After listening to The Jesus Lizard's 1996 Capitol debut CD, it's almost hard to believe singer/lyricist David Yow when he says their upcoming album will be "more moody," more introspective and "less in your face."
Then again, guys who have been doing this for a decade and who could out-riff players many years their junior -- and leave them quaking in the wake of their blown-out speakers -- shouldn't be underestimated.
Shot , the Chicago-based band's first major label album, offers listeners the punk-inspired, jazz-touched music The Jesus Lizard plays like no other musicians.
Just when you're body has adjusted to a grinding, grating groove, an utterly mellow -- many times intricate -- jazz interlude will break out. Or after listening to several songs with the same kind of desperation marking their every note, all of a sudden you'll hear an intro that sounds suspiciously rockabilly -- or plain rock and roll.
In a way, the band's instrument players -- guitarist Duane Denison, bassist David Sims and new drummer Jim Kimball -- are a closer fit to the schizophrenic lyrics ("lies/placidyls/why don't you set up a camera to record your own death dear" goes one song) than Yow's raw pipes, which no doubt inspired every punk and grindcore purveyor to ever make it in the '90s.
"Sure, we use a little trickery here and there," Yow said in understated fashion when asked -- by a phone call to a Knoxville hotel room on the band's latest tour itinerary -- if the new album, produced by Andy Gill and set for release in the spring, would be keeping the same qualities that made their other recordings so intriguing.
And Yow, The Jesus Lizard's principal songwriter, also downplays the quality of his material, calling this interviewer "very sweet" for saying otherwise.
After so many years, Yow has had many experiences with writer's block and creative ruts -- "all the way through 17 years now."
He works through such obstacles by writing himself out of a corner. "I'll first write a whole bunch of stuff, though a lot ends up in the garbage can. I try to find things to inspire me."
Those things may include his wife or his cats Grady, Algenon and Rizz-Rizz-Rizz.
"We've never taken the cats on tour, but my wife has met with us at some shows," Yow said. "Though it's not a good idea to have her there -- it's like I have a 9-to-5 job ... and can create tension."
When told it sounds like he likes to keep his home life, during which time he said he'll do computer graphics or play with those felines, separate from "work," Yow said it's more than that.
"There is a mode you have to slip into. For example, I don't drink unless we're recording or touring. I don't drink at all when I'm at home, and I, uh, drink pretty much when we're on the road."
Other musicians also have told me about being in a certain mode when music-making time commences. They've also mentioned the bonding between members that make a band so good -- and keep them together a long time, even as long as The Jesus Lizard.
"It's weird, though. We'll do a show I think sucked, and Duane thought it was great, and David Sims thought was okay."
As far as live shows, Yow said, "It's like a kind of energy that feeds itself" -- dependent as much on the audience as on those onstage.
In reading the band's press kit, I noticed a few comments about how Yow's microphone sometimes causes trouble, or at least the fear of trouble, when the singer dives into the audience or crowd-surfs all around. On more than one occasion it was suggested the band get cordless microphones.
"No, I would never get one," Yow said. "For one thing, if I drop it in an audience, that would be it -- we'd never find it. Plus, they're so huge and unwieldly ...
"Besides, the cord is good" in that it anchors, at least mentally, the singer to the stage. "It's like the breadcrumb trail."
Leave it to Yow to come up with an instant fairy tale metaphor despite nursing a hangover on the road without the company of his cats.