SHAKIN' WITH THE REDS
TERRY BURMAN @ STEREO GUIDE
INTERVIEW WITH BRUCE COHEN
Stereo Guide: You've said you're unaffected by trends, but Shake Appealis definitely new music.
Bruce Cohen: Yeah, I think it's new music in the sense that we're definitely stylists and we're notgoing to the old music of the 60's or 70's. We're not following what's trendy now, the dance clubs and synth bands, or whatever. We're definitely our own kind of sound.
SG: What's the difference between The Reds and the sound of the new British invasion?
BC: We don't have a conscious sound. When we play, our ideas or whatever meshing together is what comes out. That's our sound. It's not like we're listening to somebody and say ' well, we've gotta sound like this.' We don't really set out to do that.
SG: How is Shake Appeal American?
BC: I think what's American about it . . . I do have to admit we get a lot of good ideas from what the British have done with modern technology - synthesizers and drum machines and things like that, but we haven't abandoned the emotion of American music. A lot of British bands come off sounding cold and calculated.
SG: So you mean you still embody the emotion of a Springsteen or a Seger?
BC: Yeah, sure, yeah. Or even go back to the 50's with Presley. He never abandoned that. Whatever he played, he never stopped that emotion. It just kept going. It's not that I feel negative about British music. There's a lot of it that I like, but a lot comes off sounding very robotic. Just because you use synthesizers and machines doesn't mean you yourself have to sound like that (a machine). And they sing like they don't really care. It's very hard to get into it. It's almost like the 70's disco, they were more concerned with the beat and that was it.
SG: Your music is very lean. Are you into minimalism like Trio?
BC: I would say that, yeah. At one time, we weren't. It was like pull out all the stops and let's band it out - a wall of sound. But after a while, you feel what's the purpose of it? It was good at one time, but it's served its purpose. For me, change is always good as long as it's not forced. We never forced it, we just said less is more. When we use that philosophy, I think people can actually hear more of what we're doing. When you overplay, it tends to clutter up. Take Springsteen. Before, his wall of sound got on my nerves, but now his songs are big and open. He really pulls you in more than he used to.
SG: What themes do you favor?
BC: Rick writes the lyrics, especially about the inner man, the inner conflict every person has. We believe there's no such thing as a person who doesn't have that. I think most people are doing things they don't want to do. I don't know who's forcing them . . . society or their surroundings or what. But a lot of people are walking around saying 'this is the way I have to behave, this is what I have to do.' That poses a lot of emotional pain and mental stress. It just seems we bring that out.
SG: Did you have this approach from the start?
BC: Yeah. We never got into politics. How many times can you tell everybody how bad things are around them? They all have their smiles and say 'I'm fine, there's nothing wrong with me' when there actually is. We've had our ups and downs but our music has always come through. I was never really disappointed with what we've done musically. And I don't think we've let our fans down either. Maybe business-wise, we've made a lot of mistakes, but so has everybody else. Musically we haven't made any.
SG: You titled this EP from an Iggy Pop tune. Why?
BC: Because Iggy Pop represents rock's ups and downs. He's a man who's been through the mill, yet he manages to survive it all and still continues. That's what our philosophy is - no matter what happens, we're still gonna put out records.
SG: Does your music relate to that period somehow?
BC: It's funny, a lot of people have said 'this reminds me of the old Iggy stuff.' A lot of his fans feel he mellowed out and let them down on the past few albums. I think he's still putting out good stuff and our record is a tribute to him. We just wanted to see how many people would catch on to it.
SG: Iggy has been a big influence.
BC: Yeah. No matter who you listen to, I think you're influenced by it, negatively or positively. Iggy's always been a survivor. Of course, it doesn't hurt when David Bowie records one of your songs! That really helped him. People like Lou Reed, even the Rolling Stones, continue putting things out. Everybody thinks Beethoven was the best classically but I'm sure he had his bad songs too. You couldn't expect someone like him to have great consistency. Same thing with Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and the Stones.
SG: How has the band been understood?
BC: That depends. We might have been misunderstood maybe as far as major radio goes, but college radio and the kids on the street take us for what we are. People always need some past reference, unfortunately. They say our songs are depressing, but how about Pink Floyd or Jim Morrison? They never sang happy-go-lucky pop stuff. Genesis too. They're getting more minimal. When you start mentioning that kind of stuff, people say 'oh yeah.' I don't want to put them down, but some people just can't think for themselves. I remember in the 60's, people were so adventurous. They'd go to the album rack and say ' I'll take this home and listen to it,' but now they have to be told. Nobody's adventurous anymore. They're being dictated to, programmed to what's hip.