Sunday, 19 January 2020

Motörhead: We Talked To Lemmy About "March Ör Die" & Got The Scoop On New Drummer Mikkey Dee For AMP #1

Originally published in American Music Press #1 (October 1992)
Interview by Devorah Ostrov & Schneider

Motörhead at the time of this interview
L-R: Lemmy, Würzel, Mikkey Dee, and Phil Campbell
March ör Die (WTG/Epic) is Motörhead's latest offering, but it comes with a new drummer.

Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor has been officially replaced by mighty skins-basher Mikkey Dee, whose claims to fame include stints with King Diamond and Don Dokken.

Although Philthy parted ways with the group once before (to work on a project with Brian Robertson; he returned a couple of years later), this time his departure looks to be more permanent and not without some turmoil.

Philthy seems to have left/been sacked early on in the recording process, as he only appears on one track: "I Ain't No Nice Guy" (which also features Slash on lead guitar and guest vocalist Ozzy Osbourne). Tommy Aldridge — previously with Black Oak Arkansas, Pat Travers, and Whitesnake among others — plays drums on everything else except "Hellraiser" which features Mikkey. To get the scoop, we spoke with Mikkey and iconic Motörhead frontman Lemmy.

Back row L-R: Phil Campbell, Mikkey Dee & Würzel
Lemmy front and center!
AMP: Mikkey, what's the first thing you did when you found out you were Motörhead's new drummer?

Mikkey: I gathered my thoughts and thought about how I was going to approach the whole thing. I had to sit down and kick back for a while and think about it.

AMP: You didn't shout "Whoopee!" and get drunk?

Mikkey: Oh, I probably did — but it wasn't just because of being in Motörhead. I get drunk all the time! I was happy, don't get me wrong. I was super happy! But work comes first. After I got my shit together, of course we went out and shot down a couple of tequilas... and fifteen beers!

AMP: How did you originally meet Lemmy and the guys?

Mikkey: I've known these guys for years! King Diamond opened for Motörhead in Europe in 1987. Lemmy actually asked me at that time if I wanted to join the band, but I turned him down.

AMP: Was this when Philthy had quit before?

Mikkey: No, this was when Phil was back in the band again!

AMP: What?! Phil was in the band and Lemmy asked you to join? This sounds like a big scandal!

Mikkey: Not really. They had problems with him. It's no secret. Not personal, but playing-wise. As Lem says himself [in someone else's interview], when Philthy came back it didn't sound as good as it used to, and he didn't seem to have that much fun. When they toured with King Diamond, they kind of fell in love with my drumming, and we got along good. We were talking about it, you know, and we always kept in contact over the years.

AMP: Lemmy, tell us about the new album, March ör Die. Does it reflect your state of mind at the moment?

The classic three-piece Motörhead lineup (circa "Ace of Spades")
L-R: Lemmy, Philthy, Fast Eddie Clarke
Lemmy: It's not completely autobiographical. If it was, I'd be baring my soul to the nation — and I do that all the time! Basically, what I'm saying is that we're all fucking doomed, so there's no need to lay down and whimper about it.

AMP: "Cat Scratch Fever" was a cool choice for a cover song. Has Ted Nugent heard your version?

Lemmy: Yeah, he doesn't like it. Probably because it's better than the original!

AMP: Motörhead's last album, 1916, was killer! But if you weren't already a Motörhead fan, you weren't likely to hear about it. What happened?

Lemmy: No promotion. Our record company's got no budget. They're the low man on the totem pole. We're with WTG, which is a subsidiary of Epic, which is a subsidiary of Sony, etc., etc. We've got no chance.

AMP: Oh no! Does that mean March ör Die won't get any promotion either?

Lemmy at the Omni in Oakland - 1988
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Lemmy: We got a billboard on top of the Rainbow, but I haven't seen anything in the papers. I don't think Tommy Mottola [head of Sony Music Entertainment] is very interested in Motörhead. We've done a video this time, though. A real video — for the song "Hellraiser" with Pinhead!

AMP: Do you think MTV will show the video, other than on Headbanger's Ball?

Lemmy: Probably not, but I hope they do. It's a shame to make a video and have no one see it. The only thing that I can promise you, is that this band delivers and always has delivered!

AMP: Mikkey, are you worried about the fan reaction to your replacing Philthy?

Mikkey: No, not at all. I know they're gonna be skeptical. They're gonna watch me. But I'll tell you, they're not gonna be disappointed.

AMP: Do you get to change any of Phil's drum parts when Motörhead play live?

Mikkey: I get to do whatever I want. Philthy did some cool shit and he did some goofy shit. There's drum fills, like in "Ace of Spades" — that little break. I could do something incredible in there. But I don't wanna do that. I wanna keep it as simple as he did because that's the way the kids wanna hear it. Certain trademarks have to be there. Actually, what I might do is add more drums. I don't think Philthy really built up to some of the choruses. I think a song should lift, and that's where I think his weakness was. He was pretty monotone over the songs. I wanna make it more exciting! Give it a kick in the ass!

AMP: What are the similarities and differences in playing with King Diamond and Dokken, as opposed to Motörhead?

Lemmy and Pinhead from the video for the "Hellraiser" single. 
The song was also featured in the film Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth.
Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com
Mikkey: They're all very, very nice guys. But musically, there are no similarities. Being in Dokken, I entered a different kind of music scene than what I was used to in King Diamond. I was suddenly up against Slaughter, Warrant, Poison...

AMP: The MTV hit-making machines!

Mikkey: Exactly! MTV, money — the business, crap, bullshit! And that was a very big difference. That's what I like about Lem and Wurz [Würzel, guitarist] and Phil [Campbell, guitarist]. By playing with Motörhead, it was suddenly fun again. I'm back with a really heavy band, and that's where I belong. I realized that playing with Dokken.

AMP: Lemmy, do you listen to your own records?

