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Sebastian Lippa -- the (mostly) unexpurgated interview Oct 19/93



interview with Sebastian Lippa, Tuesday Oct 19 - James Covey
[JC note:  A compressed version of this appears in yesterday's
 Dalhousie Gazette under the headline "Talking with a band on the brink"]

JC:     Okay, why don't we start off with a few things about where
you grew up and that sort of thing... I know you keep talking
about growing up in Newfoundland or whatever but ...

SL:     Well, that's where I grew up...

JC:     Were you born there?

SL:     I was born in Saint John's, yeah... Grew up there...  Went
-- everything -- I mean, I lived a little bit, like a year, in
Toronto when I was a baby, but, really, I've been there my whole
life.

JC:     What kind of music did you listen to growing up?

SL:     Growing up... I've always really been into music... I
mean, I remember when I was in Grade 5 I was totally into Men At
Work...

JC:     Oh yeah?

SL:     (laughs) Yeah, I loved them.  Um, I think Chilliwack were
my favorite band at one point.  When I got into high school was
when I started getting into underground music, and bands like the
Dead Milkmen, and Violent Femmes, um, R.E.M. who were fairly
underground at the time, were bands that got me into music that I
didn't hear on the radio.  I guess before that I thought that if
it wasn't on the radio it didn't exist or something.  But I
realized that there was this whole network or whole other culture,
musically, that didn't exist on the radio.  And I loved it!  You
know?  It was very exciting.  And then as I started listening to
more, I mean, the Violent Femmes kinda evolved into the Pogues,
and then Husker Du, and then -- you know -- everything.

JC:     Did you know the other guys at the time?

SL:     Our drummer Matt (Clarke) -- we met in grade nine, I
think, through a mutual friend, 'cause we wanted -- me and this
guy that I went to high school, was in grade nine with -- we
wanted to start a band together, doing, like, Dead Milkmen songs,
so we needed a drummer and he knew Matt, so we met.  And this guy
who was supposedly going to be doing the singing he only lasted
one jam session... couldn't sing so he just kind of bowed out.
And Mike (Pitt, bassist) we met...  Matt and I played together,
just drums and guitar, for about a year, just in the the basement,
you know, making tapes and stuff, just for fun.  And, um, a year
later we knew we wanted to form a real band and then someone else
introduced us to Mike who is our bass player now.

JC:     So what year was this?

SL:     This was a good five years ago or something.  Yeah, the
three of us have played together in bands, on and off, for five
years.  There's been about three or four different names,
different lineups...  this is the first band I've sung in,
actually.  We've always had singers before.  But, yeah, this has
been the original lineup.

JC:     So when did you become Hardship Post?

SL:     We became Hardship Post, in, uh, Hardship Post started in
January of '92 with a different guy on bass, a guy named Mike Kean
on bass, who, uh, because, prior to that, we had been, Mike, Matt,
and I and this girl Becky had been in a band called Crack Willow
and Mike left to go out west, so that band kind of dissolved, and
Matt and I formed Hardship Post with Mike Kean on bass, and that
was the first time that I started to sing.  And then a few months
after that, things with our bass player weren't really working
out, and then Mike Pitt came back from out west so ever since
April of this year we have been together, the band that is
Hardship Post now has been together.  (pause) It's kind of
complicated... (laugh)

JC:     (laugh)  Yeah, it is...  So how soon did you start
recording and that sort of thing?

SL:     Well, we recorded for the first time in October of last
year with our original bass player, and those were the sessions
that *Mood Ring*, our independent cassette, came from.  And then
the next time we recorded was just last spring in Moncton with
Rick, Rick White from Eric's Trip.  Then we recorded again in
Montreal after our tour with Kevin Komoda for our Brave New Waves
session.

JC:     Yeah, I heard you play a couple of tracks from that on
Walter's show on CKDU (friday afternoon show Mellifluous
Melodies).

