The Ramblin' Man & His Dream of a Mythical
by Brendan Bourke


KS is Kurt Heasley, HS is Hello Sailor, TM is Thom Monahan, and TF is Tim Foote.

Talking to Kurt Heasley (head Lilys) on our way to a bar (with Thom Monahon and Tim Foote dragging behind) I had declared my intentions o fnot speaking to him beforehand, in fear that we should waste some valueable small talk, but he assured me that he could small talk as well as any man od his age and economic standing. He certainly was not lying. Also I made claim that I wanted this interview to be as casual and as close as possible to a normal conversation. But of course upon sitting down I grabbed my folder of trusty questions and was thusly attacked:

KS: Oh a list of questions-that's real conversational!

HS: Well, I thought we could use something to spur the conversation on-you know, give it a boost, in case there's a lull.

KH: Uh, huh.

HS: So...another album for you, Kurt, and a new cast and crew. Whee did you meet and bring this group together?

KH: I was living in Denver and I called Thom. And I had just been freed from my publishing deal, I thought-which in fact I wasn't. I was going to have him play bass and have him just be somebody around-which is what he pretty much did...play bass bass and be around.

TM: Set up micro-phones.

KH: Set up micro-phones. Blow shit up.

HS: Is he good at that?

KH: Yaeh, he's real good at making giant, metallic, space samurais fighting. He can emit those sounds from tractors and space-pickups. Oh yeah, it's real. Real and handy-dandy in the one-hit wonder pop world. And I was trying to find someone really big-band and orchestral orientated, but with a really snazzy kind of drum feel, and was going to ask a couple of my friends. So I asked Thom, and he said that he had this session with someone.

TM: He (Aaron Sperske) sang me beats over the phone and I knew he would be perfect.

KH: I know who that would be...Aaron Sperske. Aaron Sperske was called and it took me about a month to have an honest conversation with him. At that point I was going to be driving out in two weeks, to the east coast, on my birthday. And Jerry Garcia died, we hopped in the car and wound up in Hartford two days later. Then we went up to Northhampton to get some guitars that were being repaired and Sperske-Aaron drove up with Mike from the studio. Then we met, and were basically like, "ok, well we're gonna make a record. We'll need ya for drums." He seemed to think, "Well, ya know, whatever, I'm cool with anything, just tell me what you want." And we just started to play. We started taping and then we stopped about a week later. And whatever we had on tape, as far as drumbeats and whatnot, thitz's and thatz's-we, basically started listening to our drumbeats and I started writing some guitar chords. And every time I finished a guitar part, Thom would put the tape on top of an edited, chopped-up Aaron Sperske drumbeat and compose a bass-line. So while he was composing bass-lines, I would compose more guitars. It was like a little assembly line of listening to drum beats for what turned out to be two months, because of just logistics and stuff. Because you can only do so many things at once and we did as much as we could. It took a month longer than it needed to, but it was fun.

TM: It was like living in a terrarium. Kind of a pressurized sphere of alien squish. And there's not much to do in Hartford at all. Once you're in the studio, it's just work.

HS: You mean, you didn't check out the college scene?

KH: And then after the record was finished, I moved back to Philly and worked as a painting assistant for like a month. I didn't really know what was up. There were still things going on with the record. I mean, it wasn't really finished. We mixed the whole thing in like a day. So we kind of wanted to go back and fix it a little bit, but they thought it was fine. They being Che. They being EleKtra. Elektra being Primary. So I mean, Elektra for the first four months was listening to a fourth generation cassette dub and they still thought it was great.

TF: "This is incredible! This sounds great!"

TM: Well, record companies are known for not knowing if what they get is good or not. They have no idea of what the're listening to 95% of the time.

HS: That's generally true.

KH: After pretty much being in Boston for a month, winter came and I didn't see myself getting out of there any thime soon, since I didn't have a job or any money. So I got a job and just started to hang out. Then spring came around and they paid the studio budget. Elektra was suddenly our new label. Our new friends! They said HEY! Look at this. This is ours. We get paid for this. We paid for this! This is our record. Ours, ours, ours! And that's exactly what's happened ever since. We've been working with the fine Elektra folk and it's been very, very interesting. Twists and turns at every cavern. And then they were like, "Are you gonna play live?" And I said, "PLAY LIVE!?! I'M LUCKY I DON'T GO INTO A BHUDDIST MONASTERY!" "Ah, no, we really want you to tour for this. We really want you to find a band." So I was basically walking around Boston, thinking about how I'm gonna find this band. I mean Thom, Thom can't play guitar. I'm gonna have to play guitar. And Thom's gonna have to play bass. And Aaron's gonna have to play drums. But who are we gonna find to make it sound like a band. I was actually siting at a bar one night, TT The Bear's in Boston, and I started making comments about local talent performing that night and someone started cracking some more, "Hey, more Yanni in that guitar sound." Really bizarre, abstract, tell-tale, picturesque, descriptive words used by an artist. So I strike up a conversation with the young man behind me. And he tells me that his name is Torbin Pastore, and he's an artist from Maine, who's just bumming around Boston because it's closer to Maine than New York. So he wrote his phone number on a piece of bar nap, and about a month later, after we had gone through all of our friends and couldn't find anyone to play guitar, I juts called him up and left a message on his machine. Then two days later he called me back, and a week later I went over to his house. and I was like (whispers) tripping.

