Interview with CLAY REED by Chris Owen
Burger Boogaloo is pleased to host a rare Bay Area appearance by THE SUBSONICS, here in support of their new album (their 8th!) Flesh Colored Paint, out on Slovenly Records. According to Slovenly:
“Atlanta’s SUBSONICS are a gutter-glam, minimal Rock’n’Roll trio. Like all their previous works, this is a distilled hodgepodge of decades of popular culture and classic literature, culminating in a collection of short and groovy shambolar: Chuck Berry, Albert Camus, AM radio rock jocks, Bo Diddley, Golden Age TV, surrealism, Mad Magazine, kung-fu flicks, Herman Melville, Little Richard, self-negating philosophy, David Johansen, The Bible, Dee Dee Ramone, Lee Van Cleef, Cornell Woolrich, advertising jingles, Dada, Carole King, Bugs Bunny, and Casablanca; the poem, not the film. This is a gorgeous mess of a record, and it’s cool. REAL COOL, KILLER. We hope you’ll find something within to make you think, or at the very least, dance, if it’s too deep.”
We spoke with Subsonics main man CLAY REED about the only band that consistently delivers on the punk promise of ELECTRIC EELS’ "Jaguar Ride"…
I think the coolest thing about The Subsonics is how you seem like a band out of time. Meaning I am sure there is some kind of scene you played in when The Subsonics started, but you guys would be really unique no matter where you came from. Were there bands from your area that inspired you when you were younger, like THE BBQ KILLERS or anyone we may or may not have heard of?
We started playing in 1992...I would say there were several “scenes” in Atlanta that overlapped somewhat at their margins. More broadly, we were always described as a multiple hyphen band, ya know? "Punk-glam-garage-rockabilly" etc. And there were these scattered and regimented genre-specific scenes around...So we'd get booked playing for a bunch of guys with blue mohawks or dressed up like SONNY BONO, or in SHA NA NA drag...and they'd mostly hate us. Things are much more loose and egalitarian now. Fewer people have to prove what they like by what they throw bottles at.
What is the current lineup of The Subsonics?
The line-up is: me, Rockin’ Clay Reed, the fantastic Buffi Aguero and superlative Rob Del Bueno.
What kinds of bands did you play in before The Subsonics?
Now you're going way back, cuz I'm 10 years older than Buffi and Rob...And I grew up in Florida...So between say, 1970 and 1980 or so...it was just...what your status as a delinquent was. Were you a toluene sniffer or a boozer? Did you drop acid or take reds? The worst kids were the sober ones...Was your mom a cocktail waitress or was your sister? Was your brother a hippy or a biker? Did your band feature mini-bike solos or go-cart solos? If you had a group with serious showbiz aspirations, you played covers of GRAND FUNK RAILROAD or some such stuff. Steer clear of showbiz, kids. I guess we were just always very enthusiastic about music, but alienated from everything, too.
How often do The Subsonics rehearse? How often do you play shows in your hometown of Atlanta?
We never rehearse, really. That's the secret card up our sleeve. Cat's outta the bag. The frequency of our appearances is dictated by economics, mostly...The value we place on our thing vs. the value someone else places on it. Our activities ramp up a bit when there's a new record...like now.
When was the first time you played in the Bay Area? Have you spent much time here?
The first time we played the Bay Area was...1994? At Bottom of the Hill, I'm pretty sure. A couple of shows at Bimbo's...The Purple Onion, Thee Parkside...I'm sure I'm forgetting some.
What is your favorite Subsonics record? Why?
My favorite Subsonics record is whatever is newest...In this case, Flesh Colored Paint.
What are your day jobs? What do you do all day and night?
Day jobs are like secret identities...like Clark Kent, reporter for The Daily Planet... here's a reason for having a secret identity, you know? Until surfboard target shooting becomes an Olympic sport, that's the way it's gonna stay.
I've had your song "I Think You Like It" stuck in my head off and on for about 20 years. Who did you write that about? Who do you write about the most?
“I Think You Like It” is a weird song to get stuck...That sounds unpleasant and you should get help...It's not about anyone...And if it was, I'd say it wasn't. I don't write songs about anyone, I write about no one and everyone. I'm moving from objectifying humans to humanizing objects with the aspiration to get humans out of the equation completely. Everything's too human-centered. I hope all our next songs will be like shopping lists or something…