Words: Yasi Salek
Photos: Sara Nataf
We’re pretty excited to have the Black Lips play our Phoenix Am after-party with Cowtown Skateboards this weekend, mostly because I’m almost certain there has never, ever been a boring Black Lips show in history (I’ve been to one where a Biggie Smalls cardboard cut-out skated across stage, a few where Cole Alexander played his guitar with his dick, and at least three where band members had physical altercations with event staff, one of which ended with Cole calling a large, muscled security guard “a giant vagina”).
I chatted with Jared Swilley (it’s hard to pin down all four Lips, but hiii Cole, Joe Bradley, and Ian St. Pe!) about the Lips’ skateboarding background, their recent mini West Coast tour, and the forthcoming documentary about the band’s Middle East tour. He said the word “y’all” about 400 times but I cut them out for the sake of clarity and reader sanity.
Jared: Hey what’s up? How are you?
I’m good. How are you doing?
J: I’m good. Just watching the Braves opening day game.
How are they doing?
J: They’re winning. They’re beating the Phillies.
Are you a big Braves fan?
J: Yeah, huge. Everyone my age in Atlanta is a huge Braves fan.
How was the Black Lips recent jaunt out to the West Coast?
J: It was pretty incredible. We haven’t had anything out for a while, and every show was really good, and tons of people came out. It was an overall success.
Do you have any specific fond memories from this particular run?
J: We played like, a Mexican restaurant in the forest, and actually not that many people came. It was in Felton, CA, which I had to look up on Google, because I had never heard of it before. But it was in the middle of the Redwoods, and it was just real strange. We hadn’t played a show like that in a few years.
You played with a saxophone player on these dates. Is this going to be a permanent thing?
J: Oh, that was our friend Zumi. She’s in the K-Holes, which is actually a band with our old guitar player Jack and his wife Julie, and we all went to high school together. We took her on the road, just because we have a few songs with saxophone. I don’t know if there’s going to be saxophone on the new record. I love saxophone, in punk, or any kind of music. And it’s kind of a cool looking instrument.
Who writes the saxophone parts in your songs?
J: We just kind of whistle them out, and then we get a saxophone player to come in and figure it out. Mark Ronson helps with some of the horn stuff, because he’s like a horn guy. We actually had saxophones before him, but he knows better players than we do and he’s good at arranging and stuff. That’s what a producer is for, that’s what he get pays for.
Are you guys finished with the next album?
J: No, we’ve just started tracking demos. But we finally got confirmation from Mark Ronson and we’re going to London in May to record what will hopefully be the finished product.
Can you give us an idea of what the new record is going to sound like?
J: We kind of have some Lynyrd Skynyrd influences, but more like punk and satanic and down-home. I mean, I don’t know. All of our albums sound the same to me kind of; it just depends on production value. It’s hard to tell at this point what it will sound like because I don’t even know all the songs yet.
What’s the best live show you’ve seen recently?
J: I would say Natural Child. Or a tie between Natural Child and The Spits.
Did you watch The Spits at Burgerama?
J: Yeah, I did. They were actually the only band I watched at Burgerama. Well, I watched a couple songs of The Pharcyde too. (It should be noted that Cole also watched Fuzz, “one my fav bands we got to play with at Burgerama!”)
Are you guys touring soon or just focusing on the new album for the time being?
J: Oh, we got a lot of touring coming up soon. Well, we are focusing on the album at the same time. We’ll be recording in London, so we’ll be doing European dates all around in the spring and summer. Once the record is done we’ll probably be on tour for a really long time after that.
Do you prefer being on tour or being at home?
J: It depends. I would say I mostly prefer being on tour. But I do love home.
Are you guys excited to play the Phoenix Am this weekend?
