The return of the Flesh Eaters
Chris D (Desjardins) is one of those cult rock legends who many might’ve figured “wouldn’t be around” in 2018.
He simultaneously helped invent spooky swamp punk, noir-y garage rock, and even lit an alt-country fuse with the L.A. bands the Flesh Eaters and Divine Horsemen throughout the early 1980s. But he did so with no small amount of scene drama, pharmaceutical interest, label jumps, and fracas-fueled band member changes – while also being a producer and Slash Records A&R guy in between.
But there he was, knocking around from the late ‘80s through to the early 2000s (a period that was a kind of retirement or noncommittal incubator moment for most of the original cast of late-70s L.A. punks). There was the band Stone By Stone, and then more Flesh Eaters iterations, some novels, a little film work, and a new Flesh Eaters album in 2004, Miss Muerte, a soundtrack for a film he’d made, I Pass for Human. An invite for a Flesh Eaters reunion at the 2006 “All Tomorrow’s Parties” fest led to drawn out conversations and more reunion shows in 2015 and 2018.
And through it all, Chris D seemed to have ditched his outward demons, while retaining the gumption to wrestle the inner ones, and has become something of a constant on Facebook, offering film picks, musical updates, and smidgeons of gossip to keep you thinking.
When word came up from Swamp Chris last spring about possible new Flesh Eaters recordings, one could assume that he might just be able to pull it off. And so he has with the fine new Flesh Eaters reunion record, I Used to Be Pretty (Yep Roc).
First off, Chris was able to wrangle the legendary “classic” Flesh Eaters lineup that made the band’s certifiable time capsule keeper, 1981’s A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die (recently reissued by Superior Viaduct).
That band was an L.A. all-star army, featuring Dave Alvin and Bill Bateman from the Blasters, John Doe and DJ Bonebreak from X, and Steve Berlin (Plugz, Los Lobos).
Add to that spine-tingling crew, for five of the 11 songs, Chris’ longtime collaborator, Julie Christensen. Her cagey harmonies creep around Chris D’s instantly recognizable warble, which is deeper, more stately now, as he leaves that trademark higher-pitched squeal for fewer, maximum effect moments. Combined with nervous, walking blues rhythms, the parallels to Nick Cave are more apparent than they might have been when both these artists were younger gothic punk contemporaries from opposite ends of the world. Berlin’s near ever-present sax rolls around the songs like a car slowly following behind yo at a not exactly safe distance down a desolate road.
The first track released online, a cover of the Sonics’ “Cinderella,” felt a little pedestrian and superfluous since it’s been covered a bajillion times.
But luckily, once you get to hear the whole album, it stands as a solid addition to the Flesh Eaters canon. Some of it actually originated from the previous canon. Six of the tracks here are “re-imaginings” of previous Chris D songs, but they’re given growling run-throughs, with the flailing “Pony Dress” and “The Wedding Dice” as re-done standouts. Two covers – an old Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac nugget and the Gun Club’s “She’s Like Heroin to Me” – make sordid sense. And the two brand new originals start and end the album as the best tracks: the graveyard stroll opener, “Black Temptation,” that announces the fact that Chris D is still as shaky as ever; and the sprawling closer, “Ghost Cave Lament,” which Chris claimed brought up feelings of the Doors’ “The End” while he recorded it – but don’t hold that against it. The song eventually riles up and burns like a classic Flesh Eaters guitar nightmare.
We caught up with the lead Eater about the new album and the old days.
So, there were some Flesh Eaters reunion shows in 2015, and eight shows earlier this year with basically the band you have on I Used to Be Pretty. Was there a particular kind of “Ah-ha!!” moment during one of the shows where you thought, “We really should record some stuff?”
