|LA PESTE - ON THE WIRE
by Mike Bastarache
From Boston Rock #11 (circa 1980)
I can't pretend to know what La Peste are. I know what they're not. And I know they don't fit any of
those readymade labels that journalists are prone to tag on bands. La Peste present too many contradictions for that. They're deadly serious while keeping a sharp wit, socially concerned yet
detached and cooly confident though vulnerable. But somehow it works. And it works very well
because La Peste sincerely believe in their approach. And it works because they don't beat you on
the head with their sincerity. They slowly convince you through their songs and their sound. THE
sound. Oh yeah, La Peste have that sound.
La Peste are:
Mark Andreasson - bass, vocals
Ian Kalinosky - guitar, vocals
Roger Tripp - drums, vocals.
BOSTON ROCK: What's the background of the band?
MARK: Roger and I started La Peste with Peter [Dayton] about five years ago. Basically none of
us knew how to play. We just got together and decided to start a "new wave" band.
BR: Was that in art school?
MARK: Well, I was in art school. Peter was in art school. Roger was in electronics school.
ROGER: We were living in the same rooming house.
MARK: Yeah, that's how we met. Peter and I happened to be roommates and Roger lived upstairs.
So we all got together, and scratched together some instruments, and learned how to play. It took
about a year to do that. From there we started playing gigs, getting better and better - started to
develop a following. Then a friend of ours, Caroline Bertram, put up the money to help us put out a
record ["Better Off Dead" b/w "Black]. After that things really started to mushroom. At the same time,
the Boston music scene was really getting a lot of good bands.
BR: What was the inspiration to get a band together in the first place?
ROGER: The thrill of playing rock 'n' roll music. Just being on stage.
BR: Were there any bands in particular you were listening to then?
MARK: Roger was really into the Beatles. I was listening to alot of Roxy Music and David Bowie, and
typical Massachusetts kids like Aerosmith...
BR: Did you do any covers when you started?
MARK: Naw. We didn't know how to play any covers. We were lucky to play our own stuff.
BR: Did you always have the basic sound you have now?
MARK: Yeah. That core was there from the beginning. We weren't hindered by all these rules and
stuff. It was total creativity right from the start. We had no form to follow.
BR: How did people react when you first played?
ROGER: It was pretty bad, our first gig [at Boston University's student cafeteria].
MARK: Mixed reaction. (everybody laughs) Some people recognized it as true art. And other people recognized it as true shit. We just set up and plugged in. It was absolute garbage. But it was great garbage.
BR: Well, now it seems people have a different opinion of you.
IAN: Yeah: It's worse.
MARK: No, it's probably the same mix. There has been a general shift in audiences. People tend to be
more receptive to new music in gereal. They're not as closed as they were two or three years ago.
IAN: It's been a year since we've been playing live [as the "new band" with Ian replacing Peter
Dayton], spent developing in front of people, and there's always that tendency to judge. The
coming-out was awful.
MARK: Three months after we started playing Boston we were still getting a lukewarm response.
We'd go to New York and play in front of 1,000 people and it was amazing; they loved it.
IAN: We spent two months auditioning lead singers. It took that long to learn that we had to sing
ourselves. and we didn't want to sing. Mark and I were learning and it was really funny. We finally
said, "Let's do it." so we played a gig as "special guests" hoping nobody would show up. Of course
the word got around. To get better we had to play. and to play we had to present ourselves for
judgment and criticism that as a young band, we actually weren't ready for.
BR: Is there a particular attitude La Peste represents?
MARK: My favorite thing to do is sit with two televisions on, the radio on, and read something....you
have to be smart to succeed.
BR: Do you think your music goes over the heads of a lot of people?
MARK: The music is hitting people at a lot of different levels. A lot of people miss what's being said in
the lyrics, but they listen to the music and they think that's good. Other people just see us as a
rock 'n' roll band. For them, they don't look any deeper and that's fine. That's all we are. To still
other people, it goes way beyond that.
BR: It seems that, of any band in boston, La Peste are more misunderstood than anyone else.
MARK: Sometimes we don't do anything to change that either.
