Toronto Sun interview with Brian Bell - November 21, 1996
Pinkerton Secures Band Great Press
By Kieran Grant
Weezer have yet to receive any complaints from Puccini, but they did hear from the Pinkerton Security Agency.
The L.A. alt-rock band's latest album, Pinkerton, is named for a character in Puccini's opera Madame Butterfly.
The title got Weezer—who made The Fonz cool again with their Happy Days-inspired 1994 video for the song "Buddy Holly"—into a legal dust-up with Pinkerton's.
"There was never any warning that Pinkerton was going to sue us," says Weezer guitarist Brian Bell, whose band plays the Phoenix tomorrow. "It wasn't until the day the record was released in September that we got a very official document stating that we couldn't use the name Pinkerton before the matter was settled in court.
"We won the case," Bell adds. "I mean, we got the title and the inspiration for a lot of the songs from Madame Butterfly. We'd never heard of the Pinkerton security agency. When I saw it written on a building after we'd named the record, I figured it must be a sign."
Turns out it was a good sign for Weezer. Pinkerton gave Pinkerton a better-publicized album launch than even the band's record label, Geffen, could have generated.
"Pinkerton wrote us saying, 'Your album debuted very nicely on the charts, thanks to all the free press.'"
Bell admits he hasn't heard Madame Butterfly in its entirety. Weezer frontman and songwriter Rivers Cuomo has, and was moved by the similarities between the opera's sea-faring Pinkerton and his own life in a traveling band.
"Our Pinkerton isn't nearly as tragic," says Bell. "Rivers and I have talked about our conflicts with this life we lead. It's what we want from a professional standpoint. But having a 'normal' relationship is very, very difficult. There's a sacrifice that must be made, and we've chosen to make it.
"Playing to thousands of people in different cities every night is a dream come true. I'd probably be pretty bitter if I hadn't had this experience."
Bell hasn't forgotten what helped make this experience lucrative - the fact that his tour-happy band got famous through the crucial video medium.
"We saw our audiences change from intelligent, hip-looking people to complete jocks who just came because they saw the video," he says. "That's the price you pay if you want to make a living at this."
The guitarist says that was Weezer's goal all along.
"I, for one, know that we'll never make another video as good as 'Buddy Holly,'" Bell says. "But we have songs as good as that.
"Our next video, for 'The Good Life,' will feature a pizza guy. I was a pizza guy for years, so I know the ropes."