Ahead of shows at Dublin’s Whelan’s on Wednesday, March 22 and Belfast’s Empire Music Hall the following night, Will Murphy speaks to Brian Cook, bassist with Chicago instrumental masters Russian Circles about touring, politics, their latest album, the ideal audience, the craft of songwriting and more.
Hi, Brian. How’s the road been treating you? The next few months look pretty exciting in terms of venues and nations, is there anywhere that you’re all particularly looking forward to? What will you be listening to stave off the monotony of touring?
Touring has been good. We took care of our headlining U.S. dates last fall, and we divided Europe into two tours this time around just because there were so many cities we wanted to hit. We did Scandinavia and Eastern Europe back in October and November, which was pretty exhausting, but overall a great experience. Sometimes you get so accustomed to hitting the same places over and over again that it becomes easy to take things for granted, then you wind up playing a few shows in Romania and it serves as a reminder that we’re very fortunate to be able to do what we do. Now we’re out doing Western Europe and the UK, which is very familiar territory for us. Not as much of an adventure, but rewarding to be back in cities where we have friends and know the lay of the land. In terms of music, I’ve sort of reverted back to the old school touring listening habits. It used to be that you’d go on tour with a half dozen cassettes or a small book of CDs, then the iPod made it so that you toured with your entire music library and you’d never listen to the same album twice on a six-week tour. Now I’m back to traveling with just a few albums on my phone. I’ve been listening to a lot of Sun City Girls, Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, Michael Rother, and Lungfish on my headphones. There has also been more than a few spins of the new Power Trip, Oranssi Pazuzu, and Rotting Christ albums in the van.
I remember seeing you when you were last in Dublin. What struck me was how unwilling you were to rush anything. Everything took exactly as long as it was going to take. It was a really ballsy move, and I’m wondering has it ever backfired horribly?
The bigger problem is not allowing enough time. Mike and I have so many changes and adjustments we have to do between songs—different tunings, different guitars, different pedal settings, different Taurus settings—and we do it all while bridging the songs with interludes. Plus, there’s the whole thing of trying to squeeze in a swig of beer and a toweling down of the face between all of that. We used to tour with these auxiliary delay pedals at the end of our chain that served zero purpose other than to silently notifying the rest of the band that we were ready to go into the next song. If the red light on Mike’s delay pedal was on, we knew he was ready. Same for me. The only problem is that sometimes one of us would forget to turn it on, and we’d stand there waiting for nothing until the guilty party remembered to stomp on the pedal.Read more