Monday, February 11, 2013

Kid Congo Powers On The Gun Club

I ended up coming back to Los Angeles and picked up where I left off. Going to concerts, hanging out with the Screamers and my old friends. The scene had grown and grown there were a lot more bands. There were still concerts every night to go to. Probably most nights of the week there was an out of town concert happening. 

I was in line waiting to see Pere Ubu and there was this guy who I’d seen at a million concerts and a big Deborah Harry badge on and bleached blond hair and a white vinyl trench coat belted really tight at the waist and white girls cowboy boots on. And I thought, wow, who’s this completely strange creature? And so I started talking to him, I think we were probably drinking out in line (because this was a different time in space where you could do things like that) and he turned out to be Jeffrey Lee Pierce…and he had a band called The Red Lights, but he really wanted to start a different kind of band. So we got to talking and got drunk. I think I had seen him at the Television concert the week before and we were rammed up right at the front of the stage. So we started talking about music and drinking and I found out he had been traveling around a lot too and had been to New York and had actually gone to Jamaica and was writing reggae reviews for Slash magazine. We had a travel wanderlust thing about us so we talked about traveling a lot. So at the end of our conversation he said, “You should be in a band with me.” And I said, “Well, you know I don’t do anything… I don’t play any instruments.” And he said, “Well, you could be the singer." And I thought, no. I definitely do not want to be the singer. So he said, “OK, well, I’ll be the singer and you can be the guitar player." And I said, “I don’t have a guitar or play guitar.” And he was like, “I have an extra guitar and I can teach you how to play”. And I was like, “well,ok, why not”. 

Because we'd seen other things than the local bands and had been influenced by a lot of outside things like the British scene and the no-wave new York scene and traveling with him and reggae and it didn’t really matter that we didn’t really know what we were doing. That was never really a consideration in those days for a band. And so he gave me a Bo Diddley record and told me to listen to the Slits album and showed me how blues players played. Because I was trying to learn chords - which was like, impossible for me. So he was like, well you can learn really fast because what blues players do is they tune their guitars to open E and they slide. And I liked slide because I was a big fan of Lydia Lunch and Pat Place of the Contortions. So I thought, “OK, this makes sense.” So, we recruited some friends of ours, a really good friend of ours named Brad Dunning, who is actually a really big interior designer now, and a journalist friend of ours named Don Snowden who wrote reviews for the New York Times. We were all just some guys who started to hammer out some really quite horrible noise.
I remember the first songs we tried to learn was a version of Winston Rodney Burning Spear, “People Get Ready” - his version of that. We played "My Brand of Blues" by Marvin Rainwater, "Bo Diddley is a Gunslinger” - those were the first songs we learned... (and some original songs because Jeffrey was already writing songs. And so we hammered out some kind of weird sounds that kind of was a pre-Gun Club. 

We called our band “The Creeping Ritual.” And we quickly played a live gig, the Blasters gave to us - or maybe Keith Morris of the Circle Jerks. I can’t remember - but I remember our first gig was at the Hong Kong Cafe in Chinatown. And we were really terrible. This was probably 1979-ish the end of the year when we played this first show and we did our noisy, gothy, reggae, blues collaboration. The people in bands really loved it, but I think the audience really hated it. Jeffrey was quite obnoxious - already at the time. He was already “l’enfant terrible.” Soon after that we decided - Keith Morris said, “You need a different kind of name because that name is too gothic sounding” and so he offered us the name “The Gun Club” and Jeffrey actually traded him a song for it. A song called “Group Sex” - the song that became the title song of the Circle Jerks album, so that was the genesis of that name. 

We ended up calling our band The Gun Club and Brad was getting too tired when he was playing drums and throwing his sticks in the air so he decided he didn’t want to play drums for real. And Don was too busy writing or something - I can’t remember what. So we decided to continue on and we recruited... Some of the people who did like us that were in the audience were the guys from The Bags - Terry Graham, the drummer and the bass player, Rob Ritter. So that came as a package deal. So we started rehearsing and Jeffrey and I started writing more original songs and they were really good players and we were like, “Oh my God, they can really play” because we had been playing with people who couldn’t play. 

So Jeffrey gave the band a tape of songs he was interested to influence the band. The tape had different things on it like Bo Diddley and Marvin Rainwater, Marty Robbins’ murder ballads, old Little Richard, some blues stuff…and that really solidified what direction the band would go. We did our homework and listened to these records and started making it. It was kind of a natural thing. It just kind of came about that way – that was as calculated as it was – the influence. Oh yeah, I remember, Bob Dylan was on that tape…”Tombstone Blues”. That was one of the very first Gun Club cover versions we did was cover of “Tombstone Blues”. You could completely see that influence in the first album. So, from doing things like “Tombstone Blues” and writing blues on our own songs, like “Sex Beat” was our first one… and that was kind of garage rocker type thing. It wasn’t a very punk kind of song that has much more to do with a soul song than a country song.

But then like, blues - we did "Preachin' the Blues" from really early on and that was a big turning point in The Gun Club sound was learning how to do that because that was half improvised songs and that’s where I think I got my singers guitarist leanings. That was a song that totally just depended on a beat going and the changes come when the vocal comes…and the vocal line comes whenever they come. It doesn’t come when it’s supposed to come. So it’s like following what’s going on and that was kind of my first dealings with improvisation too. Because it always was improvised songs with The Gun Club from the early days until the last days. We didn’t know when the parts were going to come or how long Jeffery might draw it out or if we were going to freak out or if we were going to stay cool. That was a huge turning point in sound and showed us what we could do. It shocked and surprised us. So we employed that more in song writing - that theory. And to us we were like “Oh, that’s like a Patti Smith” following what’s going on and improvisation. So, “Jack on Fire”, “She’s Like Heroin to Me”, “Railroad Bill”, “For the Love of Ivy” are all really early songs that were pre-Fire of Love that I played on and helped write. 

