Originally Published in Collide Art and Culture Magazine Issue 5, this piece was heavily edited for clarity. I always felt it was a shame to clip the context cos it gives a clearer insight into the character and state of mind of one of rock’s remaining originals. Here’s the full unabridged ramble.
The psychedelic experience can be a fractured and tangential thing, twisting and oscillating, reshaping and reforming as it both binds and separates. A conversation with Anton Newcombe can be a similar experience, shot through with equal snatches of insight and paranoia.
As the band celebrates their silver jubilee with a celebratory tour, his prodigious output shows no sign of slowing down. In life, as in conversation, a font of disparate ideas are pulsing and bubbling to the surface at any one time.
After 25 years and almost as many incarnations, the Brian Jonestown Massacre have secured an enviable legacy, even as Anton continues to experiment musically and linguistically. I phoned Anton to get the scattered scoop on Berlin, Beatles, euthanizing fictional Nazi octogenarians and a quarter of a century with the Brian Jonestown Massacre.
You’re celebrating 25 years of BJM. A Silver Jubilee-you’re like the queen. That’s quite an achievement. And even this far into it you’re pursuing a lot of different angles, for example in the past year or so you’ve put out three very different projects with Revelation, Musique Du Film Imagine, and I Declare Nothing with Tess Parks. What is it that keeps those cogs turning? It’s been said that creatively restless types are either chasing something or being chased by something, do you feel that perhaps this applies?
Well yeah, I’m a conceptual artist so for me things are always fresh. Because I’m not schooled in music and I play different instruments, I don’t get tired of it because I keep switching around. So I’ll play the drums and write this crazy moving beat in my head, for example one morning I tried to get my two year old son into Neil Young’s Harvest, and that got me into that mental mindset of just putting down Neil Young beats from the 70’s, just plodding along. I ended up writing three songs right in a row that I liked just using that beat. It all came just from having that beat in my head. I can write on any instrument but being a conceptual artist I’m also interested in just getting the idea out there and then live is where it sinks or it swims. For me it’s always a challenge to bring things to the live table because I don’t record things perfectly, not in the way that say Radiohead makes seemingly perfect records or something, sonically they’re not supposed to be lo-fi and all that other stuff that I do. I have yet to do a record like that, so I still have that ahead of me should I want it, to work with Tony Visconti or someone and make some fantastic sounding David Bowie quality record.
Are you perhaps feeling some echoes of 1996 where you also released three quite different records in a similarly short space of time?
Yeah I’m still doing that and I’m still that type of person. When I’m looking at making a record, conceptually the silver thread that binds it many times will be that as the songs go along I can make this chord, like it could go from A to B to whatever and subconsciously in slow motion you’re playing a harmonic in your head.
In 95-96 what I said was ‘okay let’s just go into the studio and bang out what it would be like to see a set by us live this week. Let’s just put up three microphones and blow through it and take it from there, and at the same time I was in the recording studio trying to do something multi-instrumental which was ‘satanic majesties’. I also wanted to do a record that cost no money, and this was with the songs that I’d be continuously just sitting around with an acoustic guitar and playing with friends. I just sort of threw them all on one record. I said ‘I ‘ll just put a mic here and blow through these acoustic songs, and that became ‘Thank God for Mental Illness’. With no money. Cos I wanted to show people that you could, technically you could do that. Just have one mic and sing these songs, and make a record for nothing.
How I got that released was that people wanted to do records with me and I’d say ‘well I’m not going to sign a contract with you, we can talk about that but let’s just put this out while we talk about that, so I was showing people that there were numerous ways to move forward.
You spoke about hearing harmonics when you were playing those simple chord changes, I used to find that when I was doing music when I was sleep deprived I would hear entire ancillary choirs that would come along and fill out the space around a single guitar, particularly after three or four days of no sleep…
(Laughs) Yeah, there’s always these extra elements in your head if you’re following these golden ratios. Your head will start singing these melodies along too and you can revisit them. It’s kinda cool to imply that stuff, the echoes of whatever that you’re doing in music, but I’m not sure how to respond to what you said directly as far as the implied motivation and encouraging that.
I don’t necessarily want to talk about encouraging it, especially not the salacious side of things but I did want to ask you about your similar experiences on a certain level. Everyone who has an enquiring or especially an addictive personality has a different journey but can we talk about elements that altered your consciousness and how that changed or affected the musical output as you progressed, and perhaps how these frames of consciousness became a ‘new normal’ in turn?
