Joanna Newsom

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Smoosh Interview

     Photo: Danna Kinsky

*Noise Pop Special Report*
Bands are getting younger and younger these days. Smoosh is two sisters from Seattle who are ten and twelve years old. Their names are Asya and Chloe. With their combined ages, they are still younger than Joanna Newsom. The music is just as amazing. Asya sings and plays keyboards. Chloe plays drums. ROCKRGRL talks about Smoosh in this way: "Imagine a stripped-down version of the first side of Pet Sounds (before Brian Wilson gets cynical) and you have some clue to Smoosh's sound. Musically they more than hold their own." Their effortless talent and imagination is astounding. This is a band that relies on instinct and plays music because it is fun. They are unaffected by the demands of indie cool. They are precocious and make most bands look lazy and contrived.

The music of Smoosh seems to be a quick digest of punk rock, rap music, ballads, and no wave. They are like Kate Bush or Cat Power if they had done a multi-genre record in their pre-teens. Smoosh is living the dream of any teenager who banged on a Casio and had dreams of playing support with Pearl Jam. Not only has Smoosh played with Pearl Jam, Cat Power, but also with Death Cab For Cutie, Sleater-Kinney and Rilo Kiley.

Smoosh started about four years ago, when Chloe's drum teacher, Jason McGerr, the drummer of Death Cab for Cutie, suggested that she start playing along with others, the better to understand the role of the instrument in a rock band. Her sister just happened to have some songs and energy. Years later their demo got around and was played on the radio station KEXP. Soon they were signed to record label Pattern 25. Their album came out in September 2004. I spoke to them on the phone during a lull before touring and recording their second album. I had to call them at 4pm because they didn't get home from school before then.

Their album, She Like Electric is out now. There have been rave reviews in Blender, Tigerbeat, and Alt Press. Their album was The Village Voice's #1 most overlooked record of 2004. Look for the band on the cover of magazines and TV this Spring. They are going to be on CNN with Wolf Blitzer very soon. I spoke to Asya and Chloe right before their big tour with Mates of State and high profile gig at Noise Pop 2005, in San Francisco.

* * * * * *

AL: I bought your CD a few weeks ago, loved it, and that's why I am calling you.
Asya: Thanks.

AL: How long have you been playing together?
Asya: Probably about four years. I have been writing songs all my life. I started when I was about five years old. Chloe got her drum set when she was six. She started to get better and she needed to play with another person. So that was the earliest time we started playing together.

AL: Did you take piano lessons before that?
Asya: No. I never took any piano lessons. I learned to play on my own. But after a while I tried to learn how to read music so I could take lessons. But I quit taking lessons with a teacher after a month each time because it wasn't very fun.

AL: You write all the songs in Smoosh?
Asya: I write all the lyrics and piano parts. After I do that Chloe kind of makes up her drum parts. We both contribute to every song.

AL: What are your songs about?
Asya: I never write songs about a person that I know. That has never happened. I just write about things that are around me. I write about going out and not being afraid to try stuff. That is what the song "Rad" is about. Some songs are sort of sad, like "About A Picture."

AL: Is that just because it's a ballad and it sounds more serious?
Asya: Yeah.

AL: What other bands have you played with?
Asya: Let's see. We have played Pearl Jam, Death Cab For Cutie, and Sleater-Kinney.

AL: I heard that Cat Power was dancing around onstage and lip-synching one of your songs.
Asya: That was last year. She was dancing around to "Rad."

AL: Did you see it?
Asya: No I heard about though.

AL: Did you meet Chan Marshall?
Asya: Yeah. She was pretty cool. She was really nice. I like her.

AL: Where do you live?
Asya: We live in Seattle by the University.

AL: How many shows have you played?
Asya: I don't know. I have never counted.

AL: Maybe twenty.
Asya: Maybe more than that. Probably more than twenty.

AL: Is there some club that you play a lot?
Asya: We like to play at the Showbox. That is our favorite place to play.

AL: At some of those clubs you have to be 21 to go into.
Asya: Yeah. We have played at some bars. We have also played at some all ages clubs. When we play at the adult clubs we have to stay backstage the whole time while the other bands play. At all ages gigs sometimes we stay around a little bit and watch the other bands. We don't stay up too late.

AL: Do you know the Trachtenburg Family? There is a girl in the band and I think she is nine or ten years old now.
Asya: Yeah. We know her. She probably wouldn't remember me. She used to go to the same drum school in Seattle as us.

AL: What do you think of their record?
Asya: They are pretty cool. It's a different style of music. It's not what I would listen to.

AL: There are not a lot of people who have done a record who are your age. Bjork did a folk record in Iceland when she was ten. There is the girl in the Trachtenburg Family. Do you know of other bands?
Asya: Yeah. There is a band called The Black Peppercorns. They are from Oregon. There is a high school band called Capitol Basement.

AL: So you are in the Seventh Grade and Chloe is in Fifth Grade. What do people you go to school with think of the band Smoosh?
Asya: Some people think it is really cool. My friends ask me about it all the time. I try to not talk about it a lot or brag. Some people are not interested and act like they don't care. Some people don't like the band.

AL: They are jealous?
Asya: Yeah. I don't think about it too much.

AL: Do you plan on doing a lot of records?
Asya: Yeah. I want to.

AL: Some people in Junior High might think that since Smoosh already has a CD out, they better start hurrying up and get their own band together.
Asya: Yeah. It's possible.

AL: You have two other younger sisters?
Asya: I have three sisters including Chloe. One is a small baby. The other one plays bass guitar. Her name is Maya.

AL: Does she want to be in the band?
Asya: I think that she wants to be in a band. Maya doesn't always play the bass guitar. She does other things.

AL: You don't write love songs? What's up with that?
Asya: I don't feel comfortable writing about that. Some people might get the wrong idea. We are little kids. If I wrote a song about that people would be asking about it.

AL: You are playing a bunch of West Coast shows with Mates of State. Is this the first tour you done?
Asya: It will be the first real tour. We did play two shows with Rilo Kiley. That wasn't a tour, but that was the end of a longer tour fro them.

AL: Have you played anywhere else besides Seattle?
Asya: We have played in New York and in Los Angeles.

AL: Okay. So I have a few questions for Chloe. (hands phone to Chloe)
Chloe: Hello.

AL: I was reading something about Smoosh in an article. It said that you had a Hilary Duff poster on the wall or something like that. So who do you like better: Hilary Duff or Lindsay Lohan?
Chloe: I am not sure. They are kind of the same. If I had to choose I would probably pick Lindsay.

AL: What do you think of their music?
Chloe: I have never heard Lindsay's music before.

AL: What bands do you like?
Chloe: I like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Death Cab For Cutie, Interpol, Smashing Pumpkins, and Arcade Fire. Bands like that.

AL: Do you like Rap Music? Because some of your songs like "Rad" and "Bottlenose" seem like Rap inspired.
Chloe: I like all types of music except country. I am not a big fan of country.

AL: Why is the song called "Pygmy Motorcycle?"
Chloe: The title has nothing to do with the song. Asya was thinking about a song name after we recorded it. In school they were learning about animals that week. So when the recording guy, Jason, asked what the title of the song was, she said "Pygmy Marmoset." And Jason said "Pygmy Motorcycle? Okay."

AL: Why is this song called "La Pump?"
Chloe: We have a CD by this band called La Pump Group. They are funny. There's a guy with bushy purple hair and this girl. We were so into it that we decided to call our song "La Pump."

AL: What songs do you play live?
Chloe: We play "Massive Cure," "Pygmy Motorcycle," "Make It Through," "About The Picture," "La Pump." We have a new song we call "Rock Song." We don't have a real title for it yet. Our Dad calls it "Rock Song." He wrote it down. Asya said just call it that so we can remember it.

AL: What do you think of Meg White of The White Stripes? Do you like her drumming?
Chloe: Yeah. I like a lot of drummers. My favorite girl drummer would be Janet Weiss from Sleater-Kinney. I like Jason from Death Cab For Cutie. I like the drummer in the Presidents of the United States.

AL: What do you think of George Bush, the real president now?
Chloe: I don't like to be mean but I think that he has some really strange thoughts that are not really good.

AL: What is your favorite part of being in a band?
Chloe: I don't think it's amazing. I think it's normal. It's just want we do. I don't think it's a big deal that we are kids and there are adults playing. All that matters is that you are playing music. It doesn't matter how old you are.

AL: Well, people might go see Death Cab For Cutie or Mates of State, and they don't know Smoosh is opening for that band. They see you and wonder about these two girls who are ten and twelve. They might think it's a curiosity.
Chloe: I don't like it when people are walking around at a show. They see us playing and go "Those are kids!?"

AL: I was listening to a bunch of CDs last night. These are records with no musical talent and the people can't even sing. Smoosh is a lot better than these people who are twice your age. (laughs)
Chloe: Thanks.

AL: So it should matter what age you are. It's all about present the music and having fun.
Chloe: Yeah. If you are not having fun doing music, you shouldn't do it. You shouldn't do it for money either.

AL: How many records do you think you will do?
Chloe: We are getting ready to do our second one. Well, I don't know. I hope that people like our newer songs. There are a lot of bands whose first album is good and they are really popular and then they are not popular anymore.

AL: What do you think you will be doing in twenty years? Do you think that you will still be doing music?
Chloe: I am not sure. I'll be kind of old. I am not sure if our music will be popular anymore.

AL: Do you think about the future?
Chloe: I do. I will still be in a band in ten years. In twenty years I will just be staying around.

AL: Thanks for talking with me.
Chloe: Bye.

w/mates of state
2-19 - Los Angeles, CA - The Knitting Factory
2-22 - Amoeba SF
2-23 - San Francisco, CA - Slim's
2-25 - Portland, OR - Meow Meow
2-26 - Seattle, WA - Chop Suey

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The Secret Machines interview

The Secret Machines
By alexander laurence

They will be playing in LA at the Avalon on Feb 21st, and in Santa Ana at The Galaxy on Feb 20th. Autolux will be supporting them on both shows.