Lemmy: I listen to 1916 quite often. I hadn't listened to any of the others for years, but when they were reissued on CD, they sent me a box and I listened to 'em. They were really good!

Lemmy & Würzel (with Philthy on drums) at the Omni - 1988
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
AMP: Mikkey, do you have a favorite Motörhead song?

Mikkey: I've got tons of 'em! "Ace of Spades," of course... "Killed by Death," "Traitor," "Metropolis"... The whole new album is a smash to me! I wouldn't have joined the band if I didn't like what they were coming out with today.

AMP: Were you guys in LA during the riots?

Lemmy: We were right in the middle of recording "Hellraiser."

Mikkey: We were in the studio while Wurz was putting down the guitars. We had to get out of there because we were just a couple of blocks away from where Reginald Denny got beat up — where it all started. We were seeing people on the street with fucking baseball bats, and pickup trucks with 15 guys in the back. I had my new Corvette parked right out front, and I said, "I'm outta here!"

AMP: With the political climate at the moment, we're wondering which presidential candidate you might vote for — Bush or Clinton?

L-R: Würzel, Lemmy, Phil Campbell & Mikkey Dee
Lemmy: I wouldn't vote for either of those mealy-mouthed bastards! Tipper Gore [wife of Clinton's running mate Al Gore, and founder of the P.M.R.C.] has ruined the last chance for anything good. And I can't believe Ross Perot has dropped out. He probably got a phone call in the middle of the night with someone saying, "It's your ass." And the next day, he dropped out.

AMP: One final question, Lemmy... Motörhead is supporting Ozzy Osbourne on what will probably be his last concert tour. Do you have any retirement plans yourself?

Lemmy: No plans yet. You fuckers stick with me. You'll get what you deserve!

* You can find my 1989 interview with guitarist Phil Campbell here: devorahostrov.blogspot.com/2019/02/Motorhead-Phil Campbell

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

The Groovie Ghoulies Reflect On Their Low-To-Mid-Profile In This 1997 Interview With Teenage Kicks

Originally published in Teenage Kicks #2 (Fall 1997)
Interview by Devorah Ostrov

Groovie Ghoulies/The Donna's split single (1998)
Teenage Kicks' photographer Sara Brinker took this fab
photo during our interview! 
Every time I see the Groovie Ghoulies, I'm knocked out by how much FUN they are!

Lead singer/bassist Kepi is a non-stop bundle of pogoing energy. Guitarist Roach looks beautiful while tossing candy and toys to the crowd. And new drummer Panic (a Chicago native, he was formerly with the Queers, the Riverdales, and Screeching Weasel; he replaced Wendy earlier this year) keeps a fast 'n' furious beat with a big smile on his face!

Formed by Kepi nearly a decade ago, the Sacramento-based band named after a Saturday morning cartoon has developed a fanatical (and in large part, teenage!) following. Their hyper poppy/punk tunes owe an obvious debt to the Ramones musically, while Kepi's hook-filled lyrics are populated by horror show heroes like Bigfoot, Pumpkinhead, King Kong, killer computers, a Beast with Five Hands, and Graveyard Girlfriends.

Poster for The Muffs/Chixdiggit/Groovie Ghoulies
show at The Middle East - July 23, 1997
Lookout Records signed the Groovie Ghoulies last year and released the super entertaining World Contact Day LP. The label has also reissued the group's first two albums: Appetite for Adrenochrome (1989) and Born in the Basement (1994).

Their latest offering, Re-Animation Festival, is due to hit record stores in September. But before all that...

An opening slot on the Muffs/ Chixdiggit tour brought them to the Fillmore where we gave Kepi an adorable toy tambourine, met temporary fourth Ghoulie B-Face (who can usually be found with the Queers), and interviewed the band.

Kepi: B-Face joined us on tour...

Teenage Kicks: He just got onstage and wouldn't go away?

Kepi: Yeah, in Boston. He got onstage and we couldn't get him off.

Teenage Kicks: Since B-Face is playing bass, are you just singing tonight?

Kepi: Yeah... and playing tambourine!

Teenage Kicks: I'd like to go over the group's history. Other interviewers haven't really gotten into it.

Re-Animation Festival (Lookout Records - 1997)
Kepi: Because it's too messy; there are too many ex-Ghoulies.

Teenage Kicks: Were you living in Sacramento when you started the band?

Kepi: I had a Groovie Ghoulies in Sacramento, but it was very short-lived, and it goes way back. The band was pretty much formed in Los Angeles, and Roy McDonald [former drummer for Redd Kross, now with the Muffs] played the first show. It's been going pretty steady since the first album came out, and the singles just prior to that.

Teenage Kicks: What brought you back to Sacramento from Los Angeles?

Kepi: I started going out with Roach. We went to high school together. We were graduates of Roseville High School! And then we started dating again later.

Teenage Kicks: When did you get married?

Kepi & Roach: 1990...

The Groovie Ghoulies at Sin City Swingers Club (perhaps in Norway?)
Teenage Kicks: Roach, did you play guitar before you joined the band?

Roach: I used to play as a kid. Then I didn't play for about five years. The first time I played electric guitar was with the Ghoulies.

Kepi (to Roach): You rock!

Teenage Kicks: There was a big span of time between Appetite for Adrenochrome and Born in the Basement...

The Cramps & Groovie Ghoulies at the
Fillmore in SF - Halloween 1996
Kepi: Five years... There were some singles, something almost every year — a Ramones' tribute ["Pet Semetary"], a Troggs' tribute ["Girl in Black"], and a couple 7" singles. But y'know, it was real low-profile. It's less low-profile now. We're low-to-mid-profile now!

Teenage Kicks: How did your signing with Lookout Records come about? It seems like the perfect label for you guys to be on.

Kepi: All their bands put in a word for us — the Queers, the Smugglers, Pansy Division... They all said, "Sign these guys!" And they did. It's good, they take care of us.

Teenage Kicks: What's the story behind Wendy's departure?

Kepi: We went on tour with the Queers in February or March, and she couldn't do the tour. While we were on that tour, we met Panic. We were trying to plan the rest of our year as far as touring and recording, and she couldn't tour.

Teenage Kicks: Why not?

Kepi: She has a good job; she has a house and a car.

Teenage Kicks: She's a grown-up!

Groovie Ghoulies circa mid-1997 
(publicity photo)
Panic: I don't own any of those things.

Kepi: He was a homeless pedestrian. So we said, "You're in!"

Teenage Kicks: Panic, you used to be in Screeching Weasel and the Riverdales...

Panic: Yeah, but I just became really disgruntled not touring.

B-Face: But now he's gruntled!

Panic: I am really happy to get back on the touring circuit again!

Teenage Kicks: I saw your Halloween show last year with the Cramps...

Roach: That was fun!

Teenage Kicks: I think Lux is from Sacramento.

Kepi: Yeah, he has a degree from Sac State. When we played with them, he said, "Did you know there's a Groovie Ghoulies in LA?" I said, "Yeah, that's me!"

Kepi Ghoulie and Roach (with Wendy in the background)
Photos: Devorah Ostrov
Teenage Kicks: Is Halloween always a big night for you guys?

Kepi: This year we're playing in Holland. It's the start of our European tour. We're playing with the Smugglers and Mr. T Experience.

Teenage Kicks: It's a Lookout package tour!

Kepi: We're touring with Mr. T, and the Smugglers are either just starting a tour or finishing one up. It just so happens we're all in Holland that night. It'll be one big party!

Appetite for Adrenochrome 
(Crimson Corpse Records - 1989)
Teenage Kicks: Where else are you playing in Europe?

Kepi: All I know is Italy.

Teenage Kicks: Is the band well-known in Europe?

Kepi: We're low-to-mid-profile in Europe. The first record sold more over there than it did here. And we have a German single out, and we're going to do an Italian single. So, there's people who know of us.

Teenage Kicks: Out of curiosity, how have you avoided being sued over the group's name?

Kepi: I think we give the cartoon more fame than it had on its own in the last 20 years! And we spell it differently.

Panic: On this tour, some promoters have used their own creativity. We've been called the Groovie Goodies, and just Groovie.

Kepi: If they can't figure out how it's spelled, they can't sue us. "We're the Groovie Goodies! Why are you suing us?"

Lookout tour poster for The Mr. T Experience
and The Groovie Ghoulies
Teenage Kicks: I want to talk about some of the songs you cover — like "Singing the Blues." Black Oak Arkansas and Dave Edmunds both cover it...

Kepi: I know Marty Robbins, but I don't know who else did it.

Teenage Kicks: And you cover Herman Hermits!

Kepi: They're just catchy.

Teenage Kicks: And Neil Diamond, and the Partridge Family, and "She Hangs Out" by the Monkees...

Kepi: Yeah, people ask for that and "Singing the Blues." I hope we can turn them onto some songs, like the Cramps do. Like 14-year-olds who are just discovering punk rock — if you can turn them onto the Stones or Neil Diamond or the 13th Floor Elevators...

Teenage Kicks: At least you guys pick songs that are fairly easily tracked down. With the Cramps, you have to do some major research!

Kepi: Yeah, you have to get into the R&B history of some one-armed blues guy who plays in a cardboard box, or something.

Panic: I had a big argument with someone who said covers were a waste of time, the songs had already been done and bands should just write all original material. But it's like, if people didn't cover songs, I wouldn't have found out about anyone really.

World Contact Day
 (Lookout Records - 1996)
Teenage Kicks: Or if someone you like talks about other bands they like in interviews... That's how I found out about a lot of groups.

Kepi: The Stones did that! The Stones turned me on to a million blues bands.

Teenage Kicks: Mass from Squirt Gun produced your new album, Re-Animation Festival.  Did you know him before that?

Kepi: We'd met him once or twice. Panic knew him. Panic and B-Face have recorded multiple albums with him. He just told Lookout that he wanted to work with us.

Panic: What I like about Mass is, he's real patient with people. And he'll get the best performance that he thinks he can out of you.

Teenage Kicks: I love your cover of Daniel Johnston's "To Go Home" on Re-Animation Festival. I'm not familiar with the original version, but I'll take a wild guess that it doesn't sound like something the Ramones wrote.

Kepi: No, it's shockingly different!

Advert for the 2016 remaster of Born in the Basement
Teenage Kicks: And you do a song called "Maze Effect" by Daniel Janish. Who's that?

Kepi: He's a friend of ours in LA. And we do "If You Need Me"...

Teenage Kicks: The Stones!

Kepi: Yeah... Robert Bateman and Wilson Pickett wrote it. But it's pretty much the Stones' version.

Poster for a Groovie Ghoulies show in Spain
Teenage Kicks: Yet you make everything sound like a Groovie Ghoulies' song!

Panic: When I first heard Born in the Basement, I didn't think about which songs were covers. They really put their own spin on them, which makes it more interesting than just copying a song. It really impressed me.

Teenage Kicks: Are you guys ever gonna run out of monsters to write songs about?

Kepi: No! We have "Chupacabra" on the new record. As long as they keep spotting new monsters...

Teenage Kicks: What is a Chupacabra?

Kepi: It's a Puerto Rican, blood-sucking alien. It attacks goats and other farm animals.

Teenage Kicks: Have you ever seen a monster?

Kepi: I've seen one flying thing, a very fast object in the daytime. It was weird. But we don't have time to look for monsters, unless they happen upon the freeway while we're driving. Actually, there was a Bigfoot sighting in Florida last week and it ran right into the middle of the road. So... if we're lucky!

Teenage Kicks: I heard that "Graveyard Girlfriend" is gonna be the first single off Re-Animation Festival. That's such a great pop song!

