Interview: Tim Ferris, Celebrity Skin

CELEBRITY SKIN are a colorful, exuberant quintet straight from the heart of Tinsel Town. Pop-fixated rock n' rollers with a few quirks, and, unlike some of the Glam bands they're inaccurately compared to, very competent and adaptable musicians with a knack for writing catchy hooks, as is evident on their debut opus Good Clean Fun.

Yes Siree, dynamic power pop, good time thrashy rock n' roll for the most part, but they also incorporate a range of influences that intermittently remind me of JANE'S ADDICTION, BLONDIE, and even WISHBONE ASH! So, naturally enough, the band's hyperactive motormouth of a bass player Tim Ferris gave the RIFF RAFF office a buzz from a call box (!) on Haight Street (famous hippy tye-dye T-shirt brigade street) in San Francisco, at the start of their five-week, 40-date (Phew...Masochists!) trek of the States. So, I attempted to get under their skins to try and discover just what these celebs are about.

"We're definitely not a Glam band," states Tim. "We hate that shit on Sunset Strip, y'know, black stretched jeans and all the fuckin' tattoos and the bullshit. I'm not against that. Don't get me wrong. But if you were in LA you'd know what I was talking about. It's the worst state rock has ever been in."

He qualifies his comments.

"It's sexist, it's prejudiced, it's homophobic. It's like everything rock's not about. Glam always had bad connotations for us and then when we went to Germany, last year, everyone was saying that just the way we used it. They liked it. So we learned through that that we don't really care what people call us. We just do what we do. We definitely consider ourselves glamorous, not glam!"

"To be quite honest, people can't understand why the five of us are friends, much more less than in a band together," laughs Tim. "Y'know, five raging egos clashing together, but that's where the magic comes from."

It's chemistry; the trick is to successfully blend it and create something a little bit individualistic.

"Right, that seems just obvious to us, but apparently that's not the way most people do it. Even people who say 'what are your main influences' and stuff. Well, we try and make as much good music as we possibly can, but we also want to keep ourselves interested in other things. The look and everything, that's as much for our own entertainment as everyone else's."

This is CELEBRITY SKIN's first album in four years of being in existence. One of the reasons they to Triple X (Roadrunner market them in the UK) was because they wanted control.

"Triple has never once made us justify any creative decision we made," he notes.

Tell us about the record.

It's not like a concept album," Tim explains, "but at the same time the beginning to the end is what sums up CELEBRITY SKIN; the different themes and different styles. They all matter when you're trying to figure out what CELEBRITY SKIN is. It's the whole. All twelve of those songs are a different ego, alter ego of CELEBRITY SKIN. Almost all the songs are songs we mutually agreed are our favourites. So, we really do generally like all of those songs. We do have a lot to say. It's there for the taking. Personally, I just feel Bob [Haas] and Gary [Jacoby]'s lyrics are just beautiful, poetry. But it's for you to figure it out and it's there if people wanna get into it."

He cites Visible Man as a prime example.

"Now, here's a question people ask us, and they get quite mixed up," starts Tim. "They say 'do you wanna be Top 40' and we say 'fuck, yeah, of course we wanna be Top 40,' but I guess they think they're saying do you wanna be just like everybody else in the Top 40.' No, of course we don't, but yes, of course we want to be ourselves and we want to make it into the Top 40 by the powers that be. Wouldn't it be fuckin' great if we were Top 40?" he enthuses. "And of course we wanna conquer the world and of course we believe we're going to!"

Of course. They certainly don't suffer from lack of confidence, these Americans! He doesn't pull any punches with the anti-success brigade either.

"This whole trip that people are on, y'know, they don't wanna be popular. I mean, gimme a break! Anybody who steps on the stage is groping for attention."

"We really love our band," gushes Tim. "I'm not just giving you a line. We crack ourselves up constantly. We're our own favourite cartoon characters. I think people draw too heavy a line between fantasy and reality, when in actuality they're very closely related. You just let it float back and forth between the two. You can just have this wonderfully surreal life that keeps you laughing and productive the whole time."

True: truth is stronger than fiction!

"Yeah, absolutely. Personally I feel there's no need for comedy or satire today. If you just walk out on the street corner, there's so many hysterical things going on that are just ten times more insane than what some of the satires are doing."

Tim, with his surreal perspective on life, is not big on drugs. He doesn't need them, does he?

"For me personally, drugs are totally limiting. People are always bragging about these great drug experiences, but they just seem like normal day life to me. I guess my mind is off on its own or something because I'm always hallucinating."

I can't give the full story of a surreal gig the band recently played at the foot of a desert cliff, attended by thousands of acid-fried, mushroom-high rock fans. Although Tim, naturally enough, was one of the few on mineral water, just getting high on the vibe, I guess.

Well, make of that what you will. If nothing else, Good Clean Fun and doing this interview has proved to me at least that the CELEBS are more than simply a bunch of, as Tim subtly puts it, "fucking poofs," which is apparently the standard initial reaction that they get when they hit whatever town/city they happen to be in. The Autumn should see them in our shabby isle. So go along and find out for yourselves what these boys are about. Let's leave the last word to Tim, explaining once again his unique philosophy of life.

"People get so upset about being bored, but I think boredom is wonderful, because boredom is what causes something to go over the top."

Mark Liddell
Riff Raff
October 1991

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