THE BIG TAKEOVER # 48

2001

big takeover # 48 photos by Alyssa Scheinson

Our second interview with Jeff Martin of Idaho (the first, five -years ago, appeared in issue 40 - see back issues page to order) turned to be even more enjoyable than the first (which delved more into the history of the band). After being unfortunately absent from the tour rolls for a half-decade, the groupís recent nationwide jaunt in support of their new Heartsof Palm LP presented a rare opportunity to not only interview Martin, but to rope in original guitarist and Martinís longtime close friend John Berry as well. Berry, who spent part of the mid-Ď90s drumming for Lifter, co-founded the group with Martin a decade ago. His distinct and evocative playing on their earliest, starkest, darkest, gloomier: records (1993ís The Palms EP and Year After Year debut) was sadly-missed for a few years (1994ís almost impenetrable This Way Out, more or less a Martin solo LP), until the groupís mainman finally found a replacement of equal acumen in Dan Seta.

Setaís entrance, (along with drummer Terry Borden and bassist Mark Lewis), beginning on the 1995 The Bayonet EP and the bandís masterpiece album, 1996ís Three Sheets; to: the Wind, completely rejuvenated and refreshed Martinís recordings, even as the Idaho leader continued writing the lionís share of-the songs. Martinís rumbling/wailing baritone took on greater warmth and tension, exploring the underside of his melancholy and finding the more beautiful, more hopeful and solicitous side of it. One solo song accompanied only by piano, ďAlive Again,Ē remains perhaps his most: gentle, most splendid touch, and the crescendo of the closing ďGet You BackĒ remains a bone-shaking aural watershed.

The foursome that made those two records, Idahoís zenith as a great, working band as opposed to Martinís studio project, sadly-splintered amongst some rancor. But fortunately Seta stayed on. And his sympathetic help on the subsequent The Forbidden EP [1997], and the two most recent albums Alas [1998] and- Hearts Of Palm, showed him a perfect interpreter/foil for Martinís slow but intensely powerful, dreamy but roaring, burbling but genuinely raw sound and style. While the group seemed more casual and relaxed on these works, with guest drummers such as current R.E.M, seat plugger Joey Waronker, the brooding sweetness of these LPs- showed the pairís collaborations remained inspiring no matter what form Martinís basic chamber spiritualism took.

But when a disagreement about tour commitment for the new LP led Martin to part with Seta before it began, he needed a replacement, and fast. With nowhere else to go, he turned to his old friend Berry. Berry was a natural choice under such duress, not only given his former membership, but also because he and his better half, Dale Stewart, had themselves released Hearts of Palm and a vintage live recording of the original, Berry-era Idaho, titled People Like Us Should Be Stopped-Live Volume One, on-their new label, Idahomusic. Most tiny record labels find it hard enough to market and distribute their releases, let alone get their recalcitrant, tortured artists to hit the road if they havenít in so long. In Berryís case, he not only took on the task of booking Idahoís tour, but now he also surprisingly found himself on the stages of America again, to Martinís direct left, playing his majestic lead parts and chipping in on the sampler triggers. Of course, at present Idahomusic only has one artist on its roster. But one might still credit Berry for overtime work beyond the call of duty insuring the success of his flagship act!

All kidding aside, it was a blast to see him on stage, back in his rightful place for the first time in seven years. And you can be sure we did not blow this unusual opportunity to interview the two old school chums/pals together on the road, here in New York City.

Martin was as we remembered him thoughtful, unbothered, and honest, willing to dissect his artistic processes and history. But Berry as comic humorist, we werenít prepared for. Possessing a down to earth sense of humor, the latter added belly laughs to the proceedings, making this one of the more fun interviews weíve run of late. Moreover, his presence and calming demeanor seemed to have a great affect on Martin. Itís very apparent how well they click together as familiar cronies and colleagues, and we had a blast just listening to them kibitz.

