Art Brut

Art Brut interview

Eddie Argos - Vocals
Jasper Future - Guitar
Ian Catskilkin - Lead Guitar
Freddy Feedback - Bass Guitar
Mikey B - Drums

One of the weirdest UK bands in recent memory, ART BRUT, comes off as part prank/part fun rock band. They have already conquered the UK. In November 2005 they played a few shows in the USA. They even played for the first time "Moving To LA" in LA. The band has been together for about two years. Even though they were mostly Bournemouth based, ART BRUT happened rapidly in the beginning of 2004 in London. Eddie Argos (singer) was inspired by attempting to be a pop star. Their first song was called "Formed A Band."

Argos quickly recruited his old friend Ian Catskilkin (Guitar) and Freddy Feedback (Bass). They met drummer Mikey B on the back of a bus and Jasper Future (guitarist from Eddie's old band, Art Gobblins) joined a few months later. The original member Chris left soon after they were formed. ART BRUT released several successful singles including "Modern Art" and "Emily Kane." There album "Bang Bang Rock and Roll (2005)" made a lot of people's best of the year's list even though it hasn't been released in the USA.

ART BRUT themselves are a diverse cast of characters. Eddie looks like a mix between a britpop star and Keith Moon. Ian looks like he would be more comfortable in a heavy metal band. Freddy looks like a member of Elastica. Mikey B looks more like a member of some disco band. And Jasper looks more like one of these new Swedish bands.

I got to meet Eddie Argos on their recent tour. I had a bunch of questions for him? Who is Emily Kane? Does Modern Art make him want to rock out? Why does he take off his shoes when he performs? Where did he get his hats? Hopefully in 2006 their debut album will be released in America. Hopefully they will come back soon?


AL: Let me ask the question that everyone wants to know? Where did you get your hat?

Eddie: I bought this one. I have a lot of hats. I have one hat that I have worn a lot. It's in the video. I lost one in Norway. Since I was wearing a hat a lot, someone presumed this was also my hat. So they gave it back to me. I didn't say anything. I kept it. I like this new one. It is a great shape. It's lightweight.

AL: How has the American tour been going?

Eddie: It's been loads of fun.

AL: When did the dream of Art Brut begin?

Eddie: I found out recently that there is no Top of The Pops in America. What is the point of us being here? I am going home.

AL: We have talk shows like Craig Ferguson and David Letterman where bands play. It's like Jonathan Ross.

Eddie: Oh, okay. Top of The Pops is on Sunday now. It used to be on Friday at 8pm. They should bring it back to Fridays.

AL: Is that how the dream started? You wanted to be in a band and be on Top of The Pops?

Eddie: That is it. I was very young when I made it up. I didn't know any better. I was five years old. When I got older, I tried to play guitar and couldn't do it. I tried to play everything: bass, keyboards, and drums. I couldn't do it. I just can't do these things.

AL: The drinking came much more naturally then?

Eddie: Yes. That started around when I was five years old. I figured out that I was like Lou Reed and couldn't really sing. But if I was going to be in a band, I would have to be the singer. If Lou Reed can do it, so can I. It's easy. That was the first plan. Next was getting on Top of The Pops. That was my next mission.

AL: How did you get the band together?

Eddie: I had an old band that fell apart. We were playing when we were at university in Bournemouth. I moved to London to start a new band. I met Chris at a party. He is not in the band anymore. We were both a bit loaded. We said, "Let's start a band!" He wanted to meet girls. I wanted to be on Top of The Pops. His next-door neighbor played bass. I knew Ian in Bournemouth. We met Mikey on a bus. We were just trying to make friends. We were just putting together a band randomly.

AL: Did you live in a certain neighborhood?

Eddie: Not really. We ended up being a South London band. We were just mucking about.

AL: Why did Chris leave the band?

Eddie: Chris didn't want to tour. He gets tired easily. He is busy. He has another band. He is writing a book. He left because of that. He has been replaced by Jasper. I have known Jasper for years. He was in my previous band. I phoned him up: "Chris has left. Do you want to join?" And he said: "Sure. When?" I said "Like Today!" He had to move and leave his house.

AL: You did that song "Moving To LA" last night. Was that the first time you played it in LA?

Eddie: Yeah. It's a Art Goblins song. I have been singing that song for seven years. It's very funny doing that song here. I usually point in the direction of LA. I was pointing down toward the ground last night. In England you can get away with pointing in any direction. But when I was in New York City, it was like the West Coast is THAT way. I was pointing to LA. People were telling me it's actually over there. Sorry, I didn't know. I was just guessing.

AL: It seems like you have ideas for songs and then get carried away, whether it's about Los Angeles or Modern Art.

Eddie: It's true. I get excited by art and then write about it. "Moving To LA" is a sad song. I wrote it on a rainy day and I was sitting in a pub. I had just broken up with a girlfriend. I didn't want to be there. Where could I go? LA! It's about escapism.

AL: "Formed A Band" was the first new song you did with Art Brut?

Eddie: Yes. It was written when we were rehearsing for the first time and I was singing for the first time. They had never heard me sing before. I was trying to convince them not to sack me. I was singing about all the things I wanted to achieve.

AL: What about the song about the Velvet Underground?

Eddie: It was fun to do that song in New York. I am always afraid to be on a radio station and they play that song and Lou Reed calls up. It would be good to talk to them. I like that band. But I got bored of all the bands trying to be like them. It's been going on now for four years.

AL: We have all these bands that sound like Gang of Four too.

Eddie: Yeah. I am tired of that sort of thing too. When I wrote the words to that song everyone was trying to be like Velvet Underground and wearing dark glasses. It's a very angry song. It would be good if they were trying to be influenced by certain bands, but they are not doing that. They are just wearing dark glasses and taking drugs.

AL: The album has been out in England for a while.

Eddie: That is why we are over here. We are trying to sign a deal.

AL: When you play the songs live, it's different. At the end of "My Little Brother" you have that bit about smoking crack and Pete Doherty. There is an element of improvisation.

Eddie: I am always trying to update the songs. I get bored if I sing the same thing every night, so it's fun to muck about.

AL: The drummer stands up when he plays. I haven't seen that style of playing in a long time.

Eddie: He says that he likes to stand up and stretch his legs. It's not true. He is a show-off. He likes to be looked at. I think that is what it is. Don't tell him I told you. There have been some people who played standing up like the drummer in Jesus and the Mary Chain, and of course, Mo Tucker. But Mikey just wants to be looked at. He is a very vain man. He has a big head.

AL: How have your experiences in America been?

Eddie: Every show is different. It's been loads of fun though. They told us in New York "No one here dances." And then, every night, everyone danced. People were drunk and leaping around.

AL: Did you go to college?

Eddie: No. Some did and some didn't. I failed my O levels and was stuck without a band. Jasper went to college. They all studied for years, apart from me.

AL: Did anyone study music?

Eddie: Ian studied music at a university. His dad was in a famous band. The singer from that band recently joined Genesis.

AL: What is Bournemouth like?

Eddie: It's a beach. It's mainly old people and students.

AL: You did a lot of festivals this year?

Eddie: Yeah. It was aces. We played the second stage at Reading and Leeds. We were at the John Peel Stage at Glastonbury. We played at three or four in the afternoon. Sometimes we played at midday. I couldn't believe the tent was packed. People got up early to see us in Belgium. I was amazed. Kids were waiting for hours.

AL: You are always referring to yourself onstage. You say "Art Brut, are you ready?" like you are at the helm of a ship.

Eddie: It started when we were crossing the street or walking around. I would say to them collectively "Are you ready Art Brut?" It just ended up sticking. I don't know why. Jonathan Richman used to do that too: "Are you ready Modern Lovers?" I always liked how that sounded.

AL: Are there any other bands that you liked recently?

Eddie: Yes. The one from last night. They are called Porterville.

AL: So you will probably come back to America early in 2006? Maybe you will go to some more cities?

Eddie: Yeah. In March 2006, we hope. We will find out. We are recording another single when we get back. It will be released in England. We are not sure what song yet.

AL: You have some new songs you are playing now?

