Friday, June 24, 2022
Marko offered this chat with Sir Peter Zaremba, he thought you'd like to see it...
Hey Peter... is this your first interview for a Serbian/Yugo zine?
PZ: Yes, this is my first time in the Balkan press!
Tell me about your first encounters with Serbia or former Yugoslavia at that? I remember you telling me about watching Richard Burton as Tito back in the early 70s...under the influence of psychedelics if I am not mistaken?
PZ: You didn't need psychedelics watching that movie but I recall me and my early musical collaborator Brian Spaeth were pretty high on some sort of mix. Burton made an excellent Tito, I'd have him play me if he was still around. The one and only time The Fleshtones played in Trieste we were put up in an old Inn. I soon realized that by cutting across some gardens and fields we'd be in then disintegrating Yugoslavia so of course, Ken Fox and had to go. The border guards barely paid any attention to us, their eyes were glued to their TV set. I thought they were watching a weather map but the map had all these little explosion icons all over it instead of thunderclouds, fog or sunshine symbols - they were actually watching where the war was breaking out. We just walked far enough into the soon to be independent Slovenia to buy ourselves some beers and fried calamari. I still have the left over Yugoslavian dinars from that excursion.
I also know you're a big-time tennis fan and support Novak Djokovic. Of Course he's huge in Serbia but not universally loved. Some people don't like his safe, heavy on personal branding image. Plus, his dad and his wife are complete morons but love the limelight and that doesn't help his cause. Why do you dig him so much?
PZ: Exactly for those reasons and he's not Roger Federer. Tennis can be a bit pretentious -even given John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. Novak is down to earth, well actually very eccentric, okay a nut but he's basically a good guy. Not that a sports star has to be a good guy or gal. I think maybe he could have planned the Adria Tour a bit better but what the hell, the condemnation he received was way over the top. My wife and I picked him for greatness very early on and it's satisfying to watch him do so well - and to confound his haters. Go Nolly, the perpetual underdog!
Tell me how you got through the lockdown. Remember you telling me it was hard not being able to play shows first time since forever. The Fleshtones are known, amongst many other things, as a band that never had a non-active year since you started back in 1976. So besides doing the radio show for Little Steven what else kept you busy?
PZ: We led a very pastoral life, really. Long walks in the country, I got my fishing rods all primed, and I started to learn all these songs and practice the keyboards. That lasted about two months then I said fuck it but we still took the walks. Oh, and I was working on a Count Zaremba French language song - I'm still working on that - a year later. French - it's a whole other language. As the lockdown started to fade into history (I hope) I kept feeling that it wasn't so bad after the hysteria died down a bit, it was quality time with the family, Something I'll remember fondly.
Now that things are kind of getting back on track, with plenty of stops and starts, what are your plans with the band? USA, Europe and beyond...
PZ: Well, by the time you read this we hope to have played our first post-covid shows in France, although a show or two were cancelled at the last minute due to new government restrictions. Then in September, we want to pick up where we left off with club dates here in the States. A new all-Spanish language Fleshtones 45 will be out in November, pressed at Jack White's Third Man Record plant. He knows what a rock and roll 45 should sound like – LOUD! Then finally, the postponed trip to Scandinavia. Who knows, maybe even our own 'Adria Tour' - hopefully without the vengeful press!
I love your latest album 'Face of the Screaming Werewolf'. Give a little background info on how you came up with the idea for it.
PZ: Thanks, I was hoping you'd like it. Our bass player, Ken Fox is way more into cheap horror flicks than I am. I just used to watch all this stuff, starting as a kid in the 60s, then in the 70s with my mentor Brian Spaeth (he plays sax on all our early records). Brian and I even started to film our own fake Mexican horror film that we planned to splice some random John Carradine footage into that we'd just film off the TV, but our ideas out-stripped our willpower and the footage we shot has been laying in box since 1974. Some shots pop up in some of our videos. Watch 'Beautiful Light' and pick them out. Anyway, Ken Fox sent me something on a movie by his favourite director Jerry Warren -'Face Of The Screaming Werewolf'. I just kept repeating the title over and over in my head - or saying it out loud to whoever was around. It had to be the title of our next album - and it inspired me to really try and guide what that album would sound and look like. Intellectually speaking, I've always been a real slacker. In all those years, I never put it together that all these crazy patched together movies exploiting an aging John Carradine we're all the work of one man – but of course it was Jerry Warren! Auteur de 'Face Of The Screaming Werewolf'. Besides, I also finally realized that Bruno VeSota is in all these movies -my favourite movie star all my life without me even knowing it! As Sonny Boy sang - 'don't start me to talkin'!
