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Will Carruthers

I've interviewed Will Carruthers, a well known musician, a long time bassist in such great bands as Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, Spectrum, Brian Jonestown Massacre and DEAD SKELETONS (Official page), a great poet and writer, a celebrity exorcist, a book binder, a construction worker, a beautiful and interesting man, an Englishman, a Berliner who loves Island.. anyways, we were talking about a range of themes that might be interesting for today's' young people, like how to be a musician and do all kinds of odd jobs to survive at the same time (you can read more about that in his 'Book of jobs'), for older folks how was it growing up (some 25-30 yrs ago) in Rugby, England and how in Zagreb (then Yugoslavia) when things were very different in comparison to the brand new world in which we all live now and more alike although I was living in a communist country then, and then what he likes so much about Island and Islanders, what would he say what is psychedelia, what kind of music he listens to and where was he actually when I bumped into him in Austin on Levitation Festival and asked him if he knew where he was, yeah.. and many many more... next Tuesday, 28th July @15:30, Croatian local time (CEST-the same as Berlin and most of Europe), on Radio 808 www.radio808.com. For older, forgetful and lazy, there'll be a podcast, sooner or later on Radio808 web site, as soon as the site would finally be constructed.

Zagreb, August/2015

Will Carruthers was a legendary bassist in three of the most influential indie rock groups of the late 80s and early 90s, Spacemen 3, Spiritualized and Spectrum and also played with the Brian Jonestown Massacre on their tours from 2008-2010 and more recently with Icelandic group Dead Skeletons. On top of the respectable career as a musician, he is a poet, a writer, a book maker (& a book binder) and a construction site laborer and actually did all kinds of odd jobs throughout the years.
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P'o'F: Good evening Will, it is great to have you here on our show!
Will: Good evening Tina. Thank you for having me.

(After trying in vain to set an appointment for this interview and being constantly on and off-line at different times, the last day of the Levitation festival I decided to go back at the place where I've met Joel Gion and some other BJM musicians and Tony Malacara from Mystic Braves to ask about Will if anyone knows where I might find him. I approached and saw a guy sitting in a chair, he had a French cap and his head was down, so I did not see his face and I just asked: 'Excuse me, do you know, by any chance, where is...' and at that moment he lifted his head and it was Will and I told him 'I was just about to ask you if you know where you are'...)

P'o'F: You and me first became fb friends and then met briefly at Levitation festival in Austin a few weeks ago and that was a really weird encounter, don't you think?
Will: That was a very strange encounter. It was one of the strangest I've ever had. Nobody has ever tapped me on the shoulder and asked me where I was. And I wasn't even sure where I was.

P'o'F: We did not manage do this interview in Austin, even after bumping into each other, and this one was scheduled and cancelled and rescheduled so hopefully, now is finally our time. Well, you've been in Reykjavik since Austin, so how is life under the northern lights, how are your dear friends over there and what is so special & magical about Reykjavik and Iceland?
Will: Well, it is difficult to say what is special and magical about a place, isn't it? I find special and magical things are hard to describe but I'll try. What do I like about it here? I just ended up with friends here through the Brian Jonestown Massacre and through Dead Skeletons and I spent time here rehearsing with Dead Skeletons, before we did that, that was maybe three years ago when I came in here first. I've also made other Icelandic friends from living in Berlin, I just kind of got on well with the crazy fucking Vikings somehow, you know. They don't scare easily, they're only scared of one thing and that seems to be the wind. It's quite windy here, so I can understand that.
It just makes me feel good being here, the water is really good, the air is really good, the art scene is thriving here, there are a lot of musicians, there are people getting on with making things and their countryside is very, very beautiful here. It's all volcanos and it is just crazy and I like it here. And the mushrooms are good.

P'o'F: I have impression, from the distance, that people are very, very nice.
Will: I find them very straightforward, if they like you, they say they like you and if they don't like you, they tip you that as well. It's kind of nice to know. I like my friends here.

