CHRIS BAILEY: You can go out any night of the week and see 50 different bands anywhere. I saw that on the Tele in the hotel–I thought that was astonishing. But is it really true?
AD: I think it’s probably true. I don’t know that you would want to go see all 50 of them.
CB: Ah, so you’ve got 50 acts on any given night playing in skuzzy bars for absolutely no money. And that’s fabulous.
PETER WILKINSON: I can imagine that in New York or Mexico City you can see 50 bands on any given night.
AD: Well that’s actually a moniker the City Council put together.
CB: In conjunction with the music business. In all my tenure in show business, the music industry has been the death of music. The combination of the music industry and business has bands playing in every club every night and the City Council gives it their blessing, Jesus that sounds like shite on toast to me. But hell if that’s what gets tourists here. Because you know it’s a friendly town, and I think it’s quite a beautiful town, by certain standards. Where they built that little amphitheater downtown is a gorgeous little oasis and the old school architecture here before the advent of the high rise. If 50 bands a night is how you maintain a relatively attractive city then go for it.
AD: You guys recorded and distributed (I’m) Stranded in the mid-70s on your own label.
CB: That’s because we didn’t live in Austin and couldn’t get a record deal. We weren’t part of the music industry.
AD: What do you guys think of the changing music business?
CB: Since ancient history, we’ve managed to maintain a lot of different variations of the same basic philosophy even though we wouldn’t be here playing today if we weren’t signed to a record label that subsidized us to come here and do this stuff. To be in that rock and roll world there is that fine balance between having an idea that you think is good and you want to maintain and walking the corporate balance. And we certainly have walked that tightrope many times and been on that roller coaster. The rope really does swing a lot.
AD: What do you think about the revolution now with bands releasing their own material?
CB: Fan-f**king-tastic. I’ll tell you what, if you’ve got enough money to get yourself into the techno revolution, if you can afford a computer, I think that’s brilliant. When I was a kid you needed thousands of dollars/pounds/whatever you would use to go into a studio. These days it’s just been diminished. It’s still an organic challenge to make it work but you may not need a huge marketing machine. It’s almost the dinosaur argument: sign with the label and get paid. Well I’ve been with major labels, and buggery, you still don’t get paid. It’s funny, that. Rockers today are more similar to when I was a kid where you just did it yourself. You put together $500 to make your own record and send it out. How difficult is it to send out a promo single? You have to know how to get to the post office. When I was a kid, that’s all we did. We went to the post office and sent off our records. And some record people thought that was really groovy and some thought that was “wow” and then a corporation comes in and thinks, “We can market this thing”, and then you get into the area of consultants and people who make commissions and are cleverer than you are. In my humble life it’s been: you make this much money, it’s going to cost you that much; if you are going to get involved with this corporation, it’s going to cost twice as much. You prove yourself on the record or on the stage. And the big thing that has changed is you can do this on your own. You won’t be the best producer ever but you can get half way there. It’s still the same, you have to have a good idea and the medium doesn’t f**king matter. I don’t care what people use to make good noise, whether it’s the Disney-world-hip-hop-yo-f**king-rap-crap-and that has gone to black Disney through white Disney– pop music is exactly the same as it’s ever been. And what will touch someone’s heart, is a good idea. If it’s a good song, good melody, whether it’s born again Christian, death metal, Norwegian f**king heavy metal, metal, pop music, it doesn’t matter anymore. It’s the world of overkill and generic versions of every f**king art form that has been around for the past 150 years. But if you hear something that comes from the heart, it will click. That’s not just in America. There are other countries in the world. Hell, I don’t f**king know.
PW: Stop swearing on the radio.
CB: It’s not the radio, it’s a cigarette lighter.
Casper Wijnberg: it’s not a cigarette lighter.
CB: I thought it was a cigarette lighter. Is that not a cigarette lighter?
AD: It’s actually a recorder.
CB: But it’s sitting on top of a cigarette packet.
AD: You could probably record an album on it.
PW: Really? Should we steal this thing, then?
AD: We transcribe this word for word.
CB: Wow, that’s even better than the United Nations. We were watching some show the other night with some guy Greg something or other. “Truth, Justice and All that Stuff” is how they started off this silly news program. You know John Stewart is a comedian and he’s on TV and he’s brilliant. So there is a right wing version of John Stewart that we weren’t aware of.
AD: Does he yell a lot?
CB: He yells enormously.
AD: We thought it was a joke.
CB: That’s what I thought at first. It’s not a joke. It’s rather shocking. He was getting all excited about GI Joe. He’s talking about a plastic doll and getting all excited about how he isn’t sacred anymore. That GI Joe was an American hero and he’s not sacred anymore.
CW: The line is from Superman: “Truth, Justice and the American Way”. They took out the American way and put in “All that Stuff” to make it more international.
PW: They should have taken out the “Truth, Justice”.
CB: It was scary. He said, “We’re teaching our children to hate America.” He was very upset.
CW: Stop getting down on America, man
AD: How do you feel about America?
PW: I love it. If I could get a Green Card I would be here in a shot.
CB: America is 14 different countries. The United States of America doesn’t exist. It’s an illusion that you see on television. If you travel around America it’s several different countries within a confederation.
