LowLife #13 - 1988
THESE IMMORTAL SOULS
Although These Immortal Souls are a new band, they don't seem like they need much of an introduction. Former members of three different great bands here have combined to produce a fourth great band. Sometimes I've been known to say that there are only five rock bands that ever mattered. Now I think I'll make that six. The really weird thing is that this Rowland "I feel like fucking shit" Howard is/was in two of them. The turn out at America's worst rock club to see this great band was no big deal. However, that's probably not much of an indication of how things went on the rest of the tour, over by now. This was perhaps the most significant band to dribble over from Europe into this small town since the Fall came in 1981, but I recall that the turnout was not so great for that show either. Good or bad turnout it was a shame they ended up in the hole they played in, but when These Immortal Souls started playing I almost forgot where I was. This is a great rock band with four working parts all crucial to the whole. Sure, there is a front man, producing some of the best guitar noise since White Light/White Heat, but the other three players are central to their sound. And Rowland Howard isn't the sort of "band leader" that wants to drown out a great band with the likes of Epic Soundtracks(drums), Genevieve McGuckin (piano), and little brother Harry Howard (bass). If you missed their Atlanta show, well, you missed them. At least you didn't have to go to the Rio. They have an L.P. on SST. It is great. Hope for more!
The following interview took place that night before the show in an office.
Epic: We're all a bit sick at the moment.
Glen: I could understand you being sick at hearing the music out there.
Epic: No I mean, we're a bit ill. I don't know,there's some virus going around.
Ellen: So you're all sick while you are travelling?
Epic: Well, I was sick yesterday, literally.
Glen: Your band is one of the few rock bands we've interviewed. We did one with Steve Hanley of the Fall, but Mark Smith wouldn't talk to us.
Rowland: He has a thing about fanzines.
Glen: He talked to someone from the local papers who didn't write about it.
Rowland: They have very strange management.
Epic: I saw this book in the hotel room called 'Guest Informant" that they leave lying around for you. There's a song on the new Fall album called "Guest Informant", so I sort of see where he got the title from.
Glen: How was the tour set up? Did SST set it up?
Rowland: Yes. Global Tours and SST.
Glen: This (The Rio) is a terrible place to see a rock band.
Epic: In what way? The sound?
Ellen: Yes. There's throbbing disco in the background.
Glen: We've only seen one band here, and they were kind of quiet, but people just don't come to see bands here.
Rowland: That's the general impression we got.
Glen: So you have nothing to do with the way the tour was set up?
Rowland: We stipulate certain things and depending on the people they pay attention to the stipulations or they don't pay attention to them, and you often get in a situation where a tour has been arranged, and it doesn't meet any of the stipulations madei but you have to do it anyway because too much time and effort has been put into it already.
Ellen: Did that happen this time?
Rowland: Well, we're not getting good money by any means. We did a European tour, and then we had ten days off, and we started this one. During the European tour I lost my voice and was told by a doctor I had to be in bed for twelve days, and we still had 14 dates or 10 dates of the tour to go. Then we went back to London, and then we went on this tour.
Glen: I didn't even know this band existed before the record came out.
Rowland: well it didn't.
Epic: Not in the public eye. Before the record came out we didn't do any gigs.
Ellen: How much did you play out with Crime and the City Solution?
Rowland: We're not in Crime and the City Solution any more. They're still going.
Ellen: We didn't know that. We are only familiar with them with you guys.
Rowland: There's a new Crime album. The last time we played with them was December of 186. That was the last time we played with Mick Harvey and Simon Bonney. Then Mick Harvey went on a lengthy vacation.
Glen: So he's still in Crime and the City Solution?
Epic: Simon and Mick are still in it, and they've got Alex Hacke from Neubauten on guitar and Bronwyn, Simon's wife, plays violin and writes lyrics.
Rowland: and Chris Haas.
Glen: Well, I like your new band.
Ellen: Me too. It's one of my favorite records we have at our house.
Glen: But I also like your new record with Nikki Sudden. Are you going to be doing more stuff with him?
Rowland: Nikki is not supposed to be doing another record for about a year and a half because he's made so many records in such a short amount of time. It got to the point where the record I made with Nikki Sudden sat around the offices of Creation for about six months before they · released it, and by the time it came out there were reviews that said "who on earth is interested in a new Nikki Sudden record? This is the 15th this year." It was sad because it got ignored totally.
Epic: Also it got confused because our record came out the very same day!
Rowland: After sitting on it for six months Creation decided to release it the same day as the These Immortal Souls record.
Epic: So a lot of people said, "I've read about that record,it must be These Immortal Souls."
Rowland: Ex-member of the Swell Maps and ex-member of the Birthday Party.
Glen: Is there a turn in your music toward something softer, more folksy and melodic?
Rowland: The intention of the These Immortal Souls record was definitely to make something that was more melodic and more oriented toward songs and so forth.
Epic: The piano makes a big difference.
Glen: There's a lot of stuff in your lyrics about marriage and wives, are you married?
Rowland: No, I'm not. I tried to get married once, but I couldn't get a license.
Ellen: You couldn't get a license?
Rowland: Not in the amount of time that I had available to get married. I only had a limited amount of time within which I could get married. The time expired before I could get married.
Ellen: So you just gave up on it?
Rowland: Yes. Basically.
Ellen: Are you going to try it again sometime?
Rowland: It seems dubious. Not for any romantic reasons, but I think if you are going to get married it should be fairly spontaneous and not planned six months in advance.
