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Reglar Wiglar

An interview with Chicago band

Ether Frolics

Interview by Joey Germ

Published in RW #14, 2000

The music of Ether Frolics is what I would describe, and have in the past, as hard-edged, intelligent pop music. Their latest CD, 40k, was released on the German label Trocadero.

After a three week European tour this past winter, I had the opportunity to conduct an interview with some members of the band in an authentic German bier stube on Irving Park Road (Chicago). In typical Reglar Wiglar fashion, I fired off the usual volley of challenging and insightful questions.

As the heavy (and tasty) German biers flowed freely out of those big-ass steins they like to drink out of, and the kraut-laden wiener schnitzel made it's way around the table for all to enjoy, talk turned quickly from circumcision to pig brains as it usually does on a cold wintry night in the city.

Ether Frolics is:
Brian: guitar, bass, vocals
Wally: keyboard, vocals
James: bass, guitar, vocals
Steve: guitar, vocals (not present for interview)
Matt: drums (not present for interview)

We now join the interview already in progress. (You see, the tape recorder had not yet been turned on. My bad)

Brian: There was no problem.

Wally: Yeah, we got lucky.

RW: You're going on record now.

Brian: It wasn't an issue.

RW: Finding it?

Brian: Finding it. No problem.

James: I wish we kind of did put an effort into bringing it because when it was there they were rolling it with tobacco and it was not pleasant to our North American habits.

Wally: You didn't say no did you?

James: No, I did. I had a minimal amount.

Brian: Switzerland is not a member of the EU so basically they want to make every border like Wisconsin and Illinois.

RW: There's a bitter, bitter rivalry between Wisconsin and Illinois, I don't know if they want to make it quite like that.

Brian: No, no, no.

RW: I'm just kidding.

Brian: I mean in a sense where you can just roll across.

Wally: Austrians are like Canadians, they spend so much time defining themselves as not being German.

Brian: You know what's funny, you know Hader?

RW: Yeah, yeah, that whole thing was going on when you guys were over there?

Brian: We were there maybe four or five days.

RW: And you were in Austria at the time?

Wally: We get to this tiny little town and the people were like, "We're not like this. We're Left House here." We played Vienna four days before they had the riots.

RW: A little background for our readers, why don't you tell them how you got signed to a German label.

Brian: A journalist, like yourself. . .

RW: Hey, I'm not a journalist as this interview will prove. It will become painfully obvious to you.

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Brian: He started his own rag over there called Super Star. (To Wally) Show him your shirt. (For the record, Wally's shirt says "Super Star"). We knew hi--it's kind of a complicated stor--he had come to Chicago twice, loved the city. Frankfort was his home base. So that's the connection, this one guy, Rutger liked us, has this little label, Trucadero, which only puts out American bands, which is a weird thing.

RW: So you guys moving any units?

Brian: We sold about 477 CDs in Germany.

RW: While you were touring?

Brian: No, before.

RW: That's cool. You guys are gonna be like Hasselhoff.

James: Oh god!

Brian: There's no ageism or lookism in European fans at all the way they regard bands.

RW: Did you guys play with any German bands while you were there?

Brian: That was a big disappointment. Typically, you're the only band, you play a longer set.

RW: Did people know who they were coming out to see?

Brian: They did. We had really tremendous support in the press, thanks to this journalist friend.

James: When we went to a town and you looked in the local newspaper there'd be a photo, maybe a picture of the record, an album review.

Wally: A recommendation and a couple of paragraphs, pretty much the standard, but it was there.

RW: How are the groupies over there?

James: They're a little dull over there.

Brian: Let's see . . . there was Tanya and . . .

RW: See, I knew there were some groupies over there.

Brian: She was sweet on James, although Wally was puttin' the moves on that one. Then we had to leave town.

Wally: (high pitched) What?!

Brian: Tanya.

Wally: No, she was sweet on me, sweetheart.

Brian: The thing about us and groupies is, we never had time. We had twelve shows in a row, we chilled out in Zurich for a couple days and then every night is another town. There was no time.

Wally: You entertain the ladies but not in the carnal sense.

Brian: There's no time, I mean, you're flirting, you're trying to banter and bandy and--

James: I remember being in Innsbuk and Brian and I had a late night rendezvous at this party and I was talking to these girls and I recalled later how I had spilled diesel fuel all over my leg and later I had drunken a lot of alcohol so I was imagining how badly I smelled, the combination of diesel fuel and vodka.

RW: They probably loved it.

James: And their father came over and I had given them my number and I noticed later when I was talking to him he had this little card in his hand and it was the number I had given them.

RW: And he called you!

Brian: James and I stayed in this picturesque hotel on Evan's Day which in this town, it's like 9,000 people on this glacial lake at 11,000 feet, even higher. The show was great. We played this little theater in this little street, and I had seen some ladies earlier when we were walking around, and I thought that's where they were. As it turns out, it's the opening celebration of this extended carnival period they have in this region of Austria.

Wally: I wasn't there, I was sleeping.

Brian: What was the name of that wedding band? They were the best band in Austria . . . the something Seven . . . Top Seven.

James: Top Seven.

Brian: They were called Top Seven.

RW: In English?

Brian: In English. And they sang they mimicked

James: Louie Armstrong.

Brian: Louie Armstrong. It was bizarre and James and I were fuzzy going in there.

James: (indiscernible Louie Armstrong impersonation).

RW: Did he sing with a noticeable accent?

Brian: Totally.

James: (more indiscernible Louie Armstrong impersonations presumably with a noticeable accent.)

Brian: They did "Billy Jean".

RW: Oh my god!

Brian: It was the tightest wedding band ever. It was seven people, Top Seven, all on this little tiny stage and it was all the drummer and the bass player. Like any great wedding band, it's all bass and drums. It was really conservative this is a six hundred year old tradition.

Wally: But they know how to drink.

Brian: It was more about tradition, it was more about the vows than getting hammered. It was a really conservative crowd . . . who then drank heavily.

James: I went out with Brian and then I ended up going home early to our hotel which was across the street. I probably came home to the hotel around three o'clock and Brian stayed out even later with people he had met and by the time he had come home the hotel was closed.

RW: The hotel was closed?

James: Well the door was locked, you know at that hour the night person would have to come down. You would have had to make some noise.

Wally: Good fortune he had the van key and there was a blanket.

RW: Probably more than he deserved.

Wally: We woke up and we're like, "Where the hell is he? Now we gotta go find him."

RW: You hate to lose someone in a foreign country.

(Several more rounds later)

James: That goddman motherfucker!

RW: That's what I wanna hear. I wanna hear dirt. I wanna hear about Brian stumbling around Munich with his underwear on his head.

James: That motherfucking son of a bitch was fucking with me and I remembered it and I'm not gonna forget it! You can write that down with your little fucking pencil and paper, motherfucker!

RW: This place is clearing out now. It should be noted that we're in a German bar right now. It's called Bier Stube. That means "Cold Beer" doesn't it? It's like the equivalent of "Cerveza Fria."

Wally: It's like "Beer House" or "Beer Corner" or whatever, "Beer Bar."

Brian: The biggest disappointment was not meeting enough new German bands but I did have a couple of conversations with some German musicians and I'd say, "Do you sing in English or German?" That's a big decision for a band to make.

RW: Are they sell-outs if they sing in English?

Brian: Well, that's the thing, but they sell more records, but is it some sort of betrayal or?

RW: Horse snot.

Brian: But the problem with their language is that it's so precise. There's still a lot of interpretation in English with meaning, irony, sarcasm.

James: I think there's some increasing confidence in wanting to sing in German. Some compilations I heard, the songs whether you like 'em or not there was stuff in German. I got from a limited perspective, that there's an increasing confidence.

Brian: German is so precise that you can't sing, "Baby, don't go." It would mean, "Where did you go?" "I don't want you to go." "I dare you to go." You can't do that with your tone and the context in English.

Wally: Actually rap is working better for Germany. The structure works better for rap music.

