Sunday, December 23, 2012

A "No Joke!" Interview with Cris Kirkwood, November 20, 2012

Skype to Phone Interview with Cris Kirkwood


Meat Puppets

November 20, 2012

Matt- Last time we talked up to Too High to Die, Meat Puppets’ commercially most successful record. At what point, maybe it’s even a little bit beforehand, before the record even comes out, at what point do you believe that this is going to be a successful record?

Cris- It just started gradually happening. That was a long time ago, at this point. I remember when the guy told us, we were driving along on tour at one point, and we had a tour manager, and things had ramped up gradually, our crew was solid, Davo and Danny had worked with us for a long time, the gear was real snazzy, we were young enough to pull it off with aplomb, alacrity and aplomb. I do remember, I think it was Ben Martz, our tour manager at the time, he got a phone call as we were driving along and he told us, “Too High to Die has gone Gold! Certified Gold!” At that point I knew that the album had been certified Gold.

But it had been building up. I think we talked about that a little bit. The record company. . .these different pieces that go into making a record suddenly, kind of, get more attention. And people dug it, that’s the main thing. But with the Nirvana thing, people at the record company hearing it, being told this and that, different things, the show we did in South Carolina, things started to fall in place. We realized that the record company was focusing on the album. And then your realize that that’s what it takes if you’re signed, to have it work. You begin to realize that that’s why it’s the record “business.”

So it started to gradually move along and things were up ticking. It was cool, little things kept occurring. Certain things. It was neat to go on tour with Nirvana. That was fun. There was good timing with the record there.

M- So at this point you’re willingly working with the label, doing promotions and stuff?

C- Yea. That’s the stuff we’d always done. Mostly it’s like interviews and visits to radio stations. And we’d done that stuff for years already. That’s where the band got going at first, you know, critically, like, reviews and that kind of thing, interviewise and whatnot. The stuff we were doing for the major labels along those lines was stuff we’d done. But there was more radio, and the radio stations were suddenly less college rock and more mainstream local rock stations. And these different markets. There’s local reps involved at that point. The company had people that work in these different markets, they’ve got it broken down into markets. It’s like, “There’s the business of actually selling music.” They actually did it with that record. Or we did it in conjunction with them.

M- And you started getting some T.V. time, some MTV.

C- Yea. A little bit. That got on there some. The one video, Rocky Schenck made a video for “Backwater.” That actually got nominated for a Video Music Award for editing. It’s a beautiful video. It was a cool idea. He made these clear plastic tanks, filled them with water and floated. . .like three of them. . .thin, flat tanks. Big enough that you could get all the way underneath, and the suspended them over each other and hung a camera on top of it and shot down through them, and floated flowers and shit, had us get underneath them at different levels. It was a trip. Interesting stuff. And there’s some cool other affects, like shards of mirrors. Video stuff. All done “in camera” as he said. It’s pretty. A nice video.

M- How does touring change after that? You open for a number of different bands.

C- We had some support from the label. We had a bus. At a point it turned to bus tours. That was different.

M- You’re playing bigger venues.

C- Yea, on those shows that we’re opening for people.

M- You open for, who? Blind Melon. . .

C- Yea. That wasn’t that big of places. But we did the Stone Temple Pilots tour. A couple of those, a few of those. Those were the big places. Not football stadiums, but basketball arenas.

M- And how was that? Did you like that? Did you care one way or another?

C- It was fun. Definitely neat. Ultimately I like playing. I really get a kick out of our own shows that are at a bar cuz the thing that gets me off is having the music takes us places that are so. . .I like to get to. It’s almost easier doing your own show cuz this is our own little world here and everybody’s in on what we’re trying to get to here.

M- But opening shows you’re not able to do that, right? It’s much tighter.

C- You can. To a degree you can. Depending on the situation. It’s a different kind of thing. A bigger stage. You’re opening for somebody else. You have a certain amount of time. We did a lot. We played lots of opening shows, lots of our own headlining shows. They’re different. At that point you’re dealing with these bands that are like, “Fuck, you guys are just killing it!”

It was like, “Here’s what things can get to. If things go well enough. . .” Bigger crap, lights, and stuff like that. That’s that side of it. Fasci-fucking-nating.

M- How are you guys getting along as a band at this point?

C- I think I was always a douche bag and a pill in a lot of ways, looking back. But I was always exceedingly enthusiastic in all ways and wished the very best for us all. I think Derrick had been put off by the increase in attention and responsibility. He was always kind of an anti-social guy. Not anti-social, he just had his own reality. He didn’t necessarily need to be that much of a public figure. He was pulling away from it in some ways. That was my take on it. “Dude, aren’t you having fun? Can’t this still be a blast? We don’t even have to drive now.” And at the same time there I am, “Yee haw! It’s all a blast now!” To the degree of “Watch me turn into a human turd overnight,” or “Watch the real turd that I’ve always been really take a shine in the harsh glaring spotlight.”

I don’t know. We were getting along to the degree we were. The band was fucking good! There was, for sure, creepy shit. I’ll take the blame for all of it. Those guys had their shit together for years.

M- But the band has been together, at the point at which we’re talking, fourteen years or so. So you’ve had your shit together most of the time. Right? Most of the time you show up and you play.

C- Oh yea. I did that. Good for me!

M- Most of your career you were a responsible, professional musician. Right? That’s fair to say.

C- “Responsible Professional Musician.” That’s what it’s gonna say on my tombstone.

M- So, in reading Prato’s book, there’s quite a bit about when Troy comes in as the second guitarist.

C- Troy was fine. It was an idea tossed around. At points, you know, Frusciante came out and played with us. There’s that bit.

M- Did you just say “Frusciante” like the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ guy?

C- Yea.

M- When did that happen?

C- That’s not in the book? How John came out and played with us?

M- I don’t remember. I don’t think so.

C- I’d think it would be. Anyway, John came out. He quit the Chilis and he said in some newspaper article that the only bad he’d think about playing with was us. Something like that. And the record label saw it. And we knew John. And they were like, “Why don’t you ask him if he’d like to do that?” It seemed like an interesting idea, as I recall. I don’t know. Curt could tell you the details. But John came out and jammed with us a little bit. It was trippy. It was interesting.

M- Just in jam sessions, practices. Never in a show?

C- No. No shows. Just a couple of jams over a couple of days. Hung out at Curt’s house for awhile. Came out on a train, with his guitar only, without a case. And a bag of something. Barefoot. It was like, “Whoa! Far out!” He was really trippy. It was cool. He had one of my favorite lines. I asked him, “Do you want to use my tuner?”

He goes, “I’ll bend it in.”

I realized, “Oh, that’s an interesting approach to the arts.” John’s definitely an arty guy.

M- Musically, did you not like the idea of a second guitarist?

C- I’m into it, definitely. I think it’s really neat. These days Elmo’s been playing with us, Curt’s son, and it’s really something else when it clicks which it mostly does. A lot of it he’s just doing the guitar parts that Curt’s done on the records, but then something else will happen. These days with Elmo particularly. . .it’s nothing you can put your finger on, but he is Curt’s kid, and Curt and I are brothers so, at least genetically it’s pretty similar. There’s just a certain color of. . .a certain configuration of note choices. “Now that’s an interesting choice of a note. I approve of your note selection.” I like it. It’s very cool, musically, on a lot of levels.

There was a time, I think we were playing with Soul Asylum, those were some other guys we went out and did a bunch of shows with when they were moving up, had moved up to medium-sized things. . .And they had a guy, Joey Huffman playing with them, and Curt actually wound-up writing some stuff with him. And Joey’s still around and does stuff, and he’s a keyboard player. What’s that one song they wrote? Something about the rain?

M- I don’t know.

C- It’s real pretty. Maybe it’s on that Volcano record.

M- Curt’s Volcano record?

C- I think so. Something about. . .(sings) “Here comes the rain/Rolling all over”. . .Anyway, Joey jammed with us a couple of times, and we’ve had keyboards on records before. On Too High to Die.

But Joey jammed with us live a couple of times and that was really bitchen. And just now I got a text from a pal of mine that I’ve gotten to know since Curt and I got back up, from the Philadelphia area, named Ron Stabinsky, and he’s a keyboard player, he gotten good. It would be fun to go out into certain regions that I love about the band, the twinkly, the fay-bits, the twee-bits.

M- So sometime in here you start using heroin pretty heavily, right?

C- At a point, yea. It was after all that. It was before we started making No Joke!, in the interim in there, it kind of crept in. Vera got sick, my mom got sick. So it crept in. I let it. I let the dope in. And all hell was to be paid.

M- And this, of course, influences your relationships with the other band members as well as the rest of the world, right?

C- Yea. It was bad. I wasn’t handling things. . .I wasn’t handling Vera’s illness well. And somewhere in there Cobain wound-up killing himself and we were, at that time, working with the same people that managed them, Gold Mountain, and everybody was so burned by Kurt killing himself which was tragic. And it seemed like dope played a significant part in that. So any other apparent dope problems were not looked upon lightly at that point. So immediately our whole business reality was threatened. I just couldn’t get my shit together and it all came apart.

M- You weren’t the only one. It was prevalent in the scene, the bands your were touring with.

C- Not really. Everybody had their shit together that was touring. You can’t do drugs and be a real musician. Unless your Keith Richards. Or if you’re talking about people who got gigantic when they were kids and never had to lift a finger after that; hired professionals to shoot their dope up their butts for them.

There was partying going on but nobody was fucked-up. And once anybody got fucked-up it became an “item” and then they either died or their band fell apart.

M- So, No Joke!. You decide to record this in Phoenix. You toured all of ninety-four and into ninety-five and you record No Joke! somewhere around April or May of ’95. Did you feel like the label was working with you, that they were behind it?

C- The label would’ve been behind it. I just think in some ways it was tough. Our mom was suddenly ill. To have it come on the heels of when you want to be in a good place and bang out the follow-up to “Cherry Pie” so that maybe you can get to your “Every Rose has its Thorn.”

So my mom’s ill. That put up some life reality and our big fucking sand castle suddenly gets a big fucking turd dumped into it. The Death Head Moth/Sphinx, the Sphinx Death Head Moth. So it was necessary to make a record and at the same time it was a tough time to do it.

The record company got wind of the fact that I wasn’t doing that well. And that puts a stink on things. And yet they were ready to go. They spent a lot of money on that thing. They were ready to go.

M- What about the recording itself? How did things go in the studio?

C- There were parts of it that were really, really bitchen. It captures that time period just like all of Curt’s compositions do. It’s a trip. It’s like, our mom is dying, to me.

M- That’s what the record sounds like to you?

C- That’s what resonates from that whole time period for me. What’re you gonna do, that’s the kind of band we are. It’s not like Curt can turn on the “Backwater” tap and poop and out pops another golden egg.

M- Do you ever think that Curt writes songs about you?

C- You’d have to ask him. He told me specifically there was one thing he wrote about. . .what’s it called. . .It had a sense of it. But I don’t think he did before any of that. This one thing that he wrote at one point was nominally inspired, just a certain sense of it, maybe. I don’t know. I certainly hope not.

M- You’ve never felt that he did?

C- No. I don’t think he does repeatedly or anything. At best, what I could say about his writing is that who he is and the life that he’s lived definitely plays into the material he comes up with. I don’t know what goes into making an artist or a composer the composer that he is.

But, for sure, just having Curt in my life is what’s enabled me to be able to do this. The guy is a composer. I hope he’s not writing songs about me. He’s not. “Once upon a time. . .”

M- What about your two songs? You have “Cobbler” and “Inflatable” on this one.

C- That was neat. It was neat. There’s another part of it. It was a neat time on some levels. I was actually kind of growing up in some ways. And yet it was still the last little spurt of adolescence and retardation. A character flaw. I was getting to the point where I was starting to compose, myself. Like Curt’s always said, he just does it. The difference between him and someone that isn’t a composer is that he just goes ahead and does it.

That was fun. I had some cool shit going on with some art. There’s some people up at MTV that found-out about my drawings and invited me in. Things were moving along there. It was a delightful period in my life, as you can tell.

M- You had some money at this point, right?

C- Not really. I mean, more than I’d had, but not, like, money.

M- A few more dollars, anyway, off of the Nirvana thing and Too High to Die.

C- Some. I mean, the amount of money that gets invested in those things and all the people that are taking their percentages. The real money is in the business and the publishing, you know, Curt writes most of the stuff.

M- Was it taken-for-granted that Paul Leary would record this one? Was there any discussion of anybody else.

C- I can’t remember. Taken-for-granted? I don’t know. It was definitely something else to have our old pal Paul picked to be the producer on Too High to Die. It made it such a personable thing. And to have it blow-out like that and to have it make it so, like, “Oh look, Paul’s a producer now.” He already was. He did a great job on Too High to Die, we all did. It sounds like us. It’s neat. I would hope that there was some element of, “Neat. Let’s do it again and see where we’re at.”

M- So you do a little bit of touring after No Joke!. You did a tour with Primus.

C- That was the only tour I did when I was actually addicted to dope. It was hellish. Ghastly. That’s what I was saying. You can’t do that. You can’t tour and be strung-out unless you’ve got more help than we ever had and everybody in the band is cool with one of you being a fucked-up monkey. But it can only go on until, you know, you go to Japan and get arrested.

So, yea, we did that tour, and I think the last show we did with Derrick was a New Year’s show. . .

M- In Chicago.

M- That’s interesting what you say, and I don’t want to dwell on darkness either, but. . .

But the point you make that to be a junkie on tour you have to have support. Somebody has to be providing you with your dope, right? And if you don’t have that person, it makes it a lot more difficult to be that way. And our metaphorical Keith Richards, though, from very early on, could have somebody helping him be a drug addict. Which makes it easier.

C- I have no idea. And I don’t want to say that he actually did drugs, or any of it. But as far as the lore of the Stones, the guy did dope. The lore of having it been there and having it administered for him. And he got busted when he came to Canada. I just saw some new movie that came out called, I think, Crossfire Hurricane, that’s pretty neat. It’s like, “Fucking Stones! Wow!”

It’s interesting that Curt and I are still playing music. I think it says something about music itself. And that the Stones still are. The same thing is to be said musically there. Yet still I would gladly hand over the administration of the driving duties to a professional toot sweet. “Toot sweet.”

M- Is there a point, for you, that you realize that you’re not going to be making any more records with Meat Puppets, at least back then? You couldn’t have envisioned that twelve or fourteen years later you’d be making music again. There must have been a point where, “Well, the band is over for now.”

C- I fell into such a trough before Michelle actually expired. Once she died the idea of ever doing anything except rotting away was beyond me.

This is the last time I’m gonna talk about this shit. I’m ready to move on from this. The only thing that makes talking about any of this in any way tolerable is the strength I get from in any way being able to repay and ease the heartache of the people that care about and continue to support me. Which means being able to make more records and not being a fucked-up pig.

M- And now you’re gonna go to Spain.

C- Yea. We’re gonna go to Spain, and we got a new record. Did you hear about that?

M- Yea. That’s coming out in the next few months, three or four months?

C- Yea. Something next year. Yea. It’s bitchen. It like, “Wow, fuck!” It’s more of the same, the birth of a new record out of Curt, through me and him, “Another record! Wow!” That’s a very special process.

M- I imagine that given the pattern you guys have you’ll probably touring pretty hard pretty soon.

C- There’s some international stuff in the works, South America, maybe back down to Australia, New Zealand. I think that’s being talked about. Yea, there’s some stuff coming up. And musically there’s some really neat stuff going on.

You know, we’ve talked about this before. The band is a bitchen art project. If anybody gives a crap about the arts. It has its own merits. There’s something there to look at and consider. All the time and work that’s been done. . .it’s its own thing.

M- I thank you for the interview, Cris. I have a class I have to go to here pretty quick.

C- Bitchen, Matt. Good deal. I’m sorry if I was grumpy there.

M- I understand.

C- We’ll move on from there when you’re ready.

M- Any interviews we have from now on will not be on this subject.

C- Now it will be into the “Flight of the Phoenix.”

Monday, December 10, 2012

A "No Joke!" Interview with Curt Kirkwood, November 6, 2012

Skype to Phone Interview with Curt Kirkwood
Meat Puppets
November 6, 2012

Matt- In this interview we’re gonna go from Too High to Die to No Joke!. Since we last talked I’ve had the pleasure of reading Prato’s book, so some things get filled-in there, not to mention some things I already knew.

Let’s start: When do you start to realize that things are starting to pick up, that you’re “taking it to the next level,” as they might say? Do you start to feel that you’re becoming more successful commercially?

Curt- For sure. We put out Too High to Die, went out all Summer with Stone Temple Pilots. At the same time, the more we toured it didn’t go up higher on the charts or anything. It did what it did on its own. Whatever we were doing wasn’t really helping that particular process. I was paying attention to it cuz everybody was all about that, you know, the record company was, “Oh, you got some success.”

And I was seeing, “Well, this isn’t doing that much.”

We toured a lot through ’94 and started in ’95 to do the next one. We had a big budget and they were still pretty into it. So ’94, ’95 was kind of like, “You’re gonna be huge.” Like, No Joke!, “It’s gonna be huge! Na na na.” I took it with a grain of salt cuz I knew how it was going. It hadn’t changed that much.

We put out No Joke! in ’95 and went out with Primus and nobody even knew we had a record out even though the record company was like, “This is getting a lot of adds” and all this stuff. It went away pretty quickly. They lost faith in us because the band was messing up with the dope and stuff. They could tell.

M- So you were playing bigger venues even though most of the time you were opening, whether it be for Stone Temple Pilots or Blind Melon. And you’re not just in a van. You had a bus for the first time.

C- Yea. We got bussed on that tour. That was two months, at least, maybe more like three months. That was nice.

M- I guess my point is that sometime in early ’94, after Too High to Die comes out and “Backwater” is doing well and Nirvana Unplugged is doing well, there must have been some excitement in the band that after toiling for ten years at the same place maybe things were happening.

C- For sure. It was a huge pick-up in a lot of ways. At our own shows we didn’t see a whole lot more. We’d been doing the same thing for a number of years as far as the size of places we were playing. But we were getting a lot of attention from the record company and from the press and the budget was twice what Too High to Die was, for No Joke!. They really threw-down for that. There was definitely a lot of internal hype there at that record company. So, yea, it seemed like stuff was going pretty good.

M- And you were doing bigger promo spots like, say, MTV, you popped-up once or twice there.

C- Yea. And expensive videos. They gave us a lot of money to do the “Scum” video. We got to do that with Dave Markey. He and I wrote it and they pretty much left us alone with that. It was a pretty exciting time, for sure.

But also, like I said, I wasn’t feeling like what we were doing on the road was matching . . .It seemed separate from all the radio airplay and all that stuff. It seemed like people knew the song but they didn’t know the band.

M- I remember in Chicago, before Too High to Die you were at the Metro and then you did a couple nights at Lounge Ax. But after Too High to Die you played the Vic, which was like a small theater rather than a club. So, it was a slightly bigger place.

C- I don’t remember that. The Metro I remember, and a couple nights at Lounge Ax. I don’t remember the Vic one. Did we open for somebody?

M- No. You were the headliner. It was October of ’94, on your own. I don’t remember who opened for you. It was a little bit bigger than the Metro. It had a balcony.

Briefly, again, to Too High to Die and the marketing. We talked a little bit about it last time how it seems they were trying to mimic Nirvana, they meaning your record label executives and marketers, in the fact that you had your picture on the album instead of a drawing, but also you had a secret track at the end, like Nirvana. Was that a label decision?

C- Probably.

M- And, importantly, and there’s a lot of time spent on this in Prato’s book, you added a second guitarist, Troy. Was that something suggested by the label?

C- No. I just thought it would be fun. We could afford it. We had room, getting the bus and that kind of stuff. It was something to add a little bit more of the element that we had on records in the live thing. That was my idea.

M- So it didn’t have anything to do with Nirvana having a second guitarist?

C- No.

M- Even in your mind, thinking that Nirvana sounds better with two guitars rather than one.

C- Did I think they did?

M- What did a second guitarist bring to the band, live?

C- You could play the stuff that you overdubbed on the record. It’s the same reason I take my kid out now. It also gives me a little bit of a break, I can kind of quit, you know, if I feel like it, work more on the vocals and have somebody hold down the rhythm. It’s just a different trip. It doesn’t get stale, but definitely a three-piece is a lot of work. It’s just something that we could afford there.

M- It seems, in reading Prato and talking with Derrick, that some of the problems in the band might begin with the adding of Troy. According to Prato, Cris really didn’t like the idea.

C- Well, Cris is a tool at this point. It doesn’t matter what the fuck Cris likes, at all, at that point. He didn’t like Troy cuz Cris was a junkie shit already by that point. He was having problems. He might not have been using drugs, but he was definitely mental. Troy wasn’t that big of a problem. It was fun. The problem was largely Cris’s, whatever that was. I don’t think Derrick minded him that much. I don’t think it was anything that sparked anything there, having Troy around.

M- So, you begin to notice Cris having problems when?

C- Uhm. . .

M- I mean, it’s accurate to play upon the assumption that a big part of the end of the first Meat Puppets is Cris, right?

C- Yea. I would say the big. . .There’s a variety of things. I think Derrick was bored with it. His heart wasn’t in it that much. I think he was just going through the motions. I was definitely hard work for both of us being around Cris once he started doing too much dope. That all started, like, in ’94. I don’t know exactly. He was getting a little bit more and more disturbed there.

You know, really the reason the thing came to a halt for awhile was because I just didn’t do anything about it. I quit talking to Derrick and quit talking to Cris. I was like, “Well, maybe this will work itself out.” And it didn’t. There wasn’t anything that was, like, an event or something like that. I tried to get Cris to go to rehab. He wouldn’t do it. I figured he’d get over it pretty quickly if I quit doing anything. I moved out to California mid-’95 before we started doing No Joke! But it didn’t get any better. So time just went on.

In hindsight I see how, if I’d had known the depth of the problem there I might of gotten somebody else to fill-in right off the bat. But I just didn’t. And then time went by. And then Universal went over to Bronfman and this and that. There was a good number of years where I couldn’t do anything after No Joke! It was in corporate flux. That was out of my hands. They weren’t touching anybody. There was no motion. It wasn’t anything against the band so much.

Even when I got the guys out here involved. . .I moved out here in ’97. . .that was still going on. There were, like, two years where there was nothing happening at Universal while they were trying to figure-out where they were gonna be.

There were a number of things that were a little bit over my head. Just the general feeling that the band was good but Cris was too messed up to be fun to play with and Derrick obviously wasn’t having too much fun.

M- Do you recognize Cris’s drug problems before the label does?

C- I think so. I’m pretty sure. He wasn’t hiding it too much. It was something that got around to everybody. We all got privy to it by-and-by. I didn’t hang around with him that much. I just would see him do stuff that was obviously dope related. Or he’d just be overt about it sometimes. Being around the wrong people and eventually they’d be. . .

And it was part of the times, too. Gold Mountain was our management and they didn’t want to have anything to do with anything about dope because of Cobain. It was starting to be seen as something that was a hands-off situation. So Gold Mountain didn’t want to work with us anymore. They didn’t want to work with my brother. I went out with the guys that ran it and they were like, “We want to work with you but you gotta get rid of your brother.” That didn’t sit well with me, so they got rid of us all. Well, they got rid of us first and then got me out to lunch and said, “This sucks, but we will work with you.” But, once again, I wasn’t smart enough to see that it was gonna be an ongoing thing.

I was like, “That’s a rotten way to approach this. I can’t just ditch my brother.” But I had to, too, shortly thereafter. They were just a little bit more on it. They were saying, “We’ve seen this before. It’s the same bad movie. It’s not gonna go well.” I was just naïve.

M- So the management confronted you directly? Is this before the recording of No Joke!?

C- It’s right after it came out. I was living in California at the time. So it was right after it came out. It came out. It started getting a lot of adds on the radio, and it seemed like it was going good. They were telling me, “This is gonna be huge!” And then, all of a sudden, boom!, they weren’t interested. It was really obvious that they had discovered that we had a major problem in the band. I was just too close to it to see it. I think other people saw it a little more clearly.

I hadn’t really been around that. I’d been around plenty of drugs. I didn’t realize, in my own situation how it would affect anything. I was like, “Once he realizes he is wrecking stuff and the record company is pissed-off, then he’ll get better.” But it never did.

M- And he’s your brother, not just your band mate. Nobody wants to abandon their brother.

C- Yea. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt as much as I could.

M- So, to No Joke!. You say you had a bigger budget. Coming up on No Joke! how was your relationship with the label? I remember that with Too High to Die they kept putting it off and they weren’t sure what to do and there’s an acoustic album and, finally, “Fuck You” and then you get to put out a record. Was that kind of thing going on leading to No Joke!? Or did the success of Too High to Die help out?

C- It helped a lot. No question there. They let us go and do whatever we wanted. They gave us a big budget. We got Paul in there again. They were right behind it. Everything was fine.

I don’t think they really knew. I knew there was a problem lurking for about a year, like from the Summer of ’94. But, once again, I didn’t hang around with Cris. I didn’t know it was getting more deeply imbedded. It was during the recording of No Joke!, too, where it was like, “Okay, he’s nodding out while he’s playing. Is this guy messed-up?” But up to that point they were really enthusiastic about it cuz Too High to Die did so well. They didn’t have any problem backing us.

M- So from a business standpoint, London records said, “Go ahead, here’s some money.”

C- Yea.

M- A lot of money. A lot more than Too High to Die?

C- About twice as much.

M- Why did you choose Phoenix as a recording place? You must have had choices, with the money.

C- There was a really nice studio there. It seemed like it would be cool. I always like to be close to home. I didn’t know anywhere else, really.

M- Was there any question that Paul would be the producer, co-producer?

C- No. We wanted to do that.

M- What did more money allow you to do in the studio?

C- Not a whole lot more. We got into a more expensive studio as much as anything. Maybe took a little bit longer with this and that. We got Cris Shaw involved, we got him out there. He came out from New York to engineer. We had had Stuart Sullivan go out to Memphis with Paul to do Too High to Die.

It was just that everything overall was more expensive. The studio was quite a bit more expensive. Where we recorded Too High to Die was a place that the record company was getting a deal on. I didn’t do a whole lot more work, though, with No Joke!. A more expensive place. I didn’t really pay attention to that stuff that much. The record company was doling out the money.

M- Listening to the record it sounds like there might have been a bit more tinkering with the songs; strange background vocal here and there, almost Butthole Surfers sounds coming in once in awhile.

