Another year has flown past. Six years old. Not so much in people years, but in magazine
years that's like 30. It's strange to me that I can remember nearly every moment of the
lives of my children -- both considerably older than Cosmik Debris -- as if they were happened
only yesterday, while a browse through the early issues of Cosmik feels like a trip to a
museum. "I vaguely remember doing that interview... or was that in another life?"
Everything in the magazine biz is "go, go, go!!" You just finish one issue and it's almost time
to get the next one put together. Then the issue numbers start to blur together and, before
you know it, it's suddenly issue number 72. Then you look around the web for the other music
mags that were on all the links pages alongside Cosmik when we started in June of 1995, and
they're gone. Search engines can't find them. In a way it's a bit spooky. Some of the paper
zines are still going strong (keep it kickin', Teen Scene!), but the early gunslinger mags
from the days when WWW stood for Wild Wild West seem to be resting up there on boot hill.
And here we are.
Because we're just weird enough not to mind losing money by giving away ads to labels we
like while ignoring e-mails marked "is your magazine for sale?" And because we still write
about artists we care about, so we've never gotten sick of it and taken jobs as tellers in
banks. And when it all seems to go so fast that it starts to blur, we just wait for the
anniversary issue and the traditional Cosmik Conversations piece, which you are about to
read. It features snips of every interview from the past year. There's no rhyme or reason
to the order they're in, but somehow the piece always seems to take on a kind of flow. Go
figure. It helps us retrieve some perspective, and according to many of you, it's still
our most highly anticipated event of the year. We only have three, so that means Cosmik
Conversations is more popular than our Top Five Picks Of The Year and our Cosmik Rings
The Doorbells Of Prominent Republican Homes & Runs features, although the latter has gained
in popularity quite a bit this year. With the advent of the Ultra-Supersoaker, we're
adding a squirt-gun segment to that feature for next year. For now, go read this thing.
I just did. It's pretty good. I'm gonna go take a five minute break and start issue 73.
MIKE KENEALLYInterviewed by Rusty Pipes
Former Zappa guitarist Mike Keneally would probably like to stop being called that.
The thing is, when you're a Jet you're a Jet all the way from your first cigarette
to your last dying day. That's borrowed from elsewhere, but it works for former
members of Zappa's bands (and aren't they all?) as well. The thing about Keneally
is that his name is not known world-wide (like Steve Vai's is), yet he deserves that
kind of recognition. He's one of the finest guitarists you'll ever hear, and that's
not even his first instrument! Turns out Keyboards are his first love. He should
also be respected for maintaining a level (read: uninflated) head and being a great
guy to hang out with and talk to, not to mention a serious, deep thinker with a lot
Cosmik: One of the things I always like about your work is, lyrically at least, there's always a lot of whimsy to it. I mean a song like "Potato" (from Sluggo); you can't take a song like that seriously, you have to laugh. How do you feel about artists projecting so much attitude? It's just like "Oh come on you guys, you're not really like that in real life are you?"
Keneally: Well, it depends, some of them are, I think. Especially like the goatee contingent...
Cosmik: The "goatee contingent?"
Keneally: Yeah, if you'll notice every young band has to have at least three of the four members with a goatee! (Laughs) You know there is a lot of anger and it's almost like they haven't yet found a way to... to elevate themselves out of it, so they just bellow in their chains. I think that maybe over time I've gotten a little more conscious of the fact that there need to be some kind of balance in the popular music realm. I've done some dark work over the years. There's definitely a bit of darkness in the Boil That Dust Speck album and the Mistakes album. And sometimes when that's all that's going on inside you, that's what you express. But I'm in a very good place these days and choose to have the feeling of the music, (pauses) I want to give people positive feelings. I definitely want to make people happy.
For someone who, (when) their circumstances are hopeless, they can either choose to listen to music which is similarly hopeless, 'cause misery loves company, or maybe they can have the option of something that shines a little light on another area of life, saying, "Look things aren't that bad. It's really wonderful, come on over." That's really the choice I hope to present.
Cosmik: Somebody like Eminem, okay, well he's got maybe an angry past but now he's made a serious amount of money. Is he still going to sound angry? You betcha. Sometimes it's a cynical nod towards the expectations, the product that appeals to a certain market segment, that's what he'll do again regardless.
Keneally: Yeah, in the case of Eminem or anybody else who makes a lot of money via their anger, I see your point, but just because he makes a lot of money, it isn't necessarily going to make him any happier. In fact I think once you get into that kind of money it really brings on a whole bunch of problems that people who don't have that kind of money can't even imagine. When you get somebody who's obviously disturbed to start with, which I think Marshal Mathers is, he's had a rough life, and he is really voicing a lot of young people's frustration right now. We could definitely have a lengthy discussion on how healthy that is. The thing that troubles me is just that he's really pushing hate. He's selling a lot of hate there and hate is a very comforting thing for a lot of people. If there is any one message above all, and I think the most important message in We'll Be Right Back is that politics is important but it is also bullshit. It's founded on bullshit whereas hate is a constant and so many people find comfort in it and find it so easy to hate large groups of people for no rational reason than other than their father hated them. So they grew up feeling that it was the right thing to do. So much sickness gets instilled in the society by that endless chain. It's really hard to turn back the clock on that kind of thing. People like Eminem, who I respect (for) a lot of the craft that's going into his music, it saddens me that it's becoming commercially viable and acceptable to say those kinds of things on a record. Yay First Amendment and all that stuff, but I do think there needs to be a little responsibility.
Tony Joe WhiteInterviewed by DJ Johnson
Tony Joe White's been in the music business longer than half of his fans have been on
the planet. His first big hit, "Polk Salad Annie," came in 1969, and he also wrote the
classic "Rainy Night In Georgia, assuring him his spot in the history books. Not content
to rest there, Tony Joe, an extremely kind gentleman from the swampy part of Louisiana.
His music today carries the sound of the swamp in a bluesy tone that melts in your
imagination with stories and characters and places you've never been but can see in your
mind's eye. American music, from the swamps of the south, largely ignored by Americans
who, largely, don't know who the hell Tony Joe White is while the rest of the world
reveres him. In this snippet, an interesting little exchange about Australia came up.
Cosmik: What's your plan right now? New album? Tour?
Tony Joe: Well I've got a lot of new songs for a new album. When I do it I'll go back down
to Louisiana and cut it there, but for right now I've just been doing some interviews, and
we're going to start doing some shows across America, for a change, and then back to Australia
Cosmik: How do you like touring over there?
Tony Joe: Oh it's great, man. We've been doing it a long time.
Cosmik: You've gotten to see a lot of places.
Tony Joe: Yep. (Laughs) From Goodwill, Louisiana to Byron Bay in Australia, that's a long
ways. You've got to think, though, Australia's got a lot of swamps in it, and those people
over there know all them characters. MY characters in my songs. Some people come up to me
and say "we've got a guy just like that over here." A "bloke," as they call 'em back there.
And the Aborigines even come to the shows over there.
Cosmik: It seems like they have a better understanding of the mystical side of nature,
and there's a lot of that in the characters in your songs. There's not a lot of
people writing music like you do. There's maybe Warren Zevon and Rickie Lee Jones that have
characters you can almost see, that you grew up knowing. It doesn't surprise me that
Aborigines would appreciate your music.
Tony Joe: These people, there's about forty of them in this one group that walked all the
way from the outback. They were waiting in the backstage area when I came off, and they
all had my old albums in their hands. They wanted me to sign the records, and they said
"you're the only white man we listen to."
Cosmik: That musta felt good!
Tony Joe: I felt it was a real honor to meet a whole tribe from that far away that had been
listening to my tunes. They even had their healer woman with them. She was about three and
a half foot tall, and she was sittin' over there real quiet. Most of 'em spoke real good
English, and one of the guys came up and was talking about this and that with me, and I had
this inner ear thing from something that happened to me in an airplane flight. It had
messed up my equilibrium and made me kind of sick, and I was just gettin' back out on the
road again. I hadn't mentioned nothin' to nobody about it. So anyway, they introduced me
to all the tribe members, and when they introduced me to the little woman, they just said
"this is the elder." I reached down to shake her hand, and she didn't take my hand. She
just reached up and put her hand on my left ear and she said "you come to the outback. I'll
fix this." I was standing there with my mouth hangin' open. I had not told nobody nothin'.
She could barely reach my ear, but she said come to the outback and she'd fix this.
Cosmik: Did you?
Tony Joe: I'm gonna go this November. No tellin' what they'll do. I may come back REALLY
swampy. (Laughs) Cuz they've got it. Those people still live in the OLD old ways, you know?
THE DRAGONS (MARIO)Interviewed by John Sekerka
The Dragons play kick-ass rock and roll and you can find all kinds of info on that in John
Sekerka's Tape Hiss Interview with Mario, but the segment we chose for this feature has more
to do with his family. Not your usual interview subject, but jeez, just check out this guy's
pedigree! No wonder The Dragons kick ass!
John: Where are you Mario?
Mario: I'm on the cell phone, on the 805 Freeway in San Diego.
John: Let's dissect your lineage. Are you the youngest of thirteen?
Mario: Yeah, lucky thirteen, the last one on the right. My two older brothers played in Santana for a couple of years, on the second and third albums I do believe, and went on to play more Latin jazz in the Bay area. That was Pete and Coke Escovedo. Pete is father to Sheila E. My older brothers Javier and Alejandro, Alejandro played in The Nuns, Rank and File and they both played in True Believers. Javier played in The Zeros, a legendary punk band from California.
John: You're like the Kevin Bacon of rock and roll.
Mario: True, there's nine degrees of separation between me and anyone in rock and roll.
THE JULEPS (Gary Yerkins)Interviewed by Bill Holmes
There once was a band called The Insiders. Scratch that... there still is. It's just
that they were messed with so much that few people know there still is a band called
The Insiders. They had a fantastic tune called "Ghost On The Beach." Their label, Epic,
did some shameful things to them, but more on that in a moment. As a side project, and
probably to stay sane, Gary Yerkins formed The Juleps, and this interview was actually
about that band. Still, it was impossible to avoid talking about The Insiders and what
had happened to them. What had? Listen to this, all you young kids with guitars slung
low and visions of rock stardom dancing in your heads. This is "the business."
Cosmik: Well, I don't know... when I think of The Insiders, I think hair
bands and rap, don't you?
Yerkins: Yeah! (laughs) Well, we tried a few things! I couldn't get my
flow together. (laughs).
Cosmik: Well, there were a lot of changes at the time. But you wound
up putting out some stuff
on Monsterdisc--I've heard a couple of them--and at that point in time, putting out your own
stuff wasn't like a death sentence anyway. There were a lot of magazines starting up and
looking for something new, and a lot of attention being paid to bands who did that type of
Yerkins: Oh, it was liberty, it was wonderful to me. I mean we made a
second record for Epic
after two years of having every song we submitted to them turned down by the new A&R people.
And we finally made a record we really liked, working with Joe Hardy--who worked with The
Replacements on Pleased To Meet Me and Steve Earle's Copperhead Road, a couple of records we
really admired. And we just had a great experience and made this really cool record, and of
course they said something like "Well, we'll release it, but we'll just basically kick it out
the door," or a line like that. We asked them if we could shop it somewhere else, and they
finally said okay, but then they put a really high price tag on it. Because they didn't want us
to have success with it if they couldn't, y'know? (laughs)
Cosmik: So, whatever happened to the second record?
Yerkins: Epic owns it. It was terrible, you know? We couldn't use the
songs, our contract said
we couldn't re-record the songs--we had two years worth of writing go into it and everything we
submitted belonged to them. So we had to start from scratch.
Cosmik: Well, it's sitting on a shelf with a lot of other good
Yerkins: I actually called the head of Legal Affairs at Epic to plead
with him for my
livelihood; I spent like two and half years writing these tunes, at least give me my songs
back. He just said flat out that they didn't want to let us... it would make them look bad if we
used those songs and had success with them.
Cosmik: Just out of curiosity, what kind of price tag did they put on
something that they
didn't want to have anything to do with?
Yerkins: A hundred and fifty thousand for the master.
Cosmik: Oh, man! Unbelievable!
Yerkins: So nobody would buy it. It... it's just such a petty business in
some ways, you know?
GAS GIANTS (Robin Wilson)Interviewed by Bill Holmes
Okay, now we switch to a completely different interview, also by Bill Holmes, with yet
another artist who has been bent over the proverbial pool table and given the unlubricated
cue. Meet Robin Wilson, formerly of The Gin Blossoms and currently making some outrageously
infectious power pop with Gas Giants. Again, a major label had control of an artists songs
and held them for ransom. In this case, the ransom was paid.
Cosmik: I know you were delighted because of the buyout (from A&M),
got to get your music back, which a lot of bands don't get. You got the
studio, which will enable you to make future records at less cost and do
whatever you want to without someone hanging over your shoulder. But you
did bring up a key point for a DIY band or someone working their own
record using the Internet as a tool. I mean established labels don't know
how to use the Internet to market a new band, it's new to everybody. How
much do you yourself get involved with the marketing of The Gas Giants, or
even can you?
Wilson: I'm pretty involved on almost every level of the project. I'm on the
phone constantly with the people who are setting up press and interviews,
marketing the band. And I've presented most of the marketing concepts to
the group; I feel like I'm kind of co-managing the band. So in that sense
I'm pretty much involved on every level, it's nice to kind of know what I'm
doing. Or at least (laughs)... the impression that I know what I'm doing!
Cosmik: Or at least the opportunity.
Wilson: Yeah. In the Blossoms, I learned a lot, but it was never like it was
my band, it was always like this thing that was greater than the sum of
its parts. There was always a lot of compromise; I couldn't just put out
an idea and get it past everyone. And there was definitely a contingent in
that group that wanted to make damned sure that it didn't become "Robin's
band". And, um, I felt restricted in a lot of ways. I wanted to be in a
band where I didn't have that sort of battle to wage over every stupid
issue. In that sense, this has been a very rewarding project, despite the
hardships and whatnot. We, as a group, are kind of doing it our way, and
considering how much compromise is involved in this business, having the
amount of control that we have is rewarding, y'know? I'm not sure if it's
worth it though. I mean I may consider trying it a different way. I might
consider going back to a major label. If it's not possible to sell records
with this system, I might have to consider doing that, because I'm
interested in selling records, not just controlling my destiny and being
in a band that has control. I'm interested in commercial success as well.
Cosmik: Is it really the system though? Or is it the way that music has changed?
That the few consolidated labels that are left are targeting a demographic
audience that's a lot different from the one that the Gin Blossoms
Wilson: That's certainly a part of it, but I have a hard time believing that
with more than two million Gin Blossoms fans out there that it's not
possible for The Gas Giants to sell a couple of hundred thousand records.
That (number of records) is very reasonable to assume. We were up for a
Grammy and had a top five single just three years ago. So it really hasn't
been that long, and a lot of those songs are still getting played on
modern rock stations. So it seems reasonable to me that we should be able
to capture a lot of the Gin Blossoms audience.
Cosmik: I'm sorry - are you trying to use logic in relation to the music
Wilson: Well, I try to look at it... it's a two-fold thing. There's rock and
roll, making music, playing music, that's rock and roll. The rest of it is
a business. This is one of the problems that the Gin Blossoms had; that
they couldn't reconcile the two halves of what we do. And I have no
illusions about that. And I'm more than willing to run it like a business.
I've already got my ya-ya's out in the studio; we made the record, I got
the cover that I wanted, I get to get up on stage every night and jump
around with my favorite guitar... the rest of it is trying to succeed on some
other level. And I'm not so interested in the dream as I am in success.
And in this business, success is record sales.
PHIL VASSARInterviewed by DJ Johnson
With a stack of number one country hits under his belt -- sung by other artists -- Phil Vassar
had finally been turned loose by Arista Records, and the result was a number one of his own:
"Just Another Day In Paradise. He came within a few slots of the top with "Carlene," as well,
and they're not finished firing the singles off of his self-titled debut album yet.
Cosmik: Was there a sense from the guys you were working with, or did you
a sense from them, that you were going to be a star?
Vassar: Well no. I mean, heck, I just looked at it as this is my job, I
love what I do, and
I've paid a lot of dues and I'm doing pretty well. And you know, I don't
ever look at myself
as a star by any means. I just look at myself as someone who loves what I
do and I'm lucky
enough to get to do it.
Cosmik: Is "star" kind of an annoying term?
Vassar: Well, I'm not... you know, I'm not real big on that word.
Cosmik: I guess in some ways it can be a negative word.
Vassar: Yeah, it definitely can. But I'll tell ya what, DJ, it's been
awesome. It really
has been. Everything. I've had a couple of hits. And I think the people
here know that it
didn't come real easy for me, that I've had to work real hard at it, and I
think you earn
your respect. There's something to be said for that.
TONY IOMMI (of Black Sabbath)Interviewed by DJ Johnson
Black Sabbath may be one of the most influential bands to ever take the stage. At least
seven tribute albums have been released as of this writing. Hundreds of metal bands, from
the most obscure to the biggest household names, proudly wear Sabbath shirts on stage and
tell interviewers, with nary a moment's hesitation, that their sound began by studying
Sabbath's. Usually that means studying the guitar sound of Tony Iommi, a man who is a
true original because nobody was making any sound like that when he came up the ladder.
