Silkworm Interviewed Worship Guitars header The Silkworm Interview

Brothers and sisters I'm a just a spreadin' the word! The gospel today is none other than that of the rock! We are bringing ya the word that one of uh the most unstoppable, rock solid, unflinchin' believahs in the word is ah the Silkworm.

You can try tah say tah them "Brotha Mike! Brotha Andy! Brotha Tim! Can't ya see ah that the Rock has ah been ah killed!" And they will say to ye "No brotha! No Mah sistah! The rock is alive and ah wail! Amen and Helleluia!"

Sorry, I got a bit carried away but hell how can ya not. Silkworm's new LP/CD "Blueblood" on Touch & Go (TG191) is one perfect lil package of unabashed indie rock. I highly recommend it as it falls easily in my tops of 1998 list of Albums. Hell, as an added treat we even got them to agree to an interview. So, Tim Midgett was good enough to sit and take some time to chat and Andy Cohen was good enough to sass the interviewer.

WG: How was Ein Height Different from Silkworm in approach, attitude, etc.?

TM: The performances were more overtly confrontational and the lyrics were more politically oriented. Musically, Ein Height had a lot in common with postpunk groups like Joy Division, early Public Image Ltd., Comsat Angels, and et al.; at least the best music we did was along those lines.

WG: What caused the break up of Ein Height and what did y'all take out of that experience?

TM: People just ended up leaving Missoula. I went off to school at Northwestern; John (the singer) took a newspaper job in Connecticut, and Tom (the synth player) moved to Virginia.

Ein Heit provided Andy, Joel, and I with our musical aesthetics. I don't think much differently about music now than I did then.

WG: You guys were pretty DIY in the studio for a while. Do you feel you miss anything form working under the greater limitations of that kind of environment?

TM: Mmmm, we actually do more ourselves now than we did then. Since we've been working with Steve Albini, we've been satisfied with what happens in the studio. Our last record, we recorded ourselves with our friend James Hale, and we were pleased with the results but Steve helped us mix it.

WG: Joel Phelps at one point decided it was time for him to move on. What did he contribute to the band that you sometimes miss?

TM: I don't really miss much; we got the most out of our run together. But he's a great musician and writer, and we have had a real good time the handful of times we've played together in the last several years since he left the band.

WG: This then brings up the question of when would y'all decide that it was time to move on. More specifically, what would make you decide that to be in the Silkworm or any band would be unfair to either the fans, yourself, and or the rest of the band members?

TM: We have standards of quality that need to be upheld, and making good music takes a certain minimum amount of time. If we ever don't have the time to do it properly, I think it'd be disingenuous to pretend like we were still active. I'm not too concerned about us getting burned out at this pace.

WG: Blueblood, I must stress to those readers out there, is one of the best records of this year: a nigh perfect little piece of vinyl/plastic. This is y'alls first release for Touch and Go. Pretty cool and hip little label to hook up with. How was the switch from Matador to T&G?

TM: I'm glad you like the record. It was painless to switch labels; we're very lucky to work with these people.

WG: How was this record different from the others in terms of recording approach (BTW beautiful sound on this record), songwriting approach, and atmosphere?

TM: We recorded it at our leisure in our practice space, so we were pretty laid back when we tracked. Not that we aren't usually, but we had a lot of time and could record whenever we felt like it. We ended up knocking a lot of songs out in one or two takes right after we learned them, though some took more work than others.

WG: Ok I've gotta give y'all crap for this...and ya know it's coming so no whining.... But do feel free to fight back- no hold barred on this one.

What's with the lyrics on "beyond repair"? I'm not sure whether to scratch my head and wonder what you were thinking here musically or wonder if y'all were trying your hand at the David Lee Roth lyric book? I thought the days of the sexist lyrics were gone with the last of the glam metal bands?

TM: I guess you're wrong and those kinds of lyrics are alive and well. I don't think the lyrics are sexist so much as they are not mealy-mouthed. The narrator is saying what he really thinks, not what he thinks the listener wants to hear. Any halfway attentive listen reveals that he's pretty pathetic, though he's not as pathetic as the narrator of any number of Mr.-sensitive indie rock ballads. I dunno, I actually find that kind of weepy "I hurt you 'cause I'm a fucker" stuff more offensive than, like, AC/DC lyrics or whatever.

WG: So you're writing from a 3rd person perspective.

TM: Andy wrote it, but yeah. I think that's pretty obvious; I mean, it's an exaggerated travelogue.

