Elia Einhorn, founder and chief songwriter for Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, got a chance to chat to one of his all-time heroes: Jon Langford… For those of you who are wondering who he is, well, he was the main man from influential punk band The Mekons. Who, if you’ve not heard of before, you should investigate their back catalogue NOW. Langford is currently on Bloodshot records, releasing many a fine roots record and he’s Welsh (which is always a good thing). Here, Elia and Jon chat candidly about past, present and the shit of being dropped.
Elia: Your first band, your first main band was the Mekon’s.
Jon: Yeah, that’s the first band I was ever really in
You were never really in…
Yeah, we had some youth club band thing but it was usually older brothers or friends of mine trying to get me to play. I had a drum kit but I never…I wasn’t very good.
Right. And you started out drumming in the Mekons right?
Yeah, that why they let me be in the Mekon’s I think.
You had a drum kit.
Yeah, I was at school with all of them anyway and I had a drum kit and I could actually play the drums sort of reasonably well where as nobody in the band could play anything at all.
When was it you moved to guitar?
Um, I think we got dropped by Virgin in like 1980 and we already started making the second album which was totally different. We were completely bored with the three chord punk thing at that time so I sort of stopped playing the drums; doesn’t mean I went on the guitar. I played a bit of guitar but I played piano and we all played…different people played the drums, I sang a lot more at that stage. The second Mekons album is a really, really cool record I think.
Which one is the second one?
It’s called Devils Rats and Piggies…
…and it’s much, much more interesting than the first one. The first one we’ve got those songs knocking around for about three years and we ended up in Richard Bramson’s manor studio in Oxfordshire and it was a complete waste of time.
How did you get picked up by Virgin for the first record? That’s pretty, that’s pretty…
Well we had one single out on Fast Product…which was recorded in a cottage in Scotland live on reel to reel and sounded like that. I was quite shocked when I first heard it cause I thought it would sound like a proper record and it didn’t sound like a proper record at all. The next one we went to Space Ward Studios in Cambridge where Robert Hitchcock and Red Crayola were recording at the time so that was kind of interesting. Then we made a record Where Were You which actually sounded more like a proper record; powerful sounding record and I was drumming on that one and it sold really well for reasons unknown to us it just sold really really well. I think it was one of the first mid-paced punk rock record with lyrics about drinking in a bar.
Ha ha ha. It’s real life lyrics back then.
Yeah. A lot of people said it was like the country song Where Were You and it’s absolutely true. “Waiting in a bar, where were you?” It was three chords but we ended up on Virgin because that did phenomenally well and it was the real early days of independent singles and I think that sold 35,000 copies pretty quick. Other people’s radar went off. We also got quite good at playing around that time…
You were touring a lot then right?
Yeah. We were touring all the time and people came to see us we were kind of all right, you know?
Now, one thing I was reading was that you went to school in Leads born in Wales, I mean raised in Wales, but you went to school in Leads and you were friends with the Gang of Four guys and you guys recorded using all their equipment.
Well that’s where we rehearsed, using their gear. The Gang of Four, we just wanted to be their opening act because they were like a proper band and we were a bunch of idiots sitting in a pub. They’d reheard above the Fenton in Leads and then when they came down for a pint we’d sneak upstairs, well we’d tell ‘em, but we’d go upstairs our songs which we just written on the back of beer mats in a pub. I mean it was very very unserious. Although we were very serious about our manifesto saying we would never make a record or ever have our photograph taken or ever headline a gig. But as soon as somebody asked us, you know, we opened for another band. We cheated on the Gang of Four and opened for the Rizzillo’s and their tour manager was setting up Fast Product and he said, “Do you wanna make a record?” We all fell over ourselves to say yes. Then it was deeply embarrassing cause the Gang of Four didn’t have a record out and we did. And we said to Fast Product, “You should put the Gang of Four out.” And they were just, (laughs) of all things, “Oh no, they sound too good.” They were a real band and he didn’t want to put them out. But he did at the end, he relented and put them out and I think that single he did with them Damaged Goods was pretty pretty big.
And you bought into that label didn’t you at one point?
Fast Product. Nah, I was just, we were just on the label. It was Bob’s thing. I think, I love Bob who produced us on Virgin and that didn’t really work out. I thought the records we made on Virgin with Bob producing were absolute crap; really boring. I was ashamed…
Were you really?
I was ashamed yeah. It was just like, “What is this?” Let’s do something interesting. And then we went and did the second album and we went to a little folk studio in the hills near Halifax just outside Leads and then, that was brilliant. We all decided we would just swap instruments we wouldn’t have any songs we would just make shit up in the studio. That was much better.
Was it that one or was it the first one that you guys had Gang of Fours picture on the back. They mucked it up and they…
No. No. We deliberately did that…
Oh, you did?
…they put “Hello Mekons” on their EMI album; on the back. So we thought, “What should we do?” So we put a little picture of the Gang of Four…
Oh, they did it on purpose. I read that it was a fuck up, an art department fuck up.
Oh no, absolutely not. We decided to do that. And we had a monkey on the front which was kind of sad cause, you know, we felt like, we’re on a major label and we’re rock stars now and we can say, “We want a monkey on the front of the album typing.” Which the idea was the quality of mercy is not stronger than a monkey typing Shakespeare without getting it right which is what I thought the Mekons were at the time. And then they wouldn’t let us in. We weren’t allowed to see the monkey. I think Tom, being the thinnest and least threatening member of the band was allowed to go in and meet the monkey in the photo shoot. We had to sit in a van outside.
You at least pulled off a cool photo shoot.
I know, I’m still pissed off about that. I would’ve loved to meet the monkey.
So, you’ve got the Mekon’s going, you guys have some label stuff going with A&M and they drop you right?
Well we were dropped by Virgin first.
Dropped by Virgin first…
(laughs) Then we were dropped by Rough Trade…
Oh, you guys were on Rough Trade then?
Well we tried to be. They said there was always a home for us on Rough Trade until we actually tried to get in. Then we ended up a label called CNT. We did an album with Red Rhino then they had a big bust up so I actually formed a label called CNT…
…that’s the one I was thinking of…
…we put out the Red Skins the New Town Erotic Sister of Mercy…
…I love New Town…(sings) “Living with un-en-ployment!” That’s one of the choir anthems on tour. Our drummer introduced me to that. That’s one of the one’s we always listen to.
We could do, Kick our the Touries again. That’s a good song…
That’s a fucking really good song…
They were hardcore you know. I like those sort of like tough guy bands you know. They wanted to be punk rock. It was kind of fun to be but they were really left wing you know. I really enjoyed that.
It must’ve been funny working with them as a label boss huh?
I wasn’t really the label boss. I did the artwork for em. I did…go into the studio with them. I produced the Redskins a bit. But we never felt like…
You didn’t have to have money talking…
It was so badly organized that we were just a bunch of…doing things. That was just money down the toilet as well. It was very hard to run a record label. I never wanted to do that again. Then we did. With the Mekons we had a label for a bit called Sinned. Then we signed to Twin Tone over here cause things went really well. I don’t know what…we did the album Fear and Whiskey.
And that one did well right?
It sold three copies in England and thousands in America. The distributor kept calling us saying, “You gotta press some more. We gotta press up more. We gotta send them to America. They’re buying them in New York; they’re buying the record.” So we were like, “Fine. We should go over there then.” I went with the Three Jon’s, another band I was playing with at the time, then we came with the Mekons in ’86. I think we’ve been here every year since.
I remember you telling me the Mekon’s first tour was opening for Gang of Four right? Back in ’80 was it?
It was one gig.
Was it? You flew over for one gig?
We were offered more gigs and we just didn’t want to do them.
Are you serious?
That was totally at the height of being dropped by Virgin and thinking it was all over…
You were done huh?
Yeah. I though punk rock had just rolled over and died. It wasn’t interesting so, you know, it took me a couple of years to get back into it. That’s why I did the Three Jon’s because that was really fun.
And that’s got like, punk rock…it’s like new wave with a drum machine.
