Interview with Janet Beveridge Bean (Eleventh Dream Day)

EDD (left-to-right: Jim Elkington, Rick Rizzo, Doug McCombs, Mark Greenberg and Janet Beveridge Bean)

EDD (left-to-right: Jim Elkington, Rick Rizzo, Doug McCombs, Mark Greenberg and Janet Beveridge Bean)

Eleventh Dream Day have certainly been no strangers to these pages over the last twelve or so years – for which this writer makes no apologies.  As a quintessential gang of underground rock survivors, the Chicagoans should by rights always be mentioned in the same breath as Sonic Youth and Yo La Tengo when it comes to carving out a consistent, diverse and inspirational body of work over several decades, whilst remaining artistically resolute despite the fickle ups and downs of the music industry.

Now with thirty or so years on the clock together, the trio of Rick Rizzo (vocals/guitar), Janet Beveridge Bean (vocals/drums) and Doug McCombs (bass) – augmented by latter-day recruits Mark Greenberg (keys/production) and Jim Elkington (guitar/keys) – show no signs of losing galvanising gifts for dynamic interplay and intrepid songcraft, as the freshly released Works For Tomorrow album on Thrill Jockey admirably attests.  Arguably the band’s strongest card since 2000’s stellar Stalled Parade, the new long-player packs in everything from motorik grooves and Sticky Fingers-touched rock ‘n’ soul to vintage psyche-pop and dishevelled glam-rock, to be refracted through EDD’s trademark guttural synergy and elegiac languor.

Having already conferred with the affable Rick Rizzo and the inimitable Doug McCombs in past DOA feature capacities, time seemed ripe to swap some emailed Q&A with Janet Bean too, who has been responsible for many key songwriting triumphs and transcendental vocal contributions throughout EDD’s epically-strung history.  Satisfyingly, Janet was more than happy to effusively share the inside stories woven into Works For Tomorrow, to reveal news on the forthcoming return of her equally long-serving country-folk alter-ego outfit with Catherine Irwin (Freakwater, of course) and to reflect thoughtfully upon her lengthy career arc to date.

Your interviewer’s only minor regret is not remembering to quiz Janet about The Horse’s Ha (her criminally overlooked amorphous folk-based enterprise with Jim Elkington), not researching enough in advance to discover her promising new post-rock-noire project Lagarth and not asking what has influenced her invigorating drumming over the years.  Still, there’s always a next time with the Eleventh Dream Day extended-family story, even if the chapters are often several years apart…

I’ve read that you workshopped some or all of the songs for Works For Tomorrow at live shows over a period year or so before recording them. How did that inform the spirit of the album and how did the songs evolve from the formative on-stage renditions to the final studio versions?

We have workshopped songs in almost all the ways there are to workshop songs. We’ve written them while on the road then worked them up during soundcheck as on Beet and we’ve created them fully in the studio as on Eighth. We’ve written them in a practice space then recorded them in the studio on El Moodio, and we’ve beaten them out in month long residencies on both Riot Now! and the new one, Works For Tomorrow.

Residencies are a great experience and a very helpful tool for honing work. While they are live shows in front of paying fans you approach them, and does the audience, with an awareness that this is the time and place to bring new material together, to experiment, all the while gaining that rush of adrenaline that gives you the extra shot of energy and excitement that can come from nothing other than playing in front of a crowd of enthusiastic humans.

What you gain by a residency is a less stress-filled place, to take a chance on trying something out. In EDD whenever something goes from practice to the stage I tend to push the tempo, sometimes to the songs detriment. Playing it, say on a Thursday in front of an audience, then getting back into the rehearsal space in between having to get back out the next Thursday to do it again, allows me a better understanding of which tempo does the tune the most justice. Often it lies somewhere between the live version and the rehearsed version. For Rick, I think residencies give him a chance to work out how to approach vocals differently. When you hear your voice through a full PA coming back to you with the expansiveness created from a larger venue space it’s a different beast and one that you feel freer to unleash.

Were any stage-tested songs discarded along the way?

We did not end up putting everything we recorded on the record and a couple tunes, both “Vanishing Point” and “Requiem For 4 Chambers” were both written after the residency. Because of the timing of outside projects, we weren’t able to record till a year after the residency. While not all tracks made it on to the record, I believe they will be available at some point.

Outside of the long-running central trio of your good self, Doug and Rick, how important were the roles of Mark Greenberg who has been with you since Zeroes And Ones and brand new recruit Jim Elkington to the record? To these ears, it sounds like they brought a lot of extra texture to the recordings, to the point where Works For Tomorrow feels like it represents the best blend of EDD’s live energy and knack for studio exploration.

Mark is such a talented and joyful human being that you can’t help but be affected by his playing and his presence. Both he and Jim have a very keen ear for knowing what to do, where to place that perfect nugget of sound that pricks your ears right during a point where you think you know the theme. I’ve always been a fan of the textures an organ can create on a tune and of those odd little synth sounds that do just what I mentioned. Mark does those things brilliantly all while being one of the funniest and sweetest humans I have had the pleasure of knowing.

The Horse's Ha circa 2013 (Left: Jim Elkington / Right: Janet Bean)

The Horse’s Ha (Jim Elkington / Janet Bean)

Jim on the other hand is mean as a piss ant! No, no – just kidding. Jim is a very dear friend, also funny as hell and an entirely stand-up guy. It could also be argued that working with him in The Horse’s Ha has taught me more about singing than any other project. He and I have been working as musical collaborators since 2003, I think. We’ve made two records together as The Horse’s Ha, he has played in Freakwater regularly, and now he is in EDD. Which I couldn’t be happier about. He is a beast on guitar and is the perfect foil to Rick’s visceral and intuitive style. Jim has such an expansive repertoire of styles he’s mastered and has a musicality like no other musician I personally know. He can play drums equally as well as guitar. He can play keyboards or horns… whatever it is; he can play it. Not just play it, but excels at it. The only problem with his talent is that he is in such high demand to play with other folks that he doesn’t have enough time to work on his own music. Jim’s songs have a mesmerizing elegance of sound and lyric for me and a labyrinthine structural style that is anything but simple, but when it settles into my ear it refuses to leave. He’s a bit of a freak of nature and sent from the devil to be the new Pied Piper leading us all toward something that I haven’t quite figured out.

How much did the choice of Wilco’s The Loft studio impact on the construction of the album?

It was such a pleasure to work at The Loft. We’ve all been friends with the members of Wilco for a long time and both Mark and Jim have very close relationships with Jeff and The Loft. Mark manages The Loft and Jim plays in Tweedy and is brought in to play on other projects that use The Loft to record. Just this past spring he was brought into play on Richard Thompson’s newest record. So, mainly what we gained was a world class recording experience on a third world budget.

To me, the new album feels more of a natural successor to Stalled Parade, than perhaps Zeroes And Ones and Riot Now! were, certainly in terms of diversity and group dynamics. Would you agree?

When I read this question I had to go back and look at the tracklisting for Stalled Parade. Actually I had to look at it for Zeroes And Ones and Riot Now! as well. Without out being too sentimental or earnest about it I would say those three records were each written during very different periods of our lives. In retrospect it is easy for me to see that. I think Stalled Parade had a good sampling of the types of things we do best. Although, I think my contribution “Bite The Hand” was a tune that feels like it has no home really. I think it was a song that I wrote because I felt like I needed to contribute something other than “Valrico74”. It is a strange little pop song that for me feels incredibly dark and honestly pains me to listen to.

Eleventh Dream Day in 2015

Zeroes And Ones comes off to me as less expansive and a more concise tune-driven record. I like some of the tunes a great deal and feel it was a branching out for Rick in song structure and use of chorus. It feels a bit like we’re at the foot of a bridge we’re about to cross. Maybe Riot Now! is the middle of that bridge. Riot Now! was a changing point for me personally. I felt a sense of freedom on how I approached the songs, how I sang the songs. I began to evaluate the history of my musical career in terms of my being a woman. I began to think of all the times I was asked by labels – Thrill Jockey not being one of them – to pose or dress for photo shoots or videos in ways I was not comfortable; or when told, after Atlantic did not break the single from El Moodio, “Makin’ Like A Rug”, that the reason it did not do well is that girls were just not very popular at the moment.

