Thursday, January 08, 2004

Sex Clark Five

From Huntsville, Alabama, Sex Clark Five have been knocking about for a couple of decades now perfecting their patented ‘strum and drum’, but their exposure in the UK has been limited to the occasional Peel Session. Strange really as the SC5 sound is quite English in it’s way, with something a bit medieval in it’s rhythms, melodies and harmonies. They keep things short (34 tracks appear on the ‘Strum & Drum’ collection of early material!) but why over-elaborate unnecessarily, eh? SC5’s associate Harper Payne took them down the pub in Huntsville to ask our questions for us. Cheers Harper!

>How did Sex Clark Five come together?

Rick: Some big studio Mongols and I do mean Mongols ran an ad, something like: Madness! Insane Quartet for New TV Series - Must Have Songs and Wear Toboggans.

James: We met at a costume ball. We were all dressed as Abraham Lincoln with bullet holes in our heads. So we knew we ought to start a band.

Rick: We were originally called John Wilks' Boots.

James: But the Sons of Union Veterans protested, so we had to some up with something innocuous.

Trick: We've known each other since we was babies. It came to pass that we rented a garage which collapsed into a basement. There unto we took our instruments and began strumming and drumming.

>Who are you, what do you bring to Sex Clark Five?

James: I'm James. I write most of the songs and therefore make things continually difficult for everybody involved.

Rick: I be Rick: I play strapless brassiers whenever I can. Make a nice twangy sound.

James: Rick also writes songs which are highly groovy.

Rick: Which puts me into the making things difficult category.

Trick: Trick's my name: I play drums and an occasional hammer dulcimer. My job is to try and undo everything James does.

Laura: I'm Laura E. Lee: I sing and otherwise try to keep clear of these maniacs.

>What inspires you, musically and lyrically?

Rick: Rockets and girls not necessarily in that order.

James: Girls and rockets, in that order. And history and how it can be squeezed...

Rick: Like Silly Putty!

James: ...into the pop song, rock opera format. That's a fun thing to do.

Trick: Girls (preferably Japanese) and go-carts.

Laura: I'm staying out of this one.

>On a Sex Clark Five curated festival bill, who else would play?

Rick: I'm not sure who's left. The Kinks, the Where the Action Is Dancers, Killing Joke, the Archies.

Trick: Little Feat in the bathtub, plus those Japanese drummers who play monster drums.

James: The Rutles. The Raiders. The Retards.

Laura: Abba, of course!

>A number of your songs clock in between 1 and 2 minutes in length. Do you estimate your audiences attention spans to be quite short, or do you just like to avoid padding out good ideas?

Trick: It's us with the short attention spans.

Rick: We like to give our fans maximum value 30-40 songs per album. So many ideas so little vinyl.

James: No, really, you hit it. It's like, once you've done the main part and the chorus and the bridge you've done the ideas, right? So why keep repeating them? But I'm not sure that's a good approach, now that I think about it, 10 years too late. We probably could have had a dozen hits if it wasn't for Rick's idea to make the things so dang short.

Rick: So it's my fault is it?

Laura: Gaaaaawww!

>What motivates you to continue to record and gig, and is it any different from when you started out in music?

Rick: SC5's war with the record companies. We are proving ourselves worthy by outlasting that industry.

Trick: Every gig is an act of vengeance.

James: We do it 'cause it's fun. Or so they tell me.

>If the musical world was ideal, it would...

Rick: Recognize Sex Clark Five for our contribution to mankind. And the Everly Brothers would record the entire SC5 catalog.

James: Broadway would produce the musical I've written for the Marx Brothers.

Trick: Everyone would say repeatedly how I out Ringo Ringo.

>Why should people buy Crimson Panzer?

Rick: Because Crimson Panzer is quality family entertainment, like Disneyland.

Trick: It has secret ingredients that lead to a long and hopeful atmosphere.

James: It's the best thing we've done since Strum and Drum! That ought to be enough reason, seems to me.

Laura: I sing on it!

James: It's a comic book concept album. It's not as long as it could have been, maybe should have been. But you can still get lost in it. I think that may be why people should buy it. You can get lost in it, then start it over and get lost all over again.

>Suggest a publicity stunt to increase the Sex Clark Five profile in the UK.

Trick: Joe Meek producing the new album.

Rick: We build a giant rocket powered boat and try to get two of each species, a pair of giraffes, zebras, pair of pants, Pere Ubu.