Yeah, it was like ineptly played heavy metal with a drum machine and very arty lyrics. I was into playing those low kind of, you know, somebody said it sounded like John Lee Hooker with a drum machine.
Nice. That’s a compliment.
Yeah. Three Jons was a good band but we spent every day together for about three or four years and it turned into something where we were kind of like all horribly linked and linked to the drum machine so we couldn’t…we all knew exactly what we were doing. It was a really tight band even though we were drunk most of the time. It turned into this incredibly tight band and then it slowly the personal relationships, sort of, got tired of each other. You know, cause we spent so much time together. It was three friends, you know, then the band kind of disintegrated. We tried to revive it a couple of times but it’s pointless. It was part of a process kind of really, you know, really being together. Turning into a single organism. Which is horrible. It’s alright when your like twenty-three, twenty-four, when you get a bit older it’s just…
Your describing it as loose but I was just showing you this twelve-inch I just picked up, The Three Jon’s Never and Always, I mean, it doesn’t sound loose it sounds pretty tight.
Well that’s Adrien Sherwood mixed that one…
Yeah, exactly, this must be when you guys hit that tighten up part.
Well, you know what, that was near the end, that was kind of like when we were looking around for things to do to keep it interesting. I just wanted to work with Adrien Sherwood cause I thought, “His stuff’s fantastic.”
How did you make that connection?
Ah, I can’t remember how that came about actually. Through somebody at this record label we were on, we were on an indie label and somebody had his phone number. We went down there and he was just really funny. I went to meet him with Keith LeBlanc of Round House Studios you know, chopping the lines out on the reel to reel, it was pretty decadent; I was quite impressed. Gary Clayel was involved with this record, we became sort of quite famous for awhile…
You’ve worked with a lot of people like that man. On the new one you have Andre Williams right?
On “Old Devils” yeah. I’ve been doing some stuff with Andre for the past couple of years. Writing with him a bit and uh…
I mean, he’s a true wild man. I’ve heard some real stories about him.
He is, he is wild. You know what, he’s lovely with me.
Me too. I love playing shows with him.
I’ve never seen the really difficult side of Andre. But, he’s turned into this kind of, gentle old man now. He’s turned a few corners and got himself straightened out. He’s much more positive and things aren’t going badly for him now. He was a deaths door a few years ago; hanging on deaths door knob.
It’s funny. Everybody on Bloodshot is either a hard drinker or a no drinker. Have you noticed this?
Who are the no drinkers?
You don’t drink?
No. We all drank too much and stopped.
You used to drink though.
Well that’s a good thing.
It’s funny. Bloodshot’s got the hard drunken’ rep. When they signed me I told them they just signed their first vegetarian tea totaler. I think Rob had a heart attack; Rob Miller.
(laughs) Well, it’s good to stop, you know. If I could stop eating the red meat I tell you; I want to stop eating red meat. It sucks man.
You look good. Your looking good. I’m fatter than you now. We’ve traded. I put on this fucking accident weight you know. They wouldn’t let me do anything for four months. Sit around and eat Tai food and curry.
I’ve just been in Europe for five weeks with the Mekons so I…we always eat big dinners and drink a lot of beer.
Touring or making a new record.
It was touring. Well, you know, Mekons style touring. I had nine gigs in five weeks. There’s a lot of like, “Well why don’t we do some gigs in Germany? Well we could just stay in Portugal. Okay, lets just stay in Lisben…” So the Mekons had a couple of band holidays which were pretty great.
That’s fucking great…
Yeah, we were all friends so the Mekons is how I choose to spend my time.
That’s a great bunch. The one’s I know are great man. We had, you know, you played on our last record, on our current record And The Horse You Rode In On, and Sally sang on our last record, Sally Timms. Beautiful voice man; I swear to God she’s my favorite. I consider her a pop singer that just happens to do punk but I know people would take it up with that. Have you ever heard the stuff she did with Steven Merit from Magnetic Field?
It’s fucking beautiful man.
J – I know. It’s great.
She’s the laziest person in show business.
That’s what she said but I don’t believe it man.
Oh, she is.
I don’t believe it.
