Nervous Eaters Interview - 2003
Considered one of the premier Boston bands from the late 70's The Nervous Eaters have recently reformed.
Joining Steve Cataldo, lead singer/song-writer and lead guitarist is Alpo (Real Kids) on bass, Lou Cataldo (The Freeze & Steve's brother) on drums and Richie Bartlett (The Fools) on guitar.
After a fantastic return gig to The Dodge Street Grill in Salem, MA the Boston Groupie News HAD to talk to these guys! We happened to find out they were planning a trip to Boston to buy new equipment so Miss Lyn and Blowfish snagged 'em and sat down with them for some Q& A on Saturday May 30, 2003.
Blowfish- Let's talk about your first gig in many years, The Dodge Street Grill gig. Now, was that has friggin' good for you as it was for us?
Alpo-I'll tell ya, for me it was great. I haven't felt that good playing music on a stage in probably 20 years. I felt really comfortable. It was a good vibe. The band was well rehearsed. It was a real good night for me. I saw a lot of old friends too, that's where I grew up. I feel really good about being in this band.
B- We were driving up there and I'm thinking "What do we expect? You know, 25 years hasn't happened? And what?…We're gonna get to see The Eaters like there was nothing in between?" and yeah, of course that's what we expected! And shit! it was damned close!!
Steve- I wanted to introduce my brother Lou who plays drums for us now. I was so happy with the crowd and I was psyched! I was thinking "I can talk to them and I can say 'I'm sorry about this and that …We're gonna start from ground zero and go on." But I was so sick! I thought I had the flu but Alpo and I had stopped to get coffee and something to eat before the show and bam! I got so sick! I thought I was dying up there!! I tried not to lose it on stage. I just can't wait to go back.
B- You certainly couldn't tell that you were sick.
Miss Lyn- This will be all we'll say about it but I liked what you said about the yellow album. "I'm sorry about the fucking yellow album! It was my fault, it sucked but let's stop talking about it!"
Alpo-Somewhere along the line there was a mention of Jeff Wilkinson and I heard from a lot of people that that really touched people. It really did.
B- Oh yeah! Have you read your old BGN interview?
Group- Oh yeah we've read it!
B- You can really hear Jeff's "voice" in there. It's cool on that level.
S- When I was putting together the Nervous Eaters site I found a bunch of his drawings so I put those on the site. And I've heard from his son! Much to my delight and surprise he is a drummer! He's in a band called The Lonely Kings. He says he drums just like his dad and he feels his presence a lot. They tour all over the place.
B- So The Nervous Eaters, in 2003, are now a going concern? You are completely there?
A-Oh yeah! And I don't look this as a nostalgic thing either. This is just a continuation. This is the music we played and we will continue to play. Though Steve is on a roll. He's coming up with lots of new stuff.
B- Dodge Street was the first gig with this new line up?
S- Yes. Actually I didn't want to play then. I wanted to wait 'til the CD arrived and was in the stores and it was getting played and we could say "Hey guys if you want something from us, here it is." Coz we haven't exactly been cranking out the material over the past years.
B-Why I ask this question is, at the Dodge Street you were full blown, you were there 100%! You guys must've rehearsed up the wazoo!
A-We rehearse, we take it serious, you know.
S- Yeah, we were talking about this recently. In the old days everybody was in one band. They weren't in five bands like today. It's OK, people have to live, I got no problem with it but with one band, we used to rehearse everyday…EVERYDAY!
A- We did it in The Real Kids. The Kids' whole life revolved around the practice space. You did what ever you did during the day and then at night you practiced. Every single night we practiced, then we did the gigs, then we'd practice.
B- You have this new CD, Eat This!. Which was recorded two years ago?
S- Yeah. The Eat This! cover is an American flag and the stars are cut out of it, so to speak. It has 3 guitars, a bass, a Strat and a Dan Electro. The back is drums I think.
B-As you say that…you've always been big on covers. You've sort of had innovative packaging. The Serving Platter….
S- I didn't have much to do with that. That was Rick Harte's idea. He said "What do ya think about this?" and I said "Yeah, it looks good." I was just interested in getting the record out!
B- And the bite mark cut out on the yellow one…
S- Yeah we didn't have anything to do with that one either.
B- And the covers of the singles..
S- Those we did!
B- You've recently re-released the singles on The Rat label. Those originals were going for a lot of money!
S- It's probably ticked a lot of people off! Peneman Records is Enric Bosser in Spain. He's a great guy. He's a big fan of The Remains and us and the whole Boston Scene. So he put 'em out again.
B- How did he get in touch with you or you get in touch with him?
S- Lillie Dennison's roommate travels with well known groups, like Patti Smith or something like that and he met Enric when he was in Spain. Enric asked him "You wouldn't know the Nervous Eaters would ya?"
B- And is there' another Nervous Eaters release coming out after this Eat This! CD?
