Sir Richard Bishop - 2009

Sir Richard Bishop is a multi-very-talented guitarist who played in the Sun City Girls for most of his adult life before becoming a solo artist just recently there in the passage of time (some years ago). His latest record is an excellent piece of work entitled The Freak Of Araby that you're a fool for not owning, if such is the case. I was pleased as a bird when he agreed to answer up to 20 questions via email during the long hot summer of 2009. My questions are in bold; his answers are in regular.

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1. What is your definition of "magic"? How have you experienced and/or wielded it in your life and career?

Iíve never actually tried to form my own definition. Iíve spent a fair portion of my life researching the subject and after all these years itís still fascinating to me. Itís a valid study and I doubt I will ever give it up completely. I recommend it to anybody. But books can only take you so far. I know magic only when it happens - only if I experience it. It does not exist ďon paperĒ and itís not a belief system. There are so many different types or systems of magic (or whatever you want to call it) across all cultures throughout history, so the word will always mean different things to different people. Many of these systems have their own exhaustive terminology and endless rules and instructions on how certain things are supposed to be done or whatever.

But if one were to strip away all the language from the myriad of systems, you could boil it down to this: ďMagic is the ability to recognize, understand, embody, harness, and consciously direct the natural forces and energies that permeate the universe, in order to create a particular phenomenon.Ē This is a common link to all systems of magic whether they belong to ancient remote tribes, advanced historic civilizations, witches, shamans, magical fraternities, secret societies, or even fucking bankers! It is interacting and working with energies, whether you call these energies spirits, angels, demons, or whatever, does not matter. They are forces - they are real and they are everywhere around us. They always have been and always will be.

Itís up to each individual to first recognize and become aware of these forces/energies Ė live with them, become them. Then, and only then, can one learn how they work and in what combination. This is done by endless observation, imitation, experimentation, etc., and always in silence! Then one determines which tools or instruments are necessary to begin working with them - harnessing and directing those energies for whatever purpose. This is where magic and science tend to overlap but men of science will usually resort to using external instruments to create their phenomena while the ďmagicianĒ uses only internal instruments - those that came in the box: these include Will, Thought, Imagination, Concentration, Visualization, Breath, Emotion, Instinct, Vibration, Libido, etc. Ė to be used singularly or in any combination. These are the ďtoolsĒ that every human being has access to. So how does it all work? I cannot tell you that. Everybody needs to create their own personalized system and keep it to themselves. The most successful magicians and wonder workers throughout history are people nobody has ever heard of. The rest just write books on the subject. I donít call myself a magician, wizard, sorcerer, witch or anything like that. I just have a conscious awareness of, and a great respect for, all the energies that are out there and I do my best to keep them close, as allies, and allow them to be a part of me. I do what I have to do when necessary and I donít worry about whether anything works or not. I just do it. Itís an approach to existence that I have become quite comfortable with.

2. Through your extensive studies of magic, rituals, the occult and religion, have you discovered any truths about the nature of life and the universe? You have so much knowledge in these matters that I'm not even sure how to phrase the question correctly. Let me put it this way: I'm a "regular guy." To me, all of it -- the occult, different religions, magick, the Devil, etc. -- seems like myth and fiction, because I haven't studied any of it and, as far as I know, I haven't experienced the effects of any of it. You, on the other hand, have a lot of experience and understanding of these beliefs and practices. So I'm trying to ask whether you have experienced events and phenomena that fall outside of normal everyday scientific explanation, and if so, would you mind sharing one or two with me? I am interested in the idea that there is more to the Universe than meets the eye, but I'd have no idea how to sort the fact from the fiction. I'm not very good at "believing."

