Brian Marnell, Bill Gibson, Jack Casady, Nick Buck
San Francisco's Boarding House was the location recently for a three night stint by SVT - Jack Casady's latest assault on the boards. The new band with Jack still pounding out the demon bass lines also boasts Nick Buck (also ex-Hot Tuna) on keyboards; guitarist Brian Marnell who shares lead vocal duties with Nick Buck; and Bill Gibson on drums. The power of the band comes from all four members who, in the nine months they have been together, have knitted together into a very tight working unit.
The 300 seater club situated in downtown San Francisco can hardly be described as anything but spartan, the interior resembling a miscegenation between the table service atmosphere of London's Venue and the architectural significance of a church hall, with the cost of drinks expensive enough to make Richard Burton sober. Uh! Where's that waitress gone again.
The first of SVT's two sets consisted almost without exception of fast, hard driving rock songs dealt with in a slick professional manner. Building from the more than solid foundation of the rhythm section, Buck and Marnell are left free to add depth to the sound or create the challenging excitement that must surely become the band's trademark. The second set opened with a blues number, longer than the majority of their material, which built gradually in tempo and lead into the switch back to overdrive for the remainder of the gig.
Nick Buck thinks that the energy in SVT and Hot Tuna is comparable, but Tuna would have taken that energy over a longer period of time, and it is with this concise, efficient manner that SVT fire on all four. 'The new band is all new material, all new sound - not a lot of jamming; a lot of songs, fast tempos, lots of high energy,' states Jack.
The reaction to the band has been varied. The first date was at the Old Waldorf club in July, primarily aimed at sorting things out after rehearsals; but the reception given by many of the Hot Tuna fans present was not flattering. According to Brian Marnell, people were yelling 'Punks!' at them before they even played. That problem has now subsided with the band attracting ist own following, some being Tuna freaks able to come to terms with Casady's digression from the blues and some people who've picked up on a new band from a path devoid of the previous Grunt associations.
To call SVT a punk band, using the word in ist most abused context, is unjust. Certainly they are not Hot Tuna Mk.2 and their music is nearer the adrenaline-stacked styles being practised by the new wave rock'n'rollers on both sides of the big pond. It's also a far larger step than the new directions being explored by other members of the Bay's musical hierarchy, which may explain the charge from some quarters that 'Jack's gone over the top.'
We took the opportunity to talk to the band after the show and amongst some scenes of high frivolity, here's a bit of what went down - the rest you'll have to use your imagination for ...
On the subject of the band's musical stance, the reply came through loud and clear: 'It's not punk,' asserts Marnell, 'It's just rock and roll, you know? They called it punk because it didn't sound like Hot Tuna and they didn't know what to call it. Every new band that comes out is called punk - it doesn't matter what the fuck they do, they're punk or new wave or something... So we got labelled punk, but it's not; it's just modern updated rock and roll.'
Jack Casady: It's permanent wave! (Howls of derision.) Break it out, where are the real drugs? (Even more howls and even more derision.) I know you have them... all you interviewer folks have drugs... it's the only way to function.
Stepping back in time about a year to the demise of Hot Tuna...
Dark Star: What actually caused the break up of Hot Tuna?
Jack Casady: Boredome!
You were supposed to be coming over to England as Tuna, weren't you?
JC: That's right, we were supposed to be there and then the record company pulled out at the last minute and then we decided that it was time to cash it in so we'd have a fairly decent record to go out on and not be in the position of carrying on something that wasn't happening.
So you knew it wasn't going to carry on before "Double Dose" came out...
JC: It had been building up for about a year or so.
Then the new band came together in...
JC: ... May or June.
How did you meet Bill and Brian?
JC: Through a mutual friend. I heard a tape that these guys had done with another band (Airplay) and went to hear them. That band happened to be crumbling at the time. We started practising and it worked out great.
(To Bill Gibson) You're also in The Fools, aren't you?
Bill Gibson: The Fools is just a band of players who've known each other for about twelve years and who just play for the fun of it. But if they had a job on the same night as this, I'd do this.
Do you think your past musical history is gonna help or hinder you?
JC: Mostly so far I think it's hindered (laughs).
Nick Buck: Actually both, a little of both.
JC: At the very beginning we got playing all sorts of stuff and they didn't understand that when you're with different people you play different music and it's fun; we're having a great time. This band has got much more of a world-wide appeal.
What sort of gigs have you been doing?
JC: Mostly stuff around town. We just did the Winterland with The Ramones and The Tubes and opened or Nick Lowe; mostly in the Bay Area. We've been concentrating on writing a lot of songs, getting a lot of material together. Then we'll have a lot more songs to go into the studio with - 35 or 40 songs that we all know really well and we can make a good record.
Brian Marnell: We'r gonna have an EP coming out. We recorded four songs live on eight track, coming out in February... "Outside", "Phone Call", "Sex Attraction" and "Heart Of Stone". Private stock only; it's gonna be a collector's item.
JC: So our nex step is to get signed...
Ron Lingley, Dark Star Magazine
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