Articles and Reviews
Flipside magazine (1996)
Cobra Verde interview by Shane Williams:
Shane quizzes John Petkovic
When alternative rock was really alternative, and women wore pants, and
Cleveland was as much rock city as Detroit cuz nobody gave Roxy Music a
better crowd when they came through town (oops--wrong decade) --uhh...what
I'm getting at here is that there used to be this band called Death of
Samantha in the mid-80's and now there is this band Cobra Verde in the
mid-90's and the singer-mainman of both is John Petkovic and we're here to
let him testify. I don't know if we call them renaissance anymore--but
between a "real" job on a real newspaper and writing for zines and alt. rags
(don't miss his upcoming feature on Robert Moog in ALTERNATIVE PRESS) and
being a stringer for international current events--hey ya know--fuck the
renaissance--this is the 90's but not everyone is a slacker--this is the
fin-de-siecle, but not everyone is a millenialist. You'll notice I ask John
about Cleveland's monument to rock and roll--a museum where, it turns out,
all the people look the same. Now I asked him about it cuz he and the other
J.P. at Alternative Press had allowed themselves to be photographed at the
damn place, but what I didn't know but subsequently found out via one of the
better articles written about Cobra Verde to date, was that John's idea of a
good video would be his band on a commando mission taking the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame out! Hey, even before my buddy Falling James hooked me up with
John (and I now have figured out why James didn't do an int. with him--a
slight conflict of interest cuz they recently split a single and stuff like
that) I'd been trying to get my hands on their initial release cuz I'd been a
big Death of Samantha fan (one of Homestead's best bands, in those days they
were a rock and not a jazz label) but imagine my delight when he named his
follow-up ep Vintage Crime--so my fantasy genre "crimecore" can claim Cobra
Verde as capos--nah--just kidding--I'm sure the last thing John will show any
interest in being is a spokesmodel for someone else's metaphysical (or it
that pataphysical) didactics--but it sounded good for a minute--and he does
at least make sure that the audience for our exchange knows he doesn't think
bank robbers are bunk--so what else can I say to introduce him other than
that Flipside is proud to present...
SHANE: I'm afraid I'm real vague on the dissolution of Death of Samantha and
subsequent flowering of Cobra Verde. Please provide dates (lifespan of DOS,
inception of CV)--some names (cast of characters of CV--and who remains from
DOS) and the whys, wherefores and other impertinent data?
JOHN: Death of Samantha first played out in August 1983 at a Ground Round
restaurant (where I was working as a janitor at the time). The manager of
the joint went on vacation and joked that I should get a group to play there
sometime. The place would have these two-bit urban cowboy guys play
evenings--you know--acoustic guitars struming Eagles and America songs like
"Take it Easy" and "Horse With No Name."
So I told the guy who was running the place while the manager was on
vacation--that this group I had was going to do a show and that everything
was legit. DOS' debut would occur as a three-piece: me, singing and playing
guitar and two guys who were doing a fanzine at the time called Negative
Print---Dave James on bass and Steve-o on drums.
Into the second song--the customers started getting pissed and the
waitresses started yelling at me "get off the stage"--cause their customers
were leaving, their steak-baked potato dinners untouched and unpaid. And
then the cooks working in the kitchen came out to watch and they started
banging the popcorn machine and turning the lights on and off and throwing
food at one another.
And then the guy left in charge of the place turned off the power. And
I got fired (along with two other guys working there at the time).
We added a guitar player, Doug Gillard, and started doing shows.
Anyway, DOS put out two 45's on St. Valentine Records, a label me and
Chris Andrews (of local record store Chris' Warped REcords) and Dave Swanson
(drummer of the Reactions) started.
In '86 we got signed to Homestead and put out three lps and an ep until
we stopped playing in '90.
I don't know about anyone else in DOS--but it just seemed pointless
continuing. I just felt there was no point adding to the trash heap of
irrelevent information by putting out records. And I was sick of dealing with
Then in '91 Curb Records approached the group--wanting to sign us (they
had offices in LA, Nashville and Cleveland). At first it seemed weird--being
signed to a country label run by Mike Curb. But then we found out their
angle: they were looking to revive Wayne Newton's career by getting him to
do "alternative rock" and they wanted a band that would also be willing to
back up Wayne on a record of covers--Roxy Music, NY Dolls, David Bowie, etc.
