GOOGLE-ENHANCED TOPICS OF DISCUSSION;
OR HOW I CAME TO SHIT BLOOD & RENOUNCE GOD:
A DIALOGUE WITH MONTGOMERY BUCKLES
Los Angeles’ Lamps by now need no introduction. Anyone that has seen or heard them knows that they reside in a class all their own. I won’t make any lazy or ineffective comparisons because that is simply an act in futility. Their music is loud, abrasive and just fucking kicks ass and they’re almost certainly one of the most deafening three-piece bands around today. Every time a band as good as Lamps comes around, there are legions of copycats trying to bank on the brains and cop a sound that they swear they invented. Not the case with the Lamps. No one even comes close.
I got the opportunity to ask frontman Monty Buckles some questions about what’s going on in his world. I sipped Merlot in my Camel Snuggie, huddled near my crackling fireplace, poised & titillated as I awaited Monty’s riposte.
TB: First of all – Montgomery Buckles – is that your real name, or is that made up?
MONTY BUCKLES: That's my real name. Montgomery Buckles.
TB: What’s your middle name?
MB: Clayton. Don't know where exactly it came from (no great Uncle Clayton).
TB: I first heard Lamps in 2006. One interesting thing for me – as a fan – was how with each record that came out, you really got to see a band that was improving sonically as well as from a songwriting or “hook” standpoint, without losing the barbaric 1-2-3-4 cacophony and strident feedback. Do you feel the band is progressing like you want, or are you pretty much ready to call it quits since I just said your “hooks” are improving?
MB: I am kind of embarrassed by the first record, it was from the first time I played music with another person, or tried to write a song. I think it is just a collection of songs from some people who don't really know what they are doing either creatively or with their instruments. There is no attempt to write something in a specific style or anything, just songs. I really can't really think about the first record or a lot of the shows we played without physically cringing. I would kind of be happy if that didn't exist. I think that both the band and our ability to craft a tune are better now.
TB: When it comes to making records with Lamps, is there any kind of studio trickery or whimsical hand gestures involved?
MB: Nah. We do an overdub or two (or none at all) and play around a bit with various effects. I normally get impatient and think things should not be overthought, while Josh takes a more reflective approach and wants to take the time to try more things, so it ends up somewhere in the middle. On our last single for SS we didn't do any overdubs. On our last recording session, the overdubs were minimal. I am getting better at tap-dancing on my various effects boxes so I can accomplish most of what I want to do without having to overdub.
TB: I’ve always been curious how you capture that signature drum sound on Lamps records, aside from Josh being a kick-ass drummer.
MB: We've only recorded with two people, our friend Tony Bollas, and Mike McHugh. We've been fortunate that both people are really easy to work with and know what we're going for, leaving no inefficient conversation about how we want to sound.
Josh is a loud, consistent drummer that hits really precisely, we tend to use the room mics for some space, and maybe add a dollop of compression or echo, but otherwise, I think Josh is just good at what he does. I think it’s an easier style to record, not a lot of clutter.
TB: You recently added Jimmy Hole as new bassist, replacing Tim Ford who had played with Lamps for the last few years. Care to offer an amusing anecdote and/or hideously dreadful, whore-mongering, dog-menstruating meltdown from the saga?
MB: Nope. There wasn't really anything that would do anything but bore the reader.
TB: So you have two new singles coming out -- one on Fan Death and one on Dull Knife. What was the process of having two records on two different labels? How did you come about working with these guys?
MB: We met Sean Grey from Fan Death when we had the honor and privilege of playing the final Clockcleaner show with Homostupids and Pink Reason. Sean is just a charming, fun guy to be around, and really excited about releasing music. We were thinking about releasing a single anyway.
To generalize without really thinking about it: labels can be really enthusiastic, with a well-intentioned person that wants to do something and loves talking about their grand plans and their semi-existent label, but you can be fairly certain it will never get off the ground, or you get the more jaded person that has put out a bunch of records and has long since realized its about as fun as taking a strange old person on a walk around the block and their disillusionment can be interpreted (and rightly so) as apathy.
Fan Death was enthusiastic, but they also get shit done, and have been putting out records we like. Dull Knife I just admired from afar, and anybody that puts out an Andre Ethier record as well as a Rusted Shut record gets a gold star in my book.
TB: There are some remarkable song titles on both singles. “The Role of the Dog Catcher in African-American Folklore,” “I’ve Been On A Lot of Camels,” and “Niels Bohr Was an Excellent Ping Pong Player.” Can you lend any insight on these long and seemingly nonsensical song titles? (I’ve heard the songs and they fucking rule, by the way.)