Well, she likes booking on the Mekons thing. She liked finding the apartments near the beach. She liked doing that but, you know, she could take or leave the going on stage.
I remember she told me early on, cause, I started the Choir in 2001 but we didn’t put out a single until at least 2003 and it was like right when we put out the single it started…we got big press for it. We got lucky, you know? That was Jenny That Cries but I remember she told me in 2005 when I first asked her to sing with us that I was, quote unquote, an idiot for hoping to make a career in show business. That’s what she told me, “Your an idiot.”
She called you an idiot? You probably are. I’m an idiot.
So you’ve had these bands that have hit. The Mekons were pretty successful but you’ve never been the top level. You’ve never hit that Sex Pistols, Clash level, you know what I mean? That Gang of Four Level. You’ve always been just underneath that where the Mekons are revered, bands love you, publications write about you, the enemy loves you, but, what were you doing during these times when the Mekons, you talked about some records that were flops. What were you doing for money then? Was it illustration? Was it painting?
Well, everyone in the band has always had different ways of raising, you know, making a living, raising some cash but, I don’t know man, I did the Three Jons from about ’82 to ’86. I was touring with the Three Jons pretty constantly and that was like very low over head occupation. We used to get paid in cash. We had a car we bought. We would just bum around Europe. It was brilliant I mean I was actually single believe it or not, living in an apartment that was like 25 Quid a week or something ridiculous like that. You know I always had a lot of money; it was great. Apart from the fact that I was drinking myself to death it was actually the happiest time of my life. But, when the Mekons got going again, you know, it became this, with the Mekons it doesn’t seem to work unless there’s about eight people in it, at least seven. We never had that ability to make as much money.
That’s what we’ve got. We tour with, we did a whole East Coast tour with nine people. You know we picked up Nate from Bright Eyes who played with us for a long time. We picked him up out there too. We couldn’t even fit in the van anymore. And we had the massive van you know? Gets crazy.
But, I mean, yeah I’ve done, I didn’t really start doing visual art again…I was an art student. And the Mekons and the Three Jons were art students but I didn’t really start…I didn’t ever make any money doing that until I moved to Chicago in the ’90′s and Tony FitzPatrick gave me an art show. That World Tattoo, that gallery, I put all these pictures up and people bought more and it was quite astonishing so…
Well, since then, you’ve become really well known. You’ve got the Yard Dog galler in Austin.
Yeah. They do a nice job for me. It’s a full time show, all the time and I go down there twice a year and we always play in the gallery for gigs and you know its…
And we do the Bloodshot party there every yearn.
It’s been a nice way of making the two things melt together a bit more so I don’t really know what I, I make a bit of money from playing music and make a bit of money from doing paintings. You know it keeps me off the streets.
And you’ve done some cool gigs. I remember looking through the, I was in a big Hank Williams phase, and I realized one day, after knowing you for a few years, I was like, “Shit! This is Langford’s art on the Hank Williams alone with his guitar…
Yeah. I did an art show in Nashville, I think it was ’98. I went down there with all these grave stones which said horrible things about country music; how it was dead and how the currents of, you know, the current regime down there had actually killed it. It was weird. All these people came to the art show and then bought all the art. Somebody came up to me and said, “We really like this. Would you like to do Hank Williams new album cover?” And I was like, “I thought he was dead.”
He’s like Tupac you know?
We will give you this amount of money if you can do it and that was my price so I can’t say no to that.
And it’s a beautiful cover man. You could just frame that a put it on your wall.
I spent a long time working on that one. I wanted it to be good. Part of me hates the Nashville industry and then suddenly you realize theres all sorts of things going on there; it’s not black and white. There’s good people in there trying to do interesting things and that’s a fabulous record. Just his demos and all; it’s great so I was really proud to be involved in that.
I was thinking about questions to ask you and one funny thing that’s happened here is you’ve become a radio personality in Chicago and in America. Your one of the hosts of the Eclectic Company on WXRT which is kind of like BBC6 I guess, you know what I mean? You can play whatever you want…
They’ve never stopped us playing anything. XRT is a big rock station, not a college station or a community station. It’s a CBS Infinity rock station.
