, beautifully packed, noise-freaked goodness. I also really dig Home Blitz, which I think is just some kid in Massachusetts with the spirit of Jonathan Richman bursting through his veins."

How did Shane and Hunter react the night of the big show with Jack & Meg at the Masonic Temple Theatre in Detroit? Were they nervous or playing it cool?
"Shane and Hunter were decidedly cool...I think Brian and I were way more nervous than those two."

What kind of Music are the Muldoon kids into?
"They are big fans of The White Stripes and lots of other cool bands...The Ramones, The Stooges, Nirvana, even The Dirtbombs. My favorite quote from them is something Shane said; He was playing with one of my little cousins and they were talking about music and my cousin said something like "I really love the White Stripes," and Shane came back with "The White Stripes are good, but they're not as good as The Stooges."

I know you're a huge record collector, how much time a week do you spend shopping for vinyl?
"There's no real answer to that question. I spend a fair amount of time on Ebay, searching for the first Compulsive Gamblers 7" or a cassette copy of the second Gories album, any leads or offers contact Cass Records, but is that really shopping? I'm probably in a record store every other week or so, but because I'm selling Cass product it's not purely to buy vinyl. Most of my purchasing of late has been mail order, just because what I've been into or looking for just doesn't seem to make it into stores."

Ben, DJ'ing at BFM in Auckland, NZ

I asked Tom & Ko, so I guess I'll ask you too, what's some crazy shit you have seen on the road with The Dirtbombs
"I think Ko and Tom have probably seen more crazy shit than I have, they know what I'm talking about. Anyway, a few years back The Dirtbombs had hotel reservations in Brussels but for some unexplicable reason automobiles were not being allowed in the city. Not just a particular street, but essentially ALL of downtown Brussels and just for that day. We've got a big van with all our luggage and gear and merch and this policeman is trying to tell us to get to our hotel we need to park in some lot and then take a subway or bus or tram or god-knows-what to get into town about five miles away... we said fuck that. We cancelled our reservations and got a hotel close to the airport where we were flying out of the next morning for a couple of shows in Spain. Everyone had exhausted their supply of clean clothes as this was a particularly sweaty European spell in the middle of August. After deeming the hotel laundry prices exorbitant we all decided to wash what we needed in the sink or tub and dry them in our rooms."

So how much clothing was being hand washed in the tub?
"This wasn't just a pair of socks here or some underwear there, no, this was full-on smells like a wet dog. Blue jeans and t-shirts completely covered every available surface of two hotel rooms right next door to each other and the clothes didn't dry too quickly; I actually think we were left with some still soggy items. All the while I'm just trying to sit there and read my Lewis Cass biography and ignore this hideous smell. I guess that's the craziest thing that I've ever seen...laundry. Ask Ko to send you the clip of her, Pat and I stuck in an elevator. That's a whole 'nother yarn. If she does, please post it on your website as it's hilarious!"

You've been by The White Stripes' side since the beginning back in 1998, so how does it feel now watching The White Stripes win Grammys and also enjoy all of their other deserved success? (i.e. The fucking Simpsons!)
"Well, it's funny, because while I'm sure they're honored by the recognition, it just totally doesn't phase them. I was with Jack this year on the night of the Grammys, he didn't attend. We were just relaxing at his house and I caution to say he probably didn't even know they were taking place that night. I was fooling around on my laptop and happened to see that AOL had up-to-the-millisecond Grammy reporting and noticed that the Stripes had already won for whatever category they were nominated. I shouted over to the next room "Hey Jack, you won a Grammy!" to which he replied, "Cool...wanna get some pizza?" As a whole, I feel excited and proud for every small (Grammy) and large (Simpsons) accomplishment of theirs. It's great to see tenacity and originality pay off."

You said you earned a full scholarship to college, what did you go to college for? Do you plan on using your education in the future?
"I went to Wayne State for three years studying journalism. I almost dropped out in the middle of my second year, 2001. The Dirtbombs were supposed to tour Europe for the entire month of November and I figured there was no way I could keep up with my classes, so I just started blowing it off early. Then the tour got cancelled and I started to panic...I actually bought the books I was supposed to be reading and trying to catch-up on all the classes I'd skipped. After I'd put myself in a respectable position again, two weeks of the tour got salvaged and booked and I had to figure things out all over again. I ended up dropping one class, British lit or some bullshit, the teacher quoted Gang of Four in the syllabus and played some Clash song in class...I should've loved it. Then I begged for leniency from all my other professors. Surprisingly, telling a teacher that you're going to Europe for two weeks to tour with a rock band is easily the best way to get out of petty assignments or to push back due dates. Either way, I finally dropped out at the beginning of the 2003 Fall semester."

So touring got the best of school...
The Dirtbombs had touring scheduled for half of October and December and all of November. I'd managed to make most tours work around my school schedule before that, but there was no way my academic career would last through supporting 'Dangerous Magical Noise.' Whether or not I use what I learned about journalism when writing for Creem or the Metro Times has yet to be determined."

