Chris Slusarenko / Colonel Jeffrey Pumpernickel
e-mail interview - nov 2002
by SEB WOOd
Colonel Jeffrey Pumpernickel is an elliptical concept album in the sense that its creator, Chris Slusarenko, did not write a narrative and did not perform it unlike famous concept albums such as TOMMY. He thought apparently of a plot outline (a tale dealing with a soldier suffering from allergies), split it up into parts and asked great indie bands to make songs out of these parts. This results in a great sort of indie compilation with a disjointed storytelling by Guide by Voices, Stephen Malkmus, Sentridoh, Black Heart Procession, Grandaddy, Quasi, Howe Gelb, The Minus 5 (with Peter Buck), Ann Magnusson and Dave Rick from Bongwater, Mary Tilmony (Helium), Macha, Weird War (=Make Up ??)... The artwork is split up into bits as well (illustrations from the likes of Peter Bagge, Joe Sacco, A. Tomine, K. Deitch, J. Woodring and Richard Meltzberg).
Here's an interview with Chris Slusarenko who explains how did it happen and answers as well to other nonsense questions... Check the website: www.offrecords.com
Could you introduce yourself to the French audience...I read that you've been playing in several indie bands and that you're a filmmaker...???
I WAS IN A BAND CALLED SPRINKLER THAT PUT OUT A COUPLE OF RECORDS ON SUB-POP DURING THAT GLORIOUS EARLY HEYDAY OF GRUNGE (AROUND 91-93). AFTER THAT EXPLODED I FORMED ANOTHER BAND CALLED SVELT THAT WAS ON ROUGH TRADE EUROPE--THE ALBUM RELEASED IN EUROPE WAS CALLED SOUVENIR. THE MUSIC WAS OFTEN CALLED SWARMY POP:LOUD, ADDICTIVE ROCK/POP SONGS. DURING THAT TIME I ALSO MADE SEVERAL SHORT FILMS AND QUITE A FEW VIDEOS INCLUDING SOME FOR HAZEL (SUBPOP) AND HEATMISER (ELLIOTT SMITH'S FIRST BAND). I ALSO OWN A INDEPENDENT VIDEO STORE THAT FOCUSES MOSTLY ON CULT, FOREIGN AND INDEPENDENT FILMMAKING
What COLONEL JEFFREY PUMPERNICKEL is all about ??
IT IS BASICALLY A CONCEPT ALBUM IN REVERSE. I WROTE A BASIC OUTLINE FOR THE STORY OF THE RECORD AND THEN SPLIT IT INTO CHAPTERS AND GAVE THE BANDS DIFFERENT SECTIONS TO WRITE MATERIAL ABOUT. THEN THE ART, MUSIC AND TEXT WERE WOVEN TOGETHER LATER. NONE OF THE BANDS GOT TO LISTEN TO THE MATERIAL THAT THE OTHERS WERE WRITING ALTHOUGH THEY ALL GOT TO SEE THE ENTIRE STORY.
You did not provide the bands with much information, which makes the concept album quite an incomprehensible story... Could you tell us what is the story now in your opinion ??
I DID NOT WANT TO GIVE THE LISTENER TO MUCH INFORMATION--I WANTED THEM TO WORK AT IT A BIT. MY FAVORITE CONCEPT ALBUMS DID NOT TELL YOU THE WHOLE STORY YOU HAD TO LISTEN, DISCOVER AND THINK. MAYBE IT DID NOT COME CLEAR UNTIL AFTER A FEW LISTENS BUT YOU JUST HAD TO TAKE SOME TIME, SIT BACK, LOOK AT THE ARTWORK, LISTEN AND PUT IT TOGETHER. WELL.... NOT TO SPOIL THE FUN OR ANYTHING BUT (AND BY THE WAY GOOD LUCK MAKING SENSE OF THIS)...IT'S ABOUT A BOY NAMED JEFFREY PUMPERNICKEL WHO IS BORN INTO THE WORLD QUITE THE BASTARD AND BORN TO SERVE AS A COLONEL. HE DOES HAVE SEVERE ALLERGIES THAT CAUSE HIM TO HALLUCINATE THUS HINDERING HIM FROM BEING AN EFFECTIVE MILITARY BOY. HE IS QUARANTEENED FOR HIS ENTIRE CHILDHOOD AND FINALLY SET LOOSE INTO THE WORLD FOR THE FIRST TIME WHERE HE ENCOUNTERS SUCH TOPICS OF THE DAY AS THE GREAT ANIMALS VS. ROBOTS DEBATE OR THE RELIGIOUS CULT OF THE CATERPILLAR. FINALLY HE DECIDES THAT HE SHOULD NO LONGER AVOID HIS TRUE CALLING AND DECIDES TO SERVE AS COLONEL IN THE GREAT UNDERWATER FIRE BATTLE. IT GOES BADLY AS HE STARTS TO HALLUCINATE AND LEADS HIS MEN THE WRONG WAY INTO THE WAR AND THEY ALL DIE. HIS FUNERAL TURNS INTO CHAOS AND HE IS REINCARNTED AGAIN. AFTER HE IS REBORN HE IS PROPTLY TORN APART. GOT IT?
I saw in your nice website that there is/was (??) a contest in which you have to explain your version of the story, to force the listener to make his own meaning out of it... (Is this some kind of musical maieutic??? sorry this should be in the silly questions). Anyway, is ther a winner ??
FROM THE BEGINNING I WAS ALWAYS MORE INTERESTED IN WHAT OTHERS COULD STRING TOGETHER FROM THE PROJECT THAN MY INITIAL IDEA. I ALWAYS LOVED WHEN SOMEONE WOULD MISINTERPRET ONE OF MY LYRICS FROM MY BANDS--OFTEN THE LYRIC THEY THOUGHT I WAS SINGING WAS ACTUALLY A LOT MORE INTERESTING THAN WHAT I HAD COME UP WITH. IT'S THE MYSTERY OF STORYTELLING WITH SOUNDS.
How did you plit the story and decided to assign this part to this band ... ???
AFTER I WROTE THE OUTLINE I TRIED TO GIVE SPECIFIC BANDS AND ARTISTS MATERIAL THAT SEEMED APPROPRIATE TO THEIR SOUND. I KNEW I WANTED ANN MAGNUSON'S (BONGWATER) SECTION TO BE VERY THEATRICAL IN NATURE SINCE IT WAS THE BIG OPERATION SEQUENCE. I KNEW QUASI WOULD DO GREAT WITH ANIMALS VS. ROBOTS BUT I HAD NO IDEA THAT THEY WOULD COUNTERPOINT EACH OTHER VOCALLY. IT WAS JUST FULL OF BIG SURPRISES FOR MYSELF AS WELL. BUT I CAME TOGETHER QUITE EASILY AND FLOWS UNEXPECTELY WELL.
How did you convince the bands to get involved in this peculiar project ?? I read that you did not know most of the bands (in the sense they were not friends of yours). Did some bands decline the offer ??
FROM MY DAYS OF PLAYING MUSIC I KNOW HOW MANY TIMES YOU ASKED TO CONTRIBUTE TO THIS COMPILATION OR THAT TRIBUTE ALBUM. IT JUST SEEMED SO PREDICTABLE. SO A COUPLE YEARS AGO I JUST THOUGHT ABOUT HOW COOL IT WOULD BE TO HAVE A CONCEPT ALBUM COMPILATION WITH BANDS CONTRIBUTING SEPERATE TRACKS. I JUST ASSUMED SOMEONE ELSE WOULD DO IT SOMEDAY. THEN I WAS WITH SAM COOMES OF QUASI AND I TOLD HIM ABOUT IT AND HE REALLY URGED ME TO CONTINUE WITH IT AND WITHIN (THIS IS THE TRUTH) 4 DAYS I ALREADY HAD 9 OF THE BANDS COMMITTED. THEY ALL THOUGHT IT WAS A REALLY INTERESTING, UNIQUE IDEA AND LIKED THE CHALLENGE OF THE WHOLE PIECE SINCE THEY HAD NEVER HAD TO DO ANYTHING LIKE IT BEFORE. ALMOST LIKE SOUNDTRACK WORK. ONLY 2 BANDS DECLINED AND I KNOW THAT ONE OF THEM KICKED THEMSELVES FOR NOT BEING INVOLVED IN THE END.
What's your favourite song of the album ??
OH MAN... THAT'S REALLY TOUGH. TO ME IT SEEMS LIKE ONE BIG SONG ANYWAY SINCE ALL THE SONGS FLOW FROM ONE TO THE NEXT AND THERE ARE THOSE INSTRUMENTAL INTERLUDES BY GOLDCARD. IT JUST GOES FROM THE PROLOGUE TO THE EPILOGUE IN ONE GROOVE.
You said that you don't like much concept albums like TOMMY, why ?? You also said that 'ZEN ARCADE" by HUSKER DU is a concept album........??/§/%M£%µ%§£M?????
I HATE TO SAY IT BUT I'M NOT MUCH OF A WHO FAN...I ALWAYS LIKE TO ARGUE WITH BOB POLLARD OF GUIDED BY VOICES ABOUT THE WHO SINCE HE LOVES THEM SO MUCH. ANYWAY...I DEFENTELY DID HAVE ALBUMS LIKE TOMMY, THE WALL, ETC. IN MY MIND WHILE WRITING IT OUT BUT MORE OFTEN I FIND ALBUMS LIKE THE RESIDENTS' MARK OF THE MOLE THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE. THERE WAS ALBUM THAT HAD NO LYRIC SHEET, VERY VAGUE ARTWORK AND WHEN I WAS JUST A LITTLE TEEN I WOULD JUST TRY TO PIECE IT TOGETHER AND IT WAS GREAT FUN. HUSKER DU OFTEN SAID THAT ZEN ARCADE WAS A CONCEPT ALBUM AND I'VE NEVER EVER FIGURED THAT ONE OUT--SO THAT IS WHY I LOVE IT SO. IT IS JUST SO NOT A CONCEPT ALBUM BUT THEY THINK IT IS!!!!
