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Interview with Bun E Carlos at Park West, Chicago on 11 December, 1999

The scene:

In a booth near the stage at the Park West in Chicago, at about 4:00pm on the afternoon of the show. The crew is setting up, crates are being shifted, problems are being solved. Bun E. has come down from the stage, where the band will shortly be soundchecking, so there's not a lot of time. He picks up my numbered list of questions, and with the tape recorder successfully running (!), he reads off the questions and then shoots off the answers to them… and then we chat a little, too…

(BEC: Bun E. Carlos; KG: Kim Gisborne)

  1. Go back 3 months. How did you feel TF3 went?
  2. BEC: Well, it seemed to go fine.

  3. What did you most enjoy about the event?
  4. BEC: Probably playing all the cover songs.

  5. Were you disappointed in the drop in numbers from TF2?
  6. BEC: No, I didn’t notice….

  7. Do you think there might ever be a TF4?
  8. BEC: Yes, some time in a couple of years.

  9. What do you enjoy most about Rockford?
  10. BEC: Well, all my family’s there. And I know everybody there, all the restaurants and places I go…. It’s home.

  11. What plans do you have for the Rockford audio and video footage?
  12. BEC: Well, we’re working on about eight different projects next year, including our DVD of Metro, and there’s a Rhino DVD [ed. note: Live in Australia], and there’s this and there’s that. And we’re doing another "Gurms" thing, although it’s not going to be called "Gurms." We’ve got two more of those done and ready to roll [ed note: see later in the interview]. One of those will be in the New Year. So, the Rockford audio and video footage… when we get around to it. We’re going to put it together. We’re already rough mixing two of the three sets, so we’re already working on it.

  13. Do you have any plans for the TF3 footage that was shot? Particularly the Covers Show…
  14. BEC: We didn’t really shoot that much. The footage for that, I don’t know what they’re going to do with that, unless for the Rockford show as incidental footage.

  15. I hear you head into the studio in Jan/Feb (as you seem to have tour dates set for mid-March (Robinsonville, MS and Orlando))
  16. BEC: January, February – studio – yes, we’re going in to do some stuff, and then we’re going in in late March, too.

  17. You recorded a lot, on and off, during ‘99. What do you still need to do? Is it finishing stuff already started, or do you have totally new stuff to record?
  18. BEC: We’re also doing some stuff, we’re talking with a label about maybe doing some tracks, plus all the usuals – if a soundtrack comes up, or something…But we’re going to do some stuff and see what we want to do with it. So it’s still up in the air. But in March we will be doing new tracks. That’s the current situation.

  19. Who will produce it? Yourselves or an outside producer?
  20. BEC: Producers? Right now we’re using ourselves. We’ll do everything in LA, you know we like to work with Julian Raymond like we did on that "70’s Show," so we’ll at least start with him. Of course he didn’t mix that thing – Lord-Alge or Tom or Chris, one of those Lord-Alge guys mixed it. So just because we start with somebody doesn’t mean we’ll necessarily finish with them.

    KG: Were you happy with the way that turned out in the end?

    BEC: It doesn’t really matter if I’m happy or not! I would have done it a little different, but what else is new? <LAUGH>

  21. What’s the current situation re: the remasters? Are there firm plans for Dream Police, Greatest Hits and one other?
  22. BEC: Well, we’re working on Greatest Hits right now. Remastering… revamping.. taking off some of the stuff we didn’t think should have been on there in the first place, putting more stuff on. We don’t know if its going to be 12, 14 or 16 tracks …

  23. Do you still expect the whole back catalogue to be remastered?
  24. BEC: Sony’s being awful recalcitrant on the 80’s stuff. That’s all I can really say about that. Otherwise, anything with Tom on bass… sooner or later. Like last night, we flipped on TV and there’s some Monster Rock Ballad thing with The Flame being advertised. Every time we turn around they’ve licensed something we wished they wouldn’t do.

  25. What plans do the band have for the next year or two?
  26. BEC: Record, record… finish all these projects I already told you about. Play in the summer, play in the spring a little bit.

  27. How much response have you had to the website? Can it update more often (ie., the jukebox, Q&A)? The "latest" news is from September!
  28. BEC: We’re working with our webmaster. The jukebox, I try to do that every six months, though the last time was a year. I’ve got to put something together for the jukebox for January. I had a power surge the other night and hopefully my gear didn’t blow up! So I’m working trying to get that done in January, and it takes a couple of weeks to get it put in.

