For our first ever Festive Feature on Mad Mackerel, we asked twelve of our favourite bands and artists of 2011 to answer twelve questions and we will publish them over the next twelve days taking us up to Christmas Eve.
Ahh, time to welcome the ramshackle, loveable rogues that are the Roadside Graves. Is there a band we’ve loved more over the lifespan of Mad Mackerel? Probably not. Excluding The Clash, is there one band’s back catalogue we’d want to be marooned on a desert island with? Then it is these guys.
This year we had the concept story album of sorts We Can Take Care Of Ourselves based on the novel The Outsiders. As always, we were that little bit anxious prior to listening (you always want your favourite bands to keep up their standards and maintain the quality that made you a fan in the first place), and of course we needn’t have worried. In turns heartbreaking, subtle, reflective, delicate and occasionally murderously tense, it is a wonderful, meandering and always intelligent record that rewards more with every listen.
So, some brilliant answers to our Christmas questions from all the band – just need to get them playing over here in the UK now.
a) The Velvet Underground or The Doors?
The Velvet Underground.
The Doors: boring, pretentious, soul-less.
The Velvet Underground: ballsy, strange, beautiful.
Bob Dylan or Neil Young?
This was a tough one for me, I love them both. Neil Young’s voice! Its like a dagger made of warm butter. ‘On The Beach‘ is one of my favorite records and ‘Helpless‘ one of my favorite songs. and his guitar!!! I am not a big fan of guitar solos but Neil is one of a handful of guitarists that gets my thumbs up to solo whenever he wants. Simple, dirty, apocalyptic. The guitar solo in ‘Too Far Gone‘ is one of my favorites!
Bob hits at a different and deeper level. ‘Hard Rain,’ and ‘Modern Times‘ have permanently changed me as a musician. ‘Hard Rain‘ has so much energy and precision…unbelievable. and ‘Modern Times‘ is another beast. My brother put it best when he said that there’s voodoo on that record! Details. Its the record equivalent to The Big Lebowski, eternal repeat value. Lyrically, he has a way of making me feel good. It’s hard to explain, I pretty much always feel like a scumbag but Bob will make me be ok with that. listen to ‘Lonesome Day Blues‘ from ‘Love and Theft,’ that song makes me feel like I own the world!
c) The Sex Pistols or the Clash?
A lot of rock musicians go through their Clash phase, mine was intense, marijuana-fueled, and rewarding. Topper Headon will always be one of my favorite drummers. If you listen to ‘London Calling‘, all of those drum tracks are meticulously written. He had a way of adding a subtle change from part to part that gave the song body and structure, but still keeping it catchy and fun. That was a huge influence on me. And I love the Sex Pistols, raw, angry, toss your pint type shit…its great. But The Clash have depth. ‘Sandanista‘, holy shit! I still haven’t fully conquered that one and I don’t know if I ever will. So much music, so much diversity, so many weird recording tricks. Its a masterpiece! I LOVE THE CLASH!
2) What has been your personal highlight of 2011?
Participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement in NYC has been a real highlight. There has been so much cynicism and hopelessness here in the U.S. about the on-going recession, the poverty, the corruption, the cuts to social services like healthcare and schools, etc… The traditional channels of democratic political participation have been obstructed by political and corporate collusion. Finally people are fighting back, working collectively for social change; there’s a growing spirit of protest and resistance, and it’s been beautiful and inspiring. Personally, I have felt a renewed sense of vibrancy and hope in New York City, where previously I’d felt only some vague neon despair.
3) What was your low point of the year?
Losing loved ones is always the lowest point of any year, and it seems to be happening with increasing regularity as we get older. Add to that the fact that we are not getting any handsomer, cooler, or wiser, and aging seems pretty bleak. Pass the bourbon, please.
4) You can give one single album from 2011 to just one person for Christmas. What would you buy and who for?
Honestly, 2011 has been a relative low point in purchasing new music for me. I have a backlog of stuff I’ve been meaning to check out, but haven’t had the time. My band mates are my main source of new music, but you’re more likely to get Nina Simone or Can than the new Atlas Sound or War on Drugs albums. So I’m giving the new Tom Waits to me.
