you guys know guitar player and indie legend peter momtchiloff (we call him “momtch”) from his former bands talulah gosh, heavenly, marine research (and many others) and his current bands the would-be-goods, les clochards, etc. for his new project, deep hits by tufthunter, he has assembled a cast of musicians and assigned songs to a bunch of singers. the album is available for free (there are a handful of CDs out there he’s made for friends) and, despite demand for vinyl, he has no interest in capitalizing on it. the record is a true gem that features some of our favorite singers ever: (chickfactor co-founder) pam berry (black tambourine, withered hand, the pines, etc.); lupe núñez-fernández (pipas, amor de días); claudia gonson (the magnetic fields, future bible heroes); jessica griffin (would-be-goods); amelia fletcher (talulah gosh, heavenly, tender trap, the catenary wires, etc.); lois, bid and loads of others. we asked momtch a few questions but be sure to read ben’s interview with him also. interview by gail
chickfactor: what made you want to do this record?
peter: I have always written a lot of songs, and a few of them have been played and recorded by bands I’ve been in (talulah gosh and the would-be-goods in particular). but I think there is something a bit uncomfortable about a singer being fed songs by another member of the band: fine now and then, but not as the basis for a band. ¶ with my midlife manpunk band hot hooves, I decided to try something I hadn’t done before: singing (some of the) songs myself. I enjoyed this, but was not surprised to discover that I don’t really have the voice to be a good lead vocalist. ¶ so what to do with my songs? asking a different person to sing each one seemed a good way to try to make the most of them. I’m surprised that more people haven’t done this.
cf: how did you go about selecting the people involved?
for most of the bass and drums, I turned to my clochards colleagues ian and gary—I knew they would do a great job. the singers are all friends, so that made it hard for them to say no (no one did). I know plenty of other singers, but these are the people I felt most comfortable asking. ¶ I regret that the music industry seems increasingly to favour the working model of a controlling auteur (artist, producer, or artist/producer combo). I knew I didn’t want to go down that path. for me, personal interaction is the essence of pop music. so I used a collaborative model, starting by working out the basic tracks with my crack oxford rhythm section. and I didn’t try to tell anyone what to play or how to sing their parts.
cf: how long have you been working on / writing the songs?
one is from the 1980s, one from the 1990s, and most of the rest from the last few years. In late 2013 I went through all the songs I could remember and picked the best ones.
cf: do you want me to ask debsey if she’ll sing on the next one?
sure! though I’d have to work hard to try to come up with something good enough. I’ve been a fan since I heard “been teen” on the radio in 1981.
cf: what guitarists inspired you growing up?
in the order in which I came to them: rock’n’rollers like scotty moore; then george harrison; steve cropper; wilko johnson; dave edmunds; tom verlaine and richard lloyd of television; leo nocentelli of the meters; and various people who played with howlin’ wolf and james brown. I apologize for failing to live up to this list. my favourite guitar players to listen to are steve cropper and django reinhardt.
cf: who are some of the best bands in oxford right now?
apart from my own, I like a couple of punk/metal bands called agness pike and girl power, and a lady/gentleman duo called the other dramas. my clochards colleague karen cleave is developing a very interesting act which I think she is calling mermaid noises. I imagine all these acts will remain local attractions, and I think that’s just fine.
cf: if you had to put tufthunter in a record store “genre” what would you choose?
it was nice when we could all think of ourselves as “alternative”—is that still legitimate, or would we be deceiving ourselves? I am certainly “independent,” given I don’t even have a record label.
cf: why did you not want to charge anyone for this record/package it and sell as vinyl or CD?
it was partly pragmatic: what I would like is for people to hear the music, and I don’t need a financial return. for a little-known band, putting a record on sale can be self-defeating in terms of dissemination, especially if you don’t work hard on selling it at live shows. many people who like music are now fairly unused to mechanisms for buying records, so those mechanisms tend to represent a barrier to dissemination. ¶ in addition, observing the rituals of the record industry and its media, I confess to a certain distaste, and an unwillingness to join in that game. it would be undignified for a gentleman of my years. ¶ so I decided that I would make CDs to give out freely to friends and acquaintances; and that I would make the record free to download, to enable it to reach a wider audience if there is one.
cf: do you have any memorable stories about talulah gosh, heavenly, would-be-goods or your time spent in chickfactor-land?
