Archive for the 'Musics' Category



31
Aug
10

Chunklet’s Indie Cred Test

I wrote some stuff  in this, and the whole thing is funny, so buy it.

They call it a coffee table book, but I’ve never been able to fit a coffee table in the bathroom.

10
Jul
10

Pere Ubu On Letterman: Worlds In Collision

We get a glimpse of show business’s hidden ritual abuse of musicians as Dave discusses the effrontery of the show’s performance arrangements for Pere Ubu in the 1989(?) clip. As per the show’s other longstanding policy of requiring musical performances to be shared by Paul Schaeffer and the house band, the forced hybridization of Ubu is in this case not a displeasing one.

24
Jun
10

Tim Westergren: Pandora’s Profitable

I’ve written before about how I love the web music service Pandora and its nerdy roots as a musical categorization engine. Underneath Pandora lurks the Music Genome Project, a smartly designed effort to identify properties present in individual recordings regardless of artist, genre, label, era, or any other strictly nonmusical characteristics. These musical properties are used to make automated decisions about your playlist – if you start with a song that uses electric guitars, minor key tonality, chromatic harmonic structure and uptempo pacing, you’re likely to get more of these characteristics in subsequent songs – no matter what artist, era or genre. It makes for great listening and surprising discovery.

I talked to Pandora CEO Tim Westergren in 2007 when I worked for Gearwire.com. Here’s Tim’s Wall Street Journal interview from today. The upshot: Pandora’s now profitable, working out the privacy problems that Facebook’s shifting policies have foisted upon them.

And what the heck, here’s my Pandora profile.  Below, a 2008 clip with Tim, Pandora’s Dancing Monkey (and crew).

13
Jun
10

Oh, Wikipedia. You So Crazy.

I met Dave Schulthise, better known as Dave Blood of the Dead Milkmen in 1985 when i was 17. The Milkmen’s first Chicago show happened to also be my first stage appearance, playing bass for The Defoliants. Dave, sadly no longer with us, was a sweet and funny guy who really knew his way around a Music Man bass. This means he would have gotten a kick out of the complete bullshit that lives on his Wikipedia page:

Yeah, no. Abnormally good playing, abnormally great guy, normal tuning.

27
May
10

Eight Guitar Hero Spin-Offs

Word is that the Guitar Hero video game franchise is in trouble. Earlier this year game maker Activision reported disappointing sales of GH and associated title DJ Hero with new planned titles being squelched. Industry analysts agree: these are the signs of a depleted genre.

Why? Because these games don’t have enough realism. Even little kids know by now that Guitar Hero’s gameplay – effectively mashing plastic keys on the neck of a guitar-shaped controller in a vague rhythm – does not approach the rich tapestry of the live rock musician’s undertaking. Some gamers know this instinctively, and those who don’t eventually learn by listening to the sneering dismissals of the game offered by actual rock musicians desperate to crap on somebody. It seems nobody’s happy. Video gamers demand a more satisfying, realistic experience and will stop at nothing to get it (short of turning off their consoles and emerging into the actual world), while  current game offerings are lacking in the grit and tension of the real thing.

What this genre needs is a little design input from a veteran of rock and roll. Today, I am that veteran, ready to exaggerate where necessary to improve the product. Here, then, proposed to the industry’s design community in plenty of time for Christmas, are Eight Guitar Hero Spin-Offs:

Band Hero: The realistic interpersonal band simulation. Navigate the complex creative and emotional agendas of the other people in your band –  and later in the game, that of their spouses. Collaboratively produce songs by subtly subverting each other’s hated contributions. Simultaneously discover and navigate disparate goal alignments with the payoffs measured solely in aesthetics, never income. Balance a straight career with the commitments of a band without compromising either. Game controller is shaped like a bottle of Chivas Regal. Contents: Chivas Regal.

Tour Hero: Perpetrate the affront to human dignity that is touring without suffering any of the health risks. Simulate four unwashed guys in a dilapidated van, a diet of indigestible road food, a steady supply of intoxicants and a single Red Sovine CD that the drummer/driver insists on repeating for hours at a time. Controller is shaped like a bundle of filthy laundry bunched into a pillow shape. Scoring is based on ability to arrive at gigs in time to not get a sound check.

Sound Check Hero: In the game’s early stages, you don’t get a sound check. When you finally do, your goal is to have the stage monitors produce sound of any kind. Next level:  stop the shrieky feedback. Controller: Wii (shaped like a microphone). Scoring based on effectiveness of your vague pantomimes attempting to get the attention of the unseen soundguy. Bonus round: show up to the gig in enough time to get the check but not too early so as to be sitting around waiting.

Load-in Hero: Your goal is to move large, heavy black boxes from one side of town to another in your car. Rewards the obsessive with a Tetris-like puzzle scoring system based on equipment stacking, spiced with the added risk of damage to spine and fingers, because the game controller is shaped like a Marshall 4×12 speaker cabinet and weighs 90 pounds.

Publishing Hero: While watching television, you discover your recordings have been used on TV commercials, shows and films with large audiences, yet you have not been told nor paid. Gameplay involves an odyssey of repeated attempts to have phone calls or emails returned from TV producers, networks or music publishers. Game controller is shaped like an empty mailbox.

Rehearsal Space Hero: You are stuck in a 10×10′ rehearsal space with laughably thin walls. Next door on one side is a Blues Lawyer / Blues Dentist band, and on the other, a Local Metal Band. Schedule conflicts ensure one or the other or both are rehearsing at the same time as your band, making it difficult to work. Game controller is shaped like a standard Guitar Hero guitar, which you use to play the neighboring band’s riffs back at them at dominating volume until you eventually force an ugly physical confrontation.

Guitar Store Hero: A simulated trip to a guitar chain store, where every minute spent serves to embarrass you further into rethinking your involvement with music. Scoring based on suppressing your impulse to choke the shit out of the guy over there who won’t stop loudly mangling the riff from “Enter Sandman” on a pointy guitar. Game controller shaped like a $50.00 guitar stand, manufactured in Malaysia out of seven cents worth of bimetal.

Mashup Hero: Your goal is to load looped segments of any two incongruous yet recognizable popular songs into Audiomulch, tweak the program BPM to 300+ and play the segments against each other until they overlap in locked tempo, producing “work”. Controller is (and is shaped like) a Windows PC running Audiomulch. Scoring is based upon real-life attention received for your efforts. Requires: Audiomulch license, shamelessness.

06
May
10

DEVO’s Gerald V. Casale on Kent State Massacre’s 40th Anniversary

Eyewitness recounting of the Kent State shootings from DEVO’s co-founder. Witness the birth of DEVO – the sound of things falling apart – on a campus hilltop in Ohio.

http://www.ustream.tv/flash/video/6676985

(RW370 video embed not working)

04
Apr
10

Sirs: New Tracks Finished

Sirs:

Mike Greenlees – Drums
Tony Jones – Bass
Rob Warmowski – Guitar, Vocals

We just finished our first record. Thymme Jones of Cheer-Accident manned the board*. We recorded it in a basement in Humboldt Park, and hot damn, some of it is just stellar if I do say so myself. Thanks Thymme! Website here, tracks below.

