- - Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Remember Translator, the 1980s new wave band from San Francisco that scored big with the MTV hit song “Everywhere That I’m Not”? Well, if you do, it’s time to get excited because the band has just re-formed — with all four original members — and released a CD of demos from its heyday titled “Sometimes People Forget.”

Lead singer Steve Barton sat down to talk about the CD, how the band has evolved and the influence Iggy Pop had on its biggest hit.

Question: The new CD is called “Sometimes People Forget.” Do you think people have forgotten about Translator?

Answer: We don’t get mentioned or name-checked all the time like some other groups from that era. So in that way, we’re a little forgotten. I’m hoping this gets more people into the band.

Q: How did this collection come about?

A: Our bass player, Larry [Dekker], found this old videotape made in 1979, when Translator [was] still a trio. It was from one of our first-ever gigs, a show we did at Cal Arts, an arts school in the Valley.

[It was a] large, oversize tape with only 20 minutes on it, so it cuts off before the end of the set. I took it to a place in Hollywood and got it transferred over. It was the first time I had ever seen footage of us as a trio. I sent the footage over to a friend at Omnivore Records and said, “I’m not asking for anything, but this is kind of cool.” He said, “Wow. Is there any music from the trio era?” That is how the CD came to be.

Q: Where were the demo tapes?

A: Most of it was at my house. I have all the reel-to-reel tapes. They were so old they had to be baked before they could be played.

Q: Some of the tracks of the early trio have a real punk feel. Did you evolve from a punk band into a new wave rock band?

A: We would do club dates with real punk and hard-core bands, and it was an odd mix — people slam dancing and stuff. When we first started in clubs, it was all about going out there and bashing it out with no time between the songs. And I loved that. But we always tried to play interesting songs in that frenetic thing. But then we would also play a ballad. We didn’t care. Not everything had to be breakneck tempo. People loved it. We didn’t do it ironically.

Q: What did you discover new when you went back and relistened to these demos?

A: There were songs I had forgotten. Listening to them, there were a lot of times when I said, “Oh yeah!” There is a song called “We Feel Away” that we recorded at Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco that I had completely forgot about. I don’t know if we ever played it live.

Q: The original lineup just did a few West Coast shows. Are you all still friends?

A: Oh, yeah. We have all stayed in touch. We all live in different places, but when we get together, it’s kind of like it never ended. We just pick up where we left off. We just did three shows in California.

Q: Could those shows lead to a full tour and new music?

A: Hopefully. That would be great. [We are] hoping we can do something in Europe. That is in the works for later this summer. But I don’t want to jinx it. We’re sort of taking it one step at a time and seeing where it leads. We would love to do more live stuff. We’re really excited.

Q: Why do you think of all the songs Translator recorded, “Everywhere That I’m Not” was the hit that broke into the public consciousness?

A: I think it sounded different than everything else, especially at the time it came out. It had this strummy, shuffly, almost swing sort of vibe to it. It wasn’t just clipped eighth notes like a lot of things were then. I think that had a lot to do with it. I would kind of like to think it was because the lyrics were clever. But I think it was the vibe of the song, which came from us listening to [the] “Lust for Life” album by Iggy Pop, especially the song “The Passenger.” We heard that and thought, “Why can’t we have a song like that?”

Q: Do you remember when you wrote it?

A: I wrote it really fast. I went into rehearsal and said, “I wrote this.” It was fully formed. And we started to play it. It seemed like a song that came out of nowhere. It was so different from everything else. I think that’s why it stuck.


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