Hell, Berry didnít even seem to mind our brief discussion of his once famous Ď60s dad, F-Troop TV star Ken Berry! See for yourself during the last portions of the below (where we also discover that Berryís mom was the voice of a cartoon rock star everyone older than 30 will remember, and that Martin once dated another, even more famous TV sitcom starís daughter! Oh, thereís lots of fun in this conversation...). Just looking at the son brings back a strong remembrance of his father in his role: a man constantly perplexed, bewildered, and befuddled as the maladroit, clueless, bungling fort commander in the post-Civil War Old West-along with visions of the Native American-parody Hakowe Indians, his dumb and dumber (or scheming/profiteering) men of the troop, and, most of all, the famous theme song, ďWhere Indian fights are colorful sights and nobody takes a lickiní/Where paleface and redskin both turn chicken!!!Ē Somewhere on TV Land theyíre still showing the reruns, and itís amazing how funny such ludicrous stupidity remains...

In any case, my thanks to both Martin and Berry, and our ace transcriber Mark Suppanz, who was kind enough to sit in on this interview as well, backstage at Knitting Factory before Idahoís third New York appearance on this Heart of Palm tour. (Suppanz also added in a few questions.) Best of luck to a fine American veteran, an exquisite artist making music of his own personal conception, as he heads into his second decade. Though Berry will likely not be involved in future recordings, it was good to see him out there for those who missed the first go-round, and to get to know the co-big cheese of Idahomusic.

JR: [to John] So how did you end up back in the band? It seems to me that only a month ago, I didnít know about any such thing! I thought Dan Seta was still in the band.

JOHN: It was quite sudden. Iím just like a traveling side musician.

JR: Traveling side musician? That makes you sound like some kind of circus freak! Do you swallow swords, or something like that?

JOHN: [laughing] I donít like the analogy there, so no I donít! No, I mean, Iím just filling in. I donít want to make it sound like Iím ďin the bandĒ again, because Iím not.

JEFF: Yeah, Johnís been sort of managing us, with his girlfriend Dale [Stewart], and he was the only obvious choice I had to fill in for the position. Because at the last minute a lot of things came to a head with Dan [Seta]. Dan and I had been... not necessarily growing apart-or maybe we had been, a little bit-but it seemed like Dan had a lot of problems with the tour, the way we were touring and how much we were going to be touring. He wasnít going to be able to do the whole thing, and so there was no way we could continue on that way. So what it did was, it made us have to speak our minds, and talk about what we were unhappy with-with the band, and the way things were operating. I think we just had different ideas of what Idaho was. Dan has a real well-paying job now, and heís married, and wants to buy a house. And he works in San Francisco for the most part, so he really didnít have time to even rehearse or anything. So I thought, well, better just to start fresh, and it would be better for Dan not to go on the road with us. And he was unhappy about that, but I think he understands that he wouldnít be happy out here for two months, with his new lifestyle. The thing with Dan has been a little uncomfortable, and we still have to talk about a lot of stuff. But heís been reading some interviews lately, and heís been feeling a little left out. So I just want to state that he was a very integral part of the band.

JR: Without question! He wrote my favorite song on Alas!

JEFF: Right, ďOnly in the Desert,Ē I remember your review. He definitely has his style, and he creates great stuff. Heís not a songwriter at all, but he comes up with neat parts and has a good sensibility. It was a fruitful relationship, though it definitely isnít what makes the band Idaho. But I think, as with anyone Iíve worked with, itís nice to have input from other people. Itís a contribution, and itís important.

JR: Well, thatís true of pretty much any group where people actually contribute something other than just being backing musicians that you tell what to play.

JEFF: Right, and in Idaho that rarely happens. People come in, and I sort of let them do what they do best. Anyway, John is a natural choice to fill in on this tour. John and I started Idaho together, and John has a very musical touch-he can make a guitar do neat things-and no one else could do it. So it just made sense for him to step in. I think he was kind of terrified. He wasnít ďgnawing at the bitĒ to do it! Right?

JOHN: Well, the fantasy is always better. I mean, it wouldíve been fun to play old songs, or how I remembered my version of Idaho to be, but this is totally different, having to learn the-l donít know what youíd call the keyboard parts-but theyíre so...

JEFF: Theyíre not connected with what youíre playing or what youíre hearing. Heís pushing buttons, and if stuff happens, it doesnít really coincide with any physical movement of your hand. Itís like youíre starting a tape deck.

