List archive online at

TOUR DATES (*=New Dates)

Thursday 8/21/03 Anaheim CA House of Blues Anaheim
Friday 8/22/03 Las Vegas NV Skin Pool Lounge (Palms Hotel)
Saturday 8/23/03 Del Mar CA Thoroughbred Club
Sunday 8/24/03 Ventura CA Ventura Theatre

*Wednesday 9/17/03 San Francisco CA Great American Music Hall
*Thursday 9/18/03 San Francisco CA Great American Music Hall
*Saturday 9/20/03 Devore CA Hyundai Pavilion at Glen Helen

2 NEW Tourdates in SAN FRAN – ON SALE TODAY 8/3
Question for Brian from Nilton
Question for Brian from Julie
Question for Brian from Greg
Question for Brian from friends of Nilton
Be That Guy
Good Point
Included in this issue is the first series of Q&A with BRIAN RITCHIE. Thanks to
Greg, Julie & Nilton for asking such good questions and thanks to Brian for taking the
time to answer in detail! Fans… this is your chance to ask those things you’ve always
wanted to know so keep the questions coming. The BRQA is for ONE WEEK ONLY
so hurry up and send in those emails!
For upcoming show tickets:
8/21 ANAHEIM $32
8/22 LAS VEGAS $20-25
8/23 DEL MAR $Free$
8/24 VENTURA $22
9/17&18 SAN FRAN – ON SALE TODAY 8/3!!!!

Question for Brian from Nilton

Hey man, I’m writing from Brazil and I’d like to ask you a question about your
bass playing. How did you learn? You’ve said quite a few times that you don’t
read music, and I was wondering how you fine tuned your skills. Just by listening
and trying to play along? Good pot? Did you have a teacher at all? How did you
keep evolving? See, I play the bass too, an acoustic one (yeah, I’ve been
influenced by a disorganized band), and I feel kind of stuck creatively. I don’t
read music either. Don’t have any patience to study in order to improve more.
Please say a few words about it man! How do you approach musical instruments?
Tell a story or something!
Nilton Marcos Machado – niiilson
BR-I guess “A QUESTION” from Brazil looks like a lot of questions! But that’s OK
because they are all good. I’ll break it down in order to give more comprehensive

>Hey man, I’m writing from Brazil and I’d like to ask you a question about your
>bass playing. How did you learn?

BR- I bought a single by the Beatles (She’s a Woman/I Feel Fine) at a garage sale
and was so impressed I thought, ” I want to learn how to play guitar.” So I talked
my parents into buying me a guitar when I was 13. I started teaching myself out
of a book that had chords and lyrics to songs. The first songs I learned that way
were things like “House of the Rising Sun”, “Blowing in the Wind” etc. Gradually
I got to the point where I could listen to records and figure out how to play songs
that way. One day I was jamming away in my room and someone knocked at the
door. It was a kid from around the block, Melvin Howard, who asked if he could
bring his bass over and jam with me. So we started getting together everyday and
learned quite a few tunes and basically drove everybody crazy with the noise.
Shortly after we found a drummer and formed a band called the Robots. Melvin
was a musical genius and could play any instrument. By 13 he already played bass,
guitar, drums, sax and cello. He wanted to play guitar on a song “Let’s Get it On”
by Marvin Gaye, so he taught me the bass part. That’s how I started playing bass
and to this day when I hear that song I turn to whomever I’m with and say, “That’s
the first song I played on bass.” Once I knew how to play bass and guitar I just
played either one depending on the situation. It wasn’t until the Femmes that I really
made a commitment to the bass as my main instrument. I’m glad I did because I
found a lot more unexplored territory on bass than there is on guitar.

>You’ve said quite a few times that you don’t read music, and I was wondering how
>you fine tuned your skills. Just by listening and trying to play along?

