Text&Interview: Rokko
Fotos: Kurt Prinz

I talked to Tod A (ex-Cop Shoot Cop) when he was in Vienna with his band Firewater to promote their new album “The Golden Hour”. It was basically recorded when Tod A travelled through India, Pakistan, Turkey and Israel. A journey like this seems to be pretty tough? Well, I’d think so, but pick up Rokko’s Adventures#4 to read about what a pain in the ass it was just to get into the club the Firewater-show took place! Jeez…

Rokko: I just bought the book „Art that kills“ by George Petros and there are also some words about Cop Shoot Cop.

Tod A: I haven’t seen it, George Petros hasn’t sent me a copy yet.

R: Everything in the book is under the siege of “aesthetic terrorism” – have you felt like being part of that with Cop Shoot Cop?

T: Uhmmmaybe in the beginning, yeah. We definitely tried to provoke people. Before we played any shows at all, Cop Shoot Cop had a massive poster campaign. So we just desigend the most obnoxious posters we could and put them up in New York City. So at the time we put on our show, everyone had heard of the band.

R: Do you have contact to other artists that occur in that book like Joe Coleman, Boyd Rice or Adam Parfrey?

T: Not really. Cop Shoot Cop was part of my past, but I’m not part of that scene anymore.

R: But you still seem to have political purposes with your music, but in another way than back then...

T: I think that shock only works to an extent and it’s fooling yourself a little bit but you’re not gonna change anyone’s mind with shock – unless it’s done in a very clever way. For me it’s better to win people over in more subtle ways. In a song, I want to put what I feel – it can be a political idea but not for every song......Firewater is not so much a confrontational band, it’s more personal. We have always had an open door with Firewater. We’re all friends and friends of each others music. We can keep it interesting, because everyone has a different interpretation. A part of the problem with Cop Shoot Cop was that we were sick of each other. After some time it gets boring if you know exactly whatcha gonna get. I like the excitement of not knowing what’s gonna happen.

R: Yeah, I just heard the version of “Get Out of my head” in the soundcheck and it was completely different than on the record...

T: Yeah, it’s important to keep things fresh. I mean, I love the Ramones, but I could never be in the Ramones. They play their songs over and over and over for more than 20 years. I would just shoot myself in the head. It’s wonderful that there was the Ramones but I could never be in the Ramones.

R: You were travelling a lot in the last years – did you have any permanent companions?

T: No, just by myself. I was just travelling around, trip in a town, looking for musicians and recorded them if it worked. I’ve been by myself all the time with a laptop and a microphone, travelling. The recording was almost secondary in a way. I was writing on a novel, just wanted to see that part of the world. I recorded when I could. The book is half finished. I had a motorcycle accident this summer with two bungs in my spine in Bali, landed on my head. It took 3 and ½ months I spent writing. It’s loosely based on my journey but it’s a novel.

R: On your journey, have you never tought “Fuck, I wanna be in my flat in New York and watch TV!”?

T: No, never. Not even when I was sick and could barely eat I wanted to sit in my flat. Knowing what’s gonna happen next is boring, being surprised by things keeps you alive. Unexpected things continued to happen on me on my journey. I wouldn’t have thought someone would offer me a rocket launcher or milion dollars of heroin. I said: “Oh, tempting, but no, thank you.” I didn’t know how to put it through customs. [laughs]

R: How could you survive financally? Did you work on the road for getting some money?

T: Yeah, I taught English from time to time to make a little money. The standards are very low, you don’t need much.
When it’s time to make the next recorded I’ll probably continue the journey: Start in Kabul and visit Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey. My girlfriend is from Istanbul. The radiostation in Istanbul supports Firewater. Someone just found us online and started playing it – so we had a really good show there.
But on the whole journey, I didn’t see much conflicts because Israelis cannot travel to Pakistan. That was one of the reasons I wanted to make the record this way about crossing borders, crossing over the two religions and getting it down to the music. Forget about all the other stuff, I like that aspect of it.