JOHN: Right-itís not like youíre playing an instrument. Itís more like youíre operating a sound effect that happens at a certain moment.

JEFF: The way your brain was wired to play an instrument, it doesnít really work for you. [John agrees]

JR: [to John] Well, youíre still playing guitar, so that hasnít changed.

JOHN: Oh, yeah! Well, some songs are more fun to play. I mean, ďGet You BackĒ is amazing, even though Iíve been accused of lifting Danís style.

JR: What else are you supposed to do if youíre taking someoneís place, playing songs already recorded?

JOHN: Well, Iím also playing a part. Just because he [Dan] played it with a screwdriver doesnít mean that itís not a part.

JEFF: Yeah, Johnís been accused of stealing Danís screwdriver trick, which has become a funny item on our message board![at www.idahomusic.com]

JR: You actually listen to that garbage? [I would agree that most unmoderated message boards on the Internet are garbage, due to the many dolts who join just to post irrelevant, asinine, and sometimes crude messages. But the Idaho board is one of the rare exceptions, with many intelligent and interesting posts! Lots of true fans on there-MS]

JEFF: Oh, once in awhile you look at it, and itís funny.

JOHN: Dan of all people accused me of stealing his best parts!

JR: Thatís sounds petty. Youíre supposed play his parts on this tour.

JOHN: Thatís just silly. I mean... whatever. Heís probably just feeling as if Iíve moved in on his territory.

JEFF: [agrees] Yeah, it looks like that to him. But it isnít true.

JR: [to John] Well, why not rejoin Idaho? It [the 1991-93 lineup] was the original vision of the group, and one many recall fondly. Why not become a permanent, collaborative member again?

JOHN: Idaho has been, at least what I think, 85% or more Jeff Martin anyway. I mean, Dan has been there, but itís been Jeffís band, since at least 1996 when Terry [Borden] and Mark [Lewis] left. Itís mostly Jeffís stuff. Dan came in now and then, but Jeff spends weeks working on stuff. I mean, itís not like the kind of situation where I could come in and say to Jeff, ďHey, letís do the band.Ē Jeff has got his own musical agenda! [chuckles]

JEFF: Yeah, if I were to do something with John again, weíd probably call it something else, because what Iím doing now, my new record [Hearts of Palm] doesnít even really represent Idaho. A lot of it was recorded in late 1998, early 1999, and Iím planning on going off on a different direction now-which wouldnít have worked with Dan anyway, because he would have been on maybe two percent of it. Iím not going to be involving guitars as much. Idahoís got to go somewhere else, and not because Iím making a conscious choice to change just for changeís sake. I feel it going away from its formula. Which works-it will still sound like Idaho-Iím just going to approach it differently. John and I actually did some stuff together; a project John had started called Starry, which sounds more like old Idaho.

JOHN: Yeah, and itís still something I want to do, just to have a creative outlet. And I really like it. I would love for Jeff to play on it, but itís not Idaho, and it wouldnít even be really appropriate. Itís just different.

JEFF: John and I have known each other since we were 16, and to me he feels like a musical kindred spirit. Heís somebody I enjoy working with. And this record company idea will probably go on, and weíll have this relationship with that.

JOHN: Well, thatís the hope! [laughs] Unless the whole thing flames out!

JR: [to Jeff] Until he takes all the money and goes to Guadalajara, right?

JOHN: Thatís right, ďFuck you!Ē [loud laughter]

JEFF: Oh, boy! Donít worry, Iíll find you!

JOHN: Iíll mail you postcards! [more laughter]

JEFF: I mean, I can imagine John conning into the studio and making some noise. He, like Dan, was always great at just picking up a guitar and coming up with some neat things, [joking] And with a computer, you can rape it for all itís worth!

JOHN: Hey!!!

JEFF: I know, all this talk of sword-swallowing and raping and sodomizing...

JR: The readers will be appalled! [laughter]

JOHN: Thank God thereís such a thing as editing! [No luck there, smart guy!!!-MS]

MARK: In your last interview with Big Takeover, you talked about how you used ProTools, a computer program, to create some of the sounds you hear on the album. I was curious if that was difficult to bring to a live show? Especially for John, who is coming in and learning to play the new material?

