The Trouble With Normal
(Issue 48; Nov, 2000)
The Trouble With Normal Interviews Odor of Pears

1. TTWN: Names, instruments played, and favorite mode of sexual expression? 

Diana Blackwell: vocals/lyrics, stage performing. I also design and hand-make a lot of the stuff we use in shows—costumes, props (like the paper-mache meat carcasses), and contraptions (like the Peariscope and the rain machine).   I'm bisexual and a switch when it comes to butch/femme, top/bottom, kinky/vanilla. Polymorphous perverse, that's me. 

Joe K.: I'm mainly a guitar picker, but for Odor of Pears I use mostly synths (Roland XP-50, Prophet 600), and recently computer-based stuff for mixing and processing (Cakewalk). I would like to use the guitar more in the  future, however. As for sexual expression: male hetero. Ho hum. 

Russell: I'm the band's visualist so my primary tools are computers, digital video, video projectors, slides, 16mm film, my wet show rig, special effects projectors, and lighting control systems. 

Diana: Okay, Boone and Mike, now it's only fair for you to tell us your favorite modes of sexual expression! 

2. TTWN: When and where did the band and concept form? 

Diana: Odor of Pears started after Joe and I moved to Chicago in 1981.  Our original intention had been to do a zine. But once we got there we bought a Polymoog and started writing songs. I had money at the time, so we had plenty of leisure, and we were living in a big, comfortable house that was all stark black and white inside because I was still in my Gary Numan period. "Odor of Pears" goes back to that time. So does "The Manifesto." 

3. TTWN: How do you feel experimental music has influenced Odor of Pears, if at all? 

Joe K.: It depends on what you mean by "experimental." The use of  different kinds of instrumentation in rock has influenced us.  Experimentation can become and end in itself, which doesn't interest me very much.  Any and all techniques are welcome, if they lead to cool artistic possibilities. 

Diana: Back in Chicago there was an underground band called ONO that did experimental music with a bit of performance art mixed in. They were the first band I ever saw who attempted that. And it had some influence over my part of our shows. I never got to see the Residents play live, though I did see some amazing videos. Ditto the Velvet Underground and Throbbing Gristle. All those groups were inspirational in integrating music, theater, and multimedia. 

4. TTWN: How do you feel Odor of Pears has evolved since recording the first tape? 

Joe K.: We've learned a great deal about how to record and produce music, the songs are more complex, both musically and lyrically, and our stage shows are more ambitious and dramatic... 

5. TTWN: Where did the name Odor of Pears come from? 

Diana: It's just something I thought of. I think it has lots of meaning, but it's not a literary allusion or anything like that. 

6. TTWN: You moved to the Bay Area Recently. What inspired that decision? 

Joe K.: We had been in the Midwest too long and felt we needed a change.  Other than leaving the country, the west coast near San Francisco seemed like a good choice. It's politically and culturally more liberal here, compared to most of the U.S. More happening here on a sheer quantitative level. Nice climate, etc. 

7. TTWN: What inspired the song "Touch Me (I'm a Freak)"? 

Diana: "Touch Me (I'm a Freak)" is about not fitting in and being somewhat defiant about it. There's a mixture of pride and shame. The alienated viewpoint has always fascinated me. In fact, it's the main theme of our new album, "Crown of Thorns." 

8. TTWN: Odor of Pears is often labeled a goth band. Do you feel this is an accurate description and, if not, describe where it is inaccurate. 

Diana: It probably comes closer to describing us than any other handy tag. But it isn't the whole story because our material is pretty diverse, especially if you include our old stuff. 

Joe K.: I don't think it's the best label for the band. We explore a lot of dark and negative themes, but I don't think we are a goth band per se.  I'm not sure what we are, come to think of it. We have a big performance art approach in our live shows, and our music is too eclectic to fit the gothic rock genre, as I understand it. From a marketing point of view, that's probably not a plus, but so be it. 

Russell: If by "goth, " you mean artistic material which is interesting to that particular subculture of people, then it's probably accurate. If by "goth" you wish to limit our emotional range, technique, artistic expression, or audience, then no, it's not true. 

9. TTWN: Is it true that Odor of Pears began as a Doors cover band called the Sunglasses? 

Diana: Close but no cigar. The Doors cover band came first. It was Joe and me and a drummer named Ed. We called ourselves the Eyes and we practiced in a house on Melbourne in Columbia. The Sunglasses came later and was more of a New Wave band, although we didn't think of ourselves that way at the time. The line-up included by sister on Farfisa mini-compact organ! We were writing original material then, and it was definitely quirkey. That's when we did the Iggy Pop cover that you like so much, Mike. "I'm Bored." 