I’ve generally been content to let my past life slip into oblivion. I remember facts and scenes, but not experiences, on the whole. ¶ looking back I recall what a pleasure it has been to hang around with other bands. I must have met hundreds over the years and with very few exceptions they have been friendly and comradely. ¶ in place of forgotten stories, let me mention some of the most unusual shows I’ve played. ¶ talulah gosh supporting the blow monkeys at the new theatre in oxford—marooned with our tiny amps in the middle of an enormous stage more accustomed to the tread of quo and cliff. ¶ heavenly doing a tour of japan not only as ourselves but also as bogus BMX, stand-ins for the BMX bandits, backing their singer duglas, who ate only chips for the entire trip, out of fear of surreptitious seafood contamination. ¶ marine research playing with shellac and fugazi in east london—both bands were completely without pretensions and treated us as equals. ¶ would-be-goods on the same bill as an indie fashion show in greenwich village, thanks to chickfactor. ¶ scarlet’s well playing at an art squat commune in berlin, complete with a huge vat of vegan chili, authentically 1980s, but 25 years on. also ostpol, a bar in dresden offering a meticulous exercise in ddr retro chic/naff. ¶ les clochards playing as the only support to tom jones [sic] in the middle of a wood in suffolk.
cf: will there be another tufthunter LP?
the first time someone asked me this I found myself saying that maybe I had drained this particular wound. I report that metaphor in case it seems revealing. ¶ I am going to do a couple more tunes, because there are specific singers I still want to involve. I would certainly enjoy doing another album, but I have used most of my best songs and it might take a very long time to come up with enough again.
thank you! I suspect it was you who put pitchfork onto the record—most grateful.
we interviewed mr duffy for chickfactor 14 back when both of us lived in london, but as his group the lilac time are about to release a new album called no sad songs, we figured it was time to catch up! most of you know him but if not, some fun facts: he was the original singer for duran duran. he spent a few years as robbie williams’ music director. he was in new york city around the time of 9.11 to play a chickfactor party and we were very grateful that A. the show went on and B. he let us write the set list (his presence there at that time was oddly comforting!). he’s been writing beautiful “flower music” for like 30 years. he’s currently somewhat recently become happy, married, a dad and a resident of cornwall. we asked him a few questions to find out what’s been happening.
chickfactor: tell me about no sad songs. was there a theme or aesthetic you were trying to achieve with this record?
it was a sprawling 20+ song mess of aesthetic revolution until I realized that a double album would never get finished. It was without beginning, middle or end in whatever order jean-luc godard would have put them. I just picked the ten I thought I could pull together and finish without crying or without blowing up the house. by chance the ones I picked seem to tell the story of us as a family and musical group going as far west as you can go, in the united kingdom, without discovering america. the song “the western greyhound” vaguely encapsulates the story.
We took the Western Greyhound
Down the Atlantic Highway
And that’s when we found
Our way home
For on a clear day
You can make out something
We all believed in
Now in the dead of winter
Can we make a beach head
In the desert
Of our dreams
I saw a sign in heaven
Another dream of wonder
How wonderful to dream.
we grew up in a time when people believed in things and in more than things. In 1978, when I left school, the gap between rich and poor in the UK was at its narrowest. was revolution possible? the counterculture’s lineage from beat to hippy to punk wasn’t expected to just bail. but instead we were blessed with the never-ending ’80s, the revenge of the ’50s. and governments that want to bury us back into the ’30s. So this album is about nurturing that “little flame among the ashes” like all the others. that’s the light we work by.
how has your approach to songwriting changed over time?
the first good song I wrote was “aztec moon,” which was released, eventually, on the devils’ dark circles record in 2002. I wrote it in 1978 just before I went to art college in birmingham and started the durans with john and nick. I was 17 and had just read jack kerouac’s mexico city blues for the first time and was filled with inspiration and wonder and I stood in my bedroom in birmingham and sang. I was amazed that I had written a song that sounded like a song. over the years and I mean perhaps decades, I tried to get to a more completely personal lyrical style, but now almost 40 years later all the songs sound personal, the choice of literary thievery becomes as personal and as poignant as a faded family snap shot. It becomes the story of your life!
how has your relationship with music changed in the 30 years(!) you’ve been making records?