BR: What would you change if you could?
|MARK: The music is always changing regardless of us.
IAN: What will change, will change. We're just there to absorb it.
BR: How important is the look of the band?
ROGER: It does help to have a visual image. It helps the impact.
BR: Does the way you dress have anything to do with the attitude? The khaki shirts...?
MARK: We're very conscious of the way we dress. A strong feeling within the band is that we're all
very patriotic, as far as a strong America goes. Not necessarily to the degree of pushing to the right,
the new right and all this moral stuff. But we are into being American.
IAN: We strive for a unity and uniformity onstage. The whole thing behind the band is that we want
to be looked at as a unit.
BR: What did you think of Jim Sullivan's evaluation of the band? [Mr. Sullivan, a writer for the Boston Globe, found La Peste's brand of music too derivative of circa 1977 British punk bands.]
MARK: It's a good example of someone who goes to see a band and doesn't see beyond his
IAN: If he liked us, we'd probably be in trouble. It's very favorable to us that he "didn't" like us.
BR: What kind of audience do you think can relate to the band? At the level you want to communi-
MARK: To me personally, the ideal people I'd like to get are the kids, fifteen to twenty. Just the fact
that those are impressionable years.
IAN: Kids like that are aready to put you up on a pedestal, but if you go out there, and you don't
throw out this Star shit, you just go out and sweat for them, they appreciate it. They understand it.
Like Boys Life [the band]. You'll probably see more bands like that.
BR: They're more in touch with what's going on.
MARK: Exactly. They have a lot more to offer. All these new bands have so many fresh ideas, it just
makes things so much more interesting.
IAN: Mark and I never go to see anybody. Maybe once in the last two months. the whole reason I
think we started playing...someone might as well do it right.
MARK: That's a rather conceited viewpoint, but...that's why we do it.
BR: You don't think any of the young bands do it right?
IAN: Oh, sure, there's some good bands...
ROGER: The Outlets, Boys Life...
MARK: There's a lot of good bands. I saw the New Models the other day. They were really good.
But any band I go see, I only last for three or four songs before I start getting tired. I'm sure the
same thing happens to people in the audience watching us. I don't know what that's from, but it
happens to everything. If I listen to an album I get tired of it after a few songs. I just don't listen
to that much music at all.
BR: What about international bands? Do you think The Clash have gotten better?
IAN: They got better before they got worse.
MARK: So you mean they got worse now?
IAN: I think they've lost touch.
MARK: There definitely comes a time when it's hard to figure out, with yourself, whether you're doing
this truly for the art and the feeling or you're doing it because it's going to be commercially successful.
BR: So would it be good enought to continue to do it for the art?
MARK: Well, we certainly aren't getting rich.
IAN: That's for sure. I think we want to do a lot more recording; a lot more than we've done. That's
part of our character that we haven't really touched on - only because of the money. It's not like
we're going to go into the studio and put together these Barry Manilow songs. It's just going to be a
logical extension of what we do live. But also, we're not going to record a punk album. It's not going
to happen that way at all.
BR: Have you ever thought of yourselves as a punk band?
IAN: A lot of people don't recognize there's no such thing as punk rock. People who want to be in a
punk rock band actually want to be in a novelty band now. We're not into that "No Future, No Hope"
thing. It's actually the very opposite of that. We're saying there is hope, and life doesn't suck.
BR: What issues do you think are important? What influences your songwriting?
MARK: Politics. People.
IAN: We don't dream up these man/woman situations or big autobiographies. I don't even think any
of our songs have the word "love" in them.
MARK: (sarcastically) I stick it in everywhere. A lot of them are personal interpretations of what we
see around us; interactions and reactions to things that happen to us in our everyday lives.
IAN: They're feelings everybody has - except love.
BR: Why is it that 99% of the other bands in the world can focus on one thing: silly relationships with
MARK: Because everything rhymes when you talk about that.
BR: I'mwondering if it's all imitation or if it's what people are really concerned about.
IAN: I think it's imitation too. But it's also easy...
MARK: It concerns the person, but it is scary that everybody writes them.