S- Yeah, there's another CD which is in production right now and should be out in the fall of 2003. And we've got "I'm a Degenerate", which is gonna be heard in the film "Girl In 3-D". It will be showing in all the film festivals this year. I hope some one will pick it up coz it is a beautiful looking film. It's a cult film about the seedy side of the music industry. Not like a band trying to make it but the managers, the agents…there's some bondage in it and stuff like that.
B- Let's talk about The Eaters sound in 2003. Basically you sound the same but you say you fit into the newer sound that's out there as well.
S- We are trying to get more vocals. More background vocals but basically the same.
B- You definitely have the Eaters sound still. Miss Lyn, back in 78 used to go on about you playing octaves. That's part of the sound.
S- Oh yeah, instead of hitting one note I hit two. It's kind of like a Wes Montgomery thing. I used to do a lot of psuedo Wes Montgomery. I've never been able to copy music verbatim.. I was never in a Top Forty band. We tried, Alan and I. We'd do Beatles and Kinks but that was more like folk songs or something. But we didn't copy 'em verbatim. So I just made up my own stuff. But I love Link Wray.
B- One of my favorite songs of yours is "All Except You" from the yellow album.
S- Geesh!! Really? You and Jeff!
L- I think I have that on 8 track. Ha ha ha!
B- And "Loretta". How can a 1-4-5 song be so distinctive?? It's so simple, yet…
S- Well, again…"Louie, Louie" and Link Wray. Those are the roots.
A- It's the melody on top of it that makes it.
B- You have to really be good to fashion a song like that.
S- Songs like that or The Real Kids best song or a Lyres best song should've made it to popular radio. Those are all good songs but you gotta have that push behind, it's just how the dollars and sense go.
B- "All Kindsa Girls", that's one of those songs like "Shake Some Action". They should've been hits and the radio people are responsible for not making them hits.
ML- I always thought The Neighborhoods were gonna make it. I never understood what happened there.
S- Absolutely!…and The Outlets, those are all great songs. If the radio powers-that-be had played songs like that our record would have gone somewhere but I think…guys like Charles Laquidara, who's been good to us, but he had written notes on the side of the album like "This isn't going anywhere. Too many songs." And stuff like that. So the other DJs come in and see that "god" had written this and that's it. It's the end of the game. But the thing that kills me is that any other groups would've gotten a chance to make another one. The smart thing to do would have been to see that we were getting in trouble, this wasn't the right way to do it. We should've stopped it, gone back to Boston, asked Rick Harte to produce the album. But it's all history now, that's too bad but…
B- Well we're glad to have you back!! You really sound great. Now, Lou, you were in The Freeze before this band?
L-I was in The Freeze and in Vasco Da Gama.
B- Drumming for The Freeze must be very different than this band, I would assume?
Lou- Yeah, a lot. This is a lot more melodic and you don't have to play at a thousand miles an hour.
S- Lou is great! He's the only singing drummer in like 300 miles! He's in many, many bands.
B- The Freeze. Are they coming back?
L- The Freeze are still recording. They have records coming out on Doctor Strange. I always looked at it as The Eaters and The Real Kids were the beginning of punk in Boston and The Freeze were the beginning of hardcore. We started with SS Decontrol, Gang Green.
B- This brings up the fact that the best Boston bands had the best rhythm sections; The Boom Boom Band, The Real Kids and The Eaters. So now here you guys are, you're filling those shoes nicely. Now my question is, without Steve saying anything, did he tell you to play a certain way?
L- Growing up in the same house with Steve, I grew up with The Eaters playing in our basement all the time. I would go downstairs and play on Jeff's drums and he didn't care. He'd let me do it. So I grew up listening to The Eaters. My brother was my idol when I was growing up so I listened to everything he did.
B- Did he go to you "No! Stop! No stop!" at times?
L- Hell yeah! Are you kiddin' me??
B- Like he'll say "Stop playing like that. You're playing too…busy here." Or something like that?
L- Absolutely. He would let me know if there was a spot and how it has to be…and he's right though. Actually, it started at an early age. He instilled in me not to play a lot of rolls. It started when I was like 12. "Keep it simple," he'd say, "you don't need 12 drums."
B- During all the rehearsal process did you have to stifle the way you would normally play?
L- No, no not at all. I know the songs really well. I listen to them a lot, I grew up listening to this music and it's second nature to me.
S- Yeah, he does a great job. I don't stop their creative thing but I have an idea how it goes. They can add what they want ….as long as it's ….OK.
LAUGHTER FROM ALL………………..
B- Let's talk about Alpo. You're background is no small thing!
A-Well, I always fit in. There wasn't a question of fitting in because I was a Nervous Eater my whole life. I grew up with these guys. And I grew up with Jeff Wilkinson, Steve Cataldo and Rob Skeene. So it's the same thing. I was in a different band but we played the same kind of music. There wasn't really a point where I had to think 'OK, I'm gonna play a different style." When The Eaters lost Rob Skeene I played with them then too, in 1980.