I suppose my relationship with music has remained the same and the same as everyone else. you hear something and you love it and get excited. you get filled with righteousness or foolishness and sing and dance in the kitchen or discotheque.
I’d listen to records and then go upstairs and play my bass and try to channel whatever it was. even when I’d had hits and made albums I’d do the same kind of thing. I watched a little don’t look back every day before going to record the eponymous lilac time album.
and I still have massive fads and buy everything by people, fill in gaps, get obsessive. I watched travelling for a living, the watersons documentary from the ’60s and immediately I was on eBay buying vinyl and listening to nothing else, telling the band we were going to have record exactly like them. not that they listen to me anymore.
my relationship with the music business in comparison isn’t as jolly. having made my first record in 1979 seymour stein and sire gave me dance hits in 1983—amazing. I had a pop hit in the UK in 1985—scary—and then from 1987 the lilac time “I swore to write but poetry and live upon a hill”— POETRY!
and yet I still get angry with the guys who, when the compact disc was invented, invited us into their luxury offices and told us “you make the software and we’ll make the hardware.” the guys, and they always were blokes, who already didn’t have a clue when I signed to WEA in broadwick street in 1982, but still have well-paid jobs now, even though they are the ones who sold out to apple and iTunes knowing we wouldn’t make a penny. and then gave away everything to the streamers. they didn’t even sell the family silver—they just gave it away.
is being happy a good way to feel while trying to make a record?
I have no idea why I became depressed and I had years of great therapy that was very helpful and even inspiring. maybe melancholy is in you from birth and something pushes it to the fore at some point. illnesses do make people feel special. when I was first prescribed antidepressants and realised I was looking forward to going to the supermarket that this meant I was leaving my cage of specialness, my great palace of sadness and that I could not only become normal but even gormless. I was “if I cant be successful at least I can be depressed.”
this was an incentive to make this recording. to address how miserable the last few lilac time records had been. we all like a happy ending, right? but equally I’m not sure what really made me not depressed. but then I got married and had a daughter, we are—as the ramones said clearly—a happy family and looking after a family, putting them first, doing what that involves, cooking, cleaning, was a first for me, domesticity hadn’t really happened in my first 50 years. I don’t know if putting others first is what killed the depression? for I’d have taken just not being depressed, happiness didn’t come into it.
also, and by the by, accurate checking for vitamin D didn’t arrive until 3 or 4 years ago and I was virtually without any. since then I have been well and truly shot up with Mr D. I wonder if nick drake and other great depressives could have been checked what great music we would have been deprived of and what happy lives they may have lived.
why has it taken seven years since you’ve put out an album?
runout groove, the last album, disappeared faster than most of my records. I hadn’t realised how things had changed since releasing keep going, which had at least paid for itself. With runout groove I committed us to playing shows, with a six-piece lilac time and crew, at the green man festival and queen elizabeth hall, that we filmed and recorded (for the film memory & desire). the film shows me slowly realizing things perhaps weren’t going to plan. I obviously came back from california thinking I was neil young or someone. so after that I decided we’d just to record for ourselves and never play again. then we found ourselves all in cornwall playing in the basement and it didn’t feel that different to ’87 and the first album. then I suppose that egomaniacal desire to share our greatness reappeared.
tell us about the folks who contribute to this record. who did what? how did the process go in the studio?
it’s just me, claire, nick and melvin. all duffys but melvin not so directly related. melvin: steel guitar. claire: keys, strings and vocals. nick: instruments people mock. and me on guitar, bass and drums. it’s the first record I recorded songs and then changed everything, retaining perhaps only the original mandolin. so perhaps it was a little more worked on or considered or something, but it wasn’t laboured, it was revelatory.
will you tour/play shows to mark the record’s release?
we’re playing the port eliot festival on the 2nd of august as a trio.
what do you think is the best role of songwriter in 2015 society?
I can only talk personally but I’d have to say saviour of brutalist architecture and flower child.
has living in cornwall had an effect on the way you write songs?
it’s good to be somewhere so far away from london and everywhere else. apart from when you need to be in london or somewhere else and then you’re miles away. but it’s good to be somewhere so far away.
what happened to the other 10 songs you recorded since moving there? will they be released?
yes, it should be lilac10, the next album. at the moment it’s called the second post. we also have a rarities collection I’m slowly compiling and a live album that just needs mastering. we’re going to reedit and retitle the film memory & desire, adding some new stuff and older stuff that’s turned up and generally cheering it up a bit. and as always, there’s the book I’ve been writing since 1979, boxes and boxes of it, I’d like to finally finish it or some of it and add the thousands and thousands of pictures to make something lovely. because lovely is where it’s at, gail.
photograph courtesy of the lilac time. the album is out on tapete records on april 2.
we are thrilled to have an interview with the phenomenal american singer songwriter… (originally appeared on paper in chickfactor 17, which came out in december 2012)
interview by connie lovatt and gail o’hara // photograph by kirstie shanley
chickfactor: what’s some of the best advice you’ve been given by a man about being a man?
bill callahan: I don’t think I’ve been given much advice man to man. I wish I had. I think it’s mostly women that have taught me about being a man anyway. a healthy woman wants you to be a man. I grew up with two sisters and they wanted me to be a man right from the start. they were so happy I was a little boyman – I could sense it from their faces. as soon as I could walk my sisters begged me to put on a tutu. this ballerina tutu we had lying around. maybe it was left over from when one or both of my sisters went through their little princess phases. seeing their reaction to me in the tutu was the first time I felt like a man. and I never looked back.
cf: what’s the best insurance against your own shenanigans?
bill: there isn’t any really. things always come back to haunt. and if they don’t, the looming spectre of threat is worse. if we let the shenanigans win….
cf: what were you like as a teenager?
bill: dumb. I was just in receiving mode, programming mode and I was kind of inoperable in that state. just taking things in or waiting for an opening in the race. it helps to have a soundtrack to such times and I listened to music 7 or 8 hours per day. classic rock radio, which I found some worth in but after awhile it started to feel like some drunk guy waking you up every time you fall asleep and just laughing at you and not saying anything. I realized a lot of classic rock is not classic at all. I had been taking their word for it at first. I was always counting the days until school ended, for years and years. and when it did it was even better than I dreamed.
cf: what was the first song you wrote and why and what was it called?
bill: when I was really little I wrote a song called, “peanut butter shoe.” the lyrics were, “it’s new, it’s blue, it’s a peanut butter shoe!” I think I wrote it, since you ask why, to mirror the life impulse inside a human.
cf: tell us about your songwriting process/ space/rituals.
bill: I’m not a ritualist and space is not something I really notice either. well, I guess I like electric light, no natural light and no window. I don’t like to know what time of day it is and I don’t like to see natural events happening. writing and music are human concepts—like electric light, so it helps to block out anything from the unadorned natural world. there is a pen I like, I buy by the carton. I just bought a carton yesterday. I couldn’t find black. It has to be black because of the primal black and white thing, primitive brain sight and film noir. I always turn down help from those big store employees because they never know anything but this time I said yes, where’s the black. he found it. It was in a newly designed box because now the pens are “made from recycled electronics.” I guess this is good but I don’t want to get cellular microbes in my notebooks.
cf: have you ever had to stop listening to a song or band because of a certain person or memory?
bill: maybe, but I wouldn’t think it was a struggle. if a memory or event was that strong then the song probably should go where that person or memory went anyway.
