"[t]hey said this time would come/it has come and gone...."
The couplet quoted above summed up nicely Disaster Amnesiac's feelings about Lungfish, when they were at their creative hight as a band. I would wait, and watch Dischord Records, and wait some more, for any new release from the band. Eventually, a new release would be forthcoming, and I would dig in, and listen, over and over, savoring the sublime sounds and mystifying lyrics. Disaster Amnesiac held the band's music in an almost religious regard. Lungfish music meant a lot to me. New releases were heard as Revelations, and, after digesting them at length, I would be almost mournful at having done so. The only consolation was that "this time" would come again with a new Lungfish release or, if I was lucky, a live appearance.
Lungfish seems to have ceased activities in about 2006 or so, and, yes, Disaster Amnesiac has missed them. Since that time, I've enjoyed Daniel Higgs' solo music, along with his art and poetry. I have grooved to Asa Osborne's Zomes project. Additionally, in 2008, I ventured to publish an interview with Lungfish drummer Mitchell Feldstein at this blog. It continues to get hits, and I am duly proud of it. In late 2012, Charlie Scheer contacted me via Youtube, and asked if I'd be interested in pairing up with him to publish interviews that he conducted with Lungfish in 1999. My response was an enthusiastic "HELL YES!" Since then, we've communicated patiently, as Charlie needed to free up some time to do a massive transcription job. As you'll read, these interviews go deep.
I want to thank Charlie for offering me the opportunity to serve up this interview! The interviews run in this order, made up of three posts: 1) Intro and Daniel Higgs portion, 2) Asa Osborne portion, 3) Mitchell Feldstein portion. On account of blogger running posts in a very linear fashion, the order in which the actual interviews with Daniel and Asa took place is reversed on the time line of this blog. My apologies for that are needed, as the sequential nature of their process is important.
Now a few words from Charlie.
These interviews with Daniel Higgs, Asa Osborne and Mitchell Feldstein of Lungfish took place on October 8 and 9, 1999. The locations for the interviews varied between different sites in the city of Baltimore, Maryland, and all the interviews took place individually. Then-bassist Nathan Bell was in Europe during the interviews and could not participate for logistical reasons.
A little context: first, at the time of these interviews, Lungfish had begun to curtail most live performances and almost all touring, redefining what it meant to be an “underground rock band” in the late-90’s in comparison to their Dischord-class peers who performed tirelessly and, in some cases, had found mixed success by signing contracts with large record labels. Although the discussions of shows, touring, and the mechanics of audience relations seem quaint in 2014, back then it was somewhat novel to abandon performing if you were a “productive” underground rock band. It was interesting to watch a very prolific band get better while simultaneously fading from the public eye.
Second, this decision to curtail performing (conscious or not) only fueled what was at that time a growing mystique surrounding Lungfish, contributing to an image of the band that stood in stark contrast to their peers. Consider the climate: their label was Dischord, whose roster included no shortage of bands that had “something to say,” a curious relationship given Lungfish’s steadfast refusal to label their music as having a “message” at all. Despite an almost overbearing intensity, Lungfish perpetually distanced themselves from self-definition and analysis. Their catalog seemed to exist far outside even the most intriguing bands of the time. They really had no “peer”, which only solidified their musical and artistic reputation.
I had emailed Asa Osborne of the band in mid-August of 1999 and (in a rather embarrassing email in retrospect) proposed the idea of interviewing the band because “an interview or feature would be welcomed and appreciated by a wide range of listeners”. To my extreme surprise, we began to dialog about the idea and it came to fruition. For some reason, I printed my original email to Asa and tucked it away with a partial transcript of the nearly eight hours of resulting interview recordings. The cassettes themselves remained in the bottom of a shoebox. The interview was published in the January/February 2000 issue of Punk Planet magazine, a lively and standard-bearing underground rock magazine of the 90’s which had a strong following and readership for many years. The interviews as published were naturally revised and edited for clarity and brevity. However, many of the original interview transcripts were unpublished, including the entire discussion with Mitchell Feldstein.
In the 14 or so years since, Lungfish has become inactive as the original members work on other projects. The influence and impression provided by Lungfish has not diminished in the time since they were a working band. It’s a cliché to say that their stature has grown, but in the current context of independent or underground music (itself a designation which has lost relevance since this interview was published), Lungfish continues to attract interest and respect.
Interest in republishing this interview, this time in its entirety (save for a few side discussions the band and I agreed to omit in 1999), was rekindled entirely by chance. Last year, a blog post about the interview caught my attention, and I emailed its author, Mark Pino, asking if he’d like to publish the entire unedited interview on his blog since so much of the original interview hadn’t ever seen the light of day. He agreed enthusiastically. I then tried to locate the original transcript file, which I suspected was on a 3½ -inch floppy disk in a huge box of them which hadn’t been opened since Y2K. (The original transcription was done on a Power Macintosh 6100, OS8, using MacWrite II.) To say the least, finding a system able to read these disks was a challenge, but once I did, the elusive transcript was nowhere to be found, and I’m thinking it was on the one damaged disk labeled “1999”. I eventually had to re-transcribe the entire eight hours of interviews, which was actually pleasant because I hadn’t heard them in over a decade. I was reminded of the challenge of making sense of a band whose songs and intentions defied the tired zine-style descriptors, of my sometimes idiotic questions, of the birds descending around Asa’s front porch whose sounds found their way onto his taped interview, of Mitchell’s casual humor, and of the riddle of trying to figure out what I could talk to Daniel about now that I actually convinced him to sit down to a rock & roll interview. It was a crazy, fun, interesting, and challenging moment to be in Baltimore that weekend talking to Lungfish about their band.
In the years since print media was overtaken by democratized online journalism, the expression of ideas made possible by the internet is often taken for granted. Reflecting on the changes since then inspires a sense of reluctant nostalgia. At the time of this interview, Lungfish were recording what would eventually be released as A.C.R. 1999, the foundational sessions for the album Necrophones. Their excitement over this new landscape of creativity is infectious, even 14 years later. Those recently-unearthed recording sessions make a nice companion to these interviews, printed in their entirety for the first time.
C.S. January, 2014
C.S. January, 2014
Oct 8, 1999
He thinks that the modern-day Christian church is perverted beyond recognition… I don’t wanna put words in his mouth, but it was interesting because I had to interview that guy you know, and I noticed as soon as I hit the tape deck, the whole tone of his voice changed, his posture changed…
Yeah. But I was in your position. I was the interviewer. And it was really weird, because then I realized that, to him, it was an opportunity to spread this very particular message, and he didn’t want to have a conversation, he just wanted to say the stuff he always says, which is cool.