Boo Hoo – In what will probably be the title track of the record, the Greenlees/Jones duopoly tends impeccably to business while I put a guitar slide on the wrong hand and commence to some improbable hijinks. Lyrical quasi-inspiration: the crybaby visible at the 7:00 mark of this clip of Alexandra Pelosi’s documentary Right America Feeling Wronged.

Five Minutes – I’m not expecting Dorothy Parker, but you don’t spell “you” with the letter u.

Illegal Criminal Crimes (Against The Law) – In a post-Rumsfeldian world, giving executives the teaching moments they deserve becomes a greater and greater challenge.  Features a two-note solo that Mike called akin to “Robert Slipp”.  Original title was “Felony Illegal Criminal Crimes (Against The Law)”, but I changed it because that would be stupid.

A debut gig at Quencher’s is up for this Thursday, kind of early. Shows will be rare.  Sorry if that sounded like a threat.

*board in this case meaning the Roland VS-2400 integrated DAW.  I gotta say, I’ve heard worse channel preamps.

01
Mar
10

Devo Co-Founder Bob Lewis: My 1997 Interview

Not Pictured: Bob Lewis

I’m on an email list about DEVO called Spud Talk.  Today, out of nowhere, list member Chad sent out to the list a copy of my 1997 interview with Bob Lewis, a founding member of DEVO. The Truth About The Truth About De-Evolution originally appeared in “The Ohio Issue” of Wind-Up, the print zine helmed by the very fancy and very caffeinated dear friend Liz Clayton.   It was later posted to the USENET newsgroup alt.fan.devo. Thanks to Chad (having lost the file many moons ago) I present it once more:

The Truth About The Truth About De-Evolution

an Interview with DEVO founder Bob Lewis by Rob Warmowski

Let me get one thing clear immediately: no single group of musicians or artists changed my life more completely than DEVO. When their 1978 television performance on Saturday Night Live sailed into my living room and collided with my 11-year-old primate brain, I grew up.

This rock band managed to, all at once, exhilarate and scare the living crap out of me, starting by showing a snippet of the DEVO film The Truth About De-Evolution. I will never forget the sheer terror at the unacknowledged, unexplained sight of Booji Boy scurrying up a fire escape to the General’s conference table, set to the tortured groaning sounds of some flea-bitten Moog synth. The visual impact was akin to finding a cockroach in a salad, and it sounded like the credits / theme music for an elementary school educational film gone horribly wrong. I remember an overwhelming desire to turn on the lights in the dark living room.  No chance –  the band came on and stopped me in my tracks, blurting the most crawly, murderous sound I had ever heard. My neurons fired furiously, watching these nuclear technicians with guitars. Not a motion or sound wasted. It made sense. It meant everything. It was over too quickly…but little did I know it would never really stop.

The following Monday at school, I embarked on a journey of social devolution that continues today. New Wave, schmoo wave, the polarization was much simpler then: you either knew that we’re all Devo or you didn’t and kept on air-guitaring to Kiss courtesy of MusicRadio WLS. Some of us knew.  Key alliances formed with the few young primates who were similarly educated led naturally to fringe cultural exercises like punk rock, reading books, and personal computing.

As I became more involved in music and learned more about how it was made, I dropped the juvenile idea that DEVO walked around, sipped coffee, and made their records wearing their full suits of protective gear.  This opened a whole new line of thinking: DEVO was five guys. They were out there, somewhere, doing something at any given time. But what? They hadn’t been DEVO all their lives: what the hell could they have been before? What in the world could they have seen that caused them to make this glorious din and gripping film work?

The questions kept coming. As their recorded career progressed past the records “Freedom Of Choice” and “New Traditionalists”, into what I call the Dark Guitarless Era, new questions arose. “Why are they beginning to suck?” “What happened to the guitars and drums?” Magazines were no help. Asking the
spudboys themselves was a complete impossibility to me.

Skip forward more than a decade, past their ignominious breakup and ascendancy of Mark Mothersbaugh into megabuck film & TV scoring. Enter the Internet.

While hanging around on the Usenet newsgroup alt.fan.devo some months ago, I received an e-mail reply to one of my posts from a fellow with a username of
“bobdevo.” His reply seemed cogent and knowing. Any spud worth his salt knows that there were two Bobs in DEVO. Immediately, I regressed into a
twelve-year-old. Oh my GOD…. Could it be…? Is that…?

I calmed down and asked for some qualification, and received so much more than I could have hoped.

This Bob was Bob Lewis, 47-year-old entrepreneur based in Akron, OH, business consultant and media developer.  Bob Lewis is the unknown co-founder of DEVO. I had found the missing Bob.  Bob Zero.

Bob’s creative impact on the band was real. Spuds carefully examining their Devographies will note that the classic song “Be Stiff” is credited to one B. Lewis, as well as are other songs on the Rykodisc “Hardcore DEVO” selections of basement tapes and whatnot. Bob functioned as guitar player in the early days to Gerry Casale’s bass anchor, and was the originator of the DEVO concept in its anthropological context.

His anonymity in the public story of the band is not a result of his lack of involvement.  On the contrary, legal reasons related to the great size of
his contribution account for his invisibility. Silent all these years, Bob Lewis spins a tale of early collaboration at  Kent State University that reaches much farther back than any official Devography. Manager, co-founder, guitarist, writer, armchair anthropologist…the story of DEVO is incomplete without his chapter. Hear now the Truth about the Truth about De-Evolution.

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The Beginning Was The End

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The time: The late 1960’s. The arena: Kent State University, soon-to-be target range for the Dick Nixon Precision Riflemen and campus creative
hotbed for Bob Lewis and Gerry Casale, DEVO’s founding members.

What were the first records you two ever bought that changed the way you did things?

It had to have been “Charlie Brown,” that’s the first record I can think of that had an anti-establishment theme to it. Jerry was very much into blues
and black music.

What was Jerry doing musically at the time, at Kent?

He was playing in a band called Haymarket Riot and wearing puffy sleeve shirts and a Prince Valiant haircut, doing the sensitive poet thing, because
that is what the chicks dug at the time. There was a very big beatnik / straightlaced dichotomy at play in what we did from the beginning.

Your major was Anthropology, and Gerry’s was Art. What were your goals back then?

Well, I wanted to go to Olduvai Gorge and dig up skulls. Gerry came at his Art major from a graphic design standpoint. He was very much into content,
into meaning and message. For instance, he would attend art galleries and opening with a friend of his who would wear a rubber ape mask, a real garish
thing. Gerry had this guy on a leash, literally. When they came to a piece that they liked, the guy in the mask would leap up and down. But if they
didn’t-

Uh oh. The Poot Dance.

Right, he’d dance the poot. You gotta dance the poot.

(Note: The “Poot” is referenced in the central DEVO anthem “Jocko Homo” cf. “Teachers and critics / All dance the Poot”)

Describe the Poot dance, using no more than three phrases.