Okay, well for instance, I’m not advocating a lifestyle or abuse or even exploration, but just as far as personal experience there’s two things. One is my childhood experience with music. I could hear music on a deep level as far back as I can remember, like at two or three years old, but I never thought I could play music cos there were no examples of it in a full situation. Like when you watch Paul McCartney play bass there’s just nothing he does that leads you to believe that you could be him, because you can’t be him. But when you saw punk rockers play or something then you knew that you could do it too. And that you should do it. And with rap, rap is different, rap is for everyone. If you take that to its logical conclusion…. I’ll revisit this in a moment.
Now with acid, what happened was my whole life I’d always had control of myself, then in my early teens when I tried acid I was like ‘oh my god, this is completely out of control.’ With these thoughts, you had to master that environment so you didn’t get busted by the police or your parents or whatever right? And just navigating that feeling let you develop the tools in your head that you carry with you, with or without it, that sort of psychedelic consciousness. So once you view the world in those terms with those possibilities you can go backwards to what I just referenced. Now if I see a YouTube of 20 six year old Korean kids playing classical guitar, I know that I can do it! Surely I must be able to! All these kindergarteners are doing it, and it doesn’t matter if its cello or whatever. This guys in kindergarten and he’s playing the cello? Surely I can play the cello too.
Did you find that kind of lifestyle left you to open to finding everything also laden with symbolism and synchronicity? Making patterns and connections so that connections are rampant, where things are never quite boring but can sometimes border on solipsism where you can start to think that the universe is aligning itself in these forms entirely for you?
Well… that’s kind of egotistical, cos I think as you spent more time in the process it becomes a ritual and an egotistical ritual and I don’t think that’s necessary. I think that’s a hang up. When I do find myself falling into that kind of stuff I try and correct myself to where I’m not thinking. I don’t meditate, whether its on materialism or anything else, my life is a meditation. So my goal is put out effortlessly, almost to be like a really intelligent animal that’s just taking things in and going about feeling positive and addressing something. For instance, like if I feel moody, being aware that it could be bio-chemical or something, my goal is always to live like that. So if i find myself looking at a girls boobs or something I reflect upon it and go ‘well that’s okay to think that girls are pretty but I love my wife and my family’, y’see what I’m saying? Because I know who I want to be as a person I direct myself back there and get on with my life. Musically and with everything else i keep it as simple as possible mentally without it becoming some kind of ritual. For example I don’t use transcendental meditation or something to keep me focussed on my stuff. I don’t need a ritual.
If you could narrow it down to a defining urge or purpose, what is it you’re trying to champion or stand up for with your outlook or your output, and inversely, what might you be trying to rail or rally against-in both concrete and abstract terms?
Well first of all- just remaining true to yourself is so important, as you go along, as you change forms but remain the same. That’s an interesting concept that I’ve always had. For instance I don’t plan on getting hair implants or dying my hair or getting plastic surgery. I don’t have a problem with getting older, I never wanted to impress teenager anyway and I don’t care what the world does. I sort of set up my life in a foreign land with a different language so I’m not subjected to the advertising of it, that culture, the bullshit Hollywood Babylon thing that’s now internationally everywhere. It’s crazy. It’s great, I don’t watch TV so I don’t have that, I don’t have a facebook. That’s a conscious thing.
Tell us a little bit about Berlin, it seems like the quintessential artists retreat with people like Iggy and Bowie heading over there in the 70’s, and Nick Cave in the early 80’s. Can you tell us a little bit about what drew you there?
Berlin is massive. I was gonna live in Iceland but it’s a little bit small and the economy crashed. In Iceland everyone knows each other’s business, but in Berlin it’s like you may never see someone again. Its great- people mind their own business so I can be like a ghost here. And Germans are very civil, they’re there if you need them.
It’s an interesting place but I live in a different time. For those people when they came here the wall was still up and things were on the edge. People forget that berlin was 250 kilometres inside another country and world war 3 could happen at any time, so there was this other thing going on at the time. All it would take is one tank to close the road and you’re fucked. So those guys were getting off on that, but with me, we live in a world where this is one of the last places in western society where they control that outward thing of authoritarianism, the new reverse corporate authoritarianism, the security super-state, all that stuff. They treat it all with kid gloves even if they are spying on everybody for whatever reasons NSA Style. That Snowden shit. Whether it ‘protects us from terrorism’ or whatever, they can’t do it in the way they do it in the UK or Australia. There’s this weird frightening thing that’s going on in a lot of the countries- it’s getting more extreme.