C- Paul got more comfortable and it was the first time that there was a computer hooked-up to the console. It wasn’t quite Pro Tools, but it was a forerunner or something. Definitely, he and Cris Shaw went to town on it, which I thought was pretty cool. I was just getting frustrated cuz Cris was getting to be a pain in the ass in the studio, so I was just doing my work and trying to provide an even keel.

M- At one point in Greg Prato’s book, Troy says that Cris’s parts end-up all getting overdubbed. Is that right? Or is that Cris’s bass that we hear?

C- It’s his bass. I don’t think anything like that happened.

M- You end-up going to L.A. to finish it, right?

C- Geez. I’m trying to remember.

M- Well, that’s the story. Let’s see: Recorded in Phoenix and at Westlake Studio in Los Angeles.

C- Hmm. Maybe we did go out there.

M- The story, at least in the book, and I’ve read this elsewhere as well, was that at some point Paul comes to you and says, “We have to get away from Cris.” And you don’t even tell Cris, you just go out to L.A. to finish it.

C- Uhhh. I guess that’s true. We’d done that before. We did it with Monsters, too. Cris was drinking a lot and being obnoxious, so Derrick and I went out there and started Monsters, got a whole lot of it done before we had him come out. So, yea, I guess we probably did. I’m starting to recall that now.

M- That’s interesting. It wasn’t that much in the forefront of Derrick’s mind, either, but in the book it has this central spot as if you’re fleeing from Cris and trying to keep it secret from him so he doesn’t find-out you’re out there.

C- He was getting on Paul’s nerves pretty good, I think. And getting on my nerves pretty good, too. So we did it. We had it pretty much down. We went out there and did mixes.

M- So the vast majority of it is in Phoenix?

C- Oh, yea.

M- At Phase Four. And some of it gets mixed out in New York, it says here. Electric Ladyland. “Mixed at Westlake and Electric Ladyland.”

C- Maybe Cris and Paul went into Electric Ladyland. I wasn’t there in New York.

M- So that’s near the end.

C- I think so. Maybe after it was wrapped. They had a number of different mixes, the record company did, that they did for “Taste of the Sun,” after “Scum.” It could have been some of that stuff, too. There were four or five other people who did mixes for that. They had me try to pick one out. But they never released it as a single. They were done with us by then.

M- And, again, they’re done with you because of what they see in Cris.

C- Probably. Largely. I think it was just cutting losses in their eyes. Record companies are complicated. Getting everybody on board is a real feat. They don’t do it on their own. They have to be corralled and in some magical way they all sort of convene the different departments. And if it gets loose you’re done for. But if you can manage to stay in their focus, in all the different departments’ focuses, get them all working together, then it works. It’s not like they start doing it as a matter of course. It’s a mysterious thing. You almost need a manager in there keeping them coalesced. I don’t know. It’s a mysterious thing. Having any success like that is pretty mysterious. It’s hard to see how it happens. I don’t think they even know. They throw a bunch of stuff at the wall it seems, sometimes. They have their tried and true, of course, but with us I don’t think they really knew how.

M- I think that in the whole grunge, after Nirvana, they did throw a bunch of stuff at the wall to see, “How can we capitalize after Nirvana? Which bands will make us a little bit of money?” And some of them stuck and some of them didn’t.

So the record itself, the songs themselves. You may not remember, but back in January you and I exchanged a couple emails and you wrote me that “No Joke! is probably the album most affected by the music scene since the first twelve-inch with the baby on the cover.” What does that mean?

C- It’s what we were around a lot. Heavy bands like Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots. The grunge scene was louder guitars. Just like back then, when we were in the punk rock scene. It was working on the fly, in the scene. I’ve always been pretty susceptible to whatever is going on. Sometimes I get a little more isolated and have the presence of mind to detach myself from what I’m hearing. But I can be pretty affected by the stuff I’m hearing, too. I’m a music fan. It seems that with that album we were playing a lot of big, loud shows, so the record came out more rock, or heavy rock.

M- Do you think it is similar to Too High to Die?

C- It’s a pretty different record to me. Too High to Die is a little bit more. . .sounds a little bit more like the band. It pretty accurately nailed how the band sounded at the time. No Joke! was a little bit more of a process in the recording to where it sounded like a record more than the band. It’s a cool record. It sounds great. But not necessarily what the band would be live. It’s pretty heavily produced.

M- Do you think it’s a darker record? Lyrically? Musically?

C- Maybe. It’s hard for me to tell. There’s a few things on there that are probably affected by, influenced by what was going on around, the different stuff in my life. At the time I didn’t really, I just thought they were cool songs. I don’t know if I thought of it as being darker necessarily. I don’t know. It’s hard for me to say sometimes. I don’t really analyze my stuff that much. I just parrot the stuff I write sometimes. It’s my style.

M- Were the songs written specifically for this album? I know sometimes you’ll bring out a song that’s years old.

C- There was some stuff that was hanging around from Too High to Die and maybe for a little while. But generally for that album. . .I’m trying to remember.

M- “Nothing,” you said, was written for a movie.

C- Yea. That was. I pretty much wrote that album for the recording.

M- Do you write when you’re on the road? Or do you have to be at home? Does it matter?

C- Stuff will come up on the road when we’re doing sound check, stuff like that. But I’m generally at home. It’s been hard to do stuff on the road. I don’t get any solitude.

M- Are you one of these people who carries around a little notebook, and if you think of a line you jot it down?

C- Nah. Not really. I have notebooks when I’m actually writing and I’ll try to put stuff together. I’ll keep it around. But I don’t keep it on me. I’ve taken a notebook out on the road before and had the acoustic guitar on the bus, but nothing gets done. There’s just too much other crap going on.

M- So you don’t have it in your pocket all the time and say, “Hey! That’s a great thing I just said!”

C- No. I remember stuff if it’s cool.

M- So I’m gonna try it a little different this time. In the past I’ve told you what I thought about a song, this time I’ll just ask what you think. So, “Head.” What about that one? It’s a very different song from anything else you’ve ever recorded.

C- That was just. . .I came up with some cool chords. I thought they were different. The main chords themselves there for the verse parts seemed to lead to the song. Mostly that’s what different is those odd chords. I don’t know what they are, but, “See if I can make something out of that.”

M- What about the lyrics?

C- Uhh. .

M- Do you recall the song?

C- Oh yea. There’s not much to it. A lot of times the music makes me want to set a certain tone with the lyrics. It seems like it is already set and no matter what you write, it’s gonna be that. It seems like the music to me always says a lot more: the notes and the chords, the melodies. And then pick words that sound cool over that music which is what “Head” was. It was an introspective sort of song.

M- It can be interpreted in a few ways. A “head” is a guy that does drugs with you. “He’s a cool head.” And “eight ball” is not just a ball that you ask questions to, it’s an eighth of an ounce of whatever, cocaine.

C- Right. There’s nothing that direct in that song. Sometimes I do that, but not with that one. The head there is more like your brain. The thinking head. That’s one of those songs that’s like a sound sculpture as much as anything. I do that a lot. You make up what it sounds like. There’s a poem in it or whatever, but really it’s so loose that the interpretation is everything. And that’s up to the individual. I dig that. I’ve never been one to write too much directly about my feelings.

It goes back to being just a guitar player. I never really thought of myself as a songwriter. I just wound up in that situation where we had to have songs to play. Especially since it’s a pop band, you need to have something. I’ve always just liked making up a bunch of words. It’s fun to see people get something out of it. They become stuff to me, too. It’s a certain feeling that it evokes. But it doesn’t really have that much to do with the actual lyrical content a lot of times. It’s just the overall feeling of the song.

I went a long time not recognizing the importance of lyrics to the listener. I started seeing that people really did pay attention to the words, that they take it at face value like that. Not reading into it like, “Oh, to make it a pop song you put words on it.” But that’s what I do. Kind of like cut-ups, in a way. Like Burroughs stuff.

M- So are you, especially on this album, specifically thinking of Cris when you write a song?

C- No. Honestly, there isn’t anything on there that’s like that. Nope.

M- But you can see how they could be interpreted that way.

C- Oh yea.

M- Whether it be “Head,” I don’t need to read you the lyrics to “Head,” but “You’re so special/You’re my only friend.”

C- Yea. That’s not about Cris. I’ve never done that, specifically about, you know, one person. Nothing like that. Especially not back at that time. That’s a pretty arty record. I think maybe “Taste of the Sun” might be something like that, but it’s more about the irony of trying to make yourself feel better, reach for something a little bit more substantial in your life by fucking up, which seemed like a lot of people around me were doing at the time.

M- What about “Chemical Garden?”

C- That’s just playing with the idea of . . .I know that one could sound like it’s about drugs. I think it’s just more about chemistry, internal chemistry. It’s actually a little more science inspired.

M- On Paladia the other night they had the making of Quadraphenia. Did you see it?

C- No. I’ve seen it live. I saw them do that in L.A. in the late nineties with Billy Idol and Gary Glitter. Pretty awesome stuff.

M- I’m laughing. Last time I told you about seeing the Bruce Springsteen thing, and here’s Pete Townsehend. Some people are a lot easier to get meaning out of their lyrics than you are. Pete Townsehend is quite willing to tell you exactly what his song is about.

C- He intends it that way. Different generations. So totally steeped in art-rock and the surreal. I grew up with his band and the Beatles and Zappa and Beefheart and all that stuff. Led Zeppelin where it’s obtuse a lot of the time. I still don’t know what “Stairway to Heaven” is about. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I just didn’t grow up with the stuff that was as straightforward early on. Early rock, before, like, Pink Floyd and Beatles art-rock. I just didn’t get that much of it. My early stuff would have been some Elvis, “Blue Suede Shoes,” or “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” the Beatles or the Monkeys. Stuff on AM radio.

Again, I wasn’t that inspired as a lyricist or as a songwriter. I didn’t feel that I was compelled to do it. I never wrote anything until I was in the Meat Puppets and I’d already been doing that for about a year before I really wrote anything. My first serious effort at writing was Meat Puppets II. It was like, “I’ll try and write some songs here because nobody’s doing anything.” We were all just partying too much. I realized that we came up with these early punk rock songs. That was easy. Derrick was writing a lot of lyrics. And then it just quit happening and I realized that, “Oh, we gotta have songs.” So I just started doing it.

I purposefully make stuff that way. I’ll go through and edit if stuff seems too apparent, or if I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve too much. It doesn’t really suit me to sing that kind of stuff. So it really is hard to explain what they are about a lot of times, cuz they’re not really about anything to me. I let the music do the talking rather than try to enforce something on it with cohesive lyrical strands, even though I do try to make it readable. It’s not just a hodge-podge. That’s part of the fun of it is to throw in that Jabberwocky side of stuff, and not by using made-up words. If you can get it to where you can read it as a sentence then somehow it will have some sort of meaning. Not so much meaning even, a lot of times, but just a feeling it can evoke. It is hard to explain. I’d be more forthcoming if I could, but a lot of it is just words.

M- So what influence did your mom’s death have on the record, on the songs? When did she die?

C- Late ’96. December of ’96. She was pretty sick by then, so you have stuff like “Predator” which I think might have been inspired by that. It wasn’t the happiest of times, personal life, you know. People using drugs and there was illness. But I moved to California. I detached myself from just about everything in mid-’95 cuz it got to be like that. I felt like it was messing me up a little bit. So I moved over there. I could get a little more perspective, not feel so overwhelmed. But, yes, I think something like “Predator” always seemed like it kinda came out of that.

Friday, November 30, 2012

A "No Joke!" Interview with Derrick Bostrom, November 3, 2012

Skype to Skype Interview with Derrick Bostrom
Meat Puppets
November 3, 2012

Matt- Last time we talked, remember, we went up to the recording of Too High to Die. Today we’ll try to go from Too High to Die to your departure from the band, at least through No Joke!. So, according to my timeline, it looks like around October 1993. . .I’m leading up to you guys finding a little success. You have this Wavefest in South Carolina where some industry folk take interest in you. You tour with Nirvana that same month. The next month Curt and Cris go on Unplugged. In December Unplugged airs, and then in January of ’94 Too High to Die is released. At what point, Derrick, do you start thinking this is going to be a pretty successful record?

Derrick- We were being told that “Backwater” was going to do well. They had decided on the single, probably, by late summer, and they had gotten Butch Vig to do the remix and they had sent out the various prerelease copies. They had passed it on to the various radio promotion divisions who had got the buzz going. By the time we had gone on that Nirvana tour it was reasonably certain that they were going to promote it well and that they were getting good feedback from it. So I would say that by the time we actually hit the road for that Nirvana tour we were expecting the single to do well. Obviously we weren’t expecting to do Elton John numbers, but we were expecting that the label was behind it and that they would promote it. Plus we had a local promoter, an independent promoter, John Rosen, who had the radio station down in Arizona. I believe they pay people to do local promotion. I could be incorrect about that. I certainly wouldn’t want to suggest that somebody was getting paid when they were not, but I believe that they hire independent promoters to work local areas. So they had John, who was an old Arizona alternative guy from way back and had been absolutely gaga over our prospects and was very excited for us. He was like, with the typical hyperbole, “You guys are goin’ somewhere. This record’s gonna take-off.” I expected it to do well. Ultimately, by the time we got done with the Nirvana tour the fix was in.

M- It sounds like they present this to you like a science. “We know this gonna be a success.”

D- By December, the single was out, they knew how many adds they were gonna get, they certainly know what they can expect to do.

