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Ted Leo's Four-Year Prescription

By: Cam Lindsay




Ted Leo is not pissed off. Having spent the last four years writing and recording music filled with political vitriol, the New Jersey-based mod punker appears to be quite cool and collected, even though he faces another four years under the administration he and millions of others fought so hard to change. “I think a lot of people actually believed [John] Kerry was going to win, so there was about 24 hours of utter shock. But because there had been so much hope leading up to the election, that wasn’t easily blown away,” he says. “I don’t really feel like there are too many people who are actually mourning. What I have seen is a lot of people getting amped back up to just do another four years of work.”

With his band the Pharmacists, Leo has spent the majority of the year touring, recording a new album and participating in Concerts for Change, alongside the likes of David Cross, Tenacious D, Moby and even John Kerry’s old band-mates, the Electras. “I’m glad that I can be part of an artistic community that is concerned with a lot of the same things that I am,” he admits. “And I’m glad I can travel on this circuit that affords a certain amount of comfort in that regard, where you don’t have to butt heads with Nazi skinheads anymore.”

The Pharmacists’ new album, Shake the Sheets, continues Leo’s tradition of politically-charged rants submersed in dynamic, punk-fuelled power pop. However, moments like his harsh eye-opener “The Ballad of the Sin Eater” (from 2003’s Hearts of Oak) have been overhauled by a message that aims more for your brain and heart than your face. “Hearts of Oak, in retrospect, was much more of a demanding record politically. I think on that record there was a little bit more ‘We want this and we need to do this, so let’s do it!’” says Leo. “Whereas on the new record, which I wrote last spring, what I am realising just this past week in dealing with crowds is that it’s a November 3 record.”

As a resident of and voter from a blue state, Leo finds it tough going from an overwhelming feeling of promise to gutted disappointment, but like the new record advises, you just have to hang in there. “The week leading up to the election I actually had a hard time playing a lot of the songs that are on the new record, emotionally. But on November 3 I realised that I didn’t write that record to get people to go out and vote, I actually wrote that record to get through the hard time of last spring, which is pretty much analogous to the hard time of right now.”

Ted Leo and the other half of America are upset, but not about to give up. As a great admirer of Canada though, would he ever jump onto the bandwagon that is rumoured to be transporting Bush-hating Americans into Canada? Leo laughs, but with great consideration confesses, “It’s got this romantic appeal and certainly people have been talking about, ‘If George Bush wins again, I’m gone.’ But then you wake up on November 3, in your own home and you’re like, ‘You know what man, this is my home, this is where I’ve lived my entire life, this is where I’ve done all this work. I’m not going to abandon it because these idiots have another four years to work their evil. We’ll get it back.’”

 
 
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The All-Seeing Isis

By Chris Ayers
October 29, 2004


On 2002’s Oceanic, hardcore deconstructionists Isis, like Neurosis before them, perfected their neo-tribal metal by juxtaposing massive slabs of ambience with demolishing aggro-chordage. With the release of their new album Panopticon (on Ipecac), they have furthered their cause by embracing the philosophy of Michel Foucault, French philosopher and postmodernist.

"The title was roughly supposed to sum up the lyrical content and subject matter, which was initially inspired by an essay in his book Discipline And Punish," says guitarist and vocalist Aaron Turner. "The essay was on panopticism, the theoretical ideas behind the panopticon, an architectural figure." But how do old blueprints for a prison with a central surveillance hub factor into their music? "One of the thematic elements lyrically is the uncertainty of knowing whether or not you’re being watched, which is the idea behind the panopticon, invented by [18th century English reformer] Jeremy Bentham," Turner says. "Those being surveilled could not see those who were surveilling them — and they never really knew whether or not they were being watched, so they modified their own behaviour as a result."

The track "Altered Course," for example, builds an atmosphere so dense that you think the aggression is going to kick in after the next measure but it never does. "We wanted to try something more subdued to prolong that sense of anticipation," he says. "We tried to inject elements that would create uncertainty. There’s an ebb and flow between the discordant and the melodic, and there’re things buried deep in the mix that you don’t really hear unless you’re paying close attention — and at times you’re not even sure if they’re there or not." Despite these lofty ideals, Isis didn’t reinvent the wheel on Panopticon, according to Turner. "We’ve been moving in a more atmospheric, textural, and melodic direction ever since the beginning. By finding the equilibrium between the bludgeoning and the layering, we wanted to create some suspense and tension."
 
Source- Exclaim Magazine
 
 
 
Interview with Robert Smith of The Cure from Jam.com
 
1. THE WEIRD ONES

Q: If you were stranded on a desert island and you could have only one book,one record, and one canned food item, what would they be?
A: 'The Encyclopedia Britannica', Beethoven's 9 symphonies, mandarin oranges.

Q: What is your favorite brand and shade of lipstick?
A: Jane's cosmetics 'reddest'.

Q: Have you ever considered going back to school (or have you already)?
A: One day ...

Q: Did you have a favorite T-shirt when you were a child?
A: Yes - a purple tie-dye granddad that I wore constantly from about 8-11.

Q: Do you sing in the shower? If so, what do you like to sing?
A: I have baths - I rarely sing.

Q: When you go out in public, do you wear the makeup and do the hair deal? Do people recognize you without it?
A: I don't usually look as 'made up' as I do when I go on-stage, but the 'hair deal' (huh?) stays the same.

Q: What is the underlying interest in the hockey jerseys? Does it stem from an interest in the sport itself or a fashion preference?
A: The hockey jerseys are: 1) a fashion preference. 2) a way of saving me having to think about what to wear. 3) a cheap attempt to win over the home crowd. 4) Other ...

Q: What's your favorite hockey team?
A: I've never seen a live game, but I once met the (Pittsburgh) Penguins, so them I suppose ... although the Las Vegas Thunder have invited me to sing the national anthem, and I love the idea of ice hockey in the desert ... so just maybe I change my team ...

Q: How often do you actually set foot in the Fiction Records office in London? (Or has Chris Parry never allowed you to have your own key?)
A: About once a month ... and no, they wouldn't trust me with a key.

Q: I'd like to know where Robert buys his shoes. I haven't seen any of those huge '80s-style sneaks for a long time! Also, how was EuroDisney? Is it as bad as everyone says?
A: I wear either high-tech magnums or Reebok blacktop's ... Eurodisney is excellent! honestly; 'Space Mountain' there is definitely faster than the Disneyland one ... and you can drink!

Q: Have you or anyone else in The Cure ever written computer-format songs, like.mid or .mod?
A: We used 'cubase score' on a Mac power PC during the recording of 'WMS' (Wild Mood Swings) mainly for tempo, working out and printing string parts, bits of keyboard 'manipulation', and trying out percussion ideas - but it remained a 'peripheral'. Roger writes all his songs on a Mac.

Q: I LOVE ROBERT SMITH. WILL YOU MARRY ME PLEASE EVEN THOUGH YOU HAVE MARY? WILL YOU PLEASE STILL MARRY ME? I MIGHT GET TO SEE YOU IN CONCERT IN DALLAS TEXAS AUGUST 21. I WILL DIE IF I GET TO. - DANIELLE BURNS(dsparker@worldnet.att.net)
A: The concert is enough!

2. COULD YOU PLEASE CLEAR THIS UP? FOR ME

Q: I've noticed that in almost every photograph of you, you're wearing a silver necklace (with a little heart charm). I've always wondered about it' cause it's something that you're hardly ever seen without. What's the significance of the necklace? (Is it for good luck? Was it given to you by Mary?)
A: Mary gave me the heartchain, and I never take it off ...

Q: I noticed recently that some of your music is produced by Dave Allen, and also happened to remember that a member of a band I listen to, Shriekback, is Dave Allen. Is this the same guy, or just coincidence? If it is the same guy, how did you get to know him and what's your relationship like?
A: 'Our' Dave Allen isn't the Shriekback one.

Q: Is it a coincidence that the housepage (of The Cure's official web site) is opening on THE 13TH at 10:15 ON A SATURDAY NIGHT? What's the significance?
A: It was no coincidence!

3. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT

Q: What do think of Oasis???
A: Pretty average.

Q: If you could change anything about The Cure, what would it be?
A: The name!!

Q: There have been so many different lineup changes to The Cure. Do you think that this has been positive or negative to the band's career?
A: The line-up changes (7 'ex-Cures' in 20 years - pretty stable I think!) are usually necessitated by my mood and the music; so they are by nature positive.

Q: How do you feel when bands like Soundgarden deem The Cure as one of their major influences?
A: I'm always flattered when anyone (well almost anyone!) cites The Cure as an influence - doing something is better than doing nothing.

Q: Do you like the crowds better in Europe or the U.S.?
A: They are generally 'louder', more excitable, in the USA, although not having toured anywhere else for four years or more, things might have changed ...

Q: What's your stance on bootlegs?
A: I don't have a problem with bootlegs, but I usually hate 'fake' albums.

