Qui’s David Yow and Matt Cronk

Thursday, 06 December 2007

It was bound to happen—after over a decade of David Yow wearing his derangements on his sleeve and yowling out his demons with Scratch Acid and The Jesus Lizard, the authorities must have caught up with him. If that's the case, then for both his own good and that of society, they must have put him on mood altering medications. Whether that's true or not, it's the best possible way of explaining his incomparably playful mood in conversation—being remarkably difficult to pin down for questioning and often evasive, or just not talking about what's on his mind exactly, choosing instead to leave the line silent. Is it the rigors of the road? Maybe, or maybe it's simply that the singer has rediscovered the joy of making music and the idea of talking about it over and over again is fairly boring.

Joy—whether drug-induced or not—is certainly the dominant sound on Love's Miracle, his first release fronting Qui. Immediately noticeable in songs like "Today, Gestation" and "New Orleans" is Yow's surprisingly melodic vocal turn; actual singing, in fact. The first sixty-six percent of the record showcases Yow's facility with surrealist lyrics, and when backed by guitarist Matt Cronk and drummer Paul Christiansen's jagged, desolate, spidery and stunted blues, Yow's innate mania becomes a dark undercurrent; it's there, but hanging ominously beneath the surface.

…And then the drugs wear off when the band takes a minimalist stab at Frank Zappa's "Willie The Pimp" and all hell breaks loose. Off the leash for two tracks ("Belt" is the other), Yow reclaims his crown at the top of the lunatic fringe and beats his vocal chords to pieces before easing off the throttle again for a cover of Pink Floyd's "Echoes." That said, it'd be easy to perceive Love's Miracle as a confusing album but, in truth, it makes perfect sense; by adding some thematic drama and conflict to Qui's music, David Yow is capable of using his reputation to his advantage and absolutely terrify listeners without demolishing his throat in a way that he never could in Jesus Lizard or Scratch Acid. With Qui, David Yow has stumbled upon a vehicle that completes his persona.

…Or the whole thing might just be a goof (listeners and readers can decide), but one thing's for certain: fun's still infectious and that is the enduring theme in any conversation with Qui.


[editor's note: decent cell phone signal in the Southwest US is tentative at best. The following conversation was the second attempt, after playback of the first revealed that there was no portion of it that wasn't interrupted within thirty seconds by loss of signal.]

Ground Control vs David Yow and Matt Cronk of Qui


Ground Control: Hey David, it's Bill Adams calling from Ground Control.

David Yow: How you doing?

GC: Not too bad, how're you?

DY: I'm tired as shit.

GC: Where are you right now?

DY: Uh, somewhere between Salt Lake City and Denver.

GC: Oh really? How far is this tour going? All across the country?

DY: Yeah, it's the whole US—six and a half weeks.

GC: That's cool—how many dates?

DY: Umm, 39 or 40 I think.

GC: Nice. So how's it feel to be back on the road again? I know you joined up with this outfit in 2006, is this your first tour with the band?

DY: It's the first real tour, last March we went down to Texas for South By Southwest and we played shows on the way there and back, and then a couple of months ago we went to England and did two shows, but this is the first real tour.

GC: That's cool, is going on the road like this kind of like you remember?

DY: Yeah, it's exactly like I remember it.

GC: Bad food, long hours….

DY: Yeah, like an old friend of mine says, the drives are long, but at least the pay sucks.

GC: How'd you find each other? I know the other two guys in the band have been together since 2000, and then you joined up in 2006, how'd that happen?

DY: Jesus, how did we get together? I don't know, they asked me to do vocals on a cover, "Willie The Pimp" by Frank Zappa, and then they asked me to come out for a few shows and one thing led to another. Both they and I thought that we worked well together and suddenly I found myself in the band.

GC: So there was a certain amount of serendipity involved.

DY: Serendipity….I don't know what serendipity means.

GC: It was a happy accident.

DY: Oh, I thought it had something to do with pilgrims. Yeah, there were storms of serendipity. Enough that you could dip your head completely in a big bowl of serendipity. Serendipity doo-dah.

GC: Right. Now, the other guys had already been together for a while, were you involved in the writing process for the songs that ended up on the record?

DY: We all wrote "Today Gestation" together. Everything else they already had written, but ones like "Belt" and "Freeze" and "Gash," Matt used to sing those and then I took over and changed a few things around. I helped some with recording ideas and producer-ly kinds of things and shit like that. Since the record came out, we've done another 25 new songs.

GC: How many?

DY: Four.

GC: Oh, okay. I didn't think that sounded right.

DY: Yeah, I said 25 but I was lying.

GC: I was gonna say, Gee—that was fast.

DY: I know—prolific huh?

GC: Yeah.

DY: Like rabbits.

GC: That's an image I didn't need. I've seen photos of you David, and the mental image of you and a bunch of rabbits kind of creeps me out.

DY: Yeah, it creeps me out too.

GC: [chuckling] So after this tour, what's the plan of attack? Are you going to do another record right away or…

DY: Wait hold on a second, let me interrupt. There's a truck right in front of us full of llamas. A truck of llamas. A llama truck.

GC: That's very, very weird.

DY:Yeah – it's cool. A lot of cool [whinnying] Hey! What's up llama? One of them's looking at us! Llama, llama ding dong. So yeah, after this tour we go home for two weeks and then we're in Europe for a month, then we come back and write more songs. There's been talk of getting on some tour supporting somebody like The Melvins or Page and Plant or something like that.

GC: [laughing] That would be a bill that I would pay to see. Actually no—I would pay you guys to step on stage with that lot. That would be fucking fantastic.

DY: Yeah, I'll tell you one thing, we'd kick their fucking asses all over the place. We'd wipe them up with each other.

GC: I was going to say—they're old British guys. That wouldn't surprise me.

DY: They're English and the English are a cowardly race. They don't know what food is, they can't speak right…. [Clears throat] Excuse me.

GC: No problem.

[phone clicks and sounds disconnected for a moment]

GC: Are you still there?

DY: Hello?

GC: Hi.

DY: Hi.

GC: You're still there?

DY: Yeah.

GC: Okay, so clearly you're not a fan of the British, why're you going off the continent anyway?

DY: To sell more records and because Matt and Paul haven't done much traveling. I want to show them some things that they haven't seen before.

GC: Yeah, if you could go and set up some sort of celebrity death match between you and Robert Plant, that'd be great.

DY: That'd be easy.

GC: You could see who could make who scream first; you each have pretty famous screams.

DY: Me and Robert Plant?

GC: Yeah.

DY: Well, he's better at it than I am. He used to be, I don't think he is now.

GC: No, probably not. That's something I wanted to ask you about: I know you sang occasionally when you were in Jesus Lizard, but this new album has a whole lot more actual singing on it—why?

DY: Well, both Matt and Paul are very learned in their musical fields and they taught me how to harmonize and how to sing [someone else talking in the background]. Shut up Matt! I'm on the phone doing an interview. [Matt Cronk in background: "Ohhhh, I'm David, I think I'm a big rock star!"] Okay, I'm handing the phone over to Matt. Matt's taking this from here.

GC: Alright.

Matt Cronk: Y'ello

GC: Hi. Is this Matt?

MC: Yeah it is.

GC: Hi Matt, so why did you get David to front this thing?

MC: I beg your pardon?

GC: Why did you get David to front this thing? I mean, he's loud, he's obnoxious and he has this nasty habit of bearing his testicles at everything.

MC: Well, I can answer that with just one word: "Money." I mean, obviously, artistically, intellectually and emotionally, this is not something that we would enter into were there not a hefty paycheck involved.

GC: Nice. Where'd you find him? What gutter did you find him in?

MC: He was face down in an empty pool at some party I went to.

GC: That's really unfortunate.

MC: Naw, it was alright. We cleaned him up. Have you ever seen Rocky II? No wait—Rocky IV? Was there a Rocky IV? Is that the one where he's out in the woods in Russia pushing a log up a mountain or something? We had a similar training regimen that we put David through to rehabilitate him and everything's going great now. He's strong as an ox.

GC: Nice. Although I'm not going to lie to you, I saw a recent photo, he doesn't look any healthier.

MC: Well, I think he's one of the more handsome men you're going to see—I think.

GC: Really? Has he shaved recently?

MC: A… couple of days ago.

GC: That's impressive. Well, I'm going to ask you because David handed the phone off to you, when do you think we'll see the next record?

MC: Well, when we have enough songs to make one, we're going to do that and then we're going to put the sum-bitch out. We'd like to have something ready to go by next summer. That's what we're hoping for.

GC: How'd you get hooked up with Ipecac?

MC: We had the record done and we pitched it to them and they liked it.

GC: It was that cut and dried?

MC: Yeah. They've been really good to us too. David just tried to put a booger on my leg [background noise]. Oh, strike that—David was just scratching my leg. I thought he had picked his nose and was rubbing a booger on me.

GC: Oh that's beautiful.

MC: Anyway, Ipecac. They're great.

GC: And over and above that, what happens next? David said you're going out to Europe or the UK….

MC: We're doing both. We're doing about a week in the UK and if we don't die of malnutrition while we're there, we're going to head over to the continent for three weeks. I'm not really looking forward to the UK at all—I think that whole fucking island should just sink into the ocean. We had to spend a few days over there last July and I've always considered myself to be a dissident, but I felt awfully fucking patriotic in that fucking armpit.

GC: Well, I don't totally disagree with you, one of my ex-girlfriends was from the UK and she used to eat some of the most godawful shit.

MC: Oh my god—they boil pizzas over there! Does the whole country not have any salt? I spent a whole weekend eating food in quotation marks. The plumbing was atrocious too; you couldn't take a decent shower. But if we can get through another week in the UK without deciding that life is no longer worth living, then we'll head over to the continent there and straighten them out.

GC: So David's officially in the band now, is this the final unit? Whatever happens from here on out, happens with the three of you?

[lost signal]

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