Monday, July 13, 2009

Pheaturing Graham Parker


Hey there, welcome to the 250th entry of the Peverett Phile. Two hundred and fifty. Man, that's a lot of time wasted at my computer. It beats looking at porn... or does it? The Phile is a proud sponsor of and Autism is reversible. Today's special guest is the one and only Graham Parker, and it is such an honor to have him here on the Phile.
Bernie Madoff is in prison for 150 years. He has hired a prison consultant... I believe it's Martha Stewart. Good news for his wife, Ruth Madoff. They returned her passport. Earlier today, she flew off to Argentina with Gov. Sanford. How about Kim Jong Il? Shooting off missiles and scaring everybody... he made a rare appearance the other day. Here's what happened: He saw the shadow of his hair and went back in his hole. People who watch him said he looked ill and haggard. In fact, a headline read, "Kim Jong Il, Ill." Sarah Palin is no longer the governor of Alaska. It looks like she may get her own TV program. And I was thinking, “I don’t know... she seems pretty camera shy...” Man, that's one person I would love to interview. Most people know me know I do not like bugs, animals or anything like that. So, imagine what I think about this five foot spider that was found on our patio.

Actually, it's not that big, my wife just has an amazing camera. But look at that thing. It looks like it has a human face.

Phact 1: A person will burn 7% more calories if they walk on hard dirt, as opposed to pavement.
Phact 2: Americans spend more than $13 billion per year on intimate apparel.
Phact 3: Ulysses S. Grant died of throat cancer. He smoked about 20 cigars per day for most of his life.
Phact 4: In Hebrew, "golem" means "undeveloped lump."
Phact 5: James Ritty, an American restaurant owner, invented the first practical cash register in 1879. A bell rang each time the cash drawer was opened to help reduce theft.

First, Entertainment Weekly is reporting that Cameron Diaz is in talks to play the female lead in The Green Hornet. Her reps declined to comment. She'd be a natural against Seth Rogen, that's for sure. I still don't even know what to make of this project, but I do want it to get underway so I can judge it with a little less of a kneejerk reaction. Spider-Man 4 has a new writer, says The Hollywood Reporter. Gary Ross has been brought on to do a rewrite. Ross has worked with Tobey Maguire before on Seabiscuit and Pleasantville, and is collaborating with him on Toyko Suckerpunch. He's the third screenwriting heavyweight to tackle it, as James Vanderbilt and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire have both tried to crack the web-spinner. Should we start seeing red flags? Or will the combo of Vanderbilt, Ross, and Lindsay-Abaire make something Shakespearean out of Spider-Man? Edgar Wright told Omelete that he's eager to return to Ant-Man, and plans to return to the erstwhile Avenger once Scott Pilgrim is done. "Ant Man is something that I need to return to. I wrote a draft before Scott Pilgrim started and it's kind on back burner slightly just because I've been busy with this. But it's something that I have got to return to. I have to do another draft after Scott Pilgrim is done... When you come away from something it's good and fun to rework what you've already done. But I'm very happy with the first draft and we need to get back into business."
Marc Guggenheim once hinted there might be a Superman cameo in The Green Lantern. He couldn't tell the Splash Page whether or not it still exists, but he did reveal that you can't really believe any rumor you hear about the Emerald Knight. "Honestly, it changes on a daily basis. Whatever information I gave you today would be obsolete in a week, and maybe come back again in two weeks. And even if it wasn't in flux at the script stage, it would still be constantly in flux because you can film it, put it in the original cut, and eventually it could end up on the editing room floor... I will say, all the Easter Eggs and the cameos that I put in, I couldn't even begin to predict at this point which ones will stay and which ones will go. I'll be as interested as anyone else to see what we end up keeping and losing by the time the picture is actually locked... and that's pretty far away from now." An anonymous source told Comics2Film that Stephen Norrington's remake of The Crow isn't going to be a remake after all. It's a "very different from the original - a whole new story about a whole new character." Norrington already promised a whole new take when the news was announced in December, insisting it would shy away from Alex Proyas' Gothic gloom. "Whereas [Alex] Proyas' original was gloriously gothic and stylized, the new movie will be realistic, hard-edged and mysterious, almost documentary-style." I doubt that'll pacify the fanbase who doesn't even want to see it touched, though...

This is very exciting. Today's a British rock singer and songwriter who is best known as the lead singer of popular British New Wave band Graham Parker & the Rumour. He'll be playing on July 24th at The Record Collector in Bordentown, NJ. Please welcome to the Phile... Graham Parker.

Me: Hello, Graham, welcome to the Phile. I have to kiss ass and say that this is the biggest honor. When I started out doing the Phile Interviews last December I wrote down five names of people I must interview and yours was number one. So, thanks again. Anyway, how are you?

Graham: Hi Jason, I’m doing fine. Plenty of solo shows keeping me busy.

Me: Thanks for sending me a copy of your new CD "Carp Fishing On Valium - The Songs". Is this a CD you have been planning on releasing for a while?

