Perfect Sound Forever

EUGENE CHADBOURNE ON COUNTRY


Introduction & Interview by J. Vognsen


As Eugene Chadbourne tells the story, composer Alvin Curran once reacted to his music by saying: "You play country music for sure, I just don't know what country it is."

Anyone engaging with Eugene Chadbourne and his music will quickly become familiar with this endearing type of bafflement. Ploughing a furrow completely of his own, Chadbourne has created a musical universe where the usual means of navigation often fall short. Whether he's singing, playing the guitar or the banjo, or operating any number of self-made noise contraptions, Chadbourne fits the description of maverick.

Chadbourne's music developed out of his own idiosyncratic listening habits that combined popular music, contemporary avant-garde, movie soundtracks, local genres from around the globe and much else. A key influence came from the disruptions in American rock that appeared through the 1960's, with Jimi Hendrix, Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa all making strong impressions. Chadbourne also listened closely to the political protest songs of the period and formed a lasting musical bond with the works of Phil Ochs. Another strain of influence came from the challenges to form and harmony found in modern jazz, including Albert Ayler, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra and Anthony Braxton. Further along these lines, Chadbourne formed ever-more radical artistic connections with Derek Bailey, Misha Mengelberg, Evan Parker, Han Bennink and others from the European free improvisation community.

But it is a third line of influence that stands out the most. Unlike most of his contemporaries in experimental music, Chadbourne developed an early fondness for Johnny Paycheck, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Buck Owens, Roger Miller and country music more broadly. It is this side of Chadbourne's work that will be the main focus here. When did Chadbourne first get interested in country? What does he find appealing about the genre? How did he end up making it part of his own creative output? What's the story about that time he received a request to compose a song for Merle Haggard? How does one end up playing The Goldberg Variations on banjo? And more!

Chadbourne has touched on country numerous times in both interviews and his own writing. For example, in a 2018 interview with Gabe Pollock for Electric City Magazine, Chadbourne put the matter succinctly:

"Country and western music has many things going for it - it can be compelling in its sincerity, it can be clever and informative without wasting a lot of time on it. It chronicles the human conditions with a pause here and there for incredibly short solos."
I suspected Chadbourne would have much more to say on this topic.

Turns out I was right.

But before we begin, an introduction to Chadbourne's country related recordings for the uninitiated.

It's no easy matter deciding where to continue from here, though. Chadbourne's catalogue includes hundreds upon hundreds of titles with country popping up all over the place. Part of the exhilaration for many die-hard fans (well, me at least) is just trying to navigate through the enormous jungle of recordings. But for new listeners it can be a daunting task, so a few tips on how to proceed, at first sticking with the album format.

For later examples, I'd single out the following two:

Putting aside full albums, another entry point could be Chadbourne's numerous country-themed medleys in various stages of deconstruction, including:

A couple of other gems, somewhat randomly chosen: The Competition of Misery (2002) features a haunting version of Willy Nelson's "Jimmy's Road." Terror Has Some Strange Kinfolk (1992) recorded with Evan Johns takes on Billy Ray Cyrus' "Achy Breaky Heart" mega-hit from 1992 with destructive glee. Earth vs. Shockabilly (1988, orig. 1983) by Shockabilly - a hard-hitting group with Mark Kramer and David Licht - includes a powerful burst of 38 seconds called "Bluegrass Breakdown" and "Tennessee Flat Top Box" by Johnny Cash. Country Protest Anew (2003) with Noahjohn is probably Chadbourne's most accessible record to date for listeners with more mainstream sensibilities. Of special interest on this album is a beautiful version of "Light from Carolina" by The Contenders. Country Music of Southeastern Australia (1984) has Chadbourne delivering a very funny impersonation of John Wayne on "Homeward Bound."

As for the banjo, nothing quite sets the stage as the bluegrass infused "Coltrane Medley" (1993: Strings). Chadbourne and Jimmy Carl Black's version of "The Dust Blows Forward and the Dust Blows Back" (1995: Pachuco Cadaver) is very likely to be the best Captain Beefheart cover ever recorded. A track with the self-explanatory title "Reflections On Dueling Banjos" appears on The Chaddom Blechbourne Experience (2008), an album recorded with experimental musician Kevin Blechdom. Banjo Book (2004) and Live At Grand Guignol (2020) both include great versions of the folk song classic "The Johnsons."

