Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tom Smith

Tom Smith

VP: Immediately upon listening to you as a lyricist over the years, I’m reminded of the “beat” poets stream-of-consciousness writings. Does this style apply to your work, or does it all depend on the project?

TS: I was always much more attuned to the works of Breton, Artaud, Joans, Celine, and Pound, to name but five, than the writers lumped into the Beat bin. (Burroughs, however, was a profound early influence.) On occasion, a complete lyric will come to me in a dream. ("This Home and Fear," for example.) Other times, a title or fragment appears. But "stream-of-consciousness"? Never. Writing is for me a process steeped in rigor.

VP: That would explain your particular style of writing and word choices. In an age where the Dr Seuss school of rhyme dominates, your lyrics really stand out and challenge. Do you feel as a vocalist/writer that some times people aren't really trying?

TS: These days, I endeavor to resist the urge to critique others' efforts, at least in public forum. (I'm not always successful.) Am I rarely impressed? A fair question. (The answer, sadly, is yes.)

VP: Your no novice by any means, and have such a huge catalog of releases with many different artists. What keeps you interested in music?

TS: What keeps anyone interested in something (or someone) they love? Pleasure, intellectual curiosity, mystery, beauty, annoyance, pain, the acknowledgment of the absurdity of it all... If we're lucky, our passions engage and invigorate, in infinite degrees of ardor, until we die. I love having been born into this conundrum, and I've always felt extraordinarily lucky to have been blessed with the curse.

VP: What projects are you currently working on that you’d like to share with our readers?

I vacillate between wanting the world to hang on my every movement, and preventing anyone save for a super-dedicated few to know anything whatsoever of my efforts. The former urge is of course not just rooted in egomania, and the latter is more a bulwark than neurotic dogma.

I'd rather not mention Karl Schmidt Verlag, except to say that if people want to know more, they are invited to discover it for themselves.

As for the larger label releases and tours, there are two To Live and Shave in L.A. box sets forthcoming (this is the twentieth anniversary and final year of the group; one of the boxes is a five-disc retrospective, and the other is a three-disc remix compilation), two TLASILA live albums recorded during the 2008 European tour, a new duo album with Kevin Drumm, new recordings from Rope Cosmetology, another book, more collaborations, a trio tour, a live aktion in May from Three Resurrected Drunkards, a solo vocal tour of Europe in the autumn, etc. Always busy.

VP: The demise of TLASILA is on the horizon and another collaboration album with Sightings is forth coming as well talk of a “solo vocal” tour in Europe. It seams like a new era for ex-patriot Tom Smith. Do you plan to retire gracefully someday or will there be someone to sample and process your dying breath?

TS: TLASILA has to die so that everyone can catch up with it. (My central assertion shall thus be irrevocably proven.)

The logical successor and thematic extension of TLASILA is Rope Cosmetology. Ohne was the poison that felled the Pope, the clarion that roused me from the corporeal to the trans-temporal.

Sightings and I are very excited about recording a second collaborative album. The lads have very sharp knives up their corrugated sleeves. And I love singing stacked harmonies with the guys. (Richard and Jon also sing well.)

What is a solo vocal tour? No accouterments. No microphones. No amplification. At least half the dates will be performed in this manner.

I'm a proud expat. Once you've been disconnected from America, you never think of living there again. No place is perfect, but...

My father was singing on his death bed. I have his genes.

Not knowing is everything. There's so much I do not know. It's the sexiest place in the world to be...


  1. Many thanks, Vinnie. If there's ever a next time, perhaps we can do it over Skype (or the phone) for more spontaneity. Hope this finds you well!


  2. Not knowing really is everything!

    Great interview...thanks to both of you.

  3. The EGO has landed.

  4. Yeah. I've always hated Editors. That guy is a total ass.

  5. Hmmm. Very interesting interview. I've never been able to "get" Tom Smith, probably because he's an intimidating intellect, and partly because I never knew if he was for real, or just shitting on everyone because he could get away with it. I still don't know what he and TL&SLA were trying to say with completely fucked-up albums like "The Wigmaker In 18-Cen. Williamsburg", but I do know that when I put it on, everyone in my house goes berserk- sometimes good, sexy crazy, sometimes pissed off and almost violent. No other "artist" really seems to be able to pull this kind of response off. That alone is reason to support the guy, although he doesn't seem like the sort of person you'd want to spend much time with. Real genuises tend to be monsters.

  6. what say rat bastard to these same questions?

  7. Cool interview. I like that Smith admits to wanting to be admired, yet throws up barriers ("bulwarks") to prevent this from happening. It's honest, and if like me you've been trying to follow the path of his musical walkabout, it makes sense. The KSV stuff I've heard is all over the landscape, mostly "way, way out there", but some (like the Rope Cosmetology group he mentioned) sounding like a fusion of Caspar Brotzmann and Metal Box PIL, and nearing the accessibility he seems to fear. Really want to hear this Sightings collaboration, and the "solo vocal" thing. (Is he coming to the USA again? News?) I guess that he's always creating chaos and controversy, but at least this fucker is uniquely his own person. I disagree with the "monster" comment - nothing in the interview suggests anything of the kind. It does suggest that he will never in a million years achieve the popularity of some of his celebrity pals like Andrew W.K and Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore. That's probably the way he wants it, tho it would be cool if the Earth would tilt out of plane and we saw him judging on "American Idol"! The best part, tho, was when he described his continuing love of music: "blessed with the curse". Awesome. Condolences on his father's passing. More interviews, please!

  8. I'm all hot and bothered for a new Sightings/Tom Smith album, now. Damn!

    -Ray Cummings