JEFF: Itís difficult in a way, but you donít have to bring everything to the live show. You simplify it. The parts that were created in ProTools, in theory, you can make samples of. Because I believe that if it was made in ProTools... For example, if it was just Dan shaking the whammy bar, and getting feedback, and this beautiful four seconds happens, and I take it and lower the pitch an octave, and then reverse it, and then take him pulling out his chord and have a funny harmonic pop off, and doubling it and twisting it around-thereís no way thatís gonna happen live! So you would put that in the sampler, and let it happen.

JR: [joking] What, you canít make that happen live?

JEFF: [laughing] Sure you can! But it will happen once!!!

JR: Well, to be fair, Idaho is still very much a live group, the one that Iíve seen the last two nights. You have a drummer, a bassist, a guitarist-l mean, thereís a certain amount of samples that you use, but theyíre more of an augmentation device, you barely notice them since the thrust of the band and the sounds it makes are all being made by the musicians. Watching the live show, thereís not a feeling I get where Iím thinking, ďThere are things I hear on the album that Iím not hearing live.Ē

JEFF: And there are some bands that really rely on that [The Doves, for one]. So yeah, it is a live band. The band youíre seeing live, doesnít reflect the record in the sense that none of these people played on the record, and we didnít have a real band identity. So weíre sort of using these songs as models, learning the parts, and playing. I think that there was a time, in 1996 [circa the masterful Three Sheets to the Wind], when Idaho was a band, just for a little while. And there were many problems with that, such as personality problems, but there also was an ability for all of us to mesh together and play as one unit. This [current] band has yet to discover that. Iím not saying that itís not happening, but this band is still very fresh, very new. I mean, John jumped in not even a month ago from today, without having touched a guitar in years. And since Dan is not playing with us, we took perhaps 10-12 songs out of the repertoire, just because he and I were playing the parts-although John learned a couple of them.

JR: What are some of the songs weíre missing as a result of Danís departure?

JEFF: For example, from Three Sheets, songs like ďPomegranate BleedingĒ and ďNo Oneís Watching.Ē Not very many more off that record. Mainly the later records, where it was mostly myself, with Dan coming in and working with me-stuff off the Forbidden EP, like ďGoldenseal.Ē

JR: Yeah, I noticed you did two of that EPís songs by yourself.

JEFF: Right, which Iím enjoying playing alone. Itís nice, and in the future, I could imagine just touring with three people, maybe Bryan [Kertenian] and John [Goldman, his current tour players], where John would do a lot of samples, and Iíd bring a piano. Just scale it down a bit. We could still get really big, if we have to-Iíd have to play bass, maybe. So getting back to the question, there are a few songs we donít do because Dan is not around. But not enough to keep us from touring.

JR: Well, I saw the gigs you did with Dan and this same bass player you have on this tour, with a different drummer, last time you came to New York when Alas was released. And what I thought, watching these two recent shows, is that if you didnít know it wasnít the band that made the record, youíd have no way of figuring it out just from hearing the band live. It sounds like the same group that made the record!

JEFF: Well, everyone who we end up picking has the same sensibility. Brian is a very young drummer with not very much experience, but heís...

JR: Not very much experience? He sounds great!

JEFF: Heís just a natural talent. Heís 22, and heís only been playing drums a few years. We had to rein him in a little bit, because when I first met him, he was all over the place, with a lot of high-hat tricks. But heís quickly learning how to play minimally, and, listening to Idaho, heís appreciating how simple the drum parts are. Because I really am the drummer in Idaho-I mean, I use ProTools, but all the last few records have been me, and I canít play drums for shit! But it sounds like I can, because on the records I move them around. So Brianís figuring it out, and John [Goldman] is a very musical person. He writes his own wonderful music, and he can pretty much fall into the role. He toured with us in 1994, so heís been around Idaho for the last seven years.

JR: When we interviewed you last time, you had a totally different band that played out on the West coast.

