Five Hungry Joes – A pictorial archive of the Trashcan Sinatras. Legendary Scottish Band

Orange Juice, Please?
December 31, 2010, 8:21 am
Filed under: Press | Tags: , , ,

I’m afraid I don’t know that much about CAKE magazine. Only that it’s based in Minneapolis MN, and is a bit similar to the NME here in the UK.

But this article by John Speakman did appear in the Summer of 1993.


‘Bud, Bud Light, Bud Dry, Rolling Rock, Corona, Amstel, Heineken, Miller Lite, Guinness, New Amsterdam, Fosters, Coors Light,” intones the waitperson in a jaundiced sort of a way.

“Could I have a glass of orange juice, please?” asks Stephen Douglas.

“Me too, please,” John Douglas adds.

“Wild crew, huh?” she mutters as she heads back to the bar.

Could these people be the legendary imbibers – the Trashcan Sinatras? They are apologetic about this display of lightweightness. Having gone through the interview wringer for the past week, and due to return to Britain the following day for the second leg of the British tour to be followed immediately by the American tour, they are haggard and not ready to be too sociable or chatty.

Stephen bounds towards us in the postmodern lobby of the New York Century Paramount Hotel, under the impression that CAKE was a Trash Can Sinatras fanzine named after their first album. As soon as I gently relieve him of that impression he picks up the old copy I brought and starts leafing through it. He stops at the Andy Partridge interview. “Andy Partridge, he’s good,” Stephen says. “We’ve been playing ‘Senses Working Overtime’ live lately.” (Coincidentally the XTC interview begins with Andy Partridge saying, “Do you know the Trashcan Sinatras have an album called Cake?”)

In fact, Cake came out at approximately the same time as this publication did (1990), so the thought “CAKE” must have sprung unbidden out of two different people at the same time. I ask John Douglas why they called their release Cake, proffering the information that as far as I can tell, there’s really no good or interesting reason why CAKE magazine is called CAKE. “Same reason for us,” he observes.

Cake was a classic of Scottish guitar pop, bringing forth the inevitable (but not wholly unfair) pigeonholing with Aztec Camera and their ilk. “If you’re Scottish and play guitar, you’re going to be compared to Aztec Camera,” observes John. “And there’s far worse people to be compared to anyway.” Cake sold a respectable 20,000 copies in the U.K. but was a surprise success over here,with over 100,000 copies sold. Unsurprisingly, Polygram are now making a bit of a fuss about their new album, I’ve Seen Everything, after a three year gap since Cake. (Maybe it’s time to rename this magazine “I’ve Seen Everything” as well.) As the title implies, the album’s got an air of worldly-wise rock and rollness that grows on you, but I still yearn a bit for the innocent introspective dorm room wordsmithery of days-gone-by Trashcan Sinatras. “you mean we sound more like a band, now,” says Stephen when I make the above point. That’s pretty much the case – the new album is a much more wide screen Hollywood number than before. Personally, I feel that they’re skating on dangerously thin ice that might drop them in the icy depths of Del Amitri style VH-1 nonsense next time around. During the interview I call them Del Amitri once, but I think I got away with it.

“On the first album, we’d only just learned how to play,” Stephen adds. “We’d been around for a couple of years playing covers, Velvet Underground and stuff.” I broach the cheesy moneyspinning suggestion of a covers album, which is rightly dismissed. So what have you been doing the last three years, I ask, with a thinly veiled “you lazy sods” implied somewhere in there, which John picks up on immediately. “Recording the album” he replies, throwing back an implied “what the fuck do you think we’ve been doing then?” I’m beginning to think coming to the pub to do the interview was a bad decision (there was no sign of a record company person with fat wallet to pay for the drinks, so we skirted the matte-black bar of the Paramount and its $5 beers for the pub on the corner).

“You haven’t been playing many gigs either, have you?”

“Well, you can’t play gigs if you haven’t got a record out – nobody’ll come and see you.”

Well, I was only asking. Actually I soon realize that’s it’s not because they’re tired, nor is it that they’re naturally grumpy. They’re just one of those bands for whom playing music is a job – the best one in the world, but still a job and not really something that makes you worthy of being interviewed.

The Trashcan Sinatras spent three years recording I’ve Seen Everything. “We had a lot of hassle with (the album),” Stephen says. “We tried out Steve Lillywhite as producer and, er, it didn’t work out.”

“You dumped him then?”

“Well, it wasn’t really working out. Total disaster really. He, er, dictated the surroundings we recorded in and we, er, didn’t like them. We did it in (assumes contemptuous tone) Jimmy Page’s old house, which is now a huge studio.” Because the band, including Paul Livingston (drums), David Hughes (bass), and Frank Reader (vocals) have their own studios, Shabby Road in Kilmarnock, Scotland (where the album was eventually recorded and produced by Ray Shulman) this seems a bit excessive.

…stop! Hammertime. Doooo-doo-be-doo…

One tradition the Trash Can Sinatras have kept up is their wryly ironic punning lyrics, which has led many American fans to strain their ears and spend hours with their heads inside the speakers trying to decipher the lyrics. Why don’t you write them out for us to read, boys?

“When you buy an album and the lyrics are all written out, it takes away a lot of the mystery about it. There’s no room for interpretation.”

But what do you really get out of it if you go through life thinking Jimi Hendrix said “Accuse me while I kiss this guy”? And when you get an album, you don’t really just get home and start reading the lyrics, do you?”

“Oh I do. When I buy an album and I’m on the bus home, I read all the words.” states John.

A quick world tour, then it’s back to Scotland for another three years, so if you’ve already missed them you’ve got plenty of time to catch up on the records before next time, and if you’ve a yen for the Aztec Cameras of this world you’ll not find it a waste of time. Just don’t ask them why they don’t print the lyrics on the sleeve. John Speakman

Cake Magazine Issue No.16, late Summer 1993 (US)

2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Hillarious! I liked the bit about the lyrics– I disagree with John! (Also, the interviewer sounded like he was from the U.K.)

Comment by Es from CA

Thanks for your comment Es.
Keep visiting.

Comment by fivehungryjoes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: