Gay Paris: Grit, Edges and Horror
06-May-2011 Words: Brian Fischer-Giffin
Latest release: The Skeleton's Problematic Granddaughter (MGM)
With a sound comparable to Clutch teaming up with Chrome Division and then roping in Tom Waits for a few songs, the unlikely-named Gay Paris are a band apart from most of what's going on out there at the moment. With quasi-theatrical performances and an album full of gnarled, swamp stomping rock, they are a band clearly on the rise. Loud caught up with singer Luke "Wailin' H" Monks just before they kick off an east coast tour on May 14.
Q: I saw you at Rock Lily with Hell City Glamours a couple of weeks back. You guys are nuts.
A: It’s been described that way. Someone said recently that we look like the kind of people that smear shit on asylum walls. I don’t know if it was meant in a kind way.
Q: I think it’s the beards!
A: Possibly. You wouldn’t want to smear anything in that.
Q: Tell us about Gay Paris. The name, first of all. It’s not exactly a typical rock name.
A: I don’t think it means jack to us anymore. But three of the dudes who are in the band now were in a metal band together. It was ridiculously tech-y riffs and camp vocals and so many tough guys came to the show… I don’t want to just play to tough guys who want to stand around looking cool with their neck tattoos and then trying to fight after the show if you accidentally crack you knuckles in front of them. So I think that Gay Paris either weeds out that element, or smartens them up. I think that’s what we did to start with. But that’s two years on, and now it’s just a name. I think it helped me develop the world that I sing about. What I sing about is a sort of stylised mythology, and that name just set off that lyrical tangent that I went on as well.
Q: Well, you don’t seem to have come from that scene, but I can see why you might want to distance yourself from that sort of thing with such a name.
A: We still have the hangover from the metal thing. My voice wouldn’t sound how it does if I hadn’t broken the shit out of it by screaming all the time. And Loch wouldn’t have learnt to blaze those little solos that annoy the shit out of me all the time, that he likes to do. We got metal hangovers.
Q: Now, there’s a story weaving through your album. I couldn’t make much sense of it, but there’s certainly a story there. What is it?
A: Ostencibly it’s the story of a girl’s life from her conception in the woods until she is hanged and her ghost goes away on this pirate ship in the sky. That’s on the surface level. I like to have a meaning when I’m talking about something, but I don’t enjoy the idea of cramming a linear thing down people’s throats. Because realistically, live every song has to hold up under its own steam. The guys are not going to play the album start to finish, every show and I would get discombobulated even more than normal. I guess what I’m trying to discuss inside this conception, birth, living, death thing is the way that society creates and appreciates art. I feel that every time a little piece of art is born, it just apes what’s gone before it to the point where you have fine arts students just copying what someone else has done. It’s the same with musicians. For God’s sake, flamenco guitar is really boring if you’re just doing what every other flamenco guitarist has done. People just need to work harder. Even if you’re not an artist or a musician, you just need to look harder to find what else is out there. You have the Internet. I probably have loftier ideals an a lyricist than I do as a person, but it’s something for me to strive for too. Sometimes I think I take the easy way out, and Gay Paris is not experimental with blast beating with Tibetan throat singing over it or anything like that. I was sitting up in bed the other night trying to do some throat singing. That’s been on my mind lately.
Q: Well it wouldn’t be outside the music you do, because it seems like you could shove almost anything in there.
A: That’s them rules. I think the important thing to know, and I hope this happens with every band and I know it happens with good bands, the band you start in if you’re a lifelong musician is not the band that you’re going to finish in probably. You drag all that horrible, dirty shit that you had before in with you. We’ve done rock n roll, funk and punk… before I was anything, I was a rapper before anything else. I guess there is that “no rap” rule, but I get away with it between songs, and that’s fine. But you just don’t say no to anything, and you try anything. We don’t write songs quickly because there’s probably a funk version and a punk version and a metal version of every Gay Paris song before they become a Gay Paris song.
Q: The Sydney show on your upcoming tour is at the Vanguard. You seem to play there quite often. Why is that?
A: The dudes who run it now, we knew them because they look after the Snowdroppers, and the Snowdroppers have become our chums. That especially happened in a dirty little pub in Maitland where, at 4am there was half a case left and no one was wearing trousers and we realised that it was just meant to be. So we meet these dudes through them. I don’t know what they’re doing to the Vanguard because, despite the fact that it’s a place where half-naked women shake their shit, it’s meant to be a classy joint. But they let us go there. And it’s fucking great for us. If you play a venue a couple of times, the sound guy gets to know your quirks, and the best thing about that place is they have chef! Most places aren’t going to feed you, but they have a chef so you get fed as well.
Q: If you get a chance to make another record, is it going to be a concept as well, or is it going to be something completely different?
A: Actually I changed the concept just yesterday. The lyrics have been written for about a year, but the bass player and I have been recording a podcast and I left my hard drive with him in the studio because I had to go to a wedding, and he got wasted and left my hard drive in a cab! And it had all my lyrics, everything I do for the last year: prose and hip hip and all this weird crap that I do. And he lost it! So like, fuck you! But yesterday I was walking up the street and I just went, “Holy shit!” I can keep some of these lyrics that I remember, and just tweak the concept. It won’t matter what the order of the songs are anymore. It only matters what the last song is when you listen to it. We’re probably about six or seven songs into the writing of it now. And it will probably be longer next time, too. The writing process is taking a long time too, because we realise what we sound like now. What we sound like now is probably not what we sound like on The Skeleton’s Problematic Granddaughter, but we had to do that. And on our third album we probably won’t sound like we do on our second.
A: If you’re perfect at what you do, there’s no need to change. We’re not about perfection. We’re about grit and edges and horrible. Horror, I guess!
Q: Well some bands are great when they sound the same all the time, and some are great because they don’t.
*Unless you are actually gay and looking to hook up in Paris, make sure you DO NOT get this wrong.