Cathy Irwin: Is this something from the archives?
Chip Nold:Yeah, I didn't turn--
CI:This tape recorder?
CN:Okay, let's start, this is June 8th I believe and I am talking with CathyIrwin in the backyard of her house in Louisville. So, this is just to get an oral history of participants in Louisville underground music. And I just see worry written all across your face.
CI:No, I feel unqualified but maybe that's an important--
CN:I can't imagine anyone who would be more qualified.
CI:Maybe that's an important part of my qualification as I feel unqualified.
CN:There you go.
CI:Maybe that's the proof that I am actually from here.
CN:Yeah, okay. When and where were you born?
CI:I was born in New Haven, Connecticut.
CI:In 1962, March 4th. Yeah, so I'm just actually a carpetbagger.1:00
CN:Okay, and when did you move to Louisville?
CI:I think I was about six months old.
CN:Yeah, okay all right. Okay, and where did you go to high school?
CI:I went mostly to the Brown School, but I didn't go mostly anywhere really alot at all. I was declared a chronic truant from there. I said I was the only person that had ever been thrown out of the Brown School and then some people challenged me on that later and said that they had actually been thrown out so. Briefly went to a school in Dublin, Ireland for about six months and then I went to Oldham County high school. And then I got a GED right after that.
I wish somebody would have told me when I was like eight that I really -- justcould have saved myself a lot of time, because it really wasn't that hard.
CN:Yeah, how young could we have gotten GEDs?
CI:By age of eight according to the test that I took anyway. Because I was2:00really worried about the math part since we didn't really have -- I never had really any math at the Brown School or any other hippie schools that I went to. And the questions -- like the word problem questions were things like, "Mr. Smith drove 25 miles in his -- getting blah, blah, blah, how many miles to the gallon or how many gallons of gasoline did he get?" And then the answers would be 16 kilograms, 27 ounces, and then there would be one question that ended in gallons, so -- I scored well, I was worried.
CN:Yeah, okay. All right, where in Louisville did you live?
CI:I didn't live in Louisville, we grew up in Oldham County. I actually went tothe Brown School under false pretenses. My parents got some friend of theirs to let us use their address, so we were actually illegals -- we were illegals.
CN:Okay, so they didn't realize you were out in Oldham County?
CI:Yeah, so we really weren't supposed to be able to go there at all.3:00
CN:Okay, so but pretty close to the county line, I mean, still Prospect.
CI:Yeah, out off of 42 towards Skylight, and closer to Skylight than to likecurrent day Prospect.
CN:Okay, what did your parents do for a living?
CI:They were both teachers. My mom was a -- taught in the Jefferson Countypublic schools for a long time. She taught Spanish and German and Humanities and -- were you in her class?
CN:I had her for sixth grade Spanish.
CN:Yeah, Senorita Irwin.
CI:And my father taught English Literature at Indiana University in New Albany.
CN:Okay, what was his specialty? I don't think I ever knew.
CN:Okay, "I refute it thus." One of my favorite stories.
CI:Yeah, so there's a lot of that going around in my house.4:00
CN:Okay, so how did you get interested in music? Seems like it goes back prettyfar for you.
CI:Well, it was kind of funny because Janet, who I play with in Freakwater, whensomebody was interviewing us about something a long time ago and we realized that our common musical link was the fact that our parents -- that our fathers were both obsessed with the Royal Scot Dragoon. Because my father was from Northern Ireland. But from the dark side, from the Protestant side of Northern Ireland. So, we heard a lot of bagpipe music especially as a way of just tormenting people from really early in the morning -- a way of saying that happy times were over and it was time muck out the garage or something.
CN:My dad loved that stuff -- I remember him taking me to see one of the --whether it was that or the -- I want to say fusiliers was in the name but at any rate-- 5:00
CI:So, there was that. There was a lot of bagpipery going on and my parents had-- they -- my mother was a big opera fan, so that has nothing to do with anything. I just associate that with dusting the baseboards basically that was like the music of chores. My dad had tons of Clancy Brothers records and so those were a huge early influence on me, I thought that was pretty cool, Clancy Brothers.
And they had some great late '50s early '60s folk music records or not reallyfolk music but what they were -- like that excellent Harry Belafonte live at Carnegie Hall record was really probably one of my favorite records of all time. And I found a copy of it that we have, and I didn't know when I was a kid that you had to pick the needle up to get to the song that you wanted to hear and 6:00it's like -- I knew how to get there but it sounds pretty scratchy.
CN:I mean do you think the Irish stuff made a mark on you?
CI:I think so. I mean I think the net was cast over me, I think. Yeah, I thinkso definitely. It was considered completely normal to be listening to that all the time.
CN:Right, it's interesting I think there's -- when I talk to people that there'ssome people whose parents were very into music and so it was on all the time. And then there are others like -- I mean my parents listened to music but it wasn't a big deal. When I started listening to music, I took over the music of the house.
CI:Yeah, my parents listened to music all the time, but they didn't have thatmany records, so maybe that's how my very narrow idea of what music could be 7:00came from that. I expected that they listen to records all the time, but they only had about 10 of them.
CN:So, what was the first--
CI:Oh, and Burl Ives too, I guess I have to add, a little shout out to Burl Ivesbecause that was in pretty heavy rotation.
CN:So, when did you start playing music?
CI:My mother was pretty adamant that everybody, everybody being me and mybrother, should take -- should study a musical instrument of some kind. She was actually like was paid to sing at people's weddings and stuff.
CN:Oh, okay I didn't know that.
CI:Yeah, and in a nice way, not in a way like I would do. So, we were forced totake piano lessons and I was really -- my brother excelled in all these things, 8:00and I was really bad and ill-behaved. And the very last time that I had to ever take a piano lesson was like there's a recital and I chewed up a bunch of the food that was backstage and kept it like a chipmunk and then I got up and started playing. I couldn't really read, so the thing fell, I kept making the music fall over and like a comedic routine, and then I just faked I was throwing up and sprayed a bunch of food out all over the piano.
Which got a huge laugh, and then I just ran and then when they found me, theysaid that I wasn't going to have to take piano lessons anymore.
CN:So how old were you then?
CI:Maybe ten. But I guess in their kind of trying to not let me win completelythey said I had to pick another instrument because that piano teacher was never 9:00definitely not going to have anything to do with me again. Which was fine-- I had started out playing on pieces of cardboard, people don't even believe that this is true, but I guess she just was so sick of being a piano teacher that she didn't like to listen to children playing? So she gave us these pieces of cardboard that had, like, a really, like, maybe one octave of piano keys printed on them in black and white, and we would -- that's how we would practice.
CN:That's hilarious. Wow.
CI:My brother still excelled. I mean maybe he got to move from the cardboard tothe real piano faster than I did. But that seems cruel which I guess I just have to respect -- that a little bit. So, then I had to pick another instrument and I picked the trumpet because of Herb Alpert and -- I can hear a plane, oh jet -- not jet... 10:00
CN:So you picked up the trumpet because of Herb Alpert?
CI:Yeah, more of Herb Alpert than Louis Armstrong. Although my grandmother didhave a Louis Armstrong record but it was really more Herb Alpert. It was really more the covers of the Herb Alpert records, the one with the biplane actually. So, I picked the trumpet, played that for a while, then I can't remember what happened with the trumpet. But maybe I just mastered the trumpet and then I moved on to the French horn and played that for a little while.
And we just rented, I remember when it was time to take it back when I finallyhad -- you know, was eleven -- stopped taking French horn lessons -- my parents went to take it back to the place where it was rented but I painted the case like the Partridge Family bus, and then the place where the bell went I painted the Rolling Stones mouth on there. So, they weren't allowed to return it which, I mean I felt that I had actually improved it, but -- so my parents had to buy 11:00the French horn case which was like $25 or something. So that was my suitcase for a really long time.
CN:That's great, so talk about how you got introduced into the Louisville music scene.
CN:Or maybe even before that with how you got interested in punk rock.
CI:My brother and -- Charles and I had been playing music together but it wasjust really -- I really just wanted to be in The Incredible String Band, that was really all I wanted, either Incredible String Band or Manson Family, I didn't care which, they were equal to me. The Mansons were already in prison. So, we started goofing around playing music like that with penny whistles and guitars and we were doing that when we were in high school and then Doug Maxson, 12:00he was already my friend.
And I went to the Louisville School of Art in Anchorage, and I think we werealready kind of trying to figure how to get a band because my brother must have already gotten the Ramones record by that time. Not Ramones record but Dead Boys, actually, was probably one of the first records that really sort of flipped the switch in our minds. Because I think we sort of understand in a deconstructive -- we'd just been playing -- Woody Guthrie songs mostly on acoustic guitars.
And my brother was the one that made the great leap like the Planet of the Apes,like discovering that a rock can be a weapon. How to play, how to a form a barre chord on the guitar. That was a pretty important moment and then pretty soon 13:00after that we were at the art school and we met Tari Barr and she seemed really extroverted -- extrovert compared to the rest of us. And she said she would like to be in a band, so we convinced her to be in our band.
CN:Okay, I didn't realize that that's where you all came together. Okay.
CI:Yeah, had a brief stay at the art school, I think I was only there for one,maybe two semesters.
CI:Maybe Doug was there about the same amount of time that I was.
CN:All right, I remember he used to live on Speed Avenue and I would see himcatching the bus out there because we lived on there too. Okay, so what was it -- I mean -- and the other record I seems to recall Alec talking about -- your brother Alec and when you said Charles Schultz. But I remember, I think I recall your brother talking fairly enthusiastically about Plastic Bertrand?
CI:Oh yeah, we got that record when we were in France for holiday with our14:00father. And we got that record, yeah, that was a pretty big deal. Which I mean there weren't that many -- I mean that -- I guess I know now that there were more really good punk rock records made in France than I ever was aware of but that was the one when we fell upon.
CN:Yeah, okay, so--
CI:We heard the song on the radio when we were hiding from our dad in someapartment in the South of France.
CN:Okay, all right. So, you meet Tari, you've already been playing music; theWoody Guthrie stuff, so then what are the steps after that?
CI:We had to go get some instruments which we had to divide up who was going toplay what I guess. I don't know if Charles really had intended to be the drummer, or if he was just like -- if you would consider that the short straw. 15:00Because I don't think that he'd ever played drums before. And we found a drum set that was for sale in the Bargain Mart paper, so went out and got that and it was just beautiful, it was covered in this blue and silver paisley contact paper.
CN:Oh I remember that.
CI:The bass drum head had a sticker of the Pink Panther but it was plushy, itwas really not just flocked like wallpaper but actually furry Pink Panther on it. But was just more, like, amber coated; it was super nicotine coated. So, the Pink Panther was not really that pink but more just a sunset, looked like a sunset.
CI:And we got that and then we got Doug--then we found a Korg organ that was forsale from some guy in a trailer, in Southern Indiana, we got that for Doug. And 16:00I bought a guitar from Tara Key that came with the amp for 100 bucks.