"Graveyard Girlfriend" b/w "Trick or Treat"
and "Devil Town" (Lookout Records - 1997)
Kepi: Thank you. I try to write songs that I want to hear. And y'know, if you do something you like, you play it forever! Like "Beast with Five Hands"... People ask me, "Aren't you getting sick of that?" No! There's no song we do that I'm sick of. If you write a song, you should be prepared to be stuck with it. So, when I write a song, I try to remember: This song's gonna haunt me and I better like it!

Teenage Kicks: I want to ask about the song "Punk Pt. II" [from World Contact Day]. Are you addressing it to Sid Vicious or someone else in particular?

Kepi: For me, it was actually Johnny Thunders and Stiv Bators, but it could be for whoever you miss. That's one of the few songs I've written that's reality-based. I was watching the Swinging Udders and thinking about how many great bands there are now. And I was wishing that these people could still be around to see... If they just could have seen the scene blow up — Rancid and Green Day, y'know. And it's just sad that all my heroes are fucked up or dead.

★ ★ ★

Click here to listen to the Groovie Ghoulies cover of "To Go Home"
from the Re-Animation Festival album.

Monday, 2 December 2019

Inspiral Carpets: In My Second Interview With Clint Boon, The Keyboardist Reveals The Stories Behind "Devil Hopping"

Originally published in American Music Press (April 1994)
By Devorah Ostrov

Inspiral Carpets - photo from the video for "Saturn Five"
Follow this link to watch the full video:/www.youtube.com/saturn-five
I got into the hotel elevator with Inspiral Carpet's keyboardist Clint Boon. His signature bowl haircut was gone, as was his trademark crazy-colored shirt. Both hairstyle and clothing were now more contemporary verging on low-key. Still, I knew it was him. But he didn't know it was me (or rather, he didn't know that I was on my way to interview him, or perhaps someone else from his band — at that point, it was potluck who I would get).

I wondered if I should say something, but worried about saying something stupid. Then we got off on the same floor and took the same turn down the wrong hallway. Two more hallways and we finally consulted on the room number we were both looking for. I mentioned that we'd talked on the phone two years ago, when the Inspirals were promoting Revenge of the Goldfish. He seemed strangely relieved and said he'd thought I was going to mug him. By the time the record company rep opened the door we were chatting like old friends.

Devil Hopping (Elektra/Mute Records - 1994)
"Oh, I see you've already met," said the rep. He sounded a tiny bit peeved as he sent another journalist in the direction of vocalist Tom Hingley.

The guys were in town to publicize their new CD, Devil Hopping (Elektra/Mute Records). Produced by Pascal Gabriel (whose Belgian-accented pronunciation of "developing" inspired the weird title), the band's latest release has already generated two hit singles in their native UK.

The trippy "Saturn 5" entered the British Top 20 and stayed there for six weeks. Meanwhile, a remix of the album's opening track, "I Want You" (featuring guest vocals by the Fall's Mark E. Smith; Melody Maker amusingly called it "psychedelic optimism meets psychedelic miserabilism"), shifted 20,000 copies before the video had even aired. There's a different schedule in the US, where the pristine pop tune "Party in the Sky" will be the first single.

Taking a seat on the bed, Boon explains that's because "Saturn 5" is a "very Inspirally song. As soon as the organ starts you know it's the Inspirals. And the record company thought it was a better idea to promote something a bit more..." He runs through assorted ways to end this sentence in his head, before eventually settling on "unusual."

While I'm not convinced that a vast majority of Americans would be annoyed with an "Inspirally sounding song" (or even know what that means), they trusted the label's decision. "We said, 'Okay, you know America better than we do. Do what you want.'"

Clint Boon is at the wheel in this pic from the "Saturn 5" video.
Originally formed in Oldham, Greater Manchester, the Inspiral Carpets' current lineup came together in 1986/ 1987.

Over the course of a handful of EPs, a 4-track Peel Sessions recording, and their first two major-label releases (1990's Life and '91s The Beast Inside), the group acquired a reputation for its retro-psychedelic/ pop-infused songs.

This was fuelled in large part by Boon's hair and vintage Farfisa organ. "When we started out, we wanted to sound like the Seeds and ? and the Mysterians," he confessed in our previous interview.

They have an enormous and devoted UK following, and their singles — described variously as "the Doors meet the Electric Prunes" ("Directing Traffic"), "a colorful revisit to San Francisco acid rock" ("Commercial Rain"), and "sturdily melodic" ("This Is How It Feels") — consistently top Britain's independent charts.

Planet of Sound flyer for a "Devil Hoppings"
 promotion at Mad in Athens, Greece. 
The Inspirals finally broke through in the US with 1992's Revenge of the Goldfish. But the band that we discovered was one that had become increasingly enamored with studio technology to create its sound.

Commenting on a particularly feedback-frenzied track from that LP, Boon observes, "When we were playing 'Generations' live last year, I had to think, how did I get that sound? It was created by a machine in a studio."

With Devil Hopping, they were determined to recapture the energetic feel of their early releases. "We wanted to sound like a band excited about what we're doing," asserts Boon. "In the past, we've gone into the studio individually, done whatever we had to do, and gone home. That's how we did Revenge of the Goldfish. It's a brilliant album to listen to, but my memories of making it are driving 40 miles from my house to the studio, doing a few hours work, looking at my watch... This time I said, 'Let's all get together in the studio and stay there.' We brought our wives and kids to the studio, and it was really relaxed."

And instead of letting machines fix any gaffes ("Y'know, you play a half-decent organ solo, but a few of the notes are wrong so you move them on the tape."), the guys prepared the old-fashioned way. "This time we put a lot more concentration into the rehearsal period before the recording session," states Boon. "That meant we could spend less time actually recording and be more spontaneous." As an added bonus, Boon can unwind onstage. "Now that we're playing these songs live, it's very easy because I know what I did," he says.