There better be more to this universe thing or weíre all fucked! Itís okay to think that most of it is myth and fiction because most of it is just that Ė stories! Over the years I have ďuncoveredĒ way more lies than truth about everything. Bullshit rules supreme Ė its The King of the World - especially when it comes to religion. Youíd think people would know that by now. Organized religionís job is to keep people stupid, and if you take a look around, itís obvious that it works wonders in that department. People evidently need to believe or have faith in a personalized god, a saviour, someone to blame their miserable existence on or to thank endlessly when something goes right. A lot of people canít take responsibility for themselves. Itís idiotic to me that people think the bible or any holy book, is the ďwordĒ of god Ė it boggles the mind. Some retards actually think that a ďgodĒ promised certain parts of the earth to a chosen group of people. Does he wear a Century 21 jacket? I mean, come on. How can people be so easily duped? They actually believe these fairy tales and many just canít live without them. Hereís a trick people Ė walk outside. Now, guard your eyes a little bit and then look up in the sky. You see that big ball of fire up there? Try living without that.

Iíve had a lot of experiences throughout my life that I havenít been able to explain. But if similar experiences happened to a particle physicist or an astronomer, they may find it quite easy to explain. But Iím not looking for explanations. And if it wasnít for these events or specific time periods in my life where I feel that I was exposed to certain things, I may never have acquired any interest in esoteric studies.

When I was 9 or 10, I would often spend the night at my grandparentís house and every time I did, I would have lucid dreams about devils, skeletons, skulls, emblazoned sigils on walls, and things of that nature. My Grandfather was a high degree Freemason (33rd degree), my Grandmother was high up in the Order of the Eastern Star, and my father was a 32nd degree mason. Now, I donít know if these dreams had anything to do with that, and I will be the first to admit that this could easily be attributed to the active imagination of any child but to this day, I remember every tiny detail of those dreams and I can visualize them in crystal clear clarity as if they happened 30 seconds ago. They remain as little short films that I can replay at any time. The odd thing about that is that I canít remember my dreams from last night. What does it all mean? Who knows, but I believe this early series of events somehow contributed to my interest in the occult later on.

When I was 23 I traveled to Egypt by myself and had some experiences that Iíve never told anybody about and that trend will continue here, but they were the type of incidents that opened a few doors into places that I was unfamiliar with. I went through these mental doors but I am still unsure if I did so voluntarily or was somehow ďpushed.Ē This led to an intense fascination with the Egyptian mysteries. One thing leads to another.

On another occasion I was in the presence of a certain gentleman who had the ability to cause physical changes within my body from across the room. He could make me shake and tremble, cause me to become hot or cold, and cause me to feel pain. He could turn it on and off like a switch. I didnít know how he did it and I wasnít too thrilled about being on the receiving end of any of it. When I called him on it, he claimed to have no idea what I was talking about. The bottom line is that it affected me greatly, so much so that I wanted to know how it was done. It impressed me Ė and scared the shit out of me at the same time because I had no control over it. It was uncomfortably negative and very dark. But to me it was real, plain and simple. This man was harnessing certain forces and was able to project them into an object, namely, me. A similar situation occurred when I was in the presence of the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala. He projected energy as well and it was unmistakable, though this time the energy in question was very positive, compassionate - full of love. So maybe the same techniques were being used but with different intentions, and perhaps this is the difference between black magic and white magic. But how can I expect anybody else to accept any of this as real or true? I donít. But if others have similar experiences it would probably be unmistakably real to them. Thatís just how it is. Iíve had plenty of other things happen like this over the years. I donít question any of it. I acknowledge it and try to understand it. For several years now I have been constantly exposed to an energy that the Hindus call Goddess Kali Ė this is the best batch yet! But I canít discuss that now because weíre sort of still ďdating.Ē Besides, sheíd slay me!

