OFF THE RECORDS: Tripped a Fan

Happy Turkey-ocalypse, everyone!

In a very short time, Globecat has become quite a little entity into itself. Between Dave, Ben, Anna, and myself, this small little interviews blog has somehow transformed into something substantial and significant, a place where people go to for the latest in-depth interviews with some of music's biggest names and newest stars. It took about a month to set everything up, but when we launched in mid-June of this year, none of us could have predicted that we'd be interviewing the likes of Rob Pollard, the Vivian Girls, Phil Elvrum (our first Aleatory ever, BTW), and so many more. Then of course came Davecat's massive, fantastic Tori Amos Comic Book Tattoo feature (have you read it?) and my crazy-epic interview with Mouse on Mars. Every day we get e-mails from publicists, bands, managers, and many many more: it never ceases to amaze us.

Yet, as you can imagine, this site has consumed quite a bit of our time, and -- especially following today's Thanksgiving feasts -- we're ready to take a little bit of a break. We're not going offline or anything (far from it); we're just taking a bit of a breather before we jump into all of the interview-filled insanity that is 2009.

So, in the interim, we want to do two things. First, we want to thank you regular fans that read us, link us, and blog us on a frequent basis -- we're intensely grateful for all of your support. Second, we want to invite you to send any new sounds, ideas, or songs to globecatmusic [at] gmail [dot] com, as we'll still be checking it on a regular basis before we relaunch in a few weeks with an expanded staff and even more fun/exciting content.

So keep it tuned right here for the latest! Thanks for helping in this wonderful year -- let's make '09 even bigger.



ALEATORY #16: A-Trak

It's not every day you get to use the world "prodigy". Then again, it's not every day that you win five of the world's biggest DJ competition championships, making you the first DJ (ever) to do so.

Yet that's exactly what A-Trak (real name Alain Macklovitch) did. This young Candian DJ has so far accomplished a lot with his mind-bending mixes ("Feeling for the Pack" being Evcat's personal favorite), remixes (Kanye's "Stronger"), and his record label (the fabulous Fools Gold imprint). When not touring with Kanye West, he spends his time perfecting his craft, creating Nike+ Original Run mixes for iTunes, and answering Aleatory questions for Globecat! And here they are!


1. Favorite word?


7. Favorite composer?


14. Favorite sound?

"Fresh" scratch sample.

20. Favorite new band?

Vampire Weekend.

22. Favorite vice?

Picking my nose.

23. Favorite natural oddity?

Boogers? (trying to keep a theme going here)

26. Favorite badass?

Ron Burgundy.

28. What instrument would you most like to learn to play?

Old synths.

32. Best thing you learned this week/month?.

In England, the reason why there are no garbage cans in public places is because of terrorist threats. I thought I just couldn't find them and started thinking there was something wrong with me.

41. If you could go anywhere in the universe, where would it be?


46. Where do you keep things hidden? What do you keep hidden there?

I wish I had a shoebox or something like that... but I don't really have anything hidden.

53. So far in your career, what's been your biggest regret?

No regrets dude! I've been blessed.

66. Worst song you've heard recently?

Anything by Pink.

72. A few years ago, Beck gave an interview for SPIN in which he lamented the glut of reality TV shows and blogs about musicians, wanting to know less details about their life because he felt they were more mysterious that way (he liked to envision Devo as living in a crazed art-deco pyramid when he was young, instead of just some guys in a tour bus). Do you feel that there's a lack of mystique out there for musicians in today's YouTube age? Do you feel your band carries any mystique?

This may seem counter-intuitive at first but I actually think it's possible to be on youtube and write blogs and still carry an air of mystery. If what you're showing of yourself is out of the ordinary, then your fans will constantly want to see more. I started writing blogs when I did my first tour with Kanye 4 years ago and I haven't looked back since. I remember the first time I met Jay-Z I posted a picture of myself with him and Kanye backstage. Even though people saw that I met him I'm sure they were wondering what our interaction was like, so it actually sparked more mystique.

74. Better to burn out or to fade away?

Quit while you're ahead, like Seinfeld.

77. What was the hardest part about recording your current release?

My lastest release is my single "Say Whoa". I think the hardest part of recording that song was finding the right sounds. The track is really stripped down so every element had to fit, and I tried a bunch of bass sounds before getting to that one.... which in fact is really simple.

80. Worst run-in with the law (to date)?

I never had any run-in with the cops. But I've had all sorts of adventures with border patrol during my travels, especially when I was younger and didn't have work permits. They use to bring me to "the room" when I was 16.

86. With Radiohead's In Rainbows release and Nine Inch Nails doing boffo business with his online releases, do you see yourself ever doing some alterative kind of release for any of your future projects?

You just taught me the word boffo. I like it a lot, and I will use it a lot. And to answer your question... yes.

88. What's your deepest source for musical inspiration?

Rhythms that pop up in my head.

89. You just died. I'm sorry. Fortunately, your will states that you want very specific music to be played at your funeral. What did you choose?

The theme from the Curb Your Enthusiasm.


Visit A-Trak's official blog.


INTERVIEW: The Marches

We get a ton of e-mails here at Globecat. This shouldn't be too surprising: we deal with a lot of artists at any time, so we are inevitably signed up for PR mailing lists, get invited to CMJ parties, and receive lots of e-mails from managers who are kindly helping us contact some of our favorite musicians. Yet, every once in awhile, we get an e-mail from a band, contacting us directly. Obviously, we have not the time nor the means to take time out for each and every upstart act for an interview, but, every once in awhile, there's that one group that is just so profoundly different, new, innovative, and daring that, yes, we want to take a risk on them. This is how we discovered the incredible Pale Young Gentlemen, and this is how we discovered The Marches.

Richard Conti, for all intenstive purposes, is the Marches. Band members flow in and out, their contributions making the Marches seem like it's much bigger than it is. Yet there's something profoudnly magical about this band, as unlike, say, the Brian Jonestown Massacre or NIN, Richard Conti does not have a studio. Or equipment. Or anything. The inside jacket to 4AM is the New Midnight, the Marches' debut, tells of this album being recorded in the houses and homes of family and friends, all on borrowed equipment and borrowed time. It should be the homespun indie-basement masterpiece of yesteryear, but, it's much more than that. Songs like "Need Me Back" feature Aphex Twin-like drumming, sorrowful horn sections, and Portishead-styled female cooing, making for one genre-twisting, head-spinning experience. Vocoders get tossed around, pop songs move in and out of the ether, and even when you hear some voices strain against what is obviously the bad acoustics of a bathroom wall, there's a humanity and vulnerability that seeps through these notes, trasncending their budgets and their surroundings. It's a Major Label album on a nothing budget. It is under these circumstances that the best music is often made.

