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interviews - oct 2004


Chadwick Bidwell (Ral Partha Vogelbacher)
Ral Partha Vogelbacher are an intriguing band. Their last album ‘Kite Vs Obelisk’ is a bizarre little album plucked from the cerebellum of frontman Chadwick Bidwell and realised with the help of a team of dedicated followers, including David Kesler and Tadas Kisielius from Thee More Shallows. Ral Partha capture the sort of passionate absurdity that was harnessed in the early work of Will Oldham and Bill Callahan. The song titles alone are enough to confuse and baffle those of a more simple mind set. Yet for all its curiosity it is simply one thing, and that is an excellent album.

So when I received Chadwicks email address and a message saying "I’d like to participate in the interview.  I may have to lie.  Hope that's ok?", I decided it was in everyone’s best interest that I try to harness the power of the Tinterweb get a few questions answered for the general good of mankind. 

Ral Parthas last album 'Kite Vs Obelisk' was a pretty diverse affair, not only in terms of its song titles but also in the sheer tone and scale from one track to the next. What is that causes this sort of diversity in your writing and were you pleased with the disparate tone the album ended up with?
The songs are all over the place in terms of instrumentation, tone, and intensity, but the lyrical narrative is mostly thematically coherent and consistent.  I hoped that if all the songs together were telling a story, then it wouldn't matter as much if all the songs sounded different.   

That's one explanation.  Another is that I was getting really tired of listening to albums that sounded the same all the way through from start to finish.  These days I don't know what to think.  There are lots of types of albums like black metal or folk or drone records that depend on the sameness of all the songs for them to convey a mood.  I was probably getting sick of pop music at the time.  Or I was getting sick of the sameness of songs on any given pop record.   As we are finally readying ourselves for the recording of the next album, we're actually finding ourselves discussing how we want it to sound as a whole rather than as a collection of different songs.  And I'm saying "I want it to all be droney with some sharp edges here and there."  And David's saying "just write the lyrics, and I'll write the music." 

A third explanation might be that I wanted Kite to sound like Beggars' Banquet but was listening to too much Wowee Zowee.  At the time I thought this huge mess of a Pavement record was the best album in the world for some reason.  Weird.  So I was listening lots of Pavement and Rolling Stones, but then I'd hear something like Jesus Lizard's Liar or The Fall's Hex Enduction Hour and freak out and want Kite to have all these really loud songs.  It didn't make any sense because I had written all these songs as quiet acoustic songs to play in my bedroom and never in front of other people.  

Which leads me to the fourth explanation...that Kite was a reaction to "The More Nice Fey Elven Gnomes are Hiding In My Toilet Again" which was this nice little acoustic record.  The only problem was that we went into the studio to record "More Nice..." as a loud rock album, but there weren't enough mics or some thing like that.  Anyway, the engineer was a guy named Bill Racine who knew exactly how to mic my voice and made everything sound um... nice.  He ended up moving to New York and works for Dave Fridman and has helped record Mogwai and the Flaming Lips.   

I should probably also mention Scott Solter who recorded Kite.  It took forever because he always had his hands full with other projects.  I enjoyed working with him, but I felt rushed much of the time.  I like how he recorded the drums.  And his wife sings at the end of one of the songs.  We're recording the next album at the studio that David and a bunch of other friends built. 

Song Titles:  I've always enjoyed trying to come up with names for things including song names, band names, my future child's name, friends' company names, country names.  I've had friends come up to me and ask for help with naming stuff.  Whenever someone asks me what a good name for their kid would be (which is actually never, but I guess I always offer names) I usually tell them that either Singledippledorf or Doubledippledorf would be good names.    

I always wanted to name a company "Technabulous Fabnology" so people could call it "Technab" for short.  The best band name I've ever see was some random band called Afghanistan Bananastand.  Ral Partha went through lots of name changes before settling on RPV.  I think it went like this... 

1)  Frogs and Sticks
2)  Midnight Muchacho
3)  A Fey Grace
4)  Worry Force Neptune
5)  Ral Partha Chadwick
6)  Ral Partha Vogelbacher and his More Nice Fey Elven Gnomes
7)  Ral Partha Vogelbacher 

When we were called #6 and people would ask who we were, the combination of my tendency to mumble and the ridiculous name would leave people just shaking their head and saying something like "what's wrong with you?"  Now we just go by Ral Partha or RPV. 

