Can you go back over your formation in 1992, about what you wanted to do at that time, musically speaking ?
Jeff: In 1992, John and I had been friends for quite a long time. We both had given some tries in different bands but without success, it was not original enough. And John wanted us to make something together. But the problem was that, in these days, he was struggling with drugs, he was not the kind of person to hang around with. Though, we started to experiment a bit and to record some songs, about once a month, on the weekend. And this extraordinary and magical alchemy has begun to work.
Were you influenced by grunge ?
Not really. My girlfriend had bought Nirvana's "Nevermind", it was punchy but not the kind music I was sensitive to.Mmmh... What was I listening at that time by the way ? Strangely, we were compared to Codeine. I had listened to what they were doing and I thought it was pretty good, quite minimalist, rather mysterious and obsessive. But overall, I was essentially interested in my own music and what I could create. It is even a bit embarassing to admit that I was not a record collector. In fact, John and I were essentially into dark and introspective music and we also started to get intereted in 4-strings guitars. Finally, our music has always evoluted away from the mainstream: grunge, etc... It was reflecting our state of mind at that time, things we were living. And we were not the happiest people in the world. We just had this refuge of creativity.
For 10 years, the band has constantly changed its line-up: could you make a brief summary of this decade with Idaho ?
John and I were the core of it. We had made a nice first record but something happened with John. He was always struggling with his addiction. Now, he's fine, he got out of it. I didn't work with him on the 2nd record because of this, so I did "This way out" by myself. And on this record, John's absence is obvious. In the same time, my music brings something else. One can notice my influences, the bands that I've liked: Pavement, Dinosaur Jr,... It also coincides with my first works with Dan Seta and the real creation of the band. Some years later, in 1995, we had a real band. It was weird for me because I had to work more collectively. Moreover, there were strong individualities which resulted in conflicts... But there was also this je-ne-sais-quoi that tied the musicians altogether so that things were working. We've been on tour and live, it sounded good. We thought that our label would bet a lot for this record but in 1996, alternative fashion started to run out of steam and they stopped to support us... Then I started to work alone while collaboring a bit with Dan Seta and we got signed by Buzz Records, a very small label, in 1998 (for the "Alas" LP). So we recorded "Alas" in a kind of garage and then, I decided to quit. I told myself that it was time for me to get a job and to write movie soundtracks.But each time I have tried to go that way, I have not liked the result. So I got resigned, saying that my fate was to make music with Idaho for the rest of my life... After that, John Berry got back to work with us, he gave us a helping hand. It seems like our destinies had to cross each other again . I have known him since I'm 16, there's always been an ebb and flow in our friendship... So he reappears and with his girlfriend, we created this "Idaho Music" label. There was this new emulation, we were really excited about that. We started being known in France and in Europe. Not really in the United States because there is no room for any form of art that is not part of the cultural industry, there. In any case, we are really delighted and excited by what we are currently doing. What we are going to play live is taken from "Levitate" and also from this new compilation, made of outtakes I have exhumated here and there.
In 10 years, you've had an examplary career full of important and uncompromising records, though you have never received a significant popular recognition, just what we may call a small impact success or a cult band status... What do you think about that ?
Oh ! That's a very good question ! That's kind of paradoxical because I am not looking after recognition or success. I feel that it may ruin everything and get me out of my way... I am quite introvert, I don't like getting everyone's attention. By the way, it can sound paradoxical but I tend to prefer concerts with few people. If one day I ever write a hit, God knows what my reaction would be ! Even though it's true that we've been here for quite a long time et we are kind of respected, we are still waiting for recognition. But I feel that I may come soon.
The opportunity to take the same road as the Red House Painters, who have signed a major, didn't happen ?
Not really... It could have been in 1995 with all this buzz around alternative rock. During "Three Sheets to the Wind", a label was vaguely interested. But then, electronica arrived and it has been fatal to us
You have been associated with the slowcore movement: what do you think about this ?
That is not true in fact. We can't say that because there were bands like Codeine before us. Their music was slow and quite dark, introspective. Indeed, when we started, there was not so much bands and even less that sounded like Idaho... But I am not very fond of the slowcore classification. It's OK when you generalize or put into a context but now, it does not really mean a thing. Nevertheless, I have noticed these days that Idaho has influenced some other bands. Through the records that some fans have sent to me.
After 1998 "Alas", it seems that the band have lived some cloudy days. Can "Hearts of Palm" be considered as a rebirth ?
Rebirth lies in John's come-back and his help on the record. It is also the creation of Idaho Music. It makes you more confident to have such a structure because for "Alas" for instance, people were not competent enough. There's been a kind of a second chance.
You play four-strings guitars: for what reason and do you build them yourself ?
I don't build them myself. That's John Carruthers's job. He also builds some for Joni Michell and Steely Dan. The 4-strings are kind of an accident: one year before I started Idaho, I had a guitar around the house that had 4 strings and I started playing on it. At that time, John liked to put some feedback in our tunes and he noticed that it sounded way better with a 4-strings than with a 6-strings. Dan Seta, who joined the band at a later time, also fell in love with this guitar... Usually, all the guitarists who have played it got hooked by it
Does Idaho remain your unique project or will we ever see you play or compose for others...? We will probably produce other people. Not really to help them writing but rather to help them to make their record out. For me, it would be very satisfying
thanks to Arnaud for the translation of this article
this article is online at the Episode Magazine site