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"NYC Briefcase Blues"
Knoxville Girls
(1998 - 2001)

The Knoxville Girls
The Knoxville Girls. Photo by Ali Smith.

The Knoxville Girls started out with my roommate Jerry Teel and Jack Martin, who was a long-term friend of mine. And we started doing stuff together – he played occasionally with Congo Norvell. They were doing a recording project with Bob Bert from Pussy Galore and Sonic Youth. They asked me to come play on their recordings. I said, “Oh yeah, I’ll come put down some guitar.” And I ended up putting guitar on about everything that they played. And Barry London was playing some organ. What they were doing was a kind of… country/no wave was the theory of that. It was very New Yorky sounding, very garagey, very rock. I came on and put down some, something I haven’t done in a long time, which is really loud crazy guitar parts. And it was really fun and really great.

Knoxville GirlsSo we made these recordings and people immediately went crazy for them. Barry Hardy from In the Red immediately wanted to put it out. And Bob played it for Mark Arm from Mudhoney and he went really crazy and said, “You have to play with us when we’re going to play next month in New York.” So we decided, “OK, we’ll make a live band and we’ll play.”

After the restraint of Congo Norvell, it was really fun to play some rock music again like in The Cramps or something – fuzzed out craziness. And I like the no bass. There was no bass guitar on it. It just turned out to be really really good chemistry. I was already a longtime friend of Jack. Bob Bert was really great and Jerry who ran the Funhouse studio. Yeah, so that was the start of a recording project that became a band. We were just having fun and it was completely natural and completely coo-koo. We were more on a kind of Captain Beefhearty sort of trip.

My role was more sound effect-y than anything else. And it was really really fun for me because I got to actually be a bit more just expressionist than having to really play. And I got to play lots of chords and be loud and raunchy. It was a good combination. I think me and Bob were the more arty sort of elements and had that kind of view. And Jerry is strictly a garage-rocker total. And he was very into the country singing. And he actually was a really great singer. He has something really great about his voice. Even Lux and Ivy from The Cramps liked it. And they said, “Wow, that singer can really sing.”

It was just one of those things in where all of the elements are just right. Once again, my theory that, if you get the right people together, then its going to make some kind of right kind of music. And when we became a live band it was even more proof that it was a good thing because people really reacted strongly - I think one of the most popular things that I’ve done in the last years. It made so many people really happy and the people still ask me, “Are the Knoxville Girls still together?”

Then we became really a super-touring band. We did a lot of touring in America and in Europe and then we made the rounds a few times.

In a Paper SuitThe country/no wave thing, like all things - a relationship can always be really fun at first until you start to really know each other. So we went to make a second album - In a Paper Suit it was called. By that time we got the idea that we want to make a different album than the first album - which is probably not in that kind of music the thing people want. Some people wanted it to be more country and more people wanted more no wave. I think it’s a great album but I think there’s a spirit missing in it. And I think that’s what people were reacting to. I think it became apparent to people that that record had a lot of push and pull on it. And people didn’t react to it in the way they did to the first one.

That was pretty much the ending - the fact that no one could really make a decision. It was Jerry’s band really. It was his brainchild. Not wanting to just do the three-chord rockabilly fast thing was the knife in the water. So the only thing was that the band deflated in disillusionment and we went on to do different things. Barry was the first one to go. Barry was not a hundred percent into it. He was great on the recordings and he was great live. But there were artistic differences and some people saw it one way and some people saw it the other way. So when that happens you have to pursue whatever way you see.


Listen to a free MP3 of Knoxville Girls' "Drop Dead Gorgeous"


Continue to 13. "Why D'ya Do It?": Khan and Julee Cruise


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