Category Archives: Artist Interview

SURVIVAL OF THE SWEETEST: Matthew Sweet

With a long-awaited new album, the power pop auteur is back in his groove.

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Granted, Matthew Sweet didn’t invent power pop. That distinction is best left to earlier auteurs like the Raspberries, the Shoes, Cheap Trick and others that followed the Beatles and Badfinger to carve out a genre all its own. Still, one would be hard pressed to think of anyone who’s done more to advance the cause than Matthew Sweet. Indeed, Sweet’s series of essential early albums — Inside, Earth, Girlfriend, Altered Beast, 100% Fun and Blue Sky on Mars, chief among them — helped assure the power pop trajectory would remain prosperous and plentiful well into the new millennium.

Beginning a decade or so ago, Sweet further affirmed his affinity for all things pop by initiating a series of releases with Bangle Susanna Hoffs which the duo aptly dubbed Under the Covers. There have been three volumes so far (not counting a fourth included on a box set that banded the first three). To date, they’ve covered some of the most indelible songs in the pop canon decade by decade, from the ‘60s through the ‘80s, giving listeners a sample of the pair’s earliest influences and a nostalgic trip down memory lane as well.

Still, it’s been six years since Sweet’s offered up an album of all original material, which made the wait for his new effort, Tomorrow Forever cause for great anticipation. All of its songs boast the same ready refrains and instantly engaging melodies that marked earlier Sweet’s earlier triumphs and with all-star array of special guests — Gary Louris of the Jayhawks, added Bangle Debbi Peterson, the Zombies’ Rod Argent and members of the Velvet Crush and the Orange Peels as well, ample attention is well deserved. A move back to his home state of Nebraska and his mother’s passing might have impeded its progress, but clearly Tomorrow Forever can be considered yet another Sweet success.

Blurt recently spoke with Sweet who offered us the opportunity to catch up us on his recent activities…

BLURT: Please give us an idea of how the new album came about.

SWEET: Before I moved from Los Angeles, I had talked about doing some sort of Kickstarter campaign. I always wanted to try it. So once I got back here, after eight or nine months or so, I actually started the campaign while I was out doing shows. It was a lot of fun to try to whip up the excitement about it. The only hitch was that very shortly afterwards, my mother passed away and instead of jumping right into making the record, several months passed before I felt like I could approach it.

Once you did get back into it, how did the writing progress?

Originally the plan was that I would do tons of demos and then pull from those demos to make the full album. I started so late that I felt like it was going to take even longer to approach it that way, so instead I started recording everything I wrote during that time. And one of the ways that I made sure to get a lot of different things was to make multiple batches of recordings. There was an initial batch of like 15 songs, and then after that, I did two more sets, making a total of 38 tracks I recorded for the record. So we had to get it down to 17 songs from 38. a demos download that was sold with the album as part of the Kickstarter campaign and that became a whole satellite album to the main album. I called Tomorrow’s Daughter. It’s kind of a throwback to the bonus release we did to accompany Altered Beast. So that’s another twelve songs that didn’t make the album, but were things that we all kind of liked. I had a group of friends around me and we listened a lot to all the music. We all had to make our favorites list. What made it easy was that everyone more or less picked the same 15 songs. But nobody really wanted to stop there. Everybody wanted to have a list that went up to 20 or 23, and so there were these extra songs that were close to making the cut, and that made it a relief for me to make the Daughter record because I felt those songs could see the light of day. I imagine that we’ll package those properly at some point, but right now the Kickstarter people will be the first to hear them.

Will they come out simultaneously with the release of the album?

Yes. It’s coming soon. I just had a request from the office to send the files so I know we’re getting close to make those downloads available. It’s been a little bit tricky. The record was received really well from my publishing company and they got very excited and got other people involved. So I made a deal where I have my own label called Honeycomb Hideout which comes out through Sony Red distribution. As a result, we wanted to closely align the Kickstarter campaign with the actual release of the record so there wasn’t a big gap where all the Kickstarter people had it and it could float around and get copied before it was available.

What prompted your move from L.A. back to Nebraska?

When the real estate market came back, we had it in our minds that we wanted to cash in on this nest egg that we had built over twenty years because it had tripled in value. So we wanted to move somewhere. We looked all around but it was my wife who suggested we look around in Nebraska.

But with all due respect, isn’t Omaha a bit out of the way in terms of the hotspots of musical activity?

I felt like I could go anywhere. It didn’t really matter. So we happened upon this house in Omaha that caught our fancy. It’s an interesting place that was built in 1937. The front of it looks almost like a Disney kind of take on a French chateau house. The back of it and the interior are more like a craftsman/art deco kind of era, and so it’s just really different and unique. Some of the rooms are built in a kind of honeycomb shape and so that’s where we came up with the name of the label, Honeycomb Hideout. There’s also a room here that was perfect for me to use as a studio room. I’ve always thought to have serious recording studios in my houses but I really always had a set up in a room that was not meant to be a studio necessarily. However there was a space in this house that made sense. It has this wood panelling. It’s almost like an old ship and so I decided to call it Black Squirrel Submarine.

It’s funny to hear you refer to all these island and nautical themes being that you’re in the middle of the country and pretty much landlocked as a result.

(Laughs) It’s a little bit strange. This room that I use is kind of in the bowels of the house, so it’s got that vibe. It came from that. When we first moved in we saw some black squirrels running around. They aren’t super common, but you see them every now and then. So Black Squirrel Submarine became this kind of name that just ended up sticking. It’s funny. There are a lot of businesses around here called Black Squirrel. They’ll be Black Squirrel Industries or Black Squirrel Tattoo Parlour. So there are other industries, but I don’t think there’s another Black Squirrel Recording.

How long had you been gone before you came back?

A really long time. I left when I got out of high school, and then I went to Athens Georgia where I went to school briefly. I mostly skipped school and started doing independent recording and did my first stuff down there. When I got my first record deal, which was sort of a development deal with Columbia Records in New York, they moved me up to New York City and I was introduced to Jules Shear. I wrote some songs with him and spent several months just writing. They gave me money to buy gear and get an apartment up there. So I lived in New York most of the time after I got out of high school which was 1983 until 1993, which is when we moved to Los Angeles. I lived back here a couple of very brief periods in the late ‘80s, but for the most part, I was on the East Coast. I then went right into recording Altered Beast in Los Angeles and kind of got turned on to L.A. by Richard Dashed, the Fleetwood Mac producer who was working on Altered Beast with me. He took me around L.A. and showed me all the cool places. I was pretty into it, and my soon-to-be wife came out when I was finishing up that record in 1993. I was excited about living there, the label, Zoo Entertainment, was based there, and so it all kind of made sense. They were really kind of like a family. I wasn’t with a big label, but Zoo Entertainment was distributed through BMG Entertainment. So we moved there from Princeton where I was living at the time. I like Princeton. We had a great house because I could play drums and make noise all day since it wasn’t near all the other houses. I kind of feel like I’ve lived all over the place.

I interviewed Conor Oberst not too long ago and I was noting the fact that he lives in Nebraska, and with all due respect, it’s not exactly a hub of the music business. What was it like to be back after having lived in the places that were close to the entertainment industry? And we ask that question without trying to put it down.

I understand that. For one thing, Conor and the whole Saddle Creek guy had created a whole music scene here where by the time I moved here, it was known somewhat as a hotbed of music. You were seeing a lot of bands coming out of here.

The new album has some wonderful special guests. Were these all people you had worked with before?

Yes, but not everybody. John Moremen, who played guitar, is from San Francisco. I met him on a tour where his band, the Orange Peels, were opening for us. I heard him play lead and I told him I’d love to have him play lead on one of my records some time. Jason Victor was recommended by my then guitar player, Dennis Taylor, who had been touring with me, but had to take a break due to some personal issues. Dennis saw Jason playing with Dream Syndicate and got it in his head that Jason would be a good fit for playing with me. Jason will be on the road with us this summer. It was very funny and cryptic. I would send him a track and tell him to play whatever he wanted and he would send it back and I loved it.  Val McCallum, who played slide guitar and some other novelty sounds on the record, I had known on and off from Los Angeles, but we had never really worked together. Greg Leisz, who’s a good friend of mine, was playing with Jackson Browne and they were in Sioux City Iowa, which is about 100 miles north of Omaha. So we drove up there and kind of cornered them and asked them to do some stuff on my record. In the end, Greg was too busy. He was out on the road the whole time, but Val was able to cover for both of them. He came through and brought some special stuff to the record. So we got to know each other from working together over the internet.

Out of curiosity, has there ever been any talk about reconvening your great supergroup of sorts, the Thorns? That was a great combination — you, Shawn Mullins and Pete Yorn.

There hasn’t been a lot of talk about doing it, but I do think it would be fun to do. That record happened when the business was still together enough to allow us to sell 175,000 records. It would just be incredible now. It wasn’t quite enough to be a big hit for the record company. We toured for a couple of years and opened some shows for the Dixie Chicks and worked very hard on it, but financially we weren’t really provided for. We wanted to share the advance so we could produce the record ourselves, but the label didn’t agree to do it and then the label option ran out. We still wanted to do a record and we were free, but we also wanted to do our solo stuff. It really came together very quickly without us planning to have a group exactly. I think we did something special and I think we could do that again now, but it would take someone coming along and saying, “Hey guys, make a Thorns record” and we’d need the financial backing to make it happen.

So how would you sum up your progress and your trajectory up until this point?

To some extent, I’m a person who never looks back. Still, I feel really lucky to be able to hang in here and still put out my music.

READY TO STRIKE: Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes

Above: Dean Richardson (left) and Frank Carter (right) performing with the Rattlesnakes at Shaky Knees Festival 2017. Photo Credit: aLIVE Coverage

BY JEFF CLEGG

Frank Carter is a tenacious force. It’s been almost 6 years since the hardcore-punk veteran left his former band Gallows, but while you’ve been sleeping, he’s been relentlessly pushing his music into a new direction. Back in January, his current project Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes released their second full-length album titled Modern Ruin that welds together the intensity of Gallows with the vision he had for his previous project called Pure Love. The album is filled with heavy rock anthems that pack a punch, and is a more polished effort compared to the band’s grittier debut Blossom.