BR – Yeah. But I did learn how to follow chord charts to play in jazz bands and
I learned all the scales so that when I improvise it’s not just trial and error. I know
the relationship of every note I’m playing to the key the song is in. Now I am very
proficient in reading Japanese music, so it’s ironic that I learned that before
Western music. I do a lot of composing now, so I taught myself at least how to
write music notation, even if my reading skills are snail like. If I couldn’t write
music I would have difficulty communicating with some musicians. I certainly
don’t recommend doing things the way I did it. I wish I had more early training in
music, but that’s just not the way things happened. I started relatively late and
everything since then has been ad hoc. When I need something I try to learn it.

>Good pot?

BR – Uh…………

>Did you have a teacher at all?

BR- I had a wonderful guitar teacher, John Stropes, who has co-written instruction
books with Leo Kottke and Michael Hedges among others. But I was too arrogant to
learn properly. Now John and I can laugh about it when we bump into each other,
but I’m sure at the time he thought I was simply uncontrollable. I had a great teacher
in High School named Ralph Larson. He was the band instructor and got me into the
jazz band because I was the best guitarist around school even if I was bizarre . He
forced me to learn how to cope with jazz notation and basically let me do my thing
and tried to work around my bad attitude. Without that support I would have probably
ended up in jail. Now I am really angry that the American government no longer
supports musical education in the schools. It’s the only reason I went to school after
a certain point. Otherwise I did most of my learning by listening and watching other
players. I never cared what instrument someone played, I only cared about their
spirit and what was being expressed. I have many favorite bass players, but I
have been more influenced by sax players for example. Technique is not important
either. I have a lot of it and I developed many techniques no one had done before
because I needed them to get my ideas out. But sometimes players with little
technique can make profound musical statements.

>How did you keep evolving?

BR- I guess the most important thing is to keep an open mind. I listen to anything
and everything and it’s always seeping into my playing. Sometimes I have heard
bad players play a long solo which is ridiculous but contains one interesting phrase
which stuck with me for years. It’s also important to absorb ideas from art forms
other than music. I like to look at paintings for example. A lot of artistic ideas
developed in painting before they ever got into the musical realm.

>See, I play the bass too, an acoustic one (yeah, I’ve been influenced by a
>disorganized band), and I feel kind of stuck creatively. I don’t read music

BR- I was never stuck creatively for very long. Because I have always set
challenges for myself. It is important to visualize goals and then try to reach them
step by step. As soon as I played with Gordon and Victor I knew as a rock fan
and connoisseur that we had a sound and approach which was unique and
could be very influential. In my mind I thought we could be the next Beatles. Of
course we fell short of that, but so has everybody else. But in striving for that we
covered a vast amount of musical territory in our recordings and ended up doing
more touring than the Beatles ever did! So it was good to have that kind of goal
even if it was silly.

>I Don’t have any patience to study in order to improve more. Please say a
>few words about it man!

BR- I don’t know how important study is. I have been studying Japanese music
for the last 7 years, but that’s the first time I systematically studied anything.
Otherwise I just did things! Form a band. If you like the Femmes learn a few of
our songs, but don’t stop there. Try writing your own songs. Then try writing better
songs. Find people who have similar goals and try to play some gigs and make
recordings. Musicians today are very lucky because recording equipment is cheap
and easy to use, so there’s nothing holding you back. If you can’t find a nightclub
or coffeehouse to play in, play on the street. That’s what the Femmes did. If you
just make it fun then the work won’t be too much of a burden.

>How do you approach musical instruments? Tell a story or something!

