Gaunt Who Killed the Radio?
Scanning the Dial and Naming the Names With Gaunt
Interview by Jon Sarre with Viva Las Vegas
Jerry Wick, Gaunt's singer/guitar player and the guy the rest of the band defers to at Q&A; time, is nowhere to be found. Your dazed and confused Lollipop kid (Jon Sarre, for the record) is nervously hefting his tape recorder from hand to hand and wondering if slouching in a hallway with guitarist Jovan Karcic, bass player Eric Falcon, drummer Sam Brown, sound guy/producer Tim Mac and Ruyter and Jeremy from Nashville Pussy qualifies as an "interview." Gaunt's tour manager has set off in search of Mr. Wick, but he took off with Viva Las Vegas, my co-interviewer/paramour. I'm left there with this guy from the club who's hounding me for a press pass, something no one else has ever heard of.The rest of Gaunt, of course, sadistically enjoy my obvious discomfort. Luckily, Viva showed up a couple minutes later with Jerry in tow, just as Ruyter and Jeremy were threatening to "kick my ass" for some foolishness involving people none of us know. Wick says "hi" and then takes off. Me and Viva sorta jog after him and catch up to him in a little room with an ashtray. Jovan, Eric, and Sam gradually straggle in, Wick lights up the first of many Old Golds and we're off:
Jon: This tape recorder picks up all right.
Jon: I dunno...
Viva: We can talk about how Jovan sucks for changing those lyrics [to "Pop Song," a 1993 single Gaunt re-recorded for their new record, Bricks and Blackouts, changing the lyrics from "Stay Away" to "Stay Awake" in the process].
Jon: Let's talk about Jovan.
Jerry: I don't like him.
Jon: He didn't write that song...
Jerry: I wrote the song, but he's the one who changed the lyrics.
Jon: What was up with that? Was that one of those deals where you... know how you write a song...
Jerry: No, they didn't tell us what to do...
Jon: Well, no, not... I'm not askin'...
Jerry: They didn't even suggest it, we just... no one suggested we change the lyrics.
Jon: I'm talkin' about the sound of it... I've got the single... I heard the remade version and I just wondered if it was one of those deals where you kinda write a song in your head and you think you know how it's gonna sound and then you go and record it and it sounds totally different. So was it one of those deals where you went back and said 'let's redo this now that we've got more money in the budget'?
Jerry: No, we just kinda did it for kicks. We just recorded it and we liked how it turned out. In the room we mixed it, it sounded, to me, way different. There were tons of guitar and then when it came out, there was hardly any guitar on it... but the whole record turned out that way. We mixed it in a room like this [a tiny room]. It sounded amazing, but I listen to the record... the guitars get lost. I don't know if it was the room or what.
Jon: There's definitely a progression, I think, from like...
Jerry: We wanted to try different things. I wanted the record to sound like "Fox on the Run"... like Sweet or something like that. Maybe "Cherry Bomb" where it's got an edge, but it's kinda cleaner... we wanted to make a pop record, so we did.
Jerry: The rest of the world can go fuck off!
Viva: An immaculate pop record... is it getting radio play?
Jerry: Fuck no...
Viva: What did Warner promise you? Did they promise you anything? Did they make you change anything? Did they bend you over and slap your butt at all?
Jon: Does Ted Turner come to your shows?
Jerry: We're gonna drop the label... I'll tell ya the truth... we got our stuff ripped off in... San Francisco about a year and a half ago...
Jovan: Two years ago actually.
Jerry: We didn't have any money. We didn't have anything. I think the band would've just fuckin' taken the hint and broken up.
Jovan: The bass player left.
Jerry: We didn't have a bass player...
Jovan: The bottom basically dropped out.
Jerry: I got blown off... I started drinking myself completely silly... so, yeah, we probably would've broken up... so we got the van out of it, we got the instruments out of it, you know, I don't give a fuck what they do. Hopefully, they'll just drop us and we'll just go back to Thrill Jockey or AmRep.
Jon: Did you guys both come from Columbus?
Jerry: We came from Cleveland... I grew up 18 years in Cleveland... went to Kent State... migrated down to, uh, Columbus...
Jon: So how old are you, if you don't mind me askin'?
Viva: [incredulous] 22?
Jon: See, he makes things up... but did you listen to... was...
Jerry: Cleveland radio was amazing when I was growing up.
Jon: Was it really? Did they play local stuff?
Jerry: Well, until I was like 13 it was, they still had free-form radio and uh, they played like Pere Ubu all the time, Rocket From the Tombs, Peter Laughner...
Jon: They played Rocket From the Tombs?
Jerry: ...really late at night. There were all these awesome college radio stations growing up. That was the pride of Cleveland.
Jon: I don't know exactly why, I'm not sure, cuz it seems like such an unlikely place, cuz when ya think punk rock in the early days... ya think the Dolls, the Stooges, ya think Detroit... sometimes LA, usually New York, but, um, it seems like a lot of the people who made that music in that scene came from Ohio, like the Dead Boys, Pere Ubu...
Jerry: Cuz there's no hope in Cleveland, Ohio... you're not on the coast, you're not close to lawyers, you're not close to anything... There's no hope... so you actually make good, honest punk rock music. It's not like, uh, I'm not gonna slam any bands, I already got in trouble for this, but it's not like...
Viva: Come on!
Jerry: Okay, it's not like Screeching Weasel... I'm not sayin' they're bad or anything, but they're definitely not in the punk rock aesthetic. I don't care about what's gonna happen. I don't care, I'm just making this, cuz if I don't, I'm gonna fuckin' slaughter someone... [In Cleveland] they're not lookin' for people to listen to it, they go into the garage, they record it, they print 1000 copies and then it becomes infamous because it's hard to find...
Viva: So Jovan, how come you changed the lyrics on "Pop Song"?
Jerry: They're all upset with it, they hate it.
Jovan: We change it back for the live version.
Viva: It's more radio friendly.
Jovan: Say the label made us do it. "Stay Away" is too much for the kids.
Jerry: I'll tell ya why... there's that Nirvana song called "Stay Away." What Jovan suggested was that it was kinda similar. After I heard the song, I was like, fuck man, it's just like ours, which was written before, but yeah, so it goes with Ohio bands... miss the bus...
Jon: I saw the New Bomb Turks the other night. It was a great show and I liked how Eric plays with the whole... 7 Seconds or Bad Religion, or something... like he's got the mic down his pants or between his legs.
Jerry: He's the Jerry Lewis of rock!
Jon: There's these kids and they're like inches away from his crotch, singing the words to all the songs. They're not even realizing it... He can work a crowd really well.
Jerry: It's working man's music... they're like the Springsteen of punk rock... we're [tongue in cheek] the Dylan of punk rock.
Jon: Who would Cobra Verde be then? Are they the King Crimson of punk rock?
Jerry: [laughs] They're anti-music.
Jon: I love that band [Cobra Verde] and Death of Samantha...
Jerry: Rules! I grew up every fuckin'...
Jon: Where the Women Wear the Glory and the Men Wear the Pants is one of my top five like best...
Jerry: [quoting] "I woke up on Good Friday and I couldn't believe I was still me."
Jon: "Sylvia Plath"...
Jerry: The Peter Laughner cover... do you have the first one, Strung Out On Jargon? That's amazing!
Jon: And the EP, with "Blood and Shaving Cream"...
Jerry: And "Werewolves of London" and it's got "Yellow Fever," which rules... They were an amazing band, them and the Mice, when I was growing up like from 16 to 18... DoS rules!
Jon: How's your record doing?
Jerry: Ever been fishing?
Jon: Yeah, I've been fishing before.
Jerry: You know the fish that float on top of the water?
Jon: The dead ones?
Jerry: Uh huh.
Viva: It's only been a month.
Jerry: Yeah, but I don't care about that shit, we just wanna make good fuckin' records. I don't give a fuck about gettin' played on the fuckin' radio... Sometimes success is the same as complete failure.
Viva: "Pop Song." You guys could sell computers with that, or Dr. Pepper.
Jerry: You can't let go of that, can you?
Viva: I was offended.
Jon: She wanted to hammer you guys.
Viva: If you guys could get to Minnesota where I grew up... I never heard X... I never heard Pussy Galore... what else did I never hear...?
Jon: Cheater Slicks.[laughter]
Viva: How was I supposed to hear punk rock?
Jerry: Back then, if you just cracked the nut, all the stuff would just come out.
Jon: [Today] It's almost like people don't want you to buy their records...
Jerry: It's a front!
Jon: Of course it is...
Jerry: It's a lie... it's like sayin' "We're an indie." Oh fuckin' yeah! You're in NOFX and you're selling 8 million records! They can afford to say they're still indie. I can't sell 8 million records... I'm not puttin' the band down, but it's a bold commercialized statement.
As the tape runs down, the conversation shifts to the inadequacies of the rock press, Jerry's favorite Dylan record (which he never quite pinned down, though Street Legal was mentioned as a candidate for some reason). Wick also admitted that he owns four copies of Rumours by Fleetwood Mac.
At that point, three Warners publicity flacks and a pair of strong-arm goons burst in brandishing legal writs and blackjacks. They gave Viva and me an explicit directive to "disregard any and all Stevie Nicks references, as Mr. Wick is obviously having a psychotic AOR radio episode." Cowed by a brief beating, we signed on the line provided and were released just in time to catch Gaunt's super-high octane set. Just kidding, Time Warner minions (except about Gaunt's set being great), please stop hitting me.