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The Fleshtones - Interview - March 8th 2010

(c) Copyright The Fleshtones CCO Villeurbanne

  1. Peter and Keith you're the founding members of the Fleshtones, can you sum up the band's history in few words ?

  2. Peter : It's impossible.

    All of them : Decades ! (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews

    AM : Where are you from ?

    Peter : We are from New York, more specifically we're from Queens, more specifically...

    Keith : I'm from deep Queens.

    Peter : He is from Whitestone Queens and I'm from Flushing Queens. We met in Flushing High School, when we were teenagers, the time when people were searching for something to do with rock'n'roll because it was in very bad shape, and we talked about forming groups for many many years. Finally we went to see the Ramones and we said "That's it, the band starts now", so we formed the Fleshtones, we played at CBGB's, we played at Max's, we played all around, the main parts of the world.

    AM : So the Fleshtones exist since 1976?

    All of them : Yeah.

    Keith : That's when we first went to an audition night on a Tuesday night at CBGB's.

    Ken : What was the phone number at CBGB's?

    Peter : You still know this phone number.

    (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews Keith : Phone number 212 982 4052. I used to call up there, twenty times a week, trying to get the group an audition to start with, which we passed, miraculously, because we were terrible and then just calling this number constantly and get Hilly Kristal who owned CBGB's, get him on the phone to get us a show which eventually I did.

    Peter : There are funny tricks in there; since Hilly is not with us any more, it's okay to tell. What they would do is they didn't pay the groups of course to audition, because it's an audition. You passed your audition, then you get to play the second audition night which was a Thursday night or something and they wouldn't pay you then either...so it was little thing that they did...

    Bill : And also sometimes you'll have to pay them, the Hilly charges... like all the Hilly tax. God rest their souls, but the Hilly tax, you may have to pay for the PA, the sound men and things like that.

  3. Bill you have been the drummer of The Fleshtones since 1980 ?

  4. 1980, May of 1980.

    AM : Do you remember why you decided to join the Fleshtones ?

    (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews.com I sure do. I was in New York and I was playing a lot of non-rock'n'roll type of music, which I still enjoy, it was cabaret and very fun things, you know playing starting at 4 o'clock in the morning.

    Peter : You were a famous person when you joined!

    Bill : Well, I played for a few wonderful people from the Warhol world crowd, Jacky Curtis and Holly Woodlawn and our shows would begin at 4 o'clock in the morning, which was fine with us, we weren't going to sleep, that's for sure, and as much fun as that stuff was, you know I lived at that time 4 blocks from CBGB's, and here I was going to these chi-chi cabarets. Reno Sweeney, the biggest of all. He saw us play one night and that was with Holly and as much fun as that was I did want to play in a rock'n'roll band and I run into Peter and actually just Keith at a luncheonette in...on the lower east side, and I heard them saying "Well, we need a drummer essentially", so I introduced myself and they said "Get out!" and I kept coming back to the point to be annoying and so I auditioned.

    Peter : After you left I remember Keith and I were saying, gee he's a pretty looking guy, I hope he can drum. (laughing). That's why they wanted you in !

    (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews Keith : I remember that Jan Marek the bass player of the time wanted to go watch Bill playing, you played with a group called...weren't you?

    Bill : That's right.

    Keith : I checked out before you arrived at the audition to see what was happening and the report was good and also the report said...and he could sing. He could sing also and I say that's not bad.

    Bill : That's not true but I could play rock'n'roll drums fairly decently and that worked.

  5. Ken you have been the bass player of The Fleshtones since 1990.

  6. Ken : Yep.

    AM : What is your best souvenir as a member of The Fleshtones?

    Ken : Best souvenir?

    AM : Yeah. (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews.com

    Ken : I think, learning to have a microphone in front of me, that's what it is, because when I joined the Fleshtones I didn't sing and that was just a thing that I never did before. When I went to the first rehearsal and Keith said, here, you sing, I said, no I don't need to, do you have a throat? I said Yeah, do you speak English? I said Yeah, then you sing in the Fleshtones.

