Friday, May 2, 2008
GREG GINN INTERVIEW
I've been a fan of Greg Ginn's since the first time I heard his downstrummed B note in 10th grade. It was a mix tape and the first song was "Nervous Breakdown" by Black Flag. Since then, I've bought lots of his stuff and think his work outside of Black Flag is just as interesting as the stuff he did with his seminal group.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Ginn and ask him some questions about his new bands JAMBANG and the Taylor Texas Corrugators. Luckily, I've interviewed Ginn a few times over the past decade for a handful of different publications. Each time has been informative and fun, two things I can't say about everyone I've ever thrown a tape recorder in front of.
From a few of Ginn's answers, you can tell this interview was conducted about two months ago. Deal with it.
J: Tell me about JAMBANG.
G: We’re finishing up our first record. We added a mandolin player and he’s on it. The band is Cliff Samuels playing bass, Steve DeLollis playing drums, Bobby Bancalari on mandolin and I’m playing basically the electronic stuff. We incorporate electronic stuff. That and guitar. We’re working with this visual artist, Joey Keeton, and he’s started to do a video for us. He did a Gone video and did a new one for the Texas Corrugators. He’s gonna do a video program. Our music is going to be synced up to video and a projection. He’s creating it, but won’t necessarily be at the shows.
J: Where did the idea come from?
G: It was something I wanted to do for quite a while. I’m not really a fan of a lot of videos, but I like what Joey does. I thought it would be interesting.
J: When’s the album coming out?
G: April 1. It’s called “Connecting.” I’m not sure about the dates, but we’re touring the latter part of April through the U.S. for eight weeks or something like that. The Corrugators are playing too. It’s the same people playing with JAMBANG. JAMBANG is an audio/visual concept. It’s very structured in certain ways because we’re synced with the video, whereas the Corrugators is much different. It’s all instrumental – both bands – but Texas Corrugators is more improvisation going on there.
J: The Corrugators sounds like something that could hit a market or scene of people who don’t know anything about you.
G: Yeah. In a sense, people become more familiar with things when you tour. A lot of people aren’t that aware of my instrumental music. If a group doesn’t tour, it’s harder to create that awareness around different places.
J: Where did this flood of creativity come from?
G: I hadn’t released anything in quite a while, but I’ve been recording. So I’m just getting caught up on some recordings I wanted to put it.
J: Does it help to release a bunch of records simultaneously?
G: They compete with each other. If you’re talking about selling CDs, it’s better to put less out. It’s just more convenient in terms of doing one release date, but as far as promoting them, if they were one month apart, they’d be basically the same time.
J: Why are you moving to Texas?
G: A lot of reasons. I live in Taylor. Austin’s close and accessible, so I get to see music there. One thing is a lot of music and a lot of practical factors. I travel a lot, so it’s pretty central to going to different places as opposed to being on the coast. The other stuff is just a change. I’ve been out here a long time and sometimes doing something different can be a good thing. And the affordability of it, living in a small town. It’s a lot more efficient. I like Taylor and Austin.
J: Beatles or Elvis?
G: I thought it was the Beatles or the Stones.
J: That was my follow-up question.
G: Or the Beach Boys vs. the Dave Clark Five. Or even the Monkees vs. the Beatles. Beatles or Elvis? Both. I like both. I don’t put myself on one side or the other.
J: What about the Stones or the Beatles?
G: The Stones have done so much nonsense that I’d have to go with the Beatles because at least they died appropriately.
J: Sabbath or Zeppelin?
G: Sabbath with Bonham and John Paul Jones a close second.
J: Not counting your work van, you don’t have a car. Why?
G: A lot of reasons. If a car was free, I would take it. I try to keep it simple. I’ve gone a lot of long times without a car. Anytime you can save on something like that…cars are very expensive in California. If I can save so much a month, then I can travel someplace or do something I really like rather than zip around town. I don’t want to see like I’m all…I have a van now. As far as Long Beach, I ride my bike to whatever I want to get to here, for the most part.
J: I love riding my bike.
G: I like it. You can really see stuff and it’s not as slow as walking. Long Beach is great for bikes, especially downtown because you can get to a lot of places or you can ride along the beach or whatever.
J: You seem to fly under the radar. From a business standpoint, how does that effect things?
G: If you’re touring, that’s one thing or your playing shows. I just having been doing that. I haven’t been under the radar – I’ve been nowhere near it. I haven’t been involved, so I’m not in the sights at all. I haven’t put out any music in a long time, so I wouldn’t expect people to know. Maybe people who know me or play with me, yeah, they see I’ve been playing all along. But how would anybody else know? I’m more interested in doing it for a while and have the band together to play live and start touring. Otherwise, I don’t have any use for being known or something like that. I don’t have that. There’s a lot of narcissism in music and the environment can feed that.
