The Long Road to Memphis
A Conversation with the Infamous Mr. Paul Morden
(exclusive photos provided courtesy of Mister Morden)
Fate has some how conspired to always keep me a few states away from Mr. Paul Morden. And perhaps that's a good thing. He's convinced that I stalk him from afar (the only polite way to do it) and that may be true because I've been a rabid fan ever since I heard The Brickbats on a Neue Aesthetik comp eons ago. The Brickbats became one of my favorite bands and have led the way, I believe, in the growing popularity of Gothabilly bands (they were doing it before it was even called Gothabilly). [See StarVox's previous CD review, interview and Paul's tour diary in our Archives]
Late this summer, our paths criss-crossed
as I drove out to Seattle from Atlanta and he to LA from New York. We probably
passed each other at some nasty truckstop piss-hole in Kansas and never
even realized it. Fall came and went and winter finds Paul back in New
York. It's been a long couple months for Paul and where has it gotten him?
Well, on the long road to Memphis. Memphis Morticians that is. Check it
Mr Paul Morden: I found California in exactly the same condition as I had left it five years ago – which is odd because I would have figured that some one would have cleaned up the mess after all these years. I originally went out that way to do some work with Gitane and clear my head, take a vacation from New York and see what the “Wild” West was all about. Frankly, I feel that is somewhat of a misnomer as it wasn't very wild at all, in fact by East Coast standards I felt California was pretty tame.
Blu: What was it like to work with Gitane Demone?
Mr Paul Morden: Refreshing and frustrating at the same time. We had a few disagreements and when I say “disagreements” what I really mean to imply is something much closer to “deathmatch”. But we also clicked very well the majority of the time. I can't say enough good stuff about Gitane, she's certainly earned all of the eminence that she has received. All in all, we made some great art and music together and never recorded a bit of it. I learned a great deal from her.
Blu: Any funny stories from the concerts out there?
Mr Paul Morden: By far the most interesting place I played was in Anaheim, basically these promoters had rented out a strip club and brought in their own PA. There was a brass pole in the middle of the stage and little cautionary notes about how “one should not touch the customers” in the dressing room. I broke two guitar strings and chased a scantily clad Gitane around the stage with my upright [bass]. Sadly, that was about as exciting as it got out there - no hookers, gambling or gunfights.
Blu: You drove across the country right?
Mr Paul Morden: That's really the
only way to do it. VonErikson and I took a team of six horses and a covered
wagon all the way across.
Mr Paul Morden: Of course we were more than just a little nervous crossing the Cherokee Nation but once we got West of the Mississippi we were surprised to find that everything was “Please” and “Thank You”. As I said, not nearly as “wild” as we were told. I'm glad I didn't vote to re-elect Polk this year, his claims of wealth in gold and silver were grossly over exaggerated. I did however, mine a small fortune in borax in Calico.
Blu: Now that you've performed on both coasts - what's the difference between the two as far as live fans go?
Mr Paul Morden: I have taken notice of a couple fairly consistent contrarieties: It seems that the California set tends to be wallflowers, they stand in the back of the room and chat with each other. Attendees at the East end of the country seem to come much closer. From this I have concluded that those who have chosen to settle in the West are far less myopic. Other theories I have revolve pretty heavily around the time/space continuum and positronic engineering but the boys back at Harbottle Labs are still trying to come up with evidence to back me up so we ought not to discuss those yet.
Blu: What did you do - being the ghoul you are, for Halloween?
Mr Paul Morden: I performed community service and spent the day frightening the elderly. I dressed up in a nice white coat and visited all the local hospitals, finding bed-ridden folks then pulling the sheets up over their heads. Most who were coherent enough asked,
“What’s happening to me?”
To which I would reply, “You've just passed away, I'm taking your body to the morgue for an autopsy as we suspect foul play. Do you see a light?”
“You should go towards it.”
At this point in time they would try to reach for the overhead lamps and I would just push them back into bed. This would go on for about fifteen minutes before they would inevitably pass out from exhaustion, at which point I would bring them to the morgue and lay them on the slab. I'm certain they all awoke to much hilarity, but by that time I was busy with the next ruse. I love to brighten the lives of others who would otherwise be lonesome.
Blu: What were Corey and DW doing while you were gallivanting in the sun?
Mr Paul Morden: I've heard a couple
different rumors, but the cablegram was out during my stay so I can not
really be certain what sort of nefarious activity that pair have
been getting themselves into.
Mr Paul Morden: I did. I have it preserved in a mason jar of Thanatoid Gliscoene on my mantle as a bibelot, it's a very impressive specimen.
Blu: Is there a gothabilly scene on the West Coast or did you not notice?
Mr Paul Morden: The scenery is by far some of the most impressive I have had the good fortune to see, however none of my machines indicated even trace elements of gothabilly. At first I suspected my findings were erroneous so I re-calibrated my instruments and learned: there was no error - there was no gothabilly.
Blu: What was your favorite place to hang out on the West Coast?
Mr Paul Morden: Although technically not anywhere near the coast, the Empty Pockets Saloon in Holbrook, AZ found me on more than one occasion.
Blu: What lies in store for the Brickbats?
Mr Paul Morden: It's very tough to say at this point, there are talks about all sorts of things: new album, national tour, trip to the moon, movie deals … we'll just have to wait and see.
Blu: What are you currently working on?
Mr Paul Morden: The Memphis Morticians, that's my undiminished point of convergence for now; writing a tremendous amount of songs, rehearsing three times a week, booking spectacles up and down the East Coast and preparing to get into the atelier and make a damn fine sound recording.
Blu: How do the Memphis Morticians
differ from the Brickbats? Is what we know of Paul Morden still recognizable
in a different context?
Blu: What does the future hold Mister Paul Morden?
Mr Paul Morden: An awful lot of work. Given the basic priorities: the Memphis Morticians record and more than likely a tour to follow, I'm about to put a solo album in the works. The sort of stuff I've been very mindful of lately, lonesome old traditional country songs. Songs dealing with soldade, duende, drinking, misery, loss and train wrecks. This stuff has been eating away at me like crazy and I've got to pay some attention to it and just put it out there for anyone who's interested.
Blu: That's a great segue into my next question, I've heard a few rumors that you're somewhat of a hillbilly and that your favorite meal is chicken-fried steak. Is there any truth to that?
Mr Paul Morden: Actually, there is. It's all true and I've grown very tired of hiding it. I grew up on a farm, we had horses, chickens, cows, trees, swamps the whole thing. It was a pretty big influence on me as a child and recently I've just decided to give in and let it go where it wants to.
Mr Paul Morden: “Chicken-fried” actually refers to the way it's prepared, deep fat frying, the “eleven herbs and spices” if you will. It's not at all uncommon to have chicken-fried chicken, in fact a lot of things are prepared “chicken-fried” that most folks wouldn't dream of, like pickles, okra, corn bread dough …
Blu: What is your 2001 New Year's resolution?
Mr Paul Morden: At first I was going to say “retirement” but on second thought I think I’ll just try to be less like most people and more like something inanimate that will blind you if you stare directly at it, like the sun or arc welding.
Blu: What did you want for Christmas and did you get it?
Mr Paul Morden: I could really use
an assistant, nevertheless I’ll most likely end up with a bottle of laudanum,
which I could also use.