How can one possibly describe the Bay Area's Idiot Flesh? I don't think one can. The best thing to do is to read this interview, listen to their records and see them live. But even that may not be enough to understand them. This interview was conducted by the Mistress of Radio (MR) in December of 1995. It was transcribed by Thomas Burdan of AlphaNumerix. The interview was conducted over a speaker phone. Most of the conversation was rapid fire and random. Individual speakers weren't recognizable on the tape, so we just labeled the various people speaking as 1, 2, 3... You'll get the idea once you start reading. Maybe.
MR: So you are Idiot Flesh: Nils, Wes, Jean and Dan?
IF: 1) Yes, but Dan isn't here, so I'll make Dan's characteristic sound. [sound over] And so it's morning now and you can imagine you're hearing Dan getting up. [sound over] Unfortunately, he had to get up at an unreasonable hour and go make rock records for people because that's what he does.
MR: How did you guys all meet?
IF: 1) In the Church of the Latter-day Saints. We were all Mormons originally.
MR: You're true believers, aren't you?
IF: 1) Well we're not any more! See, we're what they call "Jack Mormons." That's people... We are...
2) Well, Jean wasn't, but the rest of us were all Mormons. They don't let Jean be a Mormon because he smokes all the time.
MR: So what changed you over from not being Mormons?
IF: 1) We discovered the works of John Kane... of course.
2) Mormons are boring.
3) No, you can have like 9 wives!
4) It was more cerebral than that, wasn't it?
5) I just got tired of all the gold that was coming my way.
MR: What does John Kane have .. teaching... ?
IF: 1)Have to say about the works of Joseph Smith? He had a lot to say about Joseph Smith. And he said that if you ever met him, he would feed him up. But, unfortunately, Joseph Smith died long before John Kane was born, but that would have been nice to see because John Kane... we got into him initially because he is a famous pugilist.
2) An enthusiast.
3) And also an enthusiast. But he did a lot of bare-fisted boxing, which is something that has always interested us, though we have never tried it because we have delicate constitutions. But we thought that if we could read the works of a great pugilist, we ourselves would become tougher on the inside.
MR: I see. Now didn't John Kane also influence your new 7" I have in front of me?
IF: 1) That's right.
MR: There's a song called Twitch.
IF: 1) Twitch- that's right. Yes, he influenced that with sort of a little early quote about rock and roll, sort of equating it to, I guess you would say, equating it to the automatic body reflexes of sex and death. So there we have it: He being not much of a rock and roller himself at that time, being about 900 years old or 90 years old. So he can't have been much of a rock fan, but he heard a little bit of it and decided that it was kind of strange and repetitive.
2) You guys know that pink elephants is considered a word? It's in the dictionary.
MR: What does pink elephant mean?
IF: 1) "Hallucinations arising from heavy drinking."
MR: That's like Dumbo.
IF: 1) Well, see that would never happen to us because of our Mormon faith, we don't ever indulge in heavy drinking, but we have indulged in rock and roll and so...
MR: Isn't that against the Mormon faith- rock and roll and dancing?
IF: 1) Yea, I guess we're lapsing.
MR: Can they kick you out?
IF: 1) Yes. It doesn't actually .. because we're what you call Mormon Reformists.
2) We only follow the actual writings of Joseph Smith, so the later revelations of
3) Post-Joseph Smith Reformist.
4) Yea, because rock and roll didn't exist at the time Joseph Smith... he didn't write any prohibitions against it, so we follow all his teachings and ignore the later editions of the Church.
MR: So what is Rock Against Rock?
IF: 1) Well I think it's self-explanatory isn't it? It makes sense, doesn't it? You have rock and then you have the great overwhelming need to get rid of rock, but then if you have the same time .. what is our birthright- it's all we know is rock. So basically... And it makes us work very, very hard.
MR: So what is it that you do?
IF: 1) It's a struggle to roll up that rock and then...
2) Well I think we're succeeding. We're getting closer anyway. Getting close.
3) Are we?
4) Yea, this year.
5) ...to get more cigarettes.
6) I think we're doing some real damage to rock wherever we go.
MR: What is Idiot Flesh like when they're on stage?
IF: 1) Super beings from Dimension X.
2) Yea, they are pretty entertaining. We have a lot of...
3) There's a transformation that takes place.
4) Yea, we need a little while to think about that. I've got video tapes of us, but I can't remember what they look like.
5) We black out.
6) It certainly doesn't seem like us.
7) It's hard to tell because we don't really remember those experiences, other than the video tapes we have. We black out and...
8) People tell us what we've done. Altogether we don't regret having done what we've done YET... because we're getting all this cash.
9) It's kind of like when what's his name, the Incredible Hulk, wakes up with all those rich [?] clothes... "What have I done?!"
10) Basically we become all very green and musky looking.
11) It's so hard for Hulk to sing! Don't smack! Don't make Hulk angry! Oh God.
12) If there's anyone out there in radio land who likes very green, very muscular rock-related events, Idiot Flesh is the show for you!
13) Yes: See, almost everyone does... whether they know it or not they need to come downtown first of all because that's the only places that we ever will play is downtown areas. We're only interested in influencing people in the immediate downtown areas. And so if you have a club that isn't in the downtown, don't bother to call us because we won't come!