I wonder how easy it would be to continue to do that, either for you, or any public figure, to have like a set way of dealing with “the people”…
I don’t deal with people the way you may assume. I mean, because, we don’t… we’re not an extremely popular band. So, most often when we meet people as the band, while we’re with the band doing the band, it’s uh… usually it stays about as normal as it can meeting a complete stranger. We’re kind of lucky I guess, in that regard. We never really have to deal with putting on, you know, a charade, not when we’re talking with someone one-on-one generally. We just haven’t… I mean a really popular band, where people are constantly approaching you and constantly wanting to get your attention to share a word with you or whatever, I’m just assuming maybe it would be easier to get kind of callous. And then you would revert to sort of these just prepared responses just to get it over with. But that never happens with us.
Maybe because you’re not out there as much as… I mean you don’t tour as regularly and you don’t come in contact with everyone, but there’s definitely a lot of people… I mean Lungfish is just not the type of band that seems to invite that casualness. People don’t seem to want to approach you with the standard fan questions.
I don’t feel the need to do that, nor do I think people see the need to do that. I mean it doesn’t necessarily turn people off to it…
Yeah, I guess. I just don’t think we put ourselves in anybody’s way you know, for it to happen. I don’t know, though, I really don’t know.
Would you want that to happen?
Not particularly. No… I think if we had wanted that to happen, I don’t know if it would have happened… I don’t know if it could have happened or not. We didn’t take the strides to try and make it happen. If we had, it may still not have happened, you know, becoming more famous or whatever, or more well-known…
We just ah…at the group, we get… the group, when we discuss what we’re doing with our music, after the discussion goes on long enough, we do kind of assume kind of a singular mind, you know, but that single mind, it’s like really conflicted you know, like a real shattered mind, the shattered mind has just never allowed us to do any of the things, whatever those things are, and it’s not even clear what they are. But I know, for instance, you try and get in the press as much as you can, and you try to tour as much as you can, and you want to kind of force your way into peoples’ stereos, you know. And we don’t do that because, fortunately, we’re allowed through the label, Dischord isn’t like a big promotional machine either, so there’s never been any pressure from them to try and be more public than we are, and they haven’t… I think they do all they can and all they wanna do, to put the records out to whoever it is that may want to buy them and listen to them. So it’s all… it’s cool with me. I really wouldn’t change a thing, you know, I think the rest of the band would be in agreement with me about that.
You don’t seem excited about taking those strides either.
We’re excited about the music. We’re not excited about all of these other sort of theoretical maneuvers we could be trying to pull off, as far as getting more people to hear it or getting specific people to hear it. No one in the band, or no one in the group as a unit… we’re incapable of doing whatever that work is to make that happen.
It is work, in a way.
It’s not even by choice, it’s by our nature. You know, it’s just not… now you could say we could hire someone to do it, you know, they could do that work to try and help us accomplish that type of goal, well that’s where we make a decision, you know, we’re not interested in that either, you know. We just want to play our songs.
For instance you could go to every single spoken word restaurant and do your poetry, but you’re doing it the way you’re doing it…
I just know, where we are, I mean, it sounds so simple, but we concentrate on the music, and that kind of… when we’re playing the music, then we’ve reached our goal, you know. And we reach the goal every time we play the music. The goal is to play the music. Now, but we do like to share it with others, and there are totally different variables at work and it’s a totally different experience playing the music with other people listening, but we play together all the time.
Just by yourselves?
Yeah, just the band.
And maybe a couple of people over?
Very rarely. It happens, but not often. It’s usually just the four of us.
Where do you play now?
We play at a house, next to Nathan’s house, maybe you’ll get to see it while you’re here. It’s ah… we’ve been blessed… it’s a really great space, it’s out in the woods, but still in the city. And uh, it’s good. It’s a good place.
How often do you write new songs?
We write a lot, we make songs up all the time, but a lot of them only get played once or twice, you know, cause the cycle seems to be you make up the songs, and then you start thinking about recording them, and then we zero in on ten or twelve or fifteen of them, and we may have other ones that we liked, but if they don’t make it past the studio, we generally never return to those. And you know, we view them as all being part of the foundation, of the songs that actually got recorded, I guess… but we’re all the time, always making new songs.
How are they actually written?
It’s become kind of, there’s definitely a system now, where it’s generally… you know, I write the lyrics independently, I have them all ready before I’ve heard any music.
Really… so you wouldn’t listen to the music and then…
I listen to the music and see if I can try to recognize which music is calling for which lyrics, both in the rhythm and the phrase and the feeling of the music, you know, if it suits it. You know, Asa generally initiates the melody, and then it’s um… everybody for themselves, you know? No one… we help guide each other, you know, but everybody has to sort of respond to… generally the songs sort of start in very rudimentary form, you know. It’s not until the whole band starts approaching it that it turns into a Lungfish song, you know, that we’d play in front of strangers and record.
You’re playing guitar now.
I played a little guitar in the studio, and I played live last year.
What was that like?
It was insane, man. Cause I had never done it. You know, I had never played in front of people.
How did you feel sitting there with a guitar on?
It was weird, I mean we… I was playing, the first time I played guitar in the band, was the spring a year ago, the spring of ’98. About halfway through the first song I played guitar on, it hit me that I wasn’t nervous at all. As soon as I acknowledged that fact, my legs just turned rubber. And I started to quake, and I could barely hold the pick and uh… it was intense. I’m glad I did it, and I might do it again, but it’s not vital to the band that I play guitar at all. It’s just… when I do play guitar on a song, it’s another variable and it influences which paths the song would take. And we’re all interested in that, but uh… I’m not gonna… I’ll play guitar here and there, but I don’t know if I’ll play it live again or not.
There is a definite change in the variety of music from before you started playing guitar and now. It sort of violates what people say about Lungfish, that there isn’t any progression.
You went to Europe as well?
We did once.
What was that like? Was it to record or…
No we went over there to play, we went for like eight weeks.
No this was years ago, in like ’93.
Yea, so I don’t really uh… to tell you the truth, I’m sort of still digesting that trip. I still think about it sometimes. Cause… we moved through the continent so quickly for one thing, you know, you have to, cause we did a lot of driving, and the longest we spent anywhere was like two days, we were in Amsterdam a little longer, cause that’s where we landed, and took off, we had a few days before we left… so I don’t really know what… I can’t really describe it to you because I don’t know what it was like, you know.
Well you were going through so fast it must have been difficult to digest anyway, like a slide show.
Well I was digesting something, you know, but I don’t know if I can tell you about any particular country, I can tell you about shows in particular countries, it wouldn’t really tell you about the country, not necessarily – well maybe it could, you know, it was strange, and I’m glad we did it. I had never been to Europe before that.
I thought that the new album said it was mixed there or something…
Yeah it was mixed, we sent it out there… a lot of them get mastered over there.
Are you planning on going again?
Ah, not planning on it, no. There’s a possibility, but there’s no plan. You know, we may… I mean, we don’t know if we’ll ever play in California again, much less…
I mean because we don’t know, because of the way the band operates, we don’t like record a record and wait for it to be out a month and then tour, that’s not our plan, and I don’t know if the band will be together in a month. I believe it will be, and I’m pretty confident it will be. I’m pretty confident the band will be together a year from now. Still fairly confident the band will be together two to three years from now. I think there’s a really good chance we’ll still be together five years, and there’s, you know, a good possibility we’ll be together in ten. But we could break up next week. So I can’t really say if we’re gonna tour or not again. I mean, we’re gonna play some shows, hopefully, we haven’t played out yet in ’99. We’re going to try and play some shows in December, before ‘99’s over. But we’re not going on tour so much.
There was a big announcement from Dischord about touring…
But we’re talking about touring in 2001. Is that what it says? But it’s not really a plan.
Any reason why that particular time?
Well that’s maybe when we think we can all do it. Yeah. We haven’t done it in a while, our lives aren’t arranged for us to easily tour. You know, but we may tour again.
You can’t just drop everything…
But the band is more active in our minds now than it ever was, even though we do far less in public. I know it occupies a larger place in my heart and mind than it ever has.
Ah, cause I think because it’s… coming to fruition, you know, like musically, in a way I never really could have predicted. Because we knew, years ago, that we wanted to hear the Lungfish music, you know, and we didn’t know what it would sound like, you know… we had to keep playing it, and we’d hear a glimpse of it in a song, and the next song would turn us, and every song there were multiple forks in the road, you bounce off that song, and you know, you write the songs in a linear progression, one song at a time. It’s a chain of songs. But once each song is completed, if it ever is completed, then, you know…which way is the song leading us? You’ve got a variety of ways.
Well, you’ve changed as well, added different instruments, taking on a variety of different roles…
It’s all about listening, you know. We had to listen to the Lungfish music harder than anybody else, you know. Cause the music… I would hope it speaks to people, but it’s speaking to us as we’re making it, you know, and we gotta listen, and it’ll be telling us many things at once, you know. You’ve got to try to make sense out of it. That’s why it takes all four of us to make sense out of what the music is saying to us, cause if you were to just ask one of us what the music is saying, you know, you would probably get like four different impressions of what the music has just said, you know, it takes all four of us to listen, and then to take orders from it, and to go on to the next song. So… I forget why I was talking about this…
You were saying how it’s all really coming together…
Yeah, we’re on the verge of something.
What is it?
The Lungfish music.
Sort of like that mathematical thing that keeps approaching but never really reaches…
Like Zeno’s Paradox.
Well I wasn’t very good at math!
I think it was Zeno, it might be somebody else’s paradox, but as an object approaches a fixed point in space, it must continually halve the distance, so the idea being that if it must keep halving the distance, it will never get there… yeah.
That is really not a bad thing, even if you never exactly hit on what it is…
Who says it is a bad thing! I mean who would say that.
Well maybe people who see creativity as a sellable commodity…
For us, yeah. I mean we may go that route, there’s no telling what we’ll do. It’s definitely not impossible. But it doesn’t seem possible at present. If we stay together long enough, who knows what’ll happen, you know? We feel like we’re making the best music we’ve ever made. I’ve talked to people that may disagree. But we feel like we are. But you know, we might begin to make the worst music we’ve ever made, and not know the difference, you know. We might get too close, you know.
That’s what keeps people wanting to watch this, to see what happens next, you know…
Well, we want to hear what happens next. I mean, that’s where we’re at. We want to hear what happens next.
That makes you unique, because of the emphasis on the “big statement”, or the end result.
I’ll have to take your word on that, cause I’m not living in that world.
The lyrics, are they concepts?
Concepts… yeah well I think they’re probably like… yeah they’re just probably universal concepts, I think most people are confronted by, in their lives, and some people sweep them under the rug… I think they get in everybody’s mind, but not everybody navigates it the same way. [A large rat is seen]
We’re being listened to… he’s really close too, he’s right there.
They’ll bite you, you know.
Wherever he is, he’s pretty close…
I mean I don’t think that people do that consciously, you know, maybe at different times in their lives…
The rule I made for myself, whether it’s a dull rule or not, is I try, it’s difficult, but I try to never to make any assumption about anybody else’s mental processes, you know what I mean? I figured the only assumption I could make is that uh… I have more in common with other people, in what I think about and how I think about it, than not. Now that can be a gross assumption, but that’s one I choose to make. Because I figure, I’m living, presumably, in the same world with all these other human beings, and I’m getting all the same, relatively the same, you know, information, you know, I’ve been taught that I walk upright, or up is up, and down is down, north, south, east and west, all that… all those sort of orientative terms that we use, and they’re the first things that we take for granted, you know. I’m this many inches tall, I weigh this much, I live on planet Earth, the Earth is round, you know, I’m a human being, these all seem to be the answers to questions, but they’re not really answers at all, you know. They’re actually like question stoppers, you know what I mean? Cause you say, “what are you?”, and you say, “well I’m a human being”, you know, and the question seems to have been answered, but there’s no answer there.
People are always going to want to know more, though, they’re not satisfied with question-stopping maybe. I mean that’s how many of us are raised… it becomes a ritual, in a way…
Well there are sort of ceremonies and rituals that take place, they have become things like, what TV shows do you watch at dinner, you know what I mean, and… stuff like that! And it takes on a certain, you know, a point of focus that is the small community that is a family, we all come together at the table, we all sit down, and we watch “Star Trek” while we nourish ourselves, you know what I mean? There are no obvious metaphysical over- or undertones, but they’re definitely present.
Where scripture led me to is to concentrate more on language itself, you know what I mean? Like what are the words, where do the words come from, why am I using these words, who first said the words… I feel like I’ve always been speaking these words, you know.
It’s an educational exercise in a way, trying to determine what the meaning of certain words are, instead of examining where the words come from.
You mean like the academic sense?
Well also the linguistics of it, like where did the words come from, and then what do they mean… like it’s a matter of trying to determine in what order this discovery is supposed to take place…
I can tell ya. I’m gonna tell ya. What’s supposed to take place when you’re reading scripture, I believe, is that you’re reading scripture. It’s… you read scripture for its own sake. And that is really… it’s difficult to do, sometimes, and that’s the end of it. That’s it. But every time you read, you could read the same scriptural passage over and over again, and it communicates something totally different. And you could say that occurs with any text, and it does, but… the Bible is charged, historically, culturally, blah blah blah, and even if you say, “well I’ve been indoctrinated to acknowledge it as such”, that doesn’t mean you’re not going to respond to it as such, even if you acknowledge that obvious fact. It’s the Bible, that’s all there is to it. Everybody knows about the Bible. You reach a certain age, you know about the Bible. You may never read it, you may never look at it, but the Bible is a very famous book, you know. And when you read it, that’s swimming around in how you interpret these words, and all the translations that have come down to us, you know, because some of the stuff is written so long ago, these books were written before novels were written, you know, a lot of the writing structures that exist now didn’t exist then, you know. I think that comes through in any translation, it’s a very odd type of written language. And because, of course it’s a translation like I said, it has a very weird rhythm to it, and maybe we don’t know what its intent is, but its’ clear to me when I read it that its intent is unlike any other type of text I read. And this holds for all the scripture, I’ve read scriptural writings from other philosophies and religions and outlooks, and the good stuff always has that kind of, almost has this… I can’t think of the right word… it speaks. But I don’t think that makes me a religious person, reading scripture, that’s more of an intellectual pursuit, not that I claim to be an intellectual, but I think that’s where it’s taking place, in the intellectual centers of my brain, you know. I mean the Bible could ultimately stand in the way of a greater understanding of reality, it seems to for a lot of people, and it has for me, at times. Especially if you, you know, a lot of people think they’ve gotta worship scripture. But I think that’s a mistake, you know. You’re not to worship it, you know. I don’t think.
