The Rumpus Mini-Interview Project #22: Nicholas Rombes in Conversation with Alex Smith

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Alex Smith lives in New York City, where he works as a homepage editor at MSN and as a freelance contributor for the New Yorker. During the interview, Alex drank a Kingfisher, and Rombes an Oberon. Some of Alex’s writing can be found at Flaming Pablum.

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Alex: Okay, hitting “random article” button on Wikipedia. Wow. Barbus parawaldroni. ‪Sounds a bit like the name of an Italian death metal ensemble.

Rombes: The genus “Barbus?” And there’s not even a picture of the fish?

Alex: I know, a bit of a letdown. Shall we excise and hit “random article” again?

Rombes: Let’s do it.

Alex: Okay. Butch White

Rombes: Ever heard of him?

Alex: Pretty much everything I know about cricket I learned from “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

Rombes: Me too. But it sounds like he was a stand-up guy. He was considered one of the best “fast bowlers” in England. Apparently he died on the golf course. Don’t know if I believe that. I’ll bet a family member wrote that. Do you want to hit another?

Alex: Okay. Stand by. Wichita (film).

Rombes: Jacques Tournier also directed the fantastically creepy film Cat People, so this film can’t be that bad.

Alex: And a cameo by Sam Peckinpah himself. That’s pretty righteous.

Rombes: It’s only 81 minutes. Something must have gone wrong.

Alex: Protagonist gets kicked in the mouth by a horse in the first reel. Curtains.

Rombes: Westerns are tough to like. But cowboys are sort of the punk outsiders of American culture. Or they used to be.

Alex: Well, my favorite Westerns have always been the ones that deviated from the formula. Dead Man, by way of example.

Rombes: Dead Man is so good. It’s hypnotic. When did you first discover it?

Alex: I became a Jarmusch fan by way of Mystery Train and followed his every film from there. Gibby from the Butthole Surfers makes an excellent cameo therein, by the way.

Rombes: And there’s Iggy Pop as a cannibal in a dress. I love that Neil Young score. It just sets the tone from the beginning. And Crispin Glover on the train. Do you want to do one more?

Alex: Absolutely. Nights are So Long. Michael Monroe’s first post-Hanoi Rocks solo album from 1987. I must sheepishly admit to owning a Hanoi Rocks album.

Rombes: No shame there. I own an album called Spaced Out Disco from 1978 or 79.

Alex: I bought Two Steps from the Move (or was it One Step??) based on their deplorable cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Up Around the Bend.”

Rombes: What do you think? The album got a good review from Allmusic. Could it be a lost gem?

Alex: And he does a track called “It’s a Life” by Jimmy Zero — the Dead Boy?? Lots of these are covers. Evidently Michael Monroe: No great songwriter, he. Joe Cocker’s guitarist plays on this. That’s not especially “street,” now is it?

Rombes: And it’s categorized “hard rock.” It’s funny how that term has sort of disappeared.

Alex: I remember seeing Hanoi Rocks records filed in “punk” sections back in the 80s, if only because nobody knew who they were. And they dressed a bit like the Dolls.

Rombes: In some stores, the punk bin was a catch-all for, “huh?”

Alex: If memory serves, Mike Monroe also sang on “Sun City,” Little Steven’s anti-apartheid anthem.

Rombes: Hopefully, when this appears on The Rumpus, it’ll create a new cult following for Michael Monroe.


Nicholas Rombes can be found here. More from this author →