Interview for Dirty Rock Magazine
You created “Let it Melt” a rich and raucous collection that instantly places them among Rock and Roll clasicc’s finest its force, directness, and performance not unlike some lost recording unearthed from the golden age of 70s rock ‘n’ roll.
Do you think that strange alchemy of beginnings and your new energy created that effect?
Yes I think that’s probably a large part of it. Our beginnings may as well have been on Venus or Saturn where we may have found more empathy. The origins of the band really came out of times which were so removed from us and what we played. The initial DNA went back before punk but actually we were into a guitar style that was post- punk but before punk had even happened. We then had a few years in the early eighties where the audience reaction was a stunned silence after each song. I don’t think it was because they thought we were no good I just think they thought we were freaks from another place and so didn’t know how to react. Today onstage all our experience comes alive and draws from the past when we perform live or in the studio. That energy has made its way onto the new album coupled with an understanding of what people are trying to do today and what we think what is lacking with a lot of bands. We are needed today more than ever.
The title track of your last album, “Let it Melt”, is a laugh out loud yet painfully accurate comment on the state of many situation and relationships?
Glad you have picked up on that. Sometimes its best to let things just slide away without trying to interfere in the natural process. People live within such an uptight bubble these days. Personal and political lives too have both merged into a kind of instant jelly and are about as stable. It can be fun to observe if you are able to keep a distance but keeping a distance is often impossible. In the hippie days the counter –culture did it for a while with dope but being straight is now the new dope. The weirdest people out there I see today are the ones that don’t smoke don’t drink and have never taken anything except too much coffee. Relax let it melt.
“Let it Melt” is your debut album on Palo Santo, a hip, independent label located in Dallas, Texas and the band now comprises three members from the 1980s line-up together with new boy Rob Morris (drums), who joined 15 years ago, Why do you have you decided to make this new movement?
Because the people at Palo Santo dig what we do and understand it too. British labels are so dependent on some sort of perceived trend or vibe that they don’t know seem to know what is going on any more. Obviously money and commerce are vital to any industry but music is culture too. Museums and art galleries the Royal Ballet or the National Shakespeare Company, for example, get subsidized by central and local government in England and these days even some elements of the music business do, but rock n rollers like us are seen as curiosities and can only really operate if they are with a good label. Having loads of money flying around doesn’t mean a thing unless a label really knows the character of the act and Palo Santo get us. It feels like they understand us properly.
Can you run us through some more of the tracks on there you like?
I like No Return Fare because it has an inherent mystery about it and I also like You Got The Whole Thing Wrong because it is a real rhythm and blues rock n roll track that is loose enough to seduce but tight enough to carry you along. Scared Of Time is a good song and the title track Let It Melt is Diesel Park West in signature sound-wise. It has that B chord drone that has become our trademark. It is very important to have just one element that is yours and belongs to no one else and that drone is all our own. I hear people copying it these days, which is fine by me, but we started it off with When The Hoodoo Comes way back. Don’t get me wrong I know other people can play a bloody B chord but not quite with that same sound. It probably comes from me playing the wrong way around on the guitar.
Actually it could be that I play the right way round and ninety nine per cent of all other guitar players in the history of mankind have been getting it wrong for centuries. Me and Dick Dale baby!… Across This Land is another one I like because it hits home lyrically and literally.
The importance of the versions at that time was not the same as now. Now it’s almost frowned upon to make versions. However, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, their first recordings were riddled with versions. Then, during the 70s, the pub-rock scene was nourished by blues and rock & roll classics for live shows and even for studio records. Currently, has that respect been lost to the classics due to lack of culture in the new generations?
It sure has. The Stones would never have got to Gimmie Shelter or even Satisfaction a few years earlier without playing all those Jimmy Reed and Chuck songs night after night. No way the Beatles could have possibly reached A Day In The Life or Paperback Writer without singing Money or Twist And Shout in the clubs first. Its so foolish to demand that a new band right from the start has to come up with fully grown great first class original material to play and put on record. Its indicative of the way the music business has gone I guess. At first a band has to find out how to play with each other onstage and that’s where cover versions which make a connection to the band are a really good idea. A band needs to know how to connect with an audience as early as possible when they are starting out therefore if making that connection means jumping in with somebody else’s songs for a while do it, its ok. Learn how to make two guitars sound like one, learn the importance of fluid bass lines and backing vocals that can lift a chorus right up. Above all learn how to be liked! It does seem to be lost on the new generations because they might think that Wonder wall is now an old classic when actually its just a hugely successful dreary ramble of a song so if a new band starts to learn it my guess is that they might pretty quickly discover how mediocre something like that really is and so they must think “ hang on we can write something as good as this “ and they are probably right. I say to younger bands go back , go back real far. Go back to the fifties or even the forties certainly the early sixties pre- Beatles and Stones. Listen to rhythm and blues.