Eddie: Yeah. We have three or four new songs. I have written the words for a lot of new songs. But we have to get back and start working on the music.

AL: How do you write songs?

Eddie: I walk around and write songs in my head. I sing them into the phone. I go home and put them into my book. Once a week we will rehearse. They write the music and I go to my big book and select some lyrics.

AL: All these songs are about your life?

Eddie: They are all true. It's all about me. I would get bored singing about other people who are made up. I like real people.

AL: What is up with this song "Rusted Guns of Milan?"

Eddie: The guns?

AL: That is a metaphor?

Eddie: Yeah. I couldn't just sing about my cock. I had to change it around a little bit.

AL: Maybe on the next album you can write a "cock" song that is more in your face?

Eddie: (laughter) Maybe? Who knows?

AL: Can you talk about the song "18,000 Lire?"

Eddie: There were these terrorists in Italy. They didn't hurt anybody. They did a bank robbery. They were rubbish. They only got 18,000 Lire, which is about four pounds and seventy-three. That is about two American dollars. It sounds like such a huge achievement, but it isn't really. I wanted to write about.

AL: So many of your songs are just inspired by everyday things like what you read in a paper?

Eddie: Yeah. It happened. It's an old song. It is not about me.

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Singapore Sling

Singapore Sling
by Alexander Laurence

Singapore Sling is a darkly psychedelic band from Reykjavik, Iceland. They are inexplicable and elusive but remind one of the drugged out soul power bands like Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine. Their debut album, "The Curse Of Singapore Sling", came out in Summer 2003. It has gained fans from all over the globe. Their leader is singer-songwriter-guitarist Henrik Björnsson. In addition to Björnsson, the Sling include Helgi Petursson on guitar and keyboards, Einar Kristjansson on guitar, Toggi "The Tank" Gumundsson on bass, Bjarni Johannsson on drums and Siggi Shaker on maracas and tambourine. They make hypnotizing music that shoots out into space. They made their first tour of America this past summer.

In late 2002, Singapore Sling recently played their first ever US shows. Then in March 2003, they rocked the house with a show at SXSW and also several packed New York shows (including a sold out show opening for Brian Jonestown Massacre). They soon became a favorite among other bands. The 2003 tour will kick off with a headline performance at New York's Central Park Summerstage festival, as part of a special Iceland Day event. Singapore Sling also supported The Raveonettes and the Warlocks on their tour dates on the west coast. I spoke to their mysterious leader, Henrik, right before a gig.

AL: When did you form the band?
Henrik: Probably in 2000. I did ten songs myself on a 4-track recording studio. I started out making music in my apartment by myself. I thought that I had to do something with this because no one was hearing this music except a few friends and me. I played it to a friend who was a guitarist and we decided to form a band together and play the songs live. At the beginning, we didn't have a place to rehearse, so we would play once a month, and the lineup would change every month. It took a while for us to be serious about it. We have had the same lineup for about two years now.
AL: Did you want the songs to be simple?
Henrik: I usually like the instrumentation to be basic. I just like a few things going on. I don't think of myself as a guitar player. I like making songs out of a few instruments. If they are all quite basic, it makes more sense to me. If you have three guitars and they are all doing too much, it doesn't make any sense.
AL: Is the use of feedback and noise important?
Henrik: Yes. All the songs don't need feedback. But songs like "No Soul Man" and "Midnight" the feedback are very smooth and it helps the song glide. The feedback in "Overdriver" is like aggressive feedback and it's one of the most fantastic feedback guitar solos ever. I used an acoustic guitar with pickups and it made this crazy noise. My friend heard the song and he thought I had slain a horse.
AL: What are most of your songs about?
Henrik: There is no special theme. It's not about politics. There is one love song.
AL: One of the best songs is "Roadkill" but it's an instrumental.
Henrik: I recorded it first with a drum machine and it sounded a little different. It sounded more like Suicide. I felt that the guitar riff by itself was enough. I have written more instrumental songs. During the live show we play one more instrumental. I really like surf music.
AL: We are in the hotbed of surf music. Dick Dale and The Ventures are from this area.
Henrik: I went to the beach the other day. It was very refreshing to see the waves. We spent another day walking around Hollywood. We went to the Hustler store. They had all these body parts. They had a mouth and an asshole. Do people come in and say, "Give me an ass and throw in a fist as well." Maybe I'll bring back a few asshole to Iceland.
AL: You live in Reykjavik, Iceland. Is there a cool neighborhood where all the hipsters live?
Henrik: Yes, it's where we all live. We live right smack in the middle of downtown. The area code is 101. That's what it's called. It's a small area where all the bars, clubs and restaurants are. Once four members of the band live on the same street and the rehearsal space was three blocks away.
AL: Have you played a lot in Reykjavik, Iceland?
Henrik: We have played less than twenty shows there. We have played more in America, and never in Europe. Many bands make the mistake of playing too often in Reykjavik. We hardly play there anymore. It's such a small area. It's always the same crowd.
AL: When I look at the cover of the album I am thinking about On The Road by Jack Kerouac. Are you a fan?
Henrik: I was a big Jack Kerouac fan when I was a teenager. A big dream I had was to come to America and do that trip, from Denver to California. Now we have just done that on this tour. I wish that we could have done it with a different vehicle and fewer people. It could have been better with a cooler car than a rented van.
AL: I noticed that you have a lot of girls who follow the band. The screams are so loud that you can't hear the music.
Henrik: We are like the new Beatles.
AL: What is the song "Summer Garden" about? Many of us here in LA like the Phil Spector sound.
Henrik: Yeah. It's probably the song on the album that sounds the most like the 1960s. I was just playing around on the keyboard. I wrote this melody right there on the organ. I wrote a lyric about this girl who is not my girlfriend.
AL: Are there any films that you like?
Henrik: No. I haven't been to the films in a long time. I used to go a lot. I am a big fan of road films.
AL: Have you read any books recently?
Henrik: I have been reading a few books actually. One called Black Vinyl, White Powder. It's about rock music. This English guy who used to manage the Yardbirds wrote it. It's very interesting. I also read this book about Steve McQueen.
AL: Is it very easy to buy Fender amps and guitars in Reykjavik?
Henrik: It's not hard to get. We don't have Fender amps. We usually buy them in America and bring them back over. To buy anything in Iceland it is twice as expensive. Prior to the first shows in New York, we spent a few days looking for instruments. So we all got new gear.
AL: I heard that you played with an American drummer for the first show.
Henrik: It was Bob Bert. He was in Sonic Youth and Pussy Galore. After the show in SXSW, we had four shows in the New York area. We had to play a radio show and I was going to just use a drum machine. We called up a van company to take us back to Manhattan. We loaded the gear in the van. After about ten minutes on the road someone in the band mentioned Sonic Youth. The driver said "I was in that band during the 1980s." I saw his eyes in the rearview mirror and I recognized him from pictures of Pussy Galore. It was Bob Bert. We ended up giving him a CD and our record company arranged it that he would join us for the radio show gig. We played about four songs. It's funny. I wouldn't know who any drummers are. I don't know any of their names. I know Nick Knox of The Cramps. I know about the Pussy Galore records.
AL: Are there any bands that you like?
Henrik: I like Velvet Underground and Suicide and The Stooges and The Cramps. There's this band Dead Meadow who are like psychedelic and stoner rock. It's fun to play with bands you never heard of. There are probably many bands who are big here whom no one has heard of in Europe. It's fun to swap CDs.
AL: Do you have any hobbies?
Henrik: A little Kung Fu and Yoga. I work at a bar. I write articles for an Icelandic magazine. I do a lot of interviews with bands. If I like a band I will write something about them.
AL: Did you go to a University?
Henrik: Some of us did. I went to one for a year and I found it quite boring. Our bass player, Toggi, spent some time studying film in New York. We do have some education.
AL: What is the best part about making music?
Henrik: When all the girls throw their underwear at us.
AL: What's the most difficult part of doing music?
Henrik: It has to do with loading in the equipment from the van. I hate that. Sometimes we have some female fans doing the work for us, but they are unreliable.
AL: When I listen to your music I think of using drugs?
Henrik: The drugs are more available and cheaper over here. So that was a big factor in us coming over for this tour. Iceland is more of a drinking culture. It's not a drug culture. Alcohol is expensive, but drugs are more expensive, so people stick with alcohol. People try to drink themselves into a stupor with hard alcohol. You have everything here in America. We realize that people in America smoke a lot of pot. Two years ago I saw Lee Scratch Perry in New York. The reggae music starts and everyone besides us there started to light up a joint.
AL: What is your set like?
Henrik: There are two songs on the record that we don't play live. They are just songs that I recorded by myself on an eight-track recorder. They are mostly myself playing keyboards and vocals. Nobody in the band knows how to play keyboards very well. We do four new songs and eight songs from the album.
AL: What about "Dirty Water?" How did you decide to do that song?
Henrik: I was just playing this riff. Our version is different from the original version. I started singing this melody and lyrics over this new riff and thought that this is going to sound cool because it's so different. It sounds like a totally different song. I only like cover songs that sound totally different from the original.
AL: Do you record everything live?
Henrik: None are done completely live. We record the drums, guitar and bass as a foundation. Then we add layers. Some songs have a drum machine.
AL: Are you going to tour again in the fall or record a new album?
Henrik: When I get back to Iceland in August, I am going to finish this album I am doing with Toggi, our bass player. We have a side project, which is totally different. It's slower and sleazy music. We are going to release a full album. After that I am going to start working on the next Singapore Sling album. I have some demos and some new songs on a Dictaphone. I will probably write some new material. I will probably record that in November and December. We will probably do that in New York.

