Grant Lee Phillips' comments on Nineteeneighties
Was the notion of putting together an album of these covers something that had
been percolating for you for awhile, or was it a lightning bolt, “A-ha!”
sort of thing?
A: It was probably something that had been brewing for a while. I’m definitely a fan of all the songs that I covered. Little by little, I’ve learned a few more chords to the songs, a few more lyrics, and I actually began throwing some of the songs into my set a few years back. It was a pretty organic process. That’s kind of my aim, as I look down the road into the future: to tackle various projects like this, or in different genres altogether, in addition to putting out records of my own material.
Q: It must be exciting, too, to think that you may be introducing some of these bands to a few listeners. Maybe not R.E.M. or the Pixies, but a band like The Psychedelic Furs probably has slipped past a few radars, especially for the younger generations.
A: Yeah, I guess that’s true. By and large, the album struck a nerve for those of us who lived and survived to tell the story of the ‘80s (laughs) and who recall this music as much more important and much more a representation of our experience than the Billboard charts would indicate. That’s a fascinating thing, I think, knowing how people are so aggressively marketed. But you could find an entirely different selection of albums that meant as much to you, even though they weren’t forced down your throat. That’s somewhat what this album collection is - songs by bands that were alternative before there was a name for it.
A: Were there any songs that you knew you wanted to do on Nineteeneighties that didn’t make the cut for whatever reason?
Q: [David Bowie’s] “Ashes to Ashes” was an important song to me when it came out. I covered it maybe five years ago, but it just didn’t make sense in the context of this album. I’ve since gone back and recorded it with a string quartet, and it makes more sense like that. For whatever reason, an album demands to be what it’s going to be, and unfortunately - well, fortunately - I only have so much say about it. They’re like living things. (laughs) You can prune them or chomp them down, but they have a way about them.
A: Did you approach any of the original artists and ask for blessings, or is that simply a label-and-publisher affair?
Q: I think the plumbing had long been laid out. I believe I did tell Robyn Hitchcock that I was wanting to do his song. Meanwhile, the rest of it is kind of a formality, I think - not a formality among the artists, but the label. There’s some sort of formula for that, which is good, because it ensures that the original artists get compensated for their work, but it also allows for the interpretations. I think it’s a good idea, especially these days when we’re so wasteful with everything. We should at least try to get a few more miles on our songs. (laughs) Mileage per song, that’s the issue.
Source: The Red Alert, Interview by Adam McKibbin, 8 August 2006
1. WAVE OF MUTILATION
"That's just a favorite song to begin with. I love The Pixies and that's just one of the few songs of theirs I can play. Most are so schizophrenically put together that I couldn't begin to work them out." Source: UGO.com, July 2002