Overlee.com interview with Matt Sharp - July 14, 2003
By Josue Munoz
July 14, 2003
Los Angeles, CA
July 14, 2003
Josue Munoz Interviews Matt Sharp 
first of all thanks again for this opportunity, I’m sure it’ll go a lot smoother than the first time.
Matt: (laughs) you’re a pro now, I’m sure it will be.
so how has it been touring the country again?
this last tour that we just finished was the 4th and the most diverse so far. It was done in different sections, in different places we had never been, the drives were crazy, we did 5 weeks and 12,000 miles, which I drove 9,000 of those miles. It’s a strange thing because so much of the show is based on storytelling, that when you see 9,000 miles worth of pavement your brain completely erases any interesting thing you have left to say. This tour was done much different from the other ones. We had some rehearsals, which was one big difference, where we tried to make the shows of a more consistent quality level and that we could just really get into the songs. Part of the tour was done with Josh and Greg, part was done just on my own, and the second to last show with Maya and Danny Frankel.
how did you hook up with Danny?
Danny was the drummer on For the Ladies so I’ve known him for a real long time. He played on some of Seven More Minutes, some percussion stuff. He did like 3 or 4 songs on 7MM, I know he did “Hello, Hello”. Danny is a character beyond belief. We just rehearsed 2 days ago with Maya and he says, “listen, I’ve got to go because there are some humans that await me.” All right Danny, I don’t know what that makes us but okay. He is an incredible person, he’s such a trip. Such a relaxed approach to what we’re doing, he reminds me a lot of my favorite percussion people. There is a guy who works a lot with Mark Holis, who really has a different approach from most people. Especially with Danny, he really knows how to enjoy playing a real simple thing. He could play a shaker for 5 minutes of a song and not get bored or lost and actually be there with you, which is a very difficult thing to find. But back to the original question…we did it in different sections, the first 2 weeks were with Josh and Greg and we had some great shows. The 2nd half of the tour was mainly just me telling stories and it took a completely different atmosphere to it and had a leisured feeling to it. I could play other Rentals songs that I couldn’t with those guys because we didn’t have enough time to rehearse, like “The Man With Two Brains”. Just feel out how the crowd was feeling and just change, if the crowd was in a lighter or darker mood. And as you can tell, I can be really long winded and just talk and talk and talk. I really enjoy to do that on stage and just be able to have a conversation with the audience. But when you’re playing with people it makes it difficult, its like “shut up, lets just play the damn song.” There were a lot of highlights from the tour that were totally different. My favorite shows from the tour were probably Spokane, which we did with Josh and Greg. It was a really funny night and light and we all seemed to enjoy being with each other quite a bit, which was tough at the beginning because we were scrambling and working so hard to make sure the shows were good. So in a strange way, you can’t enjoy them but by the time we got to Spokane everyone seemed to lighten up and enjoy what we were doing. Then there was a show I did on my own, which was one of the first solo shows I’d done in a long time, in St. Louis. It was a perfect evening, I hadn’t been to St. Louis and it was a great feeling to be with those people and be long-winded and tell stories. Then the last show in L.A. with Maya and Danny was a totally different thing. We were in the Winnebago rehearsing up to 5 minutes before we went on and we’re like, “shit, I don’t know how to play this, I don’t know how to play that.” But by the time you get onstage you throw away all the notes and hope that things work well. To me that was one of my favorite shows in the last year. It had a special feeling to it, with the crowd afterward, meeting everybody in the audience, my friends who have stood by my side for no reason but great friendship. So when we were hanging out there was such a feeling of love in the air and I was just knocked out by how decent the people were who are in my life and how fortunate and lucky I feel to be with these people.
Josue:that show definitely had a great vibe and somehow did carry on afterward.
yeah, a big change that I’ve noticed is that when you start making music and are as fortunate as I was to have this kind of instant success, you get a sense of entitlement to it. That for some reason you deserve what is going on around you and you don’t appreciate it because you feel that’s how it’s supposed to be. And for me the main feeling of that show was absolute gratitude towards everybody that was there because now I’ve realized that those people don’t have to be there, they can be anywhere and its incredible that they’re willing to sit down and listen to what you have to say.
how was the reaction from fans been to what you expected?