The nadir of this time came when I was asked to do a photo shoot with the famous fashion photographer Victor Skrebneski. It was for a newspaper piece titled something like ‘Women of Substance And Style’.  Apparently this meant Skrebneski’s sense of substance and style, which was me in a tube-top with ridiculously long diamond earrings. I cringe at the thought of that shoot. Standing there with maybe a hundred assistants, Skrebneski telling me to make a baby face and that I looked so young that these could be my baby pictures?!?! Hell, I was young. I was maybe 27? I evaluated why I allowed these things to happen and came to the realization that it was simply a matter of that age old issue girls and women have: we are taught to be nice, to be mannerful and agreeable especially in those situations where our femininity is in question. While this reflection began during the Riot Now! period, creating a sense of rage and acknowledgement of my wasted time, I think the fruits of coming out the other side of it are reflected on Works For Tomorrow. I am much more comfortable, and now seek, tapping into those things which are not so pretty, that sound fucked up. Some people figure this out at a young age. I wish I had, but happy to have figured it out even if late. I don’t worry anymore when a dude sees a promo shot of the band and says to me “Why do you look so mean?” when I’m actually not really looking any meaner than Doug or Rick, whom they would not say this to. If only I had been schooled by Kathleen Hanna in my early 20s! So, to return to the bridge metaphor, I think we reached the other side of the bridge with this one.

One of the most noticeable things to me about Works For Tomorrow is that your own presence is more forthright than on the last couple of records. Were you conscious of this shift?

I touched on most of this in my response to your last question. Yes, my presence is more forthright on this record. Rick has always pushed me to write more, sing more, but I can be remarkably lazy when it comes to writing. During the residency I barely sang on any of the tunes. I focused more on getting the drum parts down. Then we had the whole year before recording. That summer I knew I had to put the work in and write new tunes for Freakwater. Freakwater wanted to go into the studio with no less than fifteen new tunes. We ended up with nineteen. I wrote and home-recorded eight tunes for Freakwater over that summer. I would get up and take my sweet little teal Olivetti Lettera typewriter and guitar outside on my back patio and force myself to work for the first three hours of every day. I ended up usually working till dusk. Once the locomotive gets moving I am hard to stop, but getting it to move is not an easy task. Anyway, this momentum worked and I also bashed out “Vanishing Point” and “Requiem For 4 Chambers” during that time.

As one of your lead vocal tracks – “Vanishing Point” – opens the album strikingly.  It appears very much a ‘Janet ‘n’ Doug’ collaboration at its sonic core and perhaps the first time that EDD have really hit a motorik groove.  Would you concur and can you explain its genesis? 

I wrote the riff for this tune while on a long run. On my runs I would listen to a lot of older hard driving psych rock stuff like Queens of the Stone Age, Black Mountain, Comets on Fire. There was something about the propulsive groove these bands created that were very conducive to getting me through those last few miles.  I decided I wanted to write a tune like that and really, who can deny that motorik rhythm. I told Jim about it and he said here’s what you need to do to make that happen. The band collaborated on the middle break down part and I knew I wanted the rest to be just the riff repeating itself into a hypnotic drive. Doug’s bass playing is massively propulsive on this track, but one would expect no less from Doug. He finds the magic groove and hits it hard. The words are references to a method of taking curves on a motorbike. I am a bike enthusiast and a devotee of the MotoGP. The ‘vanishing point’ is the future point where the lines of the road come together. If you see them narrowing to their vanishing point in the foreground you can open up the throttle because your vista is deep enough to know the future changes in the road. When they appear to open and do not converge, you can’t tell what’s ahead, so you need to slow down in order to handle unanticipated shifts in the road.  So, coming into the corner you try to keep a constant line that brings you back to the inside, where you lean in and take the curve. Then once you’ve gotten past the top of the arc and can see the road open up you hit the throttle and fly.

