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Tension and Melody
Gallon Drunk
Gallon Drunk's last effort, "In The Long Still Night" came quite as a surprise. Whereas Gallon Drunk's earlier recordings were more in the line of Jon Spencer's swamp-blues-explosions than your average B**tpop-experience. However, on "Night" all that seems to change. Suddenly there's subtlety and melody - not that the energy is lost. What exactly did change? James Johnston of Gallon Drunk told us.
"Sounds different, does it? Well I think it's got to do with the change of my personal musical preferences, my musical taste. I felt that now I could do stuff like this. When we started we had our musical limitations, we couldn't do stuff like on the new record."

There are indeed some nice ballads on this - with hardly any nervousness, but with a great sense of drama and suspense. One track, for instance has this long, sustained tone in the background, which builds to a slow crescendo...

"Well, that's an old means to create tension. Tension is important to me. Even more so than melody."

What's the importance of lyrics and what is the function of the distorted voices?

Gallon Drunk
"Distorted voices? We only used that effect once, when our producer thought that would add to the effect. We simply switched microphones. One was plugged directly into the mixing desk. The "distorted voices" on the last records were most probably just bad recordings. We didn't have the means as with the last one. As for the lyrics: It's very hard to come up with good lyrics, I really have to slave over them, but lyrics are important to set the mood, get the song to sound right etc. I'm not a great storyteller though."

There's this cover version of "To Love Somebody" by the Bee Gees.

"It's a strange song, isn't it? I was intrigued by it when I heard a version of Nina Simone of it. It's got really weird lyrics. When you listen to it, you cannot really

figure out, what this guy is singing about. I liked that. I only heard the Bee Gees version later."

What about the Bee Gees?

"Well I like what they did in the sixties. They wrote some good songs then. What they did in the seventies will have to be estimated by a later generation, I guess."

Now that he's found calmness and melody: How important is rhythm for James?

"Rhythm is still very important. That's the thing it is all about."

When you listen to Gallon Drunk's records you wonder if they play every instrument as an rhythm instrument, even the sax, is this true.

"Essentially yes. Guitars, drums, bass, each got their rhythm. Even the sax player plays riffs."

This is very unususal, because a saxophone is basically a solo-instrument.

Gallon Drunk
"Yes it is. I must admit, that I admire him for playing the same stuff over and over again. He must be bored at times. But on the other hand, he does play keyboards, too."

Gallon Drunk live shows are one of a kind, anyway. You better stay clear of the stage, for James is most likely to jump into the audience at any time. He seems to be in trance, never standing still for one second and wildly agitating guitar and mike likewise. So there's definitely no slowing down, is there?

"Not in our live shows. But what I really would like to do one time would be to do a record without drums. Not without rhythm, though. There could be all kinds of percussion and stuff. Maracas, for instance - you'll hear them on this record a lot, too. I really love the sound of maracas. That's the reason I put them on the cover. It's got nothing to do with voodoo imaginery or stuff like that. Anyway, I'm really tired of those drum sounds and would like to know what it sounds like without."

This would really be an interesting approach. As long as this doesn't happen we'll have to be content with the slow songs on "Night" which hint in that direction.

[Erstveröffentlichung im Baby Talk-Fanzine #10, Mai 1997]

Interview: -Ullrich Maurer-
Fotos: -Ullrich Maurer-

Aktueller Tonträger:
In The Long Still Night

Gallon Drunk


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