3. What about music moves you so greatly that you chose to devote your career to it?

Playing music is one of the few things that I feel I can do extremely well. Ever since I first started messing around on a guitar as a teenager it just felt natural. That sounds pretty typical but thatís how it was, even when I didnít know how to play very well. It was the first thing that I felt I could really grasp on to and I sensed that I wasnít going to let go of it. As I got more into it, my playing began to improve and that sealed the deal. I would wake up every morning and try to learn as much as I could. I eventually tried to write songs but that would never amount to anything. It just seemed like hard work and it took some of the fun out of playing. I then decided to focus on just playing every day and not try to create silly songs - just pick up the guitar and play, improvise, mess around with different ways of approaching the instrument, experiment. This form of creating something on the spot made it easier and easier, and it became fun again. I decided I never wanted to take any lessons or get any musical training from anybody. Iíve regretted that once or twice along the way but fuck that. I donít like to be told how to play or do anything. I never really thought about music as a career because I wasnít playing anything that anybody would consider popular Ė I knew I would never make it onto the Hit Parade. But now, after almost 30 years Iím sort of making a living at it but just barely - just in time for the global economic downturn.

4. Is there any genre or geographical subset of music that you honestly can't stand?

Thereís a lot of music I donít like. Iím not a big fan of todayís popular music, you know, the top 40 songs or whatever. It doesnít matter whether itís from this country or any other country. Itís all the same formula. Of course Iíve only heard bits and pieces of whatís out there - I can only take so much Ė but if what Iíve heard is any indication of things, itís not a good sign for the future of humanity. I donít know what official genre this shit falls into, but I think the term ďsewageĒ would fit it quite nicely. This includes all those boy/girl groups, singers, and ďentertainersĒ that seem to have been manufactured in a petri dish - not the kind of culture Iím looking for. A lot of modern rap and hip hop bozos fall into the same category. All of these fine exports/commodities are given tons of exposure, money, corporate sponsorship and whatever else, and then flushed down the international toilet as ambassadors of mediocrity to poison the rest of the world with their fecal stench. And it spreads like ass cancer.

I have no tolerance of reggae but that wasnít always the case. I remember listening to Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, Augustus Pablo, and that guy with the long hair who is on all those T-shirts. That was back in 1980 or so and it was new to me at that time. But it got old real quick and I was hoping it would just go away but it never did. I try to avoid it at all costs but its difficult, even if Iím in India or South-East Asia it always seems to rear its ugly head Ė usually accompanied by a group of white people bouncing up and down to the beat and shaking their dreads, kicking that damn little hacky sack ball around (an un-pinned grenade would work so much better) Ė enjoying their ďworld musicĒ Ė gettiní together and feeliní allright! NO, we ARE NOT jamminí! ďHey, can you sell me some weed?Ē Oh, and I donít like steel drums. Those clanky, metallic Ďmelodiesí could only resonate joy inside of an empty skull. And we all know that empty skulls should only be used to eat and drink out of.

5. I know that Sun City Girls live shows relied heavily on improvisation. In fact, the time I saw you perform with the Thinking Fellers in Chapel Hill, NC, I'm not sure you played more than one or two actual songs! My question is: were there ever times when it just didn't click? Were there shows that you came out of feeling disappointed? Or did it always go fairly well?

There were shows where the audience came out feeling disappointed! Sure, there were times when things didnít work as well as we wanted them to. That was the nature of the beast. We took a lot of chances when we played live and sometimes we had no plan going in except a 4-count so we didnít even know what was supposed to happen. But when something went wrong it was usually just a portion of an improvisation. I canít think of a specific example where an entire show didnít work, though maybe there were one or two but sometimes we would just screw up a song, but it was never a big deal. And if an improvisation wasnít going anywhere, each of us would know it immediately and one of us would always try to take it in another direction. That was part of the challenge for us. We were presenting ourselves honestly and not really worrying about what people thought about any of it. Perfection was never a goal of ours. I remember plenty of shows where I wasnít particularly happy with how I played but Alan and Charlie made up for it with what they were doing. But at every show there were some people that liked it and some that didnít. We accepted that from day one. Most of our released recordings yield similar results. It was never an issue.

