Gary Wilson interview

I did an interview with Gary Wilson for the Free Music Archive. Check it out here or below.

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In 1977, Gary Wilson released his second album, “You Think You Really Know Me.” It was a bizarre yet affecting collection of songs that ranged from lite lounge-funk (that could almost recall a young Prince Nelson Rogers at times) all the way to creepy atmospheric tunes that wouldn’t be out of place on a Dario Argento soundtrack. Despite receiving some radio airplay and even some fanmail from costumed avant-garde rockers The Residents, Gary Wilson soon found himself in the pitfalls of obscurity.

While working at an adult entertainment shop on the West Coast, his name had slowly built up a following over the next two decades, with an infamous shout-out from Beck on the album “Odelay” and a full length documentary on his life and music, named after his most famous record.
Since his reemergence, Gary has finally been able to experience success as an artist, releasing records on labels like Stones Throw and enjoying his time as a performing artist. He appeared live at WFMU on Scott Williams’ show in 2002, around the time where he played his first shows in New York City since the 1970s. Gary Wilson is releasing an album called Electric Endicott later this year on Western Vinyl. I interviewed Gary via email.

Between your 2002, when you reemerged with a live performance on Scott Williams’ show on WFMU, and now, your career seems to have gone through some tremendous changes. Do you view this as a rebirth of what you were doing in the late 70s or a new era of Gary Wilson?

I would say a continuation of what I was doing in the 60s and 70s. One is always “growing” and adapting to the dynamics of life. We all go through it. This will reflect in your art. I do a lot of self editing. If a song of mine does not reflect the Gary Wilson personality, or what I think Gary Wilson represents, then it is tossed out. It has always been that way (since I was 12 years old). I try to stay true to what I think Gary Wilson should sound like. What is important to me is for a listener to put my music on and know that what they hear is Gary Wilson. Since 2002 a lot of different things have happened to me. Good things. Life can be interesting sometimes.

What inspired you to incorporate tape, mannequins, wigs, flour and trashbags into your live performances?

When I was 12 years old I started playing organ (Farfisa) with a rock band called Lord Fuzz. I also played cello and string bass in the local school and youth orchestras (and chamber groups). I started listening to John Cage when I was 12 years old. I always mention that the first time I heard a piece by John Cage called “Concert For Piano and Orchestra” with David Tudor on piano that this record changed my life. I had been listening to composers like Edgar Varese, Schoenberg and other 12 tone modern composers.
After hearing that John Cage piece I became interested in avant garde painting. I turned the basement where I recorded You Think You Really Know Me into my painting studio. I would by large squares of wood (6 feet by 6 feet), paint them white and nail chairs, tires, interesting objects onto the wood. Then I would throw hay, paint, and other objects onto the wood panels. My paintings were included in many art shows.
As a teenager, I became interested in the most extreme avant garde art, be it music, painting, theater, etc. I started doing shows where we would go garbage picking the night before and drag all the garbage (chairs, tires, mattress, etc) onto the stage along with our equipment. Then we would buy paint, flour, hay,etc. and throw it on all of the equipment on stage. Then the band and I would dive onto the stage, roll around in the paint, garbage and flour. Then smash everything (including our equipment) on stage. We were doing these sort of performances since I was 13 years old. I then began to feel that the performances needed a “teen idol” (Dion, Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, Fabian) to front the smashed up chaos. That is what I try to do. Wouldn’t we all like to see Tony Bennett come out with a sack of flour poured over his head? Thus, all this is incorporated into my performances. The Bottom Of The Hill (in San Fransisco) docked me some cash because the stage was so covered with flour. Peanut Butter Wolf was inviting the audience to throw flour on me. It was like a blizzard in Endicott.

I know you are a big fan of the film “Carnival of Souls.” Has the music from that film had any impact on the more atmospheric tunes in your discography?

