varmintcong.com presents: THE PLAN 9 INTERVIEW - 1985
Omigawd, now we're getting back to the ROOT, some serious Mesozoic era stuff here. This here is the very first time we (the Eiderdown Turnstile gang, silly!---John Barsdis, Craig Cunningham and I, did a radio show on WMNF, remember? for 8 years, remember? whaddya mean you don't remember?) went to the gig with a tape recorder and microphone, planning to interview the band.
Plan 9 was a garage/psych band out of Rhode Island, of all places, that released a coupla epic slabs of polyvinyl on Enigma, back when they had Green On Red and Plasticland. The crunchy guitars, the Voxx organ, the concise, hit single-type material--if they'd have been 20 years earlier, songs like I Like Girls, B-3-11 and Step Out Of Time would've made the top 40, right next to yer Question Mark and the Mysterians, yer Seeds, and yer Count Five. I highly recommend the Dealing With The Dead lp, and I also highly recommend checking out their website here for merch and a much more detailed biography.
My friend and radio partner Craig Cunningham was the Plan 9 nut, and he handles the bulk of the serious interviewing here. John Barsdis helped out, and I flirted coyly with Debra the keyboardist at the restaurant. The band was touring to support the Keep Your Cool And Read The Rules album.
Craig: I'm talking with Eric Stumpo of Plan 9, they're playing tonight at the Act IV Lounge. The first question I'd like to ask is how did the band get together?Eric: How did we get together, ok. Well, we were all living in Rhode Island and...not doing much. Wasn't much of a music scene, so...we just started rounding up everyone who could play halfway decently, and we put a band together.
Craig: How many people are in the band now?Eric: Six, currently. Tonight there's six.
Craig: Do you have much trouble with touring with so many people?Eric: Money, that would be the only thing. No, it's not that bad.
Craig: Have you toured very much?Eric: Uh-huh. This is our um...fourth tour in...two and a half years. Second time to California, though.
Craig: Any place you were really well accepted?Eric: We just played Atlanta the other night, and it was real good, real good show there. We've played there 3 or 4 times, so...We've been having good shows, overall.
Craig: I believe this is your first time in Florida, or at least in the Bay area.Eric: This is our second time, we actually played this club...when? Last winter, I guess.
Craig: Last winter. Sorry I missed that one.Eric: That's ok, everybody else missed it too.
Craig: Some underground bands in the US pick up a following in other countries. Are you selling records anywhere else?Eric: Well, we had a French New Rose (records) album that sold very well. And our new record is also released in Europe, so yeah, we're selling records in Europe.
Craig: So Rhode Island is where you're from. Not much of a music scene up there?Eric: Not too much, but it's close to Boston, so most of the better-known Rhode Island bands play in Boston a lot, like we do. We don't play Rhode Island that much.
Craig: What are some of your musical influences?Eric: Too various to name, I'm sure. From my own personal....you know?
Craig: Are there any new bands that you like? That you've heard recently?Eric: I like the Psycho Daisies record, as a matter of fact, speaking of Florida. I think that's ok. Um...what else do I like that's new? I like Green On Red, I like all their stuff, I like the new record. Of course the Lyres are from our area, they're ok. That's about it.
Craig: How many albums do you have out?Eric: Five. The first one is Frustration, on Bomp (records). The second one is the New Rose album, which is just called Plan 9. Dealing With The Dead is the third one. The live one (I've Just Killed A Man, I Don't Want To See Any Meat) is the fourth, and the new one--Keep Your Cool And Read The Rules--is the fifth.
Craig: On the new album, there seems to be a little more texture to it, then with Dealing With The Dead. Are you just becoming more comfortable with each other, as far as what you can play?Eric: What do you mean by texture?
Craig: I don't know, there seems to be more interplay between the guitars.Eric: There's less guitar, I think, on Keep Your Cool. It might be better production, but to me Dealing With the Dead is a more textured album. I think Keep Your Cool is more simply recorded. We had four regular guitar players in the band when we did Dealing With The Dead. And like, on that particular song, Dealing With The Dead, they all play. Whereas on the new album there are really only two guitars at one time, unless (there are) overdubs. I think the production is what probably makes it less confusing, you know.
Craig: Since you write a lot of the songs, do you knock 'em around a bit in the studio before you put 'em down?Eric: Yes. Especially on the new record. It depends on how much time we have to work on a song live, before we record it. With the latest record, we didn't have that much time to rehearse the material, so we did work a lot more of it out in the studio.
Craig: Since you have more guitars, do you feel a little more freedom in the studio, knowing that instead of using more and more overdubs, that you can recreate the sounds live? You don't have to worry about getting too far from what you can perform live?Eric: Well, I think, once again, it depends on the song, but if it was a song that I thought there should be a lot of guitar on, then we would overdub. But we generally try to record everyone that plays in the band once live, in other words, where we set everybody up and play. Everyone plays their part to a specific song, and then we see how it sounds. And if it needs more, we add more. (laughs) Sometimes if it doesn't need more, we STILL add more.