Country music provides fertile creative ground for both Chadbourne's instrumental skills and his excellent comedic timing, but he has also provided a couple of important contributions to the genre as a songwriter. "My Gas Tank Runs On Booze" has been featured on several recordings, including Blotter LSD C&W 2001 (1992). Then there is "Screw a Corpse with a Naked Dick" (2021: The Two Headed Bastard), a rare country ballad about Jeffrey Dahmer. I'm also very keen on "Checkers of Blood" (1992: Terror Has Some Strange Kinfolk), which should become standard repertoire for banjo pickers everywhere.

On the other hand, if you want some of Chadbourne's most extreme noise for perspective, try the B-side (or second half of, depending on format) of The President, He's Insane (1984) or Rake Vs. Plunger Megadeath (1985) for two classics, or the more recent The Banshee (2019).

Finally, it needs mentioning that Chadbourne is an excellent writer. His liner notes alone make many of his albums worth tracking down, Boogie With The Hook (1996) being my favourite example. Chadbourne's many album reviews and musicians' biographies for AllMusic are consistently funny and perceptive, irrespective of the specific topics at hand. Chadbourne has also published a couple of books, including I Hate The Man Who Runs This Bar! (1998) which is required reading for any aspiring musician anywhere. Chadbourne's latest and most elaborate publication is Dreamory (2014), a massive +1000 page collection of earlier writing, old diaries and decades' worth of recorded dreams. Again, country music appears throughout. Here's a snippet of a dream from p. 530:

"I invent a method of slowing down country and western music to the point where it is felt as a solid block. Every detail regarding the texture of voices, instrumental aspects such a pedal steel and fiddle, everything has now a stratified essence. It is like looking at the side of a cliff that has been sliced into. The idea is immensely popular; leading to a country and western pate one can spread on bread and so forth. One 'new classic' recipe involves a combination of country and western paste, mustard, honey and pickles, all blended into a spread."
If you enjoy this interview, you'll enjoy Dreamory.

Eugene Chadbourne answered questions via email from May - July 2021. For more information on Chadbourne, his concert schedule and how to buy his music and Dreamory, visit House of Chadula at https://eugenechadbourne.com/


Editorial note:

I want to pre-empt possible confusion about Chadbourne's passing comments on Denmark and Japan. It's simple: I'm Danish and first met Chadbourne in Denmark, but conducted this interview from Japan. Chadbourne also briefly mentions saxophonist Luther Thomas. The relevant background here is that I was involved in setting up a couple of shows they performed together in Denmark back in 2008.

Thanks to Martin Hoshi Vognsen and Franz Amdi Hansen for comments.




PSF: I'd like to begin with some of your personal background. When did you first get interested in country music and what was the initial appeal for you?

EC: This question provokes another question: when do we first recognize a so-called style or genre of music, in order to say "I like country and western" or I like "rock and roll"? My parents played classical music, some older pop nostalgia (for them) such as Les Paul and Mary Ford and mild folk music (Joan Baez not Bob Dylan). I liked much of this but didn't think about it being part of a style I liked or found appealing.

The introduction of the transistor radio began a period of freedom associated with personal listening tastes, and learning from my older brothers I saw that if one really liked a song, you could buy the single and play it at home, all you wanted. We listened to radio stations such as KIMN from Denver, Colorado, what they chose to broadcast and the "Top Ten" line up of songs was extremely important to me, I wanted songs I liked to do well on the charts. I remember when our family was broken into two units so my father could teach an exchange semester at UCLA in Los Angeles, my brothers mailed me the weekly KIMN Top 50 sheet that they would distribute to the record stores!

What stations such as this played in this era is recognizable looking back as a mixture of rock and roll, softer pop, country and western, folk songs merging into the new style of folk rock, instrumental titles that could be any style, soul, even some blues such as "Boom Boom Boom" by John Lee Hooker.

It is worth mentioning that this programming was uniform across the USA, during the Los Angeles sojourn we were basically listening to the same hit parade.

Into this rotation of hits I remember the main country artists would be Johnny Cash, Roger Miller and Buck Owens, sometimes Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard; female singers as well especially Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn. "Skip a Rope," an independent single with intensely political lyrics, was a top 10 hit, and while my hit parade listening dwindled to almost nothing in my later years as a professional musician, hearing Johnny Paycheck's "Take This Job and Shove It" played almost hourly on radio stations inspired me to do a cover as well as launch a study of his music, by then I was also hooked on Merle Haggard and in both cases found similarities between the short, concise solos band members played and the type of work I had been involved in as an improviser and composer.