Always enjoy the church organ soundtrack from that movie. I think perhaps the atmosphere of the movie reflects a little in my music. I remember working the graveyard shift at the bookstore and when no one was around (which was a lot of the time), I would play that movie over and over again. Kind of spooky to be all alone in a store at 3 AM and having “Carnival Of Souls” play throughout the night. I wish someone would do a music video for me with the “atmosphere” of “Carnival Of Souls”.

While “You Think You Really Know Me” has gone on to become a cult classic, some of the work you did in the years following its release has become rather hard to find. Do you have any plans to reissue EPs like “Invasion of Privacy”?

Some of my early vinyl records were included in the CD titled “Forgotten Lovers”. The double single “Invasion Of Privacy” has not been reissued. Perhaps sometime in the future. Some people want me to re release my first album “Another Galaxy”…

How do you feel about younger artists like Ariel Pink, Gary War, and Dam-Funk who strongly show the influence of your music?

I enjoy Ariel and Dam-Funk. I’ve done a number of shows with Ariel and Dam-Funk. If people are influenced by me then I am happy they like my music. Ariel Pink played bass for me at a recent Los Angeles show.

What’s it like being a non-hip hop act on a predominately hip hop label like Stones Throw? Do you feel that you have made a contribution to rap music in any way?

I sometimes feel like I am the outcast on Stones Throw. That’s alright. Peanut Butter Wolf is a good friend of mine and i appreciate what he has done for me. We have done numerous shows together. Everyone is cool at Stones Throw.

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Silver Jews live WFMU session

I wrote an article for the Free Music Archive about the band that spawned this blog’s name. If you go to the site, you can also listen to the full WFMU set which I refer to. Cheers!

A few months before reclusive poet/songwriter David Berman decided to end the Silver Jews in the revelation his group was powerless against his father, corporate lobbyist Richard “Dr. Evil” Berman, they stopped by Benjamen Walker’s show to deliver a terrific and career spanning set.

Hearing songs like “Sometimes a Pony Gets Depressed” performed right after the Joos’ signature tune “Random Rules” offers a cool contrast for the band’s range throughout its nearly two decade existence. With a revolving cast of indie-rock luminaries that included Will Oldham, Paz Lenchantin, Jesus Lizard’s Duane Denison, Mike Fellows, and most notably Stephen Malkmus, Bob Nastanovich, and Steve West of Pavement, it was hard for some not to write the Silver Jews off as a side project to bigger, more “established” rock acts. But within this particular performance, Berman clearly shows that he was at the helm of the sound of the band, a sound which could be, like Donnie & Marie, a little bit country and a little bit rock’n’roll.

The musical aspect of the group was unfortunately lost to some reviewers who were completely taken aback by Berman’s lyrics… abstract, poignant, and definitely compelling. The Silver Jews arguably have two of the best album-opening lines in rock history: The Natural Bridge begins with “No, I don’t really wanna die / I only wanna die in your eyes,” while American Water begins with the eternal “In 1984, I was hospitalized for approaching perfection.” In this session, these two songs (“How To Rent A Room” and “Random Rules,” respectively) are performed back-to-back, a classic one-two punch that’s hard to forget.

The real gem here is “Horseleg Swastikas” from 2001’s underrated Bright Flight, with visions of being “chased by a floating hatchet”, acting “like a rabbit freezing on a star”, and a desire to be “like water”, because simply put, “water doesn’t give a damn.” This take of “Horseleg Swastikas” is paired with a sense of hope and regret, anger and sorrow, and all those other things that rock bands try to write about but can’t because they don’t have the tenacity of David Berman. Or maybe because they just aren’t David Berman.

Yura Yura Teikoku disbands

After twenty years of rock-n-roll, Japanese band Yura Yura Teikoku has decided to call it quits. This is really upsetting news, as they were one of, if not the best band I have ever seen live. I caught the group at Maxwell’s in September of 2008, and at Bowery Ballroom a year later. The Bowery Ballroom set wasn’t as energetic and raw powered as the one in Hoboken, but nevertheless, it was a great show from a truly versatile band.