BR: What's the idea behind "Moscow Radio"?
IAN: Mark wrote the music and we said...
MARK: We need some words!
|IAN: It was a long time ago when we were auditioning singers. They were all coming up with this
love song stuff for it. I got really sick of it. The whole idea of "Moscow RAdio" actually was that I
got a short wave radio for Christmas once and I can remember listening to it, and hearing the
discrepancies between what I read and what I heard. (jokingly) And it gives us a chance, for three
minutes, to say "Moscow Radio."
BR: (to Mark) What is your favorite song?
MARK: My all time favorite, and one of my strongest writing efforts was "Color Scheme". As for other
songs, "Takaido Road." I've always been into oriental history. It's imagining as if I were in Japan,
marching down this road and fighting these Japanese samurai.
BR: Roger, what's yours?
ROGER: "Seven." That rhythm and riff came a long time ago. I like the words behind it too.
MARK: The words are real simple. It's just a poem about death, what death is. It's a spiritual song.
ROGER: 7 is a spiritual perfection - a decent concept.
BR: Ian, what's your favorite?
IAN: I like "Sixteen Cities," which Mark hates. He wrote the words and I wrote the music. He should
change it to "Six Cities" now that they've come up with Missile Command [the electronic game].
BR: What's the song about?
MARK: A very futuristic world where we have 16 major cities, no more countries, no more races, wars
are between the cities.
BR: How did you come to do the commercial for the Humphrey Center's career opportunities project?
MARK: I knew this guy who knew somebody in the advertising business who needed a new wave band
to do this. I went down and met with the guy, played him a few tapes, and he thought we were great.
So he gave me a sheet of lyrics and said, "This is what we'd like in it." I brought it back, the three of us
looked it over, and we said, "Oh no! No way!"
IAN: It was like this little story about Jack and Jill or something. It was way out to lunch.
MARK: We rewrote the whole thing. I went down and played him a rough tape. He loved it - the new
words and everything.
IAN: We had total creative freedom within the guidelines. But when they mixed it...to us they ruined it.
When I heard it on the radio I would cringe.
BR: So what are the intentions for making it as a commercial success?
MARK: We're working our hardest at it.
IAN: Yeah. What we want to do is play for a lot of people in a lot of cities. right now our strength is the
live show until we do more recording.
MARK: Unfortunately we have to work within the structure that's already there. To do that, we have to
follow a lot of rules as far as business and commerciality. We're definitely conscious of that. At the
same time, we aren't going to compromise with any of the material. We're walking a fine line because
we want to get to that level.
BR: You have to play a part of the game to get what you want.
IAN: But we would never bend anything basic to our principles to do it, to be pop-y or anything. I think,
first of all, pop music is absolute shit. And I don't think what we play is pop music. We're going to make
it as we are or...go crazy. (laughs)
BR: Have you felt you haven't received the mass acceptance versus what the Neighborhoods and
Pastiche get? [All three bands are Boston Battle of the Bands winners.]
MARK: It's different. The music is at a lot different level.
ROGER: We're a newer band than they are too. That has a lot to do with it.
MARK: Actually, to the average listener, we probably aren't as well accepted as the Neighborhoods or
Pastiche, but the music is so much deeper. I mean, can you listen to the Neighborhoods twenty times
or La Peste twenty times, and which one would you get bored with first? It may take you a while to get into La Peste, but it's going to hold your interest that much longer.
BR: At any point do you think you take this all too seriously?
IAN: Yeah. Sometimes we reach the point where we start banging our heads against the wall and get
really depressed about it.
ROGER: That's when we take a vacation.
BR: Why do you lose perspectives of things?
MARK: ...Push too hard.
IAN: We can't make things happen. There's our part of the bargain, that we have to put up, and the
rest is out of our hands. Sometimes we try to do everything.
BR: So why do you stick it out?
ROGER: We love it.
MARK: It's great. When you're on stage, there's nowhere you'd rather be.
IAN: Carl Wallenda said about walking on the wire, "Being on the wire is life and the rest is just
waiting," and the stage is a lot like that.