Wire Train – Slow Train Coming

WIRE TRAIN’s NEW ALBUM, ‘TEN WOMEN’, IS AN INSPIRATIONAL CHOIR OF SONGS FEATURING SUCH LUMINARIES AS THE WATERBOYS AND THE ALARM. MAT SMITH WENT TO SAN FRANCISCO, FLICKED THE FLOWERS FROM HIS HAIR, AND GOT DOWN TO SOME SERIOUS DISCUSSION ABOUT POP AMERICAN STYLE.

From the street below, strains of Scott Walker stray up and down into the hotel room, blown by the same breeze that carries the faint clanging of bells as another cable car hauls its way up the seemingly endless hills. The streets of San Francisco, and Lieutenant Stone is nowhere to be seen.

He’s not down by the piers where the waves lap gently against the breakwaters, dolphins surface and dive in the bay and the glare from the sun silhouettes a clutch of skyscrapers in your eyes. And he’s not up an the cliffs later that night, high above the Pacific where a lighthouse flashes its warning and you stand on what seems like the edge of the universe, the wind blowing the flowers from your hair as the thought occurs: “If the idiots pushed the button now, I’d vaporise with a smile on my face.”

Kevin Hunter often thinks the same thing: “I remember the first time I went up there, it really affected me. It was like so pure, so real, so infinite and indescribable that nothing else mattered.”

That deep-rooted sense of wonder, that long-lost lust for life has always been at the heart of Wire Train’s music — now, with their third LP Ten Women    looming large, its previously quiet, introspective innuendo has been crystallised into a raging pop inferno. In the cold light of day, of course, it’s all very different. Haight Ashbury has become a tacky Carnaby Street-type emporium of cheap punk and hippie memorabilia, one-in-20 people are AIDS carriers and, if you need money quick, you simply walk in front of a car, hope you break something, then sue the driver and retire on the profit.

In the midst of all this, Wire Train have been around in one form or another for seven years. Originally called The Renegades, they were formed by Hunter and guitarist Kurt Herr at San Francisco University in 1980. For his conceptual design class, the singer had drawn the artwork for a fictitious LP cover. Then he thought up some titles for the sleeve, then decided he’d go the whole hog and set about writing songs to go with the titles. Thus the Wire Train tracks were laid.

Sitting opposite me in a downtown bar, the normally lippy Hunter is a little reserved, still tired from a mega-delayed flight home from New York the day before and still nursing the lonliness left by a break with his long standing girlfriend a few weeks back. So Kevin, why Ten    Women?

“Why Be Bop-A-Lula? The more time you spend thinking about it, the more reasons you come up with, but it just sounded good and right at the time.”

“We were thinking about titles”, offers Jeff Trott, the baby-faced guitarist who replaced Kurt Herr in 1985, “and we came up with Ten Women. Then we though ‘Oh, hold on, some women are gonna take offence at this.’ But then we thought, ‘Why censor ourselves, there are plenty of others willing to do it for us.’ It could mean 10 journeys, or whatever.”

“Rather than 10 songs about 10 different women, I think I saw it as 10 aspects of a woman,” Hunter adds. “Or it could have been what you see first in 10 different women. I mean, any quality you can attribute to a woman, you can attribute to a man. Except child bearing of course. But they’re working on that!”

The songs on “Ten Women” are more specific, less poetically diffusethan those on its predecessor, “Between Two Words”, they are also less prone to forced sentimentality and sincerity. “I don’t feeel this LP is in any way more closed down than the last one,” Hunter shouts, motioning the barman to turn down the jukebox, “It’s just open in a different sort of way. This LP is sincere whereas, with hindsight, I guess the second LP talked about sincerity.”

Ten Women also presents a fresher, more outgoing face to the world, concerning itself with the affairs of the heart rather than the dogmatical preoccupations with religion that formed the backbone to Between Two Words. “I’ve been thinking about that a lot,” Hunter reflects, “and I think that, at the time, God and happiness and the point of living was a very foreign thing to me and, as a result, the frustrations I felt towards it came out in pseudo sarcastic religious meanderings about what I thought religion should mean. While we were working on this album, I started to become aware in my subconscious of what God really was and, as a result I don’t have to poke fun at what I think God is anymore. I feel more responsible to just describe what we need and what my ideas about God are.”

“I think it’s all still there but, instead of using recognisably religious images to make aggressive statements about things, I’m using simple straightforward language to describe a situation. If you look at the new album and a song like ‘She’s A Very Pretty Thing’. I’m using smaller images to make a much more precise picture. In other words, this person is cherishing the body of Christ in all of us. Like a man who treats a woman’s soul with disdain but treats her body with reverence.”

Last year Wire Train toured the length and breadth of this fair isle with The Waterboys. The increasingly earthy music Mike Scott is getting into seems to have rubbed off on them and, to their credit, they’ve shaken off that onomatopoeic giant rock bluster that occasionally threatened to overwhelm the more precious aspects of their muse.

“We did learn a lot from that tour,” Jeff admits. “I don’t think we thought they were better than us or had more to say than we did, but we came to realise there are a lot of people out there who are willing to care about a band that has feeling.”

If nothing else the continuous gigging in front of British audiences established the band as a force in their own right and gave them an identity. The new album is the first to truly shake off the U2 comparisons that used to plague them. “I think the U2 thing had a lot to do with Kurt,” Jeff explains. “He was really influenced by the Edge.”

Oddly enough, there are parallels to be drawn between Wire Train and their CBS lablemates, The Bangles. Both had beginnings rooted in Sixties harmonies and conceits, both have distilled their collective strengths into an Eighties Ameri-pop package. Hunter, bolshy bugger that he is, is having none of this of course.

“I can’t realty make a relationship between The Bangles and us. I can relate to what you’re saying about time but, when I listen to our record, can’t really place it. There are some Sixties harmonies there but I don’t think there’s any part of it that sounds very Eighties. Maybe our conceptions of what Eighties music is are different.

“When I think about the Eighties, I think of Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel, that sort of stuff, and I feel that our music is a little more rustic and a little more oversimplified than theirs is. Again, an era is usually dictated in the end by what was the most popular thing in it, so I imagine those things will be remembered as the Eighties sound and I’m not sure that this record has those characteristics.”

“Peter Gabriel said something interesting lately.” I find this extremely hard to believe but Hunter continues anyway. “Somebody asked him why he called his new LP So. He said because ‘So’ is a word which looks very good when you write it down but it doesn’t mean very much. Maybe that’s what Eighties music is. I mean, even rap has lost it’s pioneering streak. All this macho around with heavy metal – why for God’s sake?”

Jeff thinks he has the answer: “Cos heavy metal is dead end and so is rap so, since they’re both so dead end. they might as well meet and burn out together — it’s just gimmickry — it’ll last as long as the joke does.”

“Anything that’s hip has a grace period of about four years,” Hunter continues. “Then it’ll be immensely popular. In ‘64, it was cool to be a hippie, by the time Woodstock come along, most of those people didn’t know what the hell it was about but they loved the smell of patchouli. I think people who are buying rap records now don’t remember ‘White Lines’ or, if they heard it, they wouldn’t know who did it. At the time it was really meaningful and aggressive and now you have guys talking about taking away their girlfriend’s credit cards in rap records and I’m not sure that was the point.”

“Most of the hit records in America right now sound like an advert for passion fruit drink,” laughs Brian, the band’s drummer.

“TV is also why America’s in the political state it’s in,” Jeff continues. “Cos it’s easier to reach all those voters through TV and that’s why we ended up with an actor for president. The whole curse of TV is turning America into a homogenised mess.”

“The thing to remember is that the psychological studies and merchandising profiles that have been done by American companies to use TV are astounding. It’s the cutting edge of psychology and they use every trick to make you want to be the person on TV. If there’s somebody wearing a grey sweater and they want you to buy that grey sweater there’ll be a penis in the background or rather something subtley shaped like a penis — I’m not joking. They’re using phallic symbols — everything they can to make you wanna be that person.”

Despite the forthright views, Hunter admits to being a basically happy person, though he says he’s desperately trying not to be. “With happiness comes complacency. You can’t let down your guard. You can’t say ‘This is good’. you have to say ‘That last thing I did was shit and I have to do something good or my life is worthless’. If you’re a musician, your job is to write and-say things that you need to say. If you get stuck on one youth movement, you’re hurting yourself as an artist. Punk is dead. Post-punk is dead. Imagine if in 1977 you walked around talking about the Jefferson Airplane you’d be laughed off the street cos that wasn’t what was happening. Well it’s 1987. Anyone who comes up to me and says The Clash are the greatest band in the world, I gotta say, ‘What happened to you? When did you stop growing?’ Camper Van Beethoven are here now.”

AFTER the uneasy atmosphere in Vienna during the recording of “Between Two Words” with Hunter decorating the studio walls with crosses to stave off his creeping paranoia, Wire Train decided to record “Ten Women” in London.

“We just met a lot of people in London who liked us and whom we liked so we guessed we could have an open door if we went over there and we did. Some of The Waterboys are on the LP and Dave Sharpe from The Alarm is too. There are same of our friends who aren’t actually on the album though they rub off an it cos we were hanging out with them – people from The Thrashing Doves and World Party.”

The Waterboys track is called “Compassion” and, according to Hunter, is a “drunken folky jam” with Mike Scott offering his by now customary whoops and yells and Hunter crooning in his best whispered Dylan voice. Jeff had previously jammed with The Waterboys at their Hammersmith Palais show and there was even talk that Mike Scott wanted him to join the band so he could concentrate more an piano.

“I think it was cos we all got along so well that they would just as soon have me in the band than as a friend. But I think they’re pretty set on being The Waterboys. I could be an honorary Waterboy but I don’t think that I could ever really join the band cos what I have with Wire Train is, is, is,…”

“More than honorary!” Kevin laughs.

“It’s also legal man,” Brian clarifies.

The track that The Alarm’s Dave Sharpe appears on is the LP’s tour de force. “Breakwater Days” starts off simply enough, then builds slowly and surely piling on layer upon layer into a thrashing crescendo of nerve-wracked guitars and anguished vocals

“It is a bit more epic than the other songs,” Hunter admits. “The feeling that I’d like people to get from it is something that precise language and precise narrative would destroy. In general, I think it’s about the fact that youth and life is a fleeting thing and, in the end, the best you can do is have a beautiful time trying. Life’s gonna be a tie and, if it’s gonna be a tie, you can either appreciate it as a tie, or you can hate it cos you didn’t win.”

“I think sometimes you feel that you’re just a breakwater. That you’re just a wall against which the surf is beating and the best you can do is keep out the surf, you can never stop it. I think the key line in that song and the one that sums it up is the ‘Wait for it, live now / Wait for it, live now / Wait, live. Wait, live’ sequence at the end.

“The really weird thing is that I write lyrics and, at the time, I haven’t a clue what they’re about. I was writing about my girlfriend leaving me three months before she did. I guess it’s not from personal experience but from personal understanding.’

Outside of Wire Train, Hunter still has a separate CBS song-writing deal but doesn’t know who’s bought his songs until he hears them turn up on the radio. “I don’t ask who’s got them. As long as they’re pretty, they can have them.”

However, it’s Wire Train in general and the new LP in particular where his heart lies. “I want people to listen to this record without bias. Sit down, clear your mind and I promise it will be a healing experience that will be more good than it is bad and those kind of things are rare to find. It’s a really honest record and it can help people feel better about their lives if they’ll just listen to it without bias.”

Songsmith Kevin Hunter Scans His Track Record

SAN FRANCISCO — Kevin Hunter, lead vocalist and guitarist for Wire Train, lives amid a sundry clutter that practically screams “struggling young artist,” but three fixtures sum up his existence far better than any words. Over by the door, leaning precariously against a blandly painted wall, a battered old acoustic guitar. On a small shelf directly above a hastily placed floor mattress, an expensive Sony reel-to-reel tape machine. And next to it, framed with an almost Quistian reverence, a large blow-up of folk minstrel Bob Dylan.
In anyone else’s home, such a triumvirate might only spell music fan. But in Kevin Hunter’s Wire Train headquarters, they mean, in no uncertain terms, “Do Not Disturb — Songwriter Perpetually At Work.” Not only does the 25-year-old composer constantly churn out compositions for his group to possibly record, but he also feeds the remainder of his work into the CBS song-publishing house.

“That picture was a gift from CBS,” says Hunter of the photograph of his biggest influence, Dylan. And the shiny new Sony? “A gift from CBS, too,” he laughs. “They were tired of getting all these cassette tapes of my songs that I’d recorded on my Walkman.” The weathered six-string has seen him through most of those tracks, from Wire Train’s sloppiest early numbers to the glittering jangly jewels that adorn the band’s latest album, Between Two Words. And somewhere along that five-year path, Hunter grew up.

“We never had any intentions of getting a record contract,” he recalls of Wire Train’s 1980 genesis. “We were just having a great time.” What Hunter terms a “great time” would most likely send your average artist straight to the loony bin. After meeting rookie guitarist Kurt Herr while studying poetry in SF, Hunter set up shop in the basement where he worked — a sleazy Market Street bargain theatre. Utilising a plethora of short-lived bassists and drummers, the duo became known as The Renegades, and, according to Hunter, they had so much fun they rarely found time to sleep.