I had first heard about Yura Yura Teikoku (or “Unstable Government” in English) from a Fader article about Japanese psychedelic rock. I checked out the band on YouTube, and was immediately transfixed by their style, both in music and in fashion. Dressed always in a black shirt and red pants, shaved eyebrows and long hair, lead singer and guitarist Shintaro Sakamoto just pours out the essence of cool. His shouting/singing/speaking was transcending… despite the difference in language I still felt I could sing along with him… and I did when I saw them, twice (it doesn’t take much bilinguality to scream along with “yeahyeahyeah yeaaaahh yeahhh yeahyeahyeahyeah”). Sakamoto always played a Gibson SG, and I ended up buying one myself after seeing him jam out at Maxwell’s. He really made the music come alive.

The rest of the band is not to be ignored. Chiyo Kamekawa stood like a statue, his bass playing evoking John Enwistle with his “thunderfingers” and solid stance, but he looked like some sort of character from Ridley Scott’s Legend. Ichiro Shibata, the band’s drummer, is the Japanese Charlie Watts, busting away on the band’s maniacal grooves.

Yura Yura Teikoku III is my favorite album by the band. “No Question Mark” is the greatest album opener of all time. Busting straight ahead into a two chord riff, which grooves on and off for over seven minutes, they were the kind of band that gave you what you wanted immediately, but let the music jam itself out, never getting boring.

I found out about this via ToykoGraph. The story of the break-up was pretty miniscule on American shores, understandable because they were a solely Japanese band… but I wish that the news could have been a bit more widespread. As sad as it is, retirements and death of artists are some of the ways that people are exposed to them.

It stinks that the band won’t be performing anymore… I was anxiously awaiting their performance in New York this fall, (thinking they’d be there because they were for the past two years)… but I understand it’s something the band wants to do. According to the TokyoGraph, Sakamoto said “[The band] felt that they had accomplished everything they could with the band, and continuing would feel like “routine work.” As a result, they chose to disband, with the three of them planning to pursue different musical projects.”

I, for one, am excited to see what’s planned for the future!

Check out a 2005 Fader article on the band here.

The mention of the band I read was in the July 2008 issue of Fader, written by Justin Simon. I copied and pasted the review of 3x3x3 below.

“Led by an alien-esque man with no eyebrows and an emaciated, more feminine Haino Keiji doppelganger, the craziest looking band on this list might also be the best. [Full disclosure: I license some of their records for release in the US on my label, though not this one.] YYT have spent the last twenty years releasing one flawless album after the next, but this, the record that propelled the group into superstardom at home, is the best gateway drug into their catalog. Side two is particularly lethal. Barreling out the gates with opener “Hakkoutai,” bass player Kamekawa’s deathdefying walking bass spins circles around guitarist/singer Sakamoto’s scorching Hendrixy leads, only to up the intensity on the breakneck following track “Tsukinuketa.” On the other side of the spectrum, the gorgeous, nine-minute ballad “Yurayura Ugoku” will have you crying your face off. For what it’s worth, this is my desert island record.”

In case you don’t know the band, here are a few videos from YouTube.

“Rame No Pantalon”- from Yura Yura Teikoku III. The first song I’d heard from the band. This is a really fun jam with a great video!

“Evil Car” from 3x3x3 live at Fuji Rock!

“Tsumetai Gift” from Memai.

“Yura Yura Teikoku de kangaechu” from Yura Yura Teikoku III

Eternal Summers interview

Eternal Summers are one of my favorite new bands. They play short songs that combine hazy tranquility with speedy punk. It’s fun to rock out to but it’s dreamy enough to zone out to. Unfortunately, before the interview, I did not know much about the band, so I decided to conduct it to find out some information about Nicole Yun and Daniel Cardiff (the guitarist and the drummer, respectively). You can view the band’s blog here and buy their excellent self titled 10″ here.

