Monday, November 27, 2017

Another Interview! With Georgio Valentino.

The first and last time I had the chance to interview Georgio Valentino, he was rounding out an eventful year whose highlights included a belated, four-continent tour in promotion of an ambitious double LP, and a move from Brussels to Luxembourg. Presently, he's rounding out what may be the finale to a career in music, and after a few dates in the UK is getting ready to travel through select portions of Europe and the US. Running alongside this farewell tour is the release of The Future Lasts a Long Time, a 17" boxed set with recorded covers and reworked original material. I had questions and, naturally, poked at him for a few answers.

Choir Croak Out Them Goodies: You've called this something of a farewell tour and referred to The Future Lasts A Long Time as a final set. What are you retiring? The [Georgio Valentino] alias? The pursuit of music? Europe?

Georgio Valentino: I reckon it’s time to step back from the whole thing for a bit. This dog-and-pony show has been alternately rewarding and frustrating but either way it’s been my main occupation for a full decade. And it’s occupied me something fierce. Years go by and I start thinking I ought to do something different with my life—something clean. I don’t know what or where. But the pressure to change, to move on, is strange and very strong.

CCOTG: The Future Lasts a Long Time is a really grand concept, especially as you only recently made your music available online [outside of your own site] and seem to be concluding with a big splash before you've had the chance to build an audience in the US. Which aspects of these songs are semi-autobiographical, and what made you want to summarize your history with a boxed set rather than write a new LP?

GV: As far as format is concerned, I simply indulged my OCD/inner freemason in putting together a 17” vinyl set in 2017. Turns out it worked in terms of substance too. The 10” is the main event. It has its own symmetrical, self-contained flow. The 7” is a classic pop-style single with two sides that are brief and sui generis.

The original plan was to record a quick covers album as a stopgap while we road-tested new original material. There were a slew of other people's songs we had played live over the years but never recorded. We thought it would be fun to finally do so. Once we got a couple of sessions under our belt, though, it dawned on me that this was a massively personal set, far more intimate than anything I had—or indeed would have—written myself. For that matter, I found it therapeutic to alienate myself from and reinterpret a couple of my own tunes, namely the earliest and the most recent. I realized that, by way of bricolage, I was fashioning a memoir. Or an obituary.

CCOTG: I've enjoyed going through your musical history to see how the details have changed; I interpreted the new crash that opens "The Stranger" as an homage to the Cure's "Killing an Arab"—was this intentional? 

GV: Yes, the record is littered with little nods like the opening crash cymbal. At 16, I fancied I was continuing a rich tradition, writing a song inspired by Camus—just like my heroes Tuxedomoon, the Cure, &c. And lo! Decades later I dust the tune off and it’s Tuxedomoon’s own Blaine L. Reininger who supplies the polish in the form of a sublime fiddle solo.

CCOTG: Ditto for the backing harmonies on the incredibly depressing "Song for Syd Barrett," which certainly seem to pay tribute to early Pink Floyd harmonies. Did Patrizia [his partner and bass player] do the background vocals here?
GV: I sang the harmony myself and ran it through some effects to make it sound all strangled like John Walker’s vocal on “Night Flights.” The dirge-like vocals on “Eight Miles High” (in the right channel of the same track) are sung by our friends Grey Lotus. I can’t be sure what their inspiration was, as they recorded their parts ‘via satellite,’ as it were. All I sent them was a Byrds record, a backing track with one chord, and the instructions DO WHAT THOU WILT SHALL BE THE WHOLE OF THE LAW.

CCOTG: There's also a completely new arrangement of "Satyros Ironykos"—were multiple versions recorded during your 2016 trip to Melbourne? And does this arrangement include a pared-down version of the group that recorded the original 7" version?