CN:Oh, that Ibanez that she had.
CI:Yeah, it was like a fake Stratocaster.
CI:And it had these places where the knobs should go on it but those -- theknobs I guess had come off so there were these metal things that when you play it would just cut your arm open. So that's a lot of blood, and I guess I never thought, "Oh I'll just put some duct tape over those or something." But yeah, I got that guitar and that amp and she must have thrown a cord in or something because otherwise we wouldn't have known even how to get that all set up. And my brother got a bass, I don't know where he -- did he buy that bass from Tim Harris maybe? Because it was really nice, it was a Fender Bass.
CN:I don't think so because Tim had a Rickenbacker from early on and I think he17:00kept playing that.
CI:He kept playing the same one, but I wonder where my brother got the bass, Ican't remember. He was the only one that had the nicest instrument which made sense because he was actually the only one that really had any skill on their instrument.
CN:Right, so this is all -- when are we talking about?
CI:1979 -- maybe 1979, 1980.
CN:I men yeah, I think 1980 is the year of the Windmill I believe.
CN:And so, had you all been playing just in that year, or had it been a littlebefore that?
CI:I mean we had been practicing in our own way, and my brother had been writingsongs that were so complicated that no one else could play them probably. But we didn't really -- I don't think -- I think that we didn't really exist much until then. 18:00
CN:Okay, all right. So, I guess one thing about your story, I talked about--
CI:And then did you find an inconsistency?
CN:No, I really realized I should have gone back and listened to Doug'sinterview, and really tried to nail some things down. I just remember this whole phenomenon and I assume, I just remembered this is his whole gaggle of you, the whole issue of being underage and the bands are playing in bars.
CN:I look back on then and I think that was so lame, but it was the existingvenue for music.
CI:Yeah, we didn't really have as much trouble getting into bars as you would think.19:00
CI:Or as our parents would have thought, really. Because I remember when we'd gosee ya'll play at the South 40, we'd all be in the same car. So, there'd always be this issue like what if one person doesn't get in, what are they going to do? They would've had to sit in the car, but it never happened. I think we put girls first because they weren't -- they were pretty happy to see, like, some 16-year-old girls showing up. It was like ladies invited I think, and then some, like, boys who kinda looked like girls, would sort of follow us.
CN:I mean how did you -- was it -- I mean because I guess Tari was living at1069 and Sandy was living there too, was that your entrée into the social scene?
CI:Yeah, definitely. When we met, we were already friends with Tari from school,20:00from art school, and she was way cooler than we were. So, to have a thing to do together was kind of nice, an activity, versus just sitting around thinking about how much cooler she was than we were, that we had an activity. So yeah, we started going over there and practicing and then we met all sorts of fascinating people. And I think some of it had to do with just flyers too -- with having seen flyers for things. Probably before -- I don't know, before we met Tari that we had found in places posters for like shows at Robert Nedelkoff's house.
I remember being at Karma Records one time and there was this show, a poster fora Robert Nedelkoff show and Dianne Sanders was there like standing there looking at the posters. You all should go to this, if you are going to go, I think we will. And trying to figure out like how will we get there? It's in Indiana, like 21:00whose parents are going to let us take their car? It was like -- it was Jenny Catlett's parents I think that let us take the car.
CN:Okay, all right. So how did you come up with the name Dickbrains?
CI:Just seemed kind of natural. I mean I know that -- I think there was reallyno -- I know that -- I think Tari was going to start a band with somebody else from the art school and that band was going to be called the Dial Tones. And we are like that can't -- no, that can't -- we've got to come up with something better so she'll be in our band. And that was it. I don't remember which one of us came up with that, but I think it's probably just like a, one of those moments when everybody just says the same thing at the same time. I mean unless 22:00this is disputed, I don't know.
CI:Charles might claim that.
CI:But it was good, I mean it was a really -- I felt the name was very, verysolid and our parents didn't really need to know what we were doing anyway. So, there was no reason for them to ever know that. They did and then the funny story that my mom has that she run into Will Oldham's mother in the grocery store and Will Oldham's mother said, like, "Oh, I hear your children are Dickbrains." And then my mom said, "I can call them that, but I don't really want anybody else to."
So that was much later, I mean Will -- because Ned was in the-- Languid andFlaccid so that's why -- our moms knew each other anyway but that was like why they were talking about whose child was a Dickbrain. Because her son was in a band called Languid and Flaccid. So that just goes to show how long my parents 23:00went without knowing that our band was called the Dickbrains.
CN:Right, because that's about two years later.
CI:Yeah, and they'd actually been to see us play, because my mom was really goodat coming to see us play at the Windmill.
CN:Oh wow, I didn't realize that.
CI:Yeah, and remember the balcony section? Kenny Ogle's fantastic photo book,there's a picture where you can see some parents up in the second -- in the balcony. And I think I can see Alex Durig's mother who was a friend of my -- Alex's mom and our mom were friends. We've known Alex and Albert since they were -- since we were really little. They were -- we were like college professor children shoved together and then made to be friends.
CN:So, The Dickbrains were three-fifths college professors' kids, am I right? Imean Doug's parents were not--
CI:No, three-fifths, yeah. Apparently, Doug -- I mean I guess Charles said some24:00pretty caustic things to Tari which were hilarious about how she wasn't -- he didn't consider her to be maybe a true Dickbrain because she didn't hate herself enough.
CI:Poor little thing.
CN:Yeah, really. And that's also presumptuous.
CI:Yeah, it is and I hope it's true. I mean I hope that it's still true.
CI:I hope that she has still has some -- I think it was extremely presumptuousand also just weird and sowing dissent amongst the band members.
CI:You don't hate yourself enough.
CI:Yeah, kind of like just--
CN:Said with love. Said with love.
CI:This contest I will win. I didn't even think so because I don't think he willwin that one, actually.
CN:So, you're really only together for a few months. I wonder what your25:00experience -- what you remember about the experience, what you think about it now that you've had such a long career in music?
CI:It's hard to believe that was just a couple of months because it was soarduous. I don't even know how many shows we actually played, but I mean each one of them seemed like it took a lot of -- a lot to get ready for and then they all seemed like they lasted like I don't know, six or seven hours. My brother and I -- I mean I was so -- I mean we were just like so mortified that I remember mostly having our backs turned to the audience because we were just so sick with fright. Tari seemed to be having fun and Doug also seemed to be having fun.
Charles seemed like maybe he was going to die. But also a little bit like he washaving fun. And then I guess the main thing that I remember is that -- I don't 26:00remember it from them, but I remember it from -- I think I just hit the microphone. Later, I found out that other people were actually having fun. And that's when I -- that's when the resentment really started to burble up as far as I am concerned.
I found out that there were other Dickbrains as much as they may have claimedthey hate themselves, they were actually having fun doing that time and I thought like -- I felt very betrayed. I thought we were all just being -- I thought we all just hated ourselves. And I found out later all the people that I knew were actually getting really high and having sex with each other. And I had no idea about any of that, I was just -- even in that world I felt somewhat marginalized so--
CN:That's too bad.
CI:Yeah, but I mean that makes sense, it all makes sense.
CN:I mean you all must have had what -- I don't know 14, 15 original songs?
CI:Yeah, my brother was a really prolific song writer. Doug wrote quite a few27:00songs too and I think Charles did and I wrote a few songs and--
CN:Which ones did you write?
CI:I don't remember. We definitely all had a hand in that song "Fat Man."
CI:Which may or may not be a good thing to claim. Yeah, we had a lot of songs. Imean my brother was just always having new songs and Doug too. And I don't know why I ended up being the guitar player because they were really beyond, way beyond my abilities. So, I just did what I could. Yeah, my brother was actually really talented in that area, so I don't know, luckily for me he just moved on to other things.
CN:So, I mean I guess one thing to think about and I mean if this is sensitive,I can't imagine why it would be. But you were younger; I mean you were seven 28:00years younger than me, right? And I just wondered what that felt like, coming in to this group where a lot of the people were older than you.
CI:We really admired everybody else and we couldn't figure how they were makingas much noise as they were. And, like, your band we just were completely in awe of the way people were playing their instruments and just the way you were just having a charismatic stage performance. We just were completely in awe of that, and I think that we were just trying to do the best we could, I don't know -- I mean it was daunting but at the same time it was inspirational. 29:00
CI:Yeah, I mean -- I think that we were just doing the best we could and tryingto kind of get by.
CN:Well, because I mean I think--
CI:Okay, well I will say that I found out this later that too that Wink hadtried to steal my brother for The Blinders.
CN:He didn't bring that up; he did not bring that up.
CI:Which is a little bit of a scandal.
CN:That's funny, oh my gosh. I mean that--
CI:Well, he was just trying to take us down basically because without mybrother, I don't know what we would have had.
CN:The story that Wink told me, we were just talking a couple of weeks ago, wasthat he sat down with you all in Arby's, very earnestly trying to argue you all out of breaking up.
CI:Oh wow, I don't remember that at all. It is like what! I'm sure I didn't wantto hear that, so I didn't hear it. But we weren't breaking up because we were 30:00just breaking up, we were breaking up because everybody -- because I was going to move to France basically.
CN:Was there a particular thing you were planning to do or just you wanted tohave that experience?
CI:No, I was just moving to France because Michel -- my boyfriend at the time,his visa had expired.
CN:Oh, so this is you were already together with Michel.
CI:Yeah, and he just had a tourist visa and it was expiring and so I guess someother Dickbrains thought that was maybe a bad move on my part but nobody really -- no Dickbrain really ever gave me a hard time about it. Go to France, go do your dumb thing, we don't need you. I think that they didn't really feel like I was that integral a part of the band.
CI:Which probably was true, I don't think I was really doing all that muchexcept just like turning my back and nearly peeing myself with, like, terror. 31:00
CN:You got to have that guitar churnin' out the chords, man.
CI:I think they could have had, we could -- there could have been a MelusianDickbrains. But I don't remember, that's weird, I don't remember Wink doing that.
CN:So, anything else just going in that initial time period...I mean anythingelse that struck you about the scene of people in it or--?
CI:I guess I just remember that there didn't seem to be any competition exceptwhat people had secretly within their own hearts. But everybody just seemed to be very cooperative in a way that I think is true now amongst a lot of people that I know who play music. Like Anna and her friends, they are all very -- they 32:00want everybody else's record to be great. And people will just do whatever they can to play on stuff for free. The people that I -- that are a lot younger than me that have been playing -- younger than me that I have been playing music with lately kind of remind me of that era you know.
It's not very -- it's not competitive and people are just willing to do whateverthey have to do to make other people's stuff sound great. And that's how I remember it, I mean everybody having -- practicing in the same places and just the amount of work that people were willing to put into something. Not just the bands, I mean the amount of practicing that you could get people to do for nothing -- not even for free liquor, I mean nothing.