Wayne's manager (who was also president of the label) was from Cleveland. He
saw us and told us we were the band they wanted.
They even had this story board for the video: Wayne playing a Vegas
casino with him and Sammy Davis (also on Curb) tap dancing with these
stripper-like women and us backing them up.
It sounded like a great idea until Wayne filed for bancruptcy--and then
Sammy Davis died--and the deal was off. For good.
SHANE: Tell me you're pulling my leg or tail about this Curb/Newton
connection--I mean you could've told me you were gonna score a film or
something, like the remake of FUNNY GIRL with Liz Phair and Courtney Love
alternating scenes or something (you know like that one Bunuel movie (?)
where Maria Schneider quit cuz the hero's schlong wasn't as long as Brando's
or he wanted to use crisco instead of butter; and she got replaced by two
actresses playing the role's scenes at random throughout). Seriously--say it
JOHN: I wish it wasn't true--but yes, it is! It was Wayne's manager's
idea--and it was sounded so bizarre--it might have worked. I hope you're
pulling my leg as far as those two 'actresses'--doing FUNNY GRRL. How 'bout
them two and Wayne Newton in a remake of 'Performance'? By the way the flick
you're talking about, "Obscure Object of Desire" is a great picture.
SHANE: Common thread between the two is that Cosloy was at Homestead when
they were releasing DOS stuff and is at Matador who getting CV out there--so
discuss any part he has played as a booster of your efforts--and anything
good or bad you have to say about those labels or any others--or labels in
general--now's the chance?
JOHN: Gerard being at Matador didn't really have anything to do with
Cobra Verde happening--he would tell me (after DOS ended) that I should start
another project-but it was Robert Griffin at Scat Records who told me he'd
like for me to put something together for him to release. I went
along--thinking of it as a one-off type thing. So me and Doug and Dave (who
both played in DOS) went into the studio as a one-off to do a record. Doug
played guitar and Dave drums (even though he played bass in DOS). Don Depew
(the engineer at the studio we did the record) played bass.
Matador told Scat they wanted to distribute our record and the Guided by
Voices stuff (also on Scat). We didnt even have a name for the thing until
the cover art for the record was being sent off to Matador. So I had a
friend call me from Telluride, Colorado and I asked him to suggest a
name--and he's out there hanging out with Werner Herzog (German director
who's just brilliant) and he asks Herzog to suggest a name and he says Cobra
Verde--the name of the last film he shot with Klaus Kinski--in honor of Klaus.
SHANE: More specifics on Scat--cuz it has ties to the Cleveland scene...I
want to hear about the early 80's scene there and how it developed/fell
apart...I think plenty has been written about the mid-70's; Electric Eels
etc, etc, days thanks to Chris Stigliano--but let's hear about the 80's when
you, John were still a teenage punk rocker and then became a frontman in your
JOHN: When DOS started--the punk scene in Cleveland was more hardcore
(centered around a downtown club called the Lakefront). There really wasnt
much of a scene--if you were in high school and were into punk--you were the
punk scene. We didn't play this real fast hardcore stuff--cause we couldn't
play that fast and cause we thought it sucked anyway. The
Velvets/Stooges/Flipper--and the older CLE stuff--Devo/Pere Ubu/Easter
Monkeys made sense to us--even though it didnt really fit in with what bands
were doing in the Cle punk scene at the time.
Anyway, scenes in Cleveland usually last as long as the newest club
stays open (1-2 years and then it changes). It revolves around small pockets
of people scattered around the city. Sometimes it can be real vital cause
you get people who have weird ideas not fitting in anywhere because there's
so many programmed kiss ass conformists around you and since it's gets boring
around here, you develop you're interests by yourself. It makes become
either stronger in your ideas or a total conformist. That's why a lot of
weird music comes out of this area.
Anyway, Scat head Robert Griffing used to be in Spike in Vain--who went
from doing odd-tempo crazy ass noise rock to this sort of Gun Club deranged
blues stuff--and DOS played with them early on. After SiV broke up, he
started Scat inorder to put his own band's records--Prisonshake (in 86-87).
Their first show was opening up for DOS. He was also into a lot of the older
Cle. stuff and started putting out re-issues, one-offs, etc. The first band
he actually signed to Scat was Guided by Voices, from Dayton. Anyway, after
DOS broke up he had asked about putting out some unreleased stuff--I dont
remember what I said but I really wasn't that nostalgic to have the stuff
Anyway--he started asking about doing a record with what turned out to
be Cobra Verde. I gave in. It's like rock'n'roll recidivism--you just cant
go straight--and you dont know why you did it--and once you do it you cant
stop. You cant go straight from rock.
