Tamil Nadu's most wanted.
As you may have read, the Black Lips recently ran into a bit of trouble in a certain subcontinent. For those of you rapt in fantasies of stolen passports and tawdry Indian prison sex, we just talked to the guys at their safehouse in Germany. They're OK now, but only after living through their own punk version of Midnight Run with shady Indian tour promoters taking the place of Turkish customs. Considering the Iranian-level shitstorm that occurred when Richard Gere was broadcast kissing an Indian woman on the cheek, we think it's a miracle the band got out of that country's equivalent of the Bible Belt without being hauled off to rot in some bug-infested sweatbox. Or maybe just really really good karma. Read below for Das Skoop.
Vice: So you guys made it out all right? When we got your last letter it seemed like you were one cop away from getting thrown in the black hole of Calcutta.
Joe Bradley (drums, van): They're all black holes over there. They weren't ready for us, or maybe just not the people who set up the tour.
Where are you guys holed up right now?
We're at King Khan's house in Berlin. We caught the next flight outta there as soon as the shit hit the fan. Like, we literally left Chennai at 2:30 in the morning and drove 10 hours to Bangalore.
What happened in Chennai?
Well, we hadn't had a chance to get even the slightest bit drunk the entire time we were in India, so Jared bought a bunch of whisky before the show. The venue was some weird, shitty auditorium at a college. Things were uncomfortable to begin with; no eating inside, no smoking outside or anywhere really. The show was sponsered by Nokia, Honda, and VH1 and they had these crappy production projections on advert screens on either side of the stage. The college had these wireless mics though, so Jared got jazzed up on whisky and started pumping up the crowd by cursing at them, getting them to repeat things like "When I say 'weak-ass', you say 'bitch'! Weak ass?" "BITCH!" "Weak ass?" "BITCH!" The crowd was eating it up but I think we only ended up playing like, seven songs. Eventually things got really energetic and Cole mooned the crowd then proceeded to kiss Ian while Jared continued ramping up the crowd, which eventually led to him taking a running dive into the audience. Really, our tour manager was the only one freaking out. No one tried to put a stop to the show. We even told the crowd "Remember! there's only four of them (security) and 150 of you."
We tried to get everyone on stage too, but they weren't too happy about that either. In any case, everyone was into it except our manager and his production company Only Much Louder—which I will go on record suggesting that no band go through for a tour. I haven't been on such a disorganized and disfunctional tour in a long time, though in their defense, they are one of the first independent, non-Bollywood promoters in India. But they've got a lot to learn about the biz, like getting contracts from your sponsors and such.
Yeah, that seems pretty fundamental. Do you think that's just India, or you just got a bum deal?
I'm sure metal bands, hardcore bands, nu-metal bands, and crap-pop like Creed would do just fine. I would like to think there are punk kids there. There must be. It's a country of 1.3 billion people. We heard about a punk band called Tripwire that kinda sounds like the Ramones but we didn't get a chance to check them out. It must exist somewhere in India though. It's not possible they missed out on 40 years worth of Western music.
No joke. How were the rest of the shows? Pitchfork claimed you were "visibly shaken" after one where people threw bottles at you.
We're not concerned with plastic bottles, it was more the scene at the show. It was in the middle of this dirt field and then all of a sudden you see plush green grass and a red carpet and all this sponsorship bullshit everywhere. There was even some family living in a shack close to the backstage.
Ian and Jared had to stay there to judge the "competition," which consisted mostly of metal bands and alterna-rock. Imagine an audience member sitting through six hours of that and then having to listen to us, something completely different.
Were they into it or just like fed up with all the junk-rock?
Oh no, kids were moshing and dancing. There's footage of it on its way to you guys right now.
That sounds awesome, but was it that weird sort of jock-moshing, where it's slightly too aggressive and nowhere near in sync with the music?
Basically yeah. The dudes kinda just run into each other, like how jocks bump chests.
So what happened after the show with your passports?
Well, our tour manager came up to the hotel room and grabbed his luggage (this was after hours of arguing with him about the lost money from the rest of the dates and how they were going to recover it) and he said, "I'm going to go hang out downstairs for a while." We left the room to shoot some stuff outside for VBS and Cole starting to get a little sketched out about his passport, so we went to the reception desk to get our passports and they told us they had already been collected by our tour manager. I saw him standing outside with this unknown third man and when we approached him for our passports he said, "Oh, they're in this car." They were locked in a car outside and the tour manager was about to leave with this third-party guy who apparently worked with Only Much Louder productions as their "accountant."
So, Rob from VBS bucked up on him and all of us surrounded the car and got our passports back. He got up in his face and was like, "Are you a lawyer? No? Then shut the fuck up. This is only between us and [president of Only Much Louder] Vijay Nair, and you are not him. Now give me my fucking passport."
He also said, "I'm not saying this to be a dickhead American but if you want to get into a legal battle over this, we will crush you. Their lawyer is Britney Spears's lawyer. You can't match that!"
Now, one might dismiss this as an ordinary miscommunication, but minutes later, we had a phone conversation with Vijay about the money and out of nowhere, third-party accountant man mentions to Vijay, "We gave them their passports back." Which would lead us to believe a scheme had been hatched.
Wow, no joke.
I confronted them about it and why he would have made such a statement. Of course, he denied everything and assured me that "If we wanted to take your passports, we would have done it a long time ago. This is OUR country." He refused to admit that Vijay Nair at Only Much Louder Productions had anything to do with our passports being locked in a car outside, even know he had just informed him that he gave us our passports back. We knew we had to get outta of there as soon as possible. They tried to say we owed them $10,000 at first and finally after hours of having to sit with this third-party accountant guy and our tour manager, going over receipts, the actual number came out to around $3,000. But, in fact, we don't owe them anything because there was no contract.
That's unreal. So was it them who threatened you guys with jail or the cops?
They were paranoid about the Tamil police. I suppose it's a more conservative part of the country.They kept saying if it had happened in Delhi it would have not been such a big deal, but since we were in Chennai they told us that if anyone filed a complaint with the police the festival people would inform the authorities of our location and it would have been about a week dealing with jails and embassies and so on. It's really hard to say what was going on, it certainly wasn't a calm atmosphere. I would like to think that we would have been OK in Chennai and we could have gone on to finish the shows in Calcutta the next day, but the company was so paranoid they booked us overnight cars to drive out of the state. Who knows what the right decision was. Either way, we're outta harm's way now. We were so happy to arrive in Germany, you have no idea
I'd probably be kissing the tarmac after all that.
CRAP R. PORTER
Photo by Nick Gazin.