-- --

Breakfast with Silkworm

Silkworm is that rarest of bands. Whereas the goal of most bands these days is to score the big deal, Silkworm just plays music, for the sake of playing music. They've weathered debt and the departure of one of their founding members, all to continue playing the rock their way. That's the kind of ethos that gets them plenty of ink in your favorite 'zines and all the college radio airplay they can stand. And, for better or for worse, keeps them there.
Like any good punk rock band, the majority of Silkworm's members met while in high school in their hometown of Missoula, Montana. They played together for a short time as Ein Heit, the core of which eventually made its way west to Seattle, where they picked up drummer, Michael Dahlquist. The band, consisting of Andy Cohen (lead guitar, vocals), Joel Phelps (lead guitar, vocals), Tim Midgett (bass, vocals), and Dahlquist proceeded to play regular shows in Seattle to less than sold out venues. But instead of just calling it quits, they released an album and went out on the road, figuring they had nothing to lose. To their surprise, they found that they have a cadre of loyal fans, who appreciate their unholy blend of Neil Young and Television. And despite Phelps' leaving Silkworm in 1994 and Cohen's recent slow dance with law school, the band goes on.
So, in the interest of thorough coverage, here is an interview with Tim Midgett, this publication's requisite piece on one of the most enduring and under-appreciated bands of the nineties.


SCR: The new album, Blueblood, is on Touch and Go; was there a reason for the label hop?
Tim Midgett: Matador lost too much money on us. We established a pattern of taking, for us, sizeable advances. The advances got us out of debt, but also made it impossible to do albums for them on the cheap. And that was the only way we could've continued to work with them.
We're lucky to have worked with Matador and lucky to be on Touch and Go. And lucky to be alive, for that matter.

Tell me about the new album. Was it recorded while on tour, as I believe you mentioned, Firewater was?
Just the opposite. We did it in Michael's basement, after work or school and on weekends.

What was the overall feeling when recording it?
Automatic. We are pretty much robots at this stage of the game. No, no, it was fun and exciting. We just relaxed and went with the flow, man.

For a while, it seemed like you were touring ceaselessly -- give me a favorite show anecdote.
Well, let's see....what is one we have not used before.
We have never had a reasonable show in Arizona. Every single one that has not gotten canceled outright has been problematic in some other way, usually when it comes time to get paid. A classic exchange:
"Why do you give bands guarantees if you are not going to pay them?"
"No one would come here otherwise!"

The worst of our experiences there was a couple years ago, we were touring with Edsel and had a gig scheduled at some shithole in Phoenix, or Tempe, or Mesa, or some other zip code in that ridiculous sprawl.
We show up. The marquee sez: Tonight -- Black Uhuru. We go inside. Massive place, massive P.A. Guy setting up drum set with a lot of Rototoms. Doesn't look good. Track down promoter. Guy's name was Corey. Polo shirt, khakis, little round glasses, expensive haircut. Looks harmless enough.
"What's up, Corey. We're Silkworm, and Edsel. Are we opening for Black Uhuru?"
"Uh, I didn't think you guys were gonna show up."
"Why would you think that?"
"Oh, well, I didn't get a contract."
"Well, here's the contract, and you signed it."
The guarantee was some pretty significant amount, several hundred dollars between the two bands.
Anyway, the guy tells us that, even though he thought the show wasn't happening, we are supposed to play downstairs. We go downstairs. There's a bunch of drywall and empty beer kegs down there. No P.A., needless to say. Or stage. Or electricity, for that matter.
"There's no, uh, equipment down there, Corey. And there's no, uh, door separating the basement from the main floor."
"Yeah, you're playing in between sets by the reggae bands."
The whole thing reeks. We get in this extended argument about the situation. Corey becomes more and more agitated, but not like a normal person gets agitated. More like someone who is high gets agitated. He starts vaguely threatening my wife ("are you calling me a liar?"), who serves as our tour manager and doesn't suffer fools or liars gladly.
We have had it after a little while, so we decide to head out. Consider stealing some things, but decide against it. Maybe we took a case of beer or something. But Sohrab from Edsel decides Edsel is going to play, and sets off to flyer the surrounding bars and local record store. Sort of noble in a literally quixotic way, but we are not made of such stern stuff.
After we left, things really got ugly. Corey got down to the heart of the matter and told Edsel to fuck off, he was paying no one but the reggae acts, you guys suck, etc. They told him to forget about getting any band who had ever even passed through D.C. to come play at any of his shows. He called them some names, they called him some names.
So Geoff, the Edsel bass player, and Sohrab were walking away, for the last time. And Geoff said something vaguely offensive about Corey's mother being a crack ho, or a donkey humper or something. Not too bad. Anyway, the dude snapped. Punched Geoff in the back of the head, knocking him to the sidewalk. Hit him a couple more times in the mouth. Geoff had to go to the emergency room. I'm glad I missed it.
Coda: a month later, I get a call from a weekly paper in Phoenix that is doing a story on this guy! I guess he was a real fucker to a lot of people and was supposedly into the meth pretty bad. He looked like such a little puss. I wish I could remember his last name, but I would advise avoiding anyone named Corey who is booking shows in Phoenix, just to be safe.

You've covered everybody from Tom Petty to Fleetwood Mac -- who are your favorite artists and why?
Neil Young is the one, if I had to pick one. Who else stays that good for that long? No one else, unless we get into jazzbos.
Who else...pretty much the only tape we listen to in the van is of Rod Stewart's Every Picture Tells a Story and Never a Dull Moment.
We do have broader horizons than just the "classik rok," but what can I say, that's where we're from when it comes right down to it.

What do you think about interviews?
I sometimes enjoy reading interviews with bands I like, so we do them as well. I don't at all mind it. Probably they don't really mean much in the grand scheme of things. I mean, what have we learned about Silkworm? Matador lost money on them. They made their record at the drummer's house. They met a dick in Arizona. Telling you Neil Young is the man and Rod Stewart made two records that we all love doesn't reveal anything about our music, really. But it fills the time, to talk. So why not?

What's your favorite place to eat Mexican food?
Oh, sir, that would be El Paraiso in Houston, Texas.

Finally -- here's your chance to add anything you really want to talk about.
Cannot think of a damn thing. END


Photo courtesy of Touch and Go Records.

All contents © 2004 Space City Rock, unless otherwise credited.