San Francisco avant-garde outfit Tuxedomoon recorded their iconic debut full-length Half-Mute in 1979. Now the album has been re-edited together with Give Me New Noise, a sort of tribute album with 13 different bands covering the original masterpiece. The contributors include Cult With No Name, Foetus/JG and Thirlwell, among others, with special appearances by the three original members and creators of Half-Mute: Blaine L. Reininger, Steven Brown, and Peter Principle. Tuxedomoon achieved a pretty special status as a Californian band part of the New York scene in the heyday of Warhol, Basquiat, Debbie Harry and the likes. Not bad for experimental punk rockers like them – not even The Doors were that lucky. Furthermore, they recorded their second album, Desire, in London, which led them to book their first European tour together with Joy Division, right before Ian Curtis killed himself. 
We met the band in a cozy and legendary theater in the outskirts of Stockholm for an intimate live performance of the entire album as a part of their European tour 2016. Blaine, Steven, and I sit in the café before the sound-check. Steven asks me where I come from. When he realises I can speak Spanish, he replays in fluent Spanish too.
How come you speak Spanish so well, Steven
Steven: I live in Oaxaca. I moved to Mexico several years ago.
You’ve just released Give Me New Noise: Half-Mute Reflected. Is this a re-edition of Half-Mute?
Blaine: It is released with a re-edition of Half-Muted. Give Me New Noise are cover versions of the album done by other artists.
How did you select the bands to appear on this record?
Blaine: It is a project from a friend of us in Paris, Philippe Perreaudin. He is a member of the band Palo Alto. He produced and curated this record on his own. So he spoke to our record label and we thought it could be a really nice idea to release the two records together.
Please tell me about the early years, when you started out. What are the main differences in how you approach music now and then?
Steven: Well, when moved to San Francisco and started out, in 1978-1979, we wanted to experiment. We were young and free. We had a record contract that let us do what we wanted to do. We used what we had: a saxophone, a violin, a guitar, a borrowed synthesizer, a piano and a studio. The last record Tuxedo recorded was in 2012, which was the soundtrack for the film Pink Narcissus (1971) – we reworked the score for the film’s 40th anniversary.
I have changed in the sense that I moved to Mexico and started to study music in Oaxaca at Centro De Música Contemporánea. I’ve been learning a lot about composition, using different tools, and composing for string quartets, brass, whatever. So this has been a major change for me. As a matter of fact, I created a personal project called Assemble Kafka, where I employ many things learned in this period. Tuxedomoon is all lyric, and nowadays I work differently.
What do you think was most unique of San Francisco during the ‘70s, when you moved there?
Steven: I got there in 1975, and there was still the magic from the sixties. This hangover made of San Francisco a magical place. Communists, homosexuals, bisexuals, vegetarians… we got money from the state because we were crazy – “I can’t work, I am crazy:” so the government gave us money. I was part of this collective, The Angels of Life, and we’d put money in a pot, 15 people living together putting $350 every month. That money would produce shows, all of which had to be free. Later on I meet Blaine and we started Tuxedo, and I had to leave the Angels, as Tuxedo started playing in clubs where they charged money at the door and that was taboo.
I think you both, Blaine and Steven, met at the music school?
Steven: We met in San Francisco City College. We went both to same class of electronic music. We had access to take the course and use their equipment and synthesizers.
I presume that was a unique opportunity for you to get to work.
Blaine: It was a great situation. I, for instance, was pretty poor and on top of that my violin got stolen. So I had really nothing, and the school provided instruments. I was also in the orchestra and they provided me a violin, which was great until I got my own again. The recording studio was a great situation.
Steven: Yes. In fact, the very first song of Tuxedomoon was made there. We recorded sequences and then on stage used them live. Today they use laptops, but back then it was all tape-recorder.
What is the story behind the name Tuxedomoon? 
Blaine: It is not important, really. It was a found object.
I think you studied Creative Writing as well, right?
Blaine: Yes, and also Filmmaking. I made some small films. The were two computers and I learnt to program in basic. Actually, in the show we did at the end of the year I used the computer, I wrote in a very simple program. That was fun. I also had access to the library school, you know, in 1977 I could go there and watch different videos. A multimedia experience.
Please tell me about that very beginning of the multimedia.
Blaine: I sort of came with this idea on my own, I wasn’t aware that you could actually study this interdisciplinary art in universities in California. It just seemed to me to be the right thing to do. I’ve been always interested in all these media. I’m from Colorado and found these things quite late in the seventies. Back then I was more involved with visuals, me and some artist friends of mine from San Francisco, we projected visuals using very cheap slides in our shows.
I heard your first performance was in June 14th 1977. It is true that at the Deaf Club there were actually deaf people?
Blaine: It was, indeed. They started to have shows in very unlikely places. They had a show in this Mabuhay Gardens, a fairly famous rock venue in San Francisco, and it was a Filipino restaurant. A lot of people played there. I remember Devo, or Robin Williams also played there. Steven: It is very true. The music didn’t bother them (laughs). We played punk, we were loud. They didn’t care. They sold the beer.
How came this connection to New York about? As a matter of fact, I know you because of the feature film Downtown 81 and I took for granted you were from New York.
Steven: No, we just played there a few times. Actually, first we went to London to record Desire (1981). That’s why we left San Francisco in the first place. Back from London, we passed by New York and spent some time there. We’d always go there for some shows and stay for like a month, but we never lived there, really. That’s why it is strange, in Downtown 81 we are the only not New York-based band because of Glenn O'Brien, a journalist who was the producer of the movie. He was a writer in Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, and he featured us there. We were also friends with the DNA/Arto Lindsay, we went on tour together, and quite a few other musicians.
Blaine: Normally New York bands didn’t have a good opinion of Californian bands, but we were happy to see that we were accepted by very interesting people in New York. They considered us to be part of the New York scene. We were happy to be there, even if we didn’t live there (laughs). The Vicentines were there, Jim Jarmusch’s band, SQÜRL, The Lounge Lizards… this type of bands.
Please tell me how you write music between sound and words.
Steven: Both Blaine and I write Tuxedomoon’s music, it is all common. Usually the music comes first, but not always. Sometimes lyrics generate the music. Sometime the words have their own melody, that creates a theme. We can jam and later add arrangements, or add other instruments.
I think you booked a first tour in Europe together with Joy Division right before Ian Curtis killed himself. You still decided to go ahead and do the tour by yourselves. How was that?
Steven: I don’t remember (laughs). No, it was great, our first time in Europe, we were amazed by how Europe treats artists like humans. We had dressing rooms, we had mirrors, and also people in the audience knew about us.
Of course, no existing internet, not even music magazines per se. What was the media like?
Steven: Bootleggers. And the actual record, maybe a hundred copies were enough to generate that spark.