Flagship SW artist Conan Neutron answered some questions for one of our favorite music blogs Shiny Grey Monotone.
Here it is: Secret Friends are discussed, as well as Replicator, Mount Vicious, Victory and Associates all with candor and honesty.
Dale Crover, David Yow, Industrial guest appearances Radio NOPE and damn near everything else.
Also includes a weighty “awesome band” list is that would be a worthy homework assignment for any discerning rocker. I can already think of at least a half dozen bands I forgot to include. Damn!
you may recognize the name.
and even if you don’t you’ll still find yourself saying “that’s a pretty kick-ass name. why couldn’t my parents name me conan neutron. i hate my parents!” and then running into your room and slamming the door behind you and then cranking up the stereo. and this is the point where’d you’d forgotten that you hadn’t taken out that BEST OF ABBA cd and now everyone knows your dirty little secret.
and before all of this begins i need to clear something up: conan is in no way shape or form related to jimmy. don’t bring it up. the last time that happened it wasn’t so nice. you may have heard about it on the news.
also: never mention that pointer sisters song either. just don’t.
some of you may have heard of some bands with names like:
victory and associates
you may have even seen them around here on SGM island.
and if you haven’t you’ve just been voted off.
nowadays he’s fronting/playing guitar in a band with some of his secret friends.
and no i’m not going to tell you who they are.
that’s his job.
Q: seeing as how you and your secret friends league have just been brought up…tell us all about that.
A: Sure, this is like my weirdo rock version of the Avengers, or something. Every player is a superstar totally capable of badass acts of heroism and power on their own, but coming together for a greater purpose. I suppose that would make me Captain America. I guess Tony Ash is Iron Man and Dale Crover is the Hulk? Wait, no Thor. Toshi Kasai is… uh… Nick Fury?
Wait… this is dumb.
Another way to look at it, is this is my version of the the Bad Seeds or something. The players sometimes change and cycle in, but the basic core remains the same and the songs come from me originally before being twisted, contorted and shaped into whatever dark forces come together at the end. It’s my version of rock ‘n roll. And that includes a world where Melvins, Bon Scott era AC/DC, DEVO, Unwound, The Jesus Lizard and Thin Lizzy all should be lauded equally. You get me? It’s rock, but with the no bullshit or excuses attitude that can only come from people that live and breathe punk rock/noise rock or whatever the hell you want to call it.
From my standpoint, it’s a little bit of every band I’ve ever been in, and a little bit something entirely different, I’m writing the kind of music I’d like to hear and trying to use all of the lessons I’ve learned over the years to make that a really cool thing. I’m surrounded by great and brilliant people and one of the best rhythm sections a guitarist could hope for. Pretty cool.
Q: dale crover. does he still like to stand around the water cooler and wait for folks to walk by so he can tell some of his grunge stories?
A: oh, constantly! He’s always like: “Man, this one time Tad and I pants-ed Krist Noviselic and he…” and we’re like: “OK! COOL DUDE, WE GET IT.”
No, in all seriousness Dale is one of the sweetest dudes in the world, and all of us have tour stories or crazy back in the day stories. It just so happens that some of his involve people that are incredibly, incredibly famous. It’s easy to forget because he’s such a nice fella.
Although he is always shouting: “ok boys, I really want you to GRUNGE OUT on this next one.”
Don’t know what all that is about.
Q: and seeing as how the secret friends are somewhat embedded into the melvins mythos…could there be a possible tour or collaboration of some sort?
A:Well, as far as collaboration. Buzz does backups on two of the songs on Art of the Murder, so that’s sort of already happened… it’s just under my banner so far fewer people paid attention. HAHAHAHA. That said, even with Dale playing drums for me it’s important to note that Melvins are one of my favorite bands of all time. It’s not lost on me, you know? There’s been talk. So far, that’s been it. That said, I think the two acts would compliment each other in interesting ways. Not just for the obvious shared member either.
Who knows? If it did, I would consider myself very lucky indeed to be even further involved in their world. They are the real deal as artists and humans and work harder than any band I can think of. I respect the hell out of their art , their fearlessness and their process, bands could learn a lot from how the Melvins work.
Q: now let’s travel back a bit. when i mention the name replicator what kind of feelings does it invoke? you were together for 8 years. what brought all of that to an end?
A: Great feelings! I loved that band and loved my time in it. We did everything exactly the way we wanted to do it and did a bunch of weird stuff that some people seemed to enjoy. It was completely on our terms and ended when it should have, cool. It meant something to some people, and I’m pretty sure we left the world a wee but better than how it was when that band came into being, or at least more confused.