Funny you should ask because there really was an “ah-hah!” moment, I believe in San Francisco (or as late as our Seattle gig) this past January, after experiencing the thundering dynamo that had evolved as our version of “The Green Manalishi” and newer versions of Flesh Eaters songs that this line-up had never played on before, particularly “My Life to Live.” I said to myself – then later to the guys – “We have GOT to get in the studio ASAP while we’re still fresh and still tight and document this!” I was pleasantly surprised at the enthusiastic response.
So how did you get the kind of “classic” lineup back together after all those years? And where did you have the first practices for last spring’s tour and for the new album?
The Mudhoney guys were initially responsible back in 2006 when they got in touch with John Doe and I to put this line-up back together to play All Tomorrow’s Parties. It was happening in the south of England, down near Dover, that year. Mudhoney picked all the other bands that would perform the day that they were headlining. They wanted The Flesh Eaters, particularly the A Minute to Pray line-up, if it was doable. Luckily the guys were all free of their usual commitments, and the festival organizers met our terms, so voila! We also did three warm-up shows in San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco a couple of weeks beforehand. Back then we rehearsed at the now defunct Yo Studios out in North Hollywood, which was run by my late friend and colleague, Robyn Jameson, who also played bass in my other band, Divine Horsemen (1984-1988), as well as several alternate Flesh Eaters line-ups in the 1982-’83 and 1997-2004 time periods. The A Minute to Pray line-up periodically corresponded with each other after 2006 to see when we could do shows again, since we’d all had a ball doing it. A couple gigs almost happened in 2007 and 2008, but fell through in the planning stages because of scheduling conflicts. I’d let the idea lie dormant until 2014, when I found myself jobless for the first time in 15 years. Surprisingly, everyone was very up for doing it, and we planned for January, 2015. We practiced at Bedrock rehearsal studios in 2015 and 2018, which is on the cusp of the Silver Lake and Echo Park neighborhoods.
When listening back to the reinterpretations of earlier material – why those six songs particularly? When bands revisit older songs, a usual reason given is a feeling that the original recording was maybe done quickly or didn’t have money to finish it; and now maybe you can concentrate on it the way you’d have originally wanted to. Would that be the case with any of the six re-dos?
I felt that performing live, only the eight songs from A Minute to Pray – plus the covers “Cinderella” and “She’s Like Heroin to Me” – over and over again was a bit stifling, so I wanted to open it up, adding some other Flesh Eaters songs. The third Flesh Eaters album from 1982, Forever Came Today, was finally getting its first reissue (and its debut on CD) through Superior Viaduct in 2016, and I thought the most popular tunes from that album, “My Life to Live” and “The Wedding Dice,” would be naturals for this line-up and would be welcomed by the audiences. I love “Pony Dress,” and it is the most punk song we do – and the oldest one, originally dating from 1979. Lyrically, it is a weirdly frenetic, perversely surreal and complex love song. For some unfathomable reason, it’s been an audience favorite consistently since 1980. It’s still requested vociferously every time we play. It’s also the song I’ve recorded the most times. Besides that 1979 recording done for the Tooth & Nail punk compilation, I recorded it again in 1982 with the Forever Came Today line-up, then now this third time with these guys for the new album. Kind of an odd coincidence, John Doe and DJ [Bonebreak] played bass and drums on the original 1979 recording, and Steve Berlin played sax on the 1982 recording. But this is the first time where the whole A Minute to Pray line-up recorded it together.