GV: The new version of “Satyros Ironykos” is a product of our second sojourn in Australia [in spring 2017]. We had recorded the 7” version in Melbourne a year earlier with David McClymont (who wrote the music and arranged the session) and Mick Harvey (who engineered and played piano and organ) in addition to Patrizia F. (bass), Clare Moore (drums, vibraphone) and Dave Graney (12-string guitar). Once we started playing it live, the song evolved in fairly unexpected directions. So we revisited it, again in Melbourne, with Clare, Dave and their mate Will Hindmarsh of Go-Go Sapien on organ. Our frequent collaborator Eric Becker overdubbed additional guitars during our Luxembourg sessions.

The contrast is down to different sensibilities. The original version was David’s baby. Pure pop, albeit in the Scottish mold. Concise, well-structured, tight but with plenty of angular edges. I left my guitar in its case and focused on the vocal performance. It was a pleasure to take a back seat and let someone I trust handle the overall arrangement. I took a more active role in shaping the new version. There’s more reverb, more guitar and a lengthy abstract passage strewn with Ray Liotta samples. In other words, another day the office.

CCOTG: Let's talk a bit about the people who contributed to this record. To start, Phillip Haut backed you [on drums] when you visited Los Angeles in early 2016—how did you originally meet?

GV: Phillip was recommended by mutual friends. A happy accident. We had picked up a handful of California dates en route to Australia and needed a drummer.

CCOTG: Part of that 2016 trip to L.A. was performing "As the World Falls Down" [with Haut] at a David Bowie tribute show at the Hyperion Tavern [which now appears in recorded form on The Future Lasts a Long Time].

GV: Bowie died just after we arrived in Los Angeles. We paid our respects at the memorial camp that sprouted around his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And every show in town that week seemed to turn into a Bowie tribute night. Our appearance at Ye Olde Hushe Clubbe was colonized by local heroes stomping along to Hunky Dory and Ziggy-era anthems. You would’ve thought the man died in 1974. We watched, embarrassed, as the bulk of Bowie’s career was thus damned with such faint praise.

CCOTG: "Song for Syd Barrett" is listed as a collaboration with Patrizia's other band, Surf Me Up, Scotty. She already plays bass with you, but was this your first time collaborating with her band?

GV: We’ve shared bills before and there’s always been a certain porosity of membership. Nearly all the members of Surf Me Up, Scotty have guested with us at one point or another. But this is first time the two groups have collaborated formally. Ironically, Patrizia doesn’t even appear on the track. It was their lead guitarist, Patrick Kleinbauer, who played the twangy six-string bass.

CCOTG: You're sampling a lot of clips here; can you list 'em off and do you have a general idea of why you sampled the select dialogue?

GV: There’s a lot of Ray Liotta. I’ve been sampling Ray Liotta since my very first college band. The record opens with a Texas death-row monologue from the Arthur Dong documentary Licensed to Kill. You’ve got a bit of Sling Blade and Jerky Boys in there too. Apocalypse Now. Undisputed Truth, as sampled by Dr. Dre. It’s all of a certain vintage really. A handful of seemingly random lines have been floating around my psyche since adolescence and are only now starting to make sense.

CCOTG: I love the cover art for this collection. Who is the artist, Maria Panourgia?

Maria Panourgia is Blaine's partner. Phenomenal stage actor and director, she's also got stacks of these whimsical drawings and paintings around the house. So I asked her to do the honors and she obliged.

CCOTG: Your tour is just beginning; since this may or may not be your last trans-Atlantic tour, what are you most looking forward to seeing over the next few months?

GV: We’re looking forward to seeing our friends around Europe, the UK and the US. That’s what this particular exercise is all about, breaking bread one last time with folks we’ve met on the road over the years. We’ll pass through a few new places in the bargain too. First time in Budapest, for example. And we’ve been invited to play a kinky winter market on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg. Should be interesting.

CCOTG: We previously talked about why you'd skipped off to Brussels after a stint in Detroit. But at what point will you feel ready to return to the US?

GV: I feel ready for anything. Schopenhauer said it best: “Resignation is like inheriting a fortune; you never have to worry again.”