“Kurt and I would be up at 9.00 am for college,” he outlines, “at school ‘till 4:00 then into work at the theatre from 5:00 until midnight. At 1:00, we’d all meet in the basement at our little studio we’d built and practice until about 3:00 in the morning. “Then we’d go home, sleep two hours, and get up to do it all over again,” the never-say-die musician laughs, still amazed at sacrifices made in the name of rock and roll. “We really wanted to be good.”

During their formative years, The Renegades didn’t take part in much outside frivolity. Hunter insists he hung out with no one, spending any spare moments he had alone in his flat. “I spent a lot of time learning how to write songs in that period,” he says. Venturing out into the world wtth a new divine purpose and a solid rhythm section of Federico Gil-Sola (drums) and Anders Rundblad (bass), the budding songwriter was surprised to find that the Bay Area powers-that-be were already hip to his band.

A demo of a Renegades track called “451” was receiving heavy airplay on local college stations. Howie Klein, president of the trend-dispensing new wave label, 415 Records, wanted to sign the band, and knowledgeable producer David Kahne wanted to turn the knobs. But The Renegades, who changed their name to Wire Train after signing the 415 contract, didn’t slacken their pace just because a few good deals had come their way. In fact, Hunter was constantly dreaming up ways to make money, and he laughs when he remembers his most notorious scheme:

On the Rolling Stones infamous Tattoo You tour, the well-known British outfit was scheduled to play two arena shows in the Bay Area. The listed dates were a Wednesday and a Friday. but the group was also gaining a great deal of press for their unannounced tiny club dates in several major cities. When a hometown rock critic speculated that the Stones might play the minuscule Mabuhay Gardens, Hunter saw his chance. With a handful of underground musicians, Hunter booked the night-spot for the Thursday in between Stones concerts, then quickly checked into a rehearsal hall to take a crash course in Rolling Stone oldies. Would the scam work? The makeshift group, billed as Tattoo, found out when they drove down to the venue on the night of the show.

“When the big white Cadillac we’d borrowed pulled up,” Hunter chuckles wryly, “there were 25,000 people on Broadway. The police had roped it off, and there were even banners that said ‘Tattoo is a local group—This is not the Rolling Stones,’ but that didn’t stop the club manager from charging $20 a pop.”

And how did the crowd react? “With a hail of beer bottles and vegetables,” answers Hunter. “I don’t know how people did it—they forked out twenty bucks and brought tomatoes!” Hunter raked in a whopping fifty dollars for his part in the fiasco, claiming the club made more like $2,OOO. But money, even when it started to roll in from Wire Train’s first album, In A Chamber, has never fazed the performer. ‘When I have a hundred dollars I suddenly start worrying about not having a hundred dollars,” he explains; “When I don’t have anything, I don’t worry.” Hence Hunter’s modest Mission district digs.

Quitting his full-time job totally after In A Chamber’s singles (“I’ll Do You,” “Chamber Of Hellos” and ‘Never”) began generating country-wide response, he readily cops to worrying about getting his rent paid. When “Chamber” peaked at a humble 50,000 after a national outing with Big Country, he realized that most of his life-saving royalty checks were coming from his publishing company, not the actual label itself. Songwriting had become a booming business in Los Angeles, and countless up-and-coming hands were desperately searching for songs that could launch their careers.

“You’d be surprised at who doesn’t write their own material;’ Hunter muses; adding that today his songs are “going out all the time, but I really have no idea who’s playing them, Somebody out there must be; because my contract was just renewed.”

After setting his ideas down on paper and then Reel-to-reel, the tune-smith points out that no corporate ears hear a single note before the other main members of Wire Train do. New guitarist Jeff Trott, bassist Rundblad, and (Gil-Sola’s replacement) drummer Brian MacLeod all get the chance to pass on any of Hunter’s ditties, making Wire Train music theoretically the cream of the crop. “I’ll keep my extra song-writing going,” says the front-man, “‘as long as it doesn’t hurt the band. They’ll always get first crack at what ever I’m doing. But the idea is that that’s my job, yet that’s only one facet of Wire Train.”

“I don’t take song-writing as a business too seriously, because the other members are equally proficient at what they do.” But many contemporary artists do take Hunter’s skills seriously. Like Christina Amphlett of Australia’s Divinyls, with whom be penned a tune while munching on hamburgers at a sirloin pit in LA. Or Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go’s, who needed assistance on her upcoming solo disc and immediately rang up her Bayside buddy. Calling the song he co-wrote with the peppy Wiedlin “a personal interest,” Hunter doesn’t hesitate to acknowledge the power of collaboration.

“Somebody like Prince, as great as he is,” he sighs, “is starting to sound a little thin. That’s because it’s one man’s vision, and I think the whole concept of Svengali is absurd. If you start thinking of yourself as the horse that’s pulling the cart, then you lose sight of the original idea, which was to do something great.”

Hunter learned to apply this theory to Wire Train as well. “It occurred to me that if everybody in the band wasn’t equally represented on the records, it wouldn’t be nearly as complex and interesting as it could be, because everyone has something to add. Anders wrote a great song on the new record called ‘Home,’ and we were all just knocked out by it. He did practically everything on it.”

Hunter’s excitement over his hand mate’s success is not feigned. Rundblad’s track had to pass tough inspections by all the Wire Train voters to separate it from the other 34 cuts recorded for Between Two Words . In addition, Words features Hunter’s best efforts to date with the smashing “Last Perfect Thing” and the hyperkinetic “Skills Of Summer,” whose hook-filled chorus was also recorded in French for Wire Train’s European cult. As a song- writer. Hunter has matured into a craftsman par excellence, displaying an uncanny knack for guitar sculpting and riff construction only hinted at on In A Chamber .

But part of the reason Wire Train sounds so much more cohesive these days is new producer Peter Maunu of Group 87 fame, who mastered Words in Vienna, Austria, last summer. Vienna itself was quite an experience for Hunter and company. They found it to be “a very quiet city with only one nightclub. When you walk down the street, you don’t hear any noise. “But you could hear us, though,” he adds with a snicker. “Hear us for blocks! We even played that small nightclub, and everyone stood around and watched us quietly and politely. About halfway through our set, I started to notice certain schizophrenic qualities in their personalities — they started throwing their fists in the air, screaming and dancing.” But the most entertaining moment during their Viennese vacation? “Watching American films in the cinemas — Eddie Murphy in German was fantastic!”

Wire Train’s label toyed with the idea of employing surreal video designer Stevie Price (Sisters Of Mercy) to capture the essence of “Last Perfect Thing” on tape, but Hunter nixed the project. “Why should we spend $30,000 when we’re not even going to be on MTV?” he rails. “Nobody gets into heavy rotation anymore unless they’re as big as Phil Collins. The Top 20 videos you see these days were all platinum albums before they hit MTV.”

