WINES AND OLD, OLD QUESTIONS
The first out-of-this-ordinary-world fruits of Warren Cuccurullo’s ongoing collaboration with English tone poet Neil Carlill finally see the light of day on their imminently eponymous debut album, Chicanery – described as ‘a surreal and psychotic vision of pop music’. My review can be read here; the following interview reveals a whole bunch more.
NC: Very quiet reserved Englishman from the provinces, always skewed on literature and, later on, music. Got into music via the beat writers and formed a band called Delicatessen; avant-garde Indie Rock. My twisted slightly gothic ways discovered Beefheart and I never looked for anyone else really. Shiny Beast was my start point but it was the voice and the words. Lick my Decals was always my favourite, but I can't stop listening to Trout Mask Replica recently. It is unnerving how repeated listens reveal the POP magic revealed in all those twirling guitar lines. And of course zappa! Zappa! ZAPPA! (Thanks to my mentor, WC.)
IB: If you were a milkshake, what flavour would you be?
NC: Al Cappuccino.
IB: Warren, what's the ugliest part of Neil's body?
WC: NOT his mind.
IB: When did you two first meet?
WC: I met Neil in London in 1999. I’d seen one of his band’s videos on ‘the box’ and tried to contact him. We met a week later.
NC: Warren was doing TV Mania with Nick Rhodes and he saw a video of Delicatessen and invited me to sing with them. I went round to Warren's house/studio, the only house on the quiet street with blacked out windows with iron grill bars for security. There were usually European girls hanging round outside. It was very rock 'n' roll. Warren was larger than life. I always brought alcohol with me.
IB: You’ve been working on material together as Chicanery for quite a few years now – when was the album actually recorded?
NC: The bulk of the material was recorded in 2005, in Los Angeles.
IB: You write most of the lyrics – what inspires you?
NC: The Captain, of course. James Joyce, the Dadaists, Kurt Schwitters. I like the concentrated power of the lyric, it should be like hypertext, the confusion of all the doubled up nonsense in the world being expressed through fragments of meaning. Oh, and jokes to patch it all up. Art that escapes the mainstream is always appealing.
IB: Warren, you must’ve had a hand in Hubert Selby Song - Selby being a local hero?
WC: The title was my suggestion - he had recently died when we were finishing that track.
IB: Do you normally write music around Neil’s lyrics?
WC: With me, Neil has been writing to tracks, or just bits. I Came Back To You is a live jam. The four acoustic numbers – The Midnight Owls, I.O.D., Hit The Wall and Luminal Dark - were written on guitar by Neil.
IB: What happened to His Mind Into Her?
WC: That track, along with Cut Me From The Mirror, were the first things we worked on together in London. In 2004, I used His Mind... for the as yet unreleased N’Liten Up CD - it is SO that record: Ben Wendel’s soprano sax; Chris Golden’s fretless bass - it felt a little out of place in this collection.
NC: Yes, it was going to be on Chicanery but we went for Cut Me From the Mirror as it seemed to fit the mood of the piece better.
IB: Who came up with the name Chicanery?
NC: I think it was a committee decision - me, WC, Vino - can't actually remember. I can't believe it's not been used before (to my knowledge).
IB: I used to know a guy who had a band called Chicane in Basingstoke. What was working with Terry Bozzio like for you, Neil?
NC: Lovely man, but his drum kit scared me: it was extra-terrestrial. We jammed a little, so it was an experience to hear his energy and creative skills at work. More please!
IB: Tell me about some of the other people on the album – firstly, Simone Sello, who produced the lion's share of the album.
WC: Simone is someone I've been working with on various projects. He is a guitarist and a producer/programmer from Rome. He’d been working with Billy Sheehan and a friend of mine suggested him to me. He’s excellent, and he makes my life a lot easier. We’ve been working together since 2004.
NC: He really was the glue to many of the pieces - arrangements and sonically. He will be in the band also. The third member of Chicanery.
IB: And Ustad Sultan Khan, the sarangi player?
WC: Sultan Khan and I hooked up in London in 1998; we did a lot of recording at my home studio. He is a genius and a legend. His work on the George Harrison-produced Ravi Shankar’s Music Festival From India is magical.
NC: I never met Sultan, but his work is spellbinding, The Tuva throat singer that I always wanted to be.
IB: Any plans to perform Chicanery material live?
NC: Yes, yes with zingy Bells on. We're hoping to get Terry Bozzio or Joe Travers, and we will be playing in the Fall I sincerely hope.
WC: We'd love to perform this stuff. There is talk of doing some promotional dates...we'll see if that can turn into full fledged touring.
IB: Warren, what did you like about Joe Travers' playing when you first saw him perform with Dweezil - sat next to Frank - in Hollywood?
WC: Joe had the energy and chops of Bozzio/Vinnie, and the bang of Bonham. I didn't know what a nice guy he was till after the show.
IB: Neil, ever made love to a vampire with a monkey on your knee?
NC: Oh vampires are so dull these days: they go to high school, for Chrissakes; primp themselves in mirrors; promote celibacy. Shockingly teen and tame. The monkey can stay in the news, and I'll nibble the ear of a werewolf.
IB: Please, not Taylor Lautner! Where did you find that wonderful album cover photo?
NC: A friend of my wife's family took the picture about 15 years ago, somewhere in Canada. It's very famous in the family circle - such a great image. He very kindly allowed use to use it. His name is Tim Mahoney and he returned to the house a month later when it was no more.
IB: What's the best smelling hotel you've ever stayed in?
NC: I've never been smelled by a hotel; or the Ramada in Amsterdam at the height of tulip season.
IB: Warren, when I interviewed you way back in 1994, you told me you had enough material for around nine solo albums – the archives should be just about ready to explode now. It must be very frustrating not being able to release stuff quickly – though you did do just that with O’Bummer (Operation BS), and you’ve made demos and other material available via your website. Do you have plans to release material more frequently– eg. for download only, like VaiTunes?
WC: I think once this year is over, the archives are spent as far as I’m concerned: TV Mania, N’Liten Up and Chicanery will all be released in 2010; editing is a wonderful thing.
IB: Yes, I noticed Cut Me From The Mirror is now half its original length.
WC: Yeah. Theoretical 5 is creating loads of material, so my WC projects are on temporary hold - although I have five or six new things that I’ve been working on.
IB: Theoretical 5 is the new band with Tommy Mars and Arthur Barrow, plus Andy Kravitz and Larry Klimas. Tell us about your plans.
WC: We love doing these free-form jams. But, we might start a Fight Club...or maybe just the senior’s branch of the ‘He Man Woman Haters’ club. Live streaming free-form jams is something Arthur would like to get going.
IB: Sounds great. And what about The Composers, with Anthony J. Resta, Eric Alexandrakis and Steve Ferrone?
WC: Steve, Eric, Anthony and me, we’d all worked together in some configuration or another. The musical possibilities are endless and inspiring. These days you have a much better chance of hearing one of your compositions in a movie or a TV show than getting on the traditional radio airwaves.
IB: True dat. So how long before the second Chicanery album?
NC: We have four or maybe five songs in development at the moment so it will be finished sometime in the Fall, I think, depending on our promotion schedule with the debut.
IB: What do you think of Obama?
NC: Oh my, oh my - politics and the artist! Hate politicians as a rule, but my household is in love with Obama so I will give him his due. Maybe he needs to stop the bi-partisan chit-chat and convert the liberal agenda he was mandated to do and...oh, there: I go I’ve said too much already. Yes to Obama. But very little really changes as society crumbles all around us.
WC: Obama is a puppet, probably the most controlled ever. Manchurian is a word that comes to mind, not American. I think my song O'Bummer just about sums up my feelings.
IB: Warren, Zappa Records released Playing In Tongues – was that a one-off, or is that a question for Gail?
WC: It’s not a one-off. Gail would like to reissue my Missing Persons CDs at some point, with added tracks...Late Nights Early Days in particular.
IB: How is Sid Arthur as a manager?
WC: Sid didn't really work out as a manager, but he's currently working on a Rodney Dangerfield tribute act where DoUBLEyOuSEe is his acting coach.
IB: Tell me about tap-dancing The Black Page.
WC: Not PROPER tap, but I got the beats.
NC: This was in 2006, preparing for Warren's gig at the Viper room. Terry Bozzio was in the band and, as I recall, Warren was tap dancing The Black Page for Peter Wolf. He would do a similar thing for the Chicanery track Midnight Owls, although it was a percussive performance using his hands on his body as he sang the words. The man performs with his whole being.
IB: Warren, after Duran Duran, you relocated back to the US and (cough) let your hair down a bit. Do you regret any of the naughty-naked-nude snaps, the Rock Rod, beating it with your fist on camera....or are you justifiably proud of your bod?
WC: My only regrets are real estate related.
IB: What was the name of your first pet, Neil?
NC: Stanley the cat with the shiny belt.
IB: And what colour is your toothbrush, Warren?