Tanglewood Numbers: First off, I just wanna thank you for doing this interview! I really enjoy your music, I must have listened to your EP about a dozen times within the past two days. I definitely plan on buying the 10″ before it sells out. However, I don’t know much about the band itself! I know you are from Roanoke, Virginia and are composed of Nicole and Daniel, but not much else. How did you guys start playing? Have you played in any bands before Eternal Summers?

Nicole Yun: We both have been in tons of bands. I can only think of two years that I haven’t been in a band since seventh grade, when i was in a Rage Against the Machine cover band. Haha…you gotta start somewhere. Daniel and I started playing in November of 2008 when my former drummer had to bail and it was two days before a show. I frantically asked all my musician friends I could think of who played drums to sit in with me for this one show. I actually called Daniel to get the number of our friend Sam, who is a drummer. But Daniel, who has played drums before but never in a band was pretty interested. We practiced like crazy and did the show.

I noticed how the band has labeled itself as “dream punk”, which I think is a completely apt genre for Eternal Summers. The music has a haze to it not too removed from a band like Galaxie 500, but some of your songs, like Able To.” have the primal punk rock feeling of a band like The Raincoats or Jay Reatard. Did you think of this idea before the music started or was it something you noticed?

NY: Oh there is no way we could plan anything like that. A lot of the songs I wrote in a room by myself and were way more “tender” than when Daniel and I would practice them. We came up with dream punk because naming genres for bands is pretty ridiculous and we were pretty much joking when we came up with it. but it does suit us and we like it more than other titles we’ve been given.

Daniel Cundiff: I think once Nicole and I started playing and writing more we found what we sound like, as opposed to having some sort of goal to sound like anything. It’s a very natural process for us and I think we do make a ype of punk rock music and we also have a slower hazy vibe too.

Is there a big music scene in Roanoke?

NY: Depends on which scene you’re talking about. Not for us really. HUGE for bar bands, and cover bands though.

DC: I guess we are in a little scene that Roanoke knows little about called The Magic Twig Community. It’s like 9 people sharing lots of gear, space and inspiration. Bands like The Young Sinclairs, The Sad Cobras, Rootstone,Turbo P, Boys Lie, and SUN KING!. Those are all bands we share equipment with and a friendly family vibe too. Roanoke is getting a little better though. There’s few venues to play and not many people to come see you play. But its picking up with places like The Bazaar. It’s a clothing consignment shop that sells records and does shows. Roanoke is a small place that lets us function in a our own little quiet world. I like the country.

Are the elements for your ideal band at age fifteen the same for Eternal Summers?

NY: Actually a lot of them are similar. I was really getting into the Velvet Underground at that age. I loved the looseness and jangle, and I loved Lou Reed’s version of pop! Sort of spontaneous and taking on a lot of different song structures and styles. I’d definitely like to think that Eternal Summers is rooted in those elements. HAHA. Yeah I wish!

DC: At first i was going to say no but i thought about this one a little more and realized that when i was 15 I was listening to lots of stuff. Punk and 60’s music was pretty huge to me growing up. Also I am a child of the 90’s. I think Nicole and I take elements from all those things.

What do you guys enjoy doing besides listening to music? Any particular hobbies?

NY: I am an avid foodie. I totally love cooking and though I don’t have cable at my house I would probably waste a lot of time watching the Food Network. I was raised watching Public Television cooking shows, what can I say?

DC: I like to read music bios and I do a little visual art work. I play in a few other bands. The Young SInclairs, The Sad Cobras, SUN KING! and Boys Lie. So I’m pretty busy with other bands. Mostly the Young SInclairs though. I like to do the usual things like hang out with friends and mellow out. Riding bikes, walking in the woods. I like those things.

There seem to be a few bands out now that also carry that hazy summer vibe along with them, like Best Coast or Dum Dum Girls, but definitely show the influence of 60’s girl groups. I feel like your band is a lot more twee than Phil Spector though. Is that accurate?

NY: If you hear twee that’s cool. We really weren’t shooting for anything when we started recording. We definitely don’t have the Phil Spector thing. Love the sound but it’s not us. We are a two piece and aren’t afraid to let people hear how sparse we can be at times. At first I was sort of afraid of the sparse sound but now I think we both totally embrace it. I wish more bands would use the full spectrum of quiets and louds and not be afraid to be bare at times.

