Puerto Rico Flowers’ first ever interview

I’m on a bus to NYC with a guy that looks like Montel Williams as my bus driver. It’s 8 AM and this drive is gonna take forever, good thing my girl Jamie Johns (ex RIP journalist, chinese food specialist, Trent Reznor superfan, and all around great dude)  has provided me with choice reading material. Mr. John A.W. Sharkey III  formerly of CLOCKCLEAN_ER,  and VIOLENT STUDENTS has allowed Ms. Johns a chance to pick his brain about his newest project: PUERTO RICO FLOWERS. This is a pretty rare interview, as you see Mr. JAWSIII usually has better things to do (such as changing his sons diapers or texting me at 7 AM to tell me how good the new fleet foxes LP is) than answer a bunch of dumb questions about his music and “music today.” Luckily Jamie doesn’t delve into that too much, though we do get to hear his opinions on BEST COAST and MOTHER LOVE BONE. While of course I’m biased in saying this, it isn’t a stretch to say that the debut LP from PRF is pretty ok. I’m mean hey at least it’s better than the Baltimore Orioles 2011 season.

Taken from the hole fan site A THUG IN A COCKTAIL DRESS

John Sharkey III makes music as Puerto Rico Flowers. He used to be in a band called Clockcleaner during which time he made death rock and offended a lot of people but that time is over. Now he is just Puerto Rico Flowers and he makes moody goth synth pop. I wrote about this band once a year and a half ago and guess what? Puerto Rico Flowers is still really good! Now PRF has a new full-length album out on Fan Death Records called 7 (get it here) because it has seven songs and they are all about emotions and life and stuff. It’s good! In order to get Sharkey to let me ask him some stupid questions I had to agree to watch a Phillies game at a bar with him when I return to the United States. He knew this would cause me great pain but I agreed to it anyway. I tried to get him to ask me questions back but he said he was “self-absorbed and trite.” I respect that kind of honesty. When you’re done reading this amazing interview, you can watch a video of Puerto Rico Flowers performing “3 Sisters” or listening to a full stream of the album.

Once you and I were Facebook chatting and you described the Philadelphia Phillies as the one thing that brings you the most joy in your life, even comparing the happiness of your son’s birth to how you feel during each Phils game. Where does your new album, 7, fall on this emotional scale?

I believe the equation you recall may be mistaken as there has been no greater or intense experience than the birth of my first son but I can tell you this, my new album is great. Not as great as the grand slam Shane Victorino hit off Johan Santana moments after my son’s arrival to this stupid world but still a very satisfying listen. Maybe that was what I talked about and you forgot because China does that to people. I like to point out the Victorino thing whenever I can. Like I just did.

Your handlers at Fan Death have described the new album and your work as PRF as “not unlike a skinhead crying” and “a record for women,” how do you feel about these descriptions? And why is this record for women and not internet record nerds?

Those two description are fucking moronic, it’s a shame that the skinhead one came from my mouth.

The best way I can describe my new record is to liken it to a man succeeding incredibly at his craft. Take the Phillies 3rd baseman, Placido Polanco, for example. He’s hitting something like .335 right now, I know for a fact that that batting average is 4th best in the National League. He is what they call in the business a “professional hitter”. I’m like that too, but with PRF songs.

Jamie, don’t let my civic pride cloud the analogy here, there are also lots of immensely talented players on other teams beside the Phillies. Asdrubal Cabrera, the shortstop for the Cleveland Indians, went 5-for-5 today. Do you know how fucking hard it is to hit off of a major league pitcher? This motherfucker did 5 times in a row.

That’s what the record sounds like.

Besides Scott Stapp who is your biggest influence as a vocalist?

Besides Stapp (good ear) I would have say my top influences, vocally, would have to be Philadelphia Phillies broadcaster Larry Anderson, the 76er’s public address announcer, the late great Dave Zinkoff, and Comsat Angels singer Stephen Fellows. That band is egregiously underrated. They had a member named Kevin Bacon. Not the Kevin Bacon from The Woodsman or Tremors fame, sadly. I have a Comsat Angels tattoo. It’s a pair of Dr. Martens and it says “This is total war, girl” over them. I know it’s fucking stupid; most tattoos are when you articulate what the fuck they actually are. I have much better tattoos like my pineapple or Abraham Lincoln’s head.