Low, heavy and dark. Those are the words that describe his sound in simplist fashion,
When Iommi made a solo album in October, each track had a guest. Unlike most albums with
a guest on each track, this one featured guests who were heavily influenced by the great
Mr. Iommi. He talked about the experience in -- appropriately enough -- our Halloween
Cosmik: What was the experience like, doing this album with these people? All of them are
people you've influenced heavily.
Iommi: Oh, it was really good. When you take a project on, obviously you wonder "oh, God,
what's it going to be like working with these people," you know, which could be anybody.
You could know them for as long as you like, but until you actually work with them, you
never know. But they were absolutely great. I really, thoroughly enjoyed it. They
were really nice people, real gentlemen, real polite. We had a great time and real fun
making it, and I think that comes over in it. We were all pretty excited about working
with each other.
Cosmik: Were you kind of surprised by the outcome of some of the collaborations?
Iommi: Yes, because both of us would push each other a bit to really try different things.
Cosmik: The one that completely surprised me was the Billy Idol track. I just never would
have thought of pairing you up, but boy, that track "Into The Night" just kicks.
Iommi: Yeah, well again I wanted to do something not everybody expected. I think when I
first mentioned something about doing a solo album, everybody thought "well, it's going
to be Rob Halford, Bruce Dickenson..." I think they felt like it was all going to be people
who were a bit older, but I wanted to have a variety of people. And of course with Billy
Idol, that was something you'd never have thought of, that it'd be us together. And a lot
of people have been really surprised by it and said they like it. It was great working with
Billy. Billy's a really nice guy. We actually wrote a couple of tracks with Billy, and
we wrote three with Phil Anselmo [Pantera], and two tracks with Billy Corgon [Smashing
Pumpkins], but you know, we could only use one of each.
Cosmik: I was surprised to see Henry Rollins on the album, too.
Iommi: Henry's a big fan, and he has been for a long time. He would come down to the
rehearsals when we were doing the Sabbath reunion tours, and he came over to England and
stayed with us for three weeks. He'd come to rehearsals every day, you know, because he
really liked to just sit and watch. So he's a huge fan. I got to know him pretty well,
and I told him about the project and he said "oh, well I'd like to sing a song." I played
him some of the stuff and he'd say "oh!! I wanna sing that song!!"
So when we got back to LA, we went into the studio and we recorded it [Laughing Man
(In The Devil Mask)].
THE CLARKSInterviewed by Melanie Campbell
A Cosmik Debris Interview can be anything. There's no template. We talked it over once, you
know, the template thing, and everybody started to walk out of the room mumbling. And that
includes the guy who brought up the idea in the first place. He was the first one out the
door! That's why sometimes Cosmik interviews national or international acts, the interviewer
asking questions in formal wear and serious expression, and sometimes Cosmik interviews bands
that are hardly known outside of a postage stamp-sized area on a map. In this interview, a
killer rock and roll band from Pittsburgh, just building a national following, ran into one
of Cosmik's true characters: The Mellster. Well, Melanie Campbell, to be precise, but we call
her The Mellster. "Deej, they're great. Lemme interview Scott Blasey." "Sure, go for it." Not like
I knew who The Clarks were, but I trust our writers. A few days later a Clarks CD arrived here
and it's been in high rotation ever since. Damn, she called it right in the strike zone again.
Cosmik: So, tell us about this thing called "the Clarks"--a friend of mine, somebody said to her, "describe the Clarks' music." and she said "I don't know, man, they're just the Clarks!" If you had to describe yourself to someone who never heard you before, how would you do it?
Blasey: If I had to describe the music, I d say it was guitar-based rock n roll, the easiest thing I think for people, sometimes, is to use references. I'd tell 'em Tom Petty, bands like that, if they liked stuff like that, they would probably kinda dig what we're doing. It's hard to describe yourself--I think people outside of it have a better way of describing what we do than I do. I'm too close to it sometimes. Labels are difficult, too. Rock n roll is so broad, and we're not an "alternative" band, whatever that means anymore. We're not an alt-country band. We're not a "rap-metal hybrid" band or a "boyband", or any of that stuff...
Cosmik: well, technically, you are a "boyband", but you're uh, not (musically-speaking)
Blasey: well, ok, we're a Guy band--or, no, a Man band...
Blasey: first, you're a Boy band and then you get to be a Man band...so that would be us!
Cosmik: A Manly Man band! So you've always had the same lineup?
Blasey: Yeah, the same four guys! It's rare...
Cosmik: Do you do most of the writing for the band? Or is it more of a team effort?
Blasey: I come up with a lot of the ideas for the songs and stuff, but it's a group effort to put the songs together. Everybody has an opinion on how they think it should sound and what the tempo should be. It's definitely not autocratic--I don't go in and say "this is the way I want this song to sound...". Greg writes...he writes quite a few. In fact, on the last one I think he wrote three of the songs. Rob writes. Not a lot, or not as much as I do, but...we all are very creative, and have opinions. I think being the singer, you know, being that I have to sing the lyrics, I tend to be more interested in what I'm saying. It's easier to be passionate about something that you wrote. It's, to write for...like, sometimes I've found it hard to sing Greg's songs, 'cause I need to know where he's coming from, and what he wants me to do with it, so it can be a bit of a challenge sometimes. But a fun challenge...
Cosmik: Does something like that cause a lot of tension?
Blasey: Oh no, no, I wouldn't say "tension". Well, creative tension...I mean, creative energy, we're together working out music, there's disagreement and compromise, but never, like, mean-spirited tension. It's a good thing. I mean, everybody's got opinions, and we're not afraid to voice them. I mean, we've been together a long time, so we know how to deal with one another. Our interpersonal dynamics are pretty good.
JOSH FREESEInterviewed by John Sekerka
Josh Freese's drumming credits fill a filing cabinet. He was an original and long term
member of The Vandals. He has played with Devo. Several gigs later he played with Guns
and Roses for a few years. Last time we looked he was playing with Perfect Circle. This
is just a sample. The actual list is huge. In fact, turn very, very slowly and you'll
probably find Josh playing drums behind YOU right now. In this segment of his Tape Hiss
Interview, Mr. Sekerka was digging for dirt on a few of his employers.
John: How long have you been in the Vandals?
Josh:: Since I was sixteen.
John: I've talked with Joe (the only original Vandal left), and he has quite a history. Is he the oldest punk alive?
Josh:: I think he's tied with one of the guys in Bad Religion.
John: Joe has been the lone constant in that band, surrounding himself with young punks every coupla years...
Josh:: It was like Menudo: when you hit a certain age, you were kicked out. Though they've kept a constant line-up for about ten years now.
John: Is Joe the Dorian Grey of punk, with an aging picture up in the attic while he remains young?
Josh:: Exactly. He's still sixteen, but in dog years.
John: Before you joined the Vandals there was Polo. What the hell was Polo?
Josh:: Imagine five dumb young white kids in Orange County California, Star Search Champions in Disneyland. Hence the horrible name Polo. I was about twelve or thirteen, and didn't know any better. I don't want anyone to think that I was an adult, playing Huey Lewis and the News covers at Disneyland.
John: Okay, let's switch to Mike Ness...
Josh:: We did the Cheating at Solitaire record. I've known Mike for a very long time, from the Social Distortion / Vandals / Orange County punk rock connection. Most of the recording was just he and I. It was a blast, we got it done real quick.
John: You work cheap?
Josh:: Not really.
John: So is Mike Ness really the asshole everyone says he is?
Josh:: I think he's a great guy.
John: Shucks, another legend debunked. What about the stories of him stiffing his band to buy heroin?
Josh:: He has a bad reputation cuz he used to be an asshole, drunk, on drugs, in fights. He's been sober for years. He has two great kids. He also looks like such a scary bastard.
John: Guns and Roses.
Josh:: Next question.
THE ZEN TRICKSTERSInterviewed by Tim & Ananda Owen
Down in Eugene, Oregon, where we hide our staff photographer (Tim Owen) and his journalist
wife (Ananda Owen), The Zen Tricksters seem to make several stops a year. As time has gone
by, Tim & Ananda have managed to infiltrate their ranks to the point where they could get
a feet-up, guard-down interview. This one took place on the day that keyboardist Rob Baracco
played his final gig with the band, so the mood was a bit sad and reflective at first, but
then the conspiracy card was played and the giggles came out.
Cosmik: Okay, we want to know about the first Church of Phun.
Klyph: What do you want to know about them?
Cosmik: What is your association with it?
