Wiring Dept - 1986
American Music Club
Publication: Wiring Dept.
Author: Eric Cope
Date: Summer 1986
To me your songs are really melancholy. Are they about loneliness?
"I guess they're about loneliness. But also about... Yeah, loneliness is part of it."
What makes you write that kind of song?
"I'm obviously, um, deranged in some way. Sick, obviously. Why else would I write songs like that? Oh, also I guess it's my religious background that makes me, um, I don't really know why I write the songs I write. A friend of mine in Ohio told me that all this music I'm trying to write....I'm trying to remember what he said. He said I'm trying to bring into being a satori. To look up a little piece of heaven and bring it down. That's what he said, and I kind of liked that."
You see your music that way?
"That's what I'm aiming for essentially. I haven't done it yet. Maybe I did it with one new song I just wrote. I like poetry a lot so I guess I write too many words. I'm into music that's essentially for the words. I don't think that is important in music at all, but that's what I'm into. I like words that make people see something, feel something."
Who do you think writes good words?
"Me. I like everybody. Iggy Pop, I liked Joy Division a long time ago."
Their music or lyrics more?
"Both. To me the lyrics and music are not separate. If you write a song, you're not a poet. You're just a lyricist. I would never condescend to any poet or any writer by saying, 'I'm a poet. I write lyrics,' it's not the same. You're not trying to do the same thing as a poet. When you sing, it's more, and less too."
Don't you think that in songs there's a lot of poetry?
"Not the way I define poetry. For me a poet is a man or a woman who makes art and writes it down, or even speaks it. But they have no limitations in what they write. And they cannot think that anybody would ever read it, so they're writing to a vacuum, to nobody almost. Writing without the understanding that they'll be listened to.If you write songs you can get a guitar and sit in front of somebody and sing it into being as much as the words you have music there too. But if you have a poet, he has to expect a reader to give a lot more than a musician. It's a different kind of energy. The energy of the mass appeals. Completely different thing than an isolated person sitting down and going, 'Waaaaah...' which is what I do. I guess it's a weird thing. It's what I do. I sit alone and write things that impress me."
When I listen to your lyrics I feel like there's poetry in them.
"But I don't. OK, thanks. That's a compliment. I don't see it that way. I write lyrics. I'm a singer, I'm an entertainer. I'm there. I'm on the stage. I get applause. A poet doesn't have it so easy."
Do you write most of the songs for the band?
"I write all the songs."
When did the record come out?
"About a year ago."
How did it do?
"Pretty OK. It almost paid for itself. This record had never been played live and probably never will be played live. The songs are specifically for the record because there's a lot of string arrangements, lots of acoustic guitars, organs and stuff going on. We won't play these songs live.I don't see how we could."
You're recording a new album now?
"No, right now we're finishing the songs. We'll start recording August 15th."
Where are you recording?
"Tom Mallon's studios."
After the last record did you tour?
What did you do in Europe?
"It's a long story. I wanted to get out of the city, get out of the country, and so did we all. Our drummer was leaving for Europe, so we said, OK, we'll go with you. So I worked for six months and saved up money. And we were going to tour. These stupid Americans with all this money. So we got all this gear and bought a truck. We found a manager and an agent over there. But we weren't aggressive enough. We're not aggressive people. So we just sat around. He didn't get us many shows. It was really stupid. We lost a lot of money. But it was alright. I learned a lot. I wrote some songs. I would not say I had a wonderful time. They're lying through their asses. Well, not always. I know people who aren't, who are wonderful and always have a wonderful time."
The band is originally from San Francisco?
"We're originally from SF, but I was an army brat, so I grew up in Taiwan and in England. I went to school in England, high school and flunked out miserably. I was there in 76,77,78, so I saw a lot of that stuff when it was happening."
Did that inspire you to start a band?
"It started me writing songs.I played out a couple of times. I was an unofficial back-up group for an unofficial punk group that hardly played out. And I was really really horrible, really pathetic. I sang dumb songs. I was a comedian, a dumb comedian."