The Record article - September 20, 1994

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Print interview with Rivers Cuomo
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Publication The Record
Interviewee Rivers Cuomo
Interviewer Arthur Staple
Date September 20, 1994
Title Hands-on experience
Sub-title CMJ Music Marathon's hoopla awaits Weezer
Format Print
External link Archive via
Associated concert Weezer concert: 09/21/1994 (a)
Weezer concert: 09/24/1994
References See where this interview is referenced on Weezerpedia

Hands-on experience
Author: Arthur Staple (The Record)
Published: September 20, 1994

CMJ Music Marathon's hoopla awaits Weezer

Many of the 500-plus bands in Manhattan for the CMJ Music Marathon dream of hitting it big.

One band's lead singer has dreams about success that sound like a Stephen King plot line.

"When I go to sleep, I see all these hands reaching out to me, trying to shake my hand," says Rivers Cuomo, chief songwriter and lead singer for Weezer, one the hotter bands on the CMJ showcase list. "You know how when you play a video game for a real long time, you start playing it in your sleep? That's how I feel about shaking hands."

Cuomo and his bandmates - guitarist Brian Bell, bassist Matt Sharp, and drummer Patrick Wilson - better get used to all the attention. Weezer's self-titled debut album is climbing the alternative charts, and the first single, "Undone - The Sweater Song," is all over college radio and MTV's "Buzz Clip" rotation. The song, with a slow, rolling beat and witty chorus ("If you want to destroy my sweater / Pull this thread as I walk away"), is one of many great songs on the disc. Its author seems to be tiring of the first single, though.

"That ['Undone] is probably my least favorite song on the whole album," Cuomo says with a laugh. "I hope it's not the only song people will know us by. I guess the record company Geffen is choosing the catchy songs. But I'm happy with how everything's going."

After several months on the Los Angeles club scene, Cuomo and company sent a demo to former Cars singer-turned-producer Ric Ocasek, who immediately brought the band to New York to record the album. Cuomo says the producer made the band feel comfortable.

"He played us these old demos of Cars songs," says Cuomo. "It was just him and a drum machine, in his living room. And then they sold 13 million records. It really made us feel good about what we were doing."

Weezer's crisscrossing the country on tour. The band has three shows planned for the four nights of the music marathon, including the big opening-night extravaganza Wednesday at The Academy, (212) 777-6800, with industrial veterans Consolidated; clever rapper MC 900 Ft. Jesus; and Hole, Courtney Love's band.

Weezer also plays Maxwell's (798-4064) in Hoboken on Saturday with Chicago's Veruca Salt.

Despite Weezer's growing popularity, Cuomo says he hasn't noticed any real changes. "We're still in the van six hours a day, doing shows, and then catching some rest," he says. "Stardom has been non-stardom so far."

Obviously, Cuomo hasn't been in a CMJ Music Marathon.

Four days and nights, 7,000 industry types, 500 bands, 45 clubs, numerous panel discussions. The numbers speak volumes about the upsurge of interest in alternative music over the last few years. This is the 14th CMJ Music Marathon, and the CMJ (which stands for College Media Journal) founder, Robert Haber, recalls a time when "alternative" wasn't the buzzword it is today.

"In 1981, there was no market for this music," says Haber, who began publishing his now-weekly CMJ New Music Report in his parents basement 16 years ago.

"Obviously, so much has changed as far as the sheer scope of the thing. But we haven't changed the focus, which is to draw attention to new music.

"The challenge now is to find the alternative to the alternative. We have to make sure this format doesn't rest on its current laurels."

The panels address only issues involved with the music business - how to promote, get signed, tour, etc. - but the keynote ad dresses are a different story.

Last year's main speaker was the Rev. Jesse Jackson; this year, Perry Farrell, the Lollapalooza founder and Porno for Pyros leader, and Paul Hill, a member of the Guildford Four whose story was chronicled in the 1993 film "In the Name of the Father," will address the convention. Haber says having political speakers keeps a longstanding tradition going.

"This is really a throwback to the progressive music movement of the late Sixties and early Seventies," says Haber. "College radio is the only similar format left where people can express different ideas freely. We have a continuing desire to get in people's faces, to challenge them."

But, of course, it's the bands that everyone really cares about. The multitude of Manhattan clubs and Maxwell's will play host to many of new music's hottest, and soon-to-be hot, stars, some playing together in nightly feasts for the alternative fan.

Here's just a sample:

On Wednesday night, aside from the aforementioned lineup at The Academy, there's Dick Dale, King of Surf Rock, at Tramps, (212) 727-7788; Ween, Echobelly, and Motocaster at Irving Plaza, (212) 777-6800; and the Teenbeat Record showcase at Maxwell's, featuring Blast Off Country Style.

Thursday night's lineup includes Quicksand with Orange 9MM at The Academy, and Giant Sand and Letters to Cleo at Wetlands, (212) 966-4225.

Friday has the Warner Bros. showcase at the Manhattan Center Ballroom (call Irving Plaza box office), with Saint Etienne, American Music Club, Grant Lee Buffalo, and the Poster Children; Sick of it All at Limelight, (212) 807-7850; and The Goats, Spearhead, and Justice System at Wetlands

If that's not enough, Saturday may have crazed show-seekers running all over the city and to Hoboken to see Weezer to catch the multiple quality shows. The Archers of Loaf and Scarce are at Tramps; Jeff Buckley plays. The Supper Club (call Irving Plaza); and Irving Plaza has Shudder to Think, Dambuilders, and Sunny Day Real Estate.

The big plus for regular folks is that nearly all shows restrict the number of CMJ passes for each show, leaving plenty of space for everyone else. Just call the club for information. For those who want to attend panels or just save some cash for all the cab rides around town badges are $275 per person, $115 for students with valid ID.

That restriction of A&R executives also makes the bands feel good too.

"When we played last year," says Eric Bachman, lead singer of Archers of Loaf, "the kids just pushed the execs to the back. It really made it fun for us."

The Archers, from Chapel Hill, N.C., fall into the category of already hot. After a brilliant 1992 debut, "Icky Mettle," they've released several singles and a new EP, "Archers of Loaf vs. The Greatest of All Time," which equals the quality of the LP. Bachman and his band were in Vaxjo, Sweden, continuing a European tour that concludes Thursday, before flying in for their CMJ gig.

Bachman sees the irony in the marathon's large-scale promotion of music whose performers would like to keep small-time; the Archers' new EP contains "The Lowest Part is Free," an angry rail against alternative commercialization.

"I'm not gonna sit in my room and whine about this problem," says Bachman. "Some bands put the industry ahead of their own music, and that's fine for them." What about playing an industry convention?

"If you just get up and play, and then go hang out with your friends, it's a good time," says Bachman, whose band played with Dambuilders last year. "We already have the big record deal, and we're satisfied with it, so we're just there for all the fun."


Wednesday through Saturday. The New York Hilton and Towers is the center of activities, with showcase events scheduled at many nightclubs in Manhattan, plus Maxwell's in Hoboken. Badges for admission to all marathon events are $275, $115 for students with valid ID. Registration begins Wednesday at the Hilton, 1335 Avenue of the Americas. Call (212) 586-7000 for general information, or individual clubs for times and prices of individual shows.

See also