“Do you know what $30,000 will buy you?” the cost-conscious singer continues. “It’d buy you 5 seconds of a Phil Collins Video, 3 seconds of a Michael Jackson video or about haIf a minute of a ‘Til Tuesday clip. Most new bands end up spending about $50,000 on a demo tape alone!”

Hunter prefers his relatively basic reel-to-reel for his demos. Whether or not they sell or not makes no difference to him, says the songwriter with “hundreds of songs laying around” — all he wants to do is keep on writing. But suppose someone disregarded all the out-ward signs that proclaimed “Artist At Work” and barged into Kevin Hunter’s abode, demanding a song?

“Well, first of all, I’d ask them if they wanted one now,” he says, quite deadpan, “or in a couple of hours.”

BOB Magazine’s Nick Cucci interviews Wire Train’s Kevin Hunter

Wire Train is a new band on San Francisco’s 415 label. They are Kevin Hunter- guitar and vocal, Kurt Herr-guitar and vocals, Anders Rundblad – bass and Federico Gil-Sola on drums. Their debut album, In A Chamber, has recently been released, and they are currently on a nation-wide tour with Big Country. Not bad for such a young band.

In early February Wire Train made it’s Philadelphia debut at The Chestnut Cabaret. I talked with Kevin Hunter before the show at Chez Cucci.

THE BOB: Your album was produced with David Kahne. What was it like working with him?

KEVIN HUNTER: His speciality is making albums for no money. We only spent 22,000 dollars on our record. It’s so cheap, God, Duran Duran spends 150,000 on a three-minute video, and we’re making the whole project for 22,000. But we’re not in that ballpark. I mean, who’s to say that Duran Duran’s album is better than ours. I think a good amount to spend on an album 60,000 dollars. 60,000 is a relaxed thing.

What would you need, what would that extra money afford you in the studio?

What more money would buy is…instead of making an album in seventeen days, sixteen hours a day. It would mean that we could have twice the number of days and work when we felt we had our “ears” about us. We had to be there as many hours as we could stay awake. I remember going into the studio, and it would be me and David and Kurt, Anders and Federico didn’t go to most of the recording because they didn’t have any overdubs to do. They did a perfect job the first time. So, we would go there and whoever was most there (mentally) would begin working on something. David would start to think about an arrangement, or Kurt would do an overdub, or I’d do some singing. Whoever was the most together. That’s no way to make an album. You should work on the songs one at a time and get it all perfect.

I remember reading that you and the band couldn’t wait to get on the road. Now that you’ve been at it for several months, is it still as interesting as you expected it to be?

Well, the funny thing is, as it turned out, it was exactly as we thought it would be. The only difference was we weren’t prepared for not having an audience sometimes. We’ve done two shows that have had practically no people. Like maybe forty. So, that was something we weren’t prepared for. As far as going into a room, looking at the people, knowing we weren’t necessarily what they wanted to hear – and then at the end getting them to admit to themselves that they had heard some music tonight. That kind of excitement. Now, it’s even more exciting. Before it was a kind of paranoid excitement, we didn’t know we could do it but we kind of knew what was going to happen.

If you had to describe your music…

We play a non-form-oriented music. That is we focus on content – tone and lyrics. But form is some thing else. We don’t use a million different time signatures, and we don’t fuck with the basic form of pop and rock music. That’s not where we put our energies. It’s with the lyrics and Kurt’s guitar tones.

How did you and Kurt meet?

It’s a really weird thing. Ever since I was a little kid my uncle would say to me, “You’re going to do a lotta things, but you’re never going to be able to do anything by yourself.” And he would say, “Do you know why you’re going to be successful?” I was twelve years old. I said, “Why?” He said, “Because you can pick people. Every time you get an intuition about someone, go with it.”

I met Kurt at school. He was standing next to a wall. I walked up to him and introduced myself. The first thing out of my mouth was “Do you play music?” and “Do you want to be in a band?” He said no to both. I was very incessant. I just knew that when I saw this guy and talked to him a little bit, that he would be just perfect. We work now because of a whole bunch of different reasons. I have a certain aspect of my personality – I’m outgoing, but when I’m working I’m quiet. Kurt Is quiet all the time and when he’s working he gets aggressive. We compliment each other very well. From the very beginning, from the first song we wrote, we spent the time to try to learn together. Every time I would make a little progress as far as writing the lyrics, Kurt would make equal progress on guitar. I I would kind of tug him, and when he would take a step I would take a step. We’ve been working side by side since the beginning. As a result, if Kurt and I didn’t play, there would be no Wire Train. That’s not to say that Anders and Federico don’t do anything. They certainly do…. They add tons! It’s funny that things have come such a long way when Kurt never touched a guitar until only a couple years ago.

I knew this girl who had an imitation Stratocaster. I went over to her house one day and said I have a friend who I want to teach guitar. I didn’t know how to play guitar. I knew the C,D,E, and A chords. I gave it to Kurt. I said, “Go on and take it and see what you can figure out.” In a week he knew all of the Clash’s first album and the whole Sex Pistols album. He has a total knack. I’m always talking about Kurt’s guitar playing. It’s just something that blows you away. Just listen to the album and tell yourself that’ two years before the day this album was recorded, this guy had never played a guitar before. There’s stuff on the album that’s really, really good. And it’s fun to listen to. Everyone has different motivations for playing. There’s something about me that makes me want, maybe it is a personal paranoia but there’s something about me that makes me want everyone’s lives around me to be valuable to them. Because, I think that if I’m surrounded by people whose lives are valuable to them, then mine will be valuable to me. The reason -that we make music seems to be, and It sounds so fucking dumb. is to have people be more self actualised. You know, just enjoy it. If you can sit down and listen to the song, and you’ve had a really hard day at work and nihilism is creeping in, or you’ve read too much Jean Paul Sarte, and you hear something real, that Isn’t death, that isn’t negative. It seems like the reason we’re playing is to make people happy. I walk up on stage and I say, “We’re gonna play some songs for you and we hope that you enjoy them.” And all the hip inner-city kids go. “Oh, another fun-time party band.” And we play and usually what we do is enough to convince people that our attitude is acceptable. The way Kurt and I relate and the way we want to relate to people is that people should just enjoy music. If us being there could heighten an evening for some people, then we’d love to do it.

Now San Francisco is your inner city. What were you doing before Wire Train?

In 1976 I moved to L.A. from Europe. I went to high school there for a year and a half. I bought the Damned’s first single, couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on. I listened to it and it was so bad. About that time I found a copy of the New York Dolls’ second album. I couldn’t figure out what was going on with this music, but I loved it so much. I was too young to really understand what made rock great. It was all just music to me. I didn’t know that trashy guitar sound and real energy was what I liked about it. But I kept on listening. I started a band called The Snot Puppies. I moved to San Francisco and lived in an art gallery in the nastiest part of town. So I watched the whole thing happen. I remember reading magazines about the day that Siouxsie went on with The Sex Pistols on TV…

The Bill Grundy Show.

