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ACL Fest scene report: Backstage with Savages

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Eric Pulsifer

Editor’s note: This article was originally published October 11, 2013

Minutes before their sound check, I had a short chat with London noise-rock band Savages’ singer Jehnny Beth and guitarist Gemma Thompson on guitar’s place in modern music and on making a living out of making music.

The reports of guitar’s death have been greatly exaggerated

Thompson: “Guitar-based music has only been around for no more than 50 to 60 years, right? When you look at the instruments of classical music, how long they’ve been around and how they’ve been shaped — how emotions and historical changes have influenced it — to say every few years that guitar music is dead… it’s irrelevant.” On the future of rock shows Beth: “Rock and roll is going to become like jazz — something for theaters where people say, ‘Oh, that was a really good solo now, wasn’t it?’”

Getting by as a musician today

Beth: “If you start a band to make a living, you have the wrong idea. Starting a band and being passionate about music is very much, for me, seperated from the music industry. Whatever shape [the industry] takes, it’s never going to stop people from loving playing music together and wanting to express anger, love or whatever ideas they want to.” Thompson: “No matter how difficult it is, there are going to be people that are like, ‘This is what I have to do,’ and hopefully those people get somewhere with it.”

Beth: “How we’re going to release records or how festivals are going to survive or not: it’s never going to stop music from happening. The music industry can die tomorrow… who gives a [expletive]?”

Best crowds for live shows

Beth: “Eastern Europe, Holland, the Netherlands, Germany: There are kids out there who are really true. They just want to come out and mosh pit and dance.”

On their last time in Austin for SXSW 2013:

Beth: “It’s a bit like a shopping mall of bands. It’s not the best experience if you’re in a band, but we did our best, we had good crowds and people enjoyed it. But, it’s definitley harder. It’s not the ideal environment for rock and roll, or any type of music, really.”

—- Savages will play a sold-out show at 11p.m. tonight at the Parish downtown before heading to Mexico for the next leg of their tour.