The Flaming Lips Almost Killed Me: Jesus Shootin’ Heroin, Etc.

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Will repeated listening to the Flaming Lips‘ dark, depressing and intense new album drive you insane? MAGNET’s Matthew Fritch aims to find out. Welcome to the Terrordome.

You can only navelgaze about an album for so long. Turns out I actually know someone who went to the source of The Terror, so I decided to ask him about it. Jonathan Valania interviewed Wayne Coyne at his Oklahoma City compound for MAGNET #98’s cover story; he also did a MAGNET cover story on the Lips circa The Soft Bulletin.

A short preface to this Q&A: I have a little theory that The Terror is heavily influenced by drummer Steven Drozd’s drug-addiction relapse, and that it is akin to the influence that Jay Bennett had on the recording of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Maybe there was a little bit of chemical dependence going on, maybe it drove some of the darker, more experimental tendencies. Seeing as how Valania also spent time with Wilco circa Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, I decided to float this theory by him as well.

The cover story you wrote—when it came time to discuss The Terror, you told Wayne Coyne, “I like it, but I’m not sure anyone else will.” Sounds like faint praise. What do you really think of the album?
Valania: I like it for what it is. A return to the bad-trip psychedelia of yore, but much more skilled and accomplished. It asks a lot of the listener: a) That you listen to it beginning to end because it doesn’t really work in small doses, and b) that the listener wallow in the album’s unrelenting bleakness. Both of which are a big ask in these times of fractured attention spans and unrelenting bleakness that most people turn to music to forget about.

Things got pretty emotional with Wayne toward the end of the piece, when he’s talking about the psychic. Outside of what you already wrote, what were your impressions of Wayne’s state of mind during the time you spent with him? Do you think The Terror is manufactured gloom, or do you think it’s real?
He was charming and witty and friendly and funny as per usual, but there is obviously some deep well of sadness that broke to the surface when he was relating the psychic experience. I got the sense that he is pretty raw emotionally these days. And no, I don’t think the album’s gloom is manufactured; I think it comes from an honest place.

I’m too lazy to read the whole article again, but did you discuss Steven Drozd’s relapse and what effect that might have had on the album’s mood? I have a theory that is basically Drozd: The Terror::Jay Bennett: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. There’s just the same kind of change of dynamic that happened with Wilco, where two guys converge on an experiment in the midst of grief or addiction or whatever.
Not so sure about that. Best I can tell, Drozd has been pretty much writing/performing all the music on Lips albums, except bass, since Ronald left after Clouds Taste Metallic. I think Bennett played a hugely important role in the greatness of Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but by the end nobody in the band, especially Tweedy, could stomach his presence. I don’t think those interpersonal issues apply with the Flaming Lips. As for Drozd’s relapse impacting the album, I learned the hard way that you can’t expect an addict to tell a relative stranger the truth about their addiction. When I did the first Lips cover story around the time of The Soft Bulletin, Drozd assured me he had kicked heroin. After the fact, I came to learn that wasn’t true. So I didn’t even want to go there this time and instead focused on Wayne.

You did a Lips cover story circa The Soft Bulletin as well. What’s the biggest difference you could sense in the band between then and now?
This time around, I didn’t have any interaction with anybody in the band outside of Wayne, so I couldn’t really say. However, it is clear that Wayne enjoys being Wayne, which is good because nobody does it better. He was built for rock stardom and had it not arrived after years and years of hard work, he’d still be manning the fryer at Long John Silver’s (which has long since been converted to a Pho, by the way).

120 Reasons To Live: Gas Huffer

Nothing did more to further the cause of Alternative Nation-building than 120 Minutes, MTV’s Sunday-night video showcase of non-mainstream acts. For nearly two decades, the program spanned musical eras from ’80s college rock to ’00s indie, with grunge, Britpop, punk, industrial, electronica and more in between. MAGNET raids the vaults to resurrect our 120 favorite and unjustly forgotten videos from the show’s classic era.

#89: Gas Huffer “More Of Everything”

Hope everyone is spending some time with family during this holiday week. Always a blast to sit around a dying Christmas tree and listen to Gas Huffer, a band not nearly as degenerate as its name implies. Unlike its peers in Mudhoney and Pearl Jam, the Seattle garage/punk outfit never made it too far out of Seattle; but we remember Gas Huffer in all its glory, for singer Matt Wright’s sideburns and tracks like “More Of Everything,” from 1994’s One Inch Masters.

