chickfactor: did you originally envision lambchop as having about a dozen members? or did you just keep adding people as you went along?
kurt: it may seem kinda weird, but I never really envisioned lambchop as anything more than an unlimited number of people getting together and making a sort of noise that just went out into the air. no band really, no org.. just a shy, introverted, collection of people who got together on a weekly basis and tried to entertain themselves through their own invention and expression. we use to think if someone new would come by to play with us that if they came back again, then we passed their criterion of what was fun and musical. we passed their “audition”. and to some extent that “feeling” exists today and helps to foster some sort of proficiency in what we try to do. but then also I vaguely remember saying from time to time “anybody is welcome to play with us… so long as they behave themselves”. what exactly I meant by that I am not too sure.
cf: before lambchop, what other nashville “rock groups” have there been since the avant garde?
jonathan: hey, this is a trick question, isn’t it? ’cause when you’re talking about the local music scene, well, all the good groups either came a few years before the avant garde, or about 15 years after. personally, my favorite groups all came around post-british invasion: in 1964, you had the deltas, who were actually from gallatin; they cut a killer 45 called “wan-bak-a-na (she’s my girl),” backed with a real wimpy weeper called “wild in the sun.” great stuff. then around the same time, there was the kapers, who were an east side combo, and they turned in a pretty great cover of screamin’ jay hawkins’ “alligator wine” on the jed label, though I’ve always been kinda partial to the b-side, “topless.” fast-forward a coupla years, and you had the allman joys, which was the allman brothers way before they got all into the southern rock thing. they went to junior high in nashville, and apparently, they had a rep for being hot shit even back then. but as far as I’m concerned, the best combo from the class of ’66 would have to the prophets combo. they turned in a righteous cover of james brown’s “I’ll go crazy” (comet records) that has been matched only once‹by the residents on their george and james LP. yeah, it¹s that good. so the prophets kicked around for most of ’66, and they hooked up with another local kid, larry herman, renaming themselves larry herman and the fabulous prophets combo. they cut another mind-blowingly great 45, “gertrud” b/w “another girl” (on the comet subsidiary combo records). as far as I’m concerned, this is the single greatest recorded moment in the history of nashville rock & roll: I think the organ player musta put his organ through a guitar amp with some kind of fuzz effect, because I don’t think I’ve ever heard a vox/farfisa create a wall of sound like that before. larry herman got drafted and sent off to vietnam, where he died in action. but when you talk about the best local group ever, well, that honor would have to go to nashville’s only all-female combo, the feminine complex, who were making the scene from about late ’66 to mid-’68. I won’t even get started on these guys, because once I get started, I can’t stop waxing rhapsodic about their music, and really, I think they deserve to be featured on the cover of some future issue of chickfactor. (gail, james has my number….) by the late 60s/early 70s, the local rock & roll scene had kinda stagnated, and I suppose nashville had its share of bad prog bands, and then of course bad new wave bands. the best of the group from my own dull ’80s youth would have to be the young nashvillians, a septet named for a goofy local bank promotion designed to attract, you guessed it, young nashvillians. some of their songs were actually about nashville (the local shopping mall, the crappy ice at shoney’s restaurant, etc.), and their songs capture the essence of sweet, innocent youth at the height of nashville’s humid summer. for a long time, the local scene really flat-out sucked. until a few years ago, when you had COBS, and the tony guides. one time the tony guides played a gig at this lame local art happening, and they dressed up in mardi gras masks and tried to sell bags of cat shit to everyone in the audience. it was, without a doubt, the most brilliant work of art at that whole event, and needless to say, all the artists hated them and wanted to kick them out. oh, and then there was the time they had a guy dressed up as a robot passing out cups of kool-aid at one of their shows, until he went haywire and started throwing kool-aid at everyone in the audience. so they didn’t have the greatest songs or anything, but clearly it didn’t matter. so those are the highlights, I guess, though I gotta give props to the following: the casuals, bobby russell and the impalos, the sliders, bobby williams and the nightlifters, the skipper hunt combo, the continentals, leon martin and the clefs, charlie mccoy and the escorts, bobby rinkley and the squires, the nocturnes, the anglo saxons, the lemonade charade, the chessmen, the nitecaps, little richie and the upsetters, baby ray, the nashville shadows, the opposite sex, fancy friends, the wayouts, shadow 15, raging fire, johnny panic and the bible of dreams, die vixers, medicinal porpoises, hello kitty, the houseflies, the cherry blossoms, david cloud’s gospel of power, CYOD, trauma team, and fair verona. oh, so who was the avant garde? that was mr. wheel of fortune/love connection himself, chuck woollery, and some other guy. I’ve got both their 45s, and they’re pretty fuckin’ cheesy.
cf: what is the largest version of lambchop to appear onstage together?
kurt: it was probably in london, at the electric ballroom (17 people). at some point during the show most of the members of calexico and vic chesnutt all joined in.
cf: pittsburgh = steel, detroit = cars, etc… what’s it like being a band in a city where music is the official industry?
lambchop: you become a construction worker and never tell anybody that you attempt to perform music; or, for years growing up here, through “casual contact”, I was both repelled and fascinated by the music industry. to me it represented this corrupt dirty ugly manipulative goat’s head. yet at the same time I really enjoyed the people that played the actual music. they were magic or at least it seemed what they did was. things haven’t changed so much; or, it’s like, if we were from detroit, we’d all be riding unicycles; or, gotta go, I just heard some shooting outside…
cf: what fellow trumpet players do you admire?
jonathan: well, I guess the easy answer would be that I admire most all of them, since they know a hell of a lot more about playing the trumpet than I do. naturally, miles davis is the man when you’re talking about trumpeters, if only because his output was so incredibly broad, and he was the kinda guy who wasn’t afraid to tell people to fuck off — just by what he played and how he played it. can’t say I ever really cared that much for his cyndi lauper cover, though. truth be told, I can’t say that I’m inspired by any particular trumpeter, though I do have to give props to my fellow trumpet player in lambchop, dennis cronin, if only because we’ve learned to work well together. he’s got the skills and I got the pills. the wind players whom I most admire are saxophonists — pharoah sanders and albert ayler. at certain moments, they achieved a level of expression unlike anything else I’ve ever heard. they were channeling some serious shit through their horns — on one hand completely unfettered, at the same time really emotionally complex and deep. not that this has anything to do with how I play music, but since you asked…
cf: do people ask you “why are your songs so sad?” what do you tell them?
kurt: sometimes… I personally think that there is a lot of humor in what I write. it just gets masked or thrown in with some pretty dark stuff. it just seems more interesting that way… at least to me. I’m usually a pretty upbeat guy. but like anyone I might get a little down from time to time. what are you gonna do?
cf: what’s maury povich like?
buddy: he likes oral sex on the beach, doesn’t he? can have I another question? I don’t give two shits about maury povich. cf