RockUrLife met Duke Erikson and Steve Marker a few minutes before they hit the stage at Salle Pleyel.
“Strange Little Birds” is the second album you produced on your own label. Why did you choose this way once again? Are you satisfied with the result?
Duke Erikson (bass/keyboards/guitar): It’s mainly because of our disenchantment with the record business and record major labels in general. We felt like we had lost our own career’s destiny, and once we got back together again to do a new album, we couldn’t stand the idea to get through this again. We thought of how we could do this by our own, and then it just made sense to us. And now we’re happy because we’re on control and we feel no more outside pressures.
Steve Marker (guitar): We’re not Britney Spears. Duke is right, the pressure from our label and their reaction when we weren’t making enough money for them was too much to handle for us. We really couldn’t go on that way. Now we decide where we’re going to play, what song of the album will be the single. We have so much more fun.
About that, now that you have more freedom in the making, did this new album happen while jamming and writing or does it have a real message behind it?
Steve: I think that every song has its own message, it’s not a “concept album” telling a long story, but every song has its own. We spend much time with each song so that it would be simple and straight. That’s what seemed important to us for this album. Although, Shirley got more involved than in the past and had a very clear idea of what she wanted to do with each music.
All the fans were a bit afraid that they should have to wait 7 more years between albums. When did you have the idea to make this new one?
Duke: As soon as we finished with the one before! (laughs) So we were free, we just thought “Now we’re over (the previous album) we’ll just keep recording!” But we’re not really going record by record. We just want to continue to play music together for as long as we will like it. We have a great collaborative situation here and we are aware that we were lucky to have that situation.
Steve: Yeah, there weren’t much question about that. We had fun doing the last album and we just went “Let’s do it again!”
Some of your songs had been written thanks to fans letters, right?
Duke: Yeah that’s right! Shirley has had a couple of dialogues with some fans that inspired her lyrics for the album, but I really can’t tell you more, I don’t want to misinterpret her work on that. But these dialogues are an inspiration for her music and for her own experience.
Steve: When we’ve been gone for a while, we didn’t know if there would still be an audience when we’d came back, and the thing that lead us to think “we can do it” are the letters of people who wanted to hear us from all over the world, even when we weren’t putting out records for a few years, and for me it’s a real inspiration! As it is for all of us.
This album is so “Garbagic”. We recognize your sound, your influences and yet it sounds new. Between us, what’s your secret?
Steve: Are we gonna tell him our secret?
Duke: No! (laughs) It wouldn’t be a secret anymore if we told you! Why should we tell you?
Steve: There’s no secret, we’re just four in a recording studio and it’s the result of the alchemy between us! If there was another person it would be different, maybe it would be better, who knows, but for now we have something that works, and we’re okay with that.
Duke: We can also add that we didn’t tried to find what this album would sound like, it just came in the process, the sound, the sensations, we haven’t always had that with the other records. We came out with many different ideas, and we had to figure out how to make them work together. This album had kind of a fluidity and there were no hassle from its creation to its end. We hope we can do that again! And I’m not talking about the sound but the cohesion we had for this record.
Can you explain the album cover?
Steve: Next question!
Duke: No, I want to know what’s your problem with the album cover?
Why the leopard’s fur for the “Bird” in “Strange Little Birds”?
Duke: You mean we should have taken a “G” with feathers or call the album “Strange Little Leopard”? As a serious answer, we already had the idea to put some leopard fur on the previous album, but we didn’t like it, so we didn’t use it. The idea is that we like what’s primitive, what’s savage. It looks glam and primitive. Does that make sense?
Steve: Just like us, savages and primitives.
But who are the strange little birds then?
Duke: Tell him Steve!
Steve: Each member of the group and our fans. Probably. But everybody is not that strange.
Duke: We all have this kind of strangeness within, but that’s also what makes us human. We’re all these “Strange Little Birds”. But the four of us are the protagonists of this strangeness. (laughs)
With such a career, is there still something you want to do?
Duke: Interesting, that’’ a good question because we don’t think much about it, but we could definitely do something different than just recording an album and then touring. Maybe a ned musical experience, like making the soundtrack of a movie, something that breaks the circle! We have a few ideas but I can’t tell you anything, because we’re not actually sure of anything yet! We might be the first band to play on the moon!
Steve: Yeah! Why not! I’d rather play on Mars.
If you could keep just one memory from your career, which one would you pick?
Duke: Without any hesitation, I’d come back to the time when we were recording are first album, Butch Vig and I were in the car and then we heard one of our sound on the stereo. It was really huge, and I gave my self a high five!
Steve: Me, I’d come to any instant of our career, it has always been wonderful, and I have the same butterfly in my belly from the first day 20 years later.
Last question: we are “RockUrLife”, what rocks your lives guys?
Steve: I’d say my family too and my friends in the band, and being able to play in Paris on a beautiful evening like this. Life could be worse right?
Duke: Many things, but I would say my grand son, yeah, this little guy definitely rocks my life.