6. How did you manage to play in a band with your brother for so many years!? Were you always close? All I can think of are horror stories like Ray and Dave Davies, Liam and Noel Gallagher, and -- actually, I guess Malcolm and Angus Young get along pretty well. But my question stands.

Itís a valid question, considering my brother and I have been together now for almost 50 fucking years. Thatís a long time. And based on your brotherly examples (donít forget the Fogertyís and the Van Halenís) youíd think that we would be sick of each other by now but the truth is that yes, we are very close and always have been. Weíve been lucky in that weíve always gotten along. Weíve had disagreements and a few arguments along the way but thatís just natural, itís going to happen no matter what. Itís a ďrelationship.Ē I remember having only one fistfight when we were growing up. I think I got one punch in and he got in two. Then it was broken up. I donít remember why we were fighting but Iím sure it was over something completely ridiculous. Weíve just learned to tolerate each other over the years. I imagine if Sun City Girls never existed we may have grown apart a little and who knows where either of us would be right now. But I see no roadblocks the rest of the way.

7. Do you see yourself ever playing in a band again? Or do you prefer the solo life?

I really enjoy playing solo and for the last four years or so, that was all I did. But playing for so long in Sun City Girls was a unique experience. It set the bar pretty high when it comes to playing in any band. Each of us could sense what the others were thinking or how each would react to a certain musical concept or whatever. Itís hard to top that and will probably never be achieved again. When Charlie passed away, I knew it would be a little while before I would even think about playing in a band again. Sun City Girls were a family and everything was easy for us. That isnít going to happen with a new team of players. You have to spend a long time just getting used to each otherís company, let alone becoming comfortable playing music.

But when I finished recording The Freak of Araby I knew that if I wanted to play any of the songs live, I would have to have a touring band and I would have to spend time working the songs out with people I never played with before. On top of that, there was hardly any room for improvisation within these songs. So I had to indicate exactly what I wanted and work within a set of boundaries that Sun City Girls never had to worry about. I wasnít comfortable doing that because I wasnít used to it. But it all worked out. So Iím much better prepared for it now and in the future I will probably split my time between doing solo work and playing with others.

I will be recording with Ben Chasny and Chris Corsano in September and I would really like to tour with that lineup. So weíll see. And thereís a good chance that Alan and I will have another band in the future; it just wonít be called Sun City Girls.

8. I read in an interview that you often have an image or scene in your mind when you compose or improvise a piece of music (desert sands, dancing skeletons, etc), so I was wondering -- could this work in reverse? For example, would you be able to create a piece based on an image presented to you? (ex. a NYC city scene, the view of planet Earth from space, etc). A dumb question perhaps, but I'm a dumb man.

Yeah, it would still work but the outcome would probably be different. When I do it Iíll always pick imagery that has a special meaning to me, or a visual that I know will awaken a certain mood that I want to explore. If someone else provided the imagery, I may not be able to connect to it as easily but Iíd come up with something based on my idea of it. It would be like working for somebody else as opposed to being self-employed Ė similar to how it is if Iím working on a soundtrack for somebody elseís film. They provide the images and direction, and my job would be to give them what they are looking for.

9. Do you have any interest in rock music at all at this point in your life? Or does it all seem too limited?

I still listen to a lot of rock music from the 60s and 70s. Even today Iím hearing more and more of all this obscure psychedelic music from the 60s that I was never aware of. Nobody played it on the radio back then and I doubt that much of it was available at any of the local record stores, especially in Saginaw, Michigan. Those were the only options then. But Iím still a sucker for a lot of the music I grew up with no matter how limited it might be considered by others: Beatles, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, Grand Funk Railroad, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Sweet, hell, might as well throw in Foghat as well, the list goes on and on. Iím still one of the biggest Beatles freaks that ever walked the plank, and I still listen to them regularly. To me theyíre untouchable but many people would disagree with that. I just hope Ringo is the last one standing.

