The proprietors of the Memphis Now! sound. TheOblivians have released the best record this year–and they lived to talk aboutit! We had the fantastic pleasure of seeing em play their slop live down inCrypt-town, Hamburg and afterwards got to talk to Greg Oblivian. I reckon its what they call rock`n´roll!!!
Interview by Thomas.
Thomas: Introduce yourself.
Greg: Im Greg Oblivian of the Oblivians.
Thomas: You grew up in Memphis. Whats it like?
Greg: Its a big small town. Its very large butits like a small town and it has a real racist background. But theres a lotof good music there. Its about 80% black, which is whats so weird about allthe racism. I dont know… I liked growing up there. I grew up in a not sogood part of town. Son of a sharecropper.
Tim: Son of abitch.
Greg: Son of a bitch they called me. I mean itsjust like any small town in the south in America. They are all kind of the sameyknow… The only difference is Memphis is really kinda big cause it sat righton the river. So, in the 20s it was like… Like in 1918 it was like Murdercapital, USA. There were more murders there than anywhere else because of allthese yknow transients and stuff.
Tim: Then they moved and migrated north to Detroit.
Greg: Yeah, exactly. Some of them went toDetroit and the rest went to New Orleansand theyve been killing people ever since.
Thomas: Was there a lot of music?
Greg: Oh yeah. There was a lot of really great musiccomming outta Memphis. A lot of that also had to do with it sitting right thereon the river. Yknow, youve got a lot of people come and go up and down theriver, going here and there. Beale streets, of course, drew a lot of blues actsand stuff years and years ago. But theres a lot of influence… HarvesterLane, blue-grass, still to this very day has blue-grass shows every week. Yknowtheres rock, country, blues, soul. Yknow Stax records, Sun records of course.Theres lots of music there.
Thomas: How did you get into rock`n´roll?
Greg: Uuuh, I grew up in a neighborhood where therewere lots of guys and they all played guitar. And everybody, like had their ownband and everything, yknow. Actually I didnt learn this until a couple ofyears ago. But, my father was in garage bands and stuff in the 60s. Theyplayed…
Tim: Have you got the tapes?!
Greg:Heh, heh! They played at one club, like reallybig black club in town called the Paradise Club in the 60s. Anyway yknow,growing up everyone around played guitar and stuff and so there was a guy wholived 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 sitin with him playing country stuff.
And fromthat yknow Ive been playing with other people, whatever. And just keptplaying.
I met Jackand Jack and I have been playing together for about, going on like five or sixyears now.
Tim: Jacks been on and off for a few years.
Thomas: So how did you guys meet?
Greg: How did I meet Jack?
Greg: There was a guy that I lived with. It was likea drugdealer guy. He knew everybody in town and he knew, my roommate, he knewJack. 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,Jacks New Wave band. They played together on shows and he said You shouldmeet Jack. Yknow, he doesnt have a band right now. Hes a really goodbassplayer. So Jack and I hooked up and started to play. He wanted to get awayfrom playing bass, he had been a playing bass for a long time and he reallywanted 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 arhythm section for about three, four years. It never happened so here we are.Still with two guitars and a drumset, yknow. That was a few years ago. Itsbeen a long time.
Thomas: When did you form the Oblivians?
Greg: Uh, about two and a half years ago. I wasplaying drums with 68 Comeback and we got back from a tour and while I was outof town Jack had been playing with Eric. They were playing guitar together andso when I got back we all three started playing together and then we wrote somesongs and said Hey, well make a band or whatever.
Thomas: What was the first thing you recordedas the Oblivians?
Greg:The first thing we recorded was, uh, there wasa local blues guy named Cracklin Ferris and he had these songs where he wouldjust scream rude things about women. He couldnt play guitar but he got thename Cracklin cause he would just take a microphone and rake it across theguitar so that it sounded like [screeching noises] and then he would screamridiculous things. And so we backed him up and those were the first recordingswe did. Which I still have the tapes of.
Thomas: How did you get in touch with Crypt?
Greg: Lets see… The way I remember it, we playedin…we did a show in New York with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Our first showout of town. We had never played out of town
before. Wehad only done like, two shows in Memphis and nobody came. We played up there atMaxwells and Jon, after the show he said You know, I really liked you guys. Illtell Tim Warren about you. And Long Gone from Sympathy. You know, maybe theywill give you a call. I dont know, maybe Eric already knew Tim somehow. Idont know…
Greg:I guess all of that culminated into…and thenI guess maybe Eric sent him a tape or something…
Greg:And thats how it happened I guess.
Thomas: And that was your first release?
Greg:Yeah, well the first release… We did ahandfull of singles first. The first single was suppossed to be on In the Red. Causehe got first cut, the first choice of what he wanted from the material werecorded. But his turned out to be like the last to come out. Cause he took solong doing it. The first one to come out was Erics on Goner. And then one onEstrus, then the one on In the Red, then one on Crypt and then the album. Andalso the ten inch on Sympathy. The first full length was the Crypt record.
Thomas: Did you record all this stuff at thesame time? All the stuff from the singles?
Greg:Yeah, except for the Estrus single. Estrus isdifferent. Its just four-track stuff we did up in Jacks bedroom.
Thomas: How do you decide whos going to playwhat?
Greg:The way we came up came bout revolving it, theinstruments and stuff. None of us could play drums very well. We could allkinda play drums and we all playedguitar so we just took turns yknow. Whoeverdidnt write the songs and didnt know the guitarpart had to play the drums.
Thomas: The 68 Comeback single, was that theonly thing that all three of you recorded with Jeff Evans?
Greg:The only thing with all three of us and Jeff. Iplayed on the 68 Comeback ten inch.
Tim:Which is their best record.
Greg:Yeah. Some of Jeffs best songs, definitely. Wellactually, theres two things. The Sympathy double 7 and theres also a teninch called Live At Melissas Garage. And its the same line up, theOblivians, Jeff Evans and Walter Daniels. Same as the double seven inch. Butyou cant find it. Theres only like 300 pressed or something.
Martin: Is it on the CD?
Greg:No, its not on the CD. You can only get it on10. Its not available.
Thomas: What about the Strong Come On single,is it recorded in Elvis karate studio?
Greg:Yes, Kang-Rhee Karate Studio. Its where Elvisused to take karate lessons, but its been vacant for a long time. No longerused and it belongs to the Memphis College of Art. They use it for student artspace, to do paintings and stuff, and a friend of ours had the space and saidYou can go there and record. Theres nobody there. So we took all our stuffdown there and recorded some songs.
Thomas: Are there any more songs left from thatsession?
Greg:Yeah, theres two on the Strong Come Onsingle and theres also another single on Sympathy called Kick Your Ass. Itstwo songs from the same session.
Thomas: Compulsive Gamblers, whos in thatband?
Greg:Me and Jack and also Rob Thomas, Jodie Fiealdsand thats it. A few other people off and on.
Thomas: When was that?
Greg:That was about four or five years ago. And wedid two different recording sessions and released three singles. We have one CDon Sympathy, thats all the recordings we ever did, that never came out when wewere together.
Thomas: What are you influences?
Greg:All kinds of music. we all listen to differentthings. At the moment, right now I listen to a lot of Doo Wop and R`n´B stufffrom the 50s. That kinda stuff.
Thomas: What current bands do you like?
Greg:Current bands, I like the Inhalants, I like theDrags. Uuuhm, Eric and Jack are more into current bands. I dont really listento a lot of new music. Teengenerate. There are a lot of bands I like, but Idont really listen to a lot of new records.
Thomas: Is there going to be a video for Dothe Milkshake?
Greg:I think so. Ive heard there will be, I dontknow.
Thomas: By the porn director?
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:Nothing planned. Cause the new album just cameout. So were just going to try and promote that and play and play as much aswe can. Thats about it.
Thomas:Ok. Thank you very much.