Uh, squatting, loping rondo.

Describe the original meetings at Kent that was the genesis of DEVO. Was it fairly common for Art students to be mixing with Anthro students? Seems very
unlikely by today’s standards.

Yeah, there was a cafeteria in Kent where all the freak types went, there would usually be a small core of people there all the time, that’s where we
got together most of the time. You had a wide variety of people, most the first from their families to be attending college…

So the idea was a bunch of newly liberated kids on a campus, screwing off, across all kinds of lines..

Yeah. You know, back then it was $175 a quarter, gas was 20 cents a gallon and I had a couple of jobs where I was pulling in about $150 a week. That
was a shitload of money in those days, that was when there was all kinds of money in America. There was a lot of room to indulge, and a real anarchic
atmosphere to indulge in.  See, I was born two years after you got out of High School, and to me, the idea of a unified art group such as DEVO today would be a little unlikely because so many students have to work like dogs at shitty jobs just to pay rent.  Back then it was all different. It really was like a playground, prosperity was everywhere and prices were low. I don’t think DEVO could have come out of any other environment.

What was the first project that you and Gerry worked together on?

The Honors College at Kent had a literary publication called the Kent Quarterly, and in ’69 or ’70, they changed the name to”The Human Issue.” We
hated the name, but we did some art for the magazine. Gerry had a rubber stamp made, a graphic of missionary position sexual intercourse, the “fuck
stamp.” We made stickers, and stamped these on the magazine envelopes and customized them with dialog.

That’s pretty DEVO. Or proto-DEVO. When and how did the Anthropology / De-Evolution ideas get worked in to the aesthetic?

That would have been in fall of ’70, because there was a visiting professor from England at Kent named Eric Modrum.. He had some interesting leftist
views on stuff, that prompted some discussion, and we then latched on to the joke concept of de-evolution. Of course, it has turned out to not be a joke,
we have Clinton and Dole running for president today, I mean… The DEVO philosophy was meant to be applied in the same way that deconstructionist
theory is applied so that you could at create a DEVO spin on whatever aesthetic, event, item, product happened to be in front of you.

So it was expressed primarily in the form of these “college bull sessions” I keep hearing so much about.

Yes.

How did it become tangible?

It was in the lyrics, the first crude recordings going back to ’69. By ’72, we were writing it down, treatises, manifestoes, etc. Musically, it was
Gerry on bass, myself on slide guitar and a guy named Peter Greg on guitar. Around ’70, we’d do primitive versions of Automodown, I Need A Chick, I Been
Refused, and Beehive. There’s an acetate somewhere of those sessions, I think Gerry has it. We’d record on an Teac 4-track, and this beatnik guy
would run the gear.

What was his reaction?

Well, how excited did beatniks get about anything? Besides, we hadn’t learned to improvise yet.

How did the hippie/yippie brand of counterculture relate to the counterculture of DEVO? Was DEVO a reaction, a refining, what?

Well, we were more of your Noam Chomsky / B.F. Skinner types, you know, “We’re only smart monkeys, let’s not get too snotty”. Which had the ability
to piss off the SDS and the Young Republicans equally. And we are. We’re the smartest, meanest monkeys. The anthro ideas worked in to the art in that
way, and it was universally unexpected by both mainstream and counterculture. Musically, we were reacting to the excesses of rock at the
time, you know, Yes, Bachman Turner Overdrive…there was a kind of an advantage to applying the DEVO philosophy to music. It could mask a myriad
of musical inabilities, allowing us to say “we want it to sound that way”. We liked Captain Beefheart, Robert Johnson, even Frank Zappa – but we wanted
to be more subversive, we wanted to fool the audience into liking the music.

I always got the feeling that DEVO was built to appeal to the high-minded academic as well as Joe & Jane six-pack. Would you agree, and was this
intentional?

We wanted to go as high as we could, and fucking low as we possibly could. The lowest of the low.

Were you intentionally building an art form with this odd idea of wide appeal for primarily commercial reasons, or was it an aesthetic exercise
first?

It was an aesthetic exercise first that had built within it, the opportunity to create wealth. That wealth would be rolled back into the aesthetic, so it
would be kind of self-perpetuating. DEVO was a unified theory of art and commerce, and that’s fairly clear to fans who paid any attention to the
ideas that DEVO presented.

Would it be fair to say that the genesis of DEVO would have to have occurred in an environment that fostered SDS and yippies as well, that it couldn’t
have existed without the presence of that counterculture?

It would be hard to separate it out of the time amber in which we are imprisoned, but distrust of authority, distrust of common sense ideas about
stuff, these were ideas rampant at the time there.

Did DEVO extend that distrust also to the left?

We had an affection for them, but all of us perceived that bullshit rhetoric wasn’t gonna get anything done. My impression was, if you wanna blow
something up, hey, I’ll drive, but please, no more meetings! Another way it affected the continuation of DEVO was that had it not been for the shootings
at Kent State, it would have been debatable that DEVO would have manifested itself, Gerry and I would have probably continued into Grad school…

How did that affect the DEVO?

Because I had never seen anyone get their head blown off before. It crystallized the sense that something was seriously wrong, and there was no
simple fix, and the causes of the problem were extremely deep. We kept on because what we were saying only made more sense as time went on…

————————————————————————

Popeye’s Big Punch Knocks Bluto Cold – Gettin’ that big ream, legal-style

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Bob became the band’s manager, occasionally filling in for Bob Casale on guitar through the 1970’s. In 1974, he became DEVO’s full-time manager. The
De-evolutionary bios and manifestos and writing of the time is largely his, as is the vast majority of the effort expended in the documenting and
fostering of DEVO as a rock / art unit.

According to Bob, after the recording of the Warner Brothers Debut album “Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are DEVO!” in Berlin, the exposure of Gerry Casale to the starmaking machinery of Los Angeles resulted ultimately in the first major glitch in the band’s rockstar trajectory.

Bob:  During that period, I would be the point man with Stiff records (DEVO’s original label), find pressing plants, financing for the films and the
singles, book the shows, all that. Warner Brothers had sued Virgin over the fact that DEVO had basically signed two deals. Richard Branson (Virgin chief
shark) had signed them, yet Warner Brothers had paid the six figure money for the recording of the Are We Not Men? Album. The suit ended up with
Branson and Virgin taking the band’s record in the UK and Japan, and Warner Brothers taking it in the US. Branson got 50% of all DEVO music publishing
in perpetuity for the pittance of $70,000 upfront.

I had heard of a story where Branson had flown Mark and Bob Casale down to Jamaica or something during all of this, brought them into a boardroom, lit up a huge joint and said “Johnny Rotten has just left the Sex Pistols. We want him to sing for DEVO.” Did that really happen?

Yeah.

Man. Go on. How did you and DEVO end up parting ways?

