I have became acquainted with Bob Bert through Instagram and I didn’t just think it would be cool to interview him because he was playing drums for Sonic Youth in the ’80s (after Richard Edson and before Jim Sclavunos), but also because looking at his insta, I was convinced he knew every single soul in the so-called R’n’R underground. I asked him about a lot more than just stars and SY. I stole all the attached photos off his Instagram account. Sorry, Bob.

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Attention #hoboken 💥 You can now purchase my book at TUNES! Also I will be talking about it and playing some tunes @wfmu this Saturday at 4 on the @toddophonic show 😎🍭 @hozacrecords 😻

A post shared by Bob Bert (@therealbobbert) on

– Let me begin with a somewhat distant parallel. My dad was born at the summer of 1956, you in the summer of 1955 – so you are the same generation 
on the two ends of the world. My father in the 1970s here in Hungary, like many Hungarian young people at this time, was a one-guitar-singer and played pol-beat music: he sang politically overwhelming songs like an early-Bob Dylan. What did young people of the 70s in NJ play?
– Well let’s start by saying the USA instead on just New Jersey. It was a completely different world, I grew up in the 60’s where the music was top 40 music on the radio and the British Invasion, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Animals, Kinks etc. evolving into all kinds of garage rock, folk music, psychedelic music. It was also the beginning of punk rock in away with albums being released in the 60’s like the Velvet Underground, MC5, Stooges. Not to mention all kinds of cool Jazz & Blues etc. That’s what I grew up on. We were also dealing with the senseless Viet Nam war, the 60’s ended on a Weird note, Woodstock Festival, Manson Murders, Altamont festival. I’m sure Your Dad and I have little in common apart from being old. I am a life long fan of Bob Dylan. 

– In an interview you said: “I’ve lived in Hoboken most of my life, and I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.” “…home of Frank Sinatra and Steve Shelley.” But Kerouac wrote about Hoboken in OnTheRoad also.: “Dean had a fight with Marylou in their Hoboken apartment — God knows why they went there.” What’s important to know about Hoboken? Are there any places and events you consider cultic about Hoboken and do you think they are important for today’s Hoboken youth, including you, Sonic Youth and your generation?

– Funny, yesterday I was with a friend walking in NYC and he pointed out the apartment where Kerouac wrote On The Road. Hoboken is only a square mile and is right across the river from Manhattan. It was a cool working class place filled with artists musicians, a great rock club Maxwell’s and than soon after the great record store where I worked called Pier Platters. Now it’s a very hard to afford place to live filled with rich people popping out kids and if filled with sports bars and drunken jocks. I still have a few friends here but most of my social life and music life are in NYC and Brooklyn. 

– You contacted  Sonic Youth after you saw a flyer in a downtown record store saying Sonic Youth needs a drummer. What bands were in Hoboken those days you might have joined and in what respect did SY stand out, what made it special?

– Sonic Youth and pretty much every band I’ve been in has been based out of Manhattan, the bands that were well known in Hoboken in the 1980’s were the Bongos, Yo La Tengo, Individuals. But like I said we had the Club Maxwell’s where every great band played, I practically lived there. Nirvana, REM, Sonic Youth, Beck, Pixies, they all played there on the way up. 

– I read that you came to Lausanne with the first SY’s  Eurotour  in June 83, on your birthday, which turned out to be quite irregular: “…When we finished the set, a riot broke out with small fires, it was nuts and things got crazier. … Sonic Youth definitely paved the way for indie US bands touring Europe. … No one knew who these freaks from NYC were in their nice little towns and we blew whoever was there heads off.” What was your impression, was Europe ready for your music at that time? Did you have a European band you met, whom you knew and did something important at the time? 

– Yes what I said before is all true. Europe has always been more receptive to artier out there music than the USA. On one of those early Europe tours we met the band Einsturdste Neubauten, the industrial band from Berlin who blew our minds still a big fan.

– “Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon introduced Bert to Pussy Galore – who happened to be looking for a drummer at the time – at an Einsturzende Neubauten show in Manhattan, and that launched the next stage of his career.” – was your break-up really so friendly that your old band recommended a new one?

– Oh yeah, It was all very comparable and I still hung out with them. I actually asked Kim & Thurston at that show that I was itching to play again and they pointed me towards the Pussy Galore kids who just moved here.

– I must ask if you heard this record? How you like Balazs Pandi’s drumming? Relax, he’s our very good buddy so you can be absolutely honest!

– Love it He’s amazing!

– About PG you said “the coolest now rocking band on the planet.” and I will not argue with you. Jon Spencer is a total blues-head in my eyes! What you think: how important is the blues for punk music, say, in the mirror of today’s trash-blues? In the 2000s, Hungarian contemporary musicians had to rediscover blues again. Was there a time when blues was embarrassing for the US underground bands?
 
– Well not everybody is influenced by the blues but so much is, Pussy Galore had a big Rolling Stones, garage rock influence which all stemmed from the Blues. Sonic Youth were more influenced by Glen Branca but like anyone else with good taste in rock were big fans of MC5, Stooges, New York dolls etc. well all blues based. 

– You did a lot of interviews to the BBGun zine, but I cant find anything on the internet and dont know anything about BBGun. Here in Europe, in the early 90’s printed punkzines were the rage and people are starting to re-discover them today, what’s the situation in the US? You said: “My top 2 BBGun interviews were Vincent Gallo & Genesis Breyer P-Orridge” Who did you really want to, but couldn’t so far, get  interviewed by? Who would you choose from today’s underground bands or musicians?
– I pretty much interviewed everyone I wanted to and BB gun had a nice run. A lot of good things especially photos will be in my book. Not a lot of stuff around today floats my boat, I usually go to see shows that are friends from the past. The bands that my bandmates from Lydia Lunch Retrovirus are in are doing cool stuff. Tim Dahl with Child Abuse & Weasel Walter’s Cellular Chaos. I also really like a band from LA called the Death Valley Girls. 
 Based on your instagram, I have the impression that you know everybody from the American rockandroll underground. For the fifth year now we celebrate here in Budapest the singer of Cramps, Lux’s birthday and the anniversary of his death: did you know Lux? Do you have a memorable story with him?
– I saw the Cramps early on at CBGB opening for the Ramones around 1976, Miriam Linna was their drummer. I’m a huge fan and also am part of a Halloween Tribute to them for the last 3 years. I have never met Lux or Ivy. I am really good friends with Kid Congo Powers and we played together at the end of the 90’s with the Knoxville Girls and currently with him and Mick Collins of the Dirtbombs Gories in a supergroup called the Wolfmanhattan Project. We have a single out and our album Blue Gene Stew will be coming out this year. 
– Sure we heard a lot about NY punk bands, Texas punk bands and punk bands of California but can you “draw a map” of US punks for us? I do not want to list 51 punk bands, but rather to point out the “grey zones”. And from which states do you not know any punks?
 
– I’m sure there are good punk bands everywhere, I’m a bit out of the loop at this point. I’m a big fan of the Laughing Hyenas who were out of Detroit, Chicago. Minn, Seattle. All should not be overlooked. 

– Which are those new  bands  that we should pay attention to as organizers when they are heading towards Eastern Europe?

 Death Valley Girls are always touring Europe, if they haven’d played Budapest yet they should. 

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