It seems like Jesus himself may have had a lot of problems with words, and language, like he had to break it down for people.
Well, some though… he deliberately encoded a lot of stuff. That’s how it’s come down. Sort of cryptic…
He did deliberately do that…
Yeah, I think he says so. But the thing is, I don’t even care about Jesus Christ, you know. I care about the words Jesus Christ said, I care about the words that are attributed to the words “Jesus Christ”, I care about the words. You know, I don’t care what Jesus intended. I don’t care what Moses intended. And the reason I don’t care is because I don’t. I haven’t been led to care. I don’t care about any of that. So I want to backtrack and say I think you can and maybe you should worship scripture, but you shouldn’t worship the communicative exchange. If you’re gonna worship scripture, you should just worship the book as an object. And even worship the individual letters as objects, you know, or as pictures, pictures of things, you know, abstract pictures of sounds, you know. It’s a… I think there’s a music to it too, you know.
Like the whole shaped-note thing, trying to make sense of that. I mean they don’t care of anyone’s hearing it or understands it.
I think that’s what you’re trying to understand, you’re trying to understand what you’re doing as you’re doing it. If you get beyond that, you know, you have no foundation. You know, when we play the music, we’re trying to understand they music we’re playing. And often the only time we approach understanding the music that we’re playing is when we’re playing it. As soon as we stop playing it, we left our understanding in the song, which is now decaying into infinitesimally small sound waves, you know, and it’s gone. And if we still want to understand, we have to play the music again, because the understanding, if it occurs, in any slight degree, will most certainly occur while we’re playing the music we’re trying to understand. We can talk about it, and it’s fun to talk about, but we don’t go anywhere when we talk about it.
Would you say playing the music then is a spiritual pursuit?
I think that I do, but I’ll say that I think that’s all everybody’s doing, in anything they do. In anything they do. And I mean anything. I don’t even want to cite any examples. And now, what they may be doing may be off-base, you know, it might be brutal, it might be wrong, but it’s a spiritual pursuit. Their world as they’re perceiving it has led them to live in such a way. And the way such a person chooses to live reveals about the person what they feel their place is in the scheme of things. You know, every time. With the human species. I won’t go beyond the human species.
[laughs] I wanted to talk about punk bands and stuff. Does it bother you that we’re talking about this instead?
No, I’d rather talk about this, but I don’t know if this is what I would want to be in an interview because… I’m talking to you now.
I understand… I have a lot of respect for that... I mean I know what it’s like to be misinterpreted…
It’s not even that, I mean, I’ll stand behind what I’m saying, the only thing I’m uncomfortable with is, I don’t know who I’m addressing. I don’t know if I’m addressing anyone.
I think that you are, in a different way than if someone puts a Lungfish CD in their player…
Well everything I’m saying though is present in our music. And if it’s not covered in the lyrics, then the music and the lyrics in tandem are dealing with all of this stuff we’re talking about. I mean, I think. I think they are. But I don’t know if they are. It’s not the conscious intention of the band, but it’s what it’s become, you know. But what else can you, you know, why sing a song in the first place? Why play guitar in the first place? Well, you wanna make a sound. Well why do you wanna make a sound, you know? I guess cause you want it to be heard. Now maybe you will hear it, maybe that’s who you want to hear it is you, but you want a sound to be heard. And you can keep digging deeper, why why why why why, why make a sound, why hear a sound, you know, that’s what the song will be about probably, you know. It’ll be about the “why you’re making a sound”. You know, does that make any sense?
Yeah it does. Like the skeleton is everything.
What was your earliest recollection of punk music?
My earliest recollection of punk would be, however early it was, like in ‘76 or something, I read an article about the Sex Pistols in Time Magazine. And I remember it well, I read the article and I thought it was interesting. That’s my earliest recollection.
Did you seek out the music after you read it?
Um… I kept my ear to the ground, but I didn’t rush out and try to buy it, you know. But I was interested, I knew I was interested I think, I was interested because I didn’t understand it, you know, I didn’t get it… but I hadn’t heard it, I just saw it in words, what this music was like and what it was about, and how these people in this band behaved, you know, so I guess my first experience in punk rock was a journalistic one I guess.
What happened then?
The first real band that I was into that you didn’t hear on the radio was Devo. And that was a real revelation to me. I never knew that there were records of bands that you didn’t hear on the radio. It just never occurred to me.
I remember seeing them on “Saturday Night Live” real late, all bug-eyed, and I was saying, “what the hell is this?” You didn’t hear that anywhere, it was such a shock… what did you think of that?
Oh, I was sold on that pretty quick, on Devo, I was really... I couldn’t believe that there was a band making music which to me at that time, and still, was like highly unusual, and then what they were singing about, you know…
Bizarre, really bizarre.
Yeah, I couldn’t get my mind around that. I’m still dealing with a lot of Devo lyrics. There were so many layers of meaning. One the one hand, I think they’re real masters at like creating multiple layers of meaning in their lyrics. Anyway, so then, seeking out their records led me to particular record stores that had more underground records, and records that were more underground, and I eventually got ahold of a Black Flag EP and things of that nature…
So you started getting into American hardcore type stuff.
What did you think of that?
Really I think if I recall… I think I just thought it sounded really good. It struck a chord in me, as they say. I responded to it immediately, you know, I thought it was…. I was really excited about it, you know. And then… then I started hearing… I heard Minor Threat, I got their record, and at that time I had already begun playing music in a band, and our revolutionary idea, we thought, was that we were going to play our own songs. Because we didn’t know any band that did that, because every band that we had ever seen played covers. We thought we were really onto something. We’re gonna play our own songs. So we started writing songs, and then we get this… I got the Minor Threat 7-inch, and it was all their own songs, and they made a record! It was mystifying to us, like, how in the hell did they get this thing out? How would you get a record out, I mean that’s insane! It was really inspiring.
When did you start to play?
The first band I was in was called the Goon Girls. And it was just some…
Was it here?
Yeah, in Baltimore.
Did you play out?
I think we played a party, we played at somebody’s house, uh… that may have been our only show.
As I recall, it’s very dim, but I think there was zero response. Yeah. We’d finish a song and you’d hear people in mid-conversation.
[laughs] That’s the worst thing.
Yeah. And uh… people started yelling out names of songs that they wanted to hear. And we were incapable of doing them.
Do you remember who was in it?
Yeah, I remember them all.
Ever see any of them?
Nah, not really.
Why have you stayed here in Baltimore?
Well I was born here.
But you could have gone to a punk mecca.
Punk mecca. That sounds suspect.
I mean to me Baltimore is a punk mecca.
I mean, I grew up so far away from everything, punk seemed so distant…
That’s the thing though, people don’t know, and maybe they shouldn’t know about Baltimore, is that there’s always been, ever since I was a teenager, and far beyond that from what I’ve been told by people who are older than I am, there’s always been there’s underlying stream of very bizarre, really stretched out musicians, and painters and writers, it’s always been here, it’s still here, and will continue to be here, so if you lived here, and it’s a very small almost invisible, not really a kind of community, but… it is a community… but if you lived here, and you were lucky enough to find a door into that world here, then you wouldn’t feel like you’d have to go anywhere else. Because there always has been and still is vital stuff happening here.
Well you were a part of that from the very beginning then.
Well I don’t even mean just punk rock, though, I mean… across the board, there are a lot of dedicated, devoted people here to whatever their craft or pursuit is that do it without really any regard for what they’re supposed to do with it after they’ve done it, you know. The people just do it to do it, you know. It’s why a lot of people never hear about any of these bands, or artists or writers, because… of course some of them would like to be heard about, but a lot of them seem to just keep making the music, keep writing the poems and… that’s that. So I think that’s why, I mean, I did move to San Francisco, but not for that reason. Not for the music or anything, and I loved it there. But that was really more of a weather experience, I really loved the weather there, and its effect on me, you know… that’s what I remember San Francisco as best, is the weather system, you know.
[laughs] A good weather feeling?
It’s the weather drone. You know, it’s like good weather there for me. It’s just a lot more extreme here.
The way you’re describing Baltimore… it’s so much different than DC, and Dischord, and that whole sense… what led you to that? Was it convenience because you played there?
I really honestly, it’s sort of a mystery to me. I mean I’d been acquainted with Ian, you know, and I’d been acquainted with a lot of other people in DC, you know… I’ve been acquainted with Alec MacKaye, you know, a lot of people I was acquainted with, in a loose kind of fashion, and then when I became better acquainted with them after Lungfish had started, they started coming to shows or going to their shows and… I don’t know, at that point we had been around a lot longer, and I don’t really know why Lungfish is on Dischord.
Did they come to you?
Dischord did our first release, which was a split release between Dischord and Simple Machines, so that was our first arrangement with them, and that led to us being on Dischord somehow. I lived in California at the time, so I wasn’t completely involved in… I don’t know if any discussion took place beyond… I don’t know how that went down.
I sense it’s a good fit, they’re a group of people who like to do what you do, they have a lot of integrity.
Well we feel blessed to be, you know, involved with them, in several capacities that we are, you know, as friends, as a band that they continue to put our records out, which is definitely a big part of what keeps the band going, is that we have the opportunity to keep recording our music and keep releasing it and… that helps move it along, you know.
There’s a community there that is distinctly different, but also different from here… a different community that you don’t usually see… did it mean anything to you at all to be a part of that?
Yeah I’m sure it meant something… but I can’t tell you what exactly… I don’t know. I mean I was, when we first got with Dischord, and I’m still very glad to be involved with them. I mean at the time, I don’t really think about that now, I mean as far as Lungfish records goes, the people that work there are as much a part of a Lungfish record as we are. You know, we make the music, but they’re a part of getting it out to whoever might like to hear it. So they’re part of the process, you know. And we feel, they’re people we like to share in the work with, and they seem to like… I mean they obviously want to put our records out because they do. I think that we got really lucky because… I’m not crystal clear about what the “Dischord philosophy” is, I don’t know if anybody is crystal clear on it…
Yeah, I mean there’s definite points, you know, but overall I don’t know if anybody knows for certain, you know I think though that there are parallels between the way Dischord operates and the way that Lungfish operates as a band that make it a good collaboration, but I don’t know specifically what those parallels are. We know people at the label personally… but the relationship is unclear, you know. We know what we do, we make the music, and they make the records. You know, but we know them in other ways, you know what I mean? We know them as people, we know them as friends. We know some of them as musicians, or all these ways at once. So my relationship with Dischord as a member of Lungfish is a manifold one, you know.
It’s really evolved. And it’s not dogmatic really, but they seem to be focused on allowing people who are interested in pursuing things like you are…
I think most of the bands that they put out, but not all, the main focus of the bands was the music, you know. Which I would hope that you could say about a lot of labels. But I think that Dischord, I think, I’m not positive, I haven’t heard every record they’ve released…
What else do you like from them?
Well… at different times and different places, the first Minor Threat release… then the next thing that really blew my head off from them would’ve been probably the Rites of Spring album… and then… I used to listen to a lot of “Get Your Goat” by Shudder to Think… and there’s a lot I’m leaving out… I loved Faith…
But you followed what they were doing…
Yeah I heard a lot of it over the years, I haven’t heard all of it, I checked out for a while and missed the sort of chapter of it, a lot of bands that I still didn’t hear at all then, and still never heard really, and I liked some of the Fugazi records a lot, I like the new one a lot, the soundtrack record… I think that’s a really great album…
A great concept too.
Yeah I like the film, but aside from the film it’s a really good record.
But what I was getting at is a lot of people might have a preconceived notion about what a band is going to sound like, or think like, based on their record label…
Well that is true even in publishing, you know I think, whether they intend to or not, labels sort of have an identity you know, and people start of expect things that a label releases or that a publisher publishes, they start to expect it to maintain this kind of consistent message-making, you know. So people maybe make assumptions about Dischord or whatever. Or maybe people still make that assumption or they force what they hear coming from the label to fit that assumption, and that’s on them.
Well over a long period of time you’ve been together…
The band? We’ve been together almost 12 years.
I mean by now you know what you’re after.
We’re after the music.
As soon as we finished The Unanimous Hour, we took like a month off, and we got back together, because there were still songs flying around, waiting for us to grab them, and we didn’t want to put them on the back burner, so we just made up a bunch of songs and thought we’d better record them, before they mutated beyond our control, you know? And none of these songs have ever been played live.
It’s pretty prolific for you to just jump right back into it and keep going.