J: Yeah! Because we love skateboarding, and as far as influences go, I probably wouldn’t be into music the way I was, or know about the bands I did, if I hadn’t have been into skateboarding when I was a kid. Skating is a big influence on us, I guess just like, culturally. We still try to do it sometimes, but I’m getting older and it’s harder to do now. The last time I went skating was when we were in Egypt, and I went with a bunch of teenagers, and I thought I broke my leg. It didn’t end up being broken, but I fucked my leg up pretty bad. I still skate almost every day, but it’s more for transportation now than doing tricks.
Was that the most dangerous thing that happened to you during your Middle East tour? (Note: You can see Jared’s photo diary of this tour HERE).
J: To me personally, yes.
What was the scariest thing that happened to any Black Lip while you guys were over there?
J: Joe and Ian got mobbed and almost got attacked. Cole and I were taking naps at the hotel, but they were out in Alexandria, and I guess we were staying in kind of a sketchy neighborhood. They went out to film with one of our photographers, and they ended up getting surrounded by a screaming mob. And the photographer was from Iraq, and he smoothed it out, but Ian and Joe basically just had to run. I was sound asleep at the hotel but Joe and Ian came back real frazzled.
You guys did a documentary about your Middle East tour. What’s up with it?
J: We had a test screening in LA last week, but it’s not out or available yet. I think we’re going to have another premiere in LA in June, which is the next time we play there. So that might be the final cut, but we haven’t raised all the funds we need for it yet, so we’re still trying to scrap it together. But for the most part it’s done.
Who directed it?
J: This guy named Bill Cody. He also did this documentary called Athens, GA Inside/Out in the 80s, which was about REM and The B-52s and stuff.
Was doing a documentary an enjoyable experience? Do you think you’ll be doing more in the future?
J: Yeah, because I think we’re really interesting and I think cameras should follow us around a lot.
Yes, you are all incredibly handsome and fascinating. Also modest. Who do you think performs best on camera?
J: Actually Ian is probably my favorite on camera, because he’s kind of like a rock n’ roll Riff Raff a little bit. I think they might be cousins. He pulls out some good lines from time to time. I’m not super confident on camera, but Ian owns it. He’s a real ham, in a good way.
I think we’re going to do a documentary about our trip to Antarctica because we’re going to be the first band to play all seven continents. We’re at six now. So I think we’re going to make a documentary about us trying to reach the seventh continent. We’ve already made a little headway into making contacts there and finding a sponsor to go there with. They have a club there, and there are 1,600 people who live there. It’s kind of like Field of Dreams thing, if it’s there and you don’t ask us to come, then we’ll still come anyways.
Do you plan on skateboarding at the Phoenix Am?
J: Yeah, a little bit. But it’s kind of embarrassing going out there in front of all the pros and stuff. Maybe they make fun of you when they see you, but whatever. I’ll at least try it out and go out there. Skater kids will make fun of me anyways. I get worried about Cole and I skateboarding, especially on tour, because one fall and tour could be over.
You can’t be breaking those magic hands.
J: No, we can’t.
Put our readers onto three bands they need to hear.
J: Like, current bands? Or anything?
J: Um…I guess the essential bands, for me at least, are like, The Cramps and The Ramones and…I don’t know what else. There’s so many.
Okay, let’s say current because we’ll just go ahead and assume people are already up on The Cramps and The Ramones.
J: Yeah, totally. Then The Spits, Natural Child, and anything King Khan and Barbeque do.
I’m really bad at ending interviews. How should we end this interview?
J: Right now I’m watching the Braves game, and Lee from Burger just got into town. He doesn’t like baseball but we’ve been talking about doing a Black Lips retrospective on tape, like of all the albums we’ve ever done. That’s just an idea we’ve talked about.
Great way to end the interview. Thanks Jared. Hi Lee. Bye everyone.
Black Lips: http://black-lips.com/
Natural Child: https://www.facebook.com/naturalchildband
Black Lips Middle East Photo Diary: http://www.cultistzine.com/2012/11/27/fomo-graphs-black-lips-middle-east-tour-photo-diary/
Phoenix Am info: