A posthumous discussion about the
notorious noise band with Tom Smith, including a non-phallic cameo from Ron
BY LOGAN K. YOUNG
To Live and Shave in L.A. just wasn’t built to last. (Ironic,
considering they stole their name from a Ron Jeremy porno.) But with a
certifiable noisenik like Tom Smith as the foundation post, how could they?
Alongside firebrands like Rat Bastard, Ben Wolcott and Don Fleming, the
collective’s genre-hopping skronk was the epitome of careening; at any moment,
things could not only fall apart, they would be decimated. Past tense is proper
here because by the time you read this, To Live and Shave in L.A. will be shorn. After twenty years and as
many records, their center could hold no longer. Of course, once a rebel,
always a rouser, and Smith ain’t going nowhere — save for overseas where we
caught up with the expatriate madman.
BLURT: Perhaps the most
pressing question is why now, with a new record out, are you shuttering the
TOM SMITH: To Live and Shave in L.A. began in 1990, and ended in 2010. The
Cortège and all subsequent releases are thus posthumous.
Should we hear The Cortège as some kind of
farewell then? Did you know it would be your last?
The elegy wasn’t for TLASILA. Rather, it was for a
nation. A copy of Ray Brassier’s essay accompanies both the vinyl and CD
versions of the album. Read it if you’ve the time or inclination.
People single out the Andrew WK or Thurston Moore
cameo, but is there any particular TLASILA lineup you consider classic?
The 1994-1995 lineup (me, Ben and Rat) toured widely,
but [that lineup] was seen by very few people.
While there’s some vestige of musical tradition
TLASILA is after (even if it is to destroy it), your lyrics and vocal stylings
reference very little. Whom might you consider a forebear in that department?
All of my groups tend to flow into one another: Boat
Of into Peach of Immortality; Peach of Immortality into TLASILA; TLASILA into
Rope Cosmetology. It’s impolitic to reference one’s influences.
Going back to your days in Pussy Galore, how have
you seen your scene change? Is it really any easier for difficult music now?
Early Pussy Galore operated in much the same sort of
aesthetic vacuum as did TLASILA circa 1992-1995 — no scene at all.
Retiring to Germany, ultimately, what’s next
for Tom Smith? I can’t imagine it’s going to be a shuffleboard-all-day,
in-bed-by-8:30 kind of twilight.
I moved to Germany in October 2008, in the
aftermath of TLASILA’s three-month European tour. I fell in love with a woman I
met in Hannover. We’re still together. Karl
Schmidt Verlag, my label, was begun here in December of 2008. To date we have
172 releases, including a burgeoning selection of books. Three Resurrected
Drunkards, Kevin Drumm/Tom Smith and a plethora of other configurations were
formed. All of these entities have multiple releases. I haven’t retired
anything, save my once-boyish demeanor. I’m doing the Charles Ives thing,
toiling within the soulless corporate labyrinth and funding my activities with
Finally, has Ron Jeremy ever threatened legal
action for using the name To Live and Shave in L.A.?
I met Ron in New
York City in 1999 at a porn convention, and I gave him
all the then-extant TLASILA albums as a gift. We posed for pictures. He seemed pleased.