I still love Ben and Chris and we played a one off for the PRF BBQ West Coast year before last that was a damn fine time and probably employed a good amount of bay area baby sitters.
What brought it to an end? It was time for it to end. That’s it. No drama. We broke up with plenty of advance notice and recorded an ep of our last songs that is one of the better things we did. Not a bad way to call it a day, right?
The weirdest thing is probably talking to young people in new noise rock bands who think that what you are currently playing is somehow the only thing you ever have, or ever will do. Nope. Settled that land, moved on. Still enjoy visiting and looking at the postcards though.
Q: and during your time together you’d played a show as the jesus lizard and you went by the name of the jesus replicator. what kind of training did you go through in order to become david yow? how far into did you go? how long did it take for you to shake all of that off afterward? are you still in the shower trying to wash it away?
A:If you are trying to ask if I learned how to do a Tight ‘n’ shiny, I did not. In all seriousness though, I think Mr. Yow is not only a very gifted vocalist, but a hell of a front man. Some people seem to get it wrong, thinking that his presence is confrontation and violence, there’s just a strange ebb and flow to the energy between him and the crowd. He’s a masterful performer and full of genuinely thrilling unexpectedness. I once saw him sing an entire song from the inside of a t-shirt box at the Merch table. It was an inspiring moment for me.
That isn’t a joke.
Q: and then i’d seen that you took on the yow again at the 2010 PRF BBQ auktoberfest. there’s footage of you on the youtubes performing “puss” with a band called the hype. and i have to say that if someone were to close their eyes and place you and david yow under cups and shuffled you around you’d never be able to tell who was who.
A:ha! Yes! The Hype… a superstar PRF Karaoke band. Full of members that are in plenty of great bands themselves. Frighteningly accurate. In a better world they’d be the house band for a late night talk show. Maybe hosted by Mark Arm of Mudhoney or Eugene Robinson of Oxbow or something.
Anyway, thanks… it’s a hell of a song. I remembered all the words from that Halloween thing. I thought that was a pretty hilarious move to do a song by Chicago royalty when I’m an Oaklander/California boy through and through.
OH! Something that isn’t on youtube, but I was reminded of… in Replicator, we played with Qui some, both before and after David Yow joined the band. We actually asked him to play Wheelchair Epidemic with us one night. That was cool.
I think that exhausts the David Yow part of the interview.
Oh wait! He’s a great visual artist and did the art for the first Secret Friends record
“the enemy of everyone” too.
SEE? IT ALL COMES BACK TO ME AND MY MUSIC IN THE END. RECORDS STILL FOR SALE AT THE MERCHT TABLE!
Q: and that brings us to mount vicious. the band had 3 guitar players. which of you was the eddie van halen of the group?
A: Ha! I’d say… Alli for sure. IF, and only IF… Eddie Van Halen was played by Rowland S. Howard of the Birthday Party.
Q: the mount vicious bio reveals that mount vicious deliver a powerful live show and are very good at sex. was that in fact true?
Q: the band didn’t seem to have been together all that long. what happened? did one of you finally get to the point of not being very good at the sex and just wanted to stop?
A:No, we were still all very skillful at it. We had a song called “We Enjoy Fucking (To This Music)” for Pete’s sake. We did more in a year than some bands do in their whole life. That also includes bitter, acrimonious break-ups. It was my fault, but it was a good run. We made a good record. I learned, licked my wounds and moved on.
Q: i’ve always thought that victory and associates would’ve made the best name for a law firm. had you ever toyed around with maybe making some sort of a promo for the band in the form of one of those infomercials you only seem to see on the tv at 3:00am? because i would’ve totally watched that while sitting there with my bowl of cereal and nuQuil.
A: Only if we could flash our number really quick with a very long and disconcerting amount of disclaimers played as fast as possible afterwards.
Q: what brought about the demise of the victory and associates?
A: The other three dudes were wanting to work more collaboratively, writing more in the practice room. I wanted the exact opposite, to work more off of demos and concentrate on arrangements when we in the same room. Musical differences! HOW THRILLING!
Plus, people just get tired of people you know? Everybody parted as friends, brothers, etc. That’s the stuff that counts, that and the body of work.
Band breaks up, Ultimately not a lot of people cared. Replicator was important to a lot of people, Mount Vicious was starting to be when we called it a day. For the most part V and A just grinded, we never connected that deeply with most people. I don’t know, we liked it! V and A wasn’t really hard rock, post-punk, punk rock, noise rock or any of that. It was a little bit of all of that and totally it’s own thing. It was important to me that it exist as it’s own entity without relying on previous bands. Worked out great! Hahaha.