The Secret Machines come from Dallas, Texas. Benjamin Curtis (guitar/vocals), Josh Garza (drums, and Brandon Curtis (vocals, bass) formed the Secret Machines in the summer of 2000. They spent years in the Dallas indie music scene before heading first to Chicago to record. After several months of rehearsals and recording sessions with engineer Brian Deck, the Secret Machines had their first self-made disc. This was handed out at gigs when they arrived in New York a few months later. They landed in Williamsburg in the midst of a creative period. They had to get regular jobs at cafes to survive in the city. Brandon actually worked at The L Café.

The Secret Machines soon created a reputation as one of the best live bands in New York. Ace Fu Records released their Chicago recordings in March of 2002. A track by the band was included on Yes New York, helping them to introduce their music to an even larger audience. Their first full length album, Now Here Is Nowhere, is being released in May 2004. The songs "Sad and Lonely" and "Nowhere Again" are already classics. They came through town on a tour with Blonde Redhead. I got to talk with them in person and on the phone for a while. This is a band to look out for. They have made one of the great records of the year.

AL: This is you first big tour across America. How is it going?

Ben: It's going really well. We are having such a good time. We get along with Blonde Redhead. We are going to tour with them for another month or so. We are playing more and we are getting tighter. We are not so much concerned with playing it right as enjoying ourselves on stage.

AL: Has anything strange happened on this tour?

Ben: It's all been so strange. We got to play a show with Joan Jett, which was pretty far out. Each night has been peculiar. We seem to attract a strange crowd. Each town has its own color. We have had a bunch of crazy nights so far. I can't be more specific.

AL: When you present your music in cities where you have never been before, sometimes you don't know what to expect. People show up and have expectations.

Ben: Yeah. When people see us walking around after the show, sometimes they don't know it was us, because during the show they only saw a silhouette. It's funny. You can actually have a conversation with someone for a long time before they realize that you were the one who was onstage and who they came to see. You can find out what people think before they figure out that you are playing.

AL: Secret Machines has a thing: when you are on stage, you are larger than life, but when you get offstage, you are just regular guys. How did you get together and form the band?

Ben: We were all living in Dallas, Texas. We were all involved in that music scene. It's very small. We kept on running into each other. We all came together at the same time and wanted to take music a little bit more seriously. We started the band.

AL: Had you played in bands before?

Ben: Brandon and Josh played in a band called Captain Audio. Before that Josh was in a band called Comet. Brandon and I played in bands when we were younger. It was Dallas, Texas stuff. I band drums before. These guys wanted me to play guitar with them. I had to go buy a guitar.

AL: Did you ever play shows outside of Dallas?

Ben: Comet did. They were on Dedicated Records. They were a big indie rock band. We have all did some touring. But it has mostly been underground. This is the first time that we have peeked our heads above the clouds so to speak. We have done shorter tours with Spiritualized. We have done longer tours with Trail of Dead. We did that a year and a half ago. This is the beginning of what will be a full year of touring. Our record comes out in May 2004. We will be rolling by then. We have been getting a very good response. It's all about supply and demand.

AL: Did you have a musical background?

Ben: Yeah. It's no more musical than any household. There was a piano in the house. Music was around but it wasn't forced down our throats. We both had piano lessons from the time we were small kids.

AL: Does your family come to shows?

Ben: Whenever we play in Texas they do. They are very supportive. Our parents grew up in the 1960s so they are both rock and roll fans. That is what we do.

AL: Was the Secret Machines a band when you left Texas?

Ben: No. The Secret Machines was formed at the same time when we moved away. We never played in Texas as a local band. We just decided to do it when we were traveling. We first decided to go to Chicago and record our first EP.

AL: How did you go about recording that?

Ben: We saved some cash. We drove to Chicago. We recorded it with Brian Deck who was working with Califone. We liked their records a lot at the time. We spent a week in Chicago and hammered it out very quickly.

AL: You didn't have a record label at the time?

Ben: No. We actually gave it away for free when we first moved to New York City. We made them on the way up. We pressed them and just gave them out. We went out all the time. Some people still have it. It's funny. A while later Ace Fu Records decided that they wanted to bring it out as a regular release. Then it came out in Europe. It has had a longer life than we expected.

AL: How do you write songs in the band? Do you always work the same way?

Ben: Yeah. Things usually happen in the rehearsal room. We kick around some ideas. We all bring different things to the table. Every song still ends up sounding like The Secret Machines. We tape a lot of what we do. We listen to things a lot. It is becoming more that way. We are learning how to refine our ideas more. We want to be more concise about what we want to say. That is the direction where we are moving.

AL: When you were making this new album what did you guys want to do? What was the plan?

Ben: We were thinking about what we liked and didn't like about modern music. We were trying to prove that we could make something that we were happy with. We will know in a few years whether it stands the test of time or not. We are pretty confident with the record at the moment.

AL: Did you want to make an album that people could dip into at any point or something that needs to be listened to in its entirety?

