interviews page 10
The Tyde: Darren Rademaker interview by Ged M
The Tyde are Darren Rademaker (guitar, vocals), Brent Rademaker (bass), Ben Knight (guitar), Ann Do (Fender Rhodes, synths) and Ric Menck (drums). Their first album, the sublime Once (Track & Field, 2000) is perhaps the closest distillation of Gram Parsons Cosmic American Music that theres been, capturing the essence of country, blues, soul and rock n roll within the music and complementing it with moving, heartfelt, lovelorn lyrics. This years Twice (Rough Trade) is another outstanding album, reflecting some of the more independent musical influences (Felt, the Postcard label, C86) on the band. We met up with Darren Rademaker in the Columbia Hotel in London on 2 July, at the end of The Tydes European tour.
SXP: Have you enjoyed this tour?
Darren: Yeah! Although Nottingham was full last time but this time the Polyphonic Spree and Mull Historical Society, everyone was playing against us. Same thing happened in Spain. The Rolling Stones were playing. Guys who interviewed us rushed off to see the Stones. I was saying: the Rolling Stones suck. If this were the 70s Id go but its going to be horrible. Glasgow was probably the best show of this tour. Eugene Kelly from the Vaselines was there: I loved his band Captain America. We went to dinner and we met Frances from the Vaselines as well. I love Scotland, particularly because of Orange Juice, Aztec Camera, Lloyd Cole. But people call me on that [sounding like Lloyd Cole] so much. I like a lot of his songs from the early days but I never really listen to him. Theyve always compared my singing, even in Shadowland. Then they said it was a sort of Lou Reed.
SXP: Any other highlights?
Darren: Our star sightings have increased these days. Our first and biggest one, of course, was Lawrence, at our show. Then we met Lee Scratch Perry in the airport yesterday. We were checking in at British Airways and there was no one around. All of a sudden, Brent and Ric yell and I turn around and Lee Perrys right there! Ben always has his camera and his skateboard and asked him to autograph his skateboard and then rattles off ten Lee Perry albums in a row because he really loves him! Lee Perry wrote on the skateboard Lee Perry love for ever, Jah Love. He then grabbed Bens shirt Bens a choir director and its a school choir shirt and without asking he wrote Jah Love on the t-shirt as well. He was the friendliest guy and posed for a lot of pictures with us well post them on our website.
We also saw Sean Paul when we were at the BBC today. I saw him in the bathroom. I came out and said to Ann: talk to him! Weve got to have a picture of this because our normal friends, hes all they know. They dont know Lawrence or Lee Scratch Perry. But Ann got scared and he blazed by us. Hes a superstar what can we say?
SXP: Did you know that Lawrence was coming to the gig at the Water Rats?
Darren: This was about the fourth time that he was supposed to. All my friends who had met him said: you dont want to meet him, hes too weird. But I really liked him. It sounds really cheesy but we were feeling like we had a brotherhood from across the sea. He was very complementary. If the guy youre ripping off hates you - which is more likely to be the case - thats crazy but he was amazing.
I had the chance to meet Bob Dylan once but I didnt because I was scared. There was a show at the Guggenheim in New York and Ann works for Artists Videola and we flew there. The next day there was a private lunch and Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed were there. You know at a party or wedding, how nobody wants to be the first up for the food? Well, Lou Reed was the first. So I went up second so I could get next to him but of course I didnt say one word to him although I know every Lou Reed song and I was totally into him and hes awesome. *reflects* But not as awesome as Dylan. And not as awesome as Lawrence. I cant put Lawrence above Dylan but I might put him above Lou Reed.
SXP: Have you read David Cavanaghs book on Creation Records with its Lawrence stories?
Darren: Yeah. I also heard all the stories from Mayo Thompson, the guy from Red Crayola, who produced Poem On The River. He recorded this girl band at my house. I had a Denim record and he said: Denim? thats Lawrences band. Id wanted to ask him the whole day about Lawrence. Hes a weirdo too so its hard to get a straight story!
SXP: I noticed that The Datsuns are staying at the Columbia too.
