Over the course of nearly twenty years, trumpeter, singer, guitarist, and banjo player Bill Taft has been a member of several groups pivotal to Atlanta music, including The Opal Foxx Quartet, The Jody Grind, and Smoke. He currently leads Hubcap City (From Belgium), which also features co-founder Will Fratesi, Matthew Proctor, and Terry Boling; in addition, Kat Hairston was in the band, 2005-2007. Hubcap City prefers an improvisational approach, never playing a song the same way twice, and has a penchant for recording and performing outdoors at various unlikely spots across Atlanta, including Sylvester Cemetery, underneath a Berne Ave. bridge, and abandoned buildings. The photographs featured here were taken by Taft. Visit Hubcap City's page at HIG Records or their Wikipedia entry for a brief history and discography.
Jill Carnes: Interview with Bill Taft, August 19, 2006, at Inman Park
Bill Taft: Playground, 3:03.
J C: 3:03 PM... Bill, it's nice to see you again. Are you ready for the interview?
B T: Yes, Jill. It's lovely to be here today.
J C: Do you listen to much radio?
B T: Yes, I really like the radio. I love radio because I never know what's going to happen. It's not like a CD or an I-Pod; it's always spontaneous or something unusual.
J C: Do you listen to it in your car, or at home... ?
B T: Mostly in the car - I like driving in my car, listening to the radio.
J C: Okay, how about this question: would you rather listen to a bulldozer or a saxophone?
B T: I'm kind of in my wood-chipper phase actually. You know those wood-chippers the lumberjacks and the tree surgeons use? They shove the wood into the chipper and it goes... (makes loud, grating sound imitating a wood-chipper). I went out the other day and recorded it; I stood by the wood-chipper. And then I came home and I sang along with it. (Regarding bulldozers and saxophones) So that doesn't... but you need... I actually like them both. In fact, I would put them together. A basic bulldozer, shifting gears, and a saxophone... that'd be very cool together. In fact, I'm going to do that.
B T: I am! Because it's the perfect combination. It is! They're both actually very good. The diesel engine and the raspy reed of the saxophone would be pretty awesome together. So my answer is: I like them both the same. And I'm not copping out! I know you want subjectivity and attitude, but I'm telling it like it is.
J C: But you like both of them together as much as you would separately, or more.
B T: Right, but lately I'm leaning more toward diesel equipment. To me, it's very meditative and contemplative, kind of like Indian drone music (makes droning sound imitating a diesel engine).
J C: Well, do you hear resonant household appliances that sometimes inspire you to write a song? And, maybe - what about roadside equipment? Same question.
B T: There's a coffee grinder, kind of... but I don't like, so... I like roadside equipment a lot. I think, go to "previous answer"; I think I answered that.
J C: I think so. How about kitchen appliances, or vacuum cleaners...?
B T: I went through a vacuum cleaner phase once. I took a harmonica and stuffed it in front of the vacuum cleaner nozzle; so when the vacuum cleaner sucked the air in, the air went through the reeds of the harmonica.
J C: Nice.
B T: And then I'd wave that around and sing along with it. But I've moved on from that. As of this point and time, I'm not...
J C: Did any of these experiments with these various musical contraptions - did any of them lead to a particular song that you've written?
B T: I used to have with the vacuum cleaner a song I'd sing with it, and then, with the wood-chipper... I don't have words for that yet. I'm sort of working on that.
J C: Oh, okay - a work in progress. Okay, what about 1920's music - how does it make you feel?
B T: Like I want to get drunk and dance in the fountain.
J C: (laughs) With Zelda Fitzgerald?
B T: Right.
J C: Okay, let's move on to the topic of art. Not that that wasn't art; that was definitely art. Have you ever painted?