You often have music articles that you wrote published, how did you get into writing? And do you write anything beyond music stories?
"I guess I started writing out of boredom, around the time when I started playing drums, maybe hedging my bets that I might not have what it takes to be a drummer. Part of me thinks that my current writing is still me hedging my bets against this drumming thing, but I had an interest in music and the only real way to show that interest was in writing.

Do you remember what your first music article was about?
"I started with an essay I wrote in my freshman English class about what the Foo Fighters needed to do to make their upcoming album 'The Colour and the Shape' a success. I think it included lame things that I didn't know the meaning of like, 'play small, intimate venues' and 'release limited edition single.' That kind of got the ball rolling and I eventually ended up writing for the school paper doing live gig reviews and it basically never stopped from there."

So have you branched out into fiction or anything like that?
"I've tried to write fiction or short stories but have come to the conclusion that that part of my brain doesn't work. In the same respect, I have such a hard time reading novels whereas a biography or magazine I can just totally devour. Is there a name for this type of behavior?"

What can we expect next from The Dirtbombs?
"The Dirtbombs will be heading into the studio the first week of November to record an EP and a couple of singles, so says Mick. All these 'singles' are for labels I've personally never heard of so we'll see how it goes. After that's recorded, I'm sure it'll be the typical world-domination, endless touring, yada yada yada."

Dirtbombs celebrating "Sinter Klaus" in Nijmegen, 2003

What can we expect next from Cass Records?
"I am honestly considering taking Cass into a direction where I focus more on miniscule pressings done as lathe-cut records. Stuff like a single by The Thread Counts or an LP by The Vegetarian Cannibals, I don't think I can really justify the costs for cutting lacquers and plating and pressing and then only sell 20 copies. If you only make 20 copies, then it's all a success, isn't it? As far as new releases, I got a Tin Knocker single already pressed and ready. We're going to include a 10 song CD-R with it so we're waiting on that to be printed up. Hopefully that will be ready before the end of the year."

Who the hell are the Vegetarian Cannibals? I’ve seen you name drop these guys before, I thought it was a joke…
"The Vegetarian Cannibals were a teenage band from the Detroit area in the late '80s to early '90s. I doubt they ever played any shows. They recorded one cassette, 'Before the Fact', on a boom-box and hand-dubbed copies. The music is really hard to describe...but it has a certain amateur, inept beauty to it. A modern 'Back From the Grave' if you will. The drummer plays without a bass drum and the vocals usually have a lot of echo. They covered 'Helter Skelter' and 'Gary Floyd' by The Butthole Surfers. I think two of them went on to play in the band Forge. I believe I am in possession of the only surviving copy of the tape and can't imagine more than 100 people wanting to hear it. If I do put it out, Jack White said he would write the liner notes. He went to high school with the drummer and that's how I became aware of the band."

What’s a brief history of the band Tin Knocker? Have they played any shows ever?
"Tin Knocker was our fourth release. The band is Eddie 'Maraca' Gillis on guitar and Brian Muldoon on drums. They'd given Dave Buick some material to check out while I was still working at Italy and when Dave failed to show any interest I stepped in. We originally had this elaborate plan to make the single a scavenger hunt. I put together a list of all these weird and random places around the city to hide a single and we thought of printing up a list of clues or a treasure map or something like that. Eventually, we got lazy and had the brilliant marketing decision to just not sell the record. Make it instantly desirable. I had it listed on the website as 'Sold Out' but you could never buy them in the first place. Promo-only, trade-only, whatever you want to call it. The old Raoul's Records in Melbourne actually took some copies from me as trade, in exchange for Kelley Stoltz's 'live-to-acetate' LP, limited to about 60 copies and then listed it in a newspaper ad, printed the sleeve art and everything. I also hid some copies in a few record stores in the Shinjuku district in Japan. They sound like rock and roll. I think they've done one or two open mic gigs, but I've honestly never seen them play."

Tin Knocker 7", Ultra Rare & Sold Out!

Your next single to be released by Cass is by a veteran Michigan band called The Go, they have been gigging around Detroit for years, is there any new or up & coming bands in 'The D' today that you would vouch for?

"I really dig the Odd Clouds record, but still haven't seen them live. And I enjoy all the stuff that X! Recordings have put out...The Frustrations, Terrible Twos, Tyvek. Lee Marvin Computer Arm can be pretty badass too but I think they're on some sort of hiatus. The Smashed Windows, which is Hunter Muldoon's side-project. The Displays which is more under-aged punk rock and The Decks are doing good things."

I notice Cass Records is the only label without a Myspace, Is it something personal or do you simply not give a shit?
"I really think I have no business savvy whatsoever. I have consciously rejected the entire premise of MySpace for some time now. Certainly I cannot be the only label without a MySpace? Has Sam Philips caved in? Berry Gordy? Who am I kidding? A MySpace page would've been the first thing either of those guys would've made if they were operating today. I kind of like the contrarian idea of not doing something that is clearly good for business. I mean, shit, I'm putting out vinyl. Honestly, I will probably create a MySpace in the near future, probably."