Yeah, but we’re not really stretching ourselves too far, it’s all a matter of how you use your time. There were more songs than we could complete for The Unanimous Hour, and we wanted while they were present, we wanted to take advantage of it and play them, and so we did, and now we record them, and the recording is nearly done.
What are your reflections on The Unanimous Hour?
I don’t know, I haven’t really listened to it much since it came out, I listened to it a lot while we recorded it of course. But I haven’t really sat down and listened to a record from start to finish, and I don’t really, you know, I don’t really know much about that album really, I don’t know much about it. I know a lot of people, I met a lot of people that seem to like it, and I’ve met a few that didn’t and… it’s… I think it’s a pretty… It’s a Lungfish album, for sure.
Are there any moments that you feel particularly fond of?
Ah there’s scores… of those.
Which are tops?
Um… I’d have to think about that one.
What about that three-song seven inch?
The three songs.
It doesn’t seem like it could have gone on any particular album…
No… it’s complete.
Yeah, I bought it not even knowing it was released…
Yeah… it’s its own thing.
If you listen to older albums, what do you think about?
I don’t really know if I think about… it depends every time I hear it. Sometimes I think about the way it sounds, how it was recorded, whether I still think it sounds good like that or not, or I think about the lyrics and kind of marvel about the fact that I have zero recollection about when I wrote it, or why I wrote it, or what I was thinking about, or if I have any relationship to any type of message that may be in the lyrics or in the music and… sometimes it sounds really foreign to me, sometimes it sounds really good, sometimes it sounds really bad… sometimes it’s embarrassing.
Looking at specific pieces…
I see a map. That’s one way I view the records, I can see which songs on each record lead to the songs on the successive record, you know. So I view it that way sometimes, I see a vein running through it, through particular songs. You know I see the door in each record that opens up to the next record, and it’s not every song, like each album’s like a door with all these songs clustered around it, but only one of the songs, or two maybe, actually swings open, and leads to the next bunch of songs. So I view them that way, and that’s interesting to me. Because I mean any one of the songs could have been the point of departure for the next record, it’s interesting to me “why this one”, I mean we know why, I mean we all still have distinct memories of when a particular song was first played and that we all immediately while playing it acknowledged within ourselves, “this is where the Lungfish music must go, this is the song we’ve been striving to play.” You know, and those are really pivotal songs, you know. I don’t know if there’s one on every record, but there are songs like that.
Well, a song like “Black Helicopters” kind of hits like that. What do you recollect about that?
I think that record was radically different.
What do you think about it?
That record? Shoot… um, not to be coy, but I mean I think what I think about it most should be present on the record, you know. So I don’t know what to really say about it. I think it’s pretty… that record is self-evident, really. I think. I hope they all are, you know, but I think that one in particular is.
That was your first record with Nathan.
What was that process like, including him?
Well, we played for like a year and a half or so with no bass player, with no specific intention to get one. We hadn’t ruled it out, but we weren’t actively seeking anyone. But he was talked about on and off for that whole period, and then he finally was in a band.
Was he playing already?
He plays a lot of music with a lot of people, even still. He’s a very devoted musician. He’s with music all the time. He’s very musical.
Does he do his own stuff?
Ah yeah… he plays a lot of different instruments, but he just plays bass in Lungfish. Yeah I don’t know, he’s our bass player now, I don’t really think, it seems like, John, our first bass player, one of the founders of the band, you know, is an amazing person and an amazing player, and I remember he was in the band of course, he contributed so much and we shared in so much, and then the same with Sean who followed him for a little while… but now Nathan is the bass player and it seems, even though I know otherwise, it seems like he’s just always been the bass player. I mean the records prove otherwise, you know, he hasn’t always been the bass player, but when we play, he just seems like he plays bass in Lungfish, you know, he pretty much got with it. I mean he’s still learning how to play bass in Lungfish, but I’m still learning how to sing in Lungfish, so we’re kind of in the same boat, you know.
Personnel differences may matter in ways…
Yet it’s more about individuals’ intent, as opposed to their ability.
Were they all that radically different, all three?
Oh yeah, they all three play the bass totally differently. They hear what they ought to play, what they hear is almost zero relationship except that they happen to be playing it on the same instrument, you know. So each one of them helped make Lungfish songs sound totally different, you know, to me. But the intent of each of those individuals, while they were in the band or as they were in the band, I think pretty much was the same. They were, you know, they were part of the group, you know. They had pretty much the same target in mind, that was to find the song, play the song, be in the song, you know. And everyone who’s been in the band put their whole mind into it while they were in the band. Nathan’s doing that now.
Do you socialize with each other all that much?
Yeah, yeah. I mean some way, we play together often when we’re in the cycle of playing, I mean I may not see them beyond practice, but when we practice, we interact.
You had left a message on my recording, you said, “it may or may not be a good idea” to do an interview, what maybe led you to believe that it might not have been…
Well cause I’m not clear on what the function of an interview is… I mean I’m clear on the supposed function, but I know, from reading interviews myself, usually, I feel like they take more than I get. Know what I mean? You know, you read a person who relates some stories, or their philosophy about things, or you know, answer the questions when they’re asked, and it just never quite…I never… like I’m drawn to read it especially when it’s an interview with a person whose music or whatever I’m interested in, you know, that I want to read, but then ultimately it doesn’t really affect or inform me about the music, and I just feel like I was a lot better off just listening to the music. And yet, I will read more interviews, but in doing them, we haven’t done a ton of them, I’ve done some, and they just never… there’s something… you know, like I was saying when I was interviewing that friend of mine the other day, the first interview I ever conducted, he kind of really, in a very direct fashion, took advantage of the situation. It’s gonna be for a small magazine, I mean who knows how many people are gonna read it. But he knew that regardless, someone might read what he’s now saying, and he took advantage of that fact, he has a particular message that he wants to deliver and he doesn’t want to bandy about. He knows what he’s gonna say is going to be transcribed, and he wants to address these theoretical people, you know, with this specific message.
Well let’s assume you have a readership of, you know punk rock fans or whatever…
Here’s what I think really. I don’t think we’ll know if it was a good idea until it’s published. And uh, for me, though, the difference is we are not trained to address a readership. We are trained to address a theoretical listenership, and we already do that, we do that through our records. I think I would hope people are more interested in the music than in us. And you know, I think of the music, and I don’t mean it in just an imaginary way, I know it as an entity, and anything that I have to share with strangers, or people that may be listening, I share in the music, and then I add to the music, and the music goes on and shares it, you know what I mean?
But there are so many people who want to know about you, specifically…
Well I don’t know that that’s true.
But it is! I mean there are people who want to know about you as a person, that’s part of the music too. I mean I have a friend who uses Lungfish lyrics to teach creative writing to students, people like that.
