Five Easy Pieces - Where To Start With Jim Sclavunos
Teenage Jesus & The Jerks - Baby Doll
A glorious 92 seconds of fiery dissonance and an early appearance by Sclavunos on a record, though here playing the bass rather than percussion. Teenage Jesus & The Jerks was fronted by Lydia Lunch; the band captures the intense fury that characterised the New York No Wave scene of the late 1970s. Interestingly, this track almost sets the blueprint for debut Sonic Youth album Confusion Is Sex, released five years later and which features Sclavunos on drums.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Stagger Lee
Bad Seeds album Murder Ballads, inspired by gangster rap and old folk legends of dastardly killing, was the first that featured Sclavunos' studio contributions - but it wasn't just in the beats. He suggested that the band record a version of old American Western tale Stagger Lee, about a gambler's gun-toting rampage through a bar. Vicious and hilarious, it has become a Bad Seeds live favourite; Sclavunous cracking out the gunshots on the rim of his snare.
Grinderman - No Pussy Blues
To regard Grinderman as a Bad Seeds side project would be to do the band a disservice. Although all four members - Sclavunos, Warren Ellis, bassist Martyn P Casey and Nick Cave himself - are core to the Bad Seeds line-up; the now-dormant Grinderman was a towering achievement by all concerned. Cave and Sclavunos have also credited the energies that Grinderman unleashed as giving The Bad Seeds a new lease of life.
The Vanity Set - Tomorrow's Another Day
Jim Sclavunos is the frontman of this troupe of like-minded musicians and ne'er-do-wells, assembled for a spot of relaxed fun after the financial success of the Bad Seeds' collaboration with Kylie Minogue, Where The Wild Roses Grow. With infrequent gigs and studio experimentation their modus operandi - indeed, who knows if they even still exist - The Vanity Set has a louche, light-hearted sense of fun.
Fat White Family - I Am Mark E Smith
From The Horrors onwards, Jim Sclavunos' work as a producer always seems to sprinkle decadent, slightly gothic magic on the younger artists he works with. Not that you need to bring much decadence to the magnificent twisted garage noise of Fat White Family, whose tribute to Mark E Smith, singer of The Fall, Sclavunos produced in 2014.
"I try. I try. I never had any proper training and I'm sure there are guys that can run vast circles around me technically. I have no doubt of that. But, you know, I also know that nobody sounds like me"
"I didn’t get into rock ‘n’ roll to play rock ‘n’ roll. My earliest bands were kind of noise bands. You know, I’m ancient. And at that time in New York, there was a thriving art scene and we had all sorts of stuff like the early minimalist, structuralist avant-garde, we had Meredith Monk, we had the loft-jazz scene. We had just come off the back end of the whole free jazz explosion. I found that all very exciting."
"It's not that a band shouldn't be a democracy, it's that it can't be. I don't think it shouldn't be, but you can't afford to be or else you'll often end up with a set of contradictory agendas in the end. Bands need focus and leadership - unless you're some sort of improv group, and the band's sound depends on everyone making their own unilateral musical choices"
"Working with Nick is really interesting. I have worked with a lot of unusual people over the years and Nick is probably one of the most thoughtful, exploratory and far reaching individuals that I have ever been involved with, especially as a frontman or as a songwriter in a band situation. He is quite restless creatively and you will never find him resting on his laurels. I think that Nick is very much a driving force in that search for always doing something new. Sometimes that can be uncomfortable for all concerned and sometimes it can just be downright exciting."
"Like the music, I think we’re all always evolving. ‘Evolve’ is more the word than transform. It’s only right that artists should grow. If you don’t, what’s the alternative? You stagnate and wither. That’s your mission. It’s imperative that we grow.”