Darren: Are they? I want to see Phil. Its the weirdest thing. In his Burn This in the new NME where they pick a CDs worth of songs he picks this song Jimmys Fantasy by Redd Kross. This guy who wrote that song, he used to be in Brents and my old band, Shadowland. He died of a heroin overdose. It made me feel good that someone out there picked that as their number one song because this guy lived the rocknroll dream too fast, too crazy. And then he dies in obscurity. But someones keeping him alive. Thats cool!
SXP: Do you think interest or appreciation in music changes with age?
Darren: No! I listen to it all as much as when I had records as a kid. Its weird though. I go through stages: book stage, record stage, TV stage. Ann and I have been in a big TV stage so I feel Im not listening to as much music right now. Ive been buying records though: I just bought the trendy Thrills. So many people say they sound like us. People who know them tell us they know of us and the Beechwood Sparks. Theyre playing an instore at Virgin. If it had been tonight I was going to go and meet them. Ive only heard a couple of songs and enjoyed them even though its really slick and I dont like the producer. The Warlocks told me theyd played with them in January and they were horrible and they just played with them now and they were great. Theyve played enough now to get it together I guess. If they want to get it right though, theyve got to come to Hollywood. San Diegos cool but its a port and the surf culture between Los Angeles and San Diego, that middle part, thats where its all happening for surfers.
SXP: Youre also a fan of the Streets, which is an odd thing for a Californian band to like.
Darren: Yeah, because its real. Hes telling me what its like to be a Londoner. We dont live here but when Im walking around, its like: thats what it is! Hes like Bob Dylan in that way. Its not just the lyrics: the musics great as well. Im also into the Audio Bullys and I got another one by Dizzee Rascal. Its pretty good.
SXP: After Once and Twice, whats the third album going to be titled?
Darren: Everyone wants it to be Three Times A Lady but Im not into jokes. Once you attach a joke to your music, its gone. There are a lot of jokes in the music but people have to listen for them. What are the variables when you come to three? The James Gang have Thirds which is really great and I could probably just copy that. The funniest title is The Tyde 3: Poem Of The Sea. And theres also Blind Mice, because there were three blind mice, which Ben and Brent are really into. But it sounds kind of 80s, like Neds Atomic Dustbin! Once was originally going to be called Once Is Not Enough after that cheesy Jacqueline Susann novel. This rich girl takes acid on the beach and shes screaming once is not enough! The second album was going to be called Play It As It Lays after another cheesy novel by Joan Didion. Thats also about drinking, Las Vegas and rich Hollywood people. So I want to have that novel theme.
SXP: I appreciate the songs on Twice more now Ive seen them performed live.
Darren: A lot of them are better live. We recorded those songs probably not knowing them as much. Some of the songs were done even before we came to England last time. I was under pressure to come up with songs and I didnt write shit. Every song that I wrote was on that album. Theres nothing else. It used to be, when I was younger, I could write 20 songs a day on the four track. And now all I do is think about one or two songs all the time. I never write it down. I just think about it all the time, at work or wherever. I finish it in my head first and then I show it to Ann and take it to practice. Ben and Ric have been musicians for a long time and they pick up on it fast. Ben takes the tape home and works on his guitar parts and always comes back with something better. Then we record.
SXP: Twice is a more confessional, world weary set of songs.
Darren: Yeah. The first albums pretty much all about a big break-up in my life: people around me, different girls, a few different girls in between the big relationship, before Ann. Its just hilarious: there are five or six different girls on that album. The new album is like: fuck; here I am in a relationship. Ann is the first girlfriend Ive had in my life who actually listens to the lyrics and figures out who its about. I cant write about crushes on girls any more. So what do I really want to write about thats even remotely interesting? The thing about the Tyde, which wasnt the same in the other bands, is that the songs are actually about something. Whereas before I was into that Ian McCulloch fantasy world like Porcupine what the hell is that about?
SXP: Listening to Shortboard City, do you have a thing for glam rock?
Darren: Yeah. A lot of glam rock is based on the 50s and for a long time the 50s were a giant no-no for us: all greasers and rockabilly. But I came around when they filtered it through the freaks, through the bands I liked, like Chicory Tip, Lieutenant Pigeon and Middle of the Road. Im really into Status Quo. People make fun of me because I wear their badge but I say: you hate them because youre from England and your dad probably liked them. Thats what David Feck was saying. But theres treasure on every album and theres always a slow song. [Shortboard City] is like boogie rock, that Southern boogie. Its a song about surfing so we still have the Jan and Dean/ Beach Boys thing mixed with what I call vaudeville glam.
