TIN MACHINE

Interview By: Mike Heck


ROC: What do you think TIN MACHINE offers as an alternative to maybe what's out there?

Hunt Sales: That's a hard one, what it offers?........

Reeves Gabrels: Well you hear the truth kinda in the fact that we make and leave a lot of mistakes on the records. It's like there is SCREW magazine and there's PLAYBOY, one uses a lot of airbrush and the other one doesn't, we're sort of like the one that doesn't. It's like the reality of playing you know. If it buzzes, if it clicks, if it pops, if he hits the microphone instead of the tom, that's what a band sounds like.

HS: There are a lot of bands that when you hear their records they sound really good, big and thick. But when you see them live it's kinda whimpy. That's been my experience at least. This band, if anything, is even more powerful than the record.

ROC: Yea, I saw you guys on Saturday Night Live and it had the same true and honest feeling that the record created.

RG: That's because we record pretty close to live.

HS: Yea, real close to live, no overdubs.

RG: It's like reality is a lot more interesting to us than perfection. Perfection is like that packaged airbrushed thing that we get sold in America on every level whether it's food or whether it's Def Leppard. Who's the current Def Leppard? Oh well, we'll slide Def Leppard off cause they're kinda laying low right now.

ROC: Guns 'N' Roses maybe?

RG: No, Guns 'N' Roses they leave some loose ends blowing in the breeze. They are like if there's SCREW and PLAYBOY, they're sort of like HUSTLER.

ROC: I noticed on your list of instruments there's also a vibrator listed?

RG: And Drano! Yea it's true. That's what's hanging on the mike stand up there, there's two of 'em. I'm kind of fond of the industrial stuff. It all happened on "You Belong To Rock & Roll," the fact that we had this basically bass song and I wanted to try to lay in some industrial stuff against it. I started with my electric razor and then my guitar tech suggested to get it. I wanted something with a variable speed so I could tune it to the track, and he said a vibrator. So we went and got some. You can also use them as a sound source and also as a string driver by laying it against the bridge because you get that really fast vibration which bounces against the strings and makes the string vibrate which is how you produce sound anyway. So it works as a string driver. I actually get to do a vibrating string solo at the end of "You Belong To Rock & Roll" at the live shows which is cool. Ah David said the other day that he expects to go into music stores now to see vibrators in the case with slides and stuff like that. I look now and I don't see them in the stands when I go into sound stores. As a musical item I've never thought of them as that.

ROC: Tell us a little about the problems with the cover of the new album.

HS: It's just that they censored it because they figured that seeing a nude body would just shock everyone. I think it was some of the retailers.

RG: Yea they didn't want it. They're afraid of the pressure groups like the PMRC. Their whole thing's you know is it's not censorship in the legal sense, like no you can't do that or you'll go to jail, it's a pressure group.

HS: It's paranoia! It's more of a paranoia because the retailers just take a look at it and it's, oh we're gonna have trouble with that. Where in Europe and Canada, it's no problem.

RG: I mean it's funny with Canada the difference is just the matter of a border crossing. It's like you can shake hands across it, but yet the album cover is ok in Canada but it's not ok in the United States. We had just come around to thinking that people were better than that. When you look at something like that & you realize it's art and it's like what's the problem? You know, either you got a dick or you don't. Everyone's got some sort of genitalia and it's no surprise. It's an accepted work of art. I mean you read the paper every day and you see like a new building being built in Los Angeles and they commissioned an artist to do a sculpture of, I believe it was a child and you could see the genitals on the child and that work has now been pulled. It could not be put in the building because it was objectionable because of the genitals. Again the thing is when you talk to people, you know average people, it's like 'hey yes, I don't have no problem with that, why did they do that, that's silly.' It's just these people at these like bottleneck positions, these positions of power that are either paranoid about losing their positions or are just basically fucked. And in America there's the whole thing like the naked body only being something you see if you buy it in a magazine. You go in a store and buy a magazine, you take it home and you hide it. So there's an element of shame attached to it, whereas in Europe it's just like food, it's like everything, it's just like life.

ROC: Have you had any other experiences of censorship other than the album cover?

RG: The vibrator upset ABC TV. When we did the ROCK CONCERT '91 they had trouble with it. They ended up not showing the song that I actually used the vibrator in. It was like it wasn't obscene when it's just hanging there like that, but when I actually picked it up and used it. When the camera came in for a close-up it became obscene. It's like as soon as you use it to play a chord it's obscene, but if you just have it dangling, it's alright. It boils down to the problem that it's the whole educational system in America too, it's the fact that art as art is not put on the same level as sports or like the basic mathematical skills, or things that will get you a job they are perceived as enabling you to a quite place in society. That's encouraged and things that are not for some reason perceived of as being aberrational are not. I guess that's the way a society survives, but on the other hand art and free speech, all those things are important components as well, and to lose that. It's funny coming back from Europe and seeing how it's all so encouraged, it's all so normal, it's all so natural. Even a country like Czechoslovakia where poets and artists are their national heroes. Then to come back here and they're our national outlaws.

ROC: Have you ever had problems about any of your lyrical content?

RG: On the first record, if you see the American copy the 'buttholes' and 'assholes' are taken out of the song "Crack City." There's just blanks so we encourage people to get a pen and fill in the blanks. They actually put like a little dash, like a little line for each letter, it has like a b------, so it's like fill in your own seven letter word.

ROC: Before the new album cover was banned do you guys have enough artistic control at the label that you could have fought them?

RG: No, in our contract, and when we fought it I think the record label didn't want to say 'hey look in the contract it says we can do whatever we want with your album cover.' The label had 100% artistic control, but they were being cool about it, they didn't say look we can't do that, there's no conversation about it, we're taking the dicks off, fine goodbye. They were like well, you want to change it to this, they didn't want to offend the band I guess they liked what we were doing. They were pretty cool about it but at the end of the line when we continued to resist they just said 'look, if you want us to we will point out to you that in the contract you signed with us it says the record label has the right to refuse or change any album cover artwork that they deem obscene or objectionable.' Read the fine print boys. So we just realized at that point we couldn't, we spent three weeks trying to convince them. A lot of effort went into it, a lot of wasted evidently to get the cover left alone. So sarcastically then we had the artists do the album cover where it looks like the genitals were chiseled off. We figured we'd send them this, and that to me looks obscene. We sent it to the label and they in turn sent it to the retailers and they all said 'oh this is fine.' We figured we'd have to give them yet another one that had just like a black dot or something. But they said that was fine. That even made it harder for us because it meant we had to go and talk about it because now it looks like we were defacing art and we were trying to make some sort of statement, which we had nothing to do with it, like dickless statues. They even put us in the position where we really had to talk about it to explain ourselves. Which is fine because it drew attention to the problem. I just thought it was really bizarre that penises are obscene, stone drawing of stone penises on a statue like three times removed from reality if that's obscene, but if another statue three times removed from reality with its dick chiseled off isn't. We were even willing to compromise and like put a band around the record on the shrink wrap and they wouldn't go for that because they said the kids will buy it and take it home and take the wrapper off and then their parents will see it and they'll boycott the stores.

ROC: This is almost the same thing they tried with the "Penis Landscape" poster in the Dead Kennedys Frankenchrist album. Are you aware of that incident?

RG: Oh yes, I spent a lot of time and energy fighting that. Yea, or even just the Jane's Addiction thing, it was just amazing. You've got all this going on with censorship and on a totally different angle you've got to deal with the whole racist thing, it just feels like, it's like circle the wagons. It's like the shit's coming from all sides. It's amazing, absolutely amazing. I mean even just the rise again of the neo-Nazi shit. All throughout Europe this stuff we just run across. You open the paper every day and there was someone, some minority in whatever country it was in being attacked by basically an Aryan, White Aryan Resistance or Neo-Nazi Party or skinheads."

ROC: Just think if David Duke would have got some type of recognition?

RG: I watched his speech two months ago announcing his candidacy, I think he's yet to make his mark. I remember George Wallace when I was growing up and that seemed a lot more benign than Duke for some reason, but I guess in its day it was just as insidious and maybe didn't have to make as big of noise because the consciousness of the whole country was different.

HS: As bad as things are now, then they weren't as liberal then. Also, he (George Wallace) got in office in Alabama in the '60s. It's only been deep down South and still in certain pockets they are still fucked-up down there. It's only been the last 15 that I'd say that it's got somewhat cool there. You got a lot of people from Japan going to colleges down there, not to mention the Blacks and Spanish who have moved-up and have more money, it's a small percentage. And the world has got smaller through TV, through news and all that, so it's not really hip to be overtly bigoted, even though there still are lots of bigots, now they'll smile and probably can't get enough friends together to get the guns together and go out in public and shoot somebody. They probably would if they could, but now its that and let's recycle. You know what I mean, and meanwhile they're throwing the beer can out the window.

ROC: How do you guys personally feel about censorship?

