Tuesday, March 5, 2019

DAVE THOMAS: The Voice of Pere Ubu [1982]

Text by Stacy Mantel / FFanzeen, 1982
Introduction © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 1982 and 2019
Images from the Internet

This interview was published in FFanzeen, issue #9, dated 1982, by FFanzeen Managing Editor, Stacy Mantel).

Since the interview, Dave Thomas has had a broad solo career, and despite his comment, has resurrected his proto-punk band, Rocket from the Tombs. Due to the nature of the style of interviewing, which was pretty common back in the day, there was no chance to Stacy to follow up on some the answers, such I would have definitely liked to ask for myself. – Robert Barry Francos, 2019
* * *
Pere Ubu

The following interview with Pere Ubu’s very elusive lead singer David Thomas (aka Crocus Behemoth) was conducted via mail by questions submitted by Stacey. We pick up with Dave’s opening comments. – RBF, 1982
* * *
“I must say that this is a thorough job: paper to answer on and all. I have spent the day catching up on the mail so I don’t know how much I will be able to satisfy your wishes. Your letter, as circumstances would have it, was the bottom letter in the second bag of mail I’ve answered today.”

Rocket From the Tombs; 1970s
FFanzeen: What is the most common misconception people have about Pere Ubu?
Dave Thomas: (A) we like art; (B) we like industrial music; (C) we are organized and follow a plan; (D) we are disorganized and spontaneous.

FFanzeen: Describe your music to someone who has never heard it before.
Dave: It is a modern sort of folk music.

FFanzeen: Does David Thomas still collect bubblegum cards?
Dave: I never collected bubblegum cards, and if I did so as a child, I’ve long forgotten it. Did I once say I did? Or was I once reported as saying I did? Oh, the tangled web we weave when, etc.

FFanzeen:  Is the machinery of Cleveland still a musical inspiration?
Dave: No.

FFanzeen: Why didn’t you move to New York City?
Dave: Nobody wanted to live in NYC. Our families are here. Our homes are here. Both of those are very important things. More important than music or business. Also, we like it here. We live here; I think that is the best summary. Also, the question must be asked in return – why?

FFanzeen: So many groups are inspired by Pere Ubu, but musically do not come close. What is the ingredient they lack most?
Dave: Any answer would be presumptuous. (At this point, as your hopes sink slowly in the Midwest, you may begin to realize that you’re not going to uncover the “real Ubu” by the course of this interview. Don’t panic.)

Pere Ubu at CBGB
FFanzeen: How are the songs usually generated?
Dave: Somebody has an idea; or a piece develops out of a jam. Not a very complicated process, actually.

FFanzeen: What is Dave Thomas’ pre-Pere Ubu background?
Dave: I was a writer for a weekly rock’n’roll/movies, etc., tabloid in Cleveland. I also did layout and production. I was in a pre-Ubu band that was good for about three months over the course of two years [I believe he’s talking about Rocket from the Tombs – RBF, 2019].

FFanzeen: Are band members currently in other groups or working on other projects?
Dave: Mayo Thompson [guitar] leads the Red Krayola, which is still active. Anton Fier [drums] is a member of the Lounge Lizards. Dave Thomas leads the Pedestrians when not working with Ubu. Tony Maimone [bass; currently owns Studio G in Brooklyn - 2019] does solo recording and plays organ with a reggae band in Cleveland. Allen (Ravenstine) [keyboards] plays in the Pedestrians and the Red Crayola.

FFanzeen: What is the group’s view of the Moral Majority?
Dave: Ubu does not have political views. And I certainly do not.

FFanzeen: Do you believe in “zero hour”?
Dave: According to every clock I’ve ever seen, there is no such thing as “zero hour”.

FFanzeen: Are you a “survivalist” or member of the “Ground Zero” club?
Dave: No.

FFanzeen: What is your opinion of the new horror movie genre?
Dave: I detest blood and gore movies and cannot stomach them.

FFanzeen: Can we ever expect a book of poetry or a novel?
Dave: I have thought of getting into the poetry racket but my wife has managed to dissuade me so far. I don’t have the concentration to write a book which is why I do songs: one good line repeated a few times and you’re out.

FFanzeen: What is David Thomas like when he is not David “Pere Ubu” Thomas?
Dave: Huh?

FFanzeen: What makes Dave Thomas so loveable?
Dave: See answer to Q #6.

FFanzeen: We understand that the press can be unsympathetic and really off-target when describing the group.
Dave: Oh, sure. But I can’t remember who or when.

FFanzeen: Whatever happened to the Numbers Band and 15-60-75?
Dave: One and the same band. 15-60-75 plays, still, four or five times a week in Kent and Cleveland.

FFanzeen: At this point, do you think the next album will be looser or tighter, in terms of structure?
Dave: We have begun work on The Song of the Bailing Man, and are very excited by it. The songs are all two minutes or under, so far. The structures are very tight.

FFanzeen: Whose music do you prefer listening to today?
Dave: I find very little in modern music to hold my interest.

FFanzeen: When will you be coming back to New York?
Dave: Maybe November.

Rocket from the Tombs, redux
Dave, post-questions:
“Pretty stunning interview, eh? What can I tell you?

“In May-June, while in the U.K., I recorded a solo LP entitled The Sound of the Sand & Other Songs of the Pedestrian. It was produced by Adam Kidron. It will be released by Rough Trade in mid-September. The musicians who played on it are: Richard Thompson [guitar], Philip Moxham [bass], Anton Fier, Tan-Tan, Allen Ravenstine, Chris Cutler [percussion], Ralph Carney [multi-instrumentalist; d. 2017], John Greaves [bass], Mayo Thompson, Scott Krauss[drums] and others. It is 37 minutes long, but has been mastered and pressed at 45 rpm.

“Oh, yes, we are working on Vol. 2 of Ubu Live, tentatively entitled, Altered for Your Listening Pleasure.

“Stacy, I hope you do not over-romanticize Pere Ubu. We are just entertainers. We are not artists. We take pride in our work, though, and we try to be as entertaining as possible – not appealing, we hope, to the lowest common denominators. Puzzles and games, i.e., chess, are entertaining, aren’t they? Listening to folks talking about years ago is entertaining, isn’t it? Amusing your friends and each other in wholesome activity can be great fun and can also be unbinding and intellectually stimulating. A hundred years ago friends and neighbors would gather together and sing songs at the piano, or go to lectures at the Town Hall on the yellow-breasted titmouse, or the symbolism of 17th Century literature. They didn’t wallow in an atmosphere pervaded by themes of sex, violence and base emotions. They didn’t seek to void real things in a whole-hearted manner. Such things are not entertaining. Self-occupation is not entertainment.

“I must move on now.”

No comments:

Post a Comment