Is that wrong? A Christmas present to myself…?
5) Give us between two and five songs from 2011 that you’d recommend as the best of the year.
In no order…
Low – Witches (“He gave me a baseball bat and said here’s what you do…”)
Felice Brothers – Oliver Stone (ambitious and odd and worthy of repeat 100 times)
Tom Waits – Pay Me (“They pay me not to come home…”)
Antlers – I Don’t Want Love (“Keep your hands to yourself when you follow me home…”)
ELO – Poorboy (Yes, this came out in the 70’s but I just heard it this year and it’s better than most songs this year, on their record Eldorado)
6) Do you have a favorite Christmas Carol – why?
There is something so real and beautiful when it comes to sadness in Christmas songs. Like that old theory concerning equal and opposite reactions, Christmas has the potential to be a very joyous time, or a very lonely/dark time. Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time is Here” seems to perfectly capture that in between space of joyousness and loneliness. For me, it conjures up a scene of a brightly lit up holiday city scene with one solitary silhouette of a figure moving through the cold winter breeze. On the other hand, I recently keyed in on the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Judy Garland version, as it played at the local petrol station convenience mart. It instantly struck me as one of the saddest songs ever written, Christmas or no Christmas. It made me think of deceased loved ones, loved ones that are no longer in love, diseased starving children, factory farms with millions of Christmas geese piled one on top of the other…you know, some real Yule Tide scenes.
7) Imagine you are snowed in and stuck in an isolated house in the woods for Christmas with no way out. Wolves and bears are prowling outside.You need to recommend the following:
A classic song to impress an ultra cool, know-it-all, teenager
‘Bridge Over Troubled Water‘ by Simon and Garfunkel. Get the emotional juices flowing. Nothing cool there, just sweetness. We all need to turn up the Garfunkel in our lives, and turn down the coolness and knowledge. Just be sweet.
A song to terrify Grandma
‘Diamonds in the Mine‘ by Leonard Cohen. “There is no comfort in the covens of the witch, some very clever doctor went and sterilized the bitch…”
That or anything by the Geto Boys, depending on how badly you want to scare her.
A traditional song to help send Grandad to sleep
“Auld Lang Syne” (lyrics based on the poem by Robert Burns). Grandads should dream of the old times and the old gone pals.
A song for someone just waking from a five-year coma
“Bat out of Hell” by Meatloaf.
A book to frighten the children
or maybe ‘A People’s History of the United States’ by Howard Zinn. Let ‘em have nightmares about Christopher Columbus.
An unforgettable film to watch
“The Big Lebowski” of course. I watch it every Christmas Eve.
8) What is top of your Christmas list this year? Why?
Do you remember getting the Sears Christmas Catalog or “Wish Book” in the mail each year? You can actually find scanned issues from 1979 to about 1991 online. I looked up the 1985 version, which includes the Star Wars page that must have been permanently etched in my brain, because I remember poring over the thing for hours. It was as big as a telephone book, and each toy had their own page layout: He-man, Star Wars, GI Joe, Transformers, GoBots, Voltron, Matchbox. Page 442 has the ridiculous GI Joe 7-1/2 foot long aircraft carrier. I guess the internet is one big grown up version of the Wish Book these days. I don’t have too much on my Christmas list – mostly mundane, practical stuff. I’d be happy with some quality time with friends, family, food, playing music, and maybe a bottle of good bourbon.
9) What is the worst Christmas present you’ve ever given and/or ever received?
I’ve been in a sorry financial state for the majority of my life so I’ve been forced to be creative when present-giving time comes around. This can sometimes lead to the best gifts, and sometimes utter failure. One of the latter times came when I was into a girl. We were at gift-giving status so I knew I needed something but i had dollar zero. I decided to make her a necklace. Nice idea. I took a 90’s style beaded necklace that i had and this bottle cap from Guatemala (a street artist painted a man on the bottle cap.) I made holes in the bottle cap so that the beaded necklace would go through… I finished the necklace… It was bad. I lost some beads along the way due to lack of dexterity and craftsmanship, rough. I tried it on and realized that the bottle cap scratched my chest and my knot in the back scratched my neck in an annoying way. So not only was this necklace visually unappealing, it was painful to don. This was a shitty, ghetto-ass necklace that was painful to wear. Needless to say, I never saw her wearing it and I’d be shocked to find out she ever did.