Does Portland has a great indie scene ??
YES..IT'S HAD IT'S UPS AND DOWNS AND RIGHT NOW IT SEEMS A BIT IN THE MIDDLE. BUT PORTLAND HAS HAD POND, HAZEL, QUASI, ELLIOTT SMITH, STEPHEN MALKMUS, CONSOLIDATED, CALAMITY JANE, MIRACLE WORKERS, SMEGMA, DEAD MOON, DANDY WHAROLS: THE LIST GOES ON AND ON....
Why this name Jeffrey Pumpernickel ??? Is there some play with words that I do not understand because I'm not a native speaker ??
IT WAS REALLY JUST A PLAY ON SERGENT PEPPERS. I THOUGHT IT WAS A REALLY SILLY NAME FOR SUCH A PROJECT AND SO APPROPRIATE.
What are your next projects ???
JUST FINISHED PUTTING TOGETHER A LIMITED 7" EP WITH ROBERT POLLARD (GUIDED BY VOICES) AND RICHARD MELTZER (LEGENDARY ROCK CRIT AND LYRICIST FOR BLUE OYSTER CULT!!) CALLED THE TROPIC OF NIPPLES. I JUST ASKED IF THEY WANTED TO WORK ON SOMETHING TOGETHER SINCE THEY ADMIRED EACH OTHERS WORK SO MUCH AND THEN I CUT AND SPLICED AND FUCKED WITH THE WHOLE THING. THAT SHOULD BE AVAILABLE IN JAN. FROM THE WEBSITE (WWW.OFFRECORDS.COM) . I'M ALSO WORKING ON A BOOK WITH JOE SACCO (AUTHOR AND CARTOONIST OF SAFE AREA GORAZDE AND PALESTINE) ON THE ROLLING STONES. BELIEVE IT OR NOT...
Now here are 10 silllllllllyyyy questions::: "Was you ever bit by a dead bee ??"
NO BUT WHEN I WAS CHILD I SAW A GIANT BEE WITH A CROWN ON ITS HEAD
What becomes of the broken-hearted ??
NOTHING MUCH EXCEPT THE NEXT THING TO GO IS THE EYESIGHT AND THEN THE FEELING IN THE TOUNGE. AFTER THAT USUALLY THE GENITALIA AND AFTER THAT THE EARS.
Are you insomniac ?? How do you cope with it ??
NO, BUT I PISS LIKE 5 TIMES DURING THE NIGHT WHICH IS JUST AS BAD.
Do you think Daniel Johnston is worth worshipping ??
WORSHIP NO-----HIGH PRAISE YES
Do you like moustaches ??
I'M ACTUALLY IN A BAND CALLED MOUSTACHE WITH MY BROTHER AND SAM COOMES FROM QUASI. IT'S KIND OF LIKE THE FIRST BLACK FLAG ALBUM MEETS THE FIRST DIE KREUZEN ALBUM VERY BRUTAL AND ANGULAR. BUT IT DEPENDS ON THE PERSON. THEY CAN BE KIND OF SPOOKY IF NOT WORN RIGHT.
What does Only Angels Have Wings is all about ??
NOT ONLY DO ANGELS HAVE WINGS BUT THEY ARE ALOS INSOMINIACAL, MOUSTACHE WEARING, DANIEL JOHNSTON FANTICS WHO PRAY TO THE DEAD BEES OF THE BROKEN HEARTED.
What do you think of sunrise ??
I LOVE THEM BUT DO NOT SPEND MUCH TIME GETTING THE CHANCE TO LOVE THEM
Favourite band and worst favourite band of the moment??
FAVE BAND: GUIDED BY VOICES WORST BAND: HOLY HELL BATMAN
Don't you think CHOKEBORE is one of the coolest bands around ?? (this is a pro-chokebore site so you'd better answer "sure honey bunny, would you like some more Lemonade ??).
YOU PRO-CHOKEBORE KIDS WITH YOUR LOUD ROCK AND YOUR PARTY ALL NIGHT ATTITUDE AND YOUR TATTOOS AND YOUR SCARY VIBES AND YOUR MEAN EYES AND YOUR LOUD VOICES AND YOUR FRAGRANT SEX--I GUESS ITS ALL GOOD EH?
Spinal Tap or Guns'n'roses ??
THE TAP--MY GOD!!! MY PARENTS HAVE SEEM THEM PLAY LIVE TWICE AND ONCE WAS IN LAS VEGAS!! THE LUCKY BASTARDS!!!
Stop or Encore (Attention: If you answer encore, we'll send other silly questions...)
ONLY IF YOU WANT MORE PAIN FROM THIS MIND...THE CHOICE IS YOURS...