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vol 4 - issue 10 (jun 2002) :: interviews
THE BETA BAND'S RICHARD GREENTREE
interview by insane wayne chinsang and fphatty lamar

RICHARD GREENTREE OF THE BETA BAND KNOWS A THING OR TWO ABOUT:

- RELIGIOUS FANATICS

- THE EXPERIMENT THAT IS "AMERICA"

- REDNECK BUMPER STICKERS

- MOON LANDING CONSPIRACIES

- DOG LIPS

OH YEAH. HE ALSO KNOWS SOMETHING ABOUT MAKING MUSIC. AND HE SHARED ALL OF HIS KNOWLEDGE WITH INSANE WAYNE CHINSANG AND FPHATTY LAMAR.

Wayne: You guys are right in the middle of an extensive North American tour. How have things been going?

Richard: Things are going well so far.

W: Has touring been pretty crazy?

R: No. It’s quite calm, really. Crazy is when you’ve been at home or in the studio for a long time and you want to get back on the road. This is just tedious. We’ve already toured for this album twice with Radiohead, twice over here on our own and with numerous shows in Europe.

Fphatty: Do you guys improvise with each show?

R: Not really.

F: Do you get tired, then, of doing the same show?

R: It’s not that I get tired of it, it’s just not something we do. Some bands do that kind of thing, but those are bands that are more of “musicians.” Other bands spend a lot of time learning guitar solos and things like that. We spend more of our time arranging and recording songs.

W: Is creating the album more fun for you guys than performing live?

R: No. They’re both as fun as each other. But just imagine having to write the same album six times in a row, and you can understand how it could get boring. We’ve been at a bit of a plateau since the film High Fidelity boosted us in America. That’s why our managers said we should spend more time in America to keep that momentum up.

W: High Fidelity really did boost you guys here. How did that come about?

R: John Cusack asked us to do it because he’s a fan. We met with the producer and John one time and they wanted us to write some original music for it, but the scheduling never worked out, so we just decided to use “Dry The Rain”.

F: Do you have more fun perpetuating and promoting everything with the touring, or would you rather be at home writing?

R: (pauses) Ah,.. the grass is always greener, isn’t it?

F: Yeah.

R: I’d rather be out on tour when I’m at home, and vice versa. They’re both fine. We want to get back in the studio because we’ve got demos and we want to make another album. But touring fits a scheduled business plan.

F: What did you do before The Beta Band?

R: Various things: carpentry, drug dealing, pet smuggling. But at the moment I’m a musician.

W: In a couple weeks you guys are going to be playing the Coachella music festival in California. Will that be the biggest festival you guys have played?

R: No. We’ve played the Glastonbury festival, which is bigger than that. And all the Radiohead shows were pretty big. This summer is going to be our biggest time for festivals. We’ve got festivals here, Europe, Portugal, and France.

F: Do you get to enjoy the festivals, or do you just go in, play, and leave?

R: It depends. Like Glastonbury last year was a nightmare. We got there Friday, but we weren’t playing until Sunday, so we had to stay straight and calm. It’s difficult. We never drink before we play.

F: If you weren’t playing the festivals would you go to them?

R: It just depends on what bands were playing.

W: What kind of stuff do you guys listen to?

R: All of it. Bluegrass is one of my personal favorites. But even those change from time to time. Hip-hop is the one common factor for us. But we all like all kinds of music.

W: After the touring wraps up, what are the plans?

R: Start a new album. We’ll get back home and get in the studio. Then we’ll listen to everything and decide what we think is gonna work.

W: I read that on your second album you guys felt that the recording was rushed--

R: Yeah. The recording was rushed for it, but that was our own fault. We worked on demos and just fucked around for four weeks. So when we got to the studio we had a few tapes and some sketches on paper of our concepts. When we started recording, every sound and every concept had to be started over from scratch. There is a song on the album called “The Hard One”, and that’s where it started. It just took so long and it was so complicated. But we learned from it.

W: So through the recording process, like with Hot Shots II, what did you guys learn and what do you want to do better or differently with the next album?

R: Just sound. Each album so far has been good; it’s had its merit. But, it’s more of a learning process once we’re finished. With Hot Shots II, we learned a lot about the technical side of everything. And we learned a lot about layering sounds with hip-hop sounds correctly to get the fatness of the beats right.

