Valentine's Day: Q&A w/Gazelle Amber Valentine of Jucifer
Together for almost 20 years in Jucifer, Edgar Livengood and Gazelle Amber Valentine return to The V Club Thursday night.
There’s always stuff that has to be left out when putting articles together. There’s only so much space in print, but we don’t suffer the same limitations here. So in these cases we like to excerpt the quality nuggs from interviews and run ‘em as an exclusive here, as a supplement to the article there.
In advance of their show at the V Club tomorrow, we thought it would be awesome to take some questions from our Herald-Dispatch interview with Jucifer’s Gazelle Amber Valentine, and post them here.
Herald-Dispatch: How is the RV and gear holding up? You two somewhere between Shreveport and Birmingham? Enjoying the few days off?
Gazelle Amber Valentine: So far so good! Yeah, we’re headed towards Birmingham. The days off were a booking agent screw up, but it’s working out pretty good because we’re right in the middle of making a million arrangements for the European tour we’re about to do, and we had a few interviews to get done. About 500 miles of driving too.
Herald-Dispatch: You two famously live the life of a nomadic rock band, calling nowhere in particular home. How much work, how stressful is it, driving all over, unloading all your equipment and having to maintain a schedule?
Valentine: ...Trying to catch up because on days we play, we literally don’t have time for anything besides making the show happen.
On “off” days we have to do a million dumb regular chores -- laundry, bills, fixing stuff, cleaning up, getting groceries -- and very-rewarding-but-time-consuming things: interviews, making records, planning tours with booking agents, friendships, family. And sleep. Deep, desperately needed sleep.
Stress... yeah, lots of that! Dealing with traffic, on the highway all the time with drivers who almost get you killed, then when you arrive maybe dealing with rude people. People from the venue, or from other bands, who are freaked out by all the gear, or just have bad attitude to begin with.
Strangers who threaten to kill you because you’re taking up street parking -- truth!
Booking agent screw-ups that cost you money or piss off people that are important to you. People you have to work with not being professional when you are -- so frustrating. Being too hot, being too cold, getting soaked and trying to protect the electronics when it’s pouring rain. Always worrying about things breaking, because you’re using them all the time; so it’s always just about to happen. And when things break, it’s a different obstacle course every time to get them fixed.
Whatever it is, you still have to power through.
Herald-Dispatch: Do you think being married makes this kind of lifestyle easier at all? Do you two fight about a bunch of nonsense like a lot of married couples, or does being on the road, dedicating yourselves to the band like you do, together as a couple almost 20 years, kind of keep that stuff blocked out?
Valentine: ...We fight sometimes, but it’s not nonsense like ‘why didn’t you get me a tennis bracelet’ or ‘I need my time with the guys’ or some bulls--- like that. When we fight it’s either we’re trying to agree on how to make our situation better and have to hash through our ideas. Or we get snappy because we’re under so much stress without enough food or sleep. But we have this core of loving each other that gets us through those things. Neither one of us has any use for that drama kind of relationship: we’re not playing. We’re honest. In the end the constructive arguments help us reach better decisions, and the stupid ones we just forget. We got each other’s backs!
Herald-Dispatch: The one big thing of course since 1994 and recording on old four-tracks is the advent of the internet. Talking about getting something like Nadir out to your fans, how cool is it to have that kind of positive feedback every day like you do on your Facebook page?
Valentine: It’s pretty awesome! Very cool to have that instant response. Not just for songs and albums, but also to know people’s experiences from your last show. It’s good to be able to write with fans too, like on Facebook and twitter, to help them find out where to get stuff or when we’re playing their town. We like getting to know people. And it’s really interesting to actually see who we touch, if that makes sense?!
Of course the downside of instant-reaction web is those trolls and haters everybody gets in comments sections. It’s part of the internet effect that people without the balls to confront anybody in real life can get away with slander and hate speech because they’re hiding behind a screen name.
Herald-Dispatch: I’ve talked to a few musicians who have been operating since the pre-internet era, and they talk about the pros and cons. The pro being you can reach waaay more people with a youtube clip or something. The con being that kids in particular are more picky, more savvy if you will, about music.
How important has the internet been in building this fan base you’ve got? Or do you think you’d still (like you did) be able to operate on non-stop touring and word of mouth? I know that’s a long-winded question, but talk about operating in the internet age and even winning over newer, younger, Jucifer fans…
Valentine: They’re probably more picky, but not necessarily more savvy. At least when they get their info from the web.
The internet has created a skewed hierarchy for information. The most popular answer equals the correct answer, even if it isn’t. The newest info is the truest info in search-engine land.
Most people believe what they read. So they end up taking someone’s mistake or outright lie and spreading it, until it has so many “hits” it becomes the “best answer.” Misinformation self-perpetuates.
In the good old days of print media and paper books, people actually had to know the topic (and go through an editor) before they could publish. Online, any moron with an opinion can state it as fact. The truth is subjective. When every single person with internet access contributes to the information pool, the sources are flawed.
So I think instead of being more savvy, everybody’s more gullible! Fake news reports like Jon Bon Jovi being dead, for example, are perfect proof. Lies, repeated by people who think they’re repeating truths, which are then treated as news and shared ad infinitum.
The picky factor: somebody I follow on Twitter was talking about this recently and described how they used to buy an album, and if they didn’t immediately love it, they’d work at loving it. Because they liked the band and they’d spent money on it and here they had this LP or cassette or CD and they had to either find something about it to enjoy or throw it away.
That attitude is pretty much gone because of the internet. Everything can be gotten for free, and without any physical object to make you feel guilty for not trying harder. Everybody checking out a new band, types ‘em in on Google, listens to ten seconds of the top resulting video or song clip, and decides. Bam. Woe unto bands if that ten seconds isn’t what the person was hoping for. They haven’t invested anything and they’ll drop that band forever unless somebody they trust tells them to look again.