You’re going to see it everywhere. With the current wave of refugees it’s going to look a bit like the movie Children of Men or some shit. When you go into Dover or Calais there’s like 5 walls of barbed wire and thousands of migrants from all over the world tearing down the fences, and burning tires in the streets. If that doesn’t look like a scene out of children of men with the riot police and water cannons and everything in Calais then you tell me what does? End of Rant (laughs).
It’s all so filtered and partitioned by the news outlets over here. Even on the internet the information is so partitioned you really have to look and see the historical precedents that truly apply. Speaking of decoding the media- with you not speaking German do you sometimes feel somewhat divorced or excluded from the corporate, social, cultural and political messages being exchanged?
With corporate social messages it’s a conscious decision, but y’know I follow the news, all the news is also in English so I’m good to go. I’ve got the alternate news, I’ve got Deutsche Belle , I’ve got everything I could need. But y’know the corporations are gonna do what they’re gonna do and the governments aren’t gonna do anything about it. Because the governments are the corporations. The head of the NSA gave a speech where he said ‘we’re not even gonna be spying on people anymore because corporations do that for us’. He just came out and said it! He said ‘were not gonna be investing in supercomputers to keep tabs on everything you do- Google is’! But he didn’t say it in an Orwellian sense, it was more like ‘these are the facts –we’re not wasting money on this shit. Facebook has you!’
It’s amazing how readily people willingly accede to it too. There’s a big hoo-ha in Australia at the moment because as of today the government has announced they’ll be recording our metadata and storing that information for up to two years but the fact of the matter is that for the majority of people the information is already out there. Everyone’s on Facebook, everyone uses Google. For years they’ve been throwing it out there willingly.
Yeah but here’s the problem. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. These people blackmail. It’s the name of their fucking game. It all has to do with tax receipts or anything they wanna save. Anything. It could be down to someone saying ‘hey you wanna do this article for us’? We’ll give you $100 if you just interview this guy for us and if for some reason you say ‘Tony Abbot sucks cock’ they go- ‘oh, let me dig up some dirt on that guy’ . They’re just like J Edgar Hoover. ‘Oh this guy didn’t pay tax let’s put him in court and hassle him on that one. This is the FBI that did that shit! Think about it. The FBI doing that to Martin Luther King, calling up his wife and going ‘this is the sound of your husband fucking another woman in a hotel right now’ so to tell me that you think anything has fundamentally changed in the way these guys do this shit?
When Wikilieaks was exposed it seemed to me like some kind of CIA op. Because of the results of who got fried. It wasn’t the US government at all. They knocked down every single one of those Arab countries with these fake revolutions. I read over here that one of Gaddafi’s sons got capped immediately and that was probably due to his insider deals with Blair and all those other guys. You know they were setting up not only telecommunications but possibly overthrowing Gaddafi and all this shit, and they just shot him. Right there in the palace. All hell was breaking loose in all these countries when those cables were released but nothing happened in the USA.
Assange seemed like a pretty convenient scapegoat -it’s almost like ‘who would put up their hand like that unless they’re really strangely egotistical’? So everyone’s focussed on him, rallying behind him and distracted from the fact that the blowback isn’t really affecting the NSA or the United States.
Yeah, totally- and it’s used to justify the laws you’re talking about in Australia. Y’see what I’m saying? It perfectly justified everything all of a sudden. We’re gonna keep track of everything. Of course we are.
Let’s move back onto music for a bit…
Yeah, let’s stay on the music (both laugh).
Tell me a little about ‘Musique Du Film Imagine’, you wanted it to soundtrack each individual listener’s inner cinema right? But what about the film that you envisioned accompanying it while you were composing it? Were there characters in the film that were perhaps idealised archetypes or analogues of yourself and people that had crossed your path throughout your travels?
No, what i thought… well first of all I was doing a manipulation of the media by talking about lamenting the fact that they don’t make independent cinema as they once did. Those guys in the French new wave would do Gillete shaver razor commercials and in their downtime take that money and take those same cameras and crew and say ‘okay we’re making a movie – what’s it about? We don’t care! It’s about Anna Karenina almost getting laid! So we’ll scribble down a screenplay and improve the rest. It has to be done and out next week!’ And they did it over and over again.
