I was on a mission, and I wasn’t told the goal. Eleven AM was the predetermined time, and since it was a holiday weekend, I might as well spend an hour (or so) of it talking with Jim Coleman (Phylr, ex-Cop Shoot Cop) about one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. Under the guise of an “interview,” of course. So I dialed New York. Jim wasn’t there, but I was assured he would be back shortly. Cool. More time to prepare. In goes the Phylr album and away I go. When the phone rang, I was somewhere in the middle. Honestly, I didn’t want to be disturbed, but this is business, and remember, I’m on a mission.
“Hey Jim. How’s this holiday weekend treating you?” It seemed like the best way to open up.
“Pretty relaxed so far. I have to work later. I’m scoring a theater piece with Hal Harvey, but do you mind calling me back? This isn’t my phone line.” Jim sounds calm, collected, and definitely not interested in running up someone else’s phone bill. So I hang up and call back.
“Wow! Been a long time,” I joke. Humor. It’s the best resort when buying time to load up your list of questions on the computer. Jim played samples for Cop Shoot Cop (everyone tells me that I must get Consumer Revolt ). Whatever. The history behind Jim is irrelevant. Right now Jim is pushing the limits with what is typically considered electronica. For me, that’s more interesting than collecting the back catalog of yesterday’s releases. So let the inquisition begin…
Have you seen Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas?
No…..but heard it was pretty bad.
I had to be honest with Jim. Fear and Loathing IS fantastic, and when interviewing, never agree with them a hundred percent. Jim works on movie soundtracks and stage scores, even though he graduated from film school. They are two different mediums, so it provokes me to find out which he thinks is more powerful.
I don’t think either is better. It’s best when the two can coexist successfully. I like process of doing music better, obviously, since it’s what I’m doing.”
You just finished supporting the Pigface-headlined ‘Lowest of the Low’ tour. How receptive were people to Phylr?
It varied. We only did ten dates. About a third had a good response. I was sick for six weeks afterwards though.
Now, exactly what is it about touring that provokes every musician to return home in a hazy of delirium and illness? From what Jim tells me, it’s more about “getting beat down” while you’re out there. The only real horror story from this journey was the health department catching up with the tour in Canada to give everyone medication (see “Not Breathing/Paging Doctor Allcome,” June Ink 19). Fortunately, it was after he had returned to New York. “So what’s your least favorite part about touring?” I ask, expecting a list that could rival The Great Book.
“Actually, I like touring, though there is always a lack of showers and food.” Yep. Usually, long before the door’s open, bands scramble to get enough to sustain them until the next day. Those that attempt to put their music first usually end up with a very small portion of nothingness as a reward. Now this doesn’t hold true with your big names, but Jim is on an “indie” label. It’s standard procedure for him.
All right, time to separate out the unintelligent.
So when you’re out there on the road, it’s got to be hard not being able to write new material on the downtime between shows. How do you cope and pass the time?
I read a lot. I enjoying touring, but I have different priorities now. I use to tour a lot with Cop Shoot Cop.” This leads to a rather lengthy discussion on books we’ve read recently. Jim wanders from fiction to history and back again. “Sometimes I just can’t read a certain style of book. So I read everything for variety.” He suggests Low Life, about the history of the New York Underground, and Portrait of a Young Man Dying. I suggest to him The Consumer by Gira. Eventually, we start into a discussion about technology, gear, and electronica.
Electronica is questionable for being interesting live. The challenge is to make it interesting.
I would agree. Many of the bands I’ve seen live just push buttons. They are essentially high-tech DJ’s. But it’s got to be hard with all the loops and such to introduce variety in the structure when it’s all been programmed a certain way. [I figure Jim is going to tear me apart for making such a comment.]
For me, the music is more improv live. I mix from the stage. Electronica comes to life in the mixing, so I want control over it.” Jim is casual about the statement, but anyone that has watched a sound tech during a show can agree: mixing is hard work. Combine that with performing your music at the same time and presto: Motrin AD please! “Live Phylr is a rotating cast. I took Phil from Cop Shoot Cop out this last time to play drums.
Well, what music do you listen to?
I had to ask. For me, Phylr contains elements of classical, jazz, dance, soundtrack work, and basic noise. Since he does sample, it usually means the list of bands funneled into his ears become the source of raw material, pre-“sampled,” of course.
Electronic stuff…square pusher…..We…….jazz…..Charles Lloyd……rock and classical… I listen to a variety of styles.
So if we had a list of your CDs…..wait never mind. [I trail off. I need to change the conversation. I was bound to make some horrible insult just to provoke a response, but I love the idea of sampling.]
I do a lot of sampling. I am starting to use more analog and electronic gear.
Well as long as you don’t go over seven seconds they can’t get you for copyright infringement. [It’s true, but there are restrictions. If you sample seven seconds of a song, as long as it isn’t repeated throughout a song, you can use it (basically).]
I don’t care about copywriting. I don’t leave anything at face value.
Spoken like a true electronic artist. That is the main problem with today’s musicians: the samples stick out like a bleeding face wound. Jim manages to elude my knowledge with every sample. I’m fearful of you, the reader, slamming me for not asking anything regarding Cop Shoot Cop. So I went for the jugular!
There are a lot of people that rave about Consumer Revolt by Cop Shoot Cop. I’ve never heard it, but wasn’t really turned on by the Cop Shoot Cop I heard. These days, all those fans of Cop Shoot Cop that I know feel that Phylr is watered-down bullshit. I think Phylr rocks. How do you feel about these people and their opinions? [Ha! There you go.]
Phylr is a different thing. It’s not a rock band. I took a lot more responsibility for what I was doing instead. What I hear is what it is… I need collaboration. It’s more active and diverse.
Do other’s opinions really matter?
Well, what does it really matter…it doesn’t. Am I as an individual happy? Yes, so it doesn’t matter.
I have to agree with him. Too many people base their lives around opinions about them. It is a shallow way to exist. Jim is obviously a balanced and intelligent individual. So does he have any hopes, dreams, or goals? “More of a continued development. Of course I want to get paid more. Film scores. Generally realize what I’m doing on my own, but evolve naturally.” Hopefully we are going to have years left with Jim crunching out beautiful music to fill our homes. So as much as I’d like to stay on the phone with Jim chatting about everything else we didn’t discuss, it’s time to let him go. Time to ask the loaded question…
A lot of musicians hate reading interviews and/or reviews about them. Are you the same way?”
I always read what’s written. It informs me, and not in a bad way. I haven’t had any bad ones recently. Send me a copy when this goes to print.
Will do, but you have to answer this first: boxers, briefs, or freeball? [His response was barely audible through his laughter.]
No briefs…alternate between the other two.
I can still hear him laughing.