And we were really hitting our stride there. And what came out of it was having these punk rock players play with us who could really play and Jeffrey could actually really play and write songs and other people thought his singing was some horrible howling - even after we made records they thought that. But he started to really find that voice that came into what The Gun Club became. We were super irreverent, super nihilistic, super half-hating that music and trying to destroy it and half-really loving it. Trying to make some new voice out of that. Jeffrey was getting very into this trying to get into this preacher man persona, very night of the hunter, bad preacher thing. 

And we were even banned from playing at the Club 88 because they were so horrified that he took a bible on stage and threw it on the ground and danced on top of it - which sounds totally silly to me now, and it was just funny to us then - but people were really offended by us. And that was fine by us because we really wanted to be offensive and have bad vibes and we really were into the bad juju. We were really big Dr. John fans. We were out to destroy music as much as we were out to create it. Jeffrey was a very odd sort of boy. He was very obnoxious all the time, but very sweet too. There was a strange thing that someone wrote - “you would get to the point where you want to strangle him and throttle him, but then he would do something that would charm you so much that you would end up forgiving him for it.” It was one of those things like we would be playing and he would be being so obnoxious berating the audience telling everyone to “fuck off” and what “losers” they were and you’d be laughing and it would go on and on and on in the middle of "Preaching the Blues - waiting for the change to come. But it can’t come until he gives the signal. But he’s too busy telling everyone they’re “butt fuckers” and the audience is all walking out - the five people in the audience. And then he would say something hysterical, come back to the song and do some brilliant phrasing and crack the song and we would all fall back in and it would be completely magical and you’d think…”ok, well maybe he IS great…maybe it is great.” Its funny because years later I was playing with Nick Cave and we played a festival somewhere with the Pogues and Shane McGowan was SO off his face - surprise! I was standing in the wings watching and all of the band had their backs to the audience and were all cursing him out and he was somewhere and he couldn’t find the microphone. And you could tell the band would want to kill him. And then he’d find the microphone and sing this completely brilliant sad ballad and everyone would be all in awe. He really reminds me of Jeffrey a lot. It was like that sort of thing with Jeffrey. 

We were playing a lot of live shows and one of our big hits was our song “For the Love of Ivy” because everyone knew we were singing about Ivy from The Cramps. And I made up the first set of lyrics that I took from a book I had called 1001 Insults. Because the song, although turned into a tribute to Ivy, was not always that - it was just a good title because we loved the Sidney Poitier film For the Love of Ivy. So I can’t remember what all the "1001 insults" were but they were really funny and really scathing but we decided just to change it to use some very blues imagery and steal different blues lines - different scathing blues lines. And it metamorphosized into that. It became our tribute to hunting down Ivy - because we wanted to have sex with her.
So we were playing to like ten people from other bands that would show up to see us. The Cramps actually moved to Los Angeles. Brian Gregory had quit and they had a fill in guitar player for a while and they weren’t happy with her, so they were scouting around for someone to play with them and came to see The Gun Club and really loved it and flipped out. Dave Alvin of The Blasters tells a story that Lux and Ivy were there with a cassette tape recorder and taking notes at our local shows. One day at the advice of Christian Hoffman of The Mumps, he said “Why don’t you get Brian Tristan to play…the guy from The Gun Club…that boy who hangs around and pesters you all the time.” And they called me up and asked if I would come and play with them. And I said that I had a band and I was going to college taking rock journalism and Spanish and type lessons. And they asked me to be in their band and I said I would consider it for a moment. I asked them if they wanted me to audition, they said no. And I asked what they wanted to know. And they asked “Well, what are you willing to sacrifice?!” and I said what…my band, or school…or moving somewhere? And they said…”NO, like…a finger!” and I told them I would put it under consideration. 

And I thought about it and I went to Jeffrey and told him that The Cramps just asked me to be in their band…and he was like, “Are you crazy? The Cramps? That’s incredible! You should do it. I would do it in a minute!” I called them up and said I would do it…and that was that. 

So, I land in Australia and I meet Jeffrey and Patricia. I had met Patricia before whenever I played with her. And these two Australian musicians and we make a band. I’m still very Cramp-ed out - I still have all these black shiny clothes and big hair - and so does Patricia. So it actually works out quite well. 

We quickly play some oldies that I already knew from my past - that I have in my instant recall. And already there were songs that were going to be on The Las Vegas Story Jeffrey had written and started to play, like “Bad America," "Eternally is Here," "Moonlight Motel" - I know those three we played and Jeffrey already had those ready for that tour. 
It was quite a crazy tour, started out crazy like that, I was brought in and we had a big tour. The promoter thought we were something else all together. It was kind of the new romantic era and he was in some kind of new romantic band and he was kind of freaking out because we were completely drunk and I think he just didn’t know what to make of it at all. So we had our band and we went on this wild wild tour of Australia mostly by car so we drove a lot. From Melbourne, Sydney, Kenbourough Adelaide, Brisbane, and some other places.