W: On the new album in the song “Eclipse” there is a line about the moon landing being fake, and then in the your new video for “Squares” you mock it again by filming a moon landing on a movie set. Why the recurring theme?

R: Steve (Mason, lead singer) is a big conspiracy buff. He’s got all of these theories. Some are even about The Beta Band and how we don’t really exist.

F: Does that worry you at all? (laughs)

R: (laughs) Not really. But he’s all into that stuff. Where did JFK get shot?

W: Dallas.

R: Yeah. We were in Dallas and we went to where he got shot, and Steve’s scouting around trying to find something.

F: I’m sure he’ll find something.

R: Yeah. But it was his idea for all the moon stuff.

W: We ask everyone this, so I’ll ask you: Do you think dogs have lips?

R: Um,.. (pauses) yeah. They prefer to use their tongues, but they do have lips. I saw one without lips once when I was lost somewhere in Europe. There was a dog in the square where I was sleeping and he came up to me. He looked like quite a nice dog, and I just figured that he was a stray that wanted to hang around for a few days. So he came up to me and he looked normal on one side, but then he turned his head the other way and he had both lips missing. It looked like a permanent grin on his face. It was really fucking scary. I had to send it away.

F: He was probably a war vet.

R: Yeah. But he had something bitten off that I would describe as a lip. So I would say yes, dogs do have lips.

W: Good. I also think they do, but she doesn’t. (points to Fphatty)

F: They can’t drink thru straws.

R: Yeah, but they can kiss though.

F: They kiss with their tongue.

R: Do they?

F: Yes.

R: How many dogs have you kissed?

W: Don’t ask. (laughs)

[LEAD SINGER STEVE MASON WALKS INTO THE ROOM]

R: Since you’re with a humor paper, Steve can tell you a good joke.

W: (to Steve) Want to tell me a joke?

S: It might make me look like I’m some sort of a maniac pedophile or something.

F: We’re cool with that.

W: Yeah. That’s alright, because we’re a maniacal pedophilic paper.

S: (laughs) Well in that case: There are two hillbillies sitting on a porch, and one’s named Bubba and the other’s named Scooter. And Bubba says to Scooter, (in a thick southern accent) “Scooter, your daughter’s lookin’ awful mature these days. How old is she?” And Scooter says, “She’s about 13.” So Bubba says, “Yeah? Is she, uh, sexually active?” And Scooter says, “Nope. She just lays there like her mother.”

W: (laughs)

F: (laughs)

R: We heard it from this guy who really speaks like that.

F: I’ve heard people talk like that before.

R: Where are you from?

W: Ohio. It’s really damn close to the south.

R: Home of the potato, isn’t it?

F: No. That’s Idaho. Ohio has cows. And buckeye trees.

R: Buckeye trees? What’s that?

F: It’s a tree that has nuts that look like a buck’s eyes. You know, like a deer.

R: That sounds like John (Maclean, decks and piano). John’s got those. He’s got nuts that look like a deer’s. And a dick that looks like a Jack Russell’s.

W: (laughs)

F: Would he put it on a license plate, though, like Ohio does with the buckeye?

R: He might do that, actually. Speaking of license plates, I saw some terrible ones while we were down in Houston. They had some of the most fascist and misogynistic license plates and bumper stickers there. There was one that said: Guns, beer and trucks. Who the fuck needs women? And there was another one that said: I just got a gun for my wife. Best swap I ever made.

W: I think it’s harder for us to really see America because we live here, but there are obviously sections of it that are really different. Do you notice that a lot while touring?

R: Yeah. I mean, there is a lot of deprivation and lack of education which manifests itself in different parts of the country.

F: Do places live up to the stereotypes?

R: Some places do, yeah. But we’ll find humor in some of the stranger places. Sometimes I even prefer to be in those kind of places, as opposed to being like in New York where everyone thinks they’re a fucking wise guy. But they’re just being obnoxiously rude. My least favorite place is Washington, D.C., and I didn’t like Dallas that much either. For me, the typical stereotypes of America, like the hillbilly bit, or the Wall Street bit are fine. But the religious aspect of it gets me; the crazy belief that it’s okay because God said so. We saw religious graffiti on the walls down there that say things like “Kill for Jesus” and things like that. It’s just a shame that, in a time when we could be so enlightened, people could be like that.

W: Thanks. That was depressing as hell. (laughs)

R: America is like an experiment. It’s a great country, but it’s got its problems.

LEARN ABOUT ALL THINGS BETA HERE.


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