The Black Lips are set to rock the House of Blues November 13th, and we got the chance to talk with bassist/vocalist Jared Swilley before the wild party.
Well, I’ve been listening to you guys for 6 years now, the first time I saw the Black lips was in 2012 at the Hard Rock Café in downtown San Diego. Can you tell me what you remember from that night?
Oh yeah! When that riot kind of went off? Well, it was my birthday, and it was so confusing in there. I didn’t totally know what was going on — I guess it was free to get in. I think there was an open bar, and I just remember the crowd started surging forward, barriers were getting pushed away, and I remember a bouncer unplugging my guitar. Sometimes, when you get bouncers like that — if they overreact — it creates this cycle of tension. One side keeps pushing the other; I think they had outside security who didn’t know how to handle that type of situation, and it just got a little out of control. I remember getting pretty rowdy too, and I got tackled by a bouncer. We were still allowed to stay at the hotel, and I think they even sent me a cake up to my room. The next morning, one of the receptionist was wearing a t-shirt that said “Support the Black Lips.” I thought that was funny since she worked there. For the most part, I think it was all just in good nature, kind of a misunderstanding.
Well, for me it was a night that changed my life, and I thought it was fitting you guys got cut off during the song “Short Fuse.” I remember that being the third song you guys played, and you guys didn’t let anyone fuck with you.
I think everyone had fun. When things like that happen, at least you have a better memory of it that’ll last a lot longer than a show that went smoothly. We still got cake!
Nice! Well, why don’t you tell me a little bit about your new LP, Satan’s Graffiti or Gods Art, which was produced by Sean Lennon? How did that even happen?
We actually met him through two records before that (Arabian Mountain). We were recording with Mark Ronson, and they’re childhood friends. He actually came in and played some Theremin on some things, and after that we just kept in touch. Cole, our guitarist, got invited up to his studio to put guitar tracks on this Fat White Family record. At that time, we didn’t have a label or anywhere to record, and Sean had a studio at his house. He said, “Why don’t you guys come up here?” so we just went up there and lived with him for a couple months, and wrote the new album out there. He really saved our ass — we didn’t have the money to pay for a studio, and at the 11th hour he came in.
What was it like recording this new album compared to the older ones?
Well, we’ve had a shifting line-up. I mean, Cole and I have always been in the band. It’s also the first time we’ve been engrossed in a record, because he lives way out in the middle of nowhere (an hour away from Woodstock, NY.) It was the first time we had an immersive experience like that. I didn’t have my phone, or my wallet for two months. I never knew what day it was, and we could go in the studio anytime we wanted. That was cool: shutting off everything else in the world and be 100 percent immersed in it.
Are there any other hobbies your into, or is it just music 24/7?
I’m a big history buff — I read a lot, I like to visit old museums. We have a lot of civil war history here in Atlanta, so I like to do stuff like that. I play on an amateur baseball team; I’ve been doing that for about ten years. We’re called the Atlanta Renegades. It’s hard ball, the only league I know. Well, I started it a long time ago, that’s what I do on Sundays. But, you know, music is a huge part of everything I do.
Most memorable concert you’ve ever attended?
The punk scene in Atlanta was pretty wild when I was a little kid, and I remember the first time my mom dropped me off. I know Agnostic Front was playing, and it wasn’t even bands I was really into — some of the other punk kids at my school were going. A riot kind of broke out, not really like what happened with us at the San Diego show. A lot of our fans aren’t big people, but at the Agnostic Front show it was a lot of big dudes and skinheads. I remember something happened with the club, and everyone started smashing the place up. I was 14 and pretty terrified. At the same time, I’m like, fuck; I was so scared but this is so awesome. I wasn’t a fan of the band at all, but I remember that being the first time I was scared at a show.
Was that one of the first concerts you attended?
Well, that was the first one I could buy a ticket to, but there were a lot of DIY shows before that. The biggest concert I had ever missed was in 7th grade I think, and all the kids I hung out with were in 9th and 10th grade. The Cramps were in town with Guitar Wolf and the Demolition Doll Rods. I wanted to go so bad — I got a ticket an everything — but my parents wouldn’t let me go. The next day at school, everyone was telling all these stories about it. To this day I never got to see The Cramps; I think that was the last time they were in Atlanta. They’re one of my favorite bands, and now I’ll never be able to see them. But that was my biggest missed show — still regretting that one. I think I was like 13, so I should kind of be ashamed.
Hah yeah, I feel ya. Well, I was actually going to bring this up too: I’ve been listening to a lot of Curtis Harding the last couple of days, and I noticed one of your songs on his Soul Power record, “I Don’t Wanna Go Home.”
Yeah yeah, I wrote that song for Curtis.
Oh, okay, then you guys also put it on the album Underneath the Rainbow?
Yeah, we did his version first; I didn’t know he was going to put it on his record. We were actually supposed to do a split with our version on one side, and his on the other. I got the artwork a while ago. I don’t know what happened to that actually — forgot about that. Yeah, I used to write with Curtis a bunch, and Cole actually wrote a song or two on that record, played some guitar on it. My little brother used to be his drummer too. We’re pretty tight with Curtis. He tours so much now; the last time I saw him we both happened to be in Berlin at the same time this summer. I don’t really see him in Atlanta, because we’re both touring a bunch. Curtis actually helped me build my house.
Wow, that’s pretty crazy.
Yeah he helped hang the drywall in my house.
Damn, I think he’s opening for Lenny Kravitz right now right?
Yeah he is. I was staying in Berlin for like a month, and he just so happened to be there, so I went to go see him open up for Lenny Kravitz there. Pretty cool. I think he’s doing the states, too. I think they’re buddies now.
Any advice for someone wanting to play music for a living?
Well, honestly, never try planning on being rich, but if you really, really want to do it, be prepared to eat shit for a long time and be okay with it. People that want to make a career out of it — I know it’s really hard — you’re going to go through an X amount of time of homelessness. It’s a really bad financial decision to make, so you have to really, really, really want to do that, and be prepared to sacrifice everything, whether it’d be money, relationships, your time, all that stuff. There has to be a labor of love, and you really have to be fully committed. Things have probably changed now. Maybe it’s easier, with the Internet and stuff like that. Maybe it’s harder — I don’t know. Some of the most talented people I know haven’t been able to make anything of it; some people who I don’t think are very talented they, ya know. It’s the combination of determination — stupid determination — luck, and timing. There’s really no rhyme or reason for it.
Well, thanks for talking man, it was definitely a pleasure. I love your music, and how it turns everyone into wild people
Well, that’s what we’re here to do.
Interview by: Nicholas Regalado