SXP: Is the song a second cousin of the theme to Only Fools and Horses?
Darren: I never heard that song, I swear! We downloaded the song from a fansite and I though: fuck! This song is good! Theyre talking about driving down the road with a six-pack. We should cover it.
SXP: Youre real Anglophiles arent you?
Darren: If there were waves closer, and it was really sunny like France or Spain, Id move here!
SXP: Cornwalls great for surfing.
Darren: Neil is a friend of ours from Mohave 3 who credits us for helping him learn to surf ten years ago. He told me about Cornwall. Next time well go there in the summer. But Im scared. The waters going to be cold!
SXP: Blood Brothers is an incredible song. Have you been in a band 25 years?!
Darren: Not quite. 25 worked better than 20! I got my first guitar when I was 12. My dad owned an organ and piano store and wed be playing to old people in Florida. Then we started to play old songs: Dont Let The Sun Go Down On Me by Elton John, 25 Or 6 To 4 by Chicago, jazz standards and Disney songs. The I gave up on music: it was too hard. I was listening to progressive music, Styx and REO Speedwagon, and thinking I could never be as good as this. Then I started getting into the Stones and that was easier to play. Then punk came along and that was the perfect thing. We were into 999 and The Buzzcocks. We had this skate-rock band and we played The Cars and Joe Jackson.
There was only one true punk band in Florida called The Straitjackets and I used to go and see them all the time. There was a party and they said: do you want to quit your band and join our band? I was like: yeah! I played with them but then I started listening to Joy Division, Orange Juice and stuff like that. They werent into it and they kicked me out. Brent and I started a band based on our love for Orange Juice, Teardrop Explodes and Echo and the Bunnymen. We moved from Florida and got signed to Geffen Records when they were huge with Guns n Roses and stuff. That was six months after I moved to LA. Its the thing that so many bands try to do. We did it and realised it was all bullshit. Thats when we did Further. It was a reaction to that.
SXP: Ive not heard Shadowlands.
SXP: Looking at the covers of the Shadowlands albums, you have quite a 60s look. Did you have stylists and dressers?
Darren: No, thats what we were into: Byrds, Burrito Brothers. We had pegged pants and stuff. That was about 1987.
SXP: Were you interested in LAs Paisley Underground?
Darren: We were really into the Rain Parade and the Dream Syndicate. We covered one of their songs, Tell Me When Its Over, for the Rough Trade compilation but they didnt pick it. We turned in three songs instead of one because we couldnt decide and they chose the Galaxie 500 song. But the other two songs are going to come out on the For Us label.
SXP: Then there was Further, which was kind of shoegazing
Darren: Started out that way. Don Fleming was originally going to produce the first album. He was riding high with Teenage Fanclub and we were really into Teenage Fanclub. He went to produce Swervedriver instead. So we ended up with the engineer Wharton Tiers. He did the God Knows Its True single for TFC and Youre Living All Over Me by Dinosaur Jr, which is one of our favourite albums of all time. But we were also into My Bloody Valentine and Ride at the time. After Further, I was doing this other thing for Sony with my new girlfriend and the guitar player from Further. We were given all this money; I went on a big vacation to the Caribbean and I said I dont want to do this. I wasnt going to give up music but I really didnt want to do it for a while. Beechwood Sparks was going by then. And then one day I started to have songs again.
When we put the Tyde together, the first show was the only show that Ann didnt play. The first show was me, Ben Knight on bass and Bob Bay from Sebadoh on drums. We literally had one practice and we played my songs and a couple of T-Rex covers. Then the next show, I knew Ann had a guitar and I taught her all the chords. That was what the Tyde was about: just inviting my friends to play with me, not trying to be professional, thinking about putting out a record.
SXP: Youre just about to do a big American tour. Is that a good thing?