My favourite tracks are the title song, Manpower Debut and the genius instrumental Swinging Planet X. Can you elaborate on those tracks?
PZ: Genius? Sure I'll elaborate. Another cool thing about this record is that Keith and I started working on the songs together just like in the olden times. We'd sit around his kitchen table in his old Williamsburg 6-story walk-up (the legal limit) tenement and brainstorm. Since I already plotted to call the album 'Face of The Screaming Werewolf' we just needed some moody, atmospheric music which Keith already had. A little trip to the body and fender shop and voila! Same thing with 'Manpower Debut', Keith had the music but I think he also had the title. I added the 'Debut' just to fuck it up, and the lyrics. You can interpret them as you wish - a confession, a joke, whatever. 'Swinging Planet X' is an instrumental I've had in my head since - well before the band, maybe even the late 60s. I was really inspired to finally do something with it by watching Brian (Hurd) of Daddy Long Legs. I thought to myself "hey I play one of those things too!' Now I should add that besides being driven mad by the title 'face of the Screaming Werewolf' I had been doing a radio show (Arts & Seizures) with my buddy, the author Mike Edison (I Have Fun Where Ever I Go, Sympathy For The Drummer - Why Charlie Watts Matters - he was also in The Raunch Hands) We were doing our blues nightclub act 'Sharky & The Count'. Mike and I were hanging out listening to the (then) new Stones blues album and Mike said 'whatever you guys do your next album has to be fresh. The way 'Some Girls' was for the Stones. What Mike said really became my modus operandi for the album.
I know that you, like myself, are a huge movie fan. One genre that I'm not familiar with are Mexican horror movies. As I remember they're your forte. I was re-reading Jodorowsky's 'My Spiritual Journey' and he mentioned his affair and subsequent conflict with the controversial singer/politician Irma 'la Tigresa' Serrano. Did you watch any of her movies? If not, where should I start?
PZ: Quien sabe? Like I said I've always been intellectually sloppy. Irma Serrano? Jodorowsky? Maybe I've seen some of that. I grew up watching movies, on TV and in the cinema only we called it a 'movie house' but when your mom is taking you to see first-run Brando in 'The Fugitive Kind' and 'Synanon' (Chuck Connors) it's the same thing. Hell I remember watching creaky old talkies on TV like 'Disraeli' and 'Hallejulah!' (both great). I was happy to read that's exactly how Scorsese got his film education. Everything, I repeat everything was on TV – except promo of course. Now Mexican films? They're getting into vogue, no? Start with 'El Baron Del Terror' staring matinee idol Abel Salazar then even try the 'beloved holiday classic' Santa Claus directed by Rene Cadona. That has terrified generations of children. For Mexi-noir, Doloras Del Rio in 'La Otra' - later remade in Hollywood as 'Dead Ringer' (the only thing better about the Hollywood version was the title), and of course Luis Bunuel's Mexican work, top of the list 'Ensayo De Un Crimen' (Criminal Life Of Archibaldo De La Cruz). Enough?
While on the subject give me your tips on movies, books, records that you have enjoyed lately?
PZ: That question always makes my mind go blank - a good feeling, ask it again but I'm always insisting you watch this movie or that. Did you finally watch Gary Cooper in 'The Virginian'? I started to read 'I Burn Paris' again when the lockdown started but lost interest when the politics became too predictable. John Fante? But avoid all movie versions, even the ones he wrote the screenplays for! Donald Goines? Short stories by Conrad, Capote and de Maupassant? Especially de Maupassant. That's the best because there are a lots of them. As for music, I like the French groups Les Gry-Grys and Liminanas. Also the spooky Russian surf instrumentalists Messer Chups (although there’s only so much surf instrumental revivalism I can take in one dose) and of course Savage Beat!
Hope to see you real soon!
PZ: Likewise brother but the next time you invite me out for pizza, make sure we’re in the same country.