Ink19 Jeff Turzo Interview

An Interview with Jeff Turzo

by Gail Worley

With a name like God Lives Underwater, it has to be good. It’s somewhat of a let down, then, to discover the name “doesn’t mean anything.” The admission comes from Jeff Turzo, 27, one of the two computer geek/multi-instrumentalists (his partner is David Reilly, 26) who make up God Lives Underwater. “We actually had to sentd a tape to a few labels that were really interested in doing something with us,” he continues, “David and I just talked for a minute about it and he said, “how about God Lives Underwater?” If only it were all that easy.


Turzo, a self-described “nature freak” who digs reptiles and snakes, and is a huge fan of The Simpsons, has phoned from the Los Angeles offices of the band’s new label, 1500 Records, a business venture of their manager, Gary Richardson. The band’s second full length recording, Life in the So Called Space Age (the title culled from the liner notes of Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration), was released on March 24, and is being distributed by A&M. “I think we were just ready to move on,” he says of their departure from the financially troubled American Records. “We always planned on having a label at some point, or being involved with a label, not just being a band.”

Recorded and mixed entirely in their home studios, Life in the So Called Space Age is an engaging collection of danceable, synthesizer-drenched pop songs, heavy on the programming and drum loops. God Lives Underwater are easily labeled an electronic band, while their live show has them coming off as pure metal. The truth be known, Turzo and Reilly would sooner put themselves in the new wave pop category with the likes of Devo and Naked Eyes. And when you mix their inorganic instrumentation with their solid pop song structure, the result is nothing short of “future retro.” “I wouldn’t argue with any of that,” Turzo enthusiastically agrees. “I know David was always a huge Gary Numan fan and we were really into Depeche Mode. I think there’s something retro about it… and even further back than the ’80s. A lot of the drums that we drew from and sampled from [are] more like ’70s and even ’60s, combined with really current things.” And how about that intense funky Stevie Wonder vibe? “There’s a little bit of that in there. Stevie Wonder’s Inner Visions has been in my CD player for the past year. I had to buy a spare copy of that, basically.”

The band’s biography contains the following descriptive quote: “‘From Your Mouth’ is an excellent example of how GLU writes songs by deconstructing standard pop notions, then reconstructing them in their signature manner.” Is all this deconstructionist poppism calculated? “It just happens,” says Turzo. “I mean, it’s not something that we’ve ever done consciously. The way [the music] sounds is the way that we like to work. The way that we like to do drums is by using drum loops and programmed drums. We like to program synths so that you can twiddle the knobs and get a sound you’ve never heard. I think that’s pretty much what we do on each song.”

When asked how he feels their music has progressed in the nearly three years between records, Turzo considers his answer before offering it’s “the same, but different. It’s been a difficult time, dealing with changing labels especially, and that sort of limbo period in between [recordings] was putting a big strain on David and I. [There was] a long period of where we weren’t very productive. I think when we made this record, we made it the way that we know how. We’ve just changed as people and it’s reflected, I think, in the music.” Such sentiments may be reflected in the angst-ridden song, “Alone Again,” containing the lyrics, “You came on strange/but still the same.”

Another noticeable element of God Lives Underwater’s music is an underlying sense of humor; yet the songs can be dark and sad at the same time. “You pretty much hit the nail on the head. A lot of the subject matter is from our lives at one point or another, especially in these past two years,” he laughs. “It is sad and it is kind of dark… there’s been some sad, dark periods in our lives, too.” Like his partner, who has been quoted as saying “From Your Mouth” (the first single and video) is so personal he will not even discuss it, Turzo demurs from getting too specific about the impetus behind certain songs. “Lyrics, you can take them however you want, no matter where they started from. Whatever meaning you can conjure up, all the better I think. There’s a few times that we’ve known where a lyric comes from, and then someone will say ‘I thought it meant this?’ and then we’ll think about it and say ‘That is kind of cool, it could have meant that as well.’ We’re never like ‘We respect your opinion, but it’s wrong.’”

God Lives Underwater hit the road for a brief, month-long tour starting in mid-February (the first time they’ve played out in over a year) before launching a full tour after Life in the So Called Space Age is released. “We have a guitar player [who] we’ve played with since we started touring, and we have a new drummer. That’s it, just the four of us. We’re really looking forward to it,” says Turzo. “We sort of approach it as a chance to remix the songs… having fun reworking the songs for the live show. The point of playing live is not to make it exactly like the record.”

Original Date: 1998-04-00
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