SL:     Right, right, right -- yeah, I'm really happy with that
stuff actually.

JC:     Yeah, I thought it sounded great, especially the reworked
version of Canopy.

SL:     Yeah, I'm really happy with that.  I'd like to put that
song, that and maybe something else -- we recorded four songs, and
three of them are really good, I think, turned out real well --
so, maybe we'll put out a seven-inch or something with those three
songs on it.  And then after... the last recording we did was just
recently, actually, about two weeks ago, we recorded at Adinsound
with our friend Don Ellis from Saint John's who actually recorded
Mood Ring.  That was for, actually, we got some money to do a
split seven-inch single with Randy Bachman...

JC:     Oh really!

SL:     Yeah.  And, uh, so we recorded a couple of songs there.
Yeah, we did a couple of his songs, we did Rock Is My Life and
This Is My Song and, uh, Prairie Town.

JC:     Oh, wow.

SL:     Yeah, and a couple of other tunes.

JC:     Can't wait to hear that one.

SL:     (laughs) Well, and the deal is, he's gonna record some of
our songs -- he's gonna cover us.

JC:     Really?

SL:     Yeah.

JC:     How did that happen?

SL:     I don't know.

JC:     (laughs)

SL:     His manager, or, like, this guy who works at Randy
Bachman's management, really likes us.  He's been a fan of ours
since November or something, you know, when we first started out.
And uh, I guess he mentioned us to Randy or something and, I guess
Randy is into this kind of thing, and uh, he uh, heard about us...
uh, I don't know, I don't know how it happened it just *did*...
And, um, another development is that we're putting out a single on
Sub Pop.

JC:     Oh wow!

SL:     Yeah, that'll be coming out in the new year.  We might be
recording that next month, possibly down in Chicago.  If all goes
well, we'll be recording with this guy named Brad Wood, who
recorded Liz Phair's album, Red Red Meat, Tar -- he's a really hot
producer.

JC:     So have you had any labels nosing around, interested in
signing you guys?

SL:     Um, they were more, we had more interest, actually, a
while ago, but we gave them all the complete cold shoulder,
because we wanna just be independent, for now.  I think a major
label deal would be the kiss of death for us.

JC:     Freeze you right where you are now, or not let you
develop?

SL:     I just wanna... find out what we want to do.  I just feel
as though we're completely at the developmental stages of our
career, and I wouldn't feel comfortable going to a major label.
I'll feel comfortable going to a major label when I feel as though
we've done everything we can do on our own, and we've gotten to
the stage where we need, feel as though we need major label
support to, I don't know, get our music out there or whatever.
So, yeah, we're in no rush.  And the labels all know that, so
they've kinda chilled out.

JC:     That's sort of how I read the situation.  Cause I mean,
well, I saw you guys play before the Pop Explosion, the last one
you did at the Deuce before the Pop Explosion, I thought was just
*amazing*.

SL:     *During* the Pop Explosion?

JC:     No, no, the one before.

SL:     Oh, when we came back from the tour.

JC:     Yeah, when you came off your tour, that was, like, such a
fucking hot show, I couldn't believe it!  I just thought, you
know...

(By this point in the conversation in the NSCAD cafeteria,
Sebastian's girlfriend, singer/guitarist Jenny Pierce of jale has
joined him and suggests to him, "the road was good to you".)

SL:     It was good *for* us, maybe it wasn't good *to* us.

JC:     It seemed like when you played the Pop Explosion, you
didn't think you were up to the standards of *that* show.  I
remember you making a comment about being out of shape or
something like that on stage.

SL:     That's true.  Well...

JC:     I thought you weren't quite as tight as you were at the
show before but then again that was an exceptional show.

SL:     Yeah, well, there's different things that make a show good
for different people -- everyone has their own criteria, right?
My criteria is going be to different than yours, say.  I just felt
a lot better about our recent shows -- the last two shows we've
been doing (opening for Sloan at the McInnes Room October 3,
subsequent headliner at the Double Deuce).  I feel as though we're
starting to sound a lot more like I want to sound.  Like we've
been playing some new songs that I'm happy with; we're weeding out
some of the songs that I wasn't happy with.  This kind of thing.
Yeah, I hear you, I know what you mean, like, some shows are just
tons of energy, and really rock.  But then other shows, still have
maybe not as much energy, but, you know, are more representative,
I guess, of how I'd like to sound.

JC:     Yeah.  And... when you played the show at the McInnes
Room, you weren't playing stuff from Mood Ring.  I mean you played
Sharp Teeth...

SL:     Right.  Canopy...

JC:     Yeah, Canopy, the reworked version.  And the rock and roll
version of Colourblind.  You dropped off Tables and Chairs
Upsidedown, which a lot of people seem to like.

SL:     Right...

JC:     Are you tired of playing it?

SL:     That one -- it's a good song, I like that one still.  I
don't like Walk Right Over Me, which is on Mood Ring, and I don't
like I Wait For Me, which is on Mood Ring.  Um, so, and there's
stuff that's coming out on Hack, which is coming out next month,
that I don't like either, that's already in and out of our set,
so...

JC:     That EP has been hanging around for a long time not
getting released, right?

SL:     Well, not really.  What, Hack?

JC:     Yeah.

SL:     No, I mean that was recorded in late spring... what held
us up was the artwork, we kinda snoozed on -- well, it's not that
we snoozed on it, we were on the road and couldn't do it.  And,
whereas before we maybe would have let someone else do the
artwork, now we're taking things into our own hands a lot more and
want control of everything.  So we did the artwork on the road,
most of the artwork, as we were travelling.  Like, we got bits and
pieces of stuff all over the place.

JC:     So you left a paper trail right across the country.

SL:     (laughs)  Yes, you know, sitting in hotel rooms in
Edmonton, after the show, working on the cover of our... (laughs
again).

JC:     So, how many songs are on that?

SL:     Uh, there's six tunes on that.

JC:     One of those is a rock version of Colourblind, right?

SL:     Right, right.  And we recorded another song at Rick's,
that isn't going on the EP, but being released by Cinnamon Toast,
on a flexidisc, that's going into the National Chart, with --
there's going to be four, four labels from across Canada, are
submitting one song on this flexidisc, like, Mint Records is part
of it, two others...  There's two other labels, I'm not sure what
they are, that are gonna have -- there's gonna be a four-song
flexi, and we're gonna be on that.  So that'll be in the National
Chart in November, I think.

JC:     Wow -- so you've got a lot of stuff coming out...

SL:     Yeah, right, close together which is cool.  Kinda makes,
like, if you were kind of covering lots of ground at the same
time, I think that you can stay in the public mind for longer, as
opposed to, if you just come out with a record, and that's it.

JC:     So, when you did the Brave New Waves session, you did
three songs?

SL:     We recorded four.  One of them we're not thrilled with...
It's not that we're not thrilled with it, but it was a different
version of My Only Aim, which is on our, which is on *Hack*,
and it's a lot like the version on *Hack*, there wasn't a big
difference, so, it was kind of boring.

[JC note:  Hardship Post have gotten some 
 money to make a video for My Only Aim...]

JC:     I didn't hear the interview, so how did that go?

SL:     That was OK...

JC:     I tried to tape it actually -- I put a two-hour tape in
the stereo and it ran out just when your interview was starting.

SL:     Oh...  There was, I mean, it was intimidating being on
Brave New Waves -- and not just because it's such a national
institution, but because the environment is very sterile, and not
really conducive to being loose.  So I know we all felt a bit
nervous and stiff, because it was so, so professional, you know?
And we haven't done many interviews like that.  We're more into
this kind of thing.  More casual.

JC:     Yeah.  Well, you probably won't do many more interviews
that are that long that get used in their entirety, because Brave
New Waves broadcasts much longer interviews than anyone else.

SL:     Right -- that's true, right.  So I guess it's only normal
that some parts of the conversation are not going to be as good as
others.

JC:     Yeah.  So like, when people ask you what sort of music
that you do, what do you tell them?  I mean, do you ever say the
g-word, or...

SL:     Sometimes I wish we'd said the g-word a bit more often
because usually what we say instead is completely stupid.

JC:     (laughs)

SL:     Like -- no, never mind, I won't even repeat it...

JC:     (laughs)

SL:     Um -- I don't know what kind of music we play, because
it's changing.  Who knows, by our next record it might even be --
folk.

JC:     I think that it's interesting that Under the Influence of
Meat Puppets II is...

SL:     It's *country*!  (laugh)

JC:     It's so different than anything else you're doing in your
set right now, but it's also very *good*, you know, which means,
to me, that you could go in a bunch of different directions right
now.
 
SL:  And that's the thing.  That's what is interesting, you know?

JC:  Is it interesting/scary?

SL:  No, not at all.  It was scary when I felt like we were
getting pigeonholed.  That was frightening.  Because when we
started, I was like, I just wanted to rock, you know, that was the
only thing I cared about.  I just wanted to rock.  I wanted to
play, you know, our sets, I wanted to rock from start to finish.
Our records --you know, I wanted to rock, first song to last song.
Now I don't feel that way anymore.  It's like, that gets so
boring.  I'm much more into dynamics.  You know, you can
appreciate a rocking tune way more if it comes after, really, kind
of a slow song, or something.  It's just way more interesting to
listen to and to watch.

JC:  It's definitely that way, for example, with Eric's Trip.

SL:  Exactly.

JC:  They take that almost to an extreme, actually.

SL:  Yeah.  Yup.  And you can see -- I guess it's a natural
progression for bands.  I mean that is interesting, you know?
It's fun for the band.  So -- it's very natural.  You know, like
Eric's Trip, I mean, they're, I mean, becoming so dynamic.  Like I
remember they weren't as much like that even in February when we
played with them.  They were much more full on for most of the
set.  But now, it's like, they can subdue their music to just a
whisper, and then they can explode, and that is so exciting to
watch.

JC:  For sure.  It's tough to start out that way, because it's
almost like first you have to convince people that you can rock or
something.

SL:  Maybe it's not even that conscious.  It's just -- it's almost
like a type of maturity, to be able to get up on stage in front of
a whole bunch of people, and play quietly.  That takes balls, in
my opinion.

JC:  Sure.

SL:  I mean, it's the easiest thing is to go up on stage and turn
everything up on ten, and go -- play fast and loud.  You're pretty
well hiding behind a wall of noise, you know.  But to really turn
things down, slow things up, and stuff, is um, I think is very
brave, and those are the kinds of sets and the kind of records
that I like.  The brave recordings that the band or whoever is
making music isn't afraid to be, you know, be exposed, really.
When they're playing really quietly, or softly, or whatever.

JC:  Even on Mood Ring, even though the songs really rock, the
lyrics are really vulnerable.

SL:  Yeah, that's something that...

JC:  Is that conscious?

SL:  No.  That's just the lyrics that come to me.  Yeah, that's
not an attempt at anything.  That's just natural.

JC:  There's kind of a punk side to the band, I guess, but when I
listen to Mood Ring, you're not screaming I hate this or that...

SL:  No, 'cause I don't.  That's not the type of person I am.

JC:  It seems really very introspective and even self-critical on
a song like "Sharp Teeth".

SL:  Right.

JC:  I wanted to ask you about "Tables and Chairs Upsidedown",
because I always wanted to know exactly what those lyrics meant --
or do they have an exact meaning for you?

