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Immortal Lee County Killers - Interview

  by Mark Rowland

published: 23 / 10 / 2005

Immortal Lee County Killers - Interview


Now in their third incarnation the Immortal Lee County Killers have just released a new album 'These Bones Will Rise to Love You Again'. In London Mark Rowland chats to singer Chetley Weis about it and the jazz greats.

“Charlie Parker’s the best, man,” Chetley Weis says as he picks at his delicious-looking chicken kebab and rice fresh from the London Spitz’s kitchen. “Charlie Mingus is good for be-bop too.” Weis really knows his stuff when it comes to jazz. We start talking about Miles Davis and we mention we haven’t really listened to his more funk-orientated records from the 70's. At this, Weis’ eyes light up. “‘A Garda’ and ‘Pangea’ - try out those records,” he says, threatening to actually eat his dinner but yet again hesitating. “Because he was supposed to do those records with Hendrix, but obviously, that didn’t work out, so he did it with a jazz rhythm section and a Hendrix style guitar player. I don’t know why it didn’t work out. It’s a real shame.” We feel quite bad for cutting into the vocalist of the Immortal Lee County Killers’ tea. For most of the interview he’s had it sat in front of him, but has eaten hardly any of it. It’s early September, and the ‘Killers are doing a quick tour of the UK before playing a show with Mudhoney for All Tomorrow’s Parties’ Don’t Look Back series of gigs, where the headlining band plays a classic record from beginning to end. The Stooges have already done their album ‘Funhouse’ and Mudhoney are set to do ‘Superfuzz Bigmuff’, which is their best record hands down. The Immortal Lee County Killers (now in their third incarnation) have just released their best record to date, ‘These Bones Will Rise To Love You Again’, which sees their punk-blues sound expanded by the introduction of organ parts, courtesy of Jeff Goodwin. Goodwin has since left the band, and has been replaced by John Wesley, who’s playing with both the Immortal Lee County Killers and support band the Black Diamond Heavies tonight. There’s quite a large turnout for the gig tonight, as can be expected. The bar at the back of the ground floor of the Spitz is packed, and we have to sit down on the benches out back, in the Spitalfield marketplace. Unfortunately, we cannot talk to the rest of the band, as they’re doing another interview, but you can’t have it all. PB : Are you looking forward to playing the All Tomorrow's Parties show with Mudhoney? CW : Oh yeah. Mudhoney is a one of my favourite bands and the record their doing, 'Superfuzz Bigmuff' is one of my all time favourite records so... In every band I've ever been in we'd be writing a song and we'd say; "hey, lets make this part a bit like Mudhoney." They're real nice guys too. PB : What do you think of the idea of just performing one album beginning to end? CW : I think it's a great idea right now, just as long as it doesn't end up getting abused. I'm sure Mudhoney wouldn't enjoy it if everywhere they play they’re expected to just do 'Superfuzz Bigmuff'. I don't think that's going to happen though. The promoters who are doing this are putting it on in a very unique way, making it a big deal and putting it on in big venues and stuff. I saw the Stooges do 'Funhouse'. That was amazing. I think the way it’s being done right now, the way that All Tomorrow’s parties are doing it, is great, but it wouldn't be good if the idea was abused. I don't think it will be though. PB : If you were asked to perform one of your albums, which do you think it would be? CW : Oh wow, well, the latest one of course. 'These Bones Will Rise To Love You Again' is our best record I think so far, but ask me that question a few years down the road. I should know by then. So ask me that question in a little while, because on every record we've done something different, which I feel I have to do to keep playing music. It's something we want to do. We don't want to keep doing the same thing. We're not going to put strings on there, or do avant-jazz or anything like that, but, our song-writing's a bit different on this one compared to our first record, 'Essential Fucked up Blues'. We've messed around with different line-ups, but at the end of the day, I'm still playing slide guitar through a fuzzed-out amp. PB : How did Jeff Goodwin get involved with the band, and why did he end up leaving? CW : Jeff is a very good friend of mine, and he was actually my roommate during the recording of our first record. He wasn't in the band of course, but that record was home-recorded, so he was there during the recording of that record and he also designed our first web page, and helped us put on our first show, but he could never play with us because of his circumstances. It came around that he could do it, and he did it for a year, but he just got kind of burned out on traveling, and he has a house and a family and it's kind of hard to do when you're not the Rolling Stones. We're not making millions of dollars per show so he couldn't do it any more. John Wesley, who's over there in the leather jacket, he's playing with us and the Black Diamond Heavies as well as with us, and he does not own a house and he does not have a family, and he lives in a very small apartment with very low rent, and that's the perfect situation to be in when you're in a band like ours. PB : Where did the idea for the Mia Derren cover art on 'These Bones Will Rise To Love You Again' come from? CW : We wanted an image on the cover which went along with the title, but we didn't want to do like a skeleton rising. We didn't want to do anything with bones or death because that's not what the title's about. It's about resurrection, and the idea that there is always going to be tomorrow, and we wanted a strong image to go with that sentiment. Mia Derren was an avant film maker in the 1900's and was one of the first people to do stuff with repeated images and kind of psychedelic stuff, and she also went down and did a documentary in Haiti about voodoo religion. A young white going down to Haiti is tough. She ended up hanging out with some of the priests. She was a fascinating woman, and it's a cool image of her as well, with the cigarette hanging out of her mouth, so, that's why. PB : You tend to do at least one cover on each of your records. How do you go about choosing those? CW : There's no process. It's just trial and error and throwing around ideas, and basically for