Out of all the records you have performed on, released, toured, people you have met, places you have visited, what has been your proudest moment since becoming a musician/label owner?
"Well, there's a bunch of proud moments, in no particular order. My first appearance on a record is un-credited. The first Clone Defects single, "Bottled Woman," starts with me pounding my fist on an old Kay reverb unit, I am super-proud of that. As far as releases, I'm definitely most proud of the Trachtenburg Family single. The whole process was just so wonderful. I literally just approached them after a show, said I wanted to put out a single and made it happen from there. Picked the two songs I wanted, found them a studio in NYC to record, got a designer to do the sleeve art, had the record pressed on pink wax because Rachel wanted a pink record...all just a testament to how some things that are meant to be can just come together so well.
The Dirtbombs once played 22 consecutive nights and the more I think about it, I can't imagine we didn't kill each other. We also became such a great band at that time, we were really tight and locked into each other and having fun while doing it, that was our European tour in 2003. The people I've met, shit, when Mark Arm (of Mudhoney) remembered my name I was in heaven. Also Larry at In The Red, I'm so glad that he puts out our records because he's honestly become one of my favorite people on earth. Never in a million years would I have thought that I'd have been to Europe as many times as I have or Japan or Australia or even all around the US. I am very content with everything I've accomplished, but I don't think that will keep me from trying to do more and more."

Ben holding the Cyril Lords 7"

Thanks to Ben Blackwell for the pics

Official CASS RECORDS website
Offical DIRTBOMBS website
Dirtbombs Legion on Myspace

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

KO and The Knockout Interview

Ko in NYC! photo: Theresa Kereakes

By: Rich Tupica

Picking up where Suzi Quatro in her Pleasure Seekers days left off, Ko released her debut album on Sympathy Records in 2002. The record mixed ‘60s garage rock and power pop, giving the record a brilliant sound. Her snotty yet catchy song “Black & Blue” was featured on The Sympathetic Sounds of Detroit, a compilation featuring the best bands in the Motor City, recorded and compiled by Mr. Jack White.
Since then, Ko has been tied up with her Dirtbomb duties and has yet to release a follow-up to her Ko & The Knockouts LP.
Now that I just made you read some shit that you probably already know about her, keep reading to find out how Ko and her band were left with blood, guts and severed limbs all over the front of their tour van.

Hey Ko, was The Breakdowns the first band you played in?
"Technically, I was playing with The Come Ons before I joined The Breakdowns, so I guess it wasn't my first band. It was the first time that I'd played bass though. Basically, Steve Shaw and Jeff Meier, who had played guitar and bass for The Detroit Cobras had left the band and were looking to start something new. Steve suggested that I pick up the bass, I think because Jeff wanted to be a guitar player and recruited a friend of ours named Jeff Kline to play drums.

How did you go about learning the bass guitar so quickly for the band?
At that point I sat in my house for like three months and did nothing but try to learn the bass. The first song I learned was Booker T and the MG's "Green Onions" and from there I listened to James Brown and Motown Records to try to teach myself. When we got to the point where I could kind of play, Steve, the two Jeff’s and I started practicing."

So how did you find a singer?
"It's sort of funny because I think it was another three months before we got a singer! We tried out lots of different people, from Jim Diamond’s wife at the time, they are now divorced, to the janitor at Steve's work. We ended up with Virginia, she is a lovely girl."

So where did things go wrong for The Breakdowns?
"The whole thing was kind of a mess because I didn't really play bass, Virginia had never really sung before and drummer Jeff was more of a punk drummer. We ended up putting out one single, played a few local shows and SXSW before Steve and guitar-Jeff realized that one of the reasons they'd both quit the Cobras was because they didn't really get along. Drummer-Jeff and Virginia had started dating and eventually I just didn't feel like the band was something that I wanted to keep doing."

How did you decide to go out on your own with Ko and the Knockouts?
"After The Breakdowns 'broke down', sorry, very cheesy, I know, I began to realize what anybody who's ever been in a band knows, being in a band is like having four, or however many boyfriends or girlfriends! I got a couple of offers to join other bands, one of them being The Von Bondies but I kind of decided that I have a hard enough time trying to be in a relationship with one person and sort of came to the conclusion that I didn't want to be in a band."

Did Long Gone John from Sympathy for the Record Industry have anything to do with the Knockouts LP?
"Oh, backtracking a little bit, before The Breakdowns split, Steve had talked to Long Gone John about putting out a full length, which is how he even knew I existed. So at this point in time I was sort of content being a bartender, but then along came Long Gone John who was putting out the 'Sympathetic Sounds of Detroit' for Jack White and asked for a song and record."

Will there ever be another Ko and the Knockouts album?
"Right now, I've got some songs and I am writing with Eddie from The Sights so if I can get things together and get off my lazy ass..."

What city did you grow up in & what kind of student was Ko back in high school?
"I grew up in Ann Arbor. I sort of have the opinion that the people who liked high school are the ones who are forever living as that being 'the best days of their lives.' I am definitely not one of them, that's all I'll say."