You're hooked and you've been had.
SHANE: So why did you think that Griffin was on you to do something? I mean
there has to have been a dynamic that caused him to pursue the issue with you
and make sure you and other DOS members did some music. And what about the
other guys in the band, the mail interview format doesn't lend itself as well
to attempting to talk to all of you, could you at least give me your opinion
about how they were feeling about the split and reformation---I mean you're a
scribe with other ways to get your rock'n'roll ya-ya's out--cuz I don't think
too many people would claim that rock critics can't rock in their
writing--though maybe it is rare--but with Bangs and Meltzer as examples and
inspirations we don't have to feel too deprived of rock juice--but anyways--a
bit more on the dynamic within the band--personality-wise, if you will.
JOHN: When DoS broke up, I really had no interest in playing music--and I
really didn't want anyone to even know that the group had existed--I wanted
all the records to just disappear. But that was just me. Because Doug
(guitar) and Dave (bass in DoS, drums in CV) went on to do their own projects
and Steve-o (drums in DoS) went on to do comedy skits and started appearing
in parades (he even got on Phil Donahue). So they were doing various things,
studio-wise and playing out. Don (bass in CV) was working on a project of
his own--Flaming Telepaths--and asked me to do vocals for a Scat Records show
that featured bands from this Hotel Cleveland compilation he was doing. Doug
was also on the comp. as a solo project and Dave was on this Scat comp. as
Rainy Day Saints. It was like 10 bands playing that night--so FTs did three
So at that point Griffin started saying that I should get something
together and it kinda evolved into a studio project with Doug and Dave. FTs
was practicing at Don's studio--so it ended up that we would do the project
for Scat. So, when I say I didn't want anything to do with music--it's more
me--and not the other people in the group.
I like to do the rock writing for two reasons: 1). I want to write about
the things I find interesting or love; and 2). I'm flat broke and I need the
cash. I just interviewed Patti Smith--and she was telling me that she got
into playing in a band because rock had been taken out of the hands of the
people and ended up in arenas. Rock'n'Roll as an art form was dying and she
wanted to act as a bridge until someone else would come around to take it
over from her--and that to me was so striking--because rock'n'roll is always
dying--and always getting it ass pulled out of the fire by someone who comes
around. And then it happens again and the cycle continues. I'm not saying
that CV is out on a mission to save rock'n'roll--but look at it like
this--Metallica is the hottest band on alternative rock radio. And every
punk rock band should be thankful that the bands they're ripping off aren't
around anymore. Otherwise, Rancid and Green Day would exposed for the
ShaNaNa's they really are. Some of 'em even make those Bowser faces--like
that jerkoff in Green Day.
Anyway, CV was started because there's a certain sound and attitude
we're shooting for--that and the fact that 1). I couldn't become a Unabomber
since--I've always been clumsy with explosives (I used to be a pyromaniac as
a kid and the fires I'd light would get out control like when I set my house
on fire--and whenever I'd light off firecrackers they'd blow up in my hand);
and 2). I was always an insomniac who even very young couldn't get any
sleep--so I'd imagine I was in a rock group. Rock'n'roll is a good way to
work the knots out of your stomach (until it gives you an ulcer).
SHANE: So I get the impression that you want CV to be taken seriously...?
JOHN: I really don't care if CV is taken seriously--I just hope some people
get off on this stuff. I want CV to be an escape--something that feels
different. All the stuff I've ever gone crazy over has been because it makes
you feel different in a way you can't understand.
This alternative/indie shit just wants to reaffirm what the audience is
already thinking. It's about nothing--it looks like nothing and it's afraid
of everything. All this ironic clever shit--like some whiny jerkoff looking
like a dork and acting like "it just so happened that he's on stage." What a
joke. If Richard Roundtree was the boy next door he would've never been
Shaft. If Marlon Brando was y'r drinking buddy--there wouldve never been
"Last Tango in Paris". I don't want to listen to the mundane--I don't want
to look at some asexual dork--trying to show me that he's just like me cause
he isn't. I never wanted some rock jerk to confirm my views or feel like
he/she understands me. Alternative/indie to me means resent---but not rebel.
SHANE: OK, you bag on Alternative Rock plenty--and without even naming any
names we can assume the main culprits you take offense at are whiny ironic
slacker bands--but what about the punk rock resurgence that not only means a
lot of pop punk for the teens--but zillions of guys in their 30's and even
40's from the old school reforming bands or starting new "stupor groups" and
what not--I mean what do you think about the punk resurgence be it
predictions on how long it will last or particular benefits that have accrued
or ghastly absurdities you've encountered? Riff on...
JOHN: This punk stuff is the ShaNaNa for a new generation. Why would anyone
try to imitate something that's totally foreign--it's like Green Day--they
sound like one of those WWII movies--where the Germans are speaking
English--but with a German accent! The thing that's so weird about the punk
thing (which may last until this interview is published) is you have these
dudes with Ph. Ds calling themselves Noodles--or whatever that asshole's name
is--or whatever. Epitaph has more to do with the Wall Street Journal than
Flipside. But I don't listen to that shit so I don't care what they do. All
I know is Metallica is "the hottest Alternative Rock Band in America." I
just hope all these record labels sign nothing but alternative and punk
bands---and Metallica. Really, though, this is why I got out of music
earlier--so fine--I hope all these punk bands make a lot of money--along with
SHANE: I know a lot of your anger and outrage stems from frustration over
the so-called Bosnian war. Go ahead and give you connection to it, your
feelings about it and how that ties into anger at the culture in America?
JOHN: I've always been anxious, not angry. I was born two month immature
'cause I couldn't handle it in the womb--it was getting real boring in there
so I had to bust out. Bosnia is another story.
After DOS broke up, I worked for a while as an aid to Crown Prince
Alexander of Yugoslavia and then for most of the war I was a correspondent
for a Bosnian Serb news agency, sending news from here over there. And I
knew (and still do) a lot of people, family and friends, over there. I used
to live there for months as a time while I was a kid and actually would find
out about a lot of bands while I was there.
While on one hand the U.S. talks about maintaining and saving the
multi-ethnic society of Bosnia--it presided over the destruction of
Yugoslavia--which was really a multi-ethnic state and a charter member of the
UN. The U.S. government and media depicts the Muslim faction in the Bosnian
war as the legitimate, multi-ethnic secular government and supports them as
such---even though they only represent one faction and have always
represented the Iranian militant brand of Bosnian Islam. Their popular
support is 20-25% of the people of Bosnia--since the Muslim president, Alija
Izetbegovic didn't even receive a majority of the Muslim vote in the last
elections before war broke out. Yet they have received political and
military support from the US.
For instance, when the U.S. bombed the Serbs for "violating a Bosnian
safe area", they overlooked that prior to that the Muslim side had attacked
Serb towns in the area--and that on numorous occasions throughout the war
attention would only turn to the conflict when Serbs were launching
counter-offensives against the Muslims or Croats. Where was the media when
Serb towns were being attacked and cleansed? Why?
Obviously, the US was backing a party in the conflict. When Croatia
drove out 200,000 Serbs in the area known as Krajina back in August 1995,
where was the U.S. government and media to decry "ethnic cleansing?" They
even sent NATO planes in to bomb Serb positions during the Croat attack.
Where is the media to inform the US public that more Serbs have been
"ethnically cleansed" than either Croats or Muslims? Where was the media to
investigate Clinton's involvement in Iranian military backing of the Bosnian
Muslims--or Germany's backing of the Croats? Or that "democratic" Croatia
has now even decided to bury it's WWII fascist Ustashi dead alongside the
Serbs, Jews and Gypsys that were killed in the death camp Jasenovac (where
over 200,000 of the 750,000 were murdered--predominantly Serbs--during
Croatia's WWII fascist state). And with Clinton's backing, Croatia today has
been able to accomplish what it couldn't with Hitler's support--the first and
only ethnically-pure Balkan state.
So, knowing a lot of people who were made refugees as a result of the
conflict and "US humanitarian bombing" (even though a friend's family was
wiped out by America's peace-loving smart bombs)--I get tired of listening to
a free US press and a democracy-loving US government. In America, there's no
need for conspiracies--since everyone thinks exactly the same. It's more
insidious than a totalitarian state because human rights and democracy will
bomb the shit out of you and come away with clean hands. Why is it that the
American helicopter flyer in Somalia who is shot down becomes a hero in the
free American media even after he had just been firing rockets in Mogadishu
neighborhoods? America is a beast that only sees its own stupid mortality
when you take it's blood or it's wallet.