PW: They have their own flag in each state. What the hell is that about?
CB: Peter, Essex has their own flag.
PW: Although I grew up in Amsterdam, I am actually an American. I was born in Amsterdam but grew up on American culture. All of our TVs are American, our music is American and we drink Coca Cola and drive to McDonalds. That’s all lovely, lovely but it’s not, actually.
AD: America does have a way of creeping into other countries.
CB: That’s the name of our record: Imperious Delirium. It has something to do with that.
AD: I’m curious, Delirium, that’s the first record you made as a trio, right?
PW: It’s the second one, actually. We did a kind of sort of record with the three of us straight before Nothing is Straight (In My House).
CB: I don’t think anyone was straight then.
AD: How was that different than the previous quartet?
PW: Well, Chris played guitar and he usurped every other guitar player that has ever been in the band apart from Jimmy Paige who was on the first Saints record.
CB: The best part about it was that I got to eat and drink more than everybody else.
PW: When you make Chris work, things happen. It’s really cool.
AD: How did using a trio affect your approach to writing?
CB: That is a good question. That’s the first good question we’ve had all week. It didn’t really affect the writing process at all. It just meant I didn’t have to deal with the wanker guitar player when it came time to work.
CW: A really good question and a really bad answer.
AD: That was a bit of a let down.
CB: The writing process is very solitary. And there was this whole jump between the writing process and then going into the factory. The recording studio has always been to me, a factory. You walk in, with a bunch of guys-there’s nothing on the tape–and you try to inspire them with an idea. In the writing stage, it’s the empty page, you try to get in touch with some cosmos phase and hope a good idea arrives. Or it doesn’t. The whole process of making a record is the two stage thing: it’s the idea and it’s the execution. I’ve always believed you need to be somewhat prepared but then you are required to have a certain amount of inspiration and what I call, “The beautiful mistake.” And that’s what makes recording fabulous. You can be pre-planned, you can write things out, but often times the best recordings happen when there is a beautiful mistake. Or the beautiful interaction that just makes magic come on to the tape recorder.
CW: You’ll hear on the record, what we use is the first time we ever get it right. I’ll record everything and what we get is all the energy, all the mistakes, but we actually got through the whole song. That’s what we put on the record.
PW: The more you work it, the worse it gets.
CB: I do believe the Germans call it, “gestalt”.
AD: Technology has changed dramatically over the past few years. Do you think technology makes it easier to get those magical moments you are talking about or harder? Or does it not really make a difference?
CB: It’s exactly the same. We are still fresh playing, recording the whole song, and then stopping it at the end. It doesn’t matter what the medium is. Recording art is relatively new all the digital world is giving you is the ability to duplicate it.
CW: The only difference is that if you record to hard drive you don’t have to rewind the tape. If you fuck up, you can just stop and start again without the three minutes of rewinding.
PW: That’s somewhat demystifying process.
AD: Do you guys do your own editing?
CW: I do the engineering.
PW: We met Casper recording our Spit the Blues Out album–he was our engineer–and we knew then that he had to be our girlfriend. And then he became our girlfriend. He actually wrote the score for the Flying Scotsman back in the 30s. It’s true; it’s a true story. He’s actually 63. He takes steroids.
AD: Chris, you’ve seen the punk scene change so much. What do you think the difference is with the artists and music?
CB: I pay absolutely no attention.
PW: He hates music. He doesn’t listen to anything. I try and drag him to lots of shows and he won’t come. He won’t come out with us.
AD: None of you grew up in America but you have a lot of American influences. How did those influences reach you?
PW: Well he’s (Chris) a massive Mingus fan; Otis Redding and all those guys. I’m a huge Muddy Waters fan; Chuck Barry. Your country invented rock and roll, our country invented pop music. That’s a simplification of course but that’s what it’s about really.
AD: Were you exposed to radio, or records?
CB: When I was a lad we did have the Vietnam War and at the time we lived in Australia. There was a particular record shop in Brisbane where the servicemen would take their records and sell them to get more heroin through their R and R period. And it was fabulous. I could get John Hooker records, Lou Reed records-all the blues stuff I was interested in and it was all there for 50 cents. I came from a music family, not a playing family but a listening family, so my father gave me a great education in traditional Irish music. My older sisters liked Elvis and the Beatles. So I had a well rounded musical education when I was a little pup. And I’m not that freaking old, there was television.
AD: What about getting gear?
CB: Well, they were American servicemen so there was heroin; cocaine. There was a ton of gear it was really easy. Just walk up to a serviceman and ask him, “Got any gear?” Can I turn this around and ask you a question?
CB: I never wanted to do a trio, but I have to say, I’ve had the most fun I’ve ever had in the past two years. I find it easier as a singer to exist in that world. And even though I love having nine mad f**king Irishmen play blues and banjos behind my voice there is something very simple and pure about just the guitar, bass and drums. Do you think it’s enough?
AD: I think Jimmy Hendrix would say yes. What lies ahead for you guys?
CW: We’re going to my home and recording a record there. And then we are going to tour the world again and again.
CB: If we continue to follow the bouncing singer, I think it will be the same as it ever was.