“ Let it Melt” released last September and 30 years after your debut with Shakespeare Alabama . Even in dark times, let the good times roll. Are you happy with the final result of the album?
We are yeah. “Lets make an album we like “ said Rob Morris outside the studio on the first night and that’s exactly what we did with the new album . It has a real strong identity and people are picking up on that everywhere.
Shakespeare Alabama out debut was recorded on a major label back in the days of plunder. It actually was not all that pleasant an experience certainly not at firs anywayt. It took a while for the feel to flow. We had the songs and we knew how we wanted them to sound but for some reason at first we couldn’t nail them. Chris Kimsey the producer probably took a while to adjust to us but when he did it started to work. It ended up being a real strong debut that’s for sure. There is one song on it , Opportunity Crazy, which I remember we threw in pretty much late on and against his wishes at first but whenever I hear that now it always sounds the closest to how the band sounded live before any records. We certainly did let the good times roll in fact they have been rolling for about five decades! Lets raise a glass to the next five, although I concede that may be pushing it.
Your music never conformed to any style and, because of that, it hasn’t really dated. It still sounds fresh and original today, which you can’t always say about music from that era. How important is that freedom of creative approach to you?
Its not a willful or deliberate non-conformity its simply the way we are as people. We are not Metropolitan but we are sort of inverted snobs when it comes to being in the pocket musically. The freshness comes from our belief in what it is we want to achieve and our ability to play it in a modern context.
What’s left of that Leicester Leicester mod / psychedelic band whose fan base encompassed the East Midlands?
You mean Legacy ? Some of them are still around a couple have died and one is living in New Zealand. I presume that’s who you mean. Good band in their day who, it is said, had a big influence on Queen believe it or not because of John Deacon being a Leicester guy and who would have seen them. At least they may have had an influence image- wise maybe vocally too somewhere if I think about it. I am not sure that’s a good or bad thing. Across This Land was co written with a survivor from that band.
Many people have asked you, I know, Bad year for rock and roll, is there a cure for rock’n’roll? Many people think rock and roll is dead.
It isn’t dead its just been having a bad dream. Rock n Roll is physical and so are people so there will always be an incarnation of it somewhere. I hope it gets it together and raises itself up to a previously unreached level. Or maybe sinks to new depths as long as that’s the intention, you know if it means to . Either is OK with me.
What kind of music you guys listen to while on the road in your van? Any good song, record, band you lately like ? Do you know Spanish Rock or Rock artist, etc?
We tend to travel separately or semi- separately. I have been listening to a lot of Julian Cope just lately and Little Feat bootlegs too. Also I play a lot of classical music which I am quite uneducated about. I can approach it with an ignorant ear so I don’t know if what I am listening to is highbrow or not. That’s a good feeling. I might be listening to the equivalent of some really crap rock n roll band but I like so much about it and can follow things within it as well. I think its because of the unwinding process after a gig. I don’t know any Spanish rock but I am pretty certain there are some good bands because I remember doing TV shows in Spain and being struck by how tasteful and knowledgeable people were.
When the name of Boris Johnson or Donald Trump comes to mind, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
I think they should make a record together. Boris on top with Don ( or Donny as he would be called on disc) doing the lower parts. Maybe the other way around might work too. Trump is so inarticulate he has raised it to a different level of human communication. Like back to the cave but with TV lights and that shouting helicopter press thing which he clearly uses as a comfort prop. Also whats with the hand over his bollocks thing when he sits down with other leaders?! . As for Johnson he makes me immediately think of the English Civil War and Oliver Cromwell but I think he would be a Cavalier so that’s him fucked.
To finish, tell us what concert Diesel Park West keeps in the retina and why. And as a spectator?
I have never seen Diesel Park West so I don’t know what their gigs are like although I remember seeing some from the back of my head. One in Bonn Germany I always seem to recall and another in Newport Wales ( of all places ). Don’t know why maybe its was the air. I did see some great bands back in the day. Elmer Gantrys Velvet Opera were a great band also the Pretty Things at Dingwalls back in 1983 sticks in my retina! Phil May singing great. I saw The Las once in a pub before they had that big hit. The drummer had gone home so they did it as a three piece and were sensational.
Thank you very much for your answers. Is There anything you want to tell us we won’t ask you and Would you mind send Dirty Rock readers a message and encourage them to see you in a future Spanish tour?
To all our friends old and new at Dirty Rock we hope very much to come to Spain and perform for you. There is some talk of doing some shows with The Immaculate Fools so maybe people can send in requests for that. We know how much you listen to music that has something to say and music which is played with real feel so we would love t give you that show. Get in touch with us promoters of Spain.. …Keep in tune …DPW.