Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Brother Patrick has been talking to an Angel...
actually THE ANGEL!!

Since I discovered this awesome and soulful woman, I enjoy every single or album issued by Ms Andrea Ross, with the help of her accordion and talented musicians like her husband Rich Stim (he was a member the legendary MX-80) and the “flamin’ groovy” Don Ciccone.

The album “Louie Louie” is a tribute to one of Angel’s heroes, Lou Reed. Mostly covers but a few originals, like “Lou Reed’s Hair”. My first questions will be Lurid oriented :

Patrick: Since I got your album “Louie Louie”, I tried to find a connection between Lou and “Louie Louie” (this song was composed by Richard Berry, 1956, and wasn’t even covered by Lou. But I remember Lou saying that one day he’ll be rich with a song based on “Louie Louie” riff played backwards). So Angel, what is the reason why your tribute album to Lou is called “Louie Louie” ?

Angel Corpus Christi: I don’t understand this question but I like the idea of the Louie Louie riff played backwards!

P: Many of his early fans think that Lou Reed is not interesting anymore in (except for his album “New York”) since “Berlin” or “Coney Island Baby”. What’s your opinion about Lou’ more recent works ?

ACC: It’s all good. It’s all great. I could never allow myself to say that I didn’t like any of Lou’s work, recent or not. I am not worthy. He is my hero. All hail!

P: And what’s your fave Lou song ever ?

ACC: He hasn’t written it yet, but I hope he will someday. Its title will be “ANGEL I LOVE YOU”. Ha ha. And he’ll sign my copy “thanks for the inspiration”.

P: What is the origin of your name? Is there a relationship with this city called Corpus Christi where indians live?

ACC : No relationship to the city at all, just another dumb decision on my part. It’s a stupid name! Where to file it? Under A or under C? Is it a metal band? From Texas?

Back to history :
ACC issued a total of five albums between 1984 and 1989, all of them full of nuggets.
Her brilliant debut,”I Love New York” (originally issued on tape), as you guessed, was a tribute to this city, with covers of the Ramones, Richard Hell and Suicide (with Alan Vega – another ACC hero – as a guest) among others.

Then came “Wake Up And Cry” featuring the should have been a hit “Too late For Linda”, then “Dim The Lights”, followed by “Accordion Pop Vol. 1” who features another bunch of more ("Love Me Tender" ...) or less (Rolling Stones ...) oldies; hear these tunes like you’ll never hear ‘em again ...

The last one of this first period is the largely acclaimed “The 80’s”. This album received great reviews :- “The 80's is easy-on-the-ear, low-tech art rock that's a cross between Nico and Jonathan Richman. This gal manages to melt your heart” said the New Musical Express;
- "Maybe the most brilliant female pop/rock artist in America, just because she has the guts and brains to break free so simply and completely." This one was from Sounds.
My personal faves on this album are the fantastic and poignant cover of Alice Cooper anthem ”18”, the magical “Way Out West” and the original “John Cassavetes”, which is Angel's loving tribute to a deceased hero.

P: Your career can be divided in three periods : the 80’s, who saw the realease of five albums on confidential labels / gap / an album on bigger label in the mid 90’s / gap - a few 7” and 12” to fill the gaps / two albums in 2003 / THEN ?
– what about “Accordion Pop Vol 2” ?
- or “The 2000’s as a follow up to “The 80’s” : what songs would you choose to cover (it’s a view of mind – in other words, what are your fave songs from the past two decades).

ACC: Well, for years I’ve been thinking about recording a collection of metal ballads. “Nobody’s Fool” by Cinderella is a great song. “Love Song” by Tesla is a great song. And of course, G ‘n R’s “Sweet Child Of Mine” is a terrific song; the lyrics are beautiful and I like playing the guitar solo on the accordion. And the project wouldn’t be complete without “Eat The Rich” by Motörhead, because I like swearing and cussing in songs. “Bite down on the son-of-a-bitch” !!! Yeah! I’m aware that might scare some people, an accordion-playing female singing a Lemmy song. There’s a Youtube comment about my cover of “Jet Boy Jet Girl”: “Welcome to Hell, here’s your accordion”. Ha ha!!

