Richard Edwards on his rotted gut and a decade of rarities

[Update: Richard Edwards is releasing his first solo album. Read about it here.]

Richard Edwards is set to release a box set of rarities recorded by his feverishly followed band, Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s. The Bride on the Boxcar – A Decade of Margot Rareties: 2004-2014 will provide fervent fans with demos of hit songs, tracks that were cut from albums and as well as different versions of fan-favorite releases from the band’s five LPs. It will be released December 4th via Joyful Noise.

Edwards, who has been suffering from stomach affliction for years, revealed that he “recently re-entered a pretty gnarly stretch with this stomach ailment” that he has been fighting and is “spending a lot of time at the doctor’s and in bed.” He asked if we could communicate via email. The following responses are unedited, and reprinted from his original email.

Richard Edwards

Firstly, and you can skip this if you don’t want to answer, how are you feeling? Can you talk about the ailments any?

I am currently feeling like complete and total shit, but in fairness to my doctors, over the past year and a half I have generally felt much better than in the previous three or so. It’s at risk of becoming as worn out a story as the Animal!/Not Animal saga, but I got really, really sick priorate the sling shot tour. I lost a bunch of weight, could hardly walk, dry heaved all over, etc. I got in the bus anyway, even though I shouldn’t have, because I needed the money and I didn’t want to let down the fans or my band. The tour was a walking nightmare. Doubled over, about in tears the whole time, ended up losing about 40 lbs. And still we played badass shows. When I wasn’t on stage I was in the fetal position. I got home, and my wife made me cancel the West coast when she saw me. Thank god for that. I was thinking about blowing my brains out. Finally MusiCares found a competent doctor who diagnosed me with C Diff. It took many months to be rid of that, but I had a pretty nice year after that, minus a few gut flare ups. Currently though, I’m in a flare unlike any I’ve had since the initial diagnoses. My mid left abdomen cramps up to the extent that it’s difficult to stand up straight. Speaking is difficult, as I have so much air leaking up from my lower left abdomen. Catching my breathe is difficult. To my mind, it seems like my post C Diff world includes some pretty serious bacterial issues in my intestines or stomach. I’m doing an experiment in radical honesty right now in case a doctor is reading this, or in case someone who asks why I’m not on tour does (not talking about you, of course). Touring and making music has been my entire life. It’s how I feel at home. Not being able to do it has been a source of serious sadness and, more recently, anger.

When I talked to you in 2012 you mentioned something about the next batch of songs – which eventually became Sling Shot to Heaven – might not be a Margot release. Now, you have a letter to fans on Joyful Noise where you say that this box set is a “summation of one era of my life.” Is this the end of Margot?

I’ve threatened to break up this stupid band so many times, I don’t want to continue crying wolf. That said, I don’t currently see any real reason for Margot to continue. My songs are better than the amount of attention they receive would imply, and I think people made their mind up one way or another about us awhile ago. Most of the people who know of us think of us as the band who fought with their label and released two versions of a record. And that’s ok. But in some ways it does feel like maybe I kept it going past its expiration date. Would Sling Shot to Heaven have received more recognition for what it was if it had a different name on the cover? Perhaps less preconceptions associated with it? I don’t know. In any event, it’s kind of a cynical reason to “break up” your “band,” but I do wonder on occasion. I always liked the idea of housing everything I made under one name. I don’t know anymore, my brain’s a jumble. We talk about breaking up all the time, and then a bunch of young kids seem to discover us and we throw up our hands and go, “ah, what the hell?”

This box set goes deep into Margot’s history. I want to go back to the beginning. Do you remember the first song you ever wrote for this project? Do you still believe in what you wrote early on in your 20s?

Hmm. Maybe a song called “Cheap Motel Room”, but I don’t think I knew there would be a “Margot” when I wrote it. Several on this rarities thing were done really early in the band’s history. One called, “Lost at Sea” comes to mind. Do I believe in the early songs? Sure. I really don’t care one way or the other. They don’t belong to me anymore. Wrote ’em when I was a little kid. Sure I meant ’em at the time.

The Bride on the BoxcarI read a Facebook response you wrote to a fan who said how much he loved Animal! Your response was that you have no strong feelings one way or another about it and that you hadn’t heard it in about 8 years. Still, at that time, how big of a deal was the Sony/Not Animal problem? The album almost didn’t come out, but did it also almost end Margot?

