VP: Immediately upon listening to you as a lyricist over the years, I’m reminded of the “beat” poets stream-of-consciousness writings. Does this style apply to your work, or does it all depend on the project?
TS: I was always much more attuned to the works of Breton, Artaud, Joans, Celine, and Pound, to name but five, than the writers lumped into the Beat bin. (Burroughs, however, was a profound early influence.) On occasion, a complete lyric will come to me in a dream. ("This Home and Fear," for example.) Other times, a title or fragment appears. But "stream-of-consciousness"? Never. Writing is for me a process steeped in rigor.
VP: That would explain your particular style of writing and word choices. In an age where the Dr Seuss school of rhyme dominates, your lyrics really stand out and challenge. Do you feel as a vocalist/writer that some times people aren't really trying?
TS: These days, I endeavor to resist the urge to critique others' efforts, at least in public forum. (I'm not always successful.) Am I rarely impressed? A fair question. (The answer, sadly, is yes.)
VP: Your no novice by any means, and have such a huge catalog of releases with many different artists. What keeps you interested in music?
TS: What keeps anyone interested in something (or someone) they love? Pleasure, intellectual curiosity, mystery, beauty, annoyance, pain, the acknowledgment of the absurdity of it all... If we're lucky, our passions engage and invigorate, in infinite degrees of ardor, until we die. I love having been born into this conundrum, and I've always felt extraordinarily lucky to have been blessed with the curse.
VP: What projects are you currently working on that you’d like to share with our readers?
I vacillate between wanting the world to hang on my every movement, and preventing anyone save for a super-dedicated few to know anything whatsoever of my efforts. The former urge is of course not just rooted in egomania, and the latter is more a bulwark than neurotic dogma.
I'd rather not mention Karl Schmidt Verlag, except to say that if people want to know more, they are invited to discover it for themselves.
As for the larger label releases and tours, there are two To Live and Shave in L.A. box sets forthcoming (this is the twentieth anniversary and final year of the group; one of the boxes is a five-disc retrospective, and the other is a three-disc remix compilation), two TLASILA live albums recorded during the 2008 European tour, a new duo album with Kevin Drumm, new recordings from Rope Cosmetology, another book, more collaborations, a trio tour, a live aktion in May from Three Resurrected Drunkards, a solo vocal tour of Europe in the autumn, etc. Always busy.
VP: The demise of TLASILA is on the horizon and another collaboration album with Sightings is forth coming as well talk of a “solo vocal” tour in Europe. It seams like a new era for ex-patriot Tom Smith. Do you plan to retire gracefully someday or will there be someone to sample and process your dying breath?
TS: TLASILA has to die so that everyone can catch up with it. (My central assertion shall thus be irrevocably proven.)
The logical successor and thematic extension of TLASILA is Rope Cosmetology. Ohne was the poison that felled the Pope, the clarion that roused me from the corporeal to the trans-temporal.
Sightings and I are very excited about recording a second collaborative album. The lads have very sharp knives up their corrugated sleeves. And I love singing stacked harmonies with the guys. (Richard and Jon also sing well.)
What is a solo vocal tour? No accouterments. No microphones. No amplification. At least half the dates will be performed in this manner.
I'm a proud expat. Once you've been disconnected from America, you never think of living there again. No place is perfect, but...
My father was singing on his death bed. I have his genes.
Not knowing is everything. There's so much I do not know. It's the sexiest place in the world to be...