Yo La Tengo: the interview

By Noah Lopez

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The "Cirque Du Horreur" festivities at Club Congress this week are a great way to relive some of Tucson's rich musical history. Whether it's bands like Al Perry and the Sultry Heffers (who actually played the first show at the Club, ten years ago) and the Zsa Zsa's Ÿ bands that made the Hotel their regular stomping grounds in its early Club incarnation Ÿ or the bands that keep the crowds coming in the '90s Ÿ such as Blackmoon Graffiti or Star CrΕnch Ÿ or all the popular favorites from before and in between Ÿ Giant Sand, Caitlin, the Drakes Ÿ there's no other time quite like the present to get schooled in Tucson's long-standing musical tradition. At least not until the TAMMIES roll around.

In case you're one of the more timid music fans, Club Congress has also lined up a few great modern rock acts to sweeten the bill a little. Of these, no one can promise a better display of musicianship than Hoboken's Yo La Tengo, a brilliant pop/drone/noise band who is touring in support of their seventh album, Electr-o-pura, a guaranteed lock for many "best of" lists this year. We talked to YLT head Ira Kaplan this week as the band geared up for its return trip to the Old Pueblo.

Mutato: Are you guys still going to play the Velvet Underground in "I Shot Andy Warhol?"

Ira Kaplan: Well, that was done, actually. We filmed the scene, at least. Now it's just a matter of cutting the movie and whether or not they leave that in. There's some examples of famous people appearing in films whose parts later get cut out Ÿ like Andy Garcia. He played a role in, what's that movie, "Dangerous Minds." I guess they were able to cut his part out completely.

M: I think you guys are too important for that to happen.

IK: Uhh, yeah.

M: What was the genesis behind the "Tom Courtenay" video?

IK: The idea was mostly the director's, Phil Morrison. I guess I had come up with this idea with us re-enacting scenes from '60s films, and then Phil realized that that was a little impractical. Besides, we're talking about stuff that's 30 years old, and that only a handful of people would get. I wanted to do "Swinging London," and we kind of did get the Beatles thing from there.

M: Are you guys pretty good friends with Hal Hartley?

IK: Um, I wouldn't say that. We're always glad to see him, but as far as hanging out with him, no.

M: So, are you guys doing a bunch of record shopping?

IK: (laughs) You know, I do all my record shopping on tour. When I'm at home, I just don't really get into it as much. But nothing passes the time as well when you're on tour.

M: What are some recent purchases?

IK: Let's see, today I bought that Soft Boys collection on Rykodisc. Yesterday, I bought [an album the reporter didn't quite catch], a John Fahey record, uh . [and a record by] Heavenly. Yesterday was a big day.

M: Do you guys have a favorite restaurant in Tucson?

IK: We ate at that hotel Ÿ what's the name of where we're playing this time?

M: Hotel Congress.

IK: Yeah. We ate there. It was okay. I actually spent some time in Tucson when I was young, my grandparents lived here. But I don't remember any restaurants from then either. Some fast-food burger place, I guess.

M: What was your Lollapalooza experience like?

IK: It was fun. It was hot. I told a few other people that one of the things that can make touring keep going is making every day stand out. That's the thing about Lollapalooza. Everything was different. Everything about the setup was different. We never play shows in the middle of the afternoon, we never play shows to that many people. It made it interesting.

M: Did you get paid a lot?

IK: No, not really.

M: Do you remember any people from Tucson who wrote you a few times around the time "Ride the Tiger" or "New Wave Hot Dogs" came out?

IK: No . I'd need a little more information I guess.

M: What if I told you his name was Peter.

IK: No. When it comes to me, and the people we meet, and the letters we get Ÿ and we get a lot of letters Ÿ I'm better at remembering the topic . I reserve the rights to recall his letters, though.

M: What are you all reading right now?

IK: I'm reading "The Dark Stuff," a collection by Nick Kent, the British rock journalist. I got this book on a lark, I was at a used-book store that didn't have what I was looking for, so I got this. I don't actually read a ton of books about rock-and-roll. I have a novel called "Garden State" by Rick Moody ready to go next. We'll be doing a lot of driving in the next couple of days, so we'll all be reading a lot. Except the driver.

M: Do you have any memories of that Tucson show?

IK: Hmm . (to Georgia Hubley) Do you have any memories of Tucson? Oh, Georgia says just that there weren't a lot of people at the show. I remember that place we played at. It was . uh . interesting.

M: You'll be playing outside at that hotel this time, I think.

IK: Oh, really? They were having the outdoor thing when we stayed there. Doo Rag had played the night before, Van Christian played, uh, Paula Brown.

M: Ah, I see you're familiar with the history of the Tucson music scene.

IK: Well, that's pretty much it right there, isn't it? (laughs) No, I'm sure there's more . Al Perry? Is that right? I don't really know all that. You just go to enough record stores around the country and you see things.

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