10 Minutes with the Black Lips
Scott Wood Takes a Second Bite at the Proverbial Apple
If you read !earshot regularly, you might remember that a couple of years ago, my attempt to interview the Black Lips was derailed by a heckler. Yes, I was heckled in an interview.
You can read about that experience here (January 2008).
The next time the Black Lips came to town, I was anxious to re-try my luck and interview one of the most visceral indie-skid acts to come out of the US South.
Cole and Jared from the bad were gracious enough to forgo their preshow drinking to answer a few questions. Here is my ten minutes with the Black Lips. And this time, I wasn’t heckled.
Scott Wood: You guys are ten years in. What would be a great gift for each other to celebrate this milestone?
Cole: I was thinking—instead of a gold record—like an aluminum, or maybe bronze, Black Lips record for the guys.
Jared: I just say, “Congratulations on all your hard work,” cuz you know, that’s a gift too—it’s not physical. We all make the same amount of money and go to the same places. The only time I get gifts for people is if I see something I can see them really liking a lot. I’m kind of against exchanging gifts when you’re forced to. Not against it—but that’s my excuse for not getting anyone in my family Christmas presents.Sometimes you gotta go. You're up there for more than an hour and sometimes you've gotta pee. What, are you gonna take a bathroom break on stage? I don't think so.
Scott Wood: Pitchfork called you guys the “world’s foremost party band.” Is there room in that for you guys to say something bigger than “let’s get drunk and fuck?”
Jared: Yeah, I don’t like music that is too serious, you know? You always gotta be fun. You can’t take yourself too seriously—at the same time, you can’t be a joke band. It’s good to tow the line between the two. But partying is a very serious thing because that’s how you release and have fun and... you know... Partying leads to procreation, leads to our world still being here tomorrow.
Cole: I’d say a lot of babies were conceived during partying.
Scott Wood: I definitely agree.
Cole: Good for the world.One of the most underappreciated fluids at our shows is sweat, pure human body sweat. Our drummer is often completely soaked by it. You don't hear people talk about that bodily fluid a lot.
Scott Wood: You guys are known for producing a lot of bodily fluids during your shows. A cynical person could say that this type of stage show is a great way to get noticed. How much a part of the Black Lips is that spectacle?
Cole: One of the most underappreciated fluids at our shows is sweat, pure human body sweat. Our drummer is often completely soaked by it. You don’t hear people talk about that bodily fluid a lot. And the crowd’s awfully sweaty.
Jared: Yeah, well, you don’t want all that stuff to overshadow the music. I think we’ve done a good job of keeping it balanced. Uhm... Sometimes you gotta go. You’re up there for more than an hour and sometimes you’ve gotta pee. What, are you gonna take a bathroom break on stage? I don’t think so.
Cole laughs in agreement.
Jared: You just gotta go.
Cole: The show must go on.
Jared: Entertainment and music is a dying art form because a lot of these bands, they just kinda stand around—it’s not trying to make a spectacle, it’s just... People pay money; they wanna have fun, they wanna be entertained. It comes from a long line of entertainers. Little Richard and Chuck Berry put on amazing shows. They were great entertainers, they were amazing singers and songwriters, but you know, the show was the show. That was back when a show was a show and men were women [He laughs, correcting himself.] And men and women were proud of it.
Scott Wood: I was watching this interview with you guys online. You were both drunk on a couch with this dude and he asked you guys if either of you had had sex with a black chick. Both of you answered “Yes.” I was surprised that...
Jared and Cole interrupt me to clarify which interview I am talking about. And for those curious to see Jared and Cole get interviewed by a happy-drunk guy while downing beers, google “Pervert-to-Pervert: Buddyhead v. Black Lips” to check out that oddball interview.
Scott Wood: What I am trying to get to here is that after talking about that stuff, you said that, in terms of gender roles, that you wanted your relationships to be “typical,” you felt that men should be men and women should be women, which surprised me.
Jared: I agree with that. It’s a very important thing and not in a sexist way. I think there are gender roles. Not to say—I have a ton of friends who are girls and in bands and do “guy stuff,” but it’s when you force it. Like the woman who forced herself into The Citadel—[Note: Jared is referring to the first female who enrolled in the formerly all-male military college in South Carolina in the 90s. She eventually dropped out due to the intense program and other pressures, but since then other females have successfully graduated.]—Am I gonna force myself into one of the Seven Sisters Colleges?
I dunno. That’s not like a big theme of ours. We like old fashioned things, but I mean we wouldn’t want to go back to the days of...I should probably stop running my mouth about that.