cf: does it bother you when your lyrics are misinterpreted?
bill: I think it happens all the time. I think I also misinterpret other people’s lyrics, other people’s everything. that is the lair of the audience, that is where you make your connection – from yourself. listening to music is not a passive act. when you’re a teenager and your parents wonder how you can just sit and listen listen listen. you’re making all your connections then. your head is dancing with it. so I think “misinterpreted” is the same as “interpreted” really. who can put the “mis-” on there? only the creator and half the time the creator can’t even concretize an interpretation. if someone has an interpretation of my lyrics that feels to me to be way off base, I just think that is the level that person is on at that time. that is where they are finding a connection to the song. but don’t get angry if I or someone else has a different interpretation of the song. I’ve often been told I am lying, when someone asks me what a line I wrote means. because songs become part of the body, part of the psyche, part of the filter of the way a person sees the world. when you tell them something else, they feel as if their essence is being negated. this is why people are so fiercely passionate about the music they love. the music is them.
cf: on most days would you prefer an elaborate breakfast or an elaborate dinner?
bill: oh man. an elaborate breakfast usually says, “I’m going to fuck off today” or “damn, life is good, ain’t it?” both of which are good sentiments. but mostly I like a simple breakfast cos I’m in no mood, you know? I think I like a simply elaborate breakfast. just toss a couple basil leaves in my eggs and I’ll be like, “damn!” breakfast should be simple but with a tiny zing. like raspberries in your oatmeal. food can’t stand on its own though, for me. I can’t have an elaborate dinner and think, “what a great day this is or was based on this meal!” it’s more of a bonus thing, like, “I had a great day of work and now look at this delicious hot pocket before me. it has basil on it.”
cf: what singer or songwriter do you feel is solidly romantic yet gets little credit for being so?
bill: I’m not sure about credit, as I don’t always keep track of public perception of things but—van morrison is quite the romantic scamp, I think. and I don’t feel like I’ve heard people talking about that.
records bill can’t live without
> steely dan, aja
> various artists, keep the pressure down
> barrington levy, run come ya
> television, marquee moon
> marvin gaye, “what’s going on”
We are teaming up with our pals at The Hangover Lounge to have a lovely laid-back Sunday afternoon event with some quiet music upstairs and some gentle DJ action downstairs.
july 13 at the lexington!
upstairs: the catenary wires & the just joans
downstairs: DJ bob stanley & chickfactor DJs & hangover lounge DJs
the catenary wires are amelia and rob from various bands you know! cannot wait to see what they’ll play!
the just joans are a Scottish pop group we’re excited to have play!
daytime, usual hangover lounge hours.
DJ Bob Stanley is bound to make your day 100% better.
Team chickfactor & Team Hangover Lounge will also get on the tables and make your head not spin.
(Yes, this happens to be the same day as the World Cup Final, but worry not, footie fans. This thing will be well over by the time it begins!)
Photograph by Alison Wonderland
chickfactor + the hangover lounge present
three of our toppest bands of all time
friday, july 11 at the lexington in london
(admission includes a split single from the clientele & birdie)
second show (july 13 at the lexington daytime) to be announced soon.
Category chickfactor events
this spring and summer have a ridiculous amount on offer for pop fans!
we’d be at all these if we could make it happen, but keep in mind that we’re putting on a few events in london on july 11 & 13, details coming shortly on the chickfactor 22 / hangover lounge stuff that will happen at the lexington!
true story: after the first time I saw the lilys in concert (june 3rd, 2003 at the crocodile with swirlies and explosions in the sky!), I dizzily said to my husband, “his last name is heasley, and mine is headley—I’m gonna go tell him that!” and mike put his hand on my arm and said, “don’t,” with a serious look on his face.
WELL, GUESS WHAT, KURT?! WE STILL HAVE SIMILAR LAST NAMES!
kurt was sweet enough to answer some questions after a chickfactor dress rehearsal show at the lilypad in cambridge, ma. the lilys play chickfactor 22 with withered hand, jim ruiz set, and amor de días on thursday, march 20 (night one of two) at the wonderful bell house in brooklyn. eeeeeeeee!!!
photo by gail o’hara • interview by janice headley
well, to start off — how did it go last night?! what’s the line-up gonna be like for CF22?