BR- I am a multi-instrumentalist. I have always admired people who can play a
multitude of instruments. My favorite Rolling Stone was Brian Jones because
besides guitar he played all those great sitar, marimba, cello, flute, mellotron parts
on their recordings. According to me that was their most interesting stuff. Actually
that was my inspiration for the xylophone in “Gone Daddy Gone”. In the Velvet
Underground I loved John Cale because he played such diverse instruments as
viola, organ and bass, and he played them all very well. No matter what instrument
he played it always sounded like John Cale. So that’s been my goal. To be like
them and to surpass them if possible. All instruments are related. When I encounter
a new instrument I analyze what’s familiar about it and what’s new to me. For example
I pick up a mandolin. Instead of being intimidated by it I say to myself, “OK it’s got
strings, so I can deal with that. You play it with a pick, and I know how to use one
very well.” I’m already halfway there. “It’s tuned the opposite of a bass so I will have
to think upside down.” That’s not easy but at least I’ve identified the solution.
Then I rock!!!! Or if I see a xylophone, “It’s a drum that’s tuned like a piano, or
it’s a piano you hit like a drum.” If you look at the evolution of musical instruments
one thing always leads to another and it’s the discoveries made by inquisitive
musicians that push music forward. Perhaps one of the best examples is the guitar.
The guitar was developed in Spain to play flamenco and classical music. But when
some black musicians in the southern US got ahold of it, they started playing
African rhythms on it and using a slide to mimic some of the old African string
instruments and suddenly you have blues. Then guitar makers started to respond
to this kind of playing by designing guitars more suitable to that kind of playing.
Next, Jimi Hendrix comes along and likes that instrument but wants to push it
even further. After about 100 years neither the instrument nor the music resembles
the original Spanish idea of the guitar, but it its possible to see the connection.

>Dude, what’s this thing about not recording ever again? Shit! I hope you guys
>realize that some things in life are really precious (not in the material dimension
>you know), and should not be taken for granted. I seriously hope you have a
>real conversation, break some furniture or something, and in the end find a
>way to be friends again and a reason to keep playing together. If there are
>difficulties, come to Brazil, see some beautiful women, enjoy, forget who you
>are for a moment!!!! Things tend to feel new again after that. At least that’s
>what I do. Ok. That is my recommendation. Keep playing with your heart, bro!
>The Femmes do make a difference.
> Nilton

BR- OK Nilton, will do! Thanks for the questions. I’m glad they were
about music.

Question for Brian from Julie
Here’s some questions…(I might come up with more later)
Julie Wilber – pish_tish

>What happened to Guy?

BR- Basically Guy was unhappy with the Femmes on a lot of different levels. I
agreed with him about some of it and some I didn’t understand. Victor had been
missing it for a long time and wanted to come back. So at the same time Guy was
losing his enthusiasm Victor was knocking on the door with a smile on his face.
Victor and I put together the reissue so we were working together anyway. Rhino
decided to re-release the first album. Gordon and I thought that it might be better to
promote that album with Victor since he played on it, particularly in light of Guy’s
dissatisfaction with the Femmes. It has no reflection on Guy’s musicianship, which
is incredible, or his time with the band, which was a very creative period with a lot
of great shows. Gordon and I were thrilled playing with Guy. We wish him the best.

>Does the fact that they only play the old stuff have something to do with Victor?

BR- Not really, except insofar as Victor is unfamiliar with most of the more recent
material. It’s mainly because we have been promoting the first album reissue since
Vic rejoined slightly more than a year ago. We’ll be broadening the song selection

>Is Gordon hard to get along with?

BR- Depends on the context. He’s fun at parties. Everyone’s hard to get along with.

>Where were they for Summerfest this year?

BR- We were talking with Summerfest this year but the offer didn’t firm up before we
had to accept a gig in St. Louis for the same date. We’ll be back. It’s always fun.

>Is Sigmund Snopek insane?

BR- Yes, Sigmund is insane. He would not disagree. Sigmund is an insane composer,
insane multi-instrumentalist, insane performer and insane friend. When it comes to
insane Sigmund is the kind of insane I like. If there were more people insane like him
the world would be a beautiful place.

>Will they really never record new music?

BR- This is one of the most commonly asked questions I get from the fans and from
interviewers. I got bored with being evasive. I answer in some more detail elsewhere in
this Q&A. I don’t know. Right now there are no plans to do anything. In the meantime
Gordon has a recent solo album, Victor has a new one coming out, and I have two
which should be out by the end of the year. Maybe if you play them all at the same
time… My friend Jerry from Talking Heads used to tell the fans when asked this
question, “Hey, it’s better this way! Instead of a Heads album every 18 months, you
get five or six solo albums a year. The more the merrier!”

>Will they ever play any of the newer stuff???