I wish I had a transcript of our Facebook chat because I swear you made that equation! Is there a way to describe PRF and the new PRF record without referencing baseball/the Phils? Or do the two have a symbiotic relationship in the mind of John A.W. Sharkey III?

That’s pretty good how you knew my full name. You how I got that name? I went to Catholic school until I got tossed out for fighting in 6th grade, but before the nuns didn’t want me around I got confirmed. I chose the confirmation name William because of the obvious shark connotation, JAWS III. The worst fucking Jaws. 3-D.

Are there other men and women who succeed incredibly at their (musical) craft? What I mean is, are there other current bands that you like? I am trying to bait you to talk shit about some bands or talk about how much you love Best Coast.

Look, any band not called Puerto Rico Flowers sucks. Aside from a few of my friend’s bands it’s pointless to even bother being enthusiastic about music right now. It’s trying to find the silver lining in an atmosphere of floating turds. Trapped Under Ice are pretty great though.

That Best Coast broad made a good record. It would be even better if she didn’t have so many retarded lyrics about her cat and weed.

What has changed since Clockcleaner? Not just personally – the original PRF press release mentions that you gave up smoking and became a domestic man – but in your approach to creating music, your listeners, and the music community in general?

This is a loaded question if I’ve ever heard one… A lot has changed since my other great band broke up. I lived in Australia twice, I got married, my wife gave birth to your future boss, I got really into Rugby League, I stopped wearing my fedora as much because so many dickheads wear them now, I gained 15 pounds of muscle, I bought a house, I painted my first Bob Ross style painting, I wrote a few good records… the list goes on and on.

My approach to music hasn’t really changed, just the implementation has changed. I write a song in my head and then I go record it. Easy. I used to write all of Clockclean_Er’s music but we were a unit. Now it’s more or less a solo project with people I enjoy being around playing with me. It could change at any moment but probably won’t because I am lazy in that respect. I recorded most of the early PRF stuff myself but this new record features Mike Sneeringer, the greatest American drummer and boat shoe enthusiast. You can definitely tell I’m NOT playing drums on 7.

I also care far less about every aspect of what has ostensibly become the independent music chain of events. I greatly dislike playing live, I don’t want to get signed to Matador or Mexican Summer, I won’t tour unless The Killers ask me to, I don’t have mystique and I honestly don’t care if people enjoy what I do. I know that that last line sounds very contrived but I can sincerely say it’s true. I used to fret day and night about Clockcleaner and it’s success. I was very driven to stick it up everyone’s asses with that band. It became all consuming and changed my thought processes completely. I would stand at my print press everyday and just obsess over every detail pertaining to Clockcleaner. That’s how I started writing songs in my head, basically. I didn’t have time to just sit around lazily with an acoustic guitar and contemplate the stars, I had to use my time wisely. Writing songs was just one of the umphteenth bullshit points of criteria that accompanied being in a band. With PRF I have left that all behind and I know the only reason I can do this band successfully with no real effort is because of my past due diligence. People think by my lack of effort with media outlets and live performances that I am trying to build up an aura of mystery. This is quite the opposite. I just honestly do not give a beershit about any of it. I enjoy writing and recording songs.

As far as the music community goes I try to avoid it at all costs. Only Richie Charles understands me.

Who does the artwork for the Puerto Rico Flowers releases? The titles of each release and their accompanying artwork are clearly connected was there any particular thought process behind that?

I come up with all the art designs and have various friends with graphic design degrees and lots of free time to lay shit out for me. It usually costs beer or a free record.

The designs are as cryptic as Masonic architecture. The world is not ready for the bullshit I could make up about each release and it correlating artwork. One record cover features a beach scene frequented daily by many a bogan in Wanniassa.

Kill/fuck/marry: Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Stone Temple Pilots.

Fuck: Nudeswirl. Marry: Sugartooth. Kill: Mother Love Bone.

Interview by Jamie Johns

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