Your other lead vocal cut, is the wonderfully stomping cover of Judy Henske and Jerome Yester’s obscure psyche-rock nugget “Snowblind”.  What led you to reinterpret that song?

I learned about Judy Henske from my good friend Tim Barnes. Beyond being a remarkable percussionist, he is also a music fan of deep proportions and has a radio show out of Louisville, Kentucky I often stream called Fly Closer To The Sun on ArtX FM. One day, while I was listening and driving he played this tune. I had to pull over because I was bouncing in my seat too high to drive. I was, right then and there, hooked. He sent me the whole record, Farewell Aldebaran. I proceeded to play “Snowblind” over and over again for a good two hours dancing as if a possession had taken place.

“Snowblind” was and remains the funnest thing ever to sing. Judy Henske has such a powerful voice. I knew I was taking a risk by covering it, but I wanted to feel how I imagined she felt when she sang the tune. Her voice is so full of piss and vinegar, but with an “I’m f**king with you” quality. I wanted to express that and feel that and how ever it came out, if I felt I had accomplished those things after tracking it regardless of pitch, I was gonna keep it. The base vocal take was the scratch and actually the first one sung. I ended up doubling it though. Mark plays drums on this track – he’s got that same ‘can play everything talent’ that Jim has – so I can be up front and attempt to channel the energies of Janis, P.J., and Poly Styrene.

EDD have delivered a strong run of covers over the years, from Brian Eno to Funkadelic to Neil Young.  Do you have any personal favourites? 

Someone recently made a pretty comprehensive list of all EDD covers and I was pretty astonished by all the ones we’ve done over the years. I have a soft spot for “Maggie’s Farm”. We played it once decades ago at a place in Chicago called The Old Town School of Folk Music. The show was something Dylan-centric and all the bands that had played up to our set did acoustic versions of Dylan tunes.  We got on and slammed out this breakneck dual guitar louder-than-hell version of “Maggie’s Farm” and people started fleeing in droves covering their ears as if their blood my pour out. It was an awesome experience. We used to cover The Urinals tune, “I’m A Bug”. I love that one too. It’s a short little blast of perfection that we encored with, what I believed might have been like eight times in a row one night.  Each time the audience called us back we played it. It was the true sense of an encore and it seemed to whip the audience into a mad frenzy. Then of course there is “Southern Pacific”, the Neil Young tune. We have pulled that one out maybe most consistently over the years. We’ve been playing it nearly as long as Neil at this point! It’s a ragged rollercoaster of a tune that barrels down the tracks with a sense that you better hold on because we’re about to jump them.

“Go Tell It” is another key highlight from the record, which many have already compared to late-‘60s/early-‘70s Rolling Stones.  What was the impetus behind that song and your particularly expansive vocals alongside Rick’s?

This tune is actually one Rick was performing during a stretch of solo shows he did before we all got together to work on the record. From the moment we tried it as a band it just clicked. Doug and I locked in and I pretended to be Frank Beard to his Dusty Hill. While I am capable of none of that stealth complexity Frank Beard manages to pass by the listener before they even know what happened, it helped me to remember to keep it simple. I had the basic backing vocals figured out before the studio, but when we played it back I just kept feeling it needed this soaring soul vocal. Mark, and this is another place where he is so integral, is my favorite person to record vocals with. He is very engaged in the process and has interesting suggestions. He loves a big pretty multi-tracked backing vocal, but also knows when it needs that other thing. He is so willing to let you get the right take. I think a few of my vocal takes where done during the mixing process. We would be mixing a tune and I would think, with each repeated listen, “this is not such a great vocal take.” Finally I said something and he said “let’s re-do them!” We set up a mic in the mixing booth and re-did them. I think that was for “The Unknowing” and “Deep Lakes”. So, on “Go Tell It” I felt very comfortable to say “let me give it my best Merry Clayton.” He was totally game. Mavis Staples records often at The Loft with Jeff.  She keeps a little honey bear with her name on it, filled with golden honey in the kitchen cupboard. Mark suggested I take a swig of Mavis honey and give it my best. I owe it all to Mavis’ sweet sweet honey!