HS: How do I feel about censorship? I don't think there should be any. I think the people should be let alone to do what they want to do. I don't think people should fuck with other people, ever, whether it's the government or its violence, people against people. Whether it be in the ghetto or in the corporate board room. People screwing people out of money, investments and all that. But you go over to some places in Europe and it's ah..............

(At this point the group was joined by David Bowie.)

RG: Hunt's in the middle of answering this question very seriously.

HS: Yea, and then David came along and oh, ah he's sitting here so I can't talk. But it's like in Germany and Amsterdam there's girls in windows for people. I mean it's not a thrill for me, but that goes on. Here its prostitution, a crime. Over there they legalized it and regulate it and it's not a big deal. If somebody wants that, they go to that section of town. And like the TV and the papers, like the page three girl in London. What paper is that with the page three girl?

RG: What paper is that, David, you know?

DAVID BOWIE: "I wouldn't know (In background a roar of laughter and "yea sure.")

HS: What paper is that, The Daily News?

DB: The Sun. The one who's publisher is still alive because he's the better sailor.

HS: So I mean that's not going to change anything. That type of shit, but it works all the way down to where a real case of art or music or whatever or something that might be possible, you know. I guess there might be something possible about the page three girl, I don't know.

DB: What is the premise of this conversation?

ROC: We're talking about the problems of censorship in music and art.

DB: Now o.k. Can I pose a question? What if you have, I don't know if they've ever released records here, what if you have a band Screwdriver say, which is an English Nazi band who advocate the destruction of Blacks and Jews. Is that ok or do you censor them? A lot of people might buy it, and people might not buy it if it wasn't available.

ROC: Well, it creates something that would trigger like David Duke's people, the skinheads.

DB: Well exactly: How about the burning of crosses for instance, I've noticed that in the news for the last couple of days. It's becoming an issue. Is it ok to do it? I'll tell you what I think about it though. I don't think you can let that happen, and I'll tell you why. I don't think we're talking about the freedom of speech there, because I don't think an opinion is being made. I think it's implying a threat of physical violence, and I don't think that is anything about an opinion.

RG: It's not like that. It's like the ruling about the burning of the flag. Someone sitting on the other side of the fence, someone who may be more in line with burning a cross for what that represents might view the burning of the flag as something that has...

DB: An implied threat! Well it might be an implied threat of a political stance.

RG: No, no, no, but that's because that's us sitting where we sit and looking at it, but to their perceptions...

DB: Because of the practicalities and the physical manifestations that have come before, we know what cross burning means. It means killing people.

RG: But flag burnings in America have a connection with riots and violence.

DB: I think it's a troubling area because you're getting to the nitty gritty of the whole issue. The thing about rock album covers is all bullshit, but something where it really is about not only freedom of speech but freedom of existence. Then you get into a heavy area, and that's where it's gonna go to next.

ROC: Didn't it really piss you off though that they wanted to ban the new album cover?

DB: I think it annooooyed me more than piss me off. I found it irritating. I think if they'd gone for the music that would have been different. For me personally, I just view the cover as a piece of packaging. It's bright and it sells and it attracts people's attention. I think if they got near the music and wanted to do something with it, then I think we would have been very vocal about it. I think we took a soft position on it more out of a favor to our new record company president who got the jitters himself that if he got himself entangled in a broil with the record retailers association that we might be the last act that he would ever take into their stores. And I think that because we were new to him and to his company we took the soft option and said, ok, we understand your point of view, it makes trouble for you, hey it's just the album cover.

RG: And at the end of the day he had the right contractually to change it if he wanted to.

DB: And at the end of the day he had the right to change it if he wanted to. (David repeats laughing.)

ROC: Doesn't it annoy you that he would only be looking at it as just selling the band to make money?

DB: I don't think he has any other interest at all. I don't think he would even pretend to be doing anything other than trying to get a hit album.

RG: His argument was always do you care more about the music or the album cover, and it was the album cover that was preventing the music from reaching people. So which do you care about the music or the album cover?

DB: And also his job was obviously on the line was basically his other half of the argument, which was also kind of a pertinent fact. I'd like to see what happens if we ever hit that one again because I don't think we would take the soft option next time. We made a deal with him that if this whole thing just went down a bit after a few months that on the next printing, if there should be another printing, the original cover would be on that printing and he agreed to that, so we of lack half a battle won.

RG: It's a symptom of a much larger problem, I mean it is important as an indicator of what's going on in the United States. How it affects us personally has very little to do with it. If you put it in as part of the whole puzzle, that's where it's important. You can see all these little things, these little warning lights come on.

