Martin Atkins, continuing his fine and respectable efforts to bring industrial and mixed-genre music to the greater masses, took these two on, demanding and getting really incredible solo albums from each. [Check out eP's reviews of Meg Lee Chin and Jared Louche. --ed.] And then came the idea of the Beatbox Soapbox Tour, a quick jaunt around their old stomping grounds (both Meg and Jared have buggered off to Merry Olde England, one longer ago than the other) to remind their fanbases that they're still stomping and rocking and tearing up the clubs. But the Beatbox is a subtler idea, a more insidious insinuation into the heads and spines of America. Invisible is out to take over and these two are the forefront scouts. They'll be back in force.
eP lads Mark Teppo and Jeff Ashley caught up with Meg and Jared during their stop in Seattle in early November. In an ongoing interview that went from the Tiki Lounge to the Alibi Room to the back of Jeff's car while hurtling through traffic, we dug in and got the Soapboxers to open up and let us ramble around their skulls.
photo by mark teppo
Mark Teppo: So, tonight's show is free? Is the push just to get out and gather some name recognition?
Meg Lee Chin: We're talking about the music as well. We're talking a little bit about the songs and this and that. This tour is to create awareness for the real tour. We're both going on tour in the spring. Jared's got a band he's getting together. And I've got my band with Charles Levi on bass and Dickless--this girl from Chicago--on drums and, um, "Anonymous" on guitar.
Jared Louche: Mr. X. Position as yet unfilled.
Meg: Until we're sure. We're about 90% sure who it is, but until we're sure that it is him, it's a secret. That's right.
Jared: We're doing a lot of record stores, small coffee houses. Thirty-nine shows in twenty five days. It's a very streamlined way of doing it. It's just the two of us and Larry [White--their tour manager] with CD backing tracks.
Meg: Karaoke style.
Jared: It makes sense for all the shows to be free because it gives everyone a chance to come check our songs. They might not have picked up the record yet and are they going to want to spend five, ten bucks on an unknown quantity? And since it is this karaoke thing I would feel weird to charge people to come see us sing along to CDs. I think that's a ripoff, personally. It's just not fair.
Jeff Ashley: How far into the tour are you?
Meg: A little over halfway. We finish on the 22nd of November.
Jeff: How did you two hook up to go out on this thing?
Meg: We happen to be on the same label. We've both been on Pigface tours together. And our albums happen to be coming out at the same time. And we're both singers.
Jared: Well, you're a singer. I'm a croaker.
Meg: It made a lot of sense for two people to go out. If there were more people around on the label doing this sort of thing, we probably would have had more of us. That would have been fun, actually. We each do ten minutes on stage. That's cool to consider for the future. It would be a good ongoing project because I think [this tour] has been really great. It's been different. You just have the CD with you and no backing band. So it's a lot easier. Sometimes, in a band, as much as it is fun--"sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll" and all that stuff--it can be a pain in the ass.
Jared: The complications of personal politics.
photo by mark teppo
Meg: Sure. That's right. With the CD, you just slip it in. [slaps hands together] Quick. This is just a sampler anyway. Me? I've got a very short attention span. I'd rather see a bunch of different people for ten minutes each than some fuckin' band for forty-five minutes and be a captive audience. Even if they're wonderful. I get very bored.
Jeff: Are you both doing spoken word?
Jared: No. Actually, and this flies in the face of the national trend, I can't stand the term "spoken word." And I know, once again, that makes me the uncoolest guy in the music scene. But, I do a lot of stuff in London now--where we both live--that is just storytelling and ranting, which is something I used to do in the '80s back in [Washington] D.C. with a couple other poets and writers. We'd just get up and perform our material without any music. And that's how this [tour] was originally conceived: just storytelling. We're each doing material that isn't on the albums, but the bulk of it is still stuff from the CDs.
Meg: I'm doing some stuff that is quite "rappy." The other thing we're doing--and this is a big reason why I'm doing this tour--is that we're talking about the songs themselves. To let people know of the process behind the songwriting.
Jared: It makes the songs more alive. People get to interact with us afterward as well. It's not a thousand people at a club--which I don't mind either--and you can't get to see the band 'cause they're hanging out in the dressing room. Even when I was in those types of situations, I would just exit off the front of the stage or fall off the stage. And then just be out there hanging out with the audience. Hang out in the dressing room? The hell with that. You're hanging out with the same dozen people you see 24 hours a day. This is really nice. It's intimate. It's small crowds.
Meg: Afterwards, we've talked to nearly every single person that came to the show--mostly. Unless they were really shy and ran out before we finished. This is also an espionage mission. I've been away from America for so long--ten years now--and I like seeing what it is like in America still. So, I'm spying. People think they're coming to see us, but actually I'm checking them out. I'm still pissed that I didn't get a digital video camera before I came. I wanted to document all the people in all the towns along the tour. Next time, though.