120 Reasons To Live: Peter Murphy

Nothing did more to further the cause of Alternative Nation-building than 120 Minutes, MTV’s Sunday-night video showcase of non-mainstream acts. For nearly two decades, the program spanned musical eras from ’80s college rock to ’00s indie, with grunge, Britpop, punk, industrial, electronica and more in between. MAGNET raids the vaults to resurrect our 120 favorite and unjustly forgotten videos from the show’s classic era.

#48: Peter Murphy “Cuts You Up”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpz2AWu4PZg

Peter Murphy will always be remembered for “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” his goth classic with Bauhaus. But 1990’s Deep gave him a respectable solo career. Unresolved issues with this video for “Cuts You Up” abound, however: the bowed electric bass at the 2:07 mark—we realize things like this are done, but is that really capable of producing a synth/violin sound? Why does Murphy become a falconer at 3:20? Finally, not limited to the scope of this video, why does Englishman Murphy sing with a German accent?

120 Reasons To Live: Front 242

Nothing did more to further the cause of Alternative Nation-building than 120 Minutes, MTV’s Sunday-night video showcase of non-mainstream acts. For nearly two decades, the program spanned musical eras from ’80s college rock to ’00s indie, with grunge, Britpop, punk, industrial, electronica and more in between. MAGNET raids the vaults to resurrect our 120 favorite and unjustly forgotten videos from the show’s classic era.

#37: Front 242 “Headhunter”

Little was more unfitting (or, frankly, underwhelming) than watching Front 242 on the Lollapalooza main stage in 1993 at a Houston racetrack in the oppressive heat and light of a Texas summer afternoon. Belgian electro just wasn’t built for those conditions. It is, however, perfectly suited to an Anton Corbijn-directed video; 1988’s “Headhunter” (from fifth LP Front By Front) is one of Front 242’s finest singles and an acute reminder of how alt-rock was just beginning to explore the industrial/techno sounds that Nine Inch Nails would soon take to the bank. Which is disappointing, when you think about it.

120 Reasons To Live: The Blue Aeroplanes

Nothing did more to further the cause of Alternative Nation-building than 120 Minutes, MTV’s Sunday-night video showcase of non-mainstream acts. For nearly two decades, the program spanned musical eras from ’80s college rock to ’00s indie, with grunge, Britpop, punk, industrial, electronica and more in between. MAGNET raids the vaults to resurrect our 120 favorite and unjustly forgotten videos from the show’s classic era.

#32: The Blue Aeroplanes “Jacket Hangs”

You might want to check your Facebook profile page and see if any of your “friends” were in the Blue Aeroplanes; upwards of 80 people have served time in the Bristol, England, band since its start in the early ’80s. The other joke is that 77 of those musicians were playing Rickenbackers. And while we’re discussing personnel, you may notice the designated dancer in the video for “Jacket Hangs” (a track from 1990’s Swagger). If anything, it’s refreshing to know that bands other than Happy Mondays and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones employed a dancer, and furthermore that this one was apparently instructed to “Stipe it up.” All that snide commentary aside, the Blue Aeroplanes are treasures of the art-pop world, perhaps limited in sound by the talky range of singer Gerard Langley but unbounded in terms of clever, erudite lyrics and sheer durability. The last album of new material issued by the Blue Aeroplanes, 2000’s Cavaliers, slides right in among the band’s best, but a best-of album may be the place to start.

R.I.P.: American Princes Bassist Luke Hunsicker

American Princes bassist Luke Hunsicker, 29, died of brain cancer on August 25.

We here at MAGNET were especially saddened to hear the news. It would be enough to lose a musician who contributed to two of our favorite albums of the past few years: 2006’s Less And Less and 2008’s Other People, the latter of which we (correctly) named the best album of that year. But it is more tragic because I cannot recall interviewing a band with a more natural sense of friendship and joy than American Princes. It’s as if they arrived from Little Rock, Ark., as an idealized version of a touring rock band, with no expectations of the road other than van trouble, convenience-store food, stale beer and 45 minutes each night of playing music with friends in front of strangers. Other bands would not have envied American Princes that night in Philadelphia in 2006; they played for only 30 or 40 people. But I did. They were having the best time of their 20s, maybe their lives, and, well, Dylan Thomas described it best long ago: “Time let me hail and climb/Golden in the heydays of his eyes.”

—Matthew Fritch

A letter on Hunsicker’s passing from the band after the jump.

