Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Interview: If You Don't Al-
ready Have a Look...at Mick
Collins of the Dirtbombs

Here's the complete text of an
interview with the Dirtbombs
frontman from early July. The
edited (950-word) version
should be posted to Tablet
shortly. Unfortunately, it's the
last issue and this piece got
lost in the shuffle. Regarding Houserockin', the record is in print domestically, but only on vinyl, with the CD only available as
an import. If anyone knows otherwise, please give me a shout.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

I've been a Mick Collins fan ever since I stumbled across the
Gories' Houserockin' back in 1989. Since then, the busy musi-
cian has been involved with a number of groups, most notably
the Dirtbombs. What they all have in common are his impas-
sioned vocals and impressively eclectic taste. The new double-
disc compilation, If You Don't Already Have a Look, offers a
convenient snapshot of one of America's finest—and most un-
derrated—rock bands in all their magnificent glory. I recently
had a chat with Collins, via email, about the CD and other topics.

Hi Mick. Thanks for agreeing to answer these questions.
It's a thrill to get the chance to chat with you (virtual or
otherwise). Hope you don't mind a few Gories questions
to start. Old news, I know, but inquiring minds and all
that... Any plans to make Houserockin' available again?
I didn't realize it was out of print until just recently.

I didn't know it was out of print, actually.

Most people who are familiar with your work know
about the Alex Chilton connection (I Know You Fine,
But How You Doin'). How did that come about?

A mutual friend played him a copy of Houserockin' one
night and, so the story goes, he flipped. He got us the rec-
ord deal with New Rose on the condition that he be the
producer, and got in touch with us shortly thereafter.

Have you been in touch since?

We see each other occasionally (the last time was in a bar in NYC)...

Is there any other producer you'd like to work with?

The producers I would most like to work with are
Nick Lowe (possibly the only human alive to whom
I would willingly hand over control of a mix of one
of MY songs, these days), RZA, and Ry Cooder.

On that note, since you've also worked as a prod-
ucer (Andre Williams, the Red Aunts, etc.), do you
have any other production projects in the works?

The only production gig I have on the docket right
now is an Australian band called the Exploders; I'll be
doing their record later this year, for a 2006 release.

Any other artists you'd like to produce?

Yeah, sure. The Motown singing group The Velvelettes are
still an ongoing concern; I'd like to get something going with
them, and also the Marvelettes, who just did a show here re-
cently. There's an L.A. band called the Lipstick Pickups that
I think sound kinda interesting, and there's a German band
called ElectroCute who keep saying they want me to produce
their record, but to date they've never tried to contact me about it.

Who are you touring with this fall? And who are
some of the artists you've played with that you're
most excited about? I noticed you mention C.O.C.O.
in the If You Don't Already Have a Look liner notes.
I wrote their bio for the All Music Guide and made
sure to reference the Gories and the Dirtbombs, since
there seems to be a mutual admiration thing going on there.

We haven't picked any of the opening acts this year; I wanted to see if there were any good bands out there that I hadn't heard of; all we've gotten pretty much have been execrable tattoo-rock bands—y'know, the soundman's friend's Oi! band kinda thing.

What are some of your favorite cities to play (and why)?
On your website, you mention New York and LA. Any others?

Glasgow, Scotland, and Kalamazoo, Michigan. Most of our shows
in The Netherlands have been really good as well. The reason why
is simple: those are the places where the audiences are INTO it.
I don't think we've ever had a bad audience in the NY/NJ area.

[Note that he didn't mention Seattle. Damn! -KF]

Would you—could you—ever live anywhere other than Detroit?

That question for me is fraught with political and spiritual
overtones right now, and so I'll give you the most honest
answer I can: While it's possible I could live someplace oth-
er than Detroit, it's unlikely I would be happy more than
90 minutes away from one of the Great Lakes. The Lakes
are my Home; in my mind, I live in a country called the
Great Lakes Republic which is neither Yankee nor Cana-
dian, and is not overrun with didactic schweinhunden.

Have you met any of the legends of Detroit
rock/funk? I'm guessing a lot have moved/
passed away since their heyday. This is a
bit of a Seattle "problem," too—a lot of the
bigger names end up moving away event-
ually (though I don't think too many loc-
als are mourning the loss of Kenny G...).

I met Rob Tyner a couple of times, George Clin-
ton a couple of times (once while in line at a Chin-
ese restaurant), Kim Weston once, Pat Lewis once.
I'm sure I've met others, but I couldn't tell you who.

If someone offered to make a documentary about
you/the Dirtbombs, what would you say? Seems like
it could make an interesting film in the right hands.
Then again, it often means dredging up stuff from the
past and I'm sure a lot of living musicians would rath-
er not do that (hence the proliferation of films about
dead folks, like Klaus Nomi, Gram Parsons, etc.).

I wouldn't really mind if it was JUST about the Dirtbombs.
If it was just about ME, though, I'd probably stipulate that
it begin in1985, with the Floortasters, the band I was in
before the Gories. Nothing before that matters.

From the start, you've done a lot of covers and you've tackled some great stuff. Are you constantly listening to music when you aren't playing/composing/performing, or does a lot of it just come to you--from your past, from things you've heard on the radio, etc.? I've always been particularly fond of "Trick Bag," but I haven't heard a bad one yet. Just loaned Ultraglide in Black to a music-loving friend, who hadn't heard several of the (original) tracks before, which is really an achievement. We both quite like "Your Love Belongs Under a Rock." (Great title.)

I am constantly listening to music. (As I'm writing
this, I'm listening to a record called Dub the Millen-
nium - Manasseh Meets the Equaliser. After that,
it'll either be a Comets On Fire tour record, or a
compilation of psychedelic music from Africa.) I
listen to all types. I have almost 7,000 LPs, and
I'm buying more records all the time. Apart from
the occasional short story, music is What I Do.

On that note, are you an Electraglide in Blue fan?
I haven't seen it, but I love Robert Blake in In Cold
Blood, Baretta, and Lost Highway. Bummer to think
he'll be better remembered for the events of the past
few years than for his acting, but I digress...

The sad part is that RIGHT NOW, Robert Blake could probably turn
in the performance of a lifetime, after the emotional ride he's just
gotten off of, and I bet he can't even get a walk-on in Hollywood.

You're easily one of my favorite vocalists. Are there
any singers you wish you sounded like? Any you've
tried—or try—to emulate? I was really impressed by
your vocal on "Executioner of Love." You sound noth-
ing like Robyn Hitchcock and yet the song is a great fit
for your voice (he's also one of my favorite vocalists, al-
ong with his forebears, John Lennon and Syd Barrett).

(laughter) I have enough trouble sounding like MY-
SELF, without trying to sound like somebody else!

Speaking of which, did you consider putting
"Executioner" and Brian Eno's "King's Lead
Hat" on If You Don't Already Have a Look?
I have the CD (Dangerous Magical Noise)
with the bonus tracks, so I didn't notice at
first, but I think they're two of your best covers.

Well, they SHOULD have been on there, but there was...
an issue...at the pressing plant, and so a lot more copies
came out with the bonus tracks than originally planned.

You've worked with female musicians before (Peg
O'Neill, Janet Walker, Stephanie Friedman, et al),
so this is nothing new. With the addition of Ko Shih
(Ko & the Knockouts) to the line-up, the Dirtbombs
are now a mixed gender band. Is this the first time?

No, Kathy Carroll was a drummer in the very first lineup, back in
1992. Also, Deann Iovann was on fuzz for about two weeks in 1995.

Also, which of the If You Don't Already Have a Look
tracks does she play on? Any plans to let her do some singing...?

I know for sure she's on "Trainwreck." (grin) She's on all the new stuff: "Sharpest Claws," "All My Friends Must Be Punished," etc.

Who's the stone-faced guy with the grey hair in the
CD booklet? (The one with the red jacket and black
shades.) My guess: Kim Fowley. Or his doppelgang-
er...a rather scary thought, come to think of it.

Yeah, it's Kim Fowley. He's come to see us numerous times. He's great.

And speaking of the CD packaging, I just noticed
the pic of Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek's Lt. Uhur-
u) hidden behind the second disc. Nice touch! Did
you get permission from the powers that be to re-
produce it or are you hoping they won't find out...?

I had nothing to do with the packaging for the record,
it was all done in-house at In the Red. I didn't even get
to sign off on it. They just called and said "We're send-
ing you a printer's proof, you're gonna love it."

You've spent over half your life as a working musician.
If things hadn't worked out, is there any other career
you'd have liked to pursue? On that note, in the liner
notes, you say you'll pull the plug on the Dirtbombs
once the band has achieved the musical goals you've
set out for them. I'm not gonna ask what those goals
are, but rather would you then go solo, retire...?

I like to think I could just go back into IT if I ever really sour-
ed on the music business, but it would be hard. I'm not lack-
ing in non-Dirtbombs projects: plans are underway for a sec-
ond Voltaire Brothers record, I have a techno record coming
out later this year, and I'm about to start recording my other
rock band, Man Ray Man Ray, so hopefully, on the day I de-
cide to demise the Dirtbombs, nobody will notice.

This is off-topic—and it isn't even a question (unless
you have any thoughts on the matter)—but I think it's
cool that you share a name with an Irish freedom fight-
er. My grandfather knew Michael Collins back in the
day (worked for him, actually). Anyway, I noticed in
your website bio that Guinness Extra Stout is your fav-
orite beverage, so it appears you were well named. Then
again, if your first name isn't actually Michael, um...

The rather cryptic, but very true, answer is that my
name is SUPPOSED to be Michael, so we'll call it a "yes,"
and I'll add that, despite the fact that many people re-
sented the treaty he negotiated, the fact that Ireland is
now the wealthiest country in the EU is testimony to his
perseverance and belief in his cause... And if there's no
Guinness in Heaven, then I don't see the point in going. ;)

Lastly, are there any misconceptions about yourself that
you'd like to clear up? Or anything you'd like people to know?

Not off the top of my head. Something will
come to me an hour from now, though...

Thanks for taking the time. Very much look-
ing forward to seeing the Dirtbombs this Oc-
tober and hope you have a great tour!

Thanks; see you there...

The Dirtbombs have now been together for over a decade and,
according to Grunnen Rocks, as many as 17 (!) line-ups. In the
liner notes for If You Don’t Already Have a Look, which consists
entirely of singles, Collins explains that he prefers making 7-in-
ches to LPs, but more than anything—he prefers playing live. So
if you should get the chance, do whatever you can to catch Collins
and crew in concert, doing what they do best and love the most.

Note: Image from the All Music Guide.

1 comment:

Sonya said...

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