Interview with Gerard Love

Interviewed by: Chris Bray (chris@zenandjuice.com)

July 10, 1995, 1:45pm CST


Chris: My first question is why did you choose Grand Prix as the title of the album?

Gerry: Basically we were sitting around and we were just trying to think of titles for the record, and we went through a few dozen ones and eventually Norman said, "What with Grand Prix". And it just kind of evoked the right kind of energies - things like, when we think of the term "Grand Prix", we think of competition and high stakes and big money stakes, and champagne and stale, and it just seemed to be the complete orchestra of what we were and what we were trying to be. It just seemed to have the right kind of right to it for us. It's not really a big statement, but it's just kind of tongue in cheek.

Chris: What were some of the other alternate titles?

Gerry: We were going to call the LP Demos. As in demonstration tapes.

Chris: I remember reading something in a Rolling Stone article about a year ago. Something about "Buy This Record For Instant Credibility".

Gerry: That was another one. We were trying it out, but then we kind of thought maybe it [sounded too] smart or something. We just kinda backed down at the last minute.

Chris: According to the press release, Grand Prix was recorded live in the studio with few overdubs. I also noticed that the recordings weren't really as fuzzy or distorted as on your previous albums. What led to this change in the tone?

Gerry: I think we were possibly unhappy with a lot of [?] we did before on the LPs released before. I think maybe we put too many overdubs and too many guitars on each track, and it seemed to lose the definition of the songs, compared to how they were sounding live when we were playing a show somewhere. So basically, we wanted to have the arrangement sorta simple so that maybe there wasn't any more than two guitars, three guitars at the most on each track. So the dynamics and simplicity of the songs come through, looking more innoncent in a way, and maybe the atmosphere of the recording isn't lost. The more you put on a tape, the less definition of hiding things. Basically, we wanted to go for very simple arrangements that could be reproduced fairly easily live. So basically, it sounds a lot cleaner because we put less on tape, and lot more space on the tape. It wasn't a big conscience effort not to have kind of "buzzy" guitars on it, but I think cleaner guitars seemed to suit the songs better.

Chris: Who is "Sparky", and what significance does the title have?

Gerry: I have no idea who Sparky is. Basically, Norman came up with the title when we recording demos. I hadn't written any lyrics at that point, so it seemed like a good title because it was kind of dumb.

Chris: I noticed that a lot of the titles actually had something to do with what was in the lyrics on this album.

Gerry: I don't really know what it ["Sparky's Dream"] is about in terms of the title. It basically came from Norman, but I think with this record, most of the time we did try to link the title and lyrical content. [?]

Chris: You mentioned when you were recording all the demos, about how many songs did you record? I know there are thirteen on the album, and on the two singles released so far, "Mellow Doubt" and "Sparky's Dream", there are another fourteen songs, and then two instrumentals on the limited edition UK LP.

Gerry: Well, basically, all the songs that appear on the actual LP are all that we recorded in session. We recorded b-sides in January of this year for "Mellow Doubt", and we recorded b-sides in February of this year for "Sparky's Dream".

Chris: I really liked some of the b-sides.

Gerry: Yeah! We did a few cover versions and any of the original titles on there we just more or less wrote.

Chris: On the UK LP release, there was an additional 7" that included some other songs. It didn't list the song titles, and I was wondering what some of the songs were. There was an answering machine message from someone named Rodney between two of the songs on that single.

Gerry: That was Rodney Bingenheimer. That was when we were mixing in Hollywood. Rodney called and left it on our voicemail.

Chris: There were also two instrumentals on that 7". Do you know the titles of those?

Gerry: Is there one with drums?

Chris: They both had guitars and everything.

Gerry: One is called "Coffee Morning", and the other one we don't have a title for. We recorded it here in my front room. We recorded it onto DAT three months ago or so.

Chris: Are you going to be releasing anymore cover versions or neat b-sides on upcoming singles?

Gerry: Well, I don't know if you've heard the b-sides to "Sparky's Dream". Recently we went to London about two weeks and recorded some more b-sides for the next single in Europe, which will be "Neil Jung". So we recorded a version of a Yo La Tango song -- it's an instrumental called "I Heard You Looking", which is on there last LP, Painful.

Chris: Are you guys ever going to release the Beatle's song "Rain"? I've heard that you've been covering that and doing a great version of it.

Gerry: We've never recorded it yet, but we've been playing it live quite a lot recently, and we've also been doing "Feel A Whole Lot Better" as well. We haven't actually recorded them, but maybe in the future we will.

Chris: When you recorded "Between Clark and Hilldale", what effects were you using?

Gerry: We recorded that when we were doing Thirteen, basically we did a very, very faithful version of the song. The instrumentation was all there. So basically when we came to sing the song, it's such a hard vocal to achieve, Arthur Lee's vocal is so original, and it's really hard with a Scottish accent to try and sing that song. So, Brendan came up with the idea of running the whole track through a harmonizer and messing around with it. So, basically it was because none of us could do the vocal, it was just too unique to try and copy that kind of vocal. It's a great song, but it's one of the songs that probably should never be covered.

Chris: Who wrote the song "Goody Goody Gum Drops"?

Gerry: That was recorded by 1910 Fruitgum Company. They're from the very late '60s/early 70's, part of the whole bubblegum thing. It was [Jerry] Kasentez and [Jeff] Katz that was the writing team who was behind most of those bubblegum pop songs, and I think they wrote that song.

Chris: I wasn't sure if it was a cover or if it was an original...

Gerry: Oh no, it was a cover. It's a great song, if you ever see a 1910 Fruitgum Company record you should get it.

Chris: Is there any plans for a songbook for any of the albums?

Gerry: We've never ever thought about it. I know it's usually the publishing company that approaches bands about releasing songbooks, but we've never actually thought about it. It may be a good idea. If we're ever asked to do it then I'm sure we would.

Chris: Are of the members on the internet or ever get online?

Gerry: I don't think so. Raymond's girlfriend is very interested in computers and she teaches computing things. I wouldn't be suprised if she's been on the internet, but as far as I know none of us has ever accessed it at all.

Chris: The thing that I'm interviewing you for is something called a homepage on the internet. It's basically a site that anyone in the world can access with their computer and it has information about the band and stuff like that. Alot of these questions are things that people have emailed me about.

Gerry: Oh really? That's great.

Chris: I asked about the songbook because alot of us are trying to figure out the chords to your songs, and we're keeping a collection of them on the internet. You wouldn't mind telling me the chord progression for "Discolite" would you?

Gerry: Yeah, sure. The chords for "Discolite". It starts in C, then it's Dminor, then G, and it's C, then it's F, G. You can play either the F or the Dminor, but I think one of the guitars is tuned to F instead of Dminor. I think then it goes to C, Eminor, then it's Aminor, and G. Then it goes to F for the buildup for the chorus, then it's goes to the G just before the chorus. And the chorus is C, Dminor, F, and G. That's the chords for the chorus. And I think the bridge between the chorus and the next verse is like you hold a Dminor for a bit, it's like Dminor, F, G. And then it goes back into the verse again.

Chris: What about "Sparky's Dream"? Would you mind telling me that one?

Gerry: Well, it starts off with a twangy part at the start. That's kind of an A. The rest is F#minor to E to A. Once you get to the A, that's where the singing starts. So it's like F#minor, E, A, and the singing is like A to Bminor to D. It does that again, and then it goes to A, B, F#m, Bm, and then I think it goes back to the E again. It kind of repeats all that again for the second line of the verse, then there's a riff before the chorus, which it's not anything. I think the first note of that is like E. It goes from open E to open A to G#, or something like that. The part before the chorus is like an D chord followed by an A chord, and the chorus starts on the A. So, it's just kinda like a descending A chord. You hold the A chord, and you run down the lower E string. It's like A, and still hold the A shape, and put one of your fingers on the Eb, and thumb on the F#, to the E. Then you do the same with D. You go from D to the Db to the B to the A. And that's kinda like the "crystal ball" part, and the "wrong direction" part goes like D to E and it's F#m, A. It does that twice, and then coming out of that part you do...I think it goes to F#m. If you'll hold on a sec, I can go get a guitar.

