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TexasBob Juarez - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 8 / 11 / 2016

TexasBob Juarez - Interview


Television Personalities' guitarist TexasBob Juarez speaks to John Clarkson about his debut solo album, 'On A Distant Shore', and the influence on it of both Syd Barrett and Television Personalities' front man Dan Treacy

"We were invited to open up for MGMT at Heaven in London,and Dan didn’t turn up,” says TexasBob Juarez. "It was on March 18th 2010 at the start of their European tour in support of 'Congratulations', their new album." It is just after nine in the morning and we are siting in a quiet café in Elm Row in Edinburgh in mid-August. The American-born, London-based Television Personalities guitarist, pianist and singer-songwriter has been in Edinburgh for a few days for the Festival and to see friends. A rucksack, his guitar and another small case containing his laptop (“My office”, as he describes it) all sit beside him. In a few hours TexasBob will fly to Oslo for the launch gig for his debut solo album, ‘On a Distant Shore’ “And before the set started we were trying to make a decision,” he recalls, carrying on with the story. “Look, Dan is not here. We can’t perform as the TVPs, so what do we do? And then MGMT says,‘Just go for it,’ and Kevin Shields, who was also there, says the same thing, ‘You guys should just go for it. Do it!’ And so to let people know that Dan was here as well, but was not here when we came on stage I started singing Pink Floyd’s ‘In the Flesh’ – ‘So you thought you might like to go to the show/To feel the warmth, thrill of confusion/That space cadet glow/I've got some bad news for you, sunshine/Pink isn’t well/He stayed back at the hotel/And they sent us along along as a surrogate band/We're going to find out where you fans really stand.’ And then we went into a TVPs song. We played for twenty-five minutes, and people probably were asking themselves, ‘Who the hell are these guys?’” ‘On a Distant Shore’ is dedicated to and is about absent friends - Bob’s all-time musical hero, Syd Barrett, the late mercurially fragile first leader of Pink Floyd, and Dan Treacy, Bob’s band mate and the front man with the cult group the Television Personalities. Treacy, like Syd Barrett, suffered from both mental illness and drug issues. In October 2011, he spent over a month in a coma and received emergency surgery to remove a blood clot on his brain after he cracked his head falling off a pavement. He has now withdrawn from public life and lives in a nursing home. Bob, who is of Mexican stock, comes originally from San Antonio in Texas, but has lived in London for twenty years, staying on there after he met his now former wife and they had a family together. “My kids are Mexican American-English,” he laughs. “I first arrived in 1996,” he explains to Pennyblackmusic. “And what brought me here was being an Anglophile and this overwhelming love of British music and psychedelia and punk in particular. Syd Barrett brought me here and so did David Bowie, the Sweet, Adam Ant, the Sex Pistols and Andy Partridge of XTC.” TexasBob spent a decade playing in various local London bands and eventually became associated with the crop of new bands signed to Alan McGee's Poptones Label befriending the Libertines and Babyshambles in the process. He performed onstage with Peter Doherty on many occasions during his spontaneous guerrilla gigs in London before he formed Babyshambles, and filmed some of these moments (A lot of his footage appeared in the infamous 2005 BBC documentary, 'Who the Fuck is Pete Doherty?')before joining the Television Personalities in 2006 after he met Dan Treacy at a Syd Barrett tribute gig. Bob appeared on many Television Personalities' singles and was eventually on their 2010 final album to date, ‘A Memory is Better Than Nothing'. ‘On a Distant Shore’ pays musical tribute to Barrett and also Dan Treacy and the Television Personalities, who Juarez toured Sweden, Norway, Germany, Japan, Spain, France, Switzerland, Italy and Greece as well as Britain with. In his versatile, muscular and psychedelic guitar playing and offbeat lyricism, TexasBob, however, also proves very much a one-off. 'On a Distant Shore’, which runs to nine tracks, is a concept album of sorts. The early tracks, the opening piano and strings instrumental ‘Mälaren Blue’, and ‘Stardust Girls’ and ‘What You Are’, both upon which Juarez plays the twelve-string guitar, have an innocence and a pastorality to them. After another this time more brooding piano instrumental, ‘And So through the Dark Forest I Must Go(Song for Syd)’, and on tracks such as ‘Save Me Tonight’, ‘Please Please Emily’ and ‘Magick in Your Smile’, the tone of the album becomes increasingly melancholic and dark before it concludes with the soaring, furious rock of ‘Stefanie und the Deep Blue Sea’. ‘On a Distant Shore’ was recorded in five different locations including studios in London, Stockholm and Houston, Texas and New York City. Texas Bob Juarez began his interview with Pennyblackmusic by explaining why he had decided to launch ‘On a Distant Shore’ in Oslo. PB: You