For just maybe hopefully that nice guy at the Arby's would give us some Frosties33:00or whatever -- that's Wendy's. Give us some stuff at the end of the day when they were closing there, we just -- it was really just -- people were willing to put in a huge amount of time practicing. Trying to perfect something that really everybody was -- unless they were completely insane, everybody was pretty certain was just really ephemeral.
CI:We're just working really hard to do this thing for this one show and thenafter that I don't know what's going to happen.
CI:Kind of like a theatre performance or something in a way versus a band whereyou know that you are going to record something. It was more like that, it was like building sets and stuff for something that's only going to happen one time.
CN:That's a great analogy.
CI:Which I find that pretty amazing, how people -- you know. the amount of workthat people put into something that was just ephemeral. 34:00
CN:I had something to follow up with that and I've totally forgotten it. So howlong were you in France?
CI:A year, I think, was about -- I think I had an open-ended ticket that lastedfor a year.
CN:Okay, and then so then you came back, and there's this period right -- beforeFreakwater really started, to happen, and I know, there are all those bands--
CI:With the name butt in them -- with the word butt in them. Yeah, there was thebutt period.
CN:Well, so just talk about what was happening with you and music in thatperiod. The first one was Bunny Butthole, was that correct?
CI:I mean that wasn't a band that -- who was in that? Me, Wink, Tari, Michael,maybe Tom Dumstorf, no I don't think so. And we've been practicing, we had songs 35:00and everything, we were getting ready to -- I think we had a show which is probably why we thought we needed a name. And I was walking over there one day to practice and I thought Bunny Butthole will be the name of the band and I got there and I announced it. And everybody else seemed happy about it. This was before any other Butthole bands; this was way pre-Butthole Surfers. And Wink said no, that's not going to be the band. I said well, yes or else I am leaving, and he basically said like don't let the door smack you too hard.
CN:So, in naming the band, you broke it up.
CI:Yeah, that was it.
CN:So, what was that band like? How would you describe it?
CI:Well, it was contentious.
CN:But I mean musically.
CI:My goal was that it should be like The Incredible String Band which is what Ialways wanted everything to be like. And I think that Wink probably wanted to be 36:00not that much like The Incredible String Band, and he was really -- it was good. Tari was singing, and I remember we were both singing quite a lot in that. It sounded a lot like some of Michael's and Tari's later bands to me. Kind of like that, except with a really one person who barely knows how to play the guitar, which was me.
CN:Explain a little bit more when you say "like The Incredible String Band." Ihave an image in my head but--
CI:It's really hard for me to explain that, what that would sound like. I thinkjust more kind of floppy sounding in a way, which I guess, kind of more folk musicy sounding, more song longer, less choppy lines maybe in a way, more 37:00melodic I guess, then most of what I think of as punk rock or The Dickbrains, except my brother's songs were really super melodic in The Dickbrains and he was a good melody writer so--
CI:Maybe I just wanted to look like The Incredible String Band, I guess that'smaybe what I really wanted.
CI:Maybe it was just a visual, and I thought well that was the closest I evergot within that band because Tari and Michael looked like they could easily have been in The Incredible String Band.
CN:Yeah, okay, I could see that.
CI:So that's maybe why I fought so hard for Bunny Butthole. I don't know whatWink -- he didn't have like an alternative name in mind. But that was it. I walked over there and then just had to leave.
CN:That's funny, and well Wink was one of those who if I recall correctly didn'tlike The Dickbrains especially as a name or thought it was unworthy of the band. 38:00I always thought it was great; it was one of my favorite band names of all time.
CI:I remember seeing it one time in the Courier-Journal and they put "DickBrains" as if that was like a person's name. "Also appearing: Dick Brains," which seems like that could possibly be--
CN:And the Brainettes.
CI:Yeah. Can I get you another beverage? I mean there's one like regular beer,there is another one of those.
CN:I'm fine right now and I might not turn it down later. If you want to getsomething I can stop and we can--
CI:Yeah, hold on.
CN:All right, this is the second sound file of talking with Cathy Irwin on June8th in her backyard, June 8th 2017, in her backyard in Louisville. So, you were saying about The Dickbrains breaking up--
CI:Yeah, I'm not really sure if it was really my doing or if--Charles maybe wasalready planning on moving to New York--it may not have been me, but I'm not really sure. 39:00
CI:Maybe not. Because I remember I was already gone by the time that Tim, or isit, Tom Carson came and wrote the thing for the Village Voice. I was already gone because I wasn't in the photo.
CN:Right, yeah. I mean you were there, when he was actually there at Derby, butthen when they came -- when James Hamilton came back to do the picture --that's right. It's Alec, Doug and Charles.
CI:Right and Tari is not in the picture either. Oh I know why, because Tari andI went to New York together to get -- I was going to get my flight to France, and Tari was just going to stay in New York, so we actually took a really long grand bus trip together to New York.
CN:It's nice to have somebody else to do that with.
CI:Oh yeah, it was pretty good because she had a place to stay, so I stayed withher for about a week in New York and then I went to France, so there, that's why she wasn't there either. We were in some place where everybody got bitten by 40:00fleas and which is probably quite swank at this point--loft, because I'll be able to turn--
CN:People may still be getting bitten by fleas there but I'm sure they --
CN:Yeah, nice fleas. Was there anything else, we had moved to the butt bands,but is there anything else that's important in that earlier phase or important but memorable or--?
CI:I don't think, we didn't really have much disagreement about anything. Peoplewere just bringing in songs and I don't remember what happened. If people--like now in Freakwater if somebody if either Janet or I most likely -- I have a song that kind of sucks, we practice it for a while and then it just disappears, 41:00nobody ever has to say like that's really not, we're never going to talk, we just never speak of it ever again. We may practice it and maybe even play it once in a show and then it will just; it will be like it never happened.
And I can't remember in The Dickbrains but I think that was the same system,like, if you were brought in a song. I don't remember there being any resentment like people thinking they weren't being represented enough. I don't remember any arguments about it like that. I just remember this is hilarious because Charles, some of Charles' songs maybe they -- it seemed like he really hated me pretty violently at that time. So, Charles' songs were mostly about how much, about how awful I was and my brother's songs were about how awful Margaret Lowen was. And I don't know who Doug was going off about. 42:00
CI:It was kind--it was a little bit like Fleetwood Mac.
CN:Well, yeah, Dickbrain Mac -- I love it. Well, but--
CI:Or Fleetwood Dick, I guess.
CN:I'm just trying to imagine being in the situation where a song that expressedanger toward me, I was creatively contributing to.
CI:Yeah, I mean it was a, it was kind of flattering. I wasn't against it, andlater really prepared me for Freakwater. I mean it was all very -- my brother was the only one that was making an effort to conceal what he was talking about slightly through the thin veil of poetry. Other people were mostly not doing 43:00that. I think everybody was just--sort of made their peace with their lot, their own lot -- like whatever instrument they'd been given.
They were just going to try to do that. I don't remember myself thinking like Iwish I was a drummer, or I wish I was a bass player. I mean I remember thinking like I wish somebody else would play the guitar and I didn't have to do this. But then there wasn't anything left for me to do, then I also wanted to get into the bar for free. I had to do something and I don't think anybody thought that I would be, that I really had the rhythmic skills to be just playing tambourine or -- like, Janet later got into Skull of Glee just playing triangles. I was, like, "I could do that," and Wink says "No, you couldn't." Because I wanted to be in 44:00Skull of Glee so badly, it's like I would go to the practices and like just hang around and then Janet got in exclusively playing the triangle.
CI:I'm just sitting here, I could play the triangle. And Wink just reallyadamantly told me later, no I really didn't think you could, I don't think you could play the triangle. Janet just had a natural; she has a drummer thing going on at that point. She was really all over the triangle.
CN:What you are saying there though -- it really works with your theatricalanalogy too, because it's like everybody -- that was the part you were cast with.
CI:Yeah, I think because, you know, later Tari played drums in other bands andDoug didn't really play guitar in Dickbrains. Maybe in the very last phases of it he did, but he was just playing the mighty Korg and singing. 45:00
CN:Actually, am I right? I even remember there were some songs where he wouldn'tbe onstage.
CI:I wonder where he got to go, I wonder where he went. I can imagine thathappening, someone that just wanders off. I guess somebody is spray painting something. But I think we all got along and I think that it was kind of theatre, it was -- I don't think it was something that we really expected to go on. Even though we had, we were huge music fans and had bands that we wanted to emulate. I don't think that we thought the idea that we would be able to do that, just 46:00didn't to seem -- we weren't even considering that.
At least as far as I know, maybe my brother was, I mean Charles stayed in bandsafterwards. But I just I thought that we were doing well just to get to get a show at The Windmill. And without having to ask anybody, I mean that was the only reason we were able to do anything was just because people offered things to us. It's just like Freakwater now. It's like somebody has to ask us to do something, we could never, I don't think any of us could, Tari could have. I don't think any of the rest of us could have figured out how to get anything done.
We would just be still in some basement, not any -- our songs wouldn't be anybetter than they were really without like what you were saying about all the people in that scene, sort of you know each to the best of their abilities or whatever. Some people were just better at interfacing with adults than we were. 47:00I think a lot of it was just about the event that we were getting ready to do like just costumes and that sort of thing. And fighting over who gets to wear the leopard skin boxer shorts that I got for my sixteenth birthday, I guess. Jenny Catlett gave them to me this pair--
CN:Sounds like a Jenny Catlett thing.
CI:This pair of really slimy leopard-ish print, like a Fredericks of Hollywoodboxer shorts, that had lace on them. And that was the main thing that we ever fought about, was who would get to wear those for The Dickbrains show. Because Doug just basically stole them from me, I think I got to wear them a couple of times at a show and the Doug was just -- he kind of owned them after that. 48:00
CN:Now, that's hilarious.
CI:We'd fight over those and then Charles had that dress which was actuallyTari's dress. So he just took that from her, I think she thinks she was wearing that dress at a couple of shows and then Charles -- that was his.
CN:I remember you wearing something like that, a '60s cocktail dress.
CI:Yeah, we had, we were working on our styles a little bit. I saw some picturesof my brother not that long ago, in Kenny Ogle's fantastic photo album and my brother has these Elton John glasses on, aviator eyeglasses -- they're just massive. And he has this long scarf, like Isadora Duncan kind of scarf and he's wearing Marguerite's Luke's leather pants, which I don't, she was only, she was probably like 12. I mean she was younger than any of us. And she had this fantastic leather pants that my brother took from her.
CI:Yeah, I think he might not be wearing a shirt in that photograph, but it's49:00pretty funny. His glasses didn't seem, they seemed perfectly normal to me at the time, but they were just really like Elton John glasses. So, it was quite a look and I guess I'm happy to have been a participant in something where you -- that stuff wasn't available at the store. You couldn't go and get something to make yourself, like if you wanted to make some sort of pastiche of what you thought British punk rock looked like. You really couldn't go to Hot Topic, you couldn't go to the mall and find it.
