INTERVIEW: Jared Louche
Chemlab vocalist (Invisible Records)
By: Alex Steininger
Jared Louche, frontman for the machine rock outfit Chemlab, is back from his musical hiatus and ready to rock (and swing) once again. With the recent release of Covergirl , Jared Louche expanded his musical boundaries by re-doing songs by some of his favorite artists. Iggy Pop, The Stooges, Frank Sinatra, and even Chemlab got a make over.
"Talking" via modern technology, I interviewed Jared via e-mail as we discussed Covergirl as well as Chemlab's re-formation.
IMWT: After a few years on Wall Street, making what I assume is pretty good money, what made you want to get back into the world of music?
Jared: Wall Street was a gas and I enjoyed it a great deal. And, yes, I made good money while I was there, but that's all over now (baby blue). It came as quickly as it went. I left the music business because I had had it up to the top with the industry aspect of it all and wasn't willing to stomach it any more. I wanted some legs broken. Leaving Wall Street is another matter, and not one I'm going to go into at great length. Suffice it to say that it was suggested that "I take an extended vacation before I take a permanent one," and that seemed like sound reasoning to me. I took it under advisement and split to London. Martin Atkins had asked me, previously, to join Pigface on a couple of tours, which I did and enjoyed. I then talked to the Invisible cats about recording a new album and they were game. I wasn't sure at that time if I was going to get back into music or not but Invisible were willing to back my idea for Covergirl regardless, something I will always thank them for. Back in the music biz?? It's all Martin Atkins' fault. Credit where credit is due.
IMWT: Was there a theme or an idea behind your solo album, Covergirl , besides re-creating your favorite songs?
Jared: It's a possible soundtrack of 21st century late night samba dances on the beach with a cold martini (very dry) and your favorite beautiful woman (the one with that light in her eyes) pressed cheek-to-cheek close to you, swaying in the breezes and then balling in the warm night, the waves crashing.
IMWT: How did you come up with the track list - the songs to cover - on Covergirl ? Is it a virtual top-ten of your favorite songs, songs you thought you could do better, or ones you've always been curious as to how they would sound if done differently?
Jared: A "virtual top ten"?? How do you choose?? I'll try to explain. Those songs are some of the songs that have been an important part of the extensive soundtrack for my strange life. Or, at least the past 20 years. There are many others that help make up that spread (I experience a lot of life keyed to certain kinds of music or songs, big surprise) and these are just a few of my faves. I never approached re-doing these songs thinking "I can do better than this" (Iggy?? forget about it!!). I had heard them making noise in my head for so long I figured it was time for them to start paying rent. I've heard the originals in slowly mutating versions year in and year out and wanted to put down some of those shifts, just to make them concrete for me, and maybe make them finally shut up (hard luck, pal! The shit's louder than ever!! A further tour of my head you don't want!!!). I don't think there's any point in doing a cover that's a slave to the original. Why? The same as doing a live show should be different from the recording, a cover should speak with it's own voice. The original will always be the original and the best that one can hope for when re-working a track is that you can make it so different that it becomes your own song. I think I've managed that with a few of the tracks, not all of them.
IMWT: Now, the album jumps around from light industrial to lounge-jazz. Describe the eclectic idea behind the album.
Jared: It jumps all over the place because that reflects how my tastes run. I have a very broad spectrum and I didn't want to limit myself to one style or direction (every contradiction possible!). At home in my living room in London, the music of an evening will sweep from Sinatra to 16 volt to Basie to Tom Waits to Gristle to Satie to Mingus, Miles, Monk and Manson (m) to Underworld to static off the radio and I wanted the album to reflect that. The Chemlab cover I have heard that way (a la low-swing) ever since we wrote it and it felt right that if I was going to twist other people's material it was only just that I do the same thing to my own. "Poptones" was the first thing that we did and it came together between Chris and I so fast and so right. It certainly has a whole new character. As a three-minute almost pretty tune it stands in diametric opposition to the sprawling, Jackson Pollock painting sonic-scree of the original. Since I wasn't sure that I was ever going to do another album again I wanted to experiment and take the kind of chances I'd never taken before. I wanted to draw from a whole new palette of sounds and textures and do it all just for me. If anyone else dug it, that was great, but I really did it for me.
IMWT: Do you think fans of Chemlab were disappointed in the album?
Jared: Only the ones with closed minds. Sure, some of them were going to be, inevitably. It's not what a Chemlab fan would have expected, but in the end, I didn't make it for them. I made it for me. I have always thought that the bulk of CHEMLAB fans are pretty broad minded and willing to take risks in life as well as music. They are the outcasts just like me. They know what it is to spend life looking in from the outside (of course I never wanted to be 'in there' with all those normals. I wanted them to pay money to come outside and watch me supernova. I never wanted to be a part of them) and I felt a bond with the fans that I met. I hope that they will give the album a few spins beyond the first one and take a different trip for a moment. It's not forever, just for a moment. In a lot of ways, I think it's an album that people will come back to in a few years, after Chemlab have resurfaced. It will be more of a 'look back' for people and an insight into the workings of my twisted mind. It's not for everybody but I think that once given a chance most Chemlab fans will find material on the album that they can relate to. And, heaven forefend, even come to think it isn't as uncool as they thought at the outset. I'm inevitably fighting a battle against preconceptions on the part of the public as to what I should be interested in, what I should be doing with my "art" and what new directions I should (read: can) explore with my music. Invisible gave me a chance to do anything I wanted to and I wasn't going to subvert that freedom.