B T: As a matter of fact, I have. This city is filled with some of my early minimalist works. There are several garage doors of which I am exceedingly proud. Also, there's some front doors and windows that I've painted. And I must say, not to brag... if you look at my windows, you'll notice, never does my paint go on to the glass, unless I want it to. I have such conrol of my brush that I don't have to put tape on the window pane.
J C: Very well-trained.
B T: Right, I'm classically trained. And I draw on that, but also I rebel against it, when I think it's important to tell the story.
J C: Okay, hmm... well, what about art paintings on canvas or paper, have you ever ventured into that?
B T: I've painted some shirts.
J C: Okay, that's cloth, for sure. What'd you paint on them?
B T: "1 Mic" - which is the name of my record company. A friend of mine is an oil painter... we used paper, but we smeared oil paint on the bottoms of my boots and then I smushed the boots into the paper. So that's not canvas. But she liked it; she thought it looked good.
J C: I'll admit that was a leading question on my part, but you can go past canvas and paper. Good answer.
B T: I'm not too much of a... I like painting, but I haven't done much on canvas. I like ceilings; I'm very good at painting a ceiling.
J C: Have you ever made any sculptured art?
B T: I like ceramics, I like clay. I made a long-distance saxophone out of clay once.
J C: Right, I remember that "saxophone-telephone."
B T: I think I have it at home somewhere; I don't remember.
J C: Used to be on your front porch; it's no longer there.
B T: Maybe it is still there.
J C: Do you get good low phone bills on that?
B T: Well, it doesn't really work.
J C: Do you have any desire to make more ceramic work in the future?
B T: Yeah, that would be fun, sure, but it's not big on my list of priorities.
J C: I'm digging it, okay. Do you ride a bicycle?
B T: Yeah, I love my bicycle. It's a great anti-depressant. I ride my bike around, and I'm very happy. It always makes me feel better.
J C: Do you ride it to work?
B T: I will do that sometimes, yes. I'll ride it home too. And then somedays, I'll ride it in the middle of the day, because it makes me feel better.
J C: You ride it to work, but you ride it for fun too. Can you describe a fun bike journey you've been on recently?
B T: Yeah, I rode down to Georgia State University. I left my home at 2:00, and it was sunny. Then, at 2:30, I was down by Georgia State and I got rained on.
J C: While you were riding?
B T: Right, so I was totally soaked. And then I went into the Georgia State center, because I had to register for a class, and everyone looked at me funny because I was soaking wet. But I liked that because I got to be different; I thought that was hilarious. I probably looked like a homeless man. Then I rode home and it was sunny, so I got dried off. That was a fun day. I thought it was a fun bike ride.
J C: Oh, groovy. Okay, how do you feel about voodoo?
B T: I think it's really under-estimated. People need to learn more about it. That's what I think. Especially people who say they don't believe in voodoo - they're the ones who need it the most. They think they have moved on from that world, but that world is coming to get them, especially if it's ignored. You can't ignore those forces, no matter how rational you think you are.
J C: I know. Do you belive in spaceships and aliens? Do you feel you've seen some before?
B T: I've never seen any. I've always wanted to but I've never seen any. But I've always felt like I'm an alien.
J C: Just visiting this planet?
B T: Right, yeah, like maybe there was a class I missed, or some instruction book they never gave me but everyone else has.
J C: Do you enjoy old movies? Can you name a few of your favorites, if you have any? You might hate old movies...
B T: I think old movies are alright. We were going to watch Roman Holiday last night, with Gregory Peck, but it didn't work out right. Lately, old movies have been conspiring against me, to not let me watch them. I was going to watch Angels with Dirty Faces, with James Cagney, but my DVD player wouldn't play it. It worked at Movies Worth Seeing [an Atlanta video-rental store]; I brought it home, but it wouldn't play. I tried to watch Roman Holiday, but ran out of time; I guess that's not the DVD's fault.
J C: What are some books on your bookshelf?
