There are some mistakes in the articles, some judgements I won't follow, anyway it's just 2 articles about the record company which only makes mistakes (in some people's view)
Jon Langford - from Leeds to Waco through hell and back
interview by Jason Gross
Jon Langford is a founding and lifelong member of the Mekons. He also has
been at the root of many other projects musical and not. This interview was
conducted by Jason Gross, creator of the wonderful online music magazine
Perfect Sound Forever, and graciously contributed to bangSheet for this
Mekons themed issue. Langford was at the time in the midst of a tour
supporting the terrific alt-cow-punk-rock outfit the Waco Bros. Although
the interview is dated, Langfords thoughts never are, so enjoy!
bangSheet (bs) - Do you look at the Waco Bros. as a side project still, or
as a long-term thing?
Jon Langford (JL) - As long as it makes sense and as long as we want to do
it we'll go on. It has been a really good experience.
bs - Do people outside of the Mekons base seem to know about the Waco's?
JL - Well, that's why we used to mainly just play in Chicago, but we had a
packed house in Buffalo (NY) on a Sunday night recently - which is kind of
weird. But, people seem to get the word of mouth, so...
bs - Do you approach the Waco's with a different sort of mindset as opposed
to the Mekons?
JL - Partially, yeah. I mean it's a different band. Different people. And
the Waco's were never really intended to be a touring band, but it makes
perfect sense to do so, and it's actually a good touring band.
bs - Is there a different way you approach the music? Do you present songs
to the Waco's in the same way you do the Mekons?
JL - I don't really present songs to the Mekons you know...it doesn't work
like that. It's also different in that with the Waco's I wanted to be able
to take it anywhere. I really almost wanted to be able to do weddings or
With the Mekons there's so much history, and people seem to have to know
so much about it. A lot of people perceive that they have to be in on the
joke, or that they wouldn't get it. I never thought the Mekons were that
complicated, but people perceive it like that.
I wanted the Waco's to be a fairly simple statement, and I think it is a
fairly direct band.
bs - But, as you keep going with this band, eventually it will have a
history too and then you'll have to deal with that.
JL - Well, it won't have the art school pretensions that the Mekons has sort
of floating around it. This is a very direct band.
bs - How do you see the Waco's fitting in with the "modern" country No
JL - I don't think the No Depression movement sees the Waco's fitting in to
it very well. We're to brash, too noisy, and possibly from the wrong
I mean, I have done things that people have accepted really well over here
(in the United States). I can't really complain about that sort of thing,
but I think the No Depression thing is more about a singer songwriter-y sort
of thing. And it is very respectful towards serious artists.
bs - As opposed to you?
JL - Um, yeah. I think they have a bit of difficulty taking us onboard, and
I can understand why. It's not really about the same sort of thing. A lot of
our content is very political and it's sort of a brash and explosive live
experience. I think the No Depression scene is more represented by technical
expertise and introspection - things like that. Musicianship, you know? We
are just out here trying to do what we know how to do best and I don't think
it fits in very well with that movement.
bs - How do you see what the Waco's are doing as compared to the locust of
country music in Nashville?
JL - (laughing) I don't think there is any country music in Nashville! Well,
there is, but it's people like Tim Carrol and Lonesome Bob. Like Tommy
Womack. They are all like friends of ours and they are doing country
music...well, they're doing something. It might not exactly be country
music, but I feel a kinship with people like that. They're like exiles
It's not sour grapes or anything with the music that comes out of
Nashville, I just have no aspirations to ever be pulled into that camp. I
think they produce bad music there, the mainstream sort of stuff. It's a
fucking sausage factory.
I know a lot of people who live there who don't quite know why they do.
However, there is an underbelly to Nashville that's quite exciting, and I
do like visiting there. But it's not somewhere that I'd want to go and try
to do what we do.
bs - So, we shouldn't look for the Waco's to do any recording there in the
JL - I wouldn't mind that really. There are a lot of studios down there, and
there are a lot of great players. Really a lot of great people in Nashville
sort of battling against the status quo. People like Steve Earle, the
Mavericks; I like. I don't know though, it's a place that's really adrift to
me. The whole Nashville thing just sums up so many things that are wrong
about this whole fucking country. The whole situation of the moment, greed
and conformity...running hand in hand into oblivion.
It's just not what I'm interested in. I'm surprised that anyone is
interested in it. It's like - why would you drink a bloody Mary without
horseradish in it? Or no vodka in it? There seems to be a market for people
who want bland...people actually eat Twinkies you know?! I don't understand
bs - That's mass culture though, that's what it's all about isn't it?
JL - Yeah, but this is the land of individuality and personal freedom.
That's why we're so much better than those dirty communists.
Basically you just have a nation of rabid conformists who don't think
about anything. They don't know about history, and they just blindly follow
their leaders who are sheep in the corporate fucking furnace. As they all
march off to oblivion with their eyes shut. Sleepwalking through history.
That's the way it appears to me, so I applaud people who dare to do things
that are different and dare to risk the anger of people who are frightened
bs - Do you feel that you may have a unique perspective being an "outsider"
playing this "American" music?
JL - I do think that there is something weird that comes from people who see
America from afar and desire it very much. Everyone's got an idea, his or
her own idea, about America and that pertains to the music also.
bs - So what is your perspective?