In Frank’s words, the album is “all about human relationships. How we interact with our loved ones, with our friends, with enemies, with strangers. And it’s about how you can feel nothing to someone and then through a moment you can suddenly be intertwined with that person for the rest of your life, which is someone that happens to us all of the time as musicians. We might play a gig for someone who had a bad day, and that music can mean more to them than we can ever understand.” However, as the title of the album suggests, a lot of the topics are less optimistic. Much of the album focuses on the problems that modern society is facing, including the relationships between social media and its effects on our mental health. “We’re all avatars now. We have a digital persona and we have reality. It’s terrifying to me, I don’t really know. It’s really weird because technology is obviously doing great things. My daughter is fully fluent in iPad. She’s amazing on it and she’s only two and a half. It’s incredible to see how advanced she is with it until you get to social media.” Dean Richardson, the Rattlesnakes co-founder and guitarist, added, “[Social media] just teaches you to pretend, to mold yourself into things that you’re not.”

Frank Carter met Dean around the time that Gallows ended and Pure Love was being formed. “We actually met when I wanted Dean to make me a website. Dean’s an incredible designer and coder so I asked him to help me out with it years ago, and then we just got talking about music,” he starts. “When my first band Gallows kind of ended, I started this new project called Pure Love and that was around the first time Dean and I talked about doing something together.” Dean even mentions that he and Frank were already sending out demos around the same time. “And [Pure Love] didn’t really work out. A couple of years pass, and then Pure Love ended. And that’s when I was like ‘Okay. I’m here. You’re here. Let’s do this.’ That was it really,” Frank added.

The Rattlesnakes found Frank Carter returning to his hardcore roots, but while keeping some of the more accesible pop sensibilities of Pure Love. Frank wanted to have “some sort of violence and aggression” behind the Rattlesnakes’ sound. The band almost instantly began writing songs, possibly at a faster pace than they had ever experienced. “[Dean] sent me two songs and they were perfect. I immediately began writing lyrics on that day. We had around 2 or 3 songs on the first day we began to write, which is pretty rare.” Dean added, “That’s when I knew that I was excited about the opportunity, but wasn’t really over-thinking it. And after how quickly the first two songs came together, I began to secretely get a bit more excited about how much we could write together. I still never expected it to get to where it is now so quickly. It’s crazy.”

Below: Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes at Shaky Knees Festival 2017. Photo Credit: aLIVE Coverage

The band is also gaining attention for their live performances as well, which shouldn’t be surprising if you’re familiar with Frank Carter’s history. Last month the band had to open Atlanta’s Shaky Knees Festival with a noon set in sweltering weather, which usually isn’t the time slot you’d prefer if you want an energetic and engaged crowd. Yet, despite the conditions, Frank persuaded almost 95 percent of the crowd to start a circle pit. “I’ve played Warped Tour a couple of times so I’m pretty well-versed in 11am rock shows in the heat,” Frank explained. “I also was asleep like 15 minutes before our set. I thought we were on at 3 or 4 o’clock. No one ever mentioned to me the time. It’s in my calendar so I should have just looked, but instead I just went back to bed. Next thing I know Dean is like ‘hey, uhh, it’s 30 minutes until change over,’ and I just laughed at him and said ‘good one.’ Then he said ‘no, really, get off the couch.’”

So, really, get off your couch and check out Modern Ruin. They’re unfortunately finished with their North American tour dates this year, but if you’re in Europe, be sure the check out the band on their extensive European tour lasting until the end of the year.

 

AGENT ORANGE REPORTING FOR DUTY: Corky Carroll

Friends, Casuals, Piranhas, Funk Dogs… the Orange County musical wizard’s colorful life, explained.

BY TIM HINELY

Corky Carroll is a true renaissance man. Oh sure, you know him from being a champion surfer (and a tireless spokesperson for the sport) as well as being on a Lite beer commercial but did you also know that he’s written several books (on surfing) and in addition opened a surf school in Southern California and has designed/shaped boards as well. In addition (and why we here at BLURT wanted to talk to him in the first place) he has recorded several albums over the years (many recently reissued on the Darla Records label out of Southern California) and has mined several different styles of music on those albums. As you’ll read below, surfing was his first love, but music was always a close second. He’s assembled numerous bands over the years and played solo as well. These days, though he writes a column in the Orange County Register newspaper he no longer lives in California, instead opting for a lush beach community in Mexico where he runs surf adventures (and, of course, still plays music).  I can’t think of anyone else I’d want to have take me on a surf adventure. Carroll has lived a colorful life (to say the least) and he was more than happy to answer the questions I tossed his way.

BLURT: Where did you grow up?

CARROLL: I grew up in the small beach community of Surfside Colony on the far north end of Orange County.  We were just south of Seal Beach.  There were about 100 old beach houses along a little strip of oceanfront, not quite what you would call shacks, but close to it.  Our house was so close to the water that I got to the point that I could tell what the surf would be like without even having to open my eyes, I could tell by the sound.  It was a great place to grow up, especially for a surfer.

What was the first record you remember buying with your own money?

In 1958 I went to see my first surf movie.  They were 16mm films that were usually narrated live by the guy who made the film and he would have a soundtrack on a tape recorder going into a couple of Voice of the Theater speakers for max volume.  The movie was called “Surf Safari” by John Severson.  I remember vividly when the big wave sequence came on, it is one of those frozen in time memories; the music was the Theme from Peter Gunn.  That beat stuck in my head; in fact it’s still stuck in my head.  Shortly after that I got my mom to buy me a record player for my birthday and I saved up my paper route money to buy records.  My first purchases where the Peter Gunn album by Henry Mancini and a blues album by Jimmy Reed.  Shortly after I started buying 45s and had a little set list in my room which included Ray Charles, Johnny Otis, Elvis and Buddy Holly among others.  (Below: in 1968 Corky appeared in a Jantzen ad – the perfect beach bum, eh?)

 

What was the first instrument you picked up?

When I was about seven or eight years old we moved up the beach from a tiny one-bedroom place into a little bigger 3-bedroom place so I could have my own room.  I had been sleeping in a little loft in my parents room and I think I was cramping their style a bit.  Our new place came with an upright piano.  My mom had been a singer when she was younger and sang on the radio back in the days of “live” radio.  She had made a record, too; this is in the days of tin records.  She came from a musical family.  Her two brothers were professional musicians, one a concert violinist and the other a drummer in a popular jazz band of the 30’s and 40’s.  She insisted that I take piano lessons.  At first I was all for it and was ready to rock, but she hired the local pastor’s wife to teach me and it was a strict regime of classical and similar type music.  I wanted to learn to play popular stuff that I could feel, but she was totally against that.  For five years I struggled with that teacher and had no desire to learn or put in any practice time.  I just wanted to go surfing.  A couple of times somebody would show me how to play a little something I liked and that would kinda keep me going for awhile.  Like when I learned how to play “What I’d Say,” by Ray Charles.  That song had a kind of basic little riff to it and that sort of thing became kind of the base of a lot of later “surf” music.  Then one time we went to Tijuana for the day and my dad bought me a cheapo guitar.  That was really more my style, I loved that thing.  I don’t think it even tuned correctly, but I would just bang away on it and it made me feel good.  In about the eighth grade I had a pal who lived down the street and he got an electric guitar.  Now THAT was really cool and I had to have one too.  So I saved up a bit and asked my dad to buy me one.  Not knowing anything about guitars and music he bought a crude homemade thing with a small Gibson amp that had a blown speaker.  This had to be the cheapest thing he could find.  Nonetheless I dug it and me and the kid down the street would spend zillions of hours working out the current instrumental surf songs of the time.  Another friend of mine was learning to play the drums and I would go over to his house and bang away as loud as I could with him.  His name is Tris Imboyden and he went on to become a great drummer, first with a wonderful band named HONK and then with Kenny Loggins and Chicago.  My surfing career got in the way of my musical development for a number of years though and I didn’t take it much further at that time.  It wasn’t until around 1969 or so that I got a nice acoustic guitar and decided to actually learn how to play the thing.  Eventually I wandered back to electric, but have more or less kept a finger style of playing.  I like the way Mark Knopfler does it so I kind of lean that way when I am looking for tones.

Were the Beatles a huge influence for you? Beach Boys? Anyone else?

I was a huge Beatles fan and even more so of the Rolling Stones.  I played both of their albums until they melted.  At first I didn’t like the Beach Boys and thought the “surfin’ bop dipty dipty dip” thing was really lame.  I was much more a fan of pop, R & B, and the traditional instrumental surf music of people like Dick Dale, but as the Beach Boys’ music evolved I could not help but like the beat and the good vibrations of it.  It was a shock to me when I went to England in 1967 that for the most part the Beach Boys were more popular there than the Beatles.  Then I got a chance to work with them on a little promotional film they did and got to be friends with Dennis Wilson and Bruce Johnston.  They actually asked me if I would go on tour with them as it would be an asset to have a “real surfer” in the band.  At that time all my energy was into being a professional surfer and I was not even close to being skilled enough to play or sing with those guys, so I passed.  I would have only embarrassed myself, which is something that I never seemed to back down from, but right then it didn’t seem like a good idea.  I did become a big fan of their music and even more so as time went on and I understood more about it.  In the long run though I would have to say that the bigger influence on my music came from the Stones.  And later a little bit from Jimmy Buffet, who I am a huge fan of.

At what point did you start writing songs and recording?  What was your first release?