I remember seeing the headlines and going down to a club that night and talking to people about it. We went on tour with a band called the Screamers out of L.A. It was a total inner city thing for me. And now, I think I’m getting old.

And how old would that be?

Twenty-two.

You mentioned living in Europe. Where you born there?

No, I was in boarding school in Europe when I was younger. I was born in San Francisco. In Children’s Hospital.

I was born in the Bronx.

I’ve been to the Bronx. I’m surprised you make it to Philadelphia. But I realise something on this tour. People aren’t afraid of their on environment. If I lived In the Bronx…

You would think it’s fine…

I’d think it’s fine. I drive through neighbourhoods and I see real confidence, real ease in people’s faces as they co-relate on the streets. In places I wouldn’t get off the bus.

Or on the bus for that matter. Did Wire Train make the trip to Europe that I’ve read might take place?

The record company wouldn’t let us go. See the thing is they didn’t expect anything to happen with the EP. They gave us a month. They tell you where you can be and where you can’t be. They said, “You have a month and you can go to Europe during this month.” They imported 2000 copies of the EP, and the day It was released In Europe we were supposed to wait a week and then tour there. But three days before we were to go to Europe, sixty college radio stations had added the EP to their playlist. CBS said, “You’re needed here; you can’t go to Europe.”

That must have been pretty disappointing.

Big let down, but we kind of fancy that we play American music anyway.

I’m intrigued by some of the lines in your songs. Like in “Slow Down”, there’s the line “The dreams you have tonight are on the market tomorrow.”

It’s about why you do things. There’s all these guys out there that wanna get you to do all these things. With “Slow Down”, what I was trying to bring out was the fact that everything you do is either used by someone else or promoted by someone else. You’re on this track; you’re not in control of it; you can’t turn off unless someone pulls a switch for you. Also, if you think about the song very specifically, it relates to record companies. It has to.

I wake up in the middle of the night with my girlfriend and she’s screaming at me. I grab an acoustic guitar and write something down. Go back to bed; get up in the morning; write the rest down; work it into a song; take it to the band. Within a week it’s something that someone is selling. It’s not as precious as it was when my girlfriend was yelling at me. It’s used. They are going to use that area to curve someone else into a path; they want you to buy that record. It’s a question of control. I see it in two ways. The record company has their job to do, and whether or not it’s prostitution, it’s still their job. You write songs – a musician’s idealism comes into play. But it’s an easier life than, say, than for a guy in a steelmill.

There are two things. For example, if guy works in a steelmill, what does he do for entertainment? Probably bowling. How much entertainment do they get out of bowling? A guy works in a steel-mill who, and we’ll use a cultural cliché because it is obvious, would rather knit than bowl. Now, if he takes five minutes and sits back and gets centred and reaches for the back of his head and say, “I don’t like to bowl; I like to knit.” That guy’s gonna be so much fucking happier. He’s gonna go to work, and he could say, “Oh. Bowling again”, or he could say, “Alright, if I work hard today and I earn enough money, I’m gonna have the time enough when I get home to do the things that I really want to do.”

So, it’s not so much the big fragments. I have all the time I want. What I do is I write songs; I play music. I love to do it. If they want to sell it, fine. That’s my perspective. That’s a big area. I have a lot of room to move around in. I don’t have to worry. But, another say has a small area, and what were talking about here is the glue between what you have to do and how you see that space where you don’t have to do something.

It’s all a matter of how much satisfaction you’re willing to inject into your life. If you spend the energy, you can have a self-fulfilling life. If you don’t spend the energy, and just complain and expect the union to get you more money, and you do a bad job at work, and because of the bad job you did the product turns out shitty and everybody buys Japanese, and because everybody buys Japanese, you get laid off. It all comes back to how much enjoyment you got out of your leisure time and how real you were with yourself. It all comes down to self – actualisation.

Big clichés again, but this country was built on people doing a damn good job at whatever the hell they were doing. It’s based on a principle no matter where you’re from. There are people who are going to do a good job, and there are people that just do not give a shit. If you can tell these people that if they invest a little time in themselves, instead of externalising all their problems, then life will just go through the roof.

You seem to have a pretty positive attitude toward life in general.

Every gesture you make should reaffirm the reason that you are alive. So, you get to the point where everything you do is a “yes” to everything you have done and all the decisions you’ll make in the future. I’m here with you, and if I wanted to be dishonest or pull a bullshit trip, that would mean I was saying “no” to what I wanted to do. But, I want you to understand what I’m doing, and that’s a “yes.” If everything I do is a “yes” then it makes my life more real. It validates everything.

But that’s not always possible.

No, it’s not, it comes down to this: you have to do something; you don’t think you can, don’t think you can do it; how hard do you try. How deep do you go into the pain level before you give up. The more you do it, the deeper you can go. If you’re just going through the motions then you’re not pushing yourself. Kurt, now that guy’s got a lotta nerve. Imagine what it’s like to get into band and have a hit song in the first three months. So, people would come to see us because of this song. He had to go up on stage every night and play guitar after only knowing how to play guitar for three months. It takes a lot of nerve to reach down inside and say, “yeah, tomorrow I’m gonna be a better guitar player.” To sit there, fingers bloody and eyes tearing doesn’t sound like the hardest thing in the world, but it is.

Even for you it must be hard. Writing the lyrics, you’re exposing your soul, your secrets. They’re out there for the world to pick apart and….

It is exactly the same thing. When I write a song, and its not two or three steps past what I’m comfortable saying, it’s a waste of time. I usually end up hating it.

You have a way of phrasing things without using the typical pop vocabulary.

The explanation for that is two parts. One is that I’m fucked up as far as writing goes. I mean, I’ve always written in circles. I’ve never been able to write a straight line. Two is that it occurred to me a long time ago that if you write prose, what you are running up against is nor only skill and people understanding an idea, but you’re also running up against a whole bunch of sub-textural biases that people have towards not hearing something.

You say, “I love you” to your girlfriend. You should be able to say it completely straight faced and it means something. But, it doesn’t. You’ve got to come in with flowers, roses, a smile and a twinkle in your eye and say it. And why is that? Because the words “I love you” have completely lost their value and they need help. Any straight prose phrase, anything you can say in a pop song, has been said. And again, and again, and again. It has no value. It can go right by them and no one will even hear it.

But, if you want to touch people, if you want them to feel something, I think you have to toss everything into a pot. All the words and phrases that remind you of that feeling. All the images that come to mind toss them into a song and arrange them until they feel exactly like that emotion feels.