ROC: I've asked these guys how they feel about censorship, how do you feel about censorship personally, David?

DB: As you can see there's an area that I find very bewildering when it turns to more radical matters. One's natural inclination is to make sure bands like say, Screwdriver have the right to play. But you know there comes a point where you don't have to be ignorant anymore. You can educate yourself, and a lot of us do. You start off not knowing very much, but there comes a point when you realize that you don't know very much and you actively do something about it and try to educate yourself a bit more. But there are a lot of people out there who are quite willing to take everything that a Duke type person would say as being the gospel truth because it lends itself to the way they've been brought up, with the bigotry and hypocrisy that they're family set ups have been like. It's a larger amount of people than one would like to give this nation credit for. One kinda wants to stomp the dissemination that is kind of pretty vile thought processes reaching those kind of people. Then on the other hand, this is a democracy and it comes with the territory. It's painful being a democracy because one of the fucking things you have to do is allow people to say what they want to. And sometimes that's painful and it's not pleasant, but that's what you get for a democracy. Democracy is not necessarily a pleasant existence. It's got just as many pitfalls as any other political system.

ROC: You seem to have taken a lot of censorship in the past. I can remember when the "Spiders From Mars" got banned a lot. What about that?

DB: In the early performances we didn't get any Southern dates at all. I mean we were totally just not allowed to work down there just because they didn't want that kind of faggy-English-limmy shit at all down there, they just wouldn't have it. And we had quite a following down there. I mean, I really think it's a shame that we never played Alabama.

RG: It's funny they tell us in a democracy you're responsibility almost becomes that you have to defend the right of another person to say things that are diametrically opposed to your own belief. You must defend their right to say it even though you can't stand what it is they have to say.

DB: Supposedly a bunch of child abusers decided they wanted to take time on a cable channel and advocate the intentions that it's cool to sleep with six year olds. What would you do, that's cool, that's fine? What would you do about that?

HS: We're talking about freedom in a sense where it has something to do with one not involving others like say what one wants do, they're own personal freedom.

DB: Now that's what I'm saying. If you have the freedom of the individual where his actions or his thought processes don't directly affect the well being and the right to exist of any other fellow human being, yea. But that's what I'm saying about these people like Screwdriver and David Duke, what they're saying radically affects other people.

HS: Well David Duke's rant, did he get elected, no!

DB: No, but he's created a power base for himself. He should not be taken lightly, we have not seen the last of him by any means at all.

HS: But he still didn't get elected. If they'd kept him from running then people would go 'hey wait a minute, he must be saying good, we're holding him back. That's been proven before, if you try to suppress something it just opens up.

DB: It's an ongoing process Hunt. So you believe in the inherent goodness of the people as a whole. That's been rationally allowed to make a politically correct decision.

HS: No, but I believe that a certain truth will prevail.

DB: Tell that to Germany. Tell that to present day France. It could be within the next five years we might see a fascist government in France.

RG: You know you can take all that further to like do you believe that at the core of everything people are basically good or they're basically evil.

DB: I think they're basically ill-informed, and I think the entire thing revolves around education.

RG: That's a good answer, so then it boils down to education and teaching people to be accountable for their actions. How do you do that, that's the next question. And if you are educating people are you educating them to your system of belief, are you programming them?

DB: I know Reeves, I know, it's an ultimate dilemma. I think we've plunged this whole thing into utter confusion. There are an awful lot of things to ponder when you do consider what the word censorship implies, and what areas you are applying it to.

ROC: What about your lyrics. Has anyone complained about what you have on the album?

DB: Well again we had to in the slightest way any sort of four-letter words were just given the stroke on the lyric sheet. Again, only in America, not in Europe or wherever. Nobody has touched our music yet, nobody has ever even suggested that we alter a lyric. I still maintain that anything that by degree of its implication is the purpose it's supposed to serve is to infringe upon the rights of other peoples is not necessarily something that you can actually condone and allow to happen.

RG: Yea, but who judges that?

DB: In this case me! Ha, Ha! So I would like to make my personal decision, in my world I would do that. That's my position on it. It's incredible it's the kind of topic you could talk about for hours because the hidden agenda on it are vast. I mean it touches so many differently that's why it really makes people kinda uptight I think, the whole area because it's such a dubious area. And I understand the point of view that if you're going to have a democracy, you've got to stay with a democracy. And if you don't want a democracy, if you want a bit of a democracy to a certain point, then it's not a democracy anymore so you've got to change the system to something else where arts are going to be o.k., but you can't have anyone who wants to abuse children saying anything. That's a new system, but it's not democracy.

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