Speaking with Evcat, Conti details the making of this album, his proudest moments in doing so, and the obvious struggles of recreating such a sprawling set in a live context. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you ... The Marches.


>>The thing that immediately struck me about the album, unsurprisingly, was the sheer wreckless abandon of genres that was tackled, ranging from the simple rock tones of "Wish You Were Here" to the faux-classical leanings of "Sometimes Sex Isn't About the Money", along with the overriding Motown/Dap-Tones classic soul vibe that permiates the rest of the disc. When you're recording a Marches song, do you start by tackling a specific genre or is it more of an organic process?

I have no say whatsoever in what style the songs are. It’s whatever it starts or evolves as. There are so many styles that I listen to, I didn’t want to limit my output. I wanted to make the best song for every song without compromise. With that said, I heard this Quincy Jones interview on the anniversary edition of the Thriller album. And he was saying that he told Michael Jackson that for the album to be the success that they wanted it to be, they would need to have a rock song with crossover appeal and that’s how “Beat it” and Eddie Van Halen’s solo came about. I think I already had the guitar riff for “Wish You Were Here” but that Quincy Jones statement made me think it was (or would be) good to have a rock song on the album too.

>>One thing that seems to be important in the disc is the homespun feel to it, as various rounds of applause and between-song banter appear prominently throughout the disc. What was the reasoning behind their inclusion?

I don’t know how it happened but there is some humor in this album which goes hand in hand with the applause on “Wish You Were Here”, the bickering on “End of the Album, pt. 2” and people laughing in the middle of songs here and there. It feels nice to hear that type of thing. Friendly. Especially since everything on the album is either so sardonic or dark harmonically speaking. A nurse’s smile with your flu shot.

>>Given the sprawling nature of 4AM is the New Midnight, it must be somewhat of a challenge to recreate these tunes in a live context. What can we expect during a Marches live show?

Live is amazing. Completely raw and stripped down. There is no way I can have sax sections or organs or grand pianos at shows. There are vocals, guitar, drum set and then I do vocals, synth, bass, samples, and saxophone. The guitar is clean with reverb and handles most of the albums sax section and piano parts. It’s like hearing different versions of the same album. “Rudolph Valentino” is one of my favorites to do live because it becomes a punk song. The bass is very distorted. And it’s such a juxtaposition, this evil strangling bass line and Brizza’s supple immaculate vocals over it. “Bad Touch” we did in French. I always hate it when I see a band live and it’s exactly like the album except just not as good sound. There’s really no point to that. Live should be different from the album.

>>It has been noted that a majority of this album was recorded on borrowed equipment in various friends' houses. From a production standpoint, was there ever an attempt to "unify" the record given its various surroundings? What were the pros and cons of moving the Marches around to different spaces?

The album is unified in that it was recorded on crap. Maximum $200.00 mic’s and $100.00 preamps that weren’t even mine. Plus when I mixed everything, that’s going to have my stamp on it, with reverb I used, how many times I layered vocal tracks, where I pan the drums, etc. Even though it was recorded in 20 different places, it was recorded and mixed in my own idiosyncratic way. I mixed a lot of vocals like how Elliott Smith does, even the robotic ones.

As far as pros/cons of moving to different spaces, only cons. Really though, the album would never have been recorded any other way. I feel fortunate that I live now and have a portable studio that is my laptop. If I lived in any other time period previous, this album would have never been made. By being able to go to friends’ houses I was able to get as many people as I wanted on the album and I was able to get the right people for the right parts. There would have been no way to get this many people in the studio at the same time if I had to record in a traditional studio. And I would never have had the money. And all the mixing and tweaking that went into it. Really microscopic, and that all adds up. You couldn’t pay a mixer to do that detailed of a job, to care that much. Because they don’t do that detailed of a job and they don’t care that much. No one else is going to work harder for your anything other than you.

Some of the tracks miraculously really sound like they were done in a studio proper. But the overall sound is not as clear as something like The Good, the Bad and the Queen. That could actually be a good thing. Chris and I have been listening to a lot of 90’s music lately and a lot of it sounds really dated in a bad way. There is even an acoustic guitar in a James album that sounds really 90’s and it’s only an acoustic guitar. Unkle sounds really dated. And these albums were recorded with decent budgets I’m sure. But then you hear Robert Johnson recordings, old Russian Orthodox choir recordings or some Charlie Parking recordings. And they sound like crap because they were recorded on crap. But the music is amazing and it doesn’t sound dated, only aged, and aged well at that. Ghostly and reverent. And in Motown, sometimes the drums are peaking. One time I was transcribing some horn parts for the Marvelettes “Don’t Mess with Bill” and I couldn’t figure out if I was hearing a guitar or a horn section. How bad does the sound have to be if it’s difficult to tell the difference between 3 saxophones and a guitar? But no one has shit on Motown and it holds up. My theory is that the better the recording quality the easier it is to sound dated, the worse sound recording quality the easier it is to age well. So the fact that the Marches 4 a.m. is the New Midnight was done on nothing for nothing is a good thing.

>>Listening to the duetting robotic vocals of "Bobby Brown", I'm somewhat reminded of Kanye's recent vocoder-affected work, but I have a feeling that listening to this disc five years from now, another element will be reminiscent of some other stylized pop figure. Is there any particular song or moment on the album that you are particularly proud of?

In “So Ill”, when the instrumental break down comes in right before the last chorus, for those 16 seconds, if you close your eyes you’ll be in 1965 Detroit.

End Scene. So if you listen to Mark Ronson, and who am I to criticize as he’s not rapping about murdering people, calling black women bitches, etc. He’s doing amazing work by injecting 60’s soul into popular hits with Amy Winehouse, but with all the money, all the $30,000.00 microphones, all the studio time, engineers and orchestras, he’s never produced anything more Motown than those 16 seconds in “So Ill”. And that’s the truth.

>>To what degree is Richard Conti the Marches? i.e. the Smashing Pumpkins -- regardless of band roster -- is fundamentally Billy Corgan. Given the numerous contributors to this disc, how is the Marches, as a band, defined?

I am the Marches. It’s like Nine Inch Nails/Trent Reznor. Personnel can and will change. I don’t know how I can answer the second part of your question. Whatever I do is what the Marches is.

>>Finally, so far in your career, what's been your biggest regret, and -- conversely -- what's been your proudest accomplishment?

Proudest accomplishment is this album, 4 a.m. is the New Midnight. Worst thing is that my Grandfather died in February and I didn’t get the album out before that happened. But my uncle did show him the video for “Sometimes Sex isn’t About the Money”. So he saw something. Another big thing is that all my grandparents’ names are on the album jacket. In print.


Visit the Marches' official website.


INTERVIEW: John Pierson [Screeching Weasel/Even in Blackouts]

John "Jughead" Pierson has been a fixture on Chicago stages for twenty-two years. As a musician, he was guitarist for the extremely influential punk band Screeching Weasel, and now writes the songs and strums the chords for the acoustic pop-punk group Even in Blackouts (pictured above: Pierson with EiB's lead singer Liz Eldrege). As an actor, Pierson has been a part of The Neo-Futurists' long-running show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind: 30 Plays in 60 Minutes since 1996. (If you see them perform, he's the guy with the crate.)

In the spare moments in between stages recently, John took the time to talk with Davecat about music and theatre, theatre and life, and what it's like to be an outsider in a scene you've influenced so heavily. Thanks so much, John: we truly apprciate it.


>>>> How much does being a member of the Neo-Futurists affect your daily life, and your life as a musician? Does any of the TMLMTBGB philosophy of non-illusory theatre, the stage as a continuation of daily life, etc. carry over into Even in Blackouts' live shows?

Being a Neo-Futurist affects every day of my life. Since we write short plays about our true experiences, almost anything in a day can be turned into a performance. It makes one aware of the universal elements in our own unique lives. Too Much Light also helped me to better write in a short, concise form, which lead to me finally being able to write a song. All through Screeching Weasel, I really didn’t think I was qualified to write song lyrics. Everything sounded dumb when shortened, but having to create meaningful multileveled material every week in TML helped me to simplify themes, and confirmed my already apparent style of abstracting nonlinear events, and writing through emotion instead of a literal linear logic.

I don’t know how playing live with music and theater have affected each other. I have been doing both equally as long, so they have always existed together. I tend to be much more out-of-control when performing music, I feel I am only tied to a rhythm and all else is chaos and dangerous potential. Theater, even in random order, is much more controlled, for the most part.

>>>> In the same vein, what connection is there for you, if any, between being onstage as an actor and as a musician? Between writing music and writing plays? Are they different mediums to explore the same ideas you're always struggling to express, or are your music and your playwriting separate?

I think much of this question came out in my last answer. I have been told lately that I am the type of artist who exhausts a theme, in a positive way. For instance in TML every few months I will show up with a play where I stick my head in a crate, or I walk in a crate, or do a head stand in a crate. Crates are a theme I am in the process of exhausting. I try to explore every aspect of a metaphor, challenging myself to make similarities feel different. This crate theme does not carry over into the band. But the writing for the band has a definite series of images and themes that I am exhausting: Ghosts, memory, family, decaying houses, miscommunication, and doors.

>>>> You've been a major figure in the punk scene, both in Chicago and elsewhere. Blink-182, Green Day, and others have cited Screeching Weasel as an influence, and you've been in the pop-punk business since the mid-1980s. How has the scene changed since you've been a part of it? Has time been good to the scene, or is it all going the way of the Fireside Bowl?

This is a hard question for me to answer. Much of my beliefs about scenes and my relation to them are exhaustedly explored in my book, Weasels In A Box. Even in a scene of outsiders, I felt like an outsider, perhaps we were all like that, but I had a harder time hiding it than others. All the bands you have mentioned, I have spent time with, have gotten to know them, but would never even consider myself a close or distant friend to them, I know nothing about their lives and their relation to their scene.

I could say that the kids of the early nineties appeared to be more excited by the foundation of the punk movement, people seemed to put more emphasis on social awareness, still believing in creating change. We believed in helping outcast kids struggling with a school system and culture that felt restrictive; a country that prides itself on individualism but doesn’t support it’s progressive arts, and is afraid of a child who questions his teachers and parents. Even when Ben Weasel was writing a goofy song about a girl, there was always an undertone, a moral system we believed in, fighting depression with activism instead of drug abuse, getting yourself out of a stifling town before it kills you; learning to see the similarities and differences in the things we may fear, like other cultures, sexual preferences, knowledge… Its not that I believe these elements are gone from music, it is the diffusion that is inherent in trying to emulate instead of being inspired. Many of the pop punk bands of today dominate their lyrics with meaningless, sugary, gumball chewing, sarcasm. We felt one of our goals in the punk scene was to rescue it from where hardcore had taken it, unknowingly, to a non-melodic, and very serious, pedantic, political leaning that left out the importance of a sense of humor, and playfulness. We brought back the melody and harmony into punk songs and magnified the playfulness and absurdity we saw in our forefathers: Circle Jerks, Adrenalin OD, Descendents. My one criticism would be that from what I have seen, the preceding generation may have taken the new leaning too far once again.

>>>> Most of the places you perform now are small in size: the Neo-Futurarium seats 150, many of the venues Even in Blackouts has played are bars and basements. What is there in particular that's so appealing about these intimate spaces for you? Would you feel comfortable on Broadway, or playing the United Center if the opportunity arose?

No, I would feel uncomfortable, but I would do it! I am not driven towards that lifestyle, but I do not scoff at them either. It’s just that my passions are planted in the exploration of the intimate. I love hearing the reactions of individuals and not those of a crowd or mob. It helps guide me in my pursuits more honestly. It is not a wise-financial move, but this smallness contains elements that are important to me.

>>>> Do you write specifically for Liz, or are words words and it doesn't (or shouldn't) matter if they're sung by her, another woman, a man, etc.? Likewise, when writing for TMLMTBGB, is the focus mainly on fitting the format, or are you looking to make plays that could potentially be performed by any group of people anywhere?