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Q&A With Joe Pernice

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For more than a decade, the Pernice Brothers have mostly made plush, romantic orchestral pop that doesn’t gild the lily once tended by the Zombies, Walker Brothers and Elvis Costello. Despite the band’s refined sound and frontman Joe Pernice’s delicate vocal delivery (not to mention his MFA-in-poetry credentials), he’s from a blue-collar Boston background and more likely to be sporting a ballcap, T-shirt and three days of stubble than a blazer and button-down Oxford. The Pernice Brothers’ sixth and latest album, Goodbye, Killer (Ashmont), does away with the sighing string section and goes straight for the guitars, from the mod-rock riffing of “Jacqueline Susann” to the Teenage Fanclub power pop of “Something For You.” Flanked by guitarist James Walbourne (Pretenders, Son Volt) and drummer Ric Menck (Velvet Crush, Matthew Sweet), Pernice even pulls off a serio-comic country weeper titled “We Love The Stage,” an ode to the hopeless allure of being in a rock band, which includes playing to six people and having a kid yell “Freebird!” in your face. After a four-year spell between albums—Pernice published the novel It Feels So Good When I Stop last year and recently issued a volume of his conversations with manager Joyce Linehan titled Pernice To Me—the Pernice Brothers return with their leanest and most efficient effort to date. Pernice will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

“Jacqueline Susann” (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/JacquelineSusann.mp3

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Q&A With Sweet Apple’s John Petkovic

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Sweet Apple is more than just a question of Cobra Verde’s John Petkovic and Tim Parnin having some teenage kicks with Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis and Witch’s Dave Sweetapple. It’s the answer to the heartache, grief and depression that led Petkovic to drive from Cleveland to Vermont, where he rediscovered the healing powers of rock ‘n’ roll with some help from his friends. Love & Desperation (Tee Pee) isn’t a fountain of youth, but it’ll do in a pinch: a combination of stomping ’70s arena-rock riffs, Petkovic’s well-honed T Rex swagger and Mascis’ hard-wired guitar leads servicing lurid tales of sex, drugs and vampires. (Appropriately, the video for Sweet Apple’s “Do You Remember” was conceived as an homage to Porky’s, and the cover of Love & Desperation parodies the art for Roxy Music’s Country Life.) MAGNET spoke to Petkovic about bars, basketball and the chance that this new band might have been named Gong Bag. The members of Sweet Apple will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

“Do You Remember” (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/DoYouRemember.mp3

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Q&A With Clem Snide’s Eef Barzelay

ClemSnideQAWhen Clem Snide began recording albums more than a decade ago in New York, the band’s clever alt-country songs often came across as an ironic take on Americana. Everyone knows you can’t do country music in the big city, and where did Israeli-born singer/guitarist Eef Barzelay get that twang from, anyway? After years of slogging through the indie-rock touring circuit, a band breakup (from 2005-2009, during which time Barzelay issued a pair of solo albums and scored the film Rocket Science) and a move to Nashville, Clem Snide has earned the all-American desperation and heartbreak that lies in the marrow of its latest album, The Meat Of Life (out this week on 429 Records). From country weepers (“Denver”) and power pop (“BFF”) to the rangy, almost prog-like title track, Barzelay is now surveying the modern heartland with all the acumen and authenticity of peers such as Bill Callahan and Jason Molina. Barzelay chewed the fat with MAGNET about The Meat Of Life, ukuleles and the day that he and Ben Folds each wrote separate songs about Normal, Ill. Barzelay will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com this week.

“The Meat Of Life” (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/TheMeatOfLife.mp3

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Q&A With Fred Schneider

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Fred Schneider has been partying out of bounds as the male mouthpiece of the B-52s since the late ’70s. To put it in perspective, Andrew W.K. would have to party for two more decades—and invest in a more adventurous and colorful wardrobe—just to catch up to Schneider. Even then, it would be difficult to match Schneider’s originality: a goofy, new-wave jester shtick that—through the B-52s’ commercial success and longevity—evolved into an iconic voice that’s now an inspiration to younger artists. Schneider’s latest project, the Superions, showcases both his supreme silliness (“Who Threw That Ham At Me?” is one of his most riotous efforts) and influence (the Superions’ debut EP, Totally Nude Island, features remixes by four Athens, Ga., bands). Along with fellow Superions Noah Brodie and Dan Marshall, Schneider has delivered a handful of songs that combine sex, sci-fi, shoplifting and a dance called the Disco Garbage Can. MAGNET spoke to Schneider about the Superions, the early days of the B-52s, Just Fred (his cult-classic, Steve Albini-recorded 1996 solo album with backing bands Six Finger Satellite and Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet) and dirty jokes. Schneider will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

“Totally Nude Island (The Lolligags Remix)” (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/TotallyNudeIslandTheLolligagsRemix.mp3

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