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interview with Chick Graning of SCARCE



an interview with Chick Graning of SCARCE
from "Slacker City", CKDU 97.5 FM Halifax
Thursday, January 20, 1994  12:10-2:00 PM
host/interviewer/transcriber: James Covey

JC:  All right, that was Scarce, with "Scorpion Tray", and if all goes as
it should, we should have them with us on the phone here.  Hello -- Scarce?

CG:  Hello.

JC:  Hi!  Looks like we finally worked it out here.

CG:  Made it, huh?

JC:  Yeah!  So who've we got on the phone?

CG:  Just Chick.

JC:  Hi Chick, how're you doing?

CG:  Pretty good.

JC:  Now you sing lead and play guitar with Scarce, is that right?

CG:  Yup.

JC:  And how long has the band been together?

CG:  About eleven months.

JC:  Eleven months -- you guys just got together last year!
        [JC note:  I have a degree in mathematics.  :-) ]

CG:  Yup.

JC:  And all of a sudden a lot of people are talking about you guys,
     it seems.

CG:  All of a sudden.

JC:  You all played in bands previously, right?

CG:  mm hmm.

JC:  Any one we might have heard of?

CG:  I don't know -- did you get any Anastasia Screamed records up
     there?

JC:  I don't know, I don't remember seeing them.  I should say that I
     only started here in August or September, so...

CG:  Yeah...  (It'd have been) a year before that...

JC:  And you guys are from Providence.

CG:  Yeah, that's where we live.
        [JC note:  Chick overflows with helpful comments at this point...]

JC:  So do you guys know the guys in Six Finger Satellite?

CG:  No, actually, they're the one band around here I never see.  I know
     one guy.  I never see the rest of 'em anywhere.  Pete Phillips I
     worked with, and that's it.

JC:  I always look for a chance to ask somebody who knows them whether or
     not they're as weird in real life as they are on stage.

CG:  I don't know, I don't know.  I'd say they're pretty regular guys.
     They just have their own unique musical vision.

JC:  Yeah, yeah.  *laugh* That's a good way of putting it.  
     So you guys came up and played the Pop Explosion last September.
     Now was that your first time up here, and did you enjoy it?

CG:  Yes and yes.
        [JC note:  Thanks a lot, Chick.]

JC:  *supresses rueful laughter*  Who did you meet when you were up here
     who was interesting?

CG:  Who did we meet who was interesting?

JC:  Yeah.

CG:  The Bubaiskull guys were funny.  Laughed myself to tears with them
     in New York.

JC:  Yeah?

CG:  At Puffy's.

JC:  Oh yeah.

CG:  While we were up there, oh, god, I don't know.  I was pretty lit
     most of the time.  *laugh*

JC:  *laugh*  Well, you definitely were so on stage.

CG:  yeah... *laugh*

JC:  Actually, I'll tell you one thing I liked about the Pop Explosion
     appearances, was, you guys played, like, the afternoon, and then
     again in the evening, and it seemed like you put a lot of energy
     into the afternoon show, even though there wasn't a lot of people
     there or whatever, and then you came out and did it all over again
     in the evening, which I thought was amazing.

CG:  Yeah, well, it's fun to do, you know.

JC:  Yeah?

CG:  Yeah.

JC:  You guys put that level of energy into *every* show?

CG:  We try.

JC:  I can believe it after seeing you do it twice in one day.

CG:  It's kind of hard to do one of our shows without some level
     of energy.

JC:  Yeah, it seems like that's a major factor in what the band is
     about.

CG:  Yeah, it helps.

JC:  Yeah.

CG:  Kind of a natural thing.
        [JC note:  At this point, a sinking feeling comes over me that
         I'm being toyed with on live radio...]

JC:  Right.  So -- who are you guys listening to lately, and what's
     influencing you?

CG:  Let's see, let me go over here to my old CD player...

JC:  Sure.

CG:  ...I'll tell ya.  Let's see, the new Afghan Whigs, _Gentlemen_.

JC:  Oh yeah, I played that earlier in the show.

CG:  Yeah, it's a good one, the whole thing.  The History of Richard
     Thompson, _Watching the Dark_, that's a three-CD set.

JC:  Oh yeah!

CG:  Really great.  This new Swervedriver is good.  I'm listening to an
     SVT tape -- I think it was Jack Bruce's band.  Early eighties punk
     rock band from San Francisco.  They didn't go anywhere, but they
     were great.  This new Mazzy Star, Bob Dylan _Good As I Been To
     You_, Tacklebox _Grand Hotel_, and an awful lot of Tom Waits.

JC:  *laugh*  Yeah, I like that Tacklebox actually, that's pretty cool.

CG:  Yeah, it's really good.  Oh yeah, and Captain Beefheart and John
     Lennon.

JC:  *laugh*  You know, it's funny, that all makes sense -- having heard
     you guys play, I can sort of see why you'd be listening to a lot of
     those groups.  But it seems like when people are describing you,
     they don't know who to compare you to.

CG:  That's good.

JC:  That's what I think too, actually.  I think that when they don't
     know what the heck they're seeing, that means they're seeing
     something original, right?

CG:  Yes, it does.

JC:  'Cause I mean, I was going through some of this press stuff on you
     guys, and there were some pretty bizarre comparisons.  Like, *Soul
     Asylum*?

CG:  Like people are kind of grasping for straws.  I really like that.
     It's just a rock and roll band, basically.  But, what with all this
     alternative crap going on, you've gotta have some sort of label,
     and...

JC:  Actually, I think the best "grasping" one that I saw was "Pixies
     influenced by Elvis Costello."

CG:  I *liked* that one...

JC:  That one was pretty close, I thought, but the "Tom Petty and the
     Byrds", that didn't quite work for me...  *snicker*

CG:  I didn't know about that one either.

JC:  Kinda strange.

CG:  It's like, "what were you listening to?"  *laugh*

JC:  *laugh*  So, when did this "Scorpion Tray" single come out?

CG:  Let's see, I don't know if you could actually say that it "came
     out", um, it was a while ago but it was such a blurry line as far
     as when it was not out and when it was, so, you know, the guy that
     put those out, I don't know how many of them he actually sent away
     and got distributed.  Or if he ever actually did that.

JC:  *laugh*  I noticed that the label here says "Delmore Records", and
     then it says on the other side "the proud and regal name Delmore"
     as if this is named after Delmore Schwartz -- 'cause that's a Lou
     Reed lyric right, about Delmore?

CG:  Right -- the key on the label is the *dog* with the *pipe*.

JC:  Right.  [JC note:  not that I understand what he means here...]

CG:  Yeah.  That's the key there.  The pipe being even more key than the
     dog.
        [JC note:  there is a picture of (I think) a beagle with a pipe
        on one side of the single.  At this point I was afraid to ask
        what he meant.  Maybe he was serious about this but I got the
        impression that he was making fun of me for finding significance
        in the name/slogan of the label...]

JC:  *nervous laugh*  Yeah?
        [JC note:  translation -- "moving right along..."]

CG:  But I don't know when those came out.  We have another one coming
     out on "All The Money" Records here in Providence.

JC:  Who else is on that label?

CG:  Lovebox and Backwash.
        [JC note:  he says this expectantly, looking for some
         confirmation that I've heard of these bands.]

JC:  OK.  OK.
        [JC note:  translation -- "never heard of 'em"]
     And that's the "Hope" single, is that what's coming out?

CG:  Yeah, "Hope" and a song called "Something".

JC:  There was a song you did at the Pop Explosion, I think it was
     called "Sideways", am I right about that?

CG:  Yeah.

JC:  Has that ever made it to vinyl?

CG:  Hopefully it will.