HS: You're allowed to say that.

KH: Oh, I had ingested some severely fine LSD 25. And I'm walking-you know it's about a half hour walk-oh, yeah, I'll juts walk up to your house in Brookline, Massachusetts, ya know. So I get there and I'm all chalked full or energy. He puts on a cup of coffee, we go up to his roof, and I start telling him about this "band." It's going to be a faaaabulous band.

TM: I haven't heard this story before.

KH: And I'm all leaning over the roof. And he's like, "you're really far out man, but I think I could learn some of the songs." So I gave him a copy of the record on tape and showed him the chords. And he was like, "wow, that's really good." Then about a week after that I was standing at a coffee house, across the street from the bar, at a friends exhibit. Talking to the local Boston, ya know, coffee house crowd, and I meet this kid who was complaining that he had just been fired from the coffee house, 'cause he didn't show up for work. He was like, "I was supposed to work there yesterday, but I didn't go in. And they said I was supposed to work tonight, but they really don't have any work for me, they said." And I was like, ya know that's really a drag if the cafe culture can't be sympathetic to the emotional impact of having to get up and go to work, ya know. Then who's going to hire these people who didn't show up for work? And that boy was Tim. That's pretty much it I guess.

TF: I didn't even show up my first day.

KH: And so obviously he had a placement of importance in music. So I was like, "wow, you like music. We should go to a friend of mine's house, who lives up the street and we'll talk." And so we talked and exchanged phone numbers. He said that he had done some jazz ensemble stuff when he was eighteen and that he played with lots of combos, but never a rock band. And I was like, "well ya know, a rock band is a lot like watching television static-you have to be very, very attentive, and very, very focused to see the story that's going on in front of you. So I called up our label, said we needed money for practice space-they said o.k., we're going to send you this piece of paper, that was a commitment paper. It was this two page piece of paper that basically said that we were now Elektra's...

HS: Piece of meat.

KH: Piece of meat. I've dealt with major labels before, but never like this. It's thirty-two floors of zany, wacky, fun. Everyone just kind of went out and got their accouterments and I went out andgot my accouterments, in the form of a new guitar-a new old guitar, that doesn't stay in tune.

TM: It stays in tune-relatively.

KH: Some people say it's untunable.

TM: I don't believe that.

KH: And so we practiced for two months, just a couple of times a week. Just playing the songs from the record. I hadn't played the songs, or even listened to the record for like six months at that point. We just tried to make the songs-that sounded like a rock band on the record-sound like a rock band live. Playing live has not been my strong point for about four years and, I mean, I love it, I get nervous and excited, ya know, it's a good time. But there's a lot to do with five people all being very loud. I mean, there's a lot of room for lots of good things to happen. And so honing those skills, you know, no crap on the tap. You're a fountain. I get it now-it's a fountain of Wayne. Wayne is good. They must be talking about God. And so basically meeting people on the street, calling friends that I've known forever and making new friends-that's how this band came about. And I'm still the same Kurt...any other questions?

HS: It's funny that you brought up Yanni in that story because like all good interviewers I have a Yanni question prepared.

KH: Really. Tell me about the Yanni question.

HS: Well it's really questioning your theory on why hundreds of thousands of middle aged women across America want to have sex with Yanni.

TM: Is this just a sex question or a music question as well?

HS: We can make it both.

TM: Probably because he's about as intimidating as pussycat.

KH: He's got the Fabio appeal, but he's not so good-looking and built, and so woman are comforted by the thought that he wouldn't run away if you had him. "If Yanni was mine, he'd be mine forever." Because he's not that good looking.

TM: He's not that talented either-haven't ya herd his music?

KH: "If he could just love me, aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh." That's all they do-hundreds of millions of Greek women. It would be cool if Yanni played pan flute.

TM: Like Zamfir. You know why he doesn't? Because he's no Zamfir.

KH: He's a puss and I'm not talking about what he eats.

HS: All I know is that he's got this huge following of forty-year old, middle class women.

KH: All I know is that all these women had to live through the seventies, listen to lots of disco and snort a lot of cocaine abuse, which rots your nostrils and affects your inner ear. And it all sounds the fucking same to them. Trust me. They got their walkmans in the eighties and they started to blow out their fucking hearing. And 1992 rolled around and he just sounds like, "oh, it sounds like Moody Blues, I love it. It's beautiful. This is the best thing ever. Blah, blah, blah." And the fact that he's not good-looking enough that you'd think he'd leave ya. So, those two factors: innocuous; homely.

TM: Plus he's got that mustache.

KH: He's got the yin and yang, what every woman wants.

HS: Plus he's got that constant wind-blown hair, even when he's not in a windy place.

KH:That's his magic trick

HS: Have you ever seen Firestarter?

KH: Firestarter?

TM: Yeah, with Drew Barrymore.

HS: Those are the best parts, when you get the close-up of her puffy alcoholic face and her hair starts blowing everywhere.

TM: I just have to say, that guy, George C. Scott. When he tries to slap her across the face.

KH: What a plot hitch that was. The bounty hunter. (in a deep queeny voice) "die you bitch."

We continued to talk about dogs, publicists, Captain and Tenille, guest singers, and sultry butts, but due to the spatial size of this here issue of Hello Sailor!, I shall spare you the details. Or maybe I'll save it for another issue down the road when all of our friends have grown weary of us whipping stories out of them.

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