And there were a lot of fans there - that was the great thing - is that there were a lot of people really wanting to see The Gun Club who really knew all the music and were really into it there’s a huge garagy community. That whole Birthday Party offshoot audience. And it was very much like Americans…like redneck Americans -v ery brash crass humor and they like to drink a lot. It was funny, it was the first time I encountered punk rock prostitutes too. There were a lot of girls who were prostitutes. A lot of people were on drugs and they had really good dope and we were showered with such presents and things. Our reputation had preceded us as one of the drunkest and druggiest bands ever. And I guess that was part of the allure of our popularity in Australia. 

But, it went really well, it was very chaotic but we made our mark there. The end of the tour somehow, the promoter told us that we weren’t going to get paid – there were too many expenses, plane tickets, the loss of the members, etc. So they waited till the last second…We had a road crew who were all ready to kill him for us. We told everyone. So at the last second some people at Sydney threw an impromptu concert at a club The Strawberry Hill Club. And we played one of the craziest sets and we had the entire audience come on stage and everyone was playing our instruments and we were having the wildest party and it was totally oversold and we made so much money. It didn’t even matter that they weren’t going to give us the money that they said they were because they gave us all the money from the door. They made a killing at the bar. At a Gun Club concert the bar was almost guaranteed that they would make a killing.
So that was my start with my reunion with The Gun Club. 

After being in The Cramps for so long and only doing The Cramps, I kind of fell into doing The Gun Club pretty naturally because I knew most of the songs and Jeffrey’s style of song writing - I was well acquainted with. He had actually matured as a writer so the songs were a little more complicated. 

And I had never played with Patricia and we had never played with Spencer or, I want to say Johnny but I know that’s not his name. And so I knew Patricia only from The Bags and her band Legal Weapon. And she looked great. She was great gothess. She stuck with Jeffrey for a while by then. And a lot of band members could complain about Jeffrey at the time. He was really unruly. I knew that he appreciated the people he played with, but a lot of the people he played with didn’t think that they were very appreciated – or at least he wasn’t very good at showing that part. But she stuck with him and she was a great sport about the whole thing. She was really funny and I got along with her immediately, and she knew it was a big wreck and she was okay with it. A very unique bass player. She didn’t have the Rob Ritter, the main bass player of The Gun Club when I left, smooth feel. Her playing was much more militant maybe… More punk I guess. But I thought she played really well and I kind of liked that.
We got back from Australia and Jeffrey moved in with me and this is again after we had been reacquainted, and then we proceeded to write and rehearse for The Las Vegas Story.
For some crazy reason Jeffrey let Terry back in the band I guess just because good drummers are hard to come by - the right drummer is hard to come by... but I’ve learned now that maybe that’s not true. So for whatever crazy insane reason (logic doesn’t really go with The Gun Club) Terry ended up back in the band and we started rehearsing songs for The Las Vegas Story.
Jeff had put out the preceding records Death Party and Miami with Chris Stein (Animal Records) and they were going to do another album with The Gun Club. Jeff at this time started to play guitar again because he said that Jim Duckworth was such an incredible guitar player that sounded like ten guitar players at once that it would take twoguitar players to fill his shoes. But I think that Jeff really just wanted to play guitar again, because he was a guitarist and never really played except to write the songs and on the records. So we started to hash out the songs for that and we went on tour before we recorded that. And then came back and in 1984 and recorded The Las Vegas Story

It had been a while since we played together and he had become a really great guitarist. You could really see the influence of Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine on that record. We were huge Television fans, and we wanted to use that same interplay between guitars for the new material rather than do the same old country punk conglomeration – blues punk thing… We did that already. And we were in our free jazz and international music phase – we were exploring new territories and we wanted to do a record that satisfied us. We rehearsed and that combination of people was really good and it made a completely different sound than before. And im not sure how – there were no conscious calculations for it. 

So some of the tracks came out sort of gothy sounding, some were old Gun Clubby sounding. We were very into disco music – very into disco music. We were big into pop music. I think Prince was the influence at the time... Little Red Corvette era. What was that? 1999? And just different crazy things… and drugs. It seemed that Chrysalis Records was taking over Animal Records. Chris Stein had fallen ill at the time so someone at Chrysalis took over the project. We had quite a good budget and arrangement.

They wanted us to have a producer, and we wanted to too. So we thought to ask Tom Verlaine, but he couldn’t do it. Then we asked John Cale but he couldn’t do it. And we thought, "Who else?" We thought maybe David Lynch, but then we decided that wasn’t a good idea. Then we decided that none of those people were going to do it. Then some guy, Mitch Easter, almost did it - the guy from REM. People kept pushing REM on us for some reason. And that didn’t work out. We decided that we’d either produce it ourselves or we’ll get David Lee Roth to produce it. Because even though he might not know anything about producing, the jokes would be really good. Then we thought maybe, well Prince probably wouldn’t do it because he’d probably want a lot of money. But maybe we could get Vanity 6 to do it. Because then we could just produce it ourselves and we could take pictures of them at the mixing desk painting their toenails in lingerie and stuff. But they didn’t go for that. 