I remember talking to Mark on the way back from the Are We Not Men Sessions. On the way back we had set up a gig in London, where I delivered
the final 10,000 singles on Stiff. On the way back from New York, listening to the way that Gerry was talking, the first I had seen him after the Berlin
sessions, it was apparent that Gerry was acing me out. Warner Brothers had simply told Gerry that their manager was now Elliot Roberts. I talked to
Mark about it, and he said that Gerry was the boss. It wasn’t a high-pressure thing, it was just a quiet resignation on the rest of the band’s part. Mark said “He’s got to do what he has to do, and so do you.”

What did you plan to do? At what point did you believe that you had something to protect legally?

Right away. I asked them to change the name of the band, to relinquish all of the intellectual property related to DEVO. The General, the bios,
manifestos, graphic design, philosophies, characters, even the Poot. Gerry wasn’t interested. So, in the fall of 1978, I filed the lawsuit Lewis v.
Casale, Mothersbaugh, Mothersbaugh, Casale, Myers, DEVO, Inc. I sued them for theft of intellectual property.

We had some fine legal talent, and we could bitch-slap the LA lawyers with it, but the crushing blow was from a kid from Ohio. It had gotten around,
only locally that I was suing the band for theft of intellectual property, and I got a phone call from this guy who had been a kid in high school
during one of DEVO’s very first performances at the Akron Art Festival. He interviewed DEVO for his little magazine.

Funny how familiar that sounds.

He calls me up and says “I have a tape you might want to hear.” So he comes in and it plays this kid asking Mark the question “So who thought up this
whole De-Evolution thing?” And Marks says “This guy right here, Bob Lewis.”

Bailiff, clear the courtroom!

When we played that in court, I could see the table where Gerry and the WB lawyers were sitting, I could see them sort of deflate. They settled
immediately after that.

What was the settlement amount?

Ah, I’m not at liberty to divulge that.

How about a ballpark? Five figures? Six? Seven?

Into the six figures. And Warner Brothers of course told them “Don’t worry, we’ll pay it- you’ll pay us back LATER.” And of course they did.
Unfortunately for DEVO, and I take no personal pleasure from the whole episode, that really soured the whole relationship between the band and the
label at the time, since it came right on the heels of the Virgin / WB lawsuit where Branson was such a shark. As a result of the whole mess, DEVO
never got pushed, never got the attention from the label that they deserved.

How badly did this affect your relationships with the band?

There was no animosity, but there were hurt feelings. It was bad for a few years, but we’re all on friendly terms now. The DEVO philosophy even
affected that, since everybody knew that Gerry was just fulfilling his genetic destiny, to be a kind of weasel. He can’t help it, and we all knew
that. I’m friends with all of them today.

I keep hearing that it’s very hard to work with Gerry…

Well, Mark was commissioned to be the frontman, it was thrust upon him, he didn’t want to do it really. Gerry wanted to be the frontman, but he was
commercially unacceptable in that role.

How do you mean?

He couldn’t…he couldn’t restrain himself, he couldn’t hide his disdain. Gerry is filled with anger about the stupidity he sees around him, and that
wouldn’t make for frontman material.

Were there settlement terms that had you promise to keep quiet about it?

Yes, I was not to divulge the true nature of the authorship of the intellectual property that comprised the DEVO philosophy, so as not to
damage the potential of the band or its career.

Well, it’s out now, Bob. All over Wind-Up.

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Itchy Itchy Goo Got Me Thinkin’ Of You – The Wrong Girlfriend Protocol and DEVO

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Let’s talk about the post-settlement creative progression of DEVO. What the hell happened to the band’s sound as they moved away from guitar-driven rock and into synth dependence? Where did the guitars go?

What it boiled down to is that Gerry got pissed at Bob Mothersbaugh for dating and then impregnating and marrying a woman named Maria. [Bob and
Maria are the parents of Alex Mothersbaugh, the blond-haired girl featured on the cover of the Shout! record. Cute kid, meh record. -r] Around the
time of Freedom of Choice, Gerry punished Bob, isolating him and making him obsolete, giving him fewer responsibilities. Of course, the guitars then had
to be replaced with the keyboards, Gerry got into playing bass keys and he had his brother Bob doing them as well. What resulted were gloppy records
like Oh No! and on, guitar-free and drum-free DEVO. The problem is, all those synths had the same ranges. The earlier stuff, despite its poor
recording is the most interesting.

Huh. The common answer for this from both Mark and Gerry over the years has been that DEVO had done everything there was to do with guitars, that they were bored with them and had to move on. How do you reconcile that?

It’s bullshit.

At what point do you believe DEVO strayed the farthest from the musical or promotional ideals you had all created?

Probably the flowerpot hats on Merv Griffin. But even that period had its great advances. I remember Gerry hearing “My Sharona” by the Knack around
that time and saying “We’ve gotta do something like that.” What resulted was “Girl U Want.”

[Shock, stunned silence, great appreciation of the genius of DEVO. Go ahead, play em’ back to back.]

Uh…wow.. What are your impressions about Lene Lovich covering “Be Stiff”, and what are the implications of a woman singing the line “wet women waste your food?”

It was cute, I liked it. You know, Stiff Records put on a tour of bands that did nothing but play that song, so I was used to hearing a lot of different
versions of it. A later girlfriend of Gerry, Toni Basil “Oh Mickey, you’re so fine” – MTV ed.] also put a version on one of her records, so now every
quarter, I still get a couple of bucks.

As long as the fairer sex is on the table so to speak, give me your take on lines in your early work with DEVO such as “Baby Talkin’ Bitches”, “I Need A
Chick”, “The Rope Song”, “I Been Refused…”

DEVO was actually a celebration of womanhood. Look, it is war out there. Women are to be respected and feared at the same time, and that is what we
put forth in our lyrics. We were the only honest treatment of the gender relationship in rock music.

Who among you was the first to get laid as a direct result of DEVO?

Gerry, 1978 at Max’s Kansas City in New York.

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Today’s best rock such as Brainiac or Six Finger Satellite (also known as “panic rock”, if the Wind-Up Editorial Phrase-Coining Machinery is to be
trusted) owes a great debt to the fab five of Akron, OH. If this jaunt into De-evolution has piqued your interest, go hit the Web and consume as much information as you need from The DEVO FAQ. Or, if you have the patience to suffer through a Usenet newsgroup, check out alt.fan.devo. There’s sure to be a small resurgence of appreciation of the band and its art as they have just been booked to come out of retirement to play 6 dates of sets of older material on the West coast leg of Lollapalooza. Go ahead, because now, you know the Truth.

15
Feb
10

1989 Interview With Record Producer Iain Burgess

Iain Burgess 1953-2010

I learned last Friday that Iain Burgess, friend, colleague and giant of rock record production passed away following a battle with cancer.  Founder and proprietor of France’s Black Box Studios and staff engineer at Chicago Recording Company, Iain was a central fixture in Chicago and midwest punk rock.  His work in the 1980s on hugely influential records by Naked Raygun, Big Black, The Effigies, Rifle Sport, Didjits, Poster Children, Ministry, Rapeman, Breaking Circus, Tar, Defoliants, and Bhopal Stiffs was only one decade’s worth of trademark huge-sounding, high-impact vinyl.  He followed that up with stints around the world behind the board for Jawbox, Mega City Four, Les Thugs, 18th Dye, Cows, Pegboy, Poison Idea,  Shellac and many others.

