First & Last...with New York 'anti-folk' star Jeffrey Lewis
First & Last...with New York 'anti-folk' star Jeffrey Lewis
Jeffrey Lewis is one of the biggest names in the New York’s anti-folk scene.
Described by Jarvis Cocker as “the best lyricist working in the US today,” the comic book artist-turned-lo-fi singer-songwriter released his sixth studio album ‘A Turn in the Dream Songs’ earlier this month.
Jeffrey spoke to MM before his gig at The Ruby Lounge on 25 October.
1. What is the first CD you ever owned?
I didn't start getting involved with CDs till perhaps 2001 or so. In fact, I do recall that 2001 was the first time I owned a device that could play CDs. Prior to that I was strictly vinyl and tapes. Which saved me a lot of hassle at all the open mics I was playing in 1998-2000, every time somebody would try to give me or sell me their CD I could just say "sorry, haven't got a CD player".
So if I'm trying to recall the first CD I ever owned, it was probably a CD from somebody I admired at a NYC open-mic around 2001. Maybe it was Grey Revell's CD "Green Train." Which is actually totally great, a classic album. But, if we're talking about the first album I ever owned, regardless of format, it might have been "Escape" by Whodini, on cassette, I bought it around 1986 perhaps tho it was already out of style by that time.
That album is the most underrated rap album of all time, it had about 5 great hits on it that are some of the best old-school rap songs of the mid-80s time period, but nobody ever talks about Whodini for some reason.
You'll still hear people going on about Grandmaster Flash, or Run DMC, or even UTFO, but when do you ever hear Whodini mentioned? And Whodini had more hits than most of them. I've never stopped loving that album, great lyrics, great music. Nas and Sonic Youth have both sampled from that album, probably many others have too.
2. What is the last film you saw?
"Cut and Run," a documentary from the late 1970s about the logging industry in Maine.
3. When was the first time you visited Manchester and what was it for?
First time I visited Manchester was in 1999, I was hitchhiking around Europe and somehow I managed to hitchhike from Frankfurt Germany all the way to Manchester in the course of about 2 days.
I mean, that was starting very early in the morning the first day and arriving in Manchester late on the second night.
I was just homeless, sleeping in the street, actually while I was sleeping on the street in Manchester somebody kicked me! But I had a great few days in the city, I loved it, despite the cold rain and the kicking. Amazing atmosphere.
4. Who is the first Mancunian you'd choose to spend the day with?
I don't know a huge amount of Mancunians but I do know a few who seem like wonderful people. Marc Riley has always been very kind to us, I wouldn't mind spending a day hanging out with him.
5. Who is the last Mancunian you’d choose to spend the day with?
Myra Hindley, was she a Manc? Or Morrissey, he seems like he might not be very fun to hang out with. But one time after a show in Manchester we were driving around looking for a place to get a late curry and we figured we should call up a friend of ours who was working as Morrissey's personal minder at the time - she was looking after him that night somewhere, so we figured we could perhaps have her get his advice for a good late night Manchester curry place. But she didn't pick up her phone and we found a place on our own.
6. What is the first thing you think of when someone mentions Manchester?
The Fall. One of my top five favorite bands. I own every single Fall album, except for two I think. And that's a lot of albums.
7. It’s your last day on earth and you are in Manchester – what do you do?
Fly home to NYC to see friends and family perhaps.
8. If you were stranded on a desert island, what album would you take with you?
Something very long and dense and soothing, and which would reward multiple listens. Like one of those big classical-music vinyl box sets you always see in charity shop record bins. I can never get anything out of classical music, I just don't get it, I basically hate classical music. But perhaps if I had to listen to nothing but classical music for a while on a desert island it might eventually grow on me, I'd start to understand all the things going on in it. I'd be discovering new thing about it each time I listened, at least for the first few years perhaps.
9. What is the first band you ever saw in Manchester/favourite band from Manchester?
The first band I ever saw in Manchester was some failed Britpop band called Morning Star when I was wandering Manchester on that hitchhiking trip in 1999.
I had heard that the Roundhouse was a good place to see live music so I went in and that's who was playing, Morning Star. They had an Alexander Rodchenko-style poster and logo, I remember that. Not dissimilar to that look that Franz Ferdinand went for.
10. What is the last book you read?
I read a lot of comic books, but the last actual book that I read was "The Traveller," a biography of free-jazz clarinet legend Perry Robinson, who is actually my cousin. We were on tour in China in August and everybody in the band took turns reading the book till it totally fell apart into separate sheets of paper.
11. First club / bar you visited in Manchester?
I don't remember the name of the place, but the first night I arrived I walked into a pub which had a display of Daniel Johnston artwork up on the walls, and I was very excited to see this. Even nowadays that would be an exciting thing for me to randomly stumble upon, but in 1999 it was seemingly rare to find fans of Daniel Johnston in the UK. It was not a fancy art exhibit, just a bunch of drawings up on a wall in a pub. Nobody that I talked to there had any idea what it was, or cared in the least.
12. What is the last festival you went to?
We played at Indietracks festival a couple months ago, and got to see Frances McKee, and Herman Dune, and Withered Hand, and a couple others.
13. City or United?
If I had to choose between "City" and "United" as strictly Platonic concepts then I'd have to go with "United," as unity is ultimately more important for human survival than urban environments are, even though I do love cities.