Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Q&A 2000ce — Favourite Music

Who is your favourite group? (Susan)

That’s an easy one. It would have to be the Sensational Alice Ra Pop & his MC Cheer, when Damo ‘Ozzy’ Morrison was still on vocals, and before Manuel ‘Sonic’ Van Halen had sold his FX pedals. Never off my turntable!

Favourite Album? (Susan)

My favourite album would be a sonically-unbalanced Detroit-sounding, guitar-heavy, on-the-one righteous freakout played by great looking guys who aimed at a Forward-thinking Motherfucker Utopian stance. A cross between the Plastic Ono Band/MC5/Ash Ra Tempel/Funkadelic and wearing warpaint/woad/glam-make up. Their lead singer would physically have to be somewhere between Damo/Iggy/David Lee Roth and sound like all of the above combined with Rob Tyner, John Garner and Dick Peterson, and he would be platform-booted or barefoot. Their stance would have to be outwardly throwaway and unserious, yet their inner-trip would have to secretly believe that their music was gonna kick all the self-righteous Protestant/ Cromwellian/Roundheaded/Stalinist/Fatherland Cocksuckers into Hyperspace. Groups have got close to this several times. How I love them for even trying. I get down on my knees and thank the sun for rising every time I discover more of such upwardly-aiming Heathen Schtompf.

My bro-in-law says he saw you at a Kiss concert last year. Is that true? Were they good? What gives? (Habitual)

Not everything I love is righteous. As Danny Fields once commented, the MC5 were righteous but the Stooges were unrighteous. So long as music is not self-righteous, I don’t pass too much judgement. My love of Kiss comes from my wife’s New York upbringing: Dorian saw Kiss umpteen as a teenager and finally managed to turn me on to them by sheer repetition of playing. When we saw them at Wembley Arena, they were truly amazing and made me wonder what I’d seen in the New York Dolls all these years. While the Dolls had made two patchy LPs, Kiss had been knocking them out three a year. Their albums are no more patchy and with far more true highs. If the Dolls had made Destroyer, believe me we’d all know about it. True, when they’ve got Peter Criss songs on, you have to hurry to the fast-forward button but no more so than a Verden Allen song on a Mott album, and there are far more to choose from. Hotter than Hell is one of the best dumb metal albums ever, and has only two clunkers on it. Ace Frehley is a great Johnny Thunders-type guitarist and you’ve gotta remember that Bob Ezrin, Lou Reed and Kim Fowley worked with them over the years. They are a totally un-righteous and self-centred money-making machine, but certainly no more than the fucking Rolling Stones have become, and they certainly inspire me more than endless Stones clones. Yes, most of their albums are mainly kack but Kiss Alive 1 & 2 are Hevv-Eee!!! (Oh yeah, and Music from the Elder is the best concept album ever.)

You came four times to Japan. You listened to Japanese musician’s songs then? You could have songs you think good? You have opportunity to listen to Japanese songs now? (Toshiki)

Yes, the Japanese produced some good and weird stuff which I picked up over the course of my four tours. One group even did a fine version of my song “Wreck My Car”. But I think that the best new bands in Japan right now are made up of older musicians. I particularly like the noise rock trio High Rise, who seem to be doing a kind of Brain Donor thing without the boots and make-up. There are some other similar bands, but they have a more retro angle and not the same contemporary importance.

What are your opinions of High Rise and the Queens of the Stone Age? I dig them both, and wondered if either had had any influence on your need to form Brain Donor. (Frank Cannon)

Aha, I mentioned High Rise in the last answer. The Queens of the Stone Age is interesting because it’s coming from a post-Nirvana angle. I like them but I don't love them – this may be because of their production, which is not unbalanced enough for me. I wouldn’t say either of these groups caused me to form Brain Donor, but, because of their total sonic assault, High Rise is certainly a consideration when we record. In truth, Brain Donor’s aiming for a certain ‘angry silence’ which High Rise never attempt because they’re always full-on. Brain Donor is sonically closer to Rocket from the Tomb, Blue Cheer, G.A.M. and Sir Lord Baltimore.

In your book Head-On, you make mention of a group called The Residents. You also quote them in the Peggy Suicide liner notes. You were obviously a fan in the early years. Are you still a fan? There was recently a Residents tribute album and, knowing that you were a fan, I was disappointed to see that you weren’t included – Would you ever consider covering a Residents’ song – and, if so, what would it be? It would be my ultimate dream to hear your take on one of their songs as you are my two all time favourite groups/performers. (Tim)

The only tribute album I’ve appeared on was for Roky Erikson because he needs all the money and acclaim he can get his hands on. Though I’ve taken great influence and many ideas from the Residents, I’d never do a cover of theirs. That said, it was my connection with them which caused the Mole Show to come over to London in the 1980. My manager, Paul King, was the instigator of that at my behest.

Howdy! I love the descriptions of the punk groups in Head-On. But which of these groups still do it for you 20+ years later? (Jenny J)

Most of all, I still love the Pop Group and the Subway Sect and Crass. This is probably because it’s just as mysterious and forward-thinking as when I first heard it in that tiny club all those aeons ago.

