Diamond Rugs: Tasting Blood With Every Lick (Part One: Ian Saint Pe)
Screw “Supergroup.” Diamond Rugs are rock’s “Superfriends.” Its members scale tall buildings, flip wigs, and deliver swift justice to eardrums everywhere in their ownsbands. But together, they combine to form a ready-to-rumble Voltron-like behemoth, whose only kryptonite is this morning’s hangover.
Remember that scene in Predator when Arnold, Jesse the Body, Action Jackson and the rest are airborne in the chopper blasting “Long Tall Sally” about to be dropped into “the shit”? Well, that’s Diamond Rugs, a new band comprised of members of rock mainstays Deer Tick, Black Lips, Los Lobos, Dead Confederate, and Six Finger Satellite. They formed last fall for an off-the-cuff recording session that evolved, to everyone’s surprise, from a few songs to a full album (Partisan, 2012), and from a lark to an actual band. The team first assembled last August. Standing in for the “Hall of Justice” was Cosmic Thug Studios in Nashville, the newly-adopted home of Deer Tick frontman John McCauley. McCauley telepathically lassoed his Diamond Rugs compadres from their homes across the far reaches of the continent — Portland (Steve Berlin of Los Lobos), New Orleans (Ian Saint Pe of Black Lips), Athens (Hardy Morris of Dead Confederate), Providence (Bryan Dufresne of Six-Finger Satellite), and Nova Scotia (Rob Crowell of Deer Tick). Then again, “home” for these guys is a relative concept at best. They’ve spent half their lives on the road, and have all made the requisite sacrifices to be “all-in.”
The group will return to the road for a week of shows starting on Saturday at Carnegie Hall of all places. I recently sat down with Diamond Rugs’ principal songwriters John McCauley, Ian Saint Pe, and Hardy Morris during their weekend in New York to uncover the source of their powers and hear their origin story. Ian was up first.
Ian Saint Pe: Look good, feel good, smell good. Make looooooove good. That’s James Brown man.
That’s what he says?
ISP: Yup. In an interview I was watching online. “Make looooove good.” Totally checking his butt while he’s saying it, “The credentials, I call them. My credentials.” It was a good interview, James Brown was. Little Richard’s real good too. So flamboyant. Jerry Lee Lewis too. Just Google “Jerry Lee Lewis interviews” and you’ll see what I mean. I like to be online. I didn’t go to college but I feel like that is my college. Check this! [points at John McCauley, who lies next to him passed out on a couch]. Now THIS is a good interview.
Rock n’ roll.
ISP: Rock n’ roll is what happens in between the 45 minutes you play … it’s true. Anybody can do this for 45 or 50 minutes. That ain’t hard. It’s the other 23 hours – that’s called “hurry up and wait.” You always got to hurry up and get somewhere and then wait to eat, to shit, to sleep, to get on the bus, to get on the plane, to get on the train, to get to the interview. But do I like it? Hell yeah. I’m 34 years old now. I never had a fall back plan. The reason you don’t have a fall back plan? Cause then you never have something to fall back on. That is the truth. My mother, God rest her soul, used to always tell me to get a real job. I said this IS a real job. Otherwise, it’s go to college for four years and just throw my dick in the wind and hopefully get a job. This takes perseverance, dedication, a little bit of luck. Personality helps. A little bit of luck too. My brother’s an engineer — his house is bigger! He drives a Mercedes, I drive a Cadillac.
I bet he admires you for following your gut though.
ISP: Well, he told me one thing that was real important to me. I love him, he’s the only person in this whole entire world has the same blood as me. He’s your fucking kin, right? He said, “Ian, I’m proud of you,” and I said, “Patrick, I’m proud of you, man. Look, you’ve got a lot.” He said, “I do got a lot but there’s one thing that you have that I don’t.” I said, “What’s that?” “Your dream.” And I went … “Yeah, man, I guess you’re right.” I couldn’t say anything because that’s true. When we were those 15-year old kids and we bought our instruments, we’re like “Man, really cool.” And I guess I was just stubborn enough never to stop. And the fact that it actually has happened, yeah, I got my dream. I ain’t got no degrees but I got my dream … and a Cadillac. And a house and a bunch of good friends. Top of the world.
You drive a Cadillac?
ISP: Hell yeah I got a Cadillac. Coupe De Ville. ’84. Pimp from the front all the way to the back. CREAM! Blue velvet interior. It is…I love my car.
In addition to Diamond Rugs, you’ve been in a couple of other bands outside of Black Lips, including the Original Three.
ISP: Oh my God, Lord Jesus, yeah. Original Three was really … the last day job I ever had was in 2004. I made coffee. A barista. A girl I worked with had a drum set and we made some demos as friends. Drinking buddies. And we had another guy play with us — two guitars and a drummer. And I eventually got into The Black Lips and after I’m in The Black Lips, I had all these demos so I just put it out as The Original Three, so it was never like a real band. It was real, just like anything, my heart was into it but it wasn’t like, you know, I don’t know, not like a real band. And with the Black Lips — I used to live in Atlanta when I was 21 and everybody has these older kids that buy you the dope and buy you the beer and cigarettes, so I was returning the favor.
You were that guy?
ISP: I was that guy to the Black Lips! We were called The Renegades at the time. We had a punk band, or they had a punk band called The Renegades, they were 15 or 16 years old in high school and I kind of worked at … I think they call it a “head shop,” where they sell paraphernalia and water pipes. That was one of my jobs, “You want a water pipe? I got one.”
Just for tobacco though.
ISP: Yeah, I got it, I’ll sell you, right here. You need any enhancers, I could do that. They’d shoot people’s faces off nowadays, bath salts and all that. Oh Lord. Man, I’m glad I never messed with that. But yeah, so I worked at one of them head shops in Atlanta and I had these 15-, 16- year old punk motherfuckers that all looked like Iggy Pop — skinny and blue jeaned out. And we became friends. I would buy them dope and cigarettes and beer. And of course they knew what they were doing by asking me to play with them — they’re gonna be able to get all the fucking booze and everything like that on speed dial! Which I did do! So long story short, I was the pusher man for them, and I played lead guitar for them. We had a little punk band. Just punk. And Cole [Alexander], the other guitar player in The Black Lips was the singer. Jared [Swilley] was the bass player. I was the guitar player. We had a different drummer, God rest his soul, who died. But we had a punk band and long story short, they just decided to start Black Lips and they called me up when their guitar player quit. I’ve been in the band since 2004.
So yeah so in 2004 I was a barista when I had The Original Three group so it wasn’t a real band but I had demos. When I joined The Black Lips, I said, “Man, we got chemistry here and I love what you all done before I joined. We just got to do two things – tour our motherfucking asses off, and TUNE.” Because they did not know how to tune! I bought a tuner. I said, “Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to use this!” [mimes holding up a tuner]
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Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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