Jeff: Well, we have been sort a the house band for the east coast chapter of the First Church of Phun..... sort of an ongoing experiment in ... uhh .. collective consciousness and fun type thing...it's a very a participatory thing.
Cosmik: Yeah. Well we caught Mr. Phun G Badillion at your show in Eugene. (everyone laughs)
Jeff: Yes, that was very interesting... those rabbi go-go boots...
Cosmik: Did he come from the East coast chapter of the First Church of Phun?
Klyph: Phun G Badillion? Yeah, he is our erstwhile leader. He lives out here now....originally from North Hampton, MA, but I think he is pretty much moving out here...a Portlandian now.
Cosmik: Yeah, that leads me to another question....I have heard of Portland referred to as your "second" home. Can you tell us a little about your connection with Portland?
Klyph: Well, we started playing the New Year Eve shows. That was the thing that really kinda started it out for us, before we were really playing clubs here.
Jeff: Actually, John Duarka, (Phun G Badillion), and Dan Cohenpeltier, who owns Think Good Thoughts, in Portland , brought us out here 5 1/2 years ago. At first, we were like, "who's gonna come see us, we've never played on the west coast before, let alone in Portland?" They managed to promote the thing and it was a tremendous success and that got us started.
Klyph: Incredible fun too. Yeah, all those shows were great.
Jeff: And so like I said, we come out here and we have extended family here now.
Klyph: Everyone takes good care of us out here. They really make you feel like you are part of the family.
Jeff: And our music has been accepted so unconditionally, our original music, and we just love coming out here. We are always out several times a year (to the west coast)..and its like a homecoming for us.
LOVE TRACTOR (MARK CLINE)Interviewed by DJ Johnson
What drives an artist out of the spotlight? Why does a band vanish when they're still making
good music? In the case of Love Tractor, it was a combination of negative pressures. The
Athens, Georgia band, contemporaries of The B-52s, R.E.M., Pylon and a dozen on unusual acts,
dropped off the radar screens around 1989, near if not at the top of their game. This year
they resurfaced with a wonderful album, The Sky At Night, on Razor & Tie Records. It wasn't
called a "comeback" album, however, at least not by the band, because according to Mark Cline,
they never went away; they just took a very long break. All those pressures had taken a toll
and they simply hadn't been ready to step back into the spotlight. Until now.
Cosmik: When you came off the road and said "that's all," didn't all that pressure and all
those outside influences back off? Because everybody, inside the industry and out, thought
Love Tractor had called it a day, and we all know the industry pulls up tent stakes real fast.
Cline: We had a management contract, and we let that expire before we started recording
anything, but we didn't book anymore shows, we didn't allow anyone to book anymore shows,
people would call and we'd say "we're not doing stuff," and eventually people stopped calling.
You know, you don't have a record out and you're not doing anything, and it wasn't like we
were in super demand after a while. It was perfect, ideal after a while, but then it took
us a long time to get to this place where we wanted to be. And it's very scary for us now
because we have another record out, we start reading reviews and people say they like this
song and they don't like that, and it affects us. I don't read things about it because I
don't want to know what other people think about what I already know something about. It's
not that I'm insecure in my thoughts, but it tends to creep into your subconscious and affect
Cosmik: And you're afraid it'd affect your future writing?
Cline:Yeah. Oh, totally.
Cosmik: For example, if a song that was more radio friendly were to be picked on in a review,
that could affect you and make you uncomfortable about writing something with that kind of
potential later down the road?
Cline: It could. Or possibly someone saying "Oh, the record sounds like this" or "sounds like
that" and you say "well no it doesn't... why would they say that?" and it gnaws at you, and
perhaps you over-react. I've found it's better for me, personally, to ignore it all.
Cosmik: I really want to know... when you say "sounds like this or that," what's an example of
what they say?
Cline: Sounds like Britney Speers.
Cosmik: Maybe early Britney.
Cline: That's just an example. Someone read me one of these things that was written in
Entertainment Weekly about the record where it described it as meticulous, which was
hilarious, because the way we write songs is we basically write, then go to the studio the
next day -- and our studio is a 30 year old 16-track with 2-inch tape -- and then we just roll
tape and cut and cut and cut, then leave it for a few weeks and come back to it and clean
it up. The last thing it is is meticulous. So it affects the way you think about your own
music, which in turn affects how you work on your future music.
IKE WILLISInterviewed by Rusty Pipes
Frank Zappa's band was a revolving door of some of the most astounding musicians this planet
has ever known, from Steve Vai and Mike Keneally to Scott Thunis and Terry Bozzio. Some, like
Flo & Eddie, hang in our memories as Zappa icons, as if they were always there. Truth is,
the record holder for longevity with the late great Mr. Z is guitarist/vocalist Ike Willis,
forever burned into the memories of Zappa fans as the voice of Joe from the Joe's Garage
album. We've all heard the rumors of working in the Zappa dungeon. Was he that bad?
Cosmik: There have been very few people in my life that have affected me as much as Frank has. When I had a chance to interview him back in 76 I leapt at it, but boy was I nervous at meeting him because I really didn't know what to expect.
Willis: Well the thing is on top of his music, no matter what you've heard about him, the rumors about his reputation that he was an asshole and he's such a hard case to work with, he was a human being! A beautiful guy. He was a great guy, he really was! And I told him that one time and he said, "Shhh! Quiet!" (Laughs) I said if people really knew what kind of a teddy bear kind of a terminal slob kind of guy you really are, you'd be out of business in five minutes!" and he goes "Quiet! Don't tell anybody that, I'll never live it down!" He really was that kind of guy, man. He was one of the nicest people I ever met, even though on the outside, the public persona would belie that, you know what I mean? But that's another one of those complexities, one of those dichotomies that Frank was know for.
KING SUNNY ADEInterviewed by DJ Johnson
Nigerian musician/legend King Sunny Ade has made -- get this and realize in advance it is
not a typo -- 111 albums. It would seem to me you'd have to spend every waking moment of
your life in the studio to accomplish this, but apparently not, because the man wears about
a dozen other hats as well. He runs businesses (and not as a figurehead; he is in the office
and on the phone and in the board rooms), and among other things, he's the head of Nigeria's
musician's union, no small office considering the huge task before him, which is to undo
years of corruption that left Nigerian musicians unpaid for their work. But perhaps his
greatest role is that of "voice of wisdom" in a new age for the people of Nigeria, just a
year and a half after the end of many decades of military dictatorship so harsh that no one
dared utter words of dissent for fear of torture and death.
Cosmik: Let's talk about your new album,
Seven Degrees North. It's a very peaceful, spiritual album, and there's also a feeling of
excitement to it. I'm wondering if those feelings reflects the mood in Nigeria at this time,
now that the military dictatorship is history.
KSA: Yes, because by now we are like students that have just stepped into a new class, and
the teacher has to tell them what to do. Democracy is something that we have to start by
practicing it as long as we are learning how to do it. I look at it this way: from the
military to the civilian life, the difference is that the civilians must be more or less
patient while the military man is militant.
Cosmik: And that may be something that's hard to turn off.
KSA: Yes, but the civilians who were not in the military were not forced to be doing those
kinds of activities, and they must remain calm. The two of them are not together. In Seven
Degrees North, it is a chit-chat telling you that we have to mellow, that we have to
concentrate, and hopefully your mind can listen. Democracy is something we just started
practicing in Nigeria, so we have to sit down and see what we can do. It's an entirely new
life in Nigeria.
Cosmik: So the album is meant to be a soothing thing for the people, as well as information.
KSA: Yes, to say not just to the people of Nigeria but also to America that we are a democracy,
but we are only one year old, where America is more than two hundred years old. We are like
in kindergarten. Elementary school. We need the whole world to know that. We need to listen
to them and they need to listen to us, because we want to be the friends of all the people of
Cosmik: A lot of the music on Seven Degrees North seems to be a celebration of that learning
experience, of learning to be a democracy or, more specifically, of learning to be free.
KSA: Oh, definitely. There is much celebration in it. But not just celebration. When you
are in a class, there is time for pleasure, there is a time for seriousness, and there is
time for calming down and thinking. And there is time for relaxation. That is how the
album is, and that's how it is for everyone all over the world. Even in your house, there
is a time to play with your kids, time where you are serious, whether you are reading or
writing, times you want to watch your TV, times you want to sleep, and there must be times
when you are working. That's how the album is.
