After his show at the Knitting Factory in Boise, Idaho, promoting his latest record Hard Luck Stories and ahead of his debut performance at Lollapalooza, Ike Reilly was kind enough to entertain random questions from one of our most emotionally troubled writers at Innocent Words Magazine.
Innocent Words: As a native of Illinois, what does it mean to you to be playing such an amazing music festival like Lollaplooza so close to your home?
Ike Reilly: I guess I don’t know that it’s amazing, because I’ve never been. I guess I’m skeptical, everyone has approached me about what a great thing this is, what a great opportunity and I’m always a little skeptical. I think the one thing I’m happy about is that it will give a chance for my all ages fans to see us, and I guess that’s the most exciting thing about it.
I don’t know if it means some kind of validation or not, in a lot of people’s eyes it does. I always feel validated, but I get a lot of people asking me about it. I’m pretty secure with what I do and what my band does is damn great. If you’ve seen us live you know it. It’s only gotten better and better and I don’t know why, it’s just that my time is now, which is great. I always feel like we’re moving forward. We’ve got like 70 songs we know.
IW: What bands are you excited about seeing at Lalapalooza this year?
Reilly: I don’t know if I’ll even see any, but I think Jimmy Cliff is going to be there, I’d like to see him, but I don’t know who else is going to be there. I’m sure there are some great bands, I just don’t know how much I’ll be there, I know we’re playing on the last day. I know that it’s weird. I’m getting a lot of calls and emails from bands that are going to be there and want to know what time we’re playing, like friends of this band and that band. It’s funny to me. I’m like, how does that band even know who we are? We’ve got a long way to go before that.
IW: Eddie Vedder took time a few years ago to publically endorse a boycott of BP at Lollapalooza. Do you have similar political intentions given what has transpired in the gulf for the last month?
Reilly: Well, my politics isn’t in the same grandstanding stance as some of those guys. I think my politics is in the songs. I do three or four songs that deal with soldiers, from all kinds of perspectives. “Girls in the Back Room,” “Parakeet Blues,” we kind of deal with the humanity of soldiers, we don’t really take a judgmental side on whether any cause is good or not good. We know there are going to be wars and they’re not going away and good people have to go and clean up political messes all over the place.
Let me answer your question. Lollapalooza to me is a form of entertainment and an art. If you can get people to listen to your music and you can affect them subtly or subversively but I’m not going to go out and give any speech about boycotting or any other thing. I’m going to rock the fuck out! I don’t have the same self importance maybe that Eddie Vedder or somebody else… I don’t have any constituency, if I got a constituency I become one of those guys. I don’t want to be a guy with a constituency.
IW: What is your favorite song on the new album and why?
Reilly: I think my favorite song to play and I don’t know why, but it’s is “The Reformed Church of the Assault Rifle Band.” With that song I just get blown away by the way it takes on a runaway train feel by the end as we build upon the choruses…it’s kind of a crazy song. It starts out as kind of a standard song and then kind of becomes a maze of choruses and chord changes.
IW: What is your favorite part of touring?
Reilly: Seeing the country and camaraderie with the band. The music is almost secondary, but it fuels the stories too though.
IW: Least favorite?
Reilly: A lot of waiting around you know. I try not to waste time, but sometimes there’s just a lot of waiting around.
Reilly: I’m still trying to figure that out. We are trying to harness it. I’d say it’s helped. I can take a film with my phone and post it on Facebook and give fans content and communicate directly with them. I never did that before. I think that helps motivate fans to come and see you and listen to your music when we can get more personal with them. It’s easier to make more direct contact with fans. I think it helps. I don’t know if it helps record sales, but you said the touring musician.
IW: I saw your recent short film where you attempted to purchase a Ferrari. What are your most prized rock ‘n’ roll trophies, i.e., items you have achieved by virtue of your musical success?
Reilly: I don’t have any prized possessions and I’m not kidding. Ask anyone that knows me, I’m not sentimental about possessions whatsoever, instruments or anything. I do like cars. I have a ’69 Chevy Essex, a ’69 Ford Galaxy, and a ’65 Cadillac Fleetwood that together are not worth $5,000, but they smell good to me. And nobody can criticize me for not being green because I have the big V8s in them, I say I didn’t have to destroy these cars because that’s what I drive and I didn’t buy new cars created in plants that send out emissions and these aren’t in any junk heap taking up space, they’re on the road driving us around.
IW: Your music is littered with references to different drugs and alcohol. Based on your personal experience, which is more addictive-fortune or fame?
Reilly: Alcohol. I’m not addicted to fame or fortune, I have neither one of them. But I can tell you I’d rather have money than fame.
IW: If modern medicine could harvest your stem cells and grow one of your organs in a laboratory, which one you keep as a spare and why?
Reilly: Are testicles an organ? I’d keep some spare testicles. I’d just have them on hand because I’ve had many incidents of abuse of the testicles and I want to be prepared for the next time it happens whether it’s torsion or an accident. I just want to be ready.
IW: If you could make an album with any musician, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Reilly: You know it’s not a priority for me. I admire other musicians and I love other music, but I’m very self centered in what I want to do musically and to me, it would be more of a pain in the neck than anything else. You can’t move as quickly and you’ve got to communicate what you are trying to do. When you work alone you don’t have to do that-there’s no code.
I don’t really want to work with anybody in that respect. I’d love to make a record with Shooter Jennings because we already have kind of a history. But to sit down and work with someone, that’s not like a dream of mine at all, it seems like a hassle. I don’t even care who it is.
Now, would I want to sit down and have a drink with Chuck Berry or have a drink with Little Richard or have a drink with Prince or Bob Dylan? Sure. But do I want to sit down and work with them? No, not really, no. Would I like to watch them work while I drink? Absolutely!
IW: Who is more fun to party with, Shooter Jennings or Scott Lucas from Local H?
Reilly: I don’t know Scott Lucas. I know the band, but I’ve never met him, but I will tell you right now it would be Shooter. My guess is based on the songs I’ve heard it would be Shooter. I’ve probably seen him, but I’ve never met him.
IW: Last I saw you it was in the summer of 2007 at Chuck Berry’s stomping grounds, Blueberry Hill in St. Louis. Have you had the chance to see his live show?
Ike Reilly: I saw him when I was a kid and I’ve been meaning to get down there, I was going to bring one of my kids with me, but they wouldn’t let me bring an underage kid in, I was going to try to go there last summer.
IW: So you haven’t had the chance to talk with Chuck Berry or solicit his advice on musical longevity?
Reilly: No, Chuck talks to me through his records, I listen to his records a lot. I love his records. The thing I’m most impressed with is his lyrics.
IW: If you could make another DVD where money is no object, where would you shoot it and how would you go about putting it together?
Reilly: We are developing a series based on my podcast “Where’s My God Damn Medicine?” which will be kind of a combination of a musical variety show where I’m kind of at home, kind of like Jack Benny used to be and it’s fueled by my banker Max Anderson trying to get me to be more commercially viable. So we would shoot it a clubs and around Illinois, that would be kind of my pursuit of money making schemes that can support rock ‘n’ roll and propagate the music. We’re planning on shooting in the late fall, the first couple of episodes.
IW: You’ve seen “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” have you considered a similar “golden ticket” concept or contest that would allow a hand full of lucky fans to get the full Ike Reilly experience? I’m talking about dinner and drinks with Ike before the show, back stage pass access, and an after party invitation; perhaps without the creepy Oompa Loompa vibe?
Reilly: I even thought of something better than that. We were going to do a film and a concert in the living room of my house outside of Chicago for 100 people that wanted to pay to come to do it, but it never materialized. With music before and drinks and a full concert, and then we were all going to go up to the local bar and have a party afterwards. I got busy, but I’m still going to try to do it. We just have to run background checks on guys like you.
IW: Innocent Words writer Paul Barrel was in a band called Ticks back in the day. He tells me that they opened for you at one of your shows. What did you think of their set?
Reilly: I can’t remember them, what are they called? Dude, I’ve done so many shows, I may not even have seen them. I mean, “I thought they were great.” You understand that I played 15 shows last month, I couldn’t possibly remember every band and I never sit and watch them because…you’ve got to get ready to perform. I can’t remember one band I’ve seen in the past two weeks. Not any discredit to the bands, they could be the next Kinks or Prince, but if you’re going to write songs and do your thing properly, you can’t be worried about what everyone else is doing.