These people you’re talking about, whether they’re real or imagined, I would hope, if they would acknowledge in themselves, because they occasionally listen to Lungfish music, that if they desire to know more about me, then well I hope that they could somehow transmute that, you know, and take a look in the mirror, you know what I mean, and find out more about them, you know, cause there’s nothing to know about me. There’s nothing. There’s no more for them to know about me than there is to know about themselves, you know? And for them to reflect on themselves would ultimately be far more rewarding for them, and far more interesting. Because it’s them, it’s their reality, it’s their world, you know. And my world and my reality, I mean allegedly we’re all sharing in a world and in a reality, you know, and I abide by that and I believe that.
So is what you’re doing when you’re singing…
Is it me singing?
I don’t know.
I don’t know either! I mean, haven’t you ever watched a band, and you get drawn into the music, the power of the music kind of draws you in, and you begin to identify with the music, and you’re no longer watching musicians perform their music, you are with the music, you know. It’s not their music anymore, it’s yours, you know. And maybe you have the experience of hearing music where you know, you have no precognition, but as the music is occurring, you know the music, you know where it’s leading as it leads. You know what I’m saying?
And uh… that’s what I hope it’s all about with our music, I mean, when a person hears our music, it’s their music, they are perceiving it, it’s in their mind, and it goes through their interpretive processes, and it makes them feel the way it makes them feel, the words that I transcribed are their words, they mean what they mean to them. Each individual word. I mean, each syllable is psychologically loaded. You know what I mean? And its effect on the individual listener is like uh, none of our business, you know? We’re not trying to manipulate anybody, we’re doing what we must do. We must make the music. Now “must” someone else listen to it? That’s not our business. I mean, we want to share it, I mean all of us, well not all of us but a lot of people want to share something, you know, it’s kind of an innate drive, in human beings, we want to share something, but we’re not going to force anyone to engage in the sharing process with us. We can’t, nor do we want to.
But by doing what you just said, you’re doing something that is incredibly impacting on others…
An unknown amount… many or few, I don’t know. I don’t think it’s as many as you’re implying.
Well it’s a lot more than you think! Isn’t there a certain degree of interest on their part, not as much to analyze why this is happening, or specific lyrics, but about you as a person?
But I can’t tell you that in an interview. I could counter with like a prefabricated persona, but I just can’t tell you that in an interview. I mean if you and I were to become lifelong friends, I couldn’t tell you what I was all about in twenty years.
But you know why the listeners might want to know that?
No, I can understand why, because I’ve been on that end of it too. You know, I hear a music, or I read a poem or I see a painting, and I wonder, how could this person have done this, what led them to do that? What do they think they’re doing, you know? I’m interested in that, so I do totally, I can identify with these people.
Well you do that as well, like if you go back and listen to your own things and say “at that time I was doing x, y, and z…”
But I’ve also come to understand that my memories, and my past are always in flux, and that the past is never static, is never complete, and the thing is, I listen to an old record that we did for instance, and I view it as perhaps a marker or a milestone in my life, and this is what I was going through at the time, but every time I recollect that, I’m recollecting a totally different set of ideas and feelings that may not have been present at the time. Cause I can give you the… all the circumstantial stuff, “at that time I was that old, I weighed this much, I was married or I was not married, or I was riding the bus, or I lived on this coast or that coast,” you know, I had…but that’s just sort of an empty framework.
But maybe not to the listener.
But the thing is, if that’s what I had to share, I’d write totally different lyrics, you know, “I woke up this morning, and brushed my teeth, you know, and my hair’s falling out.” Or I don’t feel well today, or today’s a great day, or whatever. And I think that stuff, I mean my personal life does intrude in the lyrical content of our songs, but I try my darndest to keep it out.
Well what does come through?
All sorts of opinions, that I view as like pollutants, that must be neutralized.
Well I don’t want you necessarily to clarify anything, but do you understand why people can listen to your albums and in their own context, they read all various things into it?
That’s the nature of language. That’s not the nature of me. That’s the nature of language.
But what is it, specifically, that is there? What causes you to let that out?
I’m not privy to that, I don’t know. It’s none of my business, you know? It’s not my business. That’s up to scientists who can tell us what it’s all about. You know, it’s your genes, you know. “It’s your genes, every decision you’ve ever made is predetermined,” you know. Your genetic likelihood to behave in a certain fashion in a particular situation.
Danny, come on. You wrote a song about talking to a bunch of animals who said, “don’t shun the world, shed it.” In that, there was like a shred of advice in a way, and I know that there had to be something to cause you to want to get that idea across to people.
The words. The words lead me. I mean you write, you said you write, you know there’s all these forces at work, you know, the language is trying to pull you one way, and the mind is constantly, you can’t, you know… the mind makes rhymes, and goes through processes of identifying alliteration between words, and your mind is taking over the rhythm of words, and that part of your mind is the part of your mind that tends to be led by the language. There’s always an obvious word to follow each prior word. But that might not be the right word to communicate within that instant. So I say, “don’t shun the world, shed it,” you know what I mean, that’s English, that’s a thing that English can say. And that’s what I write, I write down what comes to me, it comes to me and I must write it down, you know, and a lot of the things that I’ve written are things English would like to say. And English being like a very hyper-abstract, kind of a structured improvisational music, you know what I mean, it just gets funneled right into the Lungfish music. The music has something the music wants to say, the language has something it wants to say, via my language center, which is according to some each one of us is a complete fabrication based on a particular schematic, you know. So, I don’t know, “don’t shun the world, shed it,” I don’t even know what that means. That’s all I can say about it. Don’t shun it, shed it. And with what authority do I say that?
Well, there is a listener somewhere who hears that, who goes out there and does it…
But what’s he going to do? They’re responsible for their interpretation. If they’re really that interested in finding the answers, they can find them in the songs. Now maybe the answer to that particular song lies in another song, you know. Each individual song is not exclusive, you know what I mean, all the songs, I mean even the older songs I wrote, which are completely perverted and just wrecked, they all speak to each other, it’s just one big… I mean what sometimes is a criticism and what sometimes is a compliment that we have only written just one song, holds true in some contexts, you know. I would imagine, I don’t know all the lyrics I ever wrote, but I would imagine there’s a lyric in some other song that would completely negate that lyric. And then what have you got, know what I mean? Nothing. But the songs ultimately, maybe all the songs will completely nullify themselves, they will all become mutually opposed and vanish, you know, in the mind. I mean they’ve already vanished, I don’t hear any Lungfish music right now. Do you?
But the person who hears these contradictory messages…
We don’t know this person though!
[laughs] I’m just using a facetious Lungfish Listener to just allow ourselves to see a fictitious event, because people do that.
Right. But is there anything that needs clearing up, do you think? Is there anything that needs clearing up?
Well I do in this way, I mean if you want our conversation or our interview to be interesting or successful or something people would want to read…
I mean I won’t know until it happens, you know… I mean I don’t know. I mean, that’s all for naught, in the end, anyway. I mean we’re all just going to be tinder. And that’s okay, you know. Some people can come to grips with that and some can’t, you know what I mean? We’re a species in decline, you know, and that’s beautiful, you know, it’s…
Why do you think that?