The way Iain lived and the way he heard music were both huge. A bon vivant extraordinaire, his generosity and enthusiasm for the Chicago punk rock community of bands was legendary and instrumental in a scene willingly disconnected from national industry support.  To this day, his profile is  lower than it should be, even as much of his work has deeply influenced the course of rock music.  A search today for his name on Pitchfork comes up criminally blank.

A tutor and major influence on Chicago engineer Steve Albini, himself well-known for capturing towering drum and guitar sounds, the familiar Burgess imprint on a mix was that of an impact crater.  Capturing every calorie of power in the drum performance was his signature during a decade where the mainstream production techniques trended toward the opposite –  fussy taming and gating of drums. Every drummer who played like they meant it wanted to work with him, and the feeling was mutual.  In his mixes, aggressive and ingenious use of aural space followed, as guitars and bass amps were close and far miked, filling in the giant area, cashing the checks written by the titanic drums.   To Iain, loud was natural and noise was beautiful.

I first worked with him in 1987. WNUR radio had invited my band, The Defoliants, to contribute a track for their Hog Butcher To The World compilation, which Iain engineered.  The experience was so positive, we asked him to remix a 7″ EP we had recorded that year, and signed up to record our first LP, Grrr with him.  How he got such a huge sound out of a trio with a drummer playing essentially a jazz kit, I still can’t figure out.

Here’s a demonstration of Burgessness from that LP: Jack The Ripper, our cover of the Raybeats cover of the Link Wray song.

The Defoliants – Jack The Ripper

(If you appreciate a 128k MP3 file, now imagine it coming off of vinyl played on speakers the size of dinner plates).

In 1989, years after the Chicago punk scene as documented in the film You Weren’t There had faded away, Iain was still in Chicago working with young bands like my own.  In our case, he was doing more than working, he was evangelizing.  He got a record label in Berlin to do what no label in the states would: release our LP.  For good measure, he came along on our tour of Europe in December 1989 to do house sound.  What, didn’t everybody have a genius / patron saint / ally like that?

That year, I thought I’d try and return the favor somehow.  My friends in DeKalb, Greg Dunlap and Dan Grzeca had been publishing a cool zine in the late 80s called THIS.  21 years ago, when I was 21 years old, I interviewed Iain Burgess for THIS Magazine.  Thanks to the scanning help from Greg, here is that interview. Enjoy.


Accident Prone

A chat with lain Burgess for THIS by Rob Warmowski

I don’t care how many fey East Coast music writers will line up to bleat otherwise, fact is, the most powerful and intense American records of the eighties came from Chicago and the Midwest. Many of these records were produced and engineered by this infectiously jolly native of Weymouth, England who has called the 312 area code his home for fifteen years. It is difficult to imagine what those records would sound like had they not been attended by lain Burgess during their birth in the studio. Among people who pay attention, the mere mention of the name conjures up sonic images of the most concentrated, appropriate and well-crafted orders; he makes everything but the music. I got him to tell how. Sort of.

THIS: Rob Warmowski, intrepid interviewer.
IAIN: lain Burgess, future citizen of West Berlin.
M: Muttley, World’s Dumbest Dog.

THIS: I suppose the first thing we ought to address here is the fact that THIS readers, for the most part, pay close attention to records while not all of them know what a producer does. How would you put it?

IAIN: I think it varies from person to person. There are a lot of people that are hired basically to arrange songs, rehearse the band and that sort of thing. I work a little differently than that, in that getting involved with rehearsal is useful, and seeing the band live is useful, but mine is more of an interface role between the machinery and the band … trying to get what the band’s concept of what they should sound like and how the song should come across on tape and then back the other way … And sort of being and extra voting member of the band, for the period of the recordings. In general, unless the producer is hired to do the other sort of production, I sort of like split it in half. Where one way, you’re more hired to be the big cheese, and in the other way, you’re working with people where everyone’s opinion is equally weighted.

THIS: Have you ever been hired in the big cheese capacity?

IAIN: Yeah, more in Europe than here. In Europe I don’t actually engineer anymore. Like with Mega City Four and Les Thugs and some of the other stuff I’ve done for Vinyl Solution (London label.) I mix it, but I haven’t actually been the recording engineer for the project

THIS: Why do you think that is?

IAIN: They’ve got a different concept of what it is producers do. It does work the same way here, but I would say that’s more of a major label way of doing things … hire a guy who comes and sits in a chair. I don’t notice it much here.

THIS: Do you see the European approach as a part of the fact that there is less of a division between “independent” and “major” market music over there?

IAIN: Yeah, I think so. I don’t know if I’m right about making that distinction, but it feels that way to me. Maybe it’s just in the states, I’ve always engineered everything. And in Europe, when they book and hire me, there’s always a house engineer.

THIS: You get paid and so does he, so it would seem that the budgets for each independent project on the average must be higher there.

IAIN: Also, it’s up to me whether I use him or not I’m still not really comfortable with the “Sitting in the other chair” role after 20 years behind the console. It’s a little difficult. keeping your hands off stuff and not look over the other guy’s shoulder, like wondering (slips into Edward G. Robinson impression) “Yeah, where’ s the EQ on that bass drum?” That’s a little strange for me.

THIS: You’re receiving a lot of acclaim in Europe for your work with Mega City Four, Les Thugs, Bolt Thrower, etc., and you’re going to be moving to Berlin before ’90 is up. As a result, you’re going to be leaving Chicago to a lot of hacks, leaving behind a void as the default producer for the best bands in the tri-state area over the past six or seven years. What are the motivations behind your move? Simple economic reality?

IAIN: It’s not a matter of economics, it’s more mental than anything else. Like you say, having been here a long time, doing basically the same thing, working with different bands every week of every month is what makes it interesting. It’s partly a result of having been born in Europe and always having felt that it’s home as well as Chicago. Having spent eight months of this year working here, it’s driven home that it’s actually possible for me to have a choice of moving back to Europe and working for a while. For the first time in my career I have the opportunity to do that and actually survive. Whereas before I don’t think I could have …it’s honestly hard to pass up. It’s not like I’m completely and utterly bored living here or anything, it’s just that anytime you’ve been doing the same sort of thing this much but continue producing and engineering, it’s hard to say no. It’s a good mental challenge, and it’s a good time of life to do something like this.

THIS: Before ’85, before Throb Throb and the Big Black work, did you solicit projects yourself or did you find the bands coming to you more often?

IAIN: I suppose I probably solicited a bit more, bit I can’t actually remember doing the hard sell thing to a band.

THIS: Well, you may have never done a hard sell but.. ..

IAIN: A lot of it came across by accident. Accidental meetings with people, meeting people from bands at clubs when another band is playing, that’s where a shitload of my contacts came from.