Cosmik: It covers it all. I love the spirituality of the music. There's a lot of conviction
in it, and it's even in the liner notes where you implore people to learn about Africa and
to support African artists. You take your role as a musical African ambassador very seriously,
KSA: I would just say that I wanted to be one of the pioneers, to be there for the younger
ones who come up, for the other ones who have not been privileged to become known. This is
the reason why I do that. I am an opportunist. When I came to music, I didn't know I would
be known this way, and when I came to the western world, I didn't know I would be known this
way. I said "well, since they love my music, I don't want to be greedy. I shall allow other
people to come this way." And I know the more you see other people, the more you'll like this
music. That's the way I look at it.
PAUL KRASSNERInterviewed by Rusty Pipes
Occasionally, Cosmik Debris returns to its political roots. Actually, those of you who
read Rusty Pipes' column, Closet Philosophy, know we've never really abandoned those
roots entirely. In November we had the opportunity to talk to Paul Krassner, long time
political activist and editor/publisher of The Realist. November, you'll recall, was
just about the time that all that nasty political stuff was going on, and Mr. Krassner
was heavily involved in something very creative known as The Shadow Convention, a gathering
of the famous and the everyday folk who are sick to death of what the two parties have done
to this country. In this segment of Rusty's interview, interesting facts come out regarding
the various ways such "freedom of speech" is messed with in America.
Cosmik: Do you think the Shadow Convention was the start of something big?
Krassner: I think they served as consciousness raisers and raising consciousness usually precedes the start of something big. I think it was the continuation of something big or the crystallization of it because the three causes-Campaign Finance Reform, Poverty and the Failed Drug War--or as I call it "The War On Some People Who Use Some Drugs"--it was all in the air already, it was all in the mix. It was just a way of formalizing that. I think that there were a lot of young people who were there and got inspired and didn't feel so alone and really mingled. There was a lot of networking going on in the best sense of the word going on at the convention.
Cosmik: What happened in 1968 in Chicago was nothing like what happened here and in Philadelphia this year, but there was rubber bullets and pepper spray used on people when they shut down Rage Against the Machine.
Krassner: I think it was to scare people, to scare them from further protests. In was more insidious in other ways, because while that was going on, there were fake bomb scares at both the Shadow Convention and the Independent Media Center, so there was an overt assault on the First Amendment when reporters were deliberately targeted and photographers. But this was a more covert way of attacking the First Amendment.
Cosmik: I heard Arianna give several statements about what she knew about what happened, but I never heard anybody figure out exactly who was behind the fake bomb scares. She said something about a particular van was declared suspicious by the police themselves, and that was the form that the bomb scare took.
Krassner: There was an anonymous tip and the bomb squad took four hours to arrive. Then they allowed a reporter to go up with the bomb squad to the roof (of Patriotic Hall the site of the Shadow Convention). If it was a real bomb scare they would never allow that.
UNIFIED THEORY (Chris Shinn)Interviewed by DJ Johnson
Unified Theory hasn't captured the brass ring yet. Makes no sense to those of us who have
heard them. This is one of the best bands out there, and they have a pedigree that's hard
to argue with. Bassist Brad Smith and guitarist Christopher Thorn come from the legendary
Blind Melon, seasoned performers and writers ready for something to happen. Drummer Dave
Krusen came from no less a hit machine than Pearl Jam and us a perfect fit with Smith and
Thorn. The only one without a lot of time in the bigs is the singer, Chris Shinn, but
check out the story behind this young man. This is not how it usually happens,
Cosmik: You had a publishing deal of some kind? What were you doing exactly?
Shinn: I was young when I got that. I was 19 when I signed to Chrysalis music, and it was just a weird, freak accident. My manager sent the wrong tape to the wrong people. He sent my tape to the publishing people and sent someone else's tape to a bass player I was trying to hire, and Chrysalis freaked out and loved my four-track demo. A week later I was in this office signing a gigantic publishing deal, and it was just a really weird thing. And that afforded me to have a band for the next couple years, and I was able to hire really bad-ass
musicians to play exclusively in my band.
Cosmik: All this when you were 19.
Shinn: Yeah. I'd never made a dollar in my life, and my first paycheck was like a hundred grand. It took a long time to really settle. It was a trip. I still don't think I've fully comprehended all that, but the really cool thing is that after about four years of being with Chrysalis, they started to go under, and I was able to get dropped, meaning I didn't owe them anything. They'd spent twice what they gave me ON me during those years, too. So I had as big of a party for being dropped as I did for being signed, which was rather interesting.
Cosmik: Do you realize what a tiny percentage of bands that get signed to major labels come out the other end not owing large chunks of money to the label?
Shinn: Oh, God. And especially on the publishing end. It's just incredible. They just gave me the money. It was just a full-on development deal. I had no record to release. They were just trying to develop me as an artist and help me get a band together. I had total freedom to do whatever I wanted. It was quite remarkable. And it was only because the president, the main guy, fell in love with what I was doing.
Cosmik: Somewhere in the middle of all this, between parties, your house burned down, which had to feel like the ultimate negative sign, but it turned out to be the beginning of the best of times, didn't it?
Shinn: It absolutely did. After I signed the deal, I moved into a home in the Hollywood hills, and I had this great band and I was living the life. But I was having some bad luck. I had the best taste in musicians, so I was taking the best of the best. Sure enough, it wouldn't take very long before they'd get offered bigger and better jobs. For example, the bass player is now the drummer for Macy Gray, and my drummer and guitar player are both in Everlast. When
the fire happened, I lost everything. The band was rehearsing at the house. We had all our gear there. My brother wakes me up and everything is burning. My memory is kind of weird about that day. It took me weeks to remember what happened in that one day because I got burned pretty bad, but Kent luckily healed fine without barely any scars. I wasn't mad. Oddly enough I was very calm about the whole thing. I chose to accept it instead of fight it. Luckily I was very insured. I had a wonderful accountant, and I was totally covered, so I
got to completely start from scratch. I chose it to be a very fun thing. It was pretty cool to get to re-buy everything you used to have, but better versions of them.
RICHARD CHEESEInterviewed by Rusty Pipes
Lounge singing has been back in vogue for nearly a decade, whether you want it to be so or
not. The stars of the lounge era suddenly had seven figure checking accounts again, and
kids who weren't even born during that era sold their Les Pauls and bought cheesy Lowry
organs. Well, one guy wasn't going to let the present die while diving into the past...
whatever that means! Richard Cheese tucked a dozen or so songs under his arms before
climbing into the wayback machine, and the next thing we knew there he was, singing U2,
Metallica, and even Nirvana in total lounge-lizard style. Rusty Pipes, never one to
back down from a challenge, dove into the time machine and tracked down the big Cheese to
ask why he chooses such volatile... let's be honest... downright controversial songs.
Cosmik: What leads you to one song versus another?
Cheese: That's an excellent question. We tried to choose songs that
represented the breadth of the typical alternative playlist, from hardcore
bands to mainstream pop, from old songs to new songs, from fast songs to
slow songs, from the mountains to the prairies. We tried to pick the
songs, the lyrics, the feeling of the song that communicated that same
kind of happening feel of the traditional golden era of standard pop
songs. So, we basically chose the gems out of the jewel box.
Cosmik: You chose so many alternative songs, ones with lyrics which might
upset some people, but I must admit you do it so well, you make it really
palatable. But why did you make the album so risque?
Cheese: My job as a singer is not to change the words or censor the song.
I just like to sing what the writer of the song intended. And if it uses
sophisticated language, well, I'm no scholar, I'm just a singer.
Cosmik: "Holiday in Cambodia"
by the Dead Kennedys is certainly one of my
favorites from a long time ago.
Cheese: Funny you mention that song, we needed a Christmas song and there
aren't that many alternative Christmas songs that aren't already pretty
Cheesesque. I mean, we could have done Last Christmas by Wham or Christmas
Wrapping by The Waitresses, but we felt that Holiday in Cambodia, because
it really isn't a Christmas song at all, would be the perfect Christmas
Cosmik: I also appreciate your version of U2's
"Bullet The Blue Sky," but I think my favorite is your version of Radiohead's "Creep."
Cheese: We think that Radiohead is brilliant. They really know how to
make a song swing and the arrangement we did with the big band is
something we looked forward to. It's a 38 piece band playing it. We had to
rent an extra recording studio, plus we added a Winnebago outside, where
the glockenspieler sat. And to have that kind of huge power behind the
song--which is generally a one guitar, one drum, one squeaking Brit
song--we liked to do the big band arrangement (instead) to really put the
music out there. I'm very pleased with it and I'm very excited because we
are opening for Radiohead on the 20th at the Greek.
