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Q&A
with Mother Hips'
Tim Bluhm

a golden-coast exclusive

by Hank Ten

tim jpg
photo property of mother hips

In Part 2, Tim discusses success, his solo record, his inspirations, the Internet and why the Mother Hips probably won't be playing Mountain Time any time soon.

Part 1
Part 2

Q How does the band... how do you measure success?

A Naturally you slip into the whole thing of measuring it by how much money you're making. You look at your friends and who's got more money.

Q That can be tough, huh...

A ...and I always lose that game. I donít have much money, but you know what? You choose a lifestyle and what you get out of your lifestyle, is all relative. I donít make very much money, but I have a very simple lifestyle. I do what I want to do. Most of my time, Iím doing exactly what I want to be doing....just spending time outdoors...surfing. Iím not putting away money for the future, but Iím doing what I love to do for the most part and Iím proud of my achievements. Even though theyíre humble, theyíre mine.

Q Humble in some ways, but pretty grand in other ways....

A Well if you compare them to my goals, theyíre humble, you know? What I set out to do, Iím not even close....

Q ...like?

A ...get my music out to a lot more people.

Q So how do you guys collaborate on song writing these days? I donít know if it is any different then when you guys started. But in terms of like, when you come up with a song and you bring it to the band. Do you map it out or do you just bring a song to the band and let it flow? A song like Channel Islands girl for instance... how did that song come about?

A I just wrote it on my own during a week I spent on a surf trip in the Big Sur area and I was just sitting around waiting for waves to come through. It (the surf) was real flat that week. I just kind of came up with it and then I showed it to the boys. A lot of times, Greg and I, either one of us, we come up with a song, weíll go to John and weíll work on it... a drum beat that is upbeat and is catchy, so it works in a live situation.

Greg and I still collaborate on some songs, just as much as we ever have, but our relationship has changed a lot in the last couple of years because we live very far away from each other. We went from sharing a bedroom to moving to different zip codes, different area codes. You know Greg has a serious relationship and he has to put in time for that, but we still find time to write music together. And we still are very much on the same wave length in terms of what we are playing on our record players in our respective homes. And we talk on the phone at least an hour every day.

Q You guys on the Internet much?

A Not to each other, no. I find the Internet is very useful, but it's not very intimate. It's not a conversation. It's like a correspondence and it's a little different. It's like writing a series of letters back and forth instead of having a phone conversation.

Q Do you think the Internet makes our life simpler or more complex?

A It certainly does not make my life any simpler. It just like one more--

Q Medium?

A --one more, I mean I donít really stay in contact with people--, let me see how Iím trying to say this. The people that I corrrespond with through e-mail, are basically people who I wouldnít have corresponded with at all if it wasnít for e-mail. Which is a great thing, because there are more people that you can correspond with, but it definitely hasnít simplified things and I donít really use it for anything except for e-mails back and forth. I donít like, procure information. Once in a while Iíll look at surfline.com which is great. That can save you a drive.

Q So, do you guys have any interest in doing any kind of film work or video, music video, or anything like that?

A Very much so. We would like to do a documentary.

Q Do you have anybody that your working with on that?

A No. It's so expensive and it's just too expensive and we donít know enough about it really.

Q Do you guys have any old footage that you guys have kept over the years?

A We do. We have tons of it. I donít think we have possession of it personally, but we have access to hundreds of hours of shows and interviews. All kind of stuff, yeah.

Q You could do a 30 minute, good sized documentary of you guys.

A We could make a full length one. You know, obviously everyone wants to make a documentary about themselves of course.

Q Yeah, Iíve got a great documentary on myself. Iíve got to give to you.

A Do you really?

Q It's about 30 minutes long. It's kind of embarrassing.

A Is it about triathlons?

Q Yeah.

A Who doesnít want to make a documentary about themselves?

Q "But mine is really interesting, believe me," (said in mock tone). So where are you guys with Geronimo Pictures? Youíve done some sound track for them?

A Yeah.

Q Are you going to be doing anymore work?

A Weíre doing the whole sound track as far as I know.

Q Oh, really?

A Weíve done two of the songs so far. We got a lot of work to do, but we kind of have to go at their speed. We canít conceive music until we have seen the footage. Thatís the way they want to do it. And thatís the way Iíd like to do it. Itís the first sound track that weíve ever done and we donít know much about it.

Q How is it compared to writing your own songs and under your own circumstances.

A I would say itís a really good exercise in like going in new directions and sort of allowing yourself to do something that you normally would never do because itís a totally different situation. First of all it's entirely instrumental. There is no singing or lyrics.

Q Oh really. I thought you guys did some singing on it?

A Thereís some singing, but its non-lyrical. You know, that sounds kind of lame, but in truth, it's really great, it's really nice. It frees you up. You donít have to worry about it. You donít have to worry about the words and all that.

Q How does that work? You watch the movie and then create the music based on the scenes?

A Yeah. Sometimes-- Iíve been collecting feels, you know, that I think would be good for what I know of the movie and what I know of the scriptt and then you can sort of, as you watch it, you can sort of adapt it and get the spacing right in between parts and sort of get the mood, and the tempo and the instruments. We really havenít done that much work on it yet and so Iím sort of guessing.

Q You're going to do the whole sound track you think eventually?

A Yeah, thatís what they say. Thatís what they told us.

Q So it seems like the Mother Hips are kind of into a health kick lately. I ran into Isaac at a local gym the last time you guys were in town. Have you guys turned a new leaf? Are you working out more?

A Isaac works out all the time. I go to the gym as a last resort, I do if I have to. I prefer to hike and jog and go surf, swim laps. But yeah everyone in the band is pretty much on a health kick....everyone except John.

It's just part of getting older, self preservation.

Q So, how did you end up doing the new album, or the solo album I should say. Was that something that you wanted to do for a long time?

A Yeah of course. Thatís kind of like making a documentary about yourself, it's very similar.

Q Seems like a real personal album from what Iíve heard....

A Yeah. I donít feel like I consciously opened up my soul or anything like that. Itís maybe the songs that I chose were more personal in general. They're just more songs to me. They're just that batch of songs. I donít know if they are or not. I try to keep the content pretty personal in general. I think thatís important.

Q It seems like more so again, maybe it's getting older, but you know Back to the Grotto and Part-timers Go Full, one couldnít read as much into the songs as they can in Shoot Out, Later Days.

A You mean theyíre less literal or more literal?

Q Theyíre easier to read into and they seem more revealing now than they ever have. They seem more straight forward.

A I think that being straight forward and being lucid is really important. But at the same time, you donít want to be too literal, because that can be-- if youíre too earnest or too straight to the point, itís just boring, itís dull. You just get better at, you hone your craft. I donít know. I know what I like and I try to achieve that.

Q Do you guys take much input from your fans, like From the Grotto and live audience and stuff like that?

A Yeah we do, we do. It varies on our mood. Sometimes weíre like, we really got to play this one song people keep requesting and other times we're like "Fuck that, we want to play what we want play." It's always this fear that you're going to turn into a nostalgic act which is the ultimate kiss of death.

Q There are a lot of fans asking for the old stuff, right?

A Yeah, when we start to feel that weíre becoming that, we just revolt, we go the other way, because thereís nothing worse. Itís like seeing wrinkles forming on your face as you get older... you donít want to see that.

Q So, Iíve got to ask, is there any chance that the Mother Hips are going to play Mountain Time again?

A Very slim.

Q Wow.

A That falls into the hippie box...

Q ...really?

A ...and we donít pull anything out of that box!

Q Let me ask you about the song Del Mar Station. I talked to Greg about this earlier and its kind of a weird song, because he takes lead vocal and you take the lead guitar. Can you tell us how that song happened?

A It's sort of our formula reversed. I mean, I usually write the song and therefore I sing it and while your singing, you canít really play lead guitar. Since you know the chords, because you wrote them, you play the rhythm guitar. Thatís the way it usually ends up and this is just the case of Greg writing the song and knowing the chords.

Q How do you feel about taking the lead more and more? It seems like over the last year or two, you've ended up taking a lot more leads then you ever have? Is that just a matter of learning the guitar better over time or...?

A Yeah, Iím always learning the guitar more. If anything, to me, getting better at guitar means playing less and less- not more and more. I think the fewer notes you can play, the better you are. My favorite guitar players are very sparse, and I try to emulate that as much as possible. But I think that is just sort of, I donít know, I donít know why that is that I play more of the leads. I didnít even really know that. It seems natural. One thing that we would never do is sit around and figure out who's playing more of the leads and try to make it even. It's never like that. It's just whatever feels right.

Q Right, right.

A If Iíve got a good figure that Iím capable of playing and it doesnít interfere with my singing, then Iíll just play it. Greg's not going to bother to learn it so he can play it...it just works that way. There is very little, like, Greg and I arenít threatened by each other in that arena at least.

Q But in other arenas?

A I donít know.

Q Let me ask one last question, how does California and the geography that youíre in now, how has it affected your song writing over the years and now? It seems that the actual geography and the space that youíre in, has always affected your song writing like on Potrero Road, Stephanieís for L.A. ....

A Very much so, yeah. I think that you write about the places that captivate your imagination and your mind... thatís called inspiration, you know? Definitely Iím inspired, as anyone is, inspired by my surroundings... if Iím at the ocean a lot, Iím going to use imagery thatís collected from that.

** Q Early songs, sound like Chico in a lot of ways.

Q The song Sleepy Eyes for instance.

A You hear about brush fires, trees, mountains and now your going to hear about islands, waves. Itís pretty straight forward. It's a little bit corny, but I try to keep it toned down and I try not to drop too many names and stuff.

Q Right.

**Q Like California Way, its all encompassing.

A Yeah, that comes mostly from driving down the Salinas Valley.

Q San Jose to San Luis?

A The windrow and the euculptus trees.

Q Whatís a windrow?

A A windrow is a row of euculyptus trees, planted along the edge, widward. North of King City, thereís a perfect one. Thatís the one I always think of. They plant it on the windward side of the field to block the wind. Up there in King City and North you get super hard winds coming in from the Monterey area, off the Monterey Bay up into the Salinas Valley...it's very windy there.

Q Its called windrows?

A Windrow, yeah.

Q Well, alright. Thanks for the interview.

A Yeah, I gotta get to work. That was a good one.

And with that, Tim got up off the couch and headed to the stage to sit down with his partner Greg to play some acoustic guitars and sing some songs.

Thanks to Tim Bluhm for granting the interview and to C.M. for doing the transcription.

** Questions posed by D. Miller

© Golden-Coast Productions, 1999