“House Amid the Thickets” (the original is from the 1999 Ashes of Time Flesh Eaters album) sounds a bit like the A Minute to Pray line-up to begin with, and I love singing that song live. “Miss Muerte,” the title song from the 2004 Flesh Eaters album (which was the last album to date before I Used to be Pretty), I’ve always thought was “hit material.” if you can say a band called The Flesh Eaters is capable of such a thing. Both those albums, Ashes of Time and Miss Muerte were self-financed and received low profile attention at the time they came out. I got a nice, page-long story in the LA Weekly on Ashes of Time’s release, but that whole generation of rock writers who’d loved The Flesh Eaters and Divine Horsemen in the past had pretty much disappeared at the turn of the millennium. Print media was already in decline because of the internet, many older writers had either stopped writing, or had died! So it was disappointing trying to get noticed during that period. It did not help that Miss Muerte, recorded in 2002-03, was a completely studio-generated album without a live line-up to support it with club dates on its release through Atavistic Records in 2004. I still think it’s one of the best Flesh Eaters albums since the early 1980s, but it fell through the cracks at the time. The song “The Youngest Profession” (which is a song originally done on the SST-era Flesh Eaters album, Dragstrip Riot, from 1991) was a last-minute addition. Despite a simple one-riff, blues-rock/blues shout type structure, Dave felt it would be like trying to catch lightning in a bottle each night, and that we did not have enough time to spend on it in rehearsal to capture the groove. Ironically, when we were in the recording studio in April, and the recording of all the other material was going so phenomenally well, Dave was the one who spontaneously suggested we try to record it.
Much like the new songs, “Black Temptation” and “Ghost Cave Lament,” the rest of the band (besides Dave) had barely heard it before we were in the studio. Of all the songs, that one was the most ‘flying-by-the-seat-of-our-pants’ for the other guys. Miraculously, Dave’s instincts that day were right on the money. In this newer version, you get the three patches in the song where Dave’s guitar and Steve’s sax chaotically, dissonantly duke it out in escalating volume and craziness. I love the original version from “Dragstrip Riot”, but this one easily withstands comparison and, in some ways, surpasses it. It’s got a looser, yet more dynamic feel.
How did you feel about your own vocals as you were recording, and how they have or haven’t changed? I love how you seem to employ your higher pitch warbles so efficiently on the new album – they come less, but maybe more striking. And how about the vocal interplay between you and Christensen – did you notice a kind of development in it over the years? (I assume maybe you haven’t recorded together in a while?)
When I first started singing in 1977, I had no idea what I was doing. Which was okay. It was the great thing about that so-called “punk era,” because you didn’t need validation from some higher-up expert or music police to enter the kingdom of rock. That DIY/sink-or-swim ethos was instrumental in unleashing an immense stampede of talent across the western world and tearing down this false barrier created by the then stagnant music industry.
I learned to sing as I went along. I’ve been lucky enough to have a natural, innate sense of melody, although I’m not classically-trained. I can’t read music and still have a hard time distinguishing one chord from another. But I’ve intuitively picked things up and have such a fertile memory of rock, soul, and country music, as well as movie music scores from the 1960s onwards, and that has consistently stood me in good stead. Bits and pieces of melody float up from who-knows-where in the depths of my psyche, my wellspring of memory, and I’m able to plug into that ether.
One of the first persons to give me some simple pointers on singing was John Doe. He’d occasionally give me little hints on vocal dynamics that helped a lot, particularly around the time of the first and second Flesh Eaters’ albums. I’d occasionally fuck things up back then, particularly in live gig situations, in the 1982-’83 period by drinking too much. Thankfully that period was short-lived. Hooking up with Julie Christensen, both musically and romantically, was a turning point. We had this kind of Beauty and the Beast chemistry that gelled. We both recognized it, and we both learned a tremendous amount from each other, filling in the gaps where the other person might be deficient. I learned priceless lessons in vocalizing from her, mostly from osmosis. We have actually recorded together since the Divine Horsemen-era and since our break-up in late 1987. Once I got sober in 1996, we became friendly again, though by that time she was remarried (and still is.) She sang back-up vocals on quite a few songs on the Ashes of Time album (along with Juanita Myers & Erika Wear) from 1999; then again on Miss Muerte. Julie also did two duets with me on that record. That whole album sounds like a hybrid of The Flesh Eaters and the later more rock-oriented Divine Horsemen.
