Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Grinderman's Gouging Guitar

"In the original sessions, the word "Grinderman" came up because of the John Lee Hooker song of that name. I was singing that song, riffing on that idea. Around that time we got this extraordinary loop from Warren [Ellis], and I played around with singing the title over that loop [which became the album's title track]. For some reason no one had called themselves Grinderman, except some act in Vegas. I think it's Mr. And Mrs. Grinder or something like that, and to them we give our apologies. But the name seemed to sum everything up. And it turns out John Lee Hooker's song came from the Memphis Slim song "Grinderman Blues", so having that kind of history behind it made the name feel right." - Nick Cave

While most of Grinderman’s tracks plunge into frantic fuzzed out guitar growls, the title piece finds a restrained center that allows for Caves stylistic vocals to act as the main melodic vehicle. Using the established key elements of the album’s visual world (light box, green lights, silver rain and Monkey), John Hillcoat (The Proposition) chooses to slow everything down, a decision that ends up heightening the song’s sadness and condensed determination.

Two thirds of the way in - its bulky two chord drone mightily collides with a “guitar solo” that consists of feedback bursts, carefully bleeding with all the right curves. Cave’s guitar solo aligns itself with the emotional passion of old blues players by refreshingly setting aside pompous ideas of “proficient musicianship” and thrives forward in a needed primal ferocity that has reshaped the way he interacts with process and performance …

Jim Sclvunos (drummer): He's never played guitar before. I think he might have played acoustic on one obscure Bad Seeds b-side, but I don't think I've ever even heard that song. He was visiting New York and I took him to a guitar shop in midtown Manhattan which was guitar heaven and he spotted an old Strat on the wall, and he said 'I want that one.' This was a month before the Grinderman sessions started, and he was buying a guitar to teach himself to play so he could try writing some songs, rather than playing on the piano like he usually does. He was so shy about getting the guitar that he didn't dare play in the shop. When the guy asked him if he wanted to plug it in, he was like 'No, no, just wrap it up.' He was quite the novice. I think he was imaging that we were going to get another guitar player, but the band were unanimously adamant that he was playing the guitar. We saw right away that he started singing the songs and approaching the song writing in a different way, and it was another thing that was going to distinguish Grinderman from the Bad Seeds, which was the point.

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