From The Horse's Mouth: Steve "Trash" Fishman on Bubbling Up From Underground: The State Of The Art-Rock Pt 1

Steve "Trash" Fishman

Steve “Trash” Fishman

Bubbling Up From Underground: The State Of The Art-Rock Pt 1 is an ambitious, eclectic and unashamedly aggressive showcase for the infectious, in-your-face songwriting and powerful, distinctive bass playing of punk veteran Steve “Trash” Fishman and a revolving cast of friends, cheekily presented as a label sampler. His guests include Hugh Cornwell (Stranglers), Clem Burke (Blondie), the band Chrome, Pamela Hutchinson (The Emotions), and video artist Doug Aitken among others. Bubbling Up From Underground is a musical party hosted by Fishman who’s played with various Sex Pistols, members of the Damned, Blondie, NY Dolls, Stranglers, Attractions, and James White as well as some others: Paul McCartney, Elton John and Roy Orbison. The album is the inaugural release from Major Records, in stores June 29.
The performances on Bubbling Up From Underground are fun, poignant, smart-ass infused with distilled DNA of The Who, Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Iggy, Lou Reed, Bowie, Roxy Music, T. Rex, Dolls, Pistols, and The Clash. They a document cross-pollination of creative scenes based primarily in London, Los Angeles and New York. Steve has assembled a variety of line-ups to achieve specific and determinedly virulent ends: TRASHBEAT who combines Punk, 70’s Glam, Post-Pop and Art-Rock with flavors of Garage and Psych; TRASH KULTURE mixes multiple flavors of Rock with Noise, EDM, Industrial and Punk-Funk; THE SHADES is Steve with Shawn Lee yielding a pronouncedly British vision of all that is funky and freaky and their output to date is a fave of many influential DJs including Tom Middleton, Coldcut, and Giles Peterson among others.
CHROME are, of course the ’70s psychedelic art-punk originals; JAPAN SOUND ENSEMBLE is an open door project based in Tokyo with guests from all walks of musical life ala Mod comp, improv, Electro.
The guiding force behind all these units, Steve Fishman arrives at this undertaking with impressive credentials and a sordidly romantic personal history in music. His first notable undertaking was late ’70s L.A. band “Bent,” a reinvention of seminal artpunks The Deadbeats which was subsequently re-reinvented as a new edition of The Deadbeats. As this wound down, Steve wound up in DFO, an early 80’s Punk/Jazz/Art vehicle with players from on loan from Oingo Boingo and others who’d go on to Queens Of The Stone Age; guests included Red Hot Chilli Peppers and James Chance/White, the latter then recruiting Fishman to play with his “Blacks”.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Fishman to discuss the endeavor and this is what he told us.
When did you begin writing the material for the album?  
Some of the tracks on Bubbling Up From UnderGround were written in very recent months and others go back many years. That’s the nature of Major (Label) and the artists. It’s a label compilation so the parameters are wide although all the artists are related and interconnected.
For example, “Offer” by Trash Kulture is from 2015, but “Frozen” was written ages ago. A common problem occurs when an act worked on their songs for (five or 10) years and that’s their debut album. Then there are only a few months to write the next one. We don’t have that problem cause we have hundreds of greats songs between us and its not a pop thing so we don’t care about charts…only about what we love and believe in musically.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing?  Why was it so troublesome? 
I’d pick “Concrete” because it was around for a few years. It’s a dance-punk track with dissonance and hooks. It had so many good parts that choosing what to take out was tough. Its an instrumental but I could see John Lydon or someone doing a vocal on it.
Which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song? 
That would either be “Bloody Lies” or “Step Into the Future.” “Lies” because it started out pretty spiky and wound up with a hooky chorus and “Step” began life as an ambient piece for MOMA and DFA records and turned into a post punk, art rock dance punk track.
You had a wide variety of guest musicians play and sing on the record…
Actually, “Bloody Lies” and Step Into the Future” are good examples. “Lies” has vocals by Hugh Cornwell, former frontman of The Stranglers. Hugh is a veritable punk-era icon and on drums we have the mighty Clem Burke (Blondie, Iggy, Eurythmics etc). “Step” features Doug Aitkin who is one of the most renowned artists of our time. Other guests include Shawn Lee (Unkle, Kelis, Pingpong Orchestra), Denny Weston (Kooks) and Pam Hutchinson of The Emotions on backing vocals on “Bullet 4 U.”
Who produced the record? 
I produced everything with the exception of “Lady Feline” which was produced by Chrome. “Cool Me” was co-produced with Shawn Lee. Arnaud Bascunana engineered several of the Trashbeat songs and had a big hand in the old school production and sound of those tracks so he gets a credit.
We’re very eclectic and a bit schizophonic. As an art-based guy I often keep it left but I do love good pop. “Sugar Sugar” by The Archies is an example and “Rock On” David Essex is a favorite production. I also have a vintage studio with bizarre instruments so that really shapes the sound.
Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?
Yes. It’s about the musical scene I’m part of, our friends and colleagues around the globe and all the projects are connected in various ways, one of which is myself as a writer, musician, producer and sometime vocalist. Its new to the public (except one track on a late 2014 Chrome album).
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
As there are several acts and sub-genres on this album, the answer is yes and no… About half have been played live.. The strongest reactions have been the Trashbeat songs “Bullet 4 U,” “Hollywood” and “Come Slumming,” which are punky glammy rock and roll. Chrome has diehard fans and always gets a superb reaction plus the new stuff holds up alongside the classics… some say its even better. Weird art- rocker who have been awarded the second most drug addled album ever and the eigth best U.S. punk album ever. Trash Kulture doesn’t play out much now, but they will as we are confident the demand will grow wildly. “Frozen” was always a fave and was the lead single in an album deal with Warners WEA. But it didn’t come out so its fresh as a daisy.
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