Inspiral Carpets 
(Mute Records publicity photo)
Traditionally, all Inspiral Carpets material is credited to the group as a whole. However, when asked, Boon is delighted to point out exactly which tracks he wrote. The enigmatic "Plutoman," inspired by his infant daughter Harley Luv, is one of them. "I'll go through the lyrics for you," he offers. As he pulls out the lyric sheet, he reassures me that he's "not gonna start writing loads of songs about babies."

You know what they say about the lady who talks with the fishes
They say she will always have at least a billion, billion friends...

"There's this little person who's so innocent she's talking to the fish on the wallpaper. She's not got any of the prejudices that will come later on in life. But the other character is the Plutoman..."

2014 advert for the 10th-anniversary 
celebration of Manchester's Mint Lounge, 
featuring a DJ set by Clint Boon. 
Even out here where he sits
Drowning in isolation
He's stacking his bricks high
 And slowly walling out the world...

"He's the person we've all got inside us. He wants to isolate himself. So he not only moves to Pluto, he builds a wall around himself."

She's sending him flowers and sunshine
But he doesn't notice
On the stem of a rose she writes
"Have a nice day, Plutoman"...

"And she's sending him messages on the stems of roses." He chuckles. "Er… as you do."

Two other Boon compositions, "Just Wednesday" and "The Way the Light Falls," both take a disillusioned look at the music business and the detrimental effect it can have on a relationship.

"Just Wednesday," he reveals, "is about this guy whose girl or wife has left him because of the business. It's taken over his life."

Maybe it was my fault all along
'Cos I'm constantly talking in pictures and song...

"Which is what I do. I talk in terms of music — lyrics and songs. In conversation, something somebody says will remind me of a song. It's an occupational hazard."

And for anyone else this would be
The best days of his lifetime...

Inspiral Carpets - publicity photo
Clint Boon with his signature bowl haircut
in the center.
"Which it should be, being in a pop group and doing all this stuff. At the moment I have a really good relationship, but basically, it's my fear of what might happen if it all gets out of control."

But not for me 
It's just Wednesday
Or some other day...

"Like today, it took me a long time to figure out what day it was. I used to think that people like that were pretentious wankers, but it happens to you. You don't have weekends, you don't know what day it is, and sometimes you have to think about what month it is."

"The Way the Light Falls" echoes the same theme (here Boon refers to the music business as "the monster"), but one line pays tribute to a pop star hero of the keyboardist:

See the smile on the new music pages, now his face is all of the rages
Hey pretty satellite sing me a tune, the one I love is the man on the moon...

"That's my favorite R.E.M. song," he blushes.

Boon also wrote "Saturn 5," and the verses (which contain references to his American-born wife's family) hold a huge amount of personal significance.

Lady take a ride on a Zeke 64...

"My mother-in-law first met her husband when he offered her a ride in his Ford Mustang. The license plate was Zeke 64, which was his nickname and his football jersey number."

"Saturn 5" (US CD/maxi-single)
Jerry wants to be a rockette...

"Jerry is my wife's auntie. She always wanted to be a Radio City Rockette, and now she is one! The song's about optimism and ambition."

There's a popular misconception 
Says we haven't seen anything yet...

"I'm saying: You might think it's alright, but things are gonna get even better."

Laying down the lifeless corpse of President 35
The lady crying by his side is the most beautiful woman alive...

"That's John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy."

Saturn 5, you really were the greatest sight
Stretching out on a summer's day, Houston is calling me back to her...

"What really inspired the song was seeing the rocket. Saturn 5 is a space rocket, the rocket that launched all the Apollo missions. Last year I went to see it in Houston. It was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen. And on the way home, I wrote the song."

An eagle lands...

"That's a reference to the Eagle landing on the moon."

Promo postcard for the "Uniform"/"Paranoid" single/2-CD set
(Mute 1994)
And a planet full of people raises its hands
All hail the men who walk up in heaven today...

"Obviously, the people cheering while they watch the astronauts walk in space."

Monochrome TV...

"Black and white telly."

All the things you ever represented to me
Take me once more, take me to heaven again...

Comic take on the "Madchester" scene featuring
the Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets & James
Boon places his hand reverently on the hotel room's television as if he's going to testify on a Bible.

"Seeing the rocket reminded me of being a kid and watching this stuff on the telly, seeing Kennedy on the telly, and Elvis, and the Empire State Building. When I was growing up, America was this little box!"

He's positively beaming with pride. "Good, innit?" It sounds like a question, but it's actually a statement and Boon isn't waiting for an answer.

"I think it would be great to have a separate sheet with the album that explains what the lyrics are about," he continues. "People don't do that, do they?" This time it is a question. I shake my head to indicate they do not, and he makes a mental note to discuss this with someone.

While the lyric sheet is out, I ask Boon to clarify some of his bandmate's more cryptic stanzas. "We never ask each other what the songs are about," he argues. But he agrees to take a stab at "Half Way There."

"Tom wrote that song," he remarks. "I think it's about..." There's a long pause during which Boon glances over at Hingley to see if he's eavesdropping (he isn't). Boon leans in, and dramatically hisses "SEX!"

Clint Boon - photo from the "Saturn 5" video
Though I'll never see you again
It only makes me wanna do it some more...

"He knows that this is the one and only time he's going to do anything with this person. And he's got no respect for her."

Would I lie to you? 
Yes, I probably 
would...

"I know Tom's not promiscuous," insists Boon, defending his buddy. "If I wrote a song like that, my wife would kill me."

Is Tom married?

"Yes!" exclaims Boon. "And he's got four kids!"

★ ★ ★

Carpet Burns - My Life with Inspiral Carpets
Hardback cover of Tom Hingley's memoir
Q: Is there a way to tell which Inspiral's songs are yours? Any tell-tale clues to your writing style?

