The Last Supper : May 1983
Note : this was part of the booklet that came with The Last Supper cassette.
Graeme of SPK was interviewed by Alan in his flat in London in May, before they embarked upon an extensive tour of Europe, USA, Japan and Australia.
A: Do you ever feel satisfied, feel that you've
acheived what you set out to do?
G: "No, not really, I think we've been misunderstood, We started off with some interesting ideas, with a pretty well worked out strategy. We set out to find out how far you can go without pandering to the ideas of a band in the music industry, without doing any of the things bands are supposed to do (press, record companies, things like that). We tried to see just how well the 'grapevine' worked internationally without having an image or anything that was possible to imitate. We more or less found out."
A: Which was what?
G: "Well, we've got a certain amount of notoriety, but in some senses when you adopt that tack you are in the press all the time, explaining what you are doing. You are open to a lot of misunderstanding. That's partly our fault and partly the fault of people for not thinking very much."
A: In your imagery that you use, you seem to have
picked up on the death aspect more, as in that video you just
showed me with autopsy clips. It seems to be something you've
focused on for a long time...
G: "Its because death is generally hidden. Death is either shown in a corny B Grade way or its hidden from us. Most people don't really know what its like to experience or see death. Western society particularly likes to give itself an image of a pure, organized, guiltless society as exemplified by the blank face of the computer. Its a really sanitised society. What goes on out there is the same old carnage that there always was and what we are trying to do is bring home death to people."
A: Do you feel that your very percussive style of
playing is in danger of becoming too identifiable with SPK?
G: "Oh, indeed, its a good idea the metal percussion and I think we got the jump on everyone, but we don't do it in a terribly stylistic way. We couldn't care less about it either, we do it in a very anarchic way. Theres only so much you can milk out of an idea like that, its basically been done I think."
A: Yes, theres only so many things you can hit !
G: "So we're changing from that now, we're going to develop a new kind of thing. We're going to electronify the whole thing again, but we'll still be very rythmic, which we've always been. Its not going to be obvious, beating lumps of metal, etc. "We might do a bit of it, but not centering around it. Hopefully we'll come up with a new sort of idea that people haven't latched onto yet. Basically what we are going to be doing is digitalising new sounds and building up rythms from that. We've got sounds taped that we know other people haven't got, so we're in the lead there anyway."
A: Onto SPKs image, in the past there have been a lot
of shocking images, chopped up heads, etc. but recently you seem
to have lost this side of it a bit. On 'Dekompositions' it was
rather plain really....
G: "Well, it was someone disembowelling himself"
A: Well, fairly plain anyway, no skulls or anything!
G: "No, and the same thing applies to the european cover of Lichenshrie, its more subjued. Its still got ideas content, but its less obvious."
A: Do you feel you're moving towards something less
literal, more implied?
G: "Yes, its partly because I feel we've been misunderstood for these things, and partly because I think SPK has done as much as it can on a completely independant footing, which is what we've been doing up 'till now with this 'no press' & no identifiable image idea. Its going to be like a totally new experiment for SPK in that the music is going to be slightly more musical or accessable. The equipment is different, and we're trying for a totally different audience now."
A: Do you think the 'hardy few', the old SPK fans will
stick by you? Will there still be enough of what they liked
before in it?
G: "I have great faith in the people that like SPK. They are not people who like a certain style of music, they are people who like a certain effort & idea & attitude towards people. Perhaps they won't like the music, that doesn't worry me. As long as they understand that we are trying to take the music to an audience who wouldn't normally hear it. Its quite a dangerous step really, because we could have stayed in the safe indie scene, but it has to be done eventually. If you have a certain image and you stay within that image totally, then people will not hear of you.
A: Does this mean you are wanting to make yourself more
available to people?
G: "We've always been open to people to come and see us & write to us as we always left our address around the place. What we want to do now is to make a crossover without making too obvious a move to be acceptable. What we're trying to do is keep SPK as faithful to the original conception as possible, but to be able to make statements like I'm making to you now on television and in the daily paper."
A: Does this mean the annonymous part of SPK will go
& you'll be putting your own personalities forward more?
G: "Thats right, we will be using our real names from now on & we'll have our photos about the place so people will know who is involved. Its just a necessity really. If you're in the industry you have to work within the confines of that industry, theres no other way of doing it. I suppose the Residents are the perfect example of how far you can go with just an image. I've never really liked the music of the Residents, but I liked their videos & the idea of it. People are not really convinced are they ? Its always the same, the more you say, the more you leave yourself open to attack. The less you say, the more likely you are to succeed,because people have got nothing to attack you on."
A: Do you feel you have an affinity to any of the other
bands in your area of music?
G: "We're not part of a movement as such. If there is a movement, its in terms of a spirit or way of doing things. Some of the bands, basically the ones Dave Henderson has written about in Sounds,have that spirit,some of them don't. The things that I count of as that way of working is co-operation for a start, as opposed to competition. The way that they work is totally anti plaigiaristic to as high a degree as possible given that theres nothing new under the sun. If they see someone doing something similar, they will try to find something else. Which of course is not the way it normally works in the pop world. If someone sees someone doing something they'll jump on the bandwagon. A lot of the groups that have been sitting there for a while are cutting their own throats commercially. I suppose SPK has always cut its own throat right from the start. When we started hearing some of the English bands,we would come up with things and we'd just have to forget about it because someone had done it already and theres no point in doing it. A lot of the groups in England & Germany work in that way, though there are some clone bands."
A: Do you feel that there are plaigiarists about?
G: "Yes, there are, but I prefer people to think about that themselves, it doesn't worry me if these bands start making lots of money. Well,slightly perhaps. I just hope that people will see through it. there is always trendy people who will pick up on it two years after."
A: Do you think SPK will get recognition on a wider
G: "If we played our cards right and did all the right tricks like getting press at the same time as singles come out, and playing the gig circuit and all the trendy places,we could do quite well. Its not really our style, what we're looking for is something different. We should be respected by the people who know something about us, the main thing about SPK is that we are always trying to do something different to what everyone else is doing."
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