An interview with The Subterraneans

Jude from London band The Subterraneans speaks…

You describe your sound as high art. What does that mean?

We don’t really think about it. There are no rules, we’ll use any sound that serves the material. The song is always the boss.

Given the general struggles in the industry and that the title of your first album April May June suggests music isn’t all good times (it refers to Jean Paul Sartre’s existentialist essay Nausea, about the struggle of self-expression being as inevitable as the progression of the days and months) it seems incredible that you’re still together. What keeps you playing music?

Love.

What are have been your highlights of 2011?

Best records: Emily and the Faves, Kami Thompson, Randi Russo, Astrid Williamson.

Best artists: Kristin Hersh, Viv Albertine.

Best events: My pal Laura’s wedding, The Jean Seberg International Film Festival. Not what you meant?

Best gigs: Throwing Muses, Morrissey, Bob Dylan, Foo Fighters, Emily and the Faves.

We’ve just started 2012 – what are you looking forward to this year? Although Dylan and Foo Fighters – that’s going to be tough to top.

In 2012, Iooking forward to new albums by Viv Albertine, Das Fluff, PlumHall, Fox Lee-Shivers.

What’s the most interesting commission you’ve had?

Pandora’s Box.  (In 1999 the Louise Brooks Society announced a new print of G.W. Pabst’s groundbreaking movie Pandora’s Box, a German silent melodrama which shocked and sensationalised audiences when it was first released seventy years previously.) It doesn’t get any better than that. It’s one of the greatest films ever made. It was a dream come true to be asked, and we took the responsibility very seriously. And I really like the result, even twelve years on. We keep getting asked to do Diary of a Lost Girl. I’m gradually warming to the idea, but I think they want a rehash of Pandora, which I’m not interested in doing.

What is Camden Ale Cake? (See one of Jude’s many projects, the Camden Blogger for an explanation…)

It’s a cake recipe that was traced to an Eighteenth Century teashop in Chalk Farm. It’s a fruit cake made with traditional London light ale, which was used instead of water because the water was undrinkable. As it was authentic to the time of William Blake, and was certainly sold in Camden, which he would regularly pass through on his visits to John Flaxman in Hampstead, we decided to use the recipe as his unofficial birthday cake, and we served it on the steps of his birthplace in Soho on his 250th birthday in 2007.

2013 is 21 years of Subterraneans – how will you celebrate?

We haven’t actually discussed it at all. There’s a compilation album in the works. We should probably go back to Germany and America, they’ve been very good to us for some reason…

Where ever they end up in 2012, if the last score of years is anything to go by it will be strikingly constructive, drowning in dimensions, independent and lacking boundaries. Which sounds pretty good.

 

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