Interview: Lonely Joe Parker
On 8th March the adventurous modern minstrel, Lonely Joe Parker released his new single, 'Shanty' - which came out on download and a limited cassette tape. We contacted the singer to get to know more about his romanticised, street dwelling background. Under the moniker, 'Lonely Joe Parker', what kind of stories for yourself do you like to conjure up? I guess the bits that make me tick? Travelling late at night, not knowing where you're going to be each night when you... (continued)
On 8th March the adventurous modern minstrel, Lonely Joe Parker released his new single, 'Shanty' - which came out on download and a limited cassette tape. We contacted the singer to get to know more about his romanticised, street dwelling background.
Under the moniker, 'Lonely Joe Parker', what kind of stories for yourself do you like to conjure up?
I guess the bits that make me tick? Travelling late at night, not knowing where you're going to be each night when you wake up each day... the funny encounters with the strange people. And a lot of rum. A lot of rum.
You recently released the E.P, What's Wrong With Broken Glass, with Jackie Paper. What brought the pair of you together on this project?
It's all pretty incestuous down in Southampton at the moment - Band Of Skulls, Thomas Tantrum, The Moulettes, Haunted Stereo, Moneytree, Montage Populaire and all the other jokers; just going to each other's gigs really. I got Dave (Jackie) to guest on a kind of Evan Dando-esque alt-country track I had rattling around for The Power, a band I had for a bit - we're really good mates so an EP seemed natural, it was a standard drunken idea. We thought doing it for Oxfam would be nice, too. Touring it by bike, though, that was an extra-drunk idea...
It carries an interesting background, as you apparently played the tracks from it as a busker, in order to earn enough money to travel home. Did you have an idea in mind of releasing these songs at that time?
Hah! No way - I just wanted to make my five bucks so I could get 4 bagels for a dollar, and a four-pack of shitty cheap American piss-beer to go with them!
How far does the E.P document the journeys that you've made?
Well, Brooklyn's pretty much a verbatim account of stuff that I saw bumming around Manhattan. I literally had no money. At. All. Which made New York look a different shade of grimy, if you understand me? Then, the other songs are more about parts of the growing-up thing we all go through - I did a lot of that over there. But you know, the songs take you through all that. I hope they do.
The one song from the E.P that you and Jackie collaborate on, 'Down Among The Dead Men', is far different to your solo tracks. Did working with him make changes to your creativity?
Yes - he's totally schooled himself in all this classic song-writer stuff, it's completely awesome. There's no screwing around going 'should this finger go here to make it sound a bit doom-y,' or, 'should we make this one the loud chorus, or wait for a bit,' he just knows it somewhere in his heart. In a really soulful, surprising, imaginative way. That's great, but annoyingly it means you suddenly realise you're relying again and again on a really small box of tricks to get certain emotional effects, so you have to expand on that. I think we pushed each other really well.
'Shanty', also from the E.P has bee released as a single. It seems to reflect the Americana/troubadour impression that your music gives. What inspires you to go down this route?
You know, I'd never set out to make a particular type of song? Some things just find you - you work with what you're given as you try and scrape along.
When you perform live do like to come across as a travelling busker to the audience?
Old habits die hard... Well, maybe I'd put it like this: entertaining anywhere, any place, is about telling a really good story, really well. So I try and do that. Sometimes there's a load of people playing with me, and that's kind of different: less about just me and more about the collective sound, the spell you're all trying to weave; or sometimes it's just me in a noisy room, and it's like being back at 14th & Union with a battered acoustic, picking out faces in the crowd and connecting with them. So it varies. Heheheh - I'd be lying if I said I was always the neatest guy in the room, though!
One of The 405's recent debates was on the greatest bands of the Sixties. Who makes it onto your list?
Well the obvious ones for the tunes and textures and mythology we're still sifting through today. But also, The Stooges and The Fall really brought that crucial 'danger/unexpected' bit into it all; and Zappa blazed a path for sick, indulgent crazies who didn't care what anyone - their peers, fans, or critics - thought.
And... I've got a really soft spot for Joe Meek - I bought a Telstar Records compilation years ago. When you realise that he was the one who purposefully, consciously, came up with the actual concept of record production - deliberately sculpting the sound in an artistic way rather than simply trying to recreate the live experience - that's pretty incredible to mull over. And there's one track at the end of it (the only song he ever penned himself, apparently) about someone trying to steal his love. It's just a demo, no echo, delay, reverb or wall-of-sound; only this sad, weird, gay little speed-freak, and an out-of-tune acoustic, and his loneliness. Just beautiful.
We've also been talking on the forum about films that make you cry. Has there ever been one that's made you shed a tear?
What, lately? Cos my memory's crap and I don't get to see many... Actually that's a wicked lie, I saw a film for the first time in ages recently - a little indie cinema in Oxford I think - with the Aragorn guy, called The Road? About a father and son starving to death? Yeah, I cried like a baby in that one.
What projects do you have lined up for the future?
A lot, for once - For a while I've been hanging around with the Thomas Tantrum rhythm guys, Dave Wade-Brown and Jimmy Shivers. We kept talking big about garage rock, and grunge, and how everyone seems to have forgotten that punk ever happened at all. So at New Year we holed up in Cornwall, in a friend's house, and recorded an album under the name Ann The Arc - all loud, loud, messy grunge stuff. Sounds awesome already, just mixing it a little bit at the moment...
Then, in April I start work on an album. It's all based around different trips I've made by bike, Edward J. Hicks is producing and people like Moneytree, Haunted Stereo and The Moulettes are going to be all over it. Then a bit of touring in May, the usual. A friend's setting up a studio called The Furnace in Bulgaria, so in between everything else over the summer I'll go visit - if it's finished I'll record a bit, if not I'll help him build it! You have to get mucky and pissed-off at least once a year, I reckon! Plus vodka's dirt-cheap out there.
You can purchase Lonely Joe Parker's upcoming single and other records by clicking here
Lonely Joe ParkerJackie Paper