We were still setting up road stuff. We had lost our manager. In early January we had come to a break with him. We were quite a bit more confident in the record and we were chomping at the bit to go out and work it, and our manager at the time had just had a baby, and he was not giving us the kind of attention we wanted, so we fired him. So we went into this project. . .We had signed with Nirvana’s manager. That didn’t hurt.

M- John Silva and Tami Blevins. Gold Mountain.

D- Tami had worked with our old manager, which was Hornblow, and she went to work for John, and John was the top Alternative manager at the time. So one of the things we did was go with a track record group that could get us what we needed. We were struggling with our old manager who had helped us out a lot in terms of getting us out of debt and getting us situated with the label. But there was a lot of pressure on us to do things we didn’t want to do. There was a lot of struggle and ultimately we felt that our old management had caused more problems than solved. We had been the ones to basically stick it out. We felt that our old management was a hindrance in getting the Too High to Die project done and promoted and that we had been doing the majority of the work. When I say doing the majority of the work I mean that the same shit we had always been doing when we were self-managed seemed to be working for us and this professional management seemed to be getting in the way. We never really bought into having management in the first place. Especially Curt and Cris felt like they were the ones that were actually making the connections, making things happen, making the agreements that would allow things to move forward, and our manager was just kind of a fifth wheel.

Well, that’s not entirely true cuz he did plenty to help right our ship in other ways, but as far as getting Too High to Die forward in a way that satisfied us, I think we felt that he was kind of a hindrance. When he was off having his baby or having his honeymoon and we were at the last minute given the opportunity to do this Nirvana thing and he was nowhere to be found, and he was more interested in having us do this show up in Telluride, we were like, “We’re gonna cancel it and you’re our manager so you call them and tell them we’re not showing up. Cuz we’re doing this.” And he didn’t want to do it, and we were like, “Fuck you. You do what we say. And we’re doing this. Don’t argue with us about it, just do it.”

That was probably the final tipping point with him. So he was gone and we went with John. John hired the day-to-day person who’d been working with us from our old management, so the transition was good. We were able to concentrate on doing shows and not have to worry so much about that stuff. Our old manager was picking at us. He seemed to be more worried about getting his cut, and our new manager more like, “You guys do what you do and I’ll do what I do and don’t worry about a thing,” which has its own potential problems. But we didn’t have any problems with John Silva.

So that all went well through the Spring. We were working our tails off and doing ridiculous amounts of shows all year round. We were pretty much on the road from January straight through the Summer and then continuing on through the Fall. We had to cancel our second leg with Nirvana in Eastern Europe after he had attempted to commit suicide, and so we went out with Soul Asylum. We had left for Europe thinking we would be out with Soul Asylum and that we would join Nirvana after that, but halfway through the Soul Asylum tour Cobain tried to commit suicide, or got sick, or whatever, went back to the U.S. and so we cancelled that leg. So a couple of weeks later that tour ended. And while we were in the air flying from England to San Francisco, by the time we got to San Francisco it was like, “Call me. Call me. Call me. He’s dead. He’s dead. He’s dead.”

So as soon as we got back from Europe the shit started to happen. We went out on the road with Cracker.

M- You were the supporting act for Cracker?

D- Yep. That was May, I think. The Stone Temple Pilots tour was put together while we were doing that. We went off for ten weeks on that tour, throughout the Summer. That was the number one album and number one tour. So we delivered on that obligation.

M- Do you do any headlining tours at this point?

D- We did a small headlining tour after the Stone Temple Pilots tour in September or October, I don’t remember which.

M- You were in Chicago on October 14, 1994.

D- That sounds about right. We went back East, the New York area. I’m sure we did a couple of one-offs here and there as support, but for the most part it was a headlining tour. We went to Minneapolis and then we drove up through Canada and then we came back down. We ended up in France. We did a week in Europe. We did three or four shows in France and one or two in the Netherlands, and that was pretty much the end.

M- You were playing bigger venues on your headlining tour in the U.S. The Vic is bigger than the Metro and Lounge Ax.

D- Plus there were a bunch of radio promotions in there. We did a really big show in Minneapolis. . .God, was that that year? It must have been. I don’t remember. We did a big radio promotion show in California with, like, Hole, and Jesus and Mary Chain, and some others. So we were doing bigger shows, some of them were promotions. Our headlining shows were bigger, but it was small theaters instead of clubs. It wasn’t arenas that we’d been doing all Summer long. It was still scaled back.

M- Were you beginning to think that you might become the rock stars you thought you might become? Did you think you might get big?

D- Probably not. I don’t think so. That was not the way I was viewing things. I was more looking at what was going around at the time, working on doing good work, making sure I was getting enough sleep, becoming cognizant of the pressures, the workload.

Also, it was real obvious that we were on this Nirvana coat leg after he had died. We were starting to do more television. Cris, in particular was becoming somewhat more erratic and Curt was becoming much less tolerant of that. I was trying to stay out of it, making sure that I could hold up my end of the bargain, which was to do a year’s worth of shows and do whatever promotions needed to be done. Plus we were dealing with money issues which was usually Friday afternoon and Monday morning phone calls with the accountant which were really fun. We didn’t actually get any payday from Nirvana until, like, ’95. So we were still struggling to make ends meet. Working day after day after day on the road, you don’t have a very wide horizon.

So as far as getting big goes, let’s see, we had the “Backwater” video. That was picked-up. That was doing well. We had Unplugged on T.V. Our follow-up video was rejected by MTV.

M- “We Don’t Exist.”

D- Right. And the single tanked. Then they attempted to do a single of “Lake of Fire.” It was pretty clear that it was gonna be a one single deal that we weren’t going to be able to follow up. Even by mid-Summer, as much as we were working and doing all this stuff, it was pretty obvious that we weren’t gonna follow-up with a second single. So we started goin’ Gold around the end of Summer and that was as much as we dared to celebrate.

As far as getting big goes, the artist just looks at his next project. We were thinking about the next record.

M- Here’s a question having to do with the coattails of Nirvana: There are things that look like label suggestions. For instance, you have the “Lake of Fire” secret track at the end of Too High to Die just like Nirvana had a secret track. That sounds like the label came up with that idea.

D- I guess. Once we finished recording the sessions we did not really work too hard on putting the record together. They would present stuff to us and we would generally approve it if we could live with it, which we generally could.

M- How about adding a second guitarist, as Nirvana did. Is that a label thing?

D- That was more or less a label thing.

M- I’m going off what I read in Prato’s book. . .

D- Cris hated the idea, Curt and I loved it. It was great to bring Troy along. Cris did not like it. Pretty much what Troy says in the Prato book is what I recall as well. I liked Troy. I enjoyed him. You know, it was always Cris and Curt. They were always hanging out. I was never Mr. Hangout anyway. When Troy came along it allowed the Kirkwood brother estrangement to not take the forefront of the project ‘cuz Curt was otherwise unoccupied. But, as you can see, while Curt was off having fun with Troy, Cris was left to his own devices and he managed to get into trouble without the structure. I used to always say that the first week or so of any tour throughout our career was fine until one of Cris’s tent posts came undone and then his tent flaps started flapping in the wind and then all the posts would come undone and the next thing you know he was a freakin’ mess and unbearable to be around. So without the structure of being tight with his brother, with Curt going off with Troy, I’m afraid that had as much to do with Cris getting into trouble as anything else. And into trouble he got.

M- At what point are you the odd man out?

D- Probably once the first album is done. Like ’81, ’82. Once Laurie O’Connell from Monitor came on and started really blowing smoke up Curt’s rear-end and calling him a genius and all this stuff he was much less amicable. And once we started getting out into the world and he started getting his due he didn’t really need as much logistical help. So I’d say ’81.

M- And then, sometime in the late eighties, when you decided to stop using drugs.

D- Well, that was good for everybody. I was able to engage more with the band then. It wasn’t so much of a struggle on my part after that. That didn’t represent me pulling away. The only bone of contention there would be that after a gig I wouldn’t stay up all night with the label hacks doing drugs. I would go back to my room and try to get some rest so that I could continue on. I do not do well without rest. I learned that on the road. If I don’t get enough sleep, I can’t function. So after a certain point I was like, “You’re gonna do the 4:00 am record promotion.”

And Curt used to try to pretend that it was a huge burden. Like, “You need to be there!”

And I’m like, “If that’s what it’s gonna take, I guess we’re gonna fail. I’m not doing it.”

M- Were you enjoying yourself, at this point, after Too High to Die?

D- More or less. More so than the late-eighties. I liked working with Tami. I liked having the accountants to help us with our stuff. I liked having our finances more or less in order. I thought we were doing good shows. I enjoyed having Troy around. I very much enjoyed working with our tour manager, Ben Marts, during ’94. Cuz we didn’t like the first one we got for the Forbidden Places tour. I mean, I liked having a guy but he was more or less ineffectual and we got one guy who fell through and at that last minute we hired Ben Marts who was essentially out of our pay grade, used to bigger and more professional shows as we used to hear him tell it. He did not much care for the Kirkwood shenanigans. There was a certain amount of friction with that. But his attitude was to work around it and get stuff done regardless. Curt didn’t like his attitude, didn’t appreciate being treated like a child even when he was behaving like one. So I knew that once this tour was over we wouldn’t be working with Ben anymore. And that was a real shame because I thought that he brought a huge amount of professionalism and stability to our tour life, and we badly needed it.

M- When do you record No Joke!? Do you know what month?

D- Are we moving up to No Joke? now?

M- Are you ready to?

D- Let’s see. Between the end of our tour and the starting of No Joke! we cashed in on Nirvana. One day in early 1995 we got the call saying “We need to go to New York, we’re gonna have our Gold Record party, and we’re gonna sit down with the accountant and go over just what you guys got.” That trip was like, we had a party, got our Gold Records, and the accountants told us that we were gonna see millions of dollars. So that was nice.

M- I’m thinking back to the Prato book. The story you’re telling. . .The last show you do together is a New Year’s Eve show at the Hardrock in Chicago.

D- That’s ’95-’96.

M- Oh, right. That’s ’95.

D- We worked all through ’95.

M- So sometime in early ’95 you get some money.

D- Yes. Now about this time Curt’s doing demos, Cris is strung-out. . .

M- And that starts with the Stone Temple Pilots tour.

D- It didn’t become apparent to me until we started to reconvene and get back to work. The real problem seemed to start, in my opinion, when Cris started insisting that his songs get put on the record. The standard kind of M.O. for Cris would be to get up in the morning, smoke a bunch of pot, and then start calling managers and labels and agents and stuff and doing various business things. At a certain point Cris was starting to go into his studio, record little demos of songs, and next thing you know he’s angling to get them on the record.

M- He had two on Too High to Die.

D- Yea. And they were. . .What can I say. He didn’t have good things to say about my songwriting. It would be foolish of me to hold back my opinion of his. . . BAD!

So, anyway, Curt didn’t like it. He was seriously unhappy with it. In the meantime he was breaking up with his girlfriend and spending a lot of time in California presumably trying to find another second guitarist cuz we weren’t gonna use Troy again. It was decided that Troy couldn’t cut it. We wound up with Kyle, who was a friend of Tami’s, I believe.

M- Kyle. . .

D- Ellison.

M- Who plays with Curt in later incarnations of the band.

D- Right. He’s in the reboot of the band from the nineties.

M- Royal Neanderthal Orchestra.

But Troy claims to have been in the studio for No Joke!, in the book. Although he says he doesn’t record, he says he was there every day.

D- It’s very likely, but I think by the time we were gonna go out on the road it wasn’t gonna happen.

So at some point Curt was in California ostensibly looking for a guitarist, but he had also hooked-up with another gal and was kind of avoiding his current girlfriend who was still living with him in Phoenix. At some point our label and our manager got wind of the fact that Cris was strung-out. I didn’t tell ‘em, but somebody did. The next thing you know they were like, “Curt, Cris has gotta go.” And Curt wanted to get rid of him. So at some point this looking for a new guitarist became looking for a new bass player and a new guitarist. In the end he couldn’t go through with it and then the label and the management basically dropped us because Curt wouldn’t go through with his promise to get rid of his brother who was strung-out on drugs.

M- But this is after No Joke!.

D- This is after the No Joke! sessions. During the No Joke! sessions Cris’s drug problems were in full effect. Meanwhile we were trying to make a proper major label record with lots of money and lots of big nerdy engineering stuff. I put my best foot forward, recording a pretty good set of professional sounding drums. But the whole thing was put together in such a cut-and-paste way with Curt and Cris being at such odds that I don’t think the performances really gelled. I was enthusiastic about the tracks at the time, but now I listen to it and go, “Oh, man, this is hard to sit through.” I don’t have a lot of good distance from it. It sounds pretty dire to me. But the performances are definitely. . .Everybody’s playing good. But the band is not playing together and the vibe’s not there. And there was terrible fighting during the whole time between those two. I just stayed away.

M- Was it as usual? You came in and did your drum tracks and they dismissed you?

D- Well we were in Phoenix this time, so I was around. There was just nothin’ to do. Once you’re recording that way, you do the drum tracks and they all sit around and pick over their own little parts and use the drums as a bed. It’s not like they were interested in my opinion of how their tracks were gonna go or how to make the mix work.

M- How did you decide on Paul Leary again?

D- That was just “second time’s a charm.” There was never a question. We had a hard enough time finding Paul, we weren’t gonna let him go. He was willing.

