David Yow: Noise Icon Finds New Voice As Artist And Actor (Interview)

    When discussing the Jesus Lizard or Scratch Acid, David Yow’s two bands, the adjective most often thrown around is “dangerous.” Yow’s music never achieved the mainstream success of his contemporaries, and there’s good reason: his approach was too noisy, too wild, and, well, dangerous, for record executives looking to package the next Nirvana or Pearl Jam. Time has been kind to Yow, however; his old fans have remained dedicated and a new generation getting into noise has discovered his work. As Yow explores new avenues of expression, including acting and the visual arts, he’s finding that interest in the dark side remains evergreen.

     You’ve recently finished your first New York art show, and you have this fancy Jesus Lizard set coming out. Does it feel like you have a foot in the future and one in the past?

    No, no both feet are in the future. That’s why I keep falling on my butt.

    Did the art show live up to your expectations?

    It was good. The opening night was really a blast. I got to see a bunch of old friends I hadn’t seen in forever, and there was a really good turnout. I sold five pieces, and from what I understand from people that have a little more experience with this than I do, if you sell anything, that’s good. If I sold five things, that five times my expectations. I really couldn’t be a whole lot happier about it.

    At one point did you seriously think about reuniting the Jesus Lizard?

    Not until right before it actually happened. I mean, you know about Scratch Acid’s coming back?

    Oh yeah.

    The impetus for both of them was All Tomorrow’s Parties, because a couple of years ago the ATP in England wanted the Jesus Lizard to play. They offered us a shit ton of money, so we decided to go ahead and do it. Then we figured if we were going to go to all the trouble of practicing and working up the songs, we might as well do a whole tour. That was pretty much the same thing with Scratch Acid. ATP was the catalyst for both things. I think that the Jesus Lizard thing was and this upcoming Scratch Acid thing will be a lot of fun. It’s not just about the money. It’s also cool to get together and laugh at each other’s wrinkles and stuff.

    Did you have any second thoughts about it as you put the shows together?

    Not that I recall.

    Did you worry at all about not being able to physically deliver the goods?

    Yeah, I was. Particularly that first show we played in England a few years ago; I expected it to be fun, but I told my girlfriend before the show that I wasn’t going to take my shirt off. I think within ten or fifteen seconds I was shirtless and in the crowd. Doing these shows- they almost go on autopilot. I’m not necessarily in control of what I’m doing. I think the other guys, except for maybe Brett Bradford, are pretty much in control of what they’re doing.

    How did you decide to record the Club set in Nashville? It doesn’t seem like a Jesus Lizard-y kind of town.

    Duane, our guitar player, lives in Nashville and he just begged and pleaded and moaned and groaned and cried and complained and whined about “Please can we play in Nashville?” and so essentially we said OK. That was the first of the U.S. shows, so I guess that made for some extra anticipation and there were people that came from Chicago and surrounding states and stuff. Why we recorded it I don’t have any idea, and why we’re releasing a live album I don’t understand, but I hope that people enjoy it.

    How did you construct the set list? Did you have a greatest hits mentality?

    With the Jesus Lizard, I forgot how many albums we did, but the last album we did didn’t have our real drummer on it, so we limited the songs to only the records he had recorded with us. We just sort of picked the greatest hits- the songs we liked the most and songs that we think people that like our band like the most. With Scratch Acid, we only recorded twenty-eight songs total, so I think we’re going to have a twenty-two song set list. That almost writes itself, because the remaining six are just awful.

     What about the guy that shows up to hear one of those six songs?

    If he shows up, I’m going to fucking cut his balls off.

     What if he waits after the show?


     Like he waits after the show and asks nicely, would you play one of the six?

    Like he’s standing there in the room all by himself? It’s just him and the sound man and no one else?

     He has pleading eyes.

    We would do a barber shop quartet version of it.

    When you process the reunions for Scratch Acid and the Jesus Lizard, what thoughts are going through your head?

    Generally how to improve on hinge making and where cork comes from. My attention span is so miniscule that I don’t really think that much ahead of time with these shows. Each of the four guys in both bands have their own responsibilities, and I just try to hold up my twenty-five percent- as long as the other guys do what they’re supposed to do. I think about stamina and stuff. My girlfriend makes me get up before the sun comes up and go to the fucking gym and work out for forty-five minutes and sweat like a pig so that I don’t die in the middle of one of these sets.

     Do you see these shows as a definitive end for the projects? Is there a possibility of new material?

    I really don’t think there will be new material. I have learned, finally, finally to quit saying never because years ago I said that Jesus Lizard would never play again. I thought there was no way Scratch Acid would play again. I’ve already kind of stuck my foot in my mouth with those, so I wouldn’t say that it’s impossible that there will be new material, but’s it’s a one in a gazillion chance. One in two gazillion.

     Is David Yow done with music?

    I’m more focused these days on acting and visual arts. I did start working on a solo album ten years ago, and I finished it about seven years ago. I still might release that, but I doubt that I will be creating much music in the future.

     What type of acting gigs have you had?

    There have been a lot of small movies and I’ve got my reel together and in the process of finding a manager and an agent and all that shit. There are some really cool prospects that I’m not at liberty to discuss right now, but if they come through the world is going to be a different place for me.


    The DVD of Jesus Lizard’s performance, titled Club, is currently available. Scratch Acid is currently on tour.

     Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/davidyow

    CLUB Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfW8LVbTrgk