4. THE FUTURE

Q: What can we expect for The Cure's 20th anniversary (next year)? Will there be a reunion tour with some of the ex-bandmates?"
A: We're discussing lots of possibilities - a 'B-sides' CD, a 'Rarities' ('Carnage Visors', 'Eyemou", 'Lost wishes', Out-takes etc.) CD, my top 10 Cure songs re-interpreted, 'Standing on a Beach' part 2 ('still standing on a beach'?!!), a film, a book, a CD-ROM, shows with old line-ups ... but as to how much of this actually happens - only time will tell.

Q: Has Robert thought about doing anything new with The Glove, especially since Siouxsie and the Banshees recently broke up?
A: Not really - The Glove for me was a moment in time.

Q: Are you going to release a: B-sides album for all the people who love them so much and can't get them? A box set anthology of all Cure music to date, including B-sides and officially unreleased material? Previously unreleased material on CD, such as 'Lost Wishes', or other songs that haven't made it to the B-sides? A CD-ROM?
A: See response to question above

Q: Whatever happened to Robert's solo album? The last thing that was heard was that it was completed at the around the same time as Disintegration but was never released. Its working titles were A Dream Of Deception and Wild Mood Swings. Did some of the songs from the solo album become part of the new Cure album?
A: My solo album was recorded in 1983; If it is ever released, it will be when The Cure has stopped ...

5. ON A PERSONAL NOTE ...

Q: If there was the opportunity for you to jump into an alternate lifestyle, what would it be?
A: Astronaut.

Q: What is your favorite memory from childhood?
A: Sitting in the chestnut tree in our garden at home in Horley, looking out through the leaves into a perfect blue sky, dreaming ...

Q: What 5 words best describe you?
A: Inquisitive. Thoughtful. Stupid. Wishful. Alien.

Q: Are you really, truly depressed? If yeah ... how do you go on?
A: "I am the dead man walking with a smile on my face ..."

Q: During the Pornography era, did you ever attempt suicide?
A: Looking back - in a strange way, yes; but I don't really think that anyone who attempts suicide in truth can fail: there are too many high buildings ...

Q: What would you do if a die-hard fan said that they would run up to you in a pink jock strap on stage during a concert in order to prove his or her love for you?
A: I'd rather have flowers.

6. THE SONGS

Q: What inspired you to write "A Forest"?
A: 'A Forest' is based on a incident that happened to me in my early teens ...

Q: Do any/some/most/all of your songs have any kind of meaning? Or do you just sit down and write words on a page and it's done with??? I've been really curious about this for a long, long time. The Cure's lyrics are so poetic and diverse, I often enjoy lying in bed before I go to sleep and reading the lyrics from any chosen album. I find that it helps to put my mind at rest and conjure up some fascinating images that send me into dreamland much easier. Also, do you write the lyrics first or the music?
A: All of the songs mean something, although in varying degrees. They are usually created separately - I have a bag full of words, and when one of us comes up with a good piece of music, I look in the bag to see if anything there will fit. If nothing does, I sit down and try to put down on paper what the music makes me feel; very rarely will a piece of writing inspire a piece of music.

Q: Who are the women mentioned in "Club America," "Strange Attraction," and "The 13th?"
A: Some things stay secret!

Q: One Hundred Years and Siamese Twins are pretty enigmatic songs. Do they have autobiographic meaning? For example, what do the lyrics 'push a blade into my hand and slowly up the stairs and into the room is it always like this' mean?
A: Yes, they are both autobiographical. see 5e).

Q: What do you sing in the song "Harold and Joe" before the line "and I spit them right out". The line goes.."and if I swallow (something) then I spit them right out" ... it's bugging me. :) Thanks.
A: I can't remember and I haven't got it with me ... sorry!

Q: Which of your songs refer to your wife?
A: 'Lovesong' and quite a few others ...

7. THE GEAR

Q: I was wondering how Robert gets the chorus sound of a Roland JC-120 amplifier live (such as songs like "Play for Today.") I've actually had dreams of finding this out, but actually waking up finding out it was a dream. Do you actually use a JC-120 or do you use another effects unit? Please give me the specific brand and model. I know this may sound like a trivial question, but that sound is such a key to capturing the early Cure sound. I would like to duplicte this sound without having to actually buy a JC-120. Where can I find a Storm Distortion or Overdrive pedal? I read the article in Guitar World, but I have had no luck finding one and it seems no one has heard of such thing ... You are truly one of the all-time guitar greats, and you don't get enough recognition.
A: I haven't really had that 'early Cure sound' for years; I think the only safe way to get it is with a Fender Jazzmaster and a Roland JC120! on 'WMS'. I mainly used a Gibson Chet Atkins special edition through boss pedals into an ampeg VL503 combo, a Vox AC30 or a Marshall Bluesbreaker combo. On-stage I'm mainly using a Gretsch Tennessee Rose through boss pedals and a jen crybaby wah into 2 ampeg vl503 combos, one 'clean', one 'driven'. My fender 6-string bass still goes through boss pedals into an old Peavey musician 100 piggyback - as it has done for about 15 years!!!