M- And the label was happy because the other record did well.

D- I don’t know how happy the label was, ultimately. I’m not privy to their motivations. None of these artists were repeating their success. It seemed like they were just giving us enough rope to hang ourselves. They gave us a big budget and let us do whatever we wanted whereas previously they were really engaged in what we were doing. This time they let us go on our own. Then they just released it without any argument, without any oversight.

Say what you want about our conflict with the label over Too High to Die, but that’s the way a label shows that they’re interested in a project. You gotta deal with that. It’s a double-edged sword. That’s as good as it gets. When you got a label looking over your shoulder that means that they’re involved. And they weren’t involved in that project. They let us make it in Phoenix. They let us choose our own shit. They let us choose our own cover.

It seemed like the writing was on the wall that they were gonna just put this out. Even before they decided that Cris had to go it seemed like they had other things that they were working on.

They wanted to bury the underground artists. They had other artists that they could make money with. They had people like Stone Temple Pilots. They had found their hits. They didn’t need to expend their energy greening untried artists after ’93, ’94. They already had their successes and they were no longer in an experimental or adventurous mode. They were going with the tried and true. They were gonna do another record with us, they were obligated to, contractually. But they didn’t have any stake in having it succeed. They had already had their successes.

Not to mention the fact that by this time your record industry is getting ready to consolidate. None of the parts of these conglomerates are making any money. At a certain point everybody is getting ready to jump ship. The only part of the company that’s making money is, maybe, the electronics division, the liquor division, the armaments division, or whatever. But the music industry is not. So it was kinda like, “Who cares?”

M- So total freedom on this record? No sending in demos. . .

D- Oh, yea. We were sending in demos, but they were like, “This is great. This is fine.”

We did the video with “Scum.” It went nowhere. I remember hearing the record play. Curt mentions in the book that one day it was like tons and tons of adds and the next day it was gone. It seems that once the decision was made not to get rid of Cris the label pulled the plug.

I wasn’t dealing with the day-to-day. I would do promotions, but I wasn’t working on the day-to-day of actually managing the relationship with the label. They would ping me if they wanted me to do some design or develop some sort of promotional chatchka or something more fan-facing. But when it came to actually doing behind the scenes work, I wasn’t involved. That was Curt’s baby. All I remember is finding-out that the tour was cancelled, and I was fine with that. The last thing we did. . . The tour that we did for that record with Primus was quiet in the sense that Cris was pretty much locked in the bathroom the whole time. So that was fine.

M- Was there a second guitar player on that one?

D- Kyle was involved on that one. My take on that tour is online on my website with the Prodigy thing I did. I had gotten involved with computers in ’94 and was much more interested in those at this point than what was going on with the band.

So the tour was more or less uneventful. For Primus, it was the end of their tour cycle, so their shows weren’t big. They’d been out for awhile. They’d been playing a lot of tertiary markets. It was just our opening thing, but nothing happened after that. The only other tour we were gonna do got cancelled. Curt and I did one final Meat Puppets’ track for the X-Files record, and Cris was not there. So Curt was like, “Here’s the demo. Learn it.” Go in. Work on it a little bit. Get an acceptable take. He did the parts. It was good. But Cris was not involved.

M- So, Troy, in the book says that all of Cris’s parts were overdubbed. Is that Cris’s bass we hear on the record?

D- I wouldn’t know.

M- And you didn’t go out to California with them to finish it?

D- I didn’t even know they went to California to finish it. Uhmmm. . .Maybe they did do stuff over there. I was working on getting the cover together.

I do remember them coming back. We were gonna do this contribution to a John Lennon tribute album, we recorded a version of “Well Well Well” and I remember him coming back with that mix, that I did not care for. But that was never released, I don’t think. There was a John Lennon tribute record that we weren’t on, but I don’t know if it was the same one. Either way, the mixes didn’t appeal to me. They were too loud, just not very organic. But I didn’t pay much attention.

M- So the story of Paul and Cris Shaw saying to Curt that they’re not gonna finish the project unless they leave. So they, without telling Cris, go to California. They didn’t tell you, either?

D- I may have known about it. Like I said, Curt was spending a lot of time in California. This is all around the same time that he was staying with friends, seeing other gals, kind of life-styling it.

As I recall, we did a showcase show in California for No Joke! which didn’t go well. Cris was kind of out of control. Then we started the tour in New York. We were gonna do Conan O’Brien, and we had gotten together to do some rehearsals in New York before that, and they weren’t very intensive. We’d even rented a rehearsal space before this tour and we ended up hardly rehearsing at all because the guys just weren’t clicking.

But as far as mixing, I guess they did. Curt was in California a lot then, and I wasn’t paying much attention.

M- Speaking of your Prodigy tour diary, there is a little writing on the wall there, there’s a section where you write about people coming up to you and saying, “Wow! It must be great to be in a rock ‘n’ roll band and to tour.”

And you say, “I’d like to just have a house and hang-out and not tour.”

D- Work is work. That was the only job I had so I didn’t know any different from it. There are worse jobs in the world to do. But I did not like getting with fans and having them immediately try to put me on a pedestal and pretend that what I was doing was really cool and what they were doing was not so cool. So I rarely played up the, “Yea! You’re right. It’s great! I bet you really wish you had my life.” I didn’t care for that line. Beyond that it’s like, you know, there are other things that are interesting to do. I mean, what you’re doing is more interesting to me than touring. Researching a book project, much more fun.

M- I’ll take your word for it.

D- I’m sure you have your own struggles as well.

M- One of these days when my kids are older I’ll hook-up with Curt and spend a week or two on tour with him and then I’ll get back to you. Not to mention ten weeks or a year.

D- Maybe he’ll need a new drummer by then and you can join-up.

I’m not saying I wanted to be a parent, mind you. You don’t see that in my Prodigy diary anywhere. Like, “Yea, I really want to get saddled with a bunch of kids!”

M- What about the songs on No Joke!? You used the term “dire” a few moments ago.

D- Well, the recording is dire. The songs themselves, I don’t think they were given a good showing there. Some of the songs are good, some of them I didn’t care for.

M- Lyrically, do you see stories of what we’ve been talking about? Do you know when he wrote these songs? Were they written for this record?

D- Only “I’m Nothing” is from earlier, that I can recall. Most of that stuff was written probably after Too High to Die. I don’t recall there being any songs that we had held back for awhile. There’s some songs from the last couple records that I remember, and certainly if you listen to some of that shit that I posted on my website over this year you’ll see that there’s songs that we were working on back then that made it to later records. But I remember “I’m Nothing” being demoed in, like, ’93. That was something he did with Abby Travis and Geza X. in Los Angeles without Cris or I, and a drum machine. The rest of the songs, I think, are pretty current.

M- “Nothing” is a pretty dire song. It’s one of the darker ones on a really dark record.

D- Not a particularly great way to start a record with a six-minute long dirge called “I’m Nothing.” “Scum,” “I’m Nothing,” “Vampires” . . .

M- “Predator,” “Eye Ball.”

D- Some of that stuff. . . “Eyeball” is kind of a retread of the kind of stuff we used to like to do. Some of it is commentary on Cobain’s situation, some of it is. . .

I’m not really interested in participating in the analysis of the lyrics portion of your project. I can give you dates and figures but that’s your analysis. You get to live or die by your own analysis.

M- But you agree that, not just lyrically, it’s not a happy sounding record.

D- Much less so in retrospect than at the time. But, yes, I would agree.

M- Was it you, again, that designed the insert, they lyric sheet and all that?

D- I don’t have it in front of me. . .

M- Well, it says “Designed by Derrick Bostrom.”

D- Yea. I was tinkering with a lot of the textures and a lot of the parts and stuff. I worked on them on my computer and what was really fun about it was that we were able to transfer the files by EP dial up to the designer who finalized the project in New York. I did a lot of mock-ups of a lot of different covers. A lot of it was just goofy shit that I still have, like, a dozen or so mock-ups that I still have that I printed out in color that I should scan and put online. They’re pretty cute. But, ultimately, it was basically my design. I can’t remember which parts I didn’t do. I was working closely with their designer. This one was the first seriously new computer age, digital age, project in terms of the cover.

M- What’s “SMAY VISION?”

D- Probably the designer.

M- “Design by Derrick Bostrom and SMAY VISION.”

D- That would’ve been the freelancer who finalized it. Basically, I just give them the pieces and let them put them together in a way that satisfies them. I didn’t deliver a finished design. They have designers who do that kind of stuff. I would give them the graphics and they would put it together in a way that they liked.

It’s a stupid looking cover. It’s computer graphics gimmickry circa 1995. Nothing good about it.

M- It has Curt’s kid’s drawings on it, instead of a Meat Puppets’ drawing.

D- This is true.

M- It’s not a picture of the band again. You had the one album with the picture of the band, and that was it.

D- It’s one of those things where you take a piece of art or photo or whatever and then you apply Photoshop filters to it and you think you’re fucking Rembrandt.

M- And then seventeen years later you say it’s not very good.

D- Well, I’m not ashamed of it, but I’m not gonna hold it up as anything other than a product of its time. I do better work now.

M- So at what point, Derrick, do you say to yourself, “I’m no longer in Meat Puppets”?

D- That was those guys. I never left. Those guys were the ones that left the band. I kept the band going until they decided to get back together. I put a website together in 1995 and I still have it. It wasn’t until ’99 or so, whenever it was that Curt decided that he was gonna change the name of the Royal Neanderthal Orchestra to Meat Puppets. . . “Whoa! Don’t do that! Leave the band alone, as it was. Don’t add something that’s not the band.”

M- You had this conversation with him?

D- I had this conversation with Davo. He didn’t call me. Curt does what he wants, remember? It wasn’t something they had my permission to do.

Curt moved to California. He cancelled the tour and moved to California. And it was like, “I’ll let you know if I need anything else.”

I was like, “Great. I’ve got money from Too High to Die and I don’t have anything lined-up with the band. Do you think I’m just gonna sit here at my house and wait for you to fucking call me!? No.”

So I got on with my life. Eventually he was like, “So, uh, yea. . .,” two years later or whatever.

And I was like, “I got other things to do. Here’s my schedule. If you can fit into my schedule. I have a life, too. I’m not just sitting around waiting for you to call me.” Once I put it to him like that, I was like, “I’d love to work with you again, but here are the things that I need to do.”

He didn’t call me back. He just got his own band together. He just wants people who can be at his beck and call. He had his roadie living out in front of his house in a van, running fucking errands for him.

I wasn’t into it. I’d be happy to be in a mature adult business proposition, but this didn’t come down that way. So he went and found his own things to do. And by the time they got the band back together I had another job. I wasn’t gonna quit my job so that I could go back to waiting by the phone. For no fucking money, I might add.

M- So they called you up in 2006, or whenever?

D- No. They had a third party say, “So, you wouldn’t really be interested I doing this, would you?”

“No, not really.”

“We didn’t think so. Thanks.”

It’s not like I had nothing else going on. I spent my whole twenties waiting for stuff to happen and it was great while we were doing it but eventually the work dried up. A man has to eat. It wasn’t like we were ever making any money. If it weren’t for the Nirvana thing there wouldn’t have been any money. And I got a small portion of that.

M- Do you remember the months that No Joke! was actually recorded?

D- I’ll tell you exactly when we were in the studio was during the Oklahoma bombing. Peg it to that. I think that was April.

M- Do you remember how long that took from beginning to end?

D- No. The summer. Probably early summer, and then Curt was mucking around with the mixes and whatnot throughout the rest of the summer. Then we got on tour, it must have been October. I’m not really certain. But we wound-up doing some radio things in. . . It must’ve been December cuz it was really cold. We left the Primus tour. We did a big promotion in Minneapolis with Oasis. Remember them? They were huge in 1995. That was the year of Oasis.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Monday, September 17, 2012

