I feel it coming on again
Just like it did before
They feed your pride with boredom
And they lead you on to war
His latest release is Olé! Tarantula, a bright, deliriously infectious outing with his band The Venus 3 comprised of pals Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows), and Bill Rieflin (Revolting Cocks/Ministry). Also helping out are keyboard legend Ian McLagan, Chris Ballew (Presidents of the United States of America), and ex-Soft Boys Kimberley Rew and Morris Windsor. His 22nd solo record, Tarantula presents many of Hitchcock’s disparate threads in one well-stitched tapestry, swaying between thoughtful ruminations and crunchy rockers with easy grace.
“My stuff’s very much a hybrid,” says Hitchcock. “I can recognize where I got most things from, even if it’s just out of the dictionary. I tend to like major keys more than minor keys. I’m not sure there’s anything in a minor [key] on it [Tarantula]. Even Spooked [his previous album, produced and performed with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings], which was a darker sounding record, there’s not much in a minor key there either, just songs that sound reflective.”
The Venus 3 swings like seasoned pros despite this being their first official release. Hitchcock says, “It’s just a combination of time and luck. It’s always good to have both working for you rather than against you. In this instance, I’ve known Peter for so long, Scott for a while, and Bill for a good few years – I met him through my daughter Mazy, who’s a big Ministry fan. They’ve all known each other for ages and they’re in two other bands with each other [Minus 5/R.E.M.]. We were quite played in before we even played a note.”
“Suzanne Vega might have mentioned meerkats but Johnny Thunders wouldn’t have [laughs]. Let’s call them non-human animals because we’re animals, too. We’re just animals with dictionaries. It doesn’t make us any smarter,” observes Hitchcock. “I’m not constantly running around in the wilds or scrambling through the rocks looking for different species. They just make their way into my songs. Maybe it’s just because of the way they look. I mention beasts I like the look of. Meerkats sit bolt upright like humans, very good posture. The tarantula is a very iconic creature, not necessarily as bad as its reputation. Plus it’s a great sounding word. So, if I like the sound of the word and the look of the creature it’s likely to crop up.”
“America is a nightmare institution full of great people. My biggest following is here. I’ve got a lot of friends and fans here, and they’re all sort of trapped in the thickening nightmare. One of my functions is to go around and rally the faithful like Billy Bragg,” comments Hitchcock. “Once they shot Martin Luther King it was pretty clear which side the bread was buttered. I did hear an amusing song by Lieber and Stoller on the radio called ‘Only In America,’ that said, ‘Only in America can a poor kid without a cent grow up to be President.’ I just couldn’t believe that anyone bought that myth or anyone’s buying it now.”
On his taking a good swipe at power mongers, he says, “It’s what they deserve, but it’s easier to do that [in the U.S.] than it would have been somewhere else. You couldn’t speak your mind in Soviet Russia but you did have free health care and no unemployment. It’s a question of what will you trade for what? Freedom just generally means the right of anybody to sell anybody anything and no safety net. Capitalism eats itself. It needs constant expansion. That’s what ‘Balloon Man’ was about on an unconscious level. Accelerated consumption means you wind up feeding on yourself when there’s nothing left to eat. It’s a weird human thing, this tendency towards models, whether it’s a Stalinist state model or a capitalist model where everything keeps merging and there’s only two record companies left and eventually there’ll just be one. People used to laugh when I talked about Sonyweaversal ten years ago but it’s pretty much there now.”
A Backward Glance
In a vast catalog, Trains‘ title tune is a simple daydream that slices across great distances, making big things personal and approachable, a rare gift Hitchcock possesses in joyous abundance.
“I play it about half that speed now. You find that with quite a lot of old things,” says Hitchcock. “I don’t change the older songs much but I think they tend to drift, and they drift downstream. You really do get slower as you get older, unless you’re very agitated, in which case you’re probably going to pop [laughs].”
I often dream of trains when I’m alone
I ride on them into another zone
I dream of them constantly
Heading for paradise
Or Basingstoke or Reading
JamBase | California
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