10) Will you be making a New Year Resolution? If so can you share it and will you keep it? What is the stupidest New Year resolution you’ve ever made?
Well, after recently watching Forks Over Knives Documentary I considered becoming a vegan but then realized I’d never be able to eat an oyster raw again. Scratch that. I usually have a few that I work on. People make grand resolutions and break them fairly quickly. I try to keep my resolutions current and flexible and year round. Sadly they don’t change much because I am continually working on them. I try to drink whisky only on the weekend, get to sleep by ten on school nights, escape to my attic at least once a week to write songs, drink only green tea on weekdays (coffee makes me lose my patience too easily while teaching, green tea keeps me alert and even), call my mom weekly, think of my dad without getting upset, don’t stress that Pitchfork doesn’t review our records anymore, tell my wife I appreciate her, spend time with my new baby, and well the list goes on. Strangely enough I fail at all of them, but I’m in a constant state of improving. If I ever succeed at all the above I may just in fact become a better man. Until then, well. This year I’d really like to add no complaining to my list. So in a long roundabout way I believe my New Year’s Resolution is to not complain for 2012. Which is quite a task when you live in New Jersey.
Imagine you’re headlining a Christmas Concert at your favourite venue. You can share the stage with three other artists or bands (past or present) for the final encore of the night. Who would they be and what would you play?
The fact that this is a Christmas Concert fucks up my usual response to ‘dream band’ types of questions.
It would be at the Bottletree in Birmingham, Alabama.
GG Allin on vocals. Back from the grave and keeping it dangerous.
Antony (from Antony and the Johnsons) on backing vocals. Keep it strange.
I’ll play a double-neck guitar through a half-broken blues junior amp.
Les Claypool on bass, all three drummers from The Boredoms on drums. Keep it loud and locked in. It will be the most fucked up Christmas Concert ever.
12) Can you write us a Christmas themed limerick?
Do They Know It’s Christmas on Arrakis?
Sipping on mulled spice,
Gurney takes out his baliset.
Practicing each carol twice,
While wondering what kind of presents he’ll get.
The Harkonnens hang their stockings
While the baron wears his Santa suit
So he better not misbehave
Because that new slave boy is so damn cute
Little Paul got a new Weirding Module
And the Fremen have their peace.
No matter what the Spacing Guild says,
Christmas on Arrakis is as wonderful as can be
Buy the new album here. Download from eMusic here.
Watch Liv Tyler.
Download The Roadside Graves – Double Feature mp3 (from We Can Take Care Of Ourselves)
Download The Roadside Graves – Love Me More mp3 (from We Can Take Care Of Ourselves)
Download The Roadside Graves – Everything mp3 (from You Won’t Be Happy With Me EP)
Download The Roadside Graves – Liv Tyler mp3 (from You Won’t Be Happy With Me EP)
Download The Roadside Graves – Far And Wide mp3 (from My Son’s Home)
Download The Roadside Graves – Lot Lizards mp3 (from If Shacking Up Is All You Want To Do)
Download The Roadside Graves – Jesus Is A Friend Of The Family mp3 (from What Happened To Him Could Happen To Anyone)
Download The Roadside Graves – Demons (Aquarium Drunkard Encore Session) mp3
Download The Roadside Graves – Jail (Simplefolk UK Radio Live Session) mp3
Tomorrow: The Royal Sea
Previously: Lovely Eggs (here), Twilight Hotel (here), Grass House (here), Hurray For The Riff Raff (here), Lonesome Wyatt & The Holy Spooks (here), Ohioan (here), Wooden Wand (here), Henry’s Funeral Shoe (here).