What do you think has made your vocal interaction with Rick such an important part of EDD’s alchemy over the years?

I think of our vocal interaction owes a bit to the concept of ‘lou mei.’  Lou mei is this Chinese master soup stock that is never discarded, but only grows with flavor from the endless ingredients added to it over hundreds of years.  When I started singing with Rick, and calling it singing at that point is being very generous, I had no understanding of harmony. To boot, playing the drums is not conducive to singing.  There are only a few famous singing drummers out there and I am always baffled how at ease they sound while doing it.  Anyway, over the years, just sticking with it and adding to it what I learned while singing with Catherine in Freakwater, then later with Jim in The Horse’s Ha, just contributed to our own version of lou mei. People have said we sound like Exene and John at times, which I agree with, at least on certain types of song we write. Maybe, like Exene and John, there is this elusive element gained from having been intimate with each other, then not, then coming out the other side. Sometimes, on certain lines, I think we are attempting to communicate to each other as much as convey a song to an audience.

“Requiem For 4 Chambers” feels like the closest EDD have ever come to glam-rock, albeit at the darker Ziggy Stardust/Aladdin Sane end of the spectrum.  What do you think inspired you all there musically? 

I wrote this, the music anyway, for Freakwater. I have always musically lived in this space between these two bands that do very different things. I will write something for Freakwater that sounds a bit out of character, maybe a bit too rock/pop or something. Yet, the same song would be a bit out of character for EDD; a bit too acoustic folk/country. This is one of those tunes. I gave it to Rick to see if he could wrangle it into something suitable for EDD. I think he did an excellent job of it. It sounds unique for us in a certain sense, but has the monstrous quality that fits with what we do.

You composed the lyrics to the song but Rick sings lead vocals – why did you choose to do that? 

We have done this approach before. As early as our first EP on “Not The Ballad Of A Girl”, then there’s “Albert C. Sampson” (which we also did in Freakwater), then again in “Bagdad’s Last Ride” and I’m sure there are others I’ve written and he’s taken the lead.

What inspired your writing with the song?

Lyrically it came about after I drew a heart shape on a window covered in winter condensation. The window was partly below ground and in the fingered outline of the heart it went from sunlight, to snow, to covered plant-life, to dirt. That image set up the songs motif and from there it sort of wrote itself. A heart being something that lives within us and needs our blood to pound, yet seems to act against its own best interests by torturing its host [which] seemed like a good theme for a little proverb on behavior.

What’s your interpretation of Rick’s lyrics to “The People’s History” and “Works For Tomorrow”?  The songs seem interlinked in some way…

I think on many of Rick’s contributions the theme is continuums. I believe in “The People’s History” he even uses the phrase “time line.” I sense there’s a bit of ‘coming to terms’ in progress on a lot of this record for Rick that originates from how our own personal past is in part predicated on histories that came before that, without even knowing their existence, informs who you are. Perhaps, if one is lucky enough, this is an awareness that comes to most when they reach a point in their life; that point when the vista of the continuum is made clearer.  “The People’s History” seems to about summing up the courage to face this tethered existence to our double helix. It’s like the Chinese master stock I mentioned except this stock is also filled with things that make it less palatable, less easy to swallow yet there is still an undeniable richness that makes it something we go back to.

How involved were you all with the archival album New Moodio in 2013?  Did its release bring back a lot of good and bad memories of your time bobbing in and out of the major label orbit?

I had very little to no involvement in releasing New Moodio other than agreeing with Rick that it should be done and feeling lucky that Comedy Minus One showed interest. It was highly reaffirming listening to the tracks on New Moodio. “Dakota” is such a powerhouse of a tune! It makes me wonder if we had just gone our own way at that point and not gotten back on the sinking ship, which was Atlantic for us at the time, we would have been better suited. I think the beauty of EDD, and I can say this with full honesty, is that we have only focused on the joy of playing together. Maybe had we set up more commercial goals we might have sold more records, but ultimately our goal was the unspoken pleasure we each derive from playing in this band.