Craig: On the lyric sheet of the new album, for the song Keep Your Cool, underneath it says "From A Forthcoming Video Release." Do you have a video out?Eric: We don't have it out yet, it's being edited right now, it should be out...hopefully by the end of the month.
Craig: Have you heard any college or community radio stations while you've been touring? Anything you liked?Eric: I haven't listened to any radio at all since we've been on the road. I hate to say that, but it's true. I do more checking out the CMJ (College Music Journal has been the bible of alternative radio for over 20 years) charts than I do listening to the radio. (To) see how we're playing, what's being playlisted, and stuff. I do that a lot.
Jeff: Do you have a song that's your favorite?Eric: I like B-3-11 a lot, from Dealing With The Dead, that's probably my favorite song from that record, and I also like White Women. On the new record, I like For Hillary, a bit. I didn't write that, that's probably why. My own stuff, I just write it, I don't have favorites, it's just what it is.
Jeff: The MC5 cover is cool (the band covered Looking At You.)Eric: Yeah, that's a good live song for us, which is basically why we do it.
John: What other covers do you do?Eric: At this point, umm, we do a couple of things off the first record. Move, which is by the State Of Mind. We still do Frustration every once in awhile, we did it the other night. We do (the Third Bardo's) I'm Five Years Ahead Of My Time still. We've been playing that long, as a matter of fact, because we want to go to California and play that as a very long song. Since we haven't played out there before, I wanna see how it goes over. We were doing that as a whole set for awhile, which is kind of interesting. We'd just come up and play that one song. People were getting really frustrated with it, it was kinda fun. I think that's about all the covers we do. Except for Looking At You.
Jeff: Looking At You sounded great on the live album, I thought.Eric: The live album is not one of my favorites just because of the production on it. It just wasn't recorded the way it should've been. Other than that, it would've been a good record. We had a lot of trouble mixing that, the label was actually too cheap to put out enough money to do it correctly, so...
Craig: The Frank Sinatra Mobile Studios?Eric: That's a guy from New Haven, Connecticut, that I have a contract out on right now.
(MUCHO HA-HA FROM EVERYONE)
John: What do you think about drugs?Eric: What about it? No, ahhh....in the band?
John: Yeah, and in the lifestyle around you, say...Eric: Hmm. I don't take drugs, period, so...But I think a lot of other people do, don't they? Are you asking me if I think it's a.....
John: Well, you're sort of a psychedelic group, (you're) considered (to be) psychedelic.Eric: Do you think that's what we are? I dunno, you know? I think we're influenced by the 1960s a bit, but I think probably the actual "psychedelic" tag is a little bit overused.
John: Well, it's very good music to listen to while you're stoned.Eric: I think we remind people of the 60s, but our perspective itself is to be reminiscent. I think there are elements of other music...
John: Oh yeah, not that it's just a particularly psychedelic thing. But I was just curious about---you have that very sort-of "trippy" sound on some of the songs.Eric: I don't know, I know a lot of people that don't take drugs that are pretty tripped out, so I don't think it's necessarily....
John: Oh well, a psychedelic frame of mind is not necessarily drug-induced.Eric: Well if you lived through the 60s as I did, then you would have to be somewhat influenced by that, you know. Because that was definitely a prevalent attitude in the culture, was to get screwed up, and play music or listen to music. And it's probably still going on.
John: It seems like there's a resurgence of heavy drug use, sort of a nihilistic drug use, take as many as you can...Eric: Of what, acid and stuff, you think?
John: Well people are doing more acid, let's say, in this section of the country (in this section of the club.) And it's like sort of a resurgence, in terms of, I dunno, it seems like a younger generation rejecting the conservative swing-back. And I was wondering if you had noticed any of that.Eric: I have noticed that, to a certain extent, I dunno. The thought of doing that frightens me personally, so...But when I was a teenager, then I think that was the time to do it. Before you've formulated whatever...depraved morality you're gonna live with for the rest of your life. But I don't know what's gonna happen with that, I don't know if it's going to lead to anything. It's like hardcore (music) sort of, is that going to lead to some kinda political revolution? I don't think so.
John: Oh no. When I first started listening to hardcore, like 1981 with the Dead Kennedys, it was just like, "Well maybe there IS something to be fighting against." And it just fades out, and becomes...Suicidal Tendencies kinda thing...Eric: I think the rawness of the music might be...I think probably...like the 'garage' sort of attitude, and even hardcore comes from...you know, stripping back music, stripping back the production values to get at the heart...of what you're trying to deal with. Which is a good thing.
John: Absolutely, yeah.Eric: If it wasn't for that, the 1970s would've never...you know, if punk rock in '77 wouldn't have come along, where the hell would the music world be right now?
John: That's what I mean, it seems to me that's already fading. Hardcore seems to have become completely meaningless. They're growing their hair long, which (punk rock short hair) was a rejection of the '70s sort-of long hair everybody. And it's sort of...coming back. It's almost like we're in 1969 again.Eric: It seems to me like Florida may be more susceptible to these changes right now, than in other parts of the country. I noticed that the last time we were here also. I think the music scene around here is starting to blossom, more than it was before.
