US - Massachusetts - Full Moon 36 - 09/25/99
Willard Grant Conspiracy
a short conversation with Robert Fisher
"I think of playing music as a holiday" (Robert
Swamp Noir is the label, that the Boston-based
Willard Grant Conspiracy prefers for their own music.
Named after the street corner where they recorded their first
record, Willard Grant Conspiracy come to haunt you with
dark, but warm melodies that leave a lot of space to dream
up your own stories inbetween. It's all about feeling and
maybe that's why their music has a very welcome country-
esque touch to it, too.
You may compare them to the Tindersticks, Low, Souled
American or even Codeine, but despite all the darkness the
sun does shine for Singer Robert Fisher and his band - well,
at least sometimes. Robert and guitarist Paul Austin used to
be in The Flower Tamers and after releasing the third WGC
album Mojave this summer on Rykodisc, they hit the
road again in September, playing Europe with The
Walkabouts. Mojave is a new start of sorts: After the
relaxed atmosphere of 3am Sunday and Flying
Low the new record is heavier and more rock-orientated
and even features a short punk-rock gem called Go
Jimmy Go. Elsewhere they move to a higher gear, too,
with How To Get To Heaven for example, even
though it's difficult to actually call it "rock". Recorded with
well-known guests such as Chris Brokaw from Come, Walt
Salas-Humara (Silos) und Malcom Travis, formerly
drummer for Bob Mould's Sugar, the Willard Grant
Conspiracy has finally made a record that sounds like their
live shows. We had the chance for a quick interview with
Robert while he was staying in Hamburg recently.
You tour Europe again in September, this time
supporting the Walkabouts. If I'm not mistaken that is your
fourth time over here since April '98. How come that you
play Europe all the time but hardly any shows in your home
Robert: I guess because we can! It's a lot more
pleasant to drive around in a van here than it is in New
Jersey (laughs). You just show up where people want you
So you really have a bigger following here than over
in the States?
Robert: Yeah. The real reason why we tour here so
much is that it makes more sense economically as well.
You can cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. In the
States everything is so huge and it's very expensive to tour.
Everybody in the band has a job and we have to tour when
people are on vacation.
But you do like to tour?
Robert: I like travelling. Period. There's certainly an
attraction to that, but I like touring at home, too.
You mentioned that you tour when people are on
vacation. Is a tour sort of a holiday for you as well?
Robert: I think of playing music as a holiday
basically. (laughs) If it wasn't fun, I wouldn't do it. Hopefully
one of these days the band will stop costing me money to
take it on the road.
Do you get to do a lot of sightseeing as well or is it
Robert: When you're on tour you really have to
work hard on the places you're in, cause if you don't work at
it, basically all you see is the inside of the club and the lobby
of the hotel.
Turning to the music. Your current album,
Mojave is somewhat more rock-orientated than the
first two ...
Robert: That's really just a reflection of the way the
band has been working for the last two years. Over half of
the songs on the record are songs we've been playing live.
And there's still songs on there like Love Has No
Meaning and Another Lonely Night that are
slower and more atmospheric. But I never claimed with
3am and Flying Low that we would just do
one thing. As a music fan I hate it when bands just stay the
same. We come from a rock background and so it's natural
that that would crop up in our music.
There was talk of a bonus CD to go with
Mojave. What is the story behind that?
Robert: Rykodisc will make available a bonus CD.
It has five songs and five instrumentals we recorded in
Dave Currys kitchen just for fun. [The record is available
by mail order, so you better check out the Rykodisc
webpage at www.rykodisc.com - Carsten's note]
Thanks for talking to us and good luck with the new
Five records, recommended by Robert
The Triffids' In The Pines
Robert: The best example of that band's work.
They were one of the best bands. Their singer
(David McComb - editor's note) just died while he
was working on a record. A friend of mine heard it and she
said it's terrific. Hopefully they will put it out a some
Louvin Brothers' Tragic Songs Of
Robert: That is an amazing record, Edith Frost,
who sings on our record, introduced me to them and I'm
just starting to get to into it.
John Coltrane's A Love Supreme
Robert: The best late night record ever made and
the only album I'd ever put on at 4am.
Pere Ubu's 360° White/Live Sound
Robert: That's an excellent live album everybody
should listen to.
Dusty Springfield's Live In London
Robert: It was just rereleased and has 24 or 25
tracks now. It's not a Greatest Hits thing, more of a tribute
now that she's dead.
Copyright © 1999 Carsten Wohlfeld