I think it is very important, this is not to say I can’t write songs from a man’s point of view for her to sing. It is just important to be aware of the point of view and tone, so that I am saying what I mean to say. I was more conscious during the beginning of the band, to write songs that were more sexually ambiguous. What is similar in our lives. I would talk to her about our relationships and try to construct songs that were true for both of us. If leaving were to be so easy is a good example, is speaks of the difficulties of love and personal space, and really has no specific gender. Later I played with putting myself in the woman’s position, and also writing from both sides like in "Curtain." The new record is sprinkled with songs written from the point of view of someone who has to deal with me, and dangerously self-contained people like me. This comes out in songs like "Untitled Conflict Song" and "517 East Highland."

In Too Much Light, is important not to get stuck in any one way of writing. We have to be so prolific that we would very quickly start repeating ourselves if we didn’t take into consideration who we are writing for and what are the circumstances involved in our current lives and environment. This is just as important for me in Even In Blackouts.



ALEATORY #15: The Bound Stems

Sometimes, life can surprise you. It certainly surprised Evan Sult.

Evan, you see, used to be the drummer for this little band called Harvey Danger (whose frontman, Sean Nelson, was Globecat's second-ever interview). After their cult-classic album King James Version got virtually ignored, the band amicably split, and Sult joined forces with Bobby Gallivan, Dan Radzicki, and Dan Fleury (all high-school basketball buddies) to form the Bound Stems, an extraordinary little pop group based out of Chicago. Their first album, 2006's Appreciation Night, received great reviews, but their latest disc -- The Family Afloat -- has received near-universal praise, receiving an extraordinary 82 rating on Metacritic, and, of course, let's not forget about that time the band got to open for the Lemonheads.

Sult may be surprised by the success of his various bands, but the Globecat staff here was even more surprised by the answers Sult gave for Globecat's 15th Aleatory: honest, funny, witty replies that not only give insight into Sult's unabashed love of music, but also into the man behind the drumkit and what it is that motivates him. Ladies and gentlemen, Evan Sult of the Bound Stems ...


1. Favorite word?

Words are family. Today I have been appreciating the word "undo"—four letters, and such a gratifying, complex meaning. Tim Sandusky (Appreciation Night co-producer) and I were talking about it today. "Undo" pre-dated the digital age as a word, but the concept of "undo" (versus, say, "undoing") is possibly the greatest single innovation of our age. And then we got into a sort of ongoing consideration of the possible differences between "un-" and "dis-," which led us to consider such options as "disused" versus "unused"—clearly different meanings. I think now of words such as "disable" and "unable." And, of course, there's no such thing as "disdo"...though it's interesting to consider what that phrase might imply.

Most days bring a new favorite word.

9. Favorite song to start (or end) a mixtape with?

I like strange music with a pop spine as much as I like pop music with a strange heart. Two of the best recordings in the world are "Master-Dik" by Sonic Youth, and "The Classical" by The Fall. "Best recordings," by the way, should not be confused with "best songs," just as best friends are not necessarily the same as best experiences.

16. Favorite campfire story?

My partner Paige and I were at Mammoth Cave Park in Kentucky not too long ago and we had a couple guitars and pretty soon we were singing songs by Silver Jews, Pavement, Bound Stems, Tom Petty... It was late, we were being really quiet, but eventually the park ranger came over and told us we had to pack it up. We spent another half hour talking with him about music while he checked out our guitars; he was probably the friendliest guy in a uniform that I've ever met. Plus, the fire itself was built perfectly. I don't know about you, but I get kind of obsessive about constructing a well-made, efficient fire. This one was a long-burning beaut.

I know, not the same impact as The Ghost With One Red Eye, but my favorite campfire story.

18. Favorite pick-up line?

"You know, you're right: you SHOULD quit smoking."

Man, when I was first single after an 8-year relationship that I thought would be my last, I realized a hard truth: I had NO GAME whatsoever. None. My essential character was either interesting or not to the person I was talking with; I was no more capable of small talk as a single person than I was as half of a couple.

I eventually...eventually I think I just got more comfortable being myself. Everyone knows the connection happens the day after you really, truly stop trying—and everyone knows it's impossible to consciously stop trying. Once I got there, I had my share of adventures. I'm really glad I'm not single now. The girl I used that line on, I tell you, she's something else. And neither of us have smoked a cigarette in a long time.

22. Favorite vice?

Skipping work to get in some time at the practice space. Don't tell the folks I work with!

26. Favorite badass?

Honestly, the biggest badass I've met in my life may be a gentleman by the name of Lee. But he's a secret. The biggest badass I've never met may be a gentleman by the name of Mark E. Smith.

35. What's the best place you've randomly discovered while on tour?

There are a lot of great places I'd never know about if not for tour.

The one that springs to mind first is the Middle East in Cambridge MA. Their falafel is the best I've ever had, there's free internet, it feels like a coffeeshop staffed with people I like talking to, the sound guy always knows his biz, the drum monitor is enormous, and the Boston paper has the only crossword that can keep up with the New York Times'.

Wait! I nearly forgot because it's been so long, but when I was in Harvey Danger we got to go to the GREATEST PLACE IN AMERICA (while it existed), which was called Fort Thunder. It was in Providence RI, and it's gone now, but it was the weirdest, coolest community of whacked-out comic artists, screenprinters, bike redesigners, and interior space inventors I've ever even dreamed of. We knew this guy Brian Ralph who lived there, and as he took us around the space, my brain dropped out of my skull and bounced along behind me. I've never recovered. I contributed a few of my impressions to a beautiful elegy on Fort Thunder written by my friend Tom Spurgeon, which you can find here: http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/briefings/commentary/1863/

THAT was the best place I found on tour.

36. Lyrics first or music first?

I'm the drummer, so: whatever gets a song started. On Appreciation Night, we mostly didn't know the lyrics, or even the melody, even as we were laying down the instrumental tracks; Bobby sweated those out later. On The Family Afloat, we knew a lot more about some of the songs--"Winston," "Taking Tips," "Cloak of Blue Sky"--so we could adjust parts to feelings. I love doing parts on drums, or in later production, that relate to the lyrics. Like in "Happens to Us All Otherwise," there's a moment where Bobby sings "while the telephone rings, the telephone rings!", and we spent half a day figuring out how to build in the disruption noise a cell phone makes on your stereo when it's got an incoming call. I mean, why not?

