Giant Sand Gives Fans the Boot

When is a bootleg not a bootleg? When it's "official." Howe Gelb explains why.

"It's kind of like we're running across the ravine on one of those cartoon bridges made of wood and rope. And all these little bits of wood are falling and burning behind us as we're running.

"The negative side of being around since 1980 is that the real record companies like CBS/Sony wonder what the fuck is wrong with us, why we've never gotten any farther than this," Gelb wearily admits. "So they don't want to touch us. A few years ago, there was a buzz about us. Virgin and Geffen wanted to sign us. Now it's kind of like, 'Well, what is wrong with us?' Am I a monster? Are we so antiambitious? None of that stuff is true."

Nevertheless, Gelb is rethinking his band's strategy.
"All of our albums have been outtakes. You could probably condense all of them down to two or three records," he muses. "I don't know if I want to indulge those feelings [that Giant Sand is antiambitious] by putting out more hodgepodge stuff, or if I should just wait, and when we put out the next release in the States, make sure it's nothing short of stunning."

Still, Gelb maintains that nothing in music should be a sure thing--not recordings, and especially not live performances.

"'Come watch us fail.' That's part of our credo," he says. "Failing and being entertaining, too. How stunningly you can lose. How heroically you can slide into home and still get tagged out. The standard of us failing has risen over the years, so even when we think we're not that good, it's still pretty good. I can say that now, 'cause I'm turning 40 this year and I have the wisdom of an elder."

For a long time, Gelb has wanted to do solo work, but felt guilty about upsetting the band's livelihood, or what Gelb terms "the Giant Sand security blanket." Now everything's in a healthy state of flux, with bassist Joey Burns and drummer John Convertino continuing to helm their popular outside project Friends of Dean Martinez.

"The state of the band is changing somehow," mulls Gelb. "Whether it matters on the grand scale, I don't know. We've got this inversion to Giant Sand called OP8 that's coming out on Thirsty Ear in January, and it doesn't sound at all like Giant Sand. And I'm pursuing this solo thing, which I'm liking more and more." Lately, Gelb's busied himself recording a solo album in his living room, but, he says, sighing, "now I'm worried it sounds a little too lo-fi."

As for an Official Bootleg: Volume Two, Gelb says it will probably be the recording originally slated for Volume One, an acoustic album titled Goods and Services the band put out in Germany a few years ago. Again, only 2,000 will be pressed. "People who want them, they'll get them. And they'll be gone," Gelb reckons.

Unlike Frank Zappa, Paul McCartney and Aerosmith, who have all issued their own musical contraband, Gelb says Giant Sand isn't out to "beat the boots" for their artistic and financial infractions. Why else would he ask Epiphany to remove its standard package warning: "Duplication is not cool"?

"Because," Gelb testifies, "duplication is cool!"

Giant Sand is scheduled to perform on Friday, September 27, at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe, with Bell. Showtime is 10 p.m.

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