    Peter : It's one thing...for the Fleshtones, all sing.

    Keith : Yeah, we do.

    Peter : We have four microphones so rather than change that everyone should sing.

    Ken : That's my best souvenir, now I'm a singer.

  7. Do you have a worst one in touring ?

  8. Ken : Yeah, but I don't go into the worst ones.

    Peter : The worst one was probably before he actually joined.

    Bill : I know what you're going to say, sure. (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews

    Ken : What? In Decazeville.

    Peter : The show in Decazeville was probably THE worst. The thing is that the show in Decazeville is so bad and it's good, and people are still talking about it and people say, like a badge of honour, oh I was at Decazeville I saw the Liars and the Fleshtones there, it's almost like saying I was in Dien Bien Phu.

    Ken : Or Dieppe!

    Peter : Something really bad, it was a horrendous show but it was so bad that it was actually monumental, but I was gonna say the time in Genoa when again we were searching for a bass player because our original bass player had left and then the replacement had left and he was showing off of The Dictators, one of my favourite bands was to be our bass player, but he had to go back to play with his new manitoba and we had called another one of my favourite bass players, Fred Smith from Television was on his way but we had a local guy named Stefano from Bassano del Grappa came and we did two shows with him as a bass player, one of which we kind of got away with, the show in general we did not get away with.

    Keith : The audience let us know that we were not going to get away with this.

    Peter : They weren't buying but what we were selling was not being bought by these people. It's quite a few shows that we were booed pretty much from the beginning to the end.

    Bill : I tell you the reason why we were getting booed, it was because of the opening band. The opening band was so bad the audience was still booing a half hour into our show. So clearly it was their fault !

  9. So you have more than 30 years of career now and the band is still alive, what is the secret of the longevity of the Fleshtones ?
  10. (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews

    Bill : That's a good one.

    Ken : We're too broke to do anything else.

    Peter : It is amazingly a funk.

    Keith : I think it is just very simple to explain, if you watch the show tonight you'll see what we do, it just explains why we're still doing it because it's really great to do it.

    Ken : We like each other, you know. We get to travel, look at us we're in France, how great is this?

    Peter : We are almost in Lyon.

    Ken : (laughing) Almost in Lyon, it's a privilege.

    Peter : Last night we were almost in Bergerac, the night before we were almost in La Rochelle and if we wait a while, we're almost to play in Paris.

    Bill : There's a lot of bands too that, I mean get to do all this, but they last five years and then they implode, you know. I think it's just a funny combination of personalities, that sort of continues, I also think it's, sometimes guys keep things to themselves and so that's a pretty good way to keep things together, if there is a little shit going on, (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews just keep it to yourself, it blows away and there is always stuff going on you know, we have lasted a lot more than many mariages you know (laughing) and all around the world we've lasted a lot longer than many mariages. There's reasons for it, other than just we have to get to go and have a nice bottle of whatever this is, and travel the world and that's fun, and apart of that it's very fun too.

    Peter : I think we're doing the world a service. And there is no other band that does what we do.

    Bill : Here we go.

    Peter : Yeah honestly.

    Ken : It's true.

    Peter : And you see that now we've got high definition. There is always something good to look forward to.

    Bill : There might not be such a good idea. Where was the high def when we were young? Now the high def comes in for crying out loud.

    (c) Copyright Joe Bonomo
  11. Joe Bonomo, you know who is Joe ?

  12. Peter : Never heard of him !

    AM : Wrote a biography of the The Fleshtones called.

    All together : "Sweat".

    AM : The story of The Fleshtones.

    Peter : It says "The story of America's Garage Band", that's what it says.

    AM : It was published in 2007.

    Peter : I believe so.

    (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews AM : By Continuum Books.