Glen: What kind of stuff do you listen to?
Epic: I listen to a lot of things that don't necessarily come out in the music.
Rowland: Epic has very broad tastes, and I have very narrow tastes.
Epic: No, you don't.
Rowland: I only like rock music with lots of lead guitars.
Ellen: So you like guitars, huh?
Rowland: I just like all the groups that everyone likes.Like the Stooges, I think, are my favorite rock band because they were so incredibly inspired and intuitive in what they did. And I like groups like Roxy Music, their first four albums.
Epic: Alex Chilton's good stuff we all like till about 1980.
Glen: He's still ok sometimes.
Epic: I'm glad he's around, but I wish he could work with some slightly more inspiring material.
Rowland: I like Lee Hazelwood enormously.
Epic: I like Brian Wilson.
Glen: Is there another These Immortal Souls record in the works?
Rowland: Not yet.
Epic: We're hoping there will be soon.
Rowland: When we've got enough time to make one.
Glen: Are you going to be able to put out more records on SST?
Rowland: It's not for me to say.
Glen: How did they decide to pick you up?
Epic: Last October Sonic Youth asked us to come and tour America with them which was a really great idea. We'd made the record by then, but it wasn't out. If we would've come over then the record wouldn't have been out yet. Also we couldn't afford to do the tour without losing a lot. I guess SST had heard of us through that. I sent Greg Ginn a tape, and he really liked it and wanted to put it out. It is the first non- American release on SST.
Ellen: I guess I notice because we play things on the radio and have to be careful of obscenities. You don't have any obscenities in your lyrics. Is that conscious?
Rowland: If you're writing things down on paper you tend to think in a different way than the way you speak. it's a lot more pre-meditated. if you swore in a song it would have to be spontaneous, or it would be absolutely pointless. I couldn't go on stage and have a song where ...
Ellen: Where you were supposed to say "fuck".
Rowland: Unless it was a literal sort of thing about sex or something, but even then I can't really imagine myself doing it.
Epic: It's not really you. Some people can do it convincingly.
Rowland: Yes. one of my favorite ad libs is in "Gimme Some Skin"where Iggy Pop goes "wow shit get fucked baby". I mean, it's great.
Glen: I notice in These Immortal Souls everyone pretty much sticks to their instruments. Yet in Crime and the City Solution and other things you've both done everyone switches around a bit.
Rowland: Neither Harry nor Genevieve can play drums. I can't play drums. None of us can play drums except Epic. Epic can play piano. I can pretend to play piano. Harry pretends to play piano. It would be sort of difficult. We'd have to pretend to play other instruments.
Epic: It's not out of the question. It just sort of happened.
Glen: What kind of piano are you carrying around with you? Is it an electric piano?
Epic: Yes, but it's got a good acoustic piano sound which is what we want.
Glen: It sounds acoustic on the record.
Epic: Oh it is acoustic on the record.
Glen: So what's a Bouzouki?
Rowland: It's a Greek 8-stringed thing like a mandolin with a long neck.
Glen: I know what I wanted to ask! I guess you're familiar with the song "Maggie May" by Rod Stewart.
Rowland: Yes. I know what you're going to ask.
Ellen: When I first heard "Feather Beds" I said it's "Maggie May". (Note to the confused: RSH's "Feather Beds" bouzouki solo on his album with Nikki Sudden bears a distinct resemblance to the mandolin solo on Stewart's "Maggie May".)
Rowland: I just thought of it, and then I realized what I was doing, and I thought it's so incredibly suitable for Nikki whols this Faces type person. It was a little musical irony. Rod Stewart makes it hard to take the Faces seriously.
Epic: I thought he had a lot of soul, for want of a better word.
(Note: Club employee enters the room and piddles around.)
Ellen: Can I ask you a personal question?
Rowland & Epic: Sure.
Ellen: How old are you guys?
Rowland: I'm 28.
Epic: I'm 28 too, but I'll be 29 in about two weeks.
Ellen: I'm the oldest.
Rowland: In your family?
Ellen: No. Here.
Rowland: Oh. What about him? (pointing at nearby balding, fat club employee).
Ellen: I don't know. How old are you? (No answer)
Ellen: Well, he won't answer. Maybe he is the oldest.
Rowland: Harry's the youngest in the band.
Ellen: How old is Harry?
Glen: I guess you're younger than Nikki?
Epic: Yes, three years younger, although he wouldn't tell you that.
Ellen: I don't blame him. It's easy to say you are in your 20's.
Glen: He will not say what his real name is. I guess you won't say what yours is.
Epic: No it would distract from my mystique.
Ellen: So is your name really Rowland?
Rowland: Yes. Rowland Stuart Howard.
Ellen: Do you like Stuart?
Rowland: It's all right. I like the S.
Ellen: I thought you must like your middle name since you put the S in.
Rowland: I decided I wanted to be more formal with my public so I put the S in.
Epic: Like Mark E. Smith.
Ellen: He must have married somebody with the same middle initial.
Epic: Mark? Do you really think Brix's middle name starts with an E?
Ellen: I don't know.
Epic: Maybe she changed it.
Ellen: Brix Edie?
Epic: She had such groovy parents that they gave her that name. (Club employee leaves room.)
Rowland: Was that man wanting to talk to us?
Epic: I don't know, maybe he was just keeping his eye on the office.
- Glen Thrasher