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The proprietors of the Memphis Now! sound. The Oblivians have released the best record this year--and they lived to talk about it! We had the fantastic pleasure of seeing ‘em play their slop live down in Crypt-town, Hamburg and afterwards got  to talk to Greg Oblivian. I reckon it’s what they call rock`n´roll!!!

Interview by Thomas.


Thomas: Introduce yourself.

Greg: I’m Greg Oblivian of the Oblivians.

Thomas: You grew up in Memphis. What’s it like?

Greg: It’s a big small town. It’s very large but it’s like a small town and it has a real racist background. But there’s a lot of good music there. It’s about 80% black, which is what’s so weird about all the racism. I dont’ know... I liked growing up there. I grew up in a not so good part of town. Son of a sharecropper.

Tim: Son of a bitch.

Greg: Son of a bitch they called me. I mean it’s just like any small town in the south in America. They are all kind of the same y’know... The only difference is Memphis is really kinda big cause it sat right on the river. So, in the 20’s it was like... Like in 1918 it was like Murder capital, USA. There were more murders there than anywhere else because of all these y’know transients and stuff.

Tim: Then they moved and migrated north to Detroit.

Greg: Yeah, exactly. Some of them went to Detroit  and the rest went to New Orleans and they’ve been killing people ever since.

Thomas: Was there a lot of music?

Greg: Oh yeah. There was a lot of really great music comming outta Memphis. A lot of that also had to do with it sitting right there on the river. Y’know, you’ve got a lot of people come and go up and down the river, going here and there. Beale streets, of course, drew a lot of blues acts and stuff years and years ago. But there’s a lot of influence... Harvester Lane, blue-grass, still to this very day has blue-grass shows every week. Y’know there’s rock, country, blues, soul. Y’know Stax records, Sun records of course. There’s lots of music there.

Thomas: How did you get into rock`n´roll?

Greg: Uuuh, I grew up in a neighborhood where there were lots of guys and they all played guitar. And everybody, like had their own band and everything, y’know. Actually I didn’t learn this until a couple of years ago. But, my father was in garage bands and stuff in the 60’s. They played...

Tim: Have you got the tapes?!

Greg: Heh, heh! They played at one club, like really big black club in town called the Paradise Club in the 60’s. Anyway y’know, growing up everyone around played guitar and stuff and so there was a guy who lived about three blocks away and he basically showed me some chords and stuff. He had a country band with an older guy. And for two, three shows he let me sit in with him playing country stuff.

And from that y’know I’ve been playing with other people, whatever. And just kept playing.

I met Jack and Jack and I have been playing together for about, going on like five or six years now.

Tim: Jack’s been on and off for a few years.

Greg: Yeah.

Thomas: So how did you guys meet?

Greg: How did I meet Jack?

Thomas: Yeah.

Greg: There was a guy that I lived with. It was like a drugdealer guy. He knew everybody in town and he knew, my roommate, he knew Jack. And Jack used to be in a New Wave band and apparently their band...

Tim: Johnny Vomit and the Dry Heaves!

Greg: Even after Johnny Vomit, it was The Errands, Jack’s New Wave band. They played together on shows and he said ”You should meet Jack. Y’know, he doesn’t have a band right now. He’s a really good bassplayer.” So Jack and I hooked up and started to play. He wanted to get away from playing bass, he had been a playing bass for a long time and he really wanted to play guitar. So we started a band with both of us playing guitar and, like, forced some eople to play drums and bass. We just kept trying to get a rhythm section for about three, four years. It never happened so here we are. Still with two guitars and a drumset, y’know. That was a few years ago. It’s been a long time.

Thomas: When did you form the Oblivians?

Greg: Uh, about two and a half years ago. I was playing drums with 68 Comeback and we got back from a tour and while I was out of town Jack had been playing with Eric. They were playing guitar together and so when I got back we all three started playing together and then we wrote some songs and said ”Hey, we’ll make a band” or whatever.

Thomas: What was the first thing you recorded as the Oblivians?

Greg: The first thing we recorded was, uh, there was a local blues guy named Cracklin’ Ferris and he had these songs where he would just scream rude things about women. He couldn’t play guitar but he got the name Cracklin’ ‘cause he would just take a microphone and rake it across the guitar so that it sounded like [screeching noises] and then he would scream ridiculous things. And so we backed him up and those were the first recordings we did. Which I still have the tapes of.

Thomas: How did you get in touch with Crypt?

