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Chicago Blues


by Lorenzo Casaccia, 2002 ©


In a sluggish time for indie-rock, the best ideas blossom around tiny labels, small-sized independent nuclei - as Robert Fripp forecast twenty years ago - where artists collaborate with one another, each with his own approach towards a couple of common intuitions.
This is the case for Truckstop Records, for Temporary Residence, or for Perishable Records, from Chicago as well.

Formed around Red Red Meat, a great band of the '90s which we would define as post-beefheartian forits modernist and surreal approach to the most physical blues, Perishable Records has then highlighed itself with a number of issues reinterpreting traditional American music under today's sensibility.
A respect for the tradition that, in a sense, is a trait d’union with Truckstop Records, but that leads to a music which is way different from Krassner's label's one.
A music that never concedes to nostalgia, but rather which unwinds dreaming and drunk, through the notes of an outstanding band as Califone, and through artists such as Rutili, Massarella, Hurley and a serie of other issues that ended up including also a historical post-rock character as Doug Scharin.

Tim Rutili, Red Red Meat's and Califone's leader, is one of the most important names of the last decade of American indie-rock..

Where were you born and raised? Where do you live now?
I was born in Chicago. Raised in a suburb called Addison. I have lived in Chicago for the past 17 years.

A curiosity, to start with: where do the names Califone and Red Red Meat come from?
Red Red Meat...that was a long time ago. i think we just thought it sounded good. like red red wine but meat. i can't really remember. Califone - when we were working on the first e.p. Tim Hurley brought in a califone turntable that he found in a thrift store. It had an input for a mic and a small speaker built into it. We were putting guitars and vocals through it. It also had a lovely hum if it was turned up as loud as it could go and the turntable was spinning. We recorded that and put it on the end of the first e.p. when we needed a name for the project that just felt right. It just stuck.

Why/how Red Red Meat disbanded?
We were tired and we decided to stop for a while after we came home from touring on "Star Above The Manger"...We all thought it would be temporary and we all got busy with other projects and straightening out our lives. Right now i think we are all happy that we stopped when we did. We still love working together and maybe we will do another RRM record someday. I know brian deck will work on the next Califone record with Ben and I. if Tim Hurley has time i'd like him to play a bit too..

The relationship with the “tradition” (musically speaking) seems important with your music. What do you find attractive in a musical form such as blues?
It seems like music that has always existed. I love the imagery and the feel of it. Some music feels like it is part of your DNA. I think it's our job to find that in what we do. Not by imitating but by searching within ourselves for our own source.
I think being from a lower middle class white suburb of Chicago, being either over-protected or ignored as children, watching too much t.v. and coming out of that situation still wanting to learn things and live has influenced what we do as much as the music we listen to.
It's more about accepting tradition and where you're from and breaking free from it without losing the familiarity and beauty that can be found in the asthetic of it.
(hope that makes kinda makes sense for me)

We consider many of your works among the best examples of a renewal of blues in the last decades. Are there artists you appreciate, throughout the history of rock, for similar operations?
I think nobody has done it better than the Rolling Stones (in the 60s and 70s) or Bob Dylan. They are easy choices but I think they are the best as far as putting their own spin and feel on traditional American music. .

Piero Scaruffi wrote in its (a href=">article “Red Red Meat music used to be the quintessence of spontaneity: Califone's music is as artificial as it gets, all processing and reprocessing of sonic ideas”.
It depends on the song. on the first Califone records we did alot of looping and editing of improvised ideas to build the songs. On "Roomsound" most of that stuff started out with very spontanious performances of the songs played live with just drums and guitar or piano and built up from there. The rule still is anything goes.
The last Califone release is called "Deceleration One". It's a live recording of a show we did last November. Half of it is improvised music to film loops and the other half is a soundtrack to the mascot (a puppet animation film from 1933). That's all spontaneity.
I like both extremes - leaving a moment pure (if it's the right moment) and squeezing any life out of a sound and making it something completely different than what it started out to be. Sometimes doing both within the same piece of music can work well.

How much of your current music can be reproduced live? Is there a lot of post-processing work? Or the electronic effects are added in “real-time” while recording?
We dont use any electronic processing for live shows anymore. We try to treat the studio and the show as 2 competely different mediums.
It is more fun for us to play with humans in a live setting. In the studio some things are more fun to play with machines.

In the American rock, in the last years, we are seeing more and more bands going back to use “old-fashioned” sounds. I am referring for example to the whole movement, Joe Henry, but also to a lot of folk music that is inspired by the ‘60s/‘70s.
Do you see this as something that cyclically happens in music and in the people’s taste? Or not? Do you like this kind of music?

It seems like it's all constantly moving. I don't know where it's going and i try not to pay attention. Some things get better with age and some things get worse. I don't know.

Related to the previous question: do you Truckstop Records? What do you think about their music?
I love Truckstop. Joe Ferguson is next door right now working on a record in our studio. Last September i went on tour in Europe for a few weeks playing in the Boxhead Ensemble with Michael Krassner, Scott Tuma, Fred Lonberg-Holm, David Currey and Jim White. iIt was one of the best musical experiences i have ever had. I learned a lot from playing with those guys.

How was Perishable Records born?
We started Perishable to release the first RRM singles and album back in the early 90s. We stopped putting out records after we started working with Sub Pop and started up again when we released the Loftus record in 1998. it is a lot of work but we love the records that we put out and plan on doing this for as long as we can.

Do you often see each other with the other members of Perishable and of your bands?
I don't get out much anymore. I see them when they come here to use the studio or hang out. Occasionally i will go see a show if someone is playing.

I have seen the Clava Studio page on the Perishable website. How did it started? Does it work on a regular basis? Is this 100% related to Perishable?
Clava is owned by Ben massarella. It's a fully operational studio and has been very busy lately. It is in 2 converted garages right next to the Perishable office. I love it there. It feels like home to me.


Perishable Records