- Title: The Violent Femmes and Their Underground “Darkside of the Moon”
- Author: N/A
- Publication: Mofo (a Belgian rockzine)
- Date: July 1994
The Milwaukee trio is back, after a bunch of contractual discussions that almost killed the band. The Violent Femmes, about which Moe Tucker doesn’t hesitate to say that they are today’s Velvet Underground, have lost their original drummer. The new chapter begins with a “New Times” astonishingly well titled.
Q: New drummer, new label, new record titled “New Times”, that’s a lot of new things!
Gordon Gano: It’s our new contract that’s most important to us. The new drummer is a new third of the band but it happened most naturally. New times of course is a reference to all these changes, but, say, the title is simple, two syllables, no hesitation. In the past, we sometimes chose complicated titles like “The Blind Leading the Naked” or “Why Do Birds Sing?”. It was more colorful, but was it necessarily a better title?
Q: Slash, your former label, didn’t want you anymore?
GG: It’s a little more complex. Not only, they didn’t like us anymore, but also, they were forbidding us to put out records on other labels. Thus, at one point, it became a timeless legal dispute. This has of course put our musical carrier between parenthesis. In fact, I think that Slash records never really liked our music. Proof: They constantly asked for more covers, constantly wanted us to sound like another band, always wanted us to copy more popular bands. In the last minute, they wanted us to become REM clones…
Q: Didn’t the VF sell enough records for them?
GG.: In fact, we were selling too many records and they could not do away with us that easily but not enough for them to be happy… Very strange. Today, we signed a much better contract with Elektra. The solution is clear: we give them a finished product. It’s written black on white.
Q: Is it to end your collaboration with Slash that Add It Up (1981-1993) was released?
GG.: A very good thing for us. We had been absent from the scene for contractual reasons for a while when the record was released and they let us choose the titles included. Among others, we included this answering machine message that I left to Victor and Brian. That was just before the recording of our first demo: my parents had locked me in, but it was more of a mistake, no bad intention. Oh well. The compilation is pretty cool and put an end to the first part of the story of the band.
Q: Unavoidable question: Why did Victor leave?
GG.: He wanted to get into something else. the Femmes were becoming boring to him. We’ve always been free in the band, everyone of us has had the possibility of doing one or more solo albums, but the main concern had to be the band. For a while, it was becoming heavy for Victor. Not much to add: there is no rational answer to his departure. Today, we speak about a friendly separation, but there have been -I don’t hide it- quite a lot of problems with Victor towards the end: personal, professional and musical problems. He’s gone, but I’m not saying that we have not pushed him a little bit too.
Q: The new guy, Guy Hoffman, how did you recruit him?
GG.: We’ve known him for quite a while, 1979 may be, well before the formation of the VF. At the time, Guy was in the most popular band in Milwaukee: the Oyal Toasters. And that’s the main reason why he has not been our original drummer. Had the things be a little different, he very well could have been in the original lineup. I remember that Brian and I were saying : “the drummer: it’s either Victor or Guy” they were the only two to play our kind of music.
Q: How did you ask him to join the Femmes?
GG.: It’s Brian who did it. In Milwaukee, we’re local stars. It’s the only place where we’re on the front page of newspapers besides the president. So, we didn’t want to put an ad in the classifieds… We just asked Guy to do a test, without talking to anyone about it. We wanted it all to be settled legally with Victor. We already had had a legal battle with Slash, one was enough. Guy fitted the band directly. He’s from the same generation, grew up at the same time as we did, we were from the same scene, directly after punk, we somehow had followed the same road. We had a lot of things in common. More, he knows the story of the Femmes, most of our old songs. He had already played with us at some occasions. We don’t waste time in explanations during rehearsals.
Q: You really wanted to go on as a trio?
GG.: We experimented a four piece band just before “Why do Birds Sing”. Interesting but we more felt like losing something than adding something to our sound.
Q: When talking about you, journalists always refer to your first album, why is that?
GG.: Many do, that’s true. Our first album has had a phenomenal success. It’s a classic, an underground “Dark Side of the Moon”. The Pink Floyd album stayed in the charts for years, maybe still the case. Our first album never was in the charts, still, we sold two million copies. Up to now, it’s the first record that goes platinum before entering the Bilboard 200. Unprecedented and against all business rules.
Q: Some say that album is the ultimate expression of teenage. Do you think it’ll reach posterity?
GG.: I say it’s a classic, but everyone doesn’t agree. Rolling Stones Magazine did’t put it in its list of the 100 most important records of the 80’s. I think they’re wrong, or maybe I am. So if you want to keep talking about it in your articles, it’d be cool. The VF want to be part of the history of Rock n’ Roll. No discussion about it.