Chris O’Connor [Interview]
March 3, 2014 Leave a comment
As many of your fine readers may know, I have an extremely passionate for music from the latter part of the last millennium. It was a strange time for growth in me as a young boy, and a strange time for popular music all around us. There was, as there always has been, a wild array of shit being pushed down our throats throughout the entire decade of my beloved 1990’s. But there was also an explosion of “alternative” music coming in your faces from all angles. There is no doubt that the commercialization of the “grunge movement” had much to do with this. But as a young man in 1996 (11 years old), all I heard were beautiful songs. The term “One Hit Wonder” would soon follow some of these amazing acts that were creating beautiful songs on the airwaves and radio shows, and I simply never understood it. But soon enough, the late 90’s came, I entered my early teen years, and everything was all shot to hell. But, thankfully a little something called the Internet came around, and both shattered and relinquished my faith in music.
Through the advancements of the digital age, media, and way of life, I managed to continue to hear my favorite bands continue making beautiful songs. And one of my favorite groups that has had a long history, possibly unbeknownst to those who fell into the traps of complacency and bullshit mockeries we call musicians, was Primitive Radio Gods. Their Columbia Records released album Rocket was a huge hit during just the right time. Their beloved hit single “Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand” skyrocketed the charts, MTV, and even appeared predominately in a Jim Carey movie. But, legal disputes, label closures, etc., would see Primitive Radio Gods begin the fade away from the public eye. But, their beauty in creation never ceases to thrive. I continued to dig my way through whatever digital medium I could think of, with this becoming much easier in the last few years, to continue to hear their wonderful songs, even if the only physical album I have ever own from them is my busted ass copy of Rocket that is getting so worn that had it been on vinyl, the song “Motherfucker” would probably have been worn so low as to need replacement.
Needless to say, I do not buy into the One Hit Wonder and The Buzz, as so many artists from the 90’s have been deemed to be. Great fucking music is just that – great fucking music. And we are so fortunate to be able to ask a few questions from a man who has watched the world of music and the business it transpires from just about every angle possible. We are so happy to be able to speak with Primitive Radio Gods frontman Chris O’Connor about an array of topics including a bit of history of PRG, what the future holds, and where the hell we all went wrong. To summarize the below interviews for all the chumps and bystanders out there who will not read beyond this paragraph, I shall use a direct quote from O’Connor himself: “Remember consumption is a disease, not a viable economic model.”
When did you first decide that you wanted to be involved in the world of music?
Late September, 1983. I was stationed in north chicago and decided that i would be a true musician until I died.
What is it that keeps you involved in the world of music?
World of music. Hmmm? Mostly habit I suppose. I’ve been recording since I was 18, and there’s a tremendous satisfaction that comes with finishing a song and listening to the final mix for the first time. A good gig can also prove intoxicating. Mostly it’s the hope that your greatest musical moment is yet to come.
While it is not my opinion whatsoever, or that of any person with good hearing, it does need to be asked….How does it feel to be deemed a one hit wonder by certain audiences and critics out there?
People who accept or disdain the praise or criticism of fools are fools themselves. You are what you eat. I don’t eat a lot. I prefer drinking.
Whether in your own songwriting or in others, what do you believe every song needs to be a “good song”, to use such a vague term?
Something that evokes an emotional response or feeling without cliché. It’s really impossible to quantify because of the ultimate subjectivity of individual perception. The vast majority of music that is manufactured by the New York/Los Angeles/Nashville complex is, for the average consumer, the only music of quality. I, myself, consider most of it meaningless, predictable, and plastic. There is no formula for quality, as one mans medicine is another man’s poison. For me personally, great music is immediate and directly absorbed, without the intellect understanding why. I have a low tolerance for “craft” and “formula”.
What is your process in songwriting, and are you more of a lyric man or a guitar man, or both?
Luke (lead guitar) and I tend to be self contained in the songwriting department. for myself, the music and lyric melody tends to come first more often than not, but there’s no set method. We play live as a three piece, so that can affect how many overdubs of instrumentation are done should we feel a song has live potential. on “Ripped In November” off the Still Electric album, the original guitar part I wrote the lyrics to was removed after Luke came up with his part, and gives the song an unusual dynamic that wouldn’t exist with the traditional rhythm chords left in.
Near future no, distant future yes. [We] just started tuning up the studio after a long hiatus…we’re shooting for early 2015.
What else does the future hold for you personally and the Primitive Radio Gods?
The great thing about the future is, unlike the past, all the important issues are predictable and certain. For me personally, the future ensures I will grow older every day until I die. Primitive Radio Gods will remain undiscovered until the year 2277, whereby a fluke in global music propagation unleashes a long forgotten tune from the 3rd record that becomes the first trillion dollar download. Money changers and fashion freaks will reap all the profits, while the destitute offspring of band members beg for sandwich crumbs in the gutters of the urban corporate copyright empire. after this things get a little murky…
You have obviously seen a whole lot of changes in your 30 plus years as a musician. In your expert opinion, what do you think of the state of music today? What are some of your pro’s and cons or gripes and compliments?
Well, in a lot of ways it’s the worst and best of times. Ff you like talent show singers and 10th generation copies of something you’ve heard before, the music business has never been better. If you’re into independent music and have a shit-load of free time to scour the web, there’s always something genius to be found. I think in general, music has a lot less cultural and spiritual importance now. It’s more of a background noise. i\It blows my mind to see people spend most of their waking life attached to their “mobile devices”. Very slavish and zombie-like. You don’t see nearly as much support for live music at the local level now. Too many things for people to watch on their screens.
When you are not performing and recording music, what would one find you doing in your spare time?
Well, besides working for the man, I was an apprentice winemaker to a Jesuit named Matthews. I got into japanese sword mythology and have been chopping wood for the last 14 years. A little gardening, a wife and kid…outside of that, I’ve had no spare time.
finally, an easy question:
1. Eluvium – Copia TRR110
2. The Verve- A Northern Soul
3. Slowdive – Just For a Day
4. James Hall – Pleasure Club
5. Sway – This Was Tomorrow
What was the last thing that made you smile?
Tullamore Dew on sale. you expect that sort of thing from Bushmill’s or Jameson, but seeing “The Dew” at a bargain rate brings true joy.