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The Top 30 records of 2005

Top 30 records of 2005
Alexander Laurence
The Portable Infinite

1 LCD Soundsystem by LCD Soundsystem 2005
2 Howl by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club 2005
3 The Magic Numbers by The Magic Numbers 2005
4 Demon Days by Gorillaz 2005
5 No Wow by The Kills 2005
6 Extraordinary Machine by Fiona Apple 2005
7 Get Behind Me Satan by The White Stripes 2005
8 Ahead of The Lions by Living Things 2005
9 Hearts and Unicorns by Giant Drag 2005
10 Arular by M.I.A. 2005
11 Lullabies to Paralyze by Queens of the Stone Age 2005
12 Rehearsing My Choir by The Fiery Furnaces 2005
13 Silent Alarm by Bloc Party 2005
14 Anniemal by Annie 2005
15 A Certain Trigger by Maximo Park 2005
16 Takk by Sigur Ros 2005
17 Guero by Beck 2005
18 The New Fellas by The Cribs 2005
19 Pretty In Black by The Raveonettes 2005
20 Thunder, Lightning, Strike by The Go! Team 2005
21 Witching Hour by Ladytron 2005
22 Open Season by British Sea Power 2005
23 Cripple Crow by Devendra Banhart 2005
24 Frances The Mute by Mars Volta 2005
25 Surgery by The Warlocks 2005
26 Tender Buttons by Broadcast 2005
27 With Teeth by Nine Inch Nails 2005
28 Gimme Trouble by Adult. 2005
29 Cole's Corner by Richard Hawley 2005
30 Out of Breach by MU 2005
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Mark Gardener Interview (RIDE)

Mark Gardener played his first amazing solo shows SXSW Festival in Austin Texas, two years ago. That started the ball rolling. Mark has now completed his debut solo album that is called "These Beautiful Ghosts." It was produced by Bill Racine and features the band Goldrush. Songs like "Snow In Mexico" and "Magdalen Sky" show signs of the new direction of the former Ride front man. Ride is one of the main bands associated with the Shoegazer thing. The album is to be released on the US indie label United For Opportunity (www.ufomusic.com) on October 11th, 2005.

Mark is releasing a special limited edition advance version of the album too, which will come with a bonus DVD. Mark has been asked to support Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on their North American tour in September and October 2005. Mark has also been busy working with French duo Rinocerose. Back in 2004 Mark co-wrote and sang on a couple of tracks that the duo were working on in their studio in Montpelier. The tracks now feature on their forthcoming V2 album. After so much calm, now there is a storm of activity.

There is also Mark's solo live album, Live At The Knitting Factory NYC. Also still available online is the Falling Out Into The Night EP that Mark released with Goldrush. We caught up with the ex-Ride front man right after a sneak Los Angeles show in July 2005. Many musicians from other bands like The Warlocks were in the audience. The first show of the legendary tour with BRMC is of course in SF at the Great American Music Hall. We got to talk about all the busy things in his life.

AL: How are things going in Oxford?

Mark: Pretty good. I have only just got here. I was on the West Coast last week. I played a show there. I have been flying around all over. I just did this thing with the French band, Rinocerose. They have been playing all the summer festivals. I have been up for four days. I am still here and still standing.

AL: You lived in the United States before that?

Mark: Most of this year I have been living in New York. That is where I really pulled the album together. I have been working with Bill Racine who lives in New York.

AL: You have played with Goldrush a lot.

Mark: They are not from America. They are an Oxford band. We have been playing a lot of shows in America last year and the year before. They have just released an album. They were always Ride fans. I heard there was a band that played a cover of "Dreams Burn Down." I went to a Goldrush gig with a mutual friend about three or four years ago. It was great. They found out that I was going to do my own thing in the future. They said, "Whenever you need a backing band, we want to back you." That was really good for me because they are really good musicians. There are two really good singers in that band. It was good to get harmonies going again.

AL: When did this album "These Beautiful Ghosts" start for you?

Mark: It's something that has been in my mind since Ride finished which was in 1996. I knew that at some point when I wasn't in a group I would do my own record. It's always been in my mind. I guess the last five years I have been writing bits and pieces. I would think that some ideas I had would be good for a solo record. Basically it has come together in the last four or five months while I was in New York. I have also done some intense recording in upstate New York at Tarbox studios. It's where Dave Fridmann has a studio. I made three other tracks with Goldrush about a few years ago. I did it in bits and pieces. That is the only way I can work because I funded it myself. I wanted to do it my way before I even talked to any labels.

AL: You ended up working with this new label United For Opportunity.

Mark: It's called UFO. The way the record industry is changing. They are just trying to be a new model label. They have more realistic ways of doing things. When you are dealing with bigger labels you end up never meeting the people who make big decisions about your life. It was nice to meet people who are running the label and into the music. I like them. After developing a relationship we decided the time was right to release this record.

AL: How do you write songs? Is it different from the days of Ride?

Mark: It was different from Ride in a sense. Andy Bell and me were the main writers. There was a lot of input between us on each other's stuff. I guess it has changed in a sense where I have more time to work on things and get them the way I want them. Even though it is my album, I also believe in the power of letting go. As long as I was working with people like Goldrush and people that I trusted musically, I have been able to have people add their input on it. I am still the guy who wrote the Ride songs. People can spot that out that thread. I have similar concerns in music. I just hope that I am doing it better. I wanted this record to be a little bit more exposed and honest. I wanted to have some trippy things that I like in music. I wanted to make something that was interesting to listen to.

AL: So do you start with music or lyrics?

Mark: It usually starts with music. The music usually suggests words and lyrics to me. I start out with some chords or a rhythm. I play around with loops, and things like that. I'll have a beat with acoustic guitar and bass guitar. You just end up mucking around until you have something. You have to have something moving.

By alexander laurence

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The Cooper Temple Clause

The Cooper Temple Clause
Interview by Alexander Laurence

The Cooper Temple Clause was formed in Reading in the late 1990s by a group of six perverts, outsiders, and drunks. They were more interested in how well they could destroy equipment and drink than playing music. They came from all over but had some connection to the Reading area. Their first album was so raunchy and offensive that the record company didn't bother releasing it in America. Their hybrid style that mixes many genres and explodes the standard song form was a breath of fresh air in the British scene, which had become predictable and stale. The band is Ben Gautrey (vocals), Tom Bellamy (guitar, synthesizer, bass), Dan Fisher (bass, guitar), Didz (bass), Kieran Mahon (keyboards), and Jon Harper (drums).

