When the members of Sparklehorse arrived in Athens on Tuesday
night, they expected to jump in a van and head to their hotel to get
ready for their Wednesday night (Sept. 8) show.
Instead, they were greeted in the ancient city by the wail of
ambulances, the flashing of sirens and a sense of panic. A deadly
5.9-magnitude earthquake had shaken the city just two hours earlier.
"I'm having dinner now in a very nice restaurant while there are
people buried in concrete not far from us," bandleader Mark Linkous
said Wednesday night after the cancellation of his band's show at
Athens' Camel Club. "I see a lot of people sleeping in their cars
because they're afraid to go in their houses. I see people smoking
cigarettes and sleeping in their cars ... but not at the same time."
Linkous' deadpan delivery was in keeping with his musical persona in
Sparklehorse, which last year produced the critically acclaimed,
introspective folk album Good Morning Spider. Several songs on
that album dealt with the Virginia rocker's own tragedy, a near-fatal
1996 overdose in a London hotel room that inspired such Pixies-like
fuzzed-out punk songs as "Pig" (RealAudio excerpt)
and the hushed acoustic number "St. Mary's" (RealAudio excerpt).
The Athens earthquake has claimed more than 60 lives so far, according
to media reports, with more than 100 buildings having collapsed from
what authorities said was the biggest quake to hit the city this
Linkous, who said he was accustomed to earthquakes from having lived
for years in California, said the group decided to leave their hotel
when a 4.5-magnitude aftershock caused it to "wobble."
The ill-fated Athens concert was to be the final date on a summer
European club tour that Linkous said included debut performances of
songs he plans to include on the next, as-yet-untitled Sparklehorse
album. Among the tunes Linkous said he will soon begin working on in
his Virginia home studio is "Bloody Hands," which he said he hopes
will feature a cameo from cracked-voice troubadour Tom Waits.
Linkous sent a tape to Waits months ago and asked him to contribute
"He calls periodically and apologizes for being lazy," Linkous said of
Waits, "but no tape yet."
Linkous said he has also discussed collaborating with British rock
singer PJ Harvey on a song tentatively titled "Baby's on the Sun."
"I'll send her a tape," Linkous said of Harvey, "because we have the
same recording machine."
The new Sparklehorse album is tentatively scheduled for release next
year, Linkous said.