Boon: There are certain things I do that the others don't. One thing, I'm very sentimental when I write, and I don't try to hide it. Like when I wrote, "This is how it feels to be lonely/This is how it feels to be small/When your world means nothing at all." It's very blunt. I'm not trying to hide my feelings. And I like to make sure there's no superfluous syllables. If the syllables don't quite fit on the beat, it bothers me until I get it right. Then I ponder over the lyrics for ages, thinking: What's a nice way to describe Michael Stipe out of R.E.M. without saying, "Michael Stipe out of R.E.M.?" So, "Hey pretty satellite sing me a tune." I spend a lot of time on things like that.

Q: Tell me about Mark E. Smith and how he came to collaborate on the remix of "I Want You." 

Boon: We came up with this idea to do some collaborations for the B-sides, just to make the singles more interesting and more sellable in England. And Mark is someone we respect a lot. As you can imagine, he's an icon! He's a god to a lot of people! I'm the biggest Fall fan in the band, so I was appointed the job of ringing him up. I was thinking, he's gonna tell me to fuck off. I mean, people like U2 and Sonic Youth would probably be glad to work with this guy if they had the chance. And he says he's been asked to work with people too big to mention, but he's always turned down the idea of a collaboration. So I phoned him up, put the idea to him, and he was really into it. He jumped into a taxi and came down to the studio; made a video with us a couple of weeks later; did a photo session; an interview with the Melody Maker. He's gone headlong into the project!

Q: Did you know he was a big Inspiral Carpets fan?

Clint Boon - recent publicity photo
Boon: He never let it be known that he was a fan. But he never slagged us off, either. Mark doesn't say nice things about a lot of other bands, so by process of elimination... I always had a suspicion that he thought we were a bit cool. When we did the interview with Melody Maker, the guy asked Mark why he was doing this. It was the first chance we'd had to hear his explanation. He said that the Inspirals is the greatest pop band of this generation, and that pop music is what he's always loved. He went on to compare us to the Seeds and the 13th Floor Elevators — which is his ideal pop era. Briefly, he said he loves his band, but the Fall can't do the pop music that we do. So, for him it was a chance to become a pop singer.

Q:
Will the track be released over here?

Inspiral Carpets - publicity photo
Boon: We're not planning for it to come out in America, but we've got a few tracks in the can for B-sides which are too brilliant not to release over here. We also just did two tracks with Peter Ork from New Order. We got Orky to produce the Inspirals doing a cover of [Black Sabbath's] "Paranoid," and he played some bass on it as well. The other track doesn't have a proper title yet; we just made it up in the studio. It's a very ambient... It's like a collage where things keep coming in and going out, things that don't suit each other; there's a bit of African-like singing and some synth noises. It goes on for like six minutes, and Ork plays bass over it — you can spot his bass a mile off! It was so spontaneous, and it's one of the most beautiful things we've done.

Q: I've heard about your cover of "Paranoid," but I thought it involved a rap group.

Boon: Collapsed Lung! They'd expressed an interest in doing something with my organ on it, so we sent them a multitrack of "Paranoid" and said, "Do what you want with it. Preferably rap over it and leave some of us on it." It's a really good track! In fact, the version with Collapsed Lung is so good, we have to remix our conventional version to make it sound better. But again, it's all B-sides.

Q: Maybe you could do an EP of B-sides for your American fans...

Inspiral Carpets with Mark E. Smith 
performing "I Want You" on Top of the Pops
Follow this link to watch the full video: 
Boon: I'm thinking about an LP of B-sides! I'm pushing for the next album to be as loose and spontaneous as these experimental sessions. The compromise might be a double album: one pop album and one over-indulgent, progressive rock — whatever you want to call it.

Q: You guys cover great tunes, but don't include them on your albums. Why is that?

Boon: We're a bit precious about the albums. Those are the definitive Inspiral's records that people will listen to, and we feel it's important that they know they're our songs. Plus, covers date what you do in some ways. Like when we first started, we used to do [the Seeds'] "Can't Seem to Make You Mine," and [the Velvet Underground's] "What Goes On," and [? and the Mysterians'] "96 Tears." If we'd put those songs on our first album, it would've made us look even more retro than people suggested we were. And "Paranoid" is a good example. If we'd put that on Devil Hopping... This is the year that progressive music is big again, innit? Pearl Jam, Blind Melon — they're all dropping names like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. So, the last thing we want to do is put a track like that on an album.

Follow Clint Boon on Facebook:
Q: I've heard that you and Tom have been doing some acoustic radio sets while you've been over here. Any chance the group will go in that direction?

Boon: No! But I am thinking of busking in Manchester. Y'know, me and Tom on a street corner. The Clash did it in Manchester and Bob Dylan did it in London. People would be like, "It can't be the Inspirals! They're a Top 20 band!" Ha!

Q: Finally, I just want to say how amazing it is that your label flew you and Tom over here just to chat with some journalists. They must be really supportive of the group.

Boon: It's a sign that the company is giving us a good push! Somebody said to me last night, "You're really going for it with all this promotion." And I said, "Not really." I'm very happy to exist at the level we're at. If we get any bigger, great! If we don't get any bigger, no problem. I'm very comfortable and very happy with it.

* R.I.P. Inspiral Carpets drummer Craig Gill who died on November 20, 2016

* To read my first interview with Clint Boon, go here: devorahostrov.blogspot.com/inspiral carpets/revenge of the goldfish

Sunday, 24 November 2019

The Sweet: An Awkward Encounter With The Group's Onetime Vocalist Brian Connolly

Originally published in Rave-Up #11 (1986)
Interview by Devorah Ostrov

During a Rave-Up holiday in London, my friend Sara and I met onetime Sweet vocalist Brian Connolly. Sadly, it was not the wonderfully fun encounter you might have imagined...

