Severed Heads interview from Slug Magazine Number Eight, 1980
Edited and HTMLized by Dave Watson/SHLF, 1999 10 03-04 & 12.
Breaks in the text, as indicated by elipses (...), are as they originally appeared in the Bigot Booklet. No text has been deleted, but a few (explanations) have been added.
Richard Fielding: We never were a real band, you know...
John (of Slug): What's a real band?
Tom Ellard: We never EVER played together...well, we did it twice, two or three times, we played together.
Slug: So the tracks on the album (Ear Bitten), most of those are totally yours and some of them are totally Richard's?
TE: Yeah, he did the first one, that was an old Mr & Mrs No Smoking Sign...I was in England. I did the second one. The third we did together.
(Lists the tracks.)
TE: So I did the nasty ones, and he did the nice ones, and it was all a big...wank, wank...
Slug: So, really, the Severed Heads aren't a normal band.
TE: That's what we're trying to do, I think we're very normal, extremely normal...the album is so UNTYPICAL of what we're doing it's absolute rubbish...
RF: I don't think anything's typical, that's the point. The first cassette we started on was so different to the other ones. Now we sound more like, I don't know...we don't sound like Throbbing Gristle anymore.
Slug: The album doesn't sound like Throbbing Gristle...
TE: Sounds sort of like an organic Throbbing Gristle...homegrown...sort of knitted Throbbing Gristle.
TE: I don't think Orchid Spangiafora is particularly...
RF: But he sort of got us onto voices.
TE: Got you onto...
Slug: Who is this?
RF: Robert Carey of New York City.
TE: Orchid Spangiafora. It's an album (Flee Past's Ape Elf) with sort of silly noises cut up, and, er, people going, "Can't eat a yo-yo! Can't--eat--a--yo-yo!" and voices going backwards and forwards and it's quite good...you liked it a lot, but I didn't.
RF: You did!
TE: Yeah, I liked it, but I don't think...
RF: It's great! Don't deny the fact that you think it's great!
TE: It's all right...
RF: Oh, come on! It's wonderful!
TE: ...it's good...
RF: Well, it got me onto editing voices, talking...
TE: I think it would be better if he did more musical editing...
RF: We've done more music. He does mainly talk, daytime television, but we've added a lot of music.
Slug: Music taken from other sources and cut in?
TE: Yeah, Joy Division...
RF: Talking Heads.
RF: I like the Nobodies stuff.
TE: Yeah, the Nobodies got killed.
Slug: Who are the Nobodies?
TE: Hmmmmmmm...ah...(feet twitching).
TE: Nobody in particular, just machinery, the machinery plays itself, you know. People would come into the room and they'd start the Nobodies going and then they'd leave and the Nobodies would play.
RF: I just produced them you know.
TE: Yeah, they got killed in a fire (at Richard's house). Let's bring creativity into it: The Nobodies used to sit on the floor going 'round and 'round and 'round. The tapes used to get chewed, right? So they played different things all the time. They were very creative.
RF: They used to have this woman saying, "I don't care, I don't care," and then it used to go RROOOOAAARRLL! and it'd say something completely different.
RF: One day I just ordered a lot of stuff from Rough Trade--fanzines, cassettes and that--and I got this fanzine, Stabmental, which had this list of other people working with cassettes. And then I wrote to Deleted Records and they sent me Cassette Survival, and all these thousands of people in England...
TE: Cassette Survival is a catalogue...it's got people from Italy, and all over England. It also includes the major people like NB Records...
RF: And Industrial.
TE: Actually, we should do the same for Australia. Cassette Survival in Australia...there aren't very many...
RF: Not in Australia, but it's surprising how many there are in England.
TE: Six foolscap pages.
RF: Every block has a kid that's doing it.
TE: Which is good. I'd like to see it happening in Australia. I couldn't find anybody for a long time.
(Talk about Australian cassette makers.)
TE: We're still doing something that people have done before. We've really got to think up something that nobody else has done before.
Slug: Is originality all that important?
Slug: I mean, everything you do...people have made tapes before, people have made records before...
TE: I'm not so sure...we could bring back the Clowns. The Clowns was a band before the Severed Heads. The Severed Heads was brought about when we sent the first tape to Peter Doyle. We had to have a name, so we called it the Severed Heads.
RF: I objected to the name we had at the time.
Slug: Mr & Mrs No Smoking Sign?
RF: No, it was Mr & Mrs Tapelooploop. Don't write any of this down.
TE: Yeah, write it down.
RF: No, no, no...it makes us sound totally STUPID.
(No break here, but the next quote is Richard's. Moving right along...)
RF: The Severed Heads aren't important. They're the least important band on Terse (the band's cassette label at the time).
TE: But there aren't any bands on Terse. There's about 12 people who...
RF: Don't print that!
TE: The Wet Taxis are real enough.
Slug: What about the band who...
TE: Well, that's 2 Man Submarine, who are really Japanese Gene Kelly in disguise, who are really a little bit of Agent Orange (presumably not the American punk band), a little bit of...
RF: Rhino Rhino.
TE: Yes, and a little bit of Mindless Delta Children, who are Pissy Relay Switches in disguise.
Slug: It seems that most of the bands have two or three people in them.
RF: Don't give it away!
TE: It's just that you don't need many people.
RF: We got sick of doing the same sort of music.
TE: That's right. Take a guy out of Agent Orange, Matthew. He likes to work with Agent Orange. He also likes to work with other people. He does tapeloops. He can't do that sort of thing with Agent Orange. He has to do it seperately.
RF: It's just that a normal band situation doesn't give you enough scope.
TE: I think Mysterious Kitchens is an album by the same people, not a compilation.
RF: We try to fool people, but it doesn't fool them at all.
Slug: Would these bands have existed without Terse?
TE: No, not really. Terse is a bandwagon for people to jump on...
RF: If it didn't exist, I don't think these people would be motivated enough to record.
TE: The The (not Matt Johnson's band) was the first band on Terse. That stuff was a lot better than the Severed Heads because it was a pickup on a clipboard with rubber bands, and egg slicers and dishwashers...it was a lot more innovative than playing a synthesizer or something like that.
RF: That's right. Then we got into NORMAL instrumentation.
TE: He bought a drum machine, he started this whole electronic...
RF: We could have been good. We could have just continued with electric clipboard and egg slicers...
TE: The first thing I did was in 1977, and that was with tapeloops. I showed him the tapeloops. He was absolutely amazed. A friend of his had got a synthesizer. It was the first time I had ever met him as I went 'round there, and they were both playing with this synthesizer, and it was the best thing I'd seen in years. So I get a tape recorder out and make a tapeloop, and they came to have a look at it, and I went to have a look at the synthesizer. Ever since, he's been into tapeloops and I've been into synthesizers.
Slug: What drugs are best suited for your music?
TE: It's a good drug.
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