JEFF: Yeah, at that point it was Joey [Waronker, now in R.E.M.] on drums and Christy Schnabel, who was also in the bands Lotusland and Ugly Beauty. Sheís an old friend, with a great voice, a very talented singer-she did backup, and samples.

JR: Sheís on which record?

JEFF: She only really sings on the Shanti Project Collection [1999 benefit compilation for HIV/AIDS], on ďThe Sun is All There Is,Ē and ďThis Cloud Weíre OnĒ from Hearts of Palm. She also sang the parts [live] that Melissa Auf Der Maur sang on Alas. I really wanted Melissa to come sing on the new one, but she wasnít available. Sheís in the Smashing Pumpkins now [who played their last show in Chicago right around the time of this interview].

JR: So who was behind the live album [People Like Us Should Be Stopped, recorded in 1993, released in 2000] with the old John Berry lineup, then? Was that your doing, John? Was that a tape you had lying around?

JOHN: No, we just happened to know that that show had been taped by somebody in a band called The Lemon Merchants, I think.

JEFF: Yeah. We knew that somebody had recorded it, and nobody had ever recorded that lineup.

JOHN: And they contacted Jeff a few years ago, and then Jeff lost the e-mail, and we really wanted to hear it!

JEFF: And they disappeared on me a few times too, there was some fishy stuff going on! But it was the only account of that lineup out there!

JOHN: But we found it, and we listened to it, and we had talked about doing something like that [releasing a live LP].

JEFF: There was a certain power to that lineup, and those times of our lives-l donít think we knew any better. But there was this rage that happened.

JOHN: Itís like watching a car accident, I think. Thatís how I felt about it. It was released more because it was a document of a certain time, rather than for the music itself.

JEFF: Itís mostly for fans, because fans love it. I even listen to some of it, and think, ďThis is atrocious, it sounds like you blew up a toaster or something!Ē

JR: ďIt sounds like you blew up a toaster?!?Ē [loud laughter] Jesus! You could be a rock journalist! Iím sure theyíre looking for guys down at the LA. Weekly! You can review all the CDs that come in, with an imagination like that!

JEFF: Send them my way! But yeah, I think it was worth putting out.

JR: For instance, Idaho has worked with a drummer from The Swans...

JOHN: I love The Swans.

JR: Remember the original records they made that were really dirge-like?

JOHN: Uh-huh. I love Cop [Swans second LP, from 1984]! JR: Think of Filth [first LP, from 1983]. There was a review of that in a fanzine here called Flesh & Bones, and the writer Jeffo said it sounded ďlike two brontosauruses having sex!Ē [loud laughter] That was one of the most accurate reviews Iíve ever read! If you ever heard the Swans, you realize itís true. It sounded like some gigantic earth-moving experience, thatís for sure!

JEFF: So crude, yet profound!

JOHN: I like that stuff, though. I thought it was very cathartic. I would list them as an influence. We had tracked down Vinnie Signorelli, who had been the drummer for The Swans for a little while. Heís the drum≠mer on a couple of things on our first record, Year After Year.

JEFF: John just found him, and somehow tracked him down.

JEFF: John [Berry] played a lot of drums [on Year After Year].

JOHN: Jeff Zimmitti was a drummer. Love him. He did the drums on [This Way Oufs] ďForever,Ē I think they were amazing.

JR: Well, the live album was interesting to me, because I had never seen that lineup. The first time I saw the group was at Gibsonís in Tempe, AZ, on the Cranes tour. That mustíve been summer of Ď95.

JEFF: Oh, you were there?!? Yeah, John was sort of freshly gone by then. Well, maybe a year, year-and-a-half.

JR: Did you think you guys would still be playing together, nine years later, in the same band? [both give an emphatic ďno!Ē] You have five albums now, Jeff, right?

JEFF: Five albums, some EPs, and a live record. And a whole shit-load of unreleased stuff that could be great if I went in and fixed it up a little bit. But it would just take a lot of time. But I like looking ahead, and moving in that direction. Weíll see, someday if I can get organized in my life-which is a big goal of mine now, to clean out closets and document things. Iíll get back to it. But Iím such a perfectionist that I would listen to it, and I would find something wrong with it, and I wouldnít want to go fix it. But thereís some neat songs there. Thereís as many [unreleased] songs as released ones.

