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OP8 - Opiate Slush.
Lisa Germano and Giant Sandís Joey Burns on music to cool the senses of the masses.

When Americans come to Ireland, they usually have one priority, to have a drink of the black stuff. US rock bands arenít much different to their compatriots. When I met OP8 in Whelanís before their first ever Irish gig, Joey Burns of Giant Sand (who make up three quarters of OP8) told me why he was eager to come here with the band.

"Iíve always wanted to come here, not only just to play and relate to everyone, but so that John (Convertino), the drummer could finally taste a real pint of Guinness, which Lisaís doing right now without me. Itís almost sacrilege."

Which is exactly what Lisa Germano, 4AD songstress and former John Mellencamp fiddle-player (who makes up the final quarter of OP8) was doing. Her tiny frame dwarfed by the large pint in her hand. But then, this wasnít her first trip to Ireland, she played here only a year and a half ago, so sheís familiar with the black stuff.

OP8 were formed out of a solo project Lisa was to do for 4AD. She called up her friends in Giant Sand and asked them if they would do it with her. Obviously they agreed and they recorded 3 songs in a day and a half. The 4AD project didnít work out, but they enjoyed working together so much that they decided to see if they could get someone to finance a whole record. In stepped Richard Bransonís new label V2. While they didnít get much money, they managed to record the rest of the album in 6 days. 4AD gave them the rights to the original recordings and "Slush" was created.

The eclectic mix of styles is due to the eclectic mix of people involved in the whole project. Ivo of 4AD wanted Lisa to do "Round and Round" as part of the original project. Then Giant Sand brought the idea of recording Lee Hazelwoodís "Sand", an old Nancy Sinatra track with them. They had wanted to record the track themselves, but the idea of Giant Sand recording "Sand" seemed "a little hokey". The third song in the original project was Lisaís own, as it was her project.

When they decided to make the album, all four members brought songs to the melting pot and OP8 was born. One of the tracks the three members of GS brought with them was an instrumental track they had recorded a year before, "the OP8 theme."

According to Joey, they all had a really good time working together. "We always have a kinda daydream idea goiní on. So, it just worked out in the best ways of timing and being a natural work together."

So what does "Slush", the name of the album mean to the different members of the band? An ironic statement on the non-slushy nature of the tracks or something else? To Lisa itís just slush, while Joey claimed itís shit melted, or is it?

"We live in Tucson, the record was recorded in Tucson and at the time the idea of the band name and the thing we were doing seemed like an opiate slush. Something that would cool the senses for a mass amount of people."

Lisa just thinks it works well - like a slushy ice-cream.

"Itís got all these different colours in it. So, itís just kind of a mish-mash of stuff."

For Lisa the project was a nice break from doing her own stuff which is usually very personal. Joey was surprised by this.

"You like playing our songs?"

"I have to say yes, itís on tape."

"Aw, shucks."

"I love it, itís fun to distance yourself from certain things."

Another aspect of the project they particularly liked was that, at different points on the tour, they were playing to each otherís crowds. Giant Sand are particularly well-known in Germany, where they have played 8 times over the last 7 years, while Lisa is better known here and in Britain and, as they found out on the tour, in France and in Scandinavia. Joey enjoyed the change.

"Itís different, I like being able to play to different people that you normally wouldnít play to."

While OP8 is more than just Lisa Germano with Giant Sand, the fact it was advertised as such didnít annoy them. In fact they particularly liked the money-saving aspects of it, in that the ads for OP8 were also ads for the different members. Joey compared it to how the Wu-Tang Clan do things.

"Their idea is that when everyone does their solo projects, by the time everyone comes together to do the next Wu-Tang album, all the side projects have been advertising and promotion without even having to pay for anything. So, itís great. Itís almost like tapping into this wealth of music that normally would be singular, is more plural."

That is a situation of which the members of GS regularly take advantage. OP8 isnít their only side-project. Part of the reason for this is to be able to do things without being saddled with expectations of what GS should be doing. According to Joey, the other main reason is the input the various members have in different projects.

"Giant Sand has been a band since a long time before John or I were in it, Howe (Gelb) started it in the Ď80s. It really is his outlet for him to do his own thing. Calexico is more for John and Joe to do their own thing, and OP8 is more of a 4-way split between the 3 members, John, Joe and Howe, and the 4th member."

So, is there going to be a future for OP8? No definite plans have been made as yet.

Lisa was the fourth member this time, but "next time, maybe Clint Eastwood, or god knows who, maybe Lisa again. Or, maybe weíll do something else with Lisa and weíll call it something completely different."

At the moment, it seems like the popularity of OP8 is out-stripping that of Giant Sand and Lisa Germano put together. If it does, will they be able to ignore the inevitable calls to repeat the same formula?
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by Donnacha DeLong.