Chris: Well, I could figure out the rest from that. I wasn't sure if it was in standard tuning or what. There were a couple of songs that were capoed up.

Gerry: There are quite a few that are. Two of my songs are capoed.

Chris: Which ones?

Gerry: "Going Places" is capoed on the second fret, and it starts in a G shape there. "Don't Look" back is capoed on the third fret, and the songs starts in a G shape, and the singing starts in a Am7 shape.

Chris: Do you just play bass, or do you play guitar on the album too?

Gerry: I play guitar on some of the tracks. Most of the time I just play bass. On "Going Places", Norman plays bass, and I play a Nashville tuned guitar, which is a kind of rhythmn track. On "Don't Look Back" I play a couple of things on that one on guitar. An acoustic on it and and I play an acoustic on "Sparky's Dream" as well.
Chris: What kind of guitars does the band prefer, any in particular?
Gerry: Norman usually uses a Gibson Les Paul Custom from the late '60s. Either a Les Paul or a Fender Musicmaster or Mustang. Raymond uses a Ephiphone Casino semi-acoustic. He uses a Guild, a Brian May copy. His favorite is probably a Fender Jaguar, which he's had for twelve years or so. It's like a 1962 Fender Jaguar. I usually use Fender basses - a Fender Jazz bass or a precision.

Chris: What kind of effects do you play your instruments through?

Gerry: Not really any effects. It's usually just a volume boost because we have some really old amps from the '70s and '60s that we play through. So a lot of the time the valves in those amps actually compensate for a lot of effects that people will buy in a pedal. So in a lot of those amps you just have to turn it up and it sounds like an amazing sort of fuzz sound or distorted sound instead of using some kind of cheap pedal for it.

Chris: I wasn't sure if you were using a fuzz face, or something like that.

Gerry: Sometimes I'll put my bass through a Turbo Rat. Not often, I used to do that years ago, but we've all kind of cleaned up our act. We used to play as loud as we could.

Chris: There's a picture of you with the Turbo Rat in Bandwagonesque.

Gerry: Yeah, that's right! The first time we played with Sonic Youth in 1990, it was Kim Gordon that was telling me that Turbo Rat pedals were the ones to buy. At that time, I wasn't sure what to buy, so it was Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth that put us on to that.

Chris: Do you plan to do any more concerts in the U.S. after your current tour with That Dog and Weezer?

Gerry: Yeah. I think we have another tour tentatively scheduled around October or November.

Chris: Will you be headlining these shows?

Gerry: Yeah, probably just maybe a short tour - just like two weeks or so. The only times we've ever been the states, we've headlined, and we've never really played to a large audience. Playing with Weezer will definitely allow us to play to a larger audience because they're so successful at the moment.

Chris: Will you be releasing any live tracks soon?

Gerry: Al (?) McGee who runs our label over here is always wanting us to release a live album, but we haven't gotten around to it yet.

Chris: I know every once in a while you've released some live tracks as b-sides, such as "Four Strong Winds" on the "Hang On" single.

Gerry: Oh yeah...Most of the live things we release are from radio sessions. I don't think we've ever released anything from a stage performance, like a live performance. Years ago, we used to record all of our live shows, but it was just too crazy to release - other things going on.

Chris: What's the band's stance on fans taping your shows?

Gerry: We all buy bootlegs ourselves, so we don't have any problems with that at all.

Chris: I remember reading in an interview that Norman said he owned some Orange Juice bootlegs...

Gerry: Listening to those are interesting. I like people taping it, but sometimes if they're really bad quality tapes for sale, people are getting ripped off.

Chris: I also noticed that Teenage Fanclub was thanked in the liner notes for the Big Star "Sister Lovers" CD and the Chris Bell "I Am the Cosmos" CD. Was there any specific reason for this?

Gerry: I can only guess it's because we spoke about Big Star when we were interviewed, and maybe it raised awareness in younger people as to who Big Star were.

Chris: I started listening to them after hearing the interviews...

Gerry: Oh, and do you like Big Star?

