INTERVIEW: Tim Smith and Kavus Torabi
As an introduction to the people that doesn’t know you, What is CARDIACS?
Tim– Cardiacs is our life and everything we do, and everything we have ever done. We are getting old now. Quite old, but it’s everything we do, everything we have ever done since we were tiny. We play a kind of music that we are very very proud of and love more than life. A kind of music that apparently makes people hate us with a terrifying vengeance, or love us so dearly and passionately that it becomes a worry. No in-betweens. But to us it’s just tunes. Lovely tunes. Tunes are important in life.
Far beyond ‘rock prog-punk-pop’ nonsense labels, How do you DEFINE your music?
Tim– You’d think we might have come up with an easy, understandable answer to that question by now, we’ve obviously been asked it so many times. It would be such a good idea to have an answer to it, it would help us, and it would help people reading this interview, but no. Can’t do it. Pop? Is it pop music? I think that might be it. Pop that no one else seems to have dreamed of yet.
Kavus – I think the hardest thing for most musicians to do is define their music, not that we’re not aware of labels that get put on us, but when you’re playing or in particular writing stuff, your mind just doesn’t think that way. It’s funny because although we can be really slippery and try to wriggle out of categorising just-what-the-fuck-it-is-that-we-do, if someone does come up with some sort of suggestion as to “What this far out sound might be’ that’s slightly off the mark, I just think… “Christ, they don’t have a clue”, which is unfair because music is so subjective.
It sounds like it comes out of dreams sometimes. The music of Cardiacs seems to get right down into the guts of what this whole crazy life is about, while not actually seeming to be about anything.
Tim and I were at a party a few years ago and this Scottish guy asked him, “you’re Tim Smith, no?” and then added, “Your music is BIG LIFE”. I think he pretty much had it nailed.
It has to be hard to rehearse such a complex music… How do you face REHEARSALS? Is that the reason why you only play a few shows every year?
Tim– Rehearsals are just our excuse to have a big love-in. Have big fun. Then we have to practice playing tunes at some point. The music isn’t that tricky anyway. If we can play it then it can’t be.
Kavus – For me this is the easiest band I’ve been in, not in terms of the complexity of the stuff necessarily, but rehearsals are such a joy. Everyone knows how great the stuff is, and, you know, it’s not really a question of fucking around with the tunes after they’ve been recorded… That’s how they go.
It’s a joy for me to be playing this stuff , being that Cardiacs was always my favourite band anyway. As for the “few shows every year” situation, circumstance has dictated the frequency of live shows for the last five years or so but we’ve turned a corner with that now. You should be seeing a lot more of us this year.
What’s the main INSPIRATION in your music and lyrics? Favourite bands and influences?
Tim – Really don’t know what inspires me personally. Cups and saucers?…erm…big eggs? I like all sorts of music. Literally. If I like the tune that is. Fave bands? I got plenty of them, but I can’t say that any of them ‘influence’ me as such, but I’ll nick someone else’s idea at the drop of a hat if I like it. I have no shame.
Do you feel happy being a CULT band?
Tim – I feel fine, thank you for asking. We can do what we want when we want. Cult just means ‘not very famous’ and if that equals being able to make the tunes of your choice then ‘cult’ is a good thing for us to be.
Kavus – For me it’s not a problem….there’s always a bit of cool attached to being a cult band, not that I’m bothered about that, but all the groups I like tend to fall into that category. If being a cult band means you get to operate on your own terms without being told “I don’t hear any singles on this album” or “Not bad, but perhaps you could lose a couple of minutes off the end” then fine.
What is THE ALPHABET BUSINESS MUSIC CONCERN?
Tim – I don’t really know.
Kavus – I personally don’t have any dealings with them. Alphabet have not spoken to me once since I’ve joined. I wouldn’t go as far as calling them names, because it would be like biting the hand that feeds, except they don’t feed. So it’s more like glassing the eye that bleeds I suppose. I don’t know if they even like me or not. I’ve never met anyone involved. It’s a strange set up but it seems to work. Sort of.