Last night was great. Awesome, a lot of fun. It was more like a gala, grrr and I’ll be playing on Thursday with Nightime Gallagher.
are you still in cambridge right now? you’ve got old ties to that town! does it feel good to be back in yr old stompin’ grounds?
Yes, I am literally in Cambridge RIGHT now. I’ve worked with so many creative and enterprising friends here in New England, Providence, Northampton. This just seemed like the obvious place to come when we left the ashram. I like the four seasons in Massachusets. It’s not just about coming back to this area. We do have connections here, people we care about that live here, but from other places, too, like Virginia. Also, it’s close to New York, where I like to record.
how has it felt reuniting for chickfactor? I saw you play solo last year in los angeles for CF20… have you enjoyed revisiting these older songs?
I’ve had nothing but fun with these last rounds of chickfactor, 20, 21 and now 22. I see playing songs from the first four albums as some sort of measurement of time and it offers a change in perspective whenever they’re revisited. Any opportunity to re-learn songs from those albums again proves to be enlightening and fun. I see how my approach to music has differed. I’ve loosened up significantly since I wrote those first recordings.
do you think you’ll ever do a show playing the Better Can’t Make Your Life Better-era material?
I do see playing live a lot more over the next few years. We did play a lot of those songs the last time I was in California working with the full band. Having the sound and feel of Better Can’t Make Your Life Better and Services for the Soon to Be Departed live all hinges on having the exact right players in the line-up. And I love playing with them. So, yes I’m thinking that we will find the people interested in making that happen and materializing the mythology.
are plans still in motion to re-issue In the Presence of Nothing? will any other albums be reissued? in particular, Eccsame the Photon Band??? (on a personal note, i once drove three hours from portland to seattle listening to NOTHING but “day of the monkey” over and over again on repeat… for THREE HOURS… and i could’ve done three more. that song is so special to me!)
We had some archival issues with that reissue of ITPON that are still being addressed. There are so many people that I have worked with over the years that it makes reissuing the work challenging, but it is definitely something that I want to do and have been working on putting together for many years now, In fact, I am currently negotiating the reissues of 3 records over the next year and a half with Mike Schulman of Slumberland Records. He just sent me some old DAT recordings today that I am looking forward to hearing. We’ve also talked about recording a new project.
i read you were working on a K Heasley album at one point! are you writing new songs? will you be playing them this week? will there by a new lilys album anytime soon? what are the new songs like, stylistically?
Everything I do is a K. Heasley album at some point! I did record a split 7 inch with Big Trouble that I finished last year — I think you can find it on SoundCloud. (ed. note — you can!) I’ve been working on a number of new songs, I record all the time and on whatever’s available as part of my writing, but it will take actually getting in to the studio with the people from all over that i love to work with and have great respect for before you’ll be seeing that new lilys album. Actually, it is possible there will be no more lilys and that there’ll just be something new, I do have some other projects in mind. I’ve been working a lot with Nightime Gallagher recently. Whatever it is, it’s not just about the music anymore, music is visual and physical, it’s a whole show and i have a lot of ideas for the next project that include a big multi-media environment. Stylistically I’d say these new songs are solar pop.
Category chickfactor events
we first heard the clientele when they played a chickfactor/papercuts party in london in 1999 and were dazzled for life (we interviewed them in CF13, 2000). they continue to be one of our favorite bands, even if they’ve been less than prolific the past few years (we also love alasdair’s other band amor de días, natch). we asked alasdair a few questions in advance of their first US show in 4 years (and first with this classic lineup in 9): we cannot wait to see them! the clientele plays at chickfactor 22 with versus, barbara manning and the saturday people on march 21 (night two of two) at the wonderful bell house in brooklyn. be there!
interview & polaroid by gail o’hara