I think in the very beginning, I might have talked about this earlier, I was quite in the dark about how people were going to receive it. If people were going to be upset that it wasn’t something I had done before, or maybe upset with how rough it is around the edges and there were all these possibilities for let downs. I think in the beginning that was one thing that we really put ourselves on the line, just going out and making it up every night like if it were a rehearsal because literally that’s what it was. Part of that makes it exciting and you get some nights that are really special and you can’t figure out why you got there but everything just connects and everything flows in a certain way. To me that is a really wonderful thing when you can do it. But the down side to that is that every other show can really fall apart and you don’t really know where you’re going, and the audience isn’t following, and the show starts and stops and you can’t get in a rhythm. I think in the end, although I enjoy doing that, I didn’t enjoy the fact that some nights these people who had been waiting a long time to come out and listen to what you have to say and it had been the first time they’d seen you in 5 years, to let them down weighed on me a little bit. It was good for the people who got the lucky evenings that went the right way, but for people who got the raw end of the stick, it was something I couldn’t tolerate. So I decided it was more important for me to make sure that the evenings were more consistent. I think they have been, especially on the last tour. Even the shows with Scott Johnson, it felt like every night we were in a similar place that the bar didn’t drop below a certain point. There were definitely some better nights, some magical nights, but the weaker nights were pretty strong. That is something I’m going to try to continue, to make sure very night rises to a certain level. For somebody who didn’t get to see us for Return of the Rentals, after all that time and they finally come I don’t want to leave it up to chance that they get a good show.
Being in the Rentals seems like it would have been a blast.
I guess the most disappointing thing about Seven More Minutes for me was that we couldn’t share that experience with everybody. It was such a limited tour, just five shows. Everyone of those shows I felt were at a higher level than what we did on the Return of the Rentals tour. We really got to that place and figured out how to capture the thing we were trying to do on 7MM. That feeling that you mentioned earlier about being in Chile, about being overwhelmed with how wonderful it is to live in a different world and really enjoy every moment of life. It was something we wanted to convey live and I think on that tour we were really able to do it even though I was ungodly sick for half of it. That was a very special tour and when we got back it was a very difficult thing to have to figure out how to keep something together that had so many different members and everybody had different issues. There was the financial burden about how you’re going to be able to keep something going because I wanted to have a 6-7 piece band and all these sort of things. It’s a difficult thing when you don’t have a lot of support from your label, which we did not have with that record. We really burned them out so we didn’t have that support around us to make that dream continue on.
do you ever miss that large, celebration-like show?
I think some of the shows we’ve done, like Toronto, was as close to that as it’s been. It was definitely the least somber show out of the whole tour. I’m sure it sounds horrific on a bootleg but when you were there it was such a joyous feeling the crowd was similar to a crowd you’d expect in a pub in Ireland. Here is a perfect example; that night we had our set show we were doing every night, which was kind of in a quiet zone. When we got there we’re doing the first, All Those Dreams, and people are shouting out songs from the past and they were like, “listen, we are not letting you go to that place. We don’t care how much you want to be sad and thoughtful and pensive, we’re not letting you go there so you better just give that shit up and loosen up. Have some fun with it because we’re here to have a good time. That was different from the other shows but it had that same feel as the Rentals shows where everybody seemed to have a lot of joy in them. It was really loose and really scrappy how we pulled it off and I’m sure if I heard a bootleg of it it’d be rough on the ears. It had that feeling so that is one thing I enjoyed from the last tour. Certain nights, no matter where you want to be, the crowd wants to be somewhere else and you can change and just go along with them.
How did the EP come about and any plans for future EPs?
the EP first came about because I did an interview with the magazine In Music We Trust which is an online magazine. It is really well done, they always have really great interviews with a really diverse range of people. My publicist asked me if I’d do the interview and I really enjoy the magazine so I did the interview with Alex, who runs the magazine and the label. So most of the interview turned into, I don’t know if it came out that way, but it seemed to me that atleast 50% of the interview was just about artwork and about my feelings. The big discussion was about how I felt about bootlegging, the state of the record industry, the way the record industry is trying to combat bootlegging and file sharing and all those things. My big feeling at the time, and it still is, is that the record industry essentially is going about it in a completely wrong way. As people are sharing files and downloading mp3s and doing all that, its too bad if the record company keeps making their artwork and designs cheaper and cheaper and the paper gets so thin its like toilet paper. They’re handing you this thing in a plastic jewel case with a CD with artwork that doesn’t have a really tangible sense to it. Its just about the artwork and how it feels and you don’t necessarily feel when you buy a CD now, that you have something special as far as the packaging goes. This was the conversation I had with him. I always felt that if the industry had said they were going to promote how much better the quality of the recordings are and really start putting a lot more thought, and