Category Archives: INTERVIEWS

Exclusive Cover Story Excerpt: Grandaddy Interviewed By Band Or Horses’ Ben Bridwell

Here’s an exclusive excerpt of the current MAGNET cover story. To read the whole thing, order a copy of the issue here.

Interview by Ben Bridwell

Photo by James Elliot Bailey

Following a divorce and a move back to his hometown of Modesto, Calif., Jason Lytle got Grandaddy back together to record the band’s first album in more than a decade. Last Place is not only one of the band’s best LPs, it’s also Lytle’s most personal. MAGNET asked Band Of Horses frontman and Grandaddy fanboy Ben Bridwell to talk to Lytle about subjects ranging from nicknames and album sequencing to being nice to strangers and Grandaddy’s resurrection.

I passed a lot of my time in the ’90s in the record shops of Seattle, scouring the used CD bins and compilations sections in search of something that looked interesting, exotic or familiar by word of mouth through magazines or friends’ recommendations. I’d rush back to my tiny apartment and blaze through all the day’s spoils in hopes of discovering treasure. Even one new great song to ease the pain of another coming night in a dish pit scrubbing burnt pots and pans for minimum wage. One such rare treasure was Grandaddy via the Zum Audio Vol. 2 compilation. The song “Ghost Of 1672” instantly stood out. The pristine clarity amid the seemingly homespun innocent quality of the sounds and the intimacy of the vocal immediately captured my attention, while the lyrics activated my imagination, drawing me further in. “Who in the damn fuck is Grandaddy?” I thought—I needed to know. Well, I’d soon find right out by crate digging and special ordering any and every shred of Grandaddy music I could find. This band from Modesto, Calif., was a mysterious blend of low and high brow, low and high fidelity. Clever and simple. Sincere but with a strong dash of cheek. I followed Grandaddy relentlessly for every release, tour announcement, even new merchandise for the next decade until their apparent demise in 2006. Somehow I managed to befriend Jason Lytle, the band’s captain, just as they were disintegrating. Now almost a decade since our first handshake, I’m proud to call him a great friend and oft collaborator. This is a chat between two buddies. One of whom still happens to be a fanboy. —Ben Bridwell

