Mr Ratboy, Mr Popular (Lou) and Cowboy
interviewd by Carles Batalla for Popular 1 Magazine (Spain, 2010)
“American Seizure” is your fifth album. Which are the new things, the differences between the previous ones?
COWBOY MARK: I don’t think there’s anything new, really. We’ve never worked in that sort of calculated way. The new album was basically written, arranged and recorded in just two days, with a few quick overdub sessions later. It was a good exercise in honouring our instincts as a band.
LOU: Yeah, I agree. It is pretty much the same old schtick, but I find a bit of comfort in knowing when we release an album it’s going to be a Sour Jazz album. I do feel the songwriting continues to evolve, but it still ends up where we left off. Hell, we write most of our stuff individually, but as soon as each of us gets their grimey little fingers on it, that’s what we get. For better or for worse, I feel the song “Little Hands” takes us a bit outside our box.
MR RATBOY: It’s even better shit than our regular excellent shit.
This one is dedicated to Ron Asheton. In what sense have The Stooges influenced your life and your music?
LOU: Who are The Stooges?
MR RATBOY: “Funhouse" is the best album ever made, and I met my wife at a Dark Carnival show. What else do you need? Ron was the man.
You worked with the legendary Daniel Rey. How was the experience?
COWBOY MARK: There’s this sort of easy flow, working with Daniel, kind of a natural mutual understanding. I’m proud of his involvement and grateful for his enthusiasm. I’m respectful of his talents and sensibilities, and I value his friendship.
LOU: As Cowboy would say, he’s a top notch diamond geezer. The groove is always the coolest.
MR RATBOY: I’ve always been a big fan of his productions, especially “Halfway to Sanity” by the Ramones and the first Circus of Power album. He has done wonders for us, I’m grateful I got to record with him. Soon I’ll even get to share a seat in a minivan with him!
And there are eight additional musicians. Is it because you wanted to include different points of view, because you wanted to make an open-minded album?
COWBOY MARK: No, we’re not that complex, I think that we just like to involve our friends, really. And we respect the songs enough to recognise that some of them require contributions that none of us are able to make ourselves as musicians. We’ve always brought people like Stephen Moses [trombone] and Jim Duffy [keyboards] into the studio with us. The two of them have played on every Sour Jazz album.
LOU: I think that is what makes Sour Jazz what it is. I personally would have horns on every fucking song. That’s probably why Daniel is the producer. He knows how to do it tastefully. Honestly, I feel that’s part of the formula. If you listen closely to each album, you can figure it out.
MR RATBOY: Since I’m too lazy to learn how to play sax or trombone, I have to settle for so called “additional musicians.” In reality, these guys are much more musically gifted than anyone in our rock combo! Their contributions are essential to our sound and every time we start calling them for overdubs, I have anxiety attacks at the thought that one of them might have moved away...
Your songs have a lot of power, energy and sweat. Do you plan it that way or is it something that comes naturally?
LOU: In a different time I probably would have said cocaine, speed, and a lack of personal hygiene. But I’d like to think we have become a little smarter.
MR RATBOY: We plan it that way. We carefully plan EVERYTHING we do.
Before you began, you didn’t want to join a band. After eleven years, how do you feel being in a band?
LOU: Rat rings me up one day and he says,“I don’t want to be in a band and you don’t want to be in a band, so we might as well be in a band together.” After a few failed attempts at finding the same sort of liggers as us, along came Cowboy and Splat. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long. It’s probably because we hardly ever see each other anymore. Seriously, I still love the bastards. I have been fortunate to have become associated with a group of freaks that are as fucked up as I am.
MR RATBOY: The secret of our longevity is that we do not see each other much. We’re like a super cheapo version of the Stones, we record every few years and tour even less. Every time we get together, we’re happy to see each other and that excitement is reflected in our music. If we all lived in the same city, we would have broken up a long time ago.
You are coming to play in Spain. Are you excited about it?
COWBOY MARK: I’m really looking forward to seeing Spain, yeah. Goya, Dali, Picasso, Miro, Gris! Paella! And I think we’re all probably looking forward to seeing each other again and spending a bit of time together… and I know we’re all excited about playing on stage with Daniel as part of the band, which we’ve never done before.
LOU: It will be my second visit to Spain. I have a lot of fond memories from the first time. Except for my brief excursion into Morocco where I got my ass kicked. But that’s another story. I always said I would be going back. Great people, good food. I’m looking forward to the calamari and coffee.
MR RATBOY: Yes. Spain rocked my world before, it’s payback time.
What do you think of The Cocktail Slippers, the female band who will support you in Spain?
LOU: Female band. Need I say more? Honestly, I was not familiar with them until I discovered we were on the marquee together. That’s not to insinuate anything other than my lack of awareness of the cool bands that are out today. I did check out their myspace page and was impressed with their sound. I’m looking forward to sharing the bill with them.
MR RATBOY: They look like a rocking bunch, do they dress to the left as well?
Do you rely on new young American rock and roll bands, or do you think that generational shift hasn’t arrived yet?
COWBOY MARK: I have no time for new young American rock and roll bands, and they probably have no time for me. It’s a simple arrangement, but it works.
LOU: At this point in my life I’m not even sure of what that means.
MR RATBOY: I rely on three chords and attitude.