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Clint Conley of Mission of Burma

Man on a Mission

Mission of Burma helped shape post-punk for four blistering years until the band dissolved in 1983 after guitarist Roger Miller suffered from tinnitus. With only two studio recordings under its belt from that era, the bandís influence can be seen across the spectrum of more recent acts, from Nirvana to Moby (he covered ďThatís When I Reach for My RevolverĒ) to upstarts No Age. The band, which reformed in 2002, returns to San Francisco to perform its debut EP Signals, Calls and Marches on September 26th and its first LP Vs. on September 27th at The Independent. Bassist/vocalist Clint Conley spoke with SF Station during a break from the Boston television station he has worked at since shortly after the band broke up in 1983.

SF Station (SFS): What led you to work at a TV station after the band broke up?

Clint Conley (CC): It was in some ways kind of random. I was sitting on the fence thinking about what to do. I was a laborer, doing house painting and stuff like that, and I was writing less and less music. I decided I needed to do something so I went down to the Boston public library and I started leafing through college catalogs. There was a program for broadcast journalism at BU and I thought maybe that would work.

SFS: Does your experience with the media have any influence on the songs that you write now?

CC: Not really. They are completely different realms, as far as I can tell. There is really not that much bleed-over from one to the other.

SFS: Do the old songs from Vs. and Signals, Calls and Marches still resonate with you?

CC: Remarkably, they do. Maybe itís just me, but I canít really tell the difference between the old songs and the new songs. They all seem to be one piece. We just plug into them and get lost in them the same way we always did.

SFS: Did it feel like a continuum when you got back together?

CC: Yeah, it truly did. I just think we have a particular style and it doesnít really have a lot to do with whatís going outside of us. It did feel like a very logical continuation.

SFS: You were known for playing loud, which was partially responsible for Rogerís tinnitus. Are you doing anything different when you tour now?

CC: Roger takes certain precautions to protect his ears, but I think we just seemed loud to people. I think itís the nature of the sound we make that makes people think that itís louder than other bands. There is a lot of cymbal bashing and feedback and otherwise torturous sounds coming off the stage. I think people interpret that as loudness, but itís not like weíre using six or seven gigantic amplifiers. We use pretty simple, little units. Particularly back then, there werenít many bands using noise the way we were using it.

SFS: Do you hear yourself in many new bands?

CC: No, I donít. Most of the 80s revival thing is resonating with the dance-beat angle that is more British than anything else. Musically speaking, itís sort of similar to the scene we were in 25 years ago, but I donít think that is not a particularly good thing. I think people have better sense than to imitate us.

SFS: How so?

CC: If they want any success -- there seems to be a lot of ambition among younger bands -- they would be better off chasing the dance-beat bands.

SFS: It seems like you were successful when the band broke up.

CC: I guess on a real modest level, but believe me it was modest. We had little clutches of fans in various places around the country, and San Francisco was always very cool and a lot of fun to play.

SFS: The Dead Kennedys and the L.A. hardcore scene were out around that same time. Did they have an influence on your music?

SFS: That was sort of coming out toward the end of our first go-round. We were very excited by what we were hearing out of California from 81 to 83. We broke up in 83 and by then Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys were really conquering America. That was very exciting to us. We recognized a distant kinship with that scene. We were never a part of the hardcore scene, but we could certainly relate to it with the energy level.

CC: Does it feel different when you are on stage now?

SFS: Yeah, it does feel different. It feels better. I donít know if it is due to age, but I feel less self-conscious. I probably have more to be self-conscious about, but itís really been very intense and kind of free.

Mission of Burma performs at The Independent on September 26th and 27th. Tickets are $20 for one night or $35 for both nights. Doors open at 8:30pm and the show starts at 9pm.