Ben Bridwell: It’s good to talk to you.
Jason Lytle: Yeah, what’s going on? I’m at home. I’m in my bachelor pad. Where are you?
Bridwell: I’m at home as well, in my very opposite of bachelor pad. [Laughs] Where is home for you right now?
Lytle: Oh, dude, I’m back in Modesto.
Bridwell: OK, good. So you’ve set up shop? You’ve got a place and everything?
Lytle: Yeah—I’m sure we kinda talked about this that night in San Francisco. Yeah, I came back here, just kind of temporary, not really knowing what the hell was going on but knew that I had to live somewhere. Knowing that all this Grandaddy shit was gonna fire up this year. I got a little apartment right on the outskirts of Modesto.
Bridwell: That’s awesome!
Lytle: Six months ago, if you would have told me that, I’d be like, “No fucking way.”
Bridwell: I’m glad to hear that you’re at home. That’s awesome.
Lytle: Yeah, man, it’s working. I’m making it work. I just kinda lay low. It’s like a little one-room apartment, just gear everywhere. It looks like a fucking Grandaddy factory in here. It’s like boxes and cases and pedals. Just stacks of fucking shit. Couple of bikes.
Bridwell: Like hiking shoes? Just like various hiking things.
Lytle: Big-ass Craftsman tool chest and down jackets everywhere. That actually reminds me, if they still did Cribs, my Cribs, I would have a salad bar in my living room. Like a Whole Foods salad bar in my living room.
Bridwell: Just every kind, like young lettuces, old lettuces. All kinds of shit. Can I get into asking you some shit about stuff?
Lytle: Yeah. I figured we’d be freestyling, but you’re a planner, right? I appreciate that.
Bridwell: Yeah. Oh, my god, you have no idea. This is like the third draft. I did keep it mostly just to themes—I would like it to be free flowing and not feel like a damn interview because we don’t really talk like that. I do want to get something out of the way, because I think I have a kind of resentment issue here and I want to resolve it with you. The first question: Why did you steal the sound of Band Of Horses’ new record for your new record? [Laughs]
Lytle: [Laughs] Damn it.
Bridwell: I don’t know why you guys are trying to sound like us now.
Lytle: Shit! That big stack of notes that had like three notes about the recording of the Band Of Horses record did come in handy.
Bridwell: You’re a thief with a hammer? “This is how I’m really gonna get that sound!”
Lytle: [Laughs] Good first question.
Bridwell: Thank you, man. I’m really doing a great job. Thank you. So, how about this whole thing right now; you’re trying to talk to a lot of people about the record and what you’ve been up to and all that stuff. We both know from experience that that can get a bit monotonous, and interviews can become a bit samey, like a recurring dream or something. You kind of go into automatic mode—the interview’s over and you’re like, “I’m not sure I really feel that way anymore!” You’ve been saying the same thing for so long and that recurring question. What’s it like for you right now? Are you in the midst of that, or is it still so fresh and new that you find interesting things to talk about?
Lytle: It must be fascinating for you to ask this question because it’s something that you’ve dealt with a lot. I try to explain this to the people who coordinate the interviews and they don’t care, nobody fucking cares. They’re like, “Let him get this out of his system.” Let him do those 13 interviews in a row, all on bad connections to Italy. I find myself getting taxed because I do care. As much as I want to go into auto mode and just, like, assembly line these same stupid answers coming out of my mouth to the same questions, I do feel the need—it’s a bit like a jazz improv—I do need to improvise and I do feel the need to think a little bit harder and think a little bit differently about certain questions. And it kind of wears you out. And I almost feel like it would be better if I didn’t give a shit and I could just go into “third eye blind” mode and just answer these questions. Because first off, the songs didn’t mean anything to begin with and now I’m just answering these questions about things that didn’t. But, like, everything means so much, you feel like you need to honor it by giving it a thoughtful, caring answer. And that’s the part that wears you out. It hasn’t been too terribly prolonged, but it’s getting there. And it’s only because people are talking about it—the more interest, the more momentum gets rolling and there’s more requests. But we’re really trying hard to filter out the ones that don’t … I don’t want to say don’t matter. It’s just getting the bang for your buck.
Bridwell: Easy! I’m just kidding, go ahead.
Lytle: Only because I know that’s what’s going to come out of my mouth. I really care about what I’m saying. I have to be a little bit choosy.
Bridwell: Quality over quantity. Makes sense.
Lytle: Part of why I couldn’t handle any of this stuff anymore—and if there’s a top 10 list of these reasons why I kind of had to back out of this whole part of it awhile back—is because of that. I’m just trying to be more thoughtful about all the different categories. You don’t need to do every goddamn venue between here and Vermont; don’t need to do every interview; don’t need to play every radio show; don’t need to sing happy birthday to everybody’s boyfriend, who’s been a big fan since ’97. You just have to be a little choosier now.
Bridwell: It makes sense, and that kind of goes into the next thing. On the other side of the promo aspect, the radio-station business, the radio liners and taking photos and that kind of stuff. Do you find yourself, at least at this point right now, whatever qualms you might have had about it back in the day when you were younger, maybe full of a bit more piss and/or vinegar, do you find yourself even more grateful now, like, “Hey, I’m just grateful now that someone fucking cares!” Is it still annoying? Is it as annoying? The confusion that kind of comes with the territory when you’re being paid attention to, it can make you pissed off to feel like you’re doing some sort of fool’s errand. How are you now, now that you’ve been in this life of music for a long time? How does that apply now when it comes to all these other promo things that you’ll be asked to do and you still want to show good faith by showing that you’re working hard so that they’ll work hard at the label or PR company or whoever? How does that apply now?
Lytle: I’m still working on it. I’m at the front end of it right now. I keep joking with people, I could be a month away from being like, “Oh, that was a bad idea; forget that!” It’s like, “What the hell was I thinking?” A big part of it that makes it shaky for me is that I am—and you know this—I really enjoy spending time alone. I’m not a big groups-of-people person, and the people who I do have around and I’m comfortable being around are people who I have to. I don’t feel the need to be in the middle of a bunch of stuff going on. If anything, I can’t really handle all the noise and all the clamor. That part of it is the toughest part. When I do get into these situations, it’s a big relief when you sense that there is a genuine interest. The caliber and the quality of the conversations that I have, the ratio has shifted for the better. Like 30 percent of them are just people who are asking great questions and they have all this interesting insight, and you have these meaningful conversations, and I think that’s it, too. Having a conversation means that you’re sharing something, going back and forth. I think it’s always being active; when it’s so one sided, that’s just, like, ugh. It’s just cheap and weird. It’s strange to me.
Bridwell: It seems like no one’s listening, too, they’re just like saying things at you. And you answer their questions, whether it’s a logistic issue—you know, management or label—or a series of questions in a promo day. It just seems like nobody’s listening, too, right?
Lytle: I’ve been surprised though, too. I’ve been like, “Whoa, I just did some total dingbat interviews for someone’s, like, junior-high yearbook.” And this piece comes out, and they were listening and it was wonderful! They kind of picked up and expounded in all these poignant ways, and it’s just like, “Wow!”
Bridwell: You learn things about the process. You uncover little secrets that you forgot about during the process.
Lytle: Definitely. I think a lot of what we’re doing throughout the process is, we’re kind of in this other mode and we’ve got blinders on, and that was most of what we did with you guys, the whole idea was just to kind of set aside this time and go into our own little universe for two or three weeks. And you’re doing it for a reason, and you’re not really thinking straight. It’s better that you’re not trying to make sense of what you’re doing. You’re taking skills that you’ve learned, but you’re also allowing some of this weird, mysterious stuff to flow out. You can’t be expected to be assessing that scientifically throughout the process. Because that has a threat of killing it, snuffing it out. It’s weird to finally be asked, “What were you thinking when you did all of that?” And I’m just like, “Fuck! I don’t know what I was thinking.”
Bridwell: Yeah. “Can you help me remember? Can we listen to the track?”
Lytle: They’ve picked up on things, and it does help you kind of jog your memory a little bit. That could be a cool part of it, too.
Bridwell: Damn straight, absolutely, then you had a good day. The next day might fucking suck, but at least you got one good damn day out of it. Hey, you like having your picture taken? Band photos? [Laughs] “Everyone looks cool. Relax your mouth!”
Lytle: I’m just so ugly that it’s just awesome.
Bridwell: Oh, no.
Lytle: Yeah, yeah, OK, tell me I’m not ugly. Tell me this; have you learned this? If I can give anybody advice, if the picture-taking process does not come natural to you or you’re just like, “I’m not having fun, I’m not having fun,” the one piece of advice that I will give anybody right now—and of course you have to learn the hard way, like early on at some point. So there’s this guy taking the photos and you guys got three different locations, and in the course of an hour he’s taking like 350 photos, And he’s asking you to switch it up, especially in the U.K., they’re like, “Do something wacky!”
Bridwell: Yeah, “You stand still. You look that way. You put your hands this way now.”
Lytle: But they try to make you feel guilty for not … And you’re just like, “Nope, this is what I do.” So, out of like 350 photos, there’s one—you let your guard down and do something stupid and that’s the one they use. So I’ve learned, despite what they ask, despite anything they suggest, you show up and just stand there, don’t do anything. Just do the same thing for every single fucking photo. If you deviate at all, look off to the left, look kind of quirky—that’s the one they’re gonna use, and you’re gonna look like a complete idiot.
Bridwell: MAGNET is gonna sell so many magazines for this, just for that nugget. Great advice. Thank you, that’s great advice—I’m gonna have to remember that. I’m gonna skip around, just so it doesn’t seem too static here.
Lytle: Oh wait, to expound upon that a little bit: If you’re in a band and you’re pissed off at one of your band members that day, you encourage him to do something wacky and just stand there and don’t do anything. And when that issue comes out, guess who’s gonna be the stupidest-looking one? I’m done with that one.
Bridwell: What’s your favorite nickname between “Desto,” short for “Modesto”; “J Li,” a twist of “J Lo,” with the same amount of letters; or “Lionel Richard?” And why? [Laughs]
Lytle: Oh, man. [Laughs]
Bridwell: OK, I’ll move on, sorry. Let’s talk about listening to other people’s music.
Lytle: You didn’t let me answer the question.
Bridwell: Oh, I thought you weren’t taking me seriously.
Lytle: I’ve got one, it just showed up recently. You know that Squeeze song, “Goodbye Girl”?
Bridwell: I think so.
Lytle: [Singing] Sunset on the lino … do do do do … goodbye girl.
Bridwell: I don’t know a lot of Squeeze stuff.
Lytle: And scene. OK, next?
Bridwell: What’s your nickname, though?
Lytle: Nothing, nope.

Posted in INTERVIEWS | Comments closed

A Conversation With Steve Jones

Steve Jones has been, during his 61 years, one of the Sex Pistols and a fire starter to all that is punk rock, a session guitarist for Iggy Pop, a member of best-forgotten supergroups the Professionals and Chequered Past, an actor on Californication and, presently, a Los Angelino radio host on KLOS 95.5. Less illustriously, Jones has been a sexually abused child, a kleptomaniac, a lover to Chrissie Hynde and a multi-chemical drug addict. Recovered from all those ills, Jones is alive and well to talk about it in his new autobiography, Lonely Boy: Tales From A Sex Pistol.

I don’t mean this as an insult, but I never got from you that you were any sort of a reader. Are you?
You’re right there. I never read as a kid, ever. The only two books I ever did read was William S. Burroughs’ Junky and my own new book. The Burroughs book was naturally something that I got turned onto when I was in rehab. I don’t remember it. I couldn’t tell you one word of it. I did read the whole thing, though. My own book—really, I only read it because I had to just to make sure i’s were dotted and t’s crossed.

Do written reviews matter then, or even that great big coffee-table book that critic Jon Savage penned, God Save Sex Pistols?
Well, I’m a human being who gets affected by what people say about you. My advice: Stay away from comments from social media.

Before I ever had one chance to open your book, Britain’s Daily Mail hit readers over the head with your accounts of sex abuse by your stepfather. I won’t bug or bore you further—people can read Lonely Boy for the sordid details—but was that a hard thing to commit to paper, or are you that pragmatic that you just wanted the facts out?
Yeah, I mean it wasn’t news to me. I became more aware of myself during therapy, and it was no big secret. The only thing was that now the whole world could know—which is OK. Some people look at you differently when shit like that happens to you and you admit it. I got core friends who don’t care.

Some people struggle with the confession of it all, yet yours is a matter-of-fact revelation.
Why bother with shame? I was 10 years old for fuck’s sake. I didn’t have any part in it.

What was funny in Lonely Boy was the discussion of your kleptomania. Do you still nick things?
No, I quit about 30 years ago now. It was part of me program: quitting all bad behavior.

Did you ever apologize to David Bowie for taking his Ziggy Stardust stage gear?
In a roundabout way, yes, and apparently he thought it was funny. I made amends to the drummer, Woody, on my radio show several months ago, and the keyboard player last week. Who I needed to apologize to was the bass player, which is a shame as he’s dead. What I stole was a bass-amp head, some cymbals and some microphones—it wasn’t like they were Bowie’s. I stole a lot more gear from less-famous bands, but I wasn’t proud of it. I couldn’t help myself.

Do you know which of your parents you are more like?
I only met my real dad once, and I spoke to him on the phone a few times, so I don’t really know about him. My mom, though, I definitely see a lot of my personality traits in her, and I definitely got the music from her as she was always dancing down at Hammersmith Palais with the teddy boys. I know she has a musical sense in her head.

Glen Matlock wrote his book. John Lydon wrote his autobiography twice. You’re not really old men, and it’s hard to fathom pulling two stories from one life, but John’s smart and verbose. What say you about him finding so much to say?
Well, I haven’t read either of them, have I? He’s a bright guy; very intelligent, good with words. Whether they’re all true is another story. He’s an intellect. I don’t think I have another book in me.

So many others have written books about you or managed to release additional music beyond Never Mind The Bollocks. What say you about having people outside the Pistols profiting from your work with Lydon?
It’s incredible, really; the fact that so much can be pulled from that one record and that short, short time. I don’t think there’s another album or story like that. Definitely, it was one of those albums and one of those times that shifted gears from the norm. I’m proud to have been a part of that for sure. It’s not every day you can be the thing that started a cultural shift or a musical one on a revolutionary level. What was the question?

I mentioned Savage’s book, not the first he has written about the Pistols. There’s an industry that has grown out of that single Sex Pistols record.
I think you’re right. The only dough that I made out of the Pistols was when we did that reunion in 1996. Back when it first happened, it was pennies and peanuts. Which was fine, even now. I live a basic lifestyle. I’m not on a park bench. I’m all right.

More than all right. So why land and live in Los Angeles?
I don’t know, man. You end up where you end up. I love the sun—not as much as I done when I came out there. I like the open space. The chicks were better, and like so many other limeys, I just got here and never left. There are a few that roam around here and can’t wait to get back to that miserable drizzle.

Throughout Lonely Boy, you don’t seem nostalgic despite how vivid the book’s recall is.
You are absolutely right. Whenever I look back at the past—any past—it bums me out. So I don’t do it. I don’t know what that means, save for that I’m just miserable all the time.

—A.D. Amorosi

Posted in INTERVIEWS | Comments closed

Exclusive Cover Story Excerpt: Ty Segall Interviewed By Fred Armisen

Here’s an exclusive excerpt of the current MAGNET cover story. To read the whole thing, order a copy of the issue here.

Interview by Fred Armisen

Photo by James Elliot Bailey

By the time you’re done reading this interview, Ty Segall has probably made another solo album or one with the many bands in which he plays. Segall’s new, second self-titled LP shows the multi-instrumentalist is at the top of his very prolific game. MAGNET asked actor, comedian, musician and fellow studio rat Fred Armisen to go under the hood with Segall.

I was asked by MAGNET to interview Ty Segall. I said yes right away, as I’ve always loved his records (and him!). He’s built up such a solid discography. I’m really impressed by that. I felt like I knew him, just from bumping into him at different events. I saw him most recently at a video shoot for a new song. I’m always in a good mood after a conversation with Ty. He’s funny and always seems to be wanting to make more things. More art and music. A few days later, we did this interview. —Fred Armisen

Fred Armisen: What phone situation are you on? On a speaker phone? Are you at home?
Ty Segall: I have you plugged into my stereo really loud but no one is around, just so I can hear you better.
Armisen: Awwww. That’s so cool.
Segall: But you’re not on speaker phone. Just so you can hear me better.
Armisen: Yeah, I hear you great. I can hear you really clear; I’m glad I’m not in a car, and I’m glad I’m not wearing a little headset. I’m on a phone phone, and I’m definitely glad about it.
Segall: You’re definitely phone phone-ing.
Armisen: I’m phone phone-ing. Wait, should we be recording this? Is this already recording?
Segall: I don’t know. I don’t really know how to do that.
MAGNET: You guys are already being recorded.
Armisen: Oh! Who is this other voice?
MAGNET: It’s Megan from MAGNET.
Armisen: Oh, how are you?
MAGNET: I’m good. How are you?
Armisen: Good. We both really like MAGNET. I’m representing both of us with this one compliment.
Segall: I agree with that compliment.
Armisen: Well, first of all, hello, Ty, it’s good to talk to you. We’ve known each other a little while. So it’s not like we’re complete strangers to each other, and in fact, we saw each other the other day because I did a little something in your video that they’re shooting in L.A.
Segall: Yes, you did very well, by the way. That was amazing.
Armisen: Oh, thanks.
Segall: The close-up shots—I don’t know if you got to see those—were very good.
Armisen: Oh, good. And what was the concept of the whole video?
Segall: The song is just one big pun. It’s called “Break A Guitar,” so I thought I’d go extremely literal and just explode and destroy a bunch of guitars. To tie it all together, though, it’s supposed to take place in my brain. So it’s a little bit of a Lynchian zoom into my ear, through the ear canal into the brain, and that’s where you are, along with others. And that’s where the destroying takes place.
Armisen: You obviously play a lot, you tour a lot and everything—what is the state of people smashing instruments? Like is that happening a lot or not at all? Do you see it once in a while? Is it real? What is your perception of people smashing drums and guitars?
Segall: I don’t think it’s that real anymore. I think it was a lot more prevalent in the ’90s when there was a lot more money in the music industry to replace your gear. I’ve never done it with any good piece of equipment that I actually like. I’ve seen it happen maybe twice in seriousness. I don’t think it’s a very serious thing happening nowadays.
Armisen: I don’t think so, either. I don’t think I’ve really seen it.
Segall: I think I’ve only really seen an accidental destroying of gear. Or like a person loses their shit and yells at the crowd and slams their thing down. Whatever the thing is that they’re playing.
Armisen: Right. It never feels right to me to smash something, because I always feel that something could be useful. Like, “Oh, you never know, you could use this guitar or whatever.”
Segall: I think that’s a very normal and healthy way to be. I feel the same way. I’m more about giving things away instead of breaking them.
Armisen: That seems fine! Because someone could always use it; that I really like. To someone, it has value.
Segall: Yeah, instead of breaking a guitar, for instance, just give it to someone and pass it on.
Armisen: Because I would have loved it when I was a teenager like, “Oh wow, I got this guitar because they didn’t need it anymore.”
Segall: Yeah. I’ve done that a couple times at shows. Just like, “I don’t feel good about this guitar, maybe you would like it.” And it seemed like the kid liked it, so …
Armisen: Well, I’m very happy to be talking to you, and I love your new record.
Segall: Thank you.
Armisen: And last time I talked to you, one of the things we discussed was your body of work. It seems to me like you’re in a very solid place in the music world, like I have the sense that you’ve accomplished a lot. There’s a real library of work. When was it that you felt you had accomplished that—where you could look at your discography and think, “Oh, I really have a full body of work”?
Segall: You know, I don’t know. I don’t really look at myself like that. I like to just constantly be thinking about what I’m working on. I don’t look at the past records I’ve done. I think that would kind of drive me insane a little bit. I’m more about continuously trying to work on more stuff. But that’s cool! I’m a huge fan of bands that are just constantly doing different records all the time, so I would like to do that. I don’t know what that really means, but I just look at it like, “Is this thing gonna be a different kind of record than before?”
Armisen: When you’re singing or playing, especially when you’re recording, do you ever picture somebody else in your mind? Do you play the part of somebody else—do you think, like, “This is what so and so would do if they were playing this part”? Does that happen at all or is it just you?
Segall: Not playing live. Honestly, the brain tends to turn off, and it’s more like an ethereal kind of situation. Especially with the loud stuff. It’s more feeling the physicality of the music. Obviously, the brain is on and there’s intention and a thought process going on. But recording and writing, there’s lots of references and recording moves that I’ve either learned from listening to records or, like, “Oh, I love this mix that this person did of this song. I’m gonna try that.”
Armisen: Sometimes when I’m—and by the way, I’m not trying to make this about me, just as an example—there are times where we’re writing a sketch or performing a sketch, and I’ll think, like, “Well, what would Molly Shannon do? She would do it like this.” I’ll just do an impression of a comedian I like. And I suppose it’s kind of like just picking from them, but it helps me get to someplace quicker. But there might be a different goal for music, I’m guessing.
Segall: I totally understand that. I think for me it’s like recording or writing where you can take an influence. I think it’s totally fine to take a riff from a song and invert it and create a different vocal melody. It legitimately does turn it into a different song. It’s taking a cue or an influence, even just to get moving with an idea. I definitely do that stuff, for sure.
Armisen: How much do you tour? I think I don’t know how much you tour. I’m only imagining that you do it a lot, but maybe you don’t?
Segall: I used to tour a very large amount. Now, I’m probably one of the more laid-back touring people in my age group or whatever. It feels like that at least. I do maybe three tours a year now. I don’t think that’s too crazy anymore. I used to be gone like six months out of the year. But now it’s cool. We kind of make it count. Not that it didn’t count before. But for each record, we’ll do a cycle.
Armisen: When you tour, what kind of a vehicle are you in?
Segall: It’s funny, in the U.S. we get a van that my bandmate Charles and I own together, and it’s a great vehicle. And in Europe, we actually just started touring in a bus, which is kind of crazy. I’m a big fan because you can actually do things. You can travel through the night. It’s strange because the bus is cheaper. You know, we have so much gear, and our touring manager and our booking agent and our sound man come with us in Europe. In the U.S., it’s just us. In Europe, we have a few more people, so it would be more expensive to get two vans than it would be to get a tour bus.
Armisen: That’s a nice place to be, for sure. Have you ever traveled to a city and been talking to someone and they go, “You’ve met me already, why are you reintroducing yourself?” Or have you forgotten someone’s name and you’re going, “Do I know this person?” And they’re, like, “Yeah, you stayed with us.” Are you at that point in your career yet, or is it more controlled?
Segall: No, I’ve definitely forgotten people and totally made an ass out of myself many, many times. It’s always a really shitty feeling.
Armisen: You almost want to yell at yourself in your brain, like, “Yeah, of course that’s who that is!”
Segall: But you’ve gotta give yourself credit, though, that some of those people are insane—the other side of it where some people are psychopaths who will guilt trip you for not remembering meeting them for 30 seconds.
Armisen: Because that’s also a rude thing to do anyway. I don’t think I would ever do that to anyone else. If they ever forgot me, I wouldn’t give them a hard time about it. I’d be, like, “I understand, it’s OK,” I mean we’re meeting each other again anyway. I don’t think it’s ever fruitful to give someone a hard time about something.
Segall: Definitely not.
Armisen: Let’s do a quick magazine break. Hey, you’re reading MAGNET. And I’m here with Ty Segall, and we’re having a conversation. Stay tuned for the rest of the magazine! Plenty of pages coming up; we’ve got reviews. And I hope you’re enjoying it!
Segall: [Laughs]

Posted in INTERVIEWS | Comments closed

A Conversation With Dwight Yoakam

It’s been 30 years since the release of his twangy debut album, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc., and 20 years since he first worked as a hard-assed thespian with actor/director Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade), and Dwight Yoakam is still doing very much the same thing—only twangier. Good. He’s currently finding his way through the deeply etched country sounds of rural America with his bold, bluegrass-laced new album, Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars, which harkens back to his roots in his Kentucky youth, as well as again working with Thornton on David E. Kelley’s Amazon drama Goliath. Whether it’s the tough-and-tender tang of his guitar, the quietly contentious snarl in his vocal drawl, whether he’s loving or fighting, or a face as recognizable as his sound, it seems as if time’s stayed still—in a great way—where Yoakam’s concerned. Plus, he’s good for a mean and flaky baked good—i.e., his Bakersfield Biscuits—so Yoakam is yummy, too.

Goliath has you and Billy Bob, and all I want to know is what kind of state law makes it that you two must work together as often as you do?
Are they putting the entire series up like they do on Netflix? Who knows? It was a cool thing to do, work with David E. Kelley and Billy Bob, whom I’ve worked with many times. This time we’re adversaries in a courtroom with most of my other scenes occurring with William Hurt.

Is there a bond between you two guys so that little is spoken within the context of a scene?
We’re mainly good friends, since making Sling Blade. We share age and cultural commonalities to say nothing of music. He’s directed me as an actor and observed me in special ways. We’re different in the literal ways in what we do and how we do it. He has unique reference points to me, and yes, I do think we have shorthand, probably because we trust one another. I hope he trusts me. I would like to see us do something big together—focused on just us—at some point. You know what about him: He’s a drummer to start. I think that informs what he does, not just as a musician, but in everything he does.

Thirty-years ago I spoke to you about Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc, Etc.
Did I have a plastic guitar prop as part of the promotion? Some molded, plastic, late-’50s looking thing?

Sure, it was the goofball ’80s.
I remember those first odd interviews with that plastic thing, which by the way, was not a toy.

The reason I bring this up is that during that chat, we talked about countrypolitan Bakersfield guitar session cats such as Don Rich and Buck Owens as part of the palette of inspirations for that first record. Were there bluegrass guys in the back of your mind who influenced this album in the same massive way that Buck and Don did Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc.?
Wow, that must have been before that first album even came out. Absolutely; Bill Monroe for one. We would open our shows back then with “Hear Me Calling.” We opened for Monroe, and he heard me, and I even asked him if it was OK to do some of his songs. That was fine by him. After one of the shows, he called me backstage, up to his makeshift office, and he pitched me more of his songs. I was flattered. He was the Elvis of bluegrass while Flatt & Scruggs were the Beatles. Nah, scratch that. Bill Monroe was Bill Monroe. A big part of my DNA, too, was the Stanley Brothers, which was cool because they were right across the state line from me. Years into my career, and it was more rockabilly than guitar-slinger rock ‘n’ roll. There was adolescent, mischievous abandon about it all, but the bluegrass thing stuck, even though I was covering stuff such as Monroe in that tougher way. When I realized that I enjoyed doing bluegrass straight, we did sets of bluegrass songs during our shows in ’05 and ’06.

That was really something. Can you pinpoint the first bluegrass album in the house back home?
There was an album at my granny and grandpa’s house in the holler in Kentucky. Brocade jacket, cowboy hat pulled down. It was a Jimmy Martin album. It was a hoot, which was strange because my grandpa was a very quiet man. He loved Flatt & Scruggs, too, though … hmm. That experience never left me: hearing those songs at my grandfather’s or even the radio in the holler. Oh, and Jimmy Martin is a great story, too—ostracized, in a way. Wasn’t allowed to be a member of the Opry. Played monster bluegrass. He became the first real rock ’n’ roll answer to straight bluegrass. “Sunny Side Of The Mountain.” A real outsider.

That could be you. Did Ralph Stanley reach out to you beyond guesting on his records? I’ve spoken with him and his grandson, such a gentleman.
A very quiet gentleman, thoughtful, quiet above all else. “Dwwiiiiiiiiiiiiiight,” he would say, “Where’d you get the bluegrass?”

I’m going to ask you the same question I asked Stanley: How is it, with all the traditions of bluegrass, that you can make or write or arrange bluegrass to be uniquely your own?
For lack of a more literate way of thinking of it, I did it by nature. I had him on my covers albums, and we did a Clash song, “Train In Vain.” Good English punk. “All right, Dwiiiiiiiiiiight, you wanna do it; we’ll do this.” I tried to make accommodations chord-wise for him and for the song, but he turned to me and he said, “It ain’t the mountain way.” You can’t do anything that isn’t the mountain way. That’s the key. It’s a cultural thing. Don’t be what you are not.