At first I only played guitar and didn’t sing.  My first album was done with a bunch of friends who were also surfers that played music.  It was called Corky Carroll and Friends and came out in 1971.  I did a few sort of mellow acoustic guitar instrumentals.  At about that same time I got offered a gig playing the off nights at a little restaurant and bar.  So I learned some songs and started singing.  Many questioned that decision too.  I was not a good singer at first, but I forged ahead at it and over the years had a lot of voice training and eventually found my way on key.  It took awhile though and after many, many years, like in the late 1990’s, at it I found out that I had some ear problems that were really holding me back.  When I found out that I needed to use headphones my voice finally really came to me and opened up.  Without them my hearing is all wrong.  I also have to use hearing aids on a day-to-day basis.  So I use full on headphones on stage when I perform, not just the in ear monitors.  Sometimes people ask me why I have them on and my favorite answer is “I’m listening to the game.”  It doesn’t even surprise me when they believe it. After a few years of playing in bars I put together a project called the Funk Dog Surf Band.  We did a show of really absurd surf and skate related songs and included three great looking backup singers called the “Corkettes.”  We had a single released in the U.S. and in England that was recorded by Dennis Dragon at his studio in Malibu called “Skateboard Bill.”  We also were on the Gong Show two times, one time we won and the other time we got gonged.  I like to think that this was my “learning” band.

(Below: Funk Dog Surf Band)

Was the Coolwater Casuals your first band? If so how’d that come together?

After awhile the Funk Dog band mistakenly thought we needed a cooler name so we changed it to the “Tropics.”  Eventually that ran it’s course and while I was sort of in between things I was introduced to a fantastic musician named Chris Darrow by a mutual friend, Rick Griffin.  Rick was an amazing artist who started out doing surfing cartoons and then went on to concert posters and Grateful Deal album covers and a number of other good things. Chris had been a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and the Kaleidoscope and was the leader of Linda Ronstadt’s touring band, among a zillion other things.  He was a big leaguer and he also had just moved to the beach and was learning to surf.  He and I clicked right off the bat and became pals.  He worked on my musicianship and I worked on his surfing.  He put together the Coolwater Casuals and together we wrote songs and put together a show.  We imported the Corkettes too.  Where the Funk Dog band had been fun and silly, and meant to be that way, the Casuals were a damn solid rock band.  I loved that feeling.  I loved being on stage with both of those bands, but in a different way.  The Funk Dog Band was a novelty and intended to entertain and make people laugh and I liked that part.  I want to come back as a stand up comedian in a later life, it feels so good to get a room laughing, but the Coolwater Casuals rocked and that really felt right to me.  Chester Crill was in that band too, one of the great electric violin guys ever.

 How did you end up recording with Michael Nesmith of The Monkees for the “Tan Punks on Boards’ single”?  

The record company, Criminal Records, which released my first single, “Skateboard Bill,” in England, heard a demo tape from a rehearsal with the Casuals.  Chris and I had just written “Tan Punks on Boards” and it was the opening song to our set.  They liked it and wanted us to record it.  Chris was pals with Mike Nesmith who owned his own label up in Carmel called Pacific Arts.  Mike got involved and we recorded “Tan Punks…” at Lyon Studios in Newport Beach.  It was released shortly after as a single on Pacific Arts.  Not long after that we put out the “Surfer for President” LP. (Below: related photo of Carroll, courtesy Art Brewer.)  Most of that album was recorded on a TEAC 4 track in my garage.

What was next? Corky Carroll and the Piranhas?

No, that is just recently since I signed with Darla Records.  After the Coolwater Casuals ran its course I didn’t perform much for a number of years.  But then a small label in Switzerland signed me for a “Best of” album and one more after that.  This led to a series of CD’s on European labels and I started my own little independent label to release small quantities of a number of albums that I recorded in my home studio either totally solo or with Chris Darrow.  And I went back to doing solo gigs in local bars in Southern California.  My main gig was being house musician at Duke’s on the Huntington Beach Pier for a number of years before I moved to Mexico in 2003.  Since then I have been doing occasional dinner concerts at local cantinas and writing new material.  

How did you hook up with James at Darla Records who started reissuing your records?

He found me on Facebook and asked why he couldn’t find any of my music online.  This sort of led to him finding some of the old stuff and wanting to reissue most of them plus do a new “Best Of” followed by a totally new album, which I recorded last summer.  That is the Blue Mango album, which the Piranha plays on.  This is a really great group of extremely fun and talented musicians that I was lucky to be able to put together for this project.  I love the connection with Darla Records and with James himself.  The dude surfs and we have a lot in common, plus he is a really good guy.  And Darla is a very lovely label, it says that right on their stationary.

 

I notice a lot of your songs talk about different environmental issues. What current issue is the most critical?

Well there is always something isn’t there.  I used to get more into that kind of thing but lately have tended to write more about things within my current experience or that I am feeling right now.  Sometimes the environment falls into that, sometimes it’s about a chicken standing on the side of the road debating about crossing in traffic or Surf Zombies.  I am a fan of those really bad horror movies that are so stupid they’re good: Mega Piranha, Zombeavers, Sharknado – that kind of thing.  Sometimes there just seems like there are so many things to be concerned about that I just go into alternative realities and ignore current events – or I just go surfing and forget about them.  This only works for as long as I am in the water though.  It’s turning on the TV that’s dangerous.  The world is not the safest place these days.  I just wrote a song called “Holy Moley.”  It’s about turning in the TV looking for cartoons, but all I see are blood and guts and gore and ragin’ ruins.  Don’t swipe my lyrics here kids, hahaha.

How did the column in the Orange County Register come about? Is it weekly? Is it mostly music?

They approached me to write a weekly column about 25 years ago and it’s still alive and going.  I actually do two a week, one is a question and answer and the other is whatever I feel like writing about.  Mostly it’s surfing related or beach lifestyle in one way or another.  Sometimes I write about music too, but the main topics are more about surfing.  At times I do cover musicians who surf such as Jackson Browne or Jack Johnson or surfers who do music such as Tom Curren or Donavon Frankenreiter.  All these guys are examples of just because you are good at one thing does not mean that you can’t be been at another.  Sometimes people don’t want to give somebody credit for that because they assume that just because you are well know as a surfer you certainly can’t be all that great of a musician, or the other way around.

Tell us about your current band members, Matt Magiera and Matt Marshall? How long has this lineup been together? 

Matt Magiera was the original drummer back in the Funk Dog Surf Band.  He was a teenager and still in High School then.  We used to have to get a note from is parents to get him into the clubs we played at most of the time.  He was already really good then and went on to become outstanding.  He introduced me to Matt Marshall.  That Matt works with his brother Phil Marshall doing big time movie scores and he has also worked with my friend Henry Kapono.  We were lucky that he was available the week I was in California recording the Blue Mango album.  Super clean bass player, I hope to do a lot more with both of these dudes in the future. (Below: Corky with core Piranhas Matt Magiera, Richard Stekol, and Douglas Miller.)

 

How about some of the guys you’ve played with over the years. Brad Fiedel, Chris Darrow, Richard Stekol and Doug Miller. How about something interesting about each one.

As I have mentioned Chris Darrow and I have been playing together and recording together since the late 1970s.  He would be my main musical influence and mentor.  He got me into branching out and becoming a multi-instrumentalist.  Chris and I just jell perfectly when we put songs together.  And Doug Miller was also the lead violinist in the Funk Dog Surf Band and worked with me as a duo playing in bars and clubs in the early days.  Brad Fiedel and I met when he started coming to Mexico to surf maybe ten years ago.  He built a house near ours and he stayed with us while it was going up.  He is a super musician having done well over 100 big movie scores as well has having toured with Hall and Oats.  We would sometimes jam when he was at our house and I was stoked when he agreed to do the keyboards on Blue Mango.  One of the movie scores he did was for a horror flick called Fright Night.  Fantastic score.  I had this song called “Surf Zombie”, which was just begging for some of that good Brad Fiedel/Fright Night kinda vibe.  He also helped me do the final mix before we sent it off to Nate Wood to master.  This was the first time that I actually got to work with Richard Stekol although we have known each other since the early 70s when he was playing with HONK.  They were, and are, one of my all time favorite bands and I have always been a fan of his guitar work.  When I was putting together the players for the album a great songwriter friend of both of ours, Jack Tempchin, heard a few of the new songs and suggested I ask Richard to do some guitar tracks.  Thankfully he agreed and his work on this album really brings a lot of magic to the songs.  The Piranha are a really unique mixture of players and I could not have asked for a more perfect lineup.  When we were discussing band names and the “Piranha” came up it was Richard who said, “Hey, it’s perfect.  After all, everybody’s gotta eat.”  That sort of became our band motto.

With you being in Mexico and your band mates in California how often do you play shows and/or tour?

Together, not yet.  But, that said, thanks to modern technology I am able to perform by myself and use the tracks from the album that I have recorded into a little box.  I can do the songs from the album that way, I just leave out my tracks and play them live and sing live.  I do this with my whole set, but the other songs I record myself in my home studio and use them as backing while my guitar and voice are live.  It has a harmonizer too so I can thicken the songs with harmony.  I can do a Beach Boys medley this way.  Thanks to Chris for getting me to be able to play most of the instruments myself.

Who are some of your biggest influences, musically speaking?

I like the Stones and Jimmy Buffet.  Also am a big fan of Jackson Browne, The Eagles and Jack Tempchin.  The HONK band is at the top of my list.  Chris Darrow too, his own albums are super cool and his personal input into my entire musical life has been enormous.

Of all the records you’ve released over the years could you pick a favorite?

By far it’s the new BLUE MANGO album.  I love this work and am very proud of the final product.  Some of the songs on Visions of Paradise stand out too.

What’s next? Shows? A new record?

Definitely more shows.  Am working on a concert in Florida and trying to get one going in Texas and in Southern California later this year.  And I will continue to do shows here in Mexico – it’s how I get to try out new material and keep sharp musically.  I am not sure about plans for another album as of yet. Blue Mango is still relatively new on the market right now.  Of course I would like to do another one for sure.  I just wrote a couple of new songs I like a lot but have a ways to go to have enough material solid enough to record yet.  Hopefully next year.  The Piranha are on notice.  It will help the cause if ALL of you who might be reading this buy Blue Mango right now.  You will obviously love it and want to tell all your friends too.  Come on, just do it.

Any final comments? Words of wisdom? Anything you wanted to mention that I forgot to ask?