JR: [to John] Heíll make you do it!

JOHN: [flatly] Oh no! Not after all this!

JR: Had enough?

JOHN: No, itís not that-although Iíll look forward to a month off, or something! Itís just been a little overwhelming, ever since we decided to start a label. Thereís a lot more footwork involved than I had realized.

JR: [kidding] Yeah, youíve got these pesky magazine editors chasing you for ads, right? [laughs] At least one, anyway!

JOHN: No, I was e-mailing you about the info, [looking through the magazine] The Black Watch! Weíre on the bill with them, for their show in Athens, GA. Heís [John Andrew Fredrick, singer] trying to get me to play with them in Athens, heís a friend of mine.

JR: I know the feeling. Iím actually playing drums with them, next month at Luna Lounge and Arleneís Grocery. My band Springhouseís bass player [Larry Heineman] is in on it too, weíre their New York rhythm section. I thought you guys were headed to Europe?

JEFF: After that. Weíre not headed to Europe for a month.

JOHN: We go to Chicago, Milwaukee, and Cleveland, and then Athens and Atlanta.

JR: Wow, youíre really promoting your new album.

JOHN: [laughs] Weíre trying!

JR: I thought this was just another hit-and-run East coast jaunt!

JEFF: I have to break through that, because that sucks. Idaho hasnít played more than two shows in a row for four or five years, and Iíve got to get to the point where weíve played 20 shows, and I can get on stage and really be as good as I know we can be. Youíve got to keep playing shows, one after the other, to get over stage fright, and sometimes my voice doesnít open up for a few songs. Iím sick of doing all this work, playing three shows, and then stopping for a year.

JOHN: [to Jeff] Yeah, you played four shows in 1998, and you hadnít played any in two years up until then. And then another two years went by! I felt like I was twisting his arm to get him to go out again!

JEFF: John really was the one fueling the fire.

JR: The label guy is the one that has to do that! Well, youíve obviously recorded for other labels until now-Caroline and Buzz. And now the onus is on you to be a label all your own. You have to take over all the duties, including promotion.

JEFF: Thereís a lot of stuff. John and Dale do most of it. Itís fun-l mean, itís fun for me, to watch it happen!

JOHN: [laughing, sarcastically] Itís fun for Jeff!

JR: He shows up and says, ďWhereís my royalty check?Ē

JOHN: Not yet! But he will.

JEFF: No, but itís an adventure. We donít have record labels knocking on our door, so I thought, ĎWhy not just do it ourselves?í John and Dale, between them, seem to have the knack; they have what it takes to get to the right people.

JOHN: Itís called stupid tenacity!

JR: It seems like weíre going to see more and more bands, whoíve built up at least a small name recording for established indie and major labels, just say, ďForget it, I can just do this myself now, or my friends can.Ē

JOHN: I think that the term ďDo It YourselfĒ has a weird sound to it, but thatís what this is, and itís just because nobody would even book this band. I went to Billions, I went to Flower, I tried to get Aero-booking out of Seattle...

JR: So you booked this tour yourself?

JOHN: Oh, yeah. Weíve done everything!

JR: Howíd you do such a good job?

JOHN: [emphatically] Dale!!! [laughter]

JR: Typically, when bands book themselves, they end up putting themselves into some inappropriate clubs without knowing. How are you going to know where to play, if youíre 3,000 miles away?

JEFF: Word of mouth, Internet, what other bands have played there.

JOHN: Websites like Pollster [www.pollstar.com].

JR: So you put in a lot of effort, then.

JOHN: Oh, yeah, a lot of research! Iím very obsessive.

JEFF: John and Dale work, like, 19 hour days!

JR: Heck, even being booked by William Morris, we played two or three shows [out of 100] where I hated the clubs. Club Rock in Las Vegas, for example. [Otherwise Springhouse was very spoiled by our agentís fabulous work.]

JOHN: I never heard of Club Rock!

JR: Thatís exactly the point! [laughter]

JEFF: We also had a good booking agent before, and we were also playing inappropriate places. But I think this works better.

