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Interview with Vic Varney, February 24, 2018

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:09 - Athens Music Scene

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Partial Transcript: Um, I just want to start by asking...

Segment Synopsis: Vic Varney recalls moving to Athens in 1975 after returning from school at the University of London. He discusses the Athens music scene, the rise of The B-52s, and performing with the Tone-Tones. Varney compares playing in New York and Europe to playing in Athens.

Keywords: Chattanooga, Tennessee; Georgetown, Athens, GA; The Georgia Theater; rock (music)

00:09:44 - Influence in Athens

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Partial Transcript: So, could you talk a little more...

Segment Synopsis: Varney discusses the underground gay scene connected to Athens art and those involved, including The B-52s. He contrasts coming up in music in Athens with other American cities.

Keywords: Athens, GA; Atlanta, GA; Cindy Wilson; Fred Schneider; Kate Pierson; Keith Strickland; Nashville, TN; New York, NY; Ricky Wilson; Sex Pistols

00:15:43 - The B-52s

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Partial Transcript: Can you talk at all about...

Segment Synopsis: Varney recalls moving from Athens to Atlanta for a short period of time. He talks about The B-52s being introduced to Athens and the rest of the world, allowing entry for his band into the scene.

Keywords: Athens, GA; Atlanta, GA; Cindy Wilson; Curtis Knapp; Keith Strickland; New Orleans, LA; Ricky Wilson; Savannah, GA; The B-52s; The Tone-Tones

00:22:14 - Joining The Tone-Tones

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Partial Transcript: So, you want to talk about how...

Segment Synopsis: Varney discusses being invited to join The Tone-Tones in order for the band to continue to practice in his space. He shares stories of performing gigs with them and later forming The Method Actors with David Gamble.

Keywords: Athens, GA; Dana Downs; Mike Johnson; Pylon

00:29:44 - Perspective of Athens

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Partial Transcript: So, before talking about The Method Actors...

Segment Synopsis: Varney explains living in the Cobb Street house, which became known as the Cobb Institute. He discusses the ease of being in a band in Athens with easy booking and cheap rent, as well as the world's interest in Athens being different than the rest of the south.

Keywords: Athens, GA; The B-52s

00:37:41 - Performing with The Method Actors

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Partial Transcript: So, can you take us through...

Segment Synopsis: Varney mentions promoting and supporting Pylon and learning to play and sing until Gamble's return. He shares playing with The Method Actors in Athens and New York, leading up to recording with Peter Dyer.

Keywords: Armageddon Records; Danny Beard; David Gamble; Human Switchboard; Little Venice; Robert Palmer; The New York Times

00:47:19 - Recording and Touring in Europe.

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Partial Transcript: Um, so, we- we flew to London...

Segment Synopsis: Varney shares his experience going between shows to recording in Little Venice in London. He opines on music culture in Europe and the United States. Varney also discusses touring Europe and recording nearly all the singles and albums of The Method Actors.

Keywords: This Is It; This Is Still It

00:54:54 - Changes in Music and Culture

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Partial Transcript: What I really liked about...

Segment Synopsis: Varney discusses changes in the music industry as technology develops. He mentions recording and performing with The Method Actors, the state of New York in 1980 and sense of community.

Keywords: Athens, GA; New York, NY; rock n roll

01:03:05 - Returning to Athens

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Partial Transcript: So, anyway, that early window...

Segment Synopsis: Varney lists some of the places he performed in New York with The Method Actors, as well as a few in Boston, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia. He discusses going back and forth between Athens and Europe before returning in 1981 to perform around Athens.

Keywords: Little Figures; Armageddon Records; Athens, GA; Hurrah; New York, NY; Press Records; Tier 3

01:07:50 - Expanding The Method Actors

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Partial Transcript: ...and Little Figures , which was our first...

Segment Synopsis: Varney explains the band's shift from a two-piece band to a four-piece band after recording Little Figures. He mentions the joining and leaving of members at various points in time.

Keywords: Luxury; David Gamble; Love Tractor; Michael Richmond; Robert Schmid; Stan Satin

01:12:05 - The Method Actors as a Two-Piece

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Partial Transcript: But what I think they were absolutely...

Segment Synopsis: Varney discusses his philosophy for wanting to maintain a two-piece band, focusing on the way he and Gamble complimented each other on stage.

Keywords: Athens, GA; David Gamble

01:16:59 - The End of The Method Actors

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Partial Transcript: So, why did you guys break up?

Segment Synopsis: Varney talks about not being as popular in Athens, which led to not having an economic base. He shares his lack of interest in having a reunion show and when and how he became involved in music.

Keywords: Athens, GA; Go Van Go; Love Tractor; Pylon; R.E.M.

01:26:59 - Reflecting on Band Experience

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Partial Transcript: So, can you talk about how...

Segment Synopsis: Varney recalls putting together Go Van Go after The Method Actors broke up. He shares reasons he feels Go Van Go wasn't as successful in the same communities, though more popular in Athens, and reflects on problems in The Tone-Tones.

Keywords: Athens, Ga; Atlanta, GA; New Wave; New York, NY; The 40 Watt

01:36:03 - Issues Within The Method Actors

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, so, why is that?

Segment Synopsis: Varney discusses problems with the material of the Method Actors, and why he feels larger audiences didn't have a better response. He mentions room for improvement in his own performance and limitations. He also shares an experience meeting with a representative of Columbia Records.

Keywords: Athens, GA; Pylon

01:43:25 - After Go Van Go

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Partial Transcript: Well, how long were you...

Segment Synopsis: Varney talks about his time in Athens teaching at the University of Georgia. He recalls a trip to New York that led to his employment at Columbia University and moving to New York.

Keywords: Athens, GA; Bob Dylan; Merle Haggard; New York, NY; University of Georgia (UGA)

01:49:10 - Appreciation of Athens

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Partial Transcript: Well, so, I guess as we're wrapping up...

Segment Synopsis: Varney shares his feeling of the special bond between the people who came from the development of the Athens music scene. He mentions artists who came from Athens and became successful, specifying that Athens is a rock town.

Keywords: Athens, GA; Pylon; R.E.M.; The B-52s; Vic Chestnutt; Widespread Panic

01:55:47 - Opinion of Vic Chestnutt

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Partial Transcript: Well, since you brought up...

Segment Synopsis: Varney comments on Vic Chestnutt in comparing him to Leonard Cohen.

Keywords: Athens, GA; Elvis Costello