who would punk out on one of the most stylistically apt bands in modern music? The Liars would, it seems. Less than two weeks before they were set to tour with Blonde Redhead, the Liars dropped out "due to lack or organization and money". Though a definite disappointment for the avant-garde rockers, who began playing music together in New York City in the early nineties, the group nonetheless began their 37-date tour without the original opening act and are dropping jaws across the country with their exceptional live performances.

On October 15, Blonde Redhead played a double encore performance to an ecstatic crowd in Columbia, Mo. Their hypnotic presence was highlighted by tracks from their latest offering, Misery Is a Buttefly, which soars through lush string arrangements, warm guitar rifts, analog keyboards, and, most notably, the exotic vocals of Kazu Makino and Amadeo Pace. Fugazi frontman Guy Picciotto co-produced the album, as John Zorn disciple, Eyvand Kang, assisted with the string arrangements and the legendary David Sylvian recorded an alternate version of "Messenger" with the band.

Before the show, I got the opportunity to speak with lead singer and guitarist, Amadeo Pace, about the album and his band. He sat us down at a table at the venue's bar and said we could talk as long as we needed to.

How has the tour been going thus far?

Amadeo Pace: It has been good, I would say. I think it has only been around ten days, so far—I'm kind of losing track. I'm trying not to think about it too much because we have a lot of touring coming up and the less we think about it the easier it will be.

It must be kind of a bummer that the Liars dropped out.

AP: Yeah, that was pretty messed up. It was like ten days before the tour. They put us in a real tough situation. It is still kind of crazy just trying to reorganize the whole thing.

On 4AD's website, it is noted that you guys have achieved and attained success simply by word of mouth and the power of your live performances. Is it nice to know you guys are not a product of media hype and that it is your music that has brought you such success?

AP: (with a smile) Is that a question?

I guess... um, is it just nice that your band hasn't attained success simply because publications built you up?

AP: I think that that is the healthiest way. We were lucky enough to never be confronted with that kind stuff; we were never pumped up by the media. In a way, that was good because we were able to work harder on our music and the other things that we found more important.

I have not had the experience of being in a band that is all about the media and in an environment where things happen real quickly. It has been slow and gradual for us. I don't know how we would have handled a quick success or a huge success, knowing what type of people we are. Some people can handle it really well, but I don't think we could have handled excessive hype. I think it was good in many ways that things happened the way they did.

Tell me about some of the musicians that you collaborated with on the new album…

AP:Well, David Sylvian played one song with us. I played with him before he recorded with us and we kind of became friends.

How about Evyand Kang, on the orchestral arrangements?

AP:He's really amazing. He's so bright; just a real bright guy. He knows about everything and he is really open-minded about a lot of things. Musically, it is almost like we didn't really have to talk to him. He almost read our minds, as far as what we wanted. I mean, we worked on all the arrangements for three days, but we would just sing something and he would be able to just play it and create it and it was always really good. I don't think we could have done it if he was not that capable and that quick.

When you guys were recording the string parts was there ever a fear of how you would recreate it live?

AP: No, I mean, well... yeah, I guess a little bit, but that was not my concern. It did not stop us from creating with the strings. I don't ever want to make a record and think about how to duplicate the sound live. I'll think about it later and we will deal with it somehow. We want to try to do something on an album that we have never done before and I think that if we started thinking about it, we would stop growing and stop experimenting.

With live performances, you just have to think about it a bit differently. All the songs have a different nature and they can be played in different ways and you can find the energy in different ways—replacing the strings, not having strings, and so on.

The album, itself, sports a very unique production, being so warm and so lush. It almost sounds detached from modern recordings; it has a very genuine feel to it. Were any special production techniques used in the making of the album?

AP: Well, we recorded the album entirely on tape. Now people are starting to record their records on...

Protools and stuff.

AP: (smile) Yeah, I felt like a dinosaur carrying all these tapes. And we recorded the strings on tape as well. We had 48 tracks, one machine running with the other—two 24 track machines. It was so nice. It was also difficult at times but we stuck it out. We also recorded using a sound board that belonged to Queens. It is a really beautiful Trident board. There are only like 4 or 5 of them in the world. It all helped.

What keyboards did you record with?

AP: We had a clavinet, which is a Honer from the 70s. And we had a Nord Lead. We also used an organ on one song.

How do you guys go about writing the songs? Is it a collaborative effort?

AP: Yeah, it is collaborative. We respond a lot to each other; if someone brings an idea to the band we all work with it. Most times, it is me who brings the ideas and then I play them for the Kazu and Simone and they respond to them. Sometimes we are like, "oh, that is terrible!" and we have to change the song a lot while other times, the writing process happens real quickly.

Do you ever write songs specifically for Kazu to sing?

AP: I'm not so sure how that happens... I guess it is usually pretty obvious who should sing a given song. The stuff I sing she couldn't sing and the stuff she sings, I could never sing.

Misery Is a Butterfly was recorded before you were signed to 4AD. Was it nice to record and then let labels decide who likes you the best and also to not have to work under the potential watchful eye of a label?

AP: It was, but we never were under the watchful eye of a record label. I don't think I could deal with that. We wouldn't put ourselves in that situation.

Have you guys started working on a new album, yet?

AP: No, I think we have to stop for awhile and digest this last one. We're pretty slow. We work hard, but it just takes forever to work through stuff and to really feel the music and make sure it is right.


Blonde Redhead (Smells Like, 1995)
La Mia Vita Violenta (Smells Like, 1995)
Fake Can Be Just As Good (Touch and Go, 1997)
In An Expression of the Inexpressible (Touch and Go, 1998)
Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons (Touch and Go, 2000)
Misery Is A Butterfly (4AD/Beggars, 2004)

By: Kyle McConaghy
Published on: 2004-10-25
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