Wire Train – San Francisco Rises Again

Wire Train are living proof that San Francisco music doesn’t begin and end with Starship’s ‘We Built This City’. Those who felt that the city was still operating in a Grateful Dead / Jefferson Airplane time warp can turn to the single Last Perfect Thing and album Between Two Words for proof that there’s life in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The band – Kevin Hunter (guitar and vocals), Brian MacLeod (drums), Anders Rundblad (bass and vocals) and Kurt Herr (the guitarist who left the band soon after completing the album to be replaced by Jeff Trott) – have gained a huge local reputation for their atmospheric guitar pop that’s invited comparisons with REM, U2 television and Dylan. Their reputation was further enhanced when U2’s Bono cited their debut album In A Chamber as the best album of 1984.

So what makes them different from the many other Californian imports like Green On Red, Long Ryders and the rest?

“Wire Train is different from the rest of Californian music. If the objective is to create a good feeling – feeling with sensitivity, intelligence and maybe some fun in it – the closest thing we’ve had to that was the mid – Sixties pop rock. If you want to recreate that feeling and get hat energy going, then playing music as it was heard then won’t give you that. People are different now. What Wire Train does – and a lot of other Californian bands don’t do – is manage to get that point where you feel Sixties but you don’t hear any Sixties-isms in our music,” says Kevin Hunter.

Already Hunter is pleased with the fact that Wire Train are in the vanguard of a musical renaissance in the city.

“We have no record companies in San Francisco apart from our label 415 Records. Part of the idea was to create an atmosphere where young musicians would try to be good again. When we started in 1981, the punk thing was on its last legs, post-punk didn’t apply but we still had a bunch of nihilists running around trying to give us their post-scrupulous manifesto. It was very un-hip to be good.”

“What Wire Train did was make it clear to everybody that we were going to teach ourselves to be good. We aren’t huge but we’ve made it as local musicians. Now other bands are practising hard to sound good, as opposed to wallowing in the more negative side.”

“It’s made people believe that can have a number one record in America and have it be as cool as ‘Paint It Black’ or ‘Under My Thumb’ because all you need is dedication and fire. So now there’s a thriving underground scene, but because there’s no record companies you won’t hear the of the bands. A lot of people are depending on us to call attention to the bands of San Francisco and become so big that the record companies will flock to the city like buzzards and pick the bones clean like Liverpool or Athens and other cities in the past.”

It seems an interesting side-effect for a band that started life as a project in a conceptual design class. Hunter had to make an album cover for the course. He made up some titles for the sleeve and then wrote songs to go with the titles. The band – then called the Renegades until another band claimed ownership of the name – was a natural progression.

With Kurt Herr and Anders Rundblad (an ex-Swedish conscript who swallowed a tube of toothpaste to prove he wasn’t fit for the army of the second most neutral country in the world), the band made a demo that was picked up by the influential college radio networks. But the band’s survival wasn’t left to the vagaries of benevolence during the early days.

“We all worked in movie theatres. I was manager of the Electric which showed porn or Kung Fu while Kurt managed the Strand which was art and homosexual films. We hired musicians and artists. It wasn’t as altruistic as it sounds now, but we wanted to keep the theatres as the hip and happening places for when you didn’t have anything better to do.”

“The Stones came to town and a journalist wrote that they’d definitely be playing a club show. As soon as I read it I called up the club owner and offered a band to play there. The Stones were playing stadium gigs on Wednesday and Friday, so we booked the show for the Thursday. We called the band Tattoo after the Stones’ current album ‘Tattoo You’. We proceeded to go into a rehearsal studio for 48 hours with a whole bunch of speed and about 10 local musicians. We learned all the Stones covers we could absorb.”

“At seven o’clock on the day of the show we went to do a soundcheck and there were 25,000 people on Broadway Street. The entire block was barricaded by police. The manager of the club was on the balcony with a loudhailer saying that Tattoo was a local band and the Rolling Stones were not playing tonight. He then made a giant banner saying the same thing. He sold tickets at $17.00 but scalpers were getting $100.00”

“We went on stage at 10 o’clock and opened with ‘Satisfaction’. At first the public were appalled but we were exactly how the Stones should have been—I saw them the next day and realised we were a million times better. We got bottles and fruit and vegetables thrown at us at first, but everybody enjoyed it. People must have known what was going on to have brought all that fruit. I made $50 while the manager made $17,000.”

Wire Train’s new album – Melody Maker, Nov 1990

‘California Republic’, ‘Wire Train’, ‘Untitled’, or whatever you want to call it, should do for Wire Train’s UK profile what ‘Here Come The Snakes’ did for Green On Red’s. Like ‘Snakes’, much of it is lashed tight to a stiff R&B backbone, and again, like ‘Snakes’, it effectively jettisons a somewhat over-precious past in favour of a more boisterous future.
Failing to give it a title (the words “California Republic” are just visible on the cover) is also a neat way of making it appear to be a debut LP, which, of sorts, it is. ‘Wire Train’ effectively disposes of their history—the U2 and Waterboys comparisons and the entangled CBS wrangles that have kept them quiet for nigh on three years.

This new Wire Train are rootsier, blacker, shaking off the uptight white boy technicality of their last LP, ‘Ten Women’ and, for the first time, not being afraid to actually mine a groove as they do to such earth-moving effect on songs like Moonlight Dream and Precious Time. It’s also folkier, stained with a similar forthright earthy passion first hinted at with Compassion from ‘Ten Women’.

Dakota is the centrepiece, though — a cavernous swirling haze of dread, desperation and unholy promise, driven along by some kind of weird voodoo-style percussion that evokes the Stones’ Gimme Shelter with latent intensity.

It’s not as easily identifiable as previous Wire Train albums, doesn’t labour under the same constraints as the quasi-concept album ‘Ten Women’ necessarily did. Indeed, ‘Wire Train’ has a Dylan-esque ‘Basement Tapes’ ambience about it, a sometimes drunken sometimes sleazy, varied mix of Hammond organ, West Coast harmonies and bottleneck guitar.

Kevin Hunter’s once inextricable lyrics and penchant for word play are for the most part, replaced by an uncluttered, stream of consciousness. Personal and apocolyptic images and phrases swim surreally through the decayed landscape of Nineties America on All Night Living where “Cecil B tears down the walls of temple and Judas rides side saddle”; while the slow simmering brutal disgust of Tin Jesus – a frenzied attack on Mid-West preachers – is lit with incendiary bursts of controlled guitar fire.

Wire Train have learnt that atmosphere isn’t a button on the mixing desk, it’s an attitude, and this LP has it in serious supply. A bit of a classic.