You had to just put something together with duct tape or -- and that's one ofthe things that I'm just really so happy that I ever got to hang out with Steve Rigot because he really just had such a sense of style, a sense of how to make something fabulous out of a garbage bag. I guess we played -- maybe not sure 50:00where it was, but we had a Dickbrains show and we were supposed to be leaving and Tari had the oven open, it was in the summertime, it was really hot.
She had the oven, gas oven door open with a fire raging inside, trying to dry ashirt that she just splattered with paint. Everybody else is like we have to go, we have to go and she had this black t-shirt that had like pink and some other color, like classic punk rock colors with paint like splattered all over it. But that was going to be what she's going to wear, and said "Wait, we can't leave my shirt is drying -- my shirt is in the oven."
CN:That's so great. Well, so at the point that The Dickbrains broke up did youever think you'd be in a band again?
CI:I guess, I don't know. I didn't -- and I guess I thought my brother and Iwould probably play music together again at some point just because -- mostly 51:00because I really liked the songs that he was writing. And I would have wanted to encourage him to do that. Because I thought that he had like, real talent for it. And I think that he was so shy that it would have been hard for him to do that without me in a way. So, I guess I thought that yeah, I'd probably end up doing that again with my brother. But as far as just choosing to be in a band no, it's just really -- just getting up in front of people was so mortifying. It's weird that that's what I do. Because really just I don't know -- I mean, I guess I hear stories about people that choose like the worst possible career but no, I wouldn't have thought that I would be doing this.
CN:Bunny Butthole breaks up over Bunny Butthole?52:00
CI:And I had a logo in mind and then the thing that's so funny is it that laterWink was willing to be in a band called Cat Butt Dog Butt. But he wouldn't have been in Bunny Butthole. There would have been no Cat Butt Dog Butt if Bunny Butthole would have--
CN:So, what time period are we talking about do you have a recollection?
CI:1983, or four, maybe something like that.
CN:All right, okay that sounds right.
CI:I don't really know, yeah.
CN:Skull of Glee started in '82. Is this contemporary with Skull of Glee or after--
CI:Oh wow. I mean Bunny Butthole was before Skull Glee. And then Skull Gleemaybe came after -- maybe Wink just got disgusted with everybody and went off to find some people that were easier to control. Which I think he would freely admit that the cast of characters in Skull of Glee -- he just found them basically because he thought they were malleable, which was really a weird--I 53:00mean, he was completely wrong, obviously. But that's probably why the band was so great. I think really, what do you want to do with that band was just give Rigot a platform for his genius.
So through the mid-80s, I guess, my brother was at U of L getting a Frenchdegree and then getting some other kind of degree. Was here for a while. Then he was gone to France for a couple years in the middle of that being a bit of a genius. And then he went to maybe Harvard to get a -- to become a Doctor of Divinity at some point. And then, that was really the end when he became a Doctor of Divinity. 54:00
CN:So am I right, all those butt bands, so Bunny Butthole, Cat Butt Dog Butt.
CI:Butt in the Front.
CN:And Butt in the Front, those are all with Alec. And usually with Wink?
CI:No, Alec wasn't in Bunny Butthole.
CN:Oh okay, all right. But he was in the other two, right?
CN:Yeah, so once again, so you'd envisioned playing. That just somewhere alonghere is when you started singing with Janet, right?
CI:Yeah, I was playing with Janet during the Butt in the Front times becauseJanet and I had already, we played an open mic with a Freakwater thing and at the Beat club that was actually the one that was in the strip club.
CN:The first, yes.
CI:What was that place called the one that--?
CN:I think that was called the Beat-- or was it there at one point was Trixie.55:00
CI:Trixie, Trixie's Beat Exchange. Yeah, the one that was on Second Street orThird Street
CN:Third Street, yeah.
CI:But there were -- that was like there were already Skull of Glee shows goingon there at that time. Because I remember seeing a really awesome Skull of Glee show where they had that song "Fish, Sausage, Cabbage" and Rigot had this idea that they would just get a lot of fish and sausage and cabbage and throw it at the audience. But really they had, like, one cabbage, and one fish and one sausage.
CN:It would be like the miracle of the fishes and loaves--
CI:It was awesome because the throwing of the things, didn't really take thatlong, but it was epic.
CI:Somebody -- I don't know who put it together but there was an open mic thereand I guess I must have already been thinking that I would become a dreary country music singer songwriter because I enlisted Janet at that point. 56:00
CN:So how did you get? I mean, I've seen plenty of stories about how you all meteach other, you've known each other when you were younger and feel free to tell those. But I wonder what it was in particular that sparked between you?
CI:Well, I knew that there was this open mic thing and it would have been weirdthat I would even have wanted to do that. But I guess somebody must have been goading me to do that and I had this dress that belonged to my mother that was like a long red, like, just really just stop sign red, cocktail dress. It had these huge buttons that looked like they were made of lucite built ice cubes. They went really, really far down and I thought, "God Janet would wear this and she'd look so awesome" and she would wear it and we would do the open mic. And so that was my lure, that's how I decided she would be the one because I thought 57:00she would wear this dress for the open mic. And Bruce Witsiepe played drums with us, which was pretty awesome. And Steve Cooley played the guitar. And I think that--
CI:Not Steve Cooley, Steve Crumes yeah, Steve Cooley he would never have hadanything to do with us. And Gary Stillwell, I think played with us too. We did that and we recorded some songs in Janet's parents' basement and Janet was already in Eleventh Dream Day. She'd already moved to Chicago and Eleventh Dream Day's records came out on this label called Amoeba that wasn't related to the record store but there was this guy that -- her husband Rick went to school at UK with this guy named Keith Holland who'd moved to Los Angeles.
And so, he started this label, and he was putting out the Eleventh Dream Dayrecord and Janet gave him a Freakwater cassette tape. And he said he would put 58:00out our record because I remember -- I was actually here like in this very house practicing with Butt in the Front when I got that phone call from Janet saying like, "He's going to put out a record -- what should we do?" And I remember telling people here that it's like oh, this kind of sucks because like nobody's saying that they'll put out the Butt in the Front record it's a little bit -- I felt a little shitty about that.
CN:Talk-- we sort of ran all those bands together we'll move forward again. Butwhat -- talk about Butt in the Front; I mean, I've only heard a few of those songs. I know those who have had -- Wink says it's the best band he was ever in or something
CI:My brother wrote some really, really great songs that are really modernsounding. Stephen Driesler, yeah he's a pretty big fan of Butt in the Front, my brother was just like having some sort of psychic--psychotic break, I guess -- I 59:00don't know what you call it but it was very cathartic. There's lots of howling and the songs are really complicated. And Tom Dumstorf was playing this butter biscuit, Scandinavian butter biscuit tin that is somewhere in this house. And it's so funny because the lid is just completely, like, caved in. So it's almost like a steel drum except made out of tin. So, it has just really just crappy, dead sound.
CI:And he was playing that just fiendishly, like I can't believe that he neverbroke through it. But it was like, kind of like if you want to play a steel drum, but you had nothing but just a really shitty biscuit container. I don't know why we couldn't -- we could have found something made of steel. We could have found like a, I don't know, a 55-gallon drum or something and Tom was playing drums and Wink was playing, he might seem to want to play mostly 60:00acoustic guitar.
He seemed to want to force me to play electric guitar in that band. Which wasodd and my brother was playing bass and writing the songs. And also, my brother actually started playing electric guitar in that band because I couldn't really play the songs. That was just, I was just coming in for the hot solos and the howling.
CN:And were you doing any of the singing or?
CI:Yeah, my brother and I always really -- we just grew up singing a whole lotand it just -- my brother's a huge fan of medieval music and from childhood I guess he was -- so we would do a lot of Gregorian style singing in the backseat of the car.
CI:Yeah, which is something that I think everyone should do. So that was -- andthat kind of music doesn't really involve harmony very much. Which I think came 61:00later than late medieval period -- I don't know really when harmony was -- yeah so -- so I didn't really understand much about that, as a result of my years of singing with my brother. So, it was right around the end of Butt in the Front that Freakwater got our record deal.
CN:So how long did Butt in the Front exist?
CI:Probably I would say a year -- my brother was here for some reason, like Iguess in between grants -- in between schools of some kind, and he really wanted to like seriously do that -- he really wanted to make it happen. I remember Arrot took some photos of us.
CI:Yeah, we went down by the squirrel down there by the A-1 moving company onBroadway we had some pictures -- it's just me and Tom and my brother because I 62:00think Wink was mad at us at that point and didn't want to be in the photographs. But my brother actually had Wink dump a bunch of stuff on the cassette tapes that we recorded and he sent them places.
CN:But now did Butt in the Front play out?
CI:I think we played one show, I think we played with you, with the Bulls. Ionly know that because I think it's in the White Glove Test book.
CI:I kind of think we played--
CN:Wink said that Slint opened for the Bulls one time and I have no memory.
CI:I wonder if they were on the same bill with Butt in the Front. I'm prettysure that we played a show at Tewligans with the Bulls and that was probably about our only show. But my brother was just writing songs, like he was just, he was on fire with it and songs were really good -- they're really very, very personal and weirdly confessional and -- they were really, really good. 63:00Extremely contemporary sounding.
CN:You mean contemporary to now?
CI:To now, yeah, not to then. Just then it just sounds like this is really likenothing that I'd ever that -- it sounded like something from Mars at that time. But I think Wink definitely really thinks that we had a little bit of something going on in that band. And I was just mortified that anybody was going to -- that we were going to have to go out and play in public. And so we came up with this idea, which is also a little modern, that we were only going to just only play in other people's living rooms.
We wouldn't have to play shows, which is really what everybody that I knowbasically does now, and I hate that so it turns out that I wouldn't have liked that either. So, we actually made a stencil for a poster for the Butt in the 64:00Front living room tour, because that's how we were going to do it. We were going to avoid having to talk to strangers by just going to towns where we knew somebody that lived and playing in their living room, which would be like New York and Chicago. And I don't know where else -- like wherever anybody had a relative.
CN:Wow, that's good. So, we're now in what '84, '85?
CI:Maybe '85 even.
CN:And The Bulls lasted until '88.
CI:Oh, so it could have been--
CN:So, Max was -- through Max's first year, Max was born at the end of '87. AndI guess that maybe we broke up in September of '88 -- but yeah, that's amazing to me that John had a child and I had a child and we still -- it's one reason The Bulls never toured. But anyway, this is about you. It's not about me.
CI:That is amazing because I mean, I definitely was in a band with someone who65:00had a one-year-old child and he's forgiven me now. It was a really long time.
CN:So, I guess what I'm thinking about--
CI:Matt's son, Janet's son Matt was like, "Nickel Creek mother fucker" -- that'swhat he yelled at us one time when we were leaving to get in the van like "Aww love you" Nickel Creek mother fucker - that's really funny.
CN:That is funny.
CI:Like how did he even know what Nickel Creek was; I think Janet had tried tokeep him from things like that. He shouldn't have been exposed to that and even to the extent that he could accuse us of being -- that's one of my favorite memories of my little -- my godson.
