Friday, July 20, 2018
A Ripple Conversation With Steve Marsh Of Evil Triplet
When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.
What have been your musical epiphany moments?
I grew up in a house in the 60s where music was what you sang along to on Sunday. So my very first experience of rock and roll was an epiphany: The Monkees.
Somewhat later, a friend and I crept into his big brother’s room and listened to a record by a black guy and two white guys who all had the same hairdo (Hendrix) and a white record with a yellow banana on it that had been peeled off a bit to reveal a pink banana (Velvet Underground), until we got so scared we had to turn it off; we were 12 years old, and had never heard anything remotely like that. That experience has stayed with me: the visceral life-and-death nature of powerful music.
The first time a friend played Gong’s “Radio Gnome Invisible” trilogy for me, I was blown away. It was “music as psychedelic experience”, and not “music to be played in the background to a psychedelic experience”.
I remember hearing Patti Smith for the first time, and being impressed with how lyrics could be an expressive instrument in the mix and not just the words to the music. And the beautiful minimalism of the first Wire LP when it came out.
Laurie Anderson’s “Mr Heartbreak” tour was an amazing multimedia event, and influenced my diving into video as a live performance component.
In 1985, I lived in NYC that summer and saw Butthole Surfers several times, and Einstürzende Neubauten, and those shows had a profound impact on me.
And then the first time I saw Acid Mothers Temple, and Boris. Not on the same bill, but both of them a revolution!
There are more, but those are the ones that come to mind right now.
Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?
For me, it almost always begins with the title. If it’s working, everything else is just filling in the blanks (and trying to keep up!). I will generally feel a riff of some kind and the lyrics just show up.
If it doesn’t all happen at once, then I’ll at least have some fragments ready for the next go around.
Who has influenced you the most?
In addition to the above mentioned artists (minus The Monkees): Can, Zappa, Bowie, Eno, Robert Johnson. Ok, and The Beatles, from about Revolver on.
Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?
Shamanism, mythology, visual art, literature/science fiction, history, technology, politics, driving...
Where'd the band name come from?
I was thinking about the concept of an evil twin, and wondering what it would be like if your evil twin had an evil twin. That would make it your evil triplet, right?
Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?
I’m not sure what you mean by “Spinal Tap” - we haven’t ever really performed in a miniature version of Stonehenge or anything.
But I’ll tell you some interesting highlights from my life:
My punk rock band Terminal Mind opened for Iggy Pop at a large Austin venue called Armadillo World Headquarters in 1980.
The first time my industrial psyche band Miracle Room played in Morgantown, WV in 1988, a bunch of hippies came down into town on acid to see what was happening, and we blew their minds. So every time we came back through town, they would always make sure there was a crowd there that was “prepped”. When we were doing our tour in 1991, we played there to a full house, and we had a full-on self-controlled light show going and everything. And at the end of the set, we hit the last note and I turned of the strobe lights and there was a short decaying echo. I said, “Thank you, good night.” And the crowd just stared at us. And kept staring. We finally left the stage and walked through the crowd, who were still staring at the stage, to the bar and were getting drinks when some people started slowly clapping and looking around! Best. Response. Ever.
We also did a show in Barcelona that year at a place called KGB. A big empty warehouse space with a bar. We were doing a song in which I looped and played harmonica against a heavy drum beat. In the middle of the song, the power went out; lights, sound, everything. I kept playing the harmonica and the drummer kept going with me until they found a fuse and the power came back on, and then we finished the song.
The recording of these Evil Triplet records has been a standout experience. Sonic Ranch is an amazing place: world class equipment and engineers, secluded in the desert. We’ve had a great time there!
Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?
I’m all about attempting to create situations in which a group of people can encounter a collective experience of the ineffable.
What makes a great song?
I have a great respect for the art of song craft, but I feel like the word “story” is getting thrown around WAY too much these days as a signifier of what a song should be. The songs that live for me are the ones that aren’t “about” something so much as drawing out the “aboutness” of the listener. Becoming a timeless part of the “story” (if you will) of the listener.
That’s why I love working with layers of sound - to get past what the song is about in order to get to what it means.
Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?
My comments are only temporary, and thoughts are never final. We’ll see you all on the journey. Have a nice trip.