JC:  I remember really liking that song and then going and looking for
     it on the tape and not finding it.
        [JC note:  "the tape" is not available in stores, it's a
         compilation of stuff that CKDU was given to promote the
         Pop Explosion]

CG:  We'll have to bring a tape up.  It was, it's printed up in England
     on a label, but we can't release it for a little while, due to some
     weasels in the works.

JC:  I don't know if you guys have much stuff to bring up with you to
     sell, but there was a guy in here earlier in the day from Dischord
     Records, who said that the sales rep guy here [at CKDU] gave him
     six or seven copies of your single, and they sold out within the
     day.

CG:  Wow.

JC:  So, if you've got stuff to bring, my advice is, bring lots.

CG:  We definitely will.

JC:  Yeah.

CG:  The guy from *Dischord* was up there and did that?

JC:  Yeah, he was in here in the studio earlier in the day, and he was
     telling me that this was what happened, when he put out six or
     seven of these in the store, they just went the same day.

CG:  Oh, wow!

JC:  Yeah.  *pause*
        [JC note:  Suddenly, I have this flash of panic as I think, does
         he think I mean the *label* Dischord rather than the Halifax
         used and new alternative music store?  Pressing onwards...]
     So, I'd say there's a solid fan base here in Halifax already.

CG:  Yeah, if we can get some up there, and we'll try to bring some
     T-shirts... I don't know if they'll make it through the border, and
     all that.

JC:  Yeah!  *chuckle*  Well, you can always try.

CG:  Yeah, print "For Promotional Use Only" on everything.

JC:  I can tell you, I'd like to get my hands on a Scarce T-shirt, so
     I'm sure that there's lots of other people out there who would as
     well.
        [JC note:  not that I bought one.]

CG:  Yeah, we got a couple of 'em.

JC:  Right.

CG:  We do have a couple of 'em -- twenty-six.  *laugh*

JC:  *laugh*  So, um, what's this Tanya Donnelly connection?

CG:  *moan*

JC:  Do people keep asking you about that, are you tired of talking 
     about that by now?

CG:  They do and I am.

JC:  OK, well, maybe we'll just say we didn't ask the question.

CG:  Yeah, there's not a connection at this point, I'll just leave it at
     that.

JC:  OK.  Had to risk it.

CG:  Yeah, I know.

JC:  OK.  Joyce and Jud are also in the band, and people keep remarking
     about Joyce's bass style.  Do you have any idea where her
     influences come from, I mean, what gets her to move around on stage
     like that and play like she does?

CG:  Townshend?

JC:  Yeah.

CG:  Yeah, she blew up her amp last night, or she would be here, she's
     off fixing it right now.

JC:  *laugh*  Oh, wow.  *snicker*  You know, it's a shame, but in a way,
     I'm not surprised.

CG:  Yeah, I wasn't either.

JC:  *laugh*

CG:  Kim Deal, and, basically into rockin' you know?  I don't know if
     there's a particular person you could affix to Joyce as an
     influence.

JC:  Right.

CG:  Just, you know, *rock and roll*.  The Great Spirit, that's what I
     would have to say.

JC:  *chuckle*  And when you were learning to play guitar, who was
     influencing you?

CG:  Oh shit.  My teachers, a lot of local people too.  It wasn't so
     much other guitar players I could listen to and freak out about, it
     was just local people doing it right in front of me, you know?

JC:  Right.

CG:  So you know, Todd Steed from Smokin' Dave, and Terry Hill, hello?

JC:  I'm still here.

CG:  It got so quiet.

JC:  *laugh* Just listening to ya.

CG:  This guy named Hector Kirko (sp?).  You know, people you really
     definitely wouldn't have heard of.

JC:  Right.

CG:  Those were really my influences.

JC:  OK, OK.  So, have you guys been talking to any labels?

CG:  Oh yeah, talking to labels of all descriptions.  You know, taking
     our time about it.  It's not something you really want to rush
     into.

JC:  Yeah, well, it seems to be the way to go these days, is to
     establish an indie reputation first, spend some time doing that.