MONSTER PARTY 2000Interviewed by DJ Johnson
Interviewing several artists from several bands at the same time is always a bit of
a challenge, but also a lot of fun. When MuSick Recordings put out last year's best
Halloween party record, Monster Party 2000, it seemed like a good enough excuse to get
a bunch of musicians together to talk about Halloween (the official Cosmik Debris
holiday). Oh... you need to know who's who. Rick Mills plays in two bands (3-D
Invisibles and The Hellbenders), then there's Dalibor Pavicic from the Croation
surf band The Bambi Molestors, Evan Foster from Boss Martians and The Mystery Action,
Pekka Laine from Finland's Hypnomen, Freddy Fortune is from Fortune & Maltese,
and The Professor is from The Woggles,
Cosmik: [This CD] makes you realize how many styles of music can fit into
the Halloween thing. So did everyone here grow up diggin' Halloweenish music?
What were you into?
Rick Mills: Does "Thrilling, Chilling Sounds of the Haunted House" count?
Cosmik: Sure, it does. Even Elvira counts.
Rick Mills: I was a huge Munsters fan as a kid. Everybody knows how cool that theme
song is. Wish I still had that lunch box.
The Professor: Creepy organs and the Disney Halloween Haunted House
record. I always had a ghoulish fascination with Jimmy Cross' "I want my
Baby back." The sound of that shovel goin' into the dirt... yikes! It gives
me chills still, but it's just so real. Another song -- well, 45, but I'm not
sure when or where I got it as a kid, or found it, maybe discarded from my
uncle Joe Jones Junior -- is on Chancellor and the song is sung by
Claudine Clark, and it's called "Walkin' Through A Cemetery." It's a 50s
R&B feel with lots of shu-bops, but it's pretty wild, with her running
into ghosts and trippin' over bodies and all. Thinking back on it, a lot
of the Halloween flavored music I liked and continue to enjoy is pretty
novelty oriented, but I think that terror and humour go hand in hand. One
is a way to deal with the other.
Freddy Fortune: Oh yeah, I had that Disney Haunted house record, and A Monster Mash
record with all the big monster type songs, "Dinner With Drac," etc. Plus in the
Detroit area we had two monster movie hosts, The Ghoul & Sir Graves Ghastly.
Every weekend as a kid time was always invested in monster movies. Plus there
were also other monster movie shows without hosts like Creature Feature. So
without a doubt Halloween was always special, even if I did have to go Trick
or Treating as the standard Bum or Ghost costume too many times. Plus my
favorite cereals were Count Chocula, Boo Berry, Franken Berry, and Fruit
Evan Foster: I've always kinda dug novelty or gimmick records. I just like the
idea of rock and roll with a theme, you know? It keeps it kinda fun, as
long as its not corny to the point of total lameness. Like with instros,
I've always dug nasty instros with theme names and stuff.
Dalibor Pavicic: The Halloween thing is not a major event in Croatia.
Cosmik: Oh... my... GOD! You're kidding. I'm so sorry, man.
Dalibor Pavicic: If it wasn't for John Carpenter I would be completely unaware of
it. As for Halloweenish music we all dig "Ghost Guitars," by Baron Deamon and the
Vampires. We even thought to make a cover of this song for the Monster comp, but we
couldn't do the creepy voice on breaks. There were also songs that I used to be
afraid of back in my childhood. For instance, "Strawberry Fields Forever" has this
really scary ending. That was probably the scariest thing I've experienced as a child.
Cosmik: Really? Did you hear "Tomorrow Never Knows" when you were a kid, too?
Dalibor Pavicic: Sure, that one also fits well into the creepy category.
Pekka Laine: To me this comp's concept was just horror-ghost stuff in general.
Halloween doesn't have any meaning to us as a special day, it's just part
of American culture, I suppose. But I like creepy and scary sounding stuff,
for sure. Not so much the novelty aspect but the eerie, otherworldly
element you can find in horror-inspired music.
Cosmik: I hear that! Give us some examples.
Pekka Laine: In the novelty department, my favorite is probably Screaming
Lord Sutch and songs like "All Black and Hairy." As far as instrumentals go,
I suppose you can find the spooky element in several areas: Link Wray, Joe
Meek productions and so on. That's where we got it. And psychedelia, too,
of course. There's always a sinister element involved in real freakout stuff
like "Interstellar Overdrive," which we're really into.
TEXAS TERRI & THE STIFF ONESInterviewed by John Sekerka
Texas Terri prowls the stage, screams like a cat on fire and conjures images of Iggy Pop with
a sex change. To illustrate, she performs topless all the time and, where legal, totally nude,
with the exception of the TXT across her nipples and the center of her chest in black tape.
What's she trying to prove? Screw proof. She's just rocking, and it's like 105 degrees under
those lights, Bubba. Terri's a Texas punk, and they don't do anything half-assed in Texas.
John: Hailing from from Austin, Texas, did you hang around with the Dicks, The Big Boys, punksters like that?
Texas Terri: Oh yeah, we all knew each other that's for sure.
John: Were you playing or just hanging around, part of the scene?
Texas Terri: I started a band called the Other Guys. The Dicks were my favourite band. There was another band called The Next that I really loved cuz they were really sleazy. In fact the extra song on the CD is a cover of theirs: "Women Should Be Wilder". That was my theme song. My next band was Puss and Boots, then I moved to California.
John: What drew you to the punk scene? Was it always in you, or did something happen and you said, "that's for me"?
Texas Terri: (laughing) I think you're born with that attitude and you follow the crowd - the outsiders. Punk just fit like a glove. I could relate to it. For some people it's a phase and they move on. For me it's a lifestyle. It's what's in your heart.
John: So growing up, you weren't the ra-ra, pom-pom cheerleader, school president all prep girl?
Texas Terri: It's strange cuz I was involved in all of those weird things. I made straight As in school, though people thought I was lying about it. I was weird, always in my own little world. It was fun. I tried out for cheerleader as a joke, and caused a lot of commotion, and that was good. I was a tom boy - got voted most athletic one year. I liked to play football with the boys - who wouldn't? I've always been one of the guys.
WISE MONKEY ORCHESTRAInterviewed by DJ Johnson
Did I hear somebody say "jam band?" Alley thinks of Wise Monkey Orchestra as a jam band,
but to tell you the truth, I hear them as the kind of bar band that stirs up such a hot
brew of rockin' rhythm and blues that you leave the dance floor unconcerned about how much
beer was sloshed on your nice new threads. Just kept ya from burnin' up, baby. This band
is hot, and Alley, that girl up front, she can belt with the best of them. They've been one of
San Diego's best kept secrets for a long time, but all that changed recently.
Cosmik: So you've gotten it all together now, and in the last year you've played 200 dates in 25 states.
Alley:: Yeah, we had an insane year. That's why this year I said "you know what, I really need to take a little time," because we were playing so much there wasn't time to take time to do the things we needed to do, like write new songs. Now were getting ready to record a new album because we were finally able to slow down enough to write these new songs. We all have families. Almost all of us are married, except for a couple, and the ones who aren't married have long term girlfriends that they live with, which is the same thing anyway, and we were all suffering because of the schedule. Besides which we weren't signed to the kind of label that puts a lot of money behind you on the road, so you're living hand to mouth out there. You're staying in shitty hotels, you're eating shitty food. After ten years of that we need to sit down and regroup. We need to chill out for a little bit and see what we're going to do, and write some new tunes, and spend some time with out families. I have two children who I have basically raised on the road so far. It was important to me to make sure they
didn't become the little road rats. A little bit of that's good for them, but we didn't have any moderation. It was all "go go go go go!" There was no time to think about anything. That was good for us then, but this year we said let's just chill out and focus writing some new tunes and getting a new studio CD down.
Cosmik: On that tour, you played with a different class of musician than you'd probably played with before. You played with [James Brown's saxophonist and bandleader] Maceo Parker, and Fishbone, and Pharcyde, and Jazz Is Dead. When you're standing in the wings watching them play night after night, does that bring your band up another level, as well?
Alley:: I think so, definitely. I think it makes you more professional when you see other people doing it right. It makes you realize you can have longevity in this business. When I joined the band, I was just a little kid, I was still.... you know... "paaaaaaartaaaay!!! woooohoooo!" It was all about the fun for me, and I had a great time, believe me. I had a great time for everybody. But as I've gotten older, my priorities have changed.
Cosmik: In what way?
Alley:: It's definitely been more about the show, it's been more about the music, and being in the scene. Not only have we played with these people whose names everyone will recognize, but we've played with thousands of bands like us. Jam bands on the circuit that people have never heard of. But these are people who have toured and done the work and played the shows and done the CDs on their own, without producers telling them what to do. See, these are the people
I've really learned from, because their lesson is "you can do whatever you want to do if you really want to do it.