Well, I feel that I have been really lucky to have been able to pursue the things I love most – surfing and music.  They have so much in common.  The late Timothy Leary once told me that we are all surfers of sorts riding different waves through the universe.  Sound waves, cosmic waves, permanent waves, whatever.  Riding through a guitar solo or singing is much like riding a wave on surfboard.  You’re climbing and dropping and tucking into little sections and it’s a lot of ad-lib and expression.  I love the feel both give me.  Performing is a rush and I like that, but I also just love being by myself and plugged in.  I can close my eyes and wander through new universes all the time.  In surfing you gotta keep the eyes open or you will wind up on the rocks.  But in music you can just soar without looking, just feeling.  Of course you can always wind up on the rocks doing that too, that’s what puts the thrill into it.  The only thing that bleeds is your soul.

Online:

www.corkysurfco.com

www.darla.com

Special thanks to James Agren at Darla Records for the help on this piece.

ROQUE ON! The Upper Crust

Lord Bendover holds court with our resident Whig, revealing his thoughts on formal stage attire, the allure of outlandish concert rider demands, and why the current King, er, we mean, President, is a bloody vulgarian. Following the interview, check out a must-see documentary, “Let Them Eat Rock,” on the band from a few years ago.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

While it has never been confirmed that the legendary aristocratic foppish hard rock band, The Upper Crust, dust their wigs with cocaine, based on the blazing licks that spark off their flying Vs, it’s definitely in the realm of possibility.

Although it’s been almost a decade since the Boston-based foursome – comprised of Lord Bendover, Count Bassie, The Duc D’istortion and Jackie Kickassis – last put out a full-length album, Delusions of Grandeur more than makes up for the wait. And it’s not like they didn’t want to record. Like most of the 1%, they simply haven’t been forced to adapt to things like work ethic or schedules.

Pinkies raised firmly in the air, the band, dressed in full 18th century finery have spent much of the spring interacting with the common folk touring the U.S. On a rare break, singer/guitarist Lord Bendover was kind enough to entertain few questions from BLURT and discuss their hiatus from the music world, Donald Trump and some of the finer points of their tour rider.

Rocque on!

BLURT: It’s been almost eight years since you last put out a studio album – why the delay? What has the band been up to? 

LORD BENDOVER: We are gentlemen of leisure, given to indolence, intemperance, and very occasionally, frivolity, but only if it doesn’t require any effort. So, we have been doing hardly anything at all to speak of, except for satisfying our baser appetites and rocquing and rolling in various places.

For a band composed of aristocrats, Hard Rock seems like an odd choice. Hard Rock always felt more like a genre for the underdogs.

We have always felt that it’s high time that an oeuvre as important, exacting and aesthetically challenging as hard rock – or better, “Rocque” – ought to be appropriated by the upper class. After all, we’ve appropriated everything else of value. (Ed. note: the video for “Little Castrato” is below, and yes, it does indeed sound like a cross between classic Motley Crue and, uh, the Beach Boys, with some Ramones thrown in for good measure.)

Obviously, you take the time to dress up for your shows. What do you usually see when you look out into the audience?

 Sometimes we are pleased to find that the audience has dressed themselves appropriately for a formal rocque concerto, but all too often we are crestfallen to see that they appear, to all intents and purposes, to be a bunch of stumblebums. Yet one can’t judge a book by its cover… perhaps they are merely slumming and failed to note the dress code.

Let’s move on to politics. With Trump in the White House, why is now the right time for more music from a band like The Upper Crust?

 We ourselves are hardly Trump supporters—he is not called a vulgarian without reason. And yet it is gratifying to know that he is all in favor of consolidating wealth at the very top of high society, at the expense of the poorer classes, whilst all the while proclaiming his affinity for the common man. But to address the substance of your question, it is always the right time for The Upper Crust.

I’d be interested to know what’s on your tour rider – any outlandish demands?

 Nothing too outlandish. Though if we are ever again presented with what purports to be “real Siamese twins” who on closer inspection have been conjoined with Krazy Glue we shall be quite put out.

It’s hard to find a band to compare you guys to. What are some of the oddest show bills you’ve ever been put on?

Bookers are forever pairing us with costume and comedy rock bands, as if there was anything funny or make-believe about The Upper Crust. The only truly great thematic band we’ve played with, and we’ve played with them enough to know, are San Francisco’s Grannies. Though we will always remember Aerosmith, whom we played with one New Year’s Eve in Boston, coming out onstage dressed more or less exactly like us. An homage.

What’s next for the band?

 Next, we intend to find a way to crack the inscrutable Orient. Whilst that develops, we also intend to return to the Continent. Any continent will do really.
Those are all the questions I have. Anything else you want to cover? 

 We are great lovers of the nude figure in Art. That is all.

Photos credit: Ben Stas

Video Exclusive: Live Song + Interview by China’s Twinkle Star

Live in Beijing China, May 6th 2017, Yugong Yishan Club

By Jonathan Levitt

A while back I introduced Blurt readers to the Chinese band Twinkle Star. A chance ride in lead guitarist Zhang Shuai’s car has led to a close friendship with the band. As they were wrapping up their tour for their latest and greatest record Full of Hope they made a stop in their hometown to bring the house down at the Yugong Yishan Club in central Beijing. Zhou Jialin, who is now the sole member of the Blurt Beijing team (as I’m now stateside) brought along her Taiwanese friend A Pei to shoot some of the concert for Blurt readers and what a killer show it was as evidenced by the footage that I edited together for the song “To Be With You”.

My heart on sleeve plea is that I really hope that Blurt readers can explore more of the band’s musical offerings and hopefully someone out there can help make their dream of playing stateside a reality!

Catch up with the band online: https://www.facebook.com/TwinklestarbandCN/

Photo credits: All photos by Zhou Jialin are marked ZJL / All photos by Pei marked Pei / Bottom photo of Zhou Jialin by Pei

THE INSPIRATION BEHIND… Moving Targets’ “Faith” (1986)

Kenny Chambers discusses the key track from his band’s Burning in Water LP.

BY TIM HINELY

Ed note: We continue our series devoted to tunes that hold special places in our hearts and in our collective experience as devotees to and lovers of timeless indie rock. To kick the series off, we asked Eric Matthews, of both solo and Cardinal fame, to talk about his classic number “Fanfare,” from his 1995 Sub Pop hit It’s Heavy in Here. Next was Bill Janovitz of Buffalo Tom pulling back the curtain on one of his early gems: “Taillights Fade,” from 1992’s Let Me Come Over, cut with fellow bandmembers Chris Colbourn (bass) and Tom Maginnis (drums). After that we dipped way back to 1970 for the proto-power pop of Crabby Appleton’s “Go Back,” penned by frontman Michael Fennelly, and then fast-forwarded to 2000 for John Conley talking about his band the California Oranges and their pop gem “John Hughes.” Then it was back to the ‘90s courtesy Allen Clapp, who talked about “Something Strange Happens.” Now we drop in to 1986 and the Boston punk scene….

As far as I know Boston’s Moving Targets, led by main songwriter Kenny Chambers, had only cut a handful of songs before recording their massive debut, Burning in Water (Taang Records, 1986). Though they’d been bouncing around in one form or another since the early ‘80s—they emerged from the ashes of a band called Smash Pattern—the only recorded output they had was a few songs on the Conflict Records compilation Bands That Could Be God. I have to say, I was completely blown away the first time I heard Burning in Water. At the time, I was moving away from hardcore and listening to more mid-tempo, melodic stuff, and this record just hit that sweet spot. The band got a lot of comparisons to Husker Du, which I do hear as an influence, but I like Burning in Water more than any Husker Du record, which is saying something as I love Husker Du.

It was tough to only pick out one song, but I decided to ask Kenny Chambers about the soaring and powerful “Faith.” Kenny was more than happy to hit me back and tell me about the origins of the song and the recording of it. The band: Chambers on guitar and vocals, Pat Leonard on bass, Pat Brady on drums.

What was the initial inspiration for the song?
“Faith” was born during my time in the band Smash Pattern (Chuck Freeman on drums) in 1984. I’m sure there was some Mission of Burma influence coupled with a case of Old Milwaukee that we consumed at every practice. When the ‘targets came together again 1985 we started playing it.

Did it take long to finish writing it?
The song took a short while to put together. I wrote it whole then added a couple more parts on the following couple of weeks.

Any idea how your long time fans feel about it (i.e.: would it be considered a “fan favorite” or anything?)
I think any fan of the band likes that tune.

Was it a staple of your live sets even years later?
The Moving Targets had “Faith” on most set lists from 1985 to 2007.  I don’t think that we ever got tired of playing it.

Is there anything about the song you’d change?
I wouldn’t change anything about it. The band played it well and Lou Giordano did a fine job of recording it and coaxing a good performance out of us.

Tell me a little about the recording of it – where and when, how long did it take, any watershed moments or glaring problems, etc.?
Recording the Burning in Water album was kind of a blur. We were so excited and it went so quickly (all of the basic tracks in a day and a half) that I personally don’t remember recording most of the songs. I know it sounded great in the studio with Lou and Carl Plaster and we were happy with everything.  The only problem with recording was trying to adapt to a cleaner amp sound. Lou pushed the cleaner sound and I was used to total distortion.  In hindsight, Lou was right on the money. The record sounds sharp.

How do you feel about it now?
I still think it holds up today.

Early Chambers photo by David Henry / via Wikimedia

Current Chambers photo from Versus the Goat podcast page

 

 

TIME PASSAGES: Parson Red Heads

With a stunningly great new album about to drop, the Oregon cosmic Americana/power pop auteurs embark upon their most ambitious musical journey to date. Frontman Evan Way details all the changes his group has been through.

BY FRED MILLS

In 2013, BLURT published a story about Portland, Oregon-based outfit the Parson Red Heads. The feature, “Stories They Can Tell,” was on the occasion of the expanded reissue of their 2011 classic, Yearling (via BLURT’s sister business, Second Motion Records, now called Schoolkids Records). As frontman Evan Way explained at the time, “We decided to do it is because we really believe in this album we created, and believe that these songs are powerful enough that they could reach and touch a lot more people than they did the first time around, if given the proper attention.”

Indeed, the band is hugely respected in the indie world, with plenty of fans on both sides of the Atlantic who eagerly snap up its music. As you’ll read below in our new interview with Evan, a lot has happened since then, including the release of an album of all new material, Orb Weaver (reviewed HERE) and the arrival of several young Parson yearlings.