DC: I agree with Nicole. I can see a little summer vibe with us but as compared to those bands you mention we are totally different. Watch those girls play music then watch Nicole play. There’s a lot more punk going on in Eternal Summers. We are a sparse little unit and that’s far from Phil Spectors Wall of Sound. We’re a pretty new band and i think we have a lot of growing. Once we put out our LP this Fall people will see/hear more of us and understand or not understand us better. The more songs we write the more we’re nothing but Eternal Summers.

What have been the best meals you guys have had while out on the road?

NY: We always eat great when we stop at our pals Reading Rainbow’s house in Philly. They are pretty health conscious like I am so they know how to rock some delicious stuff like homemade pizza and I don’t feel like crap afterwards. One time when we were in brooklyn we had a really awesome breakfast at a place called Greenpointe Cafe? I think it was during CMJ last year and it was cloudy out and we were so tired. and the scrambled eggs were so nice…and they had some delicious garlic kale with it. YUM. Also in brooklyn we had brunch at this mexican joint called Lobo where our friend Ryan from a band called Family Trees works. The Blood Mary’s were very bloody.

DC: San Diego had the best Pizza and Burritos i have ever had. Otherwise, what Nicole said.

Is it a hard life for a two-piece band? Are you ever tempted to get more members?

NY: In a lot of ways it’s easier to be in a two-piece band. Making decisions is so easy. Getting together for practice…even traveling. Just less people to worry about. Of course we have thought about future albums and a possible bigger live band, but I am pretty content right now how it is.

DC: Yea, a two piece is quick to assemble and agree or disagree. Decisions are made quickly. We can always evolve into a bigger band but we’re two for now. Its not like we’re a two piece because we can’t find a bass player or a keyboardist. Two piece by choice!

The video for “Secret Language”:

Slothbear: Qids + Interview

My friends in Slothbear have, after a year of hard work and determination, finished the production of their debut album, Qids. You can download it from their label Vanity Imprint’s website. I also did an interview with Josh Ginsberg, one of the band’s guitarists and songwriters.

Tanglewood Numbers: To what extent does the idea of storytelling play into your music?

Josh Ginsberg: It really depends on the song. The lyrics that I wrote on Qids are usually more about imagery and describing a sensation or relationship than telling a story. However, my verse to “White Christmas” is very much a short story sort of thing. I build off the idea of a middle aged suburban dad wanting to have the best Christmas lights on the block and sort of sketch out a setting and plot and final revelation in the space of a measure or two. Some new songs that we’ll probably be mining for album two (“jz,” “txtmsg never sent,” “tucked in trees”) are more plot based also. I didn’t write the lyrics to “Don’t Taunt A Tiger” but that song definitely tells a story.

Would you consider yourself a “lyrics guy”?

Yeah, I think lyrics are a crucial part of a song, especially when it comes to how I am viewing what I am writing. I’ve approached lyrics in different ways in Slothbear. At first I was much more into writing songs that were really all about illustrating images and sensations and then I branched out into songs that were a bit more elaborately written. I think I’m a “lyrics guy” largely as a appreciator of words in general. I really like to read and all that cool stuff. When it comes to listening to songs I don’t focus in on the lyrics hardcore most of the time. But there are definitely sets of lyrics by other artists that I have listened to very intently and gotten a lot out of.

Who are those artists?

I mean over the years it’s changed. There was a time when I was younger and really, really listened to the lyrics on Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco. I’ve listened to the lyrics on Pinkerton by Weezer and There’s Nothing Wrong With Love by Built to Spill and Cold Roses by Ryan Adams pretty extensively as well. I guess those are all by album. In terms of artists whose lyrics I am into over the course of many albums I love Joanna Newsom, Smiths-era Morrissey, SM (especially Pavement-era) and both Avey Tare and Panda Bear from Animal Collective.

