- Thursday, December 19, 2013, 9 p.m.
2501 Kettner Boulevard,
Pere Ubu can and have been praised for their salvo of dark matter fired from America’s heart (their native Cleveland) starting with their first single “30 Seconds Over Tokyo” in 1975. They bring their Lady From Shanghai tour to the Casbah on December 19. Singer/lyricist David Thomas took some questions over email.
What are the Pere Ubu’s prior experiences with San Diego?
“First played there in 1979 at a small theater with John Otway. Nobody was there. Maybe 12 people or something. Really astonishing. Since then we’ve played at the Casbah a few times and love it there. We like the motel nearby under the landing path at the airport. Love the train tracks behind the rooms.”
Which cities, historically, are the most conductive and non-conductive to what Ubu does?
“Oh, I don’t want to try to think through this sort of thing. I show up and do the show. Some cities are good. Some are not so good. The fans are always fans and appreciative. Two guys and a dog or 12,000 people, it doesn’t make all that much difference to what comes off the stage. We often actually try harder at slim-attendance shows just to make a point to ourselves.”
Two of your current Ubu members weren’t allowed into the U.S. for the American leg of this tour. What led you to select guitarist David Cintron? What and how does he add and change?
“[Drummer Steve] Mehlman suggested him along with a couple other candidates. I quizzed Steve and then made a decision. Never met Dave until the first day of rehearsal. This isn’t unusual. I’ve not met anyone new to Ubu for the past 20 years before I asked them to join the band. That’s how I work. And as usual, Cintron has proved to be perfect for the gig. Don’t meet people and don’t talk to them — works every time. Nothing good comes from talking. And, as my doctor points out, talking is bad for your health”
The new album was assembled using the “Chinese Whispers” technique with members piling on parts without being able to hear or conceive of the whole. What were the more surprising things about THAT procedure and ITS results?
“Lots of things were surprising, I suppose. Too many to relate. Many, if not most, of the songs were tracked first by the drummer, Steve. Sometimes I’d be shouting instructions down his headphones as he played. A year later, when the album was finished, he didn’t recognize two of the songs at all. He thought I’d gotten some other drummer in to do the parts.
The method doesn’t really affect older songs. You need to understand that at the heart of my method is to interfere as little as possible with the other musicians. I don’t talk to them. People think this is exaggeration. It is not. I lie to them. I misdirect them. I do monologues in the dressing room and through these I impart information about events many months in the future that I expect them to apply at the appropriate time in the future. ‘Don’t ask me questions — don’t bother me’ is the most common expression coming from me.”
The Ubu Projex Corporate Slogan reads “Ars longa, spectatores fugaces — Art is forever, the audience comes and goes.” Does the audience have any substantial influence on Ubu doings? Could the band accomplish what it wishes to accomplish in the absence of any audience?
“The audience has one role and one role only — to observe. It’s Einsteinian physics — relativity. Ask any producer of music. They will work on an album, for example, every day of their lives for a year — know it inside and out. The first time they will actually HEAR it is when it is played to a third party who has had no exposure to it.”
You describe yourself at the Ubu website as “an old man facing the end of his life.” You’ve also mentioned training a replacement for the position of lead singer and retiring from the stage. Are we looking at the end of Pere Ubu?
“There is no reason the Pere Ubu project should ever end. I will continue as long as I want to and as long as my body holds out. If I can find the right guy, it will continue past me. Ubu is the idea, not the people.”