Sun City Girls had some rock songs along the way and most of The Freak of Araby could be considered rock music. So Iím not opposed to it but there is rock music from my era (60s and 70s) and whatever came after that, you know, grunge, indie rock, and all those other labels, whatever they mean. Most of the rock music from the 80s & 90s, just sort of passed me by, I wasnít exposed to most of it. I was listening to other stuff. I did like some of what Nirvana did but most of the other things I would hear on occasion never made me want to pursue it. Of course people who are 20 years younger than I am listened to it a lot. Thatís their ďclassicĒ rock, and many of them may never listen to music from the 60s or 70s because itís their parentís music. Some things never change.

10. What are your favorite Sun City Girls records? And do you have a favorite Sir Richard Bishop record?

As for SCG, itís a tough question because there are so many and I donít remember whatís on half of Ďem. However, I am still very fond of the first three releases (1984-87) that were on Placebo Records Ė Sun City Girls, Grotto of Miracles, and Horsecock Phepner. Quite a trilogy to get the ball rolling and they covered a lot of different ground and laid the foundation for additional avenues of exploration. From there I would jump ahead many years to 330,003 Crossdressers From Beyond the Rig Veda & Danteís Disneyland Inferno, both of which seem to be natural extensions of those first three. I do like Torch of the Mystics but it has never been one of my favorites. I like Jacks Creek way more.

As for my solo records, I would choose different ones for different reasons. I really like Improvika because it was completely made up in the studio. Fingering the Devil was similar, being mostly improvised but I had been experimenting with some of those ideas while playing live right before I recorded it. While My Guitar Violently Bleeds was recorded very quickly and I was quite happy with how that came out. But if I think more about actual ďsongsĒ, then The Freak of Araby, Polytheistic Fragments and Salvador Kali would be my favorites. Oh, and Elektronika Demonika. Yeah, I like Ďem all.

11. Listening to "The Freak of Araby," I get the impression that at this point in your musical development you couldn't hit a wrong note if you tried! How much did you have to practice over the years to become such an incredible player? And how did you avoid having it start to feel like a mere chore?

I still hit plenty of wrong notes. Just ask anybody who saw any of the shows from the most recent tour. I donít go out of my way to purposely screw up but it happens from time to time. Of course, in the studio you can fix all of that very easily if you have to. I play guitar a lot. I always have. Iím not practicing anything most of the time, just playing whatever comes to mind. Thatís the best approach for me. I try to play every day for at least a bit, though of course, a few days go by every now and then where I just donít do it, for whatever reason. But I do my best to make sure that there is always a guitar within reach. If there is no guitar around, Iíll go crazy. Itís my heroin but I donít need any treatment. Just knowing its close by makes me feel at ease. So as long as I have easy access Iím going to play as much as I can.

12. Are you still discovering great artists (both new and old) of whom you weren't aware even 4-5 years ago? If so, who?

Iím always listening to a lot of music and usually it will be something I havenít previously listened to. So there are always new sounds that are intriguing. Most of this, however, is music from other parts of the world. I am lucky in the sense that I spend a lot of time with particular people who have access to all this stuff Iíve never heard. They bring back a lot of discs and records from Asia or the Middle East so there is never any shortage of new music to listen to, though it may be 40 years old. Most of these artists are unknown outside of their particular countries and much of the stuff you canít even tell who the artists are since the information on the discs or records is in the native language. But itís more important for me to just hear it no matter who is doing it.

13. Are the styles of Middle Eastern and Asian music that you perform still considered a cultural force in their respective countries? Or has Western influence turned all their young people into pop fans?

