[ w/ Tim Rutili ]

Tim Rutili. Very much into dwarves. Curiosity about crossdressing just means he wants to get over on himself. And music he makes with others originally reeks: an atmosphere, new chicago blues, a beauty, a rare thing, nothing to do with boogie chillin' in the same way that John Lee don't play kora.  A voice that's not quite shredded hits the mic on a direct line from the back of a throat that never touches his lips.  red red meat. Califone. Loftus. Orso. Perishable Records

Lil' Tim at 1st holy communion w/ sequin'd man of the Lord


Date: Tue, 24 Aug 1999 17:35:36 -0500 
To: Lee Klein <> 
From: Tim Rutili <> | 
Subject: Re: Eyeshot interview

Perishable Records began in 1992 with your first album. Is that right?

Actually we released the 1st red red meat single on Perishable in 1990 (hot nikkety trunk monkey / x-diamond cutter blues and molly's on the rag).

Why did you put Perishable on ice to be on that major label (Sub Pop) for awhile?

Sub Pop seemed like a good place to be. Same old shit. We wanted to tour and get our music out to the people. The video work I was doing back then was done through perishable so it was kept alive; it just wasn't an active record label.

I’ve been listening to the first album recently. Right after the “hello hello” opener, the bass kicks in percussive- aggressive, the drums hard-rocking. Were the songs written to be played live? 

We were a live band mostly and would work out most of the stuff before we went in. There was occasionally some stuff done right there but most of it . . . live. 

There’s an obvious amped charge to all the songs that must have come from live shows? 

Yes, also we were younger and more into rock. We used to drink entire 4 ounce bottles of robitussen dm for fun. I was obsessed with Sonic Youth. We also wrote more as a group. Built songs together in the practice space instead of the studio. When I started writing slower stuff everyone was a bit bummed out but we all learned to enjoy it. I'd like to try to work out things live and try to play some rock again very soon. Maybe the next red red meat record. The last few shows we played were no toys and machines allowed. Trying to be a bar band again and not ashamed of the guitar. It worked well and we all had fun. There was one show last Halloween at the Empty Bottle and the next day at the Metro. We had Rick Rizzo playing guitar with us and that helped a  lot. Made me want to get drunk and fuck.

On the Perishable site there’s no tour-date page. It’s almost like you’ve retired to the studio. Do you tour as much? If no, why not? 

We all have kids and it's harder to leave them hungry and fatherless. We did a Califone tour for about a month last year. I miss playing live and sleeping in the van. Almost everyday on the last tour someone sighted a dwarf or midget somewhere. Usually at a rest stop or gas station in a rural, in between place. I haven't seen a midget since then. It's time to get back. Next year there will be new Califone and red red meat so I am sure we will do some touring.

I saw you in Boston in 1996 or 1997: You blew away the dozen people in the bar.

2nd best place I have ever been to see rude, loud people: a restaraunt in Boston's chinatown. Open all night. We made sure to eat there after shows every time we went to Boston. Always some incident. There was never any talking at our table because we were too busy eavesdropping and trying not to stare. The last time we were there a low-grade Italian gangster sat across from the owner of the resteraunt and dropped "nip", "zipperhead", "chinky", and "not a fuckin chinaman's chance" into every sentence. The owner hardly said a word and after an hour-long insult session  handed him a brown bag full of money. The gangster says: "Do I gotta count it?" and left. All you can do is eat and try not to make eye contact. 

There’s more space in your music now. There’s more slow exchange between instruments. The guitar/banjo play equal parts percussion with the reverberating gamelan-like clanks (on a steal-your-face painted bed-pan from what I remember?) The bass is rounder and license-plate rattling deep. It’s all rich, often acoustic, with circling feedback, controlled distortion. It seems like you slowed down and opened the songs up. All notes hang and make a space. Tell me about the songs “Paul Pachal” and “Just like an Egg on Stilts.”  Instrumentals.  There were/are a lot of instrumentals going around Chicago. Whatcha got to say?

I am sick of instrumentals. When it's done right it's great, but these days it's almost never done right. I tried to do some vocals for both of those songs but nothing seemed to fit. Paul Pachal was a kid that Ben grew up with. One day they were playing running bases and Ben whipped the ball with all his might right into Paul's balls. He told the story right before that piece was recorded. Hurley even grabbed a sample of Ben saying "right in the nads with a league ball" over and over again. We were all still laughing when the tapes were running. If you turn it up loud you can hear the laughing . . . Just like an egg on stilts was how my friend Andrew described this drag queen called La Chickie. We used to go every Sunday night to this Mexican drag queen bar and drink and watch them fight. The best bar fights I have ever seen. It was like hockey, no one would even try to get between them, I never saw anyone thrown out, after a brawl the fighters would just walk away primping to opposite sides of the room. La Chickie was like Danny Devito with a boob job. She would get drunk by finishing the drinks left on the table when you went to the bathroom (bathrooms here are unsafe). When you got back she'd ask you to buy her another. She was the most amazing dancer and one Sunday she disapeared and we never saw her again. The possibilities are endless. She could be anywhere or dead. La Chickie was a good egg. Yeah.

Except for a few flashes where it sounds like what’s to come, the first album sounds like . . . something. But everything since “Bunny Gets Paid” is your music entirely. Even Orso has that same atmosphere eventhough you’re not on the mic. I realize you play with other musicians. Did you all evolve naturally, without much thought to it, or did one of you say  . . . 