Sweet - 1973 Bravo magazine 
Y'know, prior to this interview someone could've told me that the guys in Sweet weren't completely thrilled with their outrageous early-seventies glam rock persona. And maybe someone could've mentioned that Brian Connolly didn't thoroughly enjoy performing all those fabulous bubblegum pop tunes penned by the team of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman.

If I'd known beforehand how much they yearned to be a normal-looking, normal-sounding hard rock outfit, I could've prepared some earnest questions. (Or perhaps skipped the whole thing and avoided what was probably once, a long time ago, Connolly's sure-fire pick-up line: "Come sit next to me, little girl.") Instead, I blundered my way through this (as it turned out) very short and somewhat awkward exchange with the group's former lead singer. At least he was mildly interested when he heard that Sara and I were from California.

Brian Connolly on the cover of Music Star - 1974
Brian: I'll never forget the States. We had the wrong image when we went over there. We weren't doing our own material. We weren't doing rock, which the Sweet was all about. We were doing the commercial Chinn and Chapman songs. We were doing all that glam/glitter stuff.

Q: But we loved Sweet's glam image and all those Chinn and Chapman songs!

Brian: Oh, we got away with it, but we didn't think we would in the States. We thought we would shake off the glitter and the lipstick. We thought America was ready for rock and we could be the rock band we wanted to be. We arrived in Los Angeles, got to the Sunset Strip, and there it was in huge glam rock neon: WELCOME THE SWEET!

Q: So, you guys didn't like the Chinn and Chapman tunes? You wanted to be a hard rock band.

Brian: Oh God, yeah! Well, it was mainly me. A lot of the Chinn and Chapman songs were based on me. "Little Willy" was based on me. I was a bloody alley cat. If there was a club or a party, I would never go home, as in: "Little Willy, Willy won't go home/But you can't push Willy round/Willy won't go..." Also, if you're from Scotland [Brian was born in Glasgow], they either call you Jimmy or Willy. Chapman got wind of this and said, "Hey, Blue..." That's what he called me. "Why do they keep calling you Willy?" I explained it to him, and he said, "Great! That's bloody great!" Then one night he came up to me and said he had an idea about a song — it was "Little Willy."

The Sweet (publicity photo)
Q: What about "Ballroom Blitz"?

Brian: "Ballroom Blitz" was written during the time of the ballrooms, when they were literally going berserk in this country. We had "stomp-mania." It was us and Slade. We were literally pulling gigs to bits with people just going berserk!

Q: Would you consider working with Steve, Andy, and Mick again?

Brian: Yeah, I'd love to do an album with them again! I'm talking to them now. Steve's in for it. Andy wants to do an album, but not roadwork. I know Mick is in for it 'cause he's the only one that has nothing going for him. With the way things are going for me, I have a good chance of going out by myself anyway.

* * *

R.I.P. Brian Connolly who passed away in February 1997 after suffering several heart attacks and liver failure.
R.I.P. Mick Tucker who passed away in February 2002 from leukemia.

Friday, 1 November 2019

Neal Smith: The Alice Cooper Drummer Talks About Past Exploits, Plans For Deadringer & Selling Houses (Really!)

Originally published in Rave-Up #17 (1989)
Interview by Devorah Ostrov & Michelle Castro
Written by Devorah Ostrov

Neal Smith and his famous Premier drum kit
"Dennis Dunaway is the most likable, because he sees the situation clearly and accepts the reality of his role. Mild-mannered, polite, he's Mr. Nice Guy in the flesh. Not so Neal Smith, who is the archetypal rock star. All he wants is fame and glory, and he's frustrated because he can't find a chauffeur humble enough to suit him. His jealously of Alice is nearly psychotic." — Creem 1975

Promo photo from the 
Billion Dollar Babies LP
After reading that paragraph in an old Creem magazine, we were slightly terrified about our impending interview with Neal Smith, former drummer with the Alice Cooper Group. But that writer must have been talking about someone else, because (luckily) this Neal Smith was charming and delightful!

These days, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith both live in a small Connecticut town and have respectable jobs: Dennis owns a video store and Neal is a real estate agent.

And both are in Deadringer — a hard rock group fronted by onetime Ted Nugent vocalist Charlie Huhn, with Blue Oyster Cult's Joe Bouchard on keyboards, and Archangel's J. Jesse Johnson on guitar.

The guys have just issued their debut album, Electrocution of the Heart (Grudge Records), but Deadringer actually came into existence almost five years ago — although no one, including the band, knew it.

"Joe and Dennis and I had started writing songs together," Neal told us. "It wasn't really a band we put together to record or anything. Joe moved; Dennis got a job... So, I started writing with Jesse, who was another friend of mine."

Deadringer - Electrocution of the Heart
Grudge Records (1989)
According to Neal, it was Jesse's idea to take a demo tape of "Bring on the Night," "Unsung Heroes," and "Balls Out" to Grudge Records in New York.

The folks at Grudge loved the material and wasted no time in signing what some people are calling the first "supergroup" of the '90s.

But why did they opt to go with a niche label (mostly known for a Godz LP and a Roy Orbison compilation), instead of using their famous connections to sign with a major?

"We wanted to be involved in a situation where if we made it, the label would make it too," replies Neal.

At that point, Deadringer still lacked a vocalist powerful and professional enough to front the band. So once the deal was sorted, the search was on. "My first choice was Charlie Huhn," says Neal. "I saw him once with Ted Nugent [with whom Charlie shared vocal duties] and I was knocked out! I thought, why the hell isn't he singing all the songs?"

Deadringer - Grudge Records publicity photo
L-R: Neal Smith, Joe Bouchard, J. Jesse Johnson, Charlie Huhn & Dennis Dunaway
With Charlie onboard, the LP was recorded and released. Electrocution of the Heart offers a combination of all-out rockers, '70s-type anthems and heartfelt ballads, which should please both younger and older fans. However, if you're looking for a heavy dose of Alice Cooper-influenced style and sound, you could be disappointed.

"There might be some influences but they're going to be small," stresses Neal. "A lot of people have commented on the rhythm section — the way Dennis and I play together. That's something you might recognize more than anything else."

Neal Smith
Live shows are definitely in the plans for Deadringer, although a 45 and video are the first priorities. Plenty of songs on the LP are strong enough for a single. As Neal observes, the decision on which to push won't be simple.

"I'd like it to be 'Balls Out' or 'When You're in You're In,'" he states. "But 'Secret Eyes' is getting a lot of attention." (Following the interview, we heard that "Secret Eyes" had been chosen.)

When the Alice Cooper Group broke-up in 1975, rumors of rip-offs and band members done wrong flew fast and furious.

While we were eager to get the dirt on Alice, we were also hesitant to broach the subject. Much to our relief, Neal was happy to chat about old times and we can report that all those rumors are completely untrue.

"We've always got along," says Neal of the band and Alice. "We've known each other since high school. We were like brothers for years. You don't burn those kinds of bridges. What happened was that we were at the height of our career when the band stopped playing. We had intended to take a year off and do solo projects, but we never got back together. That's basically it. There was no reason to hate each other. He [Alice] couldn't rip us off, there was no way. We all made the same amount of money."

An early pic of the Alice Cooper Group (circa 1969)
In fact, Neal reveals that Alice recently paid him and Dennis a visit, and they worked on a song that could be included on Deadringer's next album.

"Alice's voice sounded great," remarks Neal. "He was really healthy. It was really positive to work with him again."

This seemed like a good time to mention that we'd just found a rare copy of Pretties for You (Alice Cooper's first LP) but hadn't played it yet. "Don't listen to it!" Neal shouted at us.

After he calmed down, Neal explained: "It was a real experimental album. We worked with Frank Zappa on that album. This was in 1968, and he wanted to make what would now be CD-sized discs... Put one song on each side for a total of six discs and put them in a tuna fish can. His idea was to call it Alice Tuna. We figured we were weird enough as it was on standard format!"

"The Ballad of Dwight Fry," "Under My Wheels," "School's Out," "Sick Things," and "Generation Landslide" rank among Neal's favorite Alice Cooper tracks. And there's an amusing story that goes with the last tune on that list...

Neal and his lady in Rock Scene magazine - September 1973
Photo: Bob Gruen
"'Generation Landslide' was the last song we wrote for that album [Billion Dollar Babies]. We needed one more song to finish the album and we said, 'Where do we want to go?' We thought, how about the Canary Islands? We did a photo session on the sand dunes... You can buy all kinds of animal skins there, and our roadies went on a spending rampage! We put the skins on — that's all we had on and went walking across these dunes."

The Alice Cooper Group at the height of their fame
We're pretty sure Neal isn't sharing these exploits of his notorious past with co-workers over a cup of coffee at the office.

And he probably doesn't hand out copies of Pamela Des Barres' racy epic I'm with the Band (in which he garners a reference) as housewarming gifts.

Apparently, it's easy for Neal to separate selling upscale homes from being a rock star. So far, only one client has discovered what lurks beneath his daytime business-like surface.

"She had known me for about nine months and had told a friend of hers, 'If you ever think about moving to the country, this guy helped me out a lot.' She gave him the name of the company I work for and said, 'Ask for Neal Smith.' This guy said, 'The drummer from Alice Cooper? Hair to his waist and CRAZY!?' It was like finding out your friend is Jack the Ripper!"

Finally, we decide to question Neal about Creem's unflattering personality profile. Although it was written 14 years ago, he recalls the event that sparked his aggravation as if it were yesterday.

Neal Smith - real estate agent!
"It was a ridiculous situation," he begins. "We were playing in Canada and after the show, there were three limos waiting for the band. I got into the first limo and the driver told me, 'This is Alice's car.' I said, 'What the FUCK are you talking about?' We'd all gone through the same hell for 10 years, and some muthafucker is gonna tell me to get outta a car?"

"It was one incident," Neal assures us. "And it got blown out of proportion. If Dennis had gotten into that car, he would've flipped out just as much."

But Neal does agree that a little nastiness never hurt anyone's career. So, when we suggest that Deadringer could open for Alice on his upcoming tour, Neal chuckles and emphasizes, "He can open for us."

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Psych-Out: Actor Dean Stockwell Tries To Remember What He Was Doing In This Cheesy Cinematic Wonder

Originally published in Rave-Up #11 (1986)
By Devorah Ostrov

Promo poster for Psych-Out (which oddly features the Voxmobile)
Released in 1968, Psych-Out was an unapologetic cash-in on SF’s already over-hyped (not to mention extinct) “hippieville” (as the press kit called it).

The flick’s convoluted plot line was ridiculous and none of the adult Hollywood cast (which included Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, and Susan Strasberg) made convincing hippies.

However, after a rare viewing of the film, I had the opportunity for a quick exchange with actor Dean Stockwell who played Dave (a “truth-seeking hippie” according to the press kit, who lived in an air-conditioning unit).

It turns out, Dean barely remembers Psych-Out. Although, he does recall not liking the film or his character very much. “It was one of the exploitive teenage movies of the time,” he says. “It didn’t represent what was going on in the scene. I thought my character was an idiot.”

Jack Nicholson, Susan Strasberg & Dean Stockwell
While the film’s producers (Dick Clark Productions) weren’t concerned with improving the script or characters, Dean took it upon himself to give Dave a bit more dimension, even wearing a wig so he’d look cooler.

“I wanted my character to do more than just sit and contemplate his navel,” Dean remarks. (Although his dialog still runs along the lines of: “Reality is a bum trip.)

He also reveals that (in some cases) the drugs used in the film weren’t props. “There was a big party scene with me and Jack Nicholson,” Dean comments. “We were walking around smoking pot. It was real! We couldn’t function for the rest of the day.”