FRIGHT X - Fall 1998
Trevor Tanner interviewed by David Paul Wyatt Perko
(Design by David Paul Wyatt Perko)
FRIGHT X - The Adobe Illustrator spell check comes up with Bolshoi as a misspelling. It offers three options, Bullish, Bellyache & Belch.
TREVOR TANNER - I think it's a foreign word. I think it means "Big" in Russian.
FXM - Why did you call the band the Bolshoi?
TT - Jan Kalicki and I had a band together, just the two of us. And we were living in a cottage for three months, just writing songs, before we left for London to make our big stab at success. I got beaten up really badly in a pub a put in a hospital for making too much noise during rehearsal. So when we got to London, we were trying to get some gigs with a bass player that we had found, and we didn't get a gig for a year. then we got a letter from a place saying we could have a gig, but we had to call that day. When we called, they asked for the name of the band. I didn't have a name and Bolshoi just popped into my head so I said it.
FXM - When THE BOLSHOI toured in the '80s, who did you tour with?
TT - Ourselves mostly...and PETER MURPHY, THE BLOW MONKEYS, LOVE & ROCKETS, OINGO BOINGO, THE REPLACEMENTS, DRAMARAMA and lots of festivals...
FXM - What was the most interesting thing that happened to you on tour?
TT - Hhmmmm... So many things. Probably losing my mind in Canada because I couldn't do my laundry. I didn't realize the effect it was having on me, and then one day I wasn't allowed to do my laundry because I had to do some promo stuff. I completely lost it and ran out from the van saying I was never coming back, ruining a perfectly good leather jacket by flinging it against a barbed wire fence. That and getting accosted by a policeman in California for J-walking. The cop looked just like Eric Estrada with his hands on his hips, wearing the boots and the shades and everything... And I started laughing. And he said, "Don't laugh at me, don't laugh at me." But the more he said that, the more funny it was. And then he said, "You know, I could have you put in jail." And I questioned, "What for?" And he told me anything he'd like...then I remembered KOJAK and thought I better behave!
FXM - A few months ago you told me that there was a time in your past when you went mad, but didn't want to talk about it until this interview. Were you talking about the laundry thing?
TT - No. I really went mad. It wasn't like I went insane. I just felt like I was somebody else. I just wasn't me for awhile and I couldn't work it out, so l decided I'd better go and see a doctor. They did all kinds of tests on me and just decided that I was a very high IQ and was thinking too much. So I just stopped thinking, and I got back to normal eventually. I definitely stopped having an interest in music for a year or so.
FXM - Who did you think YOU were?
TT - I don't know. It wasn't me. I didn't want to do anything I ever did before so l became like a different person. I changed everything about myself. I became kind of like a biker. I used to go to bike things and camp out by myself. I have always had motorcycles, but I've never been into the tattoos and beards and all that. But I just became a different person for awhile. But then I realized that it's more fun being a musician and went back to it. I just stopped thinking really...
FXM - How exactly does one just stop thinking.
TT - I don't know. It's not very easy! I just stopped thinking about things and just did things for a change. Everything about myself and everything I'd done before I detested and didn't want anything to do with. And if that meant I had to pick up trash out front McDONALD's, I was gonna do it. So I became someone that everybody that knew me couldn't even recognize for awhile, and I kind of enjoyed it. I got out of it though.
FXM - Your lyrics are like mini detective novels.
TT - Who said that? (laughing)
FXM - I did. I said that!
TT - (laughing) Oh! ok...
FXM - They seem to hold mystery at every corner, but yet they reveal so much... In the song 'HAPPY BOY' from the GIANTS EP, you sing a line, "Up the stairs with a friend called Jimmy." Who is Jimmy?
TT - He's my gun. Jimmy was my power. Jimmy was like my imaginary friend and gave me unlimited power. When I say gun, I mean he's like my defense. I didn't kill my family in the song, just got away from them. And Jimmy helped me. You know how if you're going up the stairs into the dark and you don't know where your going? Well, I had Jimmy with me. They actually put a kid in the video with a water pistol, which I wasn't very happy about.
FXM - In 'HAIL MARY' you say, "Mary's the girl with the sun in her hair." Who is Mary?