Did I like how the album turned out?  Sometimes I do, sometimes I think it sucks.  I listened to it all the time after it was finished and would find all these problems with it.  I think I say calvary instead of cavalry in one spot.  Or the other way around.  I would beat myself up over certain spots.  I'm still really reluctant to let people hear it.  I like to look at it more of a learning process rather than the end unto itself.  The songs all sound fairly different live now, and we might even include another version of

Nightstinger on the next album since we enjoy playing it live so much.  Like I said, I felt kinda rushed, so we didn't get to spend as much time learning the songs and recording them.  The two songs that received the most attention where the two songs I recorded at home.

I recorded "Jasper Downs" and "Spanish Ambassador" over and over until I was happy with them.  

Wow, good answer. So how did you come to work David Kesler and Tadas Kisielius from Thee More Shallows? Do any problems arise with them being able to perform in both RPV and Thee More Shallows?
I met David several years ago while he was leading a band called Shackleton.  At the time, he was looking for a new drummer, and I was looking to play music.  I told him I could play drums if they would to play slowly.  At that point I had never played drums in my life but I couldn't imagine it to be that difficult - you just hit stuff, right?  I showed up at their space and just started wailing on the drums, and it became obvious to everyone that I had no idea what I was doing.  Upon my departure I gave David a cassette titled "Quiet Desperation in the Carolinas, Vol. 1" which is actually the first Ral Partha release and is luckily out of print.  He liked the lyrics in the songs.   

Eventually, I released the first Shallows album on my dumbass vanity label.  Looking back, I think maybe he should have shopped it around more for a bigger label that could push it more.   

David was also the first person to convince me to play live as RPV.  The first few shows involved a lot of drunken falling over and accidentally unplugging things mid song and forgetting how to play songs and asking people to come on stage to tune my guitar and more basic ineptitude.   

The more RPV played, the more David became involved for some reason.  RPV has always been a side project for him and our drummer Jason (also in the Shallows) and for Chris (who is in Brian_and_Chris), and I would get upset that their other bands always took priority over RPV.  Then while we were on tour, Tadas called David to tell him he was moving to Seattle.  I guess he then realized that he wanted to have a replacement song writing partner, so that's when he approached me with the idea of writing the next RPV album together.  

The idea was that I would write the lyrics but no music.  Word on the street is that I suck at writing songs.  I only use the top two strings on my guitar and have recently started writing the same song over and over.  I barely picked up a guitar while writing this time.  He wanted to write all the music for the songs, and that's been going really well.  It actually feels like a band rather than a bunch of disjointed meetings.  We get together and he reads over the lyrics and comes up with something pretty quickly.  I might say I want it to have a certain mood to match the lyrics, but if I try to add any guitar parts he quickly shoots them down.  I figured out that if I wait until we show the songs to Jason and try to add my parts, David feels compelled to be polite around other people and let's me add things.   

As far as Tadas playing in RPV, I called him up and asked if he would play accordion on "Aral Sea Regulars" to which he agreed.   

Have you got any other guests on this new album then?
Guests on this album?  Right now, RPV is just David on guitar and suitcase, Jason Gonzales on drums, and me on guitar, vocals, and keyboard.  Chris Palmatier used to play bass, but he became pretty busy with all his other projects.  His main band, Brian_and_Chris got picked up by Dielectric records, so he's working on that more.  He's also in a few other bands.  And he records all the time.  And then he went on tour with Beulah to do sound for them, so the three of us started playing and writing without him.  He may rejoin, but for now its just the three of us. 

At first, I wasn't even sure if the next album would be an RPV album since its going to be more of collaboration between me and David.  I think he wants to bring in guests, but I actually want to keep it to a solid core of three while were recording.  He keeps saying things like "see, we play this and this and then we'll have someone play horns here and then there." and I respond with "Horns?  Are you sure?"   

He likes to muck about in the studio and establish all sorts of pretty orchestrations to set moods, but I want it to sound noisy and chaotic and droney.  we'll see.  

I'd really like to bring Loren Chasse in to add little bits of noise, but I've never even approached him about it.  Or have Derek Bailey play nonsense solo in the middle of some pretty song.  That would be so bad ass. Or maybe we could get Anthony Braxton and Sam Rivers to fly out here and they could duel it out in a "Conference of Birds" moment.  Yeah, that's what we'll do. 

On more than one occasion I’ve heard you being compared to such luminaries as Bill Callahan of Smog and Will Oldham. Is this something you've ever been aware of? Do you feel these sorts of comparisons can be stifling and pigeon holing at all?
I've heard the comparisons, and I guess I'm flattered when I hear them.  Its definitely more appropriate to compare RPV to Smog or Palace than to, um, lets see here, someone like Har mar Superstar or Gravy Train!!! Our goals or somewhat more similar, and I’m trying to tell stories rather than get people to do blow and fuck in a bathroom stall.  I kinda wish I could do both, tell an emotionally conveying story and compel you to go fuck someone in a bathroom stall, but that's probably not going to happen anytime soon.  Great, now I can't show my mom this interview, can I?  