Graham: I recorded the songs on my Sony Walkman Pro cassette recorder back in 2000 and sent a copy to John Howells, my website manager, for his amusement. He sent it back to me in CD format mere months ago and asked if I’d like it out on the site. I thought both the performances and the sound — tape hiss notwithstanding — were good enough and so gave the go ahead.

Me: The book version came out in 2000, right? I love your writing style, Graham. Is writing a book relaxing for you? Does it come easier then writing songs?

Graham: Yes, the book came out and Alan Pepper, who used to run the Bottom Line in New York, suggested I write songs to go with the stories. I came up with a bunch of songs and then went on tour with it to promote the book. I would read about a 15 minute section from each story and then do the song based on it. Some people loved it, others were tearing their hair out! Quite challenging for both the audience and performer, I must say. As for writing books, as I was telling everyone who would listen at the time: Writing books is men’s work, writing songs is for boys. Talk about tough. Even a short story has a whole wider arc to keep track of, let alone a novel. A song is generally on a page, two at most, in front of you. Easy to keep track of. Easy to see how crappy the second verse is and re-write it. With 20 pages of stuff it is not so easy at all to keep track of it, stylistically, or any other way. I enjoyed the flow of writing the stories, which came out with ease, but then you really have to re-write much of it. Really knock it into shape which can take forever. No, I think for the most part I’ll stick with my day job, thanks.

Me: You had another book out called "The Other Life of Brian". I haven't read that one, sir. Is it a sequel to "Carp..." or a whole new set of stories?

Graham: This is a novel. The narrator is still Brian Porker, however. Most of it was actually written before the “Carp” stories but I was on such a roll I kept writing and out came the short stories. As I was writing them I thought that I was finally finding my voice and that perhaps the novel should be put on the back burner and worked on again later. “Brian” is a hoot, though. Not as good as the short stories, but if you liked them you’d probably enjoy “Brian.”

Me: You do a lot of writing on your website as well as your own blogspot page. Ever think about writing an autobiography?

Graham: I think I prefer to aspect certain areas of my life in fiction, as I did with both the short stories and the novel. It’s much more fun to take a tiny slice of real life experience and then surround it in lies! Because it’s fiction, it’s legitimate! I don’t feel important enough or interesting enough to write an autobiography. Seems a bit of a puffed up idea to me.

Me: Thanks for releasing so many live 'bootlegs' on you website over the years. Is that something you enjoy putting out, and will you keep doing it? By the way, I just purchase the latest one that was done in '75. The only other band that I know that does that, which hurts my wallet is The Barenaked Ladies. What do you think of them?

Graham: As long as we get enough varied and usable materiel to work with, we’ll most probably keep putting them out. Or until they stop selling completely. I think that might put a stop to it! I’ve heard a bit of the BNL’s but was not particularly impressed with what I heard. I may not have heard enough though.

Me: I interviewed a gentleman you know... Mike Gent... and he asked me to ask you if you would want to do an acoustic studio album with the Figgs. So, I promised I would ask you that. Whatcha think?

Graham: Mike asks me a question like that every other week! Tell him I’d like the Figgs to suddenly become really huge and then I could open for them doing 45 minutes solo and they could pay me way too much cos they’re fans of mine. That would work for me.

Me: Would there ever be a chance that you would do a Rumour reunion album or tour? By the way, I always grin at the rumour line in "Canned Laughter".

Graham: Well spotted on that line! I think the best reason for old bands to reunite is to make a shitload of money. I can’t see any other good reason. Me and the Rumour got as far as 2 to 3 thousand seaters at best, playing those with a six piece band and a crew and all the rest of the expenses would mean I’d be ponying up for it. Besides that, we all grew up and have lives now. And my singing voice is a totally different animal these days. I could certainly adjust it a little and do a pale comparison of that horrid screeching I did back then but why would I want to? If we’d reached the commercial level of say, the Police, and I could make a ton of money touring, I’d most certainly do it. But that is not the case. There’s plenty of footage of us showing that on a good night we were one of the best rock ‘n’ roll bands ever to take to the boards. Best to leave it at that.

Me: I hope you don't mind that when I post jokes on my Phile it's under the Canned Laughter banner.

Graham: Ha! Nice.

Me: Graham, I know you love the old soul, Stax records? Is there any bands that are current you are into now?

Graham: The best soul singer and writer since the sixties is Amy Winehouse. At least on “Back To Black.” There’s nothing else even close. She’ll probably not be able to follow it up with anything anywhere near as good, though. Moving away from soul music, I just heard an amazing singer/songwriter named Neal Gomberg. He opened for me recently and my jaw dropped a little at the quality of his songs. He’s 55 and apparently started writing songs when he was 50! And I saw Theresa Andersson on youtube and was similarly impressed. Check her out. Also, that Fiest album is very good.

Me: Over the years you have thrown in songs from Billy Idol, Nirvana, Oasis, and many more into your sets. How do you pick which songs you're gonna cover? And if you were gonna cover a Foghat song, what would it be?

