David Wm. Sims plays bass for the Jesus Lizard, a Chicago-based band which just released its fourt full-length studio LP, Down, on Touch and Go Records. Sims grew up in Austin, TX and played in Scratch Acid before moving to Chicago and joining Rapeman. He has played with the Jesus Lizard since 1988 or '89, and is very pleased to be a member. Since the band will be playing Cat's Cradle on Sunday (with Girls Against Boys and Pipe), I thought I would give him a call, and ask him some questions. From the get-go, he made it clear that he didn't enjoy interviews, so I just did my best to hold his interest as long as possible.
What do you wanna talk about? We could talk about anything.
(sigh) I think that's kind of the cheap way out, Mark. Is your name Mark?
Huh? Yeah. Well, yeah, it's the cheap way out, but it's also trying to save you the pain and agony.
No, I don't think you can - I don't think that's within your power.
OK, so there's nothing you'd rather talk about than your band?
(sigh) You know, actually I can't really think of anything else I'd rather talk about.
Other people's bands?
You know, as far as that goes, I like other people's bands. There are other people's bands that I like.
I like the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and I like a band here in Chicago called Tortoise. And there's a band we're taking on tour with us on the West Coast, they're from Virginia,. They're called Kepone. They're great. When we're in Chapel Hill, I guess we'll actually be in Carrboro -
That's where I am right now, by the way.
Right. We'll be playing with Girls Against Boys, who I think are awesome.
Shellac I really don't know much about.
They're pretty good.
Never heard `em.
Are you serious? (disbelieving him since Shellac is Steve Albini's band and Albini at this point had produced all the Jesus Lizard records. Little did I know that they had just had a major falling-out!)
I'm serious. I don't go to record stores that much.
You've never heard Shellac though? Albini's band?
I know who they are, yes.
Oh, Okay. Do you like either of his other bands? (Mr. Brilliant, I completely forgot that Sims was IN one of Albini's other bands, Rapeman. Bet that impressed him!)
Uh, yeah! I like big Black quite a lot actually.
Let's see, did you ever take bass lessons or were you self-taught?
No, I never took bass lessons. I took some keyboard lessons and some guitar lessons, but no, I never did get around to taking bass lessons.
So did you like taking the other lessons.
Yeah, I did. I learned quite a lot about music and I think those times when I was taking music lessons were always my most prolific songwriting periods. I wouldn't mind taking bass lessons from somebody that plays exactly the way I play.
Yeah, would you wanna learn to play like the Primus way.
Have you ever heard Primus?
Yeah. No, not necessarily. I mean I can see the point of playing that funk slap stuff, but I don't particularly want to play like Primus. There is a lot of funk stuff and RnB sutff that's played that way that I like, though.
What other bass players are you really into?
Let's see. Who do I like a lot. Well, when I was first starting to listen to a lot of music, I liked that guy J.B. Burnell from the Stranglers. He had a pretty huge influence on the way I play and the way I sound. And I like the guy that was on the first few Gang of Four records. There's all the people that were on the periphery of punk rock but were also playing stuff that wasn't just sort of playing 16th-notes along with the tonic note for whatever chord the guitar was playing.
Do you ever listen to any sort of classic rock bands?
That was sort of what I was listening to before I got into punk rock. I was listening to stuff like a lot of AC/DC and Led Zeppelin.
I love AC/DC quite a bit, but that's all, the bass player plays exactly what the guitar plays in a lot of that.
That's true. I would not say that guy was a huge influence on the way I play.
Have you been trying to change your style at all recently?
I think it has probably changed. It hasn't really been a conscious process. As you move through time, you come into contact with different ideas and different, what I call them? Stimuli. Things that are just gonna invariably, well, hopefully, change the way you look at things. Otherwise, you're in a hopeless rut. That would be miserable.
Did you have any sort of concept in mind about wanting the new album to sound any different? Or did you just write songs?
Well, we just wrote songs. I think we tried to do some different things for songwriting. I don't think it was an attempt to make the album sound different as - you want to try not to repeat yourself too much, you know? We like to try to write songs that are very deep and very heavy and we're also into writing songs that are more upbeat and animated. We're trying to work on things and not just be writing the same three or four songs over and over again.
Someone around here said that he liked what he thought were jazzy influences on the new album. Do you listen to jazz at all?
I do listen to jazz. I think there have always been sort of jazzy influences on our records. I think they probably are more explicit on this record. I'm fine with that.
I heard an organ on the song "Horse." Was that you playing that organ?
I did play that organ. Yes. That is my massive, swelling organ.
Whoo! When Scratch Acid got started, is it true that you were just a "poster band" at first?
Yeah, that was kind of an Austin thing to do. There was a lot of young kids and punk rock was really exciting, and they just wanted to be a part of it, and they kinda decided that, as soon as they got enough money saved, they were gonna buy some kind of instrument and learn how to play it and start playing songs. But in the meantime, all they could do was think of a name for their band and make posters for it, so we did that.
Hey! Do you like The Cows?
Oh, okay. Do you like any of the AmRep-sorta bands? Amphetamine Reptile?
I love that first Helmet record. And I also like some of that Melvins stuff. Oh! I saw one of those bands in town not too long ago called. ah, mmm, they had really like, sort of like -
Hammerhead? Helios Creed?
No. It was like some one-syllable word that didn't sound like a real word. It was just like "Blunk" or something like that.
Guzzard! Which I suppose isn't a one-syllable word. I liked them a lot! I thought they were really fun.
Are you on the Information Superhighway?
No, the brushes that I've had with the Internet - it just seemed like a bunch of fucking smartass brats who don't know anything about anything.
Yeah! That's it actually! (present company included!)
People that think that because they have a computer, they're intelligent. I mean, I'm sorry. I'm just not buying it. Especially given what I read, the crap these people post.
Oh. You've seen the Indie Rock lists and stuff?
Right. Like "Indie Rock." What does that mean?
I don't know. Not a whole lot these days. But it used to mean Dinosaur Jr.!
Well yeah! I think I sort of take exception to the whole "indie vs. major label" debate. It's just that I know so many people that got screwed over by one indie label after another and never did get treated fairly `til they went to a major label. Sonic Youth comes to mind. They just got reamed by Homestead, then SST, then Blast First and then never did get treated fairly `til they signed to Geffen.
At which point they were called "sell-outs."
Right. See, when I think of selling out, I think of somebody who sort of, in order to make the money, makes some sort of compromise. I mean, you look at the Melvins record and Sonic Youth records. Those records you can tell are not like, there's not some label bastard looking to get `em a number one hit at the wheel there, and pushing people around and making threats and stuff. I think that that stuff still goes on a lot, but it doesn't have to be like that. And I think a lot of the people that come up through indie labels are too smart to let that happen.
Is there anything you want to say about the new album or about why people in Chapel Hill should go see your band play?
I think we've always had a pretty good time in Chapel Hill. And I don't think our next show in Chapel Hill will be any worse than any of the others. If you liked us before, you'll probably like us this time.
So hurry everybody! Go back in time to September 25, 1994 and catch the Jesus Lizard live before they put out a couple more albums and break up!
Back to Prindle-landville