It’s obvious. It’s just obvious to me, you know. That doesn’t mean I’m right, but I mean to me, it’s perfectly obvious.
Where is the evidence?
The evidence? To me, the evidence is just in my instantaneous interactions with my fellow human beings every day. You know, the people… I mean, perhaps I’ve done it too, I mean perhaps I’ve created this web of occlusion that leads me to believe I’m not occluded, and I’m willing to admit that. But a lot of people that I meet, and my impression of them, and my interpretation of them and their behavior, is that they willfully and deliberately, however perhaps sub- or unconsciously, decided to be less than themselves, less than their… you know, I don’t want to use the wrong word… People that I meet, a lot of people that I meet, and not all though, a lot of people I meet are the opposite, but they just… they want to be idiots, you know what I mean? You know, and maybe I’m an idiot, as I said before, I’m willing to admit that. Unfortunately, it’s sort of this broad generalization that it’s just, you know, it’s a sign of the times as they say, it’s symptomatic, you know. People, the mind… the mind is in decline, you know.
Like a generalization on all our parts?
No I mean, you know… people want something they can’t get, but then they trick themselves into thinking they’ve gotten it. But what they gotten is what they never wanted in the first place, you know. It’s pretty apparent to me. I think what people want ultimately is a type of freedom that is impossible for us to achieve. But that is no reason not to strive toward it, you know what I mean, there are questions that we can’t answer, that’s no reason to quit asking them. I mean, when I say impossible, I mean impossible, you know. My dad told me when I was a kid that nothing’s impossible, a lot of things are highly unlikely, and border on impossible. But he said at present, we have no proof that anything is impossible. You know I took that to heart and I remembered him saying it, so I said it once, you know. I don’t even really know. I said we’re a species in decline, and now I’m going to change that and say we’re not, we’re a species ascending. But that’s okay too, I can’t commit to that, because I don’t know, I’m not in a position to make a statement about that.
But you are, you’ve made statements of that sort, on records, in songs.
Yeah, and I’ll continue to make them, but they’re statements, they’re… I view them primarily as statements about the nature of language. And I think I said in one song, that there’s “songs about music”, you know what I mean, which sounds overly simplistic at first, but when you think about it, it’s really not, you know. It’s not songs about musicians, because we’ve had generations of that, you know, like musicians singing about their exploits as musicians, and their social standing, etcetera, whether it’s top of the heap or the bottom or whatever. I feel, I don’t know, but I feel like I require music. I hear music in my head. So I have music all the time. You know, music to me, it seems to me to be a vital necessity. That makes me wonder why, you know what I mean? It’s not food, but I feel like I need it like I need food. It’s not shelter, but I feel like I need it like I need shelter. That to me is worth thinking about: what is music? What’s it for? You find out when you play it or when you hear it. You know what it’s for sometimes. Music is graceful, you know, it’ll let people use it for anything. There’s martial music, there’s nationalistic music, there’s religious music.
What turns you on musically?
I have all kinds of music. All the music I listen to, which is like a wide variety of instruments, and traditions, and intents, you know like a lot of different intentions… but I can hear it, I don’t know what it is that I recognize, I recognize something similar in all of the musics, and that’s what I’m responding to in all of the music I listen to, but I don’t know what that is, you know, I hear it as you hear it in a recording sometimes, like you were saying earlier, like “this person must do this”, you know, like I call it the “mustness”, and it’s like, they’re not using the music, they let the music use them, you know. And that’s what I like to hear.
An example of that would be what?
Well I’ll give you an example everybody’s heard would be Jimi Hendrix. Now of course people might disagree, but I hear that in his music, in his recordings. Like it’s just… he’s letting the music lead, you know. And because he was, his abilities were so great, that he could follow the music even further, you know what I mean. So, I don’t need to hear the virtuosity, but you know, sometimes the virtuosity makes the person disobey the music, because they feel like they mastered the music, I don’t feel like Jimi Hendrix thought he mastered the music, he may have mastered his instrument, but I don’t hear in his music “I’ve mastered the music”. I hear that he’s mastered the guitar, and there’s a big difference. I think he put his masterfulness to what I agree is the proper end.
Which is what?
To follow the music.
I don’t know if it’s for us to say, what I just said about Jimi Hendrix, I don’t know if Jimi Hendrix could have said those things. Maybe it’s not for us to determine, I mean, we are in the grip of finding the music… if we are searching after the music in a, you know, in an honest, sort of… humble way, humble towards the music, maybe it isn’t for us to know. We could try to strike that pose and adopt that stance, but will we or won’t we, maybe we can’t hear if we have or not, I don’t know. It’s not… you can’t know it all. It’s not for me to know. We don’t know why we’re a band. You know, we’ve come to that conclusion. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be in a band, you know? We want to be in the band. Together, myself and the other band members. I don’t know, it’s scary.
I mean if you’re playing in Lungfish and the music is “playing you”…
I mean we get in there. It’s coming through us and our abilities.
… then why do you suppose this may be interesting for some people to know about?
Because maybe what they’re hearing in our music is they… and maybe it might not be the songs themselves, I don’t know what they’re responding to that would make them curious. But maybe the music that we play and that we record doesn’t sound like the other stuff they listen to. I mean it’s guitar and drum music, so it has a lot in common with a lot of rock and roll and other music with similar instrumentation, but I don’t know what they’re responding to. I don’t know that what we’re doing is radically different, I know it’s what it is. I don’t know if it’s good music, or if it’s bad music, I know it depends on who’s hearing it. I don’t… we were asked the question years ago, and it still holds, we’re not trying to play unique music, we’re not trying not to… we’re trying to play our music. If it sounds like other music, that’s good, if it doesn’t that’s good too. If it repeats itself, and it’s uh… any adjective you could place on our music is alright with us. We’re not trying to make it be any particular way, we’re just trying to, as I said… we each play a particular instrument, we each have a particular level of ability with that particular instrument, we each respond to music, particular musics in particular ways. We each come together, and a particular type of music must happen based on those variables, you know what I mean? But then the nature of that music is not really… we have not tried to subject the nature of that music to our whims. Or our wills, you know. The only thing we’re willful about is playing our particular instrument, you know. And we’re willful about listening to the songs as we create them, and determining if this song is an invader, or if we are in need with this song, you know what I mean, and sometimes you can’t tell, one can masquerade as the other, I mean you never can tell. I mean I can’t tell anybody the answers to these things, because I don’t know it, you know. I mean I was led to be in a band, somehow ago I wound up as a teenager making up songs, and playing them in front of people, and I don’t know why, I know I feel like I ought to, and I feel like I must, sometimes. And because I feel like I must, then I trust, and I do. That’s all there is to it, you know.