I've been having to archive and retrieve material from some old hard drives and came across this piece. They were questions from a story being pitched to a literary magazine from melbourne. Mustn't have ever happened. I don't know who asked the questions. They are very flattering and display a deep interest in my work. Thank you from the future!
Also, they reference the very last album we did as Dave Graney and the Coral Snakes which was one of my favourites and one I always thought got a bit lost with people. THE DEVIL DRIVES.
This was to be our swan song but wasour most ambitious and high reaching recording. When we were asked to get back with teh Coral Snakes in 2015 and do a show around the 1993 album Night Of the Wolverine I was initially wary but said to the guy waving the cash, "I'd do it if it was The Devil Drives". He said he wasn't interested in that. (Turns out I really enjoyed the experience but I've never liked doing what people ask em to do. I also get really bored if people talk about that album. I like it and consider it to be really good work , its just boring talking about it.)
The questions must have been sent in 1999. I answered a few of them and they are in bold.
As I mentioned last week, I've got a few questions about your work -- if you
saw your way to answering them, I'd be very grateful. A summary of the essay's
main points is enclosed with this email. Sorry if any of it seems too earnest,
or too flippant; it's nowhere near finished.
Many artists and writers claim to have been influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche, but the one whose work comes closest--without even trying--is David Graney.
Common themes: a new aristocracy of the clever and skilful, that will overcome the rich and dumb; a kind of manliness that is independent of physical strength or prowess; a liking for hyperbole; an interest in style, which often shows up in a weird kind of hyper-irony; an awareness of a particular kind of power, similar to charisma -- a force of personality possessed by dandies, rock stars, furtrappers etc.
Points of difference: Nietzsche was obsessed with sickness, cultural and physical; a product of his times perhaps. He liked provoking people with ranting and overstatement, but Graney prefers a bemused detachment. Graney's body of work includes performances (concerts), whereas Nietzsche only survives in the form of writing.
Nietzsche: his life and work. He wasn't a nihilist. Or a Nazi. (Commentators: Danto, Kaufmann.) But he *was* a bad-ass. (Comm.: Nehamas, Staten.) The will to power -- what it is, how it works. Life as literature.
His sudden fame in the 1890s, after his mental breakdown: the world's first vegetable celebrity.
Graney: the dream-world of rock and roll. A unique set of influences (westerns, detective stories, the Charlatans and others, bluesmen, etc). The pioneers. Vocabulary: hipster speak, cowboy slang, etc.
An awareness of the singer/public relationship ('I don't know you exist' and 'Rackin up some zeds'). It requires a self-conscious distance; otherwise it collapses. It is the opposite of a dream (in which the ego identifies with everyone involved -- you are the judge, jury, executioner, victim, crime... as it were).
His public reception. On one hand: very open, willing to provide an erudite quotation or two on any topic. On the other hand: many music journalists apparently find his project strange and opaque; painful 300-word interviews that begin with
'So, who are you anyway?' or 'This is all a joke, right?'
Irony in pop music: mostly a grim affair, operating at the expense of the musician. (The multi-millionaire corporate creations who like to sing about how they "don't give a fuck about nothing".) A few nice exceptions-Frank Zappa, Devo, Regurgitator. But 'irony' is a grossly inappropriate description of Graney's work. Ditto 'posture' and 'parody'; they imply that he is not serious, when in fact he seems more sincere about what he is doing than most of the ARIA-chartists. The
search for a better description--'a sense of style' perhaps.
Dreams again: can you pretend to be dreaming, or have a parody-dream?
Performance: how different from writing. Graney's interest in performance, gesture, scent.
Fragments: Derrida once caused a stir by asserting that Nietzsche's work was essentially fragmentary. There is no key idea that will make sense of the whole thing after we discover it. If we came across a scrap of paper saying 'I, Nietzsche, really meant XYZ when I said ABC', this would be just another move within the game, not the finish of the game.
At first there seems to be no parallel with Graney. If you really want to know what he's about, you could just get him on the blower and ask him. But that idea doesn't really stack up.
Also: consider the assertion in Mark Dapin's article that Graney's friends don't talk about what he was like pre-1990 because they don't want to 'reveal the truth' about him. This gives a precise analogy with Derrida's remarks; such a revelation would be another element in the David Graney story, which is now bigger than any particular truth or untruth.
* First, some fact-checking: have you ever read any Nietzsche? (I've been
assuming that if you had, you would have mentioned it before now.)
* You often give generous credit to the people who collaborate with you (Clare
Moore, Tony Mahony, band members). On the other hand, many of the people who
turn up in your songs and essays are loners and individualists (like Warren
Oates, for instance, or the furtrappers). Do you ever feel any kind of tension
between these two aspects of your work?
Now that you mention it- hmmmm
* When you're writing, do you have an imaginary audience? That's to say, are
there any particular people that you are writing for?
Pretty much as unconscious as I can be.
* 'We took great pains to keep our scene wide open so as to enable anybody to
get in,' you write in the liner notes to The Baddest. How do you think your
scene has changed over the last decade? Do you think that the Australian music-
listening public has become more sophisticated; or stayed the same?
This must be a question from before the internet really took on. People have gotten sillier.
By the way, could I ask another favour? I remember reading an article on your
website, last year perhaps. In it you described a gig at the ANU, in which you
would raise your finger in the air somewhat in the manner of a tory politician
labouring a point. At one point a pair of underpants landed on your finger,
horseshoe-style. Do you know where I could get a copy of that essay?
I think thats the sort of thing I've been looking for in this hard drive.
Thanks again for your time. Have a good festive season.
Some artefacts from the era
art Tony Mahony
art Tony Mahony
art tony mahony
ARIA award winning clip by Tony Mahony