—A.D. Amorosi

Posted in INTERVIEWS | Comments closed

Best Of 2016: Q&A With Lucy Dacus


We caught up with Lucy Dacus just after she had returned from a short U.K. tour and almost exactly a year after her single “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” came out and started catching people’s attention. Back then, she was working a seasonal job in a photo lab. “This is kind of the first major break we’ve had since March, so I’m excited to sit around on my couch and not have anything to do,” she says, although she’s already looking forward to working on demos for her next album. She took some time away from her couch to talk to MAGNET about her surprising year.

Congratulations. No Burden is MAGNET’s number-one record of the year!
That’s so awesome. I didn’t know that. That’s so cool! It’s such an honor.

What were you expecting your year to be like when you were getting ready to put out the album?
It’s only been recently that I realized that I don’t have to go back to the photo lab anymore. I try to put myself back a year ago, because the single wasn’t even out yet, and I would never have been able to imagine what this year would be. It’s a huge change, to start a career. When most people start a career, they plan for it. For us, it just kind of happened and we realized after the fact that this is our job now. It’s been a lot of adjusting. It’s been weird, but it’s the best job in the world, so no complaints.

Was there a moment when it changed from people coming to shows and not knowing who you were to when it was apparent to you that they were there to see you?
I don’t think it was a moment, but there were small realizations that led me to believe that the music had reached people in ways I didn’t expect. At first, it was seeing people know the words to the songs. That’s always the biggest compliment that people can ever give because it shows that your music has taken up their time and their thoughts when you weren’t around; they had chosen to listen to you. It’s such a gift. A more recent response is that in response to Trump’s election, people have posted some of the lyrics of my songs as encouraging and as a way of finding comfort. I had never thought of the music manifesting itself that way, but that’s ideal. I’d want people to find comfort and solace in something that I’ve said. That kind of recently crystalized what this job is to me.

What were the lyrics they posted?
There’s a lyric in the song ‘Trust,’ which is just me and an acoustic guitar, that is “Beauty is the only way to make the nightmares go away/I’ll plant the garden in your brain and let the roots absorb the pain.” Seeing that line through someone else’s eyes, in their context, taught me what the song is about, even though I wrote it.

What were some highlights for you this year?
I guess it began with our album release and our tour. Going to SXSW felt like a touchstone moment; we’d never played a festival like that. Touring with Car Seat Headrest, another Matador band, was awesome in September, just because I love their record that came out this year. Playing with the Decemberists was really cool, because we’re all big fans of them. Playing Lollapalooza was awesome. I’m just talking about music highlights. Maybe our hometown show at the National here in Richmond where I’ve seen all my favorite bands like St. Vincent, Pixies, Neutral Milk Hotel. We played a headlining show there, and that maybe was the biggest deal of this year so far, because everyone in the crowd was someone from my life or someone I cared about; some people I didn’t even know who went to my high school but knew all the words; people who knew me when I was seven and singing at our church. It felt like a real surreal day.

What were some of your favorite records of 2016?
My most listened to records of this year, for sure: Big Thief’s Masterpiece—I love that record and that band. Andy Shauf’s The Party, Car Seat Headrest’s Teens Of Denial, Julia Jacklin’s album Don’t Let The Kids Win. Solange’s album is awesome. Chance The Rapper’s album: so good. Beyoncé’s album: really, really good. What am I missing? Oh, Y La Bamba put out an album this year, and it’s maybe the most underrated album of the year in my opinion. It’s so, so good.

Enjoy your time off!
It’s so nice just to lay around!

—Steve Klinge

Also posted in BEST OF 2016 | Comments closed

A Conversation With Bob Weir


Not since 1978 has singer/songwriter/guitarist Bob Weir released a solo album with his name alone above the title. That’s until the new, country-ish Blue Mountain. Yet no one could fault him for laziness, as this founding member of the Grateful Dead has—since that psychedelic San Francisco treat disbanded in 1995 after Jerry Garcia’s death—worked and recorded as Bobby And The Midnites, Kingfish, RatDog, Furthur and in duo settings with Rob Wasserman. Famously in reunion with the surviving Dead, he played 2015’s Fare Thee Well goodbyes and continued to tour (yeah, we know) with John Mayer as Dead & Company in 2016. Starting with this year’s release of multi-artist tribute Day Of The Dead, Weir has thrown in his lot with the National, whose membership curated that boxed set and play all over Blue Mountain with other cats like Craig Finn, Josh Kaufman and Josh Ritter. Then there’s that beard …

Your last 12-16 months have been auspicious and relatively unceasing. Are you someone who needs to be moving nonstop because you’re easily bored, because there’s so much music in you that you must get it out, or do you owe somebody money?
Actually, it’s a combination of all of them. I’m not positive how much I do owe, but at this point, I’m doing OK. A lot of great stuff comes my way in terms of making music, and it’s hard to say no. That’s what I’m here for. Yeah, I’m easily bored, but I’m also as lazy as the next guy. For some reason, I’m staying busy.

Are you a man who compartmentalizes things, ideas and sounds, or do they intermingle among projects?
You know, that’s a good question. I have to wonder about that. This record for instance—I don’t think it sounds much like what I’ve done in the past, and you can put that down to people I was working and writing with. Then again, I did some of the writing myself. It’s not like other stuff, that it presented itself as an entity without a border or past connection. It wasn’t meant to be a part of what has come before for me.

You say entity without past, and there’s Josh Kaufman, Josh Ritter, Craig Finn and the guys from the National. Did they bring this to you, this country ragtime thing—did they have a mindset? What do you mean this came to you?
It came to me, and it came to us. Kaufman and Ritter had talked amongst themselves and brought the piece to me. Then it revealed itself to us more as we were writing it.

Got it. It was this arranged organic process that took off once you all got together.
Yeah, we had no idea what we were looking at or looking for. It all revealed itself through the sessions.

This question is not meant to sound vampiric: The two Joshes, the National, doing the Dead with John Mayer and Trey Anastasio. Are you purposely playing with cats outside your usual circle or younger players because you’re looking for a fresh coat of paint? Or are they great players, and age be damned?
Definitely the latter. If I’m working with younger guys, there’s always a certain amount of stuff I can impart after having played for a long time. Overall, though, I’m just looking to interact and to live it. To work with what they have to offer. It’s the back and forth.

