David Yow Scary Not Scary
Published Jul 09, 2013David Yow is a complicated man but here are things that are known about him: He used to live in Texas; he sang in exhilarating, influential and somewhat unsettling bands like Scratch Acid, the Jesus Lizard, and Qui among others, where he has proven to be one of the most charismatic and confrontational frontmen in rock music; he is a graphic design and visual artist; he is an actor, currently starring in independent films and potential network television shows; and he has a brand new, mostly instrumental and rather brilliant solo album called Tonight You Look Like a Spider out now on Joyful Noise Records.
Did you play everything on this record?
Yes. The only thing that anybody else did was, there's a song on there called "Senator Robinsons Speech." One of my closest, dearest friends, J.R. Robinson, sent me an email once delineating very graphically and explicitly what he would do to me if he was a bestiality-loving homosexual. It's really gross. So, I just took that email and had the computer read it, then I fucked with the way she was reading it to make it sound like a really bored woman.
The whole record is rather unsettling and it sounds rather cinematic to me. Did anyone or anything inspire you here?
I'm kind of a fan of Angelo Badalamenti and I was listening to a lot of his stuff. I think you can hear some of that in there. There's the occasional thing like, "Oh, that sounds kind of Twin Peaks-y or something." At the time, I wasn't really thinking of it as cinematic but, since I finished it, I'm well aware that it could work out in a whole bunch of film-ic scenarios.
Since the record's scary, I wonder: are you scary?
I'm just ugly. I scare children.
Aw, c'mon, you're not really scaring children with your face are you?
[Laughing] I don't know. I try to be nice to them but they scream and run away. It's funny, I didn't think it was scary and Joyful Noise was touting it as, "the terrifying new album by David Yow" and I was like, "Really? Terrifying?"
Well, with its modulated midi sounds, distorted voices, sudden screeching and stomping, and its classical bent, at the very least, it conjures a very surreal atmosphere.
Well, thank you, I like that idea. I like creepy stuff. I'm certainly no expert on classical music but I've always been a fan of Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite, so there's a fair amount of him in there. And the "Opening" suite is divided up into five little tunes and the fourth of the five is a complete Tchaikovsky rip-off. So, I'll just come right out and say that.
Interesting, I had no idea you were so into classical music.
Well again, I'm no expert. Actually, the first part of the "Opening" suite is called "No, Proko," and was named after I played it for a friend who said it reminded him of [Sergei] Prokofiev. I was going, "Are you fucking out of your mind? I wrote something that makes you think of Prokofiev?" And he said, where Prokofiev was playful, I was horror. And I was like, "Fuck yeah!"
Do you have any musical training?
No, none at all. That's why the record is so weird because I have no concept of music theory at all. Considering that I did music for over 20 years, I really don't know anything about it. I don't know chords or anything. That's kind of why the record is retarded in a lot of ways. It's a little bit analogous to the way children draw. It's got ideas but no focus because I really don't know how to focus stuff.
I was watching TV and this American Express commercial starring Carrie Brownstein of Portlandia and Sleater-Kinney came on. There's a scene in a record store and I thought I heard a snippet of the Jesus Lizard's "Mistletoe."
Yes. We get these emails from our lawyer saying "Hey, these people want to use a song for whatever." I honestly don't remember saying yes or no or "I don't like it" or "I love it" to American Express, but I must have. It has to go through all four of us. Or, it could've been three of us said yeah and I said no. We're pretty democratic that way; I honestly don't remember.
Some fans have expressed some disappointment that the song appears in a credit card promo.
Honestly, I am a little embarrassed that we have a song on an American Express commercial but I'm not gonna let it bother me. I do think it's funny that they would choose that song. I mean God, I don't even like that song. It's hard to listen to. It never appealed to me very much.
The Jesus Lizard are playing an All Tomorrow's Parties show in Australia [curated by the Breeders] this October.
Yeah, and there are also plans to play in New Zealand, possibly in Japan, and, for the first time ever, South America as well.
Oh wow. So you clearly enjoyed the 2009 reunion tour?
It was so much fun, I couldn't believe it. It was great to hang out with them again and a much, much better time than I expected. Not to mention that I made more money in that year than I've ever made in my life, which is a really cool bonus.
Some members of the band have suggested that they'd love to write and record new material together. Are you one of these members?
No. I don't have any musical desire right now at all. Even this solo record, I finished it six years ago. I don't have any drive for creating music. Doing the re-enactment shows, we're not creating anything. I think occasional music projects will come up — I did a few songs with Qui at the end of 2012 — but I don't really want to do music full, or even part-time. I'm much more interested now in acting.
Listen to this entire interview with David Yow here.