Ben: We tried our best to have something that was more immediate, more emotional, more direct and little easier. Granted it is still difficult at times. In many ways it's a lot more concise than the EP was, even though it's longer. We have heard comments like: "You are a good live band, but the records are so-so." We wanted to even off that perception. We wanted to make a record that is intense as a Secret Machines live show is.

AL: Is this album a bunch of live takes then?

Ben: It was all done live. There are overdubs of course. You can't make a record sound like we do when we are live. You are never going to listen to it that loud. You end up doing embellishments and implications of volume. You can create the illusion of more happening than is actually happening. Things sound different at different volumes. You have to compensate for the fact that most people will hear this record at home on their computer or on headphones sitting on a subway train.

AL: What are your songs about generally?

Ben: Usually they are about current things. The songs are as vague as how we are felling at a given time. We never try to make songs topical. We like lyrics that are open to interpretation. We are always playing what we feel at that moment. It's always hard to put it into words, and that is the reason we play music. Music is how we express ourselves. If I could tell you what we are about emotionally, I would be writing books.

AL: How did the Dallas indie scene influence what you are doing?

Ben: The Dallas scene is really good. Dallas is a city that doesn't have the intensity of cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. Those cities are twice as intense. Dallas bands are good and they can play well but there is a certain lack of intensity. We are friends with The Polyphonic Spree for example. They are great and they have this great idea for a band. It's fine. But there is not that extra layer of depth to what they are doing that you have when you have a certain element of uncertainty in your daily life. The problem with some New York bands is that they are too intense and not together. In Dallas there is a level of professionalism and it's easy to get together and practice. There is more space to do your own thing.

AL: Do you like any other bands?

Ben: Spiritualized has been making great records for a long time. I really like Amazing Grace. We have toured with them. We learned a lot from watching them play. I really love The Fiery Furnaces. They are very clever. I haven't heard that in a band in a long time. There is no one writing songs like they do. I like Broken Social Scene. None of this is kicking my ass like any records made in the 1970s. Bands like to recycle the classics over and over again.

AL: You like all the Classic Rock stuff?

Ben: Yeah. We like those records and every point of history. We are not revivalists or anything. There are all the classic records that kids are jamming in the high school parking lot to this day. We like that stuff. We want to make records that kids are playing at their high school parties in twenty years.

AL: Many of those bands like Rush and Aerosmith did a few albums before they hit their stride.

Ben: Right. The record labels developed many of those bands. It's hard to expect greatness from your first record. I hardly know any artist that has made that happen. If it does happen, that doesn't bode well for the rest of their career. That is what history has shown. Hopefully bands get an opportunity to grow and figure out what they want to say. It hasn't happened in a while.

AL: Some of those bands tried to make the length of the album a listening experience. Not just a few good songs and the rest filler.

Ben: Right. You have a spoonful of sugar. I don't think there is anything wrong with that. I don't think that there is any lack in integrity in that at all. It's just as hard to write a good pop song, as it is to write a good concept album. The goal is to do both. You want to make something that hits you right away and also something that is complex enough that you want to spend some time with it. Every good record is like that.

AL: What about the audience for The Secret Machines? I noticed that a lot of models show up to the shows and are attracted to the band.

Ben: We are attracted to them too, so it's a mutual admiration. We try to make the groove a lot sexy. Led Zeppelin is really sexy music. It's heavy, dirty, and there's something enticing about it. That is an influence on us.

AL: What do you think of Williamsburg?

Ben: It's great. It deserves the attention. The bands are great there. Those are world-class bands that are really good at what they do. I just don't like turning it into something that it is not, which is just one certain type of music or art. That is not how it is in New York. There are a lot of different things going on. It is always changing. There are a lot of inspired people in that town. I am not sure why. People are always stepping up their game. I like that.

AL: Are you reading any books right now?

Ben: I am halfway through Crime and Punishment. Brandon suggested that I read it. I bought it for a dollar. I am on my psychotic kick for the moment.

AL: What do you think about the idea in that book that some men are extra-ordinary and are beyond good and evil? Only common men are marred by guilt and shame.

Ben: Anything is possible these days. The dilemma is not as big these days as in the age when he wrote it. But it is a scary idea. It freaks me out.

AL: What cities have you liked on the tour?

Ben: I have been there before but Cincinnati really impressed me. There is an amazing art scene there. We played at the opening at contemporary art gallery. All these people from Brooklyn were there. So much is happening in Cincinnati. It was surprising.

AL: Have you bought any new CD on this tour?

Ben: We haven't been doing that very much. But we did buy the new Dylan CD of a live show in 1964. It's amazing. We kept listening to that over and over again. I can't stand the Joan Baez part. Her voice is annoying. But the first disc is amazing.

AL: Have you played in Europe before?

Ben: We have just played in the UK and we have done really well there. We will be back there in May 2004.

AL: You were hanging out with Anton Newcombe of Brian Jonestown Massacre at South By Southwest.

Ben: We know Anton very well. We played The Fader party with his band. Anton has been into The Secret Machines for a long time. He did a live recording of us that hopefully we will be able to release in the future. It was a show we did in LA about a year ago. We played a really exceptional show also there at South by Southwest. We played at the same time as Big Star so I was pissed.

