Nice interviews to read

Started by SueC, June 27, 2021, 12:49:35

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QuoteGlen: I'd seen pictures of Blondie, and they weren't scabby old punk rockers, they had a bit of style to them, they had that pop thing going on. I think the first time I met Clem was when I did that one-off gig with Sid (Vicious) at the Electric Ballroom. Blondie had turned up en masse and, Clem tells me, Marc Bolan was there. I do remember Phil Lynott being there... When you're in a band your paths kind of cross and you gravitate to people you get on with, so I suppose me being a bass player and him being a drummer there's some kind of affinity there.

And Clem, when did you first become aware of Glen's work?

Clem: I tried to get Glen in a band with me, back in the seventies, that I was trying to put together with Eric Faulkner [of the Bay City Rollers] and Paul Weller [then of The Jam]. It was kind of a pipe dream. We had that bit of a lay-off with Blondie at the time, and even though we were so successful I was still trying to get something else going, just to keep playing, and that's been my MO ever since. I'm not exactly sure what happened with that band, but I know we spent a lot of afternoons in The Roebuck on the King's Road.

While arguments persist about who invented what, there were always distinct differences between the UK and US punk scenes. I spoke with Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible recently, and they were saying how when The Damned first played CBGB in the spring of 1977, the New York bands were utterly appalled by what drunken louts they were.

Glen: The first time I went to New York I was playing with Iggy Pop and we headlined the Palladium on Halloween, with The Cramps supporting us, and I did like a brown ale back then. Iggy Pop felt much the same way as they did about The Damned, and read me the riot act: "The American people will not stand for this kind of behaviour..." You know, Iggy Pop telling me off, can you imagine? It was probably because I was winding him up about getting on a bit.

Clem: I saw The Damned at the Starwood in LA on that tour, actually. They were great. That was at the point when Jake Riviera [Stiff Records co-founder who signed The Damned to the label in '76] was getting up on stage and haranguing the audience, disparaging the whole thing, Rat set the cymbals on fire and Captain was running around in a tutu.

Punk's longevity never ceases to amaze. But when the word 'punk' was being bandied about in the early days of Blondie and the Pistols, I imagine you were both thinking: "Fair enough, just a passing press thing that'll pass in a couple of months", rather than: "I'll still be talking about this shit in forty-seven years' time to some bloke in Colchester."

Clem: Well, neither one of us would ever have called ourselves punks prior to the word being used in the vernacular to describe a certain kind of music. I mean, the New York scene was more like beatniks. Debbie and Chris were beatniks, and even Iggy Pop. But when Punk magazine started, people got behind it in New York.

But punk rock in pop was not something I thought of as a new phenomenon. I'm pretty sure The Sonics and Stooges had already been called punk, probably by Lester Bangs. I remember [the MC5's] Wayne Kramer had just gotten out of prison, and they were saying he was one of the seminal influences on punk rock, but the last thing that he wanted to be called was a 'punk', because in prison it means something completely different. So he was like: "What do you mean they're calling me a punk now?"

So first it was a label for a specific kind of music, but now it's a catch-all catchphrase used to describe a do-it-yourself lifestyle, a certain ethic. I think there's a lot of positive aspects to existing under that umbrella of punk in a lot of ways, but I don't think that we ever went around calling ourselves punks.

Glen: No. As for my band, we weren't punks, we were the Sex Pistols. To me, punks were the bands who came along after on our coat-tails. But a name sticks. In England it was Sounds' Jonh Ingham and Melody Maker's Caroline Coon who came up with the term. We'd never heard it before. It just appeared in the Melody Maker and people adopted it.

One thing that seemed analogous between Blondie and the Sex Pistols was a direct line to the sixties: a combination of Brill Building teen angst and short, sharp, snappy, aggressive music, very reminiscent of mod. The first time I heard the Sex Pistols I heard a mod band.