  29. I know you hold your fans in high regard, but are there things about them that disappoint you – for example, call for more variation in the set lists?
  30. BEC: We do what we can. Robin can’t memorise the lyrics to 125 songs, Rick can’t remember them all, neither can the rest of us. So that stuff goes at glacial speeds, but we’re looking at major re-writes for the new year. Anyway, that’s what we’ve been talking, we haven’t got around to doing it. We’ll see what happens when we get around to doing it. But we’re talking about major, major re-writes.

  31. Since you’ve not long been back from Japan, how different do you find the audiences in different parts of the world?
  32. BEC: They’re all about the same, except in Japan they’re ultra polite. Otherwise everywhere else, they’re fine. They cheer and they have a good time and they drink too much. Except in Japan they don’t do that at concerts, but everywhere else ….

    KG: But they were still very excited. I remember in Yokohama getting moved around like crazy.

    BEC: It was great. This time it was three years since we’ve been there instead of two….

  33. Do you think it realistic that you might return to Europe? Following the new CD perhaps?

BEC: I don’t see it happening unless we get something that goes well over there… We do a soundtrack, or some release. Or Levi’s buys a song for a commercial, or however these things happen that bands our age get another shot at the charts over there and get back over there…Who knows? It didn’t cost us that much to get over there last time. Although we did lose money on it, it didn’t cost us much considering how much it could have cost us. [ed. note: The 4-date July ‘98 Europe "tour" was entirely self funded.]

But yeah, it would be nice to do it again this next summer. But the best way to do it is to get hired to play a couple of festivals by somebody. It all comes back to some fluke thing, like something takes off, then you get some publicity and then this happens…. If one of us died it’d probably be better! Then we’d get a lot of publicity…. I’m just joking!! <LAUGH>

I don’t know HOW we’re getting back over there, Kim, but you know we want to go back over there... because we haven’t done already. You know we’re itching to, because the only reason we went last time was because we wanted to, not because the promoters were clamouring for us over there – they weren’t. You saw the venues we played over there! ’Course we want to go.

KG: Are you changing anything for tonight’s show?

BEC: It would be nice to do "He’s a Whore," but now me and Rick are going up with [opening band] Local H and doing it, so….

KG: I saw some lyric sheets for "Losing You" on stage for soundcheck yesterday…

BEC: We do it at soundcheck all the time, if all four of us soundcheck. We haven’t really found a forum for it in the show. I mean, it doesn’t exactly get the crowd whipped up. Especially on a show like this, where they probably want it happier and poppier and boppier.

KG: Going back to the Covers Show [at TF3]: All of you looked to be having a fantastic time. That must have been hard work to prepare for?

BEC: It was fun to do when everyone remembered what we were doing! The weird part about it was, we hadn’t done the songs in 25 years. We rehearsed the Rockford show, so the cover songs were "let’s run through some of these," so it was pretty loose. If we could have done that set three times at Trickfest, it would have been like, light years ahead of even what it was. And what it was wasn’t bad.

KG: Maybe from your point of view musically…

BEC: I’m a perfectionist. When I say it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t perfect for me. I mean, he made a clinker… I made a clinker… here... here… so it wasn’t perfect. I talked to some people that used to see us do that stuff. They thought it was fine, and those are the people that are the best judges, because they heard it all in the first place.

KG: I thought it was tremendous, it was so different, and we’re not likely to hear that stuff again....

BEC: Well, probably not, though there’s the "Bun E’s Basement Bootleg" series which is our working title right now. We’ve got another one we’re trying to get out in the new year, which is already done. It’ll be like "Gurms" without the interview, except it’ll sound a little better because I upgraded a generation on my fidelity. And then I did one for next summer because I already had the tapes out. I did a seventy two minute "Best of Soundchecks", that one’s really cool. There’s songs no-one has ever seen us play because we’ve only ever done them at soundcheck, including album tracks.

KG: One last thing I must ask, and I know what you’re going to say! Am I likely, even at a Trickfest, to hear "Invaders of the Heart" live, once?

BEC: We’ve never done that one, even at a soundcheck…

KG: I know! I’d love to hear that, it sounds so loose, it sounds like you all got together in someone’s basement and just played the damn thing!

BEC: We whipped it off pretty quick in the studio, because we did it in a couple of takes and we learned it in a couple of takes…[activity on stage] I’ve got to go and set up before we start making noise…

KG: Thanks, Bun E.!

Many thanks to Bun E. for taking time out from soundcheck to give the interview, and to Carla for her help in making it happen. As always, the co-operation of Carla and band members is very much appreciated, and it’s always fun to get the opportunity to chat with, or interview them.


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