P: You covered “Never Too Late For Linda”, which is a song written by your friend Don Ciccone for his group. The Trip, at the time (mid 80’s) recorded a mini album that still remains unissued. I have the chance to own this album, which is, to me, almost as good as the Flamin’ Groovies Sire trilogy (Shake Some Action / Now / Jumpin’ In The night). What can you tell us about “groovy” Don ?

ACC: He’s never early, he’s always late, first thing u learn is that u always gotta wait! And, he’s a dynamite guitarist.

P: On “The 80’s” album, there’s this song “Way Out West” that sounds like there has been a magical moment during the session. Do you remember something special happening in the studio that day ?

ACC: Yes, you’re right, something magical and special did happen on that song, and it was Don Ciccone’s guitar playing. He captured just the right feeling and mood and emotion of the song. Especially toward the end, leading to the end, the “outro” (author : Big Star fans, take note). Even to this day, all these years later, when I listen to his playing on this song, it makes me cry. It sounds like he is playing his guitar outdoors, sitting on the hood of his car, parked at the beach. And the waves are there, and the setting sun is there and people are walking by…groovy with a capital G.
(P: I forwarded Angel’s kind words to Don, here’s his reaction : the “Way Out West” session was my favorite moment of all with Angel. Funny thing about that solo was that the engineer couldn't understand it. He said, “you want it to sound like that?”. He kept trying to make it sound "better" but i wouldn't let him. I was trying to make it sound like the Velvet Underground. For any guitarists interested i used an old Gretsch guitar thru a very old Vox ac4 amp - tiny little amp that has a very special sound).

P: Your album “White Courtesy Phone”, issued in the 90’s on a bigger label (Almo, distributed by Geffen) didn’t receive the success that he deserved. But there’s that song “Threw It Away” who was a big success, as covered by Dean Wareham and Britta Philipps. Does this hit record bring you a bigger audience and a little money at the time, or did Angel Corpus Christi remained a “well kept secret” ?

ACC: Ha! For a minute there, it looked like we would make some money with “Threw It Away” when it was used as in-flight music on American Airlines. But it was categorized as a promotional use, which artists are not paid for. And speaking of crying over songs, in the studio recording this song, Hal Blaine cried while he was playing on it. I will never forget this moment as long as I live.

P: So what about Herb Alpert and Hal Blaine ?
(Herb is the famous trumpet player and Hal is probably the most prolific drummer in the r’n’r history; he played with Elvis, Phil Spector ...).

ACC: Oh boy, don’t get me started. Because once I start I may not be able to stop. I’ll tell you what happened in the recording studio during the making of “White Courtesy Phone”. First with Hal. What you have to understand is, I grew up loving and memorizing all the drum parts to all those songs Hal Blaine played on. Of course, at the time, I wasn’t aware of who he was, I just knew I liked that sound, those beats. So imagine the thrill I had in the studio watching Hal unpack his special percussion, which he took out of a big, old, taped-up cardboard box marked “Spector Stuff”! I asked him if this was really the stuff he had used on all those recordings and he said it was. Whoa! I lost it! I realized that this same stuff was gonna be used on MY record and I just lost it! I had to go in the bathroom and splash cold water on me face.
Then with Herb, I had an overwhelming moment when he took out the sheet music we had sent him to the song “Lazy”, and I saw that he had written notes to himself on it, different marks etc., and I understood that Herb Alpert had been at home practicing my song. In the 60s I’d had a crush on Herb and had a big poster of him over my bed. Naughty naughty!

P: For me almost any song by ACC is like almost any song by Roy Orbison or Lee Hazlewood : when you have the chance to hear it, you fall in love with it at first sight – er, I mean first hear, but like love at first sight. The problem for ACC music is that you can hear it nowhere. I’m sure that if someone with good taste had the idea to use one of your songs for a TV ad or a film, you’ll become famous.

ACC: Thank you, that’s very nice. I could never compare myself to Roy or Lee tho. I think I sound more like Alfalfa on Our Gang (Our Gang, also known as The Little Rascals or Hal Roach's Rascals, was a long-lived series of American comedy short films about a group of poor neighborhood children and the adventures they had together. Created by comedy producer Hal Roach in the early 20’s).

P: Ok, but what are your fave songs or albums by ACC ?

