...sometimes it seems like David Thomas keeps his back catalogue in print because he thinks (or hopes) that maybe that way, understanding will eventually sink in. He's probably wrong of course, but it's easy to understand why he'd find it futile to endlessly re-debate the 1970s. The battle's been lost; Pere Ubu's been enshrined as a pioneering proto-punk act, the better to allow critics to trace lineages and build imaginary hierarchies the most obsessive football fans would envy. "First we were pre-industrial, then we were industrial, then we were post-industrial," he scoffs. "First we were this, then we were the other thing. It's all baloney, and the reason there's so much confusion about it is, we're mainstream rock. It's not my fault that the rest of the world has gone off into a bizarre parallel universe where they find comfort in experimental music."
If that statement seems counterintuitive, it's because of the dominant, and obfuscatory, role marketing jargon has achieved in artistic discourse. Thomas, having been a professional musician for more than 30 years, sees things clearly and simply--a group playing three-chord songs with guitar, bass, drums and occasional synth is a rock group, not some avant garde art project. It's those who make their music with computers, in the least organic manner possible, who are the strange ones, to him. "In the early 70s," he says, "the evolution of rock was very, very, very obvious. Analogue synthesizers and concrete sound was entering into the music. Various people had various strategies, and it wasn't one thing. It was stuido techniques and other things. All of it, to us, was coming to this juncture. And it was very obvious to us that this was what rock music was supposed to be, to make use of this powefull, relatively new narrative voice. That's why I've always said that we are in the mainstream. It's people like Eminem or Britney Spears who are the weird experimentalists. They are avant garde. They are dealing with weird alternative worlds. If you put our view of the human condition alongside Britney Spears's, one of them is extremely experimental and weird, and it's Ms Spears'."
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Experimental and Weird
Related to earlier posts of mine (here and here), this is from Phil Freeman's interview with David Thomas, in this month's issue of The Wire: