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It’s another warm evening in Southern California in high summer. We're at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, a little north of Los Angeles. It's around 10.45pm, and the band came offstage about 20 minutes ago after a nice show to an enthusiastic crowd in a venue with seemingly no air conditioning! I'm sitting with Bun E in a small band room "backstage". It's just off the main entrance to the rear of the venue, so as well as the voices of those backstage (including Jeri Ryan of Star Trek Voyager fame and gold medal winning ice skater Scott Hamilton), there's a lot of loading out noise going on too! Bun E is relaxed, and kindly made time for me to ask a few questions…

(KG: Kim Gisborne; BC: Bun E Carlos)

KG: How is your back now? Are you finding it more comfortable to play for the duration of a show?

BC: Well, my back is much better. It is more comfortable to play for the whole show, because everything functions now and none of the nerves in my legs are pinched off. I had a decompression and laminectomy on a couple of my lower vertebrae

KG: I notice that you don't need to have that break where you stand up and stretch during the show

BC: My nerve doesn't get pinched off, so I don't have to stand up to relieve the pressure on it

KG: I don't recall ever asking you about the Double Door show in Chicago last August. It was your comeback show after surgery, and a secret showcase of new material. Why did the band choose to play a show in front of a small audience rather than just trying out that stuff in private?

BC: We'd just been demo-ing these songs and it's like, let's try them in front of people, so… That's the real test, trying them out in private wouldn't have counted y'know? In private you can make mistakes, in front of people you've gotta play for real.

KG: Rick has announced that you've completed recording tracks for the new CD. Can you confirm that they include:- Special One, Scent of a Woman, She's So Bad, Mandoraga, Night Time World, If I Could...

BC: "Special One", "Scent of a Woman", "She's So Bad", "Mondo Raga", two words now, "If I Could" have all been recorded. "Night Time World" hasn't been recorded yet, we've started rearranging it.

KG: How many songs are planned to be on the CD?

BC: Probably ten or eleven. And then there's usually an extra track for Japan, and then there's usually b-sides and bonus tracks, so we have fourteen or fifteen so far.

KG: Why did the band feel that they needed to produce so many demo tracks (I hear in excess of 60) before being able to decide on the tracks finally chosen?

BC: Why did we do so many demo tracks? Because we just kept doing them... We'd get done with one and someone would go "I rewrote it". Or sometimes we'd demo the same song four times

KG: Will DECAF end up on the CD? I hear it'll be on the movie "This Thing of Ours" but that the movie apparently isn't releasing a soundtrack CD. I heard Jack Douglas was producing that song?

BC: DECAF was cut for the CD but we didn't mix it. Yet. I don't know about it being in any movie and I don't know about Jack producing the song.

KG: I know that the production is ongoing, but how do you feel the chosen tracks compare in style to those on the last studio CD?

BC: On the last studio CD, we kept the instrumentation pretty much every song. This CD we've treated each song as a stand-alone unit, so they're not all going to match up perfectly on this CD, but then again, who says they have to? They compare in style to the last CD in that we enjoyed doing them, and we've performed well on them. Otherwise, the drums are gonna sound different on each track, stuff like that.

KG: How are you finding working with Chris Shaw?

BC: Working with Chris Shaw was fun. He didn't have enough Dylan stories for me!

KG: Are you still working with Chris at the moment?

BC: Yeah, he's still mixing, he's got a track and a half to mix. So we're not done working with him. He's a fun guy! He's a young guy and he's done hip-hop and he's done Sheryl Crow and Bob Dylan and Super Furry's and stuff, so people in England I'm sure are familiar with him.

KG: "Bun E's Bootlegs vol 4" has just become available to order. I gather the disks are "Semi Acoustical" and "Cheeseland 76". Can you tell me something more about these? Cheeseland 76 is Haymakers?