So when you reach people this way, is it really a good thing to reach more of them?
I think, unless you have a kind of referral, somebody who explains what songs or videos their friend should check out, knowing that person’s taste, the internet can be a pretty bad tool, even turn listeners away from something they might like.
We’d probably still be ok without the internet, because we did it for so long before. For bands I don’t think it really even came into play that much until MySpace got big. Which was like, 2005ish?
The best thing about the internet is our ability to just directly write to people. Fans, other bands, writers, whatever. It’s so much easier to let people know where you are, what you’re doing, how they can help if they want. We wouldn’t have necessarily felt like we could start our own label without the internet.
Winning over new people is part of the pros and cons deal. Because of that more shallow approach to discovering bands that the internet developed. You know, back in the day underground music was such a precious thing. Now that anybody with a computer can put their album online, even without knowing how to play any instruments, that reverence is gone. People are really quick to dispose of bands or make weird assumptions.
We run into a lot of younger people assuming we were influenced by bands that were actually influenced by us or at least came way after. Newest is truest. If they dive in and find whoever sludgy drone-y band with big amps, or some duo -- whether it started in 2008, or 1998 -- that’s their reference for anything they discover in the future. There’s no history lessons when people get into music. There’s just random clips and bits of information, lots of it without any explanation for what it’s part of. What came before. What came after. Again, people experiencing information hierarchy as truth. Anyone’s achievements can be erased in that context.
I think the internet has heavily tipped ALL learning in that direction, and word of mouth from people who actually know is the only antidote. So hopefully some of them (probably older) stick around, follow technology, engage and proliferate truth. If not, the movie ‘Idiocracy’ is really our future. And soon.
At the same time it’s so much easier for our fans to show us to their friends. That’s where I think the internet really helps; people can immediately show each other stuff, and a lot of them have a pretty good network with other people that have similar taste. So your audience can build really exponentially, really exactly the same way it did without internet, but a lot faster. The word of mouth takes seconds and broadcasts worldwide.
Like, we just went to Russia for the first time last year, and we already had this great fanbase who had our albums for us to sign after the shows and knew song titles to yell out. They could only have found out about us through the internet. That’s an example of the positive aspect to the new digiworld.
Herald-Dispatch: And you’re still working on the new full-length, right? But playing some new songs off it? How have the fans reacted and what’s been the general response to the new stuff?
Valentine: Yeah, we need to go back in for a couple weeks to finish it, it’s about half recorded right now. We’re planning on finishing it in the summer. We’re gonna record a little bit in Italy and then go back to the studio in Canada where we did the first half to finish it up. We’ve been mixing in some of the songs at shows and they seem to be inciting a lot of fist pumping and circle pits, so that’s a good sign! Of course there’s also gonna be some stuff on the record we won’t play live, but people who know us are used to that by now, haha.
Herald-Dispatch: What’s the best/worst thing or anecdote you can relay about how Jucifer’s mass of sound affects people or objects?
Valentine: Hm. Best thing that happens to people -- so they tell us -- is orgasm. Too much information? Worst thing would be pee, shart or vomit. And people drop their drinks on the first note sometimes.
Stuff falls out of ceilings a lot. We like to say we include a ceiling cleaning as part of our service. If there’s dust, soot, loose tiles. One time a building we played in had an outer wall of 19th century brick that was already in pretty bad shape, and some of that wall fell.
Every once in awhile bottles or glasses fall, but we always tell the bartenders to push em back if it’s the kind of room that’ll really compress the sound, so it doesn’t happen too much.
Herald-Dispatch: When we talked last I asked about your book “The Grease,” is that still in the works or on the backburner?
Valentine: I haven’t been writing very much because our schedule’s just been insane. But I wrote a chapter about David Gold from Woods of Ypres when he died. His death touched off a lot of feelings and thoughts that were in me related to creative need and the sometimes self-destructive devotion that artists have to their art, which is the main theme of the book.
At first I thought I’d write a kind of eulogy to post online but I realized I didn’t feel I had the right to be commenting publicly at that moment since I didn’t know him, and I didn’t want it to be me getting publicity off of his tragedy. So I’m just keeping it for the book. I’ll probably be writing that book for a few more years, but that’s ok I think. It’s a big topic.
Herald-Dispatch: Aside from the new full-length, what if anything awesome are you two looking forward to in 2012? Big fests like Roadburn or anything like that?
Valentine: Oh yeah definitely stoked for our first Roadburn, and our return to the SWR Metalfest in Portugal. Both of those festivals and lineups absolutely rule.
We’re hitting the UK before Roadburn which is awesome because we had to skip it the last couple times we crossed the Atlantic. We have a really good support band for those shows, Bastard Of The Skies, and we’re also gonna play with Orange Goblin and Black Sun while we’re there so psyched for that. Then a full tour of Europe, which we love, a bunch of new cities this time.
And we’re going to the Ukraine for the first time and going back to Russia and doing a longer tour with some new cities there too. Very excited for all that! And stoked to go back to Canada and all the rest of the US that we haven’t hit yet this year.
‘Nadir’ is coming out in a limited edition cassette licensed for the UK by English label Future Noise, and also gonna be out on LP soon. We’ll premiere the video for “Crossless” too. Lots of excitement!
Herald-Dispatch: Doing what you two have been doing for so long, aside from the music itself, is impressive, and speaks to your devotion to each other and Jucifer itself. But is there going to be a point where you two will settle down? Or not?
Valentine: Motion is life. Action is life. Until the light takes us....
--- Jucifer plays The V Club Thursday night with Hyatari and Deckard...
Related: On the road with Gazelle Amber Valentine of Jucifer (3.16.2011)
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