Daniel Coston On Saturday, an esteemed gathering of musical stars -- among…
- Posted on Dec 28th 2011 12:00PM by Chris Epting
Which of the songs on 'Modern Art' jump out the most to you?
There's a song, 'When Love Lets Go I'm Falling,' that has a special memory for me. When I was singing the song, recording the song, that's when my wife came in and told me that Alex Chilton had died. It's a moody song and it has a lot of influence from him. I learned to get into all of my emotion in high school by being a big fan of Big Star records so that one is really special. But I like them all.
I got into Big Star being a fan of the dB's, Mitch Easter and Let's Active -- those guys were really into Big Star. To me, Alex Chilton was like the John Lennon of America
Did you know him well?
I met him a couple of times but we didn't really know each other. I know the drummer, Jody Stephens, we're still friends. They performed the entire 'Third/Sister Lover' album last spring in New York and I was asked to sing a couple of songs. That was an incredible experience.
You said you took a slightly different creative approach to this album.
I was going after my own stream of consciousness of ideas versus planning a lot of songs out. I wanted to be abstract it and that felt like an organic way to do it, capture the songs as they first came out of my head -- the original impression. That led to a more abstract process which I really enjoyed and which was very different from the way I usually work.
How different is the process today from back in the early '80s when you first started? Is there any real need to adhere to any record-company demands anymore?
I don't feel like I need to adhere to much of anything today, as far as the business goes. It's so different. I can't imagine, if I'd come up now, what it would have been like to be able to record at a professional level at home. When I started, you had to get into a big expensive studio to learn about making records. However, we were the first generation to be able to get a cassette that you could do four-track on and so it was really the precursor to Pro Tools and all that. But I feel like its very free now and I feel very little pressure from what a label would want now.
In the last several years, pottery-making has become an important part of your life.
I taught myself to make pottery as a hobby but I found more and more parallels to how I make my music. To make pottery or write songs I need to get into a Zen-like stare where I kind of forget my mind a bit and just let something happen. Also, making a piece of pottery, a solid object, is sort of humbling. You're just one guy making this one thing and that helps me think about music as a really personal thing. I'm just one guy making this little song. And if someone likes it, great, but I'll just keep on doing it no matter what. I have a little bit of a specialty where I make these cats with long necks, sort of like alien cats. I'm a cat person, I have four cats, and in fact one of them was the basis for the cover of the new album. I've never really had a hobby outside of music, so pottery gives me something different to do when I'm not in the mode of making music.
Are they the kind of items you could sell at a merch booth while on tour?
If fact I do it now, I usually bring some out to sell. I make lots of miniature things so it's easy to carry, little cats or little vases and things. It's a personal little thing so it's fun, and fans can have something that they'll know I made with my own two hands.
This fall you've been touring the U.S., playing the entire 'Girlfriend' album in honor of the 20th anniversary.
Playing the entire album for the 20th anniversary was important for us but it's been a little bit of an ordeal to go back and to re-learn how to pay all of the songs! This was something I feel strongly about doing because people have lots of sentimental feelings about the 'Girlfriend' album.
What is it, do you think, about that album that resonates with your fans?
I think it has to do with the emotional angles on it. It has songs about falling in love on it, it has songs about falling out of love on it and I think that really resonated with young people who were in relationships. Plus, it's kind of honest in terms of talking about love and feelings and things which generally is not the coolest thing to do in rock. I always liked honest artists that do that, people like John Lennon and Neil Young that explored that kind of stuff.
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