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Jared Swilley of Black Lips

Band on the Run

Sex, drugs and rock íní roll are part of San Franciscoís DNA, but, as the Black Lips recently found out, those founding principles still meet persistent opposition in distant locales. The Atlanta-based quartet recently fled India under the threat of arrest after a rowdy show caught the ire of local police. They bring their stripped-down (literally) rock to Great American Music Hall on April 30th. Bassist Jared Swilley spoke with SF Station about touring overseas, recreational use of prescription cough syrup and collaborations with members of the Wu Tang Clan during a phone interview from Atlanta.

SF Station (SFS): What did you learn from your trip to India a couple months ago?

Jared Swilley (JS): It was cool, and Iím glad we had the opportunity to go, but it wasnít as ready for us as we thought it might be. India is just super conservative, and itís a very rigid class-based society. It was wild to go there; Iíll never forget it.

SFS: Would it have been easier if you guys didnít get naked onstage?

JS: If we didnít do that, it would have just been boring. It was really hard to get a response from them, and they [the audience] really didnít have a reference point to gauge us. From what I gathered, the only kind of musicians they see on MTV in India and in Rolling Stone are U2, Metallica and Green Day.

Our show wasnít too wild. Cole just mooned the audience. Anything that has to do with sexuality there is really taboo, which I thought was kind of weird because I always thought India had more of a sexual culture. With that many billions of people, there is a lot of fucking going on and the Karma Sutra came from there. Also, the people that brought us there never said not to do anything, so I assumed that they were used to Western-style shows.

SFS: How did the prescription syrup in India compare to the syrup in the states?

JS: It costs a quarter for a bottle; it was so cheap. It was the same as in America, except that stuff is hard to get over here. It was just over the counter there. We went to the beach and drank a little and had a pretty cool time. The days off were the best part of the tour. It was cool to kick it over there and have people take us around.

SFS: Do you have plans for any more long-distance tours?

JS: We plan on going to China. Iíve heard some first-hand reports from friends that went on tour and they had a pretty good time. The only thing that is taboo there is political issues, and we are so not political that I donít think there would be any problem with that. I donít give a shit about Tibet, and Iím not going to be like BjŲrk and spout my mouth off. Weíve also actually had offers to go to Indonesia, but that might be iffy. Next time we go somewhere we are going to check to make sure whatís cool and whatís not cool.

SFS: Do you tour outside of the United States to spread your fan base or because itís an opportunity to travel?

JS: Itís an opportunity to travel. I went to Europe before the band and stayed at hostels, which was cool at the time, but itís better when you stay after tours with friends and people you meet and eat really local food. You kind of get to hang out with the same kind of people that you would hang out with if you lived there. Itís the best way to really get to see a place and you get a free flight, a free place to stay and sometimes you get paid.

Israel was a pretty cool place to go because not many bands go there, but there is a thriving music scene because they are so far from being jaded about anything. They are just excited to have bands there. It keeps it interesting for us, and itís just fun.

SFS: Back in the states, you have been working with the Wu Tang Clanís GZA. How did you hook up with him?

JS: His manager, who also manages Raekwon, used to be our publicist. Last time we were in the studio in Costa Mesa, we went in the studio with Raekwon but it was really late so we just sat around and drank Hennessy.

GZA likes a lot of the same music we like, psychedelic stuff and old soul music. He did some verses on one of our songs and hopefully we will do more stuff with him in the future.

SFS: Do you have to change your sound to make it fit?

JS: No, because we both experiment with sampling and looping. I like doing weird, fucked up psychedelic samples and he does too. It doesnít sound like it would work, but it kind of makes sense when you start doing stuff together.

There are a lot of Atlanta rappers that are like that. I like that Gnarls Barkley record a lot. Thatís what modern soul music should sound like, as opposed to the other stuff thatís coming out. There is a little bit more of a crossover in Atlanta, and you see a lot of rappers around. Itís not weird to be in the same places at the same time. I would never rap myself, but hopefully we will have the opportunity to do more of that in the future.

Black Lips perform April 30th at Great American Music Hall. Tickets are $15. Doors open at 8pm and the show starts at 9pm.