Over the years we all kind of stretched and grew into things. I don't think it was a deliberate thing. Finding broken instruments, playing with garbage, new tunings, old microphones and toys. Living in a self induced hole maybe I dont know . . . we all enjoy patience, listening and reacting (or not) and leaving spaces . . . awhile ago we provided music for a performance by Lawrence Steger. He did pieces from the "in a fog" section of Huckleberry Finn and dramatizations from the in-transit life of Andrew Cunanin. The performance was about writing and trying to find the connection between Huck Finn fooling Jim into thinking that he dreamt a storm and Huck's death while they were rafting up the river and Andrew doing poppers and drinking getting more and more paranoid by the second. He wrote this stuff listening to sections of Califone, Loftus, and red red meat's "There's a Star Above the Manger" and we gave him edits with no vocals and alternate mixes to use for his show. When I went to see him do it I realized that, on a good day, we do the same thing with sounds, words and music: try to take a few elements that are stuck in your head that might have nothing to do with each other and search for the connection . . . enjoy the ride and tangents . . . and  if there is no connection or payoff at the end it's ok. I am just starting to understand the last 5 years of my life now. Music and everything else. Some of it at least, I think . . . hmmm.

red red meat in a greyscale holding pattern at Midway 

Red Red Meat bassist Tim Hurley worked as a doorman at the Rainbow, along with all those musician/record company-owner bartenders. I was in Chicago visiting a friend who lives a block from that bar, right around when Loftus was just about to come out. I got a copy from a friend at Thrill Jockey. I told him how I thought you rocked, one of the most inspired musicians in town (as far as this one Jersey boy knows). He said you had spent the entire day cleaning out truck after truck filled with pig fat. What kind of jobs have you taken to support yourself?

Messenger, set decorator, music video director, truck washer and scale operator, furniture mover, pizza deliverer, record store lackey, worked at Touch and Go for 3 weeks in the return dept. 

What do you think about generosity in music? 

I'm lucky. I have good people around. That makes it easy. It's almost impossible to put aside ego and self promotion and just play . . . to make the song much more important than the people involved. I have seen that happen a few times. I am lucky. You almost have to learn to get out of the way and let the song build itself.

Will you ever go back to hard drumming behind you/screaming murder? 

Yes, I dont know about in the studio but live it would be fun.

I think you bring some soul to the whole blip-and-click Internet contraption, and that’s what I hope to do with Eyeshot. And by soul, I mean a pungent flesh that burns a taste. Something like how your music sounds: plate tectonics in flux, poltergeist whines, controlled jettisons. Ya follow me?

It's just the beginning. Scary to think about all the possibilities and put aside the ugliness of computers. I hate computers but Rob is here and he can do almost anything. We are still learning. There is a good balance of people around here and that will hopefully help keep our aesthetic in line . . . fear of machines is still mighty strong in me. I love broken stuff like the way the casio sounds when it's wet or right as the batteries are running out. We haven't learned to do that with computers yet but Ii think it will be fun to toy with the flaws when the possibilities don't seem so crippling. It's fun to imagine these boxes old and cutting out in all the right ways.

You have a link to a Borges site on the perishable site. Did you ever read that story by him in which Tim Rutili in the ‘90s dreams of a band called Pussy Galore in the ‘80s that influences Exile on Main Street in the ‘70s. Have you read that one? 

I had a friend once who said he would give up his testicles to go into the past and see The Who in London in 1966. I think if he would have been able to do it Quadrophenia would have been about a mod eunech and his regrets.

When your lyrics cut through the intelligible on the 100th listening, they’re even more elusive. That takes a gift. You ever write fiction?

I try to just exaggerate fuzzy memories mostly. Subtract the events from the pictures and smells. I'd like to say that it's all deliberate and I want to leave room for the listener to fill in the blanks and attach it to their own memories but mostly I just enjoy the physical properties of words and how they feel in my mouth and what they trigger. And I am lazy and have a tiny attention span. I usually write in big chunks and mine from it when I need words for songs. I try to jot down a little something every day. I almost never let anyone read it. Maybe someday.

Your contributions are welcomed (unabashedly solicited) here. 

If I ever have anything readable sure, I'd like that. I can't spell and this computer is making me forget everything I ever knew about grammar and punctuation..

What do we all need to know that we don’t? In music? 

Smattering is this band from Minneapolis that I am in love with. You can get their music at 
In books? History of Luminous Motion by Scott Bradfield is a good book. Other? Wow, I don't know.

Can you suggest any links to the good shit? This will be online after all. 

No suggestions just requests: Herzog made a film with an all midget cast called "Even Dwarves Started Small." If anyone can dub me a copy or knows where to find this let me know . . . I'm also looking for that Jerry Lewis movie where he plays a clown in a concentration camp. Supposedly he was at the height of a percodan addiction when he directed and starred in this film. It might be called "The Clown that Cried" . . . any clues would be much appreciated.

Last question: On, you mention that the title be for the upcoming Califone recording might be either "Beneath the Yachtsman" or "I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine Humping a Camel in the Rafters" or "Back the Fuck Up" or "Sex Lives of the Blind" or "The Last Generation Afraid of Machines" or "Twilight of the Yachtsman?" Hmmm . . . . How about: "Let it be St. Augustine, Alive as You Are Me, Back-Fucking the Shit out of a Twilight Machine?"

I like alive as you are me and back fucking the shit out of a twilight machine . . . They'll go on the list. "World Deceleration Record Vol 1" or "New Black Tooth" or "Rattlesnakes Smell Like Split Cucumbers" . . . I have been reading a lot about Rome lately. The working title for the next rrm record is the Golden Ass . . . I think we'll grow into it.

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