Not likely to get an answer here as I am sure NO one else will ask this. But has Julian heard of an early 70’s space glam band from Florida called White Witch? I have gathered that Julian digs the old underground scene & I think these boys were very ODD. I originally did a web page on them thinking no one knew them, the next thing, the page began to bring a large # of freaks together. I have since acquired some rare live recordings and learned that their front man was not just a singer but a wild space guru! He used to stop shows and invite his audience out into the parking lot to sit and “Ommm” (sound like anyone we know?) Ronn Goedert was a true freak! White Witch were signed to Capricorn early in the 70’s, & were the main opening band for Alice Cooper. I bring all of this up because recently Captain Ronn has been battling cancer and is not doing well. This cancer hit him right about the time I was working on getting them back into a studio! With their original line up! Ronn, knowing I was an indie artist myself, asked if I knew any knew, hip people that had any idea of how to pull off modern space rock! Julian Cope? I responded, “Yeah! get him!” Ronn replied. I know Cope is busy but he is the first person that came to mind. Even if JC cannot deal with such a task any insight from him would be great! (Damien Youth)

This is a very interesting question because I have heard of White Witch and have had their name on a list of albums to buy at the front of my address book for the past five years, since I re-read Lester Bangs’ Psychotic Reactions. He mentioned them with other weirdness and I thought I should check them out. Could you find me their albums, Damien? I’d swap you something weird or send you money for them. Call or email JoAnne at Head Heritage for details. I’ve no idea about producing them if they’re in America, but hearing them would at least be a start.

Name your 5 Desert Island Discs please. (Sam The Sham)

This would have changed by next week, but currently I’d pick thus:

Disc 1: A homemade compilation CD of the best of the MC5, mainly featuring High Time stuff but including as much of Kick Out The Jams as I could, with Sir Lord Baltimore’s ‘Lady of Fire’, ‘Helium Head’ and ‘Pumped Up’ tacked on to the end. Also High Rise‘s ‘Ikon’, Neil Merryweather’s “High Altitude Hide‘n’Seek” and Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Green Manalishi’ would have to be included.

Disc 2: The eleven takes of ‘Dirt’ on Disc 6 of the new Stooges Funhouse boxed set. But I'd remove “Freak” (the 17-minute first freakout which preceded ‘LA Blues’ and was left off the final album) and add ‘Atomic Punk’, ‘I’m on Fire’ and ‘Running with the Devil’ from the first Van Halen album. This may also leave enough space for side 4 of Walter Wegmuller’s Tarot. If this would be pushing it, maybe we’d have to sacrifice one of the ropier early takes of ‘Dirt’, where Dave Alexander doesn't quite follow Iggy correctly, but I’d fight you all the way in order to create that repetitious shamanic trip.

Disc 3: A homemade CD of Vincebus Eruptus; the first Blue Cheer album with side one of their OutsideInside album tacked on the end. This would leave space for Neu’s ‘Hallogallo’ and the first track from the first La Dusseldorf LP.

Disc 4: A homemade ‘Best of Sabbath’ with all the very slow stuff removed, and ‘Speed King’ from Deep Purple in Rock tacked on the end.

Disc 5: A homemade ‘Best of Funkadelic’ with all the Eddie Hazel guitar freakouts, including ‘Free Your Mind’, ‘Good Thoughts, Bad Thoughts’ and the Sly collaboration ‘Funk Gets Stronger’ on the very end. Also, side one of Miles Davis ‘Agartha’, which is 26 minutes of pure wah-wah Krautgroove-funk, plus as much of Sly’s There’s a Riot Going On as I could foist upon the CD engineer.

Bonus CD: You'd have to allow me a copy of my own Odin CD, as it’s my favourite and I need it. So there.

On Pg. 172 in Repossessed you wrote “But The Clash were nothing.” Have you always felt that way? Do you still feel that way now? (Chris)

On the first album, the Clash were so full on that to sing as Joe Strummer sings, you have to be close to hyperventilating. Go on and try it. It uses so much energy that the blinding flash of enlightenment must be close at hand. By the second album, Strummer’s vocals had been reduced to mere anger. That in itself made me stop listening. Whoever backed him musically, Johnny Rotten was never less than a savage. Subsequently, the Clash became a bar band, but they retained their sense of Utopianism with releases such as the low-price Sandinista. Yet considering how bad I’ve been in my own career, I’d have to say that the mere fact that the Clash mean so much to so many must mean that they are one of the all-time great rock‘n’roll bands.

David Bowie is now considered one of the great institutions of British Rock. But my question here for you is do you think his Rock Royalty status is deserved? What do you like about his music? Did you ever like his music at all? (Chris)

Though I’m no major fan of David Bowie, I believe his status is entirely deserved. Indeed, he’s probably a little underrated nowadays.

I took a lesbian couple to the Sunday night of Cornucopia. During your set one of them said “He can jump off the stage and take me now”. That is potency. How does it make you feel?? (Grev)

I’m glad I can do that to people. Last time in Glasgow, a lesbian couple started feeling me up during the show and followed me to the dressing-room afterwards. If your friends are Scottish, it may even have been the same couple. Rock‘n’roll crosses those borders of sexuality and so does shamanism. In the myths, Odin was a dress-wearing, axe-wielding poet.