Interview with: Lou Barlow (SeBADoh)
Location: Via email
I believe you're recording output goes back to a band called Deep Wound in 1983. What can you remember about that time?
I was 16/17 years old at the time. We played a couple of shows in Boston and some in Western Massachusetts, mostly hall shows, 10 band bills...it was my first band and my first experience recording on a 4-track and in a studio and our 7" was my first. I remember little of that time other than being nervous. We were a mediocre hardcore band. Fast, yes, but we paled to the likes of Gang Green, The Neos, Poison Idea.
I'm sure you've been asked to be in thousands of fanzines, how do you view the relevance of fanzines against the current wave in media?
I stopped reading fanzines a long time ago. Not because I think they are irrelevant, I just burned out. I would think the web is far cheaper, more topical.
You had songs covered by many bands including the likes of Superchunk and the Breeders, do you have a personal favourite out of them?
While I definitely am flattered by any cover of my songs, I think the majority of them highlight the songs weaknesses. Dump did a great cover of 'Jaundice' though. I heard the Deadsy cover of 'Brand New Love' yesterday. It's amazing to think a child of Cher is singing one of my songs but the recording just confirmed to me the song wasn't that dynamic in the first place.
How do you feel when you have your songs covered? Does it give you a boost in your confidence as a songwriter?
In a way I think it means that someone related to the words and that's an amazing compliment but every song that has been covered is well over 10 years old. Confidence is a mysterious thing.
Do you write all of your songs on an acoustic? Having seen the solo show at the Dingwalls in London, it was very interesting to hear some of the folk implosion songs stripped to their purest form, is this how they begin?
Depends on the song. 'No Need To Worry', yes. 'My Ritual', no. The majority of what I write starts acoustic but there's a lot of exceptions.
The Folk Implosion material is much different to that of Sebadoh, particularly in the wide array of instruments that you use. Some of which seem quite obscure, how do you discover these instruments and did you teach yourself to play them all?
The Folk Implosion was a studio project, we spent our time hunting for sounds as opposed to actually learning to play the songs. I think the emphasis on strange instruments was simply a gimmick for the packaging. The thing all the 'odd' instruments have in common is that they are cheap and easy to play.
What were your objectives when starting the Loobiecore website?
To scan everything and clean my closet, make it look real as opposed to sterile, impersonal, typewritten and find a direct way to express. Something like the early cassette/fanzine days.
It does tend to keep you on the same medium as your fans, do you prefer to be seen as on the same level as your audience rather than say, the elevated rock star status which many people seem to have?
Really, I just go for what I would like to see. I was inspired to play music by bands that seemed to my peers and I felt empowered. I hated rock stars and all that as a young one. I'm not comfortable feeling elevated. I'm afraid of heights. Song-writing isn't a sport really. I think the idea of 'song-craft' is crap. I think my voice is maturing and improving but, I dunno, songs drift in to help me through hard times. I generally convince myself that I'm doing my best work 'now' to keep my energy going. If I stop and contemplate if I'll ever outdo an early song I feel like quitting, which I can't do. I have nothing to fall back on.
'Think (let tomorrow bee)' is one of my all time favourite songs, what can you tell me about how this was written?
I wrote it in Washington DC for a woman I was staying with (this was late '91). A very intelligent, motivated person. She was working for a congressman at the time and I just hung around her apartment for two weeks. She had been dating someone else when I arrived and this guy really, really liked her (they actually married this year). He rode a motorcycle, ran a cool club, did work in the community. Kind of a superhero. Anyway, I knew my days with this woman were numbered and I guess to prove I wasn't wasting my time there (I think she even gently 'suggested' that I begin writing) I began writing 'Think' and would play her the work in progress when she came home each night. I finished it (took a day or three) and played the whole thing for her and her roommate, sitting on the floor. She commented on the fatalistic tone of the song as I remember.