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NIGHT LIFE / THE CLUB SCENE : Bison Beat : Life stinks, so does love, and feeling bad never sounded so good as with Grant Lee Buffalo, which opens for Mary's Danish.

March 25, 1993|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

This week's Poet of the Bum Trip Named After a Large Mammal That Used to Be on the Nickel is none other than Grant Lee Buffalo, who, along with local rockers Ariel, will open for Mary's Danish Friday night at the Ventura Theatre.

Life stinks. Love stinks. What's for dinner? Feeling bad never sounded so good. From the song "Grace," just ask Pocahontas, she'll tell ya: "If I had me a needle for every bubble that popped, I could bind them all up like one and you could hear that pin drop like a gun shot."

No raging guitar solos and shoulder length foo-foo haircuts bobbing up and down in unison to that relentless machine gun beat for the Buffalo band, who are a bit on the folky side. The snappy lyrics sound as well as they read.

Grant Lee Phillips is the ace arbiter of Angst and the fuehrer of phooey who writes and sings. Paul Kimble plays bass and Joey Peters hits those drums.

"Part medicine show, part tent revival, part nuclear explosion, the thing is . . . Grant Lee Buffalo has arrived," says a band bio in which hype is heaped head high. That may mean: This band is a natural for the alternative and/or college charts because they really don't sound like anyone else.

The band's debut disc is "Fuzzy," just out on Slash Records, a label that sure can pick 'em. Slash is thankfully to blame for the Blasters, Rank And File, the Gun Club, X, Los Lobos, the Violent Femmes, the Chills, and some other spiffy company. Slash only releases a handful of albums each year, so to be added to their roster is an accomplishment in itself.

Phillips, during a recent phone interview, discussed the life and times of his band.

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Question: So how's "Fuzzy" doing?

Answer: Doing good.

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Q:Who's the buffalo?

A: Everyone always asks me that.

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Q: OK. You're from the Bay Area--how 'bout those Giants?

A: I don't pay attention to that sort of thing.

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Q: How would you describe Grant Lee Buffalo music?

A: I wouldn't. I leave that to the writers.

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Q: All right. Since your clever bio says virtually nothing, I want to go down the list song-by-song and find out about your music. How about "The Shining Hour"?

A: That one's sort of my little fantasy about the lifting of the veil from all sorts of things being kept secret. It's about a time when everything is shaken free.

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Q: All right. How about "Jupiter and Teardrop"?

A: That one's kind of like a little movie which sort of deals with a couple of different issues from a third person point-of-view. It's about the kind of oppression people have to live with and how the environment shapes people.

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Q: How about the title track, "Fuzzy"?

A: It has a lot to do with disillusionment, and another way of talking about confusion. What you see and what you're told are two different things.

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Q: "Wish You Well"?

A: I'm talking about what I'm talking about in "Fuzzy." I'm sort of answering back that things can work out. We can redirect our own fate.

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Q:So "The Hook" isn't about John Lee Hooker?

A: No, it's not. All these things like movies, blue jeans and yo-yos are OK, but what counts the most are relationships.

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Q: How about "Soft Wolf Tread"?

A: That one largely deals with power over other people, power in the business world.

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Q: Will they be playing "Stars and Stripes" in the VFW Hall soon?

A: That one was sort of written around blind patriotism.

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Q: "Dixie Drug Store" seems pretty out-front.

A: That one sort of grew out of my fascination with a particular part of the country and their folk heritage. I've never been to New Orleans, but I used to call hotels on their 800 numbers just to hear people talk.

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Q: So is "America Snoring"?

A: I don't think so. That song most obviously deals with apathy, and is sort of the political song on the album. What made me write a song like that? I'm pretty much of a hermit. I'm not that much different from most people. People's private lives are constantly being invaded.

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Q:What about "Grace?"

A: I wrote that one a couple of years ago, and in some ways, that song is kind of bitter. I'm toying with what's real, that sort of thing.

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Q: All right, how about the last one, "You Just Have To Be Crazy"?

A: I wrote that one just sitting up late one night a couple of nights before we recorded the album. It's about things that matter the most to me--the real issues, the human issues.

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Q: Was Mel Brooks right? Does life stink? And was J. Geils right? Does love stink?

A: Naw, yeah, sure it does. But, you know, there's plenty of things that stink that you can't get away from.

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Q: Since you're the opening act, does that mean you won't get to do very many of your songs anyway?

A: Well, we usually do 35 to 45 minutes, and we have a good body of original songs. Sometimes we'll do a cover, like an obscure Neil Young song, "For the Turnstyles," and lately, we've been doing a violent version of Elvis' "Burning Love."

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Q: Are your songs too smart for the audience?

A: I don't think so. I don't even know if I'm smart at all. I don't think people are idiots. I'm not into brain rock. Hopefully, people won't see us in just an intellectual way, but also in an emotional way. Hopefully, it will be an all-encompassing experience.

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Q: How did you get started in all this?

A: I dunno. I sort of blame Jerry Peters. It just happened that way.

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Q: What was your strangest gig?

A: I dunno. Hopefully, they're all a little strange.

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Q: Complete this sentence: "It's only rock 'n roll but . . ."

A: I loathe it . . . but what's not?

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Q: What's next?

A: For us? For the country? For the millennium?

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Q: Whatever.

A: I see an age when we will be controlled by talking apes. We're talking Charlton Heston. I see flying saucers comings down, dogs and cats together in the same scene. I see a wild ride.

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