So I was talking about that in the French media, because people aren’t in the movie business anymore, they’re in the billion dollar business now. We have more cameras and more digital channels, we have Vimeo and YouTube. We have all this stuff now and we have the ability to edit movies on everyone’s laptop and yet we have less things happening. We had the example of Dogma where they used natural lighting- where you don’t need any of that crap. You can have people being themselves, you don’t need anything else, and yet we have less things coming out. So I was talking about that and then I got I got signed onto a project by the director of Downton Abbey for a movie called Moondogs but it got pushed back, so when I got back from tour I was asked to do a cover song for this company called ‘Finders Keepers’ of anything I wanted. So I picked this French song but it didn’t come out.
My wife suggested that I contact Soko, so I got her to sing on it and then I just thought fuck it I’ll do my own soundtrack. I assembled it very quickly in a week because I already had a recording that I had done with Asia Argento so I could really visualise what the soundtrack could be. Now as far as a movie, and what I figured the movie could be I wanted that my first trick would be that even though it was in French it would be a Swiss movie, because they also speak French. And then I’m fascinated by rich people. How they got rich. And when they’re old? Because I know the dirty dealings, they all have front companies, you might meet this guy who’s doing hedge funds but the hedge fund company could be a front so the CIA doesn’t have to ask the government for more money. They just siphon and cycle more money. So what I was thinking was- when you’re on the bus in Berlin and you see these old people right? That’s grandma on the bus right? But what did grandma do? Was Grandma a Nazi? Did she turn in Anne Frank? Yeah it’s just an old lady but what was her life about?
So I was thinking this old chick in Switzerland could be like a big clock and could be reflecting. And it would go back in three vignettes and show these crazy parts of this rich person’s life and how they got rich. Going back through flashbacks, but from a house, from a vista looking out on this pristine alpine shot of her property, and then eventually she would die. Assisted suicide. In Switzerland. I thought it could make this really interesting film, so that’s what I visualised.
The pink vinyl edition of the album is really striking, I’ve always found that the presentation of an album, particularly the colours helps flavour the experience somewhat, the way I perceive of and compartmentalise that music in my mind. Even if it’s just the colour of the ink or type of handwriting on a dubbed cassette. Did that also form a part of the concept? The lushness of it?
Yeah, I wanted to make a bubble bath friendly album. (laughs) Something you could just take a bubble bath to! I seriously wanted something where if you visualise us playing this whole album live with a pocket orchestra on French television with an audience of say 300 people, people from 13 to 75, they would get it immediately. Cos even 75 year olds, I mean we have Paul McCartney- he’s 75, so they could understand the psychedelic elements no problem. Having fuzz guitar wouldn’t phase them in a symphonic setting. The pink thing artistically is me thinking that some of these chicks that are in control of stuff would understand it and that ‘don’t let the name fool you’, this is heavy shit. It’s another form of exotic fruit. It just has a funny wrapper and spines on it, but inside there’s plenty of goodness.
Speaking of soundtracks and music as a soundtrack to people’s lives – you spoke about how it could reach a whole range of people, I’ve always found that the discovery of certain musicians or artists is really a time of life and event based thing whereupon you stumble down a particular rabbit hole as though it was predetermined and so it always draws you back to and makes you reflect upon that period or person or event, like a particular scent. For someone like yourself that has such a huge panoramic body of work where you recommend somebody just starting to dig should dive in should something like this chat make them curious?
Well… it’s very difficult to put it in a healthy context I think. I did start out to make a continuous YouTube playlist but it takes forever. It goes to at least 230 songs. Chronologically is a weird way as it just gets stranger and stranger in an odd way, and there’s all the hits and misses.
It’s like one of those ask a million monkeys get a million answers questions. A good place to start is to try and stomach us playing at Glastonbury in 2014 on YouTube. See us playing and now imagine us with one less guitar player and playing even better cos we’ve evolved since then. You can just see that here we are at this mainstream event, one of the premiere festivals on the planet just kicking butt.
Actually can I requalify that? It’d be interesting just to go backwards. Just go from whatever’s new and go backwards and try to make your way through it. That’d be the way to go. How’s that? I would suggest that with the Beatles too.
Speaking of the early stuff, and trying to relate to it now, how does the Anton of today relate to the Anton back then? Did you ever find that it became exhausting to try maintain that role, that cult of personality of the unstable bohemian archetype that you developed? Cos sometimes when we define ourselves we can wind up in thrall to the idea of something even when we find ourselves moving past it…
No. It’s a natural process. I found it exhausting dealing with other people and their own shortcomings of not knowing what they wanna do. That’s just a general thing. All my peers they don’t play music anymore. They didn’t really wanna play music or they would still be playing music. So I had to kind of find a whole industry that doesn’t exist, to do what I wanted to do. That’s self-evident.
The mistakes that I made were the inability to articulate that I was the producer. It took me seven years to whip out that sentence and that’s a big difference from saying ‘just buy me a studio and I’ll make some crazy shit for ya’, because that didn’t get me what I wanted. When I said ‘I am the producer’ that got me what I wanted. The conversation changed and the cheques just started rolling in. So it took a while to figure that one out.
But as far as everything else, the music industry doesn’t exist. So you can’t pin that on me. Here I am this guy with his own recording studio making records in Europe, I pay for my family’s insurance, I support my older son and my commitments to that, there’s all these people around the world and I’m the one who supports all of that.
As far as the manic stuff and the ups and downs and whatever, that’s natural, my reactions to people. There’s two sides to every story basically. Maybe what’s depicted in ‘Dig!’ isn’t exactly a linear construct of a documentary, cos if you start it, it says ‘written by…’. You can’t write a documentary, a documentary is a document. You record a documentary, but ‘written by’ implies that you’ve written it! (laughs) How do you fuckin write a documentary?
I guess with seven years of material to work with I guess he felt he had to impose a narrative structure, but it kind of reduced people to caricatures in a sense…
Yeah well that’s exactly it, all great rock bands should be characters, but the thing is that all that stuff was transitory and temporary. Peter Hayes from BMRC was only in the group for a little tiny bit because Robert Bean, his dad Michael Bean from The Cult wanted me to teach him how to play guitar! So I took him on tour for a stint. I taught him everything I knew so that he could go off and do his own thing, he wasn’t integral. Sometimes he didn’t even plug in his amp when we were playing. They just threw that in there cos they thought ‘well some people will know this guy’
And he looked good in a leather jacket or whatever?
Yeah, there’s a lot of that shit.
Tell us a little about working with Tess Parks on ‘I Declare Nothing’ and the accompanying shows? I really dig the Velvet Underground elements I hear in there- what were the origins of that project?
Well…I’m friends with Alan McGee…
Yeah all that stuff. He had signed her to his new label and told me it sound exactly like BJM but with a girl singer. Normally I ignore all the emulators of our style, sound and approach or whatever, but this time I didn’t. I listened. And I suggested that we work together rather than her recording with someone that sounded like they were copying me.
You felt it would be better direct from the horse’s mouth?
Yeah but also more or less whatever she wanted to come up with. That’s how I saw it.
How are the shows working out?
Great, the shows are great because it’s an absolute pleasure – I just sort of stand there and play fuzz guitar. People are deeply sceptical of women as singers, not in the mega stardom arena, like with Beyonce, she’ll tell you stories about her dad making her sing on a treadmill so she could be this mega performer. You know, these cultivated Disney robots that pop up…
You get exceptions though- people like Nina Hagen, Kate Bush, Marianne Faithful…
Nonononono, Marianne Faithful was completely manufactured by Andrew Loog Oldham and was singing ‘As Tears Go By’ by the rolling stones and dating Mick Jagger.
I was more talking about the ‘Broken English’ period, where she’s all haggard and heroin ravaged…
Well she had a lot to offer as an individual, I’m just talking about her genesis. And people are generally sceptical of women singing for a couple of reasons in modern times because women join bands and then they sing to whatever the guys create, and it’s kind of a mismatch many times. And then there’s the pitch thing. I mean Kate Bush has this higher pitched voice and with electric guitars that would have been horrible, she needed to do that whole thing with piano. And there’s a lot of people sort of… squealing.
I think that people have to remember that in the 50’s and 60’s that all women in America used to have classes for choral singing. They used to sing with other people or church groups. Everyone had a voice and it was part of what you did with your community. So everyone had this kind of natural earthy voice or whatever it may be, and a lot of people married that to songs that were complimentary in arrangement. So with the right arrangement and the right key, the performers that we saw were quality and I think that was lost somewhere along the way.
Now I think a lot of people are sceptical of women performers, when they see them come on they’re like ‘okay- entertain me’, they’re really dismissive because people have whiny voices or whatever, and it’s just a pleasure for me to watch her win everybody over! (laughs). There’s the standard crossed arms and I get to watch people all of a sudden go ‘this is fucking good!’
I think a lot of times people are looking for something visceral, particularly rock audiences…
Well she can do it, cos she’s all doe-eyed and all that stuff….and a handsome looking girl.
She’s doe-eyed, but she can cut an icy glare too man!
Yeah exactly! She’s got all that stuff, and she’s completely open to me. Even when we were making a video for German Cantarina I was like ‘check this out- you gotta look down and open up your eyes. Don’t move your head. Just look down. Open up your eyes when you start singing. Leave them open. Now look down. She’ll just do it. And she understands when I reference something, like ‘you gotta watch this Scott Walker shit’ you gotta watch this YouTube of him singing because he’s studied this stuff. He’s a pro. He’s a fuckin pro! He’s an entertainer!
You’re quite active online, is it important to you to keep up a sort of dialogue with your fans and supporters, or even detractors?
Well, did you ever see that movie Sunset Boulevarde? With William Holden? Oh my god you gotta watch it. It’s a Classic film noir with William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Buster Keaton. Everyone’s in it. And it’s about this movie star from the silent era and she’s living in the Hollywood hills and then there’s this guy who’s a failed screenwriter and a drunk is running from some debt collectors who are gonna beat him up and steal his car. His car blows out a tyre on Mulholland drive and he pulls in to this driveway where he goes into what looks like an abandoned house. And this women comes to the door and is like ‘oh come in I’ve been expecting you’ and she’s this former silent movie star and she’s there all alone except for her butler who’s been writing her all this fan mail this whole time. She still thinks she’s still the biggest star in the world cos she’s all isolated up there in her mansion.
And there was this whole thing from my mates- it’s like that band the Goo Goo Dolls. What the fuck are the Goo Goo Dolls doing right now? You know what I mean? Seriously. You think about that guy being all isolated like ‘I’m on MTV I can’t talk to you’. What the fuck is he doing right now? Really! So he was isolated for that whole period. Me, I’m just a regular guy.
I just have to keep away from the hackers, the trolls and the crazy people. I have a family! But I believe in being open. Apart the fact that I’m fundamentally different to you on every level, there’s no difference between me and you. Seriously I don’t think that I’m special. I’m just different. I don’t have any problem communicating with people except when they’re idiotic, like ‘hey have a listen to my demo tape!’, ‘fuck you I’m doing a soundcheck for Moondogs right now and I’m playing with my baby.’
That must get pretty wearying but I can imagine that being open in that way has thrown up a few great surprises where you do meet interesting people that rub off on you that you wouldn’t do otherwise if you were, as you say, locked away in a gilded cage or ivory bubble in the Hollywood hills. What are some of the more interesting or affirming connections you’ve made?
Well I talk to some of my heroes. Like Tony Visconti, David Crosby, I talk to Andrew Loog Oldham regularly, I talk to Bobby Hitchcock all the time. Anybody who gets the medium. I piss people off too, so a lot of people will keep me at a distance because I will say something like ‘I might have a potty mouth but at least I’m not fucking dead pigs in the face’ (laughs).
I was on London radio and we were talking about ‘who’s your favourite Beatle?’ And I was like – it must be George Harrison because imagine having to stand between John and fucking Paul and his super ego. ’I’m Sir Paul!’ He’s just this bastard, ruthless bastard. Remember heather Mills and all those revelations? I’ve heard these crazy stories. Like this guy who designed these Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd album covers, he did some work for Paul which won the award for best album cover of the year and so Paul invites the guy to his offices. Paul’s got two butlers. So they show him in like (snooty toff accent) ‘Mr McCartney will see you now’ and they lead him in and go ‘please be seated’. So he’s sitting at a desk looking at the desk and Paul’s looking at the desk and they’re not saying anything, and then the butlers say ‘Mr. McCartney is very pleased with your work’, and the guy’s like ‘ookay’, and they continue ‘and furthermore Mr. McCartney would like to show his appreciation to you in some small way’. He’s thinking ‘fucking hell-the guys not even talking to me, he’s sitting at the same desk and he has his butler talking to me’! (laughs) So then Paul gets up and walks over to him and hands him this felt box, and all the while the guy’s going ‘this is fucking weird. So the butler’s like ‘Open the Box’ and he opened it and it was a fucking Paul McCartney and Wings Swatch! (laughs!) He gave him a fucking Swatch! That’s all he did! (laughs).
