An Interview With Memphis' Own Oblivians
By M. Mercury, Staff Reporter
ecently, upon hearing that Memphis' Oblivians had called it quits, I
thought it appropriate, having known the band members for some time, to
ask Eric, Jack and Greg some questions about their stint as a band and
their final record "The Oblivians ...Play 9 With Mr. Quintron." I had
been intrigued by the record's gospel overtones and wanted to know first
hand what had been the inspiration for the recordings. While perhaps a
departure from their first two full length albums, ...Play 9 is none the
less in keeping with the simplicity and ferociousness of the Oblivians
rock attack. Recorded in one day at Cotton Row Studio in Memphis with
Steve Moller at the board, the Oblivians, aided by the mysterious Mr.
Quintron, testify with fury. Sounding more like the Cramps than the
Righteous Brothers, ...Play 9 is teeming with primitive, hypnotic beats,
charismatic vocals, raunchy guitars and spooky organ. One might not be
sure as to which spirit has possessed the boys but one things for sure
... the Oblivians want to take your hand and lead you in ecstatic
reverie through the dark night of the soul.
LCE: Tell me about the recording of ...Play 9 ?
Jack: We had toured a lot for a band like us the last few years and we
didn't have any driver or crew so it was pretty hard. It just seemed
like we did that more than work on new material. But Greg can come up
with stuff all the time and whatever he's into at the time he can write
songs in that style. So at the end of '96 he was into Gospel and had
found some cool old records like The Five Blind Boys, The Dixie
Hummingbirds, etc. I remember when we played at the Blues Explosion
after show party he pulled out a couple numbers after we'd done our
regular set and we just kind of followed along. Everybody got excited
cause it sounded so good. I kept asking him about the songs and he
wouldn't give me a straight answer, just "oh thats just something I
heard" or whatever. At first I don't think he wanted to record them
cause he thought it would be like a novelty thing but I said you don't
have to say it's Gospel. At this point it wasn't serious we were just
kinda joking about it and I suggested Quintron and Eric was like yeah
that would be cool and Greg said "if Quintron would do it I would record
those songs." So that night when I got back home I called Quintron and
he said he'd been listening to the same type stuff and would love to do
it. The next day I told Greg and from there it just happened.
Eric: Just to make things a little different we decided to use an organ
player and Mr. Quintron was the only one that was loose enough not to
sound like a real organ player. We had played with him a few times at
shows before but we didn't really know if he knew chord changes or not,
if he was just completely free form or what. We tried to get him a tape
of the songs so he could kind of be prepared but it came back, somehow
we didn't get the right address. So after we picked him up at the bus
station we went over to my house and the first song we played him , a
"Live the Life" 78 Greg had, he said "Oh man, I've always wanted to do
this song," so we kind of felt we were on the same wavelength. He
(Quintron) was on a bus for eight hours then in a studio for eight hours
and then we took him to the bus the same day, so he had a tough 24
Jack: We took him to Piggly Wiggly, he bought a detective paperback and
then we put him back on the bus at 2 a.m.
Eric: He said he'd never really recorded like that before. We just
pretty much played through the songs until we got em down and didn't
even go back into the control room to listen. When we finally listened,
he (Steve Moller who engineered) had gotten some really good sounds, it
really sounds live. And Quintron plays some amazing stuff that really
saves the record from being just us goofin' around and Greg did some
great singin'... it just turned out great. The combination of
unpredictable elements just made it better for everyone.
LCE: How did you arrive at the idea of doing an album of Gospel songs?
Greg: I'd been hanging out at this record store near MSU where Wally
(Hall- DJ for WEVL) worked and he told me they had all these cool
records in the back room from when they bought out this record store in
rural Mississippi years ago. So one day I was asking about them and
they let me go back. There were all these records just sitting there in
boxes still sealed. So I'm looking through the bins and I realize there
are all these great Gospel records that you never see and they were like
two or three dollars each so I bought scores of them went home and
started listening to them and really got into it for several months. I
thought this is everything rock n' roll is, even better cause you've got
the spiritual side and it just rocks - you just couldn't ask for
anything more in music.
LCE: Well to me Gospel is a lot like the blues in imagery that can be
really desperate, the only difference being instead of reaching for the
gun or the bottle they reach out for Jesus.
Eric: And because they don't really have a pop song structure they just
keep building and it gets really insane the power of it...
Greg: Some of the songs are just haunting. You listen to them and just
get the chills. It's not like Goth rock or stuff that tries to be scary
and is really a joke. If you listen to certain gospel songs in the right
frame of mind it would scare you enough to go to church. To me that's
amazing, that means you've really succeeded - you've set out to make a
record to catch someone's ear and if you can be that enthusiastic about
it enough that someone would say "I've got to get my life together...
I'm Just as bad as the guy in this song" thats pretty amazing you know
there's not many people that can do that.
LCE: Well, is there any parallel between the ...Play 9 record and The
Compulsive Gamblers (Greg and Jack's former band) "Church Goin'" Ep?
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