A Date With The Cramps
Lux Interior and Poison Ivy - the genuinely charming singer and guitarist of top psychobilly combo, The Cramps - share their thoughts on a few topics dear to Jon Lewin's heart...
Ivy: Seventeen in one day, all asking "why did you call your new ellpeee, 'A Date With Elvis'"?
Lux: And we still don't have a good answer. Nick Knox, our drummer, rang my room at 2am last night - 'Hey Lux - why did we call it "A Date...".' He's a real bundle of laughs.
I: We record on 16 track instead of 24, because it gives better quality - there's more tape to put the music on. At Ocean Voice Studios, where we did the new LP, we had space for Nick to be in a room of his own, and I could still play with him, doing bass or guitar, and having Lux do the reference vocal in another room.
L: Half the vocals on the album weren't overdubbed: we do it all pretty live in the studio, except when the sound's too fucked up.
I: It's hard to get the same dynamics on record as on stage.
I: What a pain. I played the bass on the album; but nothing's changed about our music since we started using bass.
L: Having a bass player really isn't a matter of importance to us.
I: A 1958 Chet Atkins 6120; and a beautiful gold 1952 Gibson ES295 - it sounds so beautiful, it even has an Ivy motif on the pickguard, though that's not why I bought it - it's the same colour as my car. I wouldn't dream of playing the Gibson on stage, as it's just too fragile and bulky. And I use a Supafuzz pedal, and nothing sounds like it in the world. They stopped making them in the early 70s, so you can't get them anymore. Nothing sustains like a Supafuzz.
I: That frying noise is a Fender Bass six, which has Strat pickups, played back through a Fender amp for the tremolo.
L: The state of equipment today is terrible - you can't buy a good fuzz, Fender have cancelled the tremolo in all their amps...
I: But it's such a simple soulful sound. Nowadays we have to use a vibrato pedal on the bass. I use a Pro Reverb onstage.
I: We used to only use E - that's my favourite for all those open chords - but then we introduced the key of A, and now we do a couple of songs in the key of C.
I: That has a strong rockabilly sound, which I have a fascination for... that little snaky mysterious guitar thing, like a musical question mark - asking 'what's inside a girl?'.
I: Link Wray... Johnny Burnette in 'People Ain't No Good', and The Sonics, Scotty Moore... we try and use the cream of whatever influences, plus the cream of our own ideas.
L: I wrote the words of that song in like two minutes while Ivy was having a shower, and she did the music the same day. Those weird backing vocals were put through a stereo Magnetone amp, the same amp that Duane Eddy used.
I: With tremolo... It's the only way in the world you can get that effect.
L: We get most of our production ideas from old records.
I: Production's very important. We produce ourselves now, as we weren't happy with the sound of our earlier records, except for "Gravest Hits", 'Domino', 'Way I Walk', and 'Human Fly', which was just a rough mix.
L: So what else is new? I'm always concerned about my words, 'cos I'd feel real stupid standing up in front of a lot of people singing something I don't believe in.
L: Listen to old records and try to understand the feelings that were going on... try and understand what was great about rock & roll, or the mid-sixties. Don't just copy songs or fashions but try to understand what was happening in culture at the time. Great rock & roll is timeless, whether it's 20 years or two years old.
I: Technically? Try and get a guitar that's difficult to play. My guitar is a real struggle, and I use heavier gauge strings (011-049) because they make a better sound. I don't enjoy slinky strings - I need to feel the physical sensation of playing.