Somewhere amongst the cultural and cosmic detritus of the West, there exists a force known as Indian Jewelry.
We believe this force – which some call a band, which some call a cult, which some say rests its collective head in Houston, TX – to be known to enlist the tools of amplification, electronics, passion, paranoia and drums, drums, drums, in an effort to dramatically demonstrate and radically remind us of something the very, very dead William “Free Gold!” Burroughs once said: “Rock music can be seen as one attempt to break out of this dead soulless universe and reassert the universe of magic.”
And we believe this force looks good doing it.
We believe this force to have a compounding effect, their albums becoming more dynamic with each and every listen. We believe the band is nearly peerless with regard to the artistic process of today – we believe Indian Jewelry when they say, “In every practice space across the world, truly awful bands are rehearsing their shitty music, but that will NEVER be us; we don’t rehearse.”
We believe we are fortunate to see Indian Jewelry as part of the great collection of weirdos that will gather to perform at Austin Psych Fest 2012, and we believe we are just as fortunate to present this interview with Indian Jewelry’s Tex Kerschen. Enjoy.
Would you have expected yourself to be making music as singular and strange as that of Indian Jewelry when you were, say, fifteen years old? Was there a first time that you can recall having the distinct feeling that your musical tastes would grow to be perhaps more adventurous than many of your friends or peers? What influence did your parents have on your early musical interests? Can you think of a song from your childhood that still resonates with you today – and why do you think that is?
I’m the oldest of seven children; our family was a portable Irish ghetto, and there was always music playing at home. I don’t think I’ll ever hear Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” or Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” without thinking of my mother. I grew up in the suburbs of Houston between the metalheads and the skaters, but I always had my own ideas. The music we make in this band is the kind of music I’ve wanted to make since I can remember. I don’t think of it as strange music at all – just human.
Do you believe that music can put one into a meditative state? For yourself, does music arouse feelings of primal hatred and disgust, or it is more likely to truly “soothe the savage beast”
I find it difficult to meditate, I seem to have forgotten my mantra.
In 2008, the South African government forbid the song “Get Out” by Zimbabwean-born hip-hop artist Zubz to be played on the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) because of lyrics that were deemed “hate speech” – lyrics like:
“Understand I’m gonna get this panga to your neck.
Take what is mine today and I’ll rob you tomorrow.
Take my time, it’s payback.
Tell my people fight. And tell the oppressor get out.”
Do you feel the music of Indian Jewelry has an ingrained allegiance to music that in some way seeks to strike out against oppression, be it Johnny Cash or be it Zubz? What is your favorite Johnny Cash song and why? What is your favorite Zubz song – and why?
Who knows if music is capable at striking anything? At times, the music of the Dead Kennedys and Fugazi kept me informed. At its best it keeps us human. I know where my sympathies lay- there are a lot of boots stepping on a lot of skulls anywhere you look. But all the channels are jammed. I was at an anti-war rally demonstration here in Houston in 2003 where they marched us through the empty financial district downtown on a Saturday and led us to a park and played Bob Dylan songs over the PA. I’ve attended countless demonstrations and teach-ins. Maybe if we had buckets instead of drum machines they’d let us into the party.
All the same, you’ve got to sing about something. People in bigger bands have to answer to their investors. People in small bands have to answer their consciences, artistic, ethical, or otherwise. We’ve got some songs about the heavy hands of history, and we’ve got songs about love and loss and the economies of Midwestern resort islands. I’ve always loved Johnny Cash. He was a giant and he had a giant amount of heart … He made all those great hit songs as well as the fun ones like “Orange Blossom Special” and “Jackson,” as well as social conscience stuff like “Ira Hayes” or “Folsom Prison Blues.”
Speaking of Johnny Cash, we have to assume the man did at least his fair share of honkytonking before exiting this mortal coil. What can you tell us about the origin of the song “Too Much Honkytonking” from your album, “Free Gold!”? Aside from a few stray notes at the beginning, the song betrays little connection to country-western. How much do you hear distinct genres that of music that interest or influence you within what you create as Indian Jewelry? How much do you expect the listener to recognize? Do you expect anything of the listener?
Sure, I like talking about songs. I’m neither a fighter nor a non-fighter, but many years ago I got into a brawl with a drunk guy who manhandled Erika outside of a bar in Houston. A few days after the fight I ran into my friend Gabriel Delgado, a talented painter, and when he asked me what happened I replied, “Too much honkytonking.” After that he presented me with a great little painting with that name. A few years later, after thinking of this great little painting and the distances that come up between old friends and the exhausting uselessness of fighting phantoms, I wrote the song.
As far as I’m concerned we’re as much country and western as we are rap or rock, and we are all of those things. We are not a genre band. We are not even a music band.
