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flag 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 Fisher)

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 country?
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 to.

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 just hotel-soundcheck-hotel-show?
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 - Carsten's note]

Thanks for talking to us and good luck with the new album.

Five records, recommended by Robert Fisher:

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 point.

Louvin Brothers' Tragic Songs Of Life
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 e-mail address

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