Bush Tetras Talk "Happy"
Tue, 13 Nov 2012 10:38:14
Everything happens at the right time. Even though Bush Tetras recorded Happy in 1998, now couldn't be a more appropriate time for the quartet to release it. It's an unbridled alternative epic, eclipsing the group's sonic hallmarks and emanating raw energy. Sounds like just the kind of record the 21st century could benefit from…
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief, Bush Tetras guitarist Pat Place discusses Happy, writing music, and so much more.
What's your take on Happy as a whole?
Making it fourteen or fifteen years ago, I thought it was cohesive then, and it flowed. It's definitely almost like a period piece. It's of the late '90s in the way it's produced and mixed. I might have done things a little bit differently now. That's why it was done then, so you have to go with it.
There was an energy for this music back then. It's preserved here just as vibrantly.
That's great. I'm happy to hear that! I think if music is good, it can get through and be timeless. I feel a little bit distant from it but not really because we still play five or six of those songs live. I love playing some of them too. It's great to get this out. It was disappointing back then we realized it wasn't going to come out.
It feels like this is the right time for Happy.
Maybe that's right. It's a good way to look at it.
Is there a visual element to the songs for you?
For me, I've always felt music is visual. Perhaps, it's all the same part of the brain, and they're related. I come from a visual art background. I get that sense with the song "Motorhead". You get this feeling of driving through the desert with the sun setting.
What's the story behind "Swamp Song"?
It's funny you mention that song because we always thought of it as a jam. Dee [Pop, drums] liked playing it and said, "Let's throw 'Swamp Song' on there at the end even though it's not really a song". It's a fun, cool, little riff to play. We were working with a different bass player. We started in 1980. By that time, we'd all shifted musically. I think we were actually attempting to write songs. I'd been in another band that was on the road with Hole when they were touring to support Live Through This, which was amazing. Cynthia [Sley, vocals] and I were listening to Alice in Chains and Soundgarden—that heavy grunge stuff. I think we were getting more interested in writing songs because the early material was very jam-y. I can hear the influence. We were writing differently.
What was the writing process like?
Cynthia wrote a lot of the lyrics on this one. We used to collaborate on the songs. Dee would write some lyrics, and I'd throw something in. The band wrote the music.
Was recording especially intense for Happy?
It was great. We did it with Don Fleming, and we rehearsed with him for about a month so we were well-prepared. He made it a lot of fun, bringing in all kinds of videos. We watched This Is Spinal Tap a couple of times.
Did songs usually begin with a riff?
A lot of times it was with a riff. We had a rehearsal space where we got together and had these jams. That's how the band always worked. Cynthia would put lyrics on top of everything. You know right away if it's going to catch and stick. You can throw a lot of stuff out that way. Then, instead of just jamming, we began structuring everything.
Why the title Happy?
I think we were being slightly ironic or cynical of course. It's a bit of a wink. I just saw Public Image Ltd. play here in New York. They had a record called Happy?. Of course, there's also The Rolling Stones song "Happy". We threw it out there, it felt right, and we went with it.
Who's on your playlist?
That's a good question. I've been on a The Kills streak lately. I like what they do a lot. I saw them over the summer, and they were great live. I've got some soul stuff like Al Green. Then, there's Miles Davis. I'm all over the place.
Have you heard Happy?