Darren: Its scary. In the US we never toured the first time because we didnt want to play for 20 people on some college campus. So now were playing with the Pernice Brothers in some huge places. But I want to avoid being called Americana. I dont want to be compared with Ryan Adams, whos totally lame, and stuff like that. He sucks. I met him one time and he was a totally cool guy and gave me all this bullshit: I wanna hear your music. Can you drop it off to me? So I went to the trouble of dropping it off and I never heard from him again. In America he has a reputation as a guy slut. Its when a guy chats up a girl and never talks to her again. Its like that but he does it to guys. So I got burned. Hes not, like, horrible but Id almost go see Sheryl Crow than listen to Ryan Adams.
SXP: How do you rate your own music?
Darren: When I think about our music, I think: if I wasnt in this band, when I listened to this record, would I like it? There are bits and pieces of Further and our even older Florida bands: Im really proud of that. I really, really like the Tyde records and I think that if I wasnt in the band Id like it as opposed to some of the stuff Ive done in the past.
Adam Green shot to fame as the guy dressed up like Robin Hood (amongst other stage wear) during his time with cult New York punky antifolk types, The Moldy Peaches. Friend and regular support act to The Strokes when they were still actually making an effort to produce music, Adam saw his eponymous solo album finally hit the shops last year and his sophomore effort Friends Of Mine has just been released on Rough Trade. Hes just finished a headlining tour of his own immediately followed by support dates with former Catatonia chanteuse Cerys Matthews. SoundsXP caught up with him outside The Spitz before his show as he attempted to peel and eat king prawns and conduct an interview at the same time. Heres how we got on, chewing sounds omitted.
SXP: Hows the tour going?
AG: Its been going really well. Mostly Ive been doing solo acoustic but I did one gig in New York with the same instrumentation as tonight four string players, a drummer, guitarist and bass player. It makes a big difference when I play songs from my new album cos every song has the string quartet and full band on so I can play all the parts this way.
SXP: How does it compare performing with the band as opposed to going solo?
AG: Its really cool cos I get to play them the way I heard them in my head. I cant have them all tour cos its too expensive but hopefully itll happen more often. But just because I say I prefer to play with this bigger group doesnt mean to say that I dont think the songs hold up when I play them solo acoustic. I wrote them that way and theyre fairly skeletal with their melodies. As often as I get the opportunity to Id like to play them with the eight-person group.
SXP: Did you set out to consciously make this album differently from the last one?
AG: Well, it wasnt a case of Ive got to make this album different from the last one just that there were different things I wanted to do with this album. Also I feel that my personal tastes had changed about things the music I was listening to and enjoying and the music I wanted to be making. The thing most people dont realise is that my last solo album was recorded three years ago so I was keen to move on. If people want to understand what my first album is, its actually pre-Moldy Peaches. I started to listen to and appreciate songcraft a little bit more. Now, Im trying to expand my ability to make more extravagant melodies and sing better. I think Ive become a better singer since my last record and I think Ive become better at phrasing words and diction.
SXP: So who were you listening to at the time you recorded this?
AG: I made the album so quickly. I made it, recorded and mixed it in twelve days so I didnt have any time but in the lead up I was listening to a lot of Frank Sinatra and Chet Baker stuff. Stuff that would be in the record store under the vocals section.
SXP: And where did the lyrics come from?
AG: I write very slowly. Ill write one line every couple of days so a song will take a couple of weeks to make! I dont really write with a guitar, I usually just use a tape recorder and sing into that to find out what the melody is. Its just a little digital recorder that holds about an hour of sound on it. As soon as Ive finished a song I then start to know what the chords to play it will be.
SXP: Is it fair to use the words stream of consciousness to describe your style?
AG: Stream of consciousness isnt really what I do because I do needs more editing. What I do has an element of abstraction to it but its not stream of consciousness. Everything starts that way though. I dont have an idea for a song and then set about trying to write that particular kind of song. I just start by singing and when I have something coming together I start to think about what it looks like and try to develop that into something thats a real song.
SXP: You and your fellow Moldy Peach, Kimya Dawson, have very similar writing styles. Was that what drew you together?