But, yeah, I listened to those guys' records all the time during the rolling mid nineties.  ALL THE TIME.  I remember being impossibly depressed for about a year or two while living in North Carolina (thus the title "Quiet Desperation in the Carolinas, Vol. 1") and listening to Oldham's "Arise, Therefore" non-stop.  I became a bit obsessed with Palace's output and chased down all the singles, and then Drag City released that damn singles comp.  Then I traded for as many live recordings as I could find.   

Actually, David and I were on a long drive back from somewhere and we found all these old Palace bootlegs in a box of tapes in my car.  There were two in particular that were so funny.  On one, Oldham was solo and it was a really good show, but he was using some strange chorus effect on his voice at certain times.  It sounded like he had a chorus of smurfs with him.  On another tape, it was a board mix of a show in which all the other musicians were too loud and he couldn't hear anything.  So he was shrieking and screaming his lines, and he's all off key.  As a bonus, there's this guy in the line-up of that tour playing crazy bombastic classic rock guitar solos on every song.   

The Pavement comparisons are a little more difficult to take.  I would love to be compared to Crebain or Leviathan or Ludicra, but sadly I've not made any black metal albums. 

Something I like to ask people who play and release music is what, if anything, else do you do in order to be able to make music? Do you have a crappy job on the side like the rest of the Monotreme roster seem to? Does it become a struggle balancing everything in your life? you can still show this to your mother I think. I think she'll be proud that you want to help people get together even if that is in a toilet and you describe the beautiful act as 'fucking'.
I just got a new job doing software engineering for cellular phones.  I work for a company that tweaks little games to work on lots of different phones. Previously, I worked in other software development capacities and also did some biostatistical programming.   

I recently took a year off / got laid off and worked at a letterpress printing press.  I loved it, but I missed the challenges of programming.   

I like trying to balance stuffy, detail-oriented, challenging work like programming with creative work like music and letterpress.  it used to be kinda hard to balance the two.  Now that I kinda know my way around a guitar and know how to write lyrics quickly, its much easier to balance everything.  or maybe I’m just doing everything half-assed.   

letterpress = printing before offset printing.  Check out http://www.tablia-biblia.com or http://www.peterkochprinters.com. I worked with those guys. Awesome. 

So just a couple of final things then. When do you think we’re likely to see the release of the Ral Partha album, are we going to get some UK tour dates following that and is there final words of wisdom you’d like to offer the world?
The planning / writing / recording of this album has been moving along pretty slowly, but I think it should be all wrapped up by the end of this year.  Because its taken so long, I’ll probably have a second album of mostly acoustic songs ready to go as well.  we'll see. 

Monotreme records has brought up the possibility of a joint TMS/RPV tour sometime in the future.  it would be logistically easier for us than for most bands since we share three members, but the usual problems of lack of money and lack of interest may prevent it

from reaching the point of realization.  I played a few shows in the uk last summer that were pretty fun.  Played a show in Brighton with Todd costanza and Virgil Shaw in which I  forgot lines to my songs.  I was solo, so it was extra embarrassing.   

wisdom?  from me?  um...let's see. 

1)  educate yourself.
2)  use spell check.
3)  read as much as possible.
4)  don't smoke crack right outside my apartment and then pee all over my minivan.
5)  don't offer me a free rock at 8 in the morning while I’m trying to get to my car to go to work.
6)  wear a bikini.
7)  watch the insects closely.
8)  buy new underwear regularly.
9)  brush your teeth.
10) never, ever use the word "hella" in any conversation.  (not even sure anyone does anymore)
11) to Americans abroad, try not to yell and scream "USA, USA" while in a temple, ruin, church, etc.
12) start gardening.
13) listen to black metal. 

thanks Luke.  bye.  enjoyed it. 

And with that the computer screen refused to respond any further yet I felt I could still hear Chad’s voice continue to impart knowledge to me. Then I swung round on my swivel chair and there he was. I’d done it, I, a lonely black female comedian had saved an undercover agent from his torment overseas. Oh hang on, no, that was what happened at the end of ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ starring Whoopee Goldberg. Great Film.

