Cheater Slicks Interview with Tom Shannon

This interview happened in Las Vegas, Summer of '96, during "Crap-Out". They played last, starting at about 2:00 a.m., and drove most of the depraved crowd out into the well-lit night.

G) I hadn't heard your music really until I heard you play last year [`95] in Salt Lake. What are you trying to do with it?

T) Well, I mean, basically we just play the music that comes naturally to us. You know, it's got influences from a lot of different types of music, you know, mainly garage, well I guess garage music would be a primary influence although I don't consider what we do to be really garage-like most of the bands here tonight play. And we've really kinda deviated a lot more from that recently and just play lot heavier, wilder.I don't know what it is. Just our own music. Kind of an amalgamation of different things.

G) Who would you call your influences? It seems like, I mean you've covered some Scientists' stuff before. Would you see an influence of them?

T) Definitely. I mean, there were certain bands that were very influential when we started. Since then, you know, I don't consider them so much as influences as a foundation to what we do. In terms of the sounds that I hear in my head come from those bands; more than trying to pull a lick from something-I don't like to do that. You know, Velvet Underground, Cramps, Stooges, all the basic bands that everybody is into. You know, just basically rock and roll. I'm actually into all sorts of things, but it don't show up in our music. But I listen to all kinds of things, you know country music, jazz, everything. In terms of what we do, we just want it to be completely over the top and insane, and we're groove-oriented. We like to do things, play things, extend them a little bit.

G) Well, it seems like you two [Tom and Dave Shannon ] play off of each other.

T) We've been playing a long time together, and kind of learned together, so we have almost like ESP in terms of how we play. We know almost exactly, not what each is gonna do, because it's never the same, we just play off of each other almost like we're one person playing both guitars. And it's just got a certain sound that happens, you know. And with Dana drumming as well, we've just got a certain sound that happens. Whenever we play it's always the same [sound]. I thinks that's what sets us apart from a lot of other bands, is that we actually have a sound that's our own.

G) I really agree. One of the things that I've noticed.some of the bands I wasn't familiar with before I came here and some of them are really trying to sound too `true' to some sort of thing [genre]. And you really seem to.

T) You gotta go with your own feelings, you know. The way you want to play it. Your own. I think our music is fairly emotional, and I think that's another thing that's different from a lot of these bands who are just trying to be punk rock or whatever.

There's a lot of things that just take the emotion out of it. Like you were saying, make it into a formula. And that, I guess that's O.K., and some people like it but for me, I was never into music for that. I was into music to, as corny as it sounds, express things and to try and have it mean something to me, and hopefully to other people.

G) What do you think you're expressing?

T) Well, you know, just whatever frustrations, or whatever happiness-if there happens to be happiness-whatever. It's hard for me to say, but it's usually just kind of a release. I don't know what the release would be.a catharsis of some sorts.

G) Yeah, it really seems to be a catharsis of sorts. What the three of you do, with Dana singing. One of the things that impresses me the most is just how you, and are you two [pointing at Dave] really brothers?

T) Yes we are.

G) Just the way you two play with each other. And from what you're saying, I guess it's not ever the same.

T) Well, it's pretty much the same, but it's not ever exactly the same. I mean obviously we don't have a completely improvisational group. So, we have things we do that we recognize and can play off of. But David's leads and the stuff he does on guitar almost always varies from night to night because he is highly improvisational-his fills, and especially his solos. That's another great thing about the band, is that David is improvisational enough that you can see us many times and we're never the same. On a given night we might be completely overblown and on another night we might be more subdued. But it can always be different. Which is good because it keeps the band alive, it keeps it interesting for us, and for the people who really like our band, it keeps it interesting for them as well.

G) Have you recorded since "Don't Like You?"

T) No, we're about to. We were supposed to do it on this tour but we've been running behind because we moved from Boston and are living in Columbus, Ohio now.

G) Really? Why the move?

T) Well, we wanted to get a cheaper place, and Boston was never very good to us or for us.

G) You didn't seem to fit in there.

T) Finally, it started coming around, right when we were ready to leave. It really started to come around a little bit. We just needed a change of pace. You know, you've gotta do things to keep yourself going, and sometimes moving is a good thing.

G) Jon Spencer, he produced your last album?

T) Yeah.

G) Is he doing anything now?

T) With us?

G) Yeah.