CN:Yeah, the connection the making of connections is really -- but it seems66:00like, and this is me reading into your story; you can tell me how absolutely wrong and presumptuous I am. But this is a period where you were getting a little more committed to music, would you say or not?
CI:Yeah, I guess so. I guess I thought -- yeah, definitely I was. Because Iyeah, definitely. I think around that time I had been going to Chicago and staying with Janet and we'd already started our little thing together. I think we definitely started that before Janet went to Chicago and started being in Eleventh Dream Day and then I would go visit her and Eleventh Dream Day was touring a lot.
They really had something in mind and so I would go with them. And I was theirguitar technician and then Janet and I would be the opening band. Like a lot of 67:00times we were the -- before we had this idea of doing -- maybe we'd already done our little cassette recording. So, we would be the opening band, so we got an idea that like oh this is just something people could actually do even though it was mortifying. It's like you could just -- if you had somebody else be in-charge you can just drive around the country playing shows.
CN:Well, so when you talked about the previous bands it's usually you're talkingabout your brother's songwriting. When did you start writing so many songs?
CI:Like probably around the Butt in the Front time. Bunny Butthole times, maybe.I don't know if any of my songs were -- ever really made it into the set list, I can't imagine that they didn't because we didn't have that many songs. I can't 68:00remember of The Dickbrains songs which ones particularly I wrote. But definitely in the Butt in the Front time I started writing songs just because out of self-defense because my brother's songs were so complicated I couldn't play them on the guitar. So, we would try to get him to take some notes out or some chords out and he couldn't really do that.
So, I wrote a few songs that were like way, way simpler than his just because Icouldn't, I was just so lost. So, I probably wrote quite a few songs for Butt in the Front.
CN:I mean, it's weird to talk about this but I think everybody has this feelingwith things they do. I know there was a point when I realized I can bang out an article really quickly. I know the format; I know how to do it, I mean when did 69:00you start feeling your feet underneath you?
CI:I don't know that I really have that feeling. I know that I don't -- that thefeeling of showing somebody the thing that I wrote, is the horror of that is absolutely undiminished. Just the humiliation -- I mean I've had to stop before driving on the way just driving to Chicago to practice with Janet. I had to stop and just throw up. The moment when you present to somebody what your work is. Even in a situation like that, showing it to Janet I can still be saying like I'm going to change this part, I know this part isn't very good, I'm going to fix that somehow. But just the -- yeah, I don't know. 70:00
CN:I'm really dumbfounded; I mean your songs are so good.
CI:Well, I mean -- I don't know.
CN:Obviously everybody has their own--
CI:That sense of showing somebody, here's something I did; I think it's worthy.
CN:Right well, in that, yeah, that initial moment of judgment.
CI:Yeah, that will make me pull over to the side of the road and just throw up.
CN:Wow that's really--
CI:I mean really I should be worried about other things really bigger than thatat this point, but I think I felt that less probably before; probably felt less like in Dickbrains times or something. Because just seems like everybody's songs were -- it didn't matter--not that it didn't matter that much if your songs were shitty, because I think everybody wanted was trying to do the best -- do something awesome. I mean I think that that was one of the things about The Dickbrains was everybody was just trying to write a masterpiece.
Nobody was trying to do anything that was not fucking awesome. And so maybe it71:00really wasn't any easier and maybe that's why I didn't really contribute that much to the songwriting in The Dickbrains. I can't really, can't remember which songs were mine but that sense of just dread of doing something that you feel like it's sort of what you do. But at the same time, it's just this sense of mortification I don't think it's really--that's not good is it?
CN:It's worked for you. So then, the other thing is, why did you move to theparticular vein of music that Freakwater's worked in? I mean, because everything we've talked about to this point has been medieval music and Irish music.
CI:Right, I think that what I really enjoyed doing always was singing and72:00singing with other people. I think that's the thing that I liked the most that my brother and I would do from the time we were just little in the car and my mom would be just telling us, you'd have to stop that or I'm going to just put you out here on the side of Dixie Highway. You have to stop. That I really just love singing with another person. And that wasn't really part of -- certainly not much a part of the Dickbrains; not for me because I could -- I mean the idea of singing and playing guitar that would be such a joke.
And some of the later bands when I didn't have to play guitar I could sing alittle bit but I think that's really why. Because I really I never really, never felt very comfortable playing guitar but I've always really liked singing with another person, that's like the least mortifying part and I just actually like that. 73:00
CN:And then what I mean, the hillbilly country or whatever you want to call it vein?
CI:I think that's just the natural--I mean it's so related to punk rock, it's soit's so much the same thing. It's just a quieter version of that. Basically the same-- it's a quieter version of it with more harmony singing. And maybe more maybe more stories in the songs or something, but I don't even know if that's really true. But I mean, definitely the same themes, it just seems like those two things are so related. The kind of punk rock that I really like and the kind of country music that I really like are just basically same.
CN:Give me one example of each.
CI:Well, I mean, obviously Hank Williams songs, something, and, The Dead Boys.The Dead Boys -- Hank Williams, I don't know if they would really have gotten 74:00along; if they'd have really liked each other. And I don't really know if I can explain how "Sonic Reducer" is really the same as "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." But there's nihilism in it. There's the same sort of, just a sense of, I'll never get out of this world alive, like Hank Williams said. There's a sense of that.
There's this sense of, not really despair, but just a sense of just things arejust about to fucking explode in those songs to me. I don't know there's something that's very -- just causes a certain anxiety, but also something's so 75:00great about listening to that kind of music. Both of those kinds of music to me.
CN:Well, it is interesting to me how many of the people from that scenegravitated toward that kind of music.
CI:Yeah, and then you just think like, I said just because they all had babies,and they had to play more quietly is that why? It's because they had to just practice in their living room because they had a one-year-old sleeping and so they had just like--
CN:I've been clearly it's not a situation Sean Garrison has ever had to deal with.
CI:No, that's true.
CN:But I do find it interesting. Because certainly I don't remember hardlyanybody talking about that music back in '80, '81, '82. I mean, Cindy and I had sort of a pre-hipster thing, she was into stuff like, Dolly Parton and she has 76:00Sarah Ogan Gunning record.
C.I:Yeah, I mean, she's the one.
CN:Yeah, but still, I mean I look back on I can't believe I didn't urge Tara tosing "Oh Death." That would have just been so amazing.
CI:I guess we always had those two things going on at the same time in thatarena. I mean for me a lot of it was just through Woody Guthrie. Because my interest in, particularly, Woody Guthrie and then expanding out into other folk music, not expanding out very far really -- expanding out just about an inch on either side of that section. Just never really very far was really, that was 77:00really all I wanted to do. I just really wanted to be Woody Guthrie always.
CI:Because he's the coolest person there is, I think, next to Sarah Ogan Gunning.
CN:I'm not arguing with you but why do you think so?
CI:I don't know. I mean I really don't know and I think that even when I was 15I was thinking like, is the Dust Bowl really what you want to be going for? Because that's going to be a weird life. Can you not fixate on some other period in history? Because can you not just be fascinated by, like, I don't know the 1950s or some time when your chances of living past the age of 50 would have been better?
But for some reason that was just always I don't know, it's I think it's just78:00really Woody Guthrie particularly in his songs and just the whole legend of his life that really just consumed me and from there to Bob Dylan and stuff. And then like anybody else from Led Zeppelin to real blues music and that sort of thing. Classic trajectory.
CN:I mean Woody Guthrie very clearly self-justifying. I mean--
CI:I mean that's the standard. I think that was for what things should be. Sothat makes everything that I do not make very much sense but--
CN:Alright, so you get the offer to do a Freakwater record from the guy who'salso recording Eleventh Dream Day. Tell me about that--doing that? 79:00
CI:We went to Chicago and practiced and then we went in the studio and recordedour songs and we found people through Janet, since Janet was in Eleventh Dream Day we found other people to play on the record. Dave, our bass player, we played with since our very first record because he worked in a record store with somebody; maybe with Doug, the bass player from Eleventh Dream Day. Doug, I mean, Dave came in and played on our very first record and a couple of other people that we played with for a long, long time after that.
CN:I mean I've always wondered about the long-distance nature of your band. It'snot like practicing five days a week at 1069?
CI: No, it's not like that at all and there's good and bad. Janet and I havebeen playing together since I don't know, 30 years ago or something now. And I 80:00think that part of the secret of that is that we don't even live in contiguous states. We have to get through Indiana even to get to each other, because we're happy to see each other. But I think if we lived in the same city, we would have just killed each other by now. So, there's difficulty to it but there is also--the amount of distance has been good. Because everybody has got other things they're doing and then we are just happy to see each other versus me just being all up in her business all the time.
CN:So, you've done it for 30 years, right?
CI:I know that we used to say 20 for a long time but I think that's probablygoing to change.
CN:1987 to 2017 is 30 years, right, I mean?
CI:It's probably been 10 years we've been saying 20 so yeah. Well, I guess it81:00was five years ago we went out and played -- I don't know when it was 20th anniversary of the 3rd record. That was probably five years ago we went out and played those shows or something, so yeah it's been a long time. That Feels Like the Third Time record -- we played the 20th anniversary shows for that record probably at least five years ago so that was pretty nuts.
But the shows they went really well, it was good. It was actually kind of fun toplay those songs with Jim Elkington who's just phenomenal. He went with us, and I think it was just the three of us with Dave, and it was playing those songs with somebody who wasn't -- he brought some kind of new awesomeness to it and the shows were really well attended. And I think, it was a good thing to do but that was definitely that was a 20th anniversary. I guess it was the 20th 82:00anniversary of that record, because that was our third record.
CN:That's the one with Jenny on the cover?
CN:That was a classic cover.
CI:Yeah, I know. Rigot had done her hair; it was Derby Eve, it was a party atSue and John's house on Eastern Parkway. And he was in there doing people's hair and he gave me and Jenny and probably Janet, he gave us all beehives and just tons of hair spray. And then Jenny slept with -- I guess somebody--Rigot maybe--told her that you should wrap toilet paper around it before you go to bed to keep it upright. And that was the result of that. They came over here the next day. They were on their way to the racetrack or something so in the photo she had the Derby Pin, you can see.
CN:Oh, I missed that, yeah.
CI:We recreated that photo I guess about five years ago with Isabel, for the20th anniversary of that record -- it was a really, really funny because it was 83:00taken right in front of this house. So instead of the awesome car which was actually mine that's in the -- Feels Like the Third Time cover we used Isabel's diesel, retro-fitted Mercedes and it's pretty funny. She has her hair -- I mean she looks somewhat like Jenny, she has got this scowl on her face -- it was really funny--we made tour CDs to sell.
CN:That's great. 30 years I feel like it's ridiculous I mean in one way we'refocusing on this early period and you gave me all this great stuff about this, but I mean how do you -- I mean 30 years.