Website: www.thesecretmachines.com
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The Hives Interview

The Hives Interview
By Alexander Laurence

The Hives are pure rock and roll music. They create music that sounds like five guys in a room trying to something vital and exciting. This Swedish band includes Vigilante Carlstroem (guitar), Dr. Matt Destruction (bass), Chris Dangerous (drums), Nicholaus Arson (guitar) and their leader, Howlin' Pelle Almqvist (vocals). Almqvist is a charismatic leader and frontman.

The band comes from the small town Fagersta, Sweden. They were just in high school when they started. In the early days the band members were known to fight onstage and insult the audience. Soon they hooked up with invisible member Randy Fitzsimmons and decided one day that they were “The Greatest Band.” Their sound combines 1960’s mod, 1970’s punk rock, and Motown R & B. The Hives released their debut album, Barely Legal (1997) on Burning Heart Records. The volatile band broke up soon after. The group reunited to record their second album, Veni Vidi Vicious in 2002, an amazingly successful record that won fans and critics over alike.

In July 2004, they returned with their third album, Tyrannosaurus Hives, on Interscope. The American release also includes a DVD, which features some videos, a documentary, and two live shows.

With Tyrannosaurus Hives, the Swedish band may have released their best album to date. Great songs like “Walk Idiot Walk,” “See Through Head,” “Missing Link,” and “Two-Timing Touch and Broken Bones” are memorable and deliver the punch. We have at Free Williamsburg done interview with a lot of Swedish bands over the years. We sort of ushered in that sound and championed it for years when no one else was talking about the scene. The Hives were happy to talk to us. They had to cancel interviews with Spin Magazine and MTV just to talk to us. I got to speak with drummer Chris Dangerous for a few moments right before a show.

AL: Where are you right now?

Chris: We are in Seattle.

AL: Do you like coming to America?

Chris: We like it a lot. It was very weird coming here the first time. But we like it now. We are very lucky to have the success we have had. We like to play anywhere. As long as we get to play some songs and perform. People can like it or hate it. We are fine with that. As long as we accomplish what we want to: and that is to have fun.

AL: Are there any American cities that you prefer to go to?

Chris: We are just concerned about playing a good show. There are places that we like to go. We like to go to Austin, Texas a lot. That was the first place we went to in America. We played South by Southwest in 1999. At that time, we hung around for a few days, so we got to see a lot of Austin. We always like to go back there. We like to go to the big cities because we always have good shows there. Places like New York City and Los Angeles always turn out to be some of the best shows we do. There are a lot of good places to play in America.

AL: Where are you from in Sweden?

Chris: We are from a real small town called Fagersta, Sweden. It’s about a two-hour drive northwest of Stockholm. We have a few hockey players. But it’s known as a real small steel industry town with twelve thousand people in it. It’s not that famous.

AL: How did you guys meet each other?

Chris: I don’t know how much you know about the Randy Fitzsimmons story.

AL: I know a little bout it.

Chris: It’s true. That is the way it works. He is still around. We get asked that question a lot.

AL: Are The Hives a boy band? Is it all Randy Fitzsimmons’ vision?

Chris: No. I don’t think so at all. It’s more like there are six people in the band. We were thirteen when we started. We thought it would be a good idea to play punk music. We used to see him more in the beginning. The Hives have always been six people. Randy Fitzsimmons doesn’t want to be known, he doesn’t want to be on TV, he doesn’t want to tour, and he doesn’t want to do anything.

AL: Will Randy ever join you onstage in the future?

Chris: No.

AL: He likes to stay home?

Chris: Yeah. He likes to come up with good ideas.

AL: What are some of his hobbies?

Chris: His hobbies? I am not going to tell you. I am not going to tell you anything. He is the sixth member. That is all I can say. He doesn’t want anything to be known about him.

AL: The last record Veni Vidi Vicious was pretty good. There is always that expectation that the following record will be even better. Do you think that you achieved that?

Chris: Yeah. We feel that we have pulled it off. We have to think about doing that with everything that we do. We put in a lot of time and effort with everything that we do. Of course we like this album, Tyrannosaurus Hives, the most because it was the last one that we have made. It is very difficult for us to make music. It doesn’t come easy. When we are done with a record, we can sit back and relax and not listen to it for a while. If you can listen to it a few weeks later and you feel happy, then you know it might be a good record. I think with this record we are close to 90% perfect. It is almost everything we expected to do.

AL: Did you want to take the music in a different direction with this record?

Chris: Yeah. We tried to take the music in a few directions. After a while, it would still sound like us. At this point we can play any song and it will still sound like us because we have been playing together for ten years. We wanted to make a record that was really different. There is no point in making a record you have already done.

AL: It seems like there are some rock and roll songs, some punk rock songs, and some Motown R & B influenced songs. Was that deliberate?

Chris: I don’t know if it was deliberate. We make the songs that we wanted to make. We listen to all types of music. Everything from early disco music to current hiphop. The record is going to sound like different things. Everything we do is deliberate. The stuff on the record didn’t end up there by chance.