Interview with Paul Zamost, January 1993

Interview with Paul Zamost, bassist for the Effigies (he played in Laughing Man at the time of this interview).  Interview takes place at Laughing Man’s practice space in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago on January 19, 1993
(M)att:     What was the difference between now, being in Laughing Man, and being in the Effigies?
(P)aul:     There’s a big difference because you go back to 1980 and call yourself a punk rock band and you’re up against a stone wall.  There’s no place to play.
M:          Is that when you started?
P:          It was about ’79 when we formed, but ’80 when we played out.  Actually, we were looking for a guitar player for a long time and then we finally found Earl and it all clicked together.  So it was about 1980 when we played out.  No place to play.  Not much of a scene back then at all.  And if you were a punk rock band you were still pretty much a freak.  People didn’t like you.
M:          Did you advertise yourself as a punk rock band or did other people place that label on you?
P:          We came right out of the punk rock scene at the time, which there was one at the time in Chicago.  And the fact that we were pretty competent musically and were able to write songs, people did take to us pretty much, more than the normal band that you can’t take seriously.  People did take us seriously.  And at that time one thing we did have going for us is we were probably the only punk band in Chicago.  So actually we did make a name for ourselves.  Any band that came through town we got to play with.  We got national attention fast.  Whereas now there are so many bands.  The field is different nowadays.
            It was still new to a lot of people.  I got beat up for being a punk rocker a couple times.  Nowadays it’s so widely accepted that you can walk around looking like anything and nobody’s gonna hassle you.  But back then I got hassled a lot.
M:          So what was it to be a punk?
P:          It was rebellious.  It meant something back then.
M:          Was it more than just music?
P:          Yea.  It was a lifestyle.  It was an attitude.  It was, “We’re a bunch of misfits and don’t belong here.  Go away.”
            To me punk rock has always been pure rock and roll.  You think back to the late ‘70s with Fleetwood Mac and all these super groups that were dominating music.  It was all this formula rock out there and all of a sudden this punk rock thing hit that was real high energy rock and roll from the heart.  Forget the bullshit, forget the posing.  “We’re just a bunch of guys and the music is what’s important.  We’re gonna go out there a go crazy.”  I think that’s almost the same type of energy and feeling that there was in the ‘50s when rock and roll broke with Buddy Holly and stuff.  It was taboo even though it is corny stuff now, but back then it was hip as hell and it was hard and it was rockin’ and it brought out that same emotion in people.  Rock and roll got so blasé in the ‘70s and clichéd and, you know, you gotta have a big light show and a big stage show and that didn’t mean shit to punk rock bands.  The music and the energy was what it was all about.
M:          Don’t you think some of those big bands were honest rock bands?
P:          I think they got to believe their own hype.  Just think about it.  Say you’re twenty years old and the next thing you know you’re the fuckin’ biggest thing in the country, in the world.  You’re traveling the world.  And most of these guys are really stupid.  Something I learned later in life is that most musicians are stupid fuckin’ idiots and they just happen to have a hit song out and people put them on a pedestal.  And they believe that they’re bigger than. . .The only difference between them and the guy workin’ the door at Exit is maybe a song.  Your ego gets fed so much when you’re that big.  You believe you’re bigger than life.
M:          Do you think when a band like that goes to write music they. . .
P:          They get complacent.  When you’re struggling you’re gonna write from the heart cuz you’re struggling, man.  You’re feeling pain.  You’re feeling, “I want something so bad and it’s not here and it’s not happening.”  But once you’re there and you’re happy, you’re complacent.  That’s why most bands, you take their first three albums and they’re always their best stuff.  The fifth and sixth albums are never as good as their first three.  It’s like, “These guys used to be real good.”
M:          Can you think of any bands where that’s not true?  What about REM?
P:          REM has maintained. . .I mean really good bands.  REM has maintained.  You could say they’ve sold out, but they’ve done it on their own terms.  I can’t say that REM’s music is really what I’d call sell-out music, you know, just goin’ for the big buck.  Nirvana’s gonna be the prime example of what. . .They’ve had one album, let’s see where they go from here.  I mean, take a band like Pink Floyd.  I grew up on Pink Floyd and they weren’t really a sellout band.  They seemed to separate themselves from. . .
M:          Even now?  I’ve heard people say that after Syd Barrett left. . .
P:          I don’t think so.  David Gilmour is such a phenomenal guitar player to me.  There was that period of time when if you didn’t listen to Pink Floyd you weren’t hip, you weren’t cool.  And I was like, “Hey, I still like their songs.”
M:          So Pink Floyd, to you, is an example of a . . .
P:          A band that stayed within themselves.  They called their own shots.  Listen to the song “Have a Cigar.”  It’s all about being in a rock and roll band, how record companies treat you, and that’s a great song for what it’s all about.  They’re cynical.  They didn’t lose they’re cynical edge.
M:          And that’s an important part of rock?
P:          To me it is.
M:          Are there cynical sounds as well as cynical lyrics?
P:          No.  You can be some folky that can be cynical as hell.
M:          does rock have to have a certain sound?
P:          No.  To me rock is what runs through your veins.  If you’re a country rocker and you’re not compromising your integrity.  You play what you feel.  You don’t compromise.  You don’t say, “I’m gonna write a reggae song because reggae is big this week.”  You play what runs through your head.  I don’t sit and write songs, they just come to me.  That’s the way it should be for most people.  I think that some people ware just out there, just like, “this is the way it should be and this is the way bands are doing it now, let’s play it this way.”  That doesn’t work.
M:          What bands would you say, can you notice, do it that way?  That aren’t authentic that are big right now?
P:          Look at Bon Jovi right now.  They’re a prime example.  He had this power pop teeny bopper thing, now he’s like, “I want to shun that and I want to be this hip U2 guy,” and it’s not working.  People aren’t buyin’ it.
M:          So it’s obvious to you that Bon Jovi isn’t writing music coming from the heart.
P:          Bon Jovi is a classic example of a stupid guy who wrote a couple songs that got him big.
M:          Do you think those couple sons he wrote might have been from the heart?
P:          From his heart, yea.  To me it’s what the person is.  If you’re just some stupid fuck who wrote a good song, that’s all it is.  You’re just a stupid asshole who wrote a song that other stupid assholes listen to.  I look at who the person is and what they’re actually writing.  I mean, Slippery When Wet, what is that?  To me it’s like a lot of these guys are forever fifteen.  They might be forty years old but their mentality is still sixteen.  You look at Motley Crue.  Those guys are like sixteen year olds if you look at what they’re playin’ and what they’re singin’ about.  I’m sure it’s comin’ from the heart, but to me that’s all they can do.
M:          So what is a successful rock band?  Is it possible to be successful and never make a dime?
P:          There’s been some bands to me that have not found huge fame but to me have been successful.  Take a band like the Stranglers.  Well, they were really big in Europe, so it’s hard to say.  They were never big here.
M:          They were a late ‘70s, early ‘80s punk kind of band?
P:          Mid ‘80s.  They’re still putting out stuff.  Their stuff lately has been kind of watered down.
M:          What were your goals in joining the Effigies?
P:          We never wanted mega-stardom.  We just wanted enough to live off our music.  To make a living not having to go work a job we hate and be a musician and that’s the way you live your life.  You pay your bills and make ends meet by playing music.
M:          And you guys did that for awhile?
P:          No.  We tried to but we never successfully did it.
M:          Were you ever able to not have another job when you were in the Effigies?
P:          No.
M:          You always had a job?
P:          Yea.  We didn’t make that much money.
M:          How much did your biggest album sell?
P:          Probably about as much as it cost, which was about $8,000.
M:          So you never sold very many records.
P:          We sold about 3,000 records.
M:          Total?
P:          No.  For Ever Grounded I think sold 3,000 copies.
M:          So your name seems like it was bigger than the albums you sold.
P:          Well, if you sold 1,000 records in Chicago, and you grew up in Evanston, right?
M:          No.  I grew up in California.  I saw you guys in San Diego.
P:          Oh, that’s right.  We did go up and down the west coast.  We did good in Chicago, Minneapolis.  Maybe we sold a few more.  I’m not exactly sure.  I think we got ripped off.  We might of sold 5 or 6,000 copies.  You got to figure that a lot of the stuff people tape, and give out tapes.
            But the scene wasn’t that big back then either.  In Chicago at that time not many people came out to shows.  No there’s tens of thousands of ‘em.
M:          Why do you think it’s changed?  Do you think the music is better now or do you think that there’s some kind of industry. . .
P:          I think that some of the people in the industry grew up.  They got rid of some of the old guys that did things a certain way.  It’s an industry that nobody can figure out.
M:          Why?
P:          It’s probably like the movie industry.  People come and go so fast.  They get successful and then they bomb on the next five.  It’s like, “What have you done for me lately.”
M:          Do you think the Effigies were a successful band?  Personally?
P:          There were some personal successes.  There were some things we did achieve, personally.  But on the whole?  No.
M:          What did you achieve personally?
P:          Self-gratification.  Just goin’ out, putting out three albums.  Touring around the country.  Getting on some. . .playing some giant shows.
M:          What kind of giant shows did you play?
P:          We played the Olympic Auditorium in L.A.
M:          Who’d you play with?
P:          G.B.H. and Gang Green, was it, from Boston.  And we played with the Toy Dolls at some gigantic Olympic Auditorium.  And we played some big shows.  The Circle Jerks, Flipper, the Dead Kennedys.
M:          Those are all cool bands.
P:          Yea.  D.O.A. and Black Flag and all those bands.  We played some big shows and we got some success.  We did get to go for a few months at a time and just travel around the country and get fucked up and bang broads.
M:          So for you that was personally gratifying?
P:          Yea.  To know that I’ve done things that 90% of the people haven’t done.  Something that most guys that are accountants, all their lies never dream of doing something like that.  Well, they dream about it but. . .All my friends were just, “gotta go to the job, gotta go do this, gotta go do that.  You’re goin’ on the road?  What, are you crazy!”
M:          Did the company pay, Enigma?
P:          No one paid me nothin’.  Back then if you had the unfortunate experience of being. . .following Black Flag on a tour.  IF they came through San Diego on Monday and your were coming through on Wednesday, chances are that club would be totally destroyed and your gig wouldn’t be there.  That happened to us, like, ten times.  “Oh yea, Black Flag came through and there was a riot and they tore apart the club.  Sorry guys.  The gig’s called off.”
M:          Did you ever play any gigs with violence like that?
P:          A couple.  Once in Detroit a big skinhead riot broke out.
M:          Who were you playing with?
P:          We were headlining.  That was another problem that happened that lead to our demise, the skinheads.
M:          That was later, I’d imagine.
P:          Yea.  We had this skinhead following that we couldn’t shun, we couldn’t get rid of.
M:          Was it a fascist racist skinhead following?
P:          Well, in the beginning the skinhead movement wasn’t fascist.  It was almost another fashion statement.
M:          They turned violent pretty quickly.
P:          All of a sudden it was like. . .There was a time when just all of a sudden skinheads became Nazis and fascists.  Our politics, at least John Kezdy’s politics, were always a bit right of center, which was pretty unheard of, especially for a punk band.
M:          Well, punk always had its fascist elements:  “We’re the best, fuck the rest.”  San Diego was really violent.
P:          L.A. was violent as hell.  I couldn’t believe some of the stuff I saw in L.A.
M:          I saw G.B.H. and Youth Brigade. . .
P:          We stayed with Youth Brigade.
M:          The L.A. Youth Brigade?
P:          Yea.  We used to stay at their. . .
M:          They were two brothers.
P:          I remember those guys.
M:          They were skinheads.
P:          They were skinheads in BMWs.  We used to laugh our asses off at them guys.
M:          The show I saw was at the Olympic Auditorium or something.  Outside there was this huge, after the show there was this huge wall of cops and a huge wall of punks.  The punks were running at the cops and throwing bottles and the cops would chase them back down.
            In San Diego, T.S.O.L. would. . .
P:          Yea.  We hung out with them guys for awhile.
M:          I saw them get beat up, like, three times in San Diego.  They were a bit too artsy for the San Diego punks.  The Southern California punk scene was really raw.
            So, like, T.S.O.L., especially the lead singer, Jack. . .
P:          No that guy was a maniac.  I was at a gig, and he was there, and he threw a fuckin’ fire extinguisher through a window.  It was at a high school.  It was packed.  First time I ever met this kid and he was. . .he was a big kid, sort of muscular and he had the giant Nazi shirt on, big swastika.  I remember seeing him standing in line acting like a big tough guy.  I remember seeing him about an hour later laying on the ground with his head bashed open and, like, ten guys beating the crap out of him.  Finally, he started a riot.  I came out of the school and there were just cops lined-up everywhere.  They were just grabbing people and beatin’ on them.  Somehow we escaped and we all got separated.  I didn’t even know where I was.  I went over to this guy’s house.  I didn’t have any idea where the band was.  But we knew where we were playin’ the next day so we just all met there.
            Yea.  The L.A. scene was violent.  I’ve seen girl fights where girls just got the shit knocked out of ‘em.  They beat her up because she was pretty.
M:          Did you ever hear of a San Diego band called Battalion of Saints?
P:          I remember that band.
M:          The guitarist had a big ole stand-up Mohawk.
P:          Who’d we play with in San Diego?
M:          I don’t much remember that show.  I went to a lot of shows.
P:          I remember it being like 150 degrees in that place.
M:          It was like a Lion’s Club kind of place.
P:          Yea.  It was like a hall.
M:          Fairmont Hall.  It was a sweat box.  It think you opened for some L.A.. . .Black Flag, Circle Jerks, kind of thing. . .T.S.O.L.
P:          I might have been the Toy Dolls.  We did a lot of shows with the Toy Dolls.
M:          I never saw the Toy Dolls.  I have their first album.
P:          They were good.
M:          They’re really tight on that first album.
