Chris Schlarb: Are You Creative?
Tom is a really gifted fine artist also, and he did the artwork for our first record and the next thing you know we went on a thirty-date tour across the country, really, with no résumé. We had done one thing that we were giving away free on the web.
AAJ: Money doesn't seem to be a massive motivator, the first Create(!) album is also available on your website for free; why do you give this music away? It's not common.
CS: in some ways I think it's becoming more common. There's so much competition for peoples' attention: TV, video, movies, and I think sometimes as an artist you have to show an act of good will; if you give something to someone first it's almost like you're shaking their hand, and saying, "I'm going to put the ball in your court, you can decide what you want to do with this.
People want to listen to it first, live with it a little, decide, you know? With Create(!), with I Heart Lung, we just wanted to get it out, we wanted some feedback and we got it immediately. I'll never forget, we played in Rochester, New York, all the way on the other side of the country and we had people requesting songs, shouting out song titles, Wheelchair Graduation!
Nobody's really making a living playing the kind of music that we are playing and we don't have that expectation. I think that's the worst thing as an artist is to expect something in return, and we don't. We just do what we do and if people like it, awesome.
AAJ: I imagine it's quite difficult for Create(!) and I Heart Lung to get gigs, given the type of music you play.
CS: There's definitely an active underground in the United States, and in almost any city you're going to have this group of outcasts [laughs] who are going to be open to what we're doing, and we've probably played in all those places [laughs]. A few months ago, Tom and I did this gig in Denver, Colorado, at this really run-down, kind of putrid venue, the smell of wet garbage, this amazing perfume of filth, but the show we had was amazing! They were so into what we were doing. The only downside to that show was that we had to sleep in the venue. Other than that it was amazing, and these places are all over the country, and you can get shows and tours together.
AAJ: Sounds Are Active released a very interesting DVD in 2006 called Forty Bands/Eighty Minutes (Soundsareactive, 2006). Can you tell us about your involvement in that project?
CS: I found out about the actual event a couple of weeks prior, and then I sent the organizer Sean Carnage an email saying, "I Heart Lung were just back from a tour and we'd love to do this is if you have a spot for us, and he said, "Absolutely. He's a big King Crimson fan, Robert Wyatt, and he's putting all these crazy experimental shows together. He's an educated music listener and music fan, and he knew that what we were doing would add a different texture that night.
Tom and I drove out there, it was raining and there were more people in such a small place than I've ever seen. You could barely get up to the area to plug my guitar in. I'd sprained my ankle prior and I was having a hell of a time getting up to the front. I couldn't even wedge in between people. But it was amazing, we played and people went crazy! What kind of parallel universe did we wander into?
I figured this was going to be something special and I called Sean up a couple of weeks after the event and I said, "Look, I have a record label, I have to put this out. I saw that twenty years from now people would look back to this as a legitimate document of what was going on in the Los Angeles underground music scene.
At the time when the movie came out, we got a fair amount of press attention, but a lot of people in the current music establishment, or unde rground, independent music scene, they thought it was too fringe, too experimental, and too not what they thought the independent music scene was like, and I have this feeling that ten or fifteen years from now people are going to look back and think, "Wow, I can't believe all these people were together and doing this stuff. Already a year later, five or six of the bands in that film are starting to get a lot of press attention from the same venues, the same publications who shunned the movie when I sent it to them. The irony! It never ceases.
AAJ: Just a curiosity, but where did you get the title from for Between Them a Forest Grew, Trackless and Quiet?
CS: I think it's from a Toni Morrison novel. Tom said, "I don't know why, but I've got this Toni Morrison line stuck in my head. It's such a beautiful, lyrical line.
AAJ: It is, and I have to add that the artwork for Sounds Are Active is fantastic. The presentation of the CD covers is really beautiful.