AL: I think that Tyrannosaurus Hives is better than the previous one.

Chris: I think that Veni Vidi Vicious is really good. But if you say the new one is better than it must be true.


AL: How do you write songs? What comes first?

Chris: The music comes first. It’s cool when we can come up with some lyrics and write a song in the studio. But usually it happens that the music comes first and lyrics afterwards. A good song is always music first. That is what you hear when you hear a good song. The lyrics are like this extra layer that you can explore if you want to go further into the song.

AL: Do you like writing songs, playing live, or recording in a studio?

Chris: We all like playing live. We have played a lot of shows in the past ten years. I am not sure how many. It’s a lot. That is what we enjoy doing the most. Recording your songs is not as fun. Playing live in front of an audience is why we joined a band.

AL: Do you like to play with any certain bands?

Chris: Of course. There are millions of them. We do like the bands that we are on tour right now, who are Sahara Hotnights and The Reigning Sound. We have toured with them before. We like them a lot. They are good friends. Sahara Hotnights are from Sweden. Sweden is not that big, so when you take a step outside of Fagersta, you meet other bands and people. Greg Cartwright had a band before The Reigning Sound called The Compulsive Gamblers. He had a band before that called The Oblivians. That was a band that we listened to a lot when we were growing up. When we started playing over her we contacted Greg and he was interested in playing with us.

AL: Pelle does a lot of talking in between songs.

Chris: He talks all the time.

AL: Was that always a part of the first Hives’ shows? Was Pelle always a cheerleader for the band?

Chris: Yeah. It’s hard to keep him quiet really. It’s the way we want to do a show. It’s always interesting to get a reaction from an audience. Pelle was good at getting noticed and getting an immediate reaction. Some people would get mad. It was always funny to us to get a reaction from the punks. It’s the way we have always been.

AL: Did Pelle talk more if there was a negative reaction from the audience?

Chris: No, he wouldn’t talk more. He would just say more rude things. More people love us now, so it’s hard to say rude things when people love you. It worked out great in the beginning, but things have changed a bit. If there is some idiot in the audience who saying something, Pelle is going to talk directly to him.

AL: Does he stare him down?

Chris: Stare him down. Talk to him. Make him leave if things are getting ugly.

AL: Do people throw things at you?

Chris: Yeah. Everything from woman’s underwear to huge bottles of beer. Someone meant to kill us. It didn’t work.

AL: When you play in Sweden does Pelle speak in Swedish?

Chris: Yeah. It’s our first language. It would be stupid to talk to fellow Swedes in English. It’s still us. It doesn’t matter what language we are speaking.

AL: I went to the Weenie Roast concert this summer. You played with Velvet Revolver and The Strokes. It seemed like someone from Velvet Revolver was doing a soundcheck while you were playing. Pelle got on their case for that.

Chris: Yeah. It always happens with us at festivals. It’s people trying to set up their drum set when another band is playing. You are not supposed to play your bass drum when another band is playing onstage. People should know that. We got upset. We don’t care if Elvis Presley is setting up their backline. We would have still made fun of them because it wasn’t polite to do that.

AL: This American tour was short.

Chris: We played about twelve shows. We are going to Japan to play some shows and then we will be back in America in October 2004. We want to play for the people. There are a few other countries besides America. We want to get them all in. But we will be back in the Fall you know. We haven’t picked the bands that are going to support us on the next tour. We will when we get back to Sweden and can think about it. We are enjoying this tour right now.

AL: Do you have any advice for young people who want to form a band and like the Hives?
Chris: Buy all our records and listen to them a lot.


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Irvine Welsh Interview

Photo: Rex Bruce
Born and formed in 1961, Scottish author Irvine Welsh is now acknowledged as the distinct voice of British youth culture. Writing in a crude, phonetic dialect about drugs, sex, violence, and soccer, Welsh captured the lazy imagination of a generation not easily seduced by books. After debuting in March 1994 with The Acid House, a hilarious, soulful, and shocking short-story collection, Welsh became a full-fledged media phenomenon with the publication of his first novel Trainspotting, published in August of the same year.

The book, by turns depressing and exhilarating gave mordant insight into the Edinburgh housing projects where the writer grew up. As well as earning Welsh heady comparisons to the likes of Celine, the book was shortlisted for Britain's prestigious Booker Prize, stayed on bestseller lists for over two years, and in 1995 was adapted for the stage.

The hyperkinetic hit movie version of Trainspotting (1996), coming on the heels of Welsh's ambitious, hallucinatory second novel The Marabou Stork Nightmares (1995), engendered a level of press attention that led Welsh to retreat to relative anonymity in Amsterdam. The negative reviews that were accorded to Welsh's next book, a slightly uneven short-story triptych Ecstasy (1996), may have been as much a comment on the media overkill surrounding the writer as the quality of his work.

More plays and the film version of The Acid House followed. In the decade's end, he wrote Filth (1999) which was loved by some, but panned equally by others. Welsh then took some time off and surfaced in places like Ibiza. Now he suddenly emerges with his most complete novel yet Glue. I was able to speak to him on his recent tour.

AL: Have you been working on DJ skills and break dancing?