James: We build a big oven in the shape of the Albert Hall and tell every politician it’s a big fund raiser...just kidding.

Trick: How bout we all run naked through the streets screaming?

James: Screaming what?

Rick: No, that's been done.

James: Sounds like Oxford.

>What do you consider your best achievements in music?

Rick: Everything we've done.

Trick: Drum solos!

Laura: Are there any drum solos on SC5 records?

Trick: Yeah, but they only last a couple of seconds.

James: Contributing to the demise of drum solos. Other than that, I think we've told people about Alabama and where we live and that whole history of our people, Huntsville, von Braun, the damn Yankees and all that. We haven't just made a lot of songs. They all hold together, belong together as one great mythology. I think we've created a world with SC5 music.

Rick: A comic book, anyway.

James: An epic comic book. Yeah, I'd settle for that.

>What more would you like to achieve with your music?

James: Get rich.

Trick: And by the way, where are all the girls you're supposed to get when you're in a band?

James: Ricky gets them.

Rick: What, you guys don't get groupies? I get them all the time.

James: You ought to take something for that.

>If you weren't in a band just what would you do with your evenings?

Rick: Watch the stars fall on Alabama.

Trick: Race go-carts along the beach, then surf.

James: Put on a one-man show of the musical I wrote for the Marx Brothers.

Laura: Stay at home and play with my animals.

>What are your future plans for gigs and recordings?

Rick: We're working on new album that Joe Meek is producing by the way. Also an album of demos of songs from the second and third album albums. We would like to tour England again as we haven't been there in a while except for the John Peel shows.

James: As Rick says, the next LP will be a collection of the demos from Battle of Sex Clark Five and Antedium, the two middle albums. It will be different, fresh, and new even tho most of the songs have been released. We will be adding tracks to the crude, smash-up recordings we used to learn the songs.

Trick: But of course it won't be an actual LP or even CD. We'll be doing the web downloads thing at

>What, with regards the US music scene, upsets you?

Trick: The pay.

James: Yeah, like none!

Rick: To tell you the truth, we don't know much about the American music scene. SC5 have always operated in ignorance of the latest fads.

James: I mean, we know everybody is a Negro now, but that's about it.

>What, with regards the US music scene, delights you?

Rick: The piracy.

James: The downfall of record companies, CDs and record chain stores is sweet indeed.

Trick: That's what they get for not paying us a big advance.

>Please name your 6 discs for a Desert Island?

Rick: Sergeant Green Preservation Socety, Beethoven, Best of Wagner, Spike Jones greatest hits. Trick: My ocean sounds CD.

James: Meet the Beatles, Brandeberg Concertos, Beach Boys, The Who Sell Out, Crimson Panzer, and the sound track from the musical I've written for the Marx Brothers.

Laura: I think I'd skip the disks and make my own music with coconuts and various stringed instruments I'd find lying around on the beach.

>3 Books for a desert island?

Rick: Bible, Shakespeare, cookbook.

James: This is assuming that we eventually return to civilisation, right? Shakespeare, Small Arms of the World, Gibbon.

Trick: Dance of the Barbarian Maids, Slave Girls Gone Wild, HTML for Dummies.

Laura: Everything You've Always Wanted to Know About Sex Clark Five But Knew Better Than To Ask.

>1 Luxury Item for a Desert Island?

Rick: Mary Ann or Ginger.

James: Water. Flame thrower. Grenades (for fishing). SKS. Case of .762.

Trick: HDTV.

Laura: Tree house.

>Any other words of wisdom for us here in the UK?

Trick: Next time, beat France.

Rick: Leave it alone and the empire will return.

James: You know, we think a lot about England, and England appears often in our songs. My fave line is from West of Liverpool, from Crimson Panzer, which is about England, obviously. "South of Liverpool England loiters/At the christening of her destroyer." It means something, but I don't reckon we have that much time.

Laura: Watch out who your Prime Ministers get tangled up with!


At 9:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the funniest interviews I've EVER read. SC5 come out of your hiding place. PLEASE!

At 10:00 PM, Anonymous Maggie said...

I love the Sex Clark Five. Why hasn't the world caught up to them?

At 6:45 AM, Anonymous Jennifer said...

There's an excellent article about Sex Clark Five in the Oxford American Music Issue. This interview is a revelation.

At 8:26 PM, Anonymous Paris said...

Check this out: the phenomenal Sex Clark Five in concert. How I love sc5!


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