Atlanta’s Black Lips have a reputation not only as fantastic musicians but also for their remarkable disregard for social conventions, which has created static with club owners, the security force of a Carnival cruise ship, and the government of India. They may have picked some of that up from Jim Hollywood, whose former bands the Tyrades and the Baseball Furies toured with the Lips early on and have their own (albeit lesser-known) reputations for bad behavior. Hollywood’s currently playing in Football alongside Jered Grummere of the Ponys, Mike Lust of the Tight Phantomz, and Srini Radhakrishna, formerly of France Has the Bomb. He also oversees the excellent selection of whiskies at Longman & Eagle. The Black Lips are currently touring to promote their excellent new album, Arabia Mountain (Vice), including a show at the Empty Bottle on Friday and a set at Lollapalooza on Saturday (see page BTK for details). —Miles Raymer
Is there a Black Lips sound? Kind of. It’s not easy to pinpoint, but there are certain chords that [guitarist] Cole [Alexander] and [guitarist] Ian [St. Pe] use. They say they’re signature chords; I just found this out recently. When we first started, since we didn’t really know how to play, I think a lot of our stuff kind of sounded the same. But then we started getting more experience.
I have a certain love for bands that just start out and can’t play; it’s just so raw. It’s fun starting a band like that. It couldn’t happen again, ’cause you can’t be in that place again where the opportunities are endless.
I always told people who asked what types of music I like that I like shitty punk. They always think it’s some sort of Fat Wreck Chords shitty punk. No. I like people who are semi-retarded. All the bands that I really like are shitty or retarded. The Germs and the Ramones are my two favorite punk bands, and they’re retarded.
Five years ago I had a show on NPR. I was terrible. I had to spend an hour and a half playing records and talking about it. I played some Black Lips stuff, and I was telling stories about you guys, and I kept referring to you as retards, and the guy was like, “You can’t say retard.” I was like, “Oh, I’m sorry.” That’s a term of endearment for me. I think about it as a term of endearment as well. I remember asking you what the Spits were all about, and I remember you saying they were just retarded old guys.
The thing about the Spits is that they raise and lower the bar with every new record. Yeah, they’re incredible.
Wait, so I thought I heard some weird story about the guy who produced your record. Was it some famous guy or something? Yeah, Mark Ronson. He did Amy Winehouse, Adele, Duran Duran, stuff like that.
I thought I read that you guys almost killed him or something? Yeah, we went out to this Japanese restaurant and ate liver sashimi. Also that night we went to another place to eat lobsters and oysters. The next day when he came in, I guess he thought he was hungover—but he was bright red. He had a 105-degree fever. We had to rush him to the hospital, call his mom and stuff. Me and Cole and Ian couldn’t even hold down water. It smelled like death in the studio that day. It was just three days of people lying under blankets and not getting much work done.
So what’s up with the “Spidey’s Curse” song? When we were in the fourth grade, we got these comic books in sex-education class. They were a bunch of mini stories. When Spider-Man was a kid, he had this friend who was older than him who touched him and tried to make him look at nudie mags with him. And when he gets older and turns into Spider-Man he saves another kid. There was this one bullshit story in there about this kid with a pretty hot babysitter. He wants to stay up to watch “Star Trek” and she holds him down and says you can only stay up if we play grown-up together—and he freaks out and Spider-Man rushes in and saves him. But that’s like every kid’s dream!
You guys are on the road all the time. Do you have stupid inside jokes? Yeah, we try to order gross food for each other. That’s a ritual—like trying to find like the nastiest thing on the menu and order it for the other person.
Do you guys still piss in the van? Yeah, Cole just did that.
I would not allow that. In the Tyrades and the Baseball Furies, I had a no-bodily-fluids-in-the-van rule. Yeah, it gets out of control. On the way back from SXSW, the guitar player from Mastodon drove back to Atlanta with us, and I think he drank like 40 or 50 beers—and we didn’t stop to pee very much. So the next day when we were in Atlanta, me and Cole had to clean out the van, and we found 25 pee bottles where he was sitting. I accidently pee on my hand a lot, especially when I’m drunk.
Oh, you do the driving pee-in-the-bottle? I’ve never done that. [Drummer] Joe [Bradley] can pee in a bottle while driving.
That’s talent right there.
Editor’s note: This article has been modified to correctly describe Ian St. Pe’s role in the band.