The Dirty South’s dirtiest rock and roll rabble-rousers The Black Lips have never been afraid to call it as they see it. In the past guitarist Cole Alexander has given his honest and frank assessment on Drake, Macklemore and Lorde who he called “naïve” and “mediocre” and back in August the Atlanta garage rockers confronted KISS front man Gene Simmons via webcam on a live Q&A on "HuffPost Live". In black and white face paint they screamed in Rowdy Roddy Piper style "Mr. Simmons! We're here to tell you that the day of misogynistic, sexist rock'n'roll is over!” Simmons inexplicable response in part was for them to learn to speak English.
Their English seems pretty good.
Underneath the Rainbow the first Black Lips LP in three years, was partially recorded in Nashville with the Black Keys' Patrick Carney and features Mastodon's Brent Hinds on pedal steel and some Daptones on horns. According to bassist Jared Swilley, "it's roots music."
The band are bringing their “roots music” back to Australia over the New Year with appearances at the Falls and Southbound festivals and side shows in Melbourne and Sydney.
We had a chat to Jared to find out exactly what he really thinks of Gene Simmons.
Noisey: Black Lips have had a long relationship with VICE. How and when did you first meet up?
Jared Swilley: Yeah, we used to play New York all the time. We’d make the drive up from Atlanta and we’d be playing Brooklyn constantly and they were located there so we’d see them all the time. They’d come to our shows and they then invited up to some show in Norway up in the Arctic Circle. We thought it would be a one off but we ended up hanging out ended up at a dinner and they asked us if we wanted to sign. We said “yeah”.
VICE now spends more time in the Middle East than you do! I guess ISIS weren’t around when you were there.
ISIS weren’t even a blip on the radar when we were over there. I don’t think people had even heard of them. The first time around the shows were supposed to be based around Syria and Damascus, but then the war started so we had to delay it a year. We got there after [Egyptian President, Mohammad] Morsi fell and before the next uprising so there was a lull in a lot of the violence and protests.
Having seen the ISIS videos would you go back there now?
I would go back to all the places we went to with the exception of Urbil. When we were there it was one of the most liberal places. We were going to bowling alleys and hanging out in bars. It was really calm and nice and safe to walk around. But ISIS is not very far from Urbil right now.
What’s your personal reaction to the actions of ISIS?
I just think it’s pretty appalling. It’s scary. Even Al-Qaeda weren’t doing this shit. They are basically just saying, “we are the bad guys and we’re going to kill everybody” and they don’t give a shit. They are all young dudes who pretty much don’t anything else going for them. Young men are pretty scary especially when they are following a doctrine like that and they think they are going to heaven for killing people. It’s dudes aged 17-26 who aren’t getting laid and who aren’t’ very educated following these imams who tell them they will have eternal life in paradise for killing themselves. You can’t fight against that.
Too right! Changing the questions up, your new album Underneath the Rainbow has been called your ‘mature’ album. You seem stuck in the middle between those who love the early chaotic live shows and those who are calling your albums 'more mature'.
It depends what narrative the writer is going for. Our ‘mature record’ has been every one since our third record. We have been playing for a long time so I guess we are better at writing songs and putting them together but I think our live shows are crazier now than when were doing all the nudity and fire stuff.
I saw you got to play T Rex’s “Bang a Gong” with Boy George. He looks surprisingly good for a 50-year-old who has caned it.
Oh compared to five or six years ago he looks great!
Are they face tattoos? I prefer Boy George’s face tattoos to Mike Tyson’s.
(laughing) Yeah it was funny. He set it up on Twitter and asked us if we wanted to do a song because we were going to be in the studo on the same day. How could we say no? He said he wants to record with us when we are in London.
One person who probably doesn’t want to record with you is Gene Simmons. Did you feel the wrath of the KISS Army?
Yeah we got called faggot a lot, we got death threats. A bunch of people said that we suck. Of course we have heard all this before but this is all coming from people who think Gene Simmons is actually a cool guy.
So you have never been a KISS fan?
No I always hated KISS. I had friends who grew up in the 70s and I’d always get in arguments when they are all like “Oh no KISS were a great band”. Gene Simmons is now like Donald Trump with verbal diarrhea.
Catch Black Lips on their "Underneath the Rainbow" Australian Tour
Dec 28 – Jan 1 – Lorne, Marion Bay and Byron Falls Festival
Jan 3 – Busselton at Southbound Festival
Jan 6 – Melbourne at the Hi Fi
Jan 7 – Sydney at the Oxford Arts Factory