Interview Date: 09/16/2010
Run Date: 09/23/2010
Damn that Casey Affleck. When we were offered the chance to speak with one of the Langdon brothers, co-leaders of the recently reunited ‘90s glam rockers Spacehog, we quickly accepted, though for different reasons than the publicist may have hoped. You see, we had just seen “I’m Still Here,” Affleck’s “documentary” on brother-in-law Joaquin Phoenix’s retirement from acting and pursuit of a career in hip hop. Phoenix’s assistant in the movie is none other than Antony Langdon, Spacehog’s guitarist, and, well, let’s just say his screen time is memorable. We couldn’t wait to talk to him about it, in the hopes of inadvertently getting some kind of scoop on the movie’s authenticity.
Within an hour of completing our interview with Langdon, Affleck finally admitted to the New York Times that the entire movie was a fake. Truthfully, this is what we suspected all along, and it would explain Langdon’s tight-lipped answers to the questions about the movie (ahem, gag order), especially when he spoke at length – and we do mean at length – about everything else, from the boom-boom days of the ‘90s, his second job as head of his own record label, and whether he’s played his own song on “Guitar Hero.”
Bullz-Eye: Where are you right now?
Antony Langdon: Presently in Los Angeles. Extremely hot. Where are you?
BE: Columbus, Ohio. You’re coming here next week.
AL: Oh, I am. I’m looking forward to it, actually. We haven’t been there…back in the day, in the ‘90s when I was touring with Spacehog, we used to call it The Ohio Vortex. Once we got in Ohio, we couldn’t get out. I think we’ve toured more in Ohio than anywhere else.
BE: That’s really odd.
AL: It’ll be fun to come back and see if anything’s changed.
BE: What was the impetus for getting Spacehog back up and running?
AL: Sheer desperation, I think. (Chuckles) The reason we broke up was eight years, nine years on the road, all the usual cliché idea of why bands break up, you know, the stress and tension. And I can tell you that there’s literally a sort of bereavement. When you break up with a bunch of guys – and in my case, it’s my brother as well – after so many years of touring and spending all that time on the bus, I felt a real sense of loss. The thing that got us back together was the thing that got us together in the first place, which was desire. And the conditions are different, both in the music business and in our lives, but the basic chemistry that occurs when we get together is still there. And I really think that’s what it’s all about when it comes to Spacehog. I’ve played in other bands, Roy (Royston Langdon, Antony’s brother) has played in other bands, we’ve all played in other bands. But it’s when you get these four particular people together, something happens, for better and for worse. (Laughs)
BE: I’m going to ask you about the business in a second, but first I wanted to ask you about the new material. What does it sound like?
AL: There’s definitely still a glam component to it, which may or may not be the fashion at the moment, but I’m not really concerned about that. I would say that it’s very much in keeping with what Spacehog is. Roy’s been in pretty good form and writing again. I’ve written a couple of pieces. Richard’s written a song for this record so far, we’re still recording right now. Because Roy and I live in Los Angeles, and they live in New York, we’ve been doing it for two weeks at a time. It sounds very much in the vein of what we were doing before, but at the same time, inevitably there’s been an evolution. I don’t know what the best adjective would be; it’s been sounding pretty rich to me.
BE: I see that your producer has worked with both the Ramones and Phish. That’s an interesting combination.
AL: Yeah, he works a lot with Trey [Antanasio], and the band, and he worked with the Ramones back in the day. Yeah, Bryce [Goggin] has never been what you might call famous, but he’s worked with everybody. He did Joan as Police Woman, and he did a lot of Evan Dando’s records back in the day, and the Breeders back in the ‘90s, I remember him doing. He’s just an excellent engineer; he’s produced two of our records before. I always think of him as an amazing engineer, he has the most incredible knowledge of how to get a signal on to tape. And if you went to his studio, it’s like being in one of those magical mystery shops. He’s one of those gearheads, he’s got all the old gear, and someone who can imbue ProTools with a sense of richness. We’ve worked with him so much that he’s part of the band, really.
BE: Tell us about the biggest differences in the music machine that you’ve noticed over the last 15 years. What are you doing now that didn’t even exist in the process when Resident Alien came out?
AL: A few things. First, I’m traveling by land instead of by helicopter. (Chuckles) We’ve been gone for so long that we have to reconnect with an audience. The good news is there are many more tools, the social networks to connect and re-connect with an audience and give you a certain autonomy. But on the other hand, not having the old machine – in our case, Elektra – you don’t have that buffer. The good news is it’s more realistic; you live and fall on your own merits. A lot of that comes down to the band in terms of how willing are you to invest in getting the record together, or touring. It’s absolutely remarkable how different the market is. It’s certainly less grand, in terms of…it used to be that the tour support was $300 Grand, and videos were a minimum of 50 to 100 [thousand]. Our last video cost $400,000, and these days you could make 40 videos for that, easily. Technology has completely blown it open, but it hasn’t changed the way that a band connects to its audience, which is what happens when people play. I started a record label in Los Angeles with a partner of mine called Dilettante, and we’ve got nine artists on the label, so I’m very involved in trying to promote new artists. And it’s remarkable what you can do with social media, to bring about a connection with fans, especially with new bands. I have to say Spacehog have been rather lame on that front, and one reason is that I’ve been quite busy working on these other artists to work on my own project. That is going to change, and gradually we’ve been building up to that. But it’s been shocking – the business is completely different. There’s certainly no bread in it anymore, I can tell you that. (Laughs) It’s kind of like it’s what we do, so that’s what we do.
BE: I love talking to established artists about this, because you hear new bands talk about how wonderful the openness of the digital distribution system is, but I guarantee you that nine out of ten of them, if they had their way, would have wanted their first record to come out when you released your first record. The ‘90s are now seen as this go-go period for the music business.