So I’ll be honest, the first track from I Used to Be Pretty that I saw pop up on the internet was the cover of the Sonics’ “Cinderella,” and I thought, “Oh man, another Sonics cover?!” But the way you sort of run the sax as the riff rather than the usual guitar way everyone else would try is pretty cool. How did you pick that track to cover? How did the Sonics come into your life in general? Was the digging into underbelly 1960s garage rock a big influence on the L.A. scene when you started?
I’d heard – and was a fan – of proto-punk bands during the 1960s from The Rolling Stones, The Animals, and The Doors to more local bands like The Standells, then the wild men from Michigan, The Stooges and MC5. But I didn’t really get turned onto The Sonics until 1975 or so. I loved all their stuff right off. “Cinderella” was the one outside cover the A Minute to Pray line-up originally did back in the 1981-era, although we did not record it at the time. I’d have to say that, to me, garage band rock was synonymous with the mid-to-late 1970s-era punk coming out of the USA and UK. I had all kinds of garage band influences, from early gritty electric, Brit blues rock to psychobilly (much the same influence there as The Cramps and The Gun Club). Punk didn’t really make a radical departure from those garage band basics (and from the glam-punk hybrids of Diamond Dogs Bowie, The New York Dolls, et. al.) until hardcore music started surfacing in 1979-1980. There was some hardcore punk I dug at first, such as early Black Flag, but most of it, in retrospect, got tiresome very quickly.
Right after “Cinderella,” “Pony Dress” and “The Wedding Dice” are really exciting, flailing takes. I mean this in the most heartfelt way – where do you think you and the band’s energy and anger came from around the recording of this record?
I don’t know if I’d qualify too much of the emotion on this new record as anger, though there is still a huge backlog of romantic frustration clogged-up in my own psyche. The energy-level is a different story. When we all get together, something strikes sparks from our youth, and we all get this adrenaline rush from playing together. Much like the chemistry I have with Julie C. in our Divine Horsemen collaboration. I – actually all of us Flesh Eaters together – have this energizing, rejuvenating chemistry when we’re playing together. Because of the other members’ commitments, these guys seem to hold the Flesh Eaters time together as precious. It’s still fun. None of us overthink things too much. I think we are all grateful we are all still alive, still connected and still have this magic we’re getting to share. It sounds corny, but it’s true.
In general, can you tell me about the recording sessions for this new album? Where recorded, what kind of gear (tape or digital), and if a particular story pops out – like you all went out for a good dinner one night, or people fought during a mix session, or whatever…
The album was recorded at this place Dave Alvin has been using for his last couple of albums, Winslow Court Studios on Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood. It’s owned by the engineer, Craig Parker Adams, who is an exemplary, simpatico collaborator. He got what we were trying to do straight off, and he facilitated it in a super-efficient, sympathetic, and intuitive fashion. All the recording was digital. Of course, Dave and John were playing through tube amps. Once we got into the mixing and mastering part of the album, Craig would break out some vintage tube-run analog processors and such, which gave the music a kind of warmth and fullness many musicians associate with that tube/analog sound.
The times I’ve briefly met you, you seem like a perfectly cordial fellow. But it’s been expressed in the past that maybe you’re not always the easiest guy to be in a band with. As age allows us self-reflection, what would you say to those sorts of opinions?
I don’t know where you’ve heard that. It’s funny because my ex-girlfriend, Donna, back in 2013 looked me up on Spotify (or maybe she was looking up The Flesh Eaters specifically), and she told me some jerk writing the copy for my brief bio described Chris D. as being “renowned for his poor social skills,” for not being able to keep together a steady line-up of any of his early band configurations! It’s still up there by the way! LOL. That wasn’t the reason I had problems keeping line-ups together. My main problem was getting together Flesh Eaters line-ups who had guitar players who wanted to be front-men in their own bands (e.g. Tito Larriva of The Plugz in 1977 and Stan Ridgway in early 1978).
