Tuesday, January 15, 2013

ASK iAN PRESENTS ‘HunKillers Interview with Robert Levon Been/ BRMC’

ASK iAN PRESENTS ‘HunKillers Interview with Robert Levon Been/ BRMC’

‘HunKillers Interview with Robert Levon Been/ BRMC’

1) Hey, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions i’ve always had. I guess i’ll just fire away the ones that I have off the top of my head, in no particular order. My first question is… You guys have written new tracks/songs just jamming off the end of previous songs, such as Salvation/Heart & Soul, Fail Safe/Stop. And I know you mentioned to me at the Weapon of Choice Toronto video shoot that there were at least 2 or 3 other such instances where this has happened. I vaguely remember ‘In like the Rose’ or Red Eyes and Tears being one of them. Can you list the songs that have evolved into other songs.

I remember ‘Red Eyes and Tears’ developing a lot over the course of touring, we ended up with an extended outro which we’ve always nicknamed ‘Red Eyes Reprise’. That sort of thing kind of happened a lot with our songs. The ones that stick out are ‘Weight Of The World’, ‘Six Barrel Shotgun’, and ‘Mercy’ those in particular all developed considerable extended sections (musically and lyrically) as we’d play them live over the years. I don’t like to think of a song as finished after it’s been recorded. Some songs are just shy, and don’t like to come out and play all at once. You have to be patient.

However as far as ‘new songs’ that were directly born out of other songs. I remember ‘Spread Your Love’ coming directly out of the ashes of ‘Down Here’ (an old b-side which we used to play live a lot). One day though at a show i just didn’t stop playing bass at the end of ‘Down Here’ after the song had ended, because it felt so damn good. Peter and Nick just looked across the stage at me like i was a total spaz, but then Nick just kicked in on that big ass shuffle beat and the next thing we knew Spread Your Love was alive. I like when songs give birth to other songs like that, it’s kind of like Gremlins (‘don’t play them after midnight, don’t get them in direct sunlight, and never, ever, no matter what keep jamming out on a riff after the song is over’).

2) Can you (roughly) list the order in which you wrote the songs from the self titled album, including the songs from the Screaming Gun demo?

Jesus, you weren’t kidding these really aren’t easy questions are they. That’s gonna take me a minute to recall… I guess the interesting thing is that far more songs than you’d think were writen in those early days. Way before we’d recorded the first album, and even before Spread Your Love, Awake, or even Whatever Happened To My Rock’N’Roll were written.

These here were pretty much the very first batch of songs that we ever had… (in chronological order)
1. Blown Away (unreleased)
2. Too Real
3. Evol
4. Am I Only (acoustically)
5. Screaming Gun
4. Red Eyes
5. Love Burns
6. 1:51 (originally called B.R.M.C.)
7. Shuffle Your Feet (acoustically, with only some lyrics)
8. Suddenly
9. As Sure As The Sun
10. White Palms
11. At My Door
12. Down Here
13. Martyr
14. 20 Hours (acoustically, with only some lyrics)
15. Wasting Away (unreleased)
16. Weight Of The World (acoustically, with only some lyrics)
17. Seasons (unreleased)
18. Rifles
19. Going Under
20. U.S. Government

That was in the first year or so. The second wave came around when we moved to Los Angeles and that’s when we wrote Spread Your Love, Awake, Whatever Happened To My Rock’N’Roll, Head Up High, Pretend, Shade Of Blue, etc,.

3) I have a bootleg version of ‘Blown Away’ and I think it’s great. Is it not good enough for an official release in the bands opinion?

‘Blown Away’ is the infamously cursed BRMC Song. That song has literally been the bane of our existence for over a decade. We have tried to record that fuckin song for nearly every single album. And every single time we’ve tracked it, we’ve ended up taking it off the album at the very last minute, for one reason or another. It’s like Ahab & The Whale at this point, i don’t know we’ll ever truly catch it.

We’ve passed the point of madness with that tune, never has a group of people (who never went to collage) given more ‘college try’s’ to anything before. I think someday we should just release an entire album of like 11 different versions of just that one song. It would probably win a Grammy on gumption alone.

4) Does the band own the rights to your music videos? I’m just wondering why there isn’t a comprehensive DVD that has all the bands music videos. If they’re not owned by the band is it too expensive to ‘buy them back’ from their music labels (or whomever owns them). The fans would help you with that if you needed help. This also makes me think that there aren’t enough music videos made by the band. There should be at least 3 per album (coming from a selfish fan!)

We honestly haven’t looked into that, it would be very unpleasant for whomever would have to do the leg work. All of the legal departments at these defunct Record Labels now are a complete nighmare. If all of our music videos had been on one label though then it wouldn’t be very difficult. However since DVD sales are dropping just as much as CD sales these days, the motivation isn’t there for distributors. The other half of people would argue that you can watch them all on youtube just as easily.

5) Why wasn’t All You Do Is Talk released as a single?!

Good question.

