By Jonathan Krop, 1994
Since their third release “Frosting on the Beater” in April of 1993, the Posies have been quite busy. Many musicians respect and enjoy working with the band’s core of Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer. Ringo Starr has done a cover of “Golden Blunders”, they have become members of Big Star, and have jammed on stage with many others. They are ready to release their new DCG record which includes some special appearances members of Cheap Trick. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I was able to talk to Ken Stringfellow during this summer, as they were busy writing and recording new material. The Posies will be playing an all ages show at Slim’s, November 10th.
Jonathan Krop: When did you first begin playing musical instruments? What was the first instrument you played?
Ken Stringfellow: I had the usual piano lessons at age whatever. I picked up a guitar when I was 12, at a dinner party my parents were at, there was no one to hang out with so I started to teach myself chords from a Beatles music book. I stuck with it for 14 years or so but I still can’t play. When I met Jon he was 12 or 13 and he could play ‘Eruption.’
JK: Between you and Jon, how many and what instruments do you play?
KS: Well…we’ll try anything. On records, I’ve played guitar, bass, drums, keyboards; Jon’s done the same, plus violin. We don’t do horns. What else is there? I think if you spend time with anything musical you can do something useful with it.
JK: When did you and Jon Auer begin playing together? How did you meet?
KS: When I was 14, a friend of mine and I walked into a music store and Jon was playing, like he did every day after school. He already had a rep as the hot new guitar god in town. So my friend asked him to join our band, and he did, and I got moved to ‘lead singer.’ The band broke up soon after but when Jon came to high school the next year we became friends.
JK: What was the first Posies show like? What have been some of your fondest shows, or musical moments?
KS: The first Posies show was in a yuppie bar in a yuppie neighborhood in Seattle, in May 1988. We were asked to play last. We played a lot of covers and a few songs that we had time to learn from “Failure” which had been available as a cassette for a month. The band had been together for about two weeks. Also, Jon and I played a few acoustic shows playing covers and Posies material, in Bellingham and Seattle from August of ’87. I think the best shows have been doing other things than the Posies, like playing with Big Star or jamming with Teenage Fanclub. Anything where we collaborate with someone spontaneously is good.
JK: How did Ringo approach you to cover “Golden Blunders”?
KS: He didn’t. It’s a common misconception that permission must be granted to people wanting to cover songs. He just did it, and we heard about it after it was done.
JK: How did you feel upon hearing Ringo’s cover? Were you happy, angry, flattered…confused?
KS: The first time we heard it, we burst out laughing, ‘cuz it was so weird. But we loved it. Some people say he butchered our song, but I don’t agree at all. I think it’s very cool, I love how he copped some of our inflections but then inserted some total Ringo trademarks.
JK: Besides Big Star, Cheap Trick, and Michael Steele, whom would you like to jam or collaborate with?
KS: I really want to write a song or songs for the Pretenders. I’ve been trying to have this come about, I even have a song I think would be perfect for Chrissie Hynde. I want to produce some bands … that’s usually fun no matter who it is. You get to see how bands work together from an insider’s point of view.
JK: Have you produced any bands? If so, who?
KS: Jon & I produced a 7″ for a band called This Busy Monster. I plan to work with a couple of artists in Spain this summer. I am open to doing selected projects.
JK: What’s your all time favorite record?
KS: I don’t have one. My favorite record is the last one I listened to (Supergrass).
JK: What does the number 23 mean to you? It appears all over your c.d.’s and records.
KS: I don’t know what it means; I’m afraid to find out.
JK: What hobbies or interests do you have?
KS: I like to read a lot. I like to travel. I want get diver certification and swim in the sea.
JK: What bands or artists inspire(d) you?
KS: I guess the Young Fresh Fellows were are ‘role models’ when we started–they put out an independent records and toured the US and played great local shows. I’m inspired all the time by books and movies and music.
JK: Who are some of your favorite authors? Or books? Movies? Artists?
KS: I like William Faulkner, and DH Lawrence, and Nabokov, and Dostoyevsky, etc. I like Philip K. Dick. and Robert Anton Wilson. I like Dali and Miro and Max Ernst and Edward Munch and Roger Brown from Chicago. I like Stanley Kubrick and Fellini and Hitchcock and Czech animator Jan Svankmayer.
JK: Your lyrics are very articulate and poignant, did any of you pursue education beyond high school (not that the two are related)?
KS: I don’t think the two are related, but I did go to college for two years.
JK: Are the lyrics to “Frosting on the Beater” available anywhere?
KS: You can order them from us: Pay $3 to Posies, PO Box 45656, Seattle WA 98145-0656 USA.
JK: What is “How She Lied by Living” about? That song seems to be very heavy lyrically.
KS: For awhile I wouldn’t say. I’ve talked about it now. The song was written in response to Stefanie Sargent (7 Year Bitch guitarist who OD’d in 1993)’s death. That someone so full of energy and life could come to such an early end, let themselves inhabit the territory of death (which anyone who does IV drugs does). It seemed like a scam, how could she let us be so happy and then leave?
JK: Other than “Golden Blunders” and “Dream All Day”, have you made any videos?
KS: We made a very primitive video for “I May Hate You Sometimes”, which was released on a video comp called “The Joy of Six.” We made a video for “Definite Door.”
JK: When is the new record coming out? What can fans expect? How did you feel making it?
KS: I felt like it’s taking a long time. It’s not done yet. It’s supposed to come out in October. I think it’s going to be good, I really do.
JK: The Posies have gone through some line-up changes lately, could you introduce the new members?
KS: On bass, Joe Skyward. He used to be in Sky Cries Mary, and appears on an album & ep by them; he played a few shows with us in 1992, and he’s been in the Posies for a year now. He did the last tour for “Frosting”, the June/July ’94 tour of Europe. On drums, Brian Young. He started playing with us last September. I don’t know what to say, other than they’re great guys and musicians. I guess that’s all you need to know.
JK: What’s your message to the world?
KS: Free Tibet. Ask your governments to make China improve its dismal human rights record.
JK: What bands have been the most enjoyable to play or tour with?
KS: Our first real tour ever was with Redd Kross. Can’t ask for better than that. The Replacements tour was awesome. Teenage Fanclub was perfect. We also had a really great time touring with Treble Charger in Canada. We’ve never had a bad experience touring with any of the bands we’ve done it with, because we are picky about who we tour with.
JK: What’s the status of Big Star?
KS: We have no shows for the time being, but it’s not out of the question.
JK: What are the strangest things that have ever happened to the Posies?
KS: We opened for President Clinton. We lasted more than 5 years.
JK: You opened for President Bill Clinton? Can you elaborate on this?
KS: Bill came through to stump for Demo candidates in Washington, he made a public appearance in the Pike Place Market, and the people organizing the event asked us and the Presidents of the United States of America to play, to draw young voters to the scene. We got to watch him speak up close. Afterwards, we got to hang with the Man, and got photos, gave him CDs, etc.
JK: How was the show in Southern California when Eddie and Gere from Redd Kross sat in? How much time did they have to learn the set?
KS: It was at the Hard Rock Cafe in Newport Beach. Jon had already booked vacation time, so I asked those two to play. We didn’t rehearse. My favorite part was “Flood of Sunshine”–big EK solo and Gere’s keyboard intro. The local (Orange County) paper gave it a shitty review–something to the effect of “Honolulu’s Hard Rock got the Gin Blossoms, San Francisco got the Counting Crows, **** got Cracker–we got the Posies. The Posies? Come on–you have to agree we got the unwanted leftovers.” Hmmm, sounds like this guy needs to get out more.
JK: What are the future plans for the Posies?
KS: Finish our record. We’ll be idle for about a month, then we’re going to Spain for a couple shows in July. We’re playing in Paris in August. When our record comes out, tour like mad.