I also had zero confidence I could take a line-up out on the road and make it work financially. I also had my finger in too many other so-called artistic pies (e.g. writing, acting). The line-up for A Minute to Pray in ‘81 – this same I Used to be Pretty line-up that is tentatively together now – was originally never meant to exist beyond that one album and the six or seven gigs in the first half of that year. From 1980-84, I was also employed at Slash Records as an A&R guy and an in-house producer (The Gun Club, Dream Syndicate, Green on Red, and remixing some Misfits and Germs stuff). In 1983, around the time the fourth Flesh Eaters album, A Hard Road to Follow, was recorded, I got along great with all of those guys. But for each of our rehearsals they’d spend half the time bickering amongst themselves about petty stuff while I stood on the sidelines. Which is one of several reasons I finally broke up that line-up in late 1983 and started doing the Divine Horsemen. As far as a bandleader – although establishing a clear vision for whatever the band’s direction, my writing of 95% of the lyrics and my reserving ultimate veto power on song ideas (which I rarely used) – I was very commie pinko compared to most other ‘bandleaders’ whom I knew during the 1980s and 1990s era. Although Jeffrey Lee Pierce remained a dear friend whose musical talent was unimpeachable, he was notoriously hard on some of his band members. I never ever got into that territory.
The title of the new album – I think some of the reimagined songs sound a bit more stately and tight compared to the originals. In a sense, more “pretty” than the originals. That’s a way into asking – maybe you’re prettier in ways today than you were back then? And conversely, how are you uglier today than you were 25 years ago?
I think once you reach my age (65), or even when you’re in your late fifties, it’s something that’s always in the back of your mind, whether you’re a man or a woman, whether it’s conscious or unconscious. There’s also a decline in libido to one degree or another, which can be bolstered if you keep the right attitude and diet. But physiologically-speaking, everything about aging can start to be a bit of a slog, to put it mildly. Your metabolism slows down. You eat one or two cookies, then suddenly have gained five pounds. At its most tolerable, it’s all relatively minor stuff. But it adds up after a while and can be frustrating – if you let it. I personally do not feel as attractive to the opposite sex as I did even ten years ago.
Referencing the I Used to Be Pretty album cover, I saw my photographer friend, Deb Frazin, post her photo of the beat-up car with the graffiti on its side on Facebook way back in 2015. I had told her many times how much I loved the photo. When it came time to come up with an album cover, that photo immediately sprang to mind. It seemed to resonate so clearly, in kind of a self-deprecatingly humorous way, with the material, and with how anyone even remotely in the public eye must occasionally feel as they age.
There’s one thing I always noticed and appreciated about your musical work in general. So I am a proud Clevelander by birth, and as I developed my own musical tastes – specifically of the punk/post-punk variety – I obviously gravitated towards the kind of darker, sarcastic, film-obsessed, cold weather-affected sounds that come from the upper east coast and Midwest, where bands spend a lot of time indoors brooding and drinking cheap beer. Your music, for the most part, always felt like it fell more in line with that kind of vibe, with a little Southern Gothic in there too, rather than the (mostly, I think) brighter, or at least melodic and often British punk-influenced sounds of early west coast punk.
So, did you in fact get a lot of your inspiration from non-L.A. sources? Did you feel apart from any perceived “L.A. scene” back then?
To some extent, I feel and have felt apart. I’ve certainly been more influenced by cinematic and literary sources than many other people on the so-called L.A. music scene from that period. One area I’ve had in common with other musician friends, such as John Doe and Exene, Dave Alvin, Jeffrey Lee Pierce, maybe Lydia Lunch, is the literary influences.
Speaking of Jeffrey Lee Pierce, good cover of “She’s Like Heroin to Me.” Do you have a memory of the first time you ever saw the Gun Club? Or just a good (or bad) story about seeing Jeffrey Lee Pierce early on?
