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Saturday, April 2, 2016

These Go to 11: interviewing The Legendary House Cats

Keeping with our interviews, this time we have the pleasure to have John Girgus from the great Aberdeen, now running solo project The Legendary House Cats, answering our questionnaire! A music legend, in one of the funniest and exciting interviews we have ever featured. These Go to 11!

Mr. Girgus, pop at the end of world
John Girgus, The Legendary House Cats 
The story begins in Palm Desert, California, with Beth Arzy joining short-lived John's band Black Star Carnival. From the ashes of it, the then music duo and couple founded Aberdeen in 1993 (expanded to a proper band later on), and getting enrolled with the legendary label Sarah Records a year later, with whom they would record the 7" 'Byron' and the 'Fireworks' EP. But by 1995, when Sarah unfolded, and despite the remarkable success in UK, so did the band, fuelled by the breakup of the relationship, putting out another self-titled 7" after vanishing... for half a decade. Aberdeen chapter II began in 2001, now as a quartet, with the release of first and only album 'Homesick and Happy to Be Here' (most of them based on the recovered tapes recorded before they called it a day), followed by singles 'The Boy has Gone Away' and 'Florida' in 2003 and 2004. 'What Do I Wish for Now? (Singles + Extras 1994-2004)', their compilation singles album, appeared in 2006, also marking a second hiatus of five years, briefly broke in 2011 with an ephemeral return to the stage for some special concerts and another release "the vaults", 'It Was the Rain: Lost Recordings 1993-1995". But there's much more music coming from John aside Aberdeen. Like being part of the bands Languis and Non  Ultra Joy. Like his producing duties for The Luxembourg Signal and The City & Horses. Or his work as music composer in TV shows as 'True Blood' or 'Californication'. And most importantly. a solo career under since 2014 under the moniker of The Legendary House Cats, releasing, to name a few, 'First Light' EP on October that same year, stunning songs like 'King Grudge' and, more recently, 'River' and 'Falling From So High (Long Form Ambient Remix)'. A man of music, as you can see. Here we go!

And the clerk said: Bang your head!
1.First record that you bought (be honest)
I used to be a little embarrassed about this one (due to the material) and now, it's more like it's starting to show my age! I am pretty sure the first record I bought was a picture disc of Quiet Riot's 'Metal Health'. I remember having a discussion with the clerk and my mom about any possible inferiorities of this picture/audio combination, but he assured us it was fine. This would have been at The Record Alley in the former Palm Desert Town Center (now the Westfield Shopping Plaza, still open to this day. David Newton tells me he visits when in town). My dad made me turn it off when it got to the title track, repulsed by the lyric 'Bang your head, it's good for your health'. The lyric is actually 'Bang your head, metal health will drive you mad', which makes more sense.

2. First and last concert you have attended (be honest too!)
The first show I really saw, where I went on my own free(ish) will, and inside without parental guidance was Siouxsie and The Banshees at The Universal Amphitheater (later Gibson, now closed) for the Peek-A-Boo tour. I remember House of Freaks opened. I don't think they were received well, I remembered being pretty bummed at the crowd. For an auditorium filled with people who were supposed to be cool freaks, they were actually bunch of meat-heads. They couldn't have been more wrong though, and I became a fan. 'Tantilla' was a very important record for me, even though I didn't entirely understand it. The last show I saw was Danny Elfman's 'Nightmare Before Christmas', the live orchestra and screening thing he does at the Hollywood Bowl. You want me to be honest? I skipped the encore and heard 'Dead Man's Party' from the parking lot. Did not think that was going to happen. That hurts a little to think about.

Don't call him, please save yourself
3. Guilty pleasure (song/band you shouldn’t like but you do, yes, it’s the embarrassing question)
My iTunes is the best place for this. That's where I buy stuff I wouldn't want to face anybody in a record store checkout counter over. I kept the free U2 record on purpose (and still listen to it), and 'Payphone' by Maroon 5, not only that but the clean version, which I was hoping didn't have the Wiz Khalifa breakdown (I am not proud of this at all).

4. Most precious music item you own (collector mode on)
I've become a pretty terrible music collector. I've sold so much over the years, but one thing I've never even tried to sell is my Subhumans vinyl. It might just be because a cat used them as a scratching post, but I probably won't ever get rid of them.