ACC: I like my version of Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home” (P : featuring on 2003 album “Divine Healer”, among other cool covers like “Eve Of Destruction” or “Hurdy Gurdy Man” and great original songs too) , the slippery slinky mix Dean Wareham did of “You” (Dean also played guitar), and Pete Kember’s mix of “Femme Fatale” (Pete also played omnichord and Britta Phillips played bass). The song sucked until I took out my vocals, then it sounded brilliant! Ha ha! Not a good sign when your song sounds better without you singing it!

P: You already told us about Lou Reed. What about Alan Vega and John Cassavetes ?

ACC: Maybe it’s time to tell a secret. I don’t usually like to say who a song is about, or where I got the inspiration, but the lyrics to the song “Fall”, on White Courtesy Phone, are kind of about John and his wife, Gena Rowlands. It’s surprising, isn’t it, how much we can love someone we’ve never met? I like the way that song turned out. If you listen carefully, you can hear Rich singing back-up parts. And Craig’s guitar solo is genius.

P: About Rich : except MX-80 and playing / composing with you, did he get involved in other projects?

ACC: Rich and I had 2 musical projects prior to ACC. Playette, and Poetraphonics. On Playette, we used this fabulous little mini-synth by Electro Harmonix that I just loved. It had black and white keys, but they were just painted on, to resemble a keyboard. It was kind of modern, but also low-tech. In Poetraphonics, our big moment was opening for Nina Hagen! My instrument in Poetraphonics was an electronic "clapper". No accordion. I just clapped along, quite happily!

P: A word about Alan Vega ?

ACC: Have u ever had the experience of feeling like u were hallucinating while watching Alan onstage? During one of his performances I saw him transform into a kind of giant beetle creature that was encrusted with jewels. I felt like I was seeing the “real” him, that he was only masquerading as a man. That’s my word on Alan Vega! He’s a bug!

P: I saw Alan Vega and Suicide twice, end of 70’s and more recently. I noticed that he “had the “bug”, considering the way he moved / shaked, but not that he was a bug. Probably because men don’t know but little girls understand ...).

P: You live in San Francisco (I just came here for one day, to see the Cramps one year and a half ago, and I fell in love with this city). Can you give us good reasons to visit Frisco – or even live here (I now some guy who’d like to).

ACC: You’ll never see any George Bush bumper-stickers, ladies with mustaches are accepted, and so are men with breasts!

P: Do you like the Cramps, got records, saw them play ?

ACC: I love the Cramps. It’s fun to sing their songs live because the crowd goes kinda crazy and of course, it’s always fun to sing nasty words… “You Got Good Taste” and “What’s Inside a Girl”, “Somethin’s tellin’ me it’s a ‘hole ‘nother world!” (P: please Angel come tour around here - Europe, or at least release a live album : I wanna hear those songs !).

P: You covered Serge Gainsbourg's "Je T'Aime, Moi Non Plus" (I love you, neither do I ? Serge was awesome for playing with words). Is there any other song by him or another French artist you even think to cover ?

ACC: No. Do you have any suggestions? I tried to sing with a French accent once. Unfortunately, I sounded like Pepe Le Pew.

P: Well, I’ll suggest a song that would fit perfectly to your style / class which is my fave Gainsbourg song. It’s called “Le Canari Est Sur Le Balcon” (the canary is on the balcony), a song by Jane Birkin. It’s about someone who has commited suicide by gas and who left a letter with only those words: the canary is on the balcony. A real tearjerker, it features on “Je T’Aime” US album (the one with a blue/pink cover).

One last question : is there a question you've never been asked in interviews that you would like to answer ?

ACC: This is a really good question, for which I have no answer!

Thanks Bro Patrick, a nice interview. I enjoyed it.
I'm about to undertake an important mission and will be incommunicado(ish) for a wee while.

So, while I'm offsky, take a look at this - from the land I'm bound for...

Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co. returns to the rootin' tootin' Rodeo Bar this week for more rootin' *and* more tootin'!

Join us, won't you?


375 Third Avenue (at the corner of 27th Street) in Manhattan / Three comprehensive sets, from 10:30pm sharp until 1:30am /
No cover -- and free peanuts!

Yours truly, Michael

Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co.
"Ballads, Boogies & Blues"