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Billy Childish & Accepting Interpol as a Business, Not Art

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Up until watching this Soft Focus feature Billy Childish was but a name I had merely heard along the way to this day. The following research that went into further figuring out just who this Childish character is lead me to a realization that I had a better understanding of his work than I previously believed, primarily through his now defunct band with Thee Headcoats. Being band that I had heard mention of some years ago it was the group’s debut album, Headcoats Down!, in particular that served as one of the starting points in terms of my discovery of ’60s styled garage rock. Not that I particularly enjoyed the album above others I heard at the time, nor does it stand out in my memory – but all the same it was a building block.

Much of the reason why I’ve come to appreciating Soft Focus on the level I do is because of the unique conversation that typically develops between the guest and host Ian Svenonius. Having attempted to string together relevant thoughts in the style of an interview myself, I have gained an appreciation for Svenonius’ vast knowledge and his ability to retrospectively delve into his history to find a creative response or suggestion to any given interviewee (without making the interview about himself). And based on such suggestions, a fantastic idea becomes a key ingredient of this interview – that being the thought suggesting rock to be dull and meaningless when it becomes a show rather than an event.

As Childish notes, “rock music is a load of silliness, you don’t feel involved.” He continues by adding that “art should be something that empowers people and you can be involved in.” Funny enough, but the first thing that came to mind was an Interpol show at the State Theater which I was invited to earlier this year. That show was the least enjoyable of any in recent memory, but not entirely because I felt the music to be anti-climatic or drab – but rather because felt like a show rather than a performance, and a lackluster show at that. There was no feeling that the audience was apart of something special that night, plain and simple the band was doing its job by showing up and playing their instruments and the audience was to oblige simply by showing up to watch.

Subsequently, in terms of Child’s suggestion, I may have to suggest that it was Dan Deacon’s show at First Avenue that I may have to actually label as my favorite of the year. It wasn’t so much a show as it was an event – everyone who was willing was able to take part in the show, there were no barriers to entry nor barriers to physically reaching out and patting Deacon on the back. And for his efforts Deacon got a few days off following the show, previously citing exhaustion due to his heavy touring regiment (combined with the ridiculously draining event he hosts at each gig) – a much deserved break I might add. Friends, call it a show, a gig, a concert…that is the best example that I witnessed this year of someone taking their thoughts and expressing them in an honest, humorous manner – it’s art, right? And unfortunately I don’t believe I can say anything close to as adoring of Interpol – they have become a business commodity. “Professional footballers ruin football, professional musicians ruin music,”and with over seventy albums to his credit, I doubt that I will ever even begin to consider Childish one of the sources detrimental to whatever it is that can be considered modern music.