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To Damascus Interview

From the fanzine From Ears And Mouth (FEAM)
August 1987


To Damascus Interview
  with "From Ears and Mouth"

To Damascus has their 2nd LP out: "Come to Your Senses", it counts with 10 original songs and is a more cohesive effort than their debut "Succumb". When asked about the major difference between the two LPs, Sylvia replied: "'Senses' has a lyric sheet!" This trio, Tyran von Pagenhardt, Sylvia Juncosa and David Winogrond, have a bizarre and wild sense of humor, talking to them is like being forever lost in an adult house of fun, what follows is a trip through To Damascus' mysteriously nervous world, this is for serious coffee drinkers ONLY ... gin p.

FEAM: Do you like to be in the studio better than you like to play live?

Tyran: It depends who you ask!

Sylvia: Well I like doing them both for different reasons. Live is more like a release, more sweaty and fun y'know, but then like recording is your lasting thing, so if someone put a knife to my throat and said 'You can do only one of the two things now' I would do the recording! But there is no replacing live, for like, being bitchin'!

Tyran: I hate recording. I hate it with a passion! David likes it.

David: I love recording!

FEAM: Why do you hate it?

Tyran: I hate being in this room with all these spinning wheels that have nothing to do with music. You play for like, a few minutes and then you sit there while this guy plays with his machines for an hour ... (everyone laughs) ... 'What am I doing here? I could be outside just doing anything! Call me when it's my turn again ok?' Have you ever been in a recording studio? It's boring right? OK, so here's Mr. Boring ...

David: I love it!

Sylvia: Yeah, he's all into gadgets, and things with lights on them.

FEAM: So you'd sit there with Ethan and go 'yeah, let's punch this in' ...

David: Yeah, I like seeing it grow from the bottom into a final thing. There's lots of things you can't get live. Like all the overdubs. you're also creating something that's gonna last, it's not just a 'one show and it's over' ... There's parts that are only played on the record.

Sylvia: But recording is such a traumatic experience. You should see me, I'm this total, total ...

Tyran: You've got these wires draped over you ...

Sylvia: It's true!

Tyran: I can't stand it! It's like you can't move! Yeah, I'm supposed to be groovin' on my bass! (laughter)

Sylvia: You go into this room and then, like, this strange man comes up, and attaches these things to your head, and you have to stand there, you can only go into this little radius

Tyran: And then he tells ya, 'Now just relax', yeah right, 'Just Relax' like this?

Sylvia: And then every second you look over at me and I'm sitting there going 'Time is money, time is money!' (laughter)

Tyran: What a relaxing experience!

Sylvia : And then I'll say 'Oh I'm worried about my vocals' and David will say 'Why? They sounded OK last time ... well ... sorta'. You know, things like that, or I'll be 'I'm trying to concentrate on singing so you can hear the words' and he's like 'Well are they worth hearing?'

David laughs and laughs

FEAM: What a nice guy!

Sylvia: So there's shaking, sweaty Sylvia, drag her to the microphone ...

Tyran: Yeah, that's always fun!

Sylvia: But we lived through it

FEAM: Is there gonna be a big gap before the next recording session?

Tyran: I wish but ...

Sylvia:I'm getting inspired!

Tours

Sylvia: We're going out in October

Tyran: In August too

Sylvia: In October we're gone for a month and in August it's for a week

FEAM: Where are you going in August?

Sylvia: San Luis Obispo, San Francisco, Eugene, and Portland, and Seattle and Vancouver, I don't know about the order, but ... oh, and we'll get a van, and we'll conquer the world

Tyran: In one week.

David: Hey, we'll conquer the world on our way to Vancouver!

Sylvia: Without even getting out of the van!

FEAM: What are going to be your survival tactics on the road?

Tyran: This is interesting, another story here ...

Sylvia: See, it's gonna be easy ...

