After interviewing Mother Hips guitarist/vocalist, Greg Loiacono, the night of the July Mick's Lounge show, I cornered Tim Bluhm in the back of Mick's and sat down with him to discuss life here on the coast of California and how things are going for him and the Mother Hips this summer. More conversation than interview, this near hour long Q&A went into many different topics. Because of the length of the interview, it's been split up into two parts.
Q: I talked to Greg a little earlier and explained to him golden-coast.com. What it is, is the first web site in the world that chronicles modern day California culture. For some of us, Mother Hips sound and band is a big part of modern day California culture. So... I wanted to ask you guys what it's like to play in California, and be from California and all that. That's the background of what I'm driving at.
First of all, how are things going this summer, the Summer of 99, for the Mother Hips? You guys are playing a lot of acoustic shows or live shows....?
A: Yeah, we are playing many more acoustic shows. We found that our fans are very receptive to that kind of music, more so than in the past. I don't know why that is... maybe it's that people are getting a little older and people get mellower as they get older, their tastes music changes, I known mine has, but maybe it's because we are improving-- our acoustic show is a better show now than it use to be. I'm not really sure what it is, but it has been really fun. It is easy to do these shows. People are really respectful, they listen -- it's awesome. We haven't been playing as many shows in general though, acoustic or rock or otherwise. Just taking it pretty easy this summer and kind of had a lot of time to -- I know I have personally spent a lot of time enjoying the splendor of California. Its been a dream summer in a lot of ways--
A: -- for me.
Q: I was going to ask you what you think it is about your fan base-- it seems to be really tight nit and there are fans that will help promote shows, fans that drive 100 miles at a time to see a show. A lot of people here tonight are from Sacramento, Davis. There are different web sites about your band. What do you attribute this to and how do you feel about it? Has it surprised you at all that fans have reacted like they have?
A: Yeah, its surprises me. I feel like sometimes our fans, instead of increasing in number, they increase in intensity (laugter) which is a very strange thing. It definitely surprises me, it's very nice. It's great that people feel so strongly about it. I think that things that are unique to a certain place are guarded fiercely by people who enjoy then, like the natives. I have heard it said before that the Mother Hips is such a California thing that the reason that we are not successful anywhere outside of California is because it's like a culture specific product. It can't exist outside this area. Which I don't know if I believe it or not, but....
Q: Yet you guys don't seem to be dulling or blunting that image and that sound right, kind of the California, the West Coast sound.
A: No, no, no, no
Q: ...that's kind of your persona.
A: It is, but its not such a conscious thing as some might think. The last thing we ever want to have is like a gimmick. We don't want it to be like, "We're the California music!" I heard somebody talking about beach music the other day. I thought that was embarrassing. I don't like to categorize it. We're just playing music that we like to play. It sounds like what it sounds like. I don't know if our music is defined by the place we live in or...
Q: I was thinking of an example the other day. I was thinking about Chris Isaak, I don't know if you have listened to him. But he's definitely very kind of narrow, niche kind of sound. He is 50's, kind of a Roy Orbinson sound combined with like a West Coast sound, yet at the same time, he has been really successful in selling albums nation wide.
A: I think that a sound like our band can easily be universal. But, I think that it's almost like people don't want it to be too... they don't want the secret to get let out. It's like the way people think about certain surf spots and things like that.
California is fiercely guarded by the people who feel that they have a claim to it, like myself and like I'm sure you.
A: People like us who were born here.
A: Subconsciously we feel that we have more of a right to it.
Q: You have a line in your latest album "I'm a native in a stranger land, there is a stranger in my own box of sand..." is that referring to Manhattan Beach and surfing down there? [Editor's note: This line is from a song that did not make it on to Tim's solo album. It didn't make the final cut.]
A: Yeah, its referring to sort of this encroachment of these, you know yuppie culture, and the whole phenomena of, "I can't even afford to live in my own birth place!" I've been pushed out basically by these wealthy people that move there, not because they are in love with Southern California, but because it's the hip place to live. And that's infuriating to me! It's fair, it's their right to do it, but people like me, I'm too poor to enjoy a lot of the places that I love and feel I have right to be. I can't even live where I want to live.