Jared: One of the cool things about this tour is that we're not staying in very many hotels. We're staying with the kids. We're staying at their houses, on their floors, sleeping on spare beds. That's really cool because then it's like a party at their house. And that's really enjoyable. Hotel rooms are like dressing rooms: they all look the same. And as nice as the Camlin [where they stayed in Seattle] is or the Burman [in Chicago], it's still a hotel room. There's nothing to do there. Though I have to say--sorry, kids--usually the showers in the hotels are better.
Meg: Aside from the traveling, the performances have been easy. But all the traveling has been a bit tough.
photo by mark teppo
Jared: We had a nice break though. We took a train from Minneapolis to Seattle. It took two days. The cell phone wasn't working, so we couldn't do interviews or anything. We were off the grid. We got up Tuesday morning at dawn so we could just hang out and look out the windows. We were coming through the Cascades and it was just so beautiful. That was something. But you know, previously the beginning of it was real busy. Two shows a day in two different cities. That's a lot of driving, a lot of hustling, to just do twenty minutes or a half-hour performance.
Meg: It was probably hardest for Larry. But I don't really think he's human. He doesn't sleep and he's always cheerful.
Jeff: And who is Larry?
Jared: He's the tour manager, and he works with Invisible. He's been a tour manager for thirty years. [Rattles off some of Larry's more impressive credentials.] It's funny to have someone that top-flight working with the two of us.
Meg: Just driving us around.
Jared: He's an extremely well-connected guy.
Meg: After being with him, you can see why he's in the position he is in. He just doesn't sleep, he works all the time. Very efficient guy. Very easy to get along with. After the shows, I always go to bed...
Jared: Yeah, she'll crash ass. Larry and I will go to the bar or the party or to the scene--wherever the kids are hanging out. It's really nice for me 'cause I get to talk with old Chemlab fans who are interested in what's going on now. And man, he and I both drink like fishes. But he's doing all the driving [during the day]. It's nuts, it is. It's like he's a cyborg.
Jeff: That must make it really easy for you guys to be on tour, to do what you want to do, for the shows to go really well.
Meg: It's still difficult because we're spending a lot of time in the car, traveling. It hasn't been completely easy. We don't have to drive, but we still have to be in the car.
Mark: I did a summer of drum and bugle corps back when I was a kid. That's a summer of riding the bus. I played trumpet--soprano bugle.
Meg: You still playing?
Mark: I haven't touched it in years.
Meg: I'm really jealous of you kids that have had lessons.
Jared: [to Jeff] Are you a horn player as well?
Jeff: No, guitar and keyboards. I haven't played in a band in years.
Jeff: It's a lot like a girlfriend breaking up with you. I had the best bandmate in the world and--kind of like Jared going to Wall Street--he took off. Quit the band, cut off all his hair and went to work in an insurance agency. And I was like: "You know what, Ben? Fuck it." I moved here [Seattle] from Detroit.
Meg: So you gave up too?
Jeff: I'm not really in a position to do it by myself right now. So, I'm not going to do it.
Meg: That's exactly what I did. My dream and my heart and my joy--my all-girl band--broke up and that's when I decided to do it all by myself.
Jeff: Yeah, but you've got the tinkering down.
Meg: But I had to learn it. At some point, I had to decide, "Yeah, Right. I'm going to do this." It wasn't easy for me. I didn't have music lessons either!
Mark: I took a lot of lessons. But it's almost becoming less and less of an issue. It depends on what kind of composition you're planning on doing. There's a lot of software available now that'll nearly write it all for you.
Meg: What I'll do is play and if I get one bar in time, that'll be the bar I loop. [Laughs] The playing on my album actually sounds a bit better than it is. Also because I'm lazy. You know, I'll play and I probably won't get everything perfect because ultimately I only need one measure that's on.
Jeff: So, you use a computer.
Meg: [Smiles broadly] Yes, I use a computer.
Jeff: Mac or PC?
Meg: I'd love to use a Mac. [Leans over the microphone] Steve fucking Jobs! Why don't you give me one for free? I couldn't afford a Mac. I don't know if I should say this. I use a PC. Built it myself.
Jeff: That doesn't surprise me.
Jeff: Because all I've read about you is that you're a little geeky, techno-wizard person.
Meg: [Little girl voice] Gee, why thank you. [Laughs] You're absolutely right. No, actually I wrote Steve Jobs--well, his company [Apple]--a letter and asked if they'd give me a free Macintosh. "I'm talented, really I am. Even Billboard hot-tipped me and said I was up-and-coming." And they turned me down. I'd really rather have a Mac. Even though I have a PC. Maybe I shouldn't say that. Can you erase that? I don't want to fall out with the Mac people. Just in case.
Jeff: That was good Mac publicity.
Meg: Was it? I don't want to piss off the PC people either. Maybe they'll give me a Mac. [Laughs] What I really want though is a digital video camera. That's what I really want.
[Jeff starts the OS war by deriding the operating system on Mark's desk at home. It's a brief skirmish that ends badly for Jeff when Mark asks him who he calls when his Mac goes belly up. Averting their eyes from that encounter, the talk wanders into rumor-mongering and speculation on how Apple manages to stay in business.]
Meg: America the Great.
Jared: It has its moments.
photo by mark teppo