On the blog there are a lot of posts written in this sort of “newspeak” vernacular that sort of combines instant message shorthand with hip-hop slang. Even the album’s title seems to be written in this language, as it’s “Qids”, not “Kids”. Is this a conscious idea?

I mean there’s a whole story behind Qids. It doesn’t have to do with hip hop explicitly, although around the time we were writing the album Ian and I were listening to hip hop very, very extensively. Calling Qids Qids and not Kids was a conscious decision, but it was really a conscious decision on the level that to the members of Slothbear there is a distinction between a Kid and a Qid. I don’t know how well that addresses your question, haha.

Haha, that’s fine. The code names, though… does Craig want to be refered to as Palz or his own name?

I don’t really know. We’ve all gone through a host of pseudonyms, and while I would be amused if someone referred to me as Jamoots, Josha Fierce or Jade Wildcat, I would be just as quick to respond to Josh Ginsberg, Josh Ginsbear, Ginger Gins or any of my many other colorful monikers. I sort of like just Josh the best.

Haha, well that’s good, it’s probably the easiest one to remember. Now when is the album coming out?

We haven’t decided on a release date, but it was mastered Friday (March 26th). We are releasing it as of now through this collective/label whatchamacallit called Vanity Imprint based out of Manhattan. It’ll be out some time in April for sure. It’ll be up for free download and we’re going to have some physical copies eventually, though those are really about a bunch of visual art created concurrently with the album than the cds themselves.

Is it weird to be putting so much work into songs that you have written 2 years ago? (or longer)

Yes and no. What’s cool is the songs have had a lot of room to evolve. The way you’ll hear them live at a show isn’t necessarily the way you’ll hear them on Qids. It’s nice to have really developed those songs and grown with them. Some songs date back to 2007. But we’re all used to having a backlog of songs waiting to be recorded and learned because Craig and I are both prolific and Doug and Ian write a bit too, so we have fifty songs waiting to be released. It sort of sucks that some will get lost, but so many of the best songs do. Think of all those great Pavement b-sides!

Yeah, 50 songs is a lot for anyone before their first album, maybe not Robert Pollard haha. How many are on the album itself?

There are thirteen songs on Qids. It runs 61:41 or something to that effect.

Did that length bother you?

I love some succinct albums like Bitte Orca, Room on Fire and Strawberry Jam. But I think there’s something to be said for an album that is exhaustive but good all the way through. Albums like Daydream Nation and The Moon and Antarctica are great listens but take a long time simply because there is so much there. We sort of like Qids being the way it is because its length sort of represents what the process was like to us. We might not be virtuosos but we all play as ambitiously as our awkward little fingers allow and Qids was about going all out to us, tackling really big themes and issues while not trying for any of that falsely profound political commentary bullshit. This was the first album Craig, Ian and I ever made and it could be the only one we ever make. I really like the fact I could go for a six mile run and not have to take out my iPod and look for another album to listen to before I’m through.

Ideally, where would this album take you?

World Tour, mansions and benzes, giving ends to my friends and feeling stupendous. I’d like to buy my mom a house.

Interview with Bryan Charles, author of “Wowee Zowee”

As a music fan, the 33 1/3 Books have been a complete fascination to me, from the insightful writing to the various forms that each author has applied to the album’s story, be it John Darnielle’s great retelling of Master of Reality as a young man in a mental hospital or Carl Wilson’s Celine Dion book, which examines a “journey to the end of taste”. The ones that stay with the model of the album’s conception are brilliant as well, with Marc Woodsworth’s Guided By Voices book giving me more information about Bee Thousand than I thought was possible. Bryan Charles is the author of one of the newest additions to this series, writing a book on Pavement’s very own White Album, Wowee Zowee.

Tanglewood Numbers: What was it like writing a 33 1/3? Was there a long waiting process? Due to the “transformative” styles that authors use for these rather free-form books, were you ever tempted to turn this into a novella or something more abstract?