It’s tough to be a band that doesn’t have a gimmick, hook or schtick these days. You aren’t just competing for people’s attention with what came out that week, you are competing with all of music. That band was all heart and probably deserved better, but the world will keep on a spinnin’ none the less.
I do think Better Luck Next Life is a way better record than most people give it credit for. But damn, if that was the metric… that’s like: most of music.
Q: did i read somewhere that you’d been involved in something called “bitch stole my time machine”? and were you involved with a “band” called caustic?
A: True on both counts! Jesus, nice digging there Columbo. “Bitch Stole My Time Machine” is a song by the excellent Industrial band Everything Goes Cold, who I toured with a few times as a keyboard player and backup vocalist. It’s not really my genre, but they are very good at it and the shows were a blast. Lots of crazy lighting and smoke machine and chicks in bondage gear and what not. I met Matt Fanale (AKA: Caustic) on one of those jaunts and we bonded immediately over old school Touch and Go stuff. All the stuff you would expect. We became pals and he asked if I would contribute a guitar track to a song on his album “the Man Who Wouldn’t Quit.” He wanted it to be somewhere between Wax Trax and T&G when both of those labels were doing legit aggro and heavy stuff. I said: “You bet!” and I gave him a guitar track that sounds like the things he asked for, with maybe a little Andy Gill thrown in.
It’s a fun track! I played it with him once, and was wearing a feather boa on stage. True story.
Oh! “Bitch Stole my Time Machine.” I played Thingamagoop on that, which is a cute little light activated oscilatting synth that looks like a robot. It makes excellent obnoxious noises. It’s very chaotic in a good way. I think it’s the only thing by EGC that I’m on that’s recorded. That band is really Eric’s baby though.
Man, that’s a whole lot of time I just spent talking about other people’s crap. ERIC! MATT! Where’s my check?!?
Q: besides the musician thing…what else do you have going on in the neutriverse? also: feel free to use that.
A: The “musician thing”. Oh, you mean the thing I devote my life to? hahahaha. Well, my radio show/podcast “Conan Neutron’s Protonic Reversal” is entering year 3, I think? Every time I’m about ready to quit it, I get some really nice feedback about some episode or another. So I’m going to continue to do those, talking to people that everybody SHOULD care about and what it means to be an artist and do what they do. Playing new and old tunes I love, that kind of stuff.
There are worse ways to spend time.
I launched a 24/7/365 radio station called Radio NOPE early last year that has achieved the purpose of being my favorite station ever! (that’s http://www.radionope.com kids!), there’s currently no ability for profit of course, but I kind of consider it a public service. Hey! Maybe there should be a SGM show on it? (hint, hint!)
Q: another PRFBBQ has come and gone. tell us about that business.
A:Which one? Oakland? Chicago? Louisville? Hahaha, they are all excellent. So many amazing bands, so many great people. I don’t know, anybody reading this is like the total target demo for these things. It’s just all badassery and your new favorite bands.
New discoveries for me this year were:
West Coast – The Tunnel, an already really great band totally stepping it up by mixing some serious Big Black into their late period Birthday Party. Impressive stuff! Also Quivers, who have kind of a Chavez plus Archers of Loaf thing going on.
Chicago-Rented Rooms who kind of slayed my mind, the songs of the dude from the Mekons Jon Langford… who I’ve never paid much attention to.
Louisville- Vibrolas, just really good down and dirty rock and roll, Multicult… kickass NYC noiserock, Them Teeth and War Brides. Great NR bands.
Q: are there any stories that you’d like to regale us with?
A: I’ve met Andrew Dice Clay in person, he’s a remarkably intelligent and soft spoken dude who asks a lot of questions about YOU. Well, not you… me. I guess. No, he did not tell any limericks.
We played Krist Noviselic’s signature Gibson Ripper on both the first two Secret Friends records, by that I mean it was the one Gibson actually gave to him and he later gave to Toshi and the Melvins for the studio. That’s a damn fine instrument there.
Q: so. music. i’m going to assume that you like it. are there any bands out there that you’d like to lay some lip service to?