Somewhere during this progression I realized the existence of country and western music as a specific genre and its background in the cowboy songs of the old American west and Appalachian folk music. Most of the rock bands I liked had numbers that were country-flavored, or outright country: the Beatles covered Buck Owens and Carl Perkins. Perkins' guitar style flavored much of George Harrison's work no matter what type of song they were playing. "Rockabilly"--what is that, a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll... eventually developing into a commercial style where the clothing and hairstyles of the musicians was more important than the repertoire?




PSF: What do you consider to be among the best country records ever made? I'm curious about what you might enjoy because it embodies the best the genre has to offer to your mind, and to what you might enjoy because it challenges the format in an interesting way, while still staying faithful to some basic elements.

EC: I am not so sure I like the question actually. I never thought determining what is "best" in music is all that helpful, nor do I always think music should be judged or described as working within or outside the boundaries of a perceived style; we are not dealing with football and/or rules of counterpoint.

We would be looking for masterpieces when compiling lists of the most outstanding works in a particular style, I would assume. The usual critical vantage point for this would be likewise to find albums or CDs that are masterpieces, perfect from beginning to end. I would guess to a certain extent this approach comes out of the dawn of the "serious rock critic" although it can be the standard for appraisal in other styles as well.

When trying to determine what might be "best" about country and western, there is thankfully a fairly well recognized and agreed-upon squad of "saints" (not in their personal lives, thank God!) whose expressions can reach the level of profound, whose commitment to the performing art of country and western in a live setting and whose not only creativity but philosophy about creativity deserves the utmost of praise.

Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Ernest Tubb... to a bit lesser extent Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Johnny Paycheck, Roger Miller.

On the female side, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Kitty Wells, Tammy Wynette.

More names can be added, subtracted, bandied about, but before too much of that takes place let me offer the opinion that unlike rock and jazz, which embraced the LP as an art form in itself, like making a film, country and western has largely always been about hit singles.

Of course there are exceptions, Willie Nelson created several excellent "concept' albums such as Phases and Stages and The Red Headed Stranger. The provocative Jeannie C. Riley put together an entire LP around her "Harper Valley PTA" expose. Johnny Cash liked to organize albums under themes, including tributes to native Americans, cowboys and railroads.

Nonetheless when I think about the typical country album by an artist I like, it is usually 1) too short and 2) there are tracks that suck.

Putting together a happening collection of country sides is an ever changing challenge, not something I put much effort into these days as I have hung onto most of the vinyl I liked, pick up the occasional nice historical collection on CD and even sometimes a new release, although for example while I might pick up a new Willie Nelson CD to listen to on tour--he really pumps them out!--I tend to leave them behind because they will have one, maybe two cuts that are clever and the rest is just not worth listening to considering all the other material he has out that is brilliant.

In some parts of the USA such as southern California, one can find fun LP releases by the likes of Lynn and Tubb at totally reasonable prices. While none of these albums are masterpieces, they are totally entertaining and the session musicians are killer, especially the steel players.

When it comes to an artist such as Paycheck (in a category by himself), the lurid nature of some of his material might make collecting an album worthwhile simply because of the cover or title: Booze, Blondes and Bars for example, containing the amazing Pint of No Return.

Like any genre, country and western also has examples of performers who made one or two fantastic singles and then disappeared. Henson Cargill is one of my favorite examples, his song "Skip a Rope" is the sort of protest song played on top 40 radio when I was a kid that gave us the shivers. It is also an example of the old days of D-I-Y: he wrote the song, cut it himself on his own label and wound up with a top 10 hit. One lyric could have been written for Donald Trump: "Cheat on your taxes, don't be a fool! Now what's that they said about a golden rule?" I still get shivers thinking about this song and recorded it several times. But you wouldn't have much of a C&W collection if you just got Henson Cargill material!

Any comment I make about what is best should be, in all fairness, seen in the light of the following admission: I have not followed "contemporary" country music with any degree of thoroughness since... the mid '80's?

Checking into our motel outside Nashville for a convention of banjo players in the '90's, Tony Trischka and I were asked by the maid and check-in woman what country and western artists we like. When I said Merle Haggard, they laughed and said "We don't listen to old men! Garth Brooks is our man!"

Still, within 10 years Merle Haggard created an amazing critical comeback for himself with the CD If I Could Only Fly, which has possibilities of being a choice for the "one" country album someone could choose if they had to only own one. "Wishin' All These Old Things are New" is one of the great country protest songs.

Haggard's place in a favorite bit of advice from a used record dealer shows how tricky it is to gather sides by even the country stars with a spot in the pantheon of greatness.

"When you bring your records over here, Gene," he started, "With these country guys here is the rule, if they got beards, I don't want it. If they don't have beards, bring it!"

From the perspective of cash value, the clean shaven Nelson, Haggard, Jones, Jennings... these would all be older, sometimes out of print sides. $$$

In terms of artistic quality, it gets confusing. Merle Haggard albums where he is bearded rarely have anything of value; he returns to his high level of quality with If I Could Only Fly.

Willie Nelson has great tracks and filler, bearded or unbearded.

Exposure to any kind of modern country and western hits could have hit its high point with my daughters' love of the Dixie Chicks and my own strong feelings about a protest song by Bruce Robison they recorded entitled "Travelin' Soldier." My youngest daughter Lizzie who plays banjo and sings with me developed a love of what she describes as "bad country and western music," this is an interest we have shared since her high school days.

Sadly, country and western has been influenced by the MTV style of imagery, so much contemporary pop and rap the music itself seems like an afterthought as long as there can be a parade of tits and ass, pickup trucks, poolside parties. But bear in mind: these are the ravings of a dirty old man.

When you ask "what you might enjoy because it challenges the format in an interesting way, while still staying faithful to some basic elements," obviously in quite a few styles of music--we experienced this in an amusing way when for about a year sitars were on almost every record--the introduction of unexpected instruments within a genre can make for lasting appeal, sometimes prefaced by shock, such as when we witnessed the Rolling Stones with "Ruby Tuesday" on the Ed Sullivan show.

A Nashville engineer recounted to me the effort involved in getting a banjo track on a modern country session. This was before the Dixie Chicks got on the radio with a hit including a banjo but the accepted sound for a country hit on the radio for years has involved multiple Telecaster guitar sound, keyboard, pedal steel, sometimes some sort of synth, fiddle... There is rarely any variation from this pattern.

Anyway, they recorded the banjo track and then were rough mixing, the engineer was perplexed trying to figure out how to blend the banjo with the bass. He was not used to working with banjo.

The guy whose idea it was to use the banjo, my friend, then offered that traditionally banjo blends best with tuba as a bass instrument, much less an electric bass!

The producer then lost his temper, pointed at my friend and said 'You got your goddamn banjo, now shut the fuck up.'

This question also reminded me of a few days ago when I was driving between Greensboro and Chapel Hill with my oldest daughter Jenny, in her car, and she was playing a track that I would and did describe as "a lame rock jam on one chord." She was interested that it was considered a "country" track simply because the artist is classified as "country."

Perhaps the biggest challenge to the country format started when so many long haired hippie rock bands started playing country and western. This connection with so-called "conservative values" exemplified by the tongue-in-cheek "Okie From Muskogee" is only a part the politically treacherous ground of what we call country and western.

Has being WHITE been the number one requirement to be a country and western artist all along? We only recently lost Charlie Pride, along with harmonica player DeFord Bailey worth noting as the only black country and western artists anyone can name. Bailey appeared on the Grand Old Opry as a historical representative of the "old time" music that gave birth to modern and country and western, an unusual deviation from a racial separation that dominated Nashville and, sadly, the work of many folk music scholars: old time music was played by whites, when blacks played it was blues--even when it was the same song... "Sittin' In Top of the World."... And when played by Cream, a white British band... well, rock and roll of course!




PSF: I very much enjoyed your writing on country on the AllMusic website. I'd like to follow up on one of the comments you made there. Discussing Merle Haggard's "My Life's Been Grand" from the Out Among The Stars album you wrote that "country music is better when the artist is complaining about things and not indulging in a pastime best described by the Yiddish word 'kvelling.''" Could you expand on your views of country lyrics more broadly? I'm wondering if you find there are certain themes or stylistic elements that attract you, for example. And what exactly is wrong with country kvelling?

