What better way to describe this new live record than have Bobby tell you about it?
Bobby Conn on the making of "Live Classics, Vol. 1"
Why a live album?
We've [Bobby Conn & the Glass Gypsies] played over 250 gigs in the past few years with the same line-up, and our live set has chrome-plated pointy metal spikes that you don't hear on the records. In the studio, I do lots of arranging with overdubs, editing and mixing, usually ending up with a super detailed sonic universe that's almost impossible to duplicate live. Once a record is finished, it's "How the hell are we going to do that live?" because we don't tour with horn sections, modular synths, string ensembles, etc. But the Glass Gypsies can concentrate even the most complicated songs into rock and roll plutonium. And plutonium remains deadly power poison for 100,000 years. This is the true classic rock, like a radioactive pyramid in an endless desert of molten glass. I have sealed this plutonium into shiny plastic discs, and now we sell them to you. Because eventually, we are going to tire of doing these songs every night, we may even die from our own radioactivity, and it would be a tragedy, yes, a tragedy if future generations never got a chance to hear us playing "Winners" or "Baby Man" at our best.
How does it sound compared to the studio versions?
It's much, much more punk rock. We are actually a very loud band. Sledd plays through a super high-gain amp that delivers his leads at the tip of an ice pick. I play my guitar loud. Monica BouBou cranks her violin up past the point of feedback to compete. Pearly, Colby and Dallas all have to compete with that, and so they are also very loud. All of us are shameless hams, showboating constantly, as if we're afraid that the audience might not notice us. It's six people screaming, "Look at me!" in unison. After all our touring, we are skin tight and take the tempos very quick. The studio versions are much tamer, less radioactive. The Glass Gypsies emit pure gamma rays on stage.
Why record "in front of a live, studio audience" instead of at a real gig?
I'm a control freak, I admit it, and the logistics of getting a decent recording in one of the rock clubs here in Chicago seemed like a pain in the ass. So I visited Wall-to-Wall Studios on a friend's recommendation and I loved the feel of the place. It's a big 1970's shag carpeted split level basement with floor to ceiling glass walls, done in shades of blood red, rusty orange, sky blue and shit brown. It looks like a time capsule from 1976; you can hear echoes of suburban disco and blue-collar prog-rock, and imagine silk, cognac and perhaps fondue. It's a giant rec room, with the lingering funk mildew, sweat and lots of weed. The live room is big, and we could have invited more people. But the small crowd of 50 in this oddly preserved time capsule seemed extra surreal. Acoustically, the space is totally dead so there isn't the live ambience you'd get from a club gig. Despite this, the recording doesn't sound very "studio" at all. It's nasty, dirty, trashy and, uh, loud.
What about the enhanced CD videos?
"We Come In Peace" is directed by Israeli filmmaker Sivan Gur- Arieh, who is teaching filmmaking here in Chicago. She was a fan of The Homeland (Thrill 137) and approached me about doing a video for the record. She isn't a particularly political person, so she responded to my ideas about referencing the Abu-Ghraib prison abuse scandal in Iraq on a purely visual level. We borrowed some of the styling ideas from "Logan's Run" and asked Hilary Olsen to make the silver lamé pinafores we wear. So it's a relentlessly cheerful pastel version of current U.S. foreign policy, and I think the effect is more horrifying because of it. "Home Sweet Home" is live footage from the album recording session, edited by Iraqi-American filmmaker Usama Alshaibi, who is making a documentary about his return to Baghdad last year after 20 years living in the U.S. He also directed the "Angels" video from The Golden Age (Thrill 084). The absurdity of the event is perfectly captured in this footage. We are utterly unaware of how sterile and stilted the atmosphere is in the room. It's not the typical rock show. The small audience is slightly uncomfortable being filmed in a brightly lit room as I float like a silver feather among them singing passionately about paranoia. But when the band kicks in, we are glory triumphant.
Live Classics Vol. 1 is an Enhanced CD featuring a music video for "We Come In Peace" and live footage of "Home Sweet Home". It also features an internet link to access bonus tracks.