Music

20 Questions: Holopaw

Holopaw's Patrick Quinney reveals a secret love of Twin Peaks, a knowledge of all things Craig Biggio, and the 7" he'd love to argue about.


Holopaw

Oh, Glory. Oh, Wilderness.

US Release: 2009-11-24
Label: Bakery Outlet
UK Release: 2009-11-24
Artist Website
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Holopaw's twisting, nervy brand of indie guitar-rock has assuredly not gone unnoticed – but in the last couple of years, it certainly has been missed.

After releasing two albums on Sub Pop (2003's Holopaw and 2005's Quit +/or Fight), the band -- featuring the long-standing duo of Jeff Hays and Ugly Casanova's John Orth -- suffered from touring fatigue, eventually making way for the departure of all the other members. But losing some long-standing music makers gave the band a chance to infuse it’s soud with some new blood, including guitarist Patrick Quinney. As many wondered what had happened to the band during their four-year hiatus, the answer came in the form of 2009's Oh, Glory. Oh, Wilderness. Greeted with a host of glowing reviews, the band is now back in full swing, and couldn't be happier about it.

Enter Patrick Quinney. Taking some time out of his schedule to answer PopMatters famed 20 Questions, Holopaw's axe-master reveals a secret love of Twin Peaks, a deep knowledge of all things Craig Biggio, and the 7" he'd love to argue with you about ...

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1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

The latest book or movie to make me cry is typically the latest book I have read or movie I have seen, I'm sorry to say. To make matters worse, the same can usually be said of the latest sporting event I've watched (in this case, UF's loss to Alabama ought to qualify, but for some reason I kept my composure, even if Tim Tebow didn't), the latest conversation I've overheard, the latest commercial I've seen on television, and so on. Before I can add "latest survey I have filled out ..." to the list, I'll try to answer your question. The last book or movie that made me cry that I can recall was, if this counts, one of the discs of the Ken Burns baseball documentary. The moment I'm thinking of occurred in number four or five, I believe, but I can't be sure. The exact catalyst for the crying I will not mention, for fear of embarrassing myself even further.

2. The fictional character most like you?

Does anyone answer this question honestly? How about the fictional character I would most like to be like? That's easy: Special Agent Dale Cooper, Federal Bureau of Investigations.

3. The greatest album, ever?

Civil Disobedience, "In a Few Hours of Madness". Okay, it's a 7", but still. Just to clarify, I am one hundred percent serious about this, and if anyone anywhere is interested, I am always in the mood to discuss this record.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

I'm not really crazy about either, honestly. They both seem ... fine. Star Wars.

5. Your ideal brain food?

There are two substances I tend to turn to when I want to feel like I can engage with the world in a particular, special way. They are both legal but I refuse to mention one of them because I would be annoyed with and skeptical of anyone who did. So: coffee.

6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?

Very little of the pride I have ever felt really stands up to close scrutiny. This question fills me with dread.

7. You want to be remembered for...?

Me, or the band? The real answers to this question feel a little bit earnest for this type of a survey. It's the basic virtues I'm thinking of; I can't really conceive of, like, making a mark, you know?

8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are...?

Since the "come before" part of this could go any number of ways, I'm going to keep a narrow focus here. Greg Ginn and Chuck Dukowski.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

There are so many! The one that comes most readily to mind right this second is the Underground Railroad to Candyland song "Square Ball". That song is so good, and it's so effective, and so simple and perfect. "I don't want no round ball, I just want my square ball": Fuck yes.

10. Your hidden talents . ..?

I can run out infield singles on a softball field with astounding consistency. I have maintained a roster spot on a Monday night league through heart and hustle alone; but I am working to improve my hitting and defense and hope to be a more complete player next season.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

I'm not sure, but it probably came from the fictional character I would most like to be like.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

I just bought a really nice amplifier before our last tour, and I got a great deal on it, and it prevented me from feeling like I wasn't pulling my weight at our shows. That was a good thing to do.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . .?

I have never once to my recollection felt consciously good in any particular clothing. Nothing seems to fit me properly. I have a favorite green shirt, but it has developed a sort of irregular shape with time, plus it has grease stains from work. I have a Craig Biggio Houston Astros shirt that I sometimes wear and hope that people will ask me about, but I guess people don't want to hear about Craig Biggio.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Flannery O'Connor.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

Houston, Texas, June 28th, 2007, for Craig Biggio's 3,000th hit. His 2,998th, 2,999th, 3,000th, 3,001st and 3,002nd, actually. Add to it that the game ended with a walk-off grand slam in the 11th inning by Carlos Lee, and that is one baseball game I really wish I had seen in person.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

None of these sound that appealing to me, really. I'll take the spa vacation, thanks, but I'm a little skeptical about its soothing powers. I'm already worried about missing work and who I have to tip and how much. Can I get the hit man to come to the spa and kill me?

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . .?

Coffee.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

Country. The most beautiful place I can recall being and imagine ever finding again was in northeast Wyoming, just off of I-90, if I remember correctly. It probably had more to do with the people I was with and how I felt about being there at the time, but it's a powerful place in my mind and I choose it.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

For some reason, it's hard for me to think of this one in hypothetical terms -- I keep coming to the conclusion that I have nothing at all of value to say to him, and it seems like a very real problem for several reasons, some personal and some political. I'll have to give it some more thought.

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

We have a big batch of new songs we're working on, and we're also trying to get a good set of older material together with our new drummer, Andy, both of which we are really excited about. Only a couple of the new songs are really fleshed out right now and I think they are two of our best ever, and Andy is a joy to play with, and things are looking good. Thanks for asking!

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

 
9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.


 
8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

 
7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

 
6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

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