A: Hurry Up Shotgun (Oakland, CA), B. Hamilton (Oakland, CA), Porch (Oakland, CA), Reptoid (Oakland, CA), Oxbow (San Francisco, CA) The Cell Phones (Chicago, IL) Nocturnal Habits (Justin from Unwound with Sara from Unwound on drums), Vibrolas (Lexington, KY), Motherfucker (Athens, GA), Lardo (Chicago, IL), the rutabega (South Bend, IN), Dead Halos (Louisville, KY), Trophy Wives (Louisville, KY), Waxeater (Louisville, KY), John Congleton and the Nighty Nite, SAVAK (Brooklyn, NY), Melvins (duh!), Whores (Atlanta, GA), Multicult (NYC), Manhandle (Alabama or some crap!), Nonagon (Chicago, IL), Buildings (Minneapolis, MN), Magpies (Missoula, MT), SEMINARS (Seattle, WA), Beat Drun Juel (Chicago, IL), THE HAND (Minneapolis, MN), Thoughts Detecting Machines (Bloomington, IL), Minutes and OUT (Those are two different bands, Kalamazoo, MI) Future of the Left (Cardiff) and Falco solo as Christian Fitness are both way legit. Oh! Quivers (San Francisco, CA) I’m sure I’m forgetting something really obvious, but that’s a pretty damn good listening list.
Just go Ask Jeeves all that stuff and you’ll be listening to new stuff before ya know it.
Anybody that says there isn’t any good new music needs to pull their head out of their ass.
Q: and now we’ve come to the part of the show where if’n you have any science you’d like to drop on the folks…..
A: Look! Just because my last name is Neutron doesn’t mean I’m a REAL scientist. That’s just a CHARACTER… Hahaha! Just joking kids, stay in school.
well,mr. neutron. i’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for stopping in for this interview. it was fun. now please exit the building before security has to be called. and don’t forget to stop by the front desk and take a complimentary anything you’d like out of the lost and found.
”Great Stuff! expect lots of sludgy and meaty grooves and a lot of references to Hannibal Lecter!.” –I Heart Noise
“Veteran Oakland, CA singer/guitarist Conan Neutron has hit pay dirt with The Secret Friends. This follow up to 2015s debut The Enemy of Everyone bellows forth with, chianti-swilling swagger. Tunes such as ‘Eat The Rude’ ‘The Census Taker’ and the closing ‘Chair of Antlers’ with its Wings ‘Jet’ like shout-along chorus give a Thunderous thrill! The Art is a Blast!.” – The Big Takeover
” …Rare is the band that attempts to pull off this sort of thing, rarer still is the band that succeeds. The best part about Neutron and his pals, is there’s no tongue in cheek, hipster, nudge-and-wink, ironic retro-rocking going on, this is just some seriously solid, goddamn rock and roll, that we find ourselves listening to like crazy” –Aquarius Records
“Here’s what’s more crucial: this thing is tight, with a seamless collection of the most tasty hooks, and the best delivery possible. The best in rock, and I mean that. Think about it- from Alice Cooper, to UFO, to KISS, to the Misfits, to The Melvins, to Tilts- there is a type of rock music where everything just fits, perfectly- where the production, the songwriting, the performance, heck even the tuning all just come together perfectly- that sense that everything is exactly what it’s supposed to be- this record has it. There’s nothing extraneous – no 3 bar solos that have to be in another key, because they won’t fit, otherwise, nor jazz fake out drum bits, nor yodeling, nor throat singing, nor funk odyssey- it’s all mighty, mighty solid rock. It’s beyond genre- again, like the sadly departed Tilts, this isn’t cheap nostalgia for the dearly departed music from when I was 15- instead, it’s trying to take the materials at hand, now- indie rock, stoner rock, sludge, noise, punk- and infusing it with a healthy dose of what made that “classic” rock classic to us, when we were 15. Heroic harmonies on the chorus, heart-stopping riffs, and the tightest fills that can be mustered. I have listened to it about 10 times in a row, now, and I don’t skip a track, and I don’t wanna miss a second of it. I have been late getting back from lunch because I don’t want to stop listening mid-song to anything, here. Just mind-blowingly solid- and top notch throughout. Sincerely- if you like big, loud, tight rock music- not pop rock- not metal, not punk, not alternative- hard rock music- with melody, and balls aplenty- I cannot suggest anything else- get this, now! I mean, sure, I dig all kinds of music, so, if you’d rather catch up on Merle Haggard’s music, by all means- that’s a good endeavor- but when you want rock music, you really must start here. I realize that the worm that destroys you is the temptation to agree with your critics, to get their approval, but you cannot reduce this rock to a set of influences- it stands as a solid thing on a slippery planet.” – How Much Longer Must We Tolerate Mass Culture
“dude, this stuff is heavy! I like it.” –Bob Weston, Shellac