So we went trying again to find a real producer and we found this guy Jeff Eyrich who had produced this T-Bone Burnett album that actually sounded quite great. Slightly experimental sounding… Very dreamy sounding. We wanted to have ar really dreamy sound rather than a harsh punk sound. We wanted more dreams, more subconciousness, to come into things.
And so we ended up liking him and he came and recorded the album with us. And there were some funny things with that recording. We recorded it at Ocean Way studios in Los Angeles … in Hollywood. It was a big studio but he had the off time so wed go in at like midnight till 6am and record. The good thing though was that Ry Cooder was recording the Paris, Texas soundtrack in the same studio in the daytime so he had all these vintage amps there and all these crazy noisemakers things. So we stole all of his stuff and recorded a bunch of stuff on his equipment. That was really funny and also Stevie Nicks was recording in the next studio and she was the one that didn’t come in until three in the morning. And this big white limosine would roll up and like eighteen people would fall out and immediately go to the bathrooms and block the doors - both men’s and women’s. We don’t know if they ever did any recording - but they got up to something in those bathrooms. So it was a very amusing time. 

Despite all the drug taking and merrymaking we would do in our extreme behaviors, we were always able to pull it together for recording and be really focused and be there for it. And Jeff Eyrich actually had a good influence on us – and brought in different things and didn’t poo-poo our ideas – like doing “My Man’s Gone Now." And he was actually like “Oh, I know the piano player from Julio Iglasias!” So, we got the piano player from Julio Iglasias. We could get him to come play." He was like “Oh, I know the sons of Andy Williams and they sing really great operatic baritone!” So they came and sang on it. So it was a fun, weird, very un-punk studio experience and we were all for it. It wasn’t careerist – it was more perverse for us to do this. We wanted it to be as real as possible. A lot of people wanted us to be earthy punk, but the more people wanted that from us the further we wanted to get from it. We were not afraid to go there. It was interesting experiment. We were able to follow our whims and desires and not be able to fall short of it. 

The song that didn’t make it on the album, “Secret Fires,” that’s in all the reissues, is an absolutely beautiful folk song. That’s a song that Jeffrey wrote as just an acoustic guitar number, he just played. It was going to be on the record. Just him and a guitar - no band. And then we decided that we should add a lap steel just for atmosphere. So we got a lap steel player to come in because none of us could play lap steel. I think in the end we just couldn’t figure out how to fit it onto the record. I think that’s why it didn’t make it onto the actual original one, because that’s just a whole other process – sequencing a record and making it be one piece of atmosphere. And somehow that one stuck out. And I thinke we kind of forgot about it. And then remembered it. I think it ended up on the B-side of something or another. 

The Las Vegas Story came out in 1984 - and that was the year that the Olympics were coming to los Angeles and Reagan got re-elected to a second term and we really saw the right wing really come in and sit down. We had grown up in the 70’s - in a liberal time and we were nihilistic punks and we were able to do whatever we wanted and things weren't so band. And with that second term of his, it really became apparent that there was a right wing in power for real. And we were starting to become really disillusioned with America's politics. And coupled with the Olympics coming to Los Angeles, it was becoming more apparent the clean-up of the city. All of the restrictions and all the good buildings being mowed down and new buildings being put up and homeless people and prostitutes being bused out of town. And all the good things that we liked about Los Angeles were being swept away - all the good dirt was being swept away.

We started to see it become apparent not only in mainstream culture, but we started to see that there were a lot of bands that were going along with this. And it was this whole “proud American” kind of nationalism coming into a lot of the bands. Like, we would go see a punk band and they would have a red white and blue headband on and an American flag behind them and we’d be like, “What is going on!” And musically, things were taking a turn for the worse as far as we could see. We were like way off on some other trip. 

The title of The Las Vegas Story refers to an actual story me and Jeffrey had written that appeared in the vinyl version of the original album. We did a cut up story of the apocalypse of Las Vegas. And little did we know that it was the apocalypse of the United States at large. Jeffrey and I wrote it together and we just threw lines at each other and we cut it up and made a story out of it.

So, we went on this endless tour to promote The Las Vegas Story. We did two full American tours and two, maybe three, European tours that were back to back. Before we left for tour actually, Jeffrey and I were starting to get our first real serious drug habit. And right before we left for tour, we went to Mexico to Yucatan to dry out and to go on an adventure. We said were not coming back - and were not going to have a chance to go to Mexico and we’d been reading about the Yucatan explorers. So we did that, got completely drunk the entire time and climbed on pyramids and flew on planes over jungles and… snorkeled! - when we didn’t have too bad of a hangover. And went for the cure. 

And then we left for the tour, these complete back-to-back tours. And me and Jeff kept telling our American and our European agent, “Just keep us on tour. We just want to stay on tour. Just keep booking. Keep booking! Keep booking!” And they were very happy to do that because we were popular and the record company was happy that we would promote that. And we were having really good success – full houses everywhere we played. 

And so we embarked on six months of touring non-stop. Tat was really some super drunk things but the band was at a complete top-form. We had really gotten down improvisation. We really had played so much that we could totally guess what eachother was doing. We were really incorporating a lot of our free jazz ideas - we weren't playing free jazz, but just the idea of free jazz into rock music - where we'd see how things went.

And you know… American tour is an American tour and we had all of our equipment stolen right before we were going to Europe. So we were going to Europe with no equipment – no guitars or anything. That’s when I started playing the Squire. That’s when I got my first Fender Squire guitar - in London. And those were great guitars because those were the first issue of them. So they were actually really Fender guitars - just with a sticker on them. 

There were some amazing shows we did up all the way up until Terry left in the middle of the last leg of the tour. We would get all of our equipment and suitcases and everything stolen once again - in Manchester. For some crazy reason we left everything in the van and someone broke in and stole everything. Not our equipment because we were on stage playing when it happened - but all of our personal belongings. Terry had been documenting the whole thing on Super 8 and it all got stolen and that was really the last straw for him. Drummers are real hot heads and he had a history of quitting – it was almost no surprise. But it was a big surprise because we had just played a really big show in Paris – and the next day he was gone. We woke up and he was gone - his passport and everything. But, we continued on and we didn’t miss one show. We got a pickup drummer - and that was really awful. And that was the beginning of the end of that version of The Gun Club. 

