Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Inspiral Carpets: Discussing Revenge of the Goldfish, Coronation Street & Cows With Clint Boon

Inspiral Carpets
Cover photo from the "Island Head" EP (Mute 1990)
Originally published in American Music Press (1992)

By Devorah Ostrov

At this point, several years on from the peak of the 1980s garage-rock revival, any American group still employing a Farfisa organ and wearing paisley shirts would be regulated to the dollar bin of any quality record store. But should the band be from England, especially Manchester (or "Madchester" as it's been affectionately nicknamed), they're hailed as "innovative" and top the alternative charts on both continents. And I say that in all fondness because I really like Inspiral Carpets.

To the band's credit, although Inspiral Carpets (they really deserve kudos for that excellent moniker which, like the Peanut Butter Conspiracy and Chocolate Watchband, sounds cool but means absolutely nothing) make a good job of capturing the essence of mid-sixties garage-punk in their sound, they've never been overly concerned with recreating the whole picture. Only keyboardist Clint Boon has the requisite psychedelic wardrobe and hairstyle.

Revenge of the Goldfish — Elektra/Mute (1992)
"That's definitely one of our strong points," agrees Boon on the phone from Los Angeles, where he's promoting the group's latest Elektra Records/Mute release, Revenge of the Goldfish. "Even though everybody knows that the '60s inspire our records, we could never be looked at as being a revivalist band; we've always looked like a '90s bunch of guys. Sure, I wear crazy shirts and have the bowl haircut, but Martyn (Walsh, bassist) is bald!"

Originally formed in Oldham, Greater Manchester, by guitarist Graham Lambert and vocalist Stephen Holt (who was replaced by Tom Hingley before the group signed to Mute and released its first album), the Inspiral's current lineup came together in 1986/87 with the addition of Boon, Walsh, and teenage drummer Craig Gill.

At the time, a psychedelia resurgence in the UK saw members of the Damned and ex-Sisters of Mercy drinking the night away to the sounds of the Seeds, ? and the Mysterians, and the Electric Prunes at a London club called Alice in Wonderland.

Boon hung out there too. "I was probably watching Doctor and the Medics!" he says. And, he notes: "When we started out we wanted to sound like the Seeds and ? and the Mysterians."

Inspiral Carpets in America
and on the cover of the NME.
Of course, Inspiral Carpets could never completely emulate their musical heroes. Mostly because they're just not insane enough. No one is these days.

Although we didn't discuss the band's drug use (or lack thereof), I'm pretty sure that for all its feedback frenzy, "Generations" — the lead track off Revenge of the Goldfish — wasn't written while the band tripped on acid.

And where the Seeds and ? and the Mysterians' lyrical output tended towards flower-power mysticism and teen angst, the Inspirals tackle more poignant issues of the human condition.

Take for example the melancholic "Two Worlds Collide" — one of the singles from the new album. "It could be placed anywhere," explains Boon, "every city has them. But it's about the vagrants we saw in Athens last year. It's about all the poor people starving to death in the city of the Acropolis and the statues of the gods." The opening verse goes:

"I steal to feed
I fight to breathe
To hunger not greed
I find these days,
It's the only way I can survive..."

Besides, Boon and his bandmates seem like really nice guys. At one point he tells me how the band's success has afforded he and his American-born wife a better lifestyle. "I've been able to help my parents out as well," he adds. "We bought two brand-new [semi-detached] houses and knocked the wall down between the two dining rooms so we can go through into each other's houses." (I have a feeling that Sky Saxon wouldn't tell his parents where his was living, let alone move in next door.)

Inspiral Carpets — publicity photo
By the time John Peel gave the Inspirals his stamp of approval with a Peel Sessions recording in 1989, the group had already issued "Plane Crash" (a five-song EP which included a cover of "96 Tears") on the Manchester indie Playtime Records, as well as a handful of three, four and five-song EPs on their own Cow label.

It's debatable whether the "Madchester" scene would've happened in such a big way had the legendary DJ not drawn attention to the bands emerging from the grey northern city, but Boon is certain that the Inspiral Carpets would have made it with or without "the scene."

NME special "Madchester" issue featuring
the Stone Roses, the Happy Mondays & 
Inspiral Carpets.
"The end result was we got success a little quicker than we would've done," he allows. "But we knew we were destined to be successful."

Boon's voice rises a touch to emphasize: "The scene was christened nine or ten months after John Peel came along and raved about how good we were, so we were already established."