EC: You have found an example of a comment in a review that I am not sure I agree with anymore, if I ever did. I am sure I haven't changed my opinion of the record, in this period Merle Haggard seems disinterested in the material, the session players sound half asleep so I am sure the over-all musical ambience of him singing about his life being grand and sounding like he could give a shit is depressing, even though he also retains this tone of voice that could convince a listener of just about anything...it is true there are more country and western songs about hardships than about everything being fantastic, just like blues and I am sure other genres as well, but that doesn't mean there are NO songs about feeling happy (Dolly Parton's "Love is Like a Butterfly" is a great example!) or that there shouldn't be... kvelling could be described as going on a bit too much about good fortune... perhaps... so country and western is more commonly kvanching, which is griping about misfortunes... what is really important is the sincerity, if that is there, the lyrics could be about anything... and that continues to be my attraction to lyrics, they can really be about anything, sometimes the act of making something rhyme is enough to establish the phrase in someone's head as a philosophy.

One of my daughters had a standard request at bedtime that to me also makes sense as a worthwhile approach to writing country and western lyrics:

"Ponies and something bad happens."

The "ponies" were the characters from the "My Little Pony" series, molded plastic with oddly colored manes. "Something bad happens" were the plots I would make up, which had nothing to do whatsoever with the real series since I never watched it and involved the characters I created with the toys.

I may have written about this exchange or talked about it in interviews, but a couple approached me at a show and told me that they had met at one of my shows, gotten married and gone to one of my shows on their honeymoon, but sadly were now divorced but would get together to see my gig whenever I came to town. They asked me if I thought I could write a country and western song about this. My conclusion was, and remains, that NO, you still need a third act, something bad has to happen.

I am personally very fussy about lyrics sounding as if they took some thought and time, that doesn't mean they have to be ridiculously erudite, just that the most obvious rhymes or approaches get more and more tedious as time goes on, that is just the nature of things, all the songs ever written keep piling up, they are there whether you know about them or not. Some great country songwriters flake out halfway through a brilliant song, sometimes these are people that were alcoholics or had drug problems. I played a birthday party for a friend in Switzerland and she made some requests- one was a country song, I won't say who it was by, but she specified "just sing the first two verses, the last one is very stupid." And I agreed completely. When I read about some artists things come up like oh, this producer used to finish the songs and those verses aren't as good.




PSF: Here are a couple of my favourite lines of country lyrics:

Do you have any?

EC: This is a great subject---

Some of my favorites I like to categorize--
As in Setting the Scene: almost cinematic

"Watching while some old friends do a line... " Merle Haggard, "Wishin' all these Old Things Were New"

"At first I drank only for pleasure..." Johnny Paycheck, "The Pint of No Return"

"Said an old old man to a good looking girl..." Lefty Frizzell, "Old Old Man"

"We had an apartment in the city" John Prine, "Hello in There." Sometimes something so ordinary is so evocative.

"Two lonely looking people looking like houses where nobody lives."
Wow! Roger Miller, "Husbands and Wives"

"When I come home in the morning, banging on the screen." Paycheck, "If I'm Gonna Sink"

--- the real gourmet country lyrics involve word play, turning expressions around...

or repetition

"There's something fishy going on, on those fishing trips you been goin' on." This should have been on the soundtrack to Brokeback Mountain! (Dolly Parton, "Something Fishy")

Sometimes the title is the only good part.

"I Got a Thinking Problem." Not sure who, more contemporary.

"Thanks to the Cathouse I'm in the Doghouse With You." Paycheck, who else?

I go to Paycheck sometimes for brilliant opening lines, funny because the story is that he could never finish songs, someone else involved always finished them which could be a reason the songs get less brilliant as they go along.

But I love starting a set with "I know you'll excuse me if I say goodnight" ("I've Got Someone to Kill")

And this is also a magnificent opening line: "I think I owe the neighbors an explanation" ("In Memory of a Memory").

Ultimate summations is another great category.

Ernest Tubb: "The Trouble With Me is Trouble."

I will keep as Merle would say "thankin' on this" during the day and fire some more at you--

[A couple of hours later, Chadbourne follows up.]

I am afraid on this topic you might not be able to get rid of me.

Contemporary stuff---did I mention this which to me is an all-time watermark of brilliant lyrics. I would be surprised if I didn't because I will insert it into a conversation whenever remotely appropriate--

The song is "Red Dirt Road."