I didn’t really care one way or another. At the time, the only thing I cared about was my record coming out, and it did for better and worse. I had to get drunk, fly to NY, and holler at people, but it came out. I never had a moment where I worried it wouldn’t come out. I’d leak it myself. What were they gonna do, sue me? It’s possible, but they didn’t pay me enough in the first place for that to be a worthwhile endeavor on their part. Do I wish we had made a bunch of money? Yes. Do I wish it had catapulted us to being some big band? Hell fucking no. I don’t need the stress or the aggravation. If I could win the Hoosier lottery, and then keep making music for a few thousand people who give a shit, that’s a good career for me. I would say what broke up the band (as you recall, nearly everyone quit after Animal) was that the press absolutely massacred the record. I don’t blame that on Sony. But what can ya do? So they didn’t like the album, what am I gonna do, sue ’em? The only thing I regret is that I didn’t horde more of the vinyl copies considering what they sell for on eBay now. That’s a serious regret. When the band members split I was sad on a personal level, but musically I didn’t care one bit. I knew I had more records to make. What did it matter with whom, or on what label? I was ready for something different anyway. I didn’t need to be compared to the fuckin’ Arcade Fire anymore because I had the gaul to use a cello on a record.

You shifted so much sonically throughout the years. Baroque/chamber pop with horns and strings; raw, loud rock; to this last “era” that is pretty stripped down on Sling Shot. What brought about so much change? Where do you want to explore next?

I just don’t think of things like that. I never think, “oh, this seems to be a departure”. I just write what I feel like writing and they come out a certain way depending on my mood and who I’m playing with. I’ve always made rowdy music and I’ve always made kinda pretty, slow music. I never really saw as much of a divide between the records as others seemed to. Maybe in terms of songwriting quality, but not based on how rowdy one is or something. Though I can concede that we took non-traditional arrangements and instrumentation kinda too far on Animal.

Last time I talked to you, I asked “What’s your favorite track from each album?”  the answers were: The Dust of Retreat: “Skeleton Key and “Bookworm.” Not Animal: “Shivers.” Animal: O’ What a Nightmare,” “Mariel’s Brazen Overture” and “My Baby Shoots Her Mouth Off.” Buzzard: “Birds,” “Tiny Vampire Robots” [note: “New York City Hotel Blues” was erroneously left out of this question.] Rot Gut, Domestic: “Fisher of Men.” Do those still hold up, or has your opinion changed in the past two and a half years?

That still sounds about right, but I haven’t heard those records in so long. [note: because of the above mentioned error, Edwards included the following] Don’t know why I left out “New York City Hotel Blues”. If someone else had done that song right it would’ve been a hit.

I also asked what song would you want to change most, and you mentioned “Lightning Rod” and “Love Song for Schuba’s Bartender.” Is there another you wish you could have re-recorded or even re-written some lyrics to?

Naw. I’m pretty confident in my work ethic as far as writing goes. They are what they are. I had to go back to compile this box set, but in general I don’t time travel through those old records. I’d like to do a new master of Buzzard somehow. It deserves it.

I’m going to ask you to toot your own horn: what is the best song you’ve ever written? What makes it so good?

Either “Lazy”, or one of several new ones. We’ll just say, “Lazy”. It’s a song I was meant to write, but it took me a lot of living to earn it. It’s not a complicated song or anything, but it sums up a certain moment in a life better than anything else I’ve written. A certain kind of feeling between two people at a very specific moment in a relationship. A very specific kind of bummer. I’m accused of writing sad songs. Eh, maybe it’s true. This is the saddest. It has all of myself in it. Which is a hippie statement, but true enough.

On this rarities set: what deep cut was the hardest to cut from an actual album that you’re most excited for the world to finally own?

Maybe “Your Sister’s House”. Remember liking it but having a hard time sequencing it so as not to grind an already slow-ish record to a halt. I’m actually surprised by how much of the box set material I don’t hate.

Finally… What’s next for you?

If I can get my piece of shit body in order I’m supposed to go to Los Angeles and record an album with this Rob Schnapf fella. Hopefully I don’t have to push it back, but one way or another I’m going to get it done. I wrote it sick in bed. Think it’s the album I was put on earth to write. Maybe I think that every time.

Check out some rarities that Edwards has released already on the band’s Spotify page here.

Also, check out a selection of songs exclusively streaming on Pandora here.

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