BC: Volume Four is "semi acoustical". It's acoustic stuff from the past five or ten years, or something like that… we've been doing a lot of acoustic stuff. There might be a Rockline thing on there too. The bonus disk, "Cheeseland 76" is mostly Wisconsin and a couple of tunes from De Kalb, Illinois. They're bar tapes so they're low-fi. No Haymakers on there. It's like, Beloit Wisconsin at the Waverley Beach Ballroom, Portage Wisconsin, and The Red Lion at De Kalb Illinois. Some people may have heard some of this stuff before, its been floating around, but this is all from my original tapes.

KG: Do you have any further "Bootlegs" ready to go, or plans to release any other rare stuff?

BC: There's another Bootleg ready to go this Fall or whenever we get around to it, and that's a complete show from June of 78 in Detroit, which is a lot of different arrangements. It's like that Boston show (bootlegged under the title "California Man '78") which was about a week before that, except that it's a Board tape. And the bonus disk will be a radio show from '77 which is about sixty minutes long and that sounds real neat. They're both good sounding tapes.

KG: Something I've just remembered. The official website is being updated with some stuff. Isn't there some new stuff to go on the Jukebox as well?

BC: I gave them stuff a while ago to put on. Maybe they're just putting that on, I have no idea. Of course there'll be hidden bonus tracks on the regular Bootleg, and I think there might be a video on it. And there'll be some footage of something, and there'll be a link to the website where there should be another track. And there's going to be other Bootlegs, I want to do an 80's one, I want to do an "All Shook Up" one… I've got the "Bun E Bonus disk", I want to do the "two dollar Bun E CD ", all the sessions I've done. There's a lot of stuff from 67 on. Just guest appearances and stuff. That'll probably be a separate thing that'll probably be a freebie <laugh>! Otherwise we'd only sell about 6 of them!

KG: How far along are the plans to re-release the 97 self titled CD, and also Woke Up With a Monster, both of which you now own the rights to?

BC: The reissue of the previous two studio albums, which we own the rights to issue on our own now. We want to expand them and enhance them, so we want to put more tracks on, and some video's on them also. But we're not going to do anything on those probably until after the new record. We want to get something new going first.

KG: I hear that Sony are finally remastering the Dream Police album. Are you involved in this, and what bonus songs may be added?

BC: They are going to remaster the Dream Police album, I'm involved in it. I still don't know many details on it yet. I don't know who's going to remaster it, don't know if there's going to be bonus tracks, they may just remaster, I'm not sure. I was, of course, suggesting a 5.1 or 6.1 mix - a DVD type mix, or super audio mix. If there's any bonus songs, they'll be "It Must Be Love" and whatever else is sitting around that I have on cassette because they (Sony) don't have anything that I know of. We're working on something for it, looking around for tracks, stuff like that.

KG: "Machines Make Money", wasn't that around that time?

BC: No, that's All Shook Up

KG: Well, the remastered Dream Police has been one that people have been looking for particularly

BC: I think they should just get someone good and remix it…

KG: Does this mean Sony are now continuing the remastering process through the 80's albums? Is Bruce Dickinson still heading this up?

BC: I spoke to Bruce Dickinson, we were looking for some Standing on the Edge, Doctor, Busted outtakes for those three, because we might do something with those in the future, whereas Sony I don't think is going to do much with those in the future. That's all "if", "but", "maybe", "don't know for sure"…

KG: You played some shows in the UK in April, how did you feel about those?

BC: The UK shows in April were real good, it was nice to get out and play real shows in front of new people, it's always fun to try and impress somebody new.

KG: Glasgow I thought was a tremendous show, particularly as you haven't played in Scotland for so many years

BC: Yes, that was fun. We met the two Alex Harvey guys and they came backstage… Zal and Ted the drummer, McKenna or whatever his name is, I forget at this time of night! (KG note: correct, Ted McKenna). Joe Elliott was there I heard as well.

KG: Something I just thought of. The two Festival shows at Camber Sands (England), how did you feel about those because they were a very different audience…

BC: They were fine. Those who stuck around for the whole show seemed to enjoy it, and those up front seemed to be enjoying it. By then I don't know how they would know anything… if I saw twelve bands in one day, by the twelth band I'd be a noodle! <laugh>.