It is hard to expect much out of listeners. Very few people get a chance to listen to things closely. It’s a pity, but that’s the world we asked for and that’s the world we’ve got. Our psychic spaces are overcrowded. I’m going through all my belongings in preparation for a move. It bums me out that I can’t get rid of my own thoughts and memories as easily as I can throw away things that I don’t need anymore. Like I mentioned before, I’m having trouble meditating.
Also, most people have a lazy attitude toward music. They want to consume experience and the less they actually do the more they have to say about it. They expect to be entertained or moved deeply, but on their own terms. I don’t care about their terms any more than they care about mine. It depends on both the part of the artist and the audience to come up with a momentary understanding.
We’ve been fortunate enough to see Indian Jewelry perform live on a small handful of occasions and have been awed on each of those occasions. What are the essential elements of a really stellar Indian Jewelry show for you? Are you more concerned with material elements (PA, stage, lights) or emotional elements (general mood, interactions with other band members) prior to performing live?
Thanks. As Antoine Yates, the visionary who kept a 500-pound tiger and an alligator among the many pets in his Harlem apartment, said: “That was part of my journey. I mean, that was my essence of what I was trying to create, a paradise.” Likewise, we try to create a special experience with all the elements within our control. It makes things harder to play in strobes in otherwise near-complete darkness, and apart from the fact that we do alienate some photosensitive people, it is worth it to get away from the beer light.
Would you care to comment on the rumor (the rumor that we are attempting to start right now) you are currently making plans to abandon music completely and open a kiosk just outside the LensCrafters at Memorial City Mall, under the banner “Tex’s Indian Jewelry, Chinese Chotchkies and El Salvadorian LP’s”?
It was actually a kiosk selling Neon Indian and Nite Jewel bootlegs, but the RIAA got a tip from the blogs and they shut us down.
What benefit to your own sense of creativity do you get from working with other musicians? Is there anything concretely different in the way you approach playing or creating music with Indian Jewelry, as opposed to when working with others? Do you encourage outside or additional projects among all who play with Indian Jewelry?
If I couldn’t play with other people I’d hightail it down to Galveston and put out to sea in a floating recliner. Our band has always been something of a mutual-aid society. Most once and current members have had their own things going on. Keep in mind, most of these are stand-alone bands, not spin-offs or dependents. Twisted Wires, VRS, Electric Set, Future Blondes, Dead Roses, Thousand Cranes, the Wiggins, Rua Minx, Terrible Eagle, Leslie Keffer. It goes on and on.
What music have you been listening to lately? Are there any bands performing at Austin Psych Fest 2012 that you are particularly interested in seeing perform, that you have not seen previously?
Been listening to a George Brassenes record my brother-in-law gave me for x-mas. Also, the new Future Blondes LP, to Von Sudenfed’s “Tromatic Reflexxions,” to tracks from the Wiggins’ “Myth of Man” LP coming out soon, to Balaclavas’ “Snake People,” Clipd Beaks’ “Hoarse Lords” and mostly to Serge Gainsbourg videos on the internet. We have had the good fortune to play with most of the bands at Psych Fest on different occasions. Among them are a number of our good friends.
English aristocrat Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (who undoubtedly loved Throbbing Gristle) is quoted as having said the following: “I prefer liberty to chains of diamonds.” Your thoughts?
What about preferring a social networking profile to cubic-zirconia?
What’s next for Indian Jewelry?
We’re about to go on a tour West right now in February 2012. Then Mexico City, SxSW, and Psych Fest. We made a record in 2011 and soon we hope to be finishing the artwork. We’ve made a lot of videos. We have been working on a band called Coxcombs for a couple years now. Beyond that … you never know.
“Expect Delays” – February 2012 Tour Dates
- Thursday February 2nd Austin TX @ ND
- Friday February 3rd El Paso TX @ Lips Lounge
- Saturday February 4 Tucson, AZ @ Solar Culture w/ Not Breathing
- Sunday February 5th Los Angeles, CA Part Time Punks @ the Echo w/ Jewels Of The Nile
- Tuesday February 7th San Diego, CA @ the Soda Bar w/ Jewels Of The Nile
- Friday February 10 Oakland CA @ the Terminal
- Saturday February 11 Sacramento CA @ the Townhouse w/ Clipd Beaks, Ganglians
- Sunday February 12 San Francisco CA @ Hemlock Tavern
- Wednesday February 15th Isla Vista, CA @ the Biko Garage
- Thursday February 16 Long Beach, CA @ Alex’s Bar w/ Spindrift
- Friday February 17 Phoenix, AZ @ Trunk Space
- Sunday February 19 Oklahoma City, OK @ the Blue Note w/ El Paso Hot Button
- Monday February 20 Fayetteville, AR @ Lightbulb Club w/ El Paso Hot Button
- Tuesday February 21 Dallas, TX @ City Tavern w/ El Paso Hot Button, Nervous Curtains
- Friday February 24 Mexico City, MX @ Concert Hall w/ Jewels of the Nile