P:          They were amazing live.  This little skinny, looked like Albini, this little skinny guy with these big black Buddy Holly glasses and he was such a dork, but he was such an amazing guitar player and performer.  He had this drummer.  All he played was a snare, kick, hi-hat, and ride cymbal.  That’s it.  He has no drum.  He just [makes bashing sound effect].  He was amazing.  They were a good band.
M:          Getting back to the skinhead following of the Effigies.
P:          Well, that sort of lead to our demise because what ended-up happening was, this use to kill me, you pull up to a club and there’d be twenty or thirty skinheads hanging out front.  So most people are gonna pull up and see the skinheads out there and they’re gonna blow the gig off.  They don’t want to go in there with those assholes.  But they’d never fuckin’ come in.  They’d just hang outside all night.  So, like, ten times we ended up playing to nobody cuz the skinheads would hang out in front and scare away the crowd and they’d sit out in the parking lot drinking beer all night.
M:          Did you ever say anything to them?
P:          Well, another thing is like, “Do you mind not coming to our gigs” and they’d end up turnin’ on you.  So it sort of fucked us.
M:          So what relationship does a band have to its audience?  Does it have a responsibility?  Especially when you start building some kind of following.
P:          At that time there was no way to communicate that.  Because most people are gonna say, “Ah, there are skinheads.  I’m not even bothering to come anymore.”  And then the skinheads left.
M:          What about bands in general.  Rock is a performance art.  It’s something that supposed to be played live, it’s supposed to have an audience.
P:          You can’t dictate to an audience until you get an audience.
M:          But when you write songs, you’re thinking of some kind of audience.
P:          I’m not, no.  I just write what I want to hear for myself.
M:          And you don’t think about how it might sound differently recorded or live or. . .
P:          I’m at sort of a disadvantage cuz I have to rely on other musicians.  I’ll write something and it’ll be in my head and usually I can come pretty close to getting Andy and the drummer to play what I hear in my head.  But I don’t think about anybody else, how anybody else is going to draw from it.
M:          So you don’t care about an audience?
P:          I feel that if it’s good enough I’ll get an audience.  If it’s not, I won’t.  At this stage in the game I’m only playin’ for myself.  I’m only playing cuz I. . .it just won’t go away.
            Think about it.  I know a lot of guys that were in bands and have walked away from it and they can’t get it out of their systems.  It just doesn’t go away.  Especially if you’ve had a taste.  There’s never gonna be a time when I can just not be in a band.
M:          So this is something you plan on doing ‘til you’re dead.
P:          Probably, yea.  And it might not ever amount to a hill of beans but I guess that there’s a self-gratification you get form playing, even if you’re playing to nobody.  To write a song and have it come together and become something.
M:          Do you need to be in a band?  Why couldn’t you just sit at home, in the bathroom?
P:          Well, cuz (1) as a bass player, you need other musicians to feed off of.  It’s just more.  It’s the volume and the energy you get from playing.  There’s nothing like being on stage.  There’s just nothing like it.
M:          So then you need an audience.
P:          Oh, you need an audience.  You do get that feed from the audience, it’s the ultimate reward.  If people told me I could get $1,000 to play, and the audience wouldn’t like it, or you could play in front of a huge crowed and they’ll love it, but you’ll get on money, I’ll take the no money any day.  That’s something you can never buy.  You can’t put a price tag on that.
M:          What’s so exciting about it?
P:          It’s hard to explain.  It’s probably like hitting a home run.  It’s something you created that people thought was great.  That’s the whole thing.  I could play in a wedding band, make a lot of money.  I’m good enough to play in a wedding band.  Could make a ton of money.  Get no gratification from it.
M:          What if the wedding crowd liked what you were playing?
P:          They’d like what I was playing because it was somebody else’s music.  You’re just furniture.  You might as well be a record that they could spin.
M:          So it’s important to be writing your own songs?
P:          Yea.  Yea.  I just don’t understand how other bands could play cover songs in cover bands.  I don’t know how guys can do that.  It’s like whoring yourself.
M:          Okay.  Speaking of whoring yourself.  I talked to you and Andy’s wedding and I asked you about your Effigies thing.  You told me the best thing was the money you made.  Were you joking?  Why did you guys do that?  You’re not thinking about getting together on a regular basis, are you?
P:          Oh, no.  You mean about the reunion?
M:          Yea.  What was the purpose behind that?
P:          It was. . The main reason, I think, between all of us was that when the band broke-up there was a big open wound.  And this sort of put the band-aid on it.  There were many reasons.  Of course the money was good. We each made, like, $600.
            “Why did you guys do it?  You hated each other?”  It was just good to do again.  We wanted to show people that we were this band, we were capable of being legends or whatever.  Cuz we were good.  We were first.  We opened the door for a lot of bands, if you think about it.
M:          How?
P:          Because in this town nobody took punk bands seriously until we came around.  I hear it all the time.  “I grew up listening to you.  You guys influenced me to get into music.”  We made it easier for the other bands.  We were good.  We drew a crowd.  And they were like, “Hey!  You’re not one of them punk rock bands.  These guys can play.”  So that’s something I think we did for a lot of bands.  You didn’t have to be embarrassed of us.  There were a lot of bands you were embarrassed of.  There were punk bands that you were embarrassed the hell out of cuz they were just so stupid and obnoxious.  And half of them were friends.
M:          Any famous ones that you’re talking about?
P:          Take a band, Millions of Dead Cops, MDC.  To me they were an embarrassment.
M:          Then they changed to Multi-Death Corporation.
P:          They were noise.  Screaming. . .
M:          They were from San Francisco, weren’t they?
P:          I’m not sure exactly where those guys were from.  They were one of those kind of bands that lived on the road.  Dirtbags.  To me they were an embarrassment.  You listen to that shit and, “No, I don’t like that shit.  There’s nothing good about it.”  Black Flag walked that line, but their stuff was actually good.  It was tongue and cheek.  It didn’t take itself too seriously.  Where MDC actually took themselves seriously.
M:          I bet a lot of clubs didn’t want Black Flag just because of the violence.
P:          Exactly.  They sort of promoted that.
M:          But that is different from being an embarrassment.
P:          No.  No.  They were Black Flag.  They just were Black Flag.
M:          They opened the doors for everybody.
P:          Somewhat.  You look at a lot of bands today.  You can see that Black Flag was their influence I some way or another.  I mean they really weren’t good musically.  You didn’t walk around singin’ their songs, except their first record with Keith Morris was real good.
M:          “I was a surfer, I was a hippie.”  That one?
P:          Yea.  That was great.
M:          I was so stoned I was out of my head.”  They were particularly cool in Southern California.
P:          My friend Don called me up, he was at the Starwood.  He got the shit knocked out of him.  “Oh, it was a great time until I got the shit beat out of me for jumpin’ into the pit.”
            To me it’s not so much of them sellin’ out, it’s just a matter of who the person is.  A lot of ‘em are just stupid idiots.  They just happen to get big.  Just look at a lot of these guys today.  Look at Bono.  He even says it.  “We’re just a bunch of pompous Irishmen.”  I’ve heard him say that before.
M:          So, is he being honest?
P:          Somewhat.  People tend to put these guys on a pedestal and really think that they’re some kind of geniuses.  And it’s not. .. They’re just. . .If I was all of a sudden tomorrow a huge star. . Today I’m driving a truck, tomorrow. . Who am I?  I’m just the same guy.  People tend to forget that.  If it wasn’t for a lucky break, Bono could be tending bar somewhere.  Very easily.
            There are exceptions to the rule.  There’s guys that are greatly talented.
M:          Some people can write good pop/rock songs.  So it seems to me the REM can consistently write decent. . .
P:          REM works together really well as a unit.  Which is very important for a band.  They keep themselves in check.  They’re a unit.  They’re not Michael Stipe, they’re not Peter Buck, they’re just REM.  They’re intelligent guys.  That’s another thing.  They’re not dummies, they’re not morons like some bands are.  That’s basically what separates a lot of bands.  If they’re idiots or they’re not idiots.
M:          Let’s fast forward to Laughing Man.  What type of band is Laughing Man as opposed to the Effigies?
P:          Laughing Man is similar to the Effigies in the sense that I gave the Effigies a lot of their sound, the same sound as here.
M:          Did you write songs with the Effigies?
P:          Oh yea.  I wrote a lot of their stuff.  I didn’t’ write the lyrics or anything, but I wrote a lot of music.
            Andy is probably the most talented of the guys I’ve played with so far.  Again, we play what we feel.  We’d much rather be accepted. . .money comes later.  We have to be liked first, and then the money comes second.
M:          Nowadays there are bands that play very few gigs and get signed.  Like this band Paw, from Kansas.  They got signed I the whole rush for the next Nirvana.  They played ten gigs in Lawrence, Kansas.  They had a demo tape made.  Somebody at Smart Studios thought it was wonderful and they got signed to A&M Records.
P:          And then, if all of a sudden they believe that what you’ve done is worthwhile they’ll throw you on the shelf and that well be the end of your band.
            It’s nice to get that big deal.  How big it’s gonna be is yet to be seen.  You’re sort of at their mercy, too.  If they don’t put anything behind you, if they don’t get their instant gratification, they’re just gonna shelve you and you’re gonna die.
M:          Did the Effigies have a contract?
P:          Yea.  But the people there. . .At that time Enigma was still in their larval stages.  Just a bunch of dummies.
M:          Are they still around?
P:          No.  I heard that they put all their money into the resurgence of David Cassidy.  [I laugh]  That’s the truth.
M:          I remember about eight months ago he was on t.v. a few times.  I knew somebody was trying to promote him.
P:          Supposedly Enigma put out a David Cassidy record a few years ago.  Spent a lot of money getting him and promoting him.  Why?  Why?  David Cassidy.
            The Smithereens put them on the map.
            They were pretty incompetent it seemed, at the time.  They had some decent distribution, but the people we dealt with were real, total morons.
            That’s the problem with this business.  There’s a lot of idiots out there.  There’s a lot of incompetence and people want to be great.
            I think there’s a lot less drugs prevalent today.  I’m not sure.  But back in the mid-80s, late 70s, there was so much drugs.  The industry was so fueled by drugs.  Especially cocaine.  Coke was so huge back then.  I don’t know how it is today.  Drugs was a big part of it.  We had problems with our guitar player.  We had to switch guitar players, in the Effigies.
M:          Did you do much drugs?
P:          We all could do. . Well, Kezdy, he never did anything.  He was straight as an arrow, except for drinking.  I could always handle myself.  I knew when enough was enough.  I was responsible with it.  Our guitarist was a total fiend.
M:          Is it just like the stories where you just go and people offer it to you left and right?
P:          I used to walk in Exit and people would hand me their vials and say, “Do as much as you want.”
M:          When did you get married?
P:          ’85.
M:          So the Effigies were still a band.
P:          Yea.  She knows that I need to play music.  It keeps me centered.  It probably gives me my most self-esteem.
M:          Have your ideas and goals changed since you’ve had children?
P:          Somewhat.  I want success.  Maybe I realize that I don’t have to be as heavy handed as maybe we were in the Effigies.
M:          What do you mean by “heavy handed?”
P:          Our music sometimes was thrashy.  Our singer was very limited, too.  He couldn’t carry a tune all that well.  There was a lot of things we couldn’t do cuz of him.  That was another reason we broke up.  We were tired of writing songs that he couldn’t sing.
M:          Did he just sing, or did he play an instrument, too?
P:          All he did was vocals.  The second guitar player had to be real talented, and he could write some pretty intense stuff and the singer just couldn’t deal with it.  “We don’t need to play this shit.  We need to play ‘Body Bag.’”
            There was a lot of infighting going on.
            With Andy, he can sing really well.  He can carry a tune real well.  And I’m doing vocals with this band, too.  That’s another thing I like about Laughing Man.  I never did vocals with the Effigies.  I can write my own lyrics and sing what I feel.
M:          So as far as your goals with Laughing Man, are they any different than with the Effigies?
P:          They’ve always been the same goals:  To get signed.  I’m not looking for mega-stardom.  Something like Helmet or Faith No More would be fine with me.
M:          That’s a lot of money.
P:          Yea.  But those bands are still in touch.  They’re not sell-out bands.  I mean, now they’re just popular.  Sell-out today, I don’t know what sell-out would be.
M:          Is it a contradiction to say that you sell-out if you’re not playing for yourself but then you say you want to get signed?  Is that important?
P:          No.  Playing for myself means I play because I enjoy it.  Cuz I get self-gratification out of it.  The more I can get, the more I get gratified!  If I never get anywhere I will still have got something out of it.  That’s what I mean by it.  I get my self-esteem from playing.  If I get monetary gains from it then I get more self-esteem, of course.  Everything snowballs to something better, but the least I get is self-gratification.  And that’s the least I get out of it.
M:          Do you do specific things to try and get signed?
P:          No.  I don’t know any specific things.  To me it’s a lot of luck.  But you can’t get signed unless you’re out there playing.  You can’t get signed unless you are somebody doin’ something.  Nobody is gonna knock on your door and say, “Hey, what are you doin’?”  You gotta go out there and do it.  I don’t know what it really takes.  Look at Peg Boy.  They could fill up the Metro but they can’t get signed to a label.  And this band, Paw, they couldn’t fill up the Metro but they can get signed to a label.  I don’t know this business.  It’s luck.  It’s somebody believin’ in you and takin’ a chance on you.  There’s nepotism.  It takes some money, unfortunately.
M:          Why did you guys get rid of Tina [Laughing Man’s drummer]?
P:          Tina is sort of thin-skinned.  She didn’t take criticism very well.  Sometimes Andy can be critical.  She didn’t practice.  She didn’t take care of her equipment.  She stopped showing up for practice.  Sometimes I come a long way to get here.  It’s not an easy place to get to.  Say my last run of the day, I drive for a living, could be Joliet.  And I drive all the way over here to come practice and she don’t show up and don’t even bother calling about it.  Do that to me four or five times and I start getting pissed.  And then you show up at a gig and you can’t play your drums because you haven’t been practicing.  That got old.  Her attitude was, “Fuck him!  Fuck him!”  She wasn’t that good of a drummer.  She got good.  We made her good.  When we first got her she couldn’t play for shit.  Then her drums would fall apart.  We said, “You’re bringing us down.”  That’s what it was, she was bringing us down.”
