The history of Detroit is filled with generation after generation of great music. There are great bands from cities throughout the world. What makes Detroit special is it’s ability to not only produce new bands, but new genres. From Motown to The Stooges to the techno music of May, Atkins and Saunderson, the city hasn’t followed the trend, they’ve created the trend. The contributions of Eminem and Jack White have cemented Detroit as a city of rich musical diversity.
It also houses one of the greatest art museums in the world, The Detroit Institue of Arts, which hosts Diego Rivera’s brilliant “Detroit Industry” murals, While these murals serve as an homage to Marxism, they also reflect his admiration for the high productivity of capitalism. This is the perfect symbol of the Detroit music scene; working in harmony together to create masterpiece after masterpiece in an environment that is depicted to be bleak, by the rest of the world.
When I heard that Simon Bonney had re-formed Crime and the City and relocated to Detroit, my enthusiasm was unbridled as I thought this would be the perfect environment for the band. I was first exposed to the band in the 80′s, thanks to their appearance in my all-time favorite movie, Wings of Desire. Their moody, atmospheric blues-based aesthetic immediately grabbed me and I became an instant fan. In their early years, members of The Birthday Party, including Mick Harvey, moved from Australia to Berlin where they recruited a number of local musicians, including Einstürzende Neubauten guitarist Alexander Hacke and were joined by violinist Bronwyn Adams (also Bonney’s wife and songwriting partner). From their first EP in 1985, to Simon’s solo work, they have consistently created ornate and intoxicating music that has influenced countless musicians. With a reconstituted lineup that includes Simon, Bronwyn and Alexander, along with a few Detroit-based musicians like Matt Smith, this is a legitimate incarnation of the band that is worth seeing, as they launch a tour.
Crime and the City Solution will be performing at The Detroit Institue of Arts, in the Rivera Murals exhibit on Friday, October 19th. I had hoped that a discussion with Simon about the history of Detroit music, the significance of playing at the DIA and the excitement of a Crime and the City Solution reunion tour would lead to a magical interviewing experience. Unfortunately, Simon didn’t share my excitement. Would you like to hear a lengthy dissertation on disappointment? Probably not. But this is what an interview looks like, when two people aren’t on the same page. Ah well. I still love you, Simon.
TDOA: Let’s begin with the present! In 2010, you gave an interview in which you said that a Crime and the City Solution reunion was unlikely. Can you walk us through the events that led us to where we are today?
SB: The unlikely became likely when I received an email from Alex in a hotel room in Darwin. Who can say why these things happen, it just seemed to be the right time.
TDOA: How important to you was it to have Alex on board for the reunion?
SB: Very important, we have very compatible approaches to music.
TDOA: I grew up in Detroit and played in bands there, so I can understand you attraction to the city and it’s music scene. But I’d like to talk about your move and how it’s impacted you. First, what led you to move to Detroit?
SB: Detroit is the spiritual home of the new Crime and where we meet to record and rehearse, but my most recent home has been an atoll in the Pacific.
TDOA: The history of Detroit music is quite rich. Most recently people are familiar with the White Stripes, and perhaps to the other great “garage” bands (Volebeats, Outrageous Cherry, etc.), but how would you describe the scene at the moment?
SB: I’m just not a scenester, so my knowledge is limited to what I hear from the Detroit natives in the band, Matthew and Troy.
TDOA: As a resident of Detroit, I assume you’re familiar with the Rivera murals, where you’re doing a show in October. Can you discuss your feeling about playing in such an amazing setting?
SB: I’ve only seen the DIA from the outside so the Rivera murals is an experience I’m yet to have.
TDOA: Please tell us about the visual component that you’ve added for this tour, through the work of Danielle de Picciotto.
SB: Our work is very story based and since our work on Wings of Desire, I’ve always wanted to create a expressionistic, magical realist, visual backdrop to the stories – Danielle shares that vision and makes a great addition to the band.
TDOA: Can you discuss your feelings about the film (Wings of Desire) and appearing in it?
SB: For me, Wings of Desire was the best thing the London Crime did. It really captured the mood and color of that band. Wim was very open to our input so when we approached him with idea of the backdrop, he provided the paint and the carpenters and Bronwyn made in happen – beautiful scene.
TDOA: Alright, now let’s delve into the distant past a bit. The production on Room of Lights and Shine have stood the test of time and struck me as brilliant from day one. Sometimes, artists have a different feeling about their work. When those albums were released, were you happy with the sound of the records? Would you have changed anything?
SB: Albums capture a point in history, so I wouldn’t change anything about either of those records.
TDOA: I’ve read stories that you recorded a third solo record, yet I’ve never heard it. What became of those songs?
SB: The songs are alive and well and living at the Tempermill. One day they will venture out into the world.
TDOA: I’m excited to hear American Twilight, which I’m hoping is still scheduled for a 2013 release. There’s an obvious difference between the early work of the band and your own solo work. What can listeners expect from the new songs?
SB: The songs on this record are more in keeping with the Shine, Paradise Discotheque period, but my solo work is probably in there somewhere as well.
Check out the band, on tour!