I actually started to perform that song per request from Keith Morris and Rob Zabrecky when they were staging the first Jeffrey Lee Pierce Gun Club tributes in L.A. clubs in the late 1990s. There were at least four or five of those memorial tribute shows between 1997–2005 or so. A consistent backing band, but so-called “old school” L.A. punk/roots vocalists including Keith Morris, John Doe, Kid Congo, Falling James, et. al. I was always asked to do that specific tune. If they wanted me to do more than one song, I’d add in “Ghost on the Highway” and Jody Reynold’s “Fire of Love” (which the Gun Club covered on Miami). Then when we did the first A Minute to Pray Flesh Eaters reunion in 2006, we started covering it as well (then again in 2015 and this past January, 2018), so it seemed a natural to record it.
I met Jeffrey at the Slash Magazine office in 1978 or 1979 when the mag was briefly headquartered in a second story of a building on Fairfax and Santa Monica Boulevard. It was about three blocks north of where I lived on Fairfax at the time. We both just happened to be turning in our record reviews to Slash the same afternoon, and Claude introduced me. Jeffrey was known as Ranking Jeffrey Lea (that’s the way he spelled Lee then), and he was writing more reggae reviews than anything else. I’m pretty sure I saw one of the earliest line-ups of The Gun Club when they played at The Hong Kong Café in LA’s Chinatown. They were still called The Creeping Ritual, and Kid Congo and Don Snowden may’ve been in the line-up. A hazy memory, but I remember enjoying the set. Then in the 1981-’82 period, when I knew Jeffrey much better, he laid a demo tape on me and Robyn Weiss when we were working at Slash Records (the Tito Larrriva-produced session that ended up, remixed, as half of the first Gun Club album that I co-produced, Fire of Love).
Speaking of L.A. legends, you mentioned that the last track of the new album – “Ghost Cave Lament” – the churning, sprawling movement of it brought up the Doors in your mind.
The “Ghost Cave Lament” lyrics were generated from lines from three long poems I’d written in the 2008 period, then also my cannibalizing the best lines from three or four song lyrics I’d written since 2013. I did a bit of an intuitive cut-up of the phrases, a method I’ve used since the mid-1970s. The correct placement for some of the lines wasn’t even decided until I was right there in the vocal booth in April, when we were recording the song live.
The musical ideas stemmed from a lengthy instrumental piece, “Moritas Moras,” by the late flamenco guitarist, Manitas de Plata. The funny thing about “Moritas Moras” (which is gypsy slang for “young girlfriend”) is that it is an old, traditional flamenco piece, and there are not only countless versions that’ve been recorded by other flamenco artists, but other versions by de Plata himself. And virtually none of them sound like each other! I had originally envisioned a kind of flamenco-influenced series of guitar riffs for “Ghost Cave Lament,” but played loud, distorted, and garage punk/free-jazz Sonic Youth style, kind of like “So Long” from A Minute to Pray.
However, the few times Dave and I got to rehearse it together in his living room before we went into the studio, that’s not the way it turned out. It turned into a rolling, creepy, atmospheric flamenco love ballad/blues lament. We got into the studio – we recorded it as the last song of the sessions – and it became even more different. The other guys had only heard it once or twice, yet everyone seemed to psychically connect with each other, intuiting what would come next and improvising as we went along. It was the kind of thing that happens rarely. It was literally raising the hairs on the back of my neck as we recorded it. Where was this coming from? Because it was really conjuring up something from the ether, from the collective unconscious. We only did two takes, which is remarkable.
Originally, I’d thought the song would run seven or eight minutes, tops. But our first pass-through was almost 20 minutes long. Some great stuff throughout, but a little too unfocused, too meandering. On our second try – which is the take used on the album – we nailed it, though it was just over 13 minutes in length. After listening to it, we decided not to try to do any editing. We were afraid of screwing it up. Virtually the whole track is live. I have to compliment Bill’s drumming. He kept in synch with all of us as far as dynamics, the highs and lows in the song. I kept all of my original vocals, no redos. Dave came in and added some tremolo guitar as fills the next day. I asked Steve to add in a soprano sax on the choruses, following along with the vocal melody. DJ added another complimentary marimba track. Then Julie came in a couple days later to lay down the backing vocals.
