The Clash icon and Mescaleros frontman passed away eleven years ago this month, on Dec. 22. By way of tribute, we present this story from the archives.
BY FRED MILLS
On December 22, 2002, unexpectedly and tragically, Joe Strummer died, apparently from a previously undiagnosed congenital heart defect. I had interviewed Strummer twice in 2001, once over the phone from England and then again in person when he appeared at New York’s Irving Plaza for an October concert with his band The Mescaleros. Portions of those interviews subsequently saw publication in the Phoenix New Times and Magnet Magazine, and in a surreal twist, a few video snippets of me interviewing Strummer in NYC would turn up in the 2005 Strummer documentary Let’s Rock Again! by filmmaker Dick Rude (who I vaguely recalled having been present with a camera during the interview). At any rate, as today marks the anniversary of Strummer’s death, it seems like as reasonable a time as any to share with readers a vastly expanded version of my Strummer story, combining material from both interviews. Continue reading →
JBM checking in with his latest column on all things punk, “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up.”
I DON’T WANNA GROW UP / JOHN B. MOORE
By John B. Moore
They already had a vocalist and a xylophone, so starting a punk rock/anti-folk band was just a given.
On their first full length, Let Me Go, New York/New Jersey four-piece Crazy & The Brains bring to mind everyone from The Black Lips The Dead Milkmen (though frontman and guitarist Chris Urban readily cops to not listening to these Philly punks).
With witty lyrics, a quirky, but impressive punk rock sound, these Anti-Folk acolytes even managed to snag scene mate and former Moldy Peaches member Adam Green to share the mic on this record. Urban was cool enough to talk recently about the band, the record and learning his songs in French.
So let’s start out with how the band first got together.
Well basically mine and Jeff’s (Rubin) band broke up. We had been playing in that band since high school and had no intention of ever stopping but our singer quit very unexpectedly. We were left kinda confused and didn’t know what to do. We both knew we still needed to play music but we didn’t have any equipment. Jeff was starting college for music and took his xylophone from high school to practice on. He studied classical percussion performance so he pretty much needed to learn how to play every instrument ever. We knew we didn’t wanna just pick up right where we left off with our first band (which was pretty much a straight forward punk band in the sense that it was loud distorted guitars, bass and drums). All we had between the two of us was my acoustic guitar and his very shitty drum set and then his xylophone which he just used for school. I don’t remember why or who but one day one of us was like “fuck it, let’s try and make some songs using this thing”. Jeff was practicing on it non-stop anyway, it was always around so we just decided to try it out. The things we were coming up with sounded cool to us and we just started developing our own style I guess. After a while playing like that we decided we wanted to be louder. Jeff met Brett (Miller) at school one night and brought him to one of our shows. I’m guessing Brett liked it because he’s been in our band ever since. I don’t think we even asked him to join. One day he was just behind me playing bass drinking a 40oz with his brother Lawrence behind him playing drums and doing Tim and Eric jokes.
How did you get Adam Green to sing on this one?
I first met him at the Sidewalk Cafe in New York. Then one night he was at a show we played in Brooklyn and he told us he liked our music and hooked us up with a cool show opening up for Har Mar Superstar and Ted Leo. After that, I don’t really know, we would see him around at a lot of different things. We know some of the same people. One day I just decided to ask him to be on a song and he was down. I’ve always really liked songs that featured other artists. Collaborating on music is such a cool thing to me. Every time I see an artist I like has a song featuring someone else that’s the first song I listen to on the album. We were throwing around a lot of ideas on who to ask, what song to do, or who would even wanna be on a song of ours… but I don’t know it just kinda came together. We’re gonna try to perform it live together for sure.
This album reminded me a lot of the great Dead Milkmen records. Were you guys fans of the band?
To be honest I didn’t really come up on them too much. I mean I respect them a lot; I think they’re definitely an awesome band. I understand the comparison. They have that punk spirit, a lot of energy and their own style but stylistically I think we are very different. Todd (Wolenski) who runs Baldy Longhair Records is a huge fan of them I think that’s one of the things that turned him on to us. A lot of people who like our music tell me they are fans of them too, I think that’s cool.
That being said, do you have any influenced that would surprise people?
The Anti-Folk scene had a HUGE influence on this music. When we started this we had no idea what we were really doing or if there was even a place for guitar and xylophone music. We would go to these Anti-Folk open mics and wait six hours for our number to be called to play our song. We watched so many artists perform all types of crazy shit from spoken word poets, to folk singers, to people singing opera, to rappers, to dudes banging on drums and yelling. There was really good amazing music and also really fucking awful music, but all of it was extremely inspiring. Other than that obviously Punk and all its different sounds and its energy and attitude. Jeff is really inspired by classical music and piano players like Ray Manzarek and Ray Charles. Early 60’s soul and girl groups definitely influence us. The Miller brothers love a lot of 70’s hard rock n’ roll like Black Sabbath and The Stooges, and I know a lot of that stuff has an influence on their playing. Lastly, standup comedy has a huge influence on my songwriting and I also think the music too. I don’t know how to explain it but if you listen closely you can hear Andrew Dice Clay in Brett’s bass playing.
Do you guys plan to tour much behind this album?
Hell yes. We’re going to Canada this August but before that we are gonna play shows all around the East Coast. We just came back from Ohio a few days ago and we also plan to go back to the West Coast. We’re gonna bring this record to as many people as we possibly can. If you’re having a party hit us up! We will play!
What’s next for you guys?
Europe! I want a girl to teach me how to sing “Snacks” in French!
Songwriter and guitarist, cultural visionary and godfather of the music video… oh, and a member of a little ol’ band called The Monkees: currently in the middle of a U.S. tour, the legendary artist was interviewed by our resident Nez freak.