R: You are not a religious person, are you?

T: No, I mean I’d love to find a religion I can believe in but so far it hasn’t worked out.

R: Yeah, it’s much easier with a religion...

T: Lots of easy answers. I wish I could say I was happy as an atheist, but I had some kind of spiritual hole in me. But again, looking at it realistically and logically, there is no god I can believe in.

R: If you put yourself on his place, it could work!

T: I wish I was happpy with that but I’m still looking somehow for some spirituality I can live with. But as it’s now, it seems always to cause more suffering.

R: How do the songs develop? Do you come up with the basic riffs you play alone at home?

T: Yeah, on guitar or piano. And then I work it out with other people.

R: On your records, there are always different influceneces: Sometimes it’s more klezmer, then Russian folk, then Oriental music. Do you plan that before you start writing your songs?

T: No, there’s never really a plan. We find this vibe for the song, we find a suit of clothes that fits the man. We always try things out in a lot of different ways. I’m really inspired by Bollywood and mashing up different styles. Everyone gets it their twist. I like it when it maybe doesn’t fit 100% but maybe you get something new out of it.

R: You started mixing those styles very early – do people like Gogol Bordello owe you credits?

T: I don’t know. I’m not the first one who mixes stlyes. Rock’n’Roll has been coming up from Saharian blues and English folk music, done in the South of America. Cultures have been coming into contact and emerging for a long time. I am excited about that and try to push it out. It’s worked out that way, just to keep it interesting. And I keep finding new music I’m inspired by. It’s terrible from a marketing perspective. I mean, it’s much easier to understand Gogol Bordello – this is punk and this is Balkan, so here we go. That’s great, and again: I love the Ramones. But I’m interested in a lot of different styles.

R: That’s why you don’t play with Madonna.

T: Exactly, it’s commercial suicide, but fuck it, I’m not doing it to be a rock star, I’m doing it because I love playing music.

R: Do you plan to tour the countries you travelled to?

T: That would be a challenge! [laughs] I mean, things are changing in India, it’s possible to do it in India and I’m working on it. But in other countires, people are supposed to a very limited range of music: The local music and punk bands all trying to sound like Bllink 182 or whatever the weekly band is. They can’t buy our records. I’m working on it, but it takes 20 hours to go there.

R: What are your plans after this tour?

T: I’m kind of based in Indonesia at the moment. I have a house there with a garden, it’s so cheap. I’m living there with my girlfreind and three dogs and some lizards and rats.
If the Republicans make it again, I will definitely never be coming back to America. Anyway, I’m having so much fun with moving and travelling. I lived in NY for 20 years and it was great, but now I wanna see the rest of the world. It’s also a relief to have nothing and leave everything back. I can carry all my possessions by myself. The rest is gone.

R: Some people say it doesn’t really matter if Republicans or Democrats....

T: ...THEYRE WRONG! Of course the system is corrupt, but things are far worse under Bush than they would have been under a Democrat. I can tell you that for sure. It can’t get much worse than now. It’s about choosing the lesser of two evils, but come on: choose the lesser! Don’t give up and say: “Oh fuck...it doesn’t matter.”
I will register myself to vote on the tour. The main thing is: no Republican. I would vote the Green party if they had a chance – but they haven’t.

R: Yeah, the USA have a strange election system...

T: That’s a large part of making it fucked up and makes people feel like: nobody represents me. But vote the lesser evil! I have always voted. I have to admit that I was the most depressed I’ve ever been when I clearyl felt that Bush was a moron, a dangerous moron and half of the country just didn’t see it! That was like: Who are these people? What is this country? How can I possibly be part of it? Paying taxes to a system I don’t believe in.
Anyway, after the tour, I’m gonna go to Indonesia or meet my girlfriend in Istanbul. I don’t need much to live. I live low budget, and on tour all the drinks are free.