ANDRE WILLIAMSInterviewed by John Sekerka
He coulda been a contender, Charlie, if he'd been willing to smile at the TV camera's instead
of flipping them off and then mooning them. Andre Williams' career goes way back to the early
days of rock and roll and R&B, and forget the cliche, he's really seen and done it all. The
man is a god to his fans, and now, old enough to be a great grandfather, he's still out there
on the road doing his show and doing it well. In his Tape Hiss Interview with John Sekerka,
Andre talked about a phase of his career most people don't even know took place: his years
behind the console at Motown.
John: Alright. Let's talk about your stint as a Motown producer,
handling such acts as Mary Wells, George Clinton, Little Stevie Wonder... How did you get
involved in all that?
Andre: Well me and Berry (Gordy) were pretty close. I helped him out
when he needed help, and he responded by giving me a shot at his artists. I didn't particularly
like him as a man, but I respected him. I don't like anybody that controls everything.
John: You don't ever wanna be in control?
Andre: No, I don't want nobody to be in control. Let's let the control
John: I like that. Out of all those Motor City acts, who was your
favourite to produce?
Andre: I think Tina (Turner) would be number one, then Mary Wells. The
Contours would be third. The one thing with Stevie (Wonder) was that he was a baby so that
John: Was this when he was doing "Fingertips"? How old was he, eleven?
Andre: I did the first one called "Thank Your Mother," he might have
been ten years old.
John: Did you have a feeling that he was gonna be something special?
Andre: No, I thought he was a pain in the ass.
John: (laughing) A ten-year-old pain in the ass?
Andre: He was everywhere. He was playing every damn instrument in the
studio, knocking the pianos outta tune, fuckin' up the drums. He was all over the place. I
guess that's what stars are made of--being all over the place. He was poppin' them instruments
dead! He didn't have the juice that he got now, but at least he was challenging every
John: So how did you handle this wild child in the studio?
Andre: I didn't handle him. Me and Berry just produced him. I didn't
have nothin' to do with him on a day-to-day basis cuz I couldn't put up with him, man. He was a
John: Any other handfuls? There are a lot of big egos out there.
Andre: Well, I knew how to work around egos and Stevie didn't have an
ego. He just didn't know no different. I knew when the egos would come out. I'd only come out
when the egos was in. You can spot a guy with an ego. He don't have it 24 hours a day.
BIG ASS TRUCK (Steve Selvidge)Interviewed by DJ Johnson
Cosmik Debris is all about the convergence of all styles of music in one place. Here. When
several styles converge via one band, we get hyper and faint! A band in Memphis knocks us
out for the long count. Big Ass Truck is "the bomb." Steve Selvidge talked about this mixture
of sounds, influences and styles.
Cosmik: Before we catch up to the current album, I want to talk a bit about the first two.
I have to admit I've never heard Sack Lunch, so I can only talk about Big Ass Truck and Kent.
When the first one came out, I put it on and was busy doing other things for, like... thirty
seconds before you had my full attention. I couldn't believe all the elements. Psych, funk,
blues, soul, country, hip-hop, sometimes in the same song. What kinds of reactions did you
Selvidge: We got a lot of hyphenated descriptions. We got a lot of comparisons to Beck.
People were either really into it and thought it was great, or they'd say "well they
really can't decide what they want to do. They're just hopping around, inconsistent."
We always got one of those two, basically. Then we started hearing "Oh, it's like The
Beastie Boys," or "Oh, it's like The Red Hot Chili Peppers," which I never really saw.
I mean, okay, some of the instrumentation of The Beastie Boys, yeah, but the whole Chili
Peppers thing I don't get. Apart from if somebody wants to compare my guitar playing to
John Frusciante, then I'll take that, because he's one of my favorite guitar players.
But, you know, the whole "white boy funk" thing... Funk is such a bastardized term. We
prefer to call it "groove oriented music," because there were so many bands coming out
in the 70s saying "we're gonna funk your face off, we're gonna funk you right off the
dance floor," or whatever, and we weren't about that.
Cosmik: Have you ever considered the potential your music has to open doors for people?
I'll use myself as an example. I never saw the point of scratching. Turntables are
instruments? Get lost. Okay, I know, I'm a late bloomer, but it was Big Ass Truck that
made me hear it. I finally got it because it's done so well there, because the music
calls for it and it makes so much sense. So that door is open for me now and I like
to hear scratching, if it's done well. Have you realized your music can open that door,
or a funk door for a rock fan, or a psych door for a funk fan or whatever?
Selvidge: I've thought about it in terms of how it's happened to me, you know, and how
other music has opened doors for me, but when we're making it we're just thinking about
us. Just thinking about making music. But yeah, I would hope people would listen to it
and go "oh wow, turntables ARE a musical instrument," because that's always been a big
thing for us. It is actually one of the MOST musical instruments, because it's melodic
and percussive at the same time, and there's so much you can do. That was another thing:
there were so many white funk bands that popped up with DJs, and it was just like a bunch
of kids grabbing their dicks and putting a bunch of "wiggy wiggy" over the top of it,
and we never wanted to go that way. It's not like we write a song and then go "okay,
now let's put the funky turntables over it." We'll be writing a song and Colin will
come in with a part that'll completely put the song on its ear. I guess I hadn't thought
about it in those terms too much, though. I'm just hoping people enjoy it.
CHEAP TRICK (Bun E. Carlos)Interviewed by Roan Kaufman
This was the only interview Roan Kaufman ever did for Cosmik Debris. He just vanished
into the vastness of cyberspace afterward. Where ever you are, Roan, thank you for
our conversation with Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick. I'm not sure if there is a single
member of the Cosmik Staff who doesn't like this band. And I know for a fact there are
at least five of us who would climb dangerous mountains to see them play, so you can
imagine how thrilled were we with this (especially after Melanie Campbell had talked to Tom
Pettersen the year before. Two down, two to go). In this segment, Carlos assessed the
Cosmik: It sounds like things are going good these days. Was there also a period
for the band when things were not going so well? I read a lot of interviews
with you guys in which you talk about a period when things kind of bottomed
Carlos: There were the fabulous 80s when the record company hated us, and there
were the fabulous early 90s when we were fighting with our manager.
Cosmik: Were you surprised that people have taken to your early music again? You
are going back into the much more aggressive music and the stuff that is less
Carlos: Those are always like the legendary first three albums. It is kind of
funny, looking back on it, because when they came out, none of them sold very
well until Budokan--and then the sales picked up. We all thought they were
In 1996 we put out that boxed set, and then people like Billy Corogan and the
Pearl Jam guys came out--we did some gigs with them--and people like that
talked about the band. So it was like a 70s revival or whatever you want to
call it. It was great... like 20 years later this stuff still seems to work
pretty good and it does. We recorded the records without too many gimmicks or
effects and the songs are good and we didnít mess them up. So they still
sound good years later.
A lot of the 80s music was producers coming into the studio and thinking
they had to make a drum sound like a cannon, and put this effect on a guitar,
and have a keyboard play along. And now when you hear it, it sounds like the
80s. It doesnít help much. There is a lot of great stuff on our records from
the 80s, but Tom wasn't in the band and that made a difference. When there
is only three of the original four, then you are missing something. As good as
John is and still is, it was missing something without Tom.
CYNTHIA PLASTERCASTERInterviewed by John Sekerka
What is a Tape Hiss Interview if not off beat? Okay, that's a cheap joke. John Sekerka
has always chosen his interviews with an eye for the unusual, but this one was a stroke
of genius. STOP THAT! I'm really sorry. Who is Cynthia PlasterCaster? An unusual lass
who has spent the majority of her life making plaster statues of the sexual organs of
rock stars and other famous people. How does one get her start in such a business?
John: How did you approach your first star subject? Did you just blurt
Cynthia: Yeah, you're right, I did. My friend (Cynthia doesn't drive)
followed Jimi Hendrix's limo in our car. We all tumbled out respectively and I just blurted out
to Jimi who was standing there as big as life, "can we plaster cast your Hampton Lick?" which
was Cockney slang for dick, which he knew. He said "Yeah, I heard about you, c'mon up."
Normally we would present a calling card to the band - very official looking, like traveling
saleswomen. The more absurd it was the more we would have a good laugh out of it. Laughter was
an important component for me to get comfortable in the presence of one of my demi-gods.
John: Any problems from the other end, where, say, they couldn't do
Cynthia: You mean they couldn't live up to full capabilities?
John: Uh, yeah.
Cynthia: That has happened quite frequently. I try to make it clear to
everyone that sees the exhibit, that I normally don't capture full capability. And sometimes
RON DANTEInterviewed by DJ Johnson
You never saw his face, but you sure heard that voice. Ron Dante was the man with the
golden pipes in the late 1960s, when bubblegum was king. Remember a little tune called
"Tracy," by The Cuff Links? You would if you heard it, but here's one that everybody
knows just by name: "Sugar Sugar," by The Archies. That's right, Ron Dante was the voice
of Archie Andrews, cartoon teenaged every-boy who just happened to front a rock and roll
band with a couple groovy chicks, a couple guys and his ever-faithful mutt, Hotdog.
