Cool Ghouls Go Berserk on Mushrooms, Will Smith and the Dead
Numerology > Vibeology. So, what better way to get to know a band than probing numerical associations? Today we Count Off with Pat Thomas of constantly evolving Bay Area psych/folk-rockers Cool Ghouls.
1: Describe your band in one sentence.
Rock 'n' roll aimed to alter consciousness.
Do you feel like you accomplish that goal? Who is a band that did, and did you model yourself after them?
Yeah, when we play well, I think we accomplish that goal. I'm thinking about live sets here. When we connect with an audience, I get the sense that we've all gone somewhere and back together. I mean, "altering consciousness" — that's a vague way of putting it. That could basically mean making someone feel something ... I mean we're trying to incite a psychic sensation.
The Grateful Dead would be the prime example of a band that dealt with this journey of the psyche. They are a band we look to, but not exclusively. I don't think we were thinking of them at all when we first started the band. We rely heavily on intuition. There's no stated objective, aside from rock 'n' roll, which could be interpreted any number of ways. Maybe the four-way mind meld that happens between us band members when we're really jelling is the consciousness alteration I was thinking of ...
2: What do your parents think about your music?
They love that we're in this band — they think it's so fun!
Were they ever concerned for your lifestyle or the limited money associated with being in a band? Or are they fully supportive? What is an example of them either being concerned (without reason) or supportive (maybe even blindly)?
My parents were probably more concerned about me before we started this band. They were concerned when I was 18 and they figured out I smoke cigarettes. In college, I was arrested while going berserk on mushrooms. That was cause for concern. After college, I moved back home in a state of depression, with nothing to say and nothing to do. They were worried about me then.
They live about 45 minutes outside San Francisco, so it's not hard for them to make it out to shows. When they saw us succeeding, selling out shows, getting our albums pressed to vinyl, I think they were just proud to see me doing well. Now, traveling around the country, and this September around Europe, playing shows, they think it's the coolest. My dad likes to live vicariously through his kids. Our albums are on those internet jukeboxes, so whenever my dad sees one somewhere, he subjects everyone in the place to our music. Whenever we get a review or something, he posts it to Facebook. He's obsessed!
3: What are three things you can’t do without on tour?
Van, money, weed.
Do you have weed in the van at all times?
Not all the time. Sometimes we run dry. We always make sure we don't have any in the van when we're crossing into Canada. You gotta be careful crossing through Arizona and West Texas. They got border patrol stops with drug-sniffin' dogs.
4: Who do you play music 4?
So you don’t play music or write for yourself? The way you approach music is strictly by what the people want? Is there a band that you have modeled yourself after in this respect?
No no, I don't mean that we're trying to come up with something that other people will like. We're playing music in a way that feels right to us. Just trying to please our own ears. And my life feels most purposeful when I think of myself as a musician. So, it's a given that I'm going to play music and play it my way. But [in answering] the question "Who do you play music for?" I meant "the people" in this populous sense. Like in a folk-art kind of way. Like, who am I serving? I don't know how to expand on this much further without getting too abstract.
7: Do you believe in luck?
What is an example, in a band context, of when luck has come in handy for you?
We had a van break down three times before we had to get rid of it. Each time it broke down, it was immediately after a tour was completed. Like it knew its job was done.
I feel lucky to have met so many cool people through music. I look at the way people's paths cross by way of all these intersecting circumstances as this fateful kind of thing.
10: What was your favorite album when you were 10?
Big Willie Style by Will Smith.
What about it was so important to you? How does the record hold up now?
It was the only rap album my parents would allow me to buy. Plus that "nana nana na na na" chorus on "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" is irresistible. Haven't given that album a listen in years.
20: If I gave you a $20 bill right now, what would you spend it on?
How much beer do you consume every day?
About 48 ounces on average, I'd estimate.
80: What will you listen to when you’re 80?
The Beatles cover band I force my grandkids to form.
Is the Beatles the only band that you feel you will never grow tired of? Why? Are there any other bands that fall in line with that? Do you believe in child labor laws?
In a way, yeah. But I'll go through phases where I get tired of the Beatles. I'll skip some of the overplayed songs sometimes.
But they've been canonized on this level that I think they'll be icons for hundreds of years. They happened right at such a pivotal moment of the 20th century. I suppose Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash are in the same category of the American collective consciousness. But the Beatles are different from them because they're English. Elvis is Beatles-level for sure. Or the Beatles are Elvis-level. I'm not talking personal taste; I just mean in terms of cultural immortality.
Child labor laws? For 'em. But you're allowed to tell your own 10-year-old to mow the lawn.
666: Who or what would you go to hell for?
A chance to come back and topple the capitalists' world order.
If you are playing for the people, and not following your creative endeavors, is this truly a concern?
Not sure what you mean by that. As in, what does it matter who owns the world if you're leading this selfless life without desires?
No matter what lifestyle I lead or what I choose to make my life's work, I'm still a person living in the world. For the benefit of the people of the world, I'd like to see the control of the infrastructure of our daily lives handed over to the people for whom it was built to serve, and to those who maintain it. The field should belong to the hand that tends it. And crops are grown to feed a population. I want to see the current dominant ideology, putting profit and expansion first, come to an end. It's private colonialism.