KG: I gather that you'll be returning to Europe in March next year, playing a show at the Royal Albert Hall in London where such luminaries as The Who and Eric Clapton have appeared. How do you feel about headlining at that venue?

BC: I have NO idea what it’s gonna be like but I was worried about the sound there. We're gonna make sure we've got a guy in the PA crew who's familiar with it. We're talking to tech people about doing the Albert Hall, so I look forward to working there with confidence… So, it should be interesting. I don't what the sight lines are like, I've never been in the room. I hope it's good, hope it's even better than the Hammersmith or whatever they call it now.

KG: As a band, you get to return to play in a number of venues. I won't ask about your *least* favourite ones (!), but which are *your* favourite, both sonically and in terms of atmosphere?

BC: Well, I think Hammersmith (London) was a lot of fun. I like theatre dates, I think they're fun. Reading (Festival) would be fun if we had some chicken wire! That would be fun to do that again. But I don't like getting hit with shit…! The Japan theatres are always sounding good. Dump shithole of clubs always sound good! So for me, a room like this (Agoura Hills - see review) sounds better than a big stage. A shitty place for you might be a good place for me. The snare drum sounded good tonight so I played more junk on the snare drum… There's things happen to me that don't happen to anybody else so…

KG: I just wondered if there were one or two venues that you particularly look forward to going back to, like the Coronado in Rockford or…

BC: Chicago's always fun because I know I'm usually driving home after that. Coronado's usually just the biggest headache in the world because I know I've got a hundred family members, I gotta act like we did the show personally for each one, for all my family and friends. It always gets hectic when you're near home

KG: I know you buy and listen to a lot of other music. What are your current faves? And do you take a personal CD player with you on the road, or do you just listen to CDs at home?

BC: I don't take a CD player with me out on the road this summer because we're not out long enough to drag hardware through airports.

KG: Would you normally do that?

BC: Normally I do, I take a bagful of stuff I haven't heard and take it out with me. What have I heard lately that I like? Of course the new Wilco one is real good, the new Mooney Suzuki one is not as good as the first but that's not bad. I was listening to Joe Strummer and the Mescalero's the other night… "Global a Go Go", that thing is still real good. We missed them by one day in Vegas… I got a couple of new ones at home, it's like "Wow, these are gonna go on my all-time lifetime list"… The Super Furry Animals, that's not a new one but its great every time. I got some Dylan stuff from this year, from England, that's like smokin'… He's got a new drummer now. I got some from the Garden last year, that was inspiring… it's nice that he's finally back on track

KG: I remember we talked briefly in London last summer about the (then) good form of The Cubs! Do you watch or go to any sporting events when at home, or perhaps on the road? For example, the Dodgers are at home whilst you're here in LA!

BC: The Cubs were in first place last summer, and as I went home and recuperated, they went from like first to about fourth place in a month! I was lying in a chair and taking pills for the pain, so the game seems like it's about ten minutes long. It's like "what a great game, it's over already?"… and they were losing 'em all! And they went down to Houston and like blew it. It's like in just one week they lost their season. They suck so I'm a White Sox fan! Actually I'm a New York Yankees fan, more than anything, because they're winners. It's fun to watch your favourite team win. I've been watching a lot of baseball on the road, I've been watching the Yankees, watching the Dodgers on TV, stuff like that. I've been seeing about three baseball games a day for about the last two, three days because there's been a bunch on…

KG: I'm going to see the Dodgers tomorrow…

BC: See 'em while they last, because if they do this strike this year it's just going to piss everybody off. Then I'll probably become a World Cup (soccer) fan. Just in time for four years from now! <laugh>. Either that or become a snooker fan, I wish I could get that in the States, that's what I really got into in England.

KG: As always, many thanks for your time!

And so another interesting interview ended. Bun E needed to get a ride to the hotel, and I headed out, dodging celebrity fans and trolleys bearing monitors and guitar cases, and headed out into the warm evening air to drive back to my bed for the night.

Many thanks to Bun E for allowing me the time to ask him these questions, and thanks to Carla for setting the interview up.

Kim Gisborne, Leeds, England – July 2002.


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