"It's that Red Dirt Road
It's where I first found Jesus
It's where I wrecked my new car
I tore that sucker to pieces"

I am not sure if JG Ballard is a C&W fan but he would appreciate Jesus getting roped into a lyric about a car wreck.

Not sure who wrote that song--

Is it Toby Keith that did "Red Solo Cup"? [ED NOTE: yes]
That to me is a masterpiece of understatement:
"Red solo cup
I fill you up
Let's party!"

I know this would be appreciated in Denmark.

There are so many drinking songs, but another in the category of the only good thing is the title is Hank Thompson's "On Tap, In A Can or in a Bottle." He has a charming way of singing that too. That is a lot of country, not so much the lyrics but the sincerity of the voice---

Merle on "That's the News." "Someone's missing in Modesto and it's sad about the clues."

My daughter Lizzie likes both Kacey Musgraves and Taylor Swift but I am not the mental owner yet of memorable lyrics from either other than... Our country band did a cover of "Slow Burn" and there is a cute line about "Grandma cried when I pierced my nose." That is the kind of lyric that really stands out with much of the contemporary country... I like that better than at the same concert we covered a Taylor Swift song, it was a brand new one that she had a really elaborate video to, basically telling people to calm down, I liked the sentiment but on the other hand wasn't so keen singing lyrics complaining about postings on Patreon and so forth... that seemed trivial to me.

"Girl in a Country Song" done by Maddie & Tae (I think) is the best and most enduring contemporary cover the daughters have brought to me, it is making fun of the way women are portrayed in country music videos and is pretty funny.

Another lyric I would like to mention, I don't remember who did the song, a duo that was popular, but I heard the lyric one day on the radio and thought it was basically profound: "I see my father in me, that's the way it's supposed to be." I'm not quoting it exactly possibly... For it to have been a radio hit it must have developed into something maudlin, over the top, yet still here is an example that C&W looks to examine real personal issues, the type of conversation one might have in a real relationship.




PSF: Country seems to have been a strong identity marker for many; both listeners and decidedly not listeners. Did that aspect of the music - and the broader culture around it - ever mean anything to you? And have you seen any change in the social status of country music over the several decades you been interested in it?

EC: I am sure it is the same everywhere people follow or enjoy certain types of music or artists, it is obviously magnified the closer one gets to the hit parade but I have noticed it in just about anywhere a musician wears clothing (and then there is the subject of performers who like to be on stage naked but so far that does not seem to be a thing in country music other than the under-dressing of Tammy Tucker, Miley Cyrus, etc.).

Look at rap, rock, jazz from various eras... There tends to be a style of dress, and in country music it would be best described as running the range from cowboy garb to redneck deluxe. It is not such a necessity for writers to describe these wardrobes anymore because it is so easy just to see videos and pictures, and to draw various conclusions from them. This doesn't have much to do with music to me but it is there, for sure, I mentioned it before with rockabilly.

I had a funny conversation with the clerk in a used record store about the band Spirit. they had a copy of the first Spirit album at the counter and they were talking about the lawsuit against "their boys" Led Zeppelin. I butted in and asked if they had listened to "Taurus." It is hard not to hear how that was grabbed as part of "Stairway to Heaven," but then they started talking about the way the members of Spirit were dressed on this album cover and how that alone indicated they were "also rans." "Look, one guy is wearing a surfer shirt... then they got the guy in black leather... I mean they can't figure out what look they want."

I tried to explain to this guy that Spirit was part of an era when bands could dress however they wanted when they went onstage or for photo shoots, they didn't put on outfits. The drummer Ed Casady dressed like that all the time, in black.

So the social status of musics shifts around just like fashion styles, things are always coming in and out, I could see it has no effect on me because in a sense it doesn't, but sometimes it does as when "alt country"; suddenly became a popular idea and some listeners and journalists decided I had been a pioneer in that, which made more sense to me than a French article around the same time heralding me as a pioneer of "anti folk," a movement of artists basically playing totally recognizable forms of folk music.

The image of country music was so twisted in the late '70s that Derek Bailey and Evan Parker teased me: "Where is your horse?" "Why aren't you dressed like a cowboy?" This was just because they heard I had made a country and western record. They had no idea what they were talking about but were happy talking about it nonetheless, which is just about the endurance of these stereotypes.


See Part II of our Eugene Chadbourne interview


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