David Todd - Feeding Back [book] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

David Todd

Feeding Back 📕 (2012)

Chicago Review Press

The title says it all: Feeding Back: Conversations With Alterntive Guitarists From Proto-Punk to Post-Rock. In his new book, David Todd talks guitars with a wide array of six-string slingers. Egos flare. Tech babble flows. And occasionally, great interviews occur.

By his own admission, the genre tag "alternative" is applied pretty loosely, as Todd talks to experimentalists (Richard Pinhas, Glenn Branca) and folkies (Richard Thompson) in addition to more "standard" choices like Bob Mould, Johnny Marr and the Deal sisters. While this means that certain sections of the book might not appeal to everyone (and if you aren't a music geek, those first 100 pages might be a chore), it also allows Todd to trace all the different subgenres that rock ‘n' roll has gone off into.

Some guitarists embrace the blues (MC5's Wayne Kramer), some react against it (Public Image Ltd's Keith Levene). Some of them really love John Coltrane (For the first half of the book, he's the lone common influence), some of them just want to hear three chords and four-on-the-floor beats (J. Mascis, Kim Deal). Feeding Back is essentially one really, really long conversation about rock ‘n' roll's evolution since the '60s, and because of that it's an interesting read, even when the subjects sometimes get too caught up in themselves. Todd sits in on an especially awkward interview with former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante, who apparently can argue the semantics of anything ever without actually saying anything.

Still, taken overall, Feeding Back is a solid read, with the best interviews showing people's humanity in addition to their chops. Bob Mould's interview reads like a condensed chapter from See a Little Light, but he's still Bob fucking Mould. James Williamson's life is so casually weird (computer engineer, Vice President of Technology Standards for Sony… Stooges guitarist) that it humanizes him. Lydia Lunch is crass and hyperbolic, but that makes for good print. The best interview, however, comes from a very humble Rowland S. Howard. The former Birthday Party guitarist met with Todd shortly before succumbing to liver cancer in 2009, so when he sums up his life's work, it carries a certain weight. Considering that Todd is talking to guitarists, Howard's humility lends the book a touching moment.