Zwar hat sich Will Sheff von Okkervil River einige Zeit gelassen, unseren Lieblingsplattenfragebogen zu beantworten, dafür ist er aber nicht nur neben William Fitzsimmons der ausführlichste Begründer, sondern hat auch eine handvoll Bonmots hineingeschmuggelt (man beachte seinen Lieblingstanzsong und die Antwort auf „überschätztesten Musiker“):
* Your three favourite Punk singles/songs?
Three punk songs that leap to mind as among my “favorites” are “Hot Wire My Heart” by Crime, “Weapons for El Salvador” by the Ex, and “Bodies” by the Sex Pistols. What I love about “Bodies” is just the general sense of all-around squirming horror at being alive that this song evokes in me. It’s like a scream of existential panic at being a body. I love the way at the very end of the song, John Lydon kind of groans queasily, like he’s just nauseated himself. It’s a nauseating song, too, full of hatred for women and hatred for the body and hatred for humanity. It’s also politically nauseating, because, being adamantly pro-choice, I could not possibly disagree more with the message of this song. But somehow when “Bodies” is playing, all my natural convictions get overturned and, for three minutes, I totally agree with him. I love that power art has, the power to put an alien idea into your head.
I feel a bit the same way about “Weapons for El Salvador” by The Ex in which the message of the song is that violence can solve political problems. Obviously, this is a message I feel conflicted about, but they manage to convince me using hardly any lyrics, just this kind of brutally simple chant. I love the mean, stripped down, broken-machine quality to this recording. It’s just this minimal pummeling beat and this kind of industrial tribal chant, spit out with Dutch accents that almost accidentally sound as British as John Lydon.
In the case of Crime, I just think they’re a fantastic band. I think people often credit them with being the West Coast’s first punk band, and they’re completely different than everything that came later. They feel more adult and playful, maybe you’d call them more sensual. They also play incredibly loud. Crime is the sound of a bunch of amps all cranked to 11 in a little concrete room, with a feeding-back vocal blasting out of a shitty PA. It’s very sonically bracing. “Hot Wire My Heart” is classic punk snottiness but it’s also kind of musically forward-looking, anticipating a band like Sonic Youth (who actually ended up covering this song I believe).
* A record that will make you dance?
I come from the East Coast, rural New Hampshire, where the winters are punishing and the women don’t wear makeup and nobody dances. That said, if I were going to dance, a record that always wants to make me dance is the record Obaa Sima by Ata Kak.
It’s this kind of funky electronic highlife music from Ghana in 1989, a very rare cassette that was spread around by that great website “Awesome Tapes From Africa.” To me it somehow sounds like this weird alternate-universe version of the 80s, like Prince and Michael Jackson were twins carried by the same mother and their two embryos fused into one being that was born in Ghana but was tragically eaten alive by a Casio keyboard seconds after being born.
* Your favourite song lyrics?
I can never choose a “favorite” anything because my favorites are always changing. But recently my mind keeps coming back to the lyrics in Loudon Wainwright III’s song “Hospital Lady,” which describe, with this mix of brutal clarity and really florid surrealism, an old woman dying in the hospital. There’s just such a sense of horror to it, such a feeling of this being the end of the road, such a lack of transcendence. And yet there’s this beautiful rippling wave of poetry billowing over the whole scene, which makes everything feel unearthly. It’s like a Francis Bacon painting set to music.
* The best “new” artist / band right now?
Destroyer comes to mind, not as a “new” artist but as a “current” artist. I think the new Destroyer record “Kaputt” is a strong candidate for the best rock album of the year. Dan Bejar completely captured that “poets’ party record” vibe.
* Your favourite song by Bright Eyes / Conor Oberst?
Man, it’s been so long since I’ve heard a Bright Eyes song. Nothing against him, I just think I’ve been so absorbed in my own world of weird old classic rock that I haven’t had a chance to pull my head out of that world and look around me at what else is going on. Sometimes I think this is a bad practice, and that I need to pay more attention to this stuff.
* The best song this year so far?
God, I don’t know. As with the previous question, I don’t really listen to new music as much as I should. I just feel like there’s so much great old stuff to discover. I like feeling like I’m the Indiana Jones of some old unknown rock record, stumbling upon this record, covered in weeds and vines, hacking through with a machete and finding the ancient treasure inside. Compared to that feeling, hearing a new artist just feels like going to the supermarket. I guess I like that Rihanna song? The “Oh Na Na” one. (Anm.: „That’s Not My Name“ – Rihanna feat. Drake) That’s probably not even from this year. I like the weird emotionally blank quality in Rihanna’s voice, like she’s a singing sex robot where the sex wouldn’t be that great because they haven’t really worked the programming out yet.
* Your favourite song by Johnny Cash?
The Johnny Cash record that blows me away the most is his live at San Quentin album, and not the condensed version but the full version of this record, with all the crowd interaction and him playing the song “San Quentin” twice. Cash seems 50 feet tall on this record. There’s a whole room full of criminals out there and he has such incredible authority and control over them that he actually plays with that control a little bit, like when he brings the prison guard out so everyone can jeer at him and taunt him. There’s something thrilling and kind of scary about it. At the same time, he’s using this power and this control to help the prisoner audience feel a kind of release or catharsis. It’s a group catharsis, too. This, I think, is actually what every audience wants, but in this particular situation it’s just so urgent. It’s not just a want, it’s a need. It’s such a primal version of what we’re looking for out of entertainment, especially live entertainment with a large group audience. And Johnny Cash does it so expertly, and with such compassion and respect for this group of guys. It’s electrifiying. I think the second time he plays “San Quentin” is the highlight of the record and my favorite Cash song and performance.
* Your favourite movie about music?
Definitely the Rolling Stones film Gimme Shelter. It’s kind of like a dark and hopeless version of the Johnny Cash performance recording. At the same time, it’s just a great piece of Stones mythology.
* Your favourite song by Pete Doherty?
I have to confess that I have never in my life heard a single song written by Pete Doherty. Again, this is my head-in-the-sand thing. People whose taste I really trust say he’s great.
* The most overrated band/artist?
This is all opinion, of course. I don’t know, Janis Joplin comes to mind? And it’s not that I don’t enjoy her singing, I just don’t really like The Cult of Janis Joplin. If you refer to Janis Joplin by just her first name, chances are we’re not going to get along musically.
* Your favourite song by Will Oldham (Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy)?
I like that song that goes something like “I would rather be dead, in a shark’s mouth.” I don’t know the name. (Anm.: „My Home Is In The Sea“ vom „Superwolf“-Album, einer Kollaboration von Will Oldham mit Matt Sweeney)
But that one’s great, with this really nice rollicking rock vibe, and neat and adventurous lyrics. I’ve always admired the Scots-Irish feel that runs through some of his songs too. I think he’s one of the only contemporary artists who does that well.
* Your favourite german song/record?
This would be a tie between Neu and Can, because I’m huge fans of both. Probably between the two, I’d choose Can and the album Ege Bamyasi. I love the organic feeling of Can’s songs, or rather this tension between these locked-in machinelike grooves and this sense of nature invading, rain and rot and roots kind of churning under everything. And there is no vocalist in the world like Damo Suzuki. He invented this whole style that other people have really only touched upon, never managed to expand. That said, if I were to choose the German song that probably had the most impact on my own writing, I think it would be famous Brecht/Weill “Die Moritat Von Mackie Messer.”
I just love the storytelling, the casual brutality, the gallows humor, and I love everything Weill brought into popular music, this embrace of discord and ugliness and low culture, and this all-around exuberance.
Das neue Album von Okkervil River, I Am Very Far, ist bereits erschienen: