This is one of the most baddest bands to ever walk the earth, and they'll be playing a super-rare, super-intimate show at The Basement. It's the kind of show that record nerds dream about at night — Barry even said they're playing nothing but the classics! Have I convinced you that you need to be there yet? Maybe? Put this in your pope and smike it. Ya, I knew you were gonna dig that one. You can't mess with the Remains — this band is baaaaaaaaaaaaad-ass. Needless to say, I was more than a little stoked to talk to Barry. I've been a fan since I was a kid, when some kind, benevolent record store clerk hipped me to their Greatest Hits. I've been resisting the temptation to stalk Barry since I moved down here nine years ago. Glad it didn't have to come to that.
Check the interview — sans fan-boy squeals — after the jump.
Nashville Cream: First of all, I have to tell you, this is a real honor to be talking to you. I've been a fan for a really long time, since I was a teenager growing up in Massachusetts.
Barry Tashian: If you had told me that we'd be playing rock 'n' roll 47 years later when we formed the band at BU in the dorms, y'know, in 1964 ... I think that's 47, I'm not sure, but who's counting?! I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or not! [Laughs]
NC:It's super-exciting. I hear that you guys are doing some recording.
BT: We did a record in 2004 here in Nashville, Moving On, and we really haven't done any recording since then — and people have a bunch of new songs — but the main reason for this recording session is to re-record some of our old stuff. Nobody has very much time still, even though we should all be retired by now. It's a big deal for everybody to come down here for a few days, a week or so, and we haven't had much time to rehearse so it would be harder to do the new songs. But we've got them on the list after we finish a certain number of the old songs.
We wanted to own the masters of some of the old songs, and someone [told us] that nobody wants those unless they're complete sound-alikes to the old stuff, and I knew that would be hard to do. So, I called everybody and said, "This is gonna be really hard. What do you think?" We just decided to do it anyway, just as an excuse to get together and hang out. Everybody comes to my house and stays for the week — we call it Remains Camp.
NC: A working holiday of sorts?
BT: Yeah, we try to pull together — make sure everybody's got equipment to play on, or play through, and stuff. I'm trying to assemble different drum sets in different places we're gonna be, like rehearsing or for the gig at The Basement or for the studio. You know, I don't even own — I shouldn't say this — I don't own an amplifier. I have a little [Fender] Champ, like a '52 Champ. I sold my Twin Reverb. This guy I know has this amp that's a '65 amp that's really nice, so I'm gonna use that. And our keyboard player's flying in from Arizona. Bill Briggs. He's renting the certain keyboard he wants for the whole week from S.I.R. But we're basically doing this to have fun, so as long as everybody's in town, we figure let's not see if we can do a gig. But nothing too big, we didn't want to ... I just love the intimacy at The Basement.
NC: Where are you guys recording?
BT: We're recording at the Toybox. Daniel suggested it — I met Lij [Shaw], and you know, we're going for it. It's a little farther away than the last time we recorded. We had a studio just over in Melrose, and this is a ways across the river and everything, but I think it's going to be cool.
NC: Lij has a great room and is a super-cool dude — that's such an exciting prospect. He's definitely a guy that gets your sound.
BT: Yeah, he's had a lot of enthusiasm and has offered up a lot of suggestions — he's going the extra mile. Already. [Laughs] He said, "What would you like to do?" And I said, "Well, we've always recorded on tape before. Analog." But this time it was pretty much decided that we wanted the capabilities of digital, all the things you can do with digital, because our bass player has a Pro-Tools studio up in Jersey, where he lives. But Lij said, "Oh we'll do it on tape and then we'll transfer it to digital!" That is going the extra mile! [Tape] has a whole other sound — it's just warm, so he's going for it and we're moving forward.
NC: When did do you guys discover that you had a cult?
BT: We got together in the mid '70s and played a gig in Boston at a place on Boylston called The Jazz Workshop. I don't know if it's there anymore.
NC: Oh yeah! They talk about that club in the early issues of Crawdaddy!
BT: A lot of people showed up. We played a weekend, like a Friday and Saturday night, and it began to seem like in Boston, people still remembered. I mean, they weren't 14 years old anymore, but they were coming out. Then after that we didn't really play for a while. I had a job with Emmy Lou Harris for 10 years and so I went all over the place with her, was busy recording and stuff. So we didn't really get together. But then in '97 I think it was, I got an offer from a festival in Spain that I had written a note to and faxed over to them, 'cause in those days that's what we did. They were really excited — I had gotten their name from somebody — and they were like, "We didn't even know that The Remains existed, so we definitely want you for our Purple Weekend Festival in Leon. What will it take to get you over here?”
So we figured it out, called everybody and we did it and it went really well. About a month later we got another gig in New York at this thing called Cavestomp. That was going for a few years and we did that twice, once in late '97 or '98, and then again about a month before 9/11 in the Village. That was a place called The Village Underground, and I think Little Steven sponsored that one, but it was still under the Cavestomp banner. So, anyway, all these kids were turning out and really loving seeing the band live, so that was definitely coming home. About that time, in the late '90s, since then we've been playing a couple of times a year.
It's not like we're ready to go on the road — we're not going to do that. Everybody was still working at that time. Now the drummer still has a home improvement company in Connecticut, so he's really, really busy. In fact, he was the hardest one to get a hold of to do this, 'cause this is a very busy season for him up there. But the other two guys are pretty much retired. One is a music teacher the other is a car salesman/manager at a Porsche dealership in Burlington, Mass. ... They're really excited, and so am I! The guys are coming in the day before the gig, so we'll have some time to run over everything in my son's studio — which is about a block from my house — that night. And then we'll be at The Basement the next day to play for everybody. [Laughs]
NC: That's pretty rock 'n' roll!
NC: Truth be told, I'm really excited. From a fan's perspective, you're saying everything I want hear! You're doing cool stuff with cool people, you're doing it for the fun — that's really, really exciting.
BT: It's amazing how this thing, this band, has just persisted and kept going. I don't know if you know about the off-Broadway play that was done about the band. It was in the Fringe Festival in Manhattan and it ran for five nights in this theater in Greenwich Village. It was named All Good Things, which was one of our songs in the '60s. That led the way to a documentary film made a few years later, and that's gone around the country to all the film festivals. The last time The Remains were here [in Nashville] was because the film was shown at the Nashville Film Festival. That was maybe two or three years ago. It was called America's Lost Band: The Story of The Remains. We played at the film festival closing party at the Cannery and that was really a ball. We did one set — 40 minutes — which, to me, is the perfect length for old guys like us. We put a lot of energy into that 40 minutes, but I think the set at The Basement is going to longer than that, maybe an hour.
NC: Are there any plans for the documentary to come out on DVD?
BT: You know, it's just sitting there. There's a bunch of footage from TV shows in the '60s that are ... the producer and the director had to license those for the film festival circuit, and if they want to do anything else with it, they have re-up that. They have to get licenses for the Ed Sullivan Show — which is not cheap — and Hullabaloo. I think they're trying to figure out what they want to do. It's just sitting there, really. I get a lot of email about it. People want to know where they can get it and stuff. Well, I have a copy, but not many people do.
When we did the album last time — the Moving On album in 2004 — you know who helped produce that? Angelo. He's done the Kings of Leon since then and I invited him to come and hang out at this [recording session] if he wants to, but I dunno, he's pretty successful now. [Laughs]
NC: You guys must have recorded that right as the first Kings record was breaking.
BT: Probably. He didn't know how well it was going to do, I guess, at that time. I had called [J Geils Band frontman] Peter Wolf and he said "Angelo," and I called him and he was really great.
NC: Peter Wolf once told me which R&B records to buy, so I will ALWAYS follow his advice.
BT: He knows a lot about that. I used to go over to his place in Cambridge and he had a whole wall just lined with records. His father had a record store, so he was steeped in all of it. Do you remember what records he suggested?
NC: If I'm not mistaken, he talked me out of buying some crappy '90s punk records and talked me into buying a bunch of Albert King 45s on Stax.
BT: You can't go wrong there.