John: (pointing at a picture of Ian Brown) What band was he in? The Stone Roses? Oh yeah. I punched him. (points seemingly randomly at a picture of Richmond Fontaine) I punched that guy too.
Me: Erm, ok. Why?
John: I used to be a bouncer in some clubâ€¦. No, donâ€™t go. Sit down, have a beerâ€¦
Me: Why make an album of murder ballads?
Bob: Why make an album? I have no idea, there may be lots of reasons but I never meant to make an album.
John: I think there's one difference in our music and all the others. There's no redemption and no sanctity, no last verse with a moral to make you feel better or teach you a lesson. They are sort of anti murder ballads - traditionally murder ballads have a strict set of criteria and a last verse about someone getting saved. I present stories as they are. You shouldnâ€™t romanticize these things, the horrors, and if you do, youâ€™re romanticize the stories, we arenâ€™t.
Bob: thatâ€™s the approach we took. There's a lot of violence in this society, now and always. For Bob I think the songs are like purification or something but for me, maybe I'm thinking about politics but mostly its about how much fun I can have with something, John approached me with the idea and I thought it was going to be fun. The songs are full of moral judgment but its not obvious, of course we portray biased characters because every song makes a statement.
John: There's no purity for me when you talk about God or anything like that. For me, the record stepped out of the moment when I knew I was going to die and I was terrified. I think contemporary culture denies death, its set to music and made into computer games and movies but we don't see coffins coming back from Iraq. If we saw these things maybe I wouldnâ€™t be so terrified. If you can imagine the worst thing possible then you can accept it, or thatâ€™s what I thought but it didnâ€™t work (laughs)
Bob: Thereâ€™s a lot of mental activity going on behind the scenes, these are complicated songs. I'm always writing songs, its what I do, this is all about a specific way of doing that and I thought it would be fun and interesting.
Me: Do you find such unremittingly grim songs difficult to play on stage all the time? Do they affect you or do you play a role?
John: It kind of freaks me out.
Bob: I love the role playing, they are dramatic little pieces, youâ€™re an actor, I love it, its fun. Some songs are very emotional. I felt like crying tonight, there's a lot of ghosts those songs provoke.
Me: How does it compare to playing songs from Vanguard? How do you feel about that record finally getting released 30 years late?
Bob: I never thought Vanguard was a good record, I don't like it, didnâ€™t like it but its had such a positive response
John: I think every body likes it except Bob, its great, Bob got an email from Jim Dickinson saying he loved it so much but it made him feel like a fake.. One of the absurd things about that record, the stories are pretty much all true, when other people write about things they donâ€™t live them like Bob
Bob: Thereâ€™s a lot of dark humour on that record, I think thatâ€™s the problem I have with it, right after the time I made it I had a baby and I thought the music was too degenerate, I was staying in trying to be a family man. Of course, this is all shit, you know that donâ€™t you? You ask these questions and I donâ€™t know, don't care. I'll say something different tomorrow, we donâ€™t care about these little storiesâ€¦ but donâ€™t goâ€¦ its funny, talking shit.
Me: Today, what music inspires you, who are you listening to?
John: I don't really listen to music.
Bob: I really like Bob Dylan, thatâ€™s about it
John: Oh yeah, Bob Dylan, Nick Cave but I do not like his murder ballads at all, I like the fucked up birthday party shit
Bob: Hank Williams 3rd, I like the Jolly Boys, Lee Scratch Perry, also Don Macgregor but no-one has heard of him.
John: I think a better question, a better comparison to what we do would be about books, music does not inspire me. I think Grahame Greene is the most underrated writer - astute and funny. Flannery O'Connor, Cormac McCarthy and Faulkner of course, I donâ€™t like to say that but I must name him. Late Philip Roth, Dostoevsky, I think what we've made is a new Crime and Punishment. All the existentialists are important to me but not Sartre.
Bob. I have to say I donâ€™t read novels right now. Faulkner, Elmore Leonard, Dashiel Hammett, the American mysteries, these inspired me
John: People say I act like Bob when he was my age, when I go upstairs in his house its so funny, all his books are the ones I want to read. Itâ€™s all Crime and Punishment
Me: If youâ€™re not putting a moral viewpoint across in your songs then what do you see your role? And why are there no protest songs anymore?
John: Sartre says indecision is decision, itâ€™s not whether we have a role or not, itâ€™s whether we say something or not. There's only a few people who can still write good political anthems that arenâ€™t boring or self serving. Most musicians can't see past their own vehemence to realise they just want to get their rocks off in a political area. These songs are about reconstruction, you would have to be a moron not to realise itâ€™s a fucked up world and not to see a parallel, itâ€™s not what we say directly but this shit never ends
Bob: Itâ€™s a parallel, not a record about Iraq
John: Its not, but it is about the same old shit. If you tell someone what to think well, whatâ€™s the point?
Bob: Thatâ€™s the difference between art and propaganda, if you pick a side whatever you say is propaganda and devalued. We are doing art and it shows whatâ€™s going on, itâ€™s a reflection.
John: We're not so cocksure, I'm not going to say we're right. But do I think Iraq is fucked? Absolutely! Do I know whatâ€™s going on out there or how to stop it? Do I fuck. It occurs to me the Democrats are holding off on Iran until after the election, Itâ€™s the same as Reagan and the Contra. I donâ€™t understand, no-one can claim to, I refuse to try and I refuse to take a stance based on what I know.
I want to allow people to make their own decisions about the stories on the album, but I will say if you canâ€™t see past slavery or you can't recognise itâ€™s fucked up for a Yankee to kill an Illinois doctor then you just, well, you're a Fascist. Itâ€™s easy to say Saddam was bad, but why didn't Iraq fight him? The only reason we had a civil war in the USA was economic, thatâ€™s why people started fighting, it was about the economy, not about morality - and thatâ€™s why England never had a civil war, there was a better way for the economy.
At this point the ghost of Oliver Cromwell reminded me Chuck Prophet was outside playing a blistering set and I didnâ€™t want to miss it