Then he gets downright huffy: "And it became a bit frustrating really, because we were just seen as the third of what they called the 'triumvirate' of Manchester bands. It was always the Stone Roses, the Happy Mondays and the Inspirals — when we were the first ones doing psychedelic music and the dance/crossover kind of stuff."

In 1990 the Inspirals had a UK hit with the evocative "This is How it Feels" from their debut LP, Life. (There's also a rather jaunty cover version by Carter USM. When I mention that I heard the cover first, Boon quickly points out: "I wrote that! But I do think theirs is really good, and it's done with respect. Some people think it's a send-up, but it's not. We appreciate them doing it.") Since then, the band has consistently topped the charts in England.

"Traditionally, all of our songs have been No. 1 in the independent charts," states Boon. "Then you have the Top 40 — the BBC charts — where we're always at least in the Top 20."

Inspiral Carpets
Elektra Records publicity photo
Although they are getting a lot of airplay on alternative radio stations here in the Bay Area, Boon acknowledges that conquering America won't be so easily done.

"It's a lot harder over here because we're not as typical of the '90s as say a band like EMF. They're a very definitive '90s pop group. All the elements that are relevant to the '90s — dance music, attitude, gay culture — are embodied in EMF's image and sound. And that's exactly why they're big in America. To me, they're the Rolling Stones of the '90s. I really mean that. Whereas we're like the Kinks."

I venture that while the Stones may be more popular than the Kinks, the Kinks are actually more important musically.

"Yeah!" agrees Boon. "That's exactly what I think about us and EMF. EMF are friends of ours so I'm not knocking them, but what they're doing is a bit more inventive, very relevant to now. Whereas we write traditional songs. We like melodies and themes, and there's always going to be a demand for that. In five years' time EMF's songs may not be relevant, but I think the albums we're making will always be relevant."

* * *

An assortment of Inspiral Carpets' merchandise
Q: What's the deal with cows and all the stuff with "moo" on it?

Boon: I was raised in an area full of farms; I was as familiar with cows as I was with dogs and cats. That led to some embarrassingly over-publicized audience encounters. We decided to use some photos I'd taken of the cows as projections onstage, and that's where it all began. The audience started mooing at us like cows!

Q: Is your wife a big Inspiral Carpets fan?

Boon: She's into the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane's Addiction — those are her two favorite bands. She's not an Inspiral Carpets fan, which is quite amusing, although she likes some of the songs that I write. Being in a band, we obviously meet a lot of girls who like us because we're one of the Inspirals. So, it's great when you meet someone who likes you but hates that you're in the Inspirals. That's why I married her!

Q: What do you think about the possibility of a Sex Pistols' reunion?

"Two Worlds Collide" 12-inch single
(Mute 1992)
Boon: I'm a bit saddened by it, but only because they're one of the bands who have always said they wouldn't do it. Actually, I was never a big fan of theirs. I was into Buzzcocks and the Fall — who I still believe won't reform. That would be a sad day for me because the Fall are one of my icons! But I believed in the Pistols; I believed in a lot of the values of that generation. I take it someone in the band is short of money, which is sad. So, I can't blame them. If fifteen years down the road me wife and me babies are a bit short of money and someone says, "You wanna reform the Inspirals?" I'll say, "Yep! Let me just get the Farfisa outta the attic and I'll be right with you." We've always been dead straight about things like that. I don't think we've contradicted ourselves — yet.

Q: I heard that you bumped into Iggy Pop. What was that like?

Boon: We met him in Toronto two years ago. We were doing the same TV show, and he was a really nice guy. But to meet Iggy Pop... It's not even like meeting God; it's like meeting IGGY POP!

Q: Do you vote for Conservative, Labour, or an independent party?

Inspiral Carpets — publicity photo
Boon: In England we've just got the Green Party, and that's the kind of political party I'd definitely vote for. But I honestly don't know what the solution is, and that's why I can't bring myself to vote for any particular party. What Bob Geldof did with Live Aid, that is an inspiration! And Sting, he's doing his bit. I think people like that are more capable of sorting out some of the planet's problems than Bush or Clinton.

Q: Why is Coronation Street such a big deal in England?

Boon: Coronation Street is the world's oldest soap opera. It's been going for thirty-something years. It's based in Manchester, in a very industrial, poor part of the city. There's one guy in the cast who was in the original show. In the original episodes he played a young boy, now he's approaching middle-age. It's something we've all grown up with. I'm thirty-three, so this program has always been a part of my life. It's not like an anchor point, but it gives you a sense of security to know it's there. It's a very important part of people's lives.

Q: Is it true that the Inspiral Carpets are going to be in an episode of Coronation Street?

Campaign to make the Inspiral Carpets' 1994 hit 
"Saturn Five" a Christmas No. 1 in memory of 
drummer Craig Gill who died in November 2016.
Boon: We've approached the script writers and said, "Could you write us a part?" You know, just a walk-on part, and they're working on it. We'll probably walk into the Rovers Return, drink some beer, and go back out. Our music's actually been played on Coronation Street. The McDonald children fancy the Inspirals!

Q: Have you noticed any big differences between Americans and Brits?

Boon: In England things don't change as fast as they do in America. One of the things I've noticed about America, and Americans in general — every so often they just pack up shop and move to a different part of the country; their families are all spread out. Whereas in England, people are born, and they live and die in the same town. I'm generalizing, but that's the way it works in England. I now live two miles away from the village where I was born. Whenever I drive through that village I see the same people that I went to school with. They'll die in that same town without ever seeing the world. They'll never travel around like we do. Even though I still live in the same place, I've managed to break away. I'm quite lucky in that respect.

Friday, 7 September 2018

When Aerosmith Reunited, Steven Tyler Couldn't Wait To Tell Two Ditzy Fanzine Writers The News!

Aerosmith at the time of this interview. 
Publicity photo by Ron Pownall
Originally published in Rave-Up  #9 (1985)

Interview by Devorah Ostrov & Michelle Castro

In early 1984 Aerosmith was washed-up, finished, kaput. Lead guitarist Joe Perry had left the group five years earlier, while rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford had quit in '81. They'd been replaced by session player Jimmy Crespo and complete unknown Rick Dufay, respectively, but the band's last album, Rock in a Hard Place, was two years old by that point and no one had paid much attention to it.

Last spring, I was in New York hanging out with my friend Michelle. Thumbing through someone's record collection, I mused: "Aerosmith... you don't hear much about them anymore."

Steven Tyler
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
On a whim, I placed a call to Lieber Krebs Management and asked if I could interview Steven Tyler while I was in town. A time was set for the following afternoon. Really! It was that easy! Because everyone thought Aerosmith was over.

But, the thing was... Aerosmith wasn't over. They were back (in the saddle, as one might say)! Just days before he literally bounded into the management office for this chat, Steven Tyler had reunited with Joe Perry and Brad Whitford — and the original Aerosmith had reformed!

And I should perhaps mention that this interview with Steven Tyler had more to do with lucky timing than with my being the editor of a photocopied fanzine with a circulation of perhaps 200. Steven was just excited to tell someone the news, and two ditzy fanzine writers just happened to be the first in line.

* * *

Rave-Up: When did you guys decide to get the original band back together?

Steven: About a week-and-a-half ago. We've already got 26 new songs!

"I'm Framed" - Steven autographed
 this copy of Circus magazine for me!
Rave-Up: What about Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay? Are they just suddenly out of the band?

Steven: Yeah... well, y'know... Everybody knew that the band would get back together some day. They just didn't know when. So, I called Jimmy up. I said, "Jimmy, y'know, I've got some bad news." And he took it pretty bad, y'know. Dufay on the other hand, is such a fucking madman... Whether he's good or not, he believes in himself so much that he'll probably wind up being the more successful of them. And that's really crazy because Jimmy Crespo is so fucking talented.

Rave-Up: Maybe they'll form a band together.

Steven: I don't know... I hope so. But I don't think so because they don't get along. See, there was no magic in the new Aerosmith at all. What you saw onstage... Whew! I don't know how we got away with it. I never felt the magic.

Rave-Up: Yeah, there was definitely a lot more magic in the old group!

Steven: Shit, y'know we were all in this room last Thursday — all of us. It was the first time we'd gotten together again, and everybody was going like this [he raises his hands above the table like a medium] "Whoooooo...." Looking around seeing fucking Joe Perry and Brad Whitford... It just felt so fucking good! I'm such a fucking fan! I still have an autograph from Joe Perry; I'm such a fan of his. It's true!

An early Aerosmith publicity photo.
Rave-Up: Were you and Joe still friends when he left? Did you keep in touch?

Steven: No. He had the most vicious tyrant cunt bitch for a wife [Elissa Perry]. She's changed since then. I mean, the only reason I say that is because every quality she has, I have. That's how I identify with her. Y'know, you can't bullshit a bullshitter. We did a gig in Cleveland [the Lakefront Stadium, July 28, 1979] and she was backstage... Y'know who she reminds me of? Y'know Erika on... uhmm...

Rave-Up: All My Children?

The World Series of Rock at Cleveland's Lakefront 
Stadium - the last time the original Aerosmith lineup 
would play together for five years.
Steven: All My Children! That's Elissa! So, anyway... She got into an argument with Tom Hamilton's wife and threw hot milk in her face. This was right before we were going onstage. You just don't do that! Tom was uptight, and the show sucked.
   And after the show I said, "Joe, I'm never fucking playing onstage with you again. Get the fuck out of here!" I was drunk; I was high. I didn't mean everything I said. But I did at the time. I really didn't wanna... I said, "Fuck you! I can do it without you." Y'know, all those big-headed things.
   And we were pretty successful after Joe left, but not anything near the old Aerosmith. In the old Aerosmith, I'd turn around to the audience, then I'd turn around and face Joey... I'd be smiling from ear-to-ear. The magic was there! Every once in a while, we got it with [the new] band, but it wasn't like it was. So, we're back together!

Rave-Up: Are Joe and Elissa still married?

Steven (laughing): No! That's why it's safe. I mean, it used to be I'd say, "Joe, we gotta rehearse now. I'll come over to your house." And she'd say, "No, you're not." And I'd say, "Okay, Joe. Why not?" Y'know, I'd have to talk to her. It was just fucking, totally ridiculous. Everybody in the band hated her.

(Steven takes a moment to glance at a TV in the room, which is tuned to MTV.)

Steven Tyler
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Rave-Up: Are you guys going to do a video for MTV?

Steven: Oh, yeah! As a matter of fact, we're going to the Berklee School of Music. Have you ever heard of it?

Rave-Up: Yeah, in Boston.

Steven: Well, Fenway Theater is right next door. That's where we first... We used to rehearse there when we were real poor. The place was so big we never imagined playing somewhere like that. And that's small now, compared to the Garden. But the Berklee School of Music bought the Fenway Theater. They use it 'cause they have a course in photography, which encompasses video. And they also have two 24-track in-house studios. Which means you can go in there and plug into the wall, and they can record you. So, we're going to go in there and do two or three quick versions of "Dream On," "Walk This Way," and something else.
     We'll probably get three days. But before that we'll take "Walk This Way," for instance, and to give you a rough idea... Maybe I'll put a moustache on with a cigar and [he assumes the classic Groucho Marx stance and sings] ... "Walk this way!" I'll have everybody in the place with cigars and those fake noses with moustaches. We'll take a minute of that and cut it into us playing live, y'know, a real simple video — almost like junk. Something with one camera, real easy, no problems. And we'll give it to MTV. We'll give 'em "Dream On," probably "Train Kept a Rollin'," and "Walk This Way."
     Even though you haven't heard of Aerosmith lately, fucking "Walk This Way" and "Sweet Emotion" are still getting played all the time. Last week's Billboard... let me see... Toys in the Attic and Rocks... Toys in the Attic went from #18 to #5!

Steven autographed this sticker for me!
Rave-Up: Wow! Those albums are still in the charts?

Steven: They're still in the charts! This isn't the major chart, it's called "mid-road picks." It's all the oldies albums. They still have a certain chart of their own because of their sales.

Rave-Up: I was reading this old Circus magazine that said you used to be in the Left Banke. I've never heard about that. Is it true?

Steven: No, I went into the studio with them way back when we were first managed by... somebody. They were managed by them too. So, I got to know all the guys and I went into the studio with them. I remember one night, I was hanging out at their apartment and one of them said, "Holy shit! We're recording tonight!" And to me, back then, just to be with those guys was incredible. To find out that they were recording and one of them forgot 'cause they were so drunk or stoned on pot... I just couldn't believe it. They didn't even have any songs written. So, I sat down with one of them and I helped him write a song, which was called "Dark is the Bark." But I was never in [the Left Banke].

(Steven starts leafing through the copy of Rave-Up #8 that we've handed him.)

Steven: I wish you'd send me this magazine. What's this? Count Five? No shit!

Rave-Up: I've also heard a rumor that you used to roadie for the Yardbirds.

Steven Tyler stars in this advert for the
"got milk?" campaign.
Steven: That's another thing... We had a real good manager when I was in a group called Chain Reaction, and we toured a lot. On the same tour circuit, we got to play with the Yardbirds, and they liked us so much that we went from the Anderson Theater up to Westchester, and we did Connecticut with them. This was way back when... let me see... Page was in the band; Keith Relf was in the band. Oh boy, that was great!
     So, we toured with them and, of course, when you bring your own gear in, you bring it all in in one fell swoop. We all helped. I could say that the Yardbirds were roadies for us. Somebody once asked me about it, and they turned it into that story. I told them the whole story, about how a couple of nights the Yardbirds got stuck and had to use our equipment. They turned it into how we were roadies for them.

Rave-Up: Is that where you picked up "Train Kept a Rollin'," or did you know that song before you met the Yardbirds?

Steven: No, we knew it before. That was done by... uhmm... Oh shit, who were the original people? See if you can look into that for me. [Tiny Bradshaw, 1951] The something Trio... [Johnny Burnette and the Rock and Roll Trio, 1956]. The original version is so funky. You can hear where they [the Yardbirds] got it from. It's great! I think we're gonna do a cover song on this next album. We might do "Psychotic Reaction." Great fucking song! Tell the Count Five that I'm a big fan. That song... I used to dry my hair to that song. I did! I used to use a vacuum cleaner. I'd take the hose and turn it the other way, so it blew out. Then I'd take a brush and I'd blow my hair like this [Steven demonstrates the fine art of blow drying his hair with a vacuum cleaner hose]. I hated my hair! And I was always late for school. I'd take the vacuum cleaner, turn it around the other way, let it heat up first... You have no idea!

Steven Tyler in an advert for the Kia Stinger.
Rave-Up: Were you popular in high school?

Steven: I was always getting thrown out. [He mimics a woman's voice over an old PA system]. "Steven Tallarico to the office, please." And then all over the school you'd hear, "Hey [raspberry noises] ...!" So, I used to take my hair and I'd use... What the hell is it called? Butch Wax or Pomatex — real thick stuff. And then I'd pull it back, and I'd always wear turtlenecks. In fact, in the high school yearbook I got an award for wearing the ugliest turtlenecks. I always had to wear them because when I went to the principal's office, I'd get: "Turn around!" And my hair was all the way down my back. I'd tell the principal, "Man, I'm doing television shows..." And he'd go, "Yeah, sure. You're suspended." So, what else do you want to know?

Day on the Green #3 featuring Aerosmith, 
Foreigner, Pat Travers, Van Halen & AC/DC
 July 23, 1978.
Rave-Up: Why did you let Peter Frampton kill you in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band? You could have easily taken him!

Steven: I didn't! He didn't kill me! If you notice, at the end I fell. That's all. The real scene... I said, first of all to Peter, "There's no way in hell that you're gonna kill me." I said this to them all. I remember telling them... I even did the scene. We were up on a 35-foot stage, there were $100 bills with a picture of me in the middle... And I was like this [he starts building scaffolding out of things on the table], this and this... and up on top was the stage.
   I had to roll off that onto a big fucking airbag at the bottom. I did that about 20 times. It was great! So, I'm lying on the ground, chalk marked off like when someone's dead, y'know. So, I'm lying on the ground like this [he sprawls out on the floor and acts out the scene], all bent out of shape. And then someone came by to pick me up, and I took my clothes off and laid them back down. Then they poured this liquid nitrogen over the clothes and filmed it really quick, so it would show me laying there crumpled and then suddenly turn to smoke.
     So, I went back to the hotel that night and said, "What the fuck?! I'm dying on screen in front of all these kids." Frampton had just done his big album, but Aerosmith was definitely happening. And I said, "Nope, I'm not gonna do it. Either we're out or you take that scene out." So, they took the scene out.

Steven Tyler in another advert for
the "got milk?" campaign.
Rave-Up: Really, you should have just slaughtered them! I mean, Aerosmith vs. the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton? There's no contest!

Steven: Right? I know! We were the Future Villains, and just to get in a movie was fantastic. Yeah, that was fun. I'd love to do more movies.

Rave-Up: Do you want acting roles or just rock star-type roles?

Steven: I've been offered to do things for television... Wella hair commercials!

Rave-Up: Wow! That would be funny.

Steven: And [sings] "I love New York..." But I stay out of them because I think doing things like that is overexposure for a band. When mommies start liking you, then the kids don't. I just don't wanna... Besides, I just don't want to spread myself too thin. And any acting thing I get... I think I'm in the position where everybody will know who I am, but they haven't seen so much that... I don't think I'm typecast as "Steven Tyler." Although I might be wrong.

Rave-Up: You're typecast as "the bad boy of rock 'n' roll."

Steven: Yeah! So, I know my place too. I wouldn't be the "father of normality." Although I might get away with that if there was a little lechery in it! Who knows what'll come up? When I tell people that we're back together... Y'know, a lot of people thought we were dead!