I first met Joe when we decided to start 65daysofstatic. There was no friendship before, and once this is all over, given the frosty looks he gives me these days when he gives me looks at all, there will be no friendship to follow. A relationship of necessity, is what I would call it.
We do our best to make things easy for each other, and interact as little as possible. Sometimes though, encounters are unavoidable.
Drowned in Sound have asked me, Paul, one quarter of 65daysofstatic, to interview Joe, another quarter.
Rather than talk to him face to face, I sat at one end of the dressing room and emailed him some questions. Here are his replies:
Hello, Joe. I have been in a band with you for over nine years now. How do you feel about that?
Well Paul. I would have to say being in this band has warped my concept of time somewhat. I think I was 19 years old when we first met in a student house on Woodstock Road. I remember sitting up late trying to stop your housemate shoot a mouse with a BB gun.
The good thing about this band is that sometimes it makes me still feel 19. Today however, I feel about 50, probably because we've just played 23 shows in 22 nights and I've been drinking too much afterwards. It's nice that we've been in a band for so long, especially if you consider some of the odds we've faced. I really like going on tour and not having to worry about how I'm going to occupy myself in the evenings, because as you know, the evening is when the 'bad voices' come. No idea what I'm going to when I get home though. Probably drink quite a lot of gin with my mum. And do my allotment.
The actuality is that we're very lucky to be doing this, and if I was 19 again and was able to see forward into the future, I would find all this very unlikely.
Being in a band is good, and the fundamental reason for this is that you get to build a world around yourself and no-one gets to tell you what to do. And music, although it is only music, occasionally has the power to make everything better.
As a band, we have a collective distrust of people who openly refer to themselves as 'artists'. Why is this, do you think? An ill-informed inverse-snobbery, to make sure we avoid being called elitist? A self-defence mechanism to avoid having to define exactly what we decided to do with our lives? I know you never managed to finish 'House of Leaves' because it was quite scary - there is a very interesting definition of what makes an artist hidden in there somewhere. Have we ever spoken about it? I have the quote on my iphone and I will let you read it if you like.
You can only really do this for one reason, and that's because you have to, and if you have to spend a lot of time asserting the fact that you are an 'artist' then you probably aren't. What's really great is that I've completely stopped thinking on those terms. Writing TDOSI and We Were Exploding Anyway was mostly hard work, more than anything else. I think if you're willing to put in the time, then you're halfway there.
I went to see Stuart Lee last time he toured, and at the end, he said something brilliant I can't remember word for word about being creative. I think it was 'What's wrong with trying to do something sincerely, and trying to do it well?'.
You don't have to reinvent the world, you just have to care about what you do.
My dad died in February, and for most of the time we were writing We Were Exploding Anyway, he was very ill, and I spent a lot of my time outside of rehearsal spending time with him because he couldn't leave the house. He was a big fan of the band, in fact, you'll remember he helped us fund the stumble.stop.repeat EP on Dustpunk Records, all those years ago. I'm really happy that he got to hear the album before he died, and that he liked it so much. He was really the best man I ever met, and he was very proud of all of us. I'm kind of doing this because I know he wanted us to, and that's great, because it means I don't worry too much about what people think. If they like it fine, if they don't they don't. I'm just trying to fill a hole.
He didn't really get bogged down in all that stuff either did he? He just got on with it, and I think we all really enjoyed working with him on Slaughterhouse 5.
That's pretty heavy. But it's true.
What was the last book you read?
I can't remember. It's quite difficult to read on tour. My concentration goes. I think just before we came out I was reading Moby Dick, but i have to admit I was finding it tough going. I read 'Another country' by James Baldwin last year, and that was the last book that really affected me in any way. I should probably read more.
Coffee or cigarettes?
On their own, they are both great.
Combined, they are one of the greatest catalysts to a better life that the human race has yet discovered. Unless you are a child in which case DO NOT START SMOKING.
I take my coffee white with two, whereas I think you take yours Old Testament style. Still smoke roll ups, I like the challenge on a breezy day.
Is 'Low' Bowie's best album? Or is Rob wrong about that?
Low is a very good album. Ziggy Stardust is going to take some beating though isn't it? It's got Five Years on it. And Soul Love, which is really good for doing impressions of in the shower. Sound and Vision is fucking unbelievable though, and that's on Low. Blue, blue, electric blue.