Q: You've jumped ahead, I was going to ask all those questions at the end-- The current state of affairs in California and so forth.
A: It's discouraging more than anything. It took me 30 minutes to find a parking spot to get here. There's 20 guys in the water at Montara this morning. The waves were like six inches high. You have to be a survivalist. You have to be aggressive to get what you want out of this place, because there is a line for everything-- good waves, good restaurants, pretty girls, nice houses.
Q: Right. But all the same, it seems like the dream, the California dream is still alive in some places and pockets of California.
A: It is, but it takes tenacity and patience and research to find them and to keep finding ones, when the ones that you do know about get swallowed up. It's exhausting in a lot of ways living here. You go to a place like Utah and there is just as much spendor, but you have solitude, and you have wide open space and you can really feel like your alone and that's pretty hard to do in most places in California these days.
Q: But there is still, I mean proportionate to the amout of the people and concentration of people in California, there is still a ton of open space....
A: I guess what I'm really referring to when I say California in this conversation, is Coastal California, from San Fransicso south. I would image some day I'll end up getting chased up into Mendicino or Del Norte.
Q: I was going to ask you, would you ever leave your native state of Califnornia. Have you every thought about leaving Califonia?
A; You know, I haven't been enough places in this world to say that I couldn't ever be happy anywhere else. I certainly wouldn't be able to move inland. But I could see somewhere in Mexico or Costa Rica. I have been to Mexico, but I haven't been to Costa Rica. I'm sure that there are places that I could be really happy, but the problem with that is, if you feel sort of alienated and pushed out of California where you are a native, how would you feel living in a place where your skin was a different color than all the natives there? You'll d never be even close to a native in Central America or anyting like that.
Q; Unless you marry an islander or native girl and have offspring....
A: But you're still the white dude who married them, her.
A: I don't know I'm just speculating. I don't have any experience with that.
Q: So letís switch gears and talk about the new album, album #5. Howís the recording going on that so far?
A: Itís been slow at times, but currently itís going really well. We have had three really productive days ending with today and itís getting close. Itís starting to take shape, the lead vocals are going on and finishing touches are getting added to many of the songs and itís really starting to take shape. We havenít even stepped back and listened to them as a body of work yet, but itís getting there.
Q: Can you hint at twhat your leaning towards in terms of the sound of the album and how itís going to be?
A: It has a little more spunk than Later Days, itís definitely more up-beat. There are more upbeat numbers on it. Itís more guitar-y.
Q: You're doing songs like Cerebellum, I guess?
A: That doesnít really describe what I was describing, I guess. Kind of another side of it. Thereís like last year encapsuled on this record and then thereís like right now! A couple of songs that come from very recently, that are almost a new direction. There's almost two different elements working now on the record.
Q: Sounds like with a song like Seems to Ease Me, youíre almost going Back to the Grotto, kind of more syncopated, kind of driven--- guitar driven.
A: It's a little quirkier.
Q: Certainly more quirky than Later Days which is a little more straight forward...
A: Super straight forward.
Q: Did you guys get tired of that sound [the Later Days sound] or...?
A: No... I just think we explored that vein and it's not that rich of a vein. Really simple under produced music is wonderful and it resonates and it's timeless and all that. Hopefully, you know. Simple music in general is, but you know we did that. And this year we exploring other sides. More... just poppier stuff. I donít know there are a lot of different elements on this new record that are not catagorizable.
Q: How do you think that will affect broad based popularity and do you guys think about that at all or do you--?
A: Of course we think about that. I mean, at this stage in our career we are clearly ... No one would believe us if we said that we were doing it for fun. I mean weíre in it for real. Itís our livelihood and its our craft!
Q: Thatís what makes is so great probably, to the fans at least...
A: Yeah, it becomes more like, I donít know a lot more is counting on our music. As you get older, life gets more grave you know. And weíre doing great, but it's just we think about that kind of thing all the time.
In Part 2, Tim discuses his solo record, his inspirations, the Internet and why the Mother Hips probably won't be playing Mountain Time any time soon.
© Golden-Coast Productions, 1999