I’ve read somewhere you are working on a NEW studio album (and maybe a new live album too), what can you tell me about it? What will be the vibe of the new record?
Tim – yes we are working on a new album. It will be different to all the other albums but it will also be the same old shit. I think all our albums all have totally different vibes to each other while at the same time being, as I said, the same old shit. Our loyal fans always tend to moan about a new release until they get used to it. Then luckily they seem to come around and think it’s the best one yet. We’ll see what happens with the next one. We like it so far. If we didn’t then it wouldn’t get to see the light of day.
Kavus – Yes we’re working on a new album, sort of like the old stuff but with more silver paint and a ray gun. I tell you what though, we did some gigs a year or so ago and only played material from ‘76- 81, about 35 songs in all, most of which was never recorded properly in those days and a lot of stuff that was never recorded at all. The point is, we recorded the gigs and they’ll be available through us as two live albums in March. But God man….they sound great.
I’d like to TIME TRAVEL to the origins of Cardiacs. How do you recall your first steps as Cardiac Arrest?
Tim – We were babies. Tiny pink shitting screaming sicking babies. So like all babies my memory of such a time is very abstract. Best not mentioned really. But none of us were what you’d call ‘musicians’ really. We just shared a similar idea. Whatever that was. Whatever that still is.
Apart from you extraordinary music (that’s how I would catalogue it), you’ve been a band with an intense an unique appearance, specially in your first years, with those strange suits and the make-up. What can you tell me about that shocking LOOK?
Tim – Thank you for calling us extraordinary. We were not aware that we looked strange back then. The strange suits and make up we wore in those days was us just trying to look our best. We read somewhere that pop groups were suppose to look their best so we were told to do it. Maybe we got it a bit wrong.
I still remember the Seaside Treats video as one of the most HYPNOTIZING experiences in my life, with those strange stories about The Consultants Flower Garden and those wicked clips? Again… what was on your mind while shooting those little films?
Tim – I remember big eggs being on my mind. Most of the footage was shot while we were unaware. We didn’t know what a camera really was back then. We were told it was a machine that made you prettier than nature intended.
Kavus – I remember the first time I saw it I was about 17, and Cardiacs was already my favourite band. I lived in a city in the South West of England and had never seen the band live, in fact the only picture I’d seen of them was the cover of Cardiacs Live. So I’d been banging on about this amazing group to anyone who’d listen, when a friend bought Seaside treats. I remember going around there to watch it and afterwards thinking “Oh Christ. What the fuck have I let myself in for with this lot…
” Hmmm… What about your personal ‘obsession’ about ANIMALS in your songs, specially dogs and horses?
Tim – I wasn’t aware that I had one, but they do tend to crop up from time to time, you’re right. But I don’t know why.
I’d like to know your personal opinion about some of my fav Cardiacs MEMBERS of your past and present history: Mr.TIM QUY the amazing WILLIAM D. DRAKE your wife SARAH Sir JON POOLE and specially, your brother JIM. What about your ‘special relationship’?
Tim – I love them all. They are my special family.
Let’s talk a little about three of my fav Cardiacs side PROJECTS… What can you tell me about…? THE SEA NYMPHS SPRATLEY’S JAPS OCEANLANDWORLD
Tim The Sea Nymphs was me Sarah and William. Sarah was Cardiacs sax player and William the keyboards player. We set up some old fashioned recording equipment in the woods in Winter time many years ago and recorded some songs that were covered in snails. I think it is a beautiful album. We got very wet during that time. We also recorded a whole lot more at that time that was never released. I think it will be some day now.
Spratleys Japs was a strange bunch of people I got to record an album with. It was written and produced by me and recorded in this weird old studio in the New Forest. The studio had lots of Rats in it and they watched us all the time. Sniffing and scratching, and the wires in the studio would gurgle and spit. I like this album very very very much. The ‘Oceanland’ album is just something I recorded on my own many years ago as a sort of punishment. I suppose it’s a ‘solo’ album, but it’s just songs. It’s in no way the kind of stuff that I felt HAD to be a solo project.
