Simon Bonney of Crime and the City Solution on why the band's back after a two decade hiatus
Danielle de Picciotto
Crime and the City Solution started out in the late '70s in Sydney, Australia, but its members went on an extended adventure in relocation, following its creative opportunities where they lay. First they went to Melbourne, where the group befriended the Boys Next Door, who, in part, went on to become the Birthday Party, and, later, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. In the early '80s, Crime's leader, Simon Bonney, relocated to London where he formed a new version of his band with members of the Birthday Party. By the end of the decade, he moved the project to Berlin, where he met Alexander Hacke of avant-garde, industrial pioneers Einsturzende Neubauten. Along the way, Bonney and company recorded a series of records that all but laid down the template for the kind of dark, post-punk flavored Gothic desert music often imitated in the '90s.
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The band parted ways in the early '90s, and Bonney went on to a noteworthy solo career. But in 2011, he announced that Crime and the City Solution would be reforming, and as part of the new line-up, he recruited Denver's own David Eugene Edwards of Wovenhand and 16 Horsepower fame, along with Hacke, visual and performance artist Danielle de Picciotto, Jim White of the Dirty Three, Troy Gregory of Swans and others to help weave the brooding tales of betrayal, love, existential crisis and transcendence. We recently exchanged emails with Bonney regarding his time in the band and his various collaborators over the years.
Westword: When you were living in Sydney and forming the band, what kind of access to seeing and playing live music did you have around 1976?
Simon Bonney: It was very informal -- we'd find a faltering club or bar and then ask them if we could play. They'd keep the bar and we'd take the door.
Obviously you got to see Particles. What were they like, and how did Don McLennan end up being a part of Crime and the City Solution?
I auditioned for the Particles, but I could sing "Down to the Basement," so I ended up forming the first Crime with Harry Zanti, who lived upstairs from the Particles. The Particles place, where I lived, was a total dump (petri dish frying pan), whereas Harry's was very clean and functional.
What was the inspiration for the name of the band?
In a dream.
In the history of the band on the website, it sounds like you existed in a kind of twilight world in the urban decay in Sydney at the time. What kinds of music inspired you, and what kinds of music were you inspired to make during that period?
The usual list: David Bowie, Eno, Television, the Velvet Underground and the Doors.
How did you meet the Boys Next Door, and has Nick Cave ever expressed to you the influence your own art has had on his? If so, what did he have to say?
They came to Sydney, and we played with them a number of times -- they were a lot more interesting than what was going on in Sydney, which was much more London-centric punk rock.
Why did you end the band in 1979, and what did you do in terms of music or writing before moving to London in 1983?
Can't really recall. I didn't do a lot between '79 and '83 -- wasn't a real good time for me, spent most of my time in my room, ruminating in a pretty negative kind of way.
How did you come to know Kevin Godfrey [aka Epic Soundtracks] of Swell Maps, and why did you want to have him in the band?
I'm pretty sure Epic came to Crime through Mick. I can't say I ever really knew Epic.
Your songs seem to have a narrative structure in a way. Are there any literary figures or works that you feel have had a major impact on your work as a songwriter?
Gabrielle Garcia Marquez, Thornton Wilder, Robert Graves
Presumably you met Alexander Hacke during your time in Berlin. How did you meet him, and why did you want to work with him and continue to work with him in the current incarnation of the band?
I met Alex through Chrislo in a bar I was working at -- when I was asked to play a fundraiser for a shop we both liked, Alex and Chrislo came along for the ride. Neither placed any limits on what music could be, so naturally we got on (and continue to get on).
Why did you want to leave a place Berlin to come to the USA, and where did you come to live first?
I'm nomadic by nature, and I prefer to live places not just visit them. I loved L.A. It was a really interesting period of life -- my children grew up there, and I evolved more there than anywhere.
What ultimately brought you to Detroit? What about Detroit do you find interesting and compelling?
Old friends, fellow travelers, decaying splendor, and colorful politicians.
David Eugene Edwards is now in the band. How did you come to be familiar with his work and then meet David, and what do you feel he brings to the band that maybe wasn't there before?
I met up with David through the wonders of the Internet. What he brings to the band is his own unique worldview and approach to music.
Why did you feel this was the right time to bring back the band after a twenty year plus hiatus?
It just was the right time.
What have you learned as an artist that you bring to writing the new music and working with others that you didn't know the first time Crime and the City Solution was around?
Twenty years more life.