P'o'F: Your exciting years with Spacemen 3, Spiritualized and Spectrum are mostly well known to the fans of those bands but I've noticed you left both bands before the albums you were working on at the moment were completed and you went to work a construction job on a building site or some other kinds of odd jobs. Your highly regarded new book 'A Book of Jobs' which you made entirely by hands, is a collection of autobiographical tales about your time with various bands and the accounts of the realities of life doing various jobs in between the tours, just to get by over the years and ridiculousness of it all. Please, tell us about your writing, the art included and the whole process of producing these spectacular books by hands.
Will: I mean, the books, I made them by hand because I'm difficult. And I injured my leg in an Icelandic wrestling incident with the drummer of Dead Skeletons so I couldn't walk. I tore the ligaments in my knee so I couldn't actually go work on the construction site which is what I normally always did after being in a band. Because it was very hard to make a living, ever, to make a living as a musician, I never really made a living. So, I'd make an album, go on tour and then finally come back and I'd be like, 'Okay, how do I make a living?' I never had a career planned out, so it would just be odd jobs. So I started working in construction, eventually, because it was flexible. I could go on tour and then come back and get a job. I mean, after this tour with Dead Skeletons I couldn't really go on to work in construction because I've injured my knee. So, I had this book of poetry written and I was like 'Okay, how am I going to make this into a book that I actually can be proud of?' Because I worked with my hands so many years, not just playing the bass but plastering, doing odd jobs, learning how to do things with my hands. I thought maybe I can make a book. How hard can it be, right? Is that very optimistic idea that it's easy to do things till you start to? I went on YouTube and I found some videos on how to make books. And I found that maybe it wasn't this difficult as I thought. You don't really need any specialist tools to do it. I made the tools out of old IKEA furniture that I sawed up. So I made the tools and I made them in the kitchen table. I used linoleum prints for the printing for the fact that linoleum is cheap. You just need a chisel to carve it and I like to carve sometimes so I made the linoleum prints and I glued them all up and I just enjoyed the book making. It feels like a nice old tradition and it's something that I can make books that I would never be able to afford to produce in small numbers. I set a hundred books and to get those manufactured would be impossible, it would cost a fortune to turn out as nicely as I wanted them to be. So if I make them it gives me an opportunity to make them as I want them. It took me two months to make the first book.

P'o'F: You had a book reading in Berlin just before going to Austin and another one in Reykjavik recently. How did it go?
Will: They're good, they go well. It's strange to turn up and perform for people without music. But I feel like I'm standing naked in front of people telling them how it felt to clean toilets. But, you know, it's funny, it's the way I kind of got through a lot of those jobs is by having a sense of humor about it. If you can laugh about the absurdity of your own situation and kind of step back a little bit from it, it actually becomes kind of fun.
So these stories are, even though some of the jobs are maybe the most glamorous in the world, I hope that they're funny. They're fucking funny to me now even to think about it. Everything is funny. Giving of history if it's far enough away, I don't know.

P'o'F: Your lifestyle is clearly bohemian, I'd even say beatnik in a manner of speaking.. How is Berlin, where you've settled for the last seven years, treating you?
Will: Well, since I've lived in Berlin, I've been strangled, I've been maced, I've had my heart broken, I've been so drunk I could not see... Probably most of those things are my fault. I think that Berlin is kind of sociopathic town. I think what you see in it, is what it reflects to you in some ways. Or maybe that's just my opinion.
P'o'F: And how about the art scene…
Will: I don't really know. I'm not acquainted with the art scene. I just stay in my kitchen and make art there. I find a lot of people talk about art in the bars there. And I find that most people don't make as much art as they might if they were not talking about making art.
P'o'F: Do you hang out with Anton (Newcombe)?
Will: I see Anton, he's a good friend of mine and I see him and sometimes we go around for a dinner. I mean I have connections in the art scene. There is my good friend Uli Schueppel he is a film maker there, he made a film 'Te Road to God Knows Where' about Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds touring US. I had a poem published in my friend Alisa Resnik's book. She won a European Publisher Award for photography for her project called 'One Another', so I do have friends within the art scene, but most people have proper jobs.