J: By not being out there, does that create misconceptions – good or bad?
G: It probably doesn’t create anything. I don’t know. It doesn’t concern me in the least bit. I totally understand that, but it doesn’t concern me, what Joe guy blah blah blah. It’s just like, I don’t care. I probably wouldn’t be interested in just giving my opinion on anything unless I was promoting CDs.
J: In theory, I’m ok with musicians supporting politicians, for example, but I always think they’re just doing it for more airtime.
G: Right. Why are they putting their opinion ahead of somebody else’s? Unless they’ve really studied. Let’s say maybe there are actors and actresses, and I’m sure you could count the legitimate ones on one hand who really know something about an issue, but for the others millions and millions of cases, these people know nothing. If I was given a choice: some average person you run into or some Hollywood movie person, there’s no question. I’m not going to think someone from Hollywood is going to know anything about anything except trying to memorize stupid miserable lines and participating in these horrible movies. One bad thing is this stupid writer’s strike is finally over. That was good.
J: I agree. I thought maybe it would force people to do something else. TVs and movies suck. Why would I support that?
G: Those people shouldn’t be paid. They’re the last people anybody should feel sorry for. Fuck no.
J: I get paid a hell of a lot less money to write for newspapers and magazines than they do to write God-awful movies that probably took a weekend to write. Why would I support that? I don’t know if I consider that writing.
G: It’s not like I’m on the side of the company’s selling this crap, I just wish the strike would have gone on and they both would have shut their doors and closed it down. People don’t realize all these actors do is read lines. When they end up talking, people think they’re going to hear them talk like they see them in the movies. They end up sounding real ditzy and it works against their movie personality. Sean Penn – the guy’s a total idiot, but he came off sounding kinda credible in some movie.
J: Or these Sopranos guys who think they’re Mafioso.
G: They’re using their personality to still make money off of it. And they’re playing the part, but now it’s them. Like Captain Kirk or something, like I’ll be doing this till I’m 80.
J: The only thing I agreed with was that I think everyone should make as much as they want. When companies are making money of them, sure, throw them some money. I have solidarity with them as people, not as writers.
G: I’ve had a solidarity with the strike. I just don’t like the ending of it. I was all for it. “It was a great move, guys!” They’re polluting people’s minds with this garbage. People soak it in because there’s a big production value. It’s a thing to do – go to the movies.
J: When I tell somebody they should watch a movie, I’m really telling them that because I don’t watch movies. Like “Borat,” that was legitimately funny.
G: Yeah, me too. People who see movies all the time say everything’s good. I say, “No, that’s all crap. Tell me the one or two.” I went to the movies about three years ago and I booed the movie after it was over. People were mad. I was like, “This is trash.” Some people joined in, but others were mad as if I don’t have the right after it’s over, not interrupting people. It had that White Stripes guy in it. I don’t know these people. It was a Civil War thing or something. Oh, I saw “Borat” in the theaters. That was good. I wouldn’t have gone to see that but I saw parts of it on Youtube and I thought it was too funny. I thought it would be watered-down, but it was great.
J: You said you are a news junkie. I don’t know people who read newspapers anymore.
G: I used to buy like four or five papers a day. Now it’s all online. It comes in cycles depending on how busy I am. I’m interested in stuff like media and news.
J: Would you say most people don’t do that?
G: In L.A., there’s not much to offer. The L.A. Times has a good sports section, but after that, forget it. I saw they’re laying off 150 employees. Maybe they can get rid of some of the dead wood. The Times is a joke. I follow baseball, but other than that, I wouldn’t rely on it. And they’re good for certain kinds of lifestyle like a certain kind of new vegetable at the farmers’ market. They’re good at kind of benign stuff, but other than that, they suffer from not having any competition for so long.
J: I think they’ve got way too much bullshit in there. I never read the A section because it’s too big.
G: Papers are really suffering and losing customers. If they would have used their brands to take over to the Internet, they would have been in the perfect position to dominate their respective cities. Now they’re trying to do it when their competition is already entrenched. They’re losing circulation and advertising to Internet sources. They’re all having cutbacks, which isn’t always bad. It’s good to have competing sources and the Internet has really helped with that.
J: What about Long Beach publications?
G: I read the Long Beach Business Journal, the Downtown Gazette, I look at the Press-Telegram every morning. There’s also LBPost.com I’ve been going to LBReport occasionally. What else? OC Weekly, LA Weekly. Those I don’t find very interesting at all for news. I ignore the so-called hard news. Long ago I gave up on weeklies. They should stick to the entertainment. LA Times should become a sports-only paper, the weeklies should go entertainment-only and leave the news to other sources.
J: I used to read an all-sports paper called The National when I was a kid.
G: The problem with them was you still needed to buy a Times, especially on the west coast, because they couldn’t get the late scores. USA Today tries their best.