Greg: Let’s see... The way I remember it, we played in...we did a show in New York with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Our first show out of town. We had never played out of town

before. We had only done like, two shows in Memphis and nobody came. We played up there at Maxwell’s and Jon, after the show he said ”You know, I really liked you guys. I’ll tell Tim Warren about you. And Long Gone from Sympathy. You know, maybe they will give you a call.” I don’t know, maybe Eric already knew Tim somehow. I don’t know...

Tim: Yeah.

Greg: I guess all of that culminated into...and then I guess maybe Eric sent him a tape or something...

Tim: Yeah.

Greg: And that’s how it happened I guess.

Thomas: And that was your first release?

Greg: Yeah, well the first release... We did a handfull of singles first. The first single was suppossed to be on In the Red. Cause he got first cut, the first choice of what he wanted from the material we recorded. But his turned out to be like the last to come out. Cause he took so long doing it. The first one to come out was Eric’s on Goner. And then one on Estrus, then the one on In the Red, then one on Crypt and then the album. And also the ten inch on Sympathy. The first full length was the Crypt record.

Thomas: Did you record all this stuff at the same time? All the stuff from the singles?

Greg: Yeah, except for the Estrus single. Estrus is different. It’s just four-track stuff we did up in Jack’s bedroom.

Thomas: How do you decide who’s going to play what?

Greg: The way we came up came ‘bout revolving it, the instruments and stuff. None of us could play drums very well. We could all kinda play drums and  we all played guitar so we just took  turns y’know. Whoever didn’t write the songs and didn’t know the guitarpart had to play the drums.

Thomas: The 68 Comeback single, was that the only thing that all three of you recorded with Jeff Evans?

Greg: The only thing with all three of us and Jeff. I played on the 68 Comeback ten inch.

Tim: Which is their best record.

Greg: Yeah. Some of Jeff’s best songs, definitely. Well actually, there’s two things. The Sympathy double 7” and there’s also a ten inch called ”Live At Melissa’s Garage”. And it’s the same line up, the Oblivians, Jeff Evans and Walter Daniels. Same as the double seven inch. But you can’t find it. There’s only like 300 pressed or something.

Martin: Is it on the CD?

Greg: No, it’s not on the CD. You can only get it on 10”. It’s not available.

Thomas: What about the ”Strong Come On” single, is it recorded in Elvis karate studio?

Greg: Yes, Kang-Rhee Karate Studio. It’s where Elvis used to take karate lessons, but it’s been vacant for a long time. No longer used and it belongs to the Memphis College of Art. They use it for student art space, to do paintings and stuff, and a friend of ours had the space and said ”You can go there and record. There’s nobody there.” So we took all our stuff down there and recorded some songs.

Thomas: Are there any more songs left from that session?

Greg: Yeah, there’s two on the ”Strong Come On” single and there’s also another single on Sympathy called ”Kick Your Ass”. It’s two songs from the same session.

Thomas: Compulsive Gamblers, who’s in that band?

Greg: Me and Jack and also Rob Thomas, Jodie Fiealds and that’s it. A few other people off and on.

Thomas: When was that?

Greg: That was about four or five years ago. And we did two different recording sessions and released three singles. We have one CD on Sympathy, that’s all the recordings we ever did, that never came out when we were together.

Thomas: What are you influences?

Greg: All kinds of music. we all listen to different things. At the moment, right now I listen to a lot of Doo Wop and R`n´B stuff from the 50’s. That kinda stuff.

Thomas: What current bands do you like?

Greg: Current bands, I like the Inhalants, I like the Drags. Uuuhm, Eric and Jack are more into current bands. I don’t really listen to a lot of new music. Teengenerate. There are a lot of bands I like, but I don’t really listen to a lot of new records.

Thomas: Is there going to be a video for ”Do the Milkshake”?

Greg: I think so. I’ve heard there will be, I don’t know.

Thomas: By the porn director?

Greg: All tits!

Thomas: What are your plans for the future?

Greg: Just to keep playing and keep recording and...

Thomas: Is there anything new coming out?

Greg: Recording wise?

Thomas: Yeah.

Greg: Nothing planned. Cause the new album just came out. So we’re just going to try and promote that and play and play as much as we can. That’s about it.

Thomas: Ok. Thank you very much.

Greg: Ok, thanks.

Associated time: Tuesday August 1 14 2007 14:00
Last update: Tuesday August 1 14 2007 14:42

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