FRUITCAKE SOCIOLOGY 101
Life According to the Jazz Butcher
The Jazz Butcher. Is that a guy or a group?
Whoever/whatever it is, it apparently "emerged from the
English countryside" in 1982 with its sidekick, guitarist
, and proceeded to put out some impressive vinyl.
Bath Of Bacon
came first, which the Butcher himself
described as " the sound of young(ish) people finding out
how songs go." Next came various live groupings with
), or sometimes
just Max and Butch by themselves. Eventually they were
(drums) to form the
Sikkorskis From Hell, from which came A Scandal In Bohemia
Sex And Travel
in '85, and eventually a new bassist Felix. Bloody Nonsense
their first U.S. release (Big Time Records). But the man I'd
come to assume was the Jazz Butcher politely introduced
himself as both
and Melonhead. Hmmm. You
know what they say about assuming.
Such things don't really matter. In fact, it's this type of
unpredictability that makes the Jazz Butcher what they/he
are/is. You'll never be really certain what you're dealing
with. They like to keep their audiences thinking; the
melodies may be snappy little sing-a-longs, soulful ballads
or jazzy lounge tunes, but their lyrics are about anything
from Red Russians or the Devil to the skins of dead Jim
Morrisons or heads of state. You won't get away with just
dancing with this stuff. You may be smiling and your feet
may be moving but your brain will be wondering, "what the
hell is happening here!?"
: Are you happy with the fact that your
first U.S. release, Bloody Nonsense
was a sort of "greatest hits?"
Jazz Butcher/Pat Fish/Melonhead: (Rather indignantly)
We've never had a hit in our lives! It's just an introduction.
Dave (from Glass records) and I put it together, and its just
sort of an introduction so people don't waste their money on
expensive imports. I think its a fair enough introduction.
Obviously, one can't really sort of condense the contents of
three LP's and half a dozen singles onto one record, but it
gives people an idea of what to expect.
So you're going to get them with Bloody Nonsense
and keep them with the new record?
Well, we're not interested in sort of getting them and
keeping them. We don't look to make fans, we look to make
friends with as best we can. It does seem that people that
buy our records do stick with us. Its very flattering. The
new LP has a couple of
's songs on it. My mother
heard it and said, "You know, that bloke, its like rock n' roll
never happened for him, isn't it?" And then she said, "Come
to think of it, it's like jazz never happened either."
What's the view of British bands that get American
record deals? Is there resentment in the U.K. at all?
Well, that all depends if you like the band, doesn't it? I
mean if some horrid, heavy metal band gets an American
deal we just think, "Oh yeah, right, stadium rock, punching
the air, eating hamburgers, and going whoop."
All at the same time.
All at the same time. I mean, God gave talents to
everyone. No, I think... I can't speak for everyone, but most
of the younger British groups are all in it for the right
reasons. And if they're in it for the right reasons, then they
like seeing someone they like being successful. Theres no
sort of professional jealousy.
The right reasons being...
Ok, that's a good question. Obviously we enjoy doing it,
right? And in the beginning we went to where anyone
would listen--so we were doing it for ourselves, as well. I
thing once you found that people were listening, the main
thing is to bear in mind, not insult their intelligence. Bear in
mind also, that, like it or not, you're in show business;
you're in entertainment. People pay money, they cross town.
We've been finding people in the states that've been driving
two hours to see us. Apart from recommending a good
analyst, all we can do is do our best--try to give these
people a good time and send them away feeling positive,
and not to waste their time. So many people are in this
business basically to impress people.
To prove a point?
Well possibly. Everyone has points they want to prove.
Do you consider it important to play what you want
to? How much of a show is a job, a duty to please your
audience, and a duty to please yourself?
I think once you're at a concert..we think of it as a duty
to please the audience. But the point is, if we're not pleasing
ourselves, we'll get bored. And if we're bored, the audience
is going to be bored..which is one reason why I'm never able
to tell people what we'll be playing that night because we
write the set list a half an hour before we go on. We try to
change it every night. Its like a chess game; you have certain
opening gambits--all these different choices.
But I would imagine that your fans trust your
NO! They complain like mad! Like the night we decide
to leave Caroline Wheeler out of the set, suddenly everyone
wants to hear Caroline Wheeler."
Are you afraid of being misconstrued, because of the
lyrics, as being a "silly" band?
We've had a lot of trouble in England with the press
because we don't quite fit in,we won't be squeezed into a
little box and wear the same clothes, and one song doesn't
sound the same as the next one. Until recently, a lot of the
ones who didn't get the point just dismissed us as a comedy
group, which I find irritating because I don't see what's
funny about a lot of our songs.
Someone like Robyn Hitchcock
, who writes bizarre lyrics with
great songs; he's misunderstood as being some
neo-psychadelic nut case or something.
Robyn Hitchcock claims he's never taken acid. That's
all I'm gonna say about Robyn Hitchcock. We like him. I
thing we do get compared.
That bugs you?
No, I don't mind getting put in the old English
eccentrics bracket, that's fair enough I suppose. Robyn
Hitchcock, Kevin Ayers, Noel Coward -
there's a tradition of those guys that drink too
much and well, it's a bit of an honor. I don't like being
dismissed as some druggie casualty or a comedy group
because we're not that.
I really loved your cover of Jonathan Richman
-- it's on a compilation. I wanted to ask you about the
Richman influence; he's a favorite of mine.
He's a favorite of mine too. Though dare I say, he's not
really an influence so much as a kindred spirit. I mean
Roadrunner I've been playing in garage bands for years
'cause it's easy. But I think what really happened was that
when I started writing what was to become Jazz Butcher
material, I was listening almost exclusively to the Velvet Underground
to an old soul compilation with Wilson Pickett, King Curtis..
Memphis soul. I think Wilson Pickett is god-like.
Those are the main influences. Then after awhile I noticed
some of the songs I was writing were decidedly silly. And it
made me think 'cause Lou Reed
said that Richman was at more Velvets shows than
Lou was. And I just thought, you know, silly white middle
class college boys who listen to too much Velvet Underground
stupid songs. I just felt an affinity. Obviously, I listen to
Jonathan Richman and admire him immensely.
You can't read a review of the Jazz Butcher without a
Lou Reed/Velvet Underground reference in it. What would
you say to Lou Reed if you ever met him?
I'm a right hero worshipper, honestly. If I ever met any
of the Velvet Underground, I think I'd just have a heart
attack and die. I don't know, I don't know what i'd say. We
got to go to New York after all these years of waiting to go
there--to see the streets where Tom Verlaine and Lou Reed walked.
Wow! I was in heaven in
New York. But we were there two nights playing in
Hoboken, and who was playing at the Ritz? Lou was playing
at the Ritz. Can you imagine! Twenty eight years I've
waited to come to New York and that happens.
He's coming to Chicago soon.
Yeah, I think he's keeping an eye on us. Someone had