CI:Well, we were not supposed to live that long I mean that's the problem right.I mean who ever imagines that -- I would have probably finished high school if I thought I was going to live to be 30. It is just felt like fuck a bunch of old people's ideas of how I should proceed.
CN:Right. I guess what I'm wondering is, is there an arc or a narrative or a84:00story of the way Freakwater has gone? I mean you've made a lot of different kinds of records, and I was sitting today kinda going between them and thinking the early ones -- in Scheherazade you can kind of tell it's the same people, but there's a different feeling to it.
CI:I think we've gotten better, which is a little bit of good news becausesometimes it doesn't seem like we have. Sometimes we'll just try to play a song and it's like, who wrote this? I did -- I have no idea how it goes. I mean, I played that show last night or two nights ago with Michael Hurley and Anna and I got really flustered because this guy, Daniel Littleton was playing with Michael 85:00Hurley and he's from that band Ida, where I'd recorded a solo record that I made at his house with him playing on it and his family all over my record.
And I didn't know he was going to be there so when they play a song from therecord and I just completely screwed it up -- I had no idea what key it was supposed to be in. So sometimes it's still very fresh. I think it's like that for Freakwater, too. I mean but it's still definitely the same people, we're just as likely to not have any idea, in the middle of the song just have to stop.
CN:So talk about Janet as a creative partner.
CI:Janet, I mean, she's really an amazing songwriter and an amazing performer. Ithink she wouldn't be nervous at all if it wasn't for me. I think she'd perfectly fine, she plays in all these other outfits and she's very natural. But 86:00I think I bring a sense of dread. I think we just respect each other's opinions and stuff in a way that's really nice. I think we kind of complement each other. Definitely if Janet has an idea that would never have occurred to me, I think like, huh, well, there's probably some reason she's saying that. I mean I think we've worked together really well. And I think I can say that we, not just I, really love singing together. I mean I always hear her part in my head. I made solo records -- a couple-- but I always hear the Janet part sometimes on my solo record I will be just like, pitching my voice up really high, and it's like oh that's Janet's part stop trying to do that. 87:00
CN:I feel like somehow we're scanting Freakwater. I mean the one big story thatevery interview I ever see with you goes through the whole Steve Earle thing. I don't know if you even want to--
CI:I remember not that long ago, well, probably a really long time now, peoplewere asking us like, what was your plan? What did you set out to do with Freakwater and Janet and I both just look at the person like, if we'd set out to do something, we would have failed by now. And we wouldn't be doing this anymore -- we had no fucking plan. What if we'd have had a plan, like we must be on the Grand Ole Opry by 1989. We wouldn't have been and then we would've just -- not having a plan is the only reason we are still doing this.
CN:Well right, because it's in a live creative space for you.88:00
CI:Yes, it's not a thing that we are trying to get anywhere because we wouldhave failed at getting to that place. I mean bands break up a lot of the time because they feel like they're not getting where they want to go -- we don't have any place that we want to go. And I think that would've been the case with The Dickbrains too if everybody had still lived in the same town because we didn't really -- it was the same thing.
Nobody had any particular place to go, I guess as Chuck Barry would say. But, Ithink that's unfortunate in terms of a normal trajectory or fiscally definitely unfortunate. But it saves you from having to declare failure and go home. You don't have to because -- we did this record, this NPR radio show, one time in Boulder, Colorado, called E town -- I don't know if it's still on or not, it's a 89:00live radio broadcast.
They put us in this really fancy hotel. Who was on the show with us? There wereall these famous people that were on the show and during a live part of the interview the guy asked Janet, 'What was your plan?" And Janet said, "If we had a plan we wouldn't fucking be here." It was really funny because I was laughing so hard I couldn't stop and it was just deadly silence. I don't know if they ever even broadcasted our episode of that show. "If we had a plan we wouldn't be here."
CN:Well, so one thing that you could say and this is my understanding like agoddam music--
CI:Gordon Lightfoot that's who else was on the show.
CN:Oh really, oh my gosh.
CI:Yeah, Gordon Lightfoot who -- yeah. So that was a big deal for Janet's dad90:00was a huge Gordon Lightfoot fan and so the idea that we would get to be anywhere near Gordon Lightfoot--and it was super weird because he's a wackadoodle.
CN:Yeah, well I guess I am going to sound like a goddamn music critic and youwill apologize, I will apologize.
CI:You will apologize.
CN:I will apologize and you will apologize for me. You will accept my apology,but I mean you all were early to the alt-country thing to the extent or whatever that is, right. And I just wondered if you have any thoughts about that or, I mean there's no question that -- like we were saying -- that was not a very big part of Louisville in 1980 and '81 and '82 but it was sort of vaguely the same type of scene in different places around the country-- 91:00
CI:Yeah, I don't know what year was it when Janet and I were doing the open micbut that's the kind of music that we were playing at the open mic thing. And I remember there were people there that were--
CN:It was at the Beat on Thursday -- that was like '83 or '84.
CI:Yeah, it was an open mic thing that we played there and I remember that therewere people that, when I said what we're going to do this, they were like, that will be really funny. It's not going to be that funny and also fuck you. If you think that Hank Williams is funny when he's not trying to be funny, then I don't really know -- then it's actually going to be really ugly because there were people that -- oh, look at the blue jay -- there were people that did think that anything that had to do with country music or hillbilly music or that sort of thing was just ironic.
And I remember even at that time, even at that show, that there were people that92:00thought we were doing something in a way that -- and I never really liked the ironic thing which was a factor in a lot of early alt country. People that were supper talented at playing instruments and could've played any type of music obviously loving classic country music enough to learn how to play it really, really well and yet there is this element of irony to it or adding this weird humor thing that--
CN:I think it's hard sometimes to imagine yourself into it. I think like theearly Babylon Dance Band -- there was a sort of joke side to it in a way and it was because we're...
CN:It is ludicrous for me to be here so.
CI:Definitely I mean, like a thing that you're doing yourself is, yeah,obviously I find there's a ridiculousness to it but I remember there-- 93:00
CN:But you're right, I mean when the irony leads, you're right.
CI:I remember even then thinking, that's not how I want to do this. I'm notgoing to try to act like I think this is some of it is beneath me or something that we're making fun of. Because we weren't even capable really of doing that, we're just trying really hard to play these songs that we really, really loved. And then it turned out it was easier just to write her own songs because--we felt we couldn't be judged in the same way if we wrote was our songs. It's the same as The Dickbrains. We could've tried to play a Buzzcocks song, but that would've been absurd because people knew how those songs went and they would've been able to tell--that I would later be fail an audition for a band because I couldn't play the triangle.
CN:I mean, I do think that the musical characteristics of punk rock were so94:00perfect for your first band and just the imperative to do something original-- I'm fine--and I think that's really true.
CI:I mean, I hope that everybody has that at this point just a sense that -- andI think people do. I think that everybody can just make their own record in their bedroom. Everybody but me and Janet knows how to do that. I think we're the last people that have to pay somebody to have to make a record for you because we can't fucking figure out how to do it. But just that idea that there are no rules, I think that is the main influence of punk rock on me. And of just all the people that I knew that were in bands in Louisville and so many -- like, such a diversity of the type of music that people were playing. 95:00
I mean you all and then The Endtables and people were playing all differentkinds of stuff but it's just this, idea that you could just do whatever you wanted and that there weren't any rules. I don't know, without that as a real fundamental -- as like the foundational idea for everything in my life I really don't know. I mean, I'm sure I would be dead by now if I thought that there are rules and I was constrained by stuff. I mean you should be constrained by stuff in fact, it's been a detriment really in a way to feel that there are no rules because in fact there are. So it was a little bit delusional, there are some rules.
CN:Yeah, there are various forms of gravity.
CI:Yeah, there are things. But in terms of just being able to make stuff anyway96:00that you want, and I mean for me it's weird to just talking about myself, but I guess that's what I'm supposed to be doing. A lot of that just comes from being somebody that's always wanted to paint and draw and do stuff like that and that was always something where to me there weren't any rules. And that was the fun part of it, that was my favorite class or whatever in school was because that was you couldn't really -- I mean as far as I knew, you couldn't really be wrong. It's not like math class where there is a natural right answer which I didn't even understand and I am super dyslexic for one thing.
So just being able to do something where there wasn't a right or wrong answer,and I think that that's sort of the way that I feel about playing music too. It's like, that's the point. The point is that -- especially if you make the 97:00thing up, I mean, if you're trying to play a Buzzcocks song and then there, yes, there may be a right or wrong answer, but if you make up your own Dickbrains song, then the judgment of other people will be irrelevant. If you just do the best you can and you're, I don't know I think to me that's the point.
CN:That is a great analogy, I love that.
CI:I just remember being in art class when even as a little kid I was always theone -- there was one other girl named Kathy, we were, like, the two Kathy's -- that were just art people. And so we got to do every thing, decorating the bulletin board or whatever. And people getting me to do their art assignments for them. Thinking like, this is the only fun thing. And even when we were in, 98:00just, third and fourth grade people saying like, I don't know how to do this, I don't know how to do it, I feel like I'm doing it wrong. And just thinking like, God that sucks.
I would take the quarter that you're giving me, I'll take your money and I'lldraw your Easter bunny for you but I am also really sad for you. Because that's the whole point of this is there isn't any right or wrong. And if there is a right or wrong, then I'm totally fucked because this is the only thing I know how to do, because I don't understand math at all. And I'm just faking that I can read basically too so if you are correct and there is a wrong way to draw an Easter bunny, then I am so doomed. But yeah, people gave me a little money under the table occasionally.
CN:That's wild, that is totally wild.
CI:And even in hippie school. In schools where people shouldn't have been99:00getting that idea at all. But still, like, a sense of judgment. Of, like, there's some right or wrong way to do an art project, it's really pretty sad. But I guess if everybody felt they could do whatever they wanted -- I mean there are already way too many bands. So I guess just don't put this out there -- this idea but -- I mean, I think that it's you just have to -- whether you can put it over -- like the intent--it's just -- I don't know there's uh-- it's hard for me.
I don't think there is right or wrong; I mean there is definitely stuff that Ithink sucks, but it's not because it wrong. And it's weird that it would have taken punk rock to let everybody know that. But in a way it seems like it was an 100:00important thing for people all over the planet. Basically be like, you don't have to be a virtuoso and in fact if you are, then that's probably just going to get in your way. Because we definitely were happy to get that news.
CN:Well, yeah I mean I really have thought about doing these interviews. I meanbecause I remember at the time I had the view of this as like a wave. This is going to take over everything. And then it didn't, and then I was like, okay, not everything works like that. But doing these interviews, it has been so interesting to see that for the people who were involved in it, it was life 101:00transforming. Brett said, "I wasn't a misfit or anything but I wanted to be an artist, then this allowed me to be an artist."