8. THE BAND (PAST AND PRESENT)

Q: I'd really like to know why Boris Williams (ex-drummer) left The Cure before the recording of the new album.
A: Boris left to record and play with his girlfriend's group 'The Piggle'.

Q: Why did Porl Thompson and Boris Williams have really leave the line-up. I think they were both incredibly talented musicians and am wondering if it was their's or Robert's choice for them to leave, and (of course) why? I will be very disappointed to not see them on the tour.
A: Porl left to paint and play with 'Page and Plant'. We still see both of them.

9. THE TOUR

Q: Is there any city on the U.S./Canadian Tour in which he's particularly enjoyed himself? And could he imagine sticking around some more in them?
A: I have honestly really liked all of them! (although if I lived in America, I would probably want to be by the sea in New England or Oregon!)

Q (an amalgam): Hello, I was wondering if The Cure are ever planning to play: Alaska? Arkansas? Massachusetts? and playing at Great Woods (Robert said something relative to that idea at the Worcester Centrum show, and I'd hate to look forward to another great show if it's not going to happen.)
The ninth largest city in the U.S., San Antonio, Texas? (Granted this is the Tejano (German/Mexican flavored border music) capital of the world, but there are enough fans here I'm sure to make a show of it. Is it going to take another petition like the one we last sent you from Australia to get you out here again this tour?) Tucson, Arizona?
A: Alaska/Kansas/San Antonio/Tucson - not on this tour. Great Woods is happening on September 12th.

Q: Is The Cure coming back to Toronto to do their own show instead of an expensive venue like Edenfest?
A: We're in Toronto at the Varsity arena on September 9th.

Q: North Carolina? My friends from France told me that The Cure might play several special gigs next year for their 20th year anniversary. The most interesting is that there should meet and play with all (even former) members of the band. Except Lol, probably.
A: No North Carolina either this tour ... sorry.

Q: I want to know from Robert if The Cure are going to play some of their fantastic B-Sides-songs during this tour? And if not, why not? I think that most Cure fans are longing to hear these songs (EITHER they don't know older B-Sides at all OR they just have not heard them yet on any concert or concert-recording [you know what i mean :-)]
A: We currently know 71 songs, and we're playing for close to 3 hours a night - and we're still not doing any B-sides!!! What do we leave out? Or should we play for longer? (Not!) It's impossible ...

Q: What does Robert think about playing at smaller venues (up to one or two thousand people) rather than at the huge ones? There are lots of small venues with a fantastic atmosphere (and they could come to towns they have never been to)!
A: There has been an interesting mix of venues on this tour so far - and although I really like the theatre shows for their intimacy and intensity, I think an arena show with the whole 'production' up is still my favorite Cure experience ...

Q: Would the Cure ever consider playing a small venue (less then 1,000 fans) in the USA again?
A: Not on this tour.

Q: As a Cure fan, I am curious as to why Numb has not been played thus far on the tour. Will it be played at all?
A: We've now started playing it!

Q: Robert, at the end of a 2 1/2- to 3-hour performance are you totally exhausted? It seems like performing for that length of time would require tons of energy. I'm curious if you're left feeling exhilarated or exhausted?
A: I am usually left feeling both exhilarated and exhausted!

Q: What do the band members wives do while they are on tour?
A: Mine cries ...

10. THE NEW ALBUM

Q: The new album (Wild Mood Swings) seems to be going in a different direction than the past albums like Disintegration. Was the change in sound directly influenced by the band members themselves, or was it affected indirectly by the music that you were listening to at the time?
A: 'WMS' was influenced by all of this and more ... I think this is actually a pretty impossible question ... everything that goes on around us makes some difference, however small ...

Q: How did you come up with the name 'Mint Car'?
A: Only Simon knows, and he won't tell me! (It was the original title of his demo, and although it doesn't figure in the words, I like it!)

11. OH, IS THAT ALL?

Q: What is your point of view on life?
A: "We cannot put off living until we are ready." - Jose Ortega Y. Gasset.

Sorry it took so long!
Thanks,

Love Robert X.
 
 
 
 
                

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