Do Deftones have the best guitar sound of all time?
No. I was really into Stephen Carpenter's guitar sound around the time we made TDOSI, but I've kind of got over it. Love the Deftones though, and I imagine they spend a long time making the guitars sound that good. I really hope Chi Cheng recovers, because he's a great bass player, and it's so shit that he was injured in the way he was.
Remember that time I knocked on their dressing room door and gave him a copy of Fall of Math and he shook my hand and I thought I'd never be able to use it again (my hand)?
Having just played some shows with the excellent Kong, I'm really feeling the whole Jesus Lizard/ Shellac school of abrasive guitar. Ultimately, I just like anything that fucking squeals, man.
Explain Neil Young.
"I fell in love with the actress, she was playing a part that I could understand".
Will we ever split up?
Tough question. I can't even imagine not being in this band. I've done it ever since I've known what I wanted to do, and before that I was mostly stoned and fairly overweight. i'd rather not go back to that.
Truth is, we're all so geared towards carrying on with this, that I don't think it would occur to us to split up. The only thing I can think of is that we would all grow apart musically, but I can't see that happening, because we spend so much time together. I could use a short holiday at some point though.
We have been on the road for about four weeks now, and have missed the deluge of (mis)information about the upcoming election. In the past we have been fairly outspoken about our politics, yet now in interviews we are getting asked what has changed within us that has made us less inclined to talk about it. Why do you think it is so hard for bands to talk about politics and not sound stupid? And what has changed in the 65camp that makes us reluctant to speak out? Or are people mistaking reluctance for despair? Or ambivalence?
Adrian Mitchell once said 'Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people'. I've kind of started to feel the same way about politics.
We were very angry about that stuff for a long time, but it kind of got overtaken by the actual day to day grind of keeping the band together. I don't really despair as much as I used to though. It's much better to be positive about these things. You do have to get out of bed every day and be a human being, so there's no point feeling guilty about it. Much better to embrace your existence and try and make sure it impacts on other people in a positive way. We're all in the same boat.
That said, something clearly has to change, and I don't think any decent kind of social reform is going to come from politicans, entrenched as they are in the hands of multinationals and their business interests.
There are plenty of people, musicians included, who are very good at talking about this kind of thing. I don't think we are that good at it. I would just point people to Radiohead's website.
Me? I don't drive and I grow a lot of my own vegetables. Whoop-de-fucking-do.
What's your favourite note? I like A. E and D are also good though.
Really feeling the C#minor chord today. E is probably my favourite key, E major. G might be my favourite note. It goes very well with lots of other notes.
Have you watched Adventureland yet? Because I keep telling you to. And you have it on your laptop. It's really good, I think you ought to.
No I haven't, but I might tonight. I did just watch the Vincent Moon/Mogwai film, Burning, and it's awesome. John Cummings mixed it, and I think if you take into account Part Chimp, the first Fuck Buttons album and that Errors EP, he is some hot shit on a mixing desk. That Mogwai film in particular is a sonic cathedral of wicked guitars.
I also started watching Ponyo, but the version I had didn't have subtitles, so I switched it off. It looks great though.
Have you seen the mural of Michael Jackson on the wall outside the venue today? It's really weird. Check it out.
Yes, it's bizarre. Doesn't really look like him at all.
There's some tasty arpeggiator going on in Tiger Girl on our new record. How directly do you think that this can be traced back to 'Hot and Cold' by Katy Perry rather than any cooler influences that you probably mention in other interviews?
Katy Perry has probably had more of an influence on us than we let on, hasn't she? She's a lot of fun to watch, and some of the songs she's released, including 'Hot and Cold' are really great. Is she a fundamentalist christian? Either way, she's marrying Russell Brand, and I can only imagine the detrimental effect that will have on her creativity. Still secretly quite excited to hear her new single. I would really love it if we had a giant cherry chapstick on stage.
So far on this tour you've broken two guitar pedals for no good reason and no matter how hard you try you can't make your amp stop humming. You even managed to buy a 'de-hummer' which actually makes the hum louder. Despite this, you have produced some of the finest guitar licks the world has ever known. What's your secret?
I tend to rip other people off a lot. A good way to do this is to learn a Bob Dylan song and then play it very loud and with lots of effects. It's very hard for people to make the connection between the two things.
I can't stop buying pedals. It's an addiction. I bought another one yesterday, even though I can't pay my phone bill and I have no idea whether any of us will actually get paid anything this year.
My favourite pedal is that 70s Big Muff I found in a puddle in France. It's been rehoused and it feeds back a lot, so our guitar tech hates it, but fuck me it makes me feel alive.
How does it feel to be in a band who appear to have eschewed guitars in favour of ripping off Pendulum to try and get back on Zane Lowe's playlist?
Feels better than being a band who don't know how to enjoy what they do. Also, you might have eschewed guitars, but I haven't. I don't think I've ever heard Pendulum.
How can you claim to not be post-rock when you have THREE delay pedals and a tremolo like Efrim from Godspeed does?
I have never claimed to be or not be anything. Godspeed are playing ATP! I don't think they claimed to be post-rock either. I don't know a lot of bands that waste their time working out what genre they fit into. Not good ones anyway. Someone else invented the term to save themselves some time I suppose. I did buy one of those tremolo's after seeing A Silver Mt Zion live. How amazing is that ATP going to be? Is it sold out?
How dark do you think the future will be? How long do we have before this way of life is no longer tenable?
I think we possibly have a lot less time than we think we have. The cracks are certainly starting to show. But I did spend most of my teenage years reading books about the nuclear apocalypse, the best of which is probably 'Riddley Walker' by Russell Hoban.
If you read lots of scary things like that, you start to imagine the end of the world a little easier. Probably just be a slow decline into chaos though won't it?
Do you remember that crazy bus driver we had who said 'I've got a chess set and a gun, and a vegetable patch, so I'll be okay?'. He was nuts. I thought he was going to kill us in our sleep.
For the record, our way of life is already untenable isn't it? Living in a relatively rich country is like living in a dream at the expense of a millions of other people.
Why are our rhythm section crackers?
I don't know, but they fucking are. It's all those rhythms dude.
What's the best wine?
Well, you can't go wrong with a bog standard six quid Cab-Sav. Somewhere on this long walk walk to the middle I've lost the ability to enjoy what we used to call 'rehearsal room wine'. The grapes from the vineyards of Collioure in the languedoc-rousillion area of southern france are very special if your going to push the boat out. I had wine for breakfast last week. That was really stupid.
What's more important on a six week tour - notebooks or good quality flightcasing?
Flightcasing. I've brought a lot of notebooks, but I've only used one of them, and I think it was to write down what everybody setting up the stage wanted in the way of hot drinks. I'm starting to give up on ever writing the Great American Novel. I will never get tired of putting things in cases though. It's very satisfying.
Any other tips for bands who might be heading out on the road for the first time? Or for the thousandth?
It's probably a really bad idea to give out advice. I went to see Esben and the Witch in Sheffield a couple of months ago, and I thought they were really good, but the PA didn't really do justice to their programming or the few drums they use. I subsequently got drunk and told them they needed a drummer, when what i should of said is 'I thought you were great, but the PA didn't really do justice to your programming and those few drums you use'. I felt really bad about it for ages after, especially as it's a problem we've fought with for many years. I don't know anything really, and if someone had come up to me six years ago and told me some completely obscure piece of advice, i would of told them to start their own fucking band. Esben and the Witch are great, as well.
Socks however, are very useful. And manners are very important too. Although everyone gets cross and tired sometimes.
What's that sticker on the back of your guitar? I can't quite make it out...
It's Hannah Montana. I got it in a pound shop in Spain the other day. I like the way both Hannah and Miley are mass marketed as two different people at the same time. It's like doublethink for kids.
What song are we gonna open the show with tonight?
I don't know, but there will almost certainly be a heated debate about it.
How was soundcheck for you? I thought your guitar was very loud but those monitors had a very nice, warm quality to them. Not too bright, but clear.
It was okay, but my ears are real tired. You need a new amp.
Thanks for the interview, Superfriend! Any last words for Drowned in Sound readers?
I think there's a space below where you can semi-anonymously yell at how offended you are that you've just taken the time to read this. Fire away. Sorry for your trouble.