I think in most places that I have traveled to, the majority of modern music I hear is heavily influenced by western styles. This is especially true in South-East Asia where their current popular music is just as awful as the crap over here. Itís kind of a shame that the younger people of many of these countries donít have much of an interest in their own traditional musical legacy. Maybe the older folks still cling to it but itís hard to say. It seems that for many folks, even music from last year is already old, at least thatís what I seem to pick up on. They all want to embrace whatever style of music is brand new or ďhotĒ in the west and they do a good job imitating it. A lot of it seems to echo concepts like ďAmerican IdolĒ and things like that. Itís pretty pathetic to me but to them itís a big deal. Even in India you will find this, in fact, Indian Idol is all the rage and it sickens me but thankfully, there will always be a classical tradition from India and they still do their best to preserve that. One can only hope that this continues. Iím not sure about the current trends in the Middle East because itís been a while since Iíve visited but its probably similar. Western influence is ruining everything.

14. A friend of mine told me that at some point in the early '90s, he saw Sun City Girls open for The Dead Milkmen. In his account, the crowd booed your band, and Dead Milkmen singer Rodney Anonymous responded by yelling into the mic, "The Sun City Girls have been better than us for ten years!" Do you recall this incident? I'm wondering if you've often encountered similar situations throughout your career -- learning that a mainstream rock artist is a huge fan of your music. Because that story certainly surprised me!

I havenít really encountered that too much but I do remember that show. It was in Atlanta during the í92 tour with Thinking Fellers. We had been backstage since the doors opened and when we finally came out to start the evening, there were hundreds of young people in the crowd, and they were pressed right up against the front of the stage. Shortly after we began we knew things were going to be interesting. They just hated us with a passion. I remember some guy in a leather jacket actually climbed up onto the stage like he was going to try and stop us from playing. The crowd roared and cheered him on but Alan just grabbed him by the collar, challenged him to a fight to the death and then hurled him back into the crowd with one hand, and without missing a note. We carried on for another half hour amidst all the booing and they were throwing things at us. A couple members of the Dead Milkmen were watching the show from the side of the stage and they were cracking up. I think they actually liked some of what we were doing. When they finally took the stage later in the evening they began their show with a quick message to the audience and Rodney did mention something like that but I specifically remember the quote that followed because it just made me laugh out loud. He said: ďSun City Girls walk on water in their spare time.Ē To this day I have never been ice fishing!

15. Is there any kind of record you've always wanted to make but have yet to attempt?

You mean after my steel drum/reggae album? For future solo records I canít think of anything. Most of my records just happen. In fact, for the last album, I had no idea I was going to make an Arabic surf record until two days into the recording session. Back in the SCG days we had a lot of ideas that we just never got around to. For years we wanted to release an album of soul music, based on the early 70s black groups that we grew up with: Ohio Players, OíJays, Rufus, Curtis Mayfield, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, things like that. We learned a few of those old songs plus we each were trying to come up with some original material in that sort of style. We were going to call it Super Niggers and we were dead serious about it. And of course, we knew it would cause some controversy and we didnít care - that was the point. We even had the cover art already figured out, the three of us in funky suits, black face and huge afros. I think Sun City Girls could have gotten away with it. It may be a little more difficult today but I donít know. I still like the idea. Yes we can!

16. Were you ever unhappy with the direction of the Sun City Girls? Or did the three of you generally agree on your musical and lyrical focus?

Much of the time there was no focus so that made things pretty easy. The lyrics were always Alanís and Charlieís department, and I never had any problems with what they came up. They are masters of the English language Ė and the more fucked up it was, the better. I may have been a little more concerned with musical matters but never to the point where I regretted anything. In fact, for the most part everything seemed to go all right. We may have disagreed on occasion as to which songs should be released on which records, or whether a certain song should be released at all due to whatever reason but it just got to the point that it didnít matter. We just thought, what the hell, get it out there, who cares what people think - letís be done with it and start on the next one. Thatís how we worked. We released stuff that no band in their right mind would ever consider releasing. It was a beautiful thing.

17. Did your parents ever hear the Sun City Girls records? Did they follow and support the musical endeavors of their sons? Was your Lebanese grandfather still alive to hear them?

