Sir Richard Bishop Speaks About His "Constant State of Creation"
You released your solo debut on Revenant Records. What kind of personal interactions did you have with John Fahey? I've been reading through his book, How Bluegrass Music Destroyed My Life, and along with many of his later records, it really shows off his demented, funny, and experimental side. Did you get to see that side of him?
When I was approached by Revenant to release Salvador Kali, I was dealing with Dean Blackwood, who basically ran the label with Fahey's blessing. Dean assured me that Fahey was the one who wanted to release my record and I was quite honored. I only met Fahey one brief time, shortly after the record came out. He was performing in Seattle and I remember him walking onto the stage and asking the audience if anyone had a guitar he could borrow. I thought this was hilarious. I almost ran home to get one for him but somebody nearby had one he could use. He only played for about 20 minutes.
Afterwards, he was standing alone at the bar having a drink. He had on a t-shirt and a pair of shorts and was wearing sunglasses. He was kind of intimidating. But I approached him and introduced myself as Richard Bishop. Several seconds went by and there was no reply from him -- nothing, just an awkward silence. I then said "Sir Richard Bishop." After another brief pause he looked at me and said, "You play like the Devil." As you can imagine, this made my evening. That was the best possible thing he could have said to me so I shook his hand, said "thank you" and that was the end of our conversation. I didn't need to hear anything else. Why spoil it?
Here in Phoenix your work with the Sun City Girls is the stuff of legend. What was Phoenix like in those days? How uncomfortable -- if at all -- was it for Sun City Girls to play along side punk bands you had little in common with stylistically?
Phoenix had quite an underground scene back in the early '80s. There were of course, a lot of straight up punk and new wave bands but I wasn't really into any of that back then. I'm still not. It was all too predictable and one-dimensional. That's just me though. There were, however, enough experimental bands to keep me interested in the so-called "scene."
I was quite fond of everything that David Oliphant was doing (Dali's Daughter, Destruction, Maybe Mental), and to this day I think David has created the best sound art ever to come out of Phoenix. I also liked The Meat Puppets, Killer Pussy, Victory Acres, The Gary Russell Apocalypse, Eddy Detroit, and Mighty Sphincter, all of which I never considered as being punk bands -- even though others did. To me they were way more interesting musically than any punk band ever could be. There was also a free-form band called Knebnegauge that I liked a lot. I'm not sure what happened to them. They just disappeared one day.
So those days certainly had their moments but a lot of it fizzled out as the decade progressed. As for Sun City Girls, we were never uncomfortable with what we were doing and that was probably because we didn't care about what others thought of us. It was always our intention to please ourselves first and foremost. It was because of that approach that we were able to last as long as we did (until 2007). A lot of people hated us with a passion in the early days and that's when we knew we were directly over the target. Bombs away!
Sir Richard Bishop is scheduled to perform Friday, February 15, at Crescent Ballroom.