CG:  Well, I did that for six years.

JC:  *laugh*  OK, but maybe as a band.

CG:  Um, I don't know about that.  You see, I kinda have a beef with
     that.

JC:  Oh really?  Oh, tell me about that.

CG:  It seems to me a lot of indie labels, not all of 'em, definitely
     not all of them, but a lot of them are signing young inexperienced
     bands to contracts that they don't have the savvy to thoroughly
     peruse, or the money to afford a lawyer who can do it or will do
     it, to the degree that it needs to be done, and then these labels
     wait for the bands to get a little more valuable, and then they
     sell 'em like beef to a major label.

JC:  Right, kind of a "band broker" thing.

CG:  Yeah, basically, it's kinda gross, and I think the media hype about
     having to be on an indie label before you can do anything else or
     have any credibility as a musician, writer, or performer, you know,
     it's -- crap!  It's what you're doing in your room, the songs that
     you're writing, and the practice space that matter.  You know, who
     cares what label you're on, really.  And on an indie label, you're
     gonna go on tour, and might not get any tour support, come back
     home after two months, you'll be behind two or three months in
     rent, and among other things, you got your day job, which you don't
     have anymore, so you gotta get another one, you know.  I've seen a
     lot of people in those situations, and it does seem to be the way
     to go, and I guess that's to the advantage of the pocket books of a 
     lot of indie label people, and I've seen that.

JC:  Wow.

CG:  So that's my opinion there.  I mean, it's good to play around for a
     while, and get your stuff together.

JC:  Well, I'm almost surprised to hear you say that, not that I don't
     agree with you to some extent, but I think I read somewhere that
     you guys were interested in Sub Pop, and I mean Sub Pop
     constantly...
        [JC note:  translation -- "um, have you ever heard of Nirvana?
         Soundgarden?  Afghan Whigs?"   There is an audible change
         in Chick's tone as soon as I recite the mantra "Sub Pop"...]

CG:  They are one exception.  I really, you know, that label's a good
     label.

JC:  Yeah?

CG:  Smart people there, and stuff.  You know, we were talking to them,
     and it didn't work out to the end, but I woulda, you know, there
     are exceptions, but I'm speaking in general.  And Sub Pop are an
     exception -- they're a good label.

JC:  Yeah.

CG:  (faux latino accent) They arr the gude laybull.

JC:  *laugh*  True, true.  So, obviously, you guys haven't thought too
     hard about putting together an album or anything like that yet, or
     have you?

CG:  Oh yeah!  We're thinking about it right now.  We're thinking about
     two or three albums right now, you know, trying to get the stuff
     together.  We're starting to get into a situation where we're, you
     know, behind.  We're just, you know, working creatively, that's
     kind of the point of the whole thing.

JC:  So, I always wonder, does that, like, change how you think about
     writing songs?  When you go from, you know, thinking about putting
     out your next single to planning, say, ten songs or something.

CG:  Well, um you see, the thing is, most people do plan ten songs, and
     then they stop after, uh, ten or twelve or something, and wait until
     the next record to get together and write new songs or whatever.
     We just like to keep writing.

JC:  I see.

CG:  One of us, two of us, or three of us together.  You know, all sorts
     of forms, and we just keep moving that way.

JC:  So people sometimes bring songs to the band, as individuals, that
     they've come up with?

CG:  Yeah, that's how it starts, usually.  Mostly, I've brought the
     songs in this last year, but Jud just got a guitar -- his dad gave
     it to him, old '34 Gibson.  Joyce has been writing, and we've been
     writing some together, just however it works best for any
     particular song.  If I bring something in, and they change it, then
     they have then written part of that song, and I don't mind it being
     changed if it's for the better.  We work pretty well together that
     way.  There's no real set formula of writers, or a writer.

JC:  So just whatever works at a given moment.

CG:  Yeah.  I've been writing longer, so I tend to come in with more.
     Which means I throw away more too, you know.  It pretty much evens
     out.

