Interview: Carnival Art

Culture shock can be a funny thing. Take CARNIVAL ART, a subversive rock n' roll quartet, hailing from L.A. and according to their bassist Ed, with his regular Joe haircut, eclipsed by a baseball cap, "it's unreal being here."

So we huddled around a table in the lounge of the Columbia Hotel in Lancaster Gate, London. Singer/guitarist, Michael P. Tack, adorned with beaded necklaces, cuts a sort of bohemian maverick figure who's eager to enlighten me with the raison d'être of their particular carnival:

"When I was young, I used to go to this reoccurring carnival that happened every year during Halloween and there was this booth where you could do these spin paintings. You'd squirt paint at a spinning wheel and it just splattered everything. I used to call it Carnival Art – I have a collection of those that I did – but the name to us really means kitsch, cheap art, y'know, stuff you'd win at a carnival, like an ELVIS lamp or those little trolls."
Interesting story, but there's a little bit more to them than simply kitsch value. Their album Thrumdrone has been released in this country through the Beggars Banquet label. Loosely speaking, they're a musical kaleidoscope of garage band rock n' roll and quirky minimalism. One thing's for sure, it's not east to slot them into a convenient musical category.
"Yeah, I guess we have tons of different influences," explains Michael, "because everybody comes from so many different angles. I come from more of the DYLAN/CLASH side of things and he (gesturing to Ed) comes from..." "Hard Rock, like VAN HALEN and MOTLEY CRUE," Ed qualifies. "No, we're not easy to classify," adds Michael, giving credence to my statement.
It also transpires that early recording sessions were a tad...illegal.
"We scammed time all over LA from different studios. It was all pirated. We did it for free! When U2 would leave the studio, we'd go in and set up and record. They'd waste so much tape. Not just U2, but other bands."
So, do you think you can take your vehicle further?
"It's the best art form," replies Michael confidently, "and we've got so many ideas."

Mark Liddell
Riff Raff
October, 1991
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