43. What's the road ahead look like?

We'll see. Bound Stems just put out The Family Afloat in September, so hopefully that'll pick up listeners through the winter. We've got a teacher, a student, an artist and some professionals in the band, so we won't be on the road for awhile, but we'll be playing shows as possible.

Paige and I are writing and recording music as Sleepy Kitty, and we hope to have some music to show soon--we have one song on an upcoming Huey Lewis tribute comp called "Are You Still With Me?!". Radz is on track to become a PhD, Bobby loves to teach and may be looking at law school in the future, Fleury just got a new job, Janie's been putting in a lot of time at work, I've got a new art+music studio in St. Louis that I'm ecstatic about... hopefully our new circumstances keep us excited about making music. It's certainly possible. I know Bobby's writing some acoustic-based songs, and Radz was building some amazing soundscape pieces during the writing process for the last album, so maybe those will develop into Bound Stems songs, or into new projects.

Me, I just want to write music!

One thing I do hope happens in the near future: one of Bound Stems' best songs, in my opinion, is called "Hooray Madame Corday!", and we intentionally left it off The Family Afloat so that we'd have something awesome waiting in the wings. I really want that song to get out in the world and get heard. It's about the French Revolution, and it features the life, death, and vengeful ghost of Charlotte Corday. I hope we can release a single or an EP or something with "Corday" as the centerpiece.

44. Something you've heard, know is false, but wish were true with all your heart?

"Americans are better than that."

52. At what point did you realize that music was going to be your full-time occupation?

Sitting in an unfurnished corner of one of the New York airports with the members of Harvey Danger, discussing the crazy major label record deal we'd just been offered. We were all struggling to understand the ramifications: we were going to have to quit our jobs and careers, we were going to be spending a year on tour, we were entering a whole new industry that we'd heard legends and rumors and tall tales about all our lives.

That was when I knew it would be an occupation--and it was, for several years. But for various reasons, it wasn't until after Harvey Danger had ended and I'd moved out to Chicago, met these guys that eventually became the rest of Bound Stems, written music furiously for a couple of years, and paused to figure out what we wanted to do next, that I realized: I want Bound Stems to make an album. I'll put in all the money I have, all the time, all the energy, all the art, all the skill, everything I've got--which was meager compared to what Harvey Danger's resources were there for a while, but which was so much more complete in terms of my own creative efforts. I wanted the album (which became, a couple of years later, both Appreciation Night and the Logic of Building the Body Plan EP) to be a pure statement of exactly what we wanted to make. We spent 3 or 4 nights a week writing, and I spent every day before work, during lunch, and walking home from work, listening to practice space recordings and rough studio mixes.

Evenings in the studio with Tim Sandusky. Nights wandering through Chicago with a little recording device, grabbing Chicago's trains, buses, bikes, conversations, snowcrunch. That was when I knew I wanted music in my life full time. Harvey Danger showed me the lightning-strike version; Bound Stems showed me the version where we earned every inch.

58. Least rock star thing you've ever done?

I have met rock stars. I've never been a rock star. I could just as easily tell you the least attorney thing I've ever done, or the least astronaut thing I've ever done. I've never lost a case on the moon.

59. Worst venue you've ever played?

Never blame the venue. Although the guy at the Khyber in Philly who told us he couldn't afford to pay us while literally holding fistfuls of $20 bills from the all-you-can-drink night that was just getting started: that guy can fuck right off. And the sound guy in Des Moines who failed to notice that Bobby was getting shocked by the mic even though Bobby kept appealing to him ON MIC to do something: that guy should get fried, then fired. Knucklehead incompetent petty thief lout!

67. Do you reach any kind of personal catharsis when it comes to songwriting/performing?

Songwriting is the GREATEST. I don't know if "catharsis" is the word I'd use, but teasing a song from its first bits to the moment when you can actually play the whole thing through from beginning to end--man, there's just nothing like it. Except, of course, recording the song. Songs don't really exist until there's a recorded version. There may be a few recorded versions, there may just be one, but that's what it takes to get from the idea of a song to the song as an actual thing that exists in the world. And getting to that point is about the most gratifying feeling ever.

Performing is something else entirely. I've learned a lot playing with Bound Stems. It's tricky figuring out how to make a show more than the sum of its parts. I don't know if, say, Blonde Redhead actually feel as transported onstage as they make me feel when I'm watching them. In my own bands, in my own experience, the best moments are the rare ones when the band soars out into uncharted territory--a brief opening jam, a prolonged instrumental section, an averted disaster--and makes it safely back to familiar ground. To me that's proof that a bunch of folks who work hard together on something can learn to speak a collective invented language.

68. Favorite interview you've ever been a part of (aside from this one, obviously)?

In Washington DC, Harvey Danger was interviewed by a high school kid for his high school paper. Sean and I just buttonholed the kid and really used that interview to think about all the weirdness we'd been experiencing for the previous year. It was a huge release for us personally, and absurdly overdone for the context. I mean, we probably talked to the guy for 4 hours.

The part that really makes it great, though, is that Bound Stems toured through DC a couple of years ago, and who should come up to me but this kid--now no longer a kid, of course, but a really interesting guy with an interesting life. He was a writer for a local scene magazine, he was thoughtful and well-spoken--and his band, the Fake Accents, was playing with us that night! Which I thought was just a flat-out amazing turn of events.

79. Best concert you've ever been to?

I think that Howe Gelb, with or without Giant Sand, is probably my favorite performer. He has a way of interacting with the audience and the band that I've never seen before. It's a sense of humor, but also a sense of, I don't know, responsibility to his own weirdness. Every moment he's onstage is just as fascinating as every other moment, whether he's singing a song or telling a story or tuning his guitar or getting conversational with the hecklers who seem to be drawn to his light like so many moths. I suspect the heckler may even travel with him, though that would be crazy. He's spent so many years making so many albums, and they all express his singularity.

80. Worst run-in with the law (to date)?

My mugshot comes from a misunderstanding with store security regarding some medicine I didn't steal but that I did accidentally put in my pocket. I went all the way through Seattle's King County court system to get exonerated--jury selection, cross examination, the whole bizarre ritual.

"Not guilty, y'all got to feel me!"

