Interview With Ben Krug

Ben Krug, who was the singer for The Carmichaels as well as for The Imports, was kind enough to answer a few of my questions via e-mail and hook me up with great copies of the band's demos. Many thanks to Ben for being so cool!


Q: Let’s start with what you’d done before the Carmichaels. I’d heard you were in a band called the Imports. Mind talking about that a little?

Krug: I played in a band called "The Imports" around 1980. We started out punk and then moved into a Joy Division / PIL kind of direction. We played a lot of clubs, opened for some bands like The Cramps, and released a single that we thought did well (several hundred copies were sold) at Wax Trax records (the store, before it was a label). Our last show was opening for the Jim Carroll band (remember them?) in Minneapolis. We had gotten some good local press, including a writeup by Bruce Pavett, who went on to move West and found SubPop records, and a favorable mention by Paul Weller when he was in town and interviewed. (They asked whether he'd seen any bands he liked in America, and he said The Imports.)


Q: How did the Carmichaels get together? I’m thinking this was shortly after Special Affect broke up and Al returned to Chicago? Also, who else was in the band? Al said something about a 35 year old dentist?

Krug: Around this same time, Al was in the new-wave band, Special Affect playing guitar. He had short hair and played crisp rock guitar. Our bassist decided to go to college, so the Imports kind of broke up. My brother (who was the guitarist) went to San Francisco and met up with the bassist from the split-up Special Affect (I can't remember his name). They came back to Chicago to start a band with me, Al, and the drummer from the Imports, in a practice space Al secured. The bassist from Special Affect dropped out, so the lineup was me, my brother, Al and our drummer. (BTW the drummer was not a dentist but a statistician for the American Dental Association, and, if I remember right, in his 20s, and the oldest member. The drummer (Tom Wall) and Al would sometimes go out for a beer after practice, but my brother and I were too young to go - about 17 and 18.


Q: What’s the story behind the name? I’ve seen “The Silly Carmichaels”, “The Not-So-Silly Charmichaels”, and just “The Charmichaels”.

Krug: Al came up with the name and I think it somehow came from Lucy Charmichael (I Love Lucy). Sometimes he'd lengthen it to The Silly (or Not-So-Silly) Charmichaels, but the rest of us just liked "The Charmichaels" more. Al was working in a record store, and taking recording classes at a local college, and pretty much managed things (by default).


Q: The only info I have said that you guys only played 2 gigs, one at the Playhouse and the other being a decent-size show at Club 950. Mind elaborating about what you guys played, stage show, etc?

Krug: We had a debut show at Club 950; Al got the P.A. and also a copy of Bunuel's film "Un Chien Andalou" - he like the Dali dream sequence and especially the razor blade cutting the eyeball scene, and had this film projected behind us as we played. I don't remember the dates or other locations.


Q:You say that the band cut three songs as a demo. Did you come up with any other original material? Did you do a lot of cover songs?

Krug: We played all originals (including one or two Special Affect songs).


Q:What groups would you say influenced you at the time? From the sound of the songs I’ve heard, I’d guess you guys were very influenced by groups like Joy Division, etc.

Krug: My brother and I were big on Joy Division, PIL, Gang of Four, etc. I remember Al listening to a wide variety, including Mission of Burma (he loved the name) and many others.


Q:You say that the band cut three songs as a demo. Did you come up with any other original material? Did you do a lot of cover songs?

Krug: We played all originals (including one or two Special Affect songs).


Q:Were you around for the early Wax Trax days at all?

Krug: As you know, Al recorded 3 songs of ours, and took them around. He played them for Jim Nash at Wax Trax, and others.

Al was a funny guy, had lots of friends and knew a lot of people in music. By contrast, I was not as friendly and would get indignant if he’d invite someone to come and play with us at practice. He did a good dead-pan imitation of me that always cracked people up.


Q:What about the band’s demise? Simply time to move on to other things?

Krug: After a short existence, my brother decided to go to college, and I decided to return to high school. (I had dropped out.) By the time I was done with high school, everyone I knew was listening to Ministry.


 


Page Last Edited on 2006-03-18 11:46:45 UTC CST (4252)