Interview: Ian Saint Pé
Former Black Lips guitarist, Ian Saint Pé has gone solo and has come out with a pop, almost sunny, garag trash single, entitled “Street Lights”, with vocals very reminiscent to that of Tom Petty, only with a New Orleans flair.
Moments before Ian was to take the stage at the CBGB – like venue Bowery Electric, in New York City, I was able to catch a few minutes with him. He appeared borderline mysterious, and certainly intriguing, reminding me of Tom Cruise in the movie, “Interview With A Vampire“. I felt nearly compelled to cover my neck as we spoke about his new solo project.
Louder Than War: Your From New Orleans?
Ian Saint Pé: I’m from New Orleans but I wanted to move to a big city after I graduated high school. I did graduate high school by the way. I had friends in L.A. and New York, and I knew these places would be important—not nearly as important as I found out later—but I didn’t want to leave the South. So the biggest city in the South was Atlanta, so I moved to Atlanta. I was in a punk band called the Renegades, and I left for a minute and then that name changed into the Black Lips. The guitar player that replaced me died so eventually I got back into that band. I did that for the last 10 years. So now I’m doing my own thing. Have you heard my other projects?
Black Lips? Yes.
Ian Saint Pé: It’s like children—when you birth them you’re not going to re-create the same thing.
So the solo project is very new?
Ian Saint Pé: Well, here we are. Day one. I’ve had two shows down South, just warm-up gigs, but New York is my launching pad.
And your based now in New Orleans?
Ian Saint Pé: I live in Nashville now. I lived out of a suitcase for years, and now I enjoy everything I have. I have a 4,000 square-foot house—not that I need that much, I just chill, relax. Basically I want to continue to do the next step in life which is eat, shit, sleep and bleed rock ’n’ roll, which has always been my dedication since day one. I’m 38 years old, and I still bleed 17. I didn’t have a back up plan so I knew I’d have to give it 100% and make it work. My mom—God rest her soul—asked me what I was going to do with myself, and I told her it was rock ’n’ roll. And I know she’s looking down at me and saying hell yeah. I knew early on that if I didn’t dedicate myself to the movement, which in my case is rock ’n’ roll, that someone will take it from me. No one’s going to take it for me! I’m going to get mine.
I admire your confidence.
Ian Saint Pé: When you spend as much time as a musician does in a van, you’ve got a lot of time to think.
Who writes the songs?
Ian Saint Pé: I write my own songs. In the Black Lips we were all writers. I don’t know how The Ramones were, I don’t know how other bands work, but I always envisioned that those other bands were like gangs. Even though the name of the band is my last name, it’s not just me—if you don’t have the unit behind you, you got nothing (as he pointed behind him to his band standing along side their van). I don’t ever take that shit for granted. We’re a team.
What’s your favorite band?
Ian Saint Pé: Of all time? The Kinks. That’s the band that really blew my mind open, when I was 16 or 17. I heard ” You Really Got Me,” and I thought that shit was more punk than punk. I realized when I got older that all the older punk rockers loved that ’60s stuff, and it all made sense. In the ’60s you had the element of experimentation. I think that when you have a free mind, that really burns the punk, and everything else.
Where do you record?
Ian Saint Pé: I record in my basement. I was able to buy some nice recording equipment. It’s a really real recording studio in my basement. The Foo Fighters recorded in their house! And they too had nice ass shit in there. The new EP, what you just heard, was done in my house.
Do you have a favorite song on EP?
Ian Saint Pé: No, they’re all my children. Some may be doctors, some might be garbage men, but I have to love every song for what it is—a birth of me, an existence that’s going to happen after I die. I think that’s what I really like about art, no matter what platform it is, it’s giving back to the world. Also, Not just when I’m dead and gone, but when I’m too tired to talk. My music will still talk. I will have the documentation of that time and place, and that can never be taken from me. That’s what I love.
Do you have a favorite single on the E.P.?
Ian Saint Pé: Not yet, maybe the single, “Street Lights”.
We have 11 songs, there are four on the EP.
When is your album coming out?
Ian Saint Pé: I got to find a label first. I did it the other way around this time. I was living up here in New York and I started looking at property. The prices up here are crazy, so when I went down South—I don’t need a four bedroom house, but coming out of New York, I was like, damn why not have four bedrooms and three baths. So with that, I had more than enough room to put a studio in my house. So I decided to put out an EP, and the next step is a label. I could put it out myself but, nah, I’ll wait, I want a label. You have to give up 50% of your master, but I think they deserve it because they put the fucking work into it. I also love corporate America. I mean this from the bottom of my heart. Anybody who thinks that a band sells out when you hear a song on a commercial is wrong. We have cashed in. There is a difference between selling out and cashing in.
I think I want to hear the difference.
Ian Saint Pé: I’m not Mr. know it all, but when someone like Target is using your music, you’re not selling out because they are giving you the platform to showcase your work. Songs that I wrote in my bedroom, going out into the world, the masses. I get a check. I still got the perseverance, and I still got the dream, which will always be alive, but it don’t hurt to be cashing in with what their dishing out—it’s a beautiful situation. I appreciate that these people aren’t just looking for the Lady Gagas, they’re not just going for the top-echelon music people. We are in a generation now where everything is so easy to be discovered, that people want a little bit of reality. I think people in the corporations are sifting through all this bullshit to find the real musicians. You’re hearing a lot of music on the radio now that wasn’t just put out by the music machine. A lot of people being discovered right now have been working their asses off out there. I have to say to the corporations, thank you. They are actually taking the time to see and to realize who’s just putting out a song and who has the passion. I think the young people that are going into corporate America at the moment know music. They know what Fun House is. I love The Stooges by the way.
All words by Eileen Shapiro. More of Eileen’s writing can be found in her author’s archive.