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Geggy Tah Interview- David Byrne once said that Geggy Tah go into PostModernism and then out the other end. Is this true? Gary Hill finds out.



The mysterious Geggy Tah returns with its third and most ambitious outing to date - Into The Oh - a groove-laden journey into an exclamation of heart and soul you won't soon forget. Possessed of all the signature charms that characterised the band's first two releases - bewitching melody, eclectic architecture and sheer persistence of vision - Into The Oh is an album of deft songcraft and incisive lyrics, amused by life, haunted by memory and resonant with reflection.

"We started out to make a party record and ended up making our most personal record yet, " says lead vocalist and songwriter Tommy Jordan. That result may be owing in part to the fact that within the arc of getting this self-produced project from ground zero to final destination, the band was touched by a dizzying series of life's changes, from birth and death to marriage and divorce, and then some. Or as Tommy puts it, "Making this record was like going to hell and back, and then realising I forgot something there. Then, when going back down to get it, forgetting what I forgot."

We decided to ask Tommy Jordan about the band and about the loss of Greg. Was this about to become a Tah only thing?

What is the significance of the name Geggy Tah?

Tommy Jordan: There's a new story that's come around since the original one. Well, of course, it was little sisters trying to say Greg and Tommy and their mouths couldn't quite form it yet. So, it was the mispronunciation of Greg and Tommy, but for a while we were touring with Sting and all his crew were Scottish. They loved our name. We thought, "wow, that's cool". People usually like the name once they get it, but usually it's kind of a puzzle. People think it Coup Detat or Geg Guitar or whatever. It turns out that in Scottish Geggy means mouth, and Tah means thanks - so mouth thanks. But, more specifically Geggy refers to "shut your geggy". So, it kind of like Shut Up Thanks. So, I like that as well. Since Geggy's not in the band anymore that's kind of carrying me forward emotionally.

CRUD: He is not in the band anymore?

Tommy Jordan: In the long, long incubation of this record, before it was finished, he got married and divorced, and he released an instrumental record of his own. So, it was a little different, but somehow things prevailed and survived. I usually try not to call too much attention to it because it's not a happy subject.

CRUD: Where did the title Into The Oh originate?

Tommy Jordan: I was actually just hanging out with some friends, and "Dumb Submarine" was one of the centrepiece tracks from the record. The best part of being in a band is coming up with names, and its all downhill from that. We were just throwing out a lot of names, "what if it was this?"; "what if it was that?"; and Into The Oh just stuck because of the "Dumb Submarine" song. Also, I looked up the definition of "Oh". It's printed in the back of the liner notes by the thank-yous. I put the definition there. From the definition it was kind of like what the record felt like to make. It was a long process.

CRUD: Your sound is diverse and hard to classify. How would you describe it?

Tommy Jordan: It's hard to ask me. I always prefer to get peoples' reactions. I think describing your own music can be incestuous. I think the music wants to stop being music. It wants to be something else. I hope that the music takes you somewhere. That's really what I strive for. It's like when you look at a painting, if the painting stops being a painting. You forget it's a painting if it speaks to you that much. It's like a transportation device.

CRUD: David Byrne said, " Geggy Tah are so post modern that they've come out the other side." How do you feel about the term "post modern" and would that be a conscious or unconscious decision for you?

Tommy Jordan: Definitely unconscious - I think that all those kinds of artistic movements are things that are best left to natural movements, such as sneezing. I don't really think about that stuff. It made me laugh, but I don't think much about it.

CRUD: Who would you see as your musical influences?

