Do you feel like you are possibly slightly influenced if you're reading something? If you read three different reviews that say "that sounds like Faces‚" or something‚ do you think unconsciously part of you is like‚ "Well‚ I've gotta make sure that the next song doesn't sound like the Faces"?
Well‚ yeah‚ you know‚ that's a fine line. You don't want to shoot yourself in the foot by going‚ "Next record we're going to try and sound like this because I don't want to sound like fucking Faces anymore." That's not what I'm trying to do. Because if that's your essential quality‚ your essential sound… I don't know. You know‚ when Led Zeppelin came out‚ it sounded a lot like the Jeff Beck Truth album‚ what Jeff Beck and The Yardbirds were trying to go in the direction of and stuff. And a lot of people said‚ "Fucking this is just gross music; You just sound like a grossest rip-off blues." And it does sound a lot like Jeff Beck's blueprint if you listen to that Truth record‚ you know? And I think Jimmy Page was like‚ "Fuck yeah‚ I'm gonna rip that guy off‚" you know? It's obvious he did; he was his mentor. And he just beat him to it and did it a little bit better. And he wasn't like‚ "Oh‚ no‚ I just happened to." He's not claiming what I claim. He's a known rip-off artist to the maximal degree. "Dazed and Confused‚" you know? Like‚ "Whoa‚ that folk guy's got a great song; I'll nail it." And that's just glorious‚ because from whatever by nook or by crook or by whatever means‚ whether it's influential or mimicry or whatever‚ if you're good and if your essential quality is true‚ you often become a singular voice. Like Led Zeppelin -- don't we think of them as an all-time original?
Yeah‚ people put them as a separate…
You know‚ at the time‚ I think there were a lot of things that Jimmy Page just didn't go to the cave that God gave him and come back and present it to the world. He had taken from his buddies‚ and God bless him for it.
Fuck yeah.
You know‚ you got to page through the history books and study those pages and take the best stuff that you can and master it and use it. It's all the same notes and chords.
How in those terms do you envision the songs that you're writing? When you write a song and it's completed‚ is the blissful feeling you're getting from it‚ is it because of the joy you're getting out of it‚ or is it partly knowing that you're giving it unto the musical ether of the world?
What is the joy of music?
Yeah‚ sure in general. [laughs] Like‚ what's your distinction between the personal joy it's bringing to you by making your music‚ and does it differ from the idea of bringing something to the world of music in general?
That's all rewarding. You mean‚ like‚ if you were on a desert island would it be as rewarding to be lost by yourself strumming the guitar?
That's kind of what I think.
No. Not for me‚ you know? And someone can cast their judgmental eye on me and say‚ "Oh‚ what a fucking exhibitionist." I was watching this thing on Joel [Robinow] from when he was a kid a long time ago‚ and of course he was already a fairly accomplished musician and on his way to where he was going‚ and he was saying‚ "I wouldn't make music if I was on a desert island‚" which probably isn't true for him. He was probably just trying to make a bold statement. He was like‚ "You've gotta have people to interact with. You make music for others. Making your own music will never save your life." I'm paraphrasing. And actually‚ from what I know‚ I think he would still compulsively be working on all those Rockmananov pieces that he never mastered the last four hours of. But for me‚ yeah‚ my philosophical view of music and why you make music is humanitarian engagement. I do believe you should look in this world at what you can do to engage with humanity and your society and your neighborhood and the people around you. It could be the worldwide one or the people down the street. And if you don't play music‚ if that's not the best way to do it‚ if you feel like being a teacher is‚ or being an activist or something like that‚ go there and do that. And if you feel you were born with a certain gift and it's the best thing that you can do to try to engage and enrich the human heart and stuff that's around you‚ do that‚ you know? And for me‚ that's music; that's where I get the pleasure. And it's also where I get the pleasure from other people‚ in music -- that's very‚ very clear to me. The power that it has over my life‚ and influences it's had on my life‚ and the moments that certain albums have saved my life‚ when I just didn't think that life was worth a shit. You're drinking yourself to death or doing whatever you're doing‚ and you're just still clinging to the music and at some point it's even possible that it can give you a guiding path. You know‚ it plays at your wedding‚ plays at your baby shower‚ it's just there‚ and it's the thing that's like a drug that doesn't hurt or give you a hangover or whatever. It's just an instantaneous tapping in to a deeper level of thinking‚ living and feeling emotion‚ you know?
My mom's longtime boyfriend actually just three weeks ago suddenly passed away‚ and my mom is unable to listen to any of her music right now. She can't… because the past 18 years of her life… And she loves music. She loves Neil Young and Dylan and stuff‚ but those songs have become such a part of what her life was with this man that now she listens to it and it just‚ like‚ cripples her. It's amazing how it can shape you.
It's a powerful thing‚ yeah. It can hurt you‚ too‚ when you're down and you listen to the wrong song. [laughter]
No‚ that's good. I'm glad you said that‚ because part of what I think on Magnificent Fiend is that it seems like you could've recorded the songs and had them be a lot rawer and people would still listen to them and think they were equally as amazing. But I think that's a testament -- you guys put such focus into having everything sound as amazing as it could on that album.
Yeah‚ well‚ thanks. It's supposed to be. I mean‚ especially Howlin Rain. In my years of going to see shows and experimental performances and stuff‚ and it happens when you see indie rock sometimes‚ too‚ you're like‚ "God damn‚ are you doing this for… What are you doing this for?" It's like‚ are you doing this for you or doing it for me? Because I paid to get in‚ and here I am trying to engage and trying to dig this thing‚ and it sucks. I know it stands out in my mind more sometimes when you see an experimental performance or something like that‚ with someone doing just noise from a suitcase and the way it's set up or something. And that's one thing that I always loved about seeing Noel [Von Harmonson] do his solo suitcase noise performances‚ or the Wolf Eyes guys do an extension that philosophy of‚ like‚ hey‚ if you're gonna pop open a suitcase full of noise objects‚ you better give them an AC/DC style performance‚ the most rock 'n' roll performance you can give. You know‚ give this shit to them. There's not as many suitcase electronics shows going on now‚ you know?
Yeah‚ there's still a few though.
Four or five years ago‚ especially when Comets was touring Avatar‚ a lot of people were at shows playing these things. And you'd see them kind of twiddling -- they never look at you -- and they're just‚ like‚ twiddling the knobs‚ keep making some sound. And it's like‚ who's this happening for? A guy like Noel gets up and he's pounding his fist‚ and it's like he's playing "Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC on the fuckin' suitcase. You're just like‚ "Whoa." There's no rhythm‚ but you feel that energy that he's giving off. Shit‚ man‚ if nobody would've… If this was an empty room or whatever‚ I wouldn't be here. I can do it for myself in my fucking bedroom.
I saw a suitcase guy the other night‚ actually‚ and I was thinking the same thing. I was like‚ "Man‚ this dude's just doing what anybody does when they smoke a joint and sit in their bedroom with two synthesizers or something." You know what I mean? [laughs] Well‚ what's the difference‚ if there is one‚ between when you're playing the Comets shows and the Howlin Rain shows? Because it seems like with Comets‚ at least you guys were ready to go a little more completely berserk‚ and get out there and stuff.