JOHN: Well, a lot of places we just know, because weíve been around.

JR: But if I just throw a name out, like Detroit, where do you play?

JOHN: The Shelter. Been there, in 1996.

JEFF: John toured with the band Lifter that was on Interscope. He wasnít in the band, he was their road manager.

JOHN: No, I was in Lifter, I was the drummer! Hey! Anyway, I played at Pine Knob with Tori Amos and Alanis Morissette! It was weird, because they [Lifter] were a huge band on MP3.com, and they [MP3.com] submitted like 20 bands to Tori and Alanis, and we just happened to be one of four picked! It was a lot of fun.

JR: So how many people were there? 7,000?

JOHN: It wasnít full yet, I would say 3,500.

JR: Is that the biggest crowd you ever played for?

JOHN: No, I think the biggest would have been Minneapolis, at the Target Center. The doors were open before we went on, so... I donít know how many people that place holds, but it was about 75% full.

JR: Thatís got to be about 14,000, because thatís a hockey and basketball arena, [changing subject] So, is your Dad still alive, John? [referring to Ken Berry, sitcom actor on shows such as F-Troop, where he played the bumbling fort commander, Captain Palmate, and Mamaís Family] [Yes] How old is he now?

JOHN: Heíll be 67 on November 3.

JR: He mustíve done movies in addition to TV, right?

JOHN: A couple. JR: Any worth mentioning?

JOHN: [chuckling] Yes. Herbie Rides Again\\\ [uproarious laughter] [Actually, Ken Berryís movie listing on the Internet Movie Database is surprisingly sparse-his work has been primarily in sitcoms and; few TV movies-MS]

JR: I told John that my four favorite shows growing up were Get Smart, F-Troop, Odd Couple, and Hoganís Heroes [later AlI in the Family]. My entire sense of humor [such as it is] comes from those our shows! The more bizarre and the more connected to U.S. history and culture, the more I liked it! Cold War spoofs, Indian Wars spoofs, WWII concentration camp spoofs... and two divorced men sharing an apartment, driving each other crazy! What more do you need in life?

JOHN: Itís like Ď60s slapstick, almost.

JR: I think I watched every episode at least two or three times.

JOHN: Really? I mustíve watched a lot of it, too. I wasnít a huge fan, but I watched it a lot, so I mustíve been accepting it!

JR: Nice going,Dad!Larry Storchís[F-Troopís Corporal Agarn] appearance on Get Smart as a Groovy Guru is really famous in Australia. Australian bands used to make reference to that all the time see Hoodoo Gurusí ďLetís All Turn OnĒ]! His [Storchís] character was a DJ that was going to poison the minds of the youth culture of America playing something like ďsuicide music!Ē Did your Dad encourage you in your career as a musician? Was it like one creative guy to another?

JOHN: Not really. He just wanted me... not to be a fuck-up! And hatís exactly what I did! [laughs]

JR: Donít laugh, I was watching the bio on Mackenzie Phillips [child actress from One Day at a Time and daughter of Mamas & the Papas stars]. I mean, going out with Peter Asher when you were 16?!? The guy was 40 or so, he was in Peter & Gordon in the Ď60s! The offspring of the Hollywood famous are often so screwed up.

JOHN: Actually, not to leave her out, my Mom had a very nice career too. She was a character actress, her name was Jackie Joseph. She was in the original Little Shop of Horrors. She played Audrey. She was also in a bunch of films, like Gremlins and Police Academy. Sheís actually had a cooler career than my Dad, just lesser known. She was he also the voice of the drummer [Melody] in Josie & the Pussycats!

JR: Wow, thereís a rock and roll reference! [John laughs] You know my friend Bobby [Schayer] from Bad Religion? His mother was in Blue Hawaii with Elvis Presley, and in the Cheech & Chong movies like Up in Smoke. And whenever you ask him, ďWho did she play in these movies?Ē he always says, ďThe Mexican!!!Ē [laughter] His father was a cop in Hollywood, whose job it was to arrest Lenny Bruce, even though he [Schayerís dad] liked his act. He would say, Just doing my job!Ē And Bruce said he wanted to have Bobbyís dad arrest him. He requested him! Well, you never know what you get from the underground rock sons and daughters of Hollywood people! But isnít that how you met Jeff, though, because you were going to schools in a much nicer area of L.A. than most people?