In 2000, the group managed to sign a deal. On an extensive tour the group gave life to the new British alternative scene, which had been dominated by American acts. In February 2002, the Cooper Temple Clause delivered their debut album, See This Through and Leave. After a few years of tours and festivals they have become one of the top new acts from England. They played their first New York City show in October 2003, during CMJ. Their song "Promises, Promises" was a sign that the Clause was expanding their chaotic sound for a new continent. I spoke to lead singer, Ben Gautrey, right after some big Christmas shows. Gautrey went to the same Swiss school as The Strokes.
The second album, Kick Up The Fire, And Let The Flames Break Loose, has already gone up the UK charts. It will be released in America in February. They will be doing the first of hopefully many American tours in March.

AL: How long has the band been together?
Ben: We all went to the same school. We have been playing for almost six years now. Tom and me have been best friends since we were twelve. We were into a lot of grunge then: Nirvana, Pumpkins, and Britpop stuff like Blur, Radiohead, and Oasis. The next thing to do was to pick up instruments and start playing. The others joined through friends and mutual acquaintances. When we were twelve we sounded like the heaviest band ever: we sounded like Boston. Luckily we didn't do any gigs.
AL: Did any of you have musical backgrounds or did your families support your musical ability?
Ben: The six of us are probably in a band because of our Dads. All of our Das are music nuts. We used to go through our attics for any strange piece of vinyl that had been collected over the years. All of our Dads had a healthy passion for rock and roll.
AL: Since you lived nearby, did you always go to the Reading Festival?
Ben: We started going to the Reading Festival every year since we were about fourteen. That was one of the main reasons we wanted to be in a band. You have such a diverse wealth of talent coming to your town every year. It's hard not to be inspired by it. I think that festival had a big impact on this band.
AL: Did you also get into the DJ Culture and dance music, which was big in the mid-1990s?
Ben: We are. We are discovering later now that we are fans of electronic music in general. We love everything on the Warp Label. Tom and Kieran are really into Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin, and Squarepusher. Five or six years ago, The Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy were the biggest bands in Britain. Those bands opened our eyes to other elements. You can go back to Kraftwerk and Neu!, and all the Krautrock stuff.
AL: Did you get to play with any older bands?
Ben: We played with the Rolling Stones a few months ago, which was pretty surreal. Never in our wildest dreams, did we think that we would be sharing a stage with the Rolling Stones. That was very humbling and very special. We did a show with them in Dublin. Even though they had written some of the best songs ever, the way they toured was like so business-like backstage. It was so organized. You have this magic that you sense in your heads, like a dreamy state, that the Rolling Stones are this badboy, rebellious band. That mist was blown away when we toured with them. I guess it has to be that way when your tour on that scale and you has done it for so long. They all have their own separate tour buses. They don't sleep in the buses either.
AL: How many people do you tour with?
Ben: There are six of us. We do need a few people who can help Tom with the synths. We have about eight or nine people in our crew, but that is just for the bigger venues. At a smaller club we could survive with just one person. Part of the fun of going to America in 2004 is doing some low key dates where it. We are getting excited because you miss that atmosphere of small intimate clubs when you step up to the bigger venues.
AL: The New York shows at CMJ were the only time you played in America so far?
Ben: Yeah. We played just that one show in New York. It was in and out. We really enjoyed it. We have always wanted to come to America and tour and tour and see the east coast and the west coast. We want to see all the cities and go everywhere you can. It was nice just to finally play in New York. The reception we got from the crowd was surprising. We didn't expect them to know who we were, but they really did. They knew the songs. There was a lot of enthusiasm from all the people that we met there. We are doing a four-week tour in March.
AL: We have been hearing about the live show for a long time, but not all British bands come to America.
Ben: The main facet of The Cooper Temple Clause is that we are primarily a live band. We enjoy playing whether it's in front of two people, or two thousand people, or ten thousand people. It's the same every night. We go out and play with the same passion for the songs. We are not one of those bands that just stand there looking bored and pissed and look like they would rather spend their time doing something else. We absolutely love playing live to anyone who wants to hear it.
AL: In America we are used to British bands being sort of mellow. The Cooper Temple Clause is a little bit more intense than most of us would expect.
Ben: Yeah, I think so. That is one of the reasons that we started the band. We wanted to break this illusion of new bands aping and mimicking bands from twenty and thirty years ago, and not doing anything new. We wanted to push music forward. We wanted to say something new. We never said that we are better than anyone else. We just do what we want to do. We do what we love and feel. Our live show is energetic and intense and we are wearing our hearts on our sleeves. We are very lucky to be playing and very lucky to have people listening to what we do.
AL: When did you start recording this new album?
Ben: We started in October, 2002. We finished in May. That was quick since we had to build the studio. We wrote all the songs in that time as well. We didn't go in there with twenty songs. We didn't have any songs. We went to this little farm and converted it into our little world. We didn't know if you would be able to hear the metal workers next door. We didn't know if it was a suitable place for a studio. It definitely created the mood for the album. It took about eight months to do it.
AL: How do you go about writing songs?
Ben: Each song is different. There is not one way or set rule that we follow. All six of us do the writing. Sometimes it's one person that has an idea for a song. Sometimes there is some jamming. Something there is three or four people there. It does change. That is one of our endearing qualities that all of us write the songs. There is not one person standing there dictating how it should sound. We have completely different tastes in music and we are trying to work together. We are trying to make this big sound and push music in a way we all want it to go.
AL: Some of your songs go one place, then go somewhere completely different? What is up with that?
Ben: I don't know. Maybe that is just our warped heads. That is what happens when you are stuck in a farm in the middle of nowhere. We were three miles from any civilization. Your headspace becomes distorted. That is just how we end up writing music. It's quite unexplainable how we get there. It seems natural to us. When someone says that sound weird, we have no answers. It sounds to us how it should be.
AL: The title of the album comes from a Philip Larkin poem. Why did you choose that?
Ben: When you are in a band with six people, you are going to have a hard time agreeing about anything. Fisher was reading this book by Philip Larkin, and a line from one of the poems just stuck in his head. He mentioned it when the album was half done. Everyone thought it was too long. When we were finishing the album and we had a list of album titles, that name popped up again. Later that title made more sense. Some of the imagery in the lyrics of "Blind Pilots" and "Music Box" related to that title. Then we became worried about whether you could put the band and the title on a spine of a CD. It seemed to make sense. Our attitude is just deal with the repercussions later.
AL: Do you write all the lyrics?
Ben: No. It used to be mainly Fisher who wrote all the lyrics. Now Kieran and me are all chipping in. Tom wrote a few songs. We usually write about personal experiences and things we know. We don't feel comfortable writing about anything else. The first album was about us growing up in a satellite town in England, fifteen miles from London, where there is nothing for young kids to do. There is a lot of disillusionment and intimidation from people when you are different and want to do different things. The second album is more about close friends and families and people who supported us. It will be exciting to see what we do on the third album and what direction we will go in.
AL: Didz got sick recently?
Ben: Yeah. Last Christmas he had too many sun dried tomatoes. He was going to have his appendix taken out, but it ended up being more serious. He became physically ill and lost three stones (fifty pounds). The doctor said there was a chance of him dying but Didz wouldn't believe it. That was right in the middle of the album. We were playing him demos in the hospital. It was good to have an outside opinion. It was a scary time.

Didz (above) used to be in this band.

AL: Have you read any book recently?
Ben: I have been on a gothic adventure. I have been reading Dracula and Frankenstein. I was disappointed with both of them. I also read The 39 Steps. It was easy to read. Fisher and Kieran have been getting into Russian novelists. Big epic thousand paged books.
AL: Do you have any favorite films that you have seen recently?
Ben: I saw a film that was awful the other night. It was called The Transporter. It had an English actor in it trying to be an action hero. It was absolutely terrible. I still haven't seen a film that could match The Goonies. That and Back To The Future are my favorites. We are all fans of films of the 1980s. Back To The Future always comes on around Christmas in England.
AL: Are there any bands that you have played with in the past year that you liked or who are any good?
Ben: There have been a few. Oceansize are absolutely amazing. They are cross between Mogwai and Soundgarden. They are amazing live. We are all big fans of this Scottish band called Aerogramme. The 80 Matchbox B-Line Disaster are a phenomenal band.
AL: What songs are you going to play on this tour?
Ben: We will probably play all the songs on the new album. We will play the singles from the first album. It is unknown what we will actually do. Just expect a wall of noise. We have some weeks off right now. We are jamming and maybe we will have some new songs by the time of the American tour. We just played Wembley Stadium a few days ago. We opened up for Feeder. Wembley is almost the biggest venue in England. We got to play it the other day. If you would have told us a few years ago that we would be playing at Wembley we would have never believed it. We would never have dreamed that we have gotten this far. It was very exciting.

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Coachella the film

JANUARY 24, 2006;


As excitement builds for 2006's COACHELLA VALLEY MUSIC & ARTS FESTIVAL--set to return for its seventh year on Saturday, April 29 and Sunday, April 30 at the breathtakingly beautiful and peaceful Empire Polo Field in Indio, CA--music fans across the country will now have the chance to experience six years of festival highlights when the documentary film entitled COACHELLA arrives in theatres January 24, 2006.

Directed by Drew Thomas and produced by Goldenvoice, the two-hour feature film captures the magical sense of adventure that is unique to the COACHELLA VALLEY MUSIC & ARTS FESTIVAL, hailed as "The Best American Festival" by Rolling Stone, "...the nation's most respected rock festival" by the Los Angeles Times and "probably the best festival in the world" by England's NME. The film is filled with one classic performance after another by iconic headliners and wide-ranging, forward-looking artists, and also includes interviews with COACHELLA VALLEY MUSIC & ARTS FESTIVAL artists and fans amidst the vast green landscape framed by beautiful desert mountains.

The full list of performances in the COACHELLA documentary is as follows:
The Arcade Fire
Belle & Sebastian
Bright Eyes
The Chemical Brothers
The Crystal Method
The Flaming Lips
Iggy & The Stooges
Kool Keith
The Mars Volta
Nu-Mark & Cut Chemist
The Polyphonic Spree
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Roni Size
Saul Williams
The White Stripes
Zero 7

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An interview with Ben Ottewell and Olly Peacock
by Alexander Laurence

I first saw Gomez in New York City at the CMJ convention four years ago. They had just won the Mercury Prize and were curiously thrown into the spotlight. Gomez seemed like a humble band that had an affinity for American-styled rock. When I heard their song "Tijuana Lady," I thought that they were from New Mexico. It was hard to believe that vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Tom Gray, vocalist/guitarist Ian Ball, vocalist/ guitarist Ben Ottewell, bassist Paul Blackburn and drummer Olly Peacock got their start in Liverpool, England. Now they have been together six years and a well established band. Gomez is a wild mix of American blues, funk, electronic music, and psychedelic rock.

Gomez' debut release, Bring It On (1998), revealed the influence of artists like Tim Buckley and Tom Waits. The band's fame rose steeply due to the publicity generated by Ben Ottewell singing the Beatles' "Getting Better" for a TV commercial. The release of two more critically acclaimed albums, Liquid Skin (1999) and Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline in (2000) followed. After six American tours, and six years of being together, they have gained a massive American audience. Their recent tour culminated in two sold out shows at The Fillmore and two shows in Hollywood at The House of Blues. Their new self-produced album In Our Gun (2002) should collect more fans in the meantime for Gomez on their next tour. I spoke to Ben Ottewell and Olly Peacock in the lobby of the Fillmore as we looked at posters of bands who had played at the venue over the years ranging from The Grateful Dead to Erasure.


AL: Gomez isn't gimmicky. The music is the most important thing?

Ben: Yeah. The most important thing is being a musician. We don't have much else to focus on.

AL: When did you work on In Our Gun?

Olly: We finished this one at the end of 2001. Last year.

AL: Did you work more individually on this record this time?

Ben: Yeah. We did that this time. This record wasn't played live at all at the time. We took a six month break. It was interesting that because obviously playing it live is going to affect the way it sounds. Liquid Skin was played live all the time before we recorded it. In Our Gun was done more like Bring It On. Some of the original recordings were stuff we had done on machines at home. It was slightly better machines this time. We went into a big manor house for a month or so to finish it up at this place called Real World.

AL: Is location important? Like doing stuff at Abbey Road?

Ben: Yeah, definitely. It's cool to say that you recorded at Abbey Road but I think that Real World is better.

Olly: Abbey Road costs a fortune. We recorded Liquid Skin there.

AL: The early albums seem like a cohesive statement. In Our Gun seems more like an eclectic mix of songs.

Olly: The early albums are more like a pairing in a way. The latest one has more toys and sounds. It is the result of experiments. There is more time between this one and the others. By the time the first one was released, we already had quite a lot of songs that could have either gone on that one or the next one. We had written quite a lot of songs at that time. There is a feel on the first two albums that is the same feeling. By the time we got to Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline, we had cleared the decks. All the songs we had done in the first four years had found a home. Since then it's all been up to date.

AL: In Our Gun is a real departure then?

Ben: They are all new songs. We took a break because we had burned out touring. We had been on tour for three and a half years by the time we stopped. We have toured the States five or six times. We have done Europe the most. Then we have done quite a lot of stuff in Australia. That's a big place to go around. There's only about five major cities there. Then there's a lot of desert where no one lives.

AL: Who does the songwriting in Gomez? You have different lead singers and different songs. It almost sounds like a different band from song to song.

Olly: That is the point of the band: that it is mixed up and you could expect anything. Songs can come from anything. It can be generated from a sample, or a bass lead, or someone can have a song, or a half-written song, and bring it to everyone else. Everyone plays around with that and things change. It's a messy process.

AL: Did you get a lot of new gear to play around with on this record?

Ben: We did get a bunch of new gear. We have always been into that but we haven't had time to mess around with it before.

Olly: It just gave us more opportunity to create material to play something on top of. We had more time to practice and get newer sounds out of machines. People just turn on the machine and get this basic generic sound and play straight from that.

AL: Are you against conventional songwriting? The song "In Our Gun" stops, and then there's a bass riff, and the song gets really fast and goes somewhere else totally unexpected.

Olly: It's usually for our own amusement. We like it if it sounds good.

Ben: We get bored very easily. That's usually just a result of someone having a new good part. The song is going into a certain direction, then we come up with something else, and we say put that in there, and see if it works. We try it out. That's what it's like being in a group and having ideas coming at you all the time. We can try it out and see if it works. If it doesn't work, you can throw it away straight away.

AL: Are you still capable of being influenced?

Ben: Now we are listening to a lot of Rockabilly before the shows. It's cool. Eddie Cochran and Carl Perkins are really great. They have probably played here before at The Fillmore. Everyone has played here including Erasure. Oh dear.

AL: Did you grow up being a fan of music?

Ben: Yeah. We grew up in the CD age. When you got to your music buying potential, and you had money, basically that's when CDs came out. That was amazing. That's why most of the decent bands around today sound like they do. There's a whole heap of bands out at the moment who mix things up. A lot of it has to do with the availability of music these days. When you go into a store today there's almost one hundred years of recorded music available to you today. There are records from the 1920 to go delve into and listen to. That probably defines us more than anything else. I wasn't one of those guys who goes into every record store and every record fare there is. I didn't have the time. When I was younger, and I got into music, that was when CDs came out, and that made it easier to discover things.

AL: But some bands seem stuck with their influences. There are bands today who pretend like they never heard of Aphex Twin.

Olly: Yeah, sure. We absorb everything really, whether it's cool old stuff or the new Primal Scream record. It's all music. It's all going to get into you somewhere, not to the point that you are going to listen to Aphex Twin then go push buttons.

Ben: It's just music not a lifestyle choice.

AL: What was it like winning The Mercury Prize over some established groups like Pulp and Massive Attack?

Olly: That was all amazing and good. It was a bit bewildering. We were just about a year old as a proper touring band. It was an alien experience. We had to learn very fast. We were like chucked into the pool and had to learn how to swim.