Here in 2017, though, the band is prepping the release of the new album Blurred Harmony, out June 9 on Portland’s Fluff & Gravy label. It’s everything people love about the band—meaningful lyrics that you relate to instinctively, unblemished vocal harmonies to die for, and a musical mélange that’s equal parts cosmic Americana and timeless power pop. For this listener, standout cuts include the subtle intensity of “Time Is A Wheel,” which gradually builds until the listener finds him- or herself enveloped in a heavenly anthem; “Please Come Save Me,” which could pass for the musings of a long-lose Flying Nun band, if Flying Nun bands had pedal steels; jangle popper supreme “Out of Range”; and the brash, Big Star-meets-Beatles “Coming Down.”

Thematically, it’s a record about the passing of time, the memories—both joyous and regretful—we accumulate along the way, and trying to face the future with grace. (It was reportedly inspired, in part, by poet Donald Justice, whose poem “Nostalgia of the Lakefronts” is singled out in the Parson bio.) The luminous opening cut “Please Save Me” nicely sums things up, with some of the most gorgeously wistful lyrics I’ve heard in ages:

“Days like this, I remember

Things that I tried to forget

Certain names, certain faces

Things that I’d only regret

They can tell me how I’m still lost

And still lonely

They can show me I cannot live all alone

All of my life I’ve been running

Turning my back to the past

Things still to come cannot hurt me

I cannot miss what I don’t have

The future cannot tell me I’m wrong

Or make me sigh

The future cannot tell me I’m wrong

Please come save me, I’m lost without you

I know alone I cannot change.

Please come save me, I’m lost without you

I know alone I cannot change.”

Recently, Evan and I had a lively email exchange about the band, and he was subsequently gracious enough to sit down one afternoon with a stack of my questions and put some serious thought into his answers—emblematic of the way he approaches his music, perhaps? Clearly, this is a band that cares deeply about its music and how it affects its fanbase. If the Parson Red Heads come anywhere your city, run, don’t walk, to the venue’s ticket office. You’ll be glad you did.

The band: Evan Way (guitar/vox), Brette Marie Way (drums / vox), Robbie Augsburger  (bass), Sam Fowler (electric gtr / vox), Raymond Richards  (pedal steel).

On June 7, 8, and 10 the Parson Red Heads will host a series of album release shows in Oregon and Washington. Dates at their official website. Incidentally, Blurred Harmony will be available digitally, on CD and vinyl, and a special limited edition (100 copies) translucent blue vinyl as well. You can preorder at their Bandcamp page. Lastly, go HERE to listen to a track that BLURT premiered a couple of months ago.

***

 

BLURT: Orb Weaver came out in the fall of 2013 – tell the readers a little about what’s gone down since then, high points and/or low points? I recall that you had an addition to the family…

Since Orb Weaver came out at the end of 2013, we’ve certainly been busy! When we tracked that record, Brette (our drummer and my wife) was pregnant with our first son, George. He was born that September and went on his first tour with us when he was 8 weeks old. We did a lot of traveling and touring to support Orb Weaver and the “6” EP that followed, taking him with us all over the country (and to Spain, as well!). We had our 2nd son in February of 2015, and that slowed down touring quite a bit, though he did come on a few, and we brought him along on a 2 week tour of Spain about a year and a half ago. Our 3rd son was born this last January!

So yes, we are INDEED a family band in many ways. Bringing kids on tour is really challenging, changes the way you have to tour in a lot of ways. It’s also really fun, when it goes well—so fun to be able to show your kids the country and give them all these adventures, and really fun to be able to continue to do and pursue what we love, and sort of bring the kids into that experience.

Also in the past few years we’ve released a 7″ and a retrospective compilation record (consisting of at least one song from every record we’ve released) in Europe, through You Are The Cosmos Records. They’ll be releasing this new record in Europe, too. They’ve been wonderful, and the response and fan-base in Spain, where they are based, is SO encouraging to us. We can’t wait to get back out there and play for them again.

Typically, I’ll see a review of the band that never fails to mention Byrds, Gram Parsons, CSNY and other folk-rock/vocal harmony icons—even the Blurt review of Orb Weaver focused on that. Yet I’ve always heard as much a Big Star and latterday power pop sound in there too. And “Sunday Song” on the new album even has, dare I say it, a kind of drifting/dreamy psych Pink Floyd vibe. So what is YOUR verdict—who would you say are the group’s key influences and heroes, and what do YOU hear when you listen to a playback of a new song?

Yeah, we get the big Byrds and CSNY comparisons so often. It’s funny, because though I DO love the Byrds and all of those classic, iconic folk-rock groups of the ‘60s and ‘70s, I really don’t hear a lot of that in much of our music. Certainly in a few songs here and there, but in general I wouldn’t feel totally comfortable classifying us as a Byrds-like band, or really anything of the sort. Especially as years have gone on and we’ve grown and come into our own, I feel like there is a lot more power-pop influence, stuff like Teenage Fanclub, Big Star, The dB’s, but also the Paisley Underground and college rock bands of the ‘80s and early ‘90s, like Rain Parade, The Feelies, stuff like that. Our heroes and influences are really wide-ranging, but that is more the stuff that I personally feel comes out in our sound.

In the end it’s a hard question to answer, a hard thing to define. Because some people really do hear The Byrds, Neil Young, Tom Petty in our sound, and that’s great—those are bands that I absolutely love, I won’t complain if those are things people are picking up from hearing our songs!

The previous record was cut in a “proper” studio with Scott McCaughey and Adam Selzer, but for the new one you decided to take a different approach and do it yourselves at Sam’s place— in your bio your comment is “If we were going to make it happen and do it well, we were going to have to track it ourselves.” Could you elaborate a bit on that, what the experience was like this time, and perhaps even offer advice to young bands on the relative pros and cons of both approaches as you have experienced them?

Yes – basically, we realized that with the kid situation as it was, it seemed really unrealistic to get the most out of studio time at a proper studio. Expecting Brette and I to be able to put in a few weeks of 10 hour days at a studio just wouldn’t have been realistic, with two kids under the age of 4. We came to the conclusion that if we tried to track the album at a proper studio, we’d be way too rushed and wouldn’t be allowing ourselves the time we needed to work through the songs—they wouldn’t get the attention they deserved, and we’d leave the studio with a record we weren’t totally satisfied with.

It so happened that at the same time, Sam was really coming into his own with his home recording, tracking a few friends’ albums, and also tracking and producing two of his own solo records. The stuff he was putting out just out of his basement studio was sounding fantastic. And we’d also always just thought it’d be a fun thing to try—to record everything ourselves, to allow ourselves the freedom to take our time with an album, as much as every song needed, to experiment without the pressure of studio time budgets and all that external stuff. So it just seemed the timing was right to try making a record ourselves.

We tracked a majority of it at my house, in our den (which is also our rehearsal space), and then a good batch of it in Sam’s basement, as well. Once it was all tracked we gave the tracks over to our good friend Danny O’Hanlon, who is a producer / engineer / mixer here in town, and he mixed all the songs. He did SUCH a good job, really injected new life and focus into the tracks we gave him.

It was really fun to do, quite a learning experience. As far as advice goes, the best thing I can say is, just take your time—don’t let yourself feel rushed. If something isn’t sounding quite right, keep tweaking, keep experimenting. It inevitably takes longer to dial in sounds, tones, takes, when you’re tracking in a space that isn’t designed to be a studio. When you’re using less gear, home gear, in a space like a living room or a basement—it’s just going to take creativity and time to get things to sound right, whereas in a professional recording studio, those sounds can get dialed in so quickly.

That is a big trade-off. But I think it’s a worthwhile trade-off—it’s so great to not have to worry about how many hours you’ve been spending on a part or on a song, worry about how much you’re paying per hour, things like that. To be able to just get lost in the song and spend however much time you need to capture the right sound and part—that is a luxury, and it can be really, really rewarding.

How long did it take to complete? What were some of the breakthroughs and high points while making it? Any failed experiments that either got left on the cutting room floor or will have to be shelved for revisiting in the future?

From the beginning of tracking through mixing and mastering, the album took just about a year to make. There were times that were very productive, and there were lulls—that is another thing you have to deal with when making a record at your homes, is that life stuff more easily gets in the way and pushes your recording schedule around.

One experiment we tried was simultaneously tracking drums digitally and onto 4-track cassette, with the intention of then blending the two in the mix, so that we could have crispness and more editable digital tracks, with the warmer, punchy and dirty cassette tracks to give character and tone. It just ended up being way too complicated once we got into it, especially with punching in and editing tracks… it just didn’t work like we wanted it to. But it’s not an experiment I want to give up on! I love the idea, and love how it could sound, if done right. I’m a huge fan of cassette recording, and really do have goals to incorporate that more into what we do as a band in the future.

Favorite songs? Which ones are you most excited about to do in concert?

Hard to pick a favorite song. Once you spend this much time on an album, you end up having more favorite moments and parts than favorite songs, I think. For example, I love when the pedal steel makes its entrance at the beginning of “Please Come Save Me”. I love the thick, plunky, pick-bass tone on “What Have I Become,” and 12-string electric guitar line on “Today is the Day.” Maybe my favorite moment is when Sam’s harmony vocal on “Time After Time” becomes the lead vocal on the second verse—such an engaging moment to me.

 Definitely looking forward to playing the closing 4-song medley live [“Today Is the Day,” “Waiting For the Call,” “Out of Range,” “In A Dream”].We’re going to be playing those 4 short songs strung together just like they are on the album (it’s sort of like our little amateur attempt at an homage to side B of Abbey Road), and I’m just really excited for how that is going to come off live. I think it’s going to be really fun and challenging to get it just right.

I’m not familiar with Donald Justice—what’s his story, and what’s his significance to you and/or the band as a whole?

