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interviews                                         page 10   

 June/July 2003

page 10

Detroit Cobras

Adam Green

Jeffrey Lewis

page  9

The Bandits

Damon & Naomi

Radio 4


page 8

The Loves
The Projects
The Rogers Sisters

page 7


page 6

Ladybug Transister
Marshmallow Coast

page 5

Of Montreal
Sister Vanilla
Ted Barnes

page 4

Donald Ross Skinner
Great Lakes
Mendoza Line
The Pleased

page 3

Butterflies of Love
Ian McNabb

 page 2

Dressy Bessy
Neil Halstead
Stephen Hero
Slumber Party
The Workhouse
Yeah Yeah Yeahs

page 1

Earl Brutus
British Sea Power
Camera Obscura
Mark Eitzel
David Gedge
Jack Hayter
Kristin Hersh
Tom Hingley
Robyn Hytchcock
Lupine Howl

The Tyde: Darren Rademaker interview by Ged M

the tyde live 1010.jpg (38778 bytes)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 there’s been, capturing the essence of country, blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll within the music and complementing it with moving, heartfelt, lovelorn lyrics.  This year’s ‘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 Tyde’s 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 I’d go but it’s 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.  They’ve 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 tyde signed skateboard 1111.JPG (17264 bytes)a sudden, Brent and Ric yell and I turn around and Lee Perry’s 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 Ben’s shirt – Ben’s a choir director and it’s 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 – we’ll 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!  We’ve got to have a picture of this because our normal friends, he’s all they know.  They don’t know Lawrence or Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.  But Ann got scared and he blazed by us.  He’s 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 don’t want to meet him, he’s 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 you’re ripping off hates you - which is more likely to be the case - that’s crazy but he was amazing. 

I had the chance to meet Bob Dylan once but I didn’t 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 didn’t say one word to him although I know every Lou Reed song and I was totally into him and he’s awesome.  *reflects*  But not as awesome as Dylan.  And not as awesome as Lawrence.  I can’t put Lawrence above Dylan but I might put him above Lou Reed. 

SXP: Have you read David Cavanagh’s 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? that’s Lawrence’s band”.  I’d wanted to ask him the whole day about Lawrence.  He’s a weirdo too so it’s 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.  It’s the weirdest thing.  In his ‘Burn This’ in the new NME – where they pick a CD’s worth  of songs – he picks this song Jimmy’s Fantasy by Redd Kross.  This guy who wrote that song, he used to be in Brent’s 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 rock’n’roll dream too fast, too crazy.  And then he dies in obscurity.  But someone’s keeping him alive.  That’s 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.  It’s 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 I’m not listening to as much music right now.  I’ve 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.  They’re playing an instore at Virgin.  If it had been tonight I was going to go and meet them.  I’ve only heard a couple of songs and enjoyed them even though it’s really slick and I don’t like the producer.  The Warlocks told me they’d played with them in January and they were horrible and they just played with them now and they were great.  They’ve played enough now to get it together I guess.  If they want to get it right though, they’ve got to come to Hollywood.  San Diego’s cool but it’s a port and the surf culture between Los Angeles and San Diego, that middle part, that’s where it’s all happening for surfers. 

SXP: You’re also a fan of the Streets, which is an odd thing for a Californian band to like.

Darren: Yeah, because it’s real.  He’s telling me what it’s like to be a Londoner.  We don’t live here but when I’m walking around, it’s like: that’s what it is!  He’s like Bob Dylan in that way.  It’s not just the lyrics: the music’s great as well.  I’m also into the Audio Bullys and I got another one by Dizzee Rascal.  It’s pretty good. 

SXP: After ‘Once’ and ‘Twice’, what’s the third album going to be titled?

Darren: Everyone wants it to be ‘Three Times A Lady’ but I’m not into jokes.  Once you attach a joke to your music, it’s 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 there’s also ‘Blind Mice’, because there were three blind mice, which Ben and Brent are really into.  But it sounds kind of 80s, like Ned’s 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 she’s 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.  That’s 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 I’ve 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 didn’t write shit.  Every song that I wrote was on that album.  There’s 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 album’s 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.   It’s 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 I’ve had in my life who actually listens to the lyrics and figures out who it’s about.  I can’t write about crushes on girls any more.  So what do I really want to write about that’s even remotely interesting?  The thing about the Tyde, which wasn’t 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.  I’m really into Status Quo.  People make fun of me because I wear their badge but I say: you hate them because you’re from England and your dad probably liked them.  That’s what David Feck was saying.  But there’s treasure on every album and there’s always a slow song.  [Shortboard City] is like boogie rock, that Southern boogie.  It’s 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!  They’re talking about driving down the road with a six-pack.  We should cover it. 

SXP: You’re real Anglophiles aren’t you? 

Darren: If there were waves closer, and it was really sunny like France or Spain, I’d move here!

SXP: Cornwall’s 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 we’ll go there in the summer.  But I’m scared.  The water’s 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 we’d be playing to old people in Florida.  Then we started to play old songs: Don’t 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 weren’t 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.  It’s the thing that so many bands try to do.  We did it and realised it was all bullshit.  That’s when we did Further.  It was a reaction to that. 

SXP: I’ve not heard Shadowlands.

Darren: Don’t!

SXP: Looking at the covers of the Shadowlands albums, you have quite a 60s look.  Did you have stylists and dressers?  

Darren: No, that’s what we were into: Byrds, Burrito Brothers. We had pegged pants and stuff.  That was about 1987. 

SXP: Were you interested in LA’s Paisley Underground?

Darren: We were really into the Rain Parade and the Dream Syndicate.  We covered one of their songs, Tell Me When It’s Over, for the Rough Trade compilation but they didn’t pick it.  We turned in three songs instead of one because we couldn’t 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 It’s True single for TFC and ‘You’re 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 don’t want to do this.  I wasn’t going to give up music but I really didn’t 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 didn’t 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: You’re just about to do a big American tour. Is that a good thing?

Darren: It’s scary.  In the US we never toured the first time because we didn’t want to play for 20 people on some college campus.  So now we’re playing with the Pernice Brothers in some huge places.  But I want to avoid being called Americana. I don’t want to be compared with Ryan Adams, who’s 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”.  It’s when a guy chats up a girl and never talks to her again.  It’s like that but he does it to guys.  So I got burned.  He’s not, like, horrible but I’d 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 wasn’t 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: I’m really proud of that.  I really, really like the Tyde records and I think that if I wasn’t in the band I’d like it as opposed to some of the stuff I’ve done in the past.  


Adam Green interview by James S

adam green small 0909.jpg (16966 bytes)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. He’s 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. Here’s how we got on, chewing sounds omitted.

SXP: How’s the tour going?

AG: It’s been going really well. Mostly I’ve 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: It’s really cool ‘cos I get to play them the way I heard them in my head. I can’t have them all tour ‘cos it’s too expensive but hopefully it’ll happen more often. But just because I say I prefer to play with this bigger group doesn’t mean to say that I don’t think the songs hold up when I play them solo acoustic. I wrote them that way and they’re fairly skeletal with their melodies. As often as I get the opportunity to I’d 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 wasn’t a case of ‘I’ve 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 don’t 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, it’s actually pre-Moldy Peaches. I started to listen to and appreciate songcraft a little bit more. Now, I’m trying to expand my ability to make more extravagant melodies and sing better. I think I’ve become a better singer since my last record and I think I’ve 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 didn’t 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. I’ll write one line every couple of days so a song will take a couple of weeks to make! I don’t really write with a guitar, I usually just use a tape recorder and sing into that to find out what the melody is. It’s just a little digital recorder that holds about an hour of sound on it. As soon as I’ve 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 isn’t really what I do because I do needs more editing. What I do has an element of abstraction to it but it’s not stream of consciousness. Everything starts that way though. I don’t 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 that’s 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. Kimya’s nine years older than me. When we met I was, like, 13 and she was 21 or something. That age difference now isn’t a big thing anymore ‘cos I’ve 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 we’d talk about music. I’d play guitar and we made up songs. We just hung out ‘cos we couldn’t 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 don’t know. There are no plans to record another Moldy Peaches record or to tour but maybe someday. There’s really no reason to make a definite kind of choice about it. If we want to we’ll just do it.

SXP: Unlike Jeff Lewis recently and Kimya next month you haven’t brought any other New York antifolk people with you on tour. Any reason?

AG: (lengthy thought process) It’s nothing like (trails off). I love Jeff and Kimya’s music and all that stuff but I’m just more of a loner I guess. I didn’t 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 didn’t want to go do it again. It’s kind of like going to movies with friends or going by myself. I like to go by myself – it’s the kind of guy I am.

SXP: What does the word Antifolk mean to you?

AG: Well, it’s a community of songwriters centred around this open mike night in New York. It started out in the Eighties with this guy Lach who’s 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 weren’t 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. That’s the only real requirement to call yourself antifolk. It’s 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 – it’s 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 I’m doing.

SXP: Is it easier or harder to play in New York where everyone knows you?

AG: I don’t 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 they’d played Bowery Ballroom and went back to the hotel and played a lot of acoustic songs. They’d 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’. They’re a really great band.

  • Picture courtesy of Asako Kitaori


 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, he’s about to release his second full album, ‘It’s The Ones Who’ve 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, he’s a prodigious comic book producer and uses large pads of artwork to illustrate songs live (he calls them lo-fi videos). He’s 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: How’s the tour going?

Jeff: Really fantastic. We didn’t 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. They’ve got such a big fanbase that it really helped us to lay the groundwork for this tour. Every night’s had decent crowds and it’s pretty unbelievable that we’ve been able to build up to do this.

SXP: Is it different being the headliner this time around?

Jeff: It’s basically the same kind of thing for us ‘cos we’ve 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. Kimya’s about to do the same thing soon with some other bands so it’ll 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. There’s only so many people we can squeeze onto a bill. Last time there were six of us on the bill and it’s amazing we were able to pull that off. The stress at the beginning was pretty unbelievable ‘cos so many people were saying ‘you can’t do that’ ‘cos it’s hard enough to set up a tour by yourself, never mind what’s basically a travelling festival with no label support. Everyone said it’d 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, don’t you?

Jeff: Yeah. In a certain way it’s a fantastic situation ‘cos there we have the chance to fall on our face creatively speaking all the time ‘cos it’s our friends, family and friends of friends. It’s 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: I’ve 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 aren’t 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 hadn’t been performed much. I still can’t believe that Geoff Travis at Rough Trade would allow this stuff to be out there but I’m glad it is. This time I’ve been doing less autobiographical stuff ‘cos there’s only so much I can talk about myself! Again it was recorded at a friend’s flat, but this time that friend was Major Matt Mason and he’s 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, I’ve 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 don’t want to hear it again’. And for most people that’s the opposite of why they want to come to a show. I’ve become more comfortable playing those songs on this tour ‘cos we stayed away from them on the last one and now I’m rediscovering them myself. Last time we played songs we were working on for the new album and so now we’re playing the old stuff again. It’s a weird flip-flop effect.

SXP: And did the Chelsea Hotel girl really exist?

Jeff: It’s 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 that’s blatantly untrue, like zombies and anything else is obviously untrue. It’s pretty straightforward like that. That particular incident is years ago but it’s a fascinating thought that she might hear the song some day but I doubt she’d remember the incident.

SXP: Are there any new videos tonight?

Jeff: Well, the videos have a real shelf life ‘cos they’re just made out of old paper so one tour is generally all they’re good for. By the end they’ve left bits of themselves everywhere so there’s always some new ones for a constant turnover. There are three new ones tonight and it’s a nice small room so I’m 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 can’t be just hanging out, you’ve gotta be sitting at a drawing desk for seven or eight hours and that time is hard to come by when you’re doing this other stuff.

SXP: And if you had to give one of them up?

Jeff: I’d keep on drawing without a doubt. That’s been my lifelong thing, reading and drawing comic books. Music has been a lot of fun and it’s amazing how many people connect to it so much more immediately than comics. You can work on a comic book for months and someone’ll read it in a few minutes and enjoy it for what it is or even get a lot out of it. It’s 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 they’d choke at paying that for a comic which is something that took you so much longer. It’s 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 Nagy’s amazing soulful, raspy voice and the thunderous rock’n’roll backing.  That their set consists of versions of (sometimes) obscure R’n’B and soul songs is irrelevant when the raw material is so perfect and contains all the base elements of rock’n’roll – the wellspring of what we live for.   Most bands wear their influences so blatantly it’s like a tattoo in permanent ink: you know exactly what they listened to at 15, at 20, at 29.  Conversely, though you’re aware of what pumps around the Cobras’ musical arteries (thought you’d only really know their influences if you were as obsessive as they are) it doesn’t matter – when you hear them, it’s a new-old sound.   It can’t 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, here’s 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 that’s 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 don’t have time for stupid questions or questioners.  And that’s 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 rock’n’roll.  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 R’n’B, 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 what’s 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 you’re 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.  That’s for you to determine.

SXP: When you’re planning a record, do you have a list of songs you’d 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: You’ve 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, it’s a fun show, and who doesn't want to watch people get hurt to your music?

SXP: When you’re inducted into the alternative Rock‘n’Roll 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.