John: It's pretty dead still.Eric: Well it's pretty dead in a lot of other places too.
John: Great, wonderful.
Craig: We're not alone.
Jeff: I wanted to ask you again, to just toss out some names of bands that influenced you. I know there's a lot, but just toss out a couple major ones.Eric: Sixties bands?
Jeff: New stuff, old stuff, doesn't matter.
Craig: What's next for Plan 9?Eric: We just go through this tour, we're on the road for two more months. Then we go home and probably record again.
Craig: Any idea when we can expect a new album?
Eric: Maybe September, maybe not. Probably not, but...if we get it done...we might go to Europe, that's a possibility. Might just hang around Rhode Island, get sick, I dunno. We'll see.
PART TWO---Walking to the restaurant
Eric: (talking about getting a band started) No, we never played live before we put a record out. It's true, I think that's bullshit, you know, playing out too much. But once you get a record, THEN you gotta play. It's hard to do that now, that was 1980, so...There's a lot more bands now too, ya know? There aren't TOO many psychedelic bands in the world right now, what are there, about twenty million?
Craig: Yeah.PART THREE---At the restaurant.
Deborah DeMarco: ...I like the Psycho Daisies record. I don't like the Psycho Daisies, but I like the record. Those guys stiffed us out of four shows, they wanted us to bill 'em (put them on the bill for a Plan 9 gig) you know, because they were coming up to New Jersey to do some shows. So we did, we billed 'em in like, four different rooms. They didn't show up. You don't do that. They didn't call, they didn't show, they were stupid. But I like the record.
Jeff: They're good live, it's too bad they didn't show up. They just let the guitars...you know...Deborah: ...Go wild.
Jeff: Yeah.Deborah: We played in Miami with Charlie Pickett, and those guys backed up Charlie Pickett. And that was alright, ya know...It wasn't that good.
Craig: Charlie's a good Egg.Deborah: But then I got the Psycho Daisies record for Christmas, someone gave it to me, and I thought it was really good. I think it sounds like Green On Red...on LSD.
Jeff: Do you like the Voodoo Idols?
Deborah: Yeah. I hope we'll be back in time to see them...(glances at watch) oh, we will.
Jeff: Their lead singer (Johnny Yen) is supposedly born again now, and he doesn't roll around on the stage anymore.
Craig: That's a rumor.
Jeff: I'll be really disappointed if that turns out to be true. (Not only did he not roll around onstage anymore, he was out of the band.)
John: They were at their peak around 1982, just a solid squalling noise...A FEW MINUTES LATER
Deborah: We've got ten shows to do in California, and ah....six of 'em I think are in LA, LA and San Diego. And then we go up north. Actually, it might be the other way around, I think maybe we have to go up to San Francisco first and then zig-zag our way down. We've got ten shows to do, we're playing some university...
Jeff: So Eric said you would tell us about the plan.Deborah: I'll tell you about the plan, there is no plan.
Jeff: He mentioned something about mushrooms.Deborah: Oh, that plan.
Jeff: Yeah, that plan.Deborah: Yeah, that plan. We were going to sell off a bag (of psychedelic mushrooms) to somebody before our show, and watch him get off. And make sure we pick the right kind of mushrooms, we haven't picked mushrooms before, we're not from the south.
Jeff: Yeah, make sure you don't get the poisonous kind, 'cause then he'll REALLY get off.A FEW MORE MINUTES WAITING INTERMINABLY AT THE RESTAURANT
Jeff: Ok, so you interview me then.Deborah: Yeah! So why did you want to interview us?
Jeff: Because we always play your music on the radio show, and...ah...we figured you would be cool about it, and you are!
John: Yeah, you guys have low-key sort-of profile.Deborah: I know. We work at that.
Craig: Since we started the show, you're the first band that we actually wanted to interview, that we liked the music, that's come around, without being, you know, really large. Like, "Oh, you're a community station, we don't need you, we're on commercial radio now." Like when we went to see REM last year---t-shirts---$14.Deborah: Well, REM have a hit record though.
John: Yeah, t-shirts $14, bandanas $6.Deborah: Play in a band for a coupla years, and see how much you'd like it if you could sell your t-shirt for $14, I think you'd sell it too.
John: Fuckin-A, yeah! Well the whole thing is, we (The O.D's) would like to be very tacky and commercial.Deborah: I think every band likes to be accessible, I don't know if 'tacky and commercial' are the right words. If you take enough time to make something, and you put it out in front of someone to look at it, or listen to it...
Jeff: ...You don't want 'em to just ignore it.Deborah: Sure. If everybody loves it, that's the goal.
SEVERAL MORE MINUTES LATER
John: Hey, you guys want to play at my parents' wedding?Deborah: That would be REALLY weird.
Jeff: It'd be really loud, too.Deborah: Yeah!
Copyright 1985 GTO/HoMade/Jeff Schwier/varmintcong.com
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