    AM : Can you speak about this book?

    Keith : I can't because I've only read the plot, but anybody can actually speak about it. Peter is actually the proof reader.

    Peter : I proof-read it and there wasn't anything too inaccurate, you know, although people say things that aren't accuate, but that's them saying it.

    Ken : You know it's funny when I think about it. I hear, there're so many stories about this band, even talking about the book will set off stories in the band, when we are traveling, there is so much that the book misses, but it's a great comprehensive book, but this band has so many stories, it's insane, over twenty years just listening to these stories and the stories that never made it into the book.

    Peter : That's why we need a second book.

    Keith : We need a second volume.

    Bill : A followup.

    Peter : "Sweat" two !

    Ken : Yeah, there are so many great stories.

    Peter : There'll just be footnotes.

  13. In 2008 you have released an album called...
  14. All of them : Oh yes, "Take a Good Look".

    Peter : Can you get a closeup on that?

    (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews AM : On the label Yep Roc Records.


    AM : Could you talk about this CD?

    Keith : Talk about this label?

    AM : The label, this CD, your favourite songs.

    Keith : It's one of my favourite records that we have made in our career. We're very proud of it, we love it, we can play lot of songs from it tonight.

    Bill : And we liked recording at the studio in Detroit.

    Keith : That's right, Detroit and New York City.

    Bill : And part of it was done there, at our friend Jim Diamond's studio.

    Keith : Jim Diamond in Detroit, the record was done there, he is a fabulous and amazing person to work with in a studio, he is actually probably my favourite person to record with and I recorded with many people through the years.

    Peter : There're a lot of great people that we've recorded with but I agree that recording with Jim Diamond is such a pleasure and he actually makes records that I can listen to when I go home and I listen to the records that we made with Jim and it is in the funniest place in downtown Detroit, you know like a totally desolate area, but he is great and he is fast and he knows, he is the type of recorder who knows really what we like to do and also can bring a lot to it, and add a lot, because he knows what this type of music is about.

    (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews Keith : This album is also fabulous. We love Ivan, he was the guitar player of Richard Hell & The Voidoids, he works in a small studio near Katz's deli which is in the lower east side of New York City.

    Peter : For convenience you can't beat it, especially if you want a hot-dog and a Doctor Brown's Cel-ray, on a hot day, you go right in there for a delicious hot-dog.

    Ken : Also the title of the record "Take a Good Look" has a couple of interesting stories behind it. The one story that is about the record is, I remember Peter was using the album of the Rolling Stones "Goats Head Soup" as an example of bands when they get to a certain age, they want to mask themselves they're afraid of getting older, he said you know what, we're going to put ourselves right up front, I don't care what we look in our fifties.

    Peter : Close-ups.

    Ken : Close-ups, so take a good look, and then it was also the quote in here, which you can probably explain better than I can.

    Peter : There's something about an old member of the band who passed away, Gordon Russell Spaeth, our sax player, keyboard player, one of the original people of the early days I'll always talking about, forming a band with. In some of his more edgy moments, I remember in a restaurant some poor lady, "Take a good look, take a good look lady" you know, he would go and find some poor person, basically minding their own business, that's one of his sayings, and when this record came out I remember one of the first people who opened up the cover, the guy looked at it and he goes, "You guys have a lotta guts, dontcha"...

  15. What is your favourite song on this album ?

  16. Keith : I probably like "Love Yourself" I like this idea for a song, it's great, that's my favourite.

    (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews Ken : I think my dearer one on this is "First Date". I love that scream at the start of "First Date", it's a great opening set : well, they come on (singing), and it's over in less than two minutes. It's such a great welcome in. Yeah, it sets the tone for the whole record, you know. It makes you wanna hear the entire record.

    Bill : I was gonna say "First Date" which we'll probably play tonight.