CI:He has a kind of introspection, I mean, not to suggest that I am not justspending all of my days thinking about myself, but he -- which of course I am, but I guess because he's a writer. He just has a way of summing up things. That I would be embarrassed to say, I would never say that, I guess it's what I am actually trying to say -- that because he is a poet. He says things that I would find shameful.
CN:Right, oh yeah.
CI:That I would find really mortifying, because that's the job of--
CN:Yeah, he would not even--
CI: That's the job of the poet, just say stuff that I would find shameful.
CN:Right, he would not have said that to you at 16.
CN:Yeah, that would've been the thing he--
CI:I know he would've probably thrown a Little Kings at anybody did say it. I102:00remember getting in a fight with Wolf Knapp about going to art school. He was mocking me for going to art school. And I think I actually slapped him in the face, he was wearing a swastika button. And I said, "If you say that one more time I think I am going to hit you." And I think he's the only person I've ever slapped in the face.
CN:That's hilarious, oh my God.
CI:You are going to art school, it's like -- and then he ends up being a fuckingjazz bass player, he hasn't been to more art school than I have.
CN: Right, yeah, going to school for it.
CI:Yeah, I know. He was mocking me and Doug and I guess Tari for having gone toart school.
CN:And by the time he would have been doing that you were out of it already, right?
CI:I had already dropped out of art school. I was like fuck you, I am not goingthere anymore.
CN:Really, are you attacking me because I did it or because I am not doing it.
CI:Yeah, and are you eventually going to end up being a jazz bass player? Are103:00you eventually going to be just so deep in art school? That was pretty funny. I think I remember slapping him in the face and thinking, that--I have never done that before. But it had a little bit to do with the swastika button too. It was a combination of Nazis plus making fun of art school. Albert Speer motherfucker, now my friend.
CN:Well, one of the questions they have and I don't know if you have anyperspective on this is do you have any sense of how the scene here in Louisville compared to the scene in other cities?
CI:I think that just because it was so much smaller and because there were less104:00places to play although even in Chicago, for bands at that time there weren't that many places. There weren't that many bars that would let you play and it was always usually some place weird like some reggae club or something like that where they would let people have Punk Rock night. So, I guess I don't know but I guess I always imagine that being in a place where there wasn't anything else happening was really important for all of us that were growing up here. There wasn't any other thing, it wasn't like, should we practice with our band or should we go see Siouxsie and the Banshees. There was nothing fucking happening, so there was no fight over what to do.
That was all that there was. It's just that idea of making your own fun. I don'tknow what it's like for people that are growing up now or that were growing up 105:00in the last 20 years or the time of the internet when you can just find anything you want, I don't know, I can't imagine. I mean I know how it's messed with my mind, just be able to suddenly look up anything that I want. Find any piece of music that I want to hear, any super obscure weird thing. It's overwhelming and I think that maybe it's less overwhelming for people that just have had that their whole lives. But for me it was such a very limited palette. I didn't go to high school when I was supposed to go but the high school was right across the street from the public library.
So my brother would -- when we get to the door of the Brown School and I wouldbe just like, "Oh I can't go in there, I'm going to throw up." And my brother would say, "Maybe you should go to school today." It's like, "Uuhhh, see you after." So, I would just go across the street to the library, and they had that the section with the records. So, I would just sit in there in the Art section 106:00reading art books and listening to Folkways records all day. But if that section of records had been the Internet, if that had been YouTube, I don't know what that would be like.
CN:It is a weird thing.
CI:The chaos of it and the amount of things to choose from. I don't know that Iwould be able to have any sense of where to begin or like editing myself or something. I had to write a bunch of haiku for something somebody asked me to do a couple of months ago and I was thinking, I like this really that there is just a limit. There is a limit and I think that's part of what I really like about punk rock; about the songs structure and about the structure of songs in classic country music is the limit which is weird. Because I was talking about how there 107:00aren't any rules, but there are parameters that you kind of try to fit your thing that you're doing into that, and that's not true for Kansas or Toto or those bands like that. The kind of music that other people that were making at the time they were no -- the kind of music that I hated like Emerson, Lake and Palmer. The structure was like -- really elusive to me. And I think it will always be thus.
CN:I have to ask, this is not really that relevant to the oral history ofLouisville music, but you said in some interview you mom got into Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Jethro Tull?
CN: Wow, I mean knowing your mom that's just--
CI:Rick Wakeman's Six Wives of Henry VIII. My mom bought that record. I waslike, okay, if I ever thought this was going to be cool, now I'm pretty sure 108:00it's not.
CI:Because my brother was still clinging to the idea that there was somethingredeemable in that body of work.
CN: Yeah, oh wow. People asked about -- was it Wink? No, it wasn't Wink. It wasAlex Durig, he was really into Tull and Sabbath.
CN"Those were the big bands for him.
CI:Sabbath, yeah. Tull and Sabbath don't go together to me, that is like Skynyrdand Allman Brothers. People throw them together but they are like, one is good and one is bad.
CN:I don't know if there is anything else to be said about any of theindividuals. You've talked about Janet, talked a little bit about Rigot, I don't know if there is anything else you would like to say about him. I feel bad since I won't be doing an interview with him.
CI:Yeah, I know.
CN;Everybody's got to speak for him and about him.
CI:I don't know, I think he was just such a huge influence on everybody just in109:00every way. And just as far as being just fearless, which I -- and I don't know. And also one thing that Rigot liked--biggest George and Melba Montgomery -- George Jones and Melba Montgomery fan ever, that's where I first heard those records was at his house when he lived with Bob in Brooklyn. They would listen to that party picking record, it was like what the hell is this? And I mean Rigot was a huge country music fan, and just a huge influence on me and on a lot of other people just in the sense of just the diversity of his taste.
He didn't care what anything was, it was either I like it or I don't like it orits good or just really could absolutely like anything. Like popular songs in a 110:00way that maybe when I was 17 or 18 I would've been too snobby to say that I that like this or, [aside] Olive--hey buddy...
CN:Yeah, it is interesting; I mean I do think that there is a lotof--catholicity of taste.
CI:Yeah, definitely. And I think that Rigot was definitely one of those peoplethat showed me the way to say that's just idiotic. If you like Boy George, that's fine. Don't let Wink tell you that there is anything wrong with that. And if you want to do a cover of "Karma Chameleon" in Bunny Butthole then--
CN:Oh, is that right?
CI: I mean it was coming, it was definitely coming but it didn't--we didn't getto that point because the band broke up. I was like--oh, that song was on the jukebox at Pasquale's. I listened to it over and over and over.
CN:What a--I always think about that song.
CN:It's really a great song.111:00
CI:Red, gold and green. I thought like, "Oh so I'm going to talk about colors."That's good, I will do that.
CI: Yeah, I mean Rigot was just such a huge influence in so many ways. I mean Iwish that I could say he was more of an influence on me in terms of stagecraft. Because that was a lesson that I obviously was out of the room for, when that was going on. But I think just in the sense of being able to not really care what was cool or what was uncool, just make the thing that you liked, be the coolest thing. And be able to defend it without -- if you really like something then why would you care what anybody thought in a way.
CI:And to have somebody that was that awesome just -- always be that way like,112:00in terms of, we would be at the thrift store and he'd pick out some item and I'd would be like, "I don't know." Then he'd put it on and it's like, "Yeah, I guess you are right." That is good, that shower curtain, that is the best caftan I've ever seen. So just a broadening of the horizons in that sense in a way that only somebody that's that fucking cool could ever do.
And Tari Barr too; just hugely influential and just an amazing singer. I meanher vocal parts on The Dickbrains songs are really what stand out to me. I mean her singing and my brother's songwriting. Certainly, those are the things that are great about those songs. The melodic nature of some of his songs and she was 113:00just going for it.
CN:She was a dynamo, yeah. I mean yeah, she was just very forceful, got themelody across and--
CI:Yeah, and in a really unapologetic kind of way. If we'd had a singer in thatband that was just as mortified as everybody else was, that would have been -- I don't even know what that would have been like. Like everybody couldn't be that backwards. There had to be somebody that knew how to -- you've got to do something that people liked. And so, I think we were really lucky in that sense that, Doug and I were definitely lucky that we ran into her at art school and that -- I'm sure Doug was probably in love with her already at that point; I don't know but I am not really sure. I mean, obviously, I think probably that may have been a factor.
CN:When a young man is that age, he's in love so easily but you know...114:00
CI:Yeah, she was and is a little bit fabulous. But we were very lucky to have afront person, and I think we sensed it in the way that people that are just trying to get by without having to talk to other people very much have that sense of who to befriend. It's just like a user kind of a way of living. You just have to find people that they can function in the world.
You can find highly functioning people and you try to marry them or something.So yeah, I think we were definitely very lucky to have her because I don't know what would have happened to the little Dickbrains if it would have just been me and my brother. Well, I guess I know, because me and my brother and Charles had been working out our Clancy Brothers hits for a little while before that. And we 115:00weren't really taking them out.
CN:That's so funny because I can remember I think it was just you and himsinging some of the songs, like, I don't know, "Dirty Old Town" or something like that, at 1069. And my whole thing was like, "Oh, they are finally at a point where they can go back to their parent's music." Not knowing that you've really been doing that.
CI:That made me think of this really funny incident where Karen Vance had me andCharles -- somebody had a book, like a song book and I can't remember what it was but it had that Band song, "The Weight" in it. And Karen Vance I think she must've been, I don't know, if she was drinking, I don't know what happened but she got this idea that we were going to sing that song. That Charles and I were going to sing like the little eng-ah-ah-ah and Charles and I could not do that whatsoever.
And every time she would just make us do it over and over again. She was playingguitar and we would try to get up and she would just grab us by the shoulder and shove us back down to the chairs. And Charles and I were nearly crying, it's 116:00like, we don't like the Band. This is against all that we stand for please, and not only that we can't. She couldn't believe that we could not do that little "eng-ah-ah-ah put the load, put the load right on me," -- I still can't do that. But yeah, Karen Vance was just -- she was not going to let it go. Like nobody is leaving this house until we can do this thing that you hate.
CI:But Charles and Alec and I, we had a little thing going by I think withoutTari and Doug also had a -- he was a bit of a ham. He wanted to get out in front of people too. He wanted to get out there and tell them how he felt. Which is so funny because I mean Doug is so shy in real life. But I guess maybe the same is 117:00true about me in a way, that you're just so incredibly shy and awkward feeling. And then there is some certain thing that happens when you are just in front of people and you just start gibbering. I think in Freakwater we're almost just doing that to distract from things so that we won't have to actually have to play the song. People are yelling like, "Play a song" and Janet's, like, "No, I'm just trying to tell the story."
CN:Well, I am really like that, but I always felt when you got on stage, youshould like -- this is what you are supposed to do. I don't know is there any other thing that you think is important we haven't talked about? Where you thought, can't believe Chip didn't asked me about this?