Everyone was mad. We were mad at Terry. Jeffrey was really mad and belligerent and out of control and insufferable. At the end of this tour there weren’t even factions. Nobody wanted to talk to anyone. It was really the end. We’d driven tour managers crazy. It was really a very harrowing experience. Yet somehow we made it to the end of the tour and that was it.
Me and Patricia decided we couldn’t do it anymore - we cant be around Jeffrey anymore. It was just way too out of control. Me and Jeffrey actually talked about it and I just said, “We really should just stop because we're going to drop dead for one, physically- and also this last leg of the tour was so terrible and embarrassing compared to how great we were at the first half of the tour. We should go out on a high note – we can do something but it would be terrible. And let's just try to do something else. Amd we didn't become U2 or REM." We were just so frazzled that seemed like the only solution. 

So we ended up in London. That was the last stop - and me and Jeffrey and Patricia just stayed. We decided at that point here we are. Do we go home? And somehow individually we decided not to go back to America. It was too horrible. The political climate, the musical climate - everything was not where we were at in our heads… or our hearts.

It’s probably 1987 or so and I’ve been living in Berlin for a while really busy with the Bad Seeds and reacquainting myself with Jeffrey. He’d been doing his solo band and touring for Wildweed and I’d done Fur Bible and then started doing Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and our paths crossed a lot times and we started up our friendship once again. And he called me one night and said he was thinking of doing The Gun Club with Nick and Romi from the solo band and would I be interested to do it - and I was really interested to do it. I thought enough time had passed. The reason that we split in 1984 was just complete exhaustion and frustration. So I thought this was a great idea. I discussed it with him and he was telling me he was thinking of getting Robin Guthrie of The Cocteau Twins to maybe produce it and a friend of ours, Richard Thomas, had suggested managing us. And he was telling him that this would probably be a really good idea – to do The Gun Club again. And so we started talking about it.

I had been doing a lot of recording at Hansa (Studios - Berlin) with Nick and I’d done some stuff with Die Haut and Neubauten in there. And Diamanda Galas had recorded there. It was really a great place and it was really economical and I thought the atmosphere would be really good to make a Gun Club record there. He thought it was a good idea too. For me it had a lot of historical value because Boney M had recorded there - my favorite - and also David Bowie and Iggy Pop had done The Idiot, I think some of Low was there. U2 had done some stuff – maybe some of the stuff with Eno – there. People knew that Berlin was a great atmosphere for a certain type of sound and Hansa has a live room that’s a giant old ballroom and it’s a really great live room and it was also economically sound compared to the places we’d recorded in London.

The idea for the record really was to make it sound like a Gun Club record – because we’d been doing things trying to sound a different way. And we’d had enough distance from The Gun Club sound to want to go back to it. The thing is, that when me and Jeffrey do stuff together, it’s a certain combination and it comes out sounding a certain way. And there’s something about the mix that always makes a certain sound – the mix of my style and Jeffrey’s vision. Jeffrey had done that Wildweed which he tried to do a more songwriter-y sort of record, more modern or whatever kind of record – I don’t know what kind of record he was trying to make. I’d done the Fur Bible. I was going through a big experimental phase in the Bad Seeds. Just doing different kinds of experiments. What we though we wanted to go back to was a kind of stripped down sort of sound. We just felt we were different people than we were when we left off and that was a good starting point for making a new record. And in Romi and Nick we’d found a really good rhythm section.

In Las Vegas Story we’d gone into a sort of a dark pit – but a nice one. But for The Las Vegas Story we’d done a lot of dual guitar interplay – that kind of Television spiral sound. And what we decided to do was make The Gun Club and make a really strong rock sound and make a rock album. I think I flew to London and we rehearsed for a while. We’d actually made some demos with Tony Cohen who had done Tender Prey in London. We moved back to Berlin where I was living and recorded the album at Hansa studio quite fast – I think within two weeks.

The decision to get Robin was another perverse decision to do something. Through Romi Jeffrey had discovered the Cocteau Twins and really loved the lushness and the dreamy quality. When people asked him, “What kind of music is The Gun Club?” He always called it “surrealism and blues.” Robin got this kind of surrealist sound. Actually Jeffrey had met Robin at a Ramones concert in London. He met Robin and Liz Frasier and they were sweaty in the front row of the Ramones concert dancing and they started talking and he was like, “Oh! You’re the Cocteau Twins!” And found out that they were big Ramones and Stooges fans and they liked The Gun Club and actually were quite big rockers – Robin especially. So they befriended each other and then the idea between the two of them came out to work together.

The sound was definitely very thought out. What me and Jeffrey had really talked about a lot for this album was going back to music that we heard coming out of garages when we were teenagers in East LA – the kind of rock music of the 70s we heard coming from garage bands – which was always a mix of soul music and Santana or hard rock – it was a weird, very unique sort of sound. We were actually going for an East LA sort of sound in Berlin with the Cocteau Twins producing. So it was a little bit of a culture clash. But I thought that’s what we were always about – we were always about experimenting and mixing up stuff like that that seemed incongruous. Robin had a big hand in producing it. And his version of what rock sound is different than our version was and we actually quite welcomed that. 