THIS: Do you get impacted by live shows easily?

IAIN: (laughs) Less and less I think. I think just because I’ve been to so many. I dunno if it’s just being jaded, or if it’s familiarity or what it is …

THIS: The best of your work has been, arguably, with bands that take a “midwestern underground” approach. Not that I see a big banner for those bands…

IAIN: I don’t use any labels…every band is individual.

THIS: Yeah, but there are certain threads which connect a Big Black with a Breaking Circus with a Naked Raygun etc. And I don’t mean surnames exclusively.

IAIN: 1 agree…especially from that era when those bands were doing their first records.

THIS: When you were behind the console, or hanging with those bands or whatever, what did, you run into repeatedly? When you had to get nose to nose with those songs to get them happening on vinyl, what specifically, as a producer, did you observe in terms of similarities?

IAIN: Those guys were all well organized and everyone knew what they were doing. 1 would say that in that group of people, in terms of skill and understanding level, it was pretty high. Between some of the guys in Raygun, definitely with Steve (Albini) from Big Black, and Dave (Riley) to some extent. Steve Bjorklund (Breaking Circus) was always pretty much aware of what was going on. Just ummm, everybody had pretty concrete ideas about bow this was gonna happen, and (those projects) were more of the “joining of the band” role for me. None of it was particularly difficult, it was just there.

THIS: When, for instance, Steve bjorklund would say, “I want it like this,” would he use the jargon or…

IAIN: Oh god, that varies. Steve (Albini) was the only person skilled enough at using real jargon to where he and I could talk as equals about engineering. The other guys, a lot of times, we would use idiotic phrases, (laughs) … colorful language.

THIS: And it got the message across?

IAIN: Oh yeah, there were never any real communication problems. There were disagreements, but no real diffIculties…but 1 think that comes from-being somewhat older and having done it a while. 1 mean, Steve (Bjorklund) had been in bands before with Chris (Bjorklund), Strike Under; so he had recorded before. Raygun had been in the studio before. Steve (Albini) obviously had recorded his own record before. So just the grouping of that set of people…

THIS: What about the Effigies, how do they figure into that?

IAIN: The Effigies were an oddball thing…that came about after the original band had basically broken up, they weren’t doing anything, then they got a new guitar player (Bob O’Connor) and the whole sound of the band altered tremendously.  I mean when you split with a guy like Earl (Lettiq) who has a sort of a trademark, recognizable guitar sound, that’s been on what…four records, maybe five. I mean, that’s kind of difficult. And they got a lot of heat for the change in musical direction to some degree on the latter two albums that I worked on, Ink and Fly on the Wire.  I think both of which have some really fucking good songs on them, and some are, well, in my opinion, just not all that marvelous. I think John (Kezdy, singer) would say the same thing. I’m sure he likes all the songs, but some of it we could have done better.

THIS: The bulk of what you’ve done in the past six years has been at the Chicago Recording Company. For people who aren’t aware, CRC is a Cadillac. 24 track, full commercial multi-million dollar installation, easily one of the top studios in the country in terms of state-of-the-art equipment and design, not to mention smart teak paneling.

IAIN: A luxury.

THIS: Some producers don’t settle, center themselves around one studio…you have. Why? Do you find that you have an aversion to more “primitive” conditions?

IAIN: CRC was, again, an accidental thing. I was working freelance at the time at a studio in the suburbs who were 24 track also, so I’ve always used 24 track, save for small excursions in the past. I think how it came about was that someone (from CRC) called me and said (slips back into Edward G. Robinson,) “Yeah, you’re doing a lot of work, see, we’re wondering how come you don’t use our facilities.” So I said, “Well, I dunno. I always thought you were too expensive.” (laughs) So I think what happened is I actually went down there and spoke to somebody and basically told them, look. This is marvelous, but we don’t have this kind of money.

THIS: And?

IAIN: Well, they just cut their rates and allowed me to charge bands a lot less. I just said, if you expect us to work here, there’s no fucking way we’ll be able to pay 85 bucks an hour.

THIS: And that’s basically the same reason CRC sessions make up the bulk of the better records in the Midwest?

IAIN: Well, we talk about this three times a year, at least, and I say the same thing I said six years ago. The market hasn’t altered.  95% of the bands in this town have no money at all, and it’s a struggle to get the stuff done for the amount of money we have available. My point (to CRC management) was that it would be marvelous to get in here, but you guys just cannot expect me to bring in these projects with 25, 40 thousand dollar budgets. It just isn’t going to happen.

THIS: Generally, the lain Burgess Production is instantly recognizable, if one is paying attention whether its…

IAIN: People have said that, I really don’t see it that way, personally…

THIS: Well, that’s because you’re nuts.

IAIN: I don ‘t PLAY it the same way other people do.

THIS: It’s probably a similar situation to a musician’s, where you cannot listen to the whole, only the pieces, but trust me, be it the drums or the guitar or the aural space between them, the experienced listener knows it’s you without having to read the liner notes. Who do you immediately recognize?

IAIN: I recognize (Steve) Lillywhite’s stuff. I still like some of his stuff, although he’s working now with the Talking Heads and the Rolling Stones, which means he’s making a shitload of money, which is OK. But I mean, the old shit…

THIS: XTC?

IAIN : Yeah. You listen to like U2 …some of the drum shit on there is pretty good. Umm, some of the old Big Country shit – ya may not like the band, but the drums sound out of this world. Fucking huge. Bob Clearmountain too, who did a Rezillos album that was hysterical.

THIS: I had heard that on Naked Raygun’s Throb Throb LP, the basic tracks included John Haggerty’s economy-sized guitar being miked down a stairwell … the opening chords to “Rat Patrol” being a perfect example of the aural space I referred to earlier.

IAIN: You can hear it more on the final chords of some of those songs. What that is is the bathroom on the second floor of Chicago Trax, where the basics were recorded. The amp was in a stairwell with a mike in front of it and a mike above it, and there was an open mike in the bathroom, which was at the head of the stairwell, and when the guitar cuts out at the end, all the decay that you hear past him muting the chord is all from the bathroom. That was a cool thing, and accidental.

THIS: Aw come on. It’s not accidental when you come up with the idea of ‘lets mike this down a flight of stairs,” and it turns out like it did…

IAIN: Well, the room was the size of this living room  (picture NW Chicago bungaloid-sized living room) and there was no possible way you could put the rest of the band and John in the same room, so it was more of a like, “what are we gonna do with it?’.   The placement of the amp was more of an isolation thing, whereas the placement of the bathroom mike was one of those oddball things like, “Hey, lets stick one here.” I miked a toilet bowl once for a lead guitar solo.

THIS: Who? Which one? Wha?

IAIN: At Hedden West we put the amp in this little closet space, a little bathroom, again for isolation cause the guy was so loud … so I thought, “Fuck it, just stick the mike in the toilet bowl.”

THIS: Now hold it, which band? Who?

