CLINIC: What's Behind Those Surgical Masks?
Taking the pulse of the cool British export
Interview Yancey Strickler Photography Brendan Colthurst
Ade Blackburn: "There's a few songs with the more bluesy side of the Velvets' guitar playing. I just like that guitar style."
Strickler: You mentioned the groove in the songs. The first four singles have percussion-related cover art, and you open Internal Wrangler with "Voodoo Wop," a very beat-heavy song.
Turney: As far as putting the songs together, the drums, instead of being a 4/4 beat or a straight beat that's backing up a band that's doing a very complicated guitar solo or whatever, it's an element that fits together with all the other elements of the song, which are equally important to each other, the way they work against each other. It might be a particular beat, an unusual variation of the beat, but then the bass line might be equally unusual in the way it offsets against that. Then the keyboard comes in and that just ties it all together, or however the songs fit together. It's like a jigsaw puzzle. Nothing is secondary to something else. The way things build, with sleigh bells or tambourines coming in, percussive backing vocals or keyboard drones or whatever, it's all there for a purpose. As lyrics are important, drums are too in that sense.
Strickler: The surgical masks are part of the gimmick. After September 11 they obviously have a different connotation than they did before. Have you worn those since?
Blackburn: We have, yeah. It's definitely something that we thought about. Since it's so linked with the band name, we've used that for a long time, I didn't think that anyone would take it the wrong way. Plus, suppose even if you did think about the connotations of it in that sense.... There's quite a few bands where if the band name or any of the songs are related to bombing, or anything like that, then that's probably more worth rethinking. With our sort of emergency-services thing, at least that's a positive thing.
Turney: They're the heroes of the event, after all. We're not trying to glorify violence or terrorism. So if anybody did want to associate that image to what has happened.... Well, there's no reason why they should.
Blackburn: We considered it, and it's like that debate about when do things start getting back to normal and when do you try although you don't want to forget about something, you want to try and at least look to the positive side. For us, wearing surgeons' outfits, it's definitely some kind of a ridiculous, fun element, so we thought, "Everybody needs a bit of fun."
Turney: Everyone wants business as usual. Everybody wants to get back to normal as much as they possibly can. I don't know why we should change that. There's no reason to. We've just to keep things moving forward.
Strickler: Bands in surgical gear is normal?
Blackburn: Yeah. For us.