So there was the fascination between Jeffrey loving the Cocteau Twins and I quite like the Cocteau Twins too. I really liked that big swirl of sound they had. Jeffrey really wanted to make a song that, if we were going to use Robin, we should use him for what he does best also. He would not only pervert himself and do rock music but we were also able to pervert ourselves and do Cocteau Twins music. (“The Breaking Hands”) was a very conscious effort to make a Cocteau Twins-sounding song – which I think turned out really beautiful with Jeffrey singing and us playing slide guitars. Romi played the lead melody guitar on that. It was a very experimental collaboration.

And the cover was done by our friend Claus Castenskiold – A Danish-American painter. We had met him through The Fall – because he had done a lot of The Fall’s record covers and he’s a unique character with unique artwork – this expressionist painting. And Jeffrey actually gave him a paparazzi photo of a Japanese pop singer and she had just won some big Japanese Grammy award and here husband was somewhat of a brut and he got drunk at a party and punched out the paparazzi and grabbed her by the hair and threw her in the car and they were driving away and the paparazzi were taking these photos. There’s this photo of this big Japanese thug driving the car and she’s in the car in total shame covering her face.

We were very into film and very into the subconscious. A lot of Jeffrey’s lyrics come from subconscious thought or thinking about what people’s subconscious thoughts are. And that’s what his lyrics are. In that book, Go Tell The Mountain, he said that one thing that stuck with him was that a friend of his, this guy Don Waller, who was a writer for Back Door Man, said, “You should always write about what people don’t want to hear.” Jeffrey kind of took that philosophy and the songs usually have that theme to them.

Red Rhino put it out in England and I think we had licensed it out to a lot of different people. And that was OK and good because it was a very successful record, but in the end it wasn’t very good because they went bankrupt.

At that point Jeffrey had totally transformed himself and become a health-fitness freak. And he dropped a whole lot of weight and went back to his natural hair color of brown – dark hair. He’d gone through this weird health regime but mixed at the same time with really heavy drinking. It was kind of a strange time. I remember I was heavily drinking at the time. He was really starting to get ill at this point. Even though he looked great, really what was happening was that he had cirrhosis of the liver and it was diagnosed as far back as Miami.

The band was really strong. We played a lot of really fast hard rock songs. It was a very intense show. Definitely the first Mother Juno tour we were, especially Jeffrey, really pushing it. And he would come offstage and collapse on the floor. I don’t know how much of that was that he was over-exhausted because he was ill or how much of that was that he was really putting forth everything. And that was how we were going at the time.

We did an American tour – and I think it was kind of a typical American tour for us. It was really good in the big cities – but we played a lot of cities. And I think we had started on our debaucherous ways again on that tour.

Playing in Los Angeles was really something quite bizarre because the last time we had played in Los Angeles had been before leaving on Las Vegas Story (tour) - before we moved away. The Las Vegas Story came out and our last gig there we probably played for fifty people. When that album came out there was no hometown fanfare for us or anything which was totally different than in San Francisco or in New York or Chicago or anywhere where we had sell-out shows. We played The Ritz in New York but in LA we were still playing small clubs to fifty people – half of the people we knew - were friends of ours. So when we went back to play on the Mother Juno tour we played a huge theater that was completely sold out. So it was kind of a strange experience.

We were actually received like a European band in Los Angeles. By the time we did that American tour we’d been living in Europe for five years or so. So we basically were seeing things through European eyes and had become quite European. We had international people in our band – Japanese and British. Our way of thinking, our approach, had kind of always been that way – further-reaching than a local Los Angeles band and our interests were in different cultures. And so we came back and were received like a European band – playing to a full house at a theater in Los Angeles.

And then it was another situation of being in a band with a couple – which I had swore I would never do again after The Cramps. That’s only because you’re stuck in a van, and you’re stuck backstage together. And if they have an argument it’s really bad for everyone else because you can’t get involved in it and, if you do, it does you no good.

So we did more touring.

We played this festival in Greece – a two-day free festival. The first night was going to be the Triffids from Australia and PiL, Public Image, and the second night was The Gun Club and Jesus and the Mary Chain. And so the first night we got to Athens the promoters took us to a restaurant on a hill overlooking the site of the festival. And you could see the stage and the entire audience at this restaurant on a hill. The Triffids had played and Public Image was set up. PiL was set-up to do their show – which we also were all anticipating seeing.

Suddenly they started giving word that people were climbing all in the light towers, all over the PA, I think no barrier or anything. People were smashed against the stage and it was really a big mob-scene. Suddenly what we heard was that some anarchist group had come. The mayor or governor or whoever had announced this as a gift to the people of Athens and they were having none of that gift charity from them. And so they showed up to start a riot. They came with fire and Molotov cocktails. And Public Image delayed and delayed and delayed because their security people were saying it was unsafe for them to be there. And that just started a complete riot. That was all they needed. The audience got really prickly and their blood started boiling.

Then these anarchists started throwing Molotov cocktails at the stage and a complete riot ensued where they quite literally burned down the stage. People had big poles and baseball bat kind of sticks and started smashing everything. The entire sound booth that was out in the middle of the thing got smashed to the ground. All of the equipment was smashed. People were running for their lives because it was getting really hairy. And so we were up above and watched the whole thing unfold and happen. It was really quite astonishing. It was a crazy crazy riot.

