Sam Coomes: Interview

Sam Coomes is bringing his forward thinking solo album ‘Bugger Me’ to Exchange on March 7th. He’s also been famed for work in legendary Portland groups Quasi and Heatmiser. This makes the show ideal for us at The Know as it uniquely bridges the gap between our two cities. 

So are you excited to be bringing the record to the UK?

I’ve just came through the tail-end of a hectic weekend. My bandmate Janet Weiss and I organised a big fundraiser here in Portland, so not really a moment to spare last few days. Now I’ve got to get back into solo mode, the thing I do requires a lot of practice, I’ll be in the basement until I hop on the plane pretty much. But of course I’m stoked to get over to UK with this music. Performing this stuff, which comes from a little bit more of a murky mental and emotional place than what I’m used to in Quasi, is a lot more about physical energy for me. It makes these shows potentially pretty interesting for me at least. Hopefully people will connect.

How did ‘Bugger Me’ creatively come together then?

Well this stuff came together because I had the basic songs but they didn’t feel right for Quasi. We actually messed around with a lot of it but it didn’t make sense for the band. So I did a rethink and stripped everything down to black and white. Then I started playing this stuff around town and it just took on a weird life of its own. In a lot of ways this music goes against some basic ideas about how I normally approach music.

You’ve worked in some iconic groups like Heatmiser, are you ever tempted to play material from that band?

People ask about Heatmiser quite a bit in recent years, which is nice. When we were active hardly anyone cared at all. We’d tour around and practically no one would show up to the gigs. We slogged through for a while then bagged it. But I never wrote songs for that band so I’d never perform a Heatmiser song now. But when we were touring around, I did notice Elliott practicing a lot – not Heatmiser songs – his own acoustic stuff. So yeah, I saw he was working on something more personal and I could tell it was good.

Tell us about how the Portland scene has changed since then?

As far as Portland goes, I actually don’t know a ton about the scene in Portland right now. I’m on the fringes at best. But I don’t think I would say the scene in the nineties was overly intimidating. Darker maybe, but I would say intense, rather than dark. I think some people were a little tripped out by the drugs and filth but I felt comfortable in that world. More comfortable than the cleaner, more professional scene of today. So I guess it all depends on what one is intimidated by.

Lastly, what can we expect from you following this tour?

This upcoming solo tour goes for a handful of shows in the UK, I wish I could’ve done more, then I hook up with Black Heart Procession for some European shows, then back home. But a funny thing happened to my musical world last few months, we elected proto-fascist government and suddenly I find myself in the role of musical activist. Actually, the music I had been working on lately is more personal and not overtly political but I’m gonna have to find a way to reconcile this kind of thing with the situation in this country.

Will Quasi play into that?

Quasi hadn’t been very active for months, but now we have been working a music-activist course pretty nonstop now since the election. We did a protest album and fundraiser prior to the event last night. I don’t think we will consider backing off this position for the foreseeable future. Last couple solo tours of the US people kept handing me psychedelics, so I had the thought I would just go home, get into the back of my head & pull some music out from there, but I don’t think thats the best course of action at the moment. I’ll put that on the back burner I guess and for now try to keep it out on the streets, rather than in the murky corners of my head.

Pick up a ticket for the show right here

Check out ‘Stride On’ right here: 

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