10. TTWN: What inspired the song "Dildo"? 

Diana: That one goes way back. In fact, I wrote it before we formed Odor of Pears. I was feeling bitter about a relationship that had had some problems. At the same time, I had just bought my first synthesizer-a funny little percussion unit called a Synare, which had a rubbery "boing!" setting and an almost-human-sounding "oooooooH!" setting. Originally the song was just me reciting the words in a monotone while toggling back and forth between those two noises. We had to laugh when CMJ said "Dildo" sounded just like the early '80s, because it was written in 1980. 

11. TTWN: Your earlier work was reminiscent of early synthesizer-based artists, such as Gary Numan and Kraftwerk. How do you feel your work has evolved since then? 

Diana: Well, for one thing, we aren't hung up on that style (or any other style) as a model of what music should sound like. We've absorbed so many influences over the years, and reacted against them, that now when we create material it comes from our own imaginations and lives. Afterwards we can go back and see how this or that relates to something we've admired, but all of that has been pretty well digested and blended at this point. 

12. TTWN: What role has world music in general played in the band's evolution? 

Diana: There's a little bit of that in there. Sitars in a couple of songs. Some exotic percussion. "Invocation" is sort of a world song. "The Epistle to the Romans" includes Russian liturgical music and Japanese gagaku music, both played backwards. We've all been big fans of Dead Can Dance, who are sometimes classified as world music. 

Joe.K: Not a whole lot, but it's something we'd like to do more of in the future. 

13. TTWN: What is the song "Fuck Christianity" about and is it related to earlier songs, such as "God is a Bug"? 

Diana: "Fuck Christianity" is just what the title suggests: an attack on the Christian religion and its sexist, homophobic, full-of-shit institutions and ideology. "God is a Bug" is about experiencing the holy in nature. 

Russell: Obviously, religion and spirituality have become major thematic areas for us. "Fuck Christianity" is about Christian hypocrisy, while ”God is a Bug" is more concerned with the alien quality of a nonhuman creator. 

Diana: Excuse me, but I disagree with that "creator" part. 

Russell: Religion is also there in "Wild Elephants," "Invocation," and "Joan." Each of these has its own viewpoint, and they tend to conflict with each other.  It's not important that the lyrical content be consistent, just that it be true. 

14. How will your upcoming CD differ from your previous releases? 

Joe K.: The music on the new CD, "Crown of Thorns," is more rock-like and danceable than on "Mortal." Thematically it is very different as well, though I'm not sure how to describe the difference. They both deal heavily with alienation, but from different angles. 

Diana: "Mortal" was more like an overview of a life as a whole. "Crown of Thorns" focuses in depth on alienation and suffering. 

15. TTWN: What are your views on Noam Chomsky's propaganda model? 

Diana: Chomsky rules. 

Russell: It takes a man of Chomsky's brilliance to point out the obvious in a society in heavy denial. I think everyone instinctively knows that the multinational corporations control the world and use their control of the media for their own ends. 

16. How do you see Odor of Pears evolving over time? 

Joe. K.: I hope we will continue to improve technically on both the recording and performance levels. In terms of the content and style, I don't really know what to expect. But that's a good thing. It would be pretty boring otherwise. That's probably one reason why we started this whole crazy project in the first place. Or why we continue it. Self-discovery. 

Diana: With "Crown of Thorns" out of the way, we've plunged into re-inventing ourselves. It's kind of exciting. I'm re-designing our stage set-up. Russell is computerizing the visual controls. Joe is getting into a new, computer-based method of composing. Everything will be so much more streamlined and professional. 

17. TTWN: Any plans for the future? 

Joe K.: More of everything, hopefully. Recordings, shows in the Bay Area, and an eventual tour. 

18. Any last words? 

Diana: We totally love the Bay Area, but we also miss Columbia and all our friends back in the Midwest. Like you guys. Whatever happened to that idea you guys had about a roadtrip? 

Joe. K: Hello to friends and family from Missouri. Berkeley and San Francisco rock, come visit sometime! 

Russell: Buy our albums! Come to the shows! 


  Return to OOP Press
© Odor of Pears 2004, Rev: 02/10/04