Chris: Oh, I love the albums. When I first heard Bandwagonesque, I thought it sounded more like the Byrds.

Gerry: Well, Big Star was influenced by the Beatles, and the Byrds, and Stones and soul music.

Chris: I noticed in a recent Spin article, they refered to you as being "the Hollies of the '90s".

Gerry: I haven't seen that but I heard of it. That's kind of weird. The Hollies had some great tracks, but I don't think any of us ever listened to them.

Chris: I know there's a Hollies tribute album coming out soon and I wasn't sure if you had any tracks on there. I know the Posies are on there...

Gerry: Oh yeah. We toured with the Posies for about two months. They're big friends of ours. We saw them play with Big Star as well. They're a great band. Do they have a new album coming out?

Chris: It's supposedly coming out next month. Ken and Jon are both on the internet and keep us posted on what's going on in the studio.

Gerry: That's great...

Chris: On "I'll Make It Clear", there was a break that sounded like something the band Jellyfish would have done, and I was wondering if you've ever listened to anything they've done?

Gerry: I know Jellyfish. I have two of their singles, and they're big friends with Redd Cross, and we've big friends with Redd Cross. To me, Jellyfish sounded like the Beatles or the Zombies, and I think the break in "I'll Make It Clear" is more of a Beatley thing from "Rubber Soul".

Chris: About an earlier single, "Everybody's Fool", there was a 7" released in the U.S. by Matador, and it said on there that the recording was "funded by the National Endowment for the Arts", and I was wondering if you could tell me anything about that?

Gerry: I think that is a [?] sense of humor. I haven't looked at that single, but I can remember that there were a few things in there that was just complete nonsense.

Chris: What's in the future for Teenage Fanclub?

Gerry: Well, basically we'll be touring until the new year. Privately, Norman is going to be a dad in December, and Paul will be a dad in December. After that, we'll probably take some time off and make another record.

Chris: I've been trying to compile a list of Teenage Fanclub's side projects. I know about the BMX Bandits, and I was wondering if you could give me any more information on the Boy Hairdressers. Did you release any singles?

Gerry: The Boy Hairdressers released one single.

Chris: "Golden Shower"?

Gerry: Yeah, that's it.

Chris: Was that only available as a 12"?

Gerry: Yeah, that's all we ever did.

Chris: How many songs were on that?

Gerry: Four songs.

Chris: Is that still in print?

Gerry: No, it was on a record label that was based in Edinburgh, in Scotland. Basically it folded about 1989.

Chris: What was the record company?

Gerry: It was called 53rd & 3rd. It was this guy called Stephan Pastels that was heavily involved. BMX Bandits were released on the same label, and so were the Vaselines. The two songs that Nirvana covered were both singles from 53rd & 3rd.

Chris: I picked up the Vaselines compilation CD...

Gerry: That was the same label. I think they licensed it to Sub Pop. It was released about 1988/89 over here, and the Vaselines split.

Chris: What about Olympic World?

Gerry: That's the Pastels really. Over the past year and half, I've been playing with the Pastels, and both myself and Norman played on their LP. I don't think it's been released in the states yet.

Chris: The only thing that I've heard about by Olympic World was the "Hot Wheels" single.
Gerry: Oh, "Hot Wheels". That was basically the Pastels, I don't think any of us were involved in the making of that single.

Chris: Are there other collaborations that I should keep an eye out for?

Gerry: Well, Norman and myself collaborated with Jad Feir, he used to be in a band called "Half Japanese", from the Hoboken area. It was just written as Jad Feir and the Pastels, and it was two singles. Both of them were recorded in their home town, and they recorded there. There was also the De La Soul thing. We collaborated with Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens. I think it was called...I can't remember. It was an old Motown soul track.

Chris: Was that the "Mine Exclusively"/"Patti Girl" single?

Gerry: That's the one. We also recorded Alex in our own studio. We have some unreleased collaborations.

Chris: Any chance of that be released?

Gerry: Well, it will come out eventually. We have a version of "Alcoholiday" with Alex singing, which is kinda good. We recorded a few different things, with a few things that recently appeared on Alex's new LP. We kinda worked them out and played with him years ago.

Chris: Did you appear on that album?

Gerry: No, we didn't actually appear on it, but just maybe the demos from that one. When he was over in Glasgow, we started messing around with these songs of Alex's, which recently appeared on the record, but we're not on the records. I can't remember. We've done a few things, but I can't remember much else.

Chris: Well, you wrote "Kylie's Got A Crush On Us", and I know there's a cassette out with a soundcheck version of it.

Gerry: Yeah, we recorded a live version of it and it was released with a magazine. I think it was Select.

Chris: I noticed the songwriting credits are usually given to one person. Does that one person write the whole song?

Gerry: The one person usually comes up with the basic idea, the basic structure. Once we bring it to the rehearsal room, the band usually embellishes the arrangement. The lyrics are always written by the person who sings it, the person who comes up with the basic idea.

Chris: I have that demo of "Discolite" released in the UK, and it sounded much rawer than the released version.

Gerry: That was recorded on a four track with a drum machine. That was probably the original demo for the song that I came up with.

Chris: Do you have plans for releasing any more of the demos?

Gerry: We don't have any plans at the moment, but if someone wanted to release them, we probably would. At this point in time, we don't have any notion to release any.

Chris: I personally like to hear how the song progressed.

Gerry: Oh yeah, they're great. I love hearing demos for songs.

Chris: About your new drummer, Paul Quinn, why exactly did Brendan O'Hare leave the group? I remember hearing intially that he left the group, but in more recent newspaper articles, Norman said that he was "sacked".

Gerry: Well that's the truth really. Brendan didn't really leave, he was more or less asked to leave. I think basically the reason as far as I know, it was felt that Brendan wasn't really interested in being a drummer. Brendan writes loads of songs, plays guitar, plays keyboards, plays anything that he can get his hands on. So after a few years, I don't think he was completely happy being behind the drum kit and being the drummer. It seems like he didn't have the same kind of commitment to his work as other people did. Who knows if he did? But it was felt that his drumming wasn't consistent enough. Paul had known Norman and Raymond for year. Paul had played with the Boy Hairdressers, back in 1987 or so.

Chris: Who else was in the Boy Hairdressers?

Gerry: A guy called Joe McAlinden, who is with a band called Superstar. They released an LP in the states. Joe was in BMX Bandits as well. A guy called Jim Lamby, who basically after the Boy Hairdressers split, went to art school and has since graduated and makes art. He doesn't really do much involved with music. A guy called Francis MacDonald also played with Boy Hairdressers. He was the drummer right before Paul, and Francis went on to play on our first LP. He also writes a lot with BMX Bandits, and is one of the main guys in BMX Bandits.

Chris: Do any of you plan to do any solo work?

Gerry: Not at the moment. We're too busy making records with Teenage Fanclub. If we had a break, maybe some of us would release something, but at the moment we don't have any plans for that whatsoever.

Chris: What all do you do when you're not in the studio recording? Do you hang out together?

Gerry: We don't hang out much. Everyone has their own things to do. If there's a band playing or an event going on, we all socialize and meet, but on a day to day level, we just relax and maybe read, listen to music.

Chris: What are some recent albums that you've got that you like?

Gerry: Let me think. I really like this band called Palace Brothers, and they're called Palace. They're on a label in Chicago called Drag City. I don't really know where they're from, but some of the guys are from the Boston area. They're an amazing band. There's an English group called Stereolab who are really good. I mostly buy old things, old records. But that are two new bands that are really good.

Chris: Well, I'm now out of questions. Thanks for your time...

Gerry: Where are you based?

Chris: I go to school in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Are you in Glasgow right now?

Gerry: Yeah. Do you know the band Velvet Crush?

Chris: Yeah, I love Velvet Crush.

Gerry: They're playing Glasgow tonight, so I'm just about to go and see them.

Chris: I thought "Teenage Symphonies to God" was a really good record.

Gerry: There were some great songs on that.

Chris: OK, well thank you...

Gerry: See you Chris...

Thanks to Gerry Love for the interview and Cybele Parsignault for setting it up.

cbray