What was your favorite band or artist growing up?
"The Jam, The Who, The Specials, all that good stuff that makes me smile when I hear it these days."

How was it touring with The Black Lips?
"Contrary to popular belief, The Black Lips are total gentlemen! Maybe they were on their best behavior because I'm a girl or they were happy to be out with The Dirtbombs, but they aren't as wild and crazy as people might think."

Ko & The Knockouts! photo:
Matthew Toledo

What are The Dirtbombs up to right now? Anything new on the way anytime soon?
"I guess we're on break for 2006, but we're supposed to be going in to record in November, maybe? It's all up to Mick, I just show up when they tell me."

What is the best and worst part of going on so many tours around the world?
"The best part is getting to go everywhere, doing what I love. The worst is that it's really hard to adjust back and forth to being at home and on the road. Someone told me that they saw an interview with one of The Smiths where they were saying how great it is to be in a band and on the road, but then you come home and realize that you've got no friends because you've been away for so long. I totally agree, it's hard to come home and try to explain what you've been doing for the past 10-years to someone who's never done it."


What is some of the crazy shit you have seen on tour with your band or The Dirtbombs?
"This is one of my favorites, happened a few years back, Ko & The Knockouts went on tour on the west coast with The Dirtbombs and Detroit Cobras. Eddie had prior Sights commitments so Wes from The Clone Defects was playing guitar for us. Wes, Jeff, the drummer and I were in a big van with all the equipment and the other two bands had flown out to meet us. The tour itself was really crazy, insane, I can't even begin to go into it and by the end of the two weeks we were all pretty worn out. After the last show in San Diego the Cobras and Dirtbombs flew home and my band began our long drive back to Detroit. I think it was the second day of driving, I'm not even sure where we were."

Who was all in the tour van?
"I was at the wheel, Jeff was navigating and Wes was sitting on the floor in the back, watching dvds on the computer with an ashtray in one hand and a beer in the other. So anyway, I'm driving along and all of a sudden a pack of deer ran on to the freeway. Luckily for us there were about three cars ahead of us so we didn't actually hit any of the deer, but there was blood and deer parts flying all over the van. Jeff and I were screaming 'Oh my God! There's blood and legs everywhere!' Poor Wes couldn't see a thing, he thought that we were talking about people... When we pulled over, it was one of the most disgusting things I'd ever seen, the entire front of the van just dripping with blood and deer parts."

Detroit bands blew up a few years ago. What's your favorite memory of the peak of the Detroit music fiasco?
"I am really bad with years so I can't say what year it was, but there was a point in time when the Gold Dollar was still open and I was still bartending at the Garden Bowl. My bosses had decided that they wanted me to work on Sunday nights, which really sucked because there was never anyone there and I never made any money. The only highlight was that Tom Potter of Bantam Rooster would always show up and we would hang out for hours. Anyways, at some point in time, I got sick of working an eight hour shift and coming home with $20, so I started asking people to do little solo shows. Jack White was the first, just him, his guitar and amp and one mic. After a few weeks, it became a really great night because it was just everyone from the local bands trying out new stuff in front of their friends. There was such a great sense of camaraderie back then, it was such a great time."

What are some great new bands that you could suggest? From anywhere in the world.
"Obviously love The Black Lips, they are the best, sort of a punk, Cavern Club-era Beatles. The Terrible Twos are really great. Other than that I'd really have to think on that for awhile."

Can you tell me about your Sirius Radio show for Little Steven? How did that come together?
"The Little Steven thing is kind of crazy for me. He'd somehow heard my record and really liked it a lot and ended up coming to a couple of our shows in New York City, so I'd talked to him here and there. When he started putting together his channel for Sirius, he called me and asked if I wanted to be a DJ."

Had you ever done a radio show before Steven called?
"I had never done any radio work at all and I was a bit confused as to why he'd want me to be a DJ. I got even more confused when he told me that the other DJs were people like Andrew Loog Oldham who'd actually done things in their lives. So he flew me out to New York for a week to do some audition tapes and told me to bring music. We had a big talk and when I asked him why the hell he wanted me to do this he said that he thought I had the kind of personality that could really come through, even via radio. I hope he's right! Anyway, I spent most of January through April, 2005 flying back and forth from Detroit to NYC trying to learn how to be a DJ."

How was it hearing your radio voice for the first time?
It's funny because the first time I ever heard my singing voice recorded it sounded so alien, hearing my speaking voice was much worse!"

Do you get to pick any of the bands you play on air?
As far as the music goes, he's got a playbook of songs that I choose from and get to add to. That first trip to New York I brought so much stuff that I think the Sirius people thought I was crazy. I set up my own play lists but most of it is from his playbook, being that it is his station. Luckily for me Steven seems to like my taste in music and I give him stuff to listen to, he usually likes it.”