SL:  They don't really have an exact meaning.  Well not one that I
can say is an exact story about something.  I think I'd like to
say that...  Some people, I mean, won't even listen to the lyrics,
or the lyrics are just part of the song, and it just creates an
aura or something.  And they won't really focus on the exact
words, and that's what I actually do on some of my songs.  Some
songs I put a lot into the lyrics, and they mean a lot.  Other
ones, it's more just imagery, and that song is a little bit like
that.

JC:  Just seems to fit with the music.

SL:  Yeah.  The lyrics are a bit dreamlike, where they don't make
complete sense -- like "finding a bag of bottlecaps".  I make a
lot of references to things I did as a kid -- like I collected
bottlecaps as a kid, and I had a bag of bottlecaps, and I ended up
burying them, kind of like buried treasure, and then I'd dig them
up later -- that was my idea.  Or having someone following me, or
trying to find me, and me going around leaving kind of clues or
cryptic symbols, like painting -- leaving a sign with paint and
words like a map, like "ten by ten on a wall".  So that, kind of
like, leaving hints behind for someone to find me, or something
like that.  You know, again, it's not something that would really
happen -- it's, you know, something you might imagine in a dream
or something like that.  Some stuff I don't want to say black and
white.  I don't really like obvious lyrics.  Sometimes I do.  Like
Eric's Trip's lyrics can be pretty obvious sometimes, but they're
just so emotionally raw, that it just, it really draws you in.
You can't help being moved by the words.  That's how I feel.  It's
just different -- I'm just trying, I mean my criteria is, I'm
usually just trying to make music and lyrics that I would want to
listen to.

JC:  Are you thinking about including the lyrics with your
recordings?

SL:  Um -- I would maybe do it with some songs.  I think I might
do that.  Well, who knows, yeah, I might.  If I, if one of our
records I feel really confident about all the lyrics and I feel
are worth reading, I would do it.  But some songs I just don't
feel that they're worth reading -- they're just not that
important.  'Cause I think it sends kind of a message when you
print the lyric sheet that these lyrics are very important to the
song...

JC:  Yeah, like, there's something specific that you're trying to
say that you want someone to get, whereas if you leave them out
you leave more room for the person to interpret it.

SL:  Right.  And I think that's -- I'm more into that, and I will
probably stay -- will probably always do that, I think, just leave
the lyrics off.

JC:  I wasn't going to ask much about what you think of the whole
"Halifax phenomenon" that they're talking about, 'cause, I don't
know, from here it just seems like a lot of talk...

SL:  No, it's not, really, it's not.  I think that for anyone
around here to say that is really selling the town short 'cause
there's a really good thing going here.  We'll say for now the
Atlantics, I guess.  'Cause I mean, Eric's Trip are a big part of
what's happening, and they're not from here.  I like to think that
we're part of it, too, a little bit, and we're not full-blown
Halifax people -- well, we're not Halifax people at all, I just
happen to be living here right now.  But um, there's a really good
thing going here, and I'm not saying that for any other reason
than because I think it's true.  You know?  There's a lot of
really good people, like, a lot of really key people, in all
areas.  Like up at the radio station, up at CKDU, there's really
cool people who've got best intentions for the local scene at
heart, and do their job well.  You've got people like with
Cinnamon Toast, Murderecords -- I mean, there's record companies
for people to put out music that are good at what they do, and
committed to the music.  And then you've got all the people in
bands -- you know, so many talented people.

JC:  Well, I didn't mean to say that there isn't something going
on here.  I just meant, like, "Is Halifax the hip place?", those
kinds of questions...

SL:  I think, well, I don't even know about that, and I don't
think that's really important.

JC:  Yeah.  As far as there being a scene going on here that's a
good thing, yeah sure, I definitely know about that, 'cause I'm
doing my thing at CKDU, and, um...

SL:  But do you see it as, like, have you been, have you like
spent time in other places to know that what's going on here is
very special?