I’m still spooked by the entire recording. You can still hear maybe distant echoes of Manitas de Plata, but unexpected influences seem to pop in as well, particularly reminiscent of The Doors’ “The End” from their first LP and “My Wild Love” from their third album, Dr. John’s “Walk on Gilded Splinters,” and I imagine one could easily hear faint Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave influences. (NOTE: Ironically, I did edit the song to an approximately 6:50 minute version, which will manifest as the video version only. The longer, uncut version of “Ghost Cave Lament” is the one on the vinyl and CD configurations.)
Also, I was channel surfing recently and landed on that 1991 Doors movie from Oliver Stone – what did you think of that flick?
I actually went to see it in theatres. I was still giving Oliver Stone the benefit of the doubt. But I was unimpressed at the time. At this point, I actually kind of hate it.
Agreed. It’s kind of funny though. I like Crispin Glover as Warhol. Anyway, as you’ve covered Fleetwood Mac’s “The Green Manalishi” on the new album, I would like to add you to the chorus of people who have, over the years, desperately tried to impart to people what kind of band Fleetwood Mac was before they became the huge hitmakers we know them as today.
Unfortunately, I never saw the original Peter Green line-up, which to me was the superior one. I saw one incarnation of Fleetwood Mac live, the transitional Kiln House/Future Games line-up, and the person who stood out the most to me was Christine McVie, who I thought was particularly talented. However, I was not a fan at all of newer guitarist Bob Welch. He really wimpified the group. I lost interest completely once Buckingham/Nicks came in.
Can you give me a general idea of what the status of Slash Records is? Like, are there any plans for a box set, or reissues, or the usual legal potholes, etc.?
All the material is owned by Rhino (in other words, Warner Brothers), although I’ve heard rumors X have recently got their Slash/Elektra backlog – their first 4 albums – back from Warners.
You’re a big film fan. I know you’re deep into vintage film noir and horror, and that could be a whole other interview. But what are some more recent films that caught your eye?
The last decade has been pretty dry, though a few exceptional films, usually foreign, do seem to get released. I loved French director Jacque Audiard’s A Prophet and Rust and Bone; Roman Polanski’s Ghost Writer and Michael Roskam’s Bullhead, from earlier this decade. I loved Roskam’s The Drop, Calvary, and Two Faces of January from 2014. I loved David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars. I loved The Neon Demon, Elle and Nocturnal Animals from 2016. I liked Jacques Audiard’s most recent film, THE Sisters Brothers. I really, really enjoyed finally seeing Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind..
Are you currently working on another book; and if so, can you tell us about it?
Yes, a pretty gigantic collection of writing on international noir and neo-noir films, predominantly from the UK, France, Italy, Japan, both North and South America. There’ll be some emphasis on gender roles in it, too. A lot of material. Although it will not be quite as voluminous as my 800-page Japanese gangster film encyclopedia, Gun and Sword, which came out in 2013. LOL. Some of the material for this new book is already written, but I still have about 75% of it ahead of me. The music stuff that’s been happening the past few months has gotten me sidetracked.
I assume this is personal, but also worth noting and even celebrating – you recently posted online that you’ve been sober for 22 years. Congratulations! A common concern about anyone sober getting back into the touring game is the ubiquitous “temptations” out on the road. But then, you haven’t exactly been hiding in a cave for the last 15 years. Even still, what do you think about the upcoming tour and avoiding those pitfalls?
It’s no longer attractive to me. I’m never tempted to indulge in booze or drugs anymore. Not at all. The one thing I have to resist is becoming enamored of the wrong person.
Which finally leads me to the truly awesome, brand new, opening track of I Used to Be Pretty, “Black Temptation.” I have to say, I assumed the song would relate to just that topic.
Nope. Just another unrequited, transcendentally sad love song, though not about anyone specific.