What is one thing you want to accomplish in your lifetime that you haven't already done?
"This is a really difficult question because most of the things that I've done are things that I'd never dreamed I could really do. I really feel lucky that I can make a living and live my life doing what I love to do, which is more than I could have ever hoped for. I often think about when I was young and that first band or song really hits you hard and makes you realize that there's more to music than whatever is on the crap Billboard Charts; If I can do that for just one person I'll be happy, you know what I mean?"

KO-rific Links
NEW Ko & the Knockouts LISTEN!
Ko in the
Metro Times
Punk Turns 3o - Theresa Kereakes Punk Pics!
Ko in LA Weekly
Ko & Holly
Ko & the Knockouts - Live pics
Ko on the
Ko on Grunnen Rocks

Friday, October 13, 2006

TOM POTTER Interview! Fuck All Ya'll That Don't Read This

Bantam! Tom Potter & his 'signature licks photo: Amy Cook

By: Rich Tupica

Where is Tom Potter? Why hasn't he put out any records lately? A few years ago Bantam Rooster was touring the United States and Europe promoting albums on Crypt Records and Sympathy For The Record Industry, now Potter has all but fallen off the map of Detroit music, well, actually he did.

Potter and his wife recently packed up and moved out of the motor city to a much cleaner and less violent area of Michigan, since then there hasn't been so much as a 7" single.
From the birth of the distinct Bantam sound in 1994 to the last LP in 2000 entitled 'Fuck All Y'all', every record hauled more ass than the one before it, which is why I am demanding a new Bantam Rooster album! Fuck, I want two more.
Rather than speculate or ponder, I figured I'd better harass T. Jackson Potter and see what he's actually been up to these days. Come to find out, he's in the process of starting a new band as well as writing screenplays. Oh yeah, he also answers the question "will there ever be a new Bantam Rooster album?"

Hey Tom, I'm curious to know why you moved from Detroit to Muskegon, Michigan? That's a drastic change of location.
"I suppose it was kind of a weird move. I don’t know, there are a lot of different factors involved as to why we moved over here. I was pretty burnt out on Detroit, not that there's not still plenty of folks I love in that town, just music and life in general. I really needed a change and to get away. What better place than a town where one can buy a house cheap and live walking distance to the beach. Besides, Detroit's not that far and I'm still back there once or twice a month. I have had a few folks come and hang out here. Jim Diamond was just over and spent an evening at the horse track with me. Chicago, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids and Lansing are all pretty close too in case I start feeling 'too isolated'. Hell, I can even walk from my house and grab the ferry to Milwaukee."

I see you are writing screenplays? How long have you been doing this for?
"I've been doing it for a couple years now. Still getting my foot in the door, but it's coming along great! I was a finalist in the BlueCat Competition, which is run by Gordy Hoffman, Phillip Seymour's brother and writer of the killer indie flick 'Love Liza' , so that was pretty encouraging. Just got off the phone with Gordy this afternoon and he had a lot of cool shit to say, so I feel I'm on the right track. I really can't discuss what they're about, but can say, in general, my screenplays are pretty darkly funny with a lil' grit thrown in. I've got one project that I worked with Theresa Kereakes, a punk-rock photographer, and Ed from Cobra Verde on. Theresa is currently shopping that around."

Bob Seger Liberation Army, there is some 7" singles, but will there ever be anymore Seger material coming out? If so, on what label?
"It's kind of strange that a one off project of old Seger covers has gone this far but yes, we were just in the studio recording four more tracks which Big Neck will be putting out on CD along with the other two singles. I guess it's not so strange when you consider they're all great songs."

What gave you the inspiration to record the old Seger songs?
"Well, we'd been drinking...honestly, it all came about because Fred Beldin (ex El Smasho/Clutters, current End Times) had time booked with Jim Diamond to record a band he had together. The band broke up a few days before the session so Diamond and I told Fred to come down anyway and we'd 'do something'. Jim Weber was living in Detroit at the time so we pulled him in on bass and got Pat Pantano to play drums, we still had no idea what we were going to do. The night before someone suggested doing an old Seger cover but everyone had different favorites. Rather than argue about it we decided to cut four of 'em."

What is your fondest memory of the Detroit-scene blow-up that happened a few years ago?
"To be honest, Detroit was a lot more fun, for me, before the blow-up. Bantam was already putting out records, touring the U.S. and Europe but we could still come back to Detroit and play in front of the same fifty people and have a blast. Still, it was nice to have more people turn out for shows. It was fun being in Europe and running into pals from Detroit, "Oh, we're in London and the Soledad Brothers are playing up the street" and so on. So it was kind of cool that more bands from town were getting recognition. I'm not a big fan of 'hype' and all that. It was nice while it lasted, I suppose, and I think most of us tried our best to take full advantage, but in the end I guess I don’t really care if the NME likes me or not. I’d rather hang out with my friends than chat up some 'music writer' or 'label shill' who knows nothing about good music."

Tom Potter, chain' smokin'
photo: Theresa Kereakes

Bantam Rooster
, the songs you wrote in that band have "signature licks" that were catchy, spazzy and sometimes downright obnoxious, does the new material you're currently working on resemble that style at all?

"Yeah, I'm kind of gettin' back into that. The new band is pretty primal but in a more early Alice Cooper, Scientists, AC-DC kind of way. The new Bantam stuff I'm working on is definitely in that vein though because, well, it's Bantam Rooster."

How long has this new band been together? Who else is in this outfit and will the Potter-maniacs ever get to see a gig?
"Haven’t been together too long, maybe six months. I'm playing guitar and singing. We’ve got a Kalamazoo lad, Sean Barney (The Breaks, The Menthols) on guitar. Our bass player, Marc Savage, as always, yes…that’s his real name and drummer, Michael Shenighan are both from Grand Rapids and are also both in a punk band called The Bitters. They’re great guys and, for me, this band is really going a long way toward making music fun to play again. It’ll probably be a couple months yet before we play out, but we will. Still haven’t settled on a name, any suggestions?"

Over the years, on your tours with Bantam, Dirtbombs or Detroit City Council, what is a crazy-ass story that happened while on the road?
"Are you looking for a 'crazy ass story' or a 'crazy ASS story'? There’s plenty of both, maybe someday I’ll write them down but I much prefer to be drunk and have you in a lockdown monologue when sharing such tales… otherwise, I’d have to change the names to protect the not-so-innocent."

How old were you and where were you living when you first began writing songs and playing guitar? What's the story of how Potter got started in music?
"Got my first guitar at the tender age of 12 in Charlotte, Michigan. There was an old man in town that ran a combination dry cleaners/Christian book store/music store, oh, and he also sold rock-polishing equipment. He had racks of these rusted out guitars. My first was a Teisco Del Ray. It was a blue knock off of the Vox diamond-shape guitar, it cost $60. I took lessons from my friend’s older brother long enough to learn bar chords and then I was done with that. My first attempts at writing songs were in high school but I really didn’t get decent at it until later after being in a few bands."

What ever happened to the Detroit City Council? They were here one second, and then gone the next?
"Actually, the Detroit City Council started out as kind of a quasi-solo project thing. I had all these songs that weren’t Bantam songs in my head. I was listening to a lot of guitar based funk blues stuff like Bo Diddley’s Black Gladiator and Black Merda and stuff like that. So I went into Diamond’s studio and we started calling people to come in and lay down tracks. Half of Detroit is on those recordings, practically all the Dirtbombs (Diamond, Ewolf, Mick, Ben, Pat, Ko), Danny Dollrod played some killer guitar on it, Deanne from The Come Ons, as well as a lot of the guys who would eventually make up the band. From that, I got a deal with Acid Jazz Records in the U.K. so I figured it was time to put together a proper band, and it was a really fucking good one. For a while things were going pretty damn well. Went back in the studio and recorded some more, Acid Jazz released two singles, we did a very successful tour of the U.K. with The Electric Six… and then everything kind of went to shit."

So what was the begining of the end for Detroit City Council?
"I don’t want to point any fingers, let’s just say that balls were being dropped left and right. Then one of our guitar players, Danny Maister, died and that really took a lot out of all of us. Our bass player, Matt O’Brien quit. We got a couple new guys, and a new manager and carried on a while longer but, after all we’d been through, my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. It’s a shame because there’s a whole CDs worth of great stuff that’ll probably never see the light of day but, fuck it, despite all the tragedy, we had a pretty fun run of it for a while."

Jumping back, again, why did you decide to break-up Bantam Rooster back in 2002-2003, or so?
"Actually, I never really ended Bantam I suppose. I just hit a point around that time where I was busy with the Detroit City Council and The Dirtbombs and couldn’t give 100% to Bantam...and Bantam Rooster kind of requires 100%."

There is always the hope of the infamous "Last Bantam Rooster Album", will this ever be recorded and released?
"Well, let’s just say that Long Gone John (Sympathy Records) has been emailing me asking about it. I hung out with Nick Lloyd (ex Dirtys/The Moonlight and the third Bantam Rooster drummer) a few times over the summer and we’ve been talking about it and, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve been doing a bit of writing in that vein."

Dirtbombs! Tom Potter & Mick Collins at Maxwell's

Potterfide Links

Everything Bantam Rooster
Bantam Pics NYC 2001
Bantam Pics 2000 at Fallout Records
Bantam Rooster profile at Motor City Rocks
Bantam Rooster profile at Metro Times Detroit
Tom Potter is in this film
Bantam Rooster on All Music Guide
Punk Turns 30 Photos - Theresa K!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The 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."

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

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Alicja Trout, the Interview!...A Lost Sound For a New Album!

'I'm your Negavtive' LP on Dirtnap Records

By: Rich Tupica

After a handful of 7-inch singles, Alicja Trout has finally released a full-length album with her latest rock-n-roll trio the River City Tanlines.
Ditching the dark new wave that was (her previous band) The Lost Sounds for catchy guitar hooks, Trout, along with her band mates T-Money and Bubba, deliver straight forward rock music that could easily go on a world tour with The Hives.
On the 'I’m Your Negative' LP, the River City Tanlines clean up the fuzz and lo-fi noise, pushing great songwriting to the front of the table, after all, these tunes have nothing to hide.
In this interview, Alicja tells the story of how the new album came to be, her jam session with a rock legend and a violent night at the Old Miami bar in Detroit that she and Jay Reatard will surely never forget.