are going to Oslo tonight and you are doing your album launch for ‘On a Distant Shore’ there. Why have you decided being based in London and coming from Texas to go to Oslo to do this? It is a city that you have not apparently been to for six years. TBJ: That’s right. It’s been six years. The last time I was in Oslo on December 2nd 2010 I joined my friends MGMT on stage at Sentrum Scene in Oslo. I was invited to play on stage with them with MGMT guitarist James Richardson's beautiful Guild twelve string electric guitar, and I had the best time with them there. It just seemed like it would be synchronistic to go and do this gig in Oslo. It was also unfinished business (Laughs). The Television Personalities were supposed to play Oslo, but Dan and I were turned away at the gates because we both had visa problems. The other TVPs – Mike Stone and Arnau Obiols - played on stage without Dan and me, and I kind of wanted in my own way to go back to Oslo to make my amends because neither Dan nor I made it. PB: So how did this gig come about? TBJ: This lovely gentleman, this lovely Norwegian gentleman my friend named Erick Ellectrick has this band called Erick Ellectrick and the Fantasy Gang and they are based in Oslo. He is a big TVPs fan, and he offered me a showcase gig at a night his label was doing, and so I am going. I guess that is why I like Scandinavia. It provides me, if I can quote the title of a TVP song, with ‘A Sense of Belonging’. PB: You recorded the bulk of ‘On a Distant Shore’ at two studios in Stockholm. How did you become involved with these studios? TBJ: Well, I have Dan Treacy to thank for this. The TVPs did make it to Stockholm and we played this wonderful venue there called the Debaser Slussen. I am not sure if it is still there, but it is this very magical venue. It is very gritty, very raw and very much a punk venue. It was the CBGB of Stockholm where anything goes. You are free to do there musically and performance-wise what you like. When the TVPs played there, we met this band that were held in high regard in Sweden called Caesars and the guy Joakim Åhlund who played with them offered me his studio Apmammen Studios to record the album. Both Caesars and his other band the Teddybears recorded there and Anton Newcombe has also recorded there. While I was there, I was introduced to my dear friend Sparrow Lindgren who runs a studio called Zoot, which is this basement studio where a lot of bands come and record. She is a fantastic producer and arranger, and worked and produced two of the tracks on ‘On a Distant Shore’ - ‘Stockholm’ and ‘And So through the Dark Forest I Must Go’. She is now working with me on another five songs in preparation for the next album. She wove magic on ‘On a Distant Shore’ and created this brilliant atmosphere that those songs needed. PB: You also recorded some of the album in Houston, Texas. TBJ: I used this fantastic recording studio in Houston, Texas called Sugar Hill Studios. A lot of mainstream artists have recorded there such as Beyonce. She recorded there with Destiny’s Child and has also done a lot of her solo stuff there too, but more importantly for me that is where the 13th Floor Elevators recorded their second album, ‘Easter Everywhere’ (Laughs). Alan McGee, who is a friend, had secured me a slot at the Austin Psych Fest, and so I arrived a week before to start the sessions at Sugar Hill which is run by my best friend and the producer John Griffin, and so along with rehearsing for the Austin Psych Fest, we put down some of the tracks such as ’Stardust Girls’ and ’Magick in Your Smile’. He had these amazing guitars at my disposal, beautiful twelve string Rickenbackers that helped to bring that sound alive. PB: The Television Personalities stopped in late 2011. You began recording this album in 2013. Did you start thinking about this album before Dan had his accident or did that happen afterwards? TBJ: Dan and Mike and I all collaborated on songs and ideas, and I brought to the table some ideas for songs, mostly instrumental and on piano, then. We got a far as working at my place on some ideas. Dan played piano and I played my twelve-string guitar, but then he had his accident before we could take them any further. Some of the very early ideas and initial sketches for this album come from back then. PB: Do you see ‘On a Distant Shore’ as carrying on Dan’s legacy? TBJ: I want this album to carry on the love that I have for Dan and to show that I haven’t forgotten him. We are on this vessel together. PB: What was the most important thing that you learnt from him and your time in the band? TBJ: True spontaneity, unpredictability, carpe diem and living your life to the fullest really. If you want to go to Russia, then go to Russia. If you go, they will come. I also learnt a lot when I was in the TVPs about having a musical family and leaning on each other. PB: The other big influence on this album is Syd Barrett… TBJ: He is my beacon (Laughs). PB: You have taken the title for your album from the title track from his 1988 rarities album ‘Opel’. What was the appeal to you of that song? TBJ: When you hear that song, you hear the fragility in his