IAIN: (laughing) Aw, I don’t remember. Some rock and roll thing in the seventies I suppose … Toilet Bowl Guitar …

THIS: So it turns out that particular stunt on Throb Throb, which was one of the first and most powerful aural impressions I heard from that LP, was at least half accident?

IAIN: Oh sure, a lot of it is halfass. The classic example of the “accident” was “Passing Complexion” off of (Big Black’s) Atomizer. That was completely by accident, Santiago’s guitar with idiotic high harmonizer on it, bouncing along on the top of the guitar line. That was when I plugged something in the patch bay in the wrong place (laughing) and all of a sudden, Santiago’s guitar goes screaming through this harmonizer at like, full volume. All of us keel over and Steve (Albini) goes, “Don’t move it. It’s great.” And there it was, all from plugging something in wrong.

THIS: What are your thoughts on the fact that everybody and their brother is lining up for an lain Burgess Production? For instance, why do both God’s Acre and Tar feel they need to make albums with you? Do you view yourself as a potential connection in approach between bands that are as different as the two I mentioned?

IAIN: Well, I don’t think that it really is that a band come together and says, “Yeah, we gotta get this guy.” Tar came about because I knew John Mohr (singer/guitarist) from old Blatant Dissent days. And the God’s Acre thing .. .I had talked to Peter (Haupt) god, four or flve times over the past couple of years about doing something and it only happened now because their new drummer, Brenden, had worked with me before.  I don’t know. A lot of people I’ve worked with the last couple of years, I’ve worked with for the first time, but there are a lot of people I’ve known for a long time. A lot of work I do is really related to friendships and that sort of thing over a long period of time. Personnel in bands change, a lot of people here in town will go from one band to another, and there aren’t too many altematives I suppose. I mean, there’s a lot of studios and-guys working them, but Steve (Albini) is the only other one in town that) producing and engineering. I mean, a Phil Bonnet (Service, Watchmen, Precious Wax Drippings,) definitely deserves his rightful place in the scheme of things, but since he’s working in the suburbs, probably longer than I realize, although I’ve never met him…

(It was at this point the tape ran out and I discovered that Panasonic Corporation’s design corps failed to build a “The Tape Has Run Out” click into their otherwise extra kickass microcassette recorder.)

THIS: What was the first Chicago band you worked with that relates to the kind of music you specialize in today?

IAIN: Sport of Kings. Thermidor (long defunct label) did the EP, the first single they did themselves, ’80 or ‘8Lthen through Lou, their guitar player, I met Al (Jourgenson,) and did the first Ministry thing (“Cold Life”) which went over pretty big and is basically ancient history at this point.

THIS: Who haven’t you worked with here in the US that you would pick up the phone for?

IAIN: I always wanted to work with Die Kreuzen. We talked about working together for like three years and it never happened for one reason or another. Well, plus they’ve got Butch Vig, who is another person I’ve never met and we’re leaving out of this conversation, who has done a shitload of really good stuff (Laughing Hyenas, Killdozer.)  I always wanted to work with them, and every time they came to town I would talk to Keith about it..but obviously they were working with someone they liked and I it never happened, which is kind of disappointing, I always wanted the chance to work for them. It would have been I really fun to work on some of the old Effigies stuff when I Earl and the boys were still together. I didn’t know them I very well then, and I’d see John (Kezdy) once in a while, but I didn’t know him as well as I knew some other people. I’d like to work with Rey (Washem. Ex-Big Boys/I Scratch Acid / Rapeman current Helios Creed drummer.) As temperamental as Rey can be, he’s a fucking superb drummer, and to date I don’t think I’ve ever heard his drum kit recorded properly. That’s not saying that I can do it and somebody else can’t, it would be a challenge. I know the name of the band he’s playing with, but I haven’t heard them, so I don’t know what they’re like. Just as a player, Rey is really difficult to record, and he’s really really picky about how stuff sounds, but it would be interested to get a shot at working with him at some point.

THIS: Why is he really difficult to record? He seems to be one of the most consistent hitters as far as SMACKING the drums loudly and consistently…

IAIN: He’s just incredible, and he has a tremendous dynamic range in what he plays, from real soft to like…flying loud, in the space of one breath. And that’s a I tricky thing. It’s like a guy with three stacks of Marshalls , right? You know, three hundred watt heads sitting on top and the guy hits a big barre chord, and its like … wow. How am I supposed to translate that through microphones into a recording console and onto tape, and still have the guy walk into the control room and say, “Yeah, that’s what I hear out there.”  It’s tough. The closest I’ve ever come, at least in terms of that HUGE thing, is probably with John (Haggerty, ex-Naked Raygun guitarist)…he and I got pretty damn close. At one point, we had really worked  together enough where he would just plug in, I would put the mikes up and it would go straight to tape with almost no EQ. A lot of that Naked Raygun stuff has no EQ on the ! guitar at all, it was just a case of the guy having THE fucking sound. Translated beautifully, and that’s rare. Amazing too, because his shit (guitar amp rig) was always falling apart.

THIS: You moved to the states in … ?

IAIN: 1965

THIS: And to Chicago?

IAIN: Middle ’70s sometime…

THIS: What made you seek out the music that wasn’t being marketed, the more subterranean bands or clubs?

IAIN: Again, purely by accident just like being hired by CRC was purely by accident. Sport of Kings were doing a single with another engineer, who was basically saying,  “This is complete shit. I don’t want to do this anymore, fuck off. The guitars are too distorted, too this, too that..” which still happens today, you get the same story.  These I guys came out to talk to me because I was assigned them by the studio. And I didn’t care about them playing loud, l or using a Roland drum machine saying, “Okay, we’ve got I seven guitar amps, and this Shure Vocalmaster PA, and we want you to run the kick drum through this bass amp and mike everything separately,” and I was like, “Yeah, okay. Why not?” I didn’t have any problems with this. And I’ve never understood why other producers or engineers do, other than the fact that they don’t like the music.

THIS: Given that the period between ’82 – ’86 contained the bulk of your best work, and was what many say was the most prolific time for a genre of midwestern music that was fairly closely connected, what are your thoughts on the observation that ~ a group, the output has died down? What are your thoughts on the possibility of another peak in activity?

IAIN: I don’t know about a peak in activity .. .! don’t really see it to be honest.

THIS: How come?

IAIN: There’s … there’s just not things like that around anymore, not that whole group of people. That group has now spent a lot of time dealing with labels, years of dealing with indie labels and getting nowhere, and never I’ making any money at it. and realizing, “My god, I’m 27. Maybe I should think about doing something else.” And a lot of people have done just that.

THIS: Do you find that any of the musicians that you have to do with who are 21 – 22 now are of the caliber of the bands that were that age four or five years ago? I mean, I know you are working with younger bands.