14) Are you trying to get science to help us or Jesus to help us?
MR: Keep praying.
IF 1)Is this real or is this some crazy dream?
2) We love KZSU Stanford, it's the only radio station that we'll really listen to. We don't black-out when we listen to KZSU. And so we say we're Idiot Flesh and we haven't blacked-out and...
3) It's the only station we don't black-out to.
4) We're floating two feet off the ground. And this is the only station we don't black-out to.
5) "Hi, we're Idiot Flesh. We're floating two feet off the ground. We're invisible and this is the only station that we don't black-out to: KZSU Stanford."
MR: How did you get the name "Idiot Flesh?"
IF: 1) From the guy in the John Kane Society.
2) At this point we had gone downtown and we ran into him on the way. He's a really small fellow, this guy. And so we first we didn't take him very seriously because of how short he is. And you know how people who when they're really, really short they're hard to like pay attention to?
3) This guy was short and he was really, really something. He is what you'd call as dwarf.
4) I don't know if you've ever tried to have a long talk with a dwarf, but it's
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pretty hard to. I don't know... that's just my own personal bias. But anyway, we soon realized how captivating a personality he has. He was very magnetic.
5) He'd try and get everybody to imagine that their whole body is a dwarf and filled with ice.
6) That's one of the things that we try and do in our shows is impart the feeling of ice builds dwarfism into our audience.
7) It's a subliminal dwarf .
8) Anyway, because of his magnetism, we went downtown with him and he bought coffee for everyone. And so you can see at this point that we are starting to be falling very much under his influence because we're all very susceptible to coffee, being as we are Mormons and we rarely ever, if never ever have the coffee. So having had it we were very opened to suggestion. And he told us in these words... he said "You must be called Idiot Flesh now." And we weren't sure, but by the time we finished the coffee we knew that he was right.
MR: You guys play like really odd instruments like trash cans and ashtrays and skillets and giant heads.
IF: 1) We have home-made instruments that we use live. We have a percussion guitar, we have a...
2) Most instruments are shaped wrong.
3) Things covered with things to hit.
4) Yeah, and we'll have more. By the time next year comes around we're going to have some more instruments. We won't even have names for them. They'll come and go like "wit." Like sometimes you're wit me and sometimes you're not. Well that's how our instruments are.
MR: Have you ever thought about like playing with a dead musician and bringing him back to life?
IF: With a what?
MR: A dead musician, somebody that's gone.
IF: 1) Yeah, I had this idea... Actually this is an idea for the Greatful Dead because of Jerry... a tragic loss. We were thinking, I think it's a good idea...
2) Well, I think the Grateful Dead should still tour with Jerry in this glass coffin on stage. And they should keep doing it until they all knock off and then all you have left are the drummers, which is what everybody wants to hear anyway because they're in the best health. And there really will be the Grateful Dead. They will be this kind of like this weird, cult trend... They ALREADY ARE a weird cult trend. So they should just keep going. Have it be the actual dead.
3) Then you just have the drummers and then they can join Crash Worship. And leave us alone!
4) "The Grateful Crash Worship" I guess.
5) That is like... skirt the issue... is that what I did?
6) "I hope to skirt today." This is Sunday, we always skirt on Sundays.
MR: So what's Idiot Flesh as a band, as a collective group- what are your aspirations?
IF: 1) Well, other than destroying rock music, we'd like to... help! Death and fame!
2) Yes, we've hired managers to help other people achieve death and fame. Yea, our Bay Area shows at least have been accreting mass at a ridiculous rate, such that every time we play we have more and more people in the show. And I think one of our ultimate goals is to have a show where there's no one there in a house of several hundred people who isn't in the show somehow. And we'll be passing out scripts or things for people to read.
MR: So Idiot Flesh is actually doing this transformation of the Satanic Latter-day Saints through music influence for the expression and not the paycheck? Is that so?
IF: 1) No, don't be fooled. We are not altruists. We are hoping to convert all of these people so that they will...
2) It's like a big joke.
3) Give up their time. And we actually have received a lot of wonderful donations. And I would like to take this moment now to thank all the people that have helped us out over the last several years. You know who you are. We've had a number of 20-person shows where we had at least 20 people on and off the stage in the course of the evening doing little bits and people have been approaching us at shows and telling us their ideas for little bits. We invite them up and they do them. And I'd like just to thank all the...
4) We've actually had shows where we've surrounded the entire audience on stage.
5) Oh yes: that was special. You asked about the most unusual show and I would have to say one of the most unusual moments was in Salem, Oregon in a giant theater where there was maybe 15 people in the audience and we invited them all up onto the stage .. and we knew them all because none of them were from Salem. They had all come from Portland or Eugene and we knew them all and we invited them all up on the stage and we surrounded them and played. In fact there was no one in the room. Everyone was in the show. Very nice. That's sort of an ideal situation in some ways, don't you think?
See them live and listen to their CD The Nothing Show and their 7" Teen Devil Worshiper, both available from Rock Against Rock:
1255-26th Street Unit C
Oakland CA 94607.