But this was the thing – I’d been through some riots in Greece before at our concerts. When the Bad Seeds played there was a big riot outside. I think stuff gets oversold and people can’t get in and they’re very passionate. I would assume they are. Another time The Gun Club played this club gig and people couldn’t get in – or maybe they just didn’t have the money to get in or whatever, some people came and maced the security people and kicked in the doors and everyone came running in. That was a kind of electric experience.

So yeah, it was kind of crazy because then we lost all of our friends in The Triffids and we didn’t know where they were and they’d gone running for their life and trying to save their equipment and the promoters were crying and it was a mess – as you can imagine. So we went home the next day and obviously there was no concert the next night with The Gun Club and Jesus and the Mary Chain.

After all the touring and stuff Jeffrey went back to London and I went back to Berlin and Bad Seed-ed some more. Around this time my communication with Jeffrey got less and less because there wasn’t actually anything pressing. We’d worked really hard making the Mother Juno thing happen and whatever tours after that. So a lot of time we’d take a break and decompress. At this point his health started taking a turn for the worse. His drinking and drugs took a turn for the worse again and I think he did a lot of hiding it from Romi. I’m actually not really sure what happened during this period. Then Jeffrey would call me to rehearse. Since Berlin’s not far from London, I would just go and rehearse. And I had gotten sober again. So my life went in a different way. Being around drinking and drug-taking wasn’t really - y’know whatever. And so I wasn’t around a lot and I think Jeffrey and Romi were very much in their own life. They lived together and were together every day. Romi was really a good thing for Jeffrey because her and her friends took care of him – or tried to take care of him. I don’t know how you can take care of an unruly person but they definitely tried. Although I was friends with him, I just wouldn’t hang around because I wasn’t interested in that sort of life style anymore - of going to have a drink every night. Actually I was really starting to lose interest in The Gun Club again. It was a weird period for me. I think I was going through some crazy confusion again and I think I was really itching to do something on my own. And I think I was moving in my life in a different direction and I was definitely moving geographically in a different direction.

Pastoral Hide and Seek – I still really like that record. I don’t think it’s the best record but I think it has its definite really great moments. And I think some of the songs are really great. Jeffrey chose to produce it himself and my input wasn’t as much as it was – it was very much a Romi-Jeffrey collaboration more than a Kid and Jeffrey collaboration and that probably had more to do with the fact that Jeffrey was really into guitar playing again and they lived together and were lovers and also band-mates. So they were in their own world. And that’s the whole thing about the couple thing. Somehow I didn’t feel left out. I was kind of like, “Maybe this is really good” - because I was looking to pursue some different kind of things.That record we did in Belgium. I remember I came and did what I did and then I left. I didn’t have a lot of input. I didn’t stay around and say when we were mixing. I was just a player on the record.

I think we were playing live a lot during this period. There’s some live records from that tour. The shows were not all good. Jeffrey was getting drunker and drunker and more incoherent on stage and it was annoying. We had been a really tight, really great band. I remember playing and Jeffrey had taken a lot of Valium and we were saying, “You’re playing out of time and really slow.” And he would be insisting that he wasn’t. And it started to get really maddening – stuff like that. And I was still busy with The Bad Seeds and that was not only artistically satisfying but lucrative. So it was almost like, “I don’t have time to be fucking around with this fucked-up-ness.” I love Jeffrey and I think he’s an amazing thing and this band is really amazing but there’s something really wrong – something dark and wrong. Usually that wasn’t something that would be very daunting but this time it wasn’t a good fucking up. It wasn’t motivating the creativity. It was brining it down. And I think that there was a lot of frustration with where the band was going. And the success of the band was not getting more – it was getting less. Mother Juno was somewhat of a comeback but after that we didn’t sustain the kind of popularity to where we could go to the next thing or whatever. And I think it was because people were just sick of seeing this fucked-up man on stage and that was no longer that entertaining after a while.

I stuck around because it was my band with Jeffrey. And what else were we going to do? We’d been through dark periods before and come out of them. So I was waiting around to see if we’d come out of it – or he would come out of it. And I think we kind of did for a moment because then, actually Nick Sanderson had left the band after the Pastoral Hide and Seek tour. And we went through a series of drummers. We had this guy Nigel who was in The Cult. And then we had this other friend of Nick’s. And then we ended up doing a series of recordings with Desi, Desperate from the Fur Bible. Then I got really excited again because we did this EP with “Sorrow Knows” – and that’s a song. The music was really interesting again. It was again another thing where I thought, “Oh my god this is cool. Jeffrey wants to be… cool.” We were listening to Captain Beefheart and David Bowie Low and the influence got a bit off-track again and mixed up and it became interesting for that one EP.

So the Divinity EP, after Nick Sanderson had left and we got Desi to come in and play drums again - Desperate, after a series of drummers. It was good because I had been losing interest in the band until Jeffrey came up with this little crop of songs which were “Sorrow Knows,” “Keys to the Kingdom,” which was actually a really old Gun Club song – I think one that might be on that Early Warning or something. It old-old-old – even I didn’t play on it – it might be from around Fire of Love/Miami time. “Richard Speck” – that song is great. We did have one last, for me, one last spurt of “OK, things change. These songs are really good.” The song “Sorrow Knows” is basically a riff that we just played and that was just something that kind of happened. Jeffrey just had the riff and wanted to make a really long dance song. It’s not a traditional dance song. The way it turned out was really great. Jeffrey was really into guitar playing so there’s a lot of soloing and stuff going on and we had a lot of interplay and pieces of things sliding together and going in and out of each other. So that EP gave me a little hope for sticking around a little longer.

