Interview with Kavus Torabi
1. First things first – who, and or, what are the Cardiacs? It’s always best to get the information from the source. .
K .Cardiacs are Tim Smith who sings the words and plays the SS guitar and invents the tunes, Jim Smith who thinks he plays the bass, Bob Leith who can play some drum sets and Kavus Torabi who plays guitar and is me.
2. I read on your web site that there is no middle listening ground with the band, you either love the sound or you hate it. And, having been to a gig I can declare to all readers that, seeing these guys perform live is like a religious experience (without the candles or the hard seats) So how does it feel to be creating music that has such a profound effect?
K. Well, obviously it feels amazing, especially for me, who had been ruined by this music for fifteen odd years before joining the band. Everybody involved in the band, from the faceless corporate ghosts of The Alphabet Business Concern down to the lowliest set dressers barely scraping by on a minimum wage, are duty bound by a love of the band’s strange rock tunes to serve “The Cause”.
For me, hearing ‘On Land And In The Sea’ was like a clarion call to haul my lazy refusenik butt from a twilight existence in the South West of this England all the way over to London and get on board with the rigmarole of making proper far out music.
That’s generally the case with everyone to do with the band. Such wonderful and unique music inspires a blind loyalty that to the….er, non converted seems, perhaps rightly, absurd.
3. It has been said that it is difficult to label the Cardiacs sound; do you think this is part of your appeal?
K. Not really, I’m surprised that more bands don’t make stuff that sounds like this although it takes a fairly dogged and stubborn approach to have kept the band going as long as it has. It’s a pity that there isn’t a term to describe what we do as it’s just tunes really, but when labels get applied they’re either way off the mark or just ghastly. I’m sure very few groups could accurately describe what they do and to be fair it’s not their job. I reckon if you’re stuck in an actual genre it’s a pain in the arse because to some degree you feel pressure to repeatedly come up with stuff that fulfils what that genre requires…. if that makes any sense. Cardiacs music is always instantly recognisable as Cardiacs, whether it’s a thrashing wall of noise or a few beautiful and gently creaking notes, and that’s a wonderful position to be in I reckon.
4. It certainly seems to draw in people from all sorts of cultures and background. In Cambridge there were punks and students and Goths in the same room…and they WEREN’T killing each other! Are you a force for world peace?
K. Or World War. Well, it’s folks just united by tunes. I think those “youth sub-cultures” are more about what you wear than what you listen to…I mean fancy only liking one kind of music. What a waste of ears.
5. The other weird thing about seeing you play live is that you get the distinct feeling the billing has been mixed up and the headliners have come onstage early. Don’t the other bands get annoyed, depressed, drunk that the audience is now ready to go home and spend the evening surfing the internet for Cardiacs merchandise?
K. I don’t really think that happens does it? I’m not entirely sure what this question means although I suspect it’s very flattering, so thanks.
6. Your lyrics are like Alice in Wonderland, put through a blender with some of the best poetry and darkest novels of all time – how do you come up with it/what inspires it?
K. Tim does all that mischief, I can never understand what the fuck he’s going on about when he speaks to me, let alone his lyrics. They do conjure up strong images though. Very strong. He says they are just fairy tales. I know it takes him years to come up with them.
7. So how come, when you have the most powerful, original and mind-blowing sounds out there, you aren’t driving around in chauffer driver hearses (the thinking persons choice of car) drinking the juice of freshly squeezed virgins?
K. How do you know we’re not? It’s true though, but, without wanting to sound like some kind of uber-hippy, getting to do this stuff, play this amazing music and have the friends we do is it’s own reward….really. Some more dosh would be nice though, I’d like to be able to buy another KitKat. One with FOUR fingers.
8. You also have the most active (and interactive) set. Do you need an oxygen tent when you come off stage – you must be knackered (and hot)?
K. We have been known to sweat a little in the duty of having a bloody good rock, it’s true.
9. It must take certain a type of determination to play in a suit and tie?
K. We aim to please and are told to look our best when we are out and about. I escaped lightly. The Alphabet Business Concern told me to wear a kilt. They don’t know that I haven’t done this. This worries me. They will find out.
10. Do you enjoy touring?
K. You’re darned tooting we do. It’s the most fun there is… sort of.
11. What would be your ultimate line up to play in?
K. Oh, you know, headlining Glastonbury in the rain…something like that.
12. Your music seems to influence a lot of bands; does this make you feel very proud?
K. Extremely proud and a little humbled.
13. Who or what influences your sound?
K. All sorts. And everything. Surprising really as it all comes out sounding like the same old crap
14. Are you surprised by your appeal and popularity amongst the gothic sub culture?
K. It’s reassuring to know that there still is a gothic sub culture. I miss the way that people used to paint their favourite album covers, with varying degrees of success, on the back of their leather jackets.
15. What are your favourite Cardiacs tracks?
K. I love them all, but off the top of my head….Flap Off You Beak, The Stench Of Honey, No Bright Side, Dirty Boy, Fairy Mary Mag, All His Geese Are Swans, The Breakfast Line, The Everso Closely Guarded Line, Piffol Two Times, Core, Spell With A Shell, Jitterbug, Fiery Gun Hand, Manhoo, Buds and Spawn…actually like I said, I love them all. Really though, all of them.
16. What’s next for you? Feed our need!
K. A whole bunch of stuff. By the time you read this our Special Garage Concerts CDs will be available, which are two 16 song live albums from our Special Garage Concerts a couple of years ago. We played only tunes from when the band first started in another lifetime. Strange hearing songs that were written when the band were all about 15 or 16 years old, they really don’t sound that different to what we do now. Weird bunch of 16 year olds they must have been. We’re also completing a new album and the ‘Mares Nest’ concert will be out on DVD this year plus a couple of extra special treats which at this point in time are a secret.
17. Who are what are the Alphabet Business Concern – should we be worried?
K. Not nearly as worried as we should be. As a new recruit they see me as bottom in the chain of command and, as a consequence, have very little to do with me. They once left a message for me to ring them on my answerphone, but when I returned the call all I got was a strange kind of speaking clock.
18. What would you do if you had 5 minutes to live?
K. How would you know?
19. What would you do if you came face to face with a vampire?
K. Ask them to get on with it, fuck it, it’s been a shit life anyway.
20. What is the last thing you think of before you turn out the light?
K. Boy, I sure would like to turn out this light.
21. What was the last book you read?
K. I think it was Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs.
22. What was the last horror film you watched?
K. Dario Argentia’s Suspiria, which is really fun and has a proggy soundtrack. A friend of mine keeps hassling me to watch Island of Death, so that will probably be the next one.
23. When was the last time you were scared?
K. Genuinely shit scared? I honestly couldn’t tell you. My mind’s on a fairly even keel at the moment.
24. Who is the last person you would like to meet in a dark alley.
K. “Nasty” Nick Bateman…he’s like evil or something.
25. What would you like you last words to be?
K. Thank you for this fun interview, hope you have a really nice time.
Sarah Kerr – Bite Me Magazine.