Fiz Interview

The following are excerpts of a 1994 interview with Mark Trombino and Rick Farr by Dave McConnell in Fiz magazine (used without permission) ... as transcribed by Eliot Shepard for Luau.

Part 1: begin the interview:

Mark: I'm glad to see a tape machine.

Fiz: Why would you say something like that?

Mark: Because we've been misquoted a lot.

Fiz: Well, I'll try not to do you wrong.

Rick: We'll use short words, so it will be easy for you to transcribe.

Fiz: This band, as opposed to a lot of other bands down here, seems to be shrouded in mystery. There doesn't seem to be much known about you. People talk about you, but no one seems to really know anything. To what would you attribute this?

Rick: (long pause) I don't know.

Fiz: Do you know what I'm taking about?

Rick: I guess it's just that there is nothing exciting to know.

Fiz: Really? It's just that simple?

Rick: Or maybe there is. I don't know. It depends on the point of view.

Fiz: Well, the music is pretty exciting. Pretty intense, and it sounds like music that would come from supercharged, intense people. Sitting here with you, it is obvious that you are pretty low-key guys.

Rick: Well, maybe we're so intense musically because we are all so low key, and we need that balance of the super intense or whatever.

Fiz: I very rarely see interviews with you guys. Rather I see articles written about you, and usually I find them uninformative. The most that ever gets said is that you and John used to be in Pitchfork, and that he also plays in Rocket From the Crypt.

Rick: You know, no one ever really asks us anything.

Mark: We haven't really done any interviews until this record.

Fiz: So tell me some interesting things about Drive Like Jehu that people may want to know.

Rick: Specific questions.

Fiz: OK, what do you guys do for fun? Do you like puppies?

Rick: Puppies? I have cats. (to Mark) Do you have any pets?

Mark: No, but I'd love to have a puppy, though.

Fiz: They're good.

Mark: Yeah. I don't have room for a puppy right now.

Rick: John has a dog.

Fiz: He has a wife, too, doesn't he?

Rick: No, he has a girlfriend. We allhave girlfriends, except for Mike, who is in the process of getting one. John also has all sorts of reptiles and frogs. My roommate has cats, but they're not mine. I just live with them.

Fiz: You know, there are "dog people", and there are "cat people".

Rick: I'd rather have no pets, personally. I think people have enough trouble understanding themselves and other people. I don't really think they're quite capable of understanding a dog. "Woof, woof, woof." "Oh, are you hungry, Sparky? Are you sad, Sparky?" You can't tell. Sparky might be saying "I have a bladder infection! Get me to the vet at once."

Fiz: Besides John, do any of you play any other music outside of this?

Rick: (to Mark) You record stuff don't you?

Mark: Yeah.

Fiz: You produced the new record, right?

Mark: Well, I recorded it.

Fiz: Are you pretty much a non-produced band?

Mark: We try not to be.

Fiz: You just go in and record and know what you want it to sound like.

Mark: Yeah.

Fiz: How much of what happens on tape is accidental? There are so many layers of sound. Are there any sonic accidents that just seem to work?

Rick: A lot of the things we record are spontaneous.

Mark: A lot of the guitar stuff. None of the structure.

Fiz: Rick, did you play guitar before this band?

Rick: I did a little bit, but not in a band. I consider myself to be a novice guitar player.

Fiz: I'd say you're doing pretty well for a novice.

Rick: Yeah.

Fiz: You got a record.

Rick: Yep, got a record. I've gotten better.

(c) 1994 Fiz magazine | by Dave McConnell | used without permission

Part 2: you think this is exciting, wait til you hear the Chico story:

Fiz: Has the Rocket thing gotten in the way? Is it problematic trying to operate both bands like this?

Rick: We all cooperate pretty well. There are some problems with it, but there are advantages with it, too. For example, because Rocket has to do stuff, we don't have to go on tour for two years, or a year straight or whatever.

Fiz: But do you guys want to be on the road?

Rick: Not for that long.

Mark: It would be nice to be in a full-time band. I mean, the band is going all the time, but... not touring all the time, but it would just be nice to be musically progressing all the time.

Fiz: Do you guys play much? I mean, when you are not touring. Do you play around town often?

Mark: No, we don't really play around town that much.

Fiz: I know you don't get up to LA very often.

Rick: Nah. It seems to take us a lot to get us to do anything. Rocket is much more active than we are. But, it's easier for them to do stuff, too. They can bang out stuff real fast, where we can't. W have to sit and go over stuff...

Mark: If we play a lot, that means we're not writing as much, and it takes us a long time to write.

Fiz: Why is that?

Rick: Because everyone is involved. Everyone has to like what's going on or it just won't work out.

Fiz: In Rocket, does John pretty much write the songs and have the band play them?

Rick: I don't know, but their stuff is, you know, more rock and roll I guess. They just seem to be able to do things much quicker than us.