voice. There is also an element of the unknown about it. It is like he is asking where he goes from here. It also has this beautiful poetic landscape. The song called to me… PB: What does that line ‘On a Distant Shore’ imply to you? TBJ: Of port cities, and looking out on to the ocean, like in Stockholm with Lake Mälaren which goes into the Baltic Sea. I have always had a connection with port cities, and places like Liverpool, New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, the Neva River in St. Petersburg and in Moscow the Moskva River which flows into the Caspian Sea. PB: Ian Barrett, Syd’s nephew, did the cover work for the album. How did you get him involved? TBJ: I thank Dan Treacy again for that because Dan adored Syd, idolised Syd. There were times during better days when he told me that he regretted what he did at the Hammersmith Odeon when he opened up for Dave Gilmour on his ‘About Face’ tour in 1984 and called out Syd Barrett’s address during “I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives’. Dan told me that he wanted to make amends with the family, but he never got the chance, but I befriended Ian who is a lovely guy and he knows that Dan meant no malice. Like they say about Syd, Dan has an irregular head. PB: When did you first meet Ian? TBJ: The Television Personalities were invited to play a Syd Barrett tribute at the Union Chapel with Mystery Jets, Kate Nash and 60's psych band Nirvana. It was a great show. It was a nice tribute to Syd, and I filmed a lot of it with a little camcorder at the side of the stage. Dan used to come over to my place and check his emails and one day he was there looking at things and he said, “Bob. Look! Ian Barrett is asking if it is possible to have a copy of the show. Can you make him a copy?“ and so I emailed him to say that I would send him a DVD and from there it has been this amazing journey. It has been a lovely friendship. He is a very funny, very witty man. PB: You dedicate the instrumental, ‘And So through the Dark Forest I Must Go’ to Syd. Why did you decide to dedicate that particular track to Syd? TBJ: Syd’s moment of fame, of being brought to prominence as a Rock Prince was very short. Unfortunately there were people around him that were bad influences and who took complete advantage of him. The rest of Pink Floyd were young men who didn’t know what to do, and he ended up being dropped from the band. I think that was really devastating to him, and it was too much. I was trying to imagine with that track what it felt like to be him, not knowing what is reality and what is fantasy. It is me as well imagining if I had been living at that time extending my hand to him, and bringing him out from being lost in the depths of that dark forest of his mind. If I had been alive then, I would have loved to have connected with him and to the music, and said, “It is okay. Come out to the light. Come out into the technicolour rainbow of our life. We can do this.” PB: You have recently started playing with Rose McDowall from Strawberry Switchblade, haven’t you? TBJ: That’s right. We met up through mutual friends and we really connected as friends, and she wanted to know what I was doing musically and she came over to my house shortly before the album was released. I played her ‘Magick in Your Smile’ and then ‘Stefanie und the Deep Blue Sea…’ and ‘What You Are’ and she was thrilled. She told me that this was the sound that she had always been looking for with her guitar, and we since have been playing great shows together. We just played a festival in Leipzig in Germany and we are going to be opening up for the Jesus and Mary Chain at the ABC in Glasgow. PB: Have you thought about doing joint shows with Rose? TBJ: We have talked about that. I am very flattered that she has great faith in me not just as a guitarist but as a songwriter. Why she asked me to join her group was that she could hear something in the songs that she could relate to and that blew my mind. She has always said that she has wanted her own band that she can connect with, and now that she has asked me to join her group I feel totally honoured. PB: You said you were working on a second solo album. TBJ: I am working as hard as I can on it. We don’t know what is around the corner, but I am hoping to get it out early next year. It will be similarly themed, and once again autobiographical and also about Syd, how my love for his music started in my childhood, and about synchronistic moments around that such as first meeting Dan at a Syd Barrett tribute gig. It will also be another love letter to Scandinavia. I would say though that it is going to be rockier and harder. It is going to be a lot more like the last track ‘Stefanie und the Deep Blue Sea…’. ‘Stefanie’ has an enormous up-tempo sound. I chose that song to put on last as I wanted it to show what is still to happen and going to come next… PB: Thank you.

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TexasBob Juarez - Interview

TexasBob Juarez - Interview

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Interview (2020)
TexasBob Juarez - Interview
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