Graham: I can’t give a definitive answer to your question. It’s just a gut instinct, a vague idea that my audience will enjoy the choice, and a love for the song, or at least a strong feeling that it’s a song I could really get my teeth into and make mine. I just find myself strumming these tunes with vague and small amounts of the reasons above running through my head, then I do them live for a while and soon often forget I even did them. I remember the Foghat hits but they might be too obvious. By the way, did you know we opened for them a couple of times? In Toledo on Monday 12/6/76 and the next day in Erie, PA, according to the “Struck By Lightning” website’s gig list page. This is the first year of my touring career. I can’t recall a thing about these shows which is probably a good thing. The ones I remember are for acts like Journey, Skynard and Blue Oyster Cult where we had an entire audience of thousands of young men shouting “Fuck Off English Faggots!” at us. Although, judging by the location of these shows, you’d think the reaction would have been similar. Also, I used to see Savoy Brown often around 1968/69 in the Surrey area.

Me: Years ago you opened for U2 for one show, right? How did that happen? What is your favorite show you ever did?

Graham: Me and the Figgs were on tour and on our way up to Baltimore to play a venue when my agent called the tour manager and said that someone in the band opening for U2 (Garbage) was ill and couldn’t appear and someone from the U2 camp had noticed we were coming to the vicinity. Our show was at a club and scheduled for 11PM so we had time to arrive at the Enormodome and open for U2 at around 8PM. We killed, too. There’s too many good shows to nail one special gig down.

Me: Was your worst the one at the Milk Bar in Jacksonville?

Graham: Well, I certainly think that playing in front of ten thousand out of date morons in Flint, MI opening for Journey was up there with the worst! But yes, Jacksonville was a total misfire. Playing to two couples and a mental defective and watching a fight break out, especially when you’re in the 25th year of your career, is not something that a fragile, drug addict artiste could survive without a suicide attempt. You have to have your shit together to keep going after a night like that.

Me: I read a few years ago you wanted to put a DVD out of your history or a concert, sir. Is that something you still might do?

Graham: Someone has been making a documentary about me since the year 2000. There was one time when I didn’t hear from him for an entire year and I was hoping that it was gonna go away. But no, it’s still being made. This is being done by the folks who did “The End Of The Century,” the Ramones documentary. In fact, I heard they were still interviewing some artist the other day. It’s still being made. Snore…

Me: Okay, the Beatles or the Stones?

Graham: Both. OK, an edge to the Stones as far as influencing my work. Quite a big edge.

Me: Jon Tiven did a Graham Parker tribute album. Did you know he was doing it? Did you like it? What was it called?

Graham: That must be “Piss & Vinegar.” Some guy out of Hackettstown, NJ had a little label called Buy Or Die Records and did this tribute that was stuffed full of acts nobody’s heard of, apart from Frank Blank and Pat Dinizio. It was OK, especially a version of “Black Honey” by a guy named Neal Casal. I thought that fella was going places but I never heard about him again.

Me: Graham, you don't live in England anymore, right? I was born in Balem, London (Gateway to the South) but lived in Putney. Where is Deepcut in relation and where do you reside now?

Graham: Deepcut is about 35 or 40 miles southwest of London. The A30 takes you down to Bagshot and you go a bit past there and hang a left. Or take the M3. It’s not far from Camberley, Guildford, and Aldershot, the Home Of The British Army. I grew up in the country and am still a wildlife freak, so there are similarities to where I reside now, which is in upstate New York (although there aren’t any mountains in Surrey!). I spent much of my time as a kid studying birds, reptiles, amphibians… the list goes on. This part of the world up here is marvelous for an observer of the natural world so it’s perfect for me. Just today, I was stalking wood ducks along the woodland stream on my land and had a nice visit from a towhee. Paradise.

Me: A friend wanted to ask you if you would ever consider doing an album of duets. I think you and Glenn Tilbrook would sound excellent together.

Graham: I don’t seek this stuff out but don’t rule it out either. It needs a mover and a shaker to put the right people together and I’d certainly consider it.

Me: Have you seen or heard of this Tex Skerball on youtube? Some people say its you. Is it?

Graham: Tex? A real phenomenon. Probably a genius and the only serious political writer working the scene. But a bit of a recluse it seems. He appears to be keeping his profile exclusively to youtube and try as I might, I can’t convince him to come and open for me anywhere. So I occasionally cover one of his tunes onstage.

Me: Any plans on a new album, sir?

Graham: I’m writing a bit. I’m always secretive about when I’m recording, however. I don’t even tell my record company until I’ve finished the record, then I send it to them and ask them to reimburse me what it cost to make. I like this arrangement.

Me: Graham, I have like a hundred more questions to ask you, but I think this is a shit load already. Once again thank you and I hope I asked some good stuff. If not, let me know, and I hope to interview you again. Please let me know if there's anything I can do. All the best to you and your family.

Graham: Thanks, Jason. Best to you, too.


There you go. The 250th entry of the Phile with my favorite interview to date. Thanks to Graham, John Howells from and Joseph Swank for helping to set up this interview. The Phile will be back on Friday with singer Tyler Summers. Now I am gonna take Logan to his guitar lessons. So, until Friday, spread the word, not the turd.

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