AG: Musically, certainly we made a connection because we were so far apart in age. Kimyas nine years older than me. When we met I was, like, 13 and she was 21 or something. That age difference now isnt a big thing anymore cos Ive just turned 22 but when I was 13 that was a lot older. Kimya was too old to be my friend, she was more like an older sister and wed talk about music. Id play guitar and we made up songs. We just hung out cos we couldnt really talk about other stuff cos we were too far apart in age. For both of us it was the first time we wrote songs that that sets a precedent for everything that going to follow. We grew to enjoy this kind of stuff.
SXP: What are the chances of recording together again?
AG: I dont know. There are no plans to record another Moldy Peaches record or to tour but maybe someday. Theres really no reason to make a definite kind of choice about it. If we want to well just do it.
SXP: Unlike Jeff Lewis recently and Kimya next month you havent brought any other New York antifolk people with you on tour. Any reason?
AG: (lengthy thought process) Its nothing like (trails off). I love Jeff and Kimyas music and all that stuff but Im just more of a loner I guess. I didnt even really think about it it has nothing to do with anything really. It never really came up (after a lot more thought) Me and Kimya had been touring together for about two years so we definitely didnt want to go do it again. Its kind of like going to movies with friends or going by myself. I like to go by myself its the kind of guy I am.
SXP: What does the word Antifolk mean to you?
AG: Well, its a community of songwriters centred around this open mike night in New York. It started out in the Eighties with this guy Lach whos been running it the whole time. The story is that there was this really cheesy folk movement happening in the Eighties in New York and a lot of the younger songwriters were getting thrown out of these folk clubs or people werent digging their music there. So they ended up leaving the Greenwich Village folk clubs behind and starting their own scene called Antifolk and the open mic. The deal is that people just come to this open mic on Monday night and just play. Thats the only real requirement to call yourself antifolk. Its not a style or sound, but there are certain kinds of virtues like playing original music and being creative. To be honest I get kinda uneasy when people call it a style of music its just people who know each other from the same bar!
SXP: Did that community spirit help you get established?
AG: I first moved to the city when I was 17 cos my dad got a job at Columbia University and that was the only place that would give me a show. It was also a very special place in the sense that when I first came to an open mic I was greeted by a bunch of people who were really nice and wanted to hang out and play songs. There was just a creative spirit and atmosphere and it attracts people from all around the country and, I guess, now the world. It was a great place to find an audience for what Im doing.
SXP: Is it easier or harder to play in New York where everyone knows you?
AG: I dont think of it like that at all I just do what I want. Actually, I should say I prefer not to play New York. When I play New York a lot of my friends come out and I always feel like (thinks for a while) I dunno I just prefer not to play there. I prefer to play for strangers.
SXP: Finally, how did the mutual Libertines covers on their website come about?
AG: I met them in New York after theyd played Bowery Ballroom and went back to the hotel and played a lot of acoustic songs. Theyd written this song that was inspired by The Moldy Peaches and they played it for me and I was like How do you play What A Waster? and they showed me how to play it. And then they asked about Whose Got The Crack? so I taught them the words. Then Pete said they were going into the studio tomorrow and that I should come and record so I said alright. Theyre a really great band.
Jeffrey Lewis interview by James S
Jeffrey Lewis is a leading light in the increasingly popular New York antifolk scene. Following on from the critical success of Rough Trade label mates and fellow scenesters, The Moldy Peaches, hes about to release his second full album, Its The Ones Whove Cracked That The Light Shines Through on July 7th. It follows the success of his previous record, The Last Time I Did Acid I Went Insane, which featured the equally fantastically-titled and John Peel-approved The Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song, a seven minute I Saw You ad documenting a brief chance meeting with a fellow Leonard Cohen fan. As well as music, hes a prodigious comic book producer and uses large pads of artwork to illustrate songs live (he calls them lo-fi videos). Hes just finished another successful UK tour with bandmates, younger brother and bassist Jack Lewis and drummer Anders Griffen, but will be back in London at the 12 Bar on June 30th. We caught up with him in a corridor at the Water Rats before his last show in the capital and were very nice to him as he was holding a pair of scissors. And he was very nice back.
SXP: Hows the tour going?