time, and effort into making something that a listener takes home. When they have it at home and they’re listening to this thing, that they make a connection between the music and the artwork, how it feels. To me, that should really take a step up a couple of different levels. The whole jewel case thing should go out the window and maybe be put in more of a book form, similar to those really nice DVDs. I don’t know if you’ve seen the DVD for The Beatles’ Hard Days Night, you open it up and the texture of the paper feels really good and you can just tell that whoever made that put a lot of time into it. I have a feeling that if that’s how records were made and a friend comes up and says, “I have the mp3 of Matt’s new record” and he looks over and he sees this really nice thing that onto itself is a work of art, that they wouldn’t have such a hard time. I think they’re doing just the opposite, instead of promoting how great the product is they just keep bashing on how bad it is that people are doing what they’re doing. I feel, as they should feel, is that its unstoppable. The best quote I’ve heard is that more people are on Kazaa file sharing than voted for president. That’s a pretty heavy stat to deal with and what are they doing now? They’re suing 100 people a week or something? If you’re doing a hundred a week and 60 million people are on Kazaa, you got one hell of a battle ahead of you and they can’t win. Instead of putting all that time and energy, and they’re spending so much on lawyers and all these crazy tactics to try to stop this thing, if they would just put their energies into the right place and say “Hey, we’re gonna make a better product.” Personally, I wouldn’t want to download a book of the Internet and use up all that paper and waste my ink cartridges. If I find out there is a book I really want to buy and it has a hard cover, its nicely done, bound nice, and the papers nice, to me that’s so much more important. So that was the conversation I had with Alex and we saw eye to eye on a lot of that so he suggested why don’t we give it a shot with something. For the EP, I wanted to push that as far as we could, for something that would be 4 songs. He has limited resources so it wasn’t a place where I could ask for a book, but he was willing to go where most people wouldn’t. We made a 4-page booklet and we put a lot of time into it and hand-wrote everything. The art director on the EP, Brian Bos, did such an incredible job on it and spent so much time with me because I’ve very obsessive about the details. Even though its only 4 songs and its an independent release, we really put our hearts into it.
the package really gets your attention and my first thought was, “if this is what he does with an EP, I can’t wait to see what the album looks like.”
and that leads to the next thing, which is the explanation I feel I have to give to you and the people that come to the website. Obviously I wanted to put out the full length last year or the beginning of this year, all the postcards said “early 2003” and that was my dream. Unfortunately, right now that is a very difficult thing to convince the record industry of. I want to put things out that have a weight to it and the way that they’re designed, but it’s a difficult issue. Hopefully we’ll be able to find the right home that will be able to do this time after time. In the meanwhile, there are other EPs and things that will have the same amount of care put into them.
the music you’re making right now isn’t exactly mainstream. Do you think there is any lack of interest from record companies because of this?
the record itself is a challenging record and I knew that it would be even for the most dedicated audience. I’ve been fortunate enough that people have really been open to what the new stuff is about. But its still something that’s challenging to them and if its challenging to them, to the rest of the public its gonna be amplified. There is no back beat to it that’s gonna keep it rolling along on commercial radio or even college radio to some sense. We have found interest and now we’re just trying to figure out who is the right home and who is going to support us and our vision. Most record labels don’t even consider artwork an issue, they don’t put any thought into that.
when you came back last year, did you expect people that were into the Rentals to be into the new stuff? Personally, I know I wouldn’t have been into this when I was 18 years old or younger.
I expected a lot more people to be disappointed. I would have been disappointed if people weren’t disappointed at some point because it’s a definitive change in my life and I don’t expect everybody to just applaud everything you do. At some point you want to make something that is a little more challenging to people. I suppose that some of those people may never like it and some of those people may end up coming back to it a few years later when they’re in a different part of their life. I think one of the big shows for me was a show we did at UCLA, the last show we did with Scott. Even though it was a show in LA, the crowd was totally different from all the theater and café shows you’d seen. It wasn’t those hardcore fans, it was a more casual audience of people who were on campus and just decided to drop by. What was interesting to me about it was that at one point I lived near UCLA campus and was about the same age that the people at the show were. At that point I was in a dream phase of walking through campus everyday and I didn’t attend the school, just lived in the area. I’d have headphones on and listening to music that was quite sad and in a more contemplative place. I was about 19 years old and it meant so much to me and I connected with a different kind of music than I connected a few years before. At that show it was all new people and I felt we were very much together and they understood where we were. I found it really interesting because it was exactly where I was at and in the same environment. At first I thought that the music we’re making now was going to be for a much 9older audience, from 35 and older. But I think now that I’ve spent so much time on the road and at colleges, that there are people at that point of their life that are now open to a new way of looking at things.
does that go the same for you? Is the music you’re making now because of the stage of life you’re in?
I think more than anything, I’ve always felt the same way about music. When I started Weezer with Rivers, Pat, and Jason, that stage in life, when you start your first band you are faced with endless amounts of questions. You really get put in a place of having no answers whatsoever and saying, “how do we find a space where we can create the kind of music that we would want to hear from other people”. This is a very dark place, like being in a dark room and your arms are swinging around trying to grab at anything. For Rivers and I it was an unbelievable place of having a hunger for those answers. We would sit in our living room in the Weezer house and ask questions back and forth and talk from sunrise to sunset about how we do this and how we find that place. What it is about a certain kind of music that elevates you and the other kind of music you don’t connect with at all. We just kept asking these questions and asking these questions, and digging deeper and deeper. Him and I spent so much time together and had such a deep bond of asking questions that finally we found that place where we were creating the kind of music that we wanted to hear from other people. In that time, my whole being was invested in what we were doing in Weezer and I think when you start finding those answers you get a feeling of absolute confidence about where you’re at. Then you go into cruise control and you’re making this kind of music that you like and that for whatever reason connects with me and says something to me about my life. The whole Morrissey thing, (sings) “and the music that they constantly play, says nothing to me about my life.” You’re cruising, enjoying yourself and playing with other artists you connect with and you look at your record collection and the music you’re listening to is really in synch with what you’re doing. And for me I went into that cruise control mode and was performing that kind of music and at some point I stopped and looked down into one of those enormous CD booklets I have, and realized the music I was listening to didn’t have much connection with the kind of music I was playing. It really struck me that I had lost touch with what I wanted to be. For instance, I would go to a friend’s house and he’d be playing in a band that played a certain type of music, punk-pop or something, and I look at his record collection and his tastes are the same as mine. So he is not playing the same kind of music that he is listening to and for me that isn’t the most honest path. Even though I didn’t have any answers for where I needed to go, it was time for me to stop and remove myself and realize I don’t have the answers anymore. It was time to re-ask those questions and see if I could find how to get to this new place. That was the whole reason to go to Leiper’s Fork. Those questions were the exact same questions that I had to ask myself with Weezer. I want to be in a place where I’m making the kind of music that I’d like to hear from other people.
will you continue to record the same way? Acoustic guitars, slide guitar, some piano, etc.
I think the next recordings I will be doing will be with Maya and I don’t really have an idea about what those recordings are going to be intended for or how we’re gonna use them. Its just that when her and I get together, everything relaxes for me and I just feel like I’m sitting in my living room with somebody I greatly admire and feel at total ease with each other. And that is something I want to convey to people and I want other people that aren’t fortunate enough to be able to see her perform with me since we’ve only been able to perform in L.A. and New York. I think its such a beautiful place that she brings the songs to and my next feeling is that its going to be with her and I’m sure those recordings will be quite sparse. I want to do some songs with her where she is singing the lead so we’ll spend a little bit of time doing that.
during the first show you did with Maya, you credited Cheryie for “My Summer Girl” and I had read that she felt unaccredited on Return of the Rentals. Was this because you have felt what that “side” is like?
well it has been brought up a few times while I’ve been on the road where people have inquired about that song. There are 2 songs that I always get asked about, which are the 2 collaborations from those records. One is “My Summer Girl” and the other is “My Head is in the Sun”. People are most inquisitive about what their actual roles were. In regards to Cheryie, we had been working on that song for a while, just Tom and I and I could never get it to a place that I was truly happy about. I was a bit lost on it and Cheryie was the first person from the outside to really support me. So I gave it to her, the music was all already recorded and she brought the cassette back a day or two later with a bunch of ideas revolving around this melody that she came up with. And what we did was we took the lyrical ideas and her melodic idea, Petra helped a lot in the arrangement, and edit them and put them in certain places and see how it would make sense as a whole. I think you could still find it online, if you look at the original bios for Return of the Rentals, it completely credits her for the song. I think the only reason it got omitted from the artwork for Return of the Rentals is because I was really trying to make the credits and the layout really clean and precise and not full with thank-you’s and all sorts of things, which was a mistake on my part. But Cheryie has always had the writing credit on the song, always had the publishing on the song and I tried when initially put out the record to credit her as much as possible. When we did radio interviews I tried to talk about her involvement on the song because its probably my favorite on that whole record. I think the big misconception is that somehow I tried to take full credit and I never tried to do that. In no way did I ever mean to hurt her, I was just a dumb kid who over looked something because I was so concerned with not having anything in the credits. I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with crediting people and making sure that they’re contributions are really well known. So since it has come up, I do try to credit her when I perform it although I don’t think its worth all that much. I look very dearly upon that time that her and I spent together and she really was a very important part of my life. If she feels upset about it, she has nothing but my deepest apologies for that and I guess it’s not much of an excuse to say you were a dumb kid but I was a dumb kid.
so are things good between you guys?
I’ve talked to Rod Cervera about her a few times because I’ve seen Rod a couple of times this past year and I’m never quite sure where she’s at. We always hear rumors that she is Europe, she’s in New York, she’s in LA. So we haven’t had a chance to really talk but I did reach out to her once and hadn’t heard back from her and found out she wasn’t in California anymore. But I hope she’s still doing music because she’s quite a talented woman and I always felt that out of everybody, she might have the best chance to really find an audience because she always had a very easy time connecting to people. When people came see us perform they would be staring at that side of the stage. The other one is “My Head is in the Sun”. A very similar situation to “My Summer Girl”, all the music was recorded and I had a very specific idea about what it was going to be about. But I had written so much about it and got so confused by the density, that I came to Rivers and said, “I want you to listen to this and let me know how you feel about it.” The first thing he said was, “you need to simply this,” and we sat down at a piano in his basement and we both worked on the verses. His advice over and over again, which is usually my advice to people, was to keep simplifying it. In the end, his main contribution was the melody that Maya sings and to me that is almost a trademark or stamp that Rivers puts on quite a few of his songs. More importantly than melodies or anything was the message of “simplify, simplify”. There are very few lyrics to that, there is a novel somewhere underneath it, but I think the simple words say a lot more than the novel did.
I have a really good friend in El Paso, and she needs to know if you’ll ever be playing there and to remind you that Morrissey played 2 nights and that she’ll book you.
well, with each tour we do we try to open up a new place we haven’t been. For instance, we haven’t been to Las Vegas the four times we’ve toured the U.S. That’s a place I want to make sure we get to. We’re gonna try to make sure we’re everywhere and anywhere.
When is Josh's CD expected to be released? What label?
this depends on which one you’re asking about. Josh has been working on a record that’s gonna go under the name Garvey Jay. As far as I know, he is a little over 50% done and I’m completely knocked out by what a beautiful record it is. I know he’s planning on coming to California soon and finish it. It’s a beautiful thing because Josh is one of those people who is so good at doing so many kinds of music that I always thought it must be difficult for someone who has that much talent to find something that has one voice. He could pretty much do anything, any style. The great thing about the few songs I’ve heard are that they have structure and a singular voice and have a great mood to it. The singing gets better every time I hear it. I imagine he’ll be done in a few months. But if he follows in my footsteps it could be a long time before it gets out. But I hope for everybody else, that its not the case and I’m sure that as soon as its available we’ll make sure it’s available through this website and other ways just to make sure people know about it. I’m always gonna be a big supporter and make sure his music is heard because I really think it’s a great find.
what is the status of that Fender Jazz bass with the 50's p-bass (maybe telecaster bass) neck on it you used to play.
its sitting in my living room. I think I mentioned this in another interview that I recently had Greg over to the house and he was playing piano and we were working on some songs. I picked up that thing for the first time in many years and was really freaked out by how heavy it was. After playing all these sort of feminine instruments, or more delicate instruments, like the guitars I play shows with that are so small and light. It was hard for me to reconnect with how at one point I played it because it’s a beast of an instrument that has strings on it that are probably heavier than my guitars. Its such a strange thing if you think about it, because women bass players are some of the best bass players in the world. There are so many great examples of incredible female bass players. And it’s a strange thing because its such a big instrument. When I came up and was starting to play with Weezer, the whole thing was about trying to tame this unruly animal. So I don’t know if I’ll be returning to that instrument anytime soon.
are the specs I have correct?
well that bass is a mongrel. I tried a few different basses when Weezer first started but none I particularly cared for. One was a Jerry Jones, which is like a Danelectro. They’re made out of tile or something, it has a plastic feel to it. It’s not an instrument you can really assault with all your might, it goes out of tune quite easily. The different groups that we were performing with in L.A. kinda said, “listen, you really need to get something you can really beat on.” Everybody was kind enough to donate different parts. Somebody donated the body, another friend the neck, another the pickups, another the bridge and we pieced that all together and tried make it into an indestructible instrument. I really love that thing, it’s seen a lot of wars. Funny thing is that it still has all the blood on it from the last show I did with Weezer, when I got cut in the middle of the performance and there is blood all over the pick guard and the neck. I kinda like to keep it that way.
what was the last good book you read, and why was it so great?
well embarrassingly enough I have lost touch with reading for quite a while. When you’re on the road its next to impossible to do anything but sleep, drive, and occasionally pick up the guitar and try to figure out what we’re gonna do the next night. At the end of each drive you’re left so brain dead from consuming so much pavement that you just exhaust yourself and pass out at the end of every evening. On the last 2 tours I had the same book with me, which is pretty embarrassing I think. It was an autobiography on Peter O’Toole. He’s a great actor from the 60s and 70s. I can’t even remember the title...I’ll think of it in a second. I’ve read about half of it and have thoroughly been moved by his unbelievable ability with language and words. Supposedly its considered one of the few autobiographies by an actor or musician that actually has a true sense of the art form of how to write a novel. And he’s hysterical, as all Brits are. They have such an incredible arsenal of comic phrases about how to talk about drinking or the women in your life. And about every half page you go, “I gotta write 10 phrases down.” You get an idea of how clever language can really be.
last year you were still pretty secluded from the world, has that changed in the last year? Especially with current music, are there bands you have discovered that you really like? Or bands that have improved or vice-versa?
tremendous change, very little radio though. From touring, the greatest benefit that I find is that people are always coming up to us after a show and saying, “you should really check this out.” Or people have been really nice and we get gifts from people in the audience who say, “this is a record I want you to listen to.” And like you said, I was so isolated for so long and just relied on the comfort of records that I knew really well and had listened to thousands of times. It was a big change in my life because I haven’t listened to those records now for a long time and have been constantly consuming new records and just listening to anything I can get my hands on. I find it so fascinating that when I came out of isolation that everyone was telling me what a terrible state the music industry is in and how god-awful music is now. How you can’t go out on the road and its impossible to tour because of the situation in America. Everybody has to work and Clear Channel is eating up all this or…just so many excuses and so much pessimism when I came back. Soon as we went on the road, we had a very successful first tour and it gave us stability to keep going and going and now we’ve done 4 tours and we haven’t had a proper record out yet. Everybody told us it was an impossibility, that there is no reason for us to go out there. Basically saying, “it’s a jungle out there and you’ve got to be careful or you’re gonna get eaten up by the fat state of the record industry.” All I’ve experienced is that there is incredible music going on and I’m always finding new songs that I’m completely knocked out by that are inspiring and positive. And that I enjoy listening to as much as any of those comfort records I have on vinyl at home. I’ve been listening to tremendous amounts of music for the past year.
have certain bands stuck out?
yeah, there has been a lot. There is a singer named Sam Bean, he is in a group called Iron and Wine, which isn’t really a group but more of a moniker he falls under like Trent Reznor. Its very similar to the music I’ve been trying to make. It has a sad tone to it I guess. And on the other side of that, like I’ve said before, I became completely obsessed with If It Was You which is the name of the Tegan and Sara record. At first, I’d heard it and wasn’t really interested in it and I got hooked on one song, “Not Night.” And as I got completely obsessed with that song, I got completely obsessed with another song and then another song. At this point, it almost feels like the best pop record since Purple Rain and it is a record I can always rely on to brighten up a solemn day. Also, there is a song on that Saddle Creek compilation record that just came out by Rilo Kiley, its an acoustic song. I don’t know if you’ve heard it.
I just saw them play a few days ago.
its so great. It was the song that whenever we were on the road and really burned out and finally getting close to our destination, we’d put that song on. Whenever we were “16 miles to the promised land” that song would come on and everybody would start singing along. Her voice has got so much character to it and I wish the whole record was like that in some sense, I know it cant be because its such a joyous thing, but I really like how she sounds in that setting. I’ll have to catch one of their shows. Its just one of those things where you stand in the middle of all this pessimism about how awful things are and you hear a song like that and you think “is everybody just deaf to what’s really going on?” I don’t know if it’s the biggest music revolution since Nirvana but I could imagine hearing this song now or ten years from now and thinking that its an incredible performance. Don’t worry folks, there is lots of joy in the world.
have you heard anything from bands that have changed from before you “left”?
when we were in Seattle, this very nice girl gave me a copy of the Postal Service record which I guess is all linked in with that entire world. I listened to that for quite a while and thought it’s a very interesting record and that in some sense been where The Rentals could have gone had we kept going. And there is some music I’ve heard a lot about after coming out of seclusion that people thought I’d be into which I really wasn’t into. I guess what people considered spawned from Pinkerton, everybody probably thought I’d have some link to that whole, I guess it’s the “emo” scene or whatever it is. But a lot of the music I’ve come by are really emotional, younger guys with an acoustic guitar that are completely broken up by something a girl has written in her diary. And I don’t have much of a connection with that, its too severe for my tastes and I feel like saying, “cheer up kid, the world is not so bad.”
have you come across music that is more Rentals influenced than Weezer influenced?
well some of the people that have come to our shows and brought copies of their own music sometimes seems pretty directly in line with what we had done which is very flattering. But music that is out there, I don’t know. When I first heard the Hot Hot Heat record, not saying they’ve even heard the music we did, but a band I could see us performing with after Return of the Rentals. The band Ozma I first saw when they were quite young, probably around 14, something like 7 years go? I don’t really remember what happened that evening but I always hear about them. And as much as I’ve been on the road they seem to be on the road but I’ve never heard any of their records. And I’ve also heard about a review that said they were “more Weezer than Weezer” and I thought it was a funny way to put it. I’m happy for them that they’re able to be out on the road and record. I’m happy for anyone that has that ability. It doesn’t matter if its Bright Eyes or Britney Spears, if you can be out there and do what you like and make the music you like, that’s a great thing.
have you heard the tribute album? What do you think?
a friend of mine, who unbeknownst to me, recorded one of the songs. She did “Monica Smile” and when I heard that I actually felt like that is in a better place than when we originally recorded it in Nashville. So I talked to Maya about it and her recording it with me, her singing the lead vocals. This was completely inspired by that recording. And I was talking to Elaina about it, not knowing that it was her who had actually recorded the song. I think she might have said something like, “its great you and Maya are gonna record” and I told her we’re gonna do a new version of “Monica Smile” because of the recording by this girl and she tells me it was her. She is one of the sweetest people that I’ve met since playing music. She was the very person I met that I felt was really a true fan of what we were doing with the Rentals. I think I met her at the third show we had ever done with Alanis in Santa Barbara I think and she had created her own “Friends of P” shirt. She is one of those people that have been with us this whole time, and have been able to make the transition from the old material to the new material. That was a real beautiful thing about the tribute record, that it had such a direct impact on something we’re going to do very shortly.
you mentioned some of the people that came out to the last show, how you were really happy to see them, and I think you know that 2 people in particular caused some commotion and got people talking. So the question is, are you guys on good terms now and might there be any future collaborations?
that is a very heavy question for me. That night was the first time I had seen Rivers in a very long time and we hadn’t spoken in years. And…to say the least, it put a whole other layer of emotion into that evening. I knew he was there before we performed because someone brought him out to the Winnebago while we were rehearsing. And that is such a complex thing emotionally for me because there is…a lot of turbulent water under that bridge. I felt that it was a very bold thing for him to do and something that took a lot of humility for him and I know that his intentions are pure. But its such an incredibly complex thing emotionally for me and that maybe it’s the first step in a long line of many steps for us to really have a relationship of some sort again. It definitely made for an interesting photograph. Not only was he there, which made me self-conscious, but he was also carrying a copy of the EP, wearing the T-shirt, and had a poster in the other hand. He helped carry out the guitars for us and had very kind words about what went on that evening. But it definitely made me as self-conscious as any human being probably could ever be during the first few songs of the night, knowing that that was happening. And I think that in a strange way, it really helped that evening become a better night, a more emotionally complex thing and brought a whole new sense of depth and a weight to the evening. And as far as Brian goes, we had talked about 6 months ago. He had been the first person to break the ice and really put himself on the line to really mend some of those roads. And with all those guys, we’ve been through so much and I think there is some sense of family, and also a sense that something was broken and a lot of trust lost. Because what came out in that whole legal mess was the absolute last resort for me, it was the last thing I wanted to put out there, especially in public, but I was forced into that situation. It was something I had worked very hard at making sure it didn’t happen but I was just left no choice. Thank God its over and life moves on and as far as the future goes, it’s a long road I think.
Did you visit Barcelona Cathedral when you stayed in Spain? If so, did you have the courage to climb to the top?
I have absolutely climbed to the top. It’s a strange thing you know, I’ve been to Barcelona probably anywhere between 30 to 50 times. And as you know from living here or anywhere you live at…the people that live in San Diego probably half of them have never been to the San Diego Zoo. This just happens and I considered myself a resident of Barcelona and it was one of the last things I did on one of my last trips there. Its just not something you do when you feel its your home.
will we ever get some of the video Rod took and the Blur cover of Friends of P?
I’m sure that will eventually come out, in some form or if either directly from me or someone else. Rod has things I don’t have, he has a tremendous amount of film footage. Rod and I did a tour of Europe, just the 2 of us, doing interviews and he brought along a WWII film camera and when we went out on tour he brought that same camera wherever we went to. So he has great 16mm footage from making 7MM to all the tours we did from Return of the Rentals. He has so much footage that I know he has mentioned a few times that if I want to make a film out of it but we’ve been too busy for any of us to get any of that together. I must have 20 or 30 hours worth of footage from the road on my camcorder and some of it is probably tedious to get through and some would be great to get out.
Have you thought of an enhanced CD?
No, I think if there would be anything enhanced it would be things we are doing now you know, that could give people a sense of where we’re at right now. I have no problem with any of that footage getting out and people seeing because if people are that interested in it, they deserve it and no one should have to pay for that. If people want to go through those things and get an understanding of where we were then, that’s the best way to do it. I meet so many people on the road that first got into the Return of the Rentals record when they were 7 and didn’t exactly have the ability to see us perform. At some point if I have a considerable amount of down time, which I don’t really want, but if I have it, I’d probably go through that with an editor and try to make a long form DVD out of it. Between me, Rod, and Maya, we have endless amounts of footage and maybe we could try to make it into something that would be worthwhile.
interested in the Weezer DVD that is supposed to have lots of early days footage?
I have tons of that footage also, I have an incredible amount of shows we did on the first record. I don’t know, I know what those days were like. Those memories are pretty solidified in my head and I’m one of those people who have a difficult time watching anything of myself on film.
any hobbies besides music?
does driving a Winnebago count? God…recently, besides the relationships I have close to me, there is very little outside in my life except for what I’m doing musically right now. The great thing that has happened since we first talked, is that music is for the first time in a long time, a central part of my every day life. From the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed I’m thinking about what we’re going to do next and how we’re gonna keep active. I don’t want that thing I said in the first interview about putting out EPs and records to knee-jerk some sort of drama. I want to make sure the music is constantly in some kind of flow so it has taken over my life again and I’m thrilled to be that emersed in performing and recording. Photography has always been a hobby I’ve had but it only comes to me when it’s a time of isolation like living in Barcelona and those kinds of things. When I was in Nashville there were endless amounts of photographs I took out there and come the next record, that will probably the first thing that comes to me. Taking photographs of things that relate to the music.
do you live here?
I’ve been living in LA for a long time, on and off. LA is the biggest vacuum known to mankind. It’s a difficult place, once you’ve given yourself into it, to actually distance yourself from. As much as I fell in love with Europe, and as much time as I spent in London, or as much as I love New York, somehow I end up getting sucked back by the enormous vacuum which is LA. For the whole first period of my life that I lived in LA, pre-Weezer days, I never enjoyed it because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. When you’re in LA and you’re in the dark searching for some basic ideas of how you’re going to be able to write music and you’re really that lost, I think it becomes a very depressing place to live. if you don’t really have a good grip on what your dream is or how to obtain it. For the most part, the first many years of living in LA I really didn’t enjoy it. Especially when I found a home in Spain and could understand the joy that could be found in really simple things like having a cup of coffee or being at a rave. Then I come back to LA and would really loathe the fact that restaurants closed at 9 and it drove me nuts. For the last while since I’ve returned from Nashville, I’ve really enjoyed it. I think I’m in one of the better parts of the city and I have some incredibly dear people to me that live here. I think one of the great things about LA is that if you create a mess, it’s a great place to come back to and figure out what to do with that mess. Like with the making of 7MM…it was a real cluster of songs and ideas and mixes with 5,000 different instruments and trying to figure out what I’m going to do with all this material. And it’s a great place to get your thoughts clear and figure out what that is so for that I really love LA. Even the music that we recorded in Leiper’s Fork, I really didn’t understand how it was going to be put together until I got here and sat down with some people and go through it and get an understanding what the message was.
a message board member wants to know if he can drop out of college and perform with you.
who is this?
I think his screen name is Filth and Disease.
well with a name like Filth and Disease…in the middle of a very slow and quiet set to say, “Ladies and gentleman I’d like to introduce Filth and Disease on lead guitar” might not quite fit in with the mood of the evening. But I think a good career with Slayer is awaiting him.
any opening acts coming up?
I think we’re trying to do the opposite, trying to figure out who we could perform with that would make sense. So the music could be open to a new audience because I do think there is a completely different group of people that might be interested in the music we made in Nashville. So we’ve been thinking about that for quite a bit, the idea of performing with somebody like Iron and Wine or countless others. Another thought to do some shows with Tegan and Sara when they do their acoustic shows because it’s a completely different audience from out shows. But I’d just do it to see them and enjoy their story times because I don’t know of any better storytellers than those 2 girls. We talked about doing a tour with Ash, the last tour they did they really wanted me to come out but the world of the kind of music we perform and now and the world of music they perform could either be a very interesting thing or a complete disaster. And they had talked about a band going on before us which would mean a very aggressive band playing, then this very mellow set, then a very aggressive set so it didn’t make much sense. Tim and I are constantly in contact with each other and have talked about possibly doing some shows together here in LA. Maybe singing some of the songs from 7MM together that he performed on like “Overlee” or “Hello, Hello”. I would really like to play on some of those songs he’s written, like a song on the last record called “Shining Light” that I really think is a great song. So hopefully when he comes out here to record the next record, we’ll get together and do some performing and keep the shows interesting.
great. well I guess we’re done.
and there is quite a lot of work for you to do right there.