P'o'F: What do you think about economical / existential position of an artist in modern world, balancing between artistic endeavors & hard labor? Even if everything goes smoothly in their career, so often rock musicians blow their chances, I have some local friends who really had a chance to collaborate with a famous producer, moved out of Croatia, right at the moment when the war broke out here, but it did not work out. They kind of blow their chances..
Will: I think you've got to blow your chances really. It's more rock and roll. If you are capitalising on your carreer and talking to your accountant every five minutes …it's not very rock and roll is it? It might be nice to have a swimming pool and a mansion MAYBE, but I'm so good at not having them it would be a waste of all that practice. Who is happier, rich people or poor people? Rich people end up living in jails that they build to keep poor people out and then they build other jails to keep poor people in to stop them trying to break into the jails the rich people have built for themselves. They have done studies right, in those countries where there isn't such a huge gap between the rich and the poor and everybody is happier. You know, when it doesn't completely suck to be poor and the rich people aren't super super super rich …then everyone is happier. I'd probably rather be rich …just to see how it is for a bit. You can always go back right ?
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P'o'F: Do you think modern society should do something about that? It's a so well know story repeating for hundreds of years and still happening..-
Will: I don't know what you should do about it. I think artists should be tolerated. If you put roof over somebody's head and food in there belly, that won't guarantee happiness but it might avoid some of the worst miseries. So just to avoid worst miseries, maybe that's enough. Maybe if you look after the poor people, you'd look out after the art scene as well. There is this arguement, isn't there, that if you give people money and shelter then it works as a disincentive to work, which I am not really a great believer in. I have heard that argument in Britain a lot, but really, there is not a lot of work to actually fucking do. What happened was, they moved everybody into the cities during the industrial revolution, so they could work in the factories. They moved all of the peasants off the land using the Enclosures, and now there is no work in the cities because they shifted all the labour out to the far east or wherever else they could get stuff made cheaper. So there really isn't any more work to do in the cities but the poor people get the blame for it. You know what drives me crazy? I'm a builder, right? I could build a house; I've spent half of my life building houses for other people. You think I got a house? If I could get a little piece of land, I could build a beautiful house, I would make a work of art.

P'o'F: You left school when you were 16, is that true? I've seen that on Wikipedia. Why did you do that?
Will: When I was 16 I got to work in a sheet metal factory in Birmingham and I lived above an Irish pub.

P'o'F: Why did you do that?
Will: Because I was bored of school. The school was no longer interesting to me. I did not enjoy it anymore.- ****

P'o'F: You leave an impression of a well read and educated gentleman and you are very talented with words, very eloquent & witty, (I even enjoy reading your fb posts often) so, I guess you've been reading a lot throughout your life?
Will: Hahaha! It is very kind of you to say so but I would not say I am very well read but I like to read. I'm interested in learning.

P'o'F: You are very talented with words, very eloquent & witty, I even enjoy reading your fb posts often, I told you I'm spying on you on facebook..
Will: Everybody is spying on everybody. Everybody is famous. How does it feel to be famous? It makes me feel a bit paranoid. I have talked to people and asked them, what do you want to be? Rich and famous? Those two things are not destinations are they? They're like a means to an end. iF you don't know what the destination is why the fuck do you want to get on that road

P'o'F: Who are your favorite poets?
Will: One of my favorite poets is William Blake because he inspired me to make my own books because he was a printer by trade. He handmade his own books. He made them in editions of a 100. He's an argument against that 'if you're not specialized in what you do, you're not good at it.' I love W. Blake, I love John Clare. He was a poet from Northampton shire, from Helpston. He wrote beautifully about nature and about enclosures that eventually lead most of the peasantry being pushed off the land in Britain. I like Fernando Pessoa, Sylvia Plath. Who else do I like? I have my books with me so you can see what I like. I've managed to pick up the first edition of 'The Thief's Journal' by Jean Genet in America. I am very happy about that. It's one of my favorite books. It is an absolutely incredible book, I think. It's an incredible study in self-loath in many ways. He was adopted, John Genet. He talked about it in his books. He speaks to me very eloquently about that even though he does not actually tacitly admit to it. I've got poems by Pablo Neruda that I've bought here in Iceland. I have 'Top ten Icelandic travel tips'. I've got 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald. 'Skeleton Horse' which is like a little poetry art scene which is put together by my friend Freeman here. And he had one of my poems. I am very happy about that. Then I have Vladimir Nabokov, Malcom Lowry... I also have a book of poems and paintings from an interesting man I met here in Reykjavik in a bar. His name is Bjarni Bernhardur. His poems are great, I really like his poems.