I would also love to know your opinion about some of your finest ALBUMS. Just a quick thought about it, if you don’t care. *BIG SHIP/TOO MANY IRONS EPs (later on “Songs for Ships and Irons” album)* *-A LITTLE MAN AND A HOUSE AND THE WHOLE WORLD WINDOW* *-ON LAND AND IN THE SEA* *-HEAVEN BORN AND EVER BRIGHT* *-SING TO GOD* *-GUNS* *(If you had to choose just one, what would be your favourite one, Tim?)*
Tim I like them all for their own reasons. Sorry. However, I will defend one of them as it wasn’t so well received when it popped out and that one is ‘Heaven Born And Ever Bright’. I think it came out exactly how it was intended to. A lot of people seem to think it was a bit of an accident. ‘Guns’ as well, I will defend that fucker to the muddy grave.
Now you’ve been on tour supporting THE WILDHEARTS. What can you tell me about the experience? Do you consider the possibility of working with Ginger or Jon Poole again?
Kavus – We all loved the Wildhearts tour, It’s the first one I’ve done with the band as Guitarist rather than “stage artfulness” and for me it was certainly my favourite. I hope I’m not going to spoil The Wildhearts reputation when I say that the entire band and crew and their audiences were darlings. I didn’t want it to end. We went down pretty well…not just for a support band, their fans were genuinely shocked, baffled but also really into it as well. I loved watching The Wildhearts themselves, they’re like an oiled machine live, just always on top form, and Jon really fits in well with them. He’s like the New White Bald Rock Messiah or something. Jon came on and played Big Ship with us on the last night and Ginger joined us for the solo in Is This The Life which was a gem. It sounds corny, but we had to do it….a real rock comraderie moment.
Oh, and this is a very special one for me too: please, name some of your favorite FILMS AND BOOKS and give me (if you want) a quick impression about it.
Tim – Kavus will think you meant rock albums when you said films because he’ll do that with anything because he always wants to talk about rock. If you asked him what his favourite eye was he’d talk about rock. Or his arm…again.
Kavus – Here’s a few that spring to mind. Books: The Third Policeman-Flann O Brien, Franny and Zooey-JD Sallinger, Decline and Fall- Evelyn Waugh. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller- Italo Calvino, Siddartha-Herman Hesse, 100 Years of Solitude- Gabriel Garcia Marquez. New York Trilogy-Paul Auster, A Prayer for Owen Meany- John Irving. The Outsider- Albert Camus, All Quiet on The Orient Express- Magnus Mills… …Albums: Leg End- Henry Cow, Speechless- Fred Frith… actually almost every record Frith’s been involved with…he’s like my Elvis. Pony Express Record- Shudder to Think. Song Cycle- Van Dyke Parks. Reign in Blood- Slayer. The first few Gong albums. Most XTC stuff. Torture Garden- Naked City. Dopesmoker/Jerusalem- Sleep. The first 8 Black Sabbath albums. Rise and Fall-Madness. The Marble Index- Nico. Anything by Magma or Mike Patton. Gluey Porch Treatments- Melvins. Nothingface- Voivod. Rock Bottom- Robert Wyatt. Loveless- My Bloody Valentine. Les Bucher Des Silences- Valentin Clastrier. Daydream Nation- Sonic Youth. The first Stray Cats album. Close to the Edge- Yes. Leave Home- Ramones. American Don-Don Caballero, An Electrical Storm-White Noise. Forever Changes- Love, Laughing Stock and Spirit of Eden by Talk Talk and Mark Hollis’ solo album. Chiastic Slide- Autechre….Is this getting boring yet? I could go on…I’m such a “fan”. Weasels Ripped My Flesh/Uncle Meat/ Burnt Weeny Sandwich- Zappa/Mothers. Frisbee- Heavy Vegetable, plus the two Thingy Albums. A Can of Bees- The Soft Boys and Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica.
THANX AD INFINITUM!
Tim – thank you very much
Kavus – Thank you it’s been fun
All the best,
ALBERTO DIAZ (Popular1 Magazine. Barcelona, Spain)