How is Memphis music these days?
"I can't say it sounds so great as far as the younger bands, but there is one group of bands or people, under the name 'Memphis Orgies,' some of the bands are The Barbaras, The Boston Chinks, Kazalok, and more. They do all these weird side projects, very avante garde in a sort of idiot savant way, but bizarre and hilarious, you'd have to see them
to understand. People get fucked up and take off their clothes, or they have weird costumes, like dirty hotdogs, or tuxedos and drinking martinis, it's always these one-off bands.
I think Jack Oblivian's band The Brand New Love Affairs, with Adam, Harlan T. Bobo and Pail B. sounds incredibly tight right now, they headlined Saturday at Gonerfest. So yeah, Eric and Zach at Goner Records are doing a lot through the Goner name to get people excited about music in Memphis."

How old were you when you first started to write songs and play guitar.
"14 or 15 or 16 years-old, but it sucked."

What was your favorite rock-n-roll band back in your high school days?
"God, I don’t know, I wasn't particularly cool, I liked the Beastie Boys and REM I guess, classic rock and crap like that. I really can't remember liking rock-n-roll in High School. I was really into hair metal and nu-wave when I was in Junior High. In High School I think I tried to be cool and listen to Dead Kennedys and DRI and Sex Pistols and stuff, but I really liked Prince."

How was it playing with Arthur Lee? How did that opportunity come about?
"It's the most amazing thing, I only met him twice, once for a good long practice, the sound of his voice and harmonica and even his tambourine playing warmed my shattered heart. I'd just lost a friend to drugs when Greg Roberson (ex-drummer of the Reigning Sound) called me and asked me if
I wanted to come over and play some music. I declined because I was dealing with a death, and it makes any small task hard, like carrying a guitar or something. So I asked him out of curiosity what the occasion was, and when he said he was asked to put together an 'Arthur Lee new Memphis Love', I was like, I’ll be right over. I know most the Love songs like the back of my hand."

What's some memorable moments of jamming with Arthur?
"Arthur said a lot of things that were really intense for me. I played bass on "Little Red Book," pretty easily, right off the top of my head, he told me I was a good bass player. I played guitar on '7 and 7 Is', I used to do that in The Clears a long time ago. Arthur said he's never played with a girl before, except in orchestras and such. Greg told him that we had the same birthday, March 7th, and Arthur said, 'you must be really fucked up then', and I knew what he meant and laughed and agreed. But the coolest part of the whole night was when he sang 'Signed DC.' This sounds weird, but I felt like my friend who had died was sending a message to me of how he felt before he died, and it was sad. But the song is so beautiful, and if sad can be beautiful then pain and suffering in our human life makes sense, and it makes sense that in the afterlife suffering is gone, because human pain is beauty, it was cathartic and comforting. Arthur sounded great and he was so handsome when I first met him, before the cancer started to make him too slender. He was a stylish rock-n-roll cowboy. He was very charming and a very good music leader. It's one thing to meet someone famous, it's another thing to meet someone that shaped your understanding of music. Love is the greatest thing in the world and there is only one Love, and only one leader of Love, Arthur Lee, and I shook his hand and played with him. WOW!"

You have a Master's Degree from the Memphis College of Art, do you think you will ever use this degree or is it music all the way?
"Huh, well, I’ve already used it, I did video graphics for six-years at an Arena, also taught kids art, for now its music. I want to do something different with second half of my life. But, I also want to be really good at one thing, so I feel obligated to stick to music."

Was there a particular band or bands in Memphis that inspired your to start you own band?
"No, I just was attracted to guitars and drums, just bands in general and MTV inspired me, then long ago it deserted me so I hate it for that. You Tube! There were however a lot of bands that steered me in this direction, just the old garage bands around here, all of them. Not so much the punk or metal bands, that was a very uncomfortable scene for a kid."

The Clears were one of your first bands, how long were you guys together for?
"Nine months to a year, enough to tour twice and make an album, get a song or two on a comp. It was a bout analog synths and four-track pop, home recordings and cheap Casios and guitars, funny words, love, gayness, outer space."

Contaminated Records, what is a brief history on how it all got started?
"It started with The Fitts, we were a three-girl band and we put out a record together before we imploded. Then I continued the label with The Ponys, and then doing The Feelers repress and Evil Army and such. I want to invest more effort into it now and phase out the mail order. I'll keep it punk rock-n-roll and post punk style, though I do love all kinds of music."

Tronic Graveyard Studio in Memphis is your personal studio, what record are you most proud of that was recorded there?
"I really like the new Feelers. I also like some of The Black Sunday recordings, and some of the Destruction Unit recordings. I've also gotten a lot of mileage out of the early River City Tanlines recordings, which were slopped out demos which happened to come out good for no reason."