JC:  Yeah, I'll tell you, I was recently in Montreal, and it
occurred to me as I was there -- it didn't seem like there was any
sort of, obvious, specific character to the music scene there.
You could just sort of do what you want, see what you want, but
here there's a sense of something cohesive happening...

SL:  Yes, that's the bottom line.  Everyone's very, I find, for
the most part, everyone's very supportive of each other.  All the
bands, and all the people behind the bands.  Everyone's kinda got
their own agenda, and they go about their own business, and they
work on their own stuff, and try to get better and better on their
own, and the success of others doesn't make anybody mad or
anything.  Everyone's really happy for other people's success.
You know, if someone does well, it's like, hey, that's great.  And
everyone just keeps doing what they do.  I think that's so cool,
where in other places, you know, sometimes people get jealous
because other people do well.  That kind of thing.  Which isn't
really healthy at all.

JC:  Well, it would probably be impossible in a place this small,
in a way, or at least it would make life really tough.

SL:  And like, specifically, I know places like Calgary, the bands
completely gripe and beak off in the media about how that band's
terrible, and then they retaliate, oh you guys suck, this kind of
thing.  It's like, scenes just can't survive with that kind of
behaviour.

JC:  I should say, my friend Scott and I started this Sloan Net
thing, which started off with fans of Sloan and sort of expanded
into, like, the "Halifax scene" or whatever, and there's lots of
local university students with computer accounts who are connected
to that -- but you know, there's people right across Canada.  When
Sloan were touring across the country we kept getting concert
reviews from London, Edmonton, Victoria, Vancouver...  Um, and, I
do get a sense that there really isn't anything comparable
happening in Canada.

SL:  No. No, there isn't.

JC:  And there's people down in the States who are getting
interested too.  There's even a guy from Sweden on Sloan Net...

SL:  Cool.

JC:  What's going on with the CMJ seminar?

SL:  Well, we're going down to the CMJ early November.  We're
playing New York City at a Canadian East Coast showcase with us,
Sloan, Eric's Trip, Bubaiskull, and Thrush Hermit -- on the
Wednesday, which I think is the 3rd.  Jale are going down --
they're playing the Sub Pop showcase the same night with a new
band, the Spinanes.  Then we go to Boston with jale and Eric's
Trip -- we're doing a show with those two bands and a new band,
Red Red Meat, also on Sub Pop.  We play Boston and then play Rhode
Island with the same lineup.  I'm really excited about playing
with Red Red Meat, I love them.

JC:  I haven't heard them.

SL:  They're amazing, yeah.  So that's basically it for, that's
kind of the schedule for CMJ.

JC:  I guess jale are gonna be recording while they're down there.

SL:  Apparently.

JC:  I wanted to ask you if have any observations about how
Hardship Post is perceived outside the region, what kind of
attention you're getting elsewhere and that sort of thing.

SL:  I'm not sure, actually.  We haven't gotten much attention,
actually.  I mean, outside of the region, 'cause we're so small,
we don't have a full-scale release yet.  I think we'll start
getting more insight into how we're perceived elsewhere when Hack
comes out next month.

JC:  Are you gonna tour?

SL:  Yeah, we're gonna do a tour in November in Ontario and
Quebec, and possibly go down to Chicago.

JC:  And when exactly is Hack coming out?

SL:  Hack is coming out in early November.  It's being distributed
by MCA.  And that just happened.  We just found out about that a
couple of weeks ago so I think that pushed things back a bit.
Cargo was originally going to be doing it, but now it's MCA.

JC:  Oh, wow.  Distributing right across the country?

SL:  Yeah.  All right James.  Thanks a lot.

JC:  Thank you.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
James R. Covey         <JRCOVEY\!/ac.dal.ca>        What syllable are you seeking,
..........................................        Vocalissimus,
Department of English                             In the distances of sleep?
Dalhousie University  Halifax, NS  B3H 3H5        Speak it.