    Peter : There's a lot of good stuff on this and that was really a pleasurable, and you asked what keeps us going, this record, the record before and the record before that. All of that had really great reviews and also people had come to us and said "You know this is some of the best records you've ever made". For years I always say "oh guys, you know, our first album - that's the best. You're never gonna top it now, and you get tired of hearing that, and afterward seeing that it was written in print, you know The Times of London, the Times of New York things that we never expected to see in reviews. All of a sudden saying "This is a great record by a great group. "So, that keeps you know, a little flattery helps".

  17. Who wants to speak about the documentary directed by Geoffray Barbier ?

  18. Peter : French.

    AM : Yeah, from Cold Cuts Productions.


    (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews AM : It's called "Pardon us for living but the graveyard is full", it was released in 2009? So what is it about?

    Bill : The man worked very hard on that movie. He was with us for over three years and it was interesting to have him around and he captured us at a period of the band and that's interesting. It's sort of like our book "Sweat" I'd like to see another movie being made, because nothing is ended you know, it's just a part where we were at, at the time. A documentary.

    Keith : And Geoffray wanted to do the movie because the band has been together for a very very long time and he thought there was a story there, and why he kind of gets to the heart of what the band does and why we are still doing what we do basically.

    Peter : And an odd little thing, the movie has been shown a few times in the Angelika Center and things like that, and the last time we played, we did get a little pic in the listings in the New Yorker and they mentioned, who did we play with again ? Roky Erickson... it was basically a pic for Roky Erickson. But there's is also playing that night The Fleshtones, subject of the documentary film "Pardon Us For Living" by Geoffray Barbier.

    Keith : Subjects. Cool.

    Ken : I think my only complaint about the documentary would be almost "part two" of what I was saying about "Sweat". There is so much information that if a 300-page book can't contain it all, certainly a 59-minute documentary can't contain it all. I'm very proud of it, I'm so thrilled that somebody wants to film us and the story's worth telling, there is so much left untold, that would be my only regret.

  19. What do you do apart from the music, do you have some hobbies ?

  20. Bill : I have recently moved out of New York City and I'm living upstate New York, just barely North of New York, but I moved back into the house where I grew up in and it needs a lot of repair and I don't know how to do it, so I'm constantly on the phone calling.

    (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews AM : DIY, Do It Yourself.

    Bill : I have a hammer, yeah it's tough on the fingers, you don't want to do that, so that's really what I'm doing, going back in life and taking care of the house and little domestic family things. Then I'm always down in New York getting on to the band to rehearse, record and go up to Kennedy Airport to come to France. Now, speak to a handy man.

    Ken : That's right. I have a small little company, that fixes old houses, so that's what I do, so there're my hobbies. I bought an old house so that I can fix it, so I can put all my skills in something that I can acutally take with me to the grave.

    Peter : You know what the Chinese proverb?

    Ken : I know that - I was just saying, I said that as if I'll take the house with me to the grave. What am I talking about ?

    AM : And you Keith.

    Keith : My hobby? Well wine is a hobby, but also skiing is a passion for me, maybe more than rock'n'roll, I don't know.

    AM : So you're going to ski in France.

    Keith : I did already few weeks ago, it was in Grenoble, skiing, the Beldonne part of the Alps for over a week, I was fabulous, I love this.

  21. Peter you have a blog.
  22. (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews

    Yes I do. I've become recently a bloggist, like everybody else. Mostly because I've been writing for about ten years professionally and a lot of magazines and whatnot are going out of business, so I found myself with the time to finally start my blog, so if anyone's err...it's called the BusyBuddy and it's linked to a second blog called the Zaremblog, which is exclusively at this point, used to review airlines food, meals on airlines.

    Ken : You're a nut.

    AM : In which country do you prefer to tour, because you toured everywhere.

    Bill : Which country?

    AM : Yeah.

    Bill : It's very hard to say.

    Ken : There're so different. Spain I like because it's still very primitive and anything can happen, you never know what is going to happen the next day. France is great because it still has the primitive rock'n'rollness but it's very technologically advanced.