Clem: Yeah, a bit like The Who. That would have been my reaction as well: stylish, young, aggressive music. I mean, The Who were really the first punk-rock band. But the so-called punk scene couldn't really be defined by one word. When I first came over here, the UK scene reflected what was happening at CBGB in that all the bands were so different: Dr Feelgood, Eddie & The Hot Rods, The Stranglers, all different.

All they had in common was that they were the opposite of what was happening in the mainstream. Ultimately, they weren't Rick Wakeman. Add to that a bit of posing and a bit of fun... But who would have thought that we'd still be here now? The next major thing that happened as far as changing the approach to rock'n' roll was grunge.
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QuoteIn a recent interview with the BBC, the guitarist refused to discuss the meanings behind the singer's words on the latest record, insisting, "Mick writes the lyrics. ... But he's got some angst in him, and I said, 'Well, let's use it.' From my point of view, the essential thing about making a record is that the singer has to want to sing the material. Mick, given a song that he's not interested in, can really make it bad. And that's maybe one of the reasons it took 18 years because Mick's waves of enthusiasm come and go."

Richards also praised Jagger's insistence that the band began work on the record as soon as the Stones completed their last tour. "He hit me in the right spot," the guitarist said. "I've always wanted to record the band as soon after we get off of the road because the band is lubricated."
Read More: Keith Richards on Why Mick Jagger Makes Some Songs 'Really Bad' |
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QuoteThe Pretenders frontwoman and punk pioneer takes questions from Observer readers and famous fans on her relentless creativity spanning half a century, rethinking her hippy youth, and her cruelty-free farm

This interview took place in a photo studio in Islington last week in a break from a touring schedule that has taken in 50 gigs already this year, some in intimate clubs, some at stadiums as special guests of Guns N' Roses. In a couple of weeks the band will head to the States for more of the same. Hynde is no great lover of the business of album promotion or journalist's questions (as she once admitted to the Observer: "I can't be arsed usually and it doesn't help that I'm not a show-off... OK, on stage I am, but only on stage").

We live in a time when protest is being restricted but – with a climate and biodiversity emergency – is more important than ever before. Still, there is a dearth of protest singers. Is it time for songwriters to put pop to one side and to pick up their pens with more purpose?

I don't think songwriters should do anything except what they want to do. Which is express themselves. It's good for people to protest, but everyone knows what the problems are. What we need are solutions. That is what the ahimsa farm is about, trying to set examples of what could be done. Do I think people should pick up a guitar and sing about it? Well, you know, Masters of War was a great protest song – but I'm not Bob Dylan. The thing with art is that it's personal to you, it's self-expression.

The standout track from the Pretenders' first album is the epic Lovers of Today. In its last line you sing that you'll never feel like a man in a man's world – is the music industry still a man's world and have you ever felt like a man in it?

Have I ever felt like a man? No. When I was 17, I read Charlie Mingus's autobiography. He described this island, this colourless island, where musicians and artists lived. And that's how I've always thought of it. Writing music is not about gender, race, or any belief system, none of that sort of thing. I have been asked hundreds of times over the years, especially by female journalists, if I had to work harder because I was a woman. Or I had to fight more. But the truth is, I actually feel I was probably given more credit than I was due, because I was a novelty. I was a girl doing this.
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QuoteTanya Donelly takes pride in her creative achievements over the last three decades.

The singer-songwriter-guitarist helped launch three seminal alternative rock bands—Throwing Muses, The Breeders, and Belly — the last two within only two years of each other.

With Throwing Muses, she became the first American act signed by the legendary British label 4AD.

With Belly, the ethereal-voiced singer achieved two alternative Top 10 singles: "Gepetto" and the chart-topper "Feed the Tree."

"We had a strange trajectory toward the end of The Breeders because, for instance, all of the songs that ended up being on Star, Belly's first album, were slated for the second Breeders album.

But then Kim went on tour, so I did the Belly thing. When Star and Last Splash came out within months of each other, it was like we were playing side by side. There was just something so celebratory about the fact that Kim and I both got to do our thing and that it worked out so beautifully separately. It was wonderful for both of us."