Tommy Jordan: I'm not as influenced by music as I am by other things. I think that being influenced by music as a musician is incestuous. I go to used bookstores more than I go to record stores. So, to me it might be someone I meet or something that will happen to me. I don't think I am as influenced by actual music. Although, I'll contradict myself. There's one record that influenced me a bit. There's a record that shares a label with us. Susanna Bacha who's very, very sensuous. I think she's in her 60's from Peru, Afro-Peruvian. They're just such sensuous records. I know that that really inspired me as well as a guy who played some drums on the record, James Gadson who was Bill Withers' drummer. As a person he influenced me a lot. I wrote some songs with him in mind. He's an old, old guy. He played on "Lean On Me", "Use Me Up". He's an old guy, and he's probably the second most sampled drummer, other than Clive Stubblefield (James Brown's drummer). He never got paid for it. If anyone had a reason to be bitter, it would be him. When he plays drums, he's just like a ten-year-old kid. He has such a good time and the fact that he liked jamming with us was so encouraging. I was so inspired by it that some of the songs are written with him in mind. So, indirectly there's a little bit of a Bill Withers feel to some of it, but it's more just him as a person.

CRUD: The song "Goodnight to the Machine" has the sound of a telephone receiver coming down as the rhythm. How did that come about?

Tommy Jordan: Well, my Granddad started the second record with a call. It's an interesting story, really. He wrote a stanza in 1928 for this radio station contest. They used to be like Internet stations - no one thought they'd amount to anything. He and his wife wrote a little stanza. I finished the lyrics and put it to music for my twin sister's wedding. We sold it and got it in this movie. Ever since 1998, 70 years later, he and I were collaborators. Ever since then he's been calling me with like three songs a week. It's his newfound career because he just retired at 87. He's 96 now. It's a big part of my week - those messages. I'd like to make a whole record devoted to his ideas. The rhythm stuff is actually made out of the electric rocking chair that I'm sitting in on the cover of the record. The rocking chair was made after the record was mostly finished so; it's just in that little vignette. The hanging up of the phone is laced in there with the rocking chair. We used that little vignette because the "One Zero" song kind of stuck out a little bit. Sometimes the record's really mechanical. Sometimes it's really organic. It kind of offset "One Zero" to maybe foreshadow the organic stuff coming later on. Starting with the mechanised stuff, the rest of the record isn't so mechanised. The guy saying, "good night" to the machine, then hanging up, and then having a machine come in kind of seemed right.

CRUD: You toured with Ben Harper. Are you a fan?

Tommy Jordan: I am, actually. It was fun touring with him. He's toured a long time. He didn't get a lot of radio play. We played with him in Vancouver 6 years ago, then we played with him again in Santa Barbara. We kept sort of crossing paths with him, and that guy just hasn't been off the road. He's been touring non-stop. Anybody who earns it that way I've got a lot of respect for. He's worked his fanny off. I don't have a lot of his records, but he's from my neck of the woods. He said a nice thing about the record and me, so I've always been grateful about that.

CRUD: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?

Tommy Jordan: The biggest Spinal Tap moment was when we were actually supposed to open up for Spinal Tap at the NAMM show at the Gibson booth a couple years back. We were so ecstatic because I'm a big Spinal Tap fan. I had food poisoning from one of those free parties that you crash at the NAMM show. I was kind of quivering and quaking and involuntarily convulsing, but I was so excited to see Spinal Tap that I refused to cancel the show. I would not miss that show for the world. We played our show, and they just kept signalling us to keep playing and playing because Spinal Tap never showed up. So, there I was with food poisoning, about to faint at any moment, just waiting for Spinal Tap to come, and they didn't show up.

CRUD: What was the last CD you bought?

Tommy Jordan: Like I said, I go to used book stores more than I buy CD's, but my girlfriend just bought Outkast-Stankonia. A record that I'm about to buy, I'm looking forward to buying is India Arie. I'm excited to snatch up her record. Laurie Anderson has a new record coming out. I'm going to grab that. Bjork has a record coming out. I'm going to get that.

CRUD: What was the last concert you attended?

Tommy Jordan: I went to see Sade, actually.

Sorry we mentioned it. Thanks Tommy

Interview by Gary Hill for Crud Magazine and MusicJournal©


2-4-7-MUSIC.COM 2006

STILL refusing to dumb it down.

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