Dante's career didn't end when Archie's did, however. Besides having a lucrative career
in the commercial voiceover field, he became a top record producer with an impressive
resume that includes most of Barry Manilow's million sellers. Bubblegum is still a subject
close to his heart, and in this segment from his September interview he ponders the current
Cosmik: I'm almost afraid to use the term bubblegum, even though it's a term of endearment for
me. You've worked in all kinds of music, and you're certainly aware that some people don't
take some of that music very serious, and that the term bubblegum is sometimes said with rolled
eyes, but there's something about it that makes it appealing even today. I was wondering what
you think the key to that is. What makes bubblegum great?
Dante: I think it's the innocence of it. It doesn't deal with serious issues. It's love songs,
or fun songs. Good time rock and roll. It's also danceable and appeals to the very young and
people who think very young. I think the power-pop of today is very similar to the
bubblegum of the late 60s, and I must say, the bubblegum of the late 60s is very popular today.
Continues to be popular, gets played every day on thousands of stations across the country.
People love the music. They come and support the artists when they perform live. It's okay
if people want to put it down; it was not meant to be compared to Led Zeppelin or The Rolling
Stones, but it's just as relevant in that it's very sound, musically. Great sounding records,
great singers, and very memorable songs. The Turtles were bubblegum with "Happy Together,"
but that's a great record, great song, great vocal. So I find that pop music, in all its
incarnations, stays around because it gets to the most people. "Sugar Sugar" sells six, seven
million records. That's a very good seller, and that's not just selling to teenagers. It
sold to everybody, including people who didn't even know who The Archies were.
Cosmik: Very similar to when The Monkees first records came out, ahead of the first episode
of the show, and nobody knew who they were but they bought the records anyway because the
songs were so strong.
Dante: The songs were very strong. "Last Train To Clarksville" was a strong song.
Cosmik: What's interesting to me is thinking about bubblegum music being made now, because
obviously it's still being made. But I have trouble imagining anyone singing N-Sync songs
thirty-one years from now. What do you think the big difference is between what was gum
then and what is essentially gum now?
Dante: I don't know. The bubblegum of today is more like Hansen, Christine Aguillera,
Britney Spears, even the boy groups like N-Sync and Backstreet Boys. It's very similar to
The New Kids On The Block of ten years ago. Some of it is good and memorable, but I don't
know how much of it will last and how much won't. I really like some of the songs N-Sync
does. I love Savage Garden. I think they put out some really nice songs. I think there's
some memorable stuff. You have to realize that ninety percent of all the stuff that is
released is going to be forgettable, but that ten percent... you can't really bag yet. You
don't know what's going to be memorable ten or twenty years from now. There are a lot less
great songs being written today because writing is a tough craft, and a lot of people
are using what has come before to write. Like they're writing a rap record around a Sting
song, and I don't think that takes as much creativity as writing something from scratch.
So there's a lot less creativity, a lot more retro-writing going on, people leaning on what
has been done, so you're going to get a lot less memorable stuff. Some of the rap
stuff, they're not songs: they're a musical idiom. They make a statement, but I can't call
them songs. There's not a song there, it's a moment in time and an interesting sound. I
mean, sonically, some of the stuff is really cool. It can be very interesting because they
do different things, like they don't use a bass or whatever. It's very interesting nowadays,
but the songs that will last a long time are few and far between.
Cosmik: And I guess that even back in the 60s they were few and far between...
Dante: It's just that we've forgotten them. (Laughs.) Out of the top one hundred, there were
five or six that were really good that month, while the rest of them were just being pushed
up the charts by promotion men. There's always a lot of fluff and filler. I think the
Internet will start to cut that away, though, because you'll see the really good stuff rise
to the top of the Internet at some point, and people will be able to judge for themselves.
JOEL DORNInterviewed by Shaun Dale
We close our 6th annual Cosmik Conversations feature with an old friend, the legendary jazz
producer, Joel Dorn. We'd talked with him before, and he had our full attention then as well.
It comes across in print. You know how sometimes you have someplace you have to be in twenty
minutes and somebody's talking, and you feel it's urgent you leave right away, but that person
is just so fascinating in the way he is talking, the rhythm of his speech, and the stories
that he's telling, that you just can't tear yourself away. Before you know it, you're sitting
there listening in rapt fascination, not wanting to miss a word. That's how we feel about Joel
Dorn, so who better to close this out? In this segment, they're talking about Rufus Harley,
a man who actually plays jazz... on bagpipes.
Cosmik: He is. It was interesting reading how he ties his music to Rhassan, who
used multiple horns to get a drone, and he uses the pipes for the same
effect. I'm surprised someone else isn't out there working on that.
Dorn: I'm always drawn to the different. The unusual, the original, the
bizarre, maybe. When I was a kid and heard him in Philly, I was on the
radio, and he called me up one night and said "I just made a little record,
I'd like to bring it by." It was a single. I put it on and it was wild.
Bagpipe Blues was the name of it. So I recorded him, and surprisingly the
record did pretty well. In many ways it's the record that got me my job at
Atlantic, because it broke wide open in Detroit. I think it sold 5,000
albums in Detroit, and I think that's what showed Neshui that maybe I had an
eye for talent or whatever it was. I'd made a few records for them before,
and some good ones, Hubert Laws, people like that, but the Rufus Harley one
was the one where he called me to New York and said how'd you like to work
for us. Well, I wanted to work for Atlantic since I was 14. I'd been
writing them since I heard my first Ray Charles record, sending them ideas
and begging them for a job. When he said come up here, I said, Oh baby, I'm
getting ready to play for the '55 Dodgers. It was great.
I had a ten year run there, and I can't even tell ya'. The label evolved
and changed. I was only interested in the Atlantic I knew, not the one that
became a multi-national corporation, so I split when that feeling wasn't
there anymore, but I'm glad I had my time there.
Cosmik: That happened to a lot of labels. I just finished reading Jac Holzman's
book about Elektra, and the same thing happened as it moved from an indie to
a major. He left when it wasn't fun anymore, when you couldn't go in and do
what you did just because you enjoyed it.
Dorn: I only know how to do it that way. Emotionally, I think I stopped
growing in 10th grade, 11th grade. I can't understand what's wrong with
having fun, where you make a living from doing something that's having fun.
I think the world would be a better place if more people could do that. I
left Atlantic in '74. I'd won the Grammy for record of the year two years
in a row. But Atlantic was part of Warner Communications by then, and that
old feeling where we all just hung around and made music, you know, you
could walk down that hallway and see anybody from Aretha to Led Zeppelin.
I'd make a record with Bette Midler in the morning and Yusef at night. That
changed. Then we moved to Rockefeller Center and I said fuck this, I'm
There's nothing wrong, I mean, I'm glad Atlantic Records grew into what it
did and the owners all became multi-millionaires and it's a giant company
today. But it was some kind of thing to come in there each morning and work
twenty hours making music you dug. It wasn't just me. All of us that
worked there, we were all doing it. You'd have the Allman Brothers there,
the Rascals, Aretha. It was wild. It was just some kinda scene. And
foolishly, I thought it was going to continue forever. I was just a kid, I
didn't know. But one night I was hanging out with George Harrison and
Lamont Dozier, just goofing off, and Harrison said, "You worked at Atlantic
in the golden days, and you worked at Motown. Did you think it was ever
going to end?" And I said, "Did you think the Beatles were?" I figured
when I was 70 I'd still be making records with Fathead, that we'd be making
his 60th album. I didn't know. It was never like that again.
But 32 and Label M, minus the regular bullshit you run into running a
business, I put a team together of guys that I dug, that dug what I do, we
all dug each other, we all enjoy coming to work and we just have fun.
Cosmik: And it shows it what ultimately comes out, too.
Dorn: I hope so. I hope it translates. One of the things that I think made
32 successful was, in terms of how it looked, how it read, how it sounded, I
wanted it to be like when I was a kid, I mean a kid like 12 or 13, and I'd
go to the record store and get a new Little Richard record or Frankie Lymon
record, and then later on something by Horace or Cannonball or Mahalia
Jackson or Ray Charles. I wanted the records to make people feel the way I
used to feel, so I tried to make them be that way. I think we did,
sometimes. I hope we did, for sure.
And that wraps up another year of Cosmik Conversations. Our sixth... which is still hard for
any of us to believe, but there it is. We're looking forward to yet another year and we'll
see you here for #7 this time next year. In the meantime, enjoy the ride.