Purchase The Future Lasts a Long Time.
See Georgio on tour in Europe or the US (with Swords of Fatima).

Sunday, November 19, 2017

A surfeit of surfeit: Egrets on Ergot

I have a few distinct memories of Los Angeles from the period spanning 1988 to 1992. My parents were in the process of separating, and then they went through the process of learning to be a separated couple. So of course, I recall a few of the men my mom dated as a freshly single woman in her late 20s.

There was the 24-year old quintessential punk: leather jacket, bright mohawk, eight holes in each ear. He was nice. There was the ginger from Ireland. We didn't interact much. And then there was the guy who made movie props and, from where I'm standing, resembled a hybrid of John Landis and young Francis Ford Coppola. He was nice, too. There were others who weren't as nice.

I also remember my uncle's artsy lifestyle and eccentric friends. One lived in a fancy house somewhere in the northwest San Fernando Valley, and she claimed to be a dancer and once made us paint rocks outside her house. My uncle had a local access television show that was as bad and funny as you'd expect, and we have VHS proof of this somewhere.

I've got particularly fond memories of the theater my uncle managed in the late '80s, on Heliotrope near Melrose. It later became the Sacred Fools Theater and now seems to be empty but for a short while it caused Gracie's Pizza next door to smell like weed. A three-year old me was allowed to attend several live viewings of Hair at the Heliotrope Theater. I didn't understand it but I did know that I was uncomfortable when the entire cast sang in the nude. I also knew that the guy who played Berger was handsome as all hell, pale with long, black hair. God knows why he was replaced with this Vernon guy, or this James guy.

It wasn't all fond memories, of course. We were quite poor and it's feasible that we all took up creative pursuits because it was cheaper than going on family vacations or whatever unpoor families do. And of course the start of the '90s were a grim time for watching the news in Los Angeles. But L.A. was still a creative and diverse city, and I was a young kid with a young, pretentious, artsy family who had young, pretentious artsy friends. It was fun, in hindsight.

When I watch Egrets on Ergot on stage, I see everything I remember from early childhood in Los Angeles. They are not everyone's '80s/'90s Los Angeles -- most of my friends didn't grow up with young parents who painted and had daring record collections. But they are mine. They are also memories I didn't develop until later, like watching Nick Cave in Wings of Desire, or seeing Silver Daggers play at the Smell about ten years ago.

It is impossible to imagine them spending their days in office jobs. They are Muppets. They are young Danny Elfman. They are Suzi Gardner singing "Slip it In," and they are every Goth kid who ever dreamt of studying abroad in Berlin so they could claim they "lived in Berlin once." If their debut, Surfeit of Gemütlich, suffers from anything, it's a case of too much being too much. But then, that's what makes their live performances memorable -- I've heard these songs several times prior to the record's release, but none of them sound particularly familiar except the nine-minute "Plantation Pudding," because all that comes to mind when you think back to an Egrets performance is the mess of toms, saxophone, darkness, growls and eyeliner they comprise. You don't come here for the songs, you come here for the energy and the nostalgia and the feeling of toughness they stir up. And they stir it all up marvelously.

Naturally, they made this record with Paul Roessler, who also worked with them in 2014. Purchase this sucker.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Already, November

This new Bully song/video is everything that appealed during high school (provided you also went to high school in the late '90s and went through a girl band "phase" and felt like a "misfit," which, of course you did). The video was made by these ladies, who created a great postcard series called EAT THE PATRIARCHY in January.

Italian band Bee Bee Sea blends beautifully with all the other lo-fi whatsits of Dirty Water Records USA and they've got a record out November 17 called Sonic Boomerang. The whole garage thing is almost parodying itself at this point but it never ceases to be good for a little dance.

There's an angular rock group outta Tel Aviv called Document, and their new record The Void Repeats is out this week. If they were a high school student, they might be the loner guy in a trench coat who sits under a tree and reads advanced books and refers to the others as "sheeple."