48 HILLS: There were so many strong women-fronted rock bands in the '90s, including Belly. How did it feel to be part of this feminist wave?

TANYA DONELLY: "It means everything to me, and at the time that it was happening, we were aware that there were a lot of very talented women who were picking up instruments and writing songs and singing.

At some early stage of Throwing Muses, Kristin Hersh and I felt we couldn't address the "What's it like to be a woman in rock?" question because we just felt like, "What do you mean? Everything we'd ever listened to involved women."

But it was really in post that I started to see that what happened in the late '80s and early '90s was unprecedented in terms of female musicianship. Not just singers and songwriters—there were also many strong, undeniable female musicians. It felt different and exciting.

I didn't fully appreciate it until younger women started coming to me to say, "You, Kristin, and Kim are the reason I started playing." I have to stare at the ceiling to try not to cry because it moves me every time. That's genuinely one of the most gratifying parts of this. It's an overwhelming gift to have somebody say that to you."
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Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) talking about his book:

QuoteWriting was essential to my own creative impulse. I always give it equal value to music.

And so I always harbored a frustrated desire to be a writer, and be recognized as such. And to have books of my own exist in any kind of bookstore, whether it's independent or corporate. The fact that this book will come out, and possibly be in a window or two, is very exciting for me. Because books and records were always such artful objects. That's why I've amassed such a library over the years. To the point of realizing I don't have enough days in my life to actually get through all the books I own, let alone listen to the music I've acquired on every single medium, be it cassette or CD or vinyl. That makes me ask myself why I don't get rid of it all, and be spartan and Buddhist, and just enjoy the sound of birdsongs and get over it. But I love these artful documents that people use in exchange and sharing of knowledge and information. I feel comfortable in that kind of world.

For me, meditation is spending hours going through dusty old bookstores and record stores. Of course a lot of those things have gone missing in the last couple of decades. It's funny— just before you called, I was reading about Bandcamp being sold to a corporatized company, and all these workers being laid off. It's been such a good forum for music, the kind that didn't necessitate any PR for those who couldn't afford it. Now the fear is that day is gone. It was the only online music sharing I had any interest in. It makes me ask: "Now what?"


It's like New York City for me, living there for 30 years. Each generation I would meet was like: "Oh, you should have seen this city in the '60s. Or the '50s. I was like: "Yeah, I would have liked to." My experience was the mid '70s onwards. And even musicians I would meet in the '90s would talk about missing out on the "good old days." I'd tell them not to wish for something you didn't have.

The thing about the "good old days" is they show up at any given time. I initially wanted to not only write about the history of Sonic Youth, but also my history as a young person coming to New York, and connecting it to these other musicians, and how we connected with these subcultures.

Punk rock was always sort of a dark genre. At the same time, it was an extremely liberated forum for whatever activism you felt politically. The only thing it kicked against was fascism. So any kind of Nazi iconography that would come in would make you wonder: "Are they embracing that just to make a statement of absurdity?" Then everybody turned against it. It was abhorrent initially, but also almost comical. When you look back now though, it's just completely and terribly embarrassing. Because these children were playing around with really dangerous motifs. I think the whole idea early on was to play with danger. So Sid Vicious was being the lunk headed teenager, going "Oh, I'm wearing a swastika. Yay! I'm being stupid." But it defies explanation, because it's nothing but a reference to human degradation.

So I wanted to make this kind of art rock, but with a punk energy. Intellectualized music that was also really raw and primal. I thought Sonic Youth could be this balance between the two. I don't know if Kim, Lee [Ranaldo], or Steve [Shelley] felt the same way, but I think they were okay with letting me try to realize a lot of that. They'd always respond well to Minor Threat or Black Flag. But I think my interests were always very dominant in the group. We didn't really have a leader, we'd always considered ourselves a Sonic Democracy. But as far as the balance between art rock and hardcore, I was pushing for that. And I didn't find myself meeting any kind of resistance from the other members. I think everybody was just happy to be in this thing that was charging forward.

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