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RootsWorld's Bill Nevins talks with Rennie Sparks of
The Handsome Family

"Tesla's Hotel Room"

Bill: How would you describe your latest CD, Last Days of Wonder? In what ways is it different from your previous recordings? What were you trying to do that's new?

Rennie: This new record is a collection of love songs that take place in swamps and caves, laboratories and bowling alleys. I wanted the songs to be truly Romantic (a heightened sense of nature and emotion) and to celebrate the little mysteries in everyday life.

Who are your fans? Why are they your fans? Where are they?

Most are cobweb-draped shut-ins. You know that haunted house at the end of your street? Thatís where they all live, hiding down in the caverns during daylight hours, piece-by-piece constructing that doomsday machine out of bird feathers and empty Perrier bottles.

What can you say about your choice to live in New Mexico, given that you tour nationally and internationally. What are factors that moved you towards this choice of place to hang your hats?

I moved here for the sunsets and the bright blue skies. The high, thin air makes me always feel like Iím hallucinating and it is not difficult to see entire worlds peeking through the red light that falls across Albuquerque at sunset.

Do people recognize you on the street in Albuquerque? Is that a good or a bad thing, whichever way it is? What do you want to say about politics and the social state of the USA right now, by the way?

I am known as the wailing woman of Nob Hill. You can see me walking around in a green blanket leaving a trail of diamond tears and stealing cassette tapes out of unlocked cars. I am very discouraged by my countries continued love affair with violence. I donít know what the solution is...Hitler was a vegetarian. On a more personal note, I am very discouraged that the prairie dogs that were living in the Circuit City parking lot up on Eubank have Ďdisappearedí.

Bob Dylan is now hosting a satellite radio music show. Is this vanilla or chocolate, and what is your favorite flavor?

I got very angry at the Bob Dylan concert at Tingley Auditorium here last spring. He wouldnít even look at the audience let alone speak to them. The entire concert was focused on the gigantic red curtain behind him that occasionally was turned to purple or yellow with flickering lights. My favorite flavor is pistachio because I always expect it to be salty and itís not. What a pretty green.

New Orleans is messed up but the people there seem to be still singing. Even the people who got shoved out of there by the hurricanes, FEMA and the government still know a lot of songs. Are you going to sing songs about that, them, or even the government?

Are they really singing or are we just being bombarded with happy P.R. About everything being Ďokayí now and assuring us that Americanís are winners who never give up? It seems like most of the really poor people of New Orleans have been permanently displaced. I donít believe in singing songs about the government because I donít think politics have much meaning these days. Left, right, everybody is a liar and nothing on the news is real. All that I know of is what I see walking around, the birds sitting on billboards, the ants building their empires between the cracks in the sidewalk. All else may be dream.

I just met the guy who wrote the book The Long Emergency. He claims that the world economy will break down very soon, that disease epidemics have only started, that religions are wasting time and effort, and that we are in for interesting times. Would you rather write a song about that or drink beer? Why not whiskey?

All my songs are in some ways about the end times. Iím not much of a drinker unless itís French Absinthe mixed with champagne. Hard to get a good glass of absinthe in Albuquerque. Do we deserve to be spared from fire, flood, plague of locusts, etc? I donít think so. Human beings have done nothing good for this planet. They say there are more wolves, elk, foxes, wild flowers up near Chernobyl now than before the radiation. A huge radiation contamination isnít as bad for the earth as the presence of people.

Do you own a DVD of that movie you are in about Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus? If so, how often do you watch it. If not, why not? Is it the best movie ever made about America, or what? Is it better than Neal Young?

I do own a copy, but only watched it when my parents came to visit. They were very confused by it seeing as how I am not from the south nor am I Christian, but I guess if youíve got a million dollar budget from the BBC these things donít stand in your way. Neil Young isnít even American.

So what are you planning to surprise us?

I shall spread my silky black wings and blot out the sun.

Who is your favorite Flek Tone?

The invisible one who explodes light bulbs with the power of his mind.

Any other questions you want to answer, but I did not ask? Please answer them!

Why does everyone blame Charles Manson for Sharon Tateís murder? He wasnít even there.

Can you talk a bit about the experience of being in the film Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus?

We really had no idea what the movie was about at all, but we had a free trip down to a small town in Louisiana (Farriday) and it seemed like fun. I do know (from personal experience) that if you walk into a small-town drug store and say, "Iím out of lithiumĒ they will make a very scary face and give you whatever you want. We ate a lot of fried food and talked to the Brits about life in America then they put us in a car and secretly recorded us bitching about them and the south. I do think the scene on the house boat turned out to be very beautiful however we were standing in two inches of water and holding electric instruments so that wasnít all that much Ďfuní. I thought the people in the trailer park might actually surround us and beat us with pieces of stolen lumber.

Have you any more film projects or appearances planned?

Weíre in a movie thatís just been put out by Lionís Gate called, "Iím Your Man." Itís a tribute concert and interviews about/with Leonard Cohen.

See a video of the song "Your Great Journey"

More about the band is on their web site:
Audio and video courtesy of Carrot Top Records
Photo by Val Hollingsworth: [email protected]

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