Jeff: Really fantastic. We didnt really know what to expect. The first time I came over was a year and a half ago and Rough Trade set me up with a couple of tiny shows. Ben Ayres from Cornershop was at one the shows and really liked it so he asked me to go on tour with them. We started to get a few more shows and then we put together a big Antifolk tour with Kimya Dawson from the Moldy Peaches. Theyve got such a big fanbase that it really helped us to lay the groundwork for this tour. Every nights had decent crowds and its pretty unbelievable that weve been able to build up to do this.
SXP: Is it different being the headliner this time around?
Jeff: Its basically the same kind of thing for us cos weve arranged it all ourselves; to get a whole bunch of friends together in a van and sharing equipment and pooling resources to find houses to stay at. Kimyas about to do the same thing soon with some other bands so itll be nice if a bunch us from New York can just keep a constant changeover and every tour can just be a different bunch getting to go around on tour.
SXP: Prewar Yardsale have just been over, now you, then Kimya, all separately. Was there a big fight last time?
Jeff: No, not all. Theres only so many people we can squeeze onto a bill. Last time there were six of us on the bill and its amazing we were able to pull that off. The stress at the beginning was pretty unbelievable cos so many people were saying you cant do that cos its hard enough to set up a tour by yourself, never mind whats basically a travelling festival with no label support. Everyone said itd be a disaster but not only did we break even, but everyone made money and had a great time so now people are able to come back on their own. We all have a nice, supportive network of promoters and friends here now.
SXP: You generally only play shows to your friends in New York, dont you?
Jeff: Yeah. In a certain way its a fantastic situation cos there we have the chance to fall on our face creatively speaking all the time cos its our friends, family and friends of friends. Its forgiving in that sense and most of the shows are free or extremely cheap so we can try out tons of different material and different instrumentation. We can keep on doing things off the cuff and then take that experience and come over here and feel that I have more of a handle on what to do and what I feel crummy about doing. We still keep going by the seat of our pants though to keep each other surprised.
SXP: Tell us about the new album
Jeff: Ive got a certain amount of trepidation cos anything that people said they like about the first album is going to be absent from the new one. There arent so many autobiographical stories about drugs and sex. The first one was so completely innocent in a way that would be false to try recreate those songs were recorded shortly after they were written and they hadnt been performed much. I still cant believe that Geoff Travis at Rough Trade would allow this stuff to be out there but Im glad it is. This time Ive been doing less autobiographical stuff cos theres only so much I can talk about myself! Again it was recorded at a friends flat, but this time that friend was Major Matt Mason and hes got actual microphones and computer equipment rather than a four-track so it sounds a lot cleaner.
SXP: Are you trying to live down the likes of The Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song?
Jeff: Well, Ive actually played it on this tour, which I never really did before. I used to think God, this is on a single, people can listen to this at home. They dont want to hear it again. And for most people thats the opposite of why they want to come to a show. Ive become more comfortable playing those songs on this tour cos we stayed away from them on the last one and now Im rediscovering them myself. Last time we played songs we were working on for the new album and so now were playing the old stuff again. Its a weird flip-flop effect.
SXP: And did the Chelsea Hotel girl really exist?
Jeff: Its absolutely true. My standard line on all that stuff is that if it sounds like it could be true then it is true and anything thats blatantly untrue, like zombies and anything else is obviously untrue. Its pretty straightforward like that. That particular incident is years ago but its a fascinating thought that she might hear the song some day but I doubt shed remember the incident.
SXP: Are there any new videos tonight?
Jeff: Well, the videos have a real shelf life cos theyre just made out of old paper so one tour is generally all theyre good for. By the end theyve left bits of themselves everywhere so theres always some new ones for a constant turnover. There are three new ones tonight and its a nice small room so Im looking forward to it.
SXP: Which do you prefer to relax, the drawing or the music?
Jeff: Definitely drawing, but it requires a more focussed environment. You cant be just hanging out, youve gotta be sitting at a drawing desk for seven or eight hours and that time is hard to come by when youre doing this other stuff.
SXP: And if you had to give one of them up?