Eye Of the Beholder – Wire Train’s songs work on several levels

BeholderOAKLAND, Ca-Neither Kevin Hunter nor Kurt Herr had much musical experience when they met at San Francisco State University and started writing songs together three years ago. In fact, Herr hadn’t played any instrument at all when he took up the guitar and Hunter had played only briefly in a band in Los Angeles before becoming Wire Train’s rhythm guitarist.
But within a year they were rehearsing with a procession of bass players and drummers and in another year they were signed to San Francisco’s 415 Records and cutting an album. “In the beginning it was practically like a race, trying to learn enough so we could express ourselves,” Hunter recalls. “We’re starting to have a little more fun with ideas now.”

The songs on their LP, In A Chamber, are image-laden portraits of contemporary relationships rendered in opaque detail by Hunter, who says he “was force-fed literature as a child.” All the songs – including “Chamber of Hellos”, which became an underground hit before a single was officially released – “tend to deal with the idea that any given situation can be perceived by two different people as having completely different meaning and value,” Hunter declares.

Wire Train’s sound is driven by drummer Federico Gil-Sola and bassist Anders Rundblad, both recent immigrants to America (Gil-Sola from Argentina, Rundblad from Sweden). Hunter doesn’t see his and Herr’s lack of technique as a drawback, though: “By the criteria people use to judge music I don’t think we’re brilliant,” he says, “but I like the noise Wire Train makes.”

Wire Train – Down The Wire.

Wire Train often spoke of how much they enjoyed going to Canada and rocking with the Canadians. That’s why you’ll find the members playing at Canadian online casinos.

What do you say to someone who used to be in a band called the Snot Puppies? What do you say to a band whose music has been likened to the Alarm and who talk about writing songs that are “based in reality” A band who have turned down offers of large sums of money for nude photographs of themselves and lots of free beer in exchange for endorsing well known brews, in the name of integrity? Never mind, lie down and take two Aspirins.
Wire Train are, however, more complex and more agreeable then the current crop of adjectives describing their attitudes and their tuneful rock would have you believe. The latest LP, Ten Women, features a handful of Waterboys and Mike Sharpe from the Alarm, and amongst their best friends are World Party and Thrashing Doves. Additional names that people have rubbed against them for size include U2 and the Clash, and sister CBS band the Bangles, whom they once supported on tour. All of which wholly belittles Wire Train’s own, sturdy, melodic sound.

“It will be nice when we have enough recognition to stop getting all these comparisons”, sighs singer and sole songwriter Kevin Hunter, his beaten leather jacket creaking against the sofa. “Are you going to say that were naive, intellectual hippies? Everyone else does…”

Kevin’s outspoken artiness, coupled with the bands harmonics, has had a few people crying out that their Californian roots are well and truly showing.

“Sure, we’re hippies. Coming from San Francisco how can we be anything else? Maybe passivity is where it’s at, I don’t want to be in synch with the reality of what’s going on out there – all those yuppies actively pursuing money. They’ll soon discover buying new hi-fis and driving a BMW won’t make them happy.”

“What will? Well, how about being loved? Maybe that’s more radical to say; after all, the way to be more revolutionary is to be different. That’s what we are – the quiet revolution.”

Isn’t it all a bit like, well, punk never happened?
Kevin: “Did it happen? The thing is, nobody should bother with trends or genres. You also have to be willing to be wrong about things – to hate something one day and like it the next”

Wire Train’s Ten Women is, they say, about “things which can be learned from women or maybe things about women – I dunno any more,” and add that all their songs like the current single Diving, are about “going through emotions – like love, hate, and fnding truth…” Although, as guitarist Jeff Trott admits, there are some influences that are slightly less esoteric.

“Yeah, The Hollow Song was written about an after gig party in Cincinnati, when I staggered back to the hotel drunk in minus 20 degrees, thinking the hotel was virtually next door and discovering it was five miles away, but somehow managing to walk straight there…”

And their music evaporates from more than just Wire Train’s pores – Kevin Hunter is so prolific, he even gives unused songs to CBS for other bands to record.

“Which other bands? I dunno, I try not to find out who took them. It can be a little cheesy. I think the Divinyls took one…

“You see, I don’t write songs for anyone specifically. I don’t say, ‘this is a Wire Train song’, I just write them and judge them as themselves. At the end of the day the song is written and it’s done, finished. It’s absurd when, say, a painter has to insist on the way his painting is hung on a wall. That’s just playing with yourself.”

Wire Train – Q Magazine review

Wire Train have made several albums now, each time with indifferent results. Which begs the questions one feels disinclined to ask: What do they think they’re doing and why aren’t they doing it better? On paper there’s no reason why this veteran San Franciscan foursome shouldn’t soar creatively and commercially: They’re excellent musicians, capable songwriters, committed performers, and they’re blessed with big budgets. Where’s the problem?
Well, Wire Train are what could be damningly described as a “nice” band. Spin, the opener, is calculatedly catchy but after a few minutes the moves are terribly predictable. Likewise Should She Cry?, truly laid-back in the classic West Coast sense but undistinguished for it, pretty and plain. She is better, its folky strings uplifting, yet the earnest sensitivity proves self-defeating. We know that Wire Train care, but does that mean we have to ?

Back On the Track – Wire Train’s Return To The Rails By Marsh McCall

“I don’t have a clue how we’ll be received in San Francisco now,” says Wire Train singer/songwriter Kevin Hunter. “What if there’s no interest?” It’s hard to know how seriously to take Hunter’s comments. After all, while Wire Train – the acclaimed San Francisco band that virtually disappeared three years ago after a record company dispute – has hit -some career peaks and valleys, these days the group is definitely back on track, with a provocative new album, a new contract, a new manager, and a more seasoned perspective on the music business.
“When the lawyers got involved, it was trouble. It’s not in their best interest to get it over with quickly’ explains bassist and founding member Anders Rundblad. “You know, you start playing guitar when you’re 13, you get together with your buddies and form a band, you work hard at getting somewhere – and then you find yourself talking to lawyers all the time. It hurts the creative flow!”

Creative flow is what propelled Wire Train to the top of the Bay Area music scene in 1984 with the groups debut release In a Chamber, an exciting record that combined finely crafted pop melody with gritty guitar-oriented drive and soulful vocals. The band packed clubs, earned some national radio play, and steamed ahead with two more records – Between Two Words in 1985, and Ten Women two years later – before the trouble began. The group’s San Francisco record label, 415 Records, was sold, and suddenly the members of Wire Train – Hunter, Rundblad, guitarist Jeff Trott and drummer Brian MacLeod – found themselves talking to strangers when they telephoned the office.

“We decided it didn’t make sense to stay with a small label,” Rundblad says. The label, however, begged to differ. The resulting legal battle, while freeing Wire Train from its contractual obligations, left the group drained and disillusioned. “There were a lot of times when we were feeling pretty down and out,” remembers Rundblad “There were times when we almost said, ‘The hell with it.'”

Enter Los Angeles manager Robert Richards, who offered the group fresh enthusiasm and – more importantly – a fresh contract, with MCA Records. Things have moved quickly for the band since then. The new record, released in August, has outsold all other Wire Train albums combined, Hunter says. And the group has had an opportunity to hone its new material while opening for Bob Dylan on a recent two month tour of the Midwest. Performing mostly on open-air stages at state fairs, the band describes the experience as a very hot tour – literally.

“The temperature on [the outdoor] stage was regularly over 100 degrees,” says Hunter. In Phoenix, the temperature was l37 degrees. And Bob [Dylan] went on wearing two sweat-shirts and a fur hat. He’s a strange guy.”

If Wire Train has learned a lesson or two about the business end of the music business, the group has also moved forward on the music end. Unhappy with the results of their third album (recorded in England, and painstakingly layered track by track), band members hooked up with co-producers Don Smith (Tom Petty, the Travelling Willburys, Keith Richards) and David Tickle (Prince, U2) for a fresh, live sounding approach.

“If a band sounds good playing together,” asserts Hunter, “then the only way to record is to put some microphones in a room and play together. If there’s anything special there, they shouldn’t try to change it.” Adds Rundblad: “For a lot of people who have been growing up listening to techno-pop, this may be a new sound – hearing people just lay down a groove.”

As always, Wire Train’s creative process remains a true group effort. While Hunter is credited with most of the lyrics on the new album, the finished product stems from four distinct points of view.

“Anyone who tells another musician what to play is a fool,” says Hunter, never a man to mince his words. “For one thing, that musician will never be able to play it well enough – it will never be the exact idea the first guy had – and then you lose whatever idea the second guy had.”

While Hunter is reluctant to analyse the twelve-song record (“I can’t get Inside my own head”) fans and new listeners alike shouldn’t be disappointed. From spirited rockers like “Spin” to the ambience-laden “She” to the sing-along “Oh Me, Oh My,” Wire Train is more than a convincing comeback. Meanwhile, a video of the track “Should She Cry?” is slated for rotation on MTV.

Years of touring have left Wire Train with a mixed bag of memories. In the early days, there were sold-out clubs and ever-increasing recognition, times when band members would vie with the likes of Chris Isaak to set weekly attendance records at Wolfgang’s and the Kennel Club. But the gigging – both here and internationally – began to take an emotional toll. The low point may have been in 1987, when Wire Train flew into Gatwick Airport in London to kick off a British tour, only to discover no work permits waiting for them. All four were thrown into a detention centre before being booted unceremoniously out of the country.

“I miss the festive atmosphere, the excitement of our live shows,” Hunter says. “But I got tired of the ‘get to the top’ mentality”. He hastens to add, however, that the group will be in top form when it does return to Bay Area stages. “We’ve improved a lot as musicians over the past years,” he says. “And I’ll always love to play live.”

It will remain to be seen, of course, how Wire Train fares upon returning to the spotlight. Three years, after all, is a long time in the San Francisco music scene. Is Wire Train still viable? Hunter answers the question, sort of, by recounting the only time he attended the Bammies, in 1985. At the ceremony he witnessed Eddie and the Tide beating out Wire Train in the “Best Song” category. “It pissed me off, Ill admit that,” Hunter says. “But my attitude is: where’s Eddie and the Tide now? “

ALAN JACKSON gets his wires crossed as he tries to come to terms with Rambo, Rimbaud and Kevin Hunter of WIRE TRAIN, the latest hot US import.

I MEAN I’m not a super-intelligent guy”, Wire Train’s Kevin Hunter is saying. “I’m not KevinBWRambo…” He certainly doesn’t look like Sylvester Stallone. If Rambo were to wear black boots I doubt if they would be as needle-pointed and feature as many buckles as the pair splayed on the floor beside me. I doubt too if he’d own a pair of drainpipe jeans and wear such a flamboyant shirt – an orange and puce psychedelic number in something akin to velour that looks, by Hunter’s own admission, as if it should belong to a Puerto Rican drug dealer.
“You’re not who?” I ask, rather apologetically. “Rimbaud”, he repeats good-naturedly in his soft, rather earnest voice. “Rimbaud.” A-ha. Yes. Check. Gotcha. That Rimbaud. The French guy.

We’re back on course now and Hunter is telling me how he gave up his youthful ambition to write poetry or fiction back when he was 16 – an ambition force-fed by liberal helpings of the French classics during a boarding school education in Cannes.

“It was then that I realised the novel as an art form is completely dead”, he says. “The only thing that makes it today is garbage. The days of Hemingway having a best-seller are long since over and communicating real fresh, honest ideas isn’t an avenue open to novelists.”

I’m not sure that I agree. In fact, I certainly don’t. But while casting around for suitable evidence the name of Bret Easton Ellis comes to me. His “Less Than Zero” has caused quite a fuss for a first novel, and is set in the kind of world which Hunter, the son of a respected Hollywood set designer, probably knows So what about him?

“Oh God, what a cad. What a jerk,” he says, leaning forward to demonstrate the strength of his disapproval. “I was at a house where one of the scenes for that book was set and… Oh, what a lie. If anyone believes that book is anything other than cheap fiction … Essentially, it is to reality what The Sun is to news. His prose is abominable, he writes like a tenth grade dilettante. He’s completely jaded.”

Friends of Hunter shouldn’t expect to find a copy of “Less Than Zero” in with his Christmas card. Perhaps instead they’ll receive a copy of Wire Train’s third album, if it’s ready for release by then. Certainly the first two sets have caused something of a stir, with the word spreading from the band’s native San Francisco, taking in America’s east coast and, more recently, Britain, helped by a series of spring live dates, some solo, some as support to The Bangles.

The Wire Train sound is quintessentially American, yet something in Hunter’s vocals and in the chiming guitars that frame them may remind you of, well, U2. It’s even been said that they sound more like U2 than U2 do, unkindly. Either way, Bono is said to have rated their debut LP In A Chamber as his favourite of 1984, and the recently-released Between Two Words and its single Skills Of Summer may well win similar endorsement.

What Hunter most wants is for people like me to stop asking him his views and concentrate instead on understanding the band itself. “Well for a start, we don’t want to get up and wave the flag. Take ‘Blonde On Blonde’. It gives you a tremendous sense of humanity and morality, but not through leading you by the nose. It does it in a backhanded sort of way, and it doesn’t give everybody the same morality. It inspires you to be human, to check on your humanity. And that’s one of our primary functions, to try and trigger people’s humanity by making them remember things they felt pure and right about.”

He pauses, stares at the blue-gemmed ring on his right hand then grins. “There”, he says, “that was pretty clear, wasn’t it?” Rambo couldn’t have put it better himself.