BLACK LIPS: I LOST ALL MY ORGANS
Black Lips have been to or narrowly avoided jail in more countries than many schoolchildren can even locate on a map and they do a ripping cover of Jacques Dutronc. They meet here between time and space to knock out this abridged print interview. Complete interview coming soon—both by Vanessa Gonzalez.
What are you talking about in the song ‘Short Fuse’ when you say, ‘Hey Humpty Dumpty, I guess you learned your lesson / You got made into breakfast by some fat old Texan’?
Joe Bradley (drums, vocals): It’s supposed to be a metaphor for a head of state or someone in power that goes against the grain too much and then they get taken out. The song is supposed to be somewhat about predicting the future—every line in it, to some extent. But like most prophets in their writings, it’s real vague. It can be applicable when it needs to be.
The whole new album seems to have a vaguely religious zeal to it.
JB: Religion sells.
Is that a conscious direction?
JB: No, it’s not a direction. It’s just something to dabble in.
Jared, I know your dad is a prominent religious figure in Atlanta. Does the Black Lips’ irreverence towards religion cause conflict between you and your dad?
Jared Swilley (bass, vocals): Not at all—my father comes to all of my shows. And we channel the same energies as they do. We sing about bullshit, and they sing about God. They don’t even drink at their shows and they go crazier than any punk show I’ve ever been to and pass out and fall down. So trying to recreate that passion is something I’ve always tried to do through my music.
What makes you think there’s a ‘Black Baby Jesus’ on the way?’
Cole Alexander (guitar, vocals): [That song’s] like an ode to a really bad-ass black person—Obama, Jack Johnson, people that become more than a politician or an artist. They become almost superhuman. They’re almost like a messiah-like person. But it’s kind of like a fantasy I have—black Jesus coming to Earth and just being like the most bad-ass person ever.
Who is this Baby Gusty that wrote the essay in your new album?
JB: That’s Jack Hines, our second guitarist.
He says the Black Lips ‘have carried to fruition the plan that’s been hatched, and will continue to be hatched, in the minds of dizzy, dumb and desperate youths the world over.’ How have the Black Lips made that happen?
You think it’s just luck?
JB: It’s definitely some luck. You gotta have the right attitude, too.
How would you describe the Black Lips’ attitude?
JB: The best. El mejor.
JS: What brought it to fruition is just doing what you want to do. Unlike other people, we sacrificed everything, like family relationships and personal relationships. We just did it—for years and years and years. We spent a lot of time as homeless people, spent a lot of time sleeping in the van. We just never gave up. Other people coward out really soon. We just wouldn’t take no.
Is there anything that stands out as the most memorable show amongst the thousands you’ve played?
JB: Playing in Palestine was really cool—something different than we had ever seen before. We rented acoustic guitars and we crossed the wall into the West Bank into Bethlehem—just found a courtyard and set up and started playing.
Ian Saint Pe (guitar): I’ll never forget a show we played in Brussels back in 2007. I had a broken bottle go into my hand. I lost mucho blood and was carried off stage after I blacked out. I have a big scar on the top of my right hand. Jared rode with me to the hospital and as he brought me into the emergency room he made me promise to hang in there because the doctor was gonna be hot, and it turned out she was smokin’.
Where have you experienced the most severe culture shock?
JS: America. I’ve never experienced culture shock, except maybe a little bit in India. But everywhere else in the world people think rationally, and I come back to America and . . . I know it’s not all Americans, but it’s like, the ones that are insane are the loudest. I’ve never heard such inane banter as I’ve heard here. Especially since Obama’s been elected. Yeah, America bums me out really bad. I spend most of my time in Europe and when I get back, that’s culture shock. Affluent white people are insane. I don’t know. I love America but I just can’t believe it. It’s so hard to swallow.
JB: India. They have a built-in classist system where you’re just born into something that just sucks or rules. It’s not fair and it’s not equal.
What’s the most mystical experience you’ve ever had on acid?
CA: One time I became an invertebrate. I lost all my organs and my skeletal system just turned to mush on the ground. I don’t know if it was mystical, but I was really mushroomed out. It was really brief, it was like—bbbbbblllllllllaaaaahhhhhhhhhh, turned into a blob, and then I was back up again. That was intense. I’ve taken acid a bunch and I’ve never had anything like that.
Do you feel everyone should try psychedelics?
CA: Well, I don’t think people should abuse them, but if you take it once a season, I feel like it helps clarify all my thoughts. Some people take ecstasy and say, ‘Oh, I had an epiphany’ or ‘Oh, I saw God.’ But with psychedelics it’s somewhat legitimate because it makes you think outside the box so much. Everything you know is so distorted. It just makes you think in different ways. The scientist that created LSD—Albert Hofmann—he took it until he was like 90 years old, and he did it responsibly, so that makes me feel like it’s not just some recreational tool.
Is there anything you miss about being a DIY band?
JS: There was . . . but not anymore. There was a big set of bands that were like all the people we knew in the beginning. They’d stay with us, we’d stay with them. We’d book tours for each other. Now they all hate us and talk shit because apparently we’re like . . . I don’t know. I don’t really miss it, but that’s the one thing that’s missing. A lot of the kids that supported us at the beginning hate us now. Even though we didn’t do anything to them. I think it’s that Maximumrocknroll mentality. That doesn’t really mean anything now, but people stay with that—like if you do anything beyond sleeping on people’s floors then you’re a sell-out. But that’s retarded. I have a lot of friends in awesome bands right now that are really successful and I love that. Like the [Fuck Yeah] Festival even. There were a ton of really good bands that played for tons of people and it was awesome. But some people get really bitter about that. I don’t know why. It’s a really negative mentality. And I don’t like that.
THE BLACK LIPS WITH NOBUNNY, JEMIMA PEARL AND DJ SIMON BENNETT ON SAT., JAN. 23, AT THE EL REY THEATER, 6126 WILSHIRE BLVD., LOS ANGELES. 8 PM / $17 / ALL AGES. GOLDENVOICE.COM. THE BLACK LIPS’ 200 MILLION THOUSAND IS OUT NOW ON VICE. VISIT THE BLACK LIPS AT BLACK-LIPS.COM OR MYSPACE.COM/THEBLACKLIPS.