at Glasgow Garage
Special thanks to Chay for this interview
|So Chris, new
album, a new tour, how's it all been goin'?
There's no batteries! I never normally tune my own guitar and the bus driver told me to ask Holy Antonio for some, Saint Anthony, who's also the patron saint of fat people. So, he's definitely on my fucking saint list.
During your 13 years as Masters of Reality, you've only played Britain a few times. This gig in Glasgow is your third ever. Is there a reason why you don't tour more often?
Uh, laziness. No, it's just whatever shows up that's ready to rock at any particular time. I go with. So I could be at home and get a phone call and a band are like 'we're ready to go in the studio, can you dig this?' and I could go 'fuck, this is really cool, let's go'. Next thing I know it's March. And that'll be knocked on with 'do you wanna do summer festivals?' So, yeah, 'let's do that'. It's been twelve years of spontaneous decisions, and plus, being like thickheaded and a stony-artist guy who likes to chill out at home too. Sometimes it's hard to get me out of my house. I don't hang out in LA and schmooze. I don't do that like this. Almost everything I get is a gift. When I ain't putting out, I ain't getting it either. I live at the Joshua Tree, two hours outside of LA and I love it in the desert. I've been in the desert for almost ten years now. I got turned onto the desert because of working with Kyuss years ago.
The new album's called Deep In The Hole, and the line-up is, to say the least, quite special.
Oh it's wonderful. A wonderful opportunity. I can't express this whole period. Whenever I did Masters records before, all of my friends like Josh would be on the road. I don't have many friends like Josh to tell you the truth. Very few people I have a musical relationship as intense as I do with Josh. But this time was the first Masters record when those guys, you know, Josh & Nick, Mark Lanegan was around, and Brendan McNichol for the studio recording. He played on our live record a few years ago. Josh was doing the Desert Sessions simultaneously, he was up there, did pre-production rehearsal on my record then started the Desert Sessions records so all these musicians were coming up to do both records and my friend Troy Van Leeuwen from A Perfect Circle was also in town. He was off the road. I had a studio in Palm Springs that I was renting for years, but I closed that down two years ago, moved to Joshua Tree and on this last record I just rented an empty house, moved all the studio gear into the house, we were cutting drums and vocals in the kitchen and guitars in the bedroom. It was this great live-in situation with the door wide open, with Dave Catching coming by, and Mark coming by, so it was this kinda loose-goose kinda shit which was wonderful for me because usually the records are more intense and dark to make.
Is that how you approached Welcome To The Western Lodge?
The previous record? The doors were shut. It was just the two of us with an engineer. The previous record was a lot of fun, but it wasn't as loose as far as people coming in and laughing. The previous one to that with Ginger Baker (Sunrise on the Sufferbus) took a long time to do. That was an expensive record too. We worked on that record for nearly a year but that was like when you're stupid in the business and you spend lots and lots of money and time doing a record. And the more experienced I get at it the more it's 'get it done quick'. If you're doing a Rock'n'Roll record, get it done quick. If you're getting into something more Prague, strings sections and stuff like that where you hang out for months.... I could dick with this music forever, lay harmonies and strings and shit and stuff for fucking years if I'm allowed. It's better when I have a time limit.
Some of the tracks on Deep..., such as 'Roof of the Shed', you wrote with Josh (Homme). Syd Barrett solo stuff springs to mind, maybe Barrett-era Floyd too. Is that a comfortable comparison?
I never owned any Syd Barrett solo records, but then I've heard that compared to it before. I didn't expect that. After I heard them I said 'yeah I can see that'. Kinda 'guy losing his mind'. I think it's everybody. I don't make any claims to any special pain that no one else is feeling in the world these days. That's why the good stuff's still alive for Pink Floyd who are bigger than ever in a way, and the reason why Radiohead's doing so well. There's that ethereal side of rock that certain people scratch at every once in a while and then they hit. There's real emotion going down, it's not canned-angst, it's not the pain of the month label bullshit. I'll take the Syd Barrett, but I didn't have him in mind when I wrote it. We actually wrote that song 6 years ago when I lived in the Palm desert. At the time I lived in the low desert and Josh lived right down the street, and he'd come over to the house and we'd just sit there with acoustic guitars all night. I've got probably a dozen co-written songs just sitting on little cassettes. Just noodling away for hours, smoke a joint, play acoustic guitars. I love writing with acoustic guitars. I'm a better acoustic player than electric too. That's how it came about, both of us being able to take a melody and stumble onto something and have a laugh. We thought it was a riot.
How does it feel to have other people interpret your songs live?
