Boston Groupie News-Issue #29
The interview starts out with this:
Note: Since this interview in December of '81 The Neats have; Just put out a fabulous 7 song EP on Ace of Hearts Records called "The Monkeys' Head in the Corner of the Room" The songs are "Red and Grey" ,"Same", "Lies", "Ring Ring" , "Tonight" , "The Monkey's Head" and "Tonight". They now plan to do some touring 'as far as we can go" and hopefully to the West Coast this summer. There are plans to return to the studio in October if not before and all the members of the band have new jobs, except for Eric….Terry "hauls beer cases" at a liquor store, Jerry is now making picture frames and Phil has developed a wonderful tan at his new landscaping job.
BGN- When all four of got together for the first time did it sound like it does now?
EM- No, the first song we ever played together was "Gloria". It was the only song we all knew…none of us knew how to play! Well, Phil knew how to play guitar. He's been playing for a long time.
Phil- And Eric, you hardly played guitar then, you were playing harmonica.
Terry- Jerry had been playing bass for about a year then.
BGN- Two of you come from Pennsylvania right?
PC- Terry and I come from Pittsburg.
BGN- Why did you come to Boston?
PC- Like a lot of other people we came here to go to school.
PC- Boston Architectural Center. Actually we were just enrolled there….
TH- It sounded like a cool thing to do. But it turned out not to be so cool.
BGN- So you're college drop outs?
TH- We never technically dropped out, we just never went.
EM- I came from Connecticut. I had gone to school in Virginia for one year for I don't know what reason…so I came up here and moved in with a friend who knew Phil and Terry from the Architects Collaborative. Later I worked there so that's how we m et. Then a year later, Jerry who used to be my neighbor in Connecticut moved up here. I got a hold of him, I didn't even he was playing bass at the time. I hadn't seen him in a while, and he came over and that's basically how it started.
TH- We were basically fucking around. We had half a drum set, one amplifier. I played drums to counteract Phil's guitar playing. I figured if he was gonna make noise, so was I!
BGN- What date was this all happening?
PC- About August of '79.
TH- Our first gig was in December.
BGN- How'd your name come about?
EM- I was working at TAC and wrote down a list of names while I was cutting wood in a room so one of the names was Cutting Wood.
TH- We thought about The Bloody Truths for a while.
PC- Yeah and The Exacto Knives. What came out to be was there was the list that Eric had come up with and I was reading through them and I saw one of them and said "What's this; The Newts?"
EM- It's funny 'cause our second gig was at Cantone's and we rushed to the paper to see our name in the paper and it said "The Meats"!
TH- We almost gave it up right there.
BGN- So, besides "Gloria" what were some of the songs
EM- Our first sort of original song we did was a sort of mix up of spy songs called "Spy Collage"
PC- Secret Agent Man, Goldfinger…one of our first songs with vocals was "Phnom Phen".
BGN- You basically never did covers then?
EM- We did a couple. Sometimes well do "You're Gonna Miss Me" by The Thirteenth Floor Elevators.
TH- We did "green Onions" for a while.
PC- We did a few I don't' ever want to admit to. We had a lot of filler for our first gig. We never really practiced for it. This friend of ours said "Hey you guys want to back up another band for a party?" so we said yeah.
EM- But it was at the Dorchester Yacht Club and it was pretty big, there were a lot of people there.
BGN- How did it sound different from the way you
PC- It was heavier.
EM- More grinding but the basic feel was there.
BGN- It seems like a sound that really developed.
TH- Yeah, it was the music we were listening to, the music we were playing and the sort of instruments we were playing.
BGN- Yeah, you're really big on the Vox instruments.
JH- It makes a difference. A Vox bass has a more atmospheric sound. There's something tp the instruments. They're sort of antiquated sounds. These sounds haven't been heard in 20 years. We can convert the sound that they were originally used for to our own means. We can take the best qualities of the '60's garage or '60's psychedelic sounds and out them to our own use.
BGN: It's too bad a lot of people peg you as just
a 60's band.
EM- Yeah!! A lot f our stuff isn't that….I can't think of one song we do that's a straight blues progression. What the Lyres are doing is great and they do it well with their blues progressions and real power but the guitar sounds are a lot different than our guitar sounds.
PC- Our sound is still developing though. I think it changes monthly almost. I change my amp settings every time I play out just about. You always have to develop.
BGN- When did you realize you were really getting
your sound together?
EM- Well we did a couple gigs, The Yacht Club and Cantone's. We played Cantone's like once or twice a month then we took off the summer before last and that's when we started to come up with our sound. We practiced a lot.
BGN- When did you start with the open strings?
PC- I sort of always have. I don't' usually bar across the strings, for one thing it's very hard. I could never do it.
BGN- Terry, what sort of thing are you going for
when you play the drums?