It’s one of the biggest in the country but they let you do whatever you want.
That was kind of a part of the challenge of doing it actually. I thought it’d be kind of cool. Cause they’ve got certain professional standards where I have to actually kind of, when we go and play the records it’s sounding like quite to professional show. I love those college shows where there’s dead air all the time and people are just mumbling. But, you know, we’ve tried to do the Eclectic Company in such a way that it would not stick out too badly.
But it’s great. I was on as a host, as a guest, when our last record came out and you can play whatever you want. I think I’m the only one whose ever snuck Welsh Hymns on to XRT but…
Oh no, I’ve played him as well.
I played Dylan Thomas as well on there.
Yeah, and we played Pulp and everything, I mean it’s stuff that over there, you know, in Britain would be on the radio but over here you never hear it on a major station you know?
I just thought, “What was the John Peal show like?” He played a lot of punk. He played a lot of reggae and a lot of weird things. When they told me the show was gonna be at ten o’clock ’til midnight I was like, “That’s fantastic.” It suits me. I play quite a bit of current stuff but I don’t feel obliged to be like some kind of guy that listens to breaking new bands. I’m just as likely to play Martin Carthy or William Boddle’s spoken word thing…
But, you do still play stuff. You play a lot of unreleased demos which is really cool.
I like things when no one’s heard em. That’s really cool. When you put something crazy on. And we get people, we have good guests that come in and people sing. I like it when people sing live in the studio. That’s pretty great.
And one funny thing is that you’ve written for This American Life which, I don’t know how to describe it, there’s not a show quite like it in Britain but it would be, how would you describe it? It’s the lives of every day Americans with a twist kind of…
I don’t know really, it was like…somebody said it was…somebody was really rude about it actually, chronicling the lives of white middle class people for over…
Oh yeah, The Onion, yeah.
(laughs) It’s slightly off but you know, The Onion…
That’s their job.
This American Life’s got an interesting show. Ira Glass who tried to bring story telling back into radio. And brought so many people in. David Sedaris does it; Sarah Velm. I was the band for a tour with it once when they did live shows to raise money. It was phenomenal. I had no idea it was gonna be like it was we went out and we did these shows and the one in Portland, Oregon there was like four thousand people at this show and we all had a suite each. And the week before we had been on tour with the Sadies with ten of us sleeping in one hotel room. Very very strange. Public radio man, there’s some money there.
And it’s so funny that you’re doing This American Life. I was thinking about it, it’s like Conrad comes over from Poland and becomes the preeminent British author all of a sudden. You know, your Welsh, you live in Leads, you tour Europe and then you come over to Chicago and now all of sudden your doing This American Life. I love it; it’s the outsiders view.
It’s a bit strange actually. I mean I feel like I’ve kind of quite invested in Chicago. I mean today I was trying to renew my drivers license, one of the more boring and humiliating things you have to do in your life, and then the phone rang, it was the Chicago Tribune asking me for comments on Mayor Daley saying he wasn’t gonna run again. And I thought (laughs) that was pretty hilarious.
Is he really not gonna run?
J – Yeah. He’s retiring.
That means Rahm Immanuel’s gonna come.
I know. Really strange. So yeah, it was an odd one; it was a very odd one. But I thought, “It’s quite nice that they think of me.” But it’s also like, “What have I got to say about that that’s not gonna be so negative and boring.” I just kind of made a joke about it. You know, “The King is dead.” It’s more important to worry about who the next king will be rather than, “Chicago is a futile state.” We have to write, you know, pay tribute.
It’s the machine. But, you do, with Pine Valley Cosmonauts you do fundraising, you know, for the Governor’s here. You were working with George Ryan before he went to jail.
I wasn’t fundraising for George Ryan.