JL - Well, I have always been basically interested in the cultural explosion
of the 20th century that happened in America. The music that came out of
America really. That's what got me, that is what I was excited about.
bs - What of "American" music intrigued?
JL - Just that there was so much. So much variety, so much excitement, and
so much great stuff.
The country and western music really got me. I'd known a little bit about
the blues, but I didn't know anything about country and western music. I
like the idea of the sort of blue-collar, almost punky kind of honky-tonk.
It rang a lot of bells for me and it felt like something that I could do
that wasn't a big leap. I didn't want to be some white blues player. I
didn't have the technique to do that in the post Eric Clapton blues crap
world - where a fucking white idiot from London is the King of the Chicago
I also felt that words were very important. Stuff like Hank Williams,
Merle Haggard, and Jimmie Rodgers - they were doing that and that's what I
was interested in.
bs - So what do you think that those artists brought to country music that
was so special that you don't hear in country music today?
JL - A voice. An opinion. A willingness to confront reality. A sparseness of
technique. A belief in traditional music and the mainstream existing
Nowadays it just doesn't seem to. I don't really want to slag off the
music from Nashville these days so much. It just does not interest me at
all - I just don't like it. I like Merle Haggard. I really like George
Jones. That music moves me. It has mystery to it and that was the allure of
America - it was mysterious. I'd thought there were so many skins to be
peeled off, depths to go into, and things to be found out about this century
in America. History, you know, and it seems that a lot of the people are
ready to just pave it over and forget so much of the stuff that's good and
replace it with so much stuff that's crap.
bs - Isn't that just the way it is with popular music, that we crave the new
and the old is just old?
JL - Well, it might be, but I don't know if that is a good idea. I mean,
there has always been a sort of bland music being lapped up by people...I
don't know, I guess I'm sort of a music enthusiast and just someone who is
interested in history.
bs - You've been known to get people together at home (Chicago) just to
play, is that sort of a way of carrying that enthusiasm to the cultivation
of a "scene"?
JL - Yeah, I guess so. I mean those things (shows) are never governed by
hipness or fashion and people try and go out and put different tings on. I
like it when music has the opportunity to cross-pollinate rather than
finding a niche and pounding it into the ground. Like, at the moment, the
alternative country thing seems to be in a bit of a rut. There are a lot of
bands that aren't very good who are trying to be Gram Parsons. I don't like
it when music gets narrow and blinkered and conservative.
bs - You've just released two discs of outtakes and rarities type stuff (and
as of this printing a new Mekons disc Journey to the End of the Night has
been released). Why now at this point of the Mekons career?
JL - It seemed right. It had been a bit of awhile since our last record. The
pacing was good. It was sort of in between Mekons records so it just worked.
bs - So there is a new Mekons record on the way?
JL - Oh yeah. It's full of a lot of soul barring. A lot of embarrassing
heart-wrenching confession (laughing)
bs - Like the last Mekons record (1998's Me)?
JL - No. The last record was fairly distant.
bs - How so?
JL - Lyrically it was very cold, very analytical. It was like robots or
something. The music was more about the mechanics of something - we decided
the record was going to be about the construction of a notion of Me. Of Self
and capitalism. It was about how capitalism is really a bit of a myth.
(laughs) A bit of a myth! It's a fucking huge myth. The record was about
poor kids getting branded with corporate logos on their legs. About how you
may think that you are an individual, but you are really rodents jumping off
bs - What kind of impressions do you have about home, about England
JL - It's a one party state. It's like the death throes of colonialism now.
I think England is now a nation in some kind of psychological crisis. While
Wales, Scotland, and Ireland are culturally resurgent. At least in terms of
confidence in the way that countries tend to do when they cast off the yoke
of imperialism. I think it's quite interesting there at the moment.
And if anything good at all has come from Tony Blair it's sort of this
devolving of the English Empire. A fucked and decadent notion itself.
bs - And musically back home, any impressions?
JL - In London it's just full of a lot of cynical old fools. They think
things are great, but there's no live music, just dance music matters to
them. It's a bunch of white guys in their 40's who are desperately afraid of
being left behind by what the kids in the streets are doing.
Down in Wales it's great. There are bands that are playing all the time
and selling records. There are quite a few Welsh bands doing well at the
moment and making really good music. I'm kind of really fond of bands like
the Manic Street Preachers and Catatonia who are kind of brave, feisty, and
bs - And a band like Oasis...any thoughts?
JL - I actually sort of like Oasis. I mean compared to allot of the
alternative rock crap that goes on over here - this sort of post-Nirvana
boom over here. Nirvana was a good band, but get over it. I know they signed
to a major label and sold allot of records, but there's absolutely no reason
why there has to be 150 bands on major labels impersonating them and
polluting the airwaves with their awful shit.
I saw Oasis play and they were pretty cool. I thought they were
interesting. There's something about the mindless defiance of working-class
British youth that rings a few bells.
bs - Obviously you are very cognizant of musical history, do you yourself,
being a part of that history now, get self-conscious?
JL - It just stops me from doing certain things - it stops me from trying to
save the world.
bs - Or wrecking hotel rooms?
JL - We usually tidy up hotel rooms.