B T: I've got a Talulah Bankhead autobiography, the Bible. I've got some Iceberg Slim. I've got James Purdy... he wrote a good book called Malcolm - I like that a lot. Tender Is the Night, Jesus' Son... that's good, I think that's Denis Johnson - he makes me laugh.
J C: You prefer fiction, or more informational-type books? Your choices are showing you like fiction.
B T: That always depends, but I sure like reading. Cereal boxes are good to read.
J C: Signs.
B T: Packaging on labels is good.
J C: Do you prefer mustard or mayonnaise?
B T: You know, that's kind of like the bulldozer and the saxophone. It really depends.
J C: Mustard's not so great on tuna fish, right?
B T: Right. Or, if have some pickles, I'll go with the mayonnaise, but if I don't have pickles, I'll go with the mustard.
J C: What about cats and dogs?
B T: I'm very pro-dog, bordering on anti-cat. The only reason I'm not anti-cat is many people I admire have cats. They cause me to temper my views.
J C: Do you have a favorite memory that you want to share? I know it's a broad question. Just one that would come to mind today that you're thinking of.
B T: No, I can't think of any. That's a tricky one. Maybe my memory doesn't work that way; it doesn't work on demand.
J C: That is a hard one. It has to be inspired by something that triggers it.
B T: So that's a very good question. That's interesting.
J C: If a movie were made about you, what actor would you like to portray you?
B T: William H Macy would be good.
J C: That's what I was thinking. That's cool.
B T: I like him a lot.
J C: William H Macy's very good. What would the title of the movie be?
B T: Uh... Goofball, I don't know... Wait! Titles are like memories... uh, The Dainty Goat.
J C: That's good. How do you feel about plant life?
B T: I like it more; I used to not care about it. Before I just cut them down, stomped on them.
J C: Everything was a weed.
B T: Right, you're right, exactly. But there's a lot going on with plants.
J C: Do you find any particular flower to be the most beautiful?
B T: Stargazer lily is pretty great.
J C: Wow, okay. What about rats? Any thoughts?
B T: They're really sneaky. They climbed up into my attic, and I had to patch a hole. I really admire their resilience, but they sure are tricky when they live in your house - boy! They tend to gnaw on things.
J C: They're smart and crafty. They're definitely a pest. What's your astrological sign?
B T: I'm a Leo.
J C: And what about the Chinese zodiac? What animal were you born under?
B T: I think I'm a bunny, or a rabbit.
J C: Do you speak any foreign languages?
B T: No... a little bit of German, but a very little bit.
J C: Which of your childhood toys did you enjoy most?
B T: I liked the cannon I made, but I was in sixth grade... does that count as childhood?
J C: Yeah, that's childhood.
B T: I loved making a cannon that really worked. That made me happy.
J C: What did you blow up?
B T: We'd just shoot these little wood stoppers - like wood dowel - through a pipe.
J C: Did you ever build a fort when you were a kid?
B T: Yeah, snow forts especially. Snow forts were my favorite thing to build, because we had lots of snow. I could sleep in the snow; I loved doing that, it was very peaceful.
J C: What sort of games did you and your childhood friends play?
B T: We played the pipe-bomb game... after the cannon, we learned how to make pipe bombs; so we'd throw them into the pond and they'd blow up - we loved that. But before that, probably bikes... riding bikes over ramps was a big game, trying to jump things.
J C: Were you ever a board-game player?
B T: No. And I couldn't ever play Chinese checkers.
J C: And what about jigsaw puzzles, or stamp collecting?
B T: No, but one game we liked playing was: climb up the chimney... we'd put our legs around the chimney and try to climb up the house.
J C: Did you ever make it to the top?
B T: No, my brother did though.
J C: So Bill, that's the end of the interview, unless you have something you'd like to tell people. Do you have anything you'd like to say?
B T: "Hello."
J C: I know, it's hard to think of something on demand. Well, it has been nice sitting with you and chatting with you.
B T: Certainly has been a pleasure spending time with you, Jill.