No. You were fundraising against the death penalty, to raise money against…
Yeah, we did a whole series of albums to do that. That’s gone right back through the Mekons early gigs. The first Mekons gig ever was a benefit for the striking firemen. Then we did Rock Against Racism stuff, Right To Work, in the ’80′s we did a lot of for Aids charities. We made an album of Johnny Cash songs which Cash actually approved and got behind and spoke about really highly. That was for a foundation in London to do Aids research when that wasn’t a particularly hip issue. In fact it was quite contentious. I think Johnny Cash was pretty brave to stamp on that. And the Death Penalty thing when I moved here that was just something that sort of took me by surprise. One night I was sitting alone watching the telly and there was a vigil outside Joliet prison where they were gonna fry John Wayne Gacy who was a monster, you know, and someone says, “If anyone deserves the death penalty it surely was him.” And it’s like, “It’s not whether they deserve it or not it’s the fact that we do it that I object to.” I don’t want people doing that with my name. I don’t want my kids to live in a country where that sort of thing happens. I suddenly realized I moved to America and I kind of slid off the political map cause there was this guy about to be killed and they showed a lot of religious people out there, it was a silent vigil and they were just waiting and they showed them in slow motion and it didn’t show their faces. And in Britain there would’ve at least had someone like a debate; someone would’ve spoken; and with these people there was no debate. The local news was just like, “These people are so friggin’ weird we don’t even show their faces and we don’t ask them for comment.” I suddenly realized that’s were I ended up now. And, you know, in Britain, even at the height of the IRA pub bombing, there was never any serious move to go back to Capital Punishment. And here it is going on right around me and then the campaign; Steve Earle came an played a benefit and we opened for him at the Old Town School and I talked to him a lot about it and he was saying, “We should do an album. We should get an album together.”
And you’ve done a few now.
We’ve done three volumes.
And we’ve played together. We did the Magnetic Fields, the one you really love.
Yeah yeah. Lot’s of benefit shows you know. To raise money every year for the company. But my idea was that at least people would just would know what they’re doing, they got some traction. Things were actually changing in Illinois and we managed to keep em in photocopying and the pamphlet improved in a few months.
And it worked! It worked.
And Bloodshot got loads of hate mail for being Commies.
(they both laugh)
They didn’t care either. Bloodshot were brilliant. They stood right by it as well. It’s not a pretty issue the Death Penalty. It’s like Atheism you know, all these things that interest me because they get peoples blood up. It’s very nice to do a benefit for a children’s ward at a hospital but there’s not much spice to it you know? I do that. I do a benefit for my kids school every year and we do benefits for nice things. I’d rather do benefits for something that’s gonna make people want to kill me. (laughs) It’s what you have to remember they’re very religious here in America. They worship money; they worship here.
You’ve become, in America, in Britain your still famous. Musicians that I talk to over there love you. In America your this kind of cult figure. You’re like an Alex Chilton over here; a Jonathan Richman. You’ve got this cult following. Your gonna sell out shows where ever you go in kind of mid size venues…
Sometimes. Sometimes you may sleep on somebody’s couch. But, you’ve made a career out of this. And you’ve got this new record with Skull Orchard which is pretty much a solo project.
Yeah. The first Skull Orchard album came out in ’97 and that was the first solo album I ever tried to make. And that was an album about Whales. All the songs were about south Whales and I’ve actually, we just recut the whole album with a male boys choir. It’s gonna come out next year but I felt maybe there’s songs just sitting around, songs I really liked and I didn’t know what to do with them. And I started going for a sandwich with Jim Elkington at a Vietnamese place, Jim Elkington being the guy from the Zincs…
Yeah, he’s a great kind of fold guitar, kind of British style folk guitar player. He’s English isn’t he?
Yeah, and living in Chicago. He was playing with Janet Bean of the Horses Har, they were opening for the Mekons on the East Coast and I was really impressed with his playing. I realized he lived by the Vietnamese sandwich shop.
Is this New Lon?
I love it man. They have fresh avocado bubble teas there.
My painting studio is across the street so we just started meeting in there and we would go meet and have a sandwich we didn’t even talk about music the first five or six times we met. Then I said I had these songs and I was making a CD. I made him a CD of a few things. I had all these acousticky songs and all these noisy rock and roll songs. I didn’t understand they would make up a whole album. He had the brilliant idea you could have an album with wimpy acoustic songs and noisy rock and roll songs on it together.