And, as strange as it sounds, this alternative-indie stuff has the same
mindset--it posits itself as being something different--yet thrives when it
confirms it's own existence. It needs to be understood and loved--or it will
turn on you. If you don't love America, we will destroy you. Things like
Vietnam are good for this country cause it wakes it up from this childish,
murderous dream it craves.
SHANE: Without going too much deeper into the politics of former-Yugoslavia,
how are you feeling about the war crime trials--on one hand they are making a
spectacle show trial for the world of certain Bosnian Serbs; do you think a
world body can or ought to do anything along these lines? (With them or
anyone else?) And what about all the indicted men that NATO won't confront
for fear of more "hostilities" in Bosnia--I mean talk a little about the
current state of affairs over there and internationally, both your opinions
and any insider news you might have that we wouldn't have seen in the news?
And is there a source of new you recommend? What about that Berserkistan
Website, any good?
JOHN: The war crimes tribunal was created by the United States--through Amb.
Albright--is being financed by the U.S.--and is a political court to serve
the political interests of the U.S. U.S. troops on the ground know that they
can't hunt down Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic because it would be very
costly in terms of U.S. lives during an election campaign. They want top
eliminate Mladic and Karadzic because they want to marginalize the Bosnian
Serbs. This whole farce about human rights is the justification for
bombings, expanding NATO, arming one side, eliminating Russian influence in
the Balkans, etc. Why does the U.S. not criticize it's new found ally in
Albania--where a virtual dictatorship exists--and no opposition can even hold
meetings? Because Albania has allowed the U.S. to use it as a military base.
Why has Croatia--the first ethnically-pure state in the Balkans--not been
accused of genocide in the current conflct. Afterall, they've got a good
deal of experience with it, going back in time. When Carl Bildt, current UN
civillian affairs head for Bosnia, accused Croatian president Tudjman of war
crimes for driving all the Serbs out of Krajina, the U.S. said no--it wasn't
ethnic cleansing--the people left voluntarily (as bombs and mortars were
landing on their houses).
Unfortunately, especially for the Serbs in the former-Yugo, who did in
fact lose the war, the U.S. as only superpower means the U.S. can dictate the
terms everywhere in the world. Fortunately, this is only a temporary
state--since China is on the rise--and can tell Clinton to fuck himself. And
I think the Russians and Japanese and Europe as a whole are learning
something about dealing with the U.S. Afterall, the U.S. will impose
sanctions according to its own interests. On China re: software and
audio-video recordings to protect contributors to Clinton's campaign. On
Russia--Clinton threatens sanctions when Yeltsin says Russia will stop buying
Tyson Chicken (Clinton contributor in Arkansas). On Iran--Clinton & Co. will
demonize it when it involves Hezbollah and Israel, yet allow Iran to operate
in Bosnia when their objective is to fight the Serbs. So this whole farce
about human rights and U.S. democracy can only go on as long as there isn't a
balance of power in the world. As far as news sites re: the former-Yugo, I
get my stuff from various sources over there, none of which are part of a
SHANE: What kind of bands did you first see when you were a teen spending
months at a time living in Yugoslavia? And exactly how did shuttling back
and forth to Europe affect your musical upbringing and criteria?
JOHN: I started checking out music at the age of four going over there--so I
didn't get to go to clubs! But what I found wild about music was that in a
supposed "closed" society--people were into a hipper music than in "free"
America. I found out about Velvet Underground, Stooges, Sex Pistols, Alice
Cooper, etc. And it wasn't weird or alternative. What's bad is when people
find out about music and they discover it as "weird" or "obscure"--over there
finding out about Patti Smith or Roxy Music or NY Dolls--everything was just
music. So sometimes it's hard trying to figure out why are people looking at
you like a weirdo--"no you're the weirdo" I used to tell people growing
up--cause something is only weird or strange if you're told it is. Anyway,
in regards to music I found that "closed" place to be actually open--where I
could check out things for what they were. That's why I've always wanted
good music to get popular. I guess I never saw it as being "weird."
SHANE: What is the Leaving Trains connection, you did a split with them and
covered one of their oldest songs on a fanzine flexi release--so how did you
meet James blah blah?