CI:No, I can't really think of anything. I mean my brother -- when he ended up118:00at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City, he gave his bass to this guy that was his roommate. And I was pretty mad about that. That was right after the Butt in the Front. I don't know what happened. I guess he went to Union for a while. I don't know how long. I mean I don't even know how many degrees he has, and that's not even funny at this point. But he was there for several years and he gave his bass to somebody and that was really -- I was like, "I am going to find that guy and get that because he doesn't need it."
My brother I think in some way is just, being so close in age that we divided upwhat we were going to do. And I think that if I had a skill in any area then he was just -- we had no sense of competing with each other about anything. I don't 119:00either of us had really any sense of how to compete with anybody for anything just based on that. So I think that it's always been a little bit weird to me that my brother just abandoned playing music because that's what I was doing.
Because I think that he was more talented, had more of a natural ability forthat than I do. It was just what I fell in to because I couldn't really do anything else. So, I mean this has always been one of the odder things about to me is that I think my brother was really talented musically, whereas I have just continued and I guess the 10,000 hours rule or whatever it is.
CI:Which I think I am well over that. I don't even want to calculate the number120:00of hours but telling you, it's interesting. I mean I guess what I was thinking about my brother is that there were so many people that had a real spark that we always call, in my house, the spark of madness. Something that is exceptional, it's not just something that everybody has. I mean everybody in North America in 1983 or whatever, everybody under the age of 30, could've, if somebody put a gun by their head, sat down and wrote a song. But it's the spark of madness is what makes Sean Garrison, stand out. I think my brother had that, had has, he's just turned it to good versus evil.
He's doing good deeds in the world of public health now. But I think that there121:00were a lot of people in Louisville at that time that had that. And I don't know if that was unusual for this town, I know for the unusual -- for I mean in just a global sense of if there was a high percentage of people that had a little bit of the spark of madness. And I kind of sometimes think that it was unusual, but I can't really know.
CN:It's a hard thing to know but it does seem like -- yeah. I mean it seemsthere was a lot of--smart and talented people drawn to this thing and I'm sure that there were probably moments in the '60s that seemed like that, right?
CI:Yeah, well, I know that when you were talking about how you thought this wasa wave of something that's going to change everything, I knew that my brother 122:00really thought that too. He really thought this is like the Renaissance. This is something that's going to change the way that power and everything is structured.
This is something that's going to change -- that this was a thing that was goingto be--maybe not just there would will not be another Kansas or there will never be another Toto. But just that this was going to be a thing that changed the power structure in a way. I don't know if I really ever had that feeling. I was a little bit younger than my brother, a couple of years younger than him and I don't know -- barely two years, a year and a half or something.
I don't know if I really had that sense of the events in terms of history. But I123:00know that there are people that did, and a lot of the things that people do now just seem kind of related. I mean people that I play music with now who are in their late 20s and 30s they just want to make their own fucking shoes. I mean it all makes sense to me and I think that that kind of, just, rejection of art or aesthetic or taste is just handed down which seems so laughable now that that would have been considered some huge corporate entity telling people what kind of music to like because it was just so miniscule compared to what you know now 124:00and the true 1984. Now that we live in the real 1984 and not the 1984 of 1984. We're in the for real one, which is pretty fucking crazy.
But it's just that there are so many young people now that just really aretrying to reject everything. In the sense I was talking about my brother saying this -- the idea this is overthrowing something in terms of power structure beyond just music, people can just make things better in a way. Like people can better charcuterie. Not just that but I mean the people can reject some of the wretched shit that is being handed to them. They can make their own shit which may be wretched, but I think that a lot of the ideas that might have come about 125:00anyway. But I think it was a time of turmoil in a good way.
CI:And if it leads to just people making their own tripe jelly or whatever,that's where all of this has to lead...maybe if they are being nice to the pig, then maybe that's okay, I don't know.
CN: Well, I remember I had a similar thing taking the means of production intoour own hands. And I still get excited about -- you know, there's a that film Tangerine that came out, that was shot entirely on an iPhone. To me I get really excited about stuff like that.
CI:Yeah, I mean it's essential and it's getting more essential by the secondreally, that people figure how to do this stuff because I don't know if you get 126:00to listen to any of the...
CN:So maybe we were just playing the long con.
CI:Yeah, for sure, and I am happy. I mean the people that I play music with nowthat are in their 20s, I don't really play with anybody that's younger than about 28 right this second. But God have you seen this person, their band is called Grlwood? Unfuckingbelievable.
CN:Are they local or?
CI:Oh yeah, Anna and I played at a ACLU benefit thing that was at the Flea offmarket maybe two months ago or something. And this person played and I was talking to Tom Dumstorf about something and I was just like, "Hold on, I just have to go." We weren't supposed to be playing for like half an hour and I was something is happening over there and it was this crazy singing. It sounded kind 127:00of middle eastern-y, kind of a little bit like Diamanda Galas or something like that. And I get over and there is this person that's maybe 15 or 16 years old, wearing a dress but with this beard that was drawn on with a really crappy Bic pen, and this short dress on, playing electric guitar, and they have like a pedal. The one pedal is like a bass, hitting a bass drum, it was actually a box behind them and then playing an electric guitar and singing just like fucking P.J. Harvey. Unbelievable.
CI:It was so great, and everybody that was there was just, like, their jaws onthe ground. This is just the greatest thing that I have seen in I don't know how long. I don't know when the last time I saw somebody, like a musical performance that I just wasn't expecting, wasn't looking for and just had to just stop a really interesting conversation about Tom going to Siberia for vacation and it's like, "Okay, wait a second, something's fucking going on over there." And that 128:00was really, really exciting to me because this person was just hanging out with their little friends right before and I was like, "Who are these little kids?"
Probably maybe 15, 16, 17 years old, and so fucking great. I was like, "Are youjust from here?" And it's really finding out that there's just this I don't know, this rock bottom office living behind the Mid-City Mall or something we didn't even know, this is nuts it's so good. So if you get a chance--
CI: It's G-R-L wood. I think its W-O-O-D, not W-O-R-L-D. But pretty incredible,just one person. Just singing these really, really incredibly beautiful melodic songs and just wailing on this crazy choppy electric guitar and playing a--
CN:Oh, so it is just the one person?129:00
CI:It's just one person, it's the one they -- I don't know, they, it's a they.
CN:Wow, that's like Hasil Adkins or something.
CI:Except crazier. Except--
CN:Yeah, not the direction you would think you would go in, right.
CI:Except unprecedented, just incredible, standing up. And doing this with someguitar pedals with one foot, and then I think the other foot was just doing this backwards bass drum pedal that was crashing into a cardboard box or something -- pretty incredible. So that was really about one of the greatest things I've seen. I was like, "That just came from here, this little person has been here all the time." I said, "You are just from here?" Was like, "Yeah, I am from here, I live here. I didn't just drop in from Mars."
CI: It's a little bit like P.J. Harvey, a little bit like Diamanda Galas, alittle bit like Hasil Adkins. A little bit of all these things with this sort of incredible Middle Eastern sounding, call to the mosque kind of singing. Really 130:00beautiful voice. So anyway, that's my note of good news.
CN:Wow, well that's interesting. Well so that is actually one of the questionsthat they gave me and you've sort of have gotten on it but I mean because you are still playing music you are somewhat in touch with the music scene in Louisville today?
CN:What other points of comparison or contrast would you make?
CI:I think it's a little bit easier to find a place to play for these peoplethan it was. There are more places, there are more venues where Grlwood can play than there were for -- they don't have to go to the South 40 to play a show, for example. I think that there's never the idea of a solid venue that's always 131:00here, it's really elusive. I mean I guess Zanzibar has been here for a long time, been open for a long time. I mean Zanzibar has been there for a long time, it was there in the, I guess in the1930s, because I remember my mom telling me like, "Yeah, my parents told me not to even ride my bike in front of there." The Zanzibar -- that it was a really sketchy spot.
CN:That was the second No Fun show I saw...
CI:I'm sad that people don't have to make flyers anymore and put them up. I hateFacebook and all that shit, but it seems to serve a purpose. It's really exclusionary; I don't really like it in that sense. You have to already be in with the cool kids to know what the cool kids are doing versus just, like, a flyer on a telephone poll. So, I don't like that part of it, I don't know how 132:00people sort that out. If you don't know who Grlwood is, you won't know because you see a flyer saying that this person is playing at the ACLU benefit at the flea market. So, I don't know how that is resolved and maybe there is some secret way of Facebook that I don't understand. But I feel like people don't seem to have much of a public way of saying they're playing a show. I mean I guess they do put posters up in coffee shops and--
CN:Yeah, you still do see that some up but it's not--
CI:It's not the same.
CN:It isn't the same thing as the flyers on the telephone poles.
CI:It doesn't have the fierce urgency of now. The Xerox mimeograph the flyerwould have. It's like it's there and if you miss it, that fucking guy will have come and torn it down. But there is definitely people doing things that I think are good and worthwhile, and definitely the spark of madness -- they're still 133:00putting it in the water whatever they were putting in the water in the 1960s. It's not fluoride I don't know what it is.
CI:I'm not sure what it is but there're definitely people here that are stilldoing some pretty great stuff and people that are willing to contribute a lot of time and effort to each other's musical projects. The last Freakwater record that we made we actually recorded it here. And one thing that was so great about recording here versus Chicago was that people had more time. There's not that much going on, even people that are adults and have jobs and stuff, it's in no way comparable to trying to wrangle a bunch or musicians in Chicago to practice for, like, three or four days before you go in to make a record. It would've been impossible for us to do that in Chicago. Here we could just say like, 134:00"Let's all meet at five o'clock at Dreamland." Tim let us use that space to practice in and pretty much everybody could be there every day. You could never--
CN:Wait this is for?
CI:For the Scheherazade record, for the last Freakwater record that we made. Wecould never have gotten that much time out of people. If we tried to get that many musicians from Chicago together to practice songs they've never heard for, like, ten days and then go record them, it would've been impossible unless you pay. Even people that really are your friends, you couldn't ask them to do that unless you are paying them because they'd be losing out on money that they would be making somewhere else.
Whereas in Louisville, you could do that you and you would get really top,world-class people to play on stuff just because they weren't that busy. So, I think that's a huge part of what I think is still true here, is that people have a lot more time because they are not offered as many opportunities for one thing 135:00and also they are just not as crushed financially. It's not what it once was -- even I have to work, but still people have more time and there are less offers coming in.
So you can still work on other people's records for nothing. Whereas in the cityin New York or Chicago even Los Angeles, Tara O'Neil, Tara Jane, was telling me it's really hard to get people to do stuff. Because everybody has to be busy, and here people don't have to be busy so much.
CN:But it's still a pleasant place to live, that's the thing. I mean and maybewe got used to it. I always wonder; because I harbor this secret hope that Tim and Tara are going to move back, right. But they're always doing so much and 136:00they seem to really thrive on it. Comfortable to me.
CI:Yeah, I mean one thing a day. I had to do two things today because of those,but it's okay.
CN:Alright, well this is great, this was really wonderful.
CN:And thank you very much, I am going to end it now.