S-And then we had the Blues Deluxe thing for 3 years.
A-Yeah we had Blues Deluxe. That was a very cool band. We did a lot of blues covers and every one and his brother came up to play with us and we had the same line up as The Eaters now. Me, Steve, Ritchie Bartlett …except Howie Ferguson on in drums.
S- Yeah our guitarist now is Ritchie Bartlett, from The Fools.
A-I will say that Steve is focused on his songs and what he hears and what he wants. But it's not a dictatorship. It's like "This is what I'm thinkin', try this."
ML- So Alpo, we interviewed Billy Borgioli recently and he, of course, had many Alpo stories. One of which is about you guys going to see glam bands and you would stand right up front giving the finger to the band for extended amounts of time. Is that true?
A-Yeah that's true. I was a brat, basically. I wanted to cause a ruckus and get attention. As far as I was concerned I was having fun.
ML- You have a reputation, from your time in The Real Kids and stuff, of being very…angry. You say you're life has changed. Tell us about that.
A- I was the same person then as I am now it's just the way I decided to act then as opposed to the way I decide to act now. But I'm the same person. I've never been "angry". I was a young guy just lettin' off steam, so to speak. I have the same emotions. I spent a lot of time using a lot of drugs and alcohol. I am an addict. That caused a lot of things to happen in my life that happened. Addiction consumes you. It controls your life and that had a lot to do with the choices that I made and the places that it took me. But the way I acted; it was real freeing and it was a way to let out things that were inside of me. And thank god for rock'n'roll or I'd probably be in jail! Because I needed to express myself in some way. Because I was so full of energy and emotion. I look at that and I wonder; why was I pushing people away and just being…just an asshole, basically. You know, telling people to fuck off and stuff. It was drunken nonsense.
B- Well even though you were an asshole, you were playing ALL the time!
S- It's a symptom of the band thing. The guys.
A-Yeah, The Real Kids especially. We were like a gang. We hung together…tight.
ML- And your drug using and alcohol drinking lead to your accident? You talk about how much music is a part of your life and in that accident you lost fingers and here you are still playing bass as fabulously as before!
A-It's my right hand that lost the fingers. If it were my left hand I wouldn't be able to play at all. My theory on this is that god was saying to me "Hey, knock it off!!" I can still play 'cause I have a thumb. I used to play with my fingers and I miss that but I can still do pretty good with the thumb.
ML- When you had the accident did you think "Holy shit, that's it. I give up" or did you think " I'm gonna learn how to deal with this."?
A-I've never given up on anything in my life! I'm a determined person...I'm an obsessive person! I'm an addict and if I like something I'm not gonna giving up on it. No one's gonna stand in my way. That's the way I am about life. So, no I didn't want to give up. I was sad. It was a terrible thing.
S- Yeah, you could've gone the other way though…
ML- Yes that's what I'm trying to say…
A-See at that time I made a decision. Do I want to live or do I want to die. Drugs and alcohol were causing serious shit like….I was losing body parts now. I was visiting jails. I spent three months in a prison. And I'm saying to myself, do I want to live or do I want to die? And that to me is like a moment of clarity, a spiritual awakening. And I said "Well I think I'm gonna go for it and I'm gonna live." I got on to the business of living. So I did what I needed to do.
S- Any addict that goes to get help always gets to that point There's that choice.
ML- Steve, I have to ask about the lyrics. I've always wondered why you write the lyrics you do. I think the songs are really well crafted. It's like every song, to me, could be a huge hit. But you put all your "dirty" lyrics in your songs, ones that you know will be in the way of you getting signed. It's almost self- defeating.
S- Yeah, I might do it to a smaller degree now. We did an interview together and one of the lines I said was "I hope I destroy myself." And I think about that. Every couple years I think "What is it with you, Steve?" and you're right.
B- But lyrics nowadays everyone is saying every goddamned thing.
ML- I guess you were way ahead of your time!
S- I guess we had a jump on it, like "Just Head" and stuff like that. "I'm a Degenerate" I just made that stuff up.
B- What about where you are now, all of you. You started back in 1975 and here we are now…are you happy with where you are?
A-Yeah, I'm playing and with people I really like to play with.
B- But you're not playing the Tweeter Center.
A-For me, music has always been a part of my life, always will be. It's not an issue for me where I do it.; whether it's in a basement or The Tweeter Center.
S- We talked about this, you know, we are doing our day jobs and whatever, and understand how old we are….Would we like to go around the country and play? … WE WOULD! Would we like the records to be bought?…WE WOULD! We don't necessarily have to be playing the Tweeter Center or huge festivals but if we could do a tour that was a good one and worthwhile. We love to do it.
B- Well, yeah and I feel like we won. All of us from back in '75. We won. What exists now is way different from what existed then. Right now you can get records out, there's a whole network of radio stations, magazines and everything that wasn't there in '75. We were responsible for that! You guys were responsible for that. We were the facilitators of it all!
A-We are! We started all that and we're still doing it.
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