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Q&A: Panther

A lot has changed for Portland’s Panther since the sassy, spastic electro-funk of last year’s Secret Lawns. For one thing, the band has expanded from the alter-ego of performance artist Charlie Salas-Humara to a duo with the addition of drummer Joe Kelly (formerly of 31 Knots). Similarly, Humara has ditched the tongue-in-cheek lyrics and heavy synthesizers of Secret Lawns for a more traditional approach to songwriting. Built on cello compositions and guitars, 14kt God–ready for release on February 19–is a surprising departure from the Panther of 2007. Charlie caught up with us to explain the reasons for his change, his favorite albums of all time, and why blogging might contribute to the apocalypse.

XLR8R:Why did you decide to add a drummer to Panther?

I had been writing these hectic, super-syncopated guitar and cello parts, and I wanted to try to put pop vocals over the top. It just seemed natural to have a drummer. I really wanted [the music] to become more and more organic, like a band.

In terms of sound, 14kt God is such a departure from your previous material. Is this a natural result of adding live instrumentation, or was it something more intentional?

It was totally intentional. I shouldn’t say this, but fuck it… I’m so tired of electronic music. I feel like people rely too much on programs that sequence out their ideas. There is no swing to 99% of the genre, but maybe that’s the point. I don’t know. It feels really forced and way too angular for me. I only want to hear organic music right now.

Is Panther meant to be taken seriously?

Yeah, I really hope that people take it seriously; I hope I didn’t fuck myself by using humor on the last record. Sometimes people confuse humor with joke[s]. This record is dead serious.

Who do you consider some of your influences?

I love the music I grew up listening to, which was a big mix. Like, I remember hearing Badfinger and Cuban music all in the same day. I am influenced by my uncle’s band, The Silos, and I have been listening to a lot of music from Niger, and Syria, too. But mainly I always go back to Black Flag and Fleetwood Mac. As far as dance, I love Merce Cunningham. It really fucks with my A.D.D.

How has your live show changed? Do you play instruments or is it still centered around dancing and singing?

I am playing a little bit of drums as well as some keyboards. I am thinking of playing guitar, too, but there is still a fair amount of dancing,

Do you have plans for some more music videos from this album?

E*Rock is working on one right now, for “Violence, Diamonds,” and there are a couple others in the works also.

What are your favorite and least favorite albums of all time?

My favorites are:
Fleetwood Mac Rumors
Sonny Sharrock Black Woman
Liquid Liquid Optimo
Royal Trux’s first record
Ethiopiques13
Badfinger Straight Up
Sun Ra Concert for the Comet Kohoutek
Elvis Costello Armed Forces
Spacemen 3 Recurring

I hate anything by Led Zeppelin.

What is the most ridiculous thing that has ever happened to you at a show?

A really huge, scary guy came up on stage and took the mic and started preaching to the crowd about starving children in Africa during the middle of my set. It was going on so long and the bouncers were too scared to do anything, so I just laid down on the stage to take a nap, and when I looked up, his girlfriend was alternating between giving me the finger and flashing me her breasts. It was really confusing and the crowd at first thought it was a prank I had pulled. Then they got bummed.

Is the record industry dying? Is the world ending?

I think the record industry is getting weird, right? Record sales are down and there is this attitude now that people feel they deserve the music for free. I get emails all the time, with people asking why I don’t put the record up for free. My favorites are these blogs/websites claiming to liberate music from the rich music industry or whatever. It’s the poor artists who are getting screwed, not just the record labels. I would like to go into these people’s [offices] and just start taking things and saying, "Come on! Why isn’t this free man?" But I am hopeful that people realize that, for the most part, it is art, and most people work hard, and culturally it is important. But yeah, I guess it doesn’t matter because the apocalypse is coming soon.

14kt God is out February 19 on Kill Rock Stars.

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