P'o'F: Let's get back to music: Besides your history with Spacemen 3, Spiritualized and Spectrum and your solo project Freelovebabies, I'm curious about your cool collaboration with the Brian Jonestown Massacre and Dead Skeletons, could you please tell me, how did you all meet? I mean Jon Saemundur (Nonni Dead), Anton Newcombe and you?
Will: I mean, I met Jon through Anton, really. I met Anton through Spaceman 3 so it's all kind of linked through like that. I met Ricky first (Ricky Maymi of the BJM). He came to Rugby very early, in the early 90's. And then I met him on tour with Spectrum, first in San Francisco and then he toured with us in 2000 when he played the guitar with Spectrum. Through him I met Anton. Before MySpace even, in the old days when nobody even had a phone. It's hard to remember that far back. Through the magic of synchronicity and the power of music to connect people.

P'o'F: What would you say, is there a chance that you & Dead Skeletons and maybe even the Brian Jonestown Massacre might have some music project together in the future?
Will: There was talk about a split single. I mean, I've kind of retired in music. Because my ears are damaged and I'm old and the idea of sitting in a van, eating crisps… I've been in a bands for too long. I don't know, maybe. I would love to say no but I can't.

P'o'F: How do you feel about music in this digital era and what do you think about music business today?
Will: I think it is probably the best time and the worst time to be a musician really because it is very hard for musicians to sustain themselves in order to be able to make music but at the same time it is very easy to get music out and it is very easy for people to have access to music. Even to make music. I've got a studio in this lap top I'm talking to you on, you know? Ten or fifteen music, and that was impossible. So, if you want to make music, it is possible to do it. If you want to make a living out of making music, it is not so easy. In some ways, I think the quality of music has suffered because the energy is not there; people have not got the money and the time to spend to make the records as they used to do. So I think the quality in some way has kind of suffered but I think it is a good time to be a musician because, ah, what the fuck, why not…

P'o'F: What is your opinion on online radio formats?
Will: I think it is great, it's the same thing. It gives people a voice. I've been able to put out two CDs purely just by myself. Publicizing it myself. Recording it myself, which is a lot of work but it's possible to do it. The same as it was with a book. And I think it's great. I love the Internet for that, for the way you and me are talking right now for a radio station. You're talking to me about a book that I've made and I can sell. Those are not huge amounts. It makes it viable. People can do it. It's kind of strange. I didn't make money out of my music career. What I did make were friends all over the world. And I never found anywhere in this world where you can buy a good friend. It's always worth remembering these things. Sometimes you get paid in weird ways.

P'o'F: About psychedelic music, what do you think..?
Will: Psychedelia, what's that? I'm very careful with psychedelia. I save it for special occasions. I make sure I'm somewhere nice with my friends and we might put a psychedelic record on.
P'o'F: And this is a standard question I ask every musician, what do you think, could psych rock be as powerful as it was in the 60s?
Will: You know, it's funny you should mention that because I was out by a lake the other day, by a lake Þingvallavatn, which is a big lake here. We were listening to Jimi Hendrix. And I have to say that given the right circumstances and when the northen lights are in the right place in the sky, Jimmy Hendrix still sounds as good as he did in the 60's.