Might there be any further archival EDD releases?  Your debut EP is crying out for a decent reissue just for starters…

I will have to go back and listen to the first EP. I don’t think we will actively set out to re-release stuff, but if we were approached I am sure we would be happy to go along. One day we will own the rights to the Atlantic releases. I would love to remaster and release Lived To Tell again. I also think Ursa Major is a fine moment for us and could stand the test of time through a reissue.

With thirty or so years on the EDD clock how do you feel about the band’s place in history?  Do you ever wish that you had achieved greater success or does the fact you’ve stuck together for so long with relatively little compromise to nail down such a strong body of work feel like a greater achievement?

Well, I know I am a happy person and have a satisfying sense of fulfilment from my work. It’s work I feel proud to have helped create with some remarkably talented people.  If we had achieved greater commercial success and I also felt happy and proud of it all, that would have been OK too. There is definitely satisfaction in sustaining something for the pure joy of it, but really it has not been a challenge to keep EDD going. It’s been something that feels utterly natural and as much a part of my life as having my morning coffee.

What are your own most-loved albums from EDD’s back catalogue?

There are certain tunes I love very much off of each record, but as far as my favorite LP, I think it is Ursa Major. It sounds like a band that’s at a peak and stretching itself very comfortably in their own skin. With that said I am immensely happy with Works For Tomorrow. I think, given its raging quality, Works For Tomorrow is a fun listen. It drives in a steady way. It’s more of a blast coal-fired furnace while Ursa Major is more solar-powered.

Given the positive reception and momentum around Works For Tomorrow, might the next record be quicker to appear or will it still depend on you finding the right moment in your collective schedules, even if it takes another few years?

When Charlie calls with another crime to solve the Angels will get together. This can be next year or not. We have no need to worry about maintaining a momentum audience wise. It’s just a matter of having the songs.

What can you tell us about the new even longer-awaited Freakwater record that you’ve been working on? When is it due to surface? What took you so long?

Freakwater circa 2005 (Left: Janet Bean / Right: Catherine Irwin)

Freakwater circa 2005 (Janet Bean & Catherine Irwin)

Thrill Jockey released our Feels Like The Third Time record for its 20th anniversary in 2013. Catherine and I decided to head out and just play the record in its entirety in 2014 (we’re always a little behind in the game). We took Jim Elkington along with us and it was a super fun and musically satisfying experience. Catherine and I felt reinvigorated singing together and we were getting this great response.

When we got off of that tour we decided to make another record.  We knew though that we wanted to change somethings up and to maybe learn from past mistakes, past lack of better judgement. Catherine still lives in Louisville, Kentucky and had been playing with some very talented players down there. We thought let’s try putting together a proper band, one that will be intact for touring and that can put in the solid hours together to get the most out of the tunes.

We then decided we needed a fresh shot in the arm and it was time to move to another label. As much of a history with Thrill Jockey and love for Bettina we have, it felt like a needed move. We signed with Bloodshot. They were so enthusiastic and ready to give us whatever we needed to get it done that it in turn fueled us to write and record a double album’s worth of material. We recorded it in Louisville at La La Land. I think we captured a certain languid swaggery vibe that also captures the essence of Louisville.  A 7” from the record will come out this fall and the LP will be released the end of January or first part of February.  We are having a hard time waiting till then! Warren Ellis from the Dirty Three and Nick Cave’s many configurations, plays some beautiful violin and alto flute on some of the tracks too! To answer the “what took you so long?” question, Catherine in the meantime released another solo record and I released two records with The Horse’s Ha. I wouldn’t say we were on hold or anything. It was more that we operate like a slow pouring molasses. It takes a long time between when the syrup hits the rim of the jar to the pancake.

With EDD and Freakwater, what have been the benefits and challenges of being part of two parallel but very different band operations over the years?