Irvine: The weird thing is I spend so much time writing, I don't have time for music. I will go into the studio when I get back to London. I also will go to Ibiza which I go to most summers. I have been going for years and years.

AL: Did Ibiza start happening in 1988?

Irvine: Yeah. It was Oakenfold and the Happy Mondays who kind of kicked it off. It's always been sort of a hippie alternative thing. Oakenfold started going over there. It started having a good feel to it. But when the Manumission Hotel started three years ago; that was the best time in Ibiza. It's become sort of a corporate now. It's like fucking bingo, now, you know what I mean?

AL: Packaged tours?

Irvine: Yeah, I see all these Ibiza collections of music with remixes of Moloko and Paul van Dyk. Then there's the Miami music conference. It's more fun. Miami has gotten so big, that everything that is going to be in Ibiza is showcased in Miami first. All the hits. A lot of people are skipping Ibiza and going straight to Miami. They can hear what's going to be popular in the summer. I've never been to Love Parade. They had one in Leeds which was supposed to be really good. I've been to Gatecrasher and T in The Park.

AL: There is some familiar terrain in the new book Glue?

Irvine: The usual stuff: football, drugs, sex. There's no Ibiza, but there's Amsterdam. The novel takes place over four decades.

AL: There is "Dad's ten rules" which are all about the importance of being faithful to your friends, your mates. That is pretty important?

Irvine: Yeah. It's all about taking a look at the collapse of traditional values based on Christianity and Socialism. Both of which don't really exist anymore. Certainly those were the old values that we all came from, the whole working class thing. It's like Presbyterianism and Industrial Socialism doesn't exist anymore. It's all consumer capitalism, like everywhere else. Now you have loan sharking and drug dealing and that's were people learn their morality, instead of in the churches and unions.

AL: Many of your characters are in arrested adolescence. Very few of them seem to take on the responsibility of having of family and so on. They don't mature much beyond post-adolescence.

Irvine: After you have adolescence, you have twenty years to kill yourself. If you fuck that up, then you have to think about doing something else. It's a thing that people do in our time. They realize that you are a long time dead. This is the thing about consumer capitalism: we want everything and we want it as long as possible.

AL: How did you feel about the recent football season? You follow the Hiberian team, right?

Irvine: Yes, we made it to the Cup Final but got beat. It's was a pretty good season. We got into Europe as well. We just signed an Ecuadorian guy who's supposed to be really good. Of the London teams, I like Westham. They got rid of their manager which was the wrong thing to do, I think. Football now, to be honest, it bores me. You can publish the salaries of the teams and then you look at the standings and they are almost the same. It's like American baseball, and the New York Yankees, and they have all the money. You look at the Pittsburgh Pirates -- they will never win another fucking game again. One player on the Yankees makes as much as the whole Pirate team. There's a monopoly in sports. They should break it up.

AL: I was reading some of the reviews and some of the stuff on Amazon, and the general reaction to this new book, Glue, is pretty positive. Many people hated all the music references in Filth, but most seem to really love the new book.

Irvine: I hated the music as well. I had to listen to a lot of Michael Bolton to find that character, you know what I mean. That's how I get characters. There are three things: where they stay, who they lay, and what they play. That's all my characters right there.

AL: This one guy in his review of Glue says, "Welsh has lost the plot.."

Irvine: There is no fucking plot for Glue, there are just characters. I just put a bunch of characters in one book to see where they'd go.

AL: This guy apparently liked Filth a lot too.

Irvine: The funny thing is that the people who don't like this book liked Filth, and the people who didn't like Filth, like this book. There are two types. This book appeals more to the literary types. And Filth appeals more to the sleaze merchants. There are the sleaze merchants and the literati and it's very hard to please both.

AL: Can you imagine people going into a bookstore and flipping through your books to see if there are any interruptions or tapeworms trying to control the narrative?

Irvine: Some people like the text to be broken up. They like weird things to happen. Glue has no effects. It's a straight narrative. There's no talking babies or exploding squirrels. There's no plan on what novel I plan to write next. I never know what I'm going to do one minute to the next. I don't have a master plan. I finally wrote a proper book.

AL: Americans still complain about the language. They think it's hard to read. There was a lexicon in one of the American editions.

Irvine: It makes it more fun when you have to figure it out. I don't like writing in Standard English. I tried that before. People don't talk like that. If you look at films or TV, or songs and music, people don't talk in Standard English. Why do we have to put up with that in a book, when we never would in TV, or a film, or in real life? I think Standard English is really fucking depressing and boring.

AL: Also Americans have a problem with the word "cunt." You can say "motherfucker" or "asshole" but nobody wants to be called a "cunt." It's too low for some reason. In England, you call all your best friends "cunts" all the time.

Irvine: Some people in Washington DC walked out on the reading. I don't know why it's so taboo. People invest too much power in words. If you let a word hurt you, I think it's a silly thing. Language shouldn't have that sort of power.

AL: I had a question about Ewen McGregor. You acted with him and helped him along in his career by writing Trainspotting. He's sort of a big film star now. What's he like and do you still see him around?

