Pere Ubu :: The Aquarium Drunkard Interview

Over forty years in the game and Pere Ubu is still a work in progress. When Aquarium Drunkard spoke with founding member David Thomas this past week, that much was clear. "I work ten years ahead of time," Thomas says at one point during our talk, which is why it's surprising, on some level, to see Pere Ubu out on the road to promote two recent retrospective box sets: Elitism For The People: 1975-1978 and Architecture Of Language: 1979-1982. They'll be hitting the West Coast of the U.S. with shows starting December 2nd and a December 9th stop at The Echo in Los Angeles, all featuring music solely from the two collected sets. Why would a band still focused on its next artistic statement spend time in its past? Thomas spoke about that as well as his finely honed compartmentalizing, baseball as a metaphor for loners in art, how culture doesn't exist, and his humbleness before an irrelevant audience. Trust us. You'll want to dig into this.

Aquarium Drunkard: Pere Ubu is getting set to do the West Coast leg of its Coed Jail! tour promoting the two new box sets. What was the logic behind the grouping of the box sets? [The first contains early singles through Dub Housing, the second New Picnic Time through Song of the Bailing Man and other material.] The personnel was different between the sets of years...was there another logic behind breaking the albums into those groups?

David Thomas: Well, because they were two distinct groups. I'm not really sure how to explain it any simpler than that. It was never desirable to release all the box sets as one 30 album package. That was never going to happen. You have to divide things up. So I decided to divide them up according to - I don't know how to explain it. They're linked albums. The first box set is Hearpen [Records singles], The Modern Dance and Dub Housing - that was all one thematic line for the band. At the end of Dub Housing it's generally accepted that we were off on the next adventure, you know, the next theme, the next project. That encompassed New Picinic Time through to ...Bailing Man.

All the boxes are thematically linked. I've often been asked 'is this a conceptual album?' And I say 'no, our entire damn career is a conceptual career.' I work ten years ahead of time; I work to a plan. It used to be a five year plan and it soon developed into a ten year plan because things got more ambitious. The next box is from Ray Gun Suitcase through to St. Arkansas. Those three albums were conceived - for want of a better word - as a trilogy. I determined I was going to write the great American novel and that's what that was. The next set of boxes is also thematically linked together and the Fontana box [albums released during the band's tenure on Fontana records] - which the rights have been secured for release, so it's beginning to be put together and all that nonsense - that, too, is inextricably linked. They're a package.

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