JOHN: Well, it was just more of a private school, it wasnít that it was a nicer area. His school was in Santa Monica, and our schools would play each other in sports. We actually both ran track against each, although we didnít know it at the time.

JEFF: The amusing thing is that when I met John... [to John] Do we want to tell this story, or is it too embarrassing?

JOHN: [joking] Oh, yeah! But you can tell it!

JEFF: [to John] Maybe you better tell it, because Iíll fuck it all up!

JOHN: Iíd been playing in rock cover bands with Chris Owens, who is [old TV show Laugh In announcer] Gary Owensí son, and Chris had this idea-he started getting very cuckoo-of starting a band with Hollywood kids. He was about 16 or 17, and he just thought it would make a good selling point. This was his baby. Anyway, with Chris trying to do that, he sort of discovered Jeff, and that band fizzled, but Jeff and I became friends.

JEFF: I had gone to the prom with Ed Asnerís daughter Katie! [Ed Asner was TVís Lou Grant, from the Mary Tyler Moore and Lou Grant shows, and Broadway actor from plays such as Born Yesterday]

JR: Wow! Bizarre! Katie Asner! Yeah, and one of his sons I remember was in a punk rock band in the early Ď80s, back when that was more culturally despised! Anyway, we could go on this forever. Does everyone always ask you guys in interviews why you called your band Idaho?

JOHN: Actually, Mike Coulter, who was the Lifter singer, had a band called Iowa that was very slow, and very plodding. It was with Steve Hadley, the drummer of Acetone. That band [Iowa] was defunct, so I asked Mike if I could use the name Iowa, and he said, ďWell, why donít you just call the band Idaho?Ē [laughter]

JR: And have you played there yet?

JEFF: Yes, we played in Idaho. Weíve played in Moscow and Boise. We played with John in the early days, and then we played again 0/ith Terry, Mark, and Dan.

JR: I was talking with Joey Shithead [Keithley] of D.O.A. about those awful old bands, Chicago and Boston and Kansas, we were making fun of them, and he said thereís now a new, popular Canadian band called Toronto!!!! That just sounds so bad!!!

JEFF: Doesnít that sound horrible?!?

JOHN: Thereís also an Oregon.

JR: No really: [mimicking an announcer] ďLadies and gentlemen... Toronto!!!!!!!Ē [loud laughter] And believe it or not, two weeks ago I actually passed Fountains of Wayne.

JOHN: [confused] Passed them?!?

JR: Passed it. The business. In Wayne, NJ, where my brother lives, thereís a business called Fountains of Wayne. They sell fountains! Itís like something youíd see on David Letterman.

JR: No, thatís where Fountains of Wayne got the name. You know, when youíre trying to think of a band name, everyone goes ďI donít know,Ē and then all of a sudden everyone starts calling out everything their eyes see around them. ďOh, yeah, how about Joeís Pizza!?Ē

JOHN: Well, that was part of naming us. That it was just such a stupid... that did play into calling it. [stops] I donít want to go any further because I donít want to get Jeff into trouble! [laughs] I donít want to bag on the state!

JEFF: Itís just a band name!

JR: Or a bad name?

JOHN: Ohhhh!!!!!!! Wanna come over here and say that? [They fight. Jack is killed in the fight. Don King demands a rematch, anyway. Mark takes over Big Takeover, propping up Jackís corpse at his old computer, since he never moved from there much, anyway, and insists that, despite being ďtechnically deceased,Ē and otherwise ďmetaphysically challenged,Ē Jack is still the ďCo-Executive Editor,Ē along with Jackís cat Mina. John Berry takes over as reviews editor, with his sly references to exploding toasters. Jeff defies Don King, and announces his next bout will be with Dan Seta, and a bus-full of prospective Idaho drummers. Katie Asner is hired as the round sign girl, in a red, white and blue bikini. The interview itself is called a draw, on account of the tape running out...]

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