Wonderful. Oh, we only rehearsed two times and I'm in really good hands. We did a show in LA in September, an acoustic show of Masters songs, my own personal songs that weren't written for Masters of Reality, and we did 'Roof of the Shed' also. I've played with some really good rock musicians and these guys are up there in the top three. Understanding a rhythm and bodyrock and what makes a song work and what doesn't. I feel like there's been musicians from Ginger Baker to Josh & Nick & John (Leamy - MOR drummer), they're just so fucking good. A guy like me, I'm technically inept! But I hear shit in my head and get it down onto tape eventually, but to be able to turn it into something like this and say to them 'come in a beat later' and they know exactly what I'm talking about and know why. Just do it. And from that point on it's done everytime. When it's about bodyrock, how the notes hits you, your groovin' and how that note hits the groove and that's what's goin' on here and these guys know that shit. It's wonderful; it's fucking great. I'm one of the luckiest musicians in the world.
Now that rock music's getting more mainstream, what's the difference between The Blue Garden and Deep In The Hole, from the view point as the recording artist?
The Blue Garden was recorded in a very weird time, the late 80's; it was a very weird time to make a classic rock album. Nevermind's a classic rock album. I think what boils down to a classic rock album meaning is 'a collection of good songs'. Hopefully that's what you strive for. There's a similarity between Blue Garden and Deep In The Hole. I felt very comfortable doing a lot of vocal harmonies. Some of the previous records, when I did the record with Ginger Baker, it was more blues based, keep the vocals rough and sparse. But on this last record, I felt I could've been there and stacked harmonies for years. The similarity to harmonies in heavy rock is without coming off sticks, without falling into a trap.
Not too many people know about your 'Ren & Stimpy' background.
There was an episode called 'Jerry The Bellybutton Elf' and I've known the guys who did that cartoon for years from New York City, and so they just called me and said 'we've got these lyrics and we need a psychedelic rock song'. Bob & Chris, the Ren & Stimpy team, and myself, we're all fans of a cartoonist called Bob Clampett. He was responsible for early Daffy Duck and Porky Pig, and then he left Warner Brothers and started the Cecil & Beanie Show. It was about this boy with a propeller on his hat and Cecil who was a sea serpent. It was this psychedelic stoned-out cartoon that started in the late '50s, done by Beatnik artists. But it was solely for kids and the word play and pacing of the cartoon has been a big influence on how I do my music. There's just a silly side to it. The cartoon would start with a journey, a mission, and they always had a boat. Cecil the sea serpent, Beanie, Uncle Captain the captain of the ship and at the head of every cartoon, they'd have to find treasure or a wild animal with a map. It was filled with word puns. Like pothead cartoon, but for kids. So Bob asked me to come and do this music. It was a gas.
Occasionally, your name appears on Josh Homme's Desert Sessions project. Can you tell me about your involvement?
The Desert Sessions is Josh's baby. I assume and hope I'm asked again because they're a riot, its such a good idea. He basically calls in 6 to 8 people and over a one week period, comes in with a couple of grooves and then everyone adds to it and then within 10 or 12 days it's done. It's around the clock. There's no commercial set, no pressure, it's like a music camp like 'okay, it's time to go do a Desert Session' and you just go and fucking party for a week. Too much fun? Exactly! One of the good things about this tour is that they're in the middle of making their new Queens record (Songs For The Deaf) with Eric Valentine producing, and they've been at it for a while. Eric is a very well organised, non-pothead producer, more like an engineer. I'm not an engineer. He's got his fingers on the knobs in his studio and the pressure's getting pretty intense for them to have a strong follow-up. It turned out to have these guys come out on the road and get out of that scene.... It's really cool, because they're intensely working at it. I think it's gonna work out really good. (Josh walks past). Hey, we were just talking about Desert Sesh.
Oh, You mean this? (Josh hands over a flyer).
Yeah, do I mean this? Hahaha. Timing! I think this album is the best one.
(Tour manager then walks in) Uh, sorry, but we're ready for you when you're ready for you.
Last question, what's next? Producing or recording?
I believe I'm about to do this violent electro-pop record with this girl Roxy Saint. If you could combine Madonna with Marilyn Manson and T-Rex. I really like the challenge of that, doing a violent new-pop record. For the record labels sake, they say Garbage. It'll sell nothing like Garbage, but it'll be very dirty. I can't wait to get my teeth into that. That kinda shit, I'm kinda like 'let's go'. It's not the Abba project I'm looking for but a challenge of doing that kinda thing. I just love all of that shit!
Chris, thanks. It's been a pleasure talking to you.
Hey, all the best man.