They never listened to any of the actual SCG records we made. We made sure of that! I donít think there is one record that we could have played all the way through without somehow offending them, not even the so-called user-friendly Torch of the Mystics. But we did make them a cassette tape of some of the more melodic songs from over the years and they did listen to it a couple of times. They were all songs that we knew they could ďhandleĒ and even enjoy to a certain degree. My mom was always very supportive of any creative activity that we ever attempted. She encouraged it whether it was music or writing or anything. That was not necessarily how my dad looked at it. He figured that nobody was anybody in music unless they were on the Carson show, but then only if Johnny invited them to the sofa for a chat after the song. He wanted both Alan and I to take over the family business. He had two stores while we were growing up: Bishopís Army & Navy and before that, my favorite: Bishopís House of Foam Rubber! But over the years he came to the realization that we werenít going to spend our entire lives working in retail. Eventually he read a few reviews and articles on the band that were positive and he admitted, though hesitatingly, that we seemed to know what we were doing. So he gave up. He did like my first solo record (Salvador Kali) as did my mom. They would even play it in Sun City whenever their friends came over for cocktails.

Unfortunately, my Grandfather died in 1981, which was right about the time that SCG began so he never heard the band or any solo records. But late in his life I would often play some Arabic styled guitar for him and though he couldnít talk much then, he did smile a lot. He would have loved The Freak of Araby.

18. What do you take most seriously in life? What truly matters to you?

Love is pretty cool, donít you think? I value my friends and loved ones more than anything else. Thatís the usual response, right? But thatís pretty important to me Ė people that I care about and whose respect and trust I have earned over the years and vice-versa. You can never have too much of that in my opinion. I like to be in the presence of like minds and those who will have my back if needed, and that works both ways. I have acquired a small circle of friends who will forever challenge me and keep me honest Ė who wonít put up with my bullshit, will tell me to fuck off when necessary, maybe even help me cut up and dispose of the bodies. Thatís when you know youíve really made it in this world. Besides that, my music and art remain extremely important but Iíve learned to not take it too seriously. Itís more fun that way. Other things also matter but they change from time to time depending on whatís going on in my life. Right now it is vital to me that I am prepared for anything at any time and the main reasons behind that should be obvious to anyone who is paying attention to all the fucked up shit that is going on around the world, and especially here in the ďnot-so-unitedĒ States. Weíre going to need a bigger fan for all the shit thatís coming our way.

19. Are you still reading a lot? If so, what topics are of greatest interest to you right now?

After a couple of years of hardly reading anything, I read about 20 books last year. Most of those were musical biographies: Duke Ellington, Phil Spector, Charlie Parker, Bartok, Mingus, Miles, Django, Tom Waits, Sun Ra, and many others. I used to read a ton of weird horror fiction (Lovecraft, Arkham House authors) before I really got into the more esoteric stuff. But I currently donít read as much as Iíd like to because Iím usually doing other things.

20. Have you ever had to compromise your art for any reason? Or would you?

I never have as far as I can remember. Iíve never found that to be necessary. But actually, nobody has given me the chance to compromise anything. I mean, if somebody came up to me next week and offered me thousands of dollars, wait, who am I kidding Ė MILLIONS of dollars, to do something that I wouldnít normally do (musically, anyway), Iím not sure how I would react to it. It would be anybodyís guess at this point in my career. Maybe itís time I DID sell out. Whereís my bailout? Yeah, Iím sure Microsoft and Starbucks will be calling me any day now. Then I could just retire to some dark corner of the globe where nobody would ever find me. You know, that doesnít sound too bad now that I think about it. I think I should be tested immediately.

Reader Comments

pneumoniaceilings@yahoo.ca (Ken)
That was a fantastic interview, Mark! Those are certainly the kinds of serious questions I would want to ask SRB and he answered the heck out of them! I saw him on the evening of solstice this summer and if he missed any notes that night, they weren't audible to me! Also agreed, Freak of Araby is a phenomenal LP.

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