High as a kite with the Violent Femmes

High as a kite with the Violent Femmes

God willing I’ll be able to pull this off, literally since it’s going to take a fucking miracle to get this interview. Since I haven’t gotten it yet I won’t say who but I’m sitting here at the studio/coffee shop two hours early hoping to get 5 minutes.

I do not need this 7th cup of coffee.

I’ve been up since 5 am. My apartment was built in 1903, before air conditioning. Even naked and with a fan on it’s hard to sleep. Harder when you wake up a half dozen times checking your email to see if the band is going to do it. If nothing else the bass player did respond to my request and asked for the questions. I had em emailed back in 45 minutes. I haven’t heard back since.

So here I sit….

I’m tired and high and wired and really don’t want to deal with the crowd but at the same time, this interview would increase my credibility as a writer tenfold. Yes, it’s a fucking big deal to get this. So now I sit and wait. If I had more than $5 I’d bribe the sound guy but something about ethics. Honestly, it’s just because I’m too broke.

Update, some bitch just brought her two kids a pizza from down the street. Even bought herself a coke. As a Chef, this shit infuriates me but this isn’t my coffee shop. If I say anything than I’m the asshole and things like this tend to escalate quickly when I’m in this state of mind. I don’t need to get kicked out before the show. Fuck this bitch and fuck her kids. My only hope is that a member of the staff says something and she snaps. Then I can step in and stand up for the shop though they probably don’t give a fuck.

I caved and emailed them again. Surprisingly the bass player got back and said he would send me the answers. I told him that I was at the studio and would wait as long as needed and so I am.  

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the one, the only, the fucking VIOLENT FEMMES!!!!

It was a short but sweet set and the drummer, I shit you not, was playing a Weber grill. This is not a typo, he was playing the top of a grill, and it sounded great. While a lot of bands get stale with age, these guys still play like they’re on the street corner trying to get gas money to get to the next town. They don’t take themselves seriously and neither should you.

Once the performance was over I stepped out for a smoke and was lucky enough to catch up with Bass player Brian Richie and, much to my surprise he remembered emailing with me and promised to get a response to my interview questions and thus, here you go…

CulinaryAnarchy:First off, why did you guys decide to go back out on the road?

Brian Ritchie: Coachella Festival has a gimmick of inviting bands that are split up to reform and play in the desert. They tried it out on us about 4 years ago and we went along with it for laughs. Once we re-engaged with our audience Gordon and I decided to keep it going. Since then we’ve released an EP, LP and double LP, so it has been a fertile period for both recording and touring. We have always been a powerful live band but the new lineup with John Sparrow on percussion and Blaise Garza on sax is the tightest version of the Femmes yet. It’s gratifying to be at the same thing for 36 years and still be able to tweak it and make improvements.

CA: What is the strangest thing you have eaten on the road?

BR: Food is quite a big part of touring. I decided early on to focus on food rather than some of the other distractions musicians fall prey to. The strangest thing I’ve eaten on the road would be a choice between whale, crocodile, emu, frog, turtle, snail, sea slugs, fermented bee larvae, green ants, dragonflies, scorpions, earthworms, rotten hare, spleen, brains. Just for starters.

Let’s say fermented bee larvae.

CA: I saw you guys play 11 years ago in Virginia Beach and was blown away by the energy of the show, how do you keep it up and is it ever hard to get excited?

BR:We get buzzed by the energy of the crowd, especially the youngsters therein. Today, as you saw, we had many pre-teens which is so gratifying. My motto is always play as if it’s your last gig, because it might be. You also never know when your music might change somebody’s life. It’s a big responsibility.

CA: Do you ever have days that you’re like “Screw this, I’m tired?”

BR: I don’t have a schedule. I have numerous activities. So if it needs to be done, I just do it and try to bring as much energy as possible. A professional musicians knows how to summon reserve energy even in stressful conditions.

CA: Who’s been your biggest non-musical influence?

BR: My whole life revolves around music. My wife Varuni has been my biggest non-musical influence because she is a natural anti-depressant. She keeps me upbeat. She’s always smiling.

CA: Who would win in a fight between the Power Rangers and the Ninja Turtles?

BR: I was never into Power Rangers but I vicariously lived the Ninja Turtles through my son Silas back in the 90’s. At that time he called them teenat mutant linger turtles. So my vote is Turtles.

CA: What’s your go-to comfort food?

BR: I love to eat every kind of food imaginable but simple things like cheese and crackers are my comfort food.

CA: What performer have you seen live that blew away your expectations?

BRI am the Music Curator at Mona (Museum of Old and New Art) in Tasmania.

www.mona.net.au  www.mofo.net.au

This means I’m constantly being blown away by amazing musicians. The performer who amazed me the most recently is Kate Tempest. I think she is the shining light of the new generation. She’s a poet, playwright, rapper and totally committed.

CA: Is there anyone who you would still like to perform with?

BR:  I was irritated when they did not call me to replace John Entwistle in The Who. I would have loved to play with them. But the top of my list would be to play in a reformed version of The Kinks. I also wanted to play with the great Dutch drummer Han Bennink but he rebuffed my request. What a knob!

CA: How has the creative process changed for you over the past 30+ years?

BR: Always looking for new things to do and new ways of doing the old things better. The most important thing is to try to create a better world through creativity. You have to open yourself up to do that. In the beginning, a musician tries out what they can do. Later on it’s what you must do or should do. I think about other people and the ripple effect a lot more now than I did in the beginning. My field of vision is much wider and more multi-faceted.

CA: If you could go back and give yourself one bit of advice before you guys made it big, what would it be?

BR: In a business sense our biggest mistake, perhaps, was not setting up our own record label. It would have been better to have independence on that front. From a musical perspective, I wish I had learned how to properly read music. That is still a problem that I have to confront on a semi-regular basis.


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