Interview and story by Ryan Schreiber Transcribed by Allison Miller.
Interview from August 21, 1996
Pitchfork: Why'd you choose Capitol after all the years of looking for the perfect record deal?
Simms: We had a really great relationship with Touch and Go [Records], where we more or less were in charge of or had approval of all of the recordings, the music, and the marketing of the record. We were just use to that and that's kind of how we wanted to do things. All of those labels, when they come sniffing around, will promise you everything you want to hear, but when it comes down to actually putting stuff like that into the contract they get kind of sketchy and slink off with their tails between their legs. Capitol was the only one that seemed willing and ready to back it up and they did. Things have gone very well so far.
Pitchfork: David Yow was arrested during Lollapalooza in Cincinnati. What was the story there?
Simms: Cincinnati is sort of renowned for their censorship anyway. It's the place where the curator of the art museum was taken to trial for putting on a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit. Lollapalooza had a film tent set up and there were big signs set up at the Cincinnati show, and only the Cincinnati show, that said due to the nature of some of these films and because of the fact that we're in Cincinnati we're not going to be showing all of the films that we normally show in the film tent. Then when we were playing, David went into some sort of rant about censorship and First Amendment Rights and stuff and took off his clothes to make his own little statement about that. The police were very sly about it. They let us finish the set and get off the show and then didn't do anything for a good half hour or so and then they sort of showed up and arrested him and took him off. Then we just went and bailed him out and he had a court date, paid a fine and was on probation for a while. It was really no big deal. The thing about those situations, is that a mutually beneficial relationship evolves between the bands and the district attorneys. They know that they couldn't hurt the band. They knew they were generating a lot of publicity for the band and the people behind that kind of situation are more concerned that they're generating a lot of publicity for themselves. So you get a district attorney and a prosecutor who's ambitious and will do something that crassly cynical just to advance his own career even though he knows he isn't genuinely addressing a real problem and he isn't even punishing the people who have allegedly done any wrongdoing. So it turns into some weird twisted mutually-beneficial relationship. It's a strange thing to be a part of. We didn't really ask to be a part of it, but that's what happens.
Pitchfork: So David also joined Yoko Ono on stage in Chicago. Was she a big influence? I mean, how did that whole thing happen?
Simms: Yoko's on Capitol, as well as us. We're label mates. The band was in town on tour and they just had the idea of all of us coming on stage and doing some stuff and David went up and Dwayne went up as well and played some guitar. I don't know if I'd call it that much of an influence. Her son's Shawn in the band as well, and I think he sort of enjoys the Jesus Lizard and I think it was actually more his idea than Yoko's.
Pitchfork: How did the tour with Ministry go?
Simms: That was a lot of fun. I think it was a good opportunity to play for people who normally don't come to see us or maybe hadn't heard of the band and the audience responses were good. I enjoyed it.
Pitchfork: A while back you did a double single with Nirvana. How did that thing get going? Whose idea was it?
Simms: We initially started talking about that with them when they were still on Sub Pop. It was kind of an interesting situation because they were only about as big as the Jesus Lizard. They wanted to do a split single on Touch and Go which we thought was a good idea and before we had a chance to actually get around and do it they signed to Geffen and became the biggest thing since whatever. But Kurt still wanted to do the single and he still wanted to do it with us and he still wanted it on Touch and Go. So we did.
Pitchfork: What is your favorite Jesus Lizard record thus far?
Simms: That would certainly be Shot. I like the sound of the recording. I like the performances better than anything we've done and I think the songs are better. I think the songwriting stands out better.
Pitchfork: When you guys started out, indie-rock was still a relatively new idea.
Simms: Well, it still actually meant indie-rock.
Pitchfork: Well, most indie bands at the time never really got heard of or went anywhere on a major scale. Then along comes you guys and a couple of other bands doing the same thing and suddenly it takes off. Now you're some of the founders of this whole movement of music. When you first started recording did you ever expect to be like a big name?
Simms: No, I guess I didn't expect it. This has gone much farther than any of us expected that it would. I think we sort of fulfilled all of our goals years ago and all the stuff we're doing now is extra gravy. Which is great. We're having a lot of fun and it's a good situation to be in.
Pitchfork: What were your guys' daytime jobs like then?
Simms: The last daytime jobs we had, Mack worked at a record distributor in Atlanta, I worked at a record distributor in Chicago and David and Dwayne both worked at health food grocery stores.
Pitchfork: When you guys were touring for those 2 or 3 years when you were a pretty new band was it like being on the road constantly?
Simms: Yeah, it was. There was a time in there when we were pretty much never in Chicago for more than a week or so for about 16 months, which is hard, but it helped the band a lot.
Pitchfork: What song would you rather hear played at a hockey game, "Rock n Roll Part II" by Gary Glitter or "We Will Rock You" By Queen?
Simms: That's a tough one because I like those songs, but it would probably have to be...if you're talking about the entire song and not just the snappy bits it would probably be "We Will Rock You," especially on the basis of that Brian May guitar solo which is so weird and fucked up. I always did love that guitar solo.
Pitchfork: How did you come up with the band name?
Simms: I can't remember. It was something me and David came up with and I think band names...it's a stupid band name but we just didn't much care at the time. Although, it was unfortunate that it came in the midst of such a ridiculous slew of Jesus band names like Jesus Jones and the Jesus and Mary Chain. I knew of a Jesus Manson. So we made it the goal of our existence to outlast all of them and that's what we did.
Pitchfork: So is 1996 the year of the Jesus Lizard?
Simms: Either it is or it isn't. If it's not '96 then it will be '97 and if not '97 then '98 and if not '98 then '99 or some year after that.