But here's a better story: I was walking down the sidewalk in Chicago when I saw an open, upright briefcase on the sidewalk. I checked up and down the street--no one. Knowing there had to be some reason not to, I leaned down and cracked the briefcase further open to see what was inside. I saw sunglasses, file folders, plastic bags...and then there was a crackling sound. RIGHT beside me was a parked police car, with an officer climbing out of the driver's side and talking into his radio. Mustachioed, short, burly, mirrored glasses, the whole thing. He saw me crouched over the briefcase, yelled, "FUCK are you doing in MY BAG?!", and came barreling at me. I jumped back, but he rammed me into a fence and just laid into me verbally. I just kept my hands up and kept my mouth running. He looked ready to break my jaw--but his radio squawked again, and as he decided whether to deck me or do his job, I slid out of his grip and backpedaled away as fast as I could, apologizing as I went.

I can be such a dumbshit.

82. Current pop song that you would file under "guilty pleasure"?

Nothing at all occurs to me. One thing I've noticed though is that songs I used to HATE ten years ago are just as woven into my musical background as songs I loved. Stone Temple Pilots, Marcy Playground, Sublime, stuff that used to make me really grind my teeth--a lot of it is just part of the past now, and it's fine. That's probably the closest I feel to guilt about music: finding myself singing along to "Love in an Elevator" while running an errand in the band van. Twenty-two year-old me would have rolled his eyes and muttered something about corporate manipulation. Thirty-five year-old me doesn't worry about it. I neither like nor dislike the song, the musician, the words--it's just stuff I know osmotically, like the current status of TomKat's child. For some reason, the older the song, the mellower its effect on me.

Actually, I've been somewhat surprised to discover that A) I never hear Offspring anymore, which is a real blessing, and B) I'd say Green Day from any era turns out to be my least favorite music on the radio. And this one is no surprise: Lenny Kravitz writes the laziest songs on the radio, bar none.

More to the point, though, I just don't find myself around pop radio, music on TV, or any of the places where one hears contemporary songs. Even the grocery store only plays decades-old classics. And when I goto the corner 7-11 and hear the dumb John Mayer song that's always playing there--"Say whatcha wanna say" or whatever it is that he repeats for the entire shopping experience--it doesn't make me any more likely to check the radio dial for "new music."

85. What's the biggest mistake you've made that you inadvertently learned a great lesson from?

My Harvey Danger major label experience was all about mistakes. I was distracted by nonmusical problems, my band stopped liking each other, we had entirely the wrong attitude about our own opportunities and capabilities, and we cancelled each other out far more often than we reinforced each other. We loved each other in our own ways, and we had the best of intentions, and we went into it with our heads up and our eyes open--and it didn't matter at all. We ran right into the ridiculous, idiotic, intelligence-insulting, cliched problems that come with working with a major label. We just got creamed by the context.

A year or so after that band broke up (and before they got back together, bless they souls), I left for Chicago not knowing whether I'd play drums again. Once Bound Stems got underway, and as it got more serious, I used the Harvey Danger experience as a lodestone in reverse: whatever HD had decided at that same point, I was going to try a different path this time. It wasn't that I wasn't happy with HD, it was just really clear to me that I didn't want to be on a major label, or aim for a major label, or act like a major label band. I don't think major labels are good for music or musicians, and I am pleased at their fading relevance. I would rather make music in a broken-down barn than listen to a radio promo guy telling me why he's picking the dead wrong song as our single.

And I have to say: I'm happy that so many people got to hear Harvey Danger, and I've met some great people because of that band. Musically, personally, professionally, it turns out I'm more comfortable with the scale and the arc of Bound Stems' accomplishments to date. There's a very direct relationship between the work we've put in and the opportunities we've received.

90. Sexiest thing about you?

By the time you read this, Paige and I will be set up in our new space in St Louis: Sleepy Kitty Graphic Arts Music Etc. It's 3000 square feet of art + music studio projects in a reclaimed brewery that hasn't been occupied since Prohibition. We've scrubbed every surface, painted everything, built a kitchen and bathroom, and moved in all our screenprinting and musicmaking gear. Now we'll have the capacity to do pretty much anything that occurs to us, in pretty much any medium, with pretty much whomever we choose, any time of the day or night.

What could be sexier than that?


Visit the Bound Stems' website.


INTERVIEW: Mouse on Mars [Part III]

The third and final portion of the Globecat interview with Jan St. Werner of Mouse on Mars is here. In Part I, Werner talked extensively about the formation of the dynamic electronic duo, and in the audio-only Part II, claimed that The Love Below was better than Sgt. Peppers. In this final portion, this excitable uber-producer talks about the future of electronic music, how he first met Stereolab, and almost regrettning not signing to Virgin Records. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mouse on Mars ...


You’re such big fans of collaborations. I remember reading a story about you guys and how you just sent in your first demo to the label that Stereolab was on, saying “even if you don’t like what you hear, thank you for signing such great artists” -- and, of course, it wasn’t too long after that before you began collaborating with Stereolab.

We sent this demo, this tape to Too Pure [the label], saying “can you pass it onto [Stereolab]? We really appreciate that band.” It was honestly the only [label] at that time that was trying something that we were interested in on a musical level, which was like music made by a band -- it could even be like one person or two -- but producing music that was completely ... I don’t like the word “hybrid” ... I think you know what I mean. It was music that could’ve been -- it was just “otherworldly”. [Just] a completely different proposal of music; as in, like, not retraceable. […] But it was still [thought] of as music from a band within an indie context, but I think it was like an explosion because it was very subtle, it was very ambient, very melodic …

But that was something where we felt ... because some people had heard our stuff -- even some labels in Germany -- and honestly none of these people understood what we wanted to do with this music. Everyone said like “If this is supposed to be techno, this is really wrong. I mean, what do you want to be: do you want to be a band? Do you want to be producers? Is this meant to be ambient, ‘cos it’s much to neurotic and there’s much too much happening and too many weird sounds and too many changes?” [Everyone] was like, “you can’t chill on that stuff” and everything was wrong. It was not a band. So when we stumbled across [the label], we thought that this is something that we should get in contact with just to see what they think of it. I mean if they had an idea of how we should deal with what we had done -- ‘cos honestly we were a bit desperate! -- ‘cos we just didn’t get any good feedback on what we did. [The label] was just listening to the thing and got back to us and said “We want to speak to you. We have no idea what you’re doing there, but we would like to speak to you -- but could you send us a proper demo first before we get together? What we received had some technical problems -- still, we want to hear it properly.” OK, we sent them another tape -- which was exactly the same thing they had heard in the first place -- [and] they said “It’s making mistakes and it‘s the same! Something must be wrong with your master.” Anyway, we said “No no! This is the way it’s supposed to be: like a long gap in the middle and all these kind of weird sounds inbetween, like, bass distortions” -- all things which were really taboo at that time. And then they came and they came and hung out with us -- these people from Too Pure [Records] -- and basically signed us; and we knew this was the right label to be at. Later we met [Stereolab] when we had an interview date at a café when our album [Vulvaland] was about to be released. Yeah, it must’ve been 1994 -- and they had an interview date for their album at the same café -- and this is where we met the first time. So that is the story about that. [Laughs.]