I moved to Los Angeles at this point and decided to pursue my own things and that’s when I think I think I met Sally Norvell and that’s when I started working on Congo Norvell and deciding that I had to do my own trip. The Gun Club – for me – I kept seeing the popularity going away and really seeing Jeffrey going away and my heart wasn’t in it anymore. And I believe that’s probably what I told Jeffrey. I don’t even remember. Most of my departures in from bands are not big dramatic moments in life -it’s just going on to the next thing. I think I told Jeffrey, “Look I can’t do it anymore.” And he said, “OK.” In your relationship the other person decides they’re not in love with you anymore, there’s not really anything you can do to be in love with you anymore. So that was kind of the situation with that. It wasn’t that I didn’t love Jeffrey or believe in him but the circumstances were too stacked against me staying in the band and it didn’t seem worth my while and it didn’t seem like some thing that would make me happy and it didn’t seem like it was going to go anywhere. And so that was it. I said, “No more. I’m staying in LA.” He said, “Fine.” He made another record and I started Congo Norvell.

Then Jeffrey and Romi’s relationship ended and Jeffrey ended up getting deported from England and ended up having to come back to Los Angeles. And Jeffrey obviously called me since he was in Los Angeles at his mother’s house. We didn’t immediately say we were going to do something. I could see Jeffrey was really bad off. I was being a friend to him because his relationship had ended. But he was getting in a bad way with drinking – like in a severely bad thing. And his mother lived up the street from that bar The Viper Room. So he would just go there and hang out every night because he could get in for free and drink for free and kind of befriended that kind of Sunset Strip nightlife sort of world.

I was a bit, excuse me, "gun shy," of being around. And I was on my own trip. I believe, around this time I had started taking drugs again and a series of horrible things happened in my life. My father died. Friends were dying. There was another crazy wave of people dying of AIDS. And I was starting Congo Norvell. I would talk to him a lot more on the phone than I would see him.

Some people got together and convinced Jeffrey that he should do a show at The Viper Room and they would find a band and they said to ask me - like an oldies show, sort of. You know, just play Fire of Love, Miami, whatever – just rock it out. Jeffrey asked me to do that and I was like, “Why not? That could be fun.” So he got a band together with some guys: This guy Mike Martt - who had been in Tex and The Horseheads and these guys who had been playing with Wayne Kramer – all very cool guys. And I think Mike really got it together.

And I think a lot of people at The Viper Room saw something that was seriously wrong with Jeffrey’s drinking and behavior. A lot of people had seen it. His parents and his family had tried to help suggest putting him in rehab. He would go and come out and escape like a lot of people do – and insist it was OK.

We did a show and it was really fun and really great and people were really excited and people were like, “You should go on tour. You could make a lot of money. Just play these songs. This is what people want…” And me and Jeffrey talked about it and we said, “That really sounds like a totally miserable idea to us.” That’s never what we were about and always what we were running away from. Maybe in a way it probably would have been smart because it would have been very financially lucrative. And probably would have made a lot of people happy. But it really just seemed like it would have been a hellish experience to be an oldies act. I’m not big on the comeback acts – as you can see. I’m always still trying to do something different and that’s not my scene at all. Musically, I can visit my past and I can draw upon my past but I’m not interested in reliving my past – at least definitely not musically.

We did a few shows though. We actually played a benefit concert for this friend of mine Travis John Alford. We were raising money for him to make this record. He was a friend of mine who was dying of AIDS and trying to finish this record. So me and L7 and Carla (Bozulich) and the Geraldine Fibbers and The Gun Club and I think even Congo Norvell played. I did double duty. And we made concert and raised a lot of fun and it was really good. And that show went really well.

And somehow someone convinced us to do another show a few months later. Jeffrey had gone really downhill physically. He was completely bloated and really out of it. People said they really liked the concert but I remember, not so much that the band played horribly, but it was just a bad vibe. I knew something was really really bad. And that kind of was the last thing I did with Jeffrey.

I think finally his family insisted that he do something about himself. People were trying to get him to go to rehab but he wouldn’t do it. So he went to his father’s house in Utah. And he was finishing writing his book Go Tell the Mountain because Henry Rollins had commissioned him to write a book. It would be a lyric book and prose and biography of the story of The Gun Club. And so he had been writing that and at this point I had moved to New York with Congo Norvell and I’d actually been talking to Jeffrey again because he was at his father’s. He was sober again. And on the phone he was the Jeffrey I had always known. And we were laughing about stuff and making a plan that, if he got his shit together again, he’d come to New York and I’d do something with him. I was looking for musicians in New York to play and just different things because he was bored as shit in Utah.

One day he called me and then I didn’t call him back for a few days and then I called and I got his mother on the phone and she was like, “Oh I guess you heard…” And I was like, “Heard what?” But I knew exactly what she was going to say. She was like, “Jeffrey went into a coma and had a brain aneurism and he died yesterday.” And I was completely devastated and shocked. It’s weird because I kind of knew it could happen and everybody could see that that was what was happening, but its kind of you don’t know until it really happens. And so it was a really sad and horrible time.

The last conversations I had he was very up and very happy and he was actually reading me stuff from his book like he was reading all of that stuff he was writing about channeling Isaac Hayes through the Tokyo radio tower. It was really insane stuff and he was reading that to me and we were completely hysterically laughing on the phone. And that was my last conversation with him. Which was, in hindsight, a nice last conversation to have. But yeah… So that was the end of that.


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