            We got the guy [their new, current drummer], he takes care of his drums, he plays all the time.  He’s at least good.  Drums mean something to him.  He loves playing the drums.
M:          How many people did you try out before you chose this guy?
P:          About four.  Pretty awful.
M:          They were awful?
P:          Yea.  One heavy metal drummer that was really awful.  One guy was pretty good, but we couldn’t get excited about him.
M:          What were you looking for?
P:          Basically what you saw.  We wanted an enthusiastic drummer who could really play.  This guy can really play.  He is into what we’re into.
M:          Had he heard of your band, Laughing Man?
P:          He was out in San Francisco for a couple of years playing in a band.
M:          Had he heard of the Effigies?
P:          No.  He’s only twenty-four.  You got figure he was only about ten when we started.
            I get guys all the time, “You played with the Effigies!?”  We were big in Minneapolis, Detroit.  Detroit had a skinhead crowd, Nazi skinhead crowd.  There was this one guy who had “Effigies” tattooed on his lip.
M:          How does that make you feel?
P:          It was okay until I saw the swastikas on his chest.
M:          He had “Effigies” tattooed on his lip?
P:          The inside of his lip.
M:          That must be kind of a head trip.
P:          I was like, “Wow!  Now that’s a fan, man!”  But fans like that you didn’t need, unfortunately.
M:          And you can still pick up record guides and your albums will be listed in them.
P:          Yea.  We got a lot of good press.  It was good to see that.
M:          Looking back, do you like the music you guys made?
P:          Sure.  There was a lot of good stuff we did.  Could’ve been a little better maybe, if our singer was better.   It got to the point where I realized, around our last tour, that he could never appeal to a mass audience.  I felt that whatever he could do I could do just as good, so why bother putting up with his asshole fuckin’ attitude.  It would be one thing if he was a nice guy, but he was an asshole.  He’s a character.  He’s in the perfect field that he belongs in.
M:          He’s a lawyer?
P:          Prosecutor.  He’s a strange guy.
M:          Do you feel you’ve got a different perspective than your band  mates about what this is all about because you were in the Effigies?
P:          No.  I might have a little more seasoning and a little more experience, but as far as a clue?  No one has a clue.  Andy is a pretty focused guy.  He’s been around himself, a little bit.  This guy [new drummer] we don’t know really well yet.
M:          How long has he been in the band?
P:          We’ve practiced with him probably eight times.  It’s only been about a month.  I didn’t even know his last name ‘til tonight.  Me and Andy have been together about three years.  We’re both on the same page.  That’s one thing.  We pretty much clicked right off the bat.  Andy can criticize me and it doesn’t bother me.  When he criticized Tina, she’d get all upset and storm out of here.
M:          Have you been in any other bands other than the Effigies and this one?
M:          After the Effigies broke up we had a band called Machines in Motion which was the Effigies second guitar player, me, and the Effigies drummer, Steve.  Bob brought his wife into the band.  It was pretty bad.  It was too flighty.  We do a heavy fuckin’ metal song, some light la-de-da pop song, and an industrial song.  The band had no direction.  I couldn’t stand being with him and his wife.
M:          What other bass players do you really admire?
P:          There’s so many of them.  JJ Burnel from the Stranglers has always been one of my almost idols.  I don’t really idolize anybody, but he would come close.  I like Flea a lot, even though I’m starting to get tired of him.  As a bass player he is phenomenal.
M:          Do you like them just because of their musical abilities?
P:          Basically now I only like them for their musical ability.  They just become saturated.  Everywhere you look you see they’re mugging for the cameras.  I just want to tell them buys, “Slow down.”
M:          Don’t you think the visual is an important part of rock?
P:          Yea.  But you’ve really gotta walk a fine line with that.  It’s best to show yourselves somewhat but not too much.
M:          Punk wouldn’t have been punk without the look.
M:          The whole idea was sort of like a non-look.  A lot of bands were just very plain.  There were some bands that didn’t’ make it cuz of their look.  All they had to sell was a look.  It’s a fine line.  It has to be the music first, the look second.  You look at bands like the Minutemen, they weren’t much to look at.  It’s mostly the English bands that, you know, safety pins and . . .And bands like 999, they were just normal guys.  The Stranglers.
M:          I like 999.
P:          I saw them at Gaspers, which is Schubas now.  One of the best shows I’ve ever seen.  They were phenomenal.  Those guys could play.  They were pop.  I mean it was just power pop.  Call it punk rock, but that was just power pop.  The Vibrators.  The Buzzcocks.  It was just pop music being a little sped up.  They didn’t have to rely on ten minute guitar solos.  Look.  If you got it, flaunt it.  Some bands got the look, but it’s not that important.
M:          It seems like it’s important for a band to be mega-stars.
P:          Right.  To be mega-stars, you’re right.  Because it’s a whole entire package.  You gotta figure you’re pullin’ in people who like you for your style, people who like you for your music, people like you for your ability, your musicianship.  But then again, a band like Nirvana.  Go figure.  They’re not much to look at.
M:          But that’s the importance of their look, that they’re not much to look at.  They’re just a bunch of scrappy looking guys.
P:          They don’t play all that well.  They do play well.  They play well enough.  But they write catchy tunes.
M:          What about Pearl Jam.  Whether you like them or not, they’ve been more of a success than Nirvana.
P:          I don’t think they’ve sold as many records.
M:          They’ve been in the top twenty consistently now for over a year.
P:          I don’t know.  Their music, to me, is not half as catchy as Nirvana’s.  Then again, you’re borrowing that old 70s supergroup. . . Pearl Jam is sort of in that cliché.  Their sound and their look and their songwriting.  Screaming Trees, I was just saying today, they’re so Led Zeppeliny, these bands now.  I see a lot of Led Zeppelin and AC/DC in Pearl Jam.  Not so much the song writing but the look and the way the guitar player runs around and stuff.  Nothing’s new.  I don’t know if there can be anything original anymore.
M:          At least not and still be called “rock.”  Anything new is something else.
P:          I have a theory that some day every hit song from the sixties and seventies will b redone into a hit song.  Almost every hit song has been covered by a band, and they made a hit out of it.
M:          You guy’s too.  You played “Ace of Spades” at your last show.
P:          Like the Lemonheads have “Mrs. Robinson” now.  Every song.  “Spirit in the Sky” was a hit a couple years ago.
M:          Why do you suppose that is?
P:          Cuz they were once hits.  They’re still good songs.
M:          A lot of Nirvana songs sound like songs that have been done before.
P:          They’ll just drain that record dry.  They’ll just milk it forever.  Used to be, in the old days, a band put out two, three albums a year or so.  Nirvana has been almost two years now.  They’re still releasing. . . “In Bloom” is now, like, #2 on MTV.  They probably have an album done, ready in the can, but they’re just gonna wait and milk this one as much as they can.  That’s what’s killing bands, I think.  They’ll come out with their second album and people will be so sick of them.  They can never live up to this Nevermind record, no matter what they do.
            Living Colour.  They milked that record for almost three years.  That second record came out and it was good, probably even better, but people were tired of them by then.
M:          So the industry is not good for rock?
P:          No.  It’s never been.  It’s good for rock because you have to other alternative really.  Their best interests are not the band’s.  “Have a cigar, you’re gonna go far.”
M:          Anything else interesting?  You obviously like to talk about this stuff.
P:          It’s always good to reflect.  I’m too cynical.
M:          Like you said, it’s a music that needs cynicism.
P:          It’s always been an outlet.  Mostly, to me, rock and roll is somebody’s got something to say, someone who’s got a chip on their shoulder.  I don’t know if that’s why they wrote “Rock Around the Clock,” but. . .
M:          Some people say the opposite.  They don’t like the idea of politics in rock.
P:          I don’t like politics all that much, where it’s preachy.  Unless somebody has an idea and you can draw your own conclusions from it.  That’s the way I would tend to write things, be objective.  The Dead Kennedy’s to me were just a little ridiculous about politics.
M:          Did you like them overall?
P:          No.  Their music kind of got on my nerves.  His voice was kind of irritating.  They were more entertaining in person.
M:          Did you ever meet him?
P:          Yea.  A few times.  He was way out there on the left.  He was way out there!  I hear some of his stuff on WNUR, his spoken word stuff.  God!  Where does the guy get his. . .I’ve heard of anti-establishment guys, but this guy is just a little too out there.  I don’t know if he could ever substantiate what he comes up with as claims.  Government blowing up busses and trying to kill him and shit.  Tried to portray himself as being the dangerous guy.  Please.  They don’t even give him a second thought.  But it gets him $1,500 to give a lecture.
M:          Have you heard Lard?
P:          Yea.  They had that one song that was really cool, with Jorgenson.  What was that song they did, the one I used to hear on ‘NUR all the time?  There was one song that was really cool.
            He was an interesting guy.  His band was sort of interesting.
M:          Do you think they were good musically?
P:          They coud’ve been.  “Holiday in Cambodia” is still a classic.
M:          Their whole first album is pretty good rock ‘n’ roll.
P:          They’re not the nicest guys.  Or at least they didn’t like us.  Kezdy bumped heads with those guys.  I remember him and, cuz Kezdy leaned to the right and Jello was way out there on the left, they used to have two hour debates.  We’d be like, “Let’s go get fucked up.  Let’s go find a broad.”  Earl would fuck anything.  He was terrible.
            I would wake up and there would be purses on the kitchen table in the morning cuz he had some broad in the bedroom.  And I’d look through them and see who he had in there, find their driver’s license.  I was like, “Oh, man!  He must’ve been drunk last night!”  He never fucked the same one twice.
            I occasionally would get something, but not like that guy.  They’d be fighting over him.  And he was just a slimy fuckin’ guy with greasy hair and a pimply face.  He was a good looking guy, but he was a sleazy guy.  He used to get all kinds, too.
M:          And your singer was straight laced?
P:          Pretty much.  Very uptight guy.  Real uptight.  He hated Earl cuz everyone loved Earl and nobody took to him as easily as Earl.  A lot of jealousy and conflict.
M:          So basically you guys just didn’t like each other anymore and stopped?
P:          Yea.  After seven years.  I just couldn’t deal with the fighting.  I just didn’t see us getting anywhere.  Our last tour was just a total disaster, thanks to the Enigma people.  They would just book shows and never confirm the dates.  Told us, “Come on out, man.  We’ve got all these shows for you.”  We got out there and half of them were there.
M:          So you’d show up some place and they would say. . .
P:          Yea.  We showed up at Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco.  It was a great place to play.  We played with the Minutemen there once on New Year’s Eve.  It was great.  But they, like, “Oh, man!  I haven’t heard from anybody in a month.  I booked somebody else.”  Part of this was our drummer’s fault, too, cuz he was the one who was setting this shit up.
            There was just all this fighting and, “I don’t need this shit.  I’ll go play in another band.”  It took awhile but I got in this one.
M:          And you’re happy with this band?
P:          I hope it’s the last band I’m ever in.
M:          Why?
P:          Cuz it works.
M:          It must be a pain in the butt to start a band from scratch.
P:          It is.  The Vibrators got a song called “Start at the Bottom Again.”  Nowadays there’s so many bands that. . . There’s so much politics.  Joe Shanahan now is a guy with a lot of power in Chicago.  He runs the Metro.  He got Smashing Pumpkins.  He really had a lot to do with their success.  Every time a major act came to town he would put them in front of ‘em.  Eventually you’re gonna guild up an audience that way.  Go out and play in front of 1,500 people every weekend.
            I still think our best shot is the European market.
M:          Why?
P:          They seem to like American bands and alternative type music.  I hear a lot of bands get major success over there.  That’s part of the thing that we fucked up with the Effigies.  If I had to do over again, I’d really pursue the European market.  Just think about it.  With Eastern Europe opening up, there’s gonna be a lot of . . .300 million people over there that want rock and roll.  There’s a big market out there.  It can still be captured.
M:          You think the U.S. market is too formulated?
P:          There’s a lot of stupidity in the American market.  All the stupid bands that sell.  Who’s this new band, Saigon Kick.  There’s always gonna be that shit.  Pretty boys, guys that look like girls.
            MTV’s Top 10 is ridiculous.  You’ve got Nirvana, Whitney Houston, Saigon Kicks, REM. . . it’s that diversified.  At least Nirvana is in there.  They’ve done a lot for a lot of bands, our type of bands.
M:          At least for the past year.  It might not last.
P           I figure it will last now for a while.  As long as the bands that are good are putting out good stuff.  I always tell people, “Say what you want about Nirvana, it’s good.”  Your can’t ignore that fact.  That stuff is good.
M:          Do you listen to a lot of new music?
P:          Yea.  I know a lot of guys my age that are done with music.  They’re just gonna listen to the songs they grew up with, reflect back to the greatest times of their lives. That’s why ‘CKG is so popular.  Guys in their thirties who want to be reminded of high school.
M:          But that’s not rock?
P:          Some of it was.
M:          But remembering back.  Rock is something that should keep being new.
P:          You gotta take the new with the old. I love to hear old stuff, but I’m not going to not listen to new stuff.  Their attitude is that everything that’s good has been done already.  Why bother with listening to anything else.  It’s just not important to them anymore.  I know people who go out and buy a CD player and what do they do?  They go out and buy Elton John’s Greatest Hits.  That’s what they’ll keep buying, all that old shit that they have on album already.  There’s so much new stuff.  I listen to lots of different stuff.  There’s two kinds of music, good and bad.
M:          There’s nothing in between?
P:          There’s good country & western and there’s bad country & western.  Good classical and bad.  Good jazz and bad.
M:          Any last comments.
P:          If I had a clue, I would tell you.