Tyran: We gotta have windows in the van. See, I gotta have solitude at least 23 hours a day

Sylvia: But see, you will when you drive, and we'll be [sleeping]

Tyran: Yeah, I get the driving

Sylvia: No, we'll be great on the road

David: We just won't talk to you

Sylvia: She never sleeps or eats, she visits supermarkets, you hear about bands getting worn out on the road but with us it's no problem because ... like extra human strength and endurance

Tyran: It's all the vitamins

Sylvia: Yeah, she takes these strange vitamins instead of eating

Tyran: But what else did we do? We got along OK, we were fine ... Oh! Except we froze to death! It was horrible!! Sylvia, I'm never going on tour with you again!! ... We were in San Francisco in December, and we had just finished playing, so it's about 1 am and Sylvia is still all awake, so decides 'Let's cruise San Francisco!' (laughter)

Sylvia: It was fun!

Tyran: It's 30 below zero and Sylvia's all 'Hey Man!'

Sylvia: I didn't have any directions, so I hit the red light district, looked at all the tattoo parlors ... and was proud of myself because I found the beach without even knowing ...

Tyran: Like it's so hard to find the beach in San Francisco. It's not like you're in Kansas! (laughter)

Sylvia: No, no ... I mean I found the one I meant to find!

Tyran: So tell me why you decided to stop and meditate there?

Sylvia: Because that's where I went surfing one time, and all the waves crashing, I just felt that it was where we should spend the rest of the night.

Tyran: Notice the practicality of all this, it has nothing to do with warmth (laughter), it has to do with 'Sylvia once surfed there'!

David: I got bronchitis up there!

Sylvia: It wasn't so bad.

Tyran: Oh yeah, Sylvia has this thing the harder the better, because we can look back at it, if we survive it, and say "We conquered!"

Sylvia: Yeah, and you're stronger for the experience

David: But I got bronchitis!

Sylvia: Well, you're supposed to suffer for your art (laughter)

FEAM: Where are you going in October?

Sylvia: We're going to Canada (turns to look at Tyran) Ha you thought it was cold in San Francisco, just wait till we get to Canada!

Tyran: Oh shit

Suicide Rock

Tyran: We had a tour to Ridgecrest, do you know where Ridgecrest is? We drove there to play one time!

FEAM: Did lots of people show up?

David: No.

Tyran: There was about five people there!

Sylvia: No there was about 20!

Tyran: I was expecting hordes of people from the hinterland or something, someone kept telling us that Exene had played there and Mick Jagger had played there, and we're like 'Oh sure!' We get up there and there's this little ...

David: A rock, that's the stage!

Sylvia: And it was called Suicide Rock! And if Ridgecrest isn't far out of the way already, we still had to drive up these winding, lonely roads. All the time we're thinking 'They're gonna kill us!'

Tyran: 'They're gonna kill us for our equipment!'

Sylvia: So we get there and we're greeted by a guy with a gun!

David: 'We've been expecting you!'

Tyran: He was shooting scorpions.

Sylvia: Yeah, and he thought it was funny. So there's this tiny little light that's being held over us, which is the only light for miles ...

Tyran: They had this generator ...

Tyran: It was booked by this guy who wanted to be our manager! (hysterical laughter at this comment) First and only gig he arranged.

Sylvia: Yes, and he decided to make this beer run right before we started to play, and it was miles down this road, so we played and finally after awhile we just said 'There's nobody here' and we stopped. So he gets back and goes 'We wanna hear you play!' We're all 'Well ...' I mean the guy took everyone on the stupid beer run!

FEAM: Were the lyrics for 'Come to Your Senses' mostly written ...

Sylvia: (laughing) In the studio? Uh, yeah!

David: After the vocals were recorded!

Tyran: People I know of do that!

Sylvia: The lyrics are always the last to go in a song, we'll have the idea of the vocals but until I know I have to be there at seven o'clock with the vocals I'm not satisfied with them.

FEAM: So music comes first then lyrics.

Sylvia: Yeah, by the time the first album came out we were still referring to songs as Song #1, The Fast Song ...

David: ... The New Song, the Other Slow Song ...

Sylvia : ... The Other, Newer Slower Song! (laughter)

FEAM: Is that what the set list would look like?

David: There wasn't a set list so it wasn't a problem!

Sylvia: If we did have a set list we'd spend too much time ... One member would pick it up and go "Which one is that?" The point of having a set list would be defeated so we never use one!