Scott Wood: No, please continue.
Jared: Any way, I might sound like a jerk. I think classic roles are important, you know?
Scott Wood: It’s surprising to hear from a band where dudes routinely tongue each other on stage.
Jared [laughing]: Well, yeah.
Scott Wood: Ok, well let’s take things in a lighter direction. I don’t want you to look like jerks! In terms of merchandise you guys could get pretty crazy with things.
Cole: We had sock puppets. Commemorative plates. [He looks at Jared.]
Jared: Commemorative plates... We used to just bring a lot of junk on the road and try to sell it. We used to have a cigarette racket because cigarettes in Georgia were like two bucks and we’d go to New York a couple of times a month and bring up a few cartons each, and you know I’d turn around 150 bucks on that. We’d make more selling cigarettes. We’d put Black Lips stickers on them. Cuz in New York, they were ten bucks and in Georgia at the time they were two, so we had a little racket going when we weren’t getting paid that much in the clubs. That was our little foray into organized crime kinda.
Scott Wood: A friend of mine wants to know if you would ever put out Black Lips dildos.
Cole: What?!When we went to Israel, we had a good time. I mean shit was fucked up around us, but we were there to play music and that's what we did. We went with that attitude and everyone we encountered was very positive from Israel to Palestine.
Jared: No. The sex toys kind of make me uncomfortable, so I don’t think we’d do that. And there’s kids at our shows so that’s being too kinda “fuck you.” Let me think—we’ve had Black Lips lingerie before. That sold alright.
Scott Wood: Did you guys have a hand in designing that?
Jared: No. We found it in Queens and some shitty flea market thing. They had a whole bunch of lacy underwear with Black Lips on the hood.
Scott Wood: I was reading the Pitchfork review of your latest record 200 Million Thousand and it said that the record “sounded like it was recorded at the bottom of a well.” I can see that assessment. Do you agree with it? Was that sound a conscious decision?
Cole: It is definitely swampy. We wanted a swampy sound.
Jared: Yeah, well, we recorded it in our own studio this time. I like it a lot better than the production on the one before that. It’s not like going out of our way to be low-fi or whatever, I just think it sounds good that way. I like recordings that sound like that.
Pitchfork!—I never know what the fuck they are talking about when I read reviews of theirs. Most of the time I get confused, I can’t tell if they like the record or don’t. It’s a bunch of gobbledegook they just spout out.
Scott Wood: I think it’s tough. For me, reviews often say as much about the reviewer as the record. It always difficult to assign value to music, but Pitchfork do it and people really wanna know what they think!
Cole: True dat.
Jared: I say just listen to the music. The best reviews are “this is good” or “this is bad.” There’s tons of stuff that I like that tons of people hate. I don’t really pay much attention to a review.
Scott Wood: So if we go back to this “swampy” sound of 200 Million Thousand, can you tell me a couple of other records that you guys like that have this type of sound?
Jared: My favourite era of recording was like in the 60s. It sounded warm and the tone was good. That was like the apex of recording technology, in my opinion. I don’t know what records to compare it to. I can’t compare it to any great records, like Beatles records, or Stones records or Kinks or stuff like that, cuz it doesn’t sound as good and I wouldn’t wanna do that. But I like the way the Beach Boys sound a lot
Scott Wood: I read a quote of yours where you said the Black Lips were going to “become the Ambassadors of Rock.” So what are the responsibilities associated with that title?
Jared: Not ignore the political climate of where ever you are, but it’s not my place—Like when we went to Israel, we had a good time, I mean shit was fucked up around us, but we were there to play music and that’s what we did. We went with that attitude and everyone we encountered was very positive from Israel to Palestine. Basically I don’t really give a—[He stops to correct himself]—I don’t really care about what’s going on in the world, to an extent because it doesn’t really have anything to do with me . I chose to live in my own world and the people I see are happy and don’t worry about financial meltdown or nuclear wars. That might be selfish but this is my zone.
I point the mic to Cole, who then coughs in it.
Scott Wood: You guys recently came back from India, so I was hope you could give me one little snippet from your times there.
Jared: Cole, why don’t you?
Cole: I think the food was a memorable magical experience. I like spicy food and they know their spices. When European explorers brought many spices back, it blew the European’s mind. And it still blows my mind today, the flavours, the savoury tastes in their food and cuisine.Tune in to the interview show with host Scott Wood for more interviews with your favourite indie acts.
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