The Visitor
An Interview with Kevin McMahon, from July 1995 AP
Transcribed by D. Sticher



        "Do you have any thyme?"

        The waiter doesn't clearly hear the soft-spoken visitor below the

sounds of the Austin deli.

        "Thyme. Fresh thyme," he clarifies.

        Kevin McMahon wants the spice for his bagel and lox. He's already

changed his order twice before the latest request, but the harried waiter

is amused rather than exasperated and very willing to do his job.

        McMahon likes words and the confusion they can cause through their

ambiguity. He named his group Prick, after all, a name many people hate

upon first hearing. Kevin, of course, thinks "it's the best name *ever* for

a band, just because of the irony. People who are the most against it are

of the fundamentalist mentality and are giving more credence to the slang

definition than the word that's in the bible - you know, 'prick your

hearts.'"

        Similarly, some music critics will listen to Prick and initially

hear only Nine Inch Nails, ignorant of the fact that Trent Reznor's last

gig as a sideman before becoming "intergalactically famous" was in an

industrial-inflected reunion of McMahon's former group Lucky Pierre. The

association became even closer when McMahon signed to Reznor's Nothing

Records label and Reznor produced half of Prick's self-titled debut.

Understandably, Kevin won't point out elements of his style that might have

influenced Trent.

        "A lot of times there's an affinity for the same type of vibe in

music," Kevin says diplomatically, "so it comes across in someone else's

tunes. [The record's] a collaboration. It's not like I wrote something and

then tried to give it [Trent's] sound without the sound coming from the guy

who *does* the sound."

        Regardless of the production, which Reznor refers to as "a garage

band with synthesizers," the songs McMahon recorder with Reznor in New

Orleans and Warne Livesey in England have more in common with vintage Bowie

and Ray Davies than anything you heard in an electronic band. McMahon is a

songwriter's songwriter, a rare breed in "industrial" music. He actually

cares about the basic components of a song - words, melodies, "hitting

shit" - and the way they can add up to something larger than their

individual parts.

        "That's what I like about music: it transports you to someplace or

some thought where you're more alive. Something's going on other than just

putting your socks on," he laughs, "and going through the drone of daily

life."

        Onstage for a SXSW showcase, McMahon resembles some messianic

marionette with the handsome but weathered face of young Syd Barrett, the

charisma of T.Rex's Marc Bolan and the corkscrew hair of both. The other

musicians in Prick are hired, competent guns, but McMahon appears

comfortable with these realtive strangers who are "all very different."

        "That was part of the reason for choosing them besides their

musical abilities," he says. "If I was in a certain mood, I could go talk

to a certain guy. The bass player Sebastien Monney [for instance] is Swiss.

He's pretty young So...a 22-year-old illegal alien Swiss guy, you know?" he

laughs, amused and perplexed by his choice. "Why didn't I just get a jar of

mustard to play bass?"

        Kevin apparently thrives on strangeness and variety. You can't

imagine his skin exposed to the sun and pollution of Los Angeles, yet

that's where he resides. He wears earplugs to mute the noise when he leaves

the apartment building where tenants are occasionally held-up in the

hallways and then told to "be careful. Remember this is Los Angeles."

        After the show, clutching two bottles of Guinness Stout, McMahon

appears uneasy fielding the praise of fans and industry types, and a few

come-ons. He soon leaves. Women, attractive and used to getting what they

want, will not share his bed. Regardless, he'll only sleep for one hour,

concerned he may slip into the void from where his songs appear, and never

awake.

        The next day he must return to Los Angeles. Though he'd like to

stay in Austin and hear a few bands, Kevin says he's afraid he'll "get lost

and give up music." He's probably joking. Nonetheless he's anxious to

return home. It makes you wonder if he has any animals to feed or anything

that would miss him if he stayed.

       "No, but I left my equipment on," he laughs. "That might be a problem."


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