When we heard Atlanta garage-rock rabble-rousers the Black Lips were embarking on a tour of India, we knew the five-date date jaunt could end only one way: Disaster. After all, Hindu nations don’t usually smile on pissing in each other’s mouths onstage. However, the boys cleaned up their act and played it straight for the first few shows — then all hell broke loose: Bottles flew, passports were stolen, and police were evaded.
Below, in an exclusive interview with SPIN.com, guitarist Cole Alexander (now in Berlin) gives us the low down on their entire trip, from the onstage kissing to the cringe-worthy bathroom practices.
SPIN: Sounds like you guys had one hell of a crazy time in India. What actually happened over there? Why did you guys flee the country?
Cole Alexander: It’s hard to explain what all happened because we don’t even really know. Basically a lot of people didn’t really like our music, they just wanted to see something they had never seen before — punk antics.
We tried to be polite at first, but we finally gave in to what they wanted out of frustration from stagnant reactions. And when we went all out they loved it. But from what we understand it wasn’t even the playing guitar with the penis or mooning [that got us in trouble], it was the homosexual behavior — the [onstage] kissing. Richard [Gere, actor] got shit for kissing a girl in public, so you can imagine if you publicly kiss a guy.
Nobody after that — no promoter or sponsor — wanted anything to do with us. So they shut us down — shows, finances, everything. They demanded $6,000 for damages. And we were like,’what damages?’ We didn’t know who to trust.
SPIN: What exactly happened at your last show? Was the crowd into the performance?
CA: They were the best crowd ever. They were enthusiastic and enjoyable, surprisingly. Even one security guard liked us. But soon after the show we were informed to flee because the promoters were furious and there was a chance of getting in trouble. Our tour manager said there was a 50-50 chance of the police coming and us going to jail. It wasn’t worth it because of the deadly conditions of such a place.
He [tour manager] wasn’t taking any chances because what we did was illegal and it was public and in front of a lot of press and everything. I don’t think we would have left a nice hotel to drive all night without sleep if didn’t have legitimate fears.
SPIN: What’s the story with this person who tried to steal your passports?
CA: After [the last show] we had to drive 10 hours to flee the state and the jurisdiction of the Tamil police. Our tour manager lost all his pay for the trip, so his boss told him to tell us that we owed $6,000 in lost funds for the tour being canceled — the average yearly income of an Indian is like $3000. When the hotel was processing our passports, the tour manager confiscated them before we could get them back and locked them in the trunk of his friend’s car. We surrounded the guys until they gave the passports back.
SPIN: What was up with your tour manager, he seems like a cool guy then all of a sudden he turns horrible?
CA: Honestly, we think Nikal [tour manager] was a good guy at heart but he had to look out for himself when the shit hit the fan. So he followed the orders of the booking agent. But that was not in our best interest. These people have different rules than the rest of the world — the States or Europe. You don’t owe money to the promoters unless you break something; if they lose money it’s on them.
SPIN: After all this, would you guys go back to India if invited to play?
CA: Hell yeah! Except for the fact that the bookers will want to hurt us if we don’t pay them.
SPIN: All in all, what was the craziest thing that happened while you guys were in India?
CA: We hung out next to a dog eating a camel carcass. It [the video footage] will be in “The Drop I Hold” [Off 200 Million Thousand, out Feb 24] music video.
SPIN: You guys just landed in Berlin. What’s on tap?
CA: We’re jamming with King Kahn and BBQ. They have a project called the Pilgrim Defenders and were helping out a little bit– it’s gospel-style music.
SPIN: Any final comments on your wild, wild trip to India?
CA: Cool country, great food, art, and all around culture. The only thing I didn’t like was the wiping ass with fingers thing. It’s just ingrained on a Freudian level for me to use exorbitant amounts of toilet paper.