Bang Your Head! with River City Tanlines!

What's the story behind the brutal fight that broke out at the Lost Sound's first Detroit gig?
"The Lost Sounds show in Detroit was at the Old Miami. I think it was with The Piranhas and The Guilty Pleasures, Matt Williams and Jered from The Ponys old band. Some guy Lacey stuck The Vibrators on the bill, they were boring live and they used our equipment. Then, in the end, the guy who'd last minute stuck them (Vibrators) on our bill without consulting us, stole all of our door money to give it to The Vibrators."

So how did the actual violence breakout?
"I was drunk and argued with the lady trying to pay us next to nothing. Then Lacey started a bar room brawl! He called me a hillbilly and I guess I walked off to get another band member who were all off doing their own thing, drugs, whatever, and then Lacey hit me in the back of the head with a giant bar-glass, I saw stars, so I grabbed a bottle off the bar and went to throw it at him. Just then the bartender had jumped out from behind the bar and caught my arm as I was about to throw the bottle, so it bounced like a plastic cup of his chest. Next thing I know, some coked-up mongoloid with a septum piercing rushes me like a bull and punched me in the mouth. I fell back, somehow on a couch, this time I blacked out temporarily for real ... "

Where did you wake up at?!
"I woke up backside down on the couch and started kicking like crazy. Mass confusion was going on. Jay (Reatard) was getting a serious beat down. Lacey had lost his glasses and I sort of saw my feet swatting in the air near his face. Next thing I know, the bartender picks me up, and the first thing my brain let me hear sounded something like being on a Whip-It...'Get outta' here! They're gonna’ kill you!'"

Did the cops show up at the bar?
"Cops came right after Lacey left the bar, walking like a sideways Quasimodo carrying a giant piece of concrete for protection. I was yelling at him about how lame it was to hit a girl. I described him to this cop as a 'black guy with bleach-blonde short hair,and a puff mullet.' Everyone was baffled by this, but I saw it, like a little blonde fro-mullet in the back."

So was there really a "puff fro-mullet"?
"Later we had a big laugh because it wasn't a puff fro-mullet at all...It was a goiter he had growing on the back of his head, where it meets his neck! And he had hair on it! I learned the word "goiter" and invented the style "puff-mullet"... Okay, then to add to the mess, The Guilty Pleasures where going to show us a place to crash, they were high on opium, and they left us, we had to drive all night through Canada with blood coming out our mouths and ears."

On a lighter note! 'I'm Your Negative' is the new River City Tanlines LP on Dirtnap Records. How do you feel it measures- up against your previous albums?
"It was recorded in Nashville by Tony Read, I'd met him at a dive bar there, he was the sound guy and told me about his home studio, Battle Tapes, and so we recorded there, he acted as recorder and producer. Tony encouraged me to keep the vocals clean , and I was determined to keep the guitar tones cleaner, not hide in gain and distortion, really try to play well."

So you're pleased with the results of the record then?

"I'm really happy with the results. I wanted something different, not hiding in lo-fi like the early recordings I'd done at home, and also not hiding in layers like The Lost Sounds recordings. We also wrote more songs then and there. It took four nights to record and write all the basic stuff, then three more nights to add all the finishing touches: extras, guitar solos, and mix it.
It's pretty much un-mastered , Tony gave us really good final mixes. I've never made an album like this, pretty songs to ugly little fun blasts, to a trilogy. I felt very stressed by pressure, it would be my first 'real' album since the last Lost Sounds album. I'm happy with it, which says a lot because I'm hyper critical of myself."

T-Money and Bubba are your fellow River City Tanlines, how is it touring with them as opposed to your days on the road with the Lost Sounds?
"Touring with them is total pleasure, they are such good guys, they understand life on the road, how to pack a van, how to do a dummy check even when wasted, how to take it easy and party too, people love them, they charm everyone. They trust me to handle all the merch and show money and pay them in the end, no bookkeeping. It's the furthest thing from touring with Lost Sounds, that was constant stress I couldn't escape, the T and B are like touring with two brothers and everyone is looking out for each other. Extreme fatigue is about the only thing that ever leads to fights, and they are rare and short. Touring is very trying, tight spaces, alcohol, and wearing your body out, a lot of 'go really fast, and then hurry up and wait.' With them it's like a really fast paced vacation, and I can concentrate on playing the set well instead of if I’m going get spit on or yelled at or hit with a mike stand or if someone's going run off stage. In hindsight touring with The Lost Sounds flat out sucked! Torture!"

What's one thing Alicja wants to accomplish before she dies?
"Make a film or at least score several of them. Have a happy life and live comfortably and hopefully one day have assets to do more then just stuff for myself."

Alicja Trout web-hook-ups!

River City Tanlines on Myspace (Tour Dates!)

Contaminated Records Offical webpage
Contaminated Records
on Myspace
Arthur Lee & Love Website
Boston Chinks
Brand New Love Affairs
The Old Miami -the notorious Detroit bar!

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

View My Stats