Pere Ubu: Why rock music is the cultural voice of America

By Jade Wright on Dec 10, 12 05:25 PM in Previews
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PERE Ubu is an unusual band name, but according to founder David Thomas it contains three important elements.
It is named after a character from a play by French writer Alfred Jarry.
"Jarry staged Ubu Roi in Paris in 1896," explains David.
"The principal character is a fellow named Pere Ubu.
"You need three things in a band name: It shouldn't mean anything but it should seem to mean something, it needs to look good and sound good and three it should have three syllables. Also the Ubu character was monstrous."



The experimental rock group was formed in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1975. Despite many long-term band members, singer David is the only constant.
Founder of two iconic bands in Rocket From The Tombs and Pere Ubu - he's a musician's musician, a true maverick.

His career began as a columnist for weekly magazine The Scene, in Cleveland, in the early 70s.
After years of critiquing, he made the decision to stop writing about art and start creating it.
"If I'm so smart, I should do this myself," he says.

So, he formed Pere Ubu, his forward thinking new wave project.

Their debut single, 30 Seconds Over Tokyo, was released in 1975 and was the first of four independent releases on Hearpen Records and, along with Television's Little Johnny Jewel, it signalled the beginning of the New Wave.

"Pere Ubu is a rock band," says David.

"We arrived on the scene at a pivotal point in the early 70s as concrete sound and analogue synthesiser-generated abstract sound were being integrated into rock music, given a specific narrative role, and Pere Ubu had a hand in that process.

"Rock music is the cultural voice of the American folk experience, along with jazz and blues, and whether or not that is art is irrelevant. It speaks with the voices in your blood. In that context, who cares about art?"

But he's not hugely positive about music today.

"I think today's rock scene is afraid," he says.

The new Pere Ubu album, Lady From Shanghai, is scheduled for release in January 2013, and the band will be touring in the spring, calling in at Eric's for their Liverpool date.
Pere Ubu play Eric's on Monday April 22, 2013.
Photo by Simon Fowler.

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Jade Wright

Jade Wright

Jade Wright is the ECHO's music columnist. She has a passion for all things musical, and particularly for promoting local bands.
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