JC:  Do you like playing live better than recording, or have you done
     enough recording to think about that?

CG:  Yeah, I have.  They're different processes.  It's an entirely
     different thing.  You can't really compare it.  It's like watching
     television or being on it.

JC:  *snicker*  OK, but do you think you're a band that wants to tour
     constantly, be one of these total tour ethic kind of bands, or...

CG:  Ooh, don't know yet.  I'd like some road time, yeah, more than
     we've had.  Wouldn't hurt at all.  It might be a safe bet to say
     that we probably will be road dogs for a while.  I would think so,
     yeah.

JC:  Chance to destroy a few more amps.

CG:  Yeah, definitely.  And anything else up there.

JC:  *laugh*  Yeah, all right.  I don't know what else I should get in,
     before we wrap this up.  You do have that new single coming out,
     right?

CG:  Yeah.  I don't know, come up with something from left field!

JC:  Something from left field.  Is this where I do the quiz about the
     state flower of Rhode Island, or something?

CG:  You could, but I couldn't tell you.  Been here a year.

JC:  I probably couldn't give you equivalent information about Nova
     Scotia, either.  Or maybe I could, and I won't admit it.  I don't
     know.

CG:  *laugh* Wouldn't be a bad thing!

JC:  *laugh* [JC note:  and now, my brilliant left field question...]
     So like, what are you watching on TV these days?

CG:  I don't watch TV.

JC:  Are there any TV junkies in the band?

CG:  Yeah, Jud is.

JC:  Jud's the TV junkie.

CG:  Jud's a video junkie, he doesn't watch regular TV.  He rents movies
     and stuff, but I don't have a television and neither does Joyce.

JC:  Do you read then?

CG:  Yeah.

JC:  OK, what's the most interesting book you read lately?

CG:  Most *interesting* book?

JC:  Yeah.

CG:  A friend of mine just handed me _Tropic of Cancer_.  *That* was 
     interesting -- it was really *funny*.

JC:  *laugh*  [JC note:  *that* should tell you something...]

CG:  Right now I'm reading _Absalom, Absalom_, _Sex, Drugs, and
     Rock'n'Roll_, and I just finished _Exile in the Kingdom_ by Camus.

JC:  Oh, wow.  Well, that's an interesting diet.

CG:  Yeah, just leave 'em laying around the house and read 'em wherever
     you are.  That's the fun way -- instead of one at a time.

JC:  Good way to put your whole mission as a band in question, just read
     some existentialism.

CG:  Oh yeah!  *laugh*  Nah.

JC:  *laugh*

CG:  A little's fine, but, you know...

JC:  When it comes right down to it, you're gonna rock'n'roll, right?

CG:  Mm hmm.

JC:  Yeah.

CG:  Yes.

JC:  Cool.
        [JC note: suddenly I have the bad feeling of being trapped in an
         episode of _Beavis and Butthead_...]
     Well, OK, thanks a lot for doing this interview, Chick, it's been
     great talking to you.

CG:  Ah, thanks.

JC:  And I can't wait to see you guys, you guys are gonna be playing the
     Deuce on Saturday and Sunday, right?

CG:  Yes.

JC:  Yeah, so come on out and see Scarce rock the stage and rock
     Halifax.

CG:  How cold is it up there?

JC:  Oh man, it got warm for one day, and then we got blasted by that
     arctic air again.  It's like, minus twelve Celsius today.  And
     minus ten is our high for tomorrow.  So dress warmly!

CG:  Yeah.  I'll bring my swimming trunks.

JC:  *chuckle*  Yeah, go out for a little dip in the harbour maybe.

CG:  That sounds good!  Bracing.

JC:  *chuckle*  OK, well, I'm gonna finish off here by playing "Cry Me A
     River" from the tape we've got here.  So, um, thanks a lot again,
     Chick, again for being with us.

CG:  Hey man, thank you.

JC:  Yeah, see you this Saturday.

CG:  Right.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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.