    Peter : Very professional.

    Ken : Everybody is very professional, but they don't let it get in the way of a good time, they know how things work, they also know how to jump up and down and have a good time. The further North you get - as it is in any country - becomes more industrialized and a little more staid but it also works. We just came back from Scandinavia and we had a wonderful time there. We saw our favourite bands from everywhere in the world, Hellacopters and The Nomads, things like that, The Maggots, The Flaming Sideburns, The Twistaroos, that's the favourite part. Australia, it's like another world, but wonderful.

    Peter : You know there's still a lot of world for the Fleshtones to come to, so...

    Keith : So contact us, we wanna come and see you, wherever you are. (laughing)

    (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews Ken : We're small, we don't need a lot of food.

    Peter : There's only 4 or us.

    Bill : There would have been an interesting question to ask thirty years ago, because needless to say, touring decades ago, needless to say vastly different from now, in terms of just going at a hotel, you know, we've been interested in things going on in Europe so turn on the TV, there's four channels there, maybe, and going out and trying to get things done, having a stop by the road side, if you could find a telephone, if you had the coins to put in and you really have a call ahead to the place you were playing, because you're having a problem, you're going to be late or things like that, so that was back then and this is now, where you just do it like that, you know if you want to know the weather and tomorrow where we're going might be bad weather, our road manager Antoine has his Iphone and so we know what the weather is now. We don't have to phone ahead. But back then, you would have to do a lot to get any kind of information and it could be frustrating, but we still loved it even back then, and even back then, we probably couldn't tell you which country we like the best, they are all very hard to...sometimes very hard to travel through, y'know.

  23. What do you think, people say that you're one of the best live band on Earth ?
  24. (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews

    Bill : I agree with them completely.

    Peter : Why argue? I mean it's a wonderful thing to say about us and let's just say we are enjoyable, we put a lot into it and I've yet to find another band that does quite what we do, so let's take the time. When we find we can pass the tunnel Channel, but until then I think we have a long way.

  25. A dear friend of mine, who is one of your best fan, told me : could you please ask them if they still drag the audience in the street after their gig and go on singing and clapping their hands and live it up !
  26. (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews

    Bill : Sometimes, but it's not a plan.

    Keith : Exactly.

    Bill : Every night nor was it ever, it never was a plan.

    Keith : Spontaneous, you have to be spontaneous, otherwise you lose that edge of what makes a great live band great, you know. You cannot rehearse too much.

  27. We have to speak about this...

  28. Peter : This is fine, fine...

    AM : This fine DVD.

    (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews Peter : This fine DVD.

    AM : Tell me who wants to introduce this one, maybe Keith?

    Peter : Our good friend Didier.

    AM : So it's Didier Pasquier.

    Keith : Yes, a long-time fan.

    Peter : He lives in Fontainebleau.

    AM : Yes, he lives near Paris.

    Ken : (reading the back sleeve of the DVD) : "Solid Gold Sound" - it's amazing, we should call that one.

    Ken : "Feels like a woman"

    Peter : Amazing.

    Keith : We just thought it was time for a live DVD of the Felshtones show. We wanted to do it professionally, we did it with 4 or 5 cameras. Uhhhh, we spent a lot of money to make a high quality DVD for people to have it in their home, if they want the Felshtones at home, then you have a Fleshtones at home.

    AM : So everybody has to buy this one.

    Peter : And enjoyed it !

    Keith : I would say if you can't see us live, it might be the next thing.

    Peter : It has this beautiful three colour cover here with a thousand-year display when you are in your home and here a deluxe picture, exclusive photograph of the Fleshtones in action, as a portrayed on this DVD. So I recommend this. It's a Big Enough Record. Big enough, yeah. Everybody says I think CDs a well.

    Thank you very much guys for your time.

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(c) Copyright The Fleshtones CCO Villeurbanne