Silver Jews Friday – David Berman on LOMLOC, Failure, and Squirrels – Part II

Click here for the first installment.

David and his sister Carrie back when motel pools were cool.

Raford: I see the image on the cover of LMLS as a metaphor for those of us who feel like children, or who are basically children, entering a dangerous world and who are struggling to change it while saving ourselves. Your thoughts?

DCB:  Yes I agree. We are living in a time where no adults are in charge. American history’s most selfish generation has come of age and shot everything to hell.  And I think I can trace it all back to the Preppie Handbook somehow.

Raford: Yeah, it seems that too many of our national problems can be traced back to the Preppie Handbook. That book was widely read, but it celebrated greed, conformity, and little whales on denim skirts.

Raford: In the 90s, you told me that you had a thing against women in rock, but on LMLS, Cassie plays a much more prominent vocal role than she has before (and it sounds great). How has your view of women in music evolved over the years, and what caused the change (if there is a change)?

DCB: That’s some hard-nosed journalism. Okay, I deserve it. I was somewhat ignorant when I said that. You know I just have this aversion to a kind of  (sorry)  Janis Joplin  female mainstream rock singer because they always try to go corny bluesy and that’s wrong for everybody’s sake.  That kind of Chicago beer commercial blues. The ultimate example of this and maybe my most all time hated song “Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles.

Raford: John Doe and Exene or Johnny Cash and June Carter? None of the above?

DCB: I don’t think we are that good. It’s funny though, there have always been people who dislike my singing. What I’m finding now is that many people also dislike Cassie’s singing, so that’s actually making me feel closer to her and less down about it.

Raford: LMLS opens with “What Is Not, but Could Be If,” which I took as an idealistic political song when I first heard it. Upon further reflection, it also seems like a recovery-related song. A few lines stand out, and I’d like for you to comment on them:

“One has lived life carelessly, if he or she has failed to see that
the truth is not alive or dead, the truth is struggling to be said.

DCB: This is actually a jewish proverb: “The truth neither lives nor dies, It struggles.”

The whole song is just meant to encourage. Lies discourage. Many times the lies are easy to go with. But if you can know that the truth is always struggling, in the present moment. It wakes you up.

Raford: “When failure’s got you in its grasp, and you’re reaching for your very last, it’s just beginning.”

DCB: People like me have trained themselves to expect the worst. People born between 1965 and 1980 aren’t very hopeful. Yes…..i’m talking about ……Generation X.

A lot of Judaism makes you consider whether access to the impossible might not be so impossible. I am so pragmatic and so unmystical it’s sad. But here I am talking to myself too, I’m sure.

Raford: “So how do we get out of this? Family shadows, all of this?”

DCB: We all have to grow up and read the People’s History of America.We can still think Chomsky is an apologist for Marxist genocide. But people inside families must take responsibility for the harm committed by family members that they let run loose and keep secrets for.

Raford: On  “Strange Victory, Strange Defeat,” you sing about squirrels.  Can you talk about the squirrels?

DCB: Squirrels have always been on my mind.  As far as I know I’ve always done right by them. Like with birds though, there is the feeling that they don’t particular like you back.

This is Mother Nature’s form of rejection. It turned me into an indoor kid, but I never felt hostility for the little critters. I liked them so much I put an Open Field after that song for them to escape into. As a songwriter, it’s especially pleasing to set your characters free when you’re done with them..

David Shows off his farcical, cynical, facetious, or sarcastic hair.

Raford: At what point in your life did you have sarcastic hair? I know you did a time or two.

DCB: Well I think it was farcical in 82, cynical in 83, and facetious in 84. So starting in 1985.

Raford: Recovery is a major theme on LMLS and that’s especially obvious in “Candy Jail” and “Party Barge.” What role has recovery played in your music (which I saw first reflected in Tanglewood Numbers)?

DCB: What comes easy to you, you don’t value. What you have struggled to achieve, that you value. And the l essons of that struggle are the basis of where I’m writing from.  Someone may think I go too far. Maybe they think it is an anti-poetic element that poisons the art. It’s a PSA.  A Personal Service Announcement.

Raford: What else do I need to know about LMLS?

DCB: I’m trying to get people to call it LOMLOC.

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5 responses to “Silver Jews Friday – David Berman on LOMLOC, Failure, and Squirrels – Part II

  1. “…because they always try to go corny bluesy and that’s wrong for everybody’s sake. That kind of Chicago beer commercial blues. The ultimate example of this and maybe my most all time hated song “Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles.”
    I [heart] this statement! It reminds me of the Blues Hammer scene in “Ghost World.” Very interesting interview. And a Chomsky reference too!

  2. Great interview. Thanks!

  3. Pingback: Silver Jews Saturday - David Berman on LOMLOC, Failure, and Squirrels - Part III « Blog de Ford

  4. Pingback: Silver Jews Thursday - David Berman on LOMLOC, Writing, and the Ugliness of Failure - Part I « Blog de Ford

  5. Pingback: Silver Jews Saturday – David Berman on LOMLOC, Obama, and Squirrels – Part III

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