So I’m telling all these kind of stories right? All this kinda shit, about the hotel in Monaco and them fucking teenagers that they’d found hiding under the beds on their first tour. all kinds of crazy stuff and I’m getting into it right? Like the first time they played New York? All of a sudden they find all these teenagers in the closet and they’re fucking them, all kinds of weird shit, you know they’ve been to Hamburg and all kinds of stuff. So at the end of it I apologise about my potty mouth and I’m live on Soho Radio and the guy is like ‘no-it’s okay don’t worry about it’, and I said ‘yeah-it is okay, at least I’m not fucking dead pigs in the face!’, and this was the same week the whole David Cameron thing leaked. (laughs).
(Laughs) At least he’s not fucking kids this time. Those Tories are a fucking sinister bunch. Do you think the mindset of McCartney and chaps like that comes from being so closeted away from the real world for so long? Being put on this pedestal, and perhaps even reluctantly finding themselves in this position where they have acres and acres of publicists and managers and butlers between them and anything real?
I just can’t believe all his bullshit though you know, because I’ve caught him out on so many weird things. After 9/11 he went on Howard Stern and he said ‘I was so touched by the firemen that and so I wrote this song’. He held his heart when he said ‘touched’. And he’s got this acoustic song he starts singing like ‘Freedom, freedom, freedom’… he starts doing this song, and then you go on YouTube and he’s on a talk show before 9/11 and he’s singing fuckin ‘Freedom!’. So that’s the kind of guy this is. That’s the tone of his character that he would go on TV in America and fuckin say that.
My favourite is that when they re-released the records, and I can’t remember which particular edition, remaster, repressing or ‘extra track with a tacky badge’ type scenario it was but he had the credits changed so that instead of saying Lennon/McCartney it read ‘Sir Paul McCartney and John Lennon’ that speaks to me of somebody who’s still deeply insecure in some sense…
Yeah it’s craziness. It’s just absolute craziness. Him trying to renegotiate? Cos they had a deal to be Lennon and McCartney and he’s like ‘no I wrote everything on that song- here’s me playing ‘Hey Bulldog’ or whatever, just going backwards on their deal. But there’s just a million of those things. It’s the truth that John Lennon hates the Beatles, that’s why they broke up the band.
Can we finish up by talking a little about the new mini album that’s going to be available at your Australian shows? And what we can expect to see at those shows?
The album, after I did this stuff with Tess and the Orchestral Soundtrack stuff I started experimenting with tremolo and things. Heavy tremolo. So we’re gonna whip out that stuff live. We’re gonna play old and new songs. On this mini album there’s a song in Slovakian that’s pretty, it’s the first one we’ve done in Slovakian.
Is that a pretty language to sing in?
It works. When you listen to the song, it sounds like a decent song and if you were a fan of picking up nuggets from foreign countries it sounds like you’re picking up one of those.
It’s something I’m really interested in doing in the future, in all these tentacles going off in the direction of all these different languages and how that connects. Supporting groups to influence them to record things that they like, even if they’re influenced by the Stone Roses or Tame Impala or whoever it might be. They’ll be their own Tame Impala rather than being a copycat of Tame Impala with a funny accent.
There’s so much cool shit coming out of Eastern Europe, even if it was recorded in the 80’s and we’re now just starting to get a glimpse of it thanks to the internet. I know that certain groups were exposed to people into the tape trading and fanzine side of things back in the day but now there just seems to be this entire vista of music that we’re getting to hear. Its’ super interesting to hear the way the influences of popular music were filtered through their rudimentary techniques, lack of equipment and cultural barriers. Is that something you’ve experienced? What was it that brought you to want to sing a song in Slovakian?
Well I record in all different languages. I have Russian, Icelandic, Swedish, French. I’m working in every language I can think of because I just consider myself a temporary spiritual being on this planet and nationalism is something that doesn’t appeal to me. I sort of call on an abstract bohemian construct of the bits and pieces I can use and collect or acquire that suit my own purpose and make me happy, like a little child.