AL: Well, it was just remarkable. We were going around with a band called D Generation, out of New York, when we were coming up. And everybody was getting record deals. It would vary in how much bread they were getting, but principally, if you were any good and you had made a name for yourself on the New York circuit, you could probably get a record deal. You could certainly get an indie deal. And everybody was getting $300 Grand as a signing advance, plus publishing upward of $250 Grand. So you were suddenly fluid. I was working at that time as a photo assistant, and I went from that straight to full-time being in a band. You really felt like the proverbial rock star, that you’d been graced by some rock and roll god and you were on your way. This is one thing I’ll tell you. I’ve researched it at length. The truth is there are a bunch of web sites that sell a band, you get your song up on iTunes and off you go. If you build a fan base via the social networks, you can theoretically get your record up and out fairly easily without a lot of expense. The truth is they always focus on the one success story, but there is a myriad of artists that will never get heard, and largely because they’re not any good. And if they do get heard…it’s one thing to get a thousand fans on MySpace or Facebook, but it’s very difficult to connect on a national and international level in a cohesive way that allows you to organize a national tour. You can do it, but without any sort of promotion, it’s going to take you a few years to build up. And that’s not bad when you’re 22 and you want to go for it. There is an opportunity there, make no mistake. But on the other hand, it’s way over-amped. It’s just not realistic. You do need help, you need support. You need a manager, you need an agent, if for nothing else just to keep things cohesive. Social networking alone is a full-time job.
BE: Have you played “In the Meantime” on “Guitar Hero”?
AL: (Chuckles) That’s a good question. I haven’t, actually, and I’m not sure that I could remember the chords if I did. At least all of the lights light up, and it goes red, orange, green, something like that, so I could probably pull it off. I’d like to do it live, with the “Guitar Hero” guitar, go on stage with that. We’ll have to see if we can hook that up and have our little avatars playing in the background, that’d be hysterical. It’s definitely a post-modern affair, to have your music be covered by anyone who wants to play it. I met up with the guitar player from Bush the other night, and he was talking about how you’re a retro band if you’re from the ‘90s, or…what do they call it now…legacy bands. It’s a strange time for music, for a band that’s been around for a while, anyway.
BE: We did a piece on fantasy bands, where people got to draft six people, living or dead, and put them in a fictional band. Please tell your brother Royston that he’s in a band with Frank Zappa, Anne Dudley, and John Linnell of They Might Be Giants.
AL: Jesus Christ. (Writer’s note: He follows this with something unintelligible, but not exactly complimentary.) I’ll tell him that.
BE: I saw “I’m Still Here” last week. Have you seen it yet?
AL: I have seen it, yes, and I think it was pretty good, no?
BE: Have you come up with a bit? (Writer’s note: there is a scene in the movie where Phoenix belittles Langdon because he doesn’t have a bit, as in a reason that people should pay attention to him.)
AL: I’m still working on my bit.
BE: Why is it that Spacehog is never mentioned in the movie?
AL: I think there are a couple of clips of us when we were on “Letterman.” If I remember correctly, they did show us on the “Letterman” show.
BE: They did, but your name is not mentioned.
AL: The band is not mentioned?
BE: No. It wasn’t until I saw your last name in the credits that I connected the dots that that was you in the movie.
AL: Ah, good. Well, that’s the way I was hoping it would go.
BE: What does your wife think of the multiple shots of you naked?
AL: So far, I’ve been able to keep it off her desk. I’ve actually managed to keep it on the down-low. She doesn’t think it’s out yet.
BE: Well, that will last about a week.
AL: Yeah, but she lives in seclusion, so…I don’t think my parents have seen it yet either, which I’m dreading more than anything.
BE: I’m tempted to ask you if the whole thing was indeed a hoax, but I’m pretty sure Joaquin is going to admit that on Letterman next week, so I’m not going to push you on that one.
AL: He’s on “Letterman” next week?
AL: Oh, Well, I’ll have to watch that one. That’ll be exciting. I think he’ll have to come on with a pink wig. I mean, what can you do to top [his last appearance on the show]?
BE: We’ll have to wait and see. What new bands have you been listening to lately?
AL: Well, I’m listening to all the bands I work with, because I’m constantly [promoting] their records. I’ve got a band on our label called the Moor, which are just fantastic. We have another artist called Jenny O who’s amazing. Incredible record that she recorded about six months ago, and we’re preparing to put it out next year. Who else have I been listening to…(pause) Luke Rathborne, he’s actually going to be with us in Columbus. Check him out if you can. He’s 21, incredible singer/songwriter. I’ve been working with Luke on getting his record released, so we’ve been dealing with artwork and all that crap, so we keep listening to that and the Moor, they’re in heavy rotation at the moment.
BE: So you only have four dates on the current tour?
AL: Five, I think.
BE: When do you expect the record to be out?
AL: Well, again, we’ve just been doing it piecemeal. We need to go in for another couple of weeks, I’d say, to finish everything. It’s not so much recording or tracking; it’s more to do with the extras and stuff we need to put on. I’d like to think we’ll have all the recording done in the next couple of months, then do the full mix and master and off we go. So we’ll definitely get it out next year, possibly in the first quarter, but definitely by the second quarter.
BE: Well, thanks for taking the time to talk with us, I appreciate it.
AL: Thanks, I look forward to seeing you at the gig.
BE: I’m traveling back with my family that night, so it might be difficult to get out of the house, but I will do my best.
AL: Well, if you’re there, please say hello, and if not, thanks for taking the time to talk with me.
BE: Sure thing, man. Best of luck with the record.AL: Cheers.