You’re just copying us now.
You’re copying the choir.
It’s the Welsh thing to do man. On some of the tuneful songs he started playing a bit of acoustic on those at my painting studio and we started working on it and he was like, “Well, maybe it’s a whole album.” And I’ve been playing live a lot with Alan and Joe doing the stuff with the other choir and we’ve been doing the old songs and it felt really good to play those songs again. And, I don’t know, it just felt like the right time to make another album.
Yeah, you’ve kind of hit it on the head. This is a catchy record cause it’s got like it’s got some of the old new waves feel on a couple of tracks and then you’ve got…it almost reminds me of that first record when Morrissey went solo Viva Hate and he’s got Vinny Riley from Dirty Column playing guitar and it’s this cool mix or when early Felt records where you’ve got this cool English folk guitar over this, it’s essentially rock. I mean it’s the kind of stuff that, some of it’s kind of the stuff the Hold Steadies try to do now; it’s a beautiful combination.
I don’t know. I felt the songs were like folk songs but the first Skull Orchard album I was trying out things that would be like hymns, I had in mind a choir, a Welsh male boys choir could actually sing them while I was writing them but I didn’t know one at the time. But now I do. But this album, I like the feel of the album. It felt like it was really bare boned and really stripped down. I thought, you know, it’s just what’s important in a song are the words and my voice is, what’s the word for it? I don’t know…
I’m not Pavarotti. I like the idea of having songs that my voice could be front and center.
Well, your a real songwriter. Your not just making word collages. You’ve got something to say in each song.
Well, I hope so. I hope it works out like that. But you know, it seemed like after we played em for a little while. I added a couple more and the whole thing came together. And the title of Old Devils is a Welsh reference. There’s an Amish rock book called The Old Devils which was about a group of friends who go drinking in pubs in the ’50′s and ’60′s. They used to be friends with Dylan Thomas and that’s their claim to fame. And it’s very interesting and one of them made a career of being a Dylan Thomas accolade. This sort of contempt they have for him. It’s a great book it’s mostly about old Welsh people sitting around drinking. I spent a lot of time with the choir from Toronto where most old Welsh people sit around drinking. So I wrote a song called the Old Devils and that’s about that and the soft conversations we’ve had. The hilarity and the cynicism and the despair of being old.
Your not old yet Lang.
No but I know a lot of old people. It makes me sad sometimes you know? I like their spirit. I’d rather hang around with old people and talk to them. Most young people aren’t afraid. I’m in the middle; I still like the idea of learning from the old. It’s very unfashionable.
I was over visiting the family in April. We were at a pub quiz night down the ridge and I met this guy whose made a career of being a Lemmy, he played with Lemmy early on when Lemmy was living in Conway still.
Really? All right.
He’s made a pub career. He really hasn’t made a career career but, you know, he’s had his drinks bought for him over the years but fucking good tales. And, I mean, the one last thing I’ll say about this record is just, even looking at the titles you can see the mix of kind of a British lyrical sensibility with this American Country like on the British side, well, I mean, like Getting Used to Uselessness you know? That could be straight country or that could be a Smiths song. But you’ve gone right down the middle.
Yeah, I think that I can’t really help it. I didn’t really consciously think about it but I really am a product of two different cultures now. I’ve got American kids and I’ve lived in Chicago for eighteen years and I really feel attached to this city. It’s odd for me. It’s really odd for me when people are like, you know, getting slagged off doing country stuff. I never really thought we were doing country anyway. I mean there was an influence but we never tried to be like Toby Keith or anything but it’s odd for me know when I did the Death Penalty stuff people were like, “Why don’t you go back to where you came from if you don’t like it here.” I was like, “Well no, I’m here now. My kids are from here and I’m steeped. I’m steeped in this society.” It’s interesting to go back to Europe and see how strange and foreign everything is.
I know. I don’t even recognize the cars anymore.
You know, I go back regularly. I’ve seen England shift and change on some levels become more American
You’ve somehow managed to become an institution…
And innovative. A perfect combo. I love it man. So keep doing it.
And don’t put out any shitty records.
I’ll try not to.