T) No, it was a one-off thing,. He's a good friend. And we played a lot of shows, and we played a lot of Blues Explosion shows very early on; our bands kind of developed at the same time, and there was a lot of shared ideas and he wanted to try and do so mething with us and we were willing to try and we wanted to try and get a different sound from the recordings that we had. Some people like it, some people don't.

G) What do you think about it?

T) I like it. It doesn't bother me at all. I think that the album stands alone for what it is. So, you know, it's...there are elements of it that are exaggerated and so forth, but for the most part, it's not so different from what we are live. He just tried to make things crazier, whatever. Some people don't like that. The way some things are edited, or the way the guitars come up. But I like it because I think it adds a little bit of interest, you know, an interesting element.

G) Yeah, the song that he sings on the album I find to be the least interesting of the lot.

T) Yeah, a lot of people have said that. But it was just something that we did to kinda break up the one side, and just do something that. it might have meant something to us, or some other people, just to do it. A lot of people think, you know, they don't want to hear him on the record, and so forth, so.

G) For me it's not a purist thing as much as it more like sort of a pot head sort of song, if that makes any sense at all. I mean, I don't want.

T) It was an instrumental thing that we did and then he put some vocals over it. And then when we heard it, we thought, `this is cool,' we'll just throw it on there, you know.

G) Any ideas of where you guys want to go from here?

T) Well, we're working really hard just to be a working band. I don't know where we're going from here. We're gonna work hard on our next album, which we'll probably record in October or November. We're just trying to get it to the point where it's feasible economically for us to continue it. I think we're getting better, that's another thing I think that's unusual about our band. I mean, we've been together for almost ten years and we continue to get better. A lot of bands stagnate and run out of ideas but it seems like, as long as we keep having ideas we'll keep with it. When the ideas run out, we'll probably quit because I don't want to go around rehashing old songs. I want to do it as a living thing, as something that keeps going and changing. I don't want it to be, you know, that we have this certain set that we play night after night, after night.

G) One of the things I wrote in a review of one of your albums--I just mentioned how people speak of you as legendary, as if you don't exist any longer.

T) It's always been that way. I bet there's very few people here tonight that even know who we are, seriously. It's a strange situation because reviewer-wise and critic-wise we have a very high reputation, but popularity-wise it's always a struggle because we don't fit directly into a niche.

G) So, you think that's one of the main reasons?

T) Yeah, definitely. Because it takes, you have to be willing to put the mental effort into figuring it out. Although to me, I can't understand that because I think our influences are pretty blatant. In other words, our music doesn't sound exactly like it came from Mars--you can understand to some extent what it is if you know something about music. But we're at a point now where a lot of people haven't heard the bands that we've listened to and so forth, so.

G) Could you just list a few of the other bands that.a.

T) That have been influential? Yeah, I like really over-the-top stuff like Electric Eels, and I like fucked-up rock and roll of almost any sort--Alex Chilton is fucked up stuff.Rocky Erikson-I mean, I like that type of stuff. But I listen to a lot of stuff that everybody else listens to--Rolling Stones, and so forth. It's hard for me to say. I mean, I used to listen to a lot of garage rock. I still do, but not quite as much. Right now I'm not really into listening to a lot of stuff. I still do, obviously, listen to music, but I'm more into just doing it myself, and trying to find things for myself. I've already got all the influences in my brain. I don't think that there's a rock and roll album, a great rock and roll album, that I haven't heard-there mi ght be. But, you know. I'm not saying that I'm a know-it-all, it just seems like I've just tried to pursue everything that I can to find the great records that are out there. And there's always another one that'll pop up, definitely, but.

G) What do you think are some of the great bands that are still going right now?

T) Some of the great bands that are still going? Geez. I'm actually very disappointed with the way things are right now because I view music from like, as I was saying before, kind of an emotional angle and a creative angle and I don't see a lot of that going on. So I've been lately having a hard time answering that question. People ask it, and it's not that I'm trying to be a snob at all. I just keep looking for certain things that I don't see.

G) So you're seeing a lot of mimicry right now?

T) It's not so much mimicry, it's just more undeveloped, it's just like undeveloped ideas. People with good intentions but just not a lot of imagination or personal input applied to what they're doing.

G) Have you heard The Fells? Did you hear `em tonight?

T) Was that them? the first band? They actually sounded pretty good, didn't they?

G) I actually was thinking that they had a bit of an influence from you guys.

T) They have been compared to us before. I saw a review recently. I didn't mean to miss them, but I just came in right at the end. But they did sound pretty good.

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