Donald Justice is a poet—I discovered his poetry when I read the book “Hotel New Hampshire” by John Irving. He is definitely my favorite poet; I love everything he has written. As I was writing the album, seeing the threads and themes that tied the songs together, his poem “Nostalgia of the Lakefronts” came to mind. It’s a beautiful poem about memory and childhood, sort of about regret but mostly just about looking back. And that is a lot of what the album is about, too. I read the poem and so much of it seemed so relevant to what the songs on this album were communicating. That is sort of where the album title comes from, and I also included a segment of the poem in the artwork.

How did you get hooked up with Fluff & Gravy? I think I have liked anything I’ve heard on the label.

John and Chad, who run the label, are total mainstays in the music scene here in Portland. They’re everywhere, and they are amazing dudes, so we’ve just known them for awhile. My dear friend Kevin Lee Florence released his album through them a couple years back, and so that got me more interested in what they were doing as a label. As time went on it just seemed like the right fit—they have much the same taste in music as we do, and I really felt it was important to release this album on a label local to Portland, on a label that was smaller and more community / family oriented in a way. It just felt like the right move, working with guys we know, guys who really just love good music and good songs, and who work in a really organic, almost grass-roots, way.

Backtracking a bit, you revisited Yearling a few years ago, essentially delivering your personal “director’s cut.” How was that received? Did you ever perform the entire album live, something that bands increasingly seem to enjoy these days when it comes to a classic or beloved album?

Yeah, when Second Motion Records picked up Yearling, we decided to release it as a “Deluxe Edition”—taking the chance to include all the songs that didn’t make the first version of the record due to time-constraints. We just wanted to release it in a form that fully represented that time of our creative output as a band, in a form that showed the full vision of the record. It was really fun to be able to do that! And it was received well. It was really long, but the feedback we got about it was wonderful, I think listeners got what we were trying to do, and the collection of songs was strong enough to withstand maybe being a bit over-long, haha.

I believe we did perform the whole thing live once, here in Portland—one summer we booked three shows, each show we performed one of our albums front to back. I think Yearling was performed in its entirety at The White Eagle at the end of that summer, right before Orb Weaver came out.

We play a few songs from that album quite regularly – “Hazy Dream,” “Seven Years Ago,” “Kids Hanging Out.” We’re playing “When You Love Somebody” these upcoming shows, and that’ll be fun to dust off. It’s hard, we’ve got a lot of songs now, we can never cover everything we’d like to, so we just have to put extra effort into keeping the set lists as varied as we can.

You formed in 2004: What advice, tips, warnings, etc. would you give your younger self and your fellow players if you could pop back to that year?

Oh man, that’s a good question. Hard to say. When we formed, and those first few years in LA, we were having so much fun, but we were also working so hard, playing so much. We played so many shows, rehearsed so much, met so many amazing people and amazing musicians—I don’t know if I’d change a thing.

Honestly, I feel like more often than anything, I hear advice from 2004 Evan, telling me to remember to have fun. To not get too stressed and worked up about things—to remember to enjoy the fact that you get to play music with your friends and loved ones.

That is good advice, and I think that’s advice that 2004 Parsons followed oftentimes better than 2017 Parsons!

 Time is a river

I heard someone say

Time is a river

It’s rushing away

And you don’t have a say

And it don’t care what you have in mind

Time left me waiting

For more time to come

Time left me wanting

Because I got none

And you don’t have a say

And it don’t care what you have in mind

Time is a wheel

Left to turn away

Time is a wheel

Left to turn away

Time left me reeling

At all I had done

Time got me feeling

I hadn’t begun

Yeah, you don’t have a say

And it don’t care what you have in mind

Time’s got me thinking I left you behind

Time’s got me sighing, because I can’t find

All the words to explain what I’m feeling

Feeling inside

Time is a wheel

Left to turn away (rolling on)

Time is a wheel

Left to turn away (rolling on)

Time is a wheel

Left to turn away (rolling on)

Time is a wheel

Left to turn away (rolling on)

—“Time Is a Wheel,” by the Parson Red Heads

 

 

 

FALLEN MAN: Anders Parker

A new solo album and a high profile tour with Son Volt finds the erstwhile Space Needle/Varnaline/Anders & Kendall/Gob Iron multitasker doing what he does best—multitasking. Or maybe simply working on his tan out in the desert….

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Anders Parker has never been one to write the same album twice.

Across his eight records as a solo artist, and going back even further to his time in Space Needle and Varnaline, he’s borrowed from Americana, traditional folk, alt country and indie rock. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise to many that he decided to experiment with string arrangements and pedal steel on The Man Who Fell From Earth, his latest, released via the delightfully named Recorded & Freed Records label last month. The experiment pays off nicely, with a beautiful album of achingly sincere ballads and some of his most lyrically striking music in years.

In the middle of a tour with Son Volt, which is led by his some-time duet partner Jay Farrar, Parker was kind enough to pick up the phone and talk through the new record, his decision to crowd-source the album and trying to save the planet from Trump’s scorched earth environmental policies one album sale at a time. Incidentally, Parker was a guest at BLURT’s 2013 SXSW day party in Austin, performing as one-half of the wonderful Anders & Kendall duo, featuring Kendall Meade (Sparklehorse, Lloyd Cole, Helium). So consider him part of the BLURT extended family and tell him we said howdy if you get to catch him in concert.

BLURT: How is the tour going so far?

PARKER: The shows have been great so far.

I know you had a band on this record. Did you bring the whole line up on tour?

No, I’m touring solo for most of this one. I’m just playing a couple of acoustic guitars.

You’re playing with Son Volt. Have you and Jay played any songs from Gob Iron on this tour?

No, we haven’t. There’s a certain technical aspect to those songs and some rehearsals we’d have to do before playing them and we haven’t done any of that yet.

You’ve been through a pretty long stretch of not being on the road, at home writing and recording. Is it tough to get back into the groove of loading up the van and being on the road again?

I’m just so used to it after doing it so long. You just have to remind yourself how to do things to stay sane.

And how do you do that?

I’m still figuring that out. (Laughs) Just basic shit like trying to eat well, I try to run pretty regularly and stay busy. Which isn’t that hard when you’re touring solo. I have to do a lot of set up and stuff, so there’s not a lot of time to fuck off.

Let’s talk about the new record. It obviously doesn’t sound a lot like the past few because your sound changes a lot from record to record. Did you go into this one knowing the specific vibe you wanted to create?

I had the idea of doing a record with strings and pedal steel for a long time. It’s been banging around inside my head for a while. I also tend to make records with bands, and economically it’s not easy to tour with a lot of people. So, the idea that had been around of doing something like this with the reality that I usually tend to tour solo and can’t afford to bring a ton of people and electronics and equipment kind of came together at the same time. Sonically, I just wanted to make it as lush and full and with as much high fidelity as possible. That aspect I can’t take too much credit for because I’m not much of an engineer.

I do have a couple of really nice acoustic guitars that sound great, but a lot of credit goes to Josh Druckman who engineered it and Gareth Jones, who mixed it. He lives in England and has done some really interesting stuff. He worked with Depeche Mode and he worked with Nick Cave, some really cool stuff.

Is it tough to recreate a lot of these new songs when you’re out there by yourself up on the stage?

No, not at all, because the songs are the songs. The string arrangements are really beautiful and really fill out the songs, but I wrote these songs to stand on their own. They’ve been translating really well live, so I’m glad about that.

After this tour ends, have you thought about bringing out a full band to play these songs with pedal steel and strings?

Well, I’m doing two New York shows on this tour with a full band and we’re going to be doing a few songs from this new record as well as some older songs. They sound really great with a full band.

You crowd funded this record, right?

I did. It was a combination of crowd funding and my publisher putting up some money.

Was this your first time using a crowd funding site?

I just want to make records and even if you do it super cheap and super close to the bone, which is how I usually do them, it still adds up quickly. The budget I don’t think was lavish by any means, but you want to feel comfortable with the model. I’m not sure yet if I’m 100 percent there, but people really want to help and people who are fans are eager to lend a hand. The way the record industry currently exists this seems like a real viable alternative.

You’re also still managing to give some of the proceeds of the album sales to the Environmental Defense Fund. Why that charity in particular?

My first instinct was Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, but I read that they both got such huge influxes of money…

Thank you President Trump.

Exactly! I also love being outside and I love the natural world. That’s important to me and as we’ve seen in the last few months, the Trump administration rolling back clean air and clean water and rolling back regulations on mining and all this shit. It’s crazy what’s going on. It seems like a worthwhile organization to give to, in my estimation.

You’ve recorded with a number of different folks throughout the years. Have you thought yet about your next project or who you want to record with?

Yes, always. I kind of want to make a super-heavy guitar trio rock record, And I also have the idea for another acoustic record so I’m not quite sure where that’s going to land.

Have you started writing for either one yet?

Yeah, both of them actually. I kind of wrote a whole bunch of acoustic songs after finishing this record and over the past few weeks I’ve been working on these kind of riff-heavy guitar jams, so I’m sort of sifting through all of those now.

THE INSPIRATION BEHIND… Allen Clapp’s “Something Strange Happens”

The 1994 tune from Clapp’s debut continues to inspire.

 BY TIM HINELY

Ed note: We continue our series devoted to tunes that hold special places in our hearts and in our collective experience as devotees to and lovers of timeless indie rock. To kick the series off, we asked Eric Matthews, of both solo and Cardinal fame, to talk about his classic number “Fanfare,” from his 1995 Sub Pop hit It’s Heavy in Here. Next was Bill Janovitz of Buffalo Tom pulling back the curtain on one of his early gems: “Taillights Fade,” from 1992’s Let Me Come Over, cut with fellow bandmembers Chris Colbourn (bass) and Tom Maginnis (drums). After that we dipped way back to 1970 for the proto-power pop of Crabby Appleton’s “Go Back,” penned by frontman Michael Fennelly, and then fast-forwarded to 2000 for John Conley talking about his band the California Oranges and their pop gem “John Hughes.” Now Prof. Hinely lands in 1994 and a slice of pure pop perfection, Allen Clapp’s “Something Strange Happens.