AL: Have you played with any other bands or musicians that you liked recently?

Ben: Joseph Arthurs is great. We have played with him a lot.

Olly: Ian Brown is cool. We played with Cornelius a few months ago in Japan. It's a proper show with massive visuals. They are all timed and syncopated. It was awesome.

AL: Did you grow up listening to a lot of Heavy Metal?

Olly: Loads of it. When you twelve years old, you were either into indie Manchester stuff like Inspiral Carpets, or you were into Metal bands from LA or the Bay Area.

Ben: Well, I used to listen to Slayer. Mostly stuff from the Bay Area. We still like to play fast and loud.

AL: How do you choose who sings lead vocals on a song? Am I to suppose to think that whoever wrote the lyrics is the one who is singing the song?

Ben: Depends on the song. Sometimes whoever wrote the lyrics sings it. Mainly that's how it works, but sometimes one person writes the lyrics, one person writes the melody, and one person sings it. We use the voices like we use anything else, like guitar effects, just to get a different sound.

AL: Have you produced all your records?

Olly: We started out on a four-track. We did it at our parent's houses and garages. When we got signed we stipulated that we wanted to carry on in that way. They were happy for us to do that, and that process continued. We are happy producing ourselves and we are getting better at doing it.

AL: Do you use drum machines?

Ben: We use lots of drum machines live. Olly played most of the samples into the drum machines. There are samples and loops. There are various things running onstage all the time. We play on top of that, behind, in between.

AL: How has this tour been?

Olly: Really good. It's hard what to think after coming back after so much time off. One thing we knew was that we were getting better musically. People in the States haven't seen us in years, and in that time we knew that we had improved. More people have showed up to gigs this time and it's been great. It's a big place. It takes a while for word to go around.

AL: Some bands have to tour five or six times before people will have heard of them in America. Many bands put out a few records and do a few small tours and never come back. Only then, when they have gone people start to get interested.

Ben: You have to keep going. Bands in England think that they can do what they did in England over here quite quickly. In England, they have a solid music press. There is a weekly publication for the whole of the country. It's a little easier to get some recognition. But over here the country is so big.

AL: Many kids who are younger than eighteen and live in the suburbs don't go to shows because their parents won't let them go.

Olly: Most shows in England are flexible for ages generally speaking. Many kids come down.

AL: What qualities do you love about music?

Ben: Primarily because music is a means of escape. Not in a bad way, like I would want to get away from everything, but entering another reality. That applies mostly to playing music live. In the studio it's more like a craft thing where it's a challenge. It's like a puzzle a lot of time. But live you can wake up after a song and don't know where you have been. It's a trip.

Olly: It might make you feel really good as well. You might feel stinky or shitty in the morning, then you put on some Slayer and then it gets you going.

AL: Are you very political?

Ben: We are not like a political collective, but our eyes are open.

Olly: The biggest problem now is with the Palestine and Israel. Americans pump in three billion dollars of aid every year to Israel. That is where the Arab world has grievances with the Western World. Things should start right there.

AL: What is Gomez going to do for the rest of the year?

Ben: Go back home. We have some dates in England. Possibly we are going to come back to the States early next year. We don't know yet. But as soon as we can, we are going to do another American tour.

AL: When will you record again?

Olly: We have a whole new studio to rehearse and record in. That is being built at the moment. It should be done in a few weeks. So we will begin recording bits whenever we can.

AL: What should people expect when they come and see the live show?

Ben: Chaos. And turmoil.


Website: www.freegomez.com

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The Alexander Laurence letter archive



24 letters from Harry Mathews, American Writer
8 letters from Gilbert Sorrentino, American Writer (1929-2006)
5 letters from David Markson, American Writer (1927-2010)
1 letter from Jacques Derrida, French Philosopher (1930-2004)
8 letters from Alexander Theroux, American Writer
5 letters from Mary Gaitskill, American Writer
2 letters from Rikki Ducornet, American Writer
5 letters from Stephen Dixon, American Writer
2 letters from Joseph McElroy. American Writer
2 letters from Gordon Lish, American Writer
2 letters from Raymond Federman, French Writer (1928-2009)
2 letters from S. E. Gontarski, professor and Beckett Scholar FSU Tallahassee
3 letters from Ronald Sukenick, American Writer (1932-2004) includes interview MS
1 letter from Floyd Salas, American Writer
1 letter from Hal Sirowitz, American Poet
1 letter from Bruce Benderson, American Writer and translator
1 letter from Doug Rice, American Writer and professor
1 letter from Julia Solis, American Writer and translator
1 note from William T. Vollmann, American Writer
1 letter from David Foster Wallace, American Writer
1 letter from Evelin Sullivan, American Writer, includes MS
3 letters from Stewart Home, British Writer
3 letters from Editions Du Seuil, Catherine Roulsin, concerning CodeX translation
1 letter from Lauren Fairbanks Jagernauth, American Writer
1 letter from R. G. Davis, Actor, SF Mime Troupe
1 letter from Ed Baxter, Scottish Journalist, re: Harry Mathews
1 letter from Nicole Panter, American Writer
1 letter from Colin Newman, British Musician and member of WIRE
2 letters from Marilyn Johnson, American Poet
2 letters from Catherine Texier, French/American Writer
1 letter from Rosemaire Waldrop, American Poet
2 letters from the Museum of Modern Art, NYC
1 letter to Harry Mathews (returned) wrong address
6 letters from Norma Cole, Canadian American poet
1 letter from Rick Moody, American Writer
1 letter from Lynne Tillman, American Writer
1 letter from William T. Vollmann, American Writer
1 letter from Janice Eidus, American Writer
1 letter from Tama Janowitz, American Writer
2 letters from Karen Elizabeth Gordon, American Writer
6 postcards from David Markson, American writer
2 postcards from Dennis Cooper, American Writer
1 postcard from Mark Amerika, American Writer
1 postcard from David Strauss, American Journalist
1 postcard from Joseph McElroy, American Writer
1 postcard from Joseph Simas, American Poet
2 postcards from S. E. Gontarski, American Professor

8 poems in original manuscript by Alexander Theroux

20 letters regarding publishing and submissions

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Giant Drag Interview

Since I moved back to Los Angeles three years ago, Giant Drag has been one of the most exciting bands I have discovered locally. They may seem like a new band just formed. But It has really been a lifelong project born out of a love for music. Giant Drag is Annie Hardy (guitar/vocals) and Micah Calabrese (drums/keyboards). They are best friends and band members now situated in Echo Park and Silverlake. The band started in 2003. I saw them play at Silverlake Lounge a few years ago. They had a song "Blunt Picket Fence" on The Fold compilation. Next came the Lemona EP (2004). That led to tours with Har Mar Superstar and Brendan Benson.

Giant Drag combines folk music, blues with hard rock and even shoegazer music. After playing a ton of shows locally and a UK tour they came back to NYC during the CMJ and wowed the critics there too. The first album is Hearts and Unicorns (2005). It is coming out September 13th. They have taken their sound to a new level. There are some old songs from the EP like "Cordial Invitation" and "This Isn't It" but also a new batch of new impressive songs. Even their oldest song "Blunt Picket Fence" gets a new improvement updated with strings.

Some of the new songs like "Kevin Is Gay" and "Pretty Little Neighbor" and "You're Full Of Shit" are their best ever and indicate their new direction. Giant Drag have a soft side and a hard side. Their music has all the power and glory of a great impressive debut. This is for me one of the exciting records of the fall so far. Giant Drag has delivered the goods. This record is all about the pain and the struggle of life. You have to hear this amazing sound. I got to speak to Annie Hardy recently in her apartment in Echo Park. She seemed pretty excited about the album and touring this fall.

* * * *
AL: Most bands do their first album and it's all the songs they have written when they were young. It's all about hope and aspirations. Then they do a second album and it's songs about life on the road and groupies.
Annie: I don't ever want to do that. I don't want to be like The Get-Up Kids and write songs about missing people while I am on tour. I don't think that I will. I would rather write songs about Oprah, about how she is raising awareness by interviewing women over 60 with AIDS. Who would have known?