Jeff: Id keep on drawing without a doubt. Thats been my lifelong thing, reading and drawing comic books. Music has been a lot of fun and its amazing how many people connect to it so much more immediately than comics. You can work on a comic book for months and someonell read it in a few minutes and enjoy it for what it is or even get a lot out of it. Its so strange the ratio of creative energy it takes to make that as opposed to a song, which is just talking about some stuff and strumming a few chords. People will give you ten bucks for a record but theyd choke at paying that for a comic which is something that took you so much longer. Its pretty fucked.
The Detroit Cobras interview by Paul M and Ged M
All it takes to get hooked to the Detroit Cobras is to hear Shout Bama Lama, the Otis Redding song transubstantiated into something holy by Rachel Nagys amazing soulful, raspy voice and the thunderous rocknroll backing. That their set consists of versions of (sometimes) obscure RnB and soul songs is irrelevant when the raw material is so perfect and contains all the base elements of rocknroll the wellspring of what we live for. Most bands wear their influences so blatantly its like a tattoo in permanent ink: you know exactly what they listened to at 15, at 20, at 29. Conversely, though youre aware of what pumps around the Cobras musical arteries (thought youd only really know their influences if you were as obsessive as they are) it doesnt matter when you hear them, its a new-old sound. It cant be retro when the sound they make is now.
The Detroit Cobras have produced three genius albums: Mink, Rat or Rabbit and Live, Love and Leaving for Sympathy For The Record Industry and the mini-album Seven Easy Pieces for Rough Trade. If you hated manufactured music, heres the antidote. Fuck the new rock revolution; the Cobras salute the real revolutionary founding fathers (and mothers especially the mothers): Irma Thomas, Jackie De Shannon, Hank Ballard, Mary Wells, Ike & Tina Turner, and thats just for starters. Switch off your head for a minute and let your feet cast your vote.
We emailed the band after their recent short visit to the UK in February 2003. The Cobras are so cool that they dont have time for stupid questions or questioners. And thats how it should be. They might not talk a good game but when you see them, they let their music do their talking. And it says: here is honesty; these guys are for real; this is the spirit of rocknroll. Listen or be damned: your choice.
SXP: Do you feel an affinity with any of the bands in the Detroit garage scene?
Rachel: We all drink together. That counts.
SXP: Is there a danger of getting too reverential about old soul and RnB, like the Commitments or Blues Brothers? How do you avoid that?
Rachel: We don't take things that seriously, and we aren't trying to faithfully reconstruct whats already been done perfectly. You can't become a Motown review or a tribute band. We're just having fun and playing songs we love without turning it into a fatal attraction. You can kill shit you love if you don't use a light hand.
SXP: What do you think youre adding to these old songs?
Rachel: I think (and I really don't think about it) that if anything, maybe we detract from songs- strip em down so the folks can understand. Hell, I don't know. Thats for you to determine.
SXP: When youre planning a record, do you have a list of songs youd like to cover or do you go out searching for tracks?
Rachel: Both. We pick up things as we go along, and there's always some stuff filed in the back of our heads.
SXP: Have you ever attempted to write your own songs?
Rachel: I'm really tired of that question. We're happy doing what we're doing for now. Why does everybody ask that? Aren't you people ever satisfied??!!
SXP: Youve got great taste for old records and artistes but are there current bands you rate and respect?
Rachel: I'm pretty out of the loop right now, sorry. I haven't bought a new release in probably 2 or 3 years. Yikes.
SXP: You have an EP out on Rough Trade. What about another album?
Rachel: coming right up. Give us a couple months.
SXP: Were you pleased to be on the Jackass soundtrack?
Rachel: Yeah, its a fun show, and who doesn't want to watch people get hurt to your music?
SXP: When youre inducted into the alternative RocknRoll Hall of Fame, what would you like the citation for the Detroit Cobras to read?
Rachel: Sorry, I don't have that active an imagination.
SXP: Question for Rachel: How long were you an exotic dancer and are you bored with being asked about those days?
Rachel: YES YES YES - but give me a dollar anyway.
SXP: I read on the web that you allegedly tackled Kim Fowley on stage during an early gig. Why?
Rachel: I was bored and he was annoying.
SXP: Question for Maribel: I believe you are also in a band called the Buzzards. Are there any musical similarities between the two bands?
Maribel: They're both pretty dirty. Buzzards were more straight rock to punk rock. And a boy sang.