TT - She's a combination of people really, but mostly from a commercial I saw as a kid which was for SLIMCEA BREAD. It was a fat person's bread. They had this woman in a balloon flying through the sky, and the wind was in her hair And then they had the super model come after that. The SLIMCEA girl was very slim. I mean they didn't have a fat person in this balloon.
FXM - And the SLIMCEA girl's name was Mary?
TT - In my mind it was. I was only about six at the time. Mary is the ultimate female icon.
FXM - When you write lyrics, do they all come at once or do you write a few lines and then develop it?
TT - I wrote 'AWAY' from the FRIENDS album in a pub. I was sitting in a pub on my own having a pint, and I looked across and there was some woman arguing with her boyfriend, and it looked like a couple of members of a family, and it was just so pathetic so I just decided to write it. I wrote it in a stream of consciousness in about 3 minutes. There are other songs where I sit around for days before I get it. It usually comes pretty quick once I'm on to something...
FXM - Your song lyrics remind me of the lyrics in KILLING JOKE. You don't realize what is being said during the song, but then when you finally isolate the words it's surprising when you find out what is actually, really being said!
TT - I take that as a compliment. I think Jaz Coleman is a fine writer.
FXM - In the song 'MODERN MAN' you say, "And modern man came down among us, gave us truth eleven plus." What is truth eleven plus?
TT - The Eleven Plus is an exam that we English kids take when we are eleven. It's like your American SAT test.
FXM - The song 'WASPY', at the end of the FRIENDS album, is one of the most brilliant and inventive but demented things I have ever heard. What inspired it?
TT - The sure hatefulness of the creatures themselves. We have a big problem with them in England. They're hateful little bastards. You can't have a picnic without them spoiling it. To be honest with you, if I was frank about it, a wasp stung me in the bellybutton at an early age, and I never really got over it. He stung me in the bellybutton, and I flicked him down and I looked at him and he looked at me and I spared his life. Right? I spared him. I could have killed him but I didn't. And I figured that meant I had made a deal with the wasp kingdom ya know? Therefore I'd be immune from them from that day on. And I have been. I've never been stung by a wasp since. I'm not scared of them at all. They won't sting me because I spared their king or whatever ya know? The idea with the song is like some evil kid with a wasp in a jar. He's just talking to it.
FXM - But in the song, the wasp dies in the end?
TT - Well in the song he does because I'm getting my revenge but in real life I spared him. The actual point where I kill him in the song is when I'm screaming at him at the end saying "Don't die waspy, don't die." And then I push something on him (making a squish noise) and I say "Ah! Take that you little bastard." That's when I kill him. When we recorded 'WASPY' in the studio we were trying to get the same madness at the end as we had with the demo but we couldn't recreate it. So we had to use the demo version on the album version. We took the very end of the song from the demo. At great expense too! It cost a lot of money just for that little bit of yelling and screaming. But it was worth it.
FXM - I guess they took 'WASPY' off the American version of FRIENDS because it was too much for them...
TT - Well I really would have preferred to have lived in like 1880 to 1920's Paris. Because that was a really cool creative time and everybody was pushing the envelope of lunacy as it were. You're not really allowed to do that anymore and I just kinda try and do it in my own way. My big hero in life is the artist MODIGLIANI. To me he is the ultimate rock star. He didn't play music, he was a painter, but I'm very drawn to all that. Ordinary people don't interest me. Ordinary situations don't really interest me. I don't mean to sound pretentious, I'm just being honest you know?
FXM - In the song 'AUNTIE JEAN' you say "Sometimes I really don't know why I say the things I say." Why do you say that?
TT - (laughing) Because it's true!
FXM - In the song 'Please' - You say "Please Miss Lolita don't make me burn my eyes. Who is Miss Lolita?
TT - You tell me... It's different for everybody. The Lolita of your fancy at the time. Lolita always stands for sexkittenwoman, doesn't it really? My perfect woman is the girl who is given as a present to Charlton Heston in THE PLANET OF THE APES to keep him quiet. She's dark haired and she's in a fur bikini. She's got long hair she's very sexy but she can't talk. She looks like Racquel Welch in 2000 B.C. She's got that dark hair, very sexy American big-breasted look. She was the Lolita of all times.
FXM - And in that same song you say "Please Mistress Bacon don't sell me to your son. Who's Mistress Bacon?