Holding Back

Sylvia: I want to change the world! (laughs) In the more immediate ... our songs are personal, music is an outlet for all these inner things, at least for me, it could also be an outlet for people who feel that way, or feel nothing then maybe they'll feel something! Also, it's influencing people's attitudes because of the fact that I'm a female guitar hero (laughs), there aren't that many females who take chances in general, in rock bands I mean. They're more in pop bands, just very conservative in image and music. Lastly, these are plans for the next album I want to move lyrically more towards a worldly consciousness, than the personal stuff we're doing now.

FEAM: So there definitely is a responsibility with To Damascus.

Sylvia: Oh yeah

Tyran: Yeah, that's what really bums me out and why I don't buy any albums, in the 60's there were things to get mad about, pissed off about and they were sincere! Now you see all these people: "Fight for your right to party"? C'mon get serious! To have that as an anthem? It seems pretty tragic to me! I think musicians have an obligation to say something, and to lead people towards some direction.

Sylvia: If you're a band in a position that's saying "Hey! Listen to me!" you should fucking have something to say! If not, do something else.

P.M.R.C.

Sylvia: I don't understand this thing with the PMRC, I mean who are you protecting by putting lyrics on the cover of a record?

Tyran: If you're going to use words like "fuck", I mean they're used in everyday conversation, and since they're used so often they lose their meaning and it's almost like there's this inner core of fundamentalists that want these words to be hidden so when they're used it's scandalous.

Sylvia : Yeah, the same thing with sex. If you try to make sex into this bad, evil, corrupt thing, the more people are going to be into it, and not only, they're going to go at it in the weidest ways! The people who are the weirest sexually are the ones who were most restricted!

Tyran: Yeah, look at Jim Bakker!

FEAM: When you were in 2nd grade and they asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, what did you say?

Sylvia: There was a while when I wanted to be a horse-shoer.

David: I started playing drums when I was eleven, and then I knew that that's what I wanted to do. I was glued to the record player ever since I was five.

Tyran: I wanted to be a veterinarian.

Sylvia: Did you really?

Tyran: Yeah, or a baseball player.

David: I wanted to be a clown!

Sylvia: A what?

David: A clown ... did I succeed? (laughs)

FEAM: What drove you to music eventually?

Tyran: Could you see us doing anything else?

Sylvia: We're too lame, you should have seen us trying to get our pictures taken, (laughs) the guy goes "OK close your eyes and when I tell you to open them ..." so we wouldn't be blinking and stuff ...

David: There's this great picture of all of us with our eyes closed!

FEAM: What adjective would best describe a To Damascus gig?

David: Chaos!

Sylvia: Corpuscular! That means 'pertaining to the sunset'! (Don't ask me - ed.)

Tyran: Yeah, that's my favorite word.

Sylvia: Like warm, beautiful and changing, but when someone sees us I want them to get these little chills down their spines! I want to combine being artistic and poetic on the lyrical side, then primal and sexual on the rhythmic or groove side.

FEAM: What banner would you put behind you.

Sylvia: Think globally act locally! I got that from the Socialist Party.

FEAM: Any last words?

Tyran: Get me outta this band please!

Sylvia: But we know she won't leave, no other band would have her

Tyran: Let's end with the poem you wrote

Sylvia: I have a lovely poem, it came from a friend saying you couldn't rhyme anything with the word 'orange', so I proceeded to find all these things that would rhyme and they were horrible and silly, so then my friend was finding words and she came to 'pulsating', so I said 'go ahead rhyme something with pulsating in it', so she did a poem with 'pulsating' in it and this is a poem I did.

Tyran: This is the winner of the Pulsating Finals.

Sylvia:

The Automatic Carrot Slicer
Was not a perfect machine
It often broke and was hard to keep clean.
But when it was plugged in
With its engine pulsating
Boy could that thing save long hours of dull grating.

And with the bongo drums going madly out of control in the background, coffee finally served to the right table (us for instance), we could have ditched the bill but honor and truth and all that jazz, besides who wants to get chased out into the street by a crazed cook with a butcher's knife? Not me, and especially not on a Sunday. We split to our car and To Damascus split too. So you gotta go check them out, it's a mandatory thing, but you got to remember ONE major important thing: DON'T GO FOR A BEER RUN WHILE TO DAMASCUS IS ON!!!


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