It had to be sometime in the early ‘90s that I first heard the music of Allen Clapp. A fresh-faced gent who called the Bay Area home. He began releasing 7”s on several different labels (in our country mostly on Brian Kirk’s Bus Stop label). I booked him at a local café in Santa Rosa, California and it was a pleasure to find out that not only did I love his music, but in person he turned out to be a great guy (I can’t imagine anyone saying a bad thing about him). This particular song came out on his 1994 debut LP (under the name Allen Clapp and his Orchestra…these days he still leads his longtime combo The Orange Peels) called One Hundred Percent Chance of Rain. The song just….hit me! That clap-happy drum beat that opens the song, a purring organ and then Clapp and his boyish vocals and jangly guitar pop in and all added up to a near-perfect pop song. I was curious about the origins of the song so I shot some questions to Mr. Clapp and……

Allen began with, “Just incidentally to this request, the Orange Peels are embarking on the recording of album No. 7 in a few weeks, working again this time with Bryan Hanna, the Minneapolis studio wizard who produced our first album, Square. It’s kind of appropos, because this year is the 20th Anniversary of Square. So, at any rate, the guy who recorded The Orange Peels making our version of Something Strange Happens is flying out to our mountain studio in Boulder Creek to record us again 20 years later. Surreal. And good timing on your part for asking about that particular song!”

What was the initial inspiration for the song?

It’s a song about all sorts of things — everything that’s important to me, realy. But to be more specific, it’s about the quicksilver moment you realize some big life-truth — that lightning bolt from the clear blue sky that you can’t explain, but that changes you in some significant way. You might be realizing for the first time that you’re in love, or that someone or something is more important to you than you previously thought. The moment of realizing something like that. Or it might be a realization of how you fit into the universe. For me, it was all those things. It’s a song from my younger self to my wife Jill, it’s a song to God, it’s a song to the universe, and the seasons. It’s about realizing how dependent I am on them, and how my dependence on them frees me to be who I’m supposed to be.

Did it take long to finish writing it?

No! This is one of those songs that arrived fully formed in the blink of an eye. It’s the kind of thing you always hope will happen to you as a songwriter, and it did not disappoint. It happened while finishing some routine shopping at the market. I loaded the bags into my car (a 1967 Ford Falcon, at the time), opened the door, put the keys into the ignition and boom, it just flooded over me. The melody for the chorus just started playing in my head and I sat there with my hand on the key for what seemed like an hour. I’ve replayed this over and over in my mind a thousand times, and I’m still just amazed by it. So after hearing the song play in my head — the swirling organ in the intro all the way through the hymn-like ending — I finally turned the key, started the car, and drove home where I immediately fired up the Tascam four-track and began making a demo.

Any idea how your long time fans feel about it (ie: would it be considered a “fan favorite” or anything?)

I think the song has its fans. It appeared on a few indie-pop compilations over the years, and it’s maybe the only one of my songs that’s ever been covered by another artist — Jim Ruiz and Shoestrings recorded a lovely, haunting version of it as a bonus track to Jim’s second album, Sniff. Every once in a while, someone will come up to me and say something about that song, or ask me something about it. So it is a special song to a few people out there.

Was it a staple of your live sets ever years later?

It’s always something we talk about playing. I think I felt obligated to play it for years, and finally the last tour we did in 2015, we just left it off the set list. That felt kind of weird, but liberating too. After playing it for basically 20 years, it was nice to take a break from it. Will it come back on our next tour? Maybe. Probably.

Is there anything about the song you’d change?

Well, since I recorded it twice, you’d think the answer would be “no.” The first version, on “One Hundred Percent Chance of Rain,” is everything I wanted it to be. Even on four cassette tracks, it captured that mysterious thing I was after. When we signed to Minty Fresh and they wanted us to re-record it for “Square,” we didn’t really change anything in the arrangement — we just made a different recording of it in a great studio with a great producer. I guess I wish we would have done something a little different the second time around on it, but for the life of me, I couldn’t imagine what that would have been at the time. Drop out all the guitars on verse 3? We’ve done that live, and it’s kind of intimate, but who the heck knows. We’ve done a live version with a drum machine for the first verse and chorus with the band slowly entering as the song builds. Who knows, maybe we’ll make a third recording of it someday, or maybe someone else will.

Tell me a little about the recording of it – where and when, how long did it take, any watershed moments or glaring problems, etc.?

The original version was recorded in the spare bedroom of our duplex in Redwood City, and it was a challenge to fit all those ideas onto 4 tracks. I had tried to record the drums in the Youth Room at our church, and it just didn’t feel right. So I took samples from the drum take I had on tape and edited them down so I had a snare, a kick drum, two tom toms and a hi-hat. Then I laid them out on the keyboard and just played the drums back using different keys as triggers. So I used that take to build everything on. For the longest time, I just had the drums, the bass, and the rhythm guitar on 3 tracks, and I knew that bouncing all those together was either going to make or break everything else I added. So that was nerve wracking. I took like a week, just listening every day, trying different levels and EQs. Nothing seemed to work. Finally, I tried just pushing all the faders way up and distorting the channel. I took a stab at the bounce, and that was the sound. Drums, bass and rhythm guitar all distorted a bit and combined onto one track — that’s the sound of that song. Once I had that, I could add the vocals, hammond organ, guitar melodies and finishing touches. I still can’t believe it came out as good as it did. It was the last thing I wrote and recorded for “One Hundred Percent Chance of Rain,” and it really made that song collection feel like an album.

How do you feel about it now?

Grateful. Surprised. Hmmmm . . . proud and humble. It’s a once in a lifetime thing having a song like that just show up. I still feel surprised by it mostly because I didn’t labor over it. I didn’t spend weeks writing it, even days. It just appeared. I feel like it was a gift that showed up and changed my life.

ETERNAL YOUTH: Robyn Hitchcock

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“The music industry pays people to remain frozen children”: The Bard of Prawns on growing old, innate Englishness, living in Nashville, overt eccentricity, the Beatles, Sinatra, and avoiding Bob Dylan’s broadsides.

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN / PHOTOS BY ALISA CHERRY

Most fans would agree that Robyn Hitchcock is an eccentric. Indeed, his random musings about life and general happenstance make both his music and his persona as charming as they are challenging. A wordsmith like no other, his wry observations find him both amusing and thoughtful all at the same time, the result of an unrestrained wit expressed on both stage and in song.

That inventive stance made him a perfect performer for Big Ears, the Knoxville Tennessee festival that courts artists who are decidedly out of the ordinary. Consequently, during his two Friday performances, Hitchcock easily lived up to those expectations, fascinating fans and followers with songs from various intervals in his nearly 40 year career. Oddball favorites like “My Wife and My Dead Wife,” “Raymond Chandler Evening,” “Madonna of the Wasps,” and “I Want to Destroy You,” a song first sung with his seminal band the Soft Boys back in the day, surfaced during his sets, neither of which found any replication. Less familiar were the songs from his upcoming self-titled set, but the fact that his afternoon performance opened with three covers — Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom,” The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence” and a relatively obscure song by the late Syd Barrett, the madcap founder of Pink Floyd — clearly suggested he was returning to his roots.

“Time seems to slow down as we get older, because we’ve been through so much of it already,” he remarked at one point, clearly referencing the older individuals in attendance, he himself included. We could go one step beyond; time seems to stand still when Mr. Hitchcock is at the helm.

BLURT spoke with the affable Mr. Hitchcock over lunch, and though he was obviously famished, he was quite willing to chat, even at the expense of his salad and seafood chowder, especially when the subject turned to other English icons and Bob Dylan, an idol of his own. In person and away from the stage, he’s as clever and quick-witted as ever, and over the course of the next hour he freely shared his observations about life, longevity and his love of music.

Robyn Hitchcock’s new album, Robyn Hitchcock, is out this week via Yep Roc. Go HERE to view his American tour dates—and for a cheap thrill, go HERE to see photos of him a few years ago at BLURT’s SXSW day party at which he received a surprise birthday cake from the BLURT gang.

BLURT: You did a song by the late Syd Barrett today. It’s easy to see how he was an influence on you.

He wasn’t around very long so it’s hard to know what he was or what he would have what he would have been.  We don’t know if he was being ironic or not or simply funny. It’s difficult to know when he said things if they were in quotation marks or not. It’s interesting how we Brits come across. I am very British in a way, more like Nick Lowe than John Lennon, who considered himself more American when he died. Or look at someone like Ray Davies who was our version of Chuck Berry. He was mournful without being dreary. Like Chuck Berry, he was very good with words. Like Lou Reed. Very journalistic and yet quite specific. Bowie, on the other hand, would get quite abstract. Bowie didn’t do microcosms much. He got very widescreen.

 

The Beatles and the Stones transcended all that.

The Beatles and the Stones were quite American. They were British blokes with an American repertoire. Their music was mostly by black artists. It was soul music before they even called it soul. The Beatles were very specific, they had these nice little vignettes like with “Strawberry Fields.” But the Stones were already kind of talking American by the time they got over here. They were recording here in ’64. It always surprised me that the Stones were from south London because they sounded so American, but then again, their whole schtick came from Chicago blues. But it was a weird thing how so many British bands at that time played American music. There was almost nothing British at that time except some of the music hall things that the Kinks and the Beatles did, like “When I’m 64.”  But even that was like ragtime. It’s certainly not British folk. There’s no real elements of British music. There was sort of this trans-Atlantic echo. I never really considered myself British or American. I considered myself part of that genre, with the Beatles and Syd Barrett and the like. And I loved Bob Dylan. I don’t break it down into countries. That may be my persona onstage but I don’t know whether the songs themselves have a nationality to them. Obviously they’re not from the Ukraine.

They’re from you. That overrules everything.

Yes, they’re from me.

It’s your persona above everything else.

I guess whatever my persona is in an act. I’m a trans-Atlantic act. I have been since the beginning. The Beatles never sang in an English accent. Maybe Bowie did. And Syd.

Ray Davies did as well.

But it wasn’t a cockney voice like Bowie. (Affects a Cockney voice for “Well Respected Man”)

And Peter Noone as well.

Peter Noone! He had a big effect over here, didn’t he?

He actually sang in an English accent.

The only thing I remember of him was “I’m Into Something Good.”