JOHN: You see, I was always a big HOLE FAN! Uh, just kidding. We had a
mutual friend that hooked us up in '86 or so--and D.o.S. and LTs did some
shows together in Ohio and California. But the first time I actually met
James was when Leaving Trains were playing Columbus, Ohio after one of their
"way back" tours--you know, on the way out there's a band--on the way back
(after fighting and quitting) there isn't. So James had this guy Jack Rabies
on drums--on this tour James had become like Chuck Berry--in that he'd find
these pick-up bands--you know--you find someone--pick em up--take em to the
next city--and put em in the band. So the show was inconsistent but it was
his "rock attitude" that came through--except when he started begging on
stage for some pot--I always thought rock meant you were too proud to beg
(even though you probably should).
But really, I've always been a big LT fan --and a big Falling James
fan. I hope this isn't starting to sound like one of those Dean Martin
roasts? You know---James doesn't know the meaning of the word 'hate'--James
doesn't know the meaning of the word 'greed'--James doesn't know the meaning
of the word 'betrayal'----AND DESPITE THE FACT THAT JAMES DOESN'T KNOW THE
MEANING OF MOST WORDS...
Anyway--I've always thought that he does understand what rock'n'roll is
all about--I'm sure he gets the bagpipes on that AC/DC record--or that
playing the blues doesn't mean--"I feel low--I'm gonna play me some blues,
boy"--it's the blues style--or rock or punk--or robbing banks--it's how you
carry yourself. It's all about the swagger and the sway.
SHANE: Any genre of the 90's that you want to stick up for--or heap scorn
upon: Black metal? Ambient dub? Lo-fi?
JOHN: Rock music has always meant taking what had gone on before and
putting in a different context--but I like it high-fi.
SHANE: When you talk about liking "hi-fi" and in other things I've read you
make reference to "symphonic" as a quality your band possesses and/or aspires
to--do you mean that you use a lot of tracks and effects in the studio? And
what does that mean to you as far as the live sound, will it be significantly
different or will you make up the difference by using extra stuff on stage as
well (extra as in more than git/bs/drums/vox)?
JOHN: I finally think I'm starting to understand something about the
"sound" of music--and I don't mean Julie Andrews. I've finally realized that
when you hear a song--you hear the song as it sounds when it's played and/or
recorded--you remember the song by how it "sounds"--not just the melody,
chords, drum parts, etc. I got to inteview (synth pioneer) Robert Moog for a
story I was doing on him a while back and he talked about the idea of
"novelty songs" from the 50's and 60's--songs that were usually
instrumentals--and used a gimmicky sound/instrument that you'd ultimately
remember the song by. In the '70's there was this silly song called
"Popcorn" by Hot Butter--where the group used synths to--no surprise--imitate
popcorn popping. Well the song became a big hit--and like Moog said--synths
became a way to introduce newly-created sounds into a rock-context. But it's
not limited to only synths--who would've thought that AC/DC would rock out
That's what I mean--when earlier you asked about wanting to do something
seriously--I want to prick peoples ears with sound as much as I want people
to rock to song. The worst thing--and this goes back to why I can't listen
to this indie-alternative stuff--is the idea that four guys just went into a
studio and did this heart felt four guys just playing thing. I don't want
authenticity--I want sound and song. For instance, when I first saw fake
snow in a Fellini film--I loved it--it's was an EFFECT.
Listen for instance to a guitar--it generates sound because it's
strings, pick-ups and an amp--you play chord formations--but the sound it
generates appears as such through a series of effects. Same thing with a
drum. So why is a drum machine any different? The reason I'd rather hear an
old "cheap sounding" drum machine than "real sounding" sampled drums is
because--it is a drum machine--it's an instrument--why should it try to
imitate another instrument?
In regards to CV, we're working on an lp now--and I want people to be
able to hear sounds they may have heard before--but can't put their finger
on--because of the context those sounds appear in. I think it's something
I'm finally starting to understand--the actual "sound" of music and how
relates to the power of song.
As far as live vs. recorded music--I think they're two different
things--I'd like to try/add other things live--but I think live it has more
to do with impact, than atmosphere. Also, live it has less to do with
replicating a recording--and more to do with the visual side of rock--it
should be in your face.
SHANE: Which brings us to your connection with analog versus digital--both
in what Cobra Verde does and what your philosophy is about them. I thought
that was pretty great that you went on the trail of Robert Moog, but do you
really believe you can do as much with analog compared to digital?
JOHN: I don't know if there's a philosophy--but it's really the sound of
analog--that fuller sound that's variable. It's harder to maintain and the
stuff breaks down and goes out of tune. But when you're using the analog
stuff you have an unlimited number of combinations you can try out by just
turning a knob--so it's easier in many ways.
Also, I just associate it with records I like--it's like you hear PIL's
"Second Edition" record and you hear that string sound and it was done on an
ARP Omni--so you get one real cheap--and you play with the knobs till you get
that sound and then you play around some more changing it until you come up
with something else. On digital the whole process is totally different.
SHANE: So how much touring did DOS do and why aren't you anxious to do so
with Cobra Verde--or CAN I tell the LAngelenes that you plan on making it out
our way for sure anytime this year? I know you said you ain't interested in
doing the van thing--but is that cuz you wouldn't want to give up the
stability of your day job to do so--what about if won the lottery or you got
laid off anyways--had no work commitment--would you then consider life in a
van--or are you seriously holding out for a tour bus?
JOHN: CV is definately going to tour--van or no van--because I'll take any
excuse to quit my job--it isn't stability--I'll do anything so I don't have
to work. What I mean by bands just jumping in the van--and grovelling for
chump change is this whole notion that "we just love to play"--it's
irresponsible--that why I didn't want to have anything to do with music
before. It's not about just doing it--for kicks--I wouldn't want to waste my
time or anyone else's time (and money) just for that. If most the bands
touring would just sit home--a lot of people going to see the bands would be
happier. CV will tour and hit the west coast--but I want it to be worthwhile
and fun for the people coming to see us.
SHANE: What about the rock'n'roll hall of fame in Cleveland--you've been
there--tell those of is who haven't about it? Is it worth visiting? Did you
defile it in anyway when you went? Would you want to end up there some day?
JOHN: When I went there with a couple friends--they had the Pink Floyd
"Wall" exhibit--and so they had the actual wall---well, I was never really a
Pink Floyd fan--and actually I thought it was that monolith pictured on the
cover of the "Who's Next" lp--so I unzipped my pants and started pissing on
the wall--trying to imitate that Who cover. We had a security guard on us
before anything even started coming out--and we were kicked out. As much as
they talk about being into rock'n'roll--they didn't understand when I was
trying to explain to them that we were just imitating the "Who's Next" cover.
The funny thing about the place is that the manequins all look the
same--so you see Debbi Harry and Patti Smith standing next to one another and
they look like identical twins--except for the wigs. If I had my choice I'd
rather be in the Hollywood Wax Museum than the Rock Hall.
It's not worth trying to bust out just to see it, Shane.
SHANE: Any comments on the concepts/terms "nudecore" (the use of nudity as
a form of expression by such performers/fans) or "crimecore" (the support of
criminality as an integral value of punk rock)?
JOHN: You're serious? Well I guess it depends on the scene--but in
Cleveland I wouldn't want to see the scensters here without their clothes.
As far as "crime core", I'm all for it. Most bands should be locked up
before they even go near a stage, let alone a studio.
I don't believe in this three strikes and you're out, though. Why not
four balls and go to first base? Like a friend told me, why did they pick
three strikes--maybe people get sick of committing crimes after three
times--so let 'em out. It's like these scumbags like Pete Wilson who wants
to get the so-called Unabomber trial in California--so he can wave his big
cock on tv every night. Everyone wants a shot at the Unabomber. But long
after Wilson runs his last campaign--people will remember the Unabomber--as
Also, I think bank robbers should be honored by our society not
condemned. Instead this sick society honors corporate bureacrats and
alternative dorks who aspire to be a victim, the martyr--leaving nothing but
a will. Inheritance and estate tax. Glory comes to the thief
afterwards--when he becomes the legend. So, there was once a thief willing
to rob a bank without a gun. He walked out of the bank, caught a bus and
made it home for dinner. Now that, Shane, is art.
If you want to drop a line to John about anything--go ahead--write to Cobra
Verde at PO Box 29546, Cleveland, Ohio 44129--at some point, John promises,
CV is gonna get an e-mail address--even though he says still fighting the
urge to join the fast lane. Oh, yeah, CV's also got some matchbooks for
giveaway that John says are "real snazzy." All of John's attempts to send
them to me, here in the pen, have been unsuccessful. But that doesn't mean
that those of you on the outside can't get 'em.
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