Interview with Chris Ballew ii, by Mike Lyon, of 30 Ft. Smurfs
-Okay, I just have so many questions about the new PUSA thing!:
I know Sir Mix-A-Lot is handling the majority of the singin'; but will you still
be whipping out the vocals on some tunes as well?
C: Well so far we are making the music and handing it over to him and he is taking it home
and working on the tunes for at least a week and coming back to us with finished vocals...
If we progress to the stage where we are creating the vocals in the same room together
then we will probably record the bits that we create...
And are you going to perform under the PUSA moniker or a new name?
C: We have a new name, SUbSET, that we are toying with but we haven't
signed off on that one completely yet so we will see....
Is there a TOTAL ban on all the old songs? I know when you talked to
Tom you said you'd be touring, so won't you be whipping out some of the old rockers to
please the fans? I bet you could do some really cool hybrid stuff; between the new music,
the old PUSA classics, and various Giraffes and Caspar stuff, it could be one hell of a
C: No... No old songs as for as I know... We want to MOVE ON and create something that has
a life of its own... Sorry but you can't live in the past and
stay challenged creatively!
And on the subject of touring, last year you said that touring was out for the foreseeable
future. Why the slow but certain shift back to playing live shows?
C: I don't have a problem playing live shows but I did have a problem leaving my newborn
son and going out on tour to continue playing the same songs... For me, Dave and Jason and
I reached the end of a healthy collaboration and the idea of touring was doubly
distasteful if I had to continue with those songs and leave my family... Now the songs are
new so the excitement is back.
I also hear recording has started already on a new album? Dammit, but you move quick. So
tell me, any titles in mind? Release month?
C: No titles yet but it should be out in the summertime if all goes well.
I do hope you'll be doing the cover art!
C: Cover art is a ways away!
-Alrighty, shall we talk Tycoons?
Well, as you said, The Tycoons are no more. It's funny, so much has happened since the
last interview. In a year's time you've been in and out of more bands and projects than
most people handle in a whole career! But I digress. So anyway, the big question: why the
breakup? For being together such a short period of time, you guys had started to develop
quite the little following! Wereyou uncomfortable with the prospect of doing the rock star
thing again? I enjoyed "Is It Christmas Yet?" so much that it's just a shame to
see The Tycoon's story end so quickly... Before the breakup, I know you guys had recorded
an LP, right? Will it still be released?
C: Well.......... I just wasn't lit on fire by the Tycoons... I had
just finished being in a ROCK band so I wanted to do something quiet... But when I got up
there on stage I realized that I wanted to ROCK but not be so loud that I needed to wear
earplugs....... But the Tycoons sort of hit somewhere in the middle for me... Not rockin
enough and not quiet enough... It was only meant to be an experiment and I just didn't
want to put out the record because I have been working VERY hard on finding a new
vocabulary of sounds to present a batch of songs the I have written... Two of them were on
the EP we recorded and after already recording each one of them 5-6 times UNsuccessfully I
was still UNsatisfied with the Tycoons versions SO I just could not let them go... It was
a tough decision but I have a policy now of not releasing music I am not ABSOLUTELY
Well, gee, I don't know a whole lot about the new group. You say the name isn't even
decided yet; but I know at some of the live shows you've been playing Giraffes tunes?
Which songs have you been playing? How did you hook up with Tad? I remember the YFF opened
for PUSA a time or two...
C: AHHHHHHH Starter Kit... That is tha name for now... We have been playing Poodle Mouth
and Hopeless (So Rub It In) and Comin' Around and some other by The Giraffes... Tad is my
idol. When I was a young teenager I used to go see the Young Fresh Fellows and I though
"THAT IS HOW IT IS DONE!!!" We became friend when the PUSA and the YFF were out
on tour together and just finally dared each other to be a band... So we have Tad on the
child's drum set and me on the child's guitar and that is it... We are putting out a CD on
my as-of-yet untitled label and before long I will have a web site up and running to keep
every one informed as to our movements... Tad and I are writing songs faster than we can
record them so we will probably make a boxed set for out next record!!!!
-The other stuff
Well, in last year's interview you mentioned a 4-track circle you had
going. Anything cool happening with that?
C: No movement in 4-track land... Too hard to organize
Hooked up with Mark Sandman lately? Can we expect any new stuff from
the artists formerly known as Supergroup?
C: Sandman and I just gave a song to the Mod Squad movie soundtrack, but that's it... The
song is called "You're An Artist"
You also said you were going to be giving Beck a call; any chance of one of the two of you
doing a cameo on one of your respective new albums?
C: Beck Beck Beck... That little whippersnapper is all over the fashion runway... Who
Here's something I stopped hearing about a loooong time ago, but it don't hurt to ask: the
children's show! I assume that's been put on the back burner, but is it still somewhere on
C: We are still shopping it around and have been talking to The Jim Henson Company and Fox
and Nickelodeon and all sorts of munkys... It will happen soon!
-Your Own Planet?
Well, you've said in past articles and such that you're really interested in starting your
own label. Can we expect the new PUSA endeavor to come out on "Raw Poo Records"
C: NO....... My own label would just be SUUUUPER casual for solo stuff and Starter Kit...
Of course, this begs the question if you're still under contractual obligation to
Columbia? Anything planned with Michele Van V over at My Own Planet?
C: We got dropped and I haven't talked to Michelle in a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOng time... But she
did a great and appropriate job considering I had no band.
Tirade time! (this was part of a longer email thread so I'm just summing up for you guys)
Does it piss you off as much as does me that Rolling Stone and other mags like EW
automatically treat anything you do as a novelty act, just because the lyrics aren't about
drugs and suicide? If I may wander off the path: I would say your music is a logical
progression of that specific musicality that had its roots in the Beatles. I mean, have
these people listened to a Beatles album lately? Far and away a large portion of their
music was of the same "nonsense" form that you have so graciously evolved.
Listen, I love plenty of groups that have very human, very emotional stories to tell. But
music isn't a singularity (contrary to what MTV and the radio would have you believe),
it's an explosive anomaly. It's the variety that allows The Presidents to sit next to
Pearl Jam in my collection that makes music so
wonderful. RS Magazine and so many other people have forgotten that crucial point when
music is often most gratifying: when it's FUN.
C: ...Well that IS a can of worms but I basically ditto everything you said.
At the risk of sounding like some old work-buddy sitting next to you in a pub: how are the
wife and kid?
C: You just leave my family out of this you pooper (Just kiddin'', they good).
Whattaya been reading lately? What's been spinning on your turntable and in your
C: Wow... I have been collecting model trains so I have been reading catalogues and
such... I have Sesame Street's Greatest Hits on the turntable right now... And Curtis
Mayfield and Lauren Hill and Ed's Redeeming Qualities and The Soft Boys and such...
Late at night, when no one's around, do you unconsciously find yourself humming Lump? ^_^
C: Every night.
C: There you are... Thanks for your undying interest, Mike!