Luke Drozd

For more information on Ral Partha go to www.monotremerecords.com


Pinkie
Can you explain the name of the album and the 'concept' behind it?
Quite simply it was a name of someone I knew when I was a child (and before you ask…no she doesn’t know about the album, though her name was spelt differently….but I’m sure she’d be delighted if she knew, and lawyers are so expensive these days) and the name just stuck in my mind.  Some time ago while standing on
Worthing pier (not an entirely relevant detail, but it helps paint the picture) I decided the album would be called ‘Sharon Fussy’ because…well once I’d thought of it..it wouldn’t go away.  I like the mixed meaning…being both just a name and a description of someone whose a little bit choosy about things.  I kind of feel it’s an irony that you could be called Sharon and be fussy, like it’s impossible to be both.  I know I’m being a bit prejudice here, and I’d hate to ostracize all my devoted fans that are named Sharon…but listen it’s my problem and I’ll get therapy.  On another thread it’s also someone who ties the whole album up, in the strange little parallel world the album occupies…er I think that’s certainly enough, if not too much explanation.. 

Are you happy with the album - moreso than previous Pinkie albums?
The last Pinkie release was an EP so actually this is the first Pinkie album believe it or not…I know…it seems like there’s been hundreds…but yes I am very happy with it.  As always in our busy hectic lives I feel I could have done certain things differently or spent longer on some performances…but there is also a great sense of spontaneity with some of the tracks which if I’d spent longer on them, I might have lost. 

This album seems very personal. Did you mean it to be this way, or is the way that songs always seem to turn out?!  

Well I suppose every song I’ve ever written has been very personal…I can’t help but be that way, however many songs are written from someone else’s perspective…inspired by something I’ve read or witnessed…but inevitably I turn it into something I’ve felt or experienced myself at some point in time. 

How would you describe the Pinkie sound?
Blimey…how do you describe genius…when people ask I tend to very generically term it lo-fi…but I suppose in all honesty it doesn’t quite fit that mould…how about ‘orchestras of guitars accompanying bitter sweet melancholy’.. mmm..closer than lo-fi perhaps…I am aware most of my songs have a sombre edge…but that’s not just lazy writing, it’s how my creative juices flow…but I am quite a cheerful person most of the time…honest…I think I just tap into my darker psyche when I write…I think I’ve digressed from your question somewhat… 

Who or what was the main inspiration for the record?
Actually it’s all pretty diverse…all little moments from my life when I’ve been inspired to jot things down…but I did want to string it all together in a kind of narrative…a bizarre little show in a provincial seaside theatre starring Sharon. 

In an ideal world, how would you like Pinkie to work? Is it frustrating that you have to put records out when you can, rather than when you want?
I suppose the Pinkie set up is pretty much ideal…I put records out at my own pace and Planting Seeds have been really respectful of that…of course it would be nice to financially support my art by its proceeds…but hey I’m sure poverty is far more inspirational.  

Are you bursting with songs?
I’m certainly bursting with nervous energy.  My mind is like a large reservoir of songs…and every now and then I carefully prize back the sluice gates and let some of the songs pour out.

Who is influencing Pinkie at the moment?
Well musically..Lovejoy, Harper Lee and the Trembling Blue Stars…but then that’s a little incestuous as they’re my friends..but on a wider scale I’m still being influenced by the Beatles, Byrds, Serge Gainsburg, Francoise Hardy, The Nigel Brooks Singers, David Holmes, Morrisey, Mull Historical Society and the Sugababes to name a random sample.  I’m also being influenced psychically by Peter Sellers, Keith Moon and Ian Botham.   

Do you see Pinkie as a persona....or just a working name?
I see it as an artistic movement...just with no artists and not much movement.  However if there is anyone out there who wants to get involved we could do some installation art together…like a bed…very nicely made with a duvet….with extra togs for those cold winter nights.  I’ve explained the name before so I won’t bore you all again… but suffice to say it sums up the look of innocence containing smouldering brooding menace…I’d better stop there…I’m scaring myself.  

What do you do for a day job?
I’ve been desperately racking my brains to think of a good lie for this one…but sometimes only the truth will do… by day I am a mild mannered Civil Engineer…but by night I am Pinkie…righting wrongs, defeating villains and then writing songs about it…  

Would you like to give it up?
Of course not! …second thoughts - make me an offer.  I had been thinking of giving it all up and becoming a poet in
Devon (I don’t know why Devon…but it seems to go well with the poet idea) but the pay wouldn’t be great… maybe if I could sell a few more CDs. 

Would you say that your sound is quintessentially English?
Perhaps that’s for others to judge...but I certainly don’t shy away from sounding English (in spite of my Scottish stock) … there’s a kind of delicate vulnerability which comes with that territory and I can’t deny that applies to Pinkie. 

Will Pinkie ever play live?
I hope so…of course I’ve played live lots with my previous bands (Brighter, Hal and Fosca) and so it seems the natural thing to do...just waiting for someone to ask really!! 

Sam Metcalf