He did songs like “East West, “No Milk Today.”

That’s really interesting. I guess I need to listen to him again. But in Britain they were never cool. They never got beyond the teenybopper thing. They never wrote their own stuff. They were kind of like Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich.  I guess it’s the same people that would go see Davy Jones. A friend of mine went to see the Monkees and he could count the number of times he was in tears. Mind you, I was the same way when went to see Ringo. If he played “Yellow Submarine,” I’d just be weeping. My God, it’s Ringo Starr singing “Yellow Submarine” and I’m 150 feet away, seeing him at the Ryman. He’s looking fantastic and sounding great. Then the other guys come on and sing their hits from the ‘80s. I first saw them when Levon Helm was with him.

I saw them at various times with John Entwistle and Jack Bruce.

Really! He picked the ones that were going to exit. He should have called his band The Rehabs, but Ringo stuck with it and they didn’t.

Hitchcock 4

You did an album of Dylan songs, didn’t you? It was kind of an unofficial release?

Yeah, most of what I do is unintentional. It’s not towards an end. I actually had those lying around. And then we did a whole live show where we replicated the Judas gig. Which again was recorded from a mike on the desk. It wasn’t even a desk tape but it sounded even better than a deck tape. I should probably have mixed the two together. I have so many songs lying about. I do so many live shows where I do Dylan songs.

Have you ever met Dylan?

Oh God no! I wouldn’t want to. Too many people want a piece of Dylan. He has to be the most scrutinized person in the world. I know people who have met him and he generally sort of plays with them but he can and because people have kind of treated him like the crown jewels since 1964. He’s said as much in interviews. I don’t have unconditional love for what he’s done, apart from his momentum years when he had momentum. I would totally avoid him.

What if you were told that he wanted to meet you? Would you be up for it?

If he wants to meet me it’s different, but he may want to meet me just to fuck around with me. He’s the kind of guy that doesn’t really trust people, and on some level I like that. But I know people who have worked with him and hardly even saw him. So I don’t think I need to meet him and he doesn’t need to meet me. I know that me and many other people will miss him when he goes and I take comfort in the fact that he’s still there. And I like his approach to time. He accepts it. He’s a reverse Paul McCartney. He shows his scars and leaves the knocks and the chips on him. He hasn’t had any facial work which he could easily afford. He likes to be like an old tree or an old chair. He likes to show all the marks of time, and the paint never dries on his songs. If he does play an old song, it’s unrecognizable. I don’t like that, I’d rather watch McCartney do a crispy version of “Penny Lane” than to see Dylan sing some mangled thing that turns out to be “Visions of Johanna.” I can do a better version of that than he can. He’s moved on and I respect the fact that he’s not beholden to his past. Unfortunately, Paul McCartney and me still have to come up with our old songs in a respective way. I saw Ray Davies a few years ago and he sang “Waterloo Sunset” like he’d never sung it before and it was great.  He didn’t try to change notes or alter the style. Donovan’s like that as well.

They’ve really become a brand.

Yes, and that’s why they’ll stay forever young. Keith can be this old fossilized mummy and Dylan, well he was always this old man. He had a voice like an old man early on. Dylan never had the demeanor of a kid, even in the idolized image of his younger self. He’s so scrutinized. There’s never any expression on his face. He’s like a kind of old, withered gargoyle. His expression has long since been obliterated by the winds of time. It’s a rare position. It’s not like there’s anyone to be that, or it’s a position that occurred before. He talks about Sinatra, and I suppose Sinatra was one of the few people he felt competitive with and had respect for. If Frank speaks to me, I will speak back. There are only a few people Dylan respects or is in awe of. Which is one reason why I wouldn’t want to meet him…Oh God, I can’t remember where I was. My mind’s gone. What were we talking about?

We were talking about how Dylan looked up to Sinatra.

Sinatra and Paul McCartney and Elvis Presley are icons and gods who time can erase or replace. Dylan is an oracle and still is. Sinatra and McCartney might make some pithy points about life, but you’re not going to go up to them thinking they might give you the great psychic fortune cookie that will make you say, “Thank you great master. I am now reprogrammed. Only Dylan did that. He has the curse of being the one that unleashes this stuff. For that reason alone, you really have to stand clear, because he made the error on the personal level of giving all this stuff away, and no people expect him to enlighten me, oh master. I’s a weird gift, and not like anything other celebrities have. Maybe like some professors or poets.

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Hitchcock 5

 

You now reside in Nashville? What brought you there?

Emma (Swift, his girlfriend). Em was living in Nashville. People go there for a record deal or to make contacts. I went there for a relationship. She’s from Sydney. Then she went back to Sydney and I commuted from Sydney to the Isle of Wight for a year. Then our address was a couple of suitcases for about six months and then we moved back to Nashville.

How do you like it?

I think I do much better here than I do in England, and it’s much easier for me to be based in Nashville. All I have to do is get on a plane or drive. I don’t have to block off lots of time to do things in the States. It’s two hours from anywhere east of the Rockies.

Where were you living before?

I was living in London for ages. I’d go live in the Isle of Wight between relationships. It had become a place for gnarly dudes who liked surfing and stuff, but it all began with Prince Albert and Queen Victoria. They had a royal residence down there, but I don’t think she went in the sea much. Alfred Tennyson, who was like the Bruce Springsteen of his era, had a house there in the west, where I tended to hang out. Charles Darwin came and stayed there. Em and I actually lived in Charles Darwin’s house for six months. It still had the same plumbing and the same heating. Then there were the big festivals in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, which I went to as a kid. Bob Dylan played there after he was sort of snubbed at Woodstock.

Did you see him there?

I did, and what was especially memorable, was that I saw Jimi Hendrix’s last show. I also saw one of the last Doors gigs. Jim Morrison was very polite. He didn’t reek of imminent doom or anything. They just kind of did a medley of their greatest hits. Hendrix was more alive. He was in a creative arc. I remember seeing a statue of Hendrix at the end of our lane. It made him look very bedraggled.

It must have been very inspiring to live in a place that had such a rich poetic history.

I wrote loads of songs when I lived there. I went there as a kid and I went there for the festivals. My father lived on the island before World War II, so he’d take us there as kids in the ‘60s. So I went to those festivals and then I went back in the ‘80s, and I had a house there on the west end until about ’93. And then I went to Washington D.C. and then London.

What brought you to Washington D.C.?

Cynthia, my partner at the time. She lived there, although we met in San Francisco. So I lived there. But we didn’t last. So then I was back in London, and then on the island and now I’m in Nashville.

Do you miss London?

No. When I moved to Nashville I found it was quicker to get to London from there then it was from the Isle of Wight. Are you okay? I was in a place like that and the same thing happened. It might be my magnetic field. So just blame me. Once I got to Nashville, I spent more time in London. It’s easier to get over there from here. Certainly a lot easily from Sydney, although I like Sydney. London is expensive and damn cold. All the shit that’s happened here has happened there as well.

People also have a certain image of you, certain expectations no doubt. You have this very articulate and witty persona.

It’s sweet of you and I won’t belittle what I do, but it’s only a sort of cult that really knows who I am. I deal with lots of people who expect stuff. When I was on MTV 25 or 30 years ago, I’d go through airports and anybody who was between 25 and 30 years ago would come up to me and say, “Aren’t you Robyn Hitchcock?” They’d want to know the meaning of life, oh master. It slows you down. People are aware of who you are…

Much like now we would guess…

Oh no. Far less. If I’m in a town like this full of people of a certain age, yeah, the people will probably wave and say hello. But they’re not 19 where they’re going to swoon all over your balcony. They’ll nod at you and go back to grazing and doing what they do. It’s really good not to be followed too much.

13.-CakeBlurt

Can you imagine yourself at 80?

Well, simply don’t die, that’s all. I’m in a precarious situation. If something goes wrong, I have to be shipped back to Britain to be dismantled. Unless it’s clean kill. I’d rather be cremated here because it’s a lot less expensive.

It’s more about retaining your wit and your persona and moving about in circles with people half your age.

As long as I’m able to function. They might have to freeze your head and remove your whole body. Or be like Stephen Hawking. Jesus. The Me Generation only has five years to go — Dylan, McCartney, the Stones, David Crosby — they’ll all be 80.

They’re in the 70s now, so who would have thought that?

They are have a few quid so I’m sure they’re better off medically than I am. You do what you do and people will enable you to do it. You can always come wheezing in and putting on a show until you start to malfunction. We have all those people who are a dozen years older than me and none of them have packed up. Richard Thompson, Nick Lowe… in a few years they’ll be classics. The surviving Beatles, Dylan, David Crosby… they’re already 75. What I hate is when they start saying 70 years young. I don’t mind saying I’m 64 years old.

Perhaps 80 is the new 60.

The thing is, people of that generation was the first generation not to have to grow up. They were a generation of selfish hippies. It used to be, when I get to 30, I’m going to cut my hair, put on a tie, provide for my family and stop taking drugs. It doesn’t mean that we won’t be come laughing stocks and all that, but the whole schtick of the baby boomers is that you won’t grow up. It’s great that McCartney is still Beatle Paul. And Dylan is still the wise the wise old man. You don’t want the sad old guy with missing hair, and I’m just me. I think the key point here  is that nobody told us we had to grow up> I’m sure there are loads of people back home who say, “Oh God. Poor old Robyn. He never grew up and went off to America. There are people like that who were born after 1940, but there are people who were born in the ‘90s who are now just sort of responsible. The whole point of our generation was that we never grew up.

Eternal youth then.

No, I never grew up. I’m in a business that doesn’t encourage me to grow up. It pays people to remain frozen children. So while Dylan shows time, McCartney defies it. He’s had all the work, he’s had the hair done, you watch him from 200 yards away and he still looks like Beatle Paul. Jagger still moves like Jagger. I saw a video and I thought, this guy moves like Jim Morrison, and it was Jagger. He was aping all his movements. But his dad was a physical education instruction. And with people like Dylan and Keith (Richards), you’re bound to get attention even though they’re gnarly old people with terrible teeth and knotty hair.

Below: Hitchcock with the author.

Hitchcock w_Lee