TT - That's just sort of a nursery rhyme thing. That's just something I dreamed up. Mistress Bacon sounds like the butcher's wife who's secretly a lesbian or something.
FXM - And what about her son?
TT - Well you don't want to meet him do you? That's the whole point! She's scary enough! Imagine what her son is like...
FXM - She's the reverse of Miss Lolita...
TT - I kind of imagine myself as the pig in the back of the butcher shop pleading with her... "Don't give me to him... don't give me to him..."
FXM - Let's talk about the part in 'CRACK IN SMILE' where you go into the "I'm not gonna argue with you anymore" speaking part.
TT - I made that up in the studio. I was singing and I got into it and it just came out of nowhere. In THE BOLSHOI, we liked to have a laugh. We liked having fun. It was a strange mixture of getting serious about things and being a bit demented but always laughing at the same time. I got really histrionic with that part which I got a lot of stick for. People want you to stay within certain parameters when you're doing music so that they can define what you're about. I always tried to stay away from all that. I wanted to come across as some pathetic child in a school play at the age of eleven who is trying too hard.
FXM - In the song 'RAINY DAY' you say "Reaching up to heaven with dead man's bones." What does that mean?
TT - Borrowing ideas from the past. Stealing other people's genius.
FXM - What would you say is the major difference between THE
B0LSHOI and the TREVOR TANNER solo project?
TT - About 8 years. But even so, there's been at least 100 songs between the last BOLSHOI song and the first TREVOR TANNER song. I think it's a really good reemergence. I play about 95% of everything on the CD. Chris Homsley, who produced the CD, played a lot of the keyboards. Paul Clark from THE BOLSHOI plays keyboards on the song 'MAJORETTE'. I don't think the solo work sounds like THE BOLSHOI but I do think it sounds exactly like me. I'm not interested in making a BOLSHOI CD because Paul Clark and I are going to do one in 1999. Plus BEGGARS BANQUET is releasing a BEST OF THE BOLSHOI album at the end of this year.
FXM - Why haven't you released any material in such a long time?
TT - Because I didn't want to. I recorded many songs, probably over a hundred but I just didn't want to release anything. I don't worry about storing material or keeping it because that's just like putting it in jail. I would rather let things filter through. If it filters through great, if it doesn't then it wasn't meant to be. I have a lot of faith in the fates. I could play anything I have ever written right now.
FXM - Ok... play the guitar solo in LOOKING FOR A LIFE.
(Trevor plays the solo effortlessly and perfectly at this point of the interview)
FXM - How long have you been playing guitar?
TT - Since I was about eight.
FXM - What you play on guitar is so intensely melodic that sometimes I find myself singing your guitar parts as though they are the vocal parts. We get music everyday and have so many CDs sometimes we don't know where to put them and I have never heard anyone play guitar in the way you do. I think you are a master guitar player.
TT - Well thank you. I'm really glad that you think that.
FXM - How many guitars do you have?
TT - About ten or so. They all do different things. I don't collect them but once I get one and use it to write a song I can never part with it.
FXM - Of all the songs you have that you have never released, will you ever release any of these songs as singles or full CDs?
TT - Definitely. I intend to. I just want to do something new to start with and then go back and reevaluate everything I have done. Many of THE BOLSHOI songs were two or three songs rolled into each other.
FXM - You once told me that you had a house in England that collapsed and you had to move. Why did the house collapse?
TT - Because it rained for about a month solid and the house was built in Victorian times on soft clay. With all the rain, the house slipped a couple of inches. It creaked and moaned like on old pirate ship. It was a ridiculous amount of money to fix it so I just moved. The place was built on rotten land. Kind of like what's going to happen to California in a few years...
FXM - When do you expect to go on tour with the TREVOR TANNER solo stuff?
TT - At the end of summer this year. I'm already doing a few little things near where I live. Rehearsing up with my band. I have a little pool of musicians that are into what I'm doing. When I tour I will have a bass player and a drummer and maybe a few other musicians.
FXM - Where will you play?
TT - Anywhere that I'm not just playing in front of five people and a dog. I'm not willing to do that.
FXM - Well of course you will be going through New York and on your way you will have to stop in Lancaster, PA for a night at The FRIGHT X Building!