Fiz: I'm sorry, I don't mean to keep dwelling on Rocket. I'm sure you guys get sick of it being brought up all the time. I'm just fascinated by the fact that these bands are able to work around each other.

Rick: Yeah, It's linked in more ways than just John being in both bands. We share almost everything.

Fiz: Management. Label.

Rick: Label, van, practice room. Every member of Rocket with the exception of Paul and Jay, the horn players, are going with us on tour. Andy is driving. Pete is driving for Tanner, who are touring with us. Adam is playing with Custom Floor, who are touring with us, and John plays with us.

Fiz: When you signed to Interscope, I kind of got the feeling that you didn't care one way or the other if you did or not. Was it something that had to happen?

Rick: I think we all have different opinions about that.

Fiz: Obviously, John wanted to do it.

Mark: It's something we probably wouldn't have done if it was left up to just Jehu.

Rick: It's something *I* wouldn't have done. However, at this point there is no reason to regret having done it. They are very helpful and cooperative and don't interfere at all. It hasn't been a bad experience at all. We basically gave them the record and they just said "OK".

Fiz: Did you record at Westbeach again?

Rick: Some of it.

Mark: About half of it. The other half was recorded at a place down here. We mixed in different places.

Fiz: I want to ask you about your lyrics.

Rick: Oh, no.

Fiz: I've been listening to you for a while now -- Pitchfork, too -- and I've always been intrigued by your lyrics, what I can understand anyway. The vocals tend to be buried in the mix, so it can be difficult to tell sometimes. I'll just take the bits and pieces I can pick up and use a cut-and-paste type method of figuring them out.

Rick: Well, that sort of is the idea. There is nothing really there, nothing overt that I'm trying to get across.

Fiz: Not really emoting or anything like that.

Rick: No. That's the one thing that everyone says -- "emotional", and that's not necessarily the case. It's just loud, or screaming or whatever. It's just a necessary thing with this band.

Fiz: It's just the whole style... it comes across as some sort of big release, a catharsis type of thing. The whole band comes across that way to me, not just the vocals.

Rick: Yeah, all the music is designed for maximum physical gratification. When we started the band, and we were in Pitchfork -- this is just my point of view -- but we'd just play the song, and it would be a good song or whatever, but in Jehu, I think it's aimed at a lot more enjoyment.

Fiz: A lot of improvisation live?

Rick: Well, yeah, it's just aimed at playing live.

Mark: Less song oriented.

Rick: Yeah, not so song oriented. Well, it is and it isn't. The thing is, we take so long to write a song, we try to make it good as possible, but we're definitely more interested in getting our rocks off.

(c) 1994 Fiz magazine | by Dave McConnell | used without permission

Part 3: finally, the true meaning of "suit up" revealed:

Fiz: Are you still getting a lot of Fugazi comparisons?

Mark: Not for this one.

Rick: It seems like people are just reiterating the standard things they've already read or saying what they think they're supposed to say, but I haven't read too many reviews of the new record that mentioned Fugazi.

Fiz: I never really saw the Fugazi connection to begin with. I kept seeing it in print and thinking "What in the hell are they talking about?"

Mark: On the first record we did get compared a lot to Fugazi.

Rick: Well, that record was a lot more like Fugazi, this one is not. Now al the reviews say how we're not like Fugazi.

Mark: But still relating us to Fugazi.

Rick: Now it's like, "At some point they must have been like Fugazi."

Fiz: Or, "I think these guys must have a Fugazi record."

Rick: I like Fugazi a lot.

Fiz: I don't think it's a bad thing. It's just that I never really made the connection between the two bands. I always thought of you as being more influenced by a band like Slint or something like that.

Rick: I think the main influence is, like I was saying before, the physical gratification. Everyone sort of influences each other.

Fiz: What's your audience like?

Rick: We don't know. I don't look at the audience. It's just whoever shows up, and we just start playing, and afterward we'll just look around, and there they are.

Fiz: There isn't any interaction between you and your audience?

Rick: Nah. It's not that we're trying to alienate the audience or anything like that, it's just that we're concentrating on, hopefully, what we're doing.

Mark: It's not a crazy, out-of-control audience of anything like that. People usually seen to be pretty subdued.

Rick: I can't think of one berserk audience reaction we've ever had. I would notice a berserk audience reaction, but usually people just stare at us, or do this (bobs his head up and down) or whatever, but I've never seen anybody get berserk.

Fiz: Do you think it could be that people aren't sure what they are supposed to be doing at your shows?

Rick: I don't know. They're not supposed to be doing anything. They could do whatever they want.

Fiz: There seems to be a sort of social order or decorum that takes place at shows that will establist a behavior for an audience. If it's not known people may have reservations like, "If I jump around, are these people gonna be bummed at me?" or "If I don't get a stage dive in, my friends will think I'm a wimp."

Mark: We don't really put out a lot of room for rockin' out, either.

Rick: Oh, musically?

Mark: Yeah, we've got our short burners and stuff.

Fiz: Overall, I'd say it's pretty intense musically.

Rick: I rock out! I like it.

Mark: Yeah, I do too, but I know what's coming.

Fiz: The Merge single, that was pretty rockin'.

Both: Yeah.

Mark: Oh, tell him about Chico. That was fun.

Rick: Oh, yeah, that was fun. That wasn't berserk, that was drunken. Chico is cool. I like it there. Actually we played at this place, and it was the last show they were having there, and there were all these bar utensils in back, and we built this longs right on the stage. John had all these pictures out, and we found all these outfits and stuff like that. Andy from Rocket was there with us, and he had a fez on and a velvet smoking jacket. John found a western apparel store and bought this ridiculous shirt, with white piping and horses and stuff, and he had a lone ranger mask and a big cowboy hat. And I had these lederhosen on, with these weird pedal-pusher pants and this pink jacket, and we were all dressed up completely wacko. We all had these Lone Ranger Masks on, and went for a walk around Chico.

Fiz: Strange things happen in Chico.

Rick: There's that big public pool there, did you see that? The river there, it worms down into this big man-made basin, a big swimming hole, and there is a sign that says "Warning", with the name of some disease or bacteria or whatever. It means if you swim in this water you're gonna get the shits for the next two or three days. And all these people are just going "Whooo!" and jumping right in.

Fiz: Tell me about some other memorable live shows. That one sounded pretty good.

Rick: That one was memorable because we were drunk and dressed up in longe outfits. There have been lots of good shows, they're always fun, but the camping one, that's the only other one I can think of.

Mark: Yeah, and we were terrible at that one.

Fiz: Camping?

Rick: Yeah. It was Halloween, and we went as campers. We all played in tents, we each had our individual tents, Mark had a real big one with his drums set up inside.

Mark: So when you looked at the stage, you saw all these fake trees, blue light and we had cricket sounds going through the whole thing. And we had some people on stage roasting marshmallows. We were all in tents so all you could see was people fishing or whatever.

Rick: Andy was fishing through the whole thing.

Fiz: That sounds pretty fun. But you weren't any good?

Rick: No, you couldn't see anything, and you couldn't really hear what was going on, and you couldn't tune.

Mark: It got really crazy at the end. That was one show that did really go off, but it was mostly just our friends getting on stage and fucking shit up.

Rick: Yeah, Robbie got up there and started pissing on the fake trees.

Fiz: Oh, that's not good.

Rick: Everything got smashed.

(c) 1994 Fiz magazine | by Dave McConnell | used without permission

Part 4: (Conversation now somehow shifts to what we had all done the night before):

Mark: I stayed home. I rented "Streetfighter II" and played video games all night.

Rick: My girlfriend made me dinner. Roast garlic.

Fiz: Sounds good.

Rick: Uh-huh. Potatoes and wilted spinach salad. That's my idea of a good time. See, this is going to be the most boring interview ever. It's like, "What do you do for fun?" "I like to go for walks."

Fiz: How productive are you as an artist?

Rick: How productive? Uh, well. I have a lot of stuff laying around the house that could be considered product, but I don't, like, try to get into galleries or send my stuff to magazines or do comic strips or hang out with other artists or anything like that.

Fiz: It's something you do completely on your own, for fun?

Rick: Not necessarily, I wouldn't mind doing it, I just...

Fiz: Obviously, you do the record covers, but have you done anything else? I think I saw a Cargo ad you did once.

Rick: Yeah, I did some Headhunter ads. I guess I've been pretty productive lately. I've done some posters and things like that. People see the record cover and go "That's it?" It's pretty much...

Fiz: Simple.

Rick: Yeah, It's supposed to be.

Fiz: Is it important for the band that you do the artwork on all the records?

Rick: Yeah.

Fiz: So it works out well for the rest of you too, then?

Mark: Oh yeah, definitely. Everybody really likes his stuff a lot.

Rick: OK, now for the exciting portion of this interview. How about something exciting, what's exciting? What makes good copy?

Fiz: So you have your artwork, but does anybody else in the band have anything like that? Mark, you have your recording. Do you work with a lot of other bands?

Mark: I have been lately. But it's sort of dying down now. I just finished up everything that I was working on.

Fiz: Do you have your own studio.

Mark: No. The place where Jehu recorded, I take people there.

Fiz: Are you sought after for these things?

Mark: No, I have to go out and find people. I'll hear someone is recording and I'll go in and go "Hey! I've got to do this for you." The sound of our record is not the kind of record where someone goes... you don't notice the sound, you don't notice the production, at least I don't think. It sounds like it was recorded in your kitchen. So I don't think people are stoked on that kind of production.