AL: Are your family musicians? What do they do?
Annie: No. Not at all. My mom is a writer. That is where I got my creativity. She writes plays and directs them. She wrote a musical even though she is tone deaf. She doesn't play any instrument whatsoever. She wrote it with another person. She wrote three plays and they are all very different. One is about suicide. She tours in high schools and jails. Her name is Molly Hardy. The plays are pretty cool. I played music in one of them. The plays actually change the lives of young people. These tough gangster types who are juvenile hall see the plays and they are moved. They are crying at the end.

AL: That sounds great.
Annie: Another play of hers is about AIDS. Her best friend died of AIDS when I was eight years old. He wrote the music for it. When that happened I was living in San Clemente. Places like that in Orange County are ten years behind culturally. When my best friend's family found out that I knew someone who died of AIDS, they wouldn't let my best friend drink off the same soda can as me. It's very white trash there.

AL: In Orange County, there is a lot of homophobia.
Annie: Yeah. Those people would start telling people that my mom was a lesbian. It was because she had a gay friend. You have to be kidding me?

AL: Were you going to be an actor early on?
Annie: I was in her plays when I was a little kid. I was acting all the time. I was thinking that was something I wanted to do. I went to boarding school when I was in the tenth grade. There was nothing to do there. I was acting there and I was in the choir. There are a bunch of boarding schools in Ojai.

AL: That sounds like going to a Prep School?
Annie: Everyone who went to my boarding school got into real colleges afterwards. It was weird to not go that way with your life. I tried some acting. I was only good at it when the character was an extension of my own personality. I can be myself on stage. As long at it is fun or sarcastic I can do it.

AL: How did learn how to play an instrument?
Annie: I always knew that I wanted to. When I was a kid and watching TV, I would watch Janet Jackson and "She's sweet." When I was in sixth grade I got my first guitar. My parents tried to get me to take lessons. I have always hated school and being taught a certain way. The first attempts at guitar lessons didn't work. I learned how to play the riff from "Jeremy" and "Cats in The Cradle." I thought that something is not right. In ninth grade I took lessons aga in. My teacher stopped giving me lessons because I told him "I was God." He called my Mom.

AL: You were being contrary?
Annie: Yeah, I was just fucking with him. He called my Mom and said, "Hey, Annie told me that she was God and she seemed really serious." I stopped then. The next year I went to boarding school and I met another girl who had a guitar. Her Dad was teaching her Beatles songs. So we learned how to play together. I learned a lot by studying piano books that had chord charts. I bought some r ock books. Around then I learned how to play and sing at the same time. Since then I have been all over that shit.

AL: You must have been in some bands before Giant Drag? What were those like?
Annie: It was pretty harsh. Being a girl was difficult. Even I was prejudiced against female musicians. I didn't benefit from being one of the guys, and having them teach me how to play the guitar. I would try to assemble groups with other girls. I thought that would work. In one band I played guitar and the other two girls were the singers. I couldn't find any girls who could play an instrument.

AL: Why is that?
Annie: It's weird. In San Clemente, it's shocking if you are a girl and you do something other than go shopping or go to the beach. Eventually a few of my guy friends let me play keyboards in their band for a while. I played my first show with that band. It was mostly playing some backyard parties. After a while I said, "Fuck these guys." I moved to Los Angeles. I knew I could find some girls, or maybe some guys if I was lucky, who would play with me.

AL: It seems like when you have four or five members in a band you always have to write parts for each member to play. Maybe you don't want any guitars on a track. What is that guy going to do when you play that song?
Annie: That is the great thing about having two people in a band. We always know what we are going to do. We always think about having a bass player or another member. But we eventually choose not to do that.

AL: When did you move to LA?
Annie: I was eighteen years old. It was in 1998. At that time I recorded a lot of my own songs on a four-track. I knew that I wanted a band. It's very lonely being a solo artist. You are very limited when you are alone. When I got to LA the same things would happen. I would meet girls who wanted to be in a band that couldn't play anything. In one band I was teaching one girl how to play the drums. I hardly know how to play the drums. I was showing one girl how to play the bass, and another how to play guitar. It was so fucking frustrating. Everything I tried, nothing really clicked. Nothing felt like it was worth it. I had one band that came pretty close. It was a band called Mein Coiffe. It was my friend Mike Felix. We used the Beauty Bar logo as our logo. I was twenty and I had a fake ID. I was going to bars and I was drunk, and I thought of that. That band almost worked. I got to collaborate with another songwriter. But that fell apart.

AL: Did any Giant Drag songs come into being yet?
Annie: We were doing a cover of "Wicked Game." There was an early version of "Blunt Picket Fence." There was one other band before Giant Drag. It was with this other girl. Before we even played a note together, she said, "This is what we are going to wear onstage for our first show. This is how I want to be. We are all going to have a special name."

AL: That sounds really interesting.
Annie: That is not what it is about. Dude, I am not going to do that. That girl still plays in a band now. I was really discouraged. I felt like I couldn't find another girl who had the same ideals as me. I want to find someone who didn't want to be in a band for the wrong reasons.

AL: What are some of the right reasons? It seems to me that a lot of female musicians go out with guys in other bands, while male musicians will go out with anybody.
Annie: Yeah. When you are a girl and you are boning a guy in a band, there is a thin line from being a groupie. But if you have a guitar, somehow you are supposed to be equal? I don't know.

AL: If you are dating someone in your own band, and then you break up as a couple, then you jeopardize the life of the band.
Annie: The White Stripes did it. That always seems like a bad idea. I have always dated people who were similar to me. Since they are similar, they end up being musicians or drug addicts. It's not a prerequisite. I like to hang out with people who have similar interests.

AL: How did Micah come into the picture?
Annie: He was actually recording a lot of my songs, for me. We are really good friends. We would hang out. We would spend a whole Sunday and record a bunch of songs. We would play a cover song by Journey at his house. One day I said, "Hey dude, you know all my songs. Why don't you be my drummer?" He agreed. Then we started thinking about getting a bass player. Just as a joke Micah started playing the bass parts on a synthesizer with his left hand and the drums with his right hand. We laughed. We said, "Wait, it's funny, but it works."

AL: I saw you play some shows in New York without Micah. There was a time last fall when he was out of the band. Then I see you guys play this year and he's back in. What was that all about?
Annie: That was pretty fucked. I was very hopeful at first. I thought it could be cool. But no one can play these songs as good as Micah. We have a special chemistry that I don't have with anybody else. The new guy came into the band right at the time we were getting signed. He said that he wanted to be on the deal. It's like "Dude, you have been in this band for a month. The record label won't even let you be on the deal, because it's too much of a risk. And if you do that the record label will own you for the rest of your life." At the end of the day, he quit. I asked Micah to come back for the recording. He had such a great time that he decided to stay. I made him sell me his soul at the studio one day. He was trying to buy something from me. I said "I will sell this to you for ten dollars... and your soul! That means you have to stay in this band for the rest of your life."

AL: You did that UK tour back in September last year without Micah.
Annie: There was a press photo of Micah and me. The new guy joined the band and we were doing a tour of England two weeks later. There were reviews of the show saying: "There's Micah." Sorry, that wasn't Micah.

AL: When did you play the first shows as Giant Drag?
Annie: We did our first show June 4th, 2003. We did a show about a month after we decided to be a band. I booked a show so we could get ready for it. I knew there wouldn't be any urgency unless I did something like that. It was like "Micah, I booked a show at the Scene. You either play it with me or I go it alone." The ball started rolling and shit started happening really fast.

AL: What were the first shows like?
Annie: The first show was at the Scene. The second show was at the Troubadour. The third show was at the Silverlake Lounge. From that show we got a residency. Scott really liked us so we started to play at The Fold a lot. We played a lot of shows at The Derby and the Silverlake Lounge.

AL: Then last summer you did another residency at Spaceland?
Annie: That was in June 2004.

AL: You did that show with Scissor Sisters?
Annie: Oh my God! That was the first show we did at Spaceland. I was going "Wow. Are we that popular? No, it's for that band." I thought they sucked. But all the shows were all full. That was pretty cool. That was a fun time. Micah actually quit the band in the middle of our residency, but played the rest of the shows. That was weird.

AL: Is that why you were wrestling with him on stage?
Annie: Yeah, I think so. I would get mad at Micah when he would make mistakes. It would fuck you up doing that. I would leap over the drums just to knock Micah over.

AL: What about some of the rumors surrounding the band?
Annie: Like what?

AL: I don't know. Maybe we should make some up right now?
Annie: I keep hearing a rumor that we have broken up. That is so boring. I heard a rumor that someone else writes all the songs. That one is funny.

AL: Did you go into the hospital for secret plastic surgery?
Annie: Definitely not!

AL: Who made the "This Isn't It" video? What is going on there?
Annie: My friend GJ made it. He is going to make the new video we are doing at the end of July. We were going to do that video for "Blunt Picket Fence." That was the only song we had mastered at the time. His concept was of me being in bed with a few dudes and a couple chicks. They are just getting up and out, and leaving me alone. That idea sounded better for the song "This Isn't It." Since we did it so fast we used the demo version of the song. It was a different tempo than the one on the EP. It got played on MTV2 in the UK.

AL: What about cover songs?
Annie: We have done three. "Wicked Game" seems like a song that I could have written. It felt really natural playing it. We have played it so many times now that it feels like our own song. We covered "When You Sleep" by My Bloody Valentine when we played those Spaceland shows. We also played "Ashes To Ashes" by David Bowie. We played that at Silverlake Lounge when I had cut my hand on a meat slicer. I couldn't play guitar for two weeks. We were doing some keyboard songs and that was one of them. I haven't figured out any great cover songs since then that are right for us.

AL: How did you do the new album?
Annie: We recorded every song that we have. We had eighteen songs now. I had an idea of the track listing. It's good that we recorded all the songs because some of the songs that I didn't think would be on the record ended up sounding really good. We put those on the final album instead of the other songs. We chose one song by Joe from The Icarus Line. It's funny because that is who people keep thinking wrote all my songs. That is ridiculous. But I think it's funny that he wrote a song that is on there. It's a real great song.

AL: Has the sound of the band evolved over the past two years?
Annie: Definitely. Before we had a bunch of songs with slower tempos. All our songs were sad and mopey. For live shows it's better to be upbeat. It's nice to have a fast pace. Maybe I have gotten angrier too?

AL: What pisses you off?
Annie: People especially. Injustice.

AL: You were a DJ at a club for a while. How does that fit in with the whole Annie Hardy universe?
Annie: That was the only thing giving me any money for a while. I didn't want to have a job and do a band on the side. I wanted to do music all the time. Because whenever I had a job or went to school I was bummed out. I hate dealing with shitty people and getting them a coffee, or being told what to do. I decided to live on very little money while my creativity didn't suffer. It worked. As a DJ at Beauty Bar I made in one night what I would have made a whole week as a barista at Starbucks. I lost that gig as a DJ when I moved into this apartment.

AL: What did you play?
Annie: I played stuff that I liked. People would come up to me and say "You are the best DJ I have ever heard." At least two people say that every time I play. I don't know if they are really drunk or what? Then I get the people who try to request songs. People want to hear stuff like Meatloaf and Madonna.

AL: Has you being from Orange County influenced the songs at all?
Annie: Definitely. Growing up in Orange County set up the tone for the rest of my life. You can take the girl from Orange County... Whatever. I was a weird person down there. I wasn't like anybody else. The only people who I could relate to were the really fucked up people. They were weird but not in the same way. We were the outcasts.

AL: Is that show "The OC" really accurate?
Annie: Micah and I were watching it the other day. It seems like Orange County. Only if these people were really young enough to be in high school. Only if they were shooting heroin would it be more accurate. "The OC" is mostly about Newport Beach. San Clemente is really different.

AL: Do you go back there?
Annie: I do but it's so depressing. I don't know what the fuck is going on down there. A bunch of kids I went to school with have died already. If they didn't overdose, they have kids already. Some of them are strung out. I don't know what is going on down there. There is a nuclear plant down there. Where I lived, Forrester Ranch, is built on a toxic waste dump. There are high rates of cancer down there. My mom had a twenty-pound tumor on her ovary.

AL: You had this article or two about you in the NME. For a lot of people in the UK that is one of the newspapers that everyone reads. How does it feel when you are one of the first few bands that some 15-year-old girl hears in Essex?
Annie: I feel weird when anything is written about me. I am not a hipster. I don't go out every night. I don't feel like "indie rock popular band" Giant Drag? Are we really popular? Are we really indie rock? What is that?

AL: I guess "indie rock" in that case is all the new bands that tour in vans and are not mainstream bands.
Annie: Don't you think that all those "indie rock" bands would tour in a big bus if they could?

AL: When we were in New York City last fall at CMJ, we were talking about all those articles comparing Giant Drag to The Breeders. What was that about?
Annie: Yeah. I finally figured out why that happened.

AL: You were really annoyed about it last year.
Annie: I didn't understand it. Why are people saying this? They were all saying the same thing. I was hoping that someone would change it up. But it was our press release, which I had never seen, that made the comparison. Once I saw it, I realized that 75% of what has been written about us was a ripped off sound bite from our press release. I like when people compare us to Nirvana. It's great when I get compared to any guy in another band.

AL: You want to be treated like one of the guys?
Annie: Yeah. I have always been that way. Most of my friends are guys.

AL: If there is a band with four guys, you think it's a good band. If there is a few girls in the band, you have to think to yourself "Is this a girl group?" But at the end of the day a good band is a good band. Let's evolve people!
Annie: I know it's impossible to ignore the fact that there is a girl up there. But I don't want to thought of as a girl band. I am a girl, but I don't act like a typical girl. I'd rather look like a guy onstage. I would like to be like almost non-sexual.

AL: Have you toured the United States yet?
Annie: We have been to Texas, New York, and the West Coast. In the UK music is really cool. It's really different over there. People like music and they really want to hear new bands. People are not to cool for school like they are over here. People go nuts for shows over there. They are dancing. They let you know if you are awesome. At our second show over there we sold twenty CDs. Everyone wanted us to sign them. It was insane.

AL: If people are listening to Giant Drag, what bands should they be listening to because you are paying homage to them?
Annie: I listen to so much different shit. If you are a kid and you haven't heard The Beatles, start there. Go from there.

AL: You do a lot of talking between songs. People expect now that you are going to tell jokes. How did that happen?
Annie: It's become a reason why people want to go to the shows. It started because Micah is changing the settings on the synthesizer in between songs. It's an old analog synth and it takes a while. If I didn't talk in between songs I would be standing there for a minute doing nothing. I started yapping at one of the shows and people started laughing. People have told me that I should do stand up comedy. The only time I have said anything funny it was just made up then for that particular time. It's perfect for a band situation.

AL: When did you record the record?
Annie: We started in December 2004. That was about six months ago. We recorded all our songs and "Wicked Game." There were two songs that we knew weren't going to be on the album. We recorded a lot of shit. It took forever. We worked in a few different studios. It took months.

AL: Was it done all live?
Annie: No. It was all done painstakingly slow. We recorded the drums in a nice studio at Paramount. We recorded the rest at Downtown Studio. Our friends from Dirty Little Secrets have a studio there. There is a vocal booth. It's the worst place to record. You can hear the other bands in the other rooms. The sound comes through the floor. You walk in the hall and you are bombarded with the shittiest music you have ever heard in your life. We used a tape machine for most of the recording. We recorded one thing at a time.

AL: You did the EP the same way?
Annie: Yeah. Pretty much the same way. We did most of it at Record Plant. It is a super-nice studio. We were getting it for free. We would have to go in when no one else was there. We did eleven songs because we thought we were doing an album then. We would work really fast and do fourteen hours of drums one day. Did one day of guitar tracks. Did another day of vocals. We finished it at the Dirty Little Secrets' studio. We had to redo the vocals and guitars there. The first stuff sounded like Pink. The engineer didn't know what we were supposed to sound like. He didn't have a feel for the music.

By alexander laurence

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