5.Favorite lyrics (not yours)
Sometimes I think of this one: 'I stumbled out of bed / I got ready for the struggle / I smoked a cigarette / And I tightened up my gut / I said this can't be me / Must be my double / And I can't forget, I can't forget / I can't forget but I don't remember what'  from 'I Can't Forget' - Leonard Cohen.

Sergeant & McCulloch, searching echoes
6.Musician/s you would like to meet (should be alive, for obvious reasons, but you can choose a dead one too)
I've met a few of my musical heroes (always managed to say something stupid), Ian McCulloch, Will Sergeant, Leonard Cohen, all of Love and Rockets over the years. I once talked to Dave Rowntree from Blur for a half hour before I realized who he was. I met Tom Petty and most of The current Heartbreakers, talked with ODB about architecture in LA. I used to work for an ongoing live event here, the Mimosa Music Series, doing some light sound duties, so I'd have to meet every performer, some pretty class acts when it was exclusive; Rosanne Cash, Donovan, John Doe, Steve Earl, Booker T. once stopped by just to say hi... For another job I recorded an interview series with Steve Jones (once with Paul Cook), when I was lucky enough to be around he'd shoot the shit with us on pizza break, so maybe I'm all good for now. But maybe Glenn Danzig. I used to live in his neighborhood, but always missed him shopping for cat litter.

AC/DC goes New Wave... on an artwork
7. Favorite artwork album (not yours)
I've always liked the single for 'Getting Away With It' by Electronic. That was about when I started noticing that an album cover could be a work all its own. I'd buy records just for Peter Saville sleeves after that. Lately I've been trying to reference some more mainstream collage based designs, like some of the early Hipgnosis stuff. Their version of 'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap' is a fun one, because it doesn't really fit the rest of the AC/DC catalog. It looks more New Wave or something, but it's got a lot of good elements to borrow from, if you're looking to reference that era.

From 'Buffy' to 'Underworld',
tte pattern is clear, folks
8. Books or movies? Depending on your answer recommend us one (trick: you can choose both) 
Books, I'm terrible at recommending because I'm just a lazy reader. I read articles every day, but committing to a book is too much. I'm early into 'Infinite Jest', David Foster Wallace right now, but I am not sure I'd recommend it. I'm not even sure I like it. The first two Underworld movies are on Netflix right now. You should check them out.

9. Release (of yours) you are most proud of
Mine?! Tough question. I used to be very proud of my playing on Trembling Blue Stars 'A Statue To Wilde'. My part (Ebow guitars), the song itself, the production and the sentiment. Although that's sort of a bittersweet one now... I was very proud of the song 'First Light' about the time I was mixing it, but the versions out there are a sore spot. The Luxemburgler mix was a letdown (I asked them to use my mix or be involved, but of course, they shut me out completely). The Aberdeen version was really on its way but it remains essentially unfinished. What I finally came up with on my EP is very good for what it is, but after so much compromise, I think it just lost any magic it ever had and just didn't catch on anywhere. Maybe the song just wasn't that good. Citing my solo work is tough, it still feels so new, still a work in progress. Maybe 'King Grudge'. It was sort of a songwriting exercise, a challenge, pretty satisfying to record and mix. I didn't obsess too much, and still fun to listen to. I tend to enjoy my work more when I have a collaborator to give me something else to listen to. Chris McRitchie added some parts that do that nicely, and I stole the lyric from him!

10. What does it mean indie for you? (yes, the “serious question”)
At its core it's a state of willful independence. A conscious choice to forego the need for any sort of outside investment, funding or approval, and the commitment stay productive within that choice. I also like to think of its specific 90s origins like the UK press' reference 'Indie Guitar' bands, or good old American Indie Rock, or even newer uses like Indie-Disco (and of course the classic bands of Indie Pop). Most of the bands or labels who occupy those genres put out significant recorded works independently whether they became major label affiliated at some point or not. I think that's really what it means for me.

11. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 
Oh god, I'm definitely not going to get the job now! I don't even want to think about it. Probably, right here, doing the same thing. . .            
 Zillion thanks John!

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