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interview with Chick Graning of SCARCE
- Subject: interview with Chick Graning of SCARCE
- From: "James R. Covey" <JRCOVEY\!/ac.dal.ca>
- Date: Tue, 01 Feb 1994 11:55:39 -0400
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?
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?
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. :-) ]
JC: And all of a sudden a lot of people are talking about you guys,
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
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?
CG: The Bubaiskull guys were funny. Laughed myself to tears with them
in New York.
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: 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
JC: Yeah, it seems like that's a major factor in what the band is
CG: Yeah, it helps.
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
CG: Let's see, let me go over here to my old CD player...
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
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
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,
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
[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?
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
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
JC: So, if you've got stuff to bring, my advice is, bring lots.
CG: We definitely will.
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
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
[JC note: not that I bought one.]
CG: Yeah, we got a couple of 'em.
CG: We do have a couple of 'em -- twenty-six. *laugh*
JC: *laugh* So, um, what's this Tanya Donnelly connection?
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
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: 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.
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
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
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?
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.
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
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
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.
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
[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
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.
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
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
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,
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,
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
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?
JC: OK, what's the most interesting book you read lately?
CG: Most *interesting* book?
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
CG: Oh yeah! *laugh* Nah.
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 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?
JC: Yeah, so come on out and see Scarce rock the stage and rock
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.
James R. Covey <JRCOVEY\!/ac.dal.ca> What syllable are you seeking,
Department of English In the distances of sleep?
Dalhousie University Halifax, NS B3H 3H5 Speak it.