Fans of Lester Bangs should take a listen to this really in-depth, ultra cynical interview that he did with Australian radio friend Sue Matthews in May of 1980. In it, Bangs rants and cogently rambles his way through a series of open-ended questions that give him the room to tell you how he really feels about the future of the music industry and its relation to American consumerism. It’s a bit of a bummer that the audio cuts out from 3:59 to 8:34, but there’s plenty to glean from the rest of the interview.
Here are some of the highlights:
On new music:
[T]here’s a huge nostalgia culture that has been built up because, very little that anyone is coming up with is generally new. And I’m sorry I just really have to question a lot of these New Wave people that say what they’re doing is so radically new and so different. Cause I really don’t see it. Something like a lot of these synthesizer groups the whole Gary ‘Numanoid’ sort of movement, like Kraftwerk did it a lot better half a decade ago.
On more sophisticated recording technology:
Horrible. I hate it. I think that the best records are made on garbage equipment and played on garbage equipment. The utter surreality of the recording studios of today can only be matched with the utter surreality of the equipment that people have to play their records on. A friend of mine who edits the records review section of Rolling Stone, went out and spent a thousand dollars on a new stereo system and he says like he got rooked, he got created and threw his money away. Cause he said Jackson Browne sounds fantastic on it and the Ramones just get lost, they don’t make record players to play Rock’n’Roll on it anymore. The Dolby’s, the studios and the whole surreality of the thing, it just takes all the mud and the guts out of it. I mean the music is supposed to be distorted in the first place, and the clearer you make it, the more you rob it.
On how his taste in music changed over the previous ten years:
Well, I think I can say that I’ve shifted to the extent of becoming a little more interested in reflective, and a little less interested in purely sensational. i.e.. that ten years ago all somebody had to do was get me all revved all it didn’t matter what was inside, what the lyrics were about or anything, as long as it was exciting. And now I like things that are exciting but back then I also liked things that were about something. Like I said a vision. But, I think I was much more willing then to settle for something that was just like. . Well like Heavy Metal, a lot of those bands like Deep Purple I mean what the hell were they about? Nothing really, but they were fun. And now I’m much more looking for people that are really three dimensional like, like them or hate them that have something to say and hopefully an original way of saying it. Really committed to something that is actually larger then just becoming a rock’n’roll star and making a million dollars.
On what Bangs was listening to at the time:
Queen of Siam by Lydia Lunch, Monster Movie by Can, Veedon Fleece by Van Morison, some old Blind Lemon Jefferson albums on Folkways, The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle by The Sex Pistols, Pangaia, a Japanese live album by Miles Davis, an old Crown album called Ike Turner Rocks the Blues, “Trying to Get to You” from the first Elvis album, Oar by Alexander Spence, “For Your Love” from the first Yardbirds album, Miles Davis, On The Corner, the 3rd Velvet Underground album, a classical piece called “The Winds Rise in the North” by Harley Gabour, Miles Davis’ Get Up with It, the Charles Manson album, Broken English by Marianne Faithful and Nonaah by Roscoe Mitchell.
You can find a full transcript of the interview, which includes the missing section of the YouTube clip here.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The last Lester Bangs interview
Lester Bangs and Gary Lucas on Captain Beefheart
Lester Bangs pontificates
Lester Bangs and Peter Laughner sing ‘G’Bye Lou’ from the Creem sessions