IMWT: What do you think fans of Chemlab were saying about the album when they first heard it?
Jared: After being out on tour (and on-line) I know what they have said about it. Mostly what i expected:
"Took me by surprise, but I like it."
"You really are a jazz fag, aren't you?!?"
"It's cool... but when is the next Chemlab album coming out??!"
You know, the usual. You can't take the kind of chances I did with this album and not get backlash from your established fan base. I can't fault anyone for having an opinion even if it's not what i want to hear.
IMWT: What do you want them to be saying after they've listened to it five times or more?
Jared: Whatever they're feeling about it. It's not as if there's a 'right' or 'wrong' answer to the question of this disc. I hope that people will give it a chance, but you can't make a recording with that as your main motivator (at least I can't) because then you're being disingenuous and not satisfying the drives that made you create in the first place. My ego wants me to hear them say that, maybe, they didn't like it at first but that, one way or another, they came around to it and now it has become a soundtrack for their life the way these songs were for me. Hey, I can dream, can't I??!
IMWT: If someone who hadn't heard Chemlab really got into your solo album, what do you think they'll have to say about Chemlab once they go back and check them out?
Jared: Chemlab is a much harder sound, more of the 21st century rock-and-roll sound that is so close to my heart than Covergirl and not everyone who likes this disc (CGirl) will like the Chemlab discs, and vice-versa. I would like for there to be as much cross-over as possible between the two groups otherwise I'll have Chemlab and then an orchestra that gigs all Sinatra and Armstrong and Martin and Simone and Holliday numbers in Las Vegas (though I gotta rebuild the Sands because there's no joint there now that I would want to gig) and that would be too much of a split... though I've thought about it, believe me!
IMWT: Now, let's talk about Chemlab some. Tell me about the re-grouping of Chemlab. Who's going to be in the band?
Jared: I would love to tell you all about the re-birth of the band because I'm really jazzed up about it all... BUT I'm very superstitious about giving out details about things when they're not yet concrete. Servo (the most brilliant cyborg drummer I've ever come across and the man who made Chemlab the live juggernaught that it was) has had some interesting ideas about how to set the attack again. I really value his input and his songwriting skills. Let me just say, that it will be a kick in the head!
IMWT: Are you going to be re-grouping to tour as well as record?
Jared: Oh yes, we'll be touring again... as soon as possible and as much as possible! Just like the old days, we're coming back to burn it down again, so lock up your children because we've been in the dark too long and we're hungry. A recording is just a promise and the live show is a chance for one to deliver on said promise, make the songs new and alive. I love being on stage and want to do it as much as possible. As a break from Chemlab I really want to do a one-off gig in Chicago with a south-side blues band doing all Covergirl tunes and blues standards: three-hour show, down the south side in the sweat of summer. It may yet happen. I love touring and always have and I really look forward to getting back on stage as soon as possible... work up a good sweat!!
IMWT: How did this all come about? The group re-formation.
Jared: I've always wanted to keep going with the band, it's just the industry that I couldn't stand. Invisible have been very supportive of the idea as have a few other key people in advisory positions close to me. It came about as something to rap about during the tour I just did to support Covergirl and the response was so positive and the advisory input so positive that I thought more and more about it as a reality. There are musicians that I want to work with, both old and new, and pulling the band off of the shelf, re-activating it, gives me that chance.
IMWT: What's the third Chemlab album going to sound like? Is it going to start off where Chemlab left off or it is going to leap ahead some years and break into a new direction?
Jared: The next Chemlab disc will do both of those things. There are a lot of directions that I want to explore with the band but I want to maintain the intensity and cynicism we luxuriated in. The problem with saying that it's going to sound like one thing or another is that all manner of expectations get set up, even beyond those that naturally are in place when one says "new Chemlab disc" and I want to stay away from those pitfalls as much as possible. Having said that, I don't want people to think that a new Chemlab recording will sound like Covergirl or be loaded with Sinatra overtones (the king of swing is tops, but also has his place, just not on a new LAB album... that's saved for after the show, on the bus, where the real wild scenes weave!). I want this next one to rock and rage. Patience, it's coming soon, and you can judge for yourself.
IMWT: Any plans for a future solo album of originals, or are you going to re-focus back on Chemlab and give it another shot?
Jared: There's no question that I'll be doing another album of covers sometime in the future, just not right now. Since Covergirl is all male artists I might do the next album all focused on female artists (I'd really like to give it to Fiona Apple but good!). I also want to do an album of all originals as well as this multi-media project (book, CD, CD-ROM entitled 'Lacuna') that I've been working on for awhile. But that's not the focus for me at the moment. Right now I'm still supporting Covergirl in interviews, etc. But most of my energy is going into the new Chemlab material, which you'll be able to hear and judge for yourself soon enough. When we go back out on the road again we'll be doing some old LAB material as well as new material and then a song or two off of 'c-girl' (perhaps "Dream Home" and maybe "Sister Midnight"... we'll see). There's so much that I want to do and only so many hours in the day to do them in.
IMWT: Anything I left out you'd like to cover?
Jared: Oh, I could go on forever. Just order another one from the bartender and toast me (the king is dead, long live the king!). In fact, tell him to put it on my tab, he'll know what you mean. And, come see us on stage, come sweat it out with me!