Q&A: Wreckless Eric Talks Texas, The Death of Dennis Hopper and Whether He Was A Punk.
Wreckless Eric (aka Eric
Sadly, Eric's fortunes never again reached such popular heights, but as a solo artist and as part of several groups (Captains of Industry, The Len Bright Combo), Eric continued to make impressive (if relatively unheard) music.
After meeting and later marrying American singer/songwriter Amy Rigby in 2005 (the pair now reside in France), the duo have recorded an albums' worth of cover tunes and will make a rare stop in Dallas tomorrow night at Bryan Street Tavern.
Recently, while traveling from Pennsylvania to New York, Eric allowed his wife to drive the van while he talked about the new project and his vast knowledge of music history.
You came through town in late 2008 for a gig at AllGood Cafe. Before that, how long had it been since you'd been to Texas?
It's been a long time, really. It might have been Houston in 1980. There were many people, and it was frightening. Everyone seemed to be taller than me. The place seemed to be filled with broken-down cowboys that looked like something that walked out of a jeans advert. They had an "impress me" kind of attitude. It went off all right, but I hadn't been back in years. I might have made in to Austin in the early or mid-'90s. I can't remember what year. I did play at South by Southwest with a bloke called Clay Harper.
How did you choose the songs that have gone on the last two albums you've put out?
I think the songs chose us, really. We always have these kind of kitchen rehearsals, very casual. We don't rehearse our own songs that much. We play together and you have to practice, so we do a lot of other people's songs. We just muck about, really. Sometimes something comes out of that. One day, Amy started playing "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" and I just picked up my bass and started playing along and suddenly we had our own version going.
Some of the choices are fascinating, such as "Endless Wire" from The Who.
When I first heard "Endless Wire," I thought, "I would love to sing that." It is such a new song for The Who that I wonder if a lot of people even know it's from them. Some songs, like "Fernando" were songs I heard Amy doing when she and I were first getting together.
Kind of ironic that you decided to cover "The Ballad of Easy Rider" seeing that Dennis Hopper just passed away.
Did he? I didn't know that. [Eric asks Amy, "Did you know Dennis Hopper had died?"] What a shame. He is a bit of a hero to me, Dennis Hopper. But I always think about him in Blue Velvet instead of Easy Rider. I started to feel like I turned into him after a while, at least that character.
Were there some songs that you regretted not recording?
There were loads of things. We have a version of "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" that we play live occasionally. We've done "Goin' Back," a Goffin/King song. Even "Leaving on a Jet Plane." There are just loads of songs we could've recorded, but we still do them live. We had to finish up and say that's enough, let's make an album.
Do you actually write out a set list or choose the songs as you go along?
We tried being casual about it, and it was a disaster. We have to have some idea of where we are going to go. It might all change as the night goes along. We like to have some kind of a road map. It's just the two of us, so it's not too hard to communicate. In Dallas, I think Salim Nourallah is going to play with us, so that might make things different.
How did you first meet Amy, and when did you decide to make music together?
I met her in a pub years ago. It's a strange story. I was going to play there the night after as a kind of 25-years-later kind of thing because I played that same place when I was an art student in the early '70s. That's the place where I first played "Whole Wide World." Amy came and played there and she covered that song and I played it with her. I was a bit shy. I think she was, too. I think she mentioned me to someone and I was halfway between two women. Amy and I had a history of that kind of thing--of just missing out on one another. It took us a long time of hedging around each other before we officially got together. It was too complicated, but we eventually became available.
You've played with so many musicians over the years. Are you a walking encyclopedia of British new wave and punk?
I am really, aren't I? I mean, you hang around long enough and you tend to pick some of this information up. I mean, it's not just new wave and punk. I once did a radio show with Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden and he was the nicest man, terrific fun. We just got a long great and he said he wanted to come hear me play. He was a very nice bloke, nothing like what you think he would be like. But I never thought what I did was punk. Nick Lowe was always adamant that would he did was not punk. I'm not sure where Costello fits in all that. Of all the bands that were on Stiff Records, I think only The Damned was a punk band. And by the time anyone gave any attention to what was happening, it was already over.