Brian: It's true. We watched a lot of these rap videos in our hotel room and the flow is very good with German. It's got a rhythm.

Wally: And the rhyming.

Brian: It was there.

RW: Do you remember Trio?

Wally: Da Da Da.

RW: Oh, one question I want to ask before I forget, how was your show in Dresden?

Brian: We bombed in Dresden.

RW: That's the answer I was looking for. I was setting that up.

Brian: Ok, I got the hiccups. Whose got the hiccups?

Wally: Not me.

Brian: I gotta get rid of the hiccups.

Wally: Drink some water upside down with a straw.

James: Brian Welsh is now about to get rid of the hiccups by drinking a glass of water upside down.

Wally: Do it quickly because if you burp and hiccup at the same time it's fatal.

Brian: What are peoples' theories about getting rid of the hiccups?

James: Don't do it.

RW: Wait a minute what are you guys doin'?

James: He's drinking water. Ladies and gentlemen, he's cured.

RW: Hey, you spilled my beer!

Brian: No, I didn't, I was drinking water.

James: Can I give a piece of advice to future travelers? Beware of the minibar.

RW: The frigobar is what they call it in Italy.

Brian: There's no free in frigo is there?

RW: Yeah, I don't know what frigo means but it's not free. I think it's fridge or something. And you know what? When you crack one of those bottles open, or you think you're opening it, and it's water inside, then you know the last person that was there just screwed you.

James: Oh, no.

RW: You guys raided your minibars?

James: I learned my lesson. I only did it a couple of nights.

RW: Slightly overpriced?

James: Oh yeah man, slightly.

RW: How many deutchmarks does it cost for an ounce of whiskey?

James: It was like four or five bucks.

Wally: It's all about convenience.

Wally: It's funny the last show we played in Hamburg.

RW: That's where the hamburger comes from, right?

Wally: What's that?

RW: That's where the hamburger was invented, right?

James: Apparently.

Brian: It's where James had the owl soup. I had the eel soup.

James: Yeah, I did. I got the Hamburg Special.

Brian: The Hamburg Specialty was eel soup.

James: I got a certificate for eating corn beef hash.

Brian: A bunch of fucking Yanks got to Hamburg, order the corn beef hash with two fried eggs and get a diploma.

James: Like it's a big deal.

Brian: I thought I was eating the eel soup and that was bizarre. I'm pulling eel out of my mouth—

James: Let me try to answer a general question. What's the gist of this whole thing? Do you have an angle?

RW: No, I-I-I. . .

James: Let me try and get to the crux of things for you.

RW: I-I-I did not prepare in the least for this, as I usually don't.

James: Do you want me to try to encapsulate this into one final--

RW: I mean, we're at a German bar and you guys were in Germany so obviously that's the direction it's taken, you know? I don't really think about structuring these things, you know? "How long have you been a band?" "Where did your name come from?" That's for the other magazines. Reglar Wiglar readers want to know how you got your 'freak on' in your hotel room.

James: Ok.

RW: Although, I probably should ask you how you got your name.

James: How we got our "freak on" in the hotel room? Is that what you said?

RW: Yeah, how did you get your "freak on" in Germany? How do Germans get their "freak on"?

Wally: How do they get their what?

James: Their freon.

RW: Their freak on. You've never heard that term?

Girl: (friend of the Frolics). You get laid on tour?

James: No.

RW: No, I'm not talking about sex necessarily.

Girl: That's what it means.

RW: It can. It does.

James: Wally and I snore.

RW: That's not getting your freak on.

James: No, there is an interesting dynamic about how--

RW: You trade riffs?

James: No, how the sleeping combinations came together. Brian and Steve roomed together. They're the brains and the heart of the band; they slept together. Wally and I are the stomach and the bowels of the band; we slept together. We snore, we bother other people so we were quarantined to a separate room. Matt, who plays drums, and Steve who did sound, are the young, youthful of the band, they were the gonads.

Wally: They were the most interested in scoring the dope.

RW: You need people like that in any operation.

Brian: To the listeners (readers), I want to say, submit shit to any European label you know or any fucking magazine. They may hate it, but shit, there are a lot of bad American bands touring Europe including us.

RW: Yeah, I'm going to edit the shit out of it 'cause this is like two hours of tape.

Wally: Back to embarrassing 80s music.

James: I like Spandau Ballet, man!

Wally: Yaz.

James: Yeah, Yaz. There was some cool shit. How 'bout Flock of Seagulls?

RW: I have a Flock of Seagulls record. A lot of those bands, they had one good song on the record and then the rest of the record sucks.

James: That's why I like Duran Duran, I gotta tell yah.

RW: The Police, they had the hits. 90% of their first three records were awesome.

Wally: Is this still on?

RW: It is, oh my god. This is gonna be a chore, man, this is gonna be a big chore. I've gotta squeeze this into four pages.

Brian: Can we talk about circumcision for awhile?

RW: Yeah, are you for or against it?

Brian: It's unnecessary surgery. It turns out they end up taking of sixteen square inches.

RW: I wish I had that back, man.

James: It's a sensitive area and when you let it open to the air, it becomes less sensitive.

Brian: As a result the sexual experience is greatly diminished.

RW: We're all depressed now. It's a weird concept to think that you would have to alter your body, like you were designed imperfectly, and need surgery to correct some defect that you were born with. Why even sever the umbilical cord? Why do that?

Girl: You kind of have to.

RW: But why so early? Why not when you're eighteen? You're not eatin' right in high school.

Girl: Think about it, when you're in kindergarten your mom--

RW: She could modify her wardrobe.

Girl: That's just retarded.

RW: You're right it is, it's completely ridiculous. You're right it is . . . and so is circumcision!

Girl: I don't know, I'm a chick, I don't care.

RW: You know what, it's too late for me anyway, I ain't gettin' it back. Unless they graft it on from someplace else, it's gone.

Girl: Don't be talkin' about--

RW: I'm just sayin'. I was trying to make a point. The umbilical cord is a natural thing. If you were in the wild, you would chew your umbilical cord off but you wouldn't chew your foreskin off!

James: That's what my genetic engineering is for. Due to my lucrative career, I have a personal doctor and he's genetically engineering a liver for me.

RW: An extra liver so you can drink more?

James: Yeah, Th-there's this pig, I've befriended the pig and--

RW: You're kind of hooked up to the pig?

James: Not yet, no, no, not yet, but when I need a new liver I will get the pig's liver. You gotta think about the future.

RW: So you're saying you have a pig's liver on deck should the need arise.

James: It's not "should" it's "will." With my current body I will probably live to 75 and with the other body I have prepared will be another 30 years and that's when the pig comes into play.

RW: Same brain, different body.

James: Yeah.

RW: Brain ain't gonna last that long. Look at Ronny Reagan.

James: I take Ginko Giloba.

RW: Oh, you didn't say that before, ok, yeah.

James: It's a very precise percentage of ginko giloba to Guiness.

RW: Yeah, get the brain pickled so it's well preserved. I think you need to have the brain removed and substituted with the pig brain and have it programmed to just go through the eating, drinking—

James: You're a wise man because what you have ascertained is my secondary purpose which is the pig brain will be inserted into my decaying body which will then become my slave and I won't have to do laundry ever again.

RW: But you will have the real brain left?

James: No, you're not listening to me.

RW: I think . . . I'm trying to listen to you.

James: My current brain in a new body will live on happily whereas the pig brain in my decaying body will then do the laundry, the dishes and other tasks.

RW: How can a—if I may ask, and it may be a really silly question how can a pig brain, a healthy pig brain, we'll assume it's healthy, but how can a healthy pig brain in a decaying body perform those functions?

James: Pigs are very smart.

RW: They are very smart, that's true.

James: And they're not fully appreciated, the only reason why pigs have not taken over the world today is—

RW: No thumbs.

James: Exactly, the hoofs, the—

(The tape ends at this point which is just as well seeing as how the subject of conversation and the mental acumen of both interviewer and interviewees were in steep decline, but so it goes...)

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Weird Lovemakers
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Reglar Wiglar

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