BR- Yes, I will try to make that happen. A lot of fans have been talking to me about
that after shows and sending comments about it to the web site. Thanks for asking.

Question for Brian from Greg
Brian I’ve enjoyed seeing you guys perform live for the last 15 years. I never feel
cheated when I go to a Violent Femmes show. Being a fan for so many years, I
have a million questions, so I will try to keep it brief.
Greg Flores – SCPGAMEDIA
>1. Since Victor rejoined the band, it seems that there is a renewed energy
>when you play live. Does his return pump new life into the band?

BR -Whenever there is a new (or in this case new/old) person on stage there is the
feeling of fresh blood, which is invigorating. When Guy joined there was also a lot of
enthusiasm and creativity that was sparked. Victor’s energy is contagious. His
spontaneous and ridiculous stage antics entertain me and Gordon the same way they
entertain the fans. When I look over at him and he has his leg draped over the
tranceaphone or he acts like the drums are running away from him and he’s chasing
them with his brushes it cracks me up. He’s also a good and unpredictable improvisor
musically. He is not afraid of taking musical risks, to the extent that he frequently
does the exact opposite of what 99.9% of the other drummers in the world would do.
Like for example stop playing right when a guitar solo starts and dance instead. But it
keeps us on our toes. Sometimes when Victor plays something bizarre I look over at
Gordon and it’s like someone opened up smelling salts under his nose. Then he digs
into the guitar more. The thing I love the most about his return is that now the drums
are in the middle of the stage again where they belong. That’s how we set up from
1981 to 1986. You can see a picture of that in the booklet for Violent Femmes
Deluxe Edition. I think it’s balanced with a three piece, drums in the middle guitars
on either side. But when we went on tour for “3” in 1988 someone had talked
Gordon into the idea that he should be in the middle. With Victor on the other side of
the stage from me I could barely hear him in certain venues, and this continued with
Guy. It is so much better for the rhythm section to be able to hear and react to each
other. I like to hear the actual drums rather than the sound through speakers.

>2. This is an assumption based on what I have read, but how did Gordon tell you that
>he did not want to record new music with you and Victor? Did you approach him and
>he said “no mas” or did it come out of leftfield?
BR- We had a meeting and Victor expressed the hope that we could work on a new
album. Gordon said he doesn’t want to do that. He wants to do gigs with the Femmes
but that his new creativity will be expressed outside of that context. Time will tell
what happens with that. Maybe he wants to make a different kind of music, or play
with different kinds of musicians. I don’t know what his reasons are. One thing is for
sure. Good music happens when people want to make it. If all three of us are not into
it the results would not be acceptable. Victor and I recorded a song recently and it
turned out great. Maybe we will do more like that.

>3. Will Victor ever play any of the music from the post-Victor albums? I understand
>that a few of those songs were written while Victor was in the band the first go
>around. If not, it would be a shame to put some of those songs to sleep forever.
BR -I agree with you wholeheartedly. When Victor rejoined the band it was sparked
by the reissue of the first album. The Femmes never rehearse so when we went on
stage with Victor we were playing from memory. Also we thought we should focus on
the CD we were touring behind. Now it’s about a year after the release of the reissue
so it’s time to stop working that. I’m going to burn a CD of songs I like from “New Times”
, “Rock!!!!!” and “Freak Magnet” for Victor and Gordon and hopefully we will start
integrating them into the set soon. We have already played “Life is and Adventure”
and “I Saw You in the Crowd”. As far as I know Victor has no objections to playing
the stuff Guy originated. I’d like to start doing more songs from the other early albums
as well.
>4. Has anyone ever approached the band regarding a book on the detailed
>history band? I’m thinking 25th anniversary box set with a book…
BR- I started writing a book about it 3 years ago, but it was so painful I quit. Some
fans have asked me to resume work on it and people have given me some new
ideas which might make it more fun for me. I just want it to be better than other
rock books. The problem is to write something honest will obviously step on a lot
of toes. I’m sorting it out. A publisher contacted one of the Horns of Dilemma to
write a book about us and he said, “I wouldn’t touch that subject with a ten foot
pole”. So I guess it’s up to me.

>Thanks for the all the enjoyment your music has created. My wife and I have
>created our own second generation of VF fans. Our 4 year old loves the “Snow
>White” song (Mirror, Mirror) and our 2 year old regularly sings “I like his shoes,
>I like his hat, I like me better if I looked like that uh-huh” when he gets dressed
>in the morning. Nothing makes me smile like hearing my kids sing your song lyrics.
>At least some of them. They will see their first show on August 23 at Del Mar.
>I haven’t decided if it will be a great cultural experience for the kids or if someone
>should alert child welfare.

BR- Sometimes I wonder about that. Whether the music is good for young minds.
I really don’t know.
Thanks Greg,

Question for Brian from Brazillian fans (friend’s of Nilton)
>1)what was the weirdest place you guys ever played at?
BR- Probably the weirdest place we have ever played at (or any rock band) was an
aircraft hangar at the North Pole for 200 Molson Beer contest winners and a bunch of
Inuits. It was a wonderful experience. Runners up include:
A gay bar on the south side of Milwaukee. We played for several hours to an empty
house while the bar owner promised us that a busload of gays from Chicago would
arrive any minute. They never did. When we played at gay bars we would change
certain lyrics like “Boy Trouble (Up the Ass)” for example. A venue in Malmo,
Sweden where somebody came on stage as Victor was starting his drum solo
on “Black Girls” and shouted some gibberish in Swedish. The entire audience
ran out of the hall en masse. Later on we found out he announced there
was a bomb in the house. A club in Virginia where upon starting “Dance
Motherfucker Dance” the audience came on stage and the stage collapsed.
University of San Diego where the stage started to separate. The seam was
right in between Victor’s snare drum and his tranceaphone, so his legs just
started to spread wider as the gap increased. Those are just a few of the weird
ones, I’m sure I could think of more.
>2)how was the decision to bring victor back made?
BR- It was just a bunch of different events which taken together created an
environment where he could come back to the band. I discuss it in more detail
elsewhere in this Q&A.
>thanx some brazilian fans, friends of nilton’s – niiilson

Be That Guy
Sorry to hear you feel that way, Aaron. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the
way out! Seriously, though — If you enjoy their music, you should go to their shows!
Otherwise the only people who will be there will be the BITS-heads who can’t
appreciate the rest of their work. Eventually, that will drive Gordon and the guys
into an early rock-and-roll grave. Imagine playing BITS for the umpteen-millionth
time. The only thing that keeps you going is looking out into the audience and
seeing some goofball enjoying the shit out of every song and singing along at the
top of his lungs with every obscure lyric. Be that guy. Make it worthwhile.
James Welborn

I’ve known Gordon since 10th grade. I haven’t seen him much since he moved
to New York, and I miss him. I loved the Femmes all these years, but not because
of Brian and Victor. I’ve always thought the main ingredient in the band was
Gordon. It seems to me Gordon is preparing to leave the band and go solo.
Something he should have done years ago.
Kirt Knutsen
Good point
I’m not sure why, but I’m finally compelled to write to this thing. I’m 18 years old
and I’ve only been listening to the Violent Femmes since I was probably 15. But
even though I am younger than most of the “hardcore Femmes fans” I do know
more songs than just “Blister in the Sun” and “Kiss Off.” So, I’d appreciate it if
people would refrain from the old “these younger fans don’t know anything”
routine. I, unfortunately, haven’t seen the Violent Femmes live. Whenever they
are remotely near my area (Massachusetts) I can’t go for some stupid reason. I
know some of you guys never want to see them again unless they start playing a
better variety of songs, or release new material, etc…But I have NEVER seen
them! So for me, seeing them live would be awesome, even if I was surrounded
by drunk people who only wanted to hear the hits. Crappy and boring live Femmes
are better than no Femmes at all.
To POST, SUBSCRIBE, or UNSUBSCRIBE send any kind of an email to:
violentfemmeslist or violentfemmeslist