You’ve been labeled before as an IDM [Intelligent Dance Music] act, and you were talking earlier about the changing state of music. Being in the throe of it all, what do you see as the current state of dance music, and -- more importantly -- where do you see it going, especially in this age where anyone with a MySpace page can put out an album?

Well that’s a lot of questions in one. First, I think dancing has nothing to do with electronic music. You can dance to everything you want to dance to. Yeah, if you’re really scared, you can dance to everything you want to dance to. I think there’s a lot of “dance” music that is really not using any electronic elements and especially now, like, if you see in the past five years, so much ethnic music -- especially in Europe or East Europe -- has really replaced techno in many places. It’s probably something that’s not so practiced in the U.S.; it is definitely here, and it is definitely in Berlin: you have a lot of, like, gypsy bands and ska bands and bands with really high speed rhythm sections [and] incredible brass arrangements that people go mad listening to. So if we speak about techno and electronic music, that’s a totally different arm, and of course that is linked to technology very closely, and technology is all moving in steps, I would say. There are sometimes like incredibly big steps [being] made in a very short amount of time, and then suddenly it seems to slow down. And then things suddenly accelerate again on a totally different platform. So I think [that] once you want to understand history a bit or draw conclusions from what you know concerning the future, you really have to think and assemble bits that are not obviously linked together -- I think that might help you with an estimation. I don’t think any linear prognosis will lead you anywhere. [Laughs.]

That’s the thing: if you speak about electronic music, I think yeah, the most interesting bits for now have been made in the 90s. I think the reason [is that] the past couple of years have been about content -- even dogmas, even like certain traditions which you accept to belong to or not, or you want to deal with or not -- but far less [in terms of] technical things. I think the technology ... it’s just there. The iPhone: it’s nothing big anymore. I mean when I started making music, to own a sampler was an amazing thing, really. And if you think about what’s possible now, yeah: think of your iPhone -- it’s all in there. So what do we want to talk about? It’s nothing to talk about! And the rest of where creativity comes from ... wow, it’s like an endless field of discussion. There’s not much electronic music that I really enjoy listening to. I’ve never really enjoyed pure contrasts or very streamlined ideas of like designing biographies or works of art or works of music. I always like the mix and I like the impurity and I like the way things kind of leak out and become uncontrollable. And unfortunately electronic music for a long time was very predictable and very controllable and there was a whole industry around it -- and still is! [They] want to make it -- keep it -- very predictable, let’s say. But fortunately things will always change.

OK, one last question: so far in your career, what’s been your biggest regret, and -- conversely -- what’s been your proudest accomplishment?

Biggest regret ... you mean like not signing to Virgin Records or something like that? [Laughs.]

If that’s a legitimate regret, then by all means!

We did regret [signing to Virgin] at some point, but in the end, again, we thought we did the right decision because we stuck to the people we really trusted and we knew who we wanted to work with -- yeah, no regret there. [Pause.] Wow, it’s really hard! In a way, I sometimes regret being too honest and not being like “cool enough“ or “business-like”, you know? People who sometimes can really make decisions very cold-heartedly, like, very precisely deciding what is best for the future ... and Andi and me are nothing like that. We’re always like “let’s waste what we have and just throw out ideas and see.” I think sometimes it would’ve probably been better to hold back a bit and being a bit more cool and maybe, I don’t know, waiting with things a bit more -- I don’t know. Actually, I think we would do the same stuff again. And then the biggest, best thing we’ve done is exactly that: just not regretting anything. Like pretending it’s all fine: I think that’s all it always is. Even now, the music industry is just down and nothing really works and we’re just pretending it’s all fine and it’s the best moment ever to be creative because no one can tell you what’s right or wrong anymore! There’s no Next Big Thing and no record label that dominates your creativity. You just do what you want to do and you just throw out your stuff on MySpace or maybe you want to be the one who has like the most MySpace profiles ever -- you can do that, it’s fine! I know people who just open up MySpace profiles one after the other. [They] just pout out the music there and don’t mind if anyone is ever going to listen to it or would ever buy it -- they don’t’ even think about records or all that stuff.

I love records. I think I’ll keep on doing records until I die. I like that. I like the object and I just love it. So I think yeah, we’ll keep on doing that. And for the rest? Just trying to stay being a team -- like a baseball team or something. I think I’m a good catcher and Andi’s a good pitcher. He is a Coen [and] I am the brother.


Visit Mouse on Mars' website.


INTERVIEW: Mouse on Mars [Part II]

Part II of the Globecat interview with Jan St. Werner of Mouse on Mars (don't forget to read Part I and Part III). In this portion, Jan mentions his fondness for collaboration, and claims that OutKast's The Love Below trumps the Beatles' Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band ...

Mouse on Mars Interview [Part II] - Globecat Music


INTERVIEW: Mouse on Mars [Part I]

Jan St. Werner is doing the most rock star thing he can think of right now:

He's pushing his daughter on a swingset.

When Evcat got ahold of Jan in his native Germany, indeed, he was pushing his daughter on a swingset, which was later then followed by an adventure of him parking his car and getting a good view of the sunset. Jan jokes that "Yeah, bet this wasn't what you were expecting were you?" Yet for spending an afternoon with one of rock's most unconventional figures, it actually makes sense.

Jan, along with Andi Toma, forms a band called Mouse on Mars -- one of the most genre-busting, insane, delightfully crazed acts to ever walk the face of the earth. This electronic duo started out as big fans of Stereolab, initially sending their demo to that band's Too Pure record label in hopes that they avant-electronic work they were doing would get some notice in 1993. Their debut album Vulvaland came out in 1994. During this 2008 interview, a lot has happened: the band has collaborated with Stereolab multiple times, soundtracked films, changed their sound on every single album (ranging from big beat to ambient to jazz-affected pop numbers to everything else in between), formed a whole seperate band with The Fall's Mark E. Smith (called Von Sudenfed), and are still regarded as some of the most genre-busting musicians working today. During this epic, three-part interview with Globecat, Jan talks candidly about how MoM got formed, what electronic music holds for the future, and how -- yes -- he would love to produce a track for Britney Spears.

In Part I, Jan talks about the MoM aesthetic, what he's been up to since the flurry of activity the band was a part of in 2005-2007, and reveals that -- surprisingly -- he has never heard a Mouse On Mars record ... [and don't forget to check out Part II and Part III of this epic interview.]


How are you doing?

Good. I’m completely relaxed.

Well I’m of course a big fan -- have been following you guys for years. Yet I must say this is a bit strange, as normally when I conduct interviews, there’s a new album or something else to discuss, but you guys have been pretty quiet as of late. What have you been up to?

We do play a lot, actually. We travel like businessmen, we travel like undercover in airplanes sometimes like for, I dunno, completely weird travel roads to play a show in Spain and then the next day one in Italy and then in Germany [which] then maybe takes us to Russia which I think is the next concert. We do some kind of smaller … well not smaller, but kind of different things, like we played in a group or did like a project with a group, which is more like related to how to play new music, and I’m kind of in [process] -- kind of [an] event that took place in Berlin at the Academy of Arts. That was just one show and we practiced […] and now we’re going to do a couple of more shows [with them] next year. So it’s projects! It’s true like this kind of, let‘s say, the big disco ball of modern art is maybe not as visible as it used to be. But things change anyway. I mean, the music industry is changing and things change and they change for you personally, like your biography, and then things change for the band and we’ve been running for awhile, so things have to become different.

To be honest, I don’t understand why certain bands -- how they manage to make a record, go on tour -- I dunno, hang out in their whatever-it-is …


Or barns out there in the countryside or whatever and then make another record and go on tour and make another record and do this for like 10, 15, 20, 30 years? For me it’s unbelievable. We’re doing this like we’re doing like lots of different projects related to art, and then from our different musical projects ... And then we also did the soundtrack for a movie, and we did another band (basically): this project with Mark E. Smith [Von Südenfed] -- that took some time … [and] then we do some remixes, and then I do a lot of solo, like, smaller or kind of more obscure projects and releases … so we’re completely lost in music and don’t do anything else but music, but it’s not always Mouse on Mars that comes out of it -- so that’s the reason why. But, we do record a new album and sometime next year -- hopefully early next year -- there’ll be a new album and it’ll [get] more or less the same promotional push and all that stuff that you usually get.

One of my favorite things about Mouse on Mars is how you guys have never really done the same album twice: you go from dance-floor stuff to dub to jazz to big beat to abstractions, etc. I think that you have one of the most varied, crazed back catalogs of any artist working today. For jumping around to so many genres, is there any particular “phase” that stand out for you?

Um, to be honest the changes are not that obvious or not that -- I’m really not aware of these things. To me it feels like we’re still riding the same shuttle, we’re still on the same path; but the things that happen to you and the things you see and the way you speak about them and the way you fill your pockets or do your shopping along the journey … is changing, and that is probably what you want to speak about. But I think the core of what we do is still very much the same. The way we work together hasn’t really changed much. Our obsession with sound and particular qualities of sound haven’t changed that drastically. I think, of course, along the lines [that] your skills maybe change or maybe your focus within production is shifting I think we’re very much the same and not much has changed about Mouse on Mars; but, I think that’s probably the reason why we can be so flexible and so open for, like, different impressions. But it’s not that we intentionally try to be a different person [or] a different band, like change our character or change our dress. Actually, we don’t feel at all like that: we feel like we’re very, very average, completely normal people, like not sticking out in any way and everything we do is just working on “our thing”, but it doesn’t even seem like anything’s changing. But I guess if I would like look at our back catalog and compare things, I would have to say “Yeah yeah yeah, this is probably where we were still a bit more, in a way, restrained or a bit more introverted” or “maybe our attention was more focused on mid-frequencies“ or “maybe it’s getting a bit harsher and our focus is shifting a bit up to higher-frequencies” or “the spectrum is opening a bit more” … but concerning [our] development, it’s not that I think things have changed: there was no drastic change in our biography, nothing major concerning our personalities that have brought any change. There was no car crash, no loss of a band member -- nothing like that! There’s absolutely no interesting stories about us. I think we, as people and producers, we’re like completely in the back and this is basically what we work on: we work on an idea that can exist apart from us -- and that is what Mouse on Mars has always been to us. It’s kind of like a, yeah -- really like a character that is animated by us, but it just goes its own way. We have to deal with it, we have to think of it as like writing stories or something, you know? Maybe we’re kind of like the Coen Brothers in a way, you know? Not interesting as such, but trying to get out a different story each time, but in the end it’s always the same story. [Laughs.] I’m really sometimes frustrated by not being able to change as much as I would love to. I think we had so many ideas of like “Maybe we should get a producer, maybe we should just have someone else to write the music and we just play”, but then we have so much fun doing it that we just keep on doing it.

Well it’s not like we’re going to see you produce a Britney Spears album anytime soon …

I would definitely produce Britney Spears! No question! The thing is: it would never, ever happen. No one would let us do it. Even [Britney] wouldn’t let us do it, even if she was completely out of her mind.

Just yesterday I was listening to Vulvaland, and comparing that to Radical Connector and the like, and I was amazed to remember that that album was straight back in 1994, and that dance-floor feel didn’t sound dated at all. So, just out of curiosity, when did you last listen to that album?

[Laughs.] Honestly, I have never listened to any of our discs!


It’s absolutely true, yeah. It happens that I stumble across a track [of ours] or that someone else is playing it somewhere, somehow -- or maybe we want to hear something in the studio in a more analytical way, like “Ah, let’s get back to that track and see how that sounded or how we used that or how that idea was used” or something like very technical or very analytical. I never ever put on a Mouse on Mars album just to listen to it or enjoy it. It’s because I’ve run through that, like, a thousand times and there’s just so much music. If I have time to really listen to something, I just put on … whatever! Definitely not what I’ve already heard like 1000 times. [Laughs.] It’s like life’s too short for that.


Visit Mouse On Mars' website.