Irvine: He's a nice guy. He has the same bank as me, so I see him at the bank quite often, in Piccadilly.

AL: Looking at another review, this fellow was disappointed because he felt you were too conservative with this novel. How do you feel about that?

Irvine: Yeah. It's more of a straight novel really. The subject matter dictated the style. The subject matter didn't really lend itself to tape worms and stuff like that.

AL: Many people really like this character Terry in the new book and wished there was more of him in the novel.

Irvine: Really? He's a good character, because he just gets into it and doesn't give a toss.

AL: It says here (looking at an Amazon.com print out) that people who bought books by Irvine Welsh also bought books by Chuck Palaniuk, J. G. Ballard, Nick Hornsby, Bukowski, and Hunter S. Thompson.

Irvine: Hey. That's good company to be in.

AL: So, on this book tour, you are just going to do a straight reading from the new book? No performance?

Irvine: I don't know if I will be doing a straight reading because I won't be fucking straight. There will be a reading of sorts. Tonight I'm going to see Mogwai at the Fillmore afterwards. Also DJ Brian is having a party. I went to Mission Rock.

AL: Do you like Arab Strap?

Irvine: I think they are good. I like that sort of stuff. They are from Falkirk, which is just up the road from me. The Scottish have to be dark.

AL: Your upcoming novel is called Porno.

Irvine: I'm about two-thirds of the way through it. I hope to get it done this summer. It's going to be hardcore. All the freaks will like this one. All the literati will think, "Oh, he went all immature again."

AL: I just picked up a bunch of new CD's. Are you into any of these bands (opening bag)?

Irvine: Oh, Radiohead's new one. Aye. One of the guys from Radiohead was at the launch party for Glue, in London. I haven't heard this new one. It came out very quickly after Kid A. It's supposed to be very different. It's a new style again. Kid A was like their Metal Machine Music.

AL: Here's one from Sigur Ros.

Irvine: Never heard of them. What do you reckon of them?

AL: They are like Icelandic answer to Travis.

Irvine: Do you know Travis?

AL: Yes.

Irvine: I'm not a massive Travis fan.

If a band is a rock and roll band, they better be spectacular for me. I like dance music more. I think Mogwai are interesting.

AL: When you are writing novels what is your schedule like?

Irvine: I tend to work in the mornings. When I wait to start until the afternoon I'm usually fucked. Maribou Stork Nightmares took me five weeks. Glue took me about a year because I didn't have any story. It is sort of a wasteful way to work.

AL: Do you have any other hobbies?

Irvine: Hunting, fishing, shooting. And music takes up a lot of my time.

AL: Fishing? Usually catch anything?

Irvine: Yeah, I caught a few diseases.

AL: Ever killed anything?

Irvine: Just a few brain cells.

AL: People always talk about drug use in connection with yourself. Do you think that people's attitudes towards drugs have evolved?

Irvine: No, they have stayed the same.

AL: Do you look on the Internet much?

Irvine: I am not a great Internet person. I spend so much time on the screen when I am writing, the last thing you want to do is spend more time on the Internet looking at a screen. That's what I hate about all this technology. You have a screen for everything. You just have to say to yourself no more screens.

AL: Do you have a cell phone?

Irvine: No. Don't have a cell phone. Never have driven a car in my life. I don't even have a watch.

AL: You spend a lot of time in nature?

Irvine: Relaxing on beaches and stuff like that. The computer is the only concession because it's easier to write with.

AL: Seen any good films lately?

I rvine: I am a presenter of films and a film critic on TV in Britain. It's called "Cult Saturdays" on Channel Four. We screen two films and I talk about them. All films from all eras. I've been doing that about a year. I can say "This film is shite" or "It's so shite, that it's good."

AL: They put you on against The Bill and The Royale Family.

Irvine: Yeah, I clean up.

AL: So you must have five people watching you.

Irvine: Hey. Come on, man. At least a half a dozen.

AL: Is there anything you personally don't like?

Irvine: I hate politics. I'm glad that hardly anyone voted in the British general elections.

AL: Who designs your books?

Irvine: The British publishers usually come up with an idea. If the American publishers like it, they keep it. If they don't, they do their own. If the cover works, I say it was my idea. If not, I say it's them who fucked up.

AL: What about this book Glue? There is no glue sniffing in it.

Irvine: That was the joke on everyone. Have a book called Glue but don't have any glue in it. I am going to have a book called Heroin, and it will be about trainspotters and guys who look out for trains, and there will be no heroin in it.

AL: That was the idea of Trainspotting. Little kids make fun of each other and say, "You are a trainspotter."

Irvine: It's nerds.

AL: Nerds. That was what you were pointing out, that heroin users are nerds.

Irvine: It's pointless. They like to collect train engine numbers. It's the same with heroin after a while. It becomes pointless. Trainspotting is a very obsessive thing.

AL: But otherwise you promote any kind of hedonism as long as it's not destructive?

Irvine: Yeah, a bit of hedonism is good.

AL: Is that a message you want to send out to the fans.

Irvine: It's no message really. It's a personal philosophy.


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