this record we wound up at a point where we had to finish the record as we already had the artwork, so we just had to do everything as quickly as possible. We just conjured it out of complete chaos. PB : What made you decide to do new versions of tracks from your 2003 album ‘Love Unbolts the Dark’? CW : There's actually a couple of reasons. When we did 'Love Unbolts the Dark' that was only released out in the UK and Europe. You couldn't get it in the USA or Australia, so we wanted those songs to be out everywhere, and then when we added the organ and re-arranged them a little bit. I thought they were superior versions. With the bands that I like, I like to hear John Coltrane do different versions of the same song. With the Stooges, I like to hear the studio versions and the live versions. I'm trying to get hold of that 'Funhouse' box-set with all the different versions of the songs. I like that. I'm in the band and I record the music, so I can do as many versions of the songs as I want. PB : Where do you think the band will go in the future direction-wise? CW : Musically? I have no idea yet. Jeff had been playing organ sporadically, for about a year or so. John has been playing organ since he was four. John grew up in the gospel church, in America and played piano. He is a born and bred piano player, so I think our next record will have more of an organ kind of influence, so it'll probably go kind of a bit more... I don't know, it's a tough question. That's part of the fun, you'll have to wait and see. PB : Personally we’d like to see some more harmonica on the next record. CW : More harmonica? Okay, I guess there wasn't much harmonica playing on this record. There was only a little bit. I don’t really think I’m that good a harmonica player. PB : Sounds pretty good to us. CW : Thanks, well, by your request, we’ll try to get some more on the next one. You should’ve seen it, I broke a string on my guitar last night, and I had to do a little harmonica improvisation at the end of my set. PB : The first anniversary of John Peel’s death is coming up (it obviously has been and gone now-MR). He was a big supporter of yours. Any plans to do anything for him? CW : We are going to figure out a way to do something. There’s some people who are putting together some kind of tribute. We’re going to be a part of that, with videos and things, some kind of memories of stuff and what success we’ve had here John has definitely been a part of, and what he did for, not just independent music, but good music, he had great taste in music, and the power to get that music out there. And he wielded his power for good. A lot of people who have that power, through radio, or marketing, or ability to get stuff out there, their taste is horrible, or they just market what they think is going to sell a lot. We did two sessions for Peel, one live session when he was there and one recorded session. At the live session I’ll never forget, just before the ‘Killers went on, he was spinning this record by a band I used to be in called Quadrajets, which I didn’t even own. I don’t have a clue how he got hold of it. All of us music lovers should stick together, and if there’s anyone to look to as to how to love music and continuously search out new stuff and get other’s into new things, it’s John Peel. PB : Purely out of curiosity, what was it that got you into music in the first place? CW : I was growing up in Memphis, and I bought a tape my John Lee Hooker called ‘Lonesome Mood’ and that’s what got me into wanting to play guitar, and the blues thing, and then I started playing in bands when I was about 15, 16 and I’ve been doing it ever since. There was one time when I was about ready to quit, and that was around the same time that I bought my first MC5 record so that kind of jump-started me again. PB : We like the blues very much, especially people like Robert Johnson. CW : You’re gonna love the Black Diamond Heavies. We’re a bit more on the rock ‘n’ roll side. The ‘Heavies are more on the blues side. PB : Any other bands you could recommend to us? CW - There’s a band from the UK I really like called the High Plains Drifters. They don’t have a record out yet, but they’ve been selling a demo at their shows. They’re really good. Who do I like that’s new; I’ll have to think about that one for a minute. I’ll think of somebody in a few minutes. I really just kind of listen to my records. I don’t seek out records as much as I used to. That’s not the right thing to say. I don’t just buy records as much as I used to. I got to hear it, and I got to see it. There’s this great band called the Dexateens from the United States, one of my favourites. They’re kind of like Neil Young and Crazy Horse but freaked out. There’s another band called Fed X that I really like, and a band that have been around for a while called Outrageous Cherry, a kind of psychedelic pop band, uh, and of course I like Pussy Galore and the Blues Explosion but I don’t think they count as new any more. There’s a song by the Eagles of Death Metal that I like. I think one of those guys was in Queens of the Stone Age or something. I do like some of the White Stripes stuff, and that’s about it, man. There’s a great jazzer out there called Kim Van Der Mart who’s been around for a while but hasn’t really broken into the mainstream. He’s got a great band called the Van Der Mart Five. That’s really great stuff. PB : What kind of thing does he do? CW : He does something really interesting where in a song there’ll be a completely free jazz section, then he’ll do this kind of freaked out be-bop thing, but it’s not like a free jazz section, then a rock section, or whatever. It all really flows. If you’re into jazz, you should definitely check out the Van Der Mart Five. PB : Thank you.

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Immortal Lee County Killers - Interview

Immortal Lee County Killers - Interview

Immortal Lee County Killers - Interview

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live reviews

Spitz, London, 15/9/2005
Immortal Lee County Killers - Spitz, London, 15/9/2005
At the London Spitz Jamie Rowland enjoys a fantastic set from American blues punks the Immortal Lee County Killers, but finds his activities curtailed by the venue's late licence


These Bones Will Rise To Love You Again (2005)
Dark latest album from Alabama blues punks Immortal Lee County Killers, given a psychedelic twist by the addition of an electric piano and organ

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