See What Happens Thing – Hookers for Jesus interview

You’d be surprised how much anything I write about Hookers for Jesus, er, stimulates my stats. Then again, perhaps you won’t be.

Anyhow this Saturday (28th), Hookers for Jesus emerge from hibernation for the first time in about 4 months to play the second night of the Cool Cat Club at Beat Generator Live in Dundee. Hookers Andy Wood and Graeme Rose preview their show.

MPT – How would you describe Hookers for Jesus to someone who’s not heard you before?

Graeme – The easiest way to describe Hookers For Jesus would be to say:  “They are the Bruce Campbell of bands. When you go see them you are never quite sure if you’re watching The Evil Dead, Burn Notice or Cave Alien 2.”

Andy –  I’m not much good at selling myself which, I guess, makes me a lousy hooker. I guess you’ll have to come along and see for yourselves.

In the past I’ve introduced us live as being a bit throwaway or as being ‘the cabaret act’ but I think we are pretty sincere in what we do. We do have a warped sense of humour as well.

MPT – What influences your music?

A – Pretty much everything. I don’t think we’ve ever sat down and said, oh let’s do a song that sounds like so and so. Between us we like a pretty varied amount of stuff, whether it be music, films, books or comics. It’s a happy accident, verging on disaster. Personally, I think we’ve no ambition as to being the next big thing so we really do what feels worth doing at the time, exploring whatever crazy notions take us at any given time.

G – I’m not sure anymore, speaking for myself, as a lot of the music is born out of accidents and experiments or a sense of fun.

MPT – You were both in The Candy Store Prophets. What was the catalyst for getting back together to make music?

G- It’s not like Hookers is the first time Andy and I have worked on music since the demise of the Prophets. There are tapes of Andy, William ( bassist of The Candy Store Prophets) and I demoing ideas which date from several years after the fact.

The only catalyst regarding Hookers was to do something one off and fun which we’re still doing 2 and something years later. I used to joke back then that we should form a Candy Store Prophets tribute act as it would be the only way to get more folk to come see us play. As we do a few Candy Store Prophets songs in a reworked way, and people like us, that joke could be seen as a prophecy. It’s not really fair to say Hookers For Jesus are a Candy Store Prophets tribute act but is good enough to start a Wikipedia Myth there.

A – As Graeme says, we wrote together a fair bit off and on and there are piles of tapes and CDR’s kicking around, some of which may be dusted down and put into the Hookers mixing bowl and squeezed out into songs in the future. For me, the Prophets kind of fell apart in a slightly unsatisfactory manner and I was probably, at least initially, thinking we could go back to that some day. As time has gone on though, Hookers For Jesus has became its own entity and is a lot of fun to do. I get a kick out of writing and playing live and am quite happy to see where that takes us rather than having any plan of what direction we should go in.

MPT – At the earlier shows, the songs seemed more like spoken word pieces with backing but there seems to have been a shift the last couple of times towards more recognisable song structures and even some covers. How much has that shift been a conscious choice? 

A – I’m not sure there has been any conscious shift. It’s just good to mix things up a little. I’ve always been a huge fan of the spoken word when it’s done in an interesting way – stuff like ‘The Gift’ by The Velvet Underground, Jim Carroll, Kirk Lake and so on. I’ve always dabbled with it but during The Candy Store Prophets a lot of folk would sort of say, ‘Oh, it’s just like Arab Strap really’, which is fine but obvious and I stopped doing it for a while. I really like Arab Strap and Aidan Moffat’s current album with Bill Wells is brilliant but I don’t think we sound much like them other than it’s a guy talking in a Scottish accent. Anyway, I stopped worrying about it and being self-conscious a long time ago and it’s something I’d like to keep incorporating into the set.

We don’t sit and go, ooh, let’s write a spoken-word thing or let’s write a song. It’s just whatever happens at the time.

G – Ooooo … No. No conscious shift at all. There’s always been a balance between spoken and sung songs. You could say there is a more conscious choice between which songs are done using only a bouzouki or guitar and which ones get a full backing track programmed up.

MPT – What do you look for in a song that you’re considering covering?

G – To tie in with the previous question, a lot of thought goes into what covers are done. Most are picked depending on the theme of the gig that’s getting played. Halloween calls for Halloween-themed covers, etc. Sometimes a song is covered for fun or as an in-joke for a select few members of the audience. Having written that, I realise there may now be people trying to over-analyse our set-lists for “hidden meanings” God,t hat’s cruel of me …

A – I’m not sure it’s quite as well planned as Graeme suggests but there is something in that. Actually, maybe he’s got a point. We did choose to do The Meteors ‘My Daddy Is A Vampire’ and Ronnie Cook and the Gaylords ‘Goo Goo Muck’ for a Halloween Show and there is an element of the private joke at times but I genuinely love every song we’ve covered and look to see if we can do something a little different with them, show our appreciation in a slightly disrespectful sort of way.

MPT – You’ve been playing sporadic shows for 2 and a half years now. Any plans for recording?

A – For sure. We’ve finally knuckled down and recorded some stuff. I took away the rough mixes on Sunday and finally got the bottle to play them at home on Tuesday and I was pretty chuffed by the results. I’m not the worlds most confident person or self-promoter (see the introductory question) but I was pleased with the results and hopefully we should be unable to unleash them on an unsuspecting world soon.

G – We will have 3-4 songs recorded by the day of the gig. Most of the backing and vocals have been done, just the final mix and mastering left. The recorded versions will be different from the live versions, for anyone concerned.

What’s been your favourite show that you’ve played?

G – Not sure but I am getting amused at the number of gigs we play in venues the night after they have hosted engagement parties. The black balloons and uneaten engagement cake give those ones a nice surreal “The Prisoner” vibe to them.

A – I don’t have a single favourite gig.  I’ve enjoyed pretty much every show we’ve played. I think though, the Dylan Uncovered show at the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh last year was amazing. I thought we might get lynched by hardcore Dylan fans for our version of ‘Hurricane’ but it went pretty well, in a packed room, playing on a packed bill with a number of friends and strangers.

That said, it’s the best feeling playing live in front of people. Before we play I’m usually nervous as hell but once we get going it’s a great experience, particularly when you elicit a response and can feed off of that.

What’s the one thing that you’d like to achieve with Hookers for Jesus?

A – I’d like us to get out and about more, just keep writing material that I love as a music fan and release a few records. In our wilder conversations there’s also the cartoon show, the triple album and Hookers For Jesus merchandise.

G – Hopefully not a bunch of insane fans at gigs screaming “oppa!!” at us. That would be a serious nightmare but a “Mel” to make things a bit more “Flight of The Conchords” could be nice.

In reality? No idea. Hookers is a “see what happens” thing, although, being remembered long after we’ve ‘left the building” would be great.

Here’s the first evidence of those recent recording sessions:

The Hookers for Jesus Soundcloud also includes a number of live tracks from past shows, including the aforementioned cover of Dylan’s ‘Hurricane’.

Hookers for Jesus are appearing at Beat Generator Live! on Saturday (28th) with Whigs and Rakes (interview), The Bad Books (interview) and Playground Tactics (interview). Kick off is 8 pm with tickets £4 on the door.