6) The 1st time I met your old man (I hope that term isn’t taken as a disrespectful or derogatory term for him. It was an affectionate term of endearment that I’ve always used for him. I can call him Michael or ‘your Dad’ from here on if you wish), I talked to him for probably more than half an hour inside some family owned bar next door to St. Andrews hall in Detroit. He shone the light on so many interesting things in the bands history that I implored him to write a book. I dunno if he ever made notes or kept a diary, but your bands history is so full and rich that I really think it’s imperative that there is some sort of official biography. He talked about you, Nick and Pete and your relationships, and it was so interesting! If it was the story of the behind the scenes of the Stones or Beatles or the Verve or Joy Division or even some other piss poor band it would be documented, and it couldn’t be half as interesting as the story behind the family of your band. Would anyone consider writing such a biography? Even yourself? Just my 2 cents worth, but I think an official record be made even for future or historical reasons. (Just a selfish fan talking)

We’re just getting started brother. Why look backwards when there’s still so much to look forward to. haha

7) When in Santa Cruz, my wife Sadaf and I went to a park (dunno the name at this point but I’m gonna look it up (Henry Cowell Redwood National park) just about 5 miles
East(or North) of Santa Cruz where there were some awesome redwood trees. Is this where the second segment of the current documentary was shot? I know you said you were from a place called Ben Lomond, and I had seen a signpost for it on the way to the redwoods. I’m originally from a place called Dumbarton, Scotland, and it’s quite close to a place called Loch Lomond (a lake), and there is a very visible mountain that can be seen called Ben Lomond and that is where your hometown is probably named after. (Not so much a question, but a possibly interesting factoid)

Wow, you have a scary good eye, i can’t believe you could could recognize that footage as Henry Cowell Park. Our friend Malia James filmed a lot of things right up near there.
I was born in Ben Lomond, however i grew up a few minutes away over in Felton and Boulder Creek, i lived there till i was seven.
We worked on a lot of this new album up in the hills there, and recorded a bunch of tracks at the old ‘Boulder Creek Post Office’ believe it or not. Strange days up there man, strange days.

8) What was the original title of the track called 1:51? Is there any way at all possible that I could get to hear the original version? When I talked to Pete at the Weapon of Choice video shoot, he said that you would have it on your phone or computer. I know it’s a longshot! But I had to ask.

I’d have to dig around to find that, i’m not sure where it is. Trust me though, the new version is far far superior.
Even though we could write a lot of good songs early on, that didn’t’ mean we could play them, sing them, or record them worth a piss. We were truly amateurs in every respect besides writing i suppose. Thank god we didn’t have the means of recording those songs back then, we would’ve sounded just as bad as those early ‘Stone Roses’ demos, before they came into ‘musical puberty’.
That song ’1:51′ though was actually called ‘B.R.M.C.’ originally.
Funnily enough when we first saw the film ‘The Wild One’ we didn’t know what the hell the letters BRMC actually stood for, so we just decided to name a song that at first, to be on the safe side (just incase later on we found out that it stood for something stupid).
This was all back when the band was called ‘The Elements’ though, and we were constantly scratching our heads to come up with a better band name. We were almost going to call ourselves ‘Turner Purple’ (which was the name of Mick Jaggers fictitious band in the film ‘Performance’). However i wanted to use Turner as my last name. So we decided to go back and watch ‘The Wild One’ again to see if we could find out what the hell ‘B.R.M.C.’ stood for. But since they only say the full name once it the entire damn film, we had to watch it like 3 times to catch it. Once we finally heard it though we knew that was it. A lot of people made fun of us in San Francisco for that name, we got a lot of shit in the beginning. I remember people saying saying that we don’t sounding anything like what a ‘Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’ would sound like. It’s funny how things change.

9) Weapon of Choice…. Is this a drug reference? I heard a similar reference on a tv show. Maybe Law and Order.

It can be taken a few ways. The chorus peter wrote though ‘i won’t waste my love on a nation’ is a cutting statement calling for a revolt. Peter wrote half of that song and i wrote the other half. That is the way a lot of our songs have come about. It can be difficult to find balance with two writers, you have to know each other so well, and also prepare yourself for something you love not being used, or a line they really like that you don’t understand for the life of you why it’s included, ha. That’s all part of it though. It’s a beautiful dance of the perfect madness. But thankfully after the is game is over, the king and the pawn both go back into the same box.

10) Do you still watch that early shoeless Ashcroft – Verve dvd I gave you? Have you found a multi region dvd player yet? Have you heard the Voyager1 bootleg? Do you have it on vinyl?

Yeah I have Voyager 1 on vinyl. And i was also finally able to play that DVD while we were on tour in Europe, It was interesting to watch, given how long it has been since i saw them back on those tours, it’s crazy how your perception changes over the years. Still as great as ever, but so different than how i remembered.

11) Do you have any BRMC pre-2000 jam sessions recorded? I’m curious which songs you covered first or recorded first in your musical career.

Yeah we have quite a lot, i think there’s around 30 cassette tapes that are full of random jams, which most likely have a lot of cool lost things that none of us would even have the foggiest recollection of. I keep on telling myself that i should start weeding through those someday, but it would probably take me ages to sort through. I also don’t like looking over my shoulder too much.

You’re probably regretting giving me permission to ask you questions not that I’ve just scratched the surface!

Haha, they were defintely harder than i thought you’d ask. Some serious memory exercises. I always appreciate a good challenge, but I believe this round goes to you my friend. Well played… ha