TT - Of course! I'll play at the CHAMELEON CLUB.
FXM - The only problem is that if you don't want to play in front of five people and a dog then you might want to skip the CHAMELEON CLUB during the week... (laughs) No... I'm just kidding about that!
TT - Well, I will make an exception in your case.
FXM - Since I am the luckiest person on Earth and received a number of your songs directly from you that will be on the TREVOR TANNER CD, I was able to listen to all of them over and over. I have some specific questions about certain lyrics, etc.
TT - I sent you rough mixes too. And I NEVER do that. But since you're cool I figured that you would understand that they weren't finished.
FXM - They sound perfectly finished and fine to me.
TT - Yeah well...
FXM - In the song 'MAJORETTE' you say, "Take my hands and burn my eyes. What I don't see, I won't recognize." What don't you want to recognize?
TT - I just want to have my own reality and not deal with anything that might not please me or offend me.
FXM - In 'SHOW ME THE DREAM', what is the dream that you wish to be shown?
TT - The American Dream. It seems like the American Dream is conflicting. Everyone makes it out to be like everything is alright but yet everyone is having terrible trouble. And there's guns and no health tare. And people shooting each other daily. Where is it? I want to know what this Dream is because I just can't see it...
FXM - What is the song 'STINKING' about?
TT - Stinking is a metaphor in England for being drunk. My hero, the painter MODIGLIANI, was very talented and ahead of his time. When he died, his wife threw herself out the window because she couldn't live without him. He was a real revolutionary. Next time you look at his artwork, look at the eyes. They are very black. And oddly shaped. Looking at them you get the impression that you're seeing into the soul. He used to dance on table tops and make a fool of himself.
FXM - 'MASTER OF THE WORLD' is a song obviously about a psycho. What inspired this song?
TT - What would you do if you turned CNN on and someone had just robbed Fort Knox? And there was a picture of him inside keeping people hostage and he was naked except for a huge gun and a big string of pearls around his neck. Wouldn't that be the coolest thing you'd ever seen? It would be to me. It would make my day. I would think that the guy was an absolute genius. I would wish I was him. If you imagine the whole song with a huge bronzed HE-MAN character with a huge M-16 and grenades and a RAMBO belt across his middle with grenades and bullets hanging from it and wearing a string of pearls as well. That would be him.
FXM - It reminds me of Nicholas Cage in FACE OFF. He was so bad but so cool about it constantly.
TT - He's a bit of an idiot at the same time but ultimately he's cool because he knows it.
FXM - 'JESTER'S CHOICE'. Tell me about that one.
TT - I wrote that in a dream. I woke up, wrote the boss lines down and had the song.
FXM - Before the first BOLSHOI album who were you inspired by?
TT - MODIGLIANI, DAVID BOWIE, NEIL DIAMOND, JACK BREL, PINK
FLOYD, THE CLASH, CAPTAIN BEEFHEART, GLEN CAMPBELL, LOU REED. I fought against disco and dance music. Two of my favorite bands are the STRANGLERS and THE DOORS.
FXM - Who are you inspired by now?
TT - OASIS. I think they are genius. BLUR. PULP. I really like RADIOHEAD too. I like SOUL ASYLUM.
FXM - This is my final question. It's a tad philosophical. What would you say is your greatest accomplishment that you have ever made and what do you feel like you still have left to do?
TT - That's more than a tad philosophical That's very damn philosophical. Wow, that's tough. I feel I have achieved a lot of really great things. Like being the only Goth band to be cool wearing sneakers. I inspired people to wear sneakers and leather trousers at the same time. Which sounds a bit stupid but I am very proud of it. I think my greatest accomplishment is not going completely insane. It wasn't easy. What I have left to do is to be the next coolest person to MODIGLIANI on the planet. And do it by the year 2001. Because somebody has to do it and it might as well be me. I want to be remembered in 100 years time as being as relevant as the great painters of the early 1900's are to me now. It sounds pretentious, but I don't care. There is so much commerce going on today that it stops the real people from coming through. Humor is a very important element that is missing from everything these days too. You have to enjoy what you do, even if it's tragic.
FXM - Thanks Trevor. As always, it was a pleasure
talking with you. I look forward to seeing you soon.
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