TH- I'm always trying to play with Jerry as much as I can, not just to keep the beat. And he plays a lot more bass than most bass players so that tends to make my drumming sound fast.
BGN- Jerry, what about your playing bass?
Jerry- When I first started to play the bass I talked to Dan Salsmann who was The Maps' bass player. I asked him what he was trying to do when he played and he said he tries to follow the vocal lines, so I started thinking along those same terms a little. The melody for the lyrics can travel over the bass more effectively a lot of the times.
BGN- What are some of your song lyrics?
EM- "Ashes to ashes, black to white, up from the middle if you could leave tonight and think of things that made it day. Blue green and yellow, red and grey, red and grey"
BGN- what the hell does that mean??
EM- There's got to be some significance there.
Jerry- When we find it we'll let everyone know!
BGN- How did the song "Six" come about?
Jerry- Well, I remember…sort of remember…I had this bass line and I was trying to figure out how many times to do it so I asked terry "Gee, how many times should I do this?" and he said "Do this six times"
EM- And it was the day your friend Dean came over and he had been to the Science Museum and had those buttons the give you with the little sixes on them. We went up to the living room and started thinking of the lines.
Jerry- We tried to get as many sixes in there as we could. "Six" and "Do the Things" are my favorite songs because they tell people things to do. Sometimes I feel a rapport with the crowd, I feel like I'm talking to them.
BGN- What about your recording history? Right now
you've only got four of your songs on tape, right?
EM- Yeah, "DO the Things" was the first tape we ever did. That was in June of 1980.
BGN- Is this the same tape that ended up on the propeller
TH- Same one.
EM- it was the first time we ever recorded. That's the first notes and everything.
BGN- Before things did start to pick up for you did
you ever think "Wow, this isn't going to work!"?
TH- I never thought about it working 'til it did.
EM- There are always nights when we'd think "Oh God, what the fuck are we doing here?" but we were always good friends and it was something to do.
BGN- What about Rick Harte?
EM- It's great! Rick's gonna produce our next single. We should start work on it in January.
BGN- What did you think when he approached you with
TH- Before he offered he would say things like "that guitar sound you guys have would really be hard to get down on tape." He'd throw out hints.
Jerry- That's the hardest part, when people who can book shows or put you down on vinyl come up and compliment you. It's so hard not to strain at the reigns. You just go "Geez, shucks….boy, I'd like the work with you. Can I give you a ride home?" But this is really a relief!
BGN- Is this gonna be a 45 or an EP?
EM- You know, sort of like the Mission of Burma thing…I'd really like to put out six strong songs.
BGN- But why do I detect displeasure at the Propeller
TH- There wasn't anything bad about it, it just wasn't going along and when the record came out we were having benefit after benefit.
EM- When you have that many people shouting about everything….like just to get the cover out, no one could agree on anything even down to the colors. The last night we picked straws to see who would pick the colors.
Jerry- The first cover design they had I stole and hid 'cause I didn't' want it to be used.
BGN- Let's talk about day jobs.
Jerry- Well, I do freelance design work, mostly. I just finished a project for an MIT geology professor and I do book covers for a geology publishing house.
TH- I work for a Boston car dealership in the service department telling people, lying to people about what's wrong with their cars.
EM- I work at Rounder Records doing receiving and inventory. It's interesting.
PC- I sort of pick up whatever I can find. Now I'm working for an MIT graduate student. I'm sort of helping him with is thesis on architecture.
BGN- What was the best gig you ever did?
PC- Maybe the Underground closing gig, that was a great one.
EM- It was incredible. It was in slow motion almost. The whole place fell apart in like five minutes through this one song.
TH- Someone took the ceiling tile and jammed it into the fan. It was like it was snowing. The mix on the tape is weird 'cause the microphone got buried in the rubble. You can hear someone stepping on one and grinding it in.
EM- it was done on a four track, one line was off the board for the vocals but the other mikes were up in the ceiling so once that came down that was it. There were wires falling down and sparking! There could have been a fire, it was unbelievable!!
BGN- What was your worst gig?
PC- Canterbury's. We did a gig there with Pastiche and had a 60/40 split on thirty-five dollars.
BGN- Do you all live
in this house together?
EM- We did but Jerry moved out in August.
BGN- Hey, like wow man, a real commune atmosphere
PC- Oh please! Not at all!!
EM- You wouldn't believe how UNcommunal it is. It's like, anything that goes in the refrigerator: "Who stole my beers!!??" or "Damn it, I had a jar of peanut butter in there!!" You can look at it, there's nothing in there!
BGN- I hope you've worked out your toilet paper situation!
EM- It's never there.
PC- That's why we like to play The InnSquare Men's Bar, they keep their rolls of toilet paper in the band's room!
CLICK to see the page on the Neats gig at Church on 12/28/2009