IAIN: Yeah, there is a whole new set of bands to do with me. The Bhopal Stiffs (now defunct – eds.,) the Poster Children, Tar, the Defoliants .. .it’s unfair to say there’s nothing. What I’m thinking about in terms of the stuff around Big Black and Raygun and Breaking Circus and Riflesport, some of which is still going, I’m not sure that there’s the same sort of…! dunno if camaraderie is the right word, but you know what I mean. A lot of the people are still around and dabbling one form or another, but it’s not quite the same, and I don’t really know why. If you said it was because there aren’t any good bands, the answer to that is no, because there are lots of them, good ones. It’s just a personal thing I guess. It’s hard to answer that. There’s just a different feel about this time period, compare to the on that you mentioned which is different And I’m not saying that it’s better or worse. That time period was the peaking of a lot of those people and those bands, after their initial bands and forays into the local circuit I think what we’re in now is sort of an upswing again, with younger bands and stuff, having done their first gigs and first small tours and first records, and having everything more figured out. There’s a potential peak, sure, in the next twelve months or so. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

THIS: And you say you’ll still be a part of it.

IAIN: Yeah, where I live doesn’t make any difference. It’~ like I was talking to Steve (Albini) the other day and he was saying, “Well, why not? You’re living here and l working in Europe, why not live there and work here?”

THIS: Relating to your European move, who are you going to be primarily hooked up with? I know about Angry Fish (West Berlin) and Vinyl Solution.

IAIN: Yeah, them and a guy named Mario in Italy, and I just hooked up with a band in Paris who wants me to do a band in France but there’s a core group of people that I’m already working for in Europe :hid I hope to expand that as much as I can.

THIS: Even though some of them are French, you’re getting along with them?

IAIN: Oh yeah, I get along with people, not much problem with that. What I’m hoping to do is to continue contacts here and continue working with the same people I am now, and try to come back home a month at a crack … and do like two or three projects. It’s going to be a little hard to coordinate.

THIS: You could always go the Martin Hannet route.

IAIN: Be a heroin. addict? Yeah, I could do that.

THIS: Well, just have yourself flown in and propped in front of the board …

IAIN: Nah, I’m not rich enough to be able to pay my own airfare all over the world, but if I could get a month’s work back home … what I hope to do is, if there’s something like airfare involved, is to split the cost with the bands. Like if there’s three projects here, we split it four ways. That’s the fairest thing I can think of without going broke.

THIS: Speaking of bands in Europe, are there any groupings, or movements, or regions that perhaps could be analogous to the Midwest in the middle ’80s that you might be in the middle of?

IAIN: Yeah, there is a little bit of one, it’s centered a bit about bands like Mega City Four, that are doing this sort of hard driving, what people would call pop I suppose.  There are a group of bands doing that sort of stuff, and there are a couple that I’m going to work with. One’s a band called Prefect Days from London and a bands callediJoyce McKinney … so yeah, there is a little “thing” going on at the moment, and Mega City Four are probably at the top at least at the moment..mostly because they just tour their asses off.

THIS: So they’re all English?

IAIN: Yeah.

TIDS: Europe has been going through some intense shit lately …

IAIN: The big thing is the changes in the East Bloc. There are good bands there. I heard a tape of a record that a friend of mine bought, a blank record with no credits or anything, just a cover, in Poland. The production on it was outrageous, sort of a fast speed metal thing …it was fucking outrageous. I don’t know who did it but I’d sure like to find out. That’s a whole different thing. Being based in Berlin, this is going-to be one of the exciting things for me personally. Now there’s going to be the opportunity to work in places where no one has ever been before …

THIS: Places where Western music has been non-existent from the word go.

IAIN: And a lot of the bigger guys aren’t going to be· interested in doing it because there’s no money in it, it’s not big time, and it’s not real popular. I don’t give a fuck. If somebody calls me and says, “Can you go to Warsaw for two weeks? But we have to pay you in Zlotees … ” I mean,.its gonna be a bit dodgy but I’ll fuckin get on a train and go tomorrow … that’s just the way I .

THIS: Have you wanted to tailor yourself as the antithesis to the L.A. poodle haircut/coke mirror school or…

IAIN: Nah, I just am. There’s nothing I can do about it. If I tried to do it, I’d be a dismal failure and just look really stupid doing it. If I ever looked like that, I think I’d be laughed out of town. I’m just hopeless at it. All that stuff…self-promotion, money, business…utterly useless. If I have to deal with like … a major label, I’d have to hire somebody.

THIS: What size satin jacket do you wear?

IAIN: I don’t know. (laughing)

THIS: More studio stories!

IAIN: There’s a guitar slide on a Naked Raygun song that’s Pierre (Kezdy, bassist) in the control room going “bvvvvvv” with his mouth …

TIDS: Which one?

IAIN: I have no idea, I can’t remember (Pierre says it was “I Remember.”) We forgot it.  We were in the middle of the mix and we were about to drop it onto quarter-inch and somebody says, “Fuck, we forgot the guitar slide.” And we didn’t have a guitar and amp in the studio so Pierre says, “Right, I’ll do it.”

THIS: Unreal.

IAIN: On Racer-X (Big Black’s third EP,) Steve is talking into a small kid’s toy with a microphone that records your voice and then plays it back on one of those cheesy little disks on top, like a handheld turntable. That was pretty funny. On “Dad” on the Didjits record, Rick is singing through the pickups of his guitar, kinda holding it in front of his face. That was pretty hysterical …

TIDS: What about before you moved to the states? What were you listening to then?

IAIN: Oh god, all the electronic shit, I still have some of it.  All the old Tangerine Dream stuff…

TIDS: Oh dear.

IAIN: Old Kraftwerk, the really ancient shit, before Autobahn, long before they got popular, like ’71 or ’72. The old Power Station album, Ralph and Florian…really crazed shit. Nobody ever bought it, 1 think I was the only person in my town who ever bought that shit.

02
Jan
10

I Can’t Laugh, And I Can’t Sing, I’m Finding It Hard To Do Anything

Let us be thankful that the nonstop cavalcade of absurdity that is life in these United States remains in full effect in the new decade, available with only a click of the remote.

Like tonight: A quick perusal of TV offerings uncovered a Barry Manilow special, wherein the 67 year old popular troubador favored Chicago’s channel 11 viewers with a medley of his hits, his face frozen in a wide-eyed expression of…glee? For song after song, Barry maintained a childlike surprise that eventually became terrifying.

That’s because, as I managed to figure out eventually, Barry can’t stop. His cosmetic surgery work has stretched his facial skin to a drum-like tension, permanently fixing his visage in a bright, cheerful mask of abject fucking horror, impervious to any eventuality.

“Barry, your gig in Dubai has been canceled.”

“Barry, your accountant has embezzled all your money. You’re penniless.”


“Barry, I’m sorry, the biopsy found cancer”


Confidential to the Los Angeles, CA elective surgery industry: Stop. Just…stop. For fuck’s sake. Please.




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Email

rob [at] warmowski [dot] com

@warmowski on twitter

Rob’s Bands

Rob Warmowski entry at Chicago Punk Database
1984-89: Defoliants
1991-94: Buzzmuscle
2001-05: San Andreas Fault
2008- : Sirs
2008- : Allende

Rob at Huffington Post

July 2020
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