WG: I guess the thing with AC/DC (for example) is that those guys are TOTAL idiots (and I mean that in an admirable way). The beauty of that kinda music is that they CAN get away with it because it is ape subtlety just "Yog! Smash!" kinda stuff. (...and I know every lick on back on 'Back in Black' and 'Highway to Hell' so don't get me wrong).

It's just kind of weird to hear an indie band play it so straight with that because the defining line between metal and indie rock is that (unless the tongue is placed firmly in cheek) you'd never hear an indie lyric that resembles Motorhead's Lemmy singing "Jailbait baby come on..."

More Orange Juice? Why Yes. Silkworm prepare for a hard day of rocking with a complete breakfast.

TM: AC/DC is one of my favorite bands, and I don't think they get enough credit for being FUNNY. Almost all their so-called misogynistic lyrics are shot through with humor, a lot of it self-deprecating, and they rarely pretend that they are somehow above the women they are singing about. The more menacing songs they have ('Night Prowler,' 'Squealer') work because they are genuinely sinister; they aren't faking it…and that kind of menace, I mean, it's out there, it's a part of life. Artists aren't under an obligation to make escapist art. They're under an obligation to make art that signifies, that is relevant in some essential way.

I think 'Beyond Repair' is that kind of song. I wasn't sold on it the first time I heard it, but as I paid attention to the lyrics, I realized it was more complex and useful than I had thought. For one thing, the song is about the guy, not any woman or women; it's obvious for whom the song is titled. For another thing, it deals with an offhandedly crude attitude towards gender relations that is common; even the best of us are prone to this reduction of people at times. I've yet to hear anyone argue it's a CELEBRATION of reducing women to that element of their being, and it is not such a celebration. Certainly, a lot of the eighties hard rock you have in mind did do that.

WG: Ok ok! I know when I've been licked. Uncle! But one other thing I wanted to ask you on your lyrics…Lyrically your approach seems to be pretty loose. Are there any stories to these lyrics or are they just a mix of free flowing associated riffs?

For example "Tonight we're meat" is a great little shuffle of a song but what does "There's a street in yr. name/ a street in yr. name/ short avenue/ the houses are blue/ street in your name" mean (with apologies for pulling out of context)? It sounds like you're just freely pulling rhymes.

TM: ...Someone has a street named after him/her, that is supposed to be a grand thing. But if it's not much of a street, it becomes rather sad (i.e. blue).

Most of the lyrics tell a story or describe a situation, or at least describe a mood. I can't think of any that are mere wordplay.

WG: What then do you feel is the relationship of your lyrics to your music?

TM: The lyrics are words that are sung as melodies with an accompanying musical accompaniment. We might have a few lyrics that could stand on their own if they had to do so. Luckily, they don't have to do so.

WG: How do you approach composition?

AC: (jumping in) Hard-on in hand!

WG: (coffee snarf and a small break while I dry off my shirt) What do you feel makes your best songs work?

AC: My best songs are written with getting laid in mind.

WG: (laughs) Do y'all enjoy live shows? Is it necessary and/or useful?

TM: It's fun. Sometimes it sucks but mostly it is quite enjoyable. I can't speak to whether or not it's worthwhile or useful, exactly. It's just part of what rock bands do.

WG: You're playing indie rock in a world of it relevant?

TM: Samples are a fad. Anytime a new electronic fad pops up, people fall all over each other to be the first to champion the death of the guitar. Does anyone listen to the Human League anymore? In ten years, no one will be listening to much of the electropoo being produced nowadays.

WG: Do you think indie rock/punk/rap (all that late 70's to early 90's stuff) etc has been killed as a kind of "community" from years of white washing by marketers for so long?

TM: I quit paying much attention to newish music a couple years ago, so I'm somewhat out of it.

WG: So what do you listen to?

TM: I bought an Ed Kuepper record the other day because I heard a song on the radio. Song is called 'The Way I Make You Feel.' It's great. The rest of the record is o.k., but that song really has it.

The last couple weeks, I've been listening to "Bob Dylan: Live 1966" and "The Unreleased Basement Tapes Vol. 1-5", a lot of Creedence Clearwater Revival, AC/DC "Highway to Hell" and the second side of "Dirty Deeds".

WG: Ok yr. 65 and ya look back at Silkworm. What did you accomplish? Did you do it in a way that you can feel proud of in your old age?

TM: We haven't made any grave mistakes as of yet. I don't put much stock in pride, but as long as we don't betray what we've already done, I'll feel good about being obsessed with rock and roll for so long.

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