The Venture Bros.' Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick Talk Favorite Music
Sunday night at midnight, The Venture Bros. returns to Adult Swim for another season of mad scientist and supervillain misadventures. While we have heard bits and pieces about what to expect for the upcoming episodes at Comic Con, when LA Weekly caught up with show architects Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer by phone yesterday, the subject of the day was music. This seemed more than appropriate when chatting with two guys who developed a universe where a hapless villain reminisces about Danceteria, and Klaus Nomi appears as a henchman who can wreak havoc with his voice.
What's the first album you bought?
DH: Remember buying? I was given a lot of records because I have an older sister and she had these punk rock boyfriends that wanted to kiss up to her, so they would talk to me. So, I remember getting a Gen X and Adam and the Ants records. That was the time that I discovered music like that. I was the conduit to possible sex with my sister, so that was that the first time I heard music made by grown ups that cared. Before that, all I knew were songs from the radio.
JP: The first I bought were records. I don't know which was first, but I feel like it was the same day. It was The Muppet Show soundtrack and Queen's first album, because it was the only one my brother didn't have.
I can see the similarity between the two.
DH: There's an epic quality to The Muppets and an epic quality to Queen.
JP: My first cassette was Synchronicity and my first CD was U2 War and King Crimson Discipline. [Laughs.] They're all ten years apart.
DH: I do remember buying what people consider to be the world's greatest album as a kid but, I didn't buy it because it was cool, I bought it because it had goats on the front and I thought it was pretty, which was Pet Sounds. So, I accidentally got the album that everybody wishes they got first. I got it because it had animals on it. When you're a kid, the Beach Boys really works, but I had no idea I was buying a classic.
Do you still listen to it?
DH: I own it on CD and I put it on and it's a lot more strange now. I find it to be really dark and depressing now.
What do you listen to when you're writing?
DH: I listen only to garbage and stuff I listened to when I was younger. I discovered that Appetite for Destruction, although Jackson will argue with this, is amazing because it reminds you of being young. You know every word, yet you don't give a rat's ass. You don't stop to think about the record. I also like the first Danzig album, which Jackson will absolutely argue with me, because it's just tough and rock. You keep writing to it. Your head will maybe pound a little bit, you will throw horns occasionally. Sometimes you will giggle at how silly it is and how perfectly adequate it is. It's a very strong album. The production is amazing. But, yeah, I listen to crap that I don't listen to that much anymore when I write.
JP: I just hit shuffle now, so I listen to everything now. I used to throw on soundtracks and orchestral stuff would be the only thing I could write to, maybe Dead Can Dance or Cocteau Twins or something. Mostly it was movies scores that would kind of inspire me. Now I just listen to whatever is in iTunes randomly, which may explain why I can't write as well this year.
Is the character Princess Tinyfeet a reference to Princess Tinymeat?
JP: I have no idea who that is.
DH: I do. It's kind of in that realm. It came from a lot of places, but we were just playing with nicknames for someone with a foot fetish and possibly Princess Tinymeat is the same that informed Princess Tinyfeet. It's not a direct reference, but it might have been a thing that was latent in the back of my head.
Jackson and I just say weird sort of turns of phrases and some of them are things that we forgot that's where they were from, so it's possible.
When was the first time you heard Klaus Nomi and what did you think?
DH: I was a little kid. It was probably Saturday Night Live and I probably thought, wow, grown ups are crazy.
JP: I loved it. Not like I wanted to listen to this guy's record, but tell me more about this fascinating creature. It's like the first time you see Kraftwerk and you're freaking out because you don't know if they're robots or not.
DH: I don't like Klaus Nomi's music at all. It's probably some of the worst music I've ever heard. I love his voice and when he did Purcell's "The Cold Song" it's really amazing, but the actual band that he had and the music that they wrote for him, it's horrible, and you can see why he never became more than this thing that was beautiful and dressed up funny and had this astonishing vocal trick. I think that he was something amazing that was really misused. You can go back and say, "Why wasn't this band more famous?" I can't go back and go, "Why wasn't he more famous?" He was exactly as famous as he should be.
JP: It's more like, "How did he get that famous?"
Were you familiar with Danceteria when it was around?
DH: Around the time that Danceteria was closing, I found out that Tones on Tail was playing and that's like ex-Bauhaus people with I guess Glenn Campling, who was like a Bauhaus roadie, was playing bass. I found out they were playing Danceteria. I was a kid in Connecticut, but I got my ass to Danceteria. Back then, you could get into clubs just by showing up. New York didn't really card like it does now. Even me with my little boy face, probably dressed pretty much like a woman, I was able to get into Danceteria. So I had been there and saw Tones on Tail at Danceteria.
We're in love with that kind of New York legend, so when we place the Monarch at Danceteria and then name luminaries...
JP: We're wishing we were that cool.
DH: Like Stiv Bators, that's us going that would have been great. Also, the guy that does our music, Jim Thirlwell knows Lydia Lunch and works with all these people, so it's funny that we make these jokes and people are like, "That's great, I remember that." We're actually working with part of that scene. Jim is really fucking cool. He's really done a lot.
What's the first concert you went to?
JP: Squeeze, my brother took me. It was his first concert eight or nine years earlier.
DH: Who played with them?
JP: I have no idea. It might have been like The Smithereens or something. It was'89 or so.
DH: Mine was Adam Ant. Just Adam Ant. I have more memories of my mom waiting in the parking lot than I do of the actual concert.
JP: I remember the subway ride more than anything.
DH: I remember my mom asking me if I had a good time and feeling like such a douche because I was trying to be grown-up and my mom was out there waiting for me.
What was the most recent concert you've been to?
DH: We've been so insanely busy this year.
JP: What was the last one we've been to?
DH: I saw Echo and the Bunnymen play Ocean Rain with a symphony orchestra. That was a priority of my life. I'll tell you, a lot of people were "Eh, I wanted to hear all the shit from Crocodile." All I wanted to hear was Ocean Rain because I think that's a fucking masterpiece. It was amazing. They played it cover to cover. Before they played, they warmed themselves up by playing stuff from Crocodile all the way through, so they were playing their regular stuff not Ocean Rain with an orchestra. So, they did their bullshit so everyone could hear, whatever nonsense that they think is Echo and the Bunnymen. It was phenomenal! It was really good. A part of me wanted to be this is sort of bloated and not rock n' roll because one, it's a retro event and two, they're creating something that never happened, they're recreating a studio album live. But, even with all of that snottiness that I usually have of wanting stuff to be true and rock, it didn't matter because it sounded so beautiful and the songs are so great. It was just wonderful.
JP: I don't know. I know I've seen something more recent than this, but the last one I remember going to was Jarvis Cocker. I accidentally saw David Byrne's last two songs in Prospect Park at a free concert because I came out of a movie late and he was still playing.
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