In Freakwater I get to sing narrative tunes that take their time to unfold. The way those songs are put across is less about the music and more about the combination of our voices. Freakwater utilizes open space to let our voices do this thing I like to imagine is the aural version of those fireworks that explode into a million points of fiery light and bring forth an audible ‘awww’ sound from the crowd. Freakwater is about voice and story. EDD is about the visceral, muscular nature of sound through electric amplification. EDD elicits emotion from external instruments: what is said is through the guitars and drums. The lyrics are merely there to reinforce what is already being musically said. The benefit of these two projects paralleling each other is they provide me with the ability to express myself both ways.

I would like to hope my lyrical style has developed and taken different courses over the years. As someone who enjoys reading and the process of writing it would be difficult and a bit stultifying to remain static in a style. Certainly on Prairie School Freakout a song like “The Death of Albert C. Sampson” is pure narrative form, but I also think “Requiem For 4 Chambers”, on our new record, is somewhat narrative as well. It’s the simple story on the vagaries of the heart.  Then there is a song like “Vanishing Point” off Works For Tomorrow. That’s a style I’ve never explored before; just three very short lines repeated over and over “I’m gonna take it on the inside. I’m gonna take it slow. Gonna take it slow…” I was trying to capture the hypnotic nature of assembly line machinery with the music and a lyrical phrasing that enforced that seemed the right thing to do.

So, to answer the question I don’t think my writing has moved from more narrative to more minimal/allegorical necessarily, but I hope it has expanded and matured. I suppose if I had to pick a style I am most drawn to creating it would be the narrative. I love story! On the last Horse’s Ha record I wrote a tune about a race horse injured on the track and faces being put to death, but the track vet spares the beast and takes her to his farm where things just go downhill for both of them. That tune was like twelve verses or something ridiculous. The world doesn’t want that kind of endless song very often, and by the sales of that record perhaps never! So, I try to throw other types of songs in the mix every now and again so I can throw in that bizarre endless narrative about the unrequited love of a second rate veterinarian for a failed race horse or the daydreaming loner gambler conjuring crime while crossing the country by greyhound bus.

Would Thrill Jockey ever reissue the first Freakwater mini-album and/or your other non-album material?  In the latter respect your sublime covers of Richard & Linda Thompson’s “Withered And Died” and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” deserve to not be lost in obscurity…

I think we will, along with Bloodshot, look back into the files and start bringing out some unrecorded material, or live recorded material.  I would love for Thrill Jockey to re-release our older material as well. We also plan on making a double live record next year with one side of it just being the banter between Catherine and I that has been recorded during our live shows over the years. So get ready cuz it’s gonna be a live comedy country record!

Do you have any urge to make another solo album one day?

Speaking of re-releasing things and solo records; I would love to re-release Dragging Wonder Lake. The players on that record are phenomenal. Jim Baker’s piano solo on the Neil Young tune “Soldier” that I covered conjures Thelonious Monk in a serious way. Everyone on it is so good. I am still in the red with Thrill Jockey on it, but one day I hope to buy it back and put it out. And yes maybe one day I will make another solo record.

Does Rick have any musical projects in the pipeline?

Rick keeps up with an ongoing project with Tara Key and also plays with Candy Gold, a bit of a super group with Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick as the drummer! Had Rick, at the age of 19, been told he would one day be in a band with a member of Cheap Trick, he might not have ended up such a humble sort.

If you had to give up music tomorrow, what would a) be your proudest moment to date and b) what would you have to do instead to fill the void?

I’m not sure I can decide on a ‘proudest moment.’ I am proud of this moment I guess you could say. This moment where I can look back on thirty some odd years of continuing to play music with people I admire and love for the sake of the music and nothing more. I think I will always be playing music even while doing other things. I have recently fallen in love with the art of weaving. I find it meditative and a process where mistakes can be turned into a new design element. I also enjoy writing and hope to dedicate more time to it in the future. With all that said, many years ago I was having breakfast with Howe Gelb and he said to me, “If you’re still in it by the time your forty, you’re in it for life.” I guess I am in it for life.