An Indelicate Look at David Koresh: An Interview with The Indelicates
British band The Indelicates–fronted by Julia and Simon Indelicate–have released thought-provoking music throughout young career. Perhaps their most thought-provoking (and definitely most controversial) work yet is the new David Koresh Superstar album, written as a musical. This came on the heels of The Indelicates’ musical based on the book of Job. Here, Julia and Simon take the time to talk in detail about the record and their views on the situation in Waco.
ELM: How did you get the idea for David Koresh Superstar?
JULIA INDELICATE: When we were first rehearsing our musical based on the book of Job we got into a jokey discussion with the cast about what unlikely project we should try next – Waco: the Musical was Chris (who played Job)’s idea. It kind of stuck in our heads and for a while Simon was going to write a comedy about it. That came to nothing because we couldn’t find a way to get round the really serious child abuse/ mass death stuff while still being funny.
All the same, Simon had gotten as far as the opening lines and bass part for ‘I Am Koresh’ and they stuck in his head until we felt able to take on the idea as a serious thing when we were supposed to be writing our second album ‘Songs For Swinging Lovers’. About half the
songs were written at the same time as the second album and we gradually fleshed it out to what it is once SFSL was released.
ELM: Do you plan to ever stage it as a musical?
JULIA: We’d love to. There’s also a movie screenplay, which I’ve only seen the first few pages of, but which is AMAZING. Films, musicals, it’d work for both.
ELM: What kind of research did you do before writing the record?
SIMON INDELICATE: I read everything I could – the Ashes of Waco is a good serious book, ‘the Devil’s Party’ by Colin Wilson is schlockier but still good on prurient details that translate well to lurid rock opera – I also read most of Koresh’s own writings and a lot of the theological pamphlets written by his predecessor, Lois Roden, who Julia plays on
the record. We also went to the compound site in Texas and sort of looked nervously at it for a bit.
ELM:You also have songs about Timothy McVeigh and the Alamo on DKS. What parallels do you draw between these events?
SIMON: With McVeigh, it was him who drew the parallel, not me. The Oklahoma city bombing was carried out two years to the day after the Waco fire and was ostensibly intended as direct revenge against the federal government for Waco and the similar siege at Ruby Ridge. McVeigh
traveled to Waco and handed out conspiracy theorist literature during the Waco siege and was obsessed with it – his song on the record is supposed to portray him in the crowd: young, angry, convinced he’s right and that everyone else is stupid. I think the album is all about
that kind of person – I’m that kind of person – and the disastrous effects we can have on the world if we let ourselves get too wrapped in it.
With The Alamo, I think it was a way to set the stage for the story and announce the setting and style. I wanted it to be located in a mythic version of Texas, and specifically Texas, not the amorphous ‘America’ that people in Europe pretend to know about. The song is like a child’s version of history that doesn’t go any deeper than the legend but that sets up the general feeling. At the same time, I think the story of the Alamo (which really is the foundational myth of Texan identity) in which a bunch of rebellious Texans die after a long siege in which they are holed up in a church surrounded by the forces of a hostile and repressive government can’t have been far from anyone’s minds in ’93. It must be hard to convince people they’re in the wrong when they’ve been raised to see people in your situation as the definitions of heroes.
ELM: Were there songs for the record that didn’t make the final cut? If so, what were they?
JULIA: Nope. Everything that’s there is meant to be there.
ELM:Did you listen to other musicals while you were writing/recording DKS?
JULIA: Me and Simon quite like musicals. We tend to like the good ones, but whenever I say that I realise we also quite like the bad ones! Obviously we’ve listened to Jesus Christ Superstar and Joseph, and our own Book of Job: The Musical! Plus Phantom of the Opera, Cabaret, yeah lots. Also Disney musicals though, and we’ve always loved Buffy and South Park musicals. Probably not very cool! But there’s a lot you can do with the Musical/ Concept format that you just can’t do in a normal rock album, which is I think why it’s so interesting and so much fun to do.
SIMON: We did try to drive all the way back from germany one time only listening to concept albums. It was good for a while – all of Tommy, all of Baader Meinhof, School, Ziggy Stardust even War of The Worlds -but The Wall broke us. There’s only so much of the Wall you can listen to before crashing the van on purpose – it’s just unforgivable.
ELM: Are there any other historical figures that fascinate you?
JULIA: Well we’ve got a song about Unity Mitford (who fell in love with Hitler, shot herself when England and Germany went to war, and missed), and Patty Hearst. I’m sure there will be
ELM: After spending so much time with the story, what do you think led people to join Koresh’s cult, if you have any theories?
JULIA: That’s a very complicated question. For a start, it wasn’t actually Koresh’s cult – it was an offshoot of the seventh day adventist church that had existed for a long time before Koresh took over Mount Carmel and which still exists. Before Koresh’s time they were regarded (when they were thought of at all) as pretty forward thinking and interesting – especially with regard to the almost feminist views of Koresh’s predecessor Lois Roden who wrote extensively about the feminine aspect of the divine – identifying the holy spirit as explicitly female. As such, a lot of people were already members when Koresh took over. That said, there is a lot of talk of people being mesmerized by Koresh’s scriptural knowledge and sermons – he really did know his Bible and could relentlessly preach people into submission. The other thing that’s fascinating is that thecongregation were emphatically not the kind of stupid, redneck, bible-belt dwellers that people in the UK like to feel better than, there was at least one Harvard graduate, there were a lot of English people, it was ethnically diverse – there were clever people in there.
Now, I don’t know why anyone believes anything – I don’t understand actually believing in the supernatural at all – but I can understand a longing for all of this relentless time to come to a fiery end and I can imagine being so disgusted with the graceless business of the world that one would willingly suspend one’s reason for a chance at connecting with some kind of meaning. Each of those theories has a song: ‘A Single Thrown Grenade’ and ‘I Don’t care If It’s True’ respectively.
ELM: How long did it take to make DKS?
JULIA: Simon started writing and recording demo’s for it in 2009, we then went to Berlin to record our second album, at which point half of it was written. We completed the UK recording in may/ June 2010, the US recordings in September 2010, and the whole album was mixed by
November 2010. So it’s a couple of years in the making.
ELM: Who are your favorite writers?
JULIA: My favourite writer is probably Terry Pratchett. There is humanity in his books that I haven’t found in many others, I really love them. Also Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, our friend Paul Stapleton is writing this great post apocalyptic comic called The Undisputed King Of
Nothing, which I’m really enjoying. We read a lot of comics, we’re also massively in love with the TV series Treme.
SIMON: I like Milton. Satan is my favourite character in fiction.
ELM: As a band, are there any social causes in which you’re active?
JULIA: I find the protest movement a bit disconcerting, but we do get involved in political debates about the Internet. Simon was on a panel recently at the House of Commons, talking about being an artist in the digital age, and how amazing it is, and how it shouldn’t be restricted.
SIMON: I’m sure I said much cleverer things than that. It would have been good if I’d just said ‘whatever, Lord wossname, the internet’s amazing’ – but I didn’t, I said clever things about fair use exceptions.
ELM: What are your live shows like?
JULIA: They are awesome, of course.
ELM: How has the reception of DKS been?
JULIA: People are in turns intrigued, obsessed, weirded out, angry, and learning all the words. Which is all you ever can ask for.
SIMON: That’s not all I can ask for, it’s just all I can get.