Bryan Charles: Well, there was a bit of a wait between the time I pitched the book and the time it was selected, as David Barker—the series editor—and others at Continuum sorted through the hundreds of proposals they receive for each open call. And Wowee Zowee, though picked in early 2007, wasn’t slated for publication till now. So it was a long process in that sense. But once I heard I’d actually be writing the book, it was essentially always on my mind. I was working on another book at the time—which I’m doing the final edits on now—but still had to plan Wowee Zowee, try to arrange interviews, conduct interviews, etc. And no, I was never tempted to write a novella or anything like that. I published a novel a few years ago and knew from the start I wanted to do something more journalistic this time around. I wanted it to be mostly Pavement—and various peripheral figures—telling their own story. That said, there are a few different components to the book. There’s some more memoir-ish writing, where I talk about my early encounters with the band’s music, as well as a looser, more freewheeling overview of the record as a whole. But the core of the book is conversations with Pavement.

Pavement’s fans are pretty devoted people. I should know, as I have spent countless nights on message boards trying to gather as many Ectoslavia demos or unreleased live tracks like “Mark E. Smith” as I could. Did this devotion to the group intimidate you when you were writing the book?

Not when I was actually writing the book, no. I tried to put it out of my mind and for the most part I was successful. Anxiety over potential fan reaction—and a host of other external concerns—was more present in the year or so before I began doing interviews, which brought its own sort of stress. No book is going to please everyone. That may sound like a bland thing to say but it’s true no matter what genre you’re working in, fiction, Civil War history, epic poetry, whatever. And it was easier for me, in a way, writing about Pavement, than it would be for someone writing about Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen, or even R.E.M. Artists like that not only have devoted, extremely knowledgeable, sometimes ready-to-attack fans, there’s shelves of books already written about them.

What was it like contacting the members of Pavement for the book? It’s a big part of the Pavement mythology that they live across the country from one another. Was it as hard to get in touch with them as it seems?

It was hard to coordinate interviews generally, not just with Pavement but with everyone I talked to for the book. Again, I think this would be true of any project that depends on input from others for its success. People are busy and sitting and talking for an hour or more about old times isn’t often high on the to-do list. But I had some help from Nils Bernstein at Matador and a friend of mine who knows the band. Pavement, to their credit, aren’t obsessed with perpetuating their legacy, so they may have been harder to nail down than other groups. Plus there was no pressing reason to talk to me—it’s not like they were pushing a new record or anything, and the reunion tour hadn’t been announced yet. I’m glad I got to them when I did, though. Post-reunion it would have been much more difficult, if not impossible, to get the phone time that I did. As for their scattered geography, it wasn’t an issue because I did talk to them all on the phone. Even Mark Ibold and I—who live in the same city—talked on the phone.

I remember reading an article on Stephen Malkmus’s first year as a solo artist that talked about how every fan of the band sees S.M. as a good friend in some way or another. I think this could be true of other members of the band as well. Do you feel an affinity with the members of the group through the listening process? Did being a big fan of the group cause any “star-struckness” when you first started writing the book?

Hmm. That’s an interesting take on Malkmus. I never read that article but no, I don’t feel a personal affinity with any one Pavement member when I hear their music. Maybe live that would come out more. I always like watching Bob, for instance, because you can tell he’s giving it his all, having a great time and generating good audience vibes. Bob was the first Pavement member I talked to for the book, which ended up being fortunate for me, because there was certainly an element of anxiety involved in interviewing the band. But Bob’s really friendly and forthcoming. He put me at ease at once. Within a few minutes it was like talking to—not a good friend, as you say, but someone I’d at least met before. That was my experience talking to everyone in the band—a few minutes of being nervous and uptight before things mellowed into a pretty natural, interesting conversation. That was a happy byproduct of writing Wowee Zowee—learning firsthand that Pavement are cool guys. Because you don’t want the people in your favorite band to be jerks.

Pavement’s Favorite Albums

(from Rob Jovanovic’s book, Perfect Sound Forever)


(click for full view)