Fiz: I've only had it for a week or so. I've only listened to it a couple of times, so I haven't relly got into the "sound" of it yet. The thing that surprised me the most is the length of some of the songs.

Mark: One of them is nine and a half minutes long.

Rick: And there is another that is something like that. Nine and a half or ten minutes.

Mark: "Luau". That's kind of a tight and tidy version of "Luau".

Rick: Was it last time that you didn't stop?

Mark: Yeah.

Rick: "I've got to get into it! I've got to transcend!"

Mark: The end of that one is open-ended. I've got the cue, so it's like, "I am the song." It gets to this part where it's just one chord going over and over.

Rick: And I'm going, "My hand is about to break!"

(c) 1994 Fiz magazine | by Dave McConnell | used without permission

Part 5: this will probably be the last part. it just degenerates from here:

Fiz: I liked the sound of the single.

Mark: That was done in a real shitty studio.

Fiz: It sounded real noisy.

Mark: Like a little metal box.

Rick: Computer music room. Actually it was all done on computers.

Fiz: It's a simulation.

Rick: It's virtual...

Fiz: Virtual Drive Like Jehu!

Rick: Let's talk about virtual reality. What is virtual reality?

Mark: I just went to Vegas, and they had a little virtual reality thing at the Luxor, and it was so shitty...

Rick: What's that?

Mark: The Luxor is the hotel that's shaped like a pyramid.

Fiz: The one with the laser on top.

Rick: Aren't they incorporating roller coasters and stuff like that now?

Mark: They've got this ride that is fucking amazing at the Luxor. Have you been to Star Tours [at Disneyland]? It's like that, but better.

Fiz: Is it a virtual reality type thing?

Mark: It's supposed to be, yeah.

Rick: Don't they have goggles or something?

Mark: They had some of that stuff, too.

Fiz: I understand that, ultimately, you'll have a whole suit that is completely filled with sensors, so that every move is monitored and responded to. So if you were to hold out your hand and clench your fist, you'd see an image of it in the goggles.

Rick: That's so stupid. Why have virtual reality when you can have actual reality?

Fiz: Well, the idea is, with all the programs, you could, for instance, sit in your living room and go surfing.

Rick: Why not just go surfing? It would be a lot better.

Fiz: That's how I feel, too, but if you live in Des Moines, Iowa, maybe you can't.

Rick: They why not go for a walk in a cornfield? I don't get it. I like normal reality just fine.

Fiz: I wonder if they will have to come up with virtual drugs so you can escape from virtual reality. How long a period of time was there between the end of Pitchfork and the start of Jehu?

Mark: Not long.

Fiz: Did you already have it in mind?

Rick: We were all like, "OK, let's break up and start a new band."

Fiz: And the other two were already waiting in the wings?

Mark: No, Mike and I were in another band.

Fiz: Night Soil Man, right?

Mark: Yeah. And I think John and Mike lived together at the time, and they were playing together while Pitchfork was still going. They were just jamming or whatever at home. So when they broke up Pitchfork and started this band, they already had three people playing.

Fiz: Was it a pretty natural progression for you to jump into this band? It sounds like a logical extension to me.

Rick: It sounds like both bands.

Fiz: I've never heard Night Soil Man, so I have no idea what they sosunded like.

Rick: It sounded like Drive Like Jehu's rhythym section.

Mark: Night Soil Man was like an overly dramatic, trying-to-be-intense kind of thing.

Rick: Whereas we are not very dramitic at all "(laughter)"

Fiz: I've heard that quite a few bands from down here are like that, though.

Rick: Dramatic?

Fiz: Well just with a lot of intensity in a certain kind of way. Heroin is one of the bands I heard. I'm not saying they sounded like you, but they seem to have had a similar approach to playing. Even Truman's Water, they kind of have it too, on occasion.

Rick: Well everyone is just into, you know, not fucking around and just playing to play...

Fiz: I'm not suggesting a geographical sound or anything like that, I've just noticed a couple of bands from around here that have an aggressive, intense approach to their music, and not in the "old" punk rock way, but in a cool, musical way.

Rick: There are lots of bands around here doing interesting things. I'm sure it's the same, elsewhere, too.

Fiz: Has the whole San Diego hype thing become a thorn in your side?

Rick: No. Every now and then somebody will ask about it, and I will be like, (shrugs). I don't really read that many magazines or anything like that so I don't mind or...

Fiz: Or even know what's going on.

Rick: It's all really abstract. I mean, you read about it in a magazine, and it exists in the pages of tat magazine, but in reality...

Fiz: Just a couple of clubs and some bands.

Rick: Yeah. There are some bands, and it's the same as it was and everyone is already sick of it.

(c) 1994 Fiz magazine | by Dave McConnell | used without permission


Copyright © Swag Valance Publishing Ltd, 1994