MB: "The Role of the Dog Catcher in African-American Urban Folklore" was an actual Google search I did. I was thinking about the re-occurring role of the dog catcher in African-American folklore and looked it up on Google, hoping to find some sociology student's thesis on the subject. I found nothing, and then was thinking about how fucking stupid I am, looking something like that up to sate some very minor curiosity rather then doing something worthwhile with my time. 'I've Been On A Lot of Camels' was something I overheard my friend Paul Marshall say at my friend Andy Bollas' wedding. Paul has lived a very interesting life filled with exotic locales, and he is one of those people that can say something like that and not only do you know it’s true, it doesn't come off as arrogant or condescending. I've never been on a camel, personally. "Niels Bohr..." was just from reading the Richard Rhodes book on the atomic bomb (which is great), and being struck by the fact that Bohr, one of the all-time smartest people that ever lived, was in fact, a great ping pong player. It seems unfair, not only was he off-the-charts intelligent, he was suave and a great ping pong player. I'm dumb, charmless, and suck shit at ping pong.
TB: Can we expect a new Lamps LP in 2010? Any potential pan flute solos or horn sections we can hope for?
MB: I think 2011 would be more appropriate. (Even though that is next year, 2011 looks incredibly futuristic on the page).
TB: The song “The Role of the Dog Catcher in African-American Urban Folklore” features a more syncopated, almost new wave-y bass line and keyboard part, while still keeping the "classic" Lamps sound. Do you see Lamps moving toward more experimentation in the future?
MB: I think experimentation is a strong word, but I think we're gonna try to branch out slightly. Very, very slightly.
TB: Where you live and, more importantly what you do for a living has you rubbing elbows with tawdry and delicious celebrities all the time. Who have you met/worked with/played tongue-darts with recently?
MB: Most are nice enough. They deal with strangers all the time, and like anything, if you do it often enough, you get good at it. I feel sorry for celebrities I’ve observed, because they live in such an isolated world constantly surrounded by glad-handling sycophants with wide smiles and teeny brains that filter all their interactions with other human beings. They also cannot trust any strangers because everyone has an angle and wants something from them. So yes, I feel bad for them from that perspective, but nobody put a gun to their head and made them become famous. The worst are just petty, minor people.
A few years ago, I worked on a Warlocks video for a few hours for fifty bucks. I really needed the fifty bucks. One of the Warlocks, I didn't catch his name, he was older, and to be nice I took his guitar - in its case - and carried it from his car to the venue where we were shooting. I had to move something else, so I put his guitar down outside for a minute, before helping someone else, then returning to take his guitar inside. He was waiting for me, standing over his guitar like some great atrocity had occurred and he couldn't wrap his long-haired head around the sheer magnitude. He then gave me a raft of shit because I can't take a guitar like his and move it from a van to the outside; I had to take it directly from the van to inside the venue. When he saw my expression - which was complete confusion brought on by sheer wonderment that two people which such abominable genes managed to find each other and breed, producing this pile of worthless garbage in Beatle boots and a scarf - he downshifted and turned up the condescention knob and lectured me about how his guitar was in grave danger of warping. Keep in mind that we weren't shooting at a remote station in Antarctica, we were in southern California.
To this day I am deeply ashamed I didn't calmly open his guitar case, take out his guitar, gingerly pick it up by its neck, smash it on the concrete, and then shove the neck down his throat. I will regret that until the day I die. So it’s weird. I met and worked for Joaquin Phoenix briefly, and he was friendly, patient and intelligent, even though he had a hundred people pestering him, but the third banana in the Warlocks was an asshole lunkhead on a shitbag music video that filmed for a few hours in North Hollywood and even the person that he severely offended can't be bothered to remember his name.
People I briefly interacted with that seemed very cool and/or nice: The Rock, Scarlet Johansen, and Lionel Richie. People that didn't seem nice: Michael Bay.
TB: Can you tell me a little bit about your experience on the Bobby Flay show on Food Network with The Intelligence and Terry Wahl from Red Aunts? I haven’t heard about this until someone pointed it out to me just recently.
MB: They filmed at the Echo, which is located around a blind corner on a two-lanes-each-way stretch of Sunset Blvd in Echo Park. I was outside with some friends that were smoking, and it was around rush hour when Bobby Flay pulled up. He just drove up, and stopped without any pretense of pulling out of the lane in rush hour traffic, then walked into the restaurant to be filmed. It instantly created an giant traffic snarl and badly pissed off every motorist for about a mile behind him. Even though i was just standing outside with smokers, I had people honking and shaking their fists screaming "Hey asshole! Move your fucking car!!" at the top of their lungs. I was amazed Bobby Flay did that. I had his cupcake and the cake portion of it tasted like it came out of a bin at Rite Aid, even though the frosting was pretty good. But how difficult is it to make decent frosting? A mix of sugar and butter?
TB: What have you been listening to as of late? What are some of your more recent favorites of, say – 2008 and 2009?
MB: In 2009 it was probably the new Pissed Jeans record and the Mayyors' 'Deads' LP. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of French Ye Ye singles, mid-Sixties country records, and episodes of the Phil Hendrie show.
TB: You’re involved in many facets of the entertainment industry. Is there any one thing you enjoy more than the other?
MB: I thoroughly enjoy receiving my paycheck, and very much enjoy any time I have a meal or alcohol comped. I enjoy the food, and I enjoy that I don't work in an office. Sometimes this cruelly backfires, and you find yourself in the high desert in at four in the morning, freezing your nuts off, or having a gastrointestinal equivalent of a war crime in your stomach from a bad ham torta crawling with Mexican bacteria while you're in a rainy parking lot in Juarez, but you do get days where you get it so good you feel like you can climb up on a large object and give the entire world the finger.
TB: You started playing drums in fellow LA band Wounded Lion. How did this happen? You never played drums before, correct?
MB: I had not, except for maybe a grand total of twenty minutes stretched over five or so years of sitting behind the drums every so often in two minute stretches. Wounded Lion was trying to find someone to record with, and I recommended my extremely talented and easy to work with friend Tony. I came along to the recording sessions because drinking beer with Tony is one of life's rare pleasures and hung out, offered my occasional two cents on the recording process and guzzled beer while they recorded. I ran Jun's guitar through my pedals and futzed with the signal for "Bad Moon Rising" and everyone seemed happy with it. Between songs, I was sitting behind the drums, sucking down a Tecate can when I put it down and played drums for maybe ten seconds, which Brad remembered and then asked me to play with them when their then drummer, Ami, left. Now I kind of play guitar half the time, and drum the other half.
TB: Do you have any videos lined up for other bands? Or maybe possibly a new Lamps video? The only “official” Lamps music video is “20 Inches of Monkey,” right?
MB: My friend Stoney Sharp did that Lamps video. I am going to do a video for Cheap Time that is going to be paid for by Scion. I was supposed to do a video for the Blank Dogs but every time I was getting around to it I would get distracted and not do it. I would rather die in a fire then do a Lamps video.
TB: How do you feel about cassettes? What do you think about bands that put these out as opposed to just making CD-Rs? Or do you not give two shits about the format in which your media is delivered?
MB: I never listen to, nor hold any retroactive fondness for cassettes which are an annoying format prone to breakage that are impossible to cue easily. But if someone wants to listen to one or put one out, I recognize that my personal preferences are not universal. I remember making mix tapes for people, and think that anyone that is going to go on any romantic notions of laboriously hunching over a tape player and cueing the needle to make a cassette is stuck in a cloud of nostalgic vapor that is affecting their judgment: it was a waste of fucking time.
TB: Is there a Lamps 2010 tour in the works?
MB: We're going to do the DNA Test Fest in Baltimore, play Philadelphia with the FNU Ronnies, and play Brooklyn with Drunkdriver in April. We're playing with the A-Frames and X in May. We might play Smmr Bmmr. Have not thought about anything else yet.
TB: Will there ever be an acoustic Lamps song?
MB: I doubt it, considering I don't own an acoustic guitar and have no plan on doing so in the future, but if through some bizarre set of circumstances it came up, I wouldn't totally dismiss the idea. But I can't think of anyone (especially me) that would ever want to be subjected to something like that.
TB: It seems to me in this day and age that it’s easy for a band to crank out a few songs, make a Myspace page, hype it on some blog or message board, etc. When I was getting into independent/alternative music, I really enjoyed the mystery of seeking out a band and the fact that it wasn’t so easily accessible. Kind of bittersweet, really. I also really enjoy the fact that if I hear about a band from someone, I can usually find something about it online, so it’s kind of like a double-edged sword. What do you think about technology/internet in underground music. Do you take advantage of it and use it to your advantage, or would you prefer to take the Mayyors approach?
MB: I think its fairly easy to sort out those self-aggrandizing internet bumblefucks that hassle you with unsolicited updates about their every show, release, thought, and movement, and act like they are sending out a fucking press release because they are playing some shitbag bar in Huntington Beach or act under the delusion that putting out some split single with some other lunkheads on some cut-rate label warrants alerting every bulletin board and social networking sight in creation to its impending existence, or want a goddamn ticker-tape parade because some blog you've never heard of gave them a fucking positive review.
I am slightly sympathetic that they put effort into their band and would like to see their creative endeavor recognized, but seeing the level of self-absorption and self-aggrandizement chaps my hide. Having said that, I will probably link this interview to my fucking Facebook page like the stupid piece of shit I am. Anyway, the aforementioned nitwits are pretty easy to pick out of a crowd and ignore.
But yeah, kids today have it made, they can get virtually everything they want and nearly anytime for free, and information is a few mouse clicks away, instead of sending off some well concealed cash and an SASE. And waiting for something you weren't even sure was going to arrive. You kind of lose the "Holy shit - you like that record too?" connection you were able to make with other people, or the excitement you'd feel finding a record you were searching for just sitting in a record rack with a price tag within your means. But those are small prices to pay.
I love mp3 blogs, I love being able to e-mail someone a song, instead of dubbing a fucking cassette and going down to the fucking post office like a fucking caveman. That stuff is great. I think if a band really buckles down, they can be obscure and mysterious, but right now there are probably some kids in some shitty burg writing great songs that are too shy and too ill-informed for what would be their target audience to find them, and they'll surface later. There's always weird shit floating around.