Jim Sclavunos has been associated with a large slice 
      of American alt-rock and punk history. These days he plays with Nick Cave 
      and the Bad Seeds and fronts his own outfit called The Vanity Set. 
      They have a new CD out (in the UK) and another due later in the year as well 
      as tours coming up. We spoke with him recently...
      First some history. Is this list of affiliations 
      complete? - Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, 8-eyed spy, Tav Falco's Panther Burns, 
      Congo Norvell, Cramps, Lydia Lunch, Sonic Youth, Gunga Din, Bad Seeds, Vanity 

The above list is a fair outline of my major recorded affiliations. The
complete discography's on The Vanity Set website. I've shared the stage
with many more, known and not-so, including Alex Chilton, Rhys Chatham,
Red Transistor, Anna Domino, Alan Vega, James Chance, etc. etc.

When you started out did you see yourself as being in any particular

When I first started playing music as a teenager, I immediately got
swept up by the punk scene, and wasn't really thinking about tradition.
As often as possible, I was going out to CBGB's and Max's Kansas City to
see then brand new bands like Suicide, Ramones, Devo, Television, Mars,
DNA, Pere Ubu, Theoretical Girls, Contortions and dozens more obscure. I
had already steeped myself in a real mixed bag of music up to that
point--free jazz, folk music, American and European avant-garde,
psychedelic, glam, Detroit & NY underground, Beefheart--it was hard to
align myself with any one particular tradition, style or genre.
Gradually I gravitated into the "No Wave" camp.

Who did you look up to?

As a boy, Iggy & Lou Reed were the flaming creatures I felt most
strongly drawn to, but purely in terms of music, the individual I was
most in awe of was composer Iannis Xenakis. He wrote complicated pieces
using computers; at the time I thought that was pretty darn cool.

Nice album...

Thank you very much.

It sounds like you had some fun putting it together. Where is Mt.
Victoria in Australia, where a lot of the studio work was done?

Matt Crosbie (front of house sound engineer for Nick Cave & the Bad
Seeds) had a home/studio up in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney (where
all those bushfires were raging over Christmas). Fellow Seed Conway
Savage had recorded an album up there with Suzie Higgie (Matt's wife)
which I thought sounded really nice. Matt & Suzie graciously invited me
up there to do some recording. Their place was a bit remote, a bit
rustic, very comfortable and very inspiring. Tommy Wydler, Beate Bartel
and myself holed up there for about a week with them & a guy named Slim
Doherty (who cooked us delicious dishes and also dished up some
delicious guitar). We really did have a great time and I'm really
pleased if it shows in the music.

Do you go along with the 'vision from the underworld' label?

Wish I could! It sounds very dramatic and intriguing!

Before you started did you have a kind of overview of what you wanted to
do with Vanity Set or did the tracks kind of grow as a result of the
different people involved?

Nowadays The Vanity Set has a set line-up; but when I was recording the
first album, there really was no band, just a lot of friends with whom I
wished to record. Although the songs had a clearly defined chord
changes, structure & melody, as far as I was concerned everything else
was up for grabs. I wanted to be surprised by what the musicians would
come up with. If they were stumped, I'd suggest something--a riff, an
approach--otherwise I wanted the musician to do whatever came

The songs evolved in the studio; there were no rehearsals. Musicians
were invited down to the sessions with no idea of how the songs went;
usually they'd just follow a skeletal guide track that Tommy and I had
previously laid down, a couple of takes and they were done. Sometimes
they were just dropping by to visit, but I'd coerce them into recording
a little something. I endeavored to capture spontaneous performances
from everyone, sometimes in multiple takes, and then I sorted it all out
into arrangements afterwards. Nobody had any idea what it would all end
up sounding like.

Was doing the album partly the result of not getting to say things you
wanted to say in the context of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds?

The album was entirely the result of accumulating a bunch of songs over
the years and wanting to record a solo album.

Critics have been looking for something or someone to save the guitar
world. Do you have any current favourites in that line?

Yeah, The Vanity Set guitar player Peter Mavrogeorgis, who I think is
doing some really superb work on our new album, "Little Stabs of

Do you like any of the electronic stuff? names?

Electronica dance music is so disposable, and there's so much of it, I
usually can't be bothered to take notes; I just listen to it and either
enjoy or not. I listen to a lot of the pioneers: Stockhausen,
Ussachevsky, Alwin Nikolais, Robert Ashley, Bruce Haack, etc. There's
loads of great stuff from the 50's through the early 80's. I'll even
listen to Tomita and Wendy Carlos--very very camp! I think Pan Sonic
have a good sense of humor. I'm sure I'm forgetting some really quality
new stuff and I'll kick myself later--oh well.

A question from a friend in NYC is when do they get to see Vanity Set
live? (London too ... well, anywhere really)

As soon as I've finished my current obligations to Mr. Cave (recording &
touring in Australia and & the United States), The Vanity Set will
commence setting up tours for the US and Europe to coincide with the
release of our new album in October 2002.

Thanks and good luck with the tours.

Thank you.

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