Sunday, April 18, 2010


One of the worst interview questions that can be asked is "What are your influences?" It's a bad question because it draws attention away from the interview subject, it's unnatural, and it forces the interview into a formal exercise, instead of a conversation. In other words, it actually makes it harder to understand the interview's subject. Yet, what could be more important for understanding an artist than knowing where they draw inspiration? So, is it more important to understand the artist, or is it more important to know them?
Well, you'll note I'm not doing interviews on this blog, and with a little digging, you'll find that I have done my share of music journalism, so I'd like to take enough credit to say that I have made a choice- I think it's more important for me as a fan to understand the Artist than to know the people. I mean, consider this- I cannot talk with Joe Strummer. He's dead. I cannot know John Mellor, the man who created Joe Strummer. But, I can understand the Artist known as Joe Strummer, and one way to do that is to know where he drew inspiration from.
Sometimes, influences are crucial. One of my favorite bands from the old Los Angeles punk scene would be TSOL. One listen to them, and you can hear a similarity to the Damned . So, why don't I just listen to the Damned? Because on the one hand, Jack, TSOL's singer, clearly is just as influenced by lounge/Easy listening music as he is by rock music. He sings like he's been on a Burt Bacharach bender as much as Dave Vanian (the Damned's singer) sings like Jim Morrison. But, on the other hand, Ron, TSOL's guitarist, clearly has listened to Johnny Thunders, a lot. Easily as much as Captain Sensible listened to Daevid Allen in the Soft Machine. It's the difference in those influences that makes TSOL sound like a more relevant musical entity to me. No knock on the Damned, who I like as well, but I prefer Bacharach to the Doors, and I prefer Johnny Thunders to the Soft Machine. Plus, the musical thought of the connections between Easy listening and Glam rock is far more compelling than simple psychedelic music, played at Punk tempo (Again, no knock on the Damned, but Hawkwind was doing that, already).
Music is Art, to me. I realize that it can be many other things, and it has been many other things to me. As Art, however, music is part of a conversation of ideas that has been going on as long as civilization. So, as part of that conversation it's important to know where the quotes come from.


  1. Hey, I'm not allowed to comment on your Highway One Zero Street blog so I'm leaving a comment here. Your "A quick note before we descend" post ( was right. Well said, comrade.

    Russell & The United Sons of Toil

  2. Thanks, Rusty.
    Yes, comments are turned off & there ware warnings there due to some death threats I've had. Not so much a fear response as a desire to be free of hassle.
    What can I say? I'm still just an aging pinko. I used to be a full-bore member of the RCP, and a studying trotsky-ite. I've gone reformist, having decided that Kautsky was right, and that Marx will be proven right inexorably through sociologic forces, so there's no need for a vangaurdist revolution. But, being a reformist is different from being a retreatist.....