P'o'F: The bands you listen to, you love & respect? I've noticed on your Facebook page, there's almost no psychedelic music at all but there are all other kinds of music.
Will: I love soul music. I like old music, made by dead people. I like Mark Bolan at the moment, 'Electric Warrior', that's quite a psychedelic record. As far as new psych bands, I like The Lucid Dream, I enjoy Föllakzoid.. I saw them at Psyche fest. I don't listen to a lot of new music. How healthy iis it if everybody listens to everybody else's bands? I'm not saying it's not a good idea to check the bands, but if everyone starts to sound the same, it's boring. In Spacemen 3, we listened to very few of our contemporaries. That was kind of Rugby, because Rugby was so small. You couldn't go and be in your little garage rock scene. It wasn't big enough. There would only be one of you. You know how it is in a small town. here'd be like one punk and one goth and one rockabilly. One person of each of the youth subcultures. People kind of have to get along. I mean it was not a big town, although there was more than one hippy. I don't listen to too much of that kind of music. I appreciate bands that do it well and I recognize it when it's done well, but do I go and listen to it a lot…? Not really, but that's maybe 'cause I'm old. I stopped listening to new music. Actually I rarely listened to new music, even when I was young.

P'o'F: I have a quite personal question, at least I reckon it is personal. So, in an interview when you were asked why you leaved Spiritualized and quit playing music altogether, you've answered that you took 'a glance into your future and decided to take a long walk (a 4 years long walk). Then, when we became fb friends, one of your first posts I've seen was about a I Ching hexagram. At that moment, I recalled that answer of yours and I was quite certain you were practicing I Ching & like studying The Book of Changes. Was I right?
Will: Give me a second. (some sounds like throwing coins) What was the question, again? 'Warmth and Light are swallowed by deep Darkness: The Superior Person shows his brilliance by keeping it veiled among the masses. Stay true to your course, despite the visible obstacles ahead. You have been deliberately injured. Going blow-for-blow will only escalate this war. Abstain from vengeance. Show all watching you are above it. Sidestep the aggressor's had long charge, giving the opportunity to fall on his face. The grieving pheasant has a wounded left wing. The agent of darkness wounds the man in his left thigh. Still the man helps others to safety with the strength of a horse.'
Changing two.. Oh, I love that one. Peace. 'Heaven and Earth embrace, giving birth to Peace. The Superior Person serves as midwife, presenting the newborn gift to the people. The small depart; the great approach. Success. Good fortune.' It doesn't get any better then this. Everything is in harmony. The only thing in this one 'Peace', is that, it too, must change. So that's your answer. Yes, I do. I enjoy I Ching. I find it very gentle oracle. I don't use it all the time. But sometimes when I have difficulties I find it helpful to understand myself better and to come to peaceful solutions to problems I have in my life.

P'o'F: I enjoyed very much talking to you! Thank you for being on our show and I hope we'll meet again and I'll see you in Croatia next summer! Fingers crossed!
Will: Yeah, me too. It was a real pleasure. It's beautiful, Kristina. You did your research; you asked insightful and occasionally difficult questions. And that's a good thing.

P'o'F: I hope I'll meet you again and see you sometimes. I hope I see you in Croatia and give my regards to all your friends over there. I was talking to Nonny a month before Austin and he also agreed to talk to me for the show. So he will also be a guest one of these days, and Henrik too, from Singapore Sling.
Will: You could've got all three of us together.

P'o'F: I could've, but I wasn't courageous enough. And you know this is like maybe the tenth interview in my life. My first one was with Christian Blend in Austin and since then I've done Matt Adams from the Blank Tapes, Tony Malacara from Mystic Braves, Fernando Nuti from New Candys, Oliver Ackermann from A Place to Bury Strangers, Austrian group The Holy Spirit of Nothing, Costarican group Las Robertas, all wonderful and very interesting people . So It's getting somewhere but that first one I was literally shaking. And his manager, she was like constantly looking at her watch like I'd better hurry and it made me nervous.
Will: Why don't I got a manager in this room now looking at her watch?

P'o'F: She was a real lady dragon.
Will: OK, I've got a dragon. Where'd I put that dragon? Somewhere, I think it's in the lake.

terapija // 14/09/2015


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