Let’s look at how and what the National did in curating Day Of The Dead with alternative bands—and you—as part of the bigger Grateful Dead picture. What was your take on how they viewed your legacy?
It became real apparent to me—quickly—that what they hear is what I’m hoping people will hear. The National, for instance—I can hear in their playing what they heard in me; the roots thing that I’m working from, the heritage of country or whatever. Insofar as we revere the same traditions, we speak the same language, and that means we can converse easily.

There’s a fantastic photo of you, your daughter and your wife at the San Francisco Debutante Ball with you in dashing white tie and tails. What are you thinking?
It wasn’t my first Debutante Ball. I attended one in my youth, and we certainly played them. There’s a tradition. I had separated myself from that world for years—not renounced—but it creeps back in, especially where my older daughter is concerned. I was kind of tickled about that. I was born and raised within that dynamic.

You were forever the clean-shaven pretty one in the Dead. Not that you’re not still pretty, but what’s with the General Burnside beard? It’s gorgeous. Why grow it?
I was just on the road and missed a few shaves. Those several days turned into a week and a half, and the next thing you know I looked like a Civil War cavalry man. It just kind of happened.

On the new album, lyrically, you’re working with Ritter. It hit me—you’ve collaborated with other wordsmiths in the past. What level of trust must you have in someone to let them tell your story?
There’s a lot of back and forth, and rather than trust, I would say we share vision. That’s openness toward those involved, and Ritter’s one truly open individual.

Do you recall what song came first during the Blue Mountain sessions and how that guided the rest of its vibe?
I do. The title song—it’s like a cowboy tune, a place to hang our hat and to let the other songs circle around. It was a bunk house in Wyoming where I began that.

It’s not as if you haven’t worked on other projects since 1978, but Blue Mountain is the first to have your name out front, in lights, all by its lonesome. Why is that?
The other albums—they’re all me. This is just a little more me.

—A.D. Amorosi

Posted in INTERVIEWS | Comments closed

Exclusive Cover Story Excerpt: My Morning Jacket’s Jim James Interviewed By Wyclef Jean


Here’s an exclusive excerpt of the current MAGNET cover story. To read the whole thing, order a copy of the issue here.

Interview by Wyclef Jean

Photo by James Elliot Bailey

For me, I got up on Jim James because I’m one of those artists who’s always in search of other artists who are bigger than just the music, who actually have a voice and lend their voice to the world. I think that we share the same undertone when it comes to the idea of looking at the world how we look at the world. For example, when he got involved and did the song for the election about where the stance of what was going on in the world with Trump, that’s just a prime example. For me, an artist who always puts the truth before the art … I definitely always respect that. In a sense, I’m a big Pink Floyd fan, and I love artists who when they’re producing music, it almost sounds like an audio movie. That’s some of the discoveries I’ve been finding out about Jim. I love a lot of that audio-film vibe. I’m a fan. —Wyclef Jean

Wyclef Jean: Sometimes I go through like 27 album names before I decide—making my labels so crazy—because they’ll be like, “What’s the name of the album?” I’ll be like, “This is the album name.” And then, a week later I’ll get an epiphany and be like, “This is the name.” So did you have a few names for this album, or this was just it—you just focused on Eternally Even?
Jim James: I did have a few names. It was funny. At first I wanted to call it Future Generations for many reasons, but then—it’s hilarious—the day before I was going to call it that officially, there’s a band called Future Generations that came out with an album called Future Generations. And then I was going to call it Silent Majority, but that felt weird as well—because I wanted it to have some kind of political feeling, because I was trying to talk about a lot of what’s going on today in the world. But it just seemed like the universe just didn’t want that to be so blatantly put out there. So I felt like “Eternally Even”—as a song it talks about a lot of things. But I have this thing: You know when you go out to have dinner with a friend or a family member or somebody you love, and one of you pays for dinner and the other person is like, “Oh, I owe you one.” I always feel like—I have friends and loved ones who don’t owe each other anything; you know, you’re kind of eternally even. I just feel like, in a larger sense, I wish humans could treat each other that way. I wish we could take pride in taking care of each other instead of taking so much pride in making money and trying to be successful and all this stuff. We could shift our focus on trying to take care of each other, trying to provide people with health insurance, trying to just be better people to each other.

Jean: It’s so funny, I’m telling you, we share the same goal. I just put out this 2016 version of “If I Was President.” The first time I did that it was on the Dave Chappelle show. So after we get off the phone, definitely check out Wyclef Jean 2016. I take everything like what you’re talking about—you’re gonna really enjoy it. I can share the same mindset. So my next question is a geeked-out question: Personally, my best work, honestly, always comes out when I build a tiny-ass fuckin’ studio, and I go in, and it’s not big—like when I did the Fugees; it was in my basement. Right now, I just built this small 5.1 room in the middle of a storefront. I’m weird like that. So my question for you was—as far as the recording process, I know we both have home studios—is it easier when you’re just in small studios or when you lay out in the bigger studios?
James: I’m into it all, but most of my life I’ve done renegade home recording. I moved out to L.A. in December, and I rented this crazy place out in the middle of nowhere with two tortoises living there and a big old storage container, and I just brought a few things—my laptop, a couple mic trees, a couple mics. It kind of felt like I was in a spaceship on Mars out in the middle of nowhere.

Jean: What part of L.A. is that?
James: Montecito Heights.

Jean: Oh, I know where that’s at. I’m telling you, man, I always find the renegades are best for me—out of nowhere.
James: Definitely. It’s weird, I feel like in big studios sometimes you can get great sounds, like great drum sounds or whatever, but I feel like you’re always playing with other people’s vibes that have already been there. Like, if you’re cutting in the studio where Prince cut Purple Rain or whatever—I almost don’t want to do that. You know, Prince cut Purple Rain—I don’t even want to try and compete with those vibes.

Jean: I so understand that. So I definitely checked the first single, and just the title of it, “Here In Spirit”—when I was going through all your stuff, I noticed there’s this constant thread. In John Lennon’s music, there’s this constant thread of consciousness. And it’s not a forced consciousness, it’s just a natural consciousness. So I wanted to talk about the release of this new single. What’s the vibe with it? How did it come to be?
James: I wrote it, like, the day after that Orlando shooting at the Pulse nightclub. And all the shootings going on, the police shootings and the ISIS killings and all this violence—not that there hasn’t always been violence on Earth with humans, but it just seems like lately shit has been so fucked up, and there’s so much hatred and bigotry and so much terrible stuff being broadcast. It’s really important that we speak out for peace and love, and we speak out for equality and we try to give that as much of our time as all the hatred and bullshit. You know, we need to speak loud for what’s right, to try to bring peace and love to the world. So that’s pretty much in a nutshell what that song’s about.

Jean: And peace and love is possible, right, through music.
James: Absolutely. Sometimes it seems like it’s not possible. Sometimes it seems like the world is so fucked up. I think there’s always a possibility for redemption and love.

Jean: You know I respect a lot of what you do. I got a chance to spend a lot of time with Bono—he’s one of my mentors—and he always says, “Listen, there’s a thin line between being a rock star and speaking up,” you know? And I’m like, “You motherfuckers did, like, ‘Bloody Sunday’ when it was necessary.” I always respect the people that say, “Come on, man, let’s use the art first for everything else.” And I think there are too many artists that are like—you know, I ran for president for my country, I’ve done stuff that was not popular, and they came after me. They expect us to be in a certain shell. So I always yield to musicians that understand their art. And speaking about this, this record “Same Old Lie,” where you don’t hold back on Donald Trump, presidential elections. Talk to me a little about that, because we got the last debate coming up in the next couple of hours.
James: Just the notion that a man like Donald Trump could even be entertained as the possibility for president just makes me want to cry. It’s so sad. You know, anybody who knows anything has known that since the beginning, how terrible his presidency would be, and when that tape came out with him talking so terribly—everybody was so shocked and surprised by that. But it’s hilarious because we’ve all already known that. I don’t know if you saw Michelle Obama’s speech the other night.

Jean: Yeah, definitely.
James: Oh, my god, it was so beautiful and so eloquent, and it just perfectly sums up that it’s just not about politics anymore. It’s just about human decency and people treating each other right. It’s not about any politics at all. And “Same Old Lie” is just kind of talking about how sick I am and how sick most people are of all the bullshit and all the lies—and can’t we just get back into a place where love comes first? Why is that so hard? Why is that so difficult?

Jean: Yeah, I dig that, and I think a lot of people definitely share your ideology, and then you got a group of people that’s still trying to find their way—I definitely respect that a hundred percent. I think the hardest thing for us to do as writers and producers is to find someone who can be like our sidekick at times. You know what I mean? Like a Batman and Robin. And we rarely have that in life. Me, I’ve probably found that, like, twice. It’s so hard to find a wingman—somebody to ride with you. So I wanted to talk with you about Blake Mills—he helped co-produce. So what’s the movement in the studio? When I have a co-producer, we move a certain way. So what’s it like with you? Let me know what’s up with Blake.
James: Blake’s great. I’m sure you know from working with people, it’s always different, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Blake was an experiment because I had never worked with him before, and this whole record was strange because I had already made the record before I had started working with Blake. But I felt like it could be better, and I felt like somebody could help me. When you’re working on something—especially if you’re working on something in your house and you’re the only one working on it—you kind of can lose perspective because you’re kind of buried in it. I need somebody to come in with fresh ears and help me bring it out. And I met Blake and really liked his vibe, and I went and played him what I’d recorded already, and he was into it and had some great ideas. So I just took a chance—it could have not worked out. But I was just feeling fresh. There’s been a lot of change in my life lately—I’ve moved, a lot of stuff’s been changing. So I’ve got friends and producers I’ve worked with in the past who I really love, but I felt like I wanted to try something completely different.

Jean: That’s a good thing, man. I’m telling you, it’s great to sometimes step out. I think for people like us, we’re always searching. “What’s the next, what’s the next?” You know, “What’s our energy?” I remember with my first solo album, The Carnival, I was just like, “Fuck it. I’m gonna do something weird,” whatever was in my brain. And then it was funny: When I tried to depart from my first solo album and tried to prompt the second record, it definitely worked, but it was a little weird—because people are expecting something. It was constantly evolving and changing. So I was wondering: What did that departure feel like—leaving the solo joint, prompting for the second one? And of course, everyone would be like, “Why now?” You know they’re always asking us, “Why now? Why now? Why this second?”
James: Right. I don’t know if it’s the same for you, but for me music comes or it doesn’t, and I really don’t have much control over it—when it decides to come into my mind, you know, nobody really knows where it comes from, nobody knows why it happens. And I’ve kind of realized over the years of putting out so many records that whenever I put out a record, somebody’s always going to hate it and somebody’s always going to like it. So that’s really freeing, to know that I can really change whenever I want or do whatever I want just to find the music that I love. And you really have to almost forget that anybody’s ever going to listen to it at all. Because it’s just like every time: If you never change, somebody’s going to complain because you never change, and then if you do change, somebody complains because you did change. I feel like I just try to forget all that and make the music that’s coming into my brain and into my heart.

Posted in INTERVIEWS | Comments closed

A Conversation With Dweezil Zappa


For 2016, Dweezil Zappa was just trying to reconnect to his solo career with his first album in a decade, Via Zammata’, before going on the road this autumn for his annual Zappa Plays Zappa dates, this year celebrating father Frank’s 50th anniversary of the Mothers Of Invention’s legendarily avant-psychedelic-free-jazz Freak Out. That is, until the hammer came down and the heads of the Zappa Family Trust (brother Ahmet and sister Diva) began tearing apart the rights and heritage/holdings of Dweezil and sister Moon, making it impossible for the former to keep his dad’s legacy (his guitars, let alone the brand-name ZPZ tour celebrating the elder Zappa’s genius. So Dweezil has renamed his October showcase “50 Years Of Frank: Dweezil Zappa Plays Whatever the F@%k He Wants: The Cease And Desist Tour.” Here’s why.

How’s getting back to solo life been? In the last 10 years, we’ve seen you handling your father’s stuff exclusively.
There’s been a different audience for my Via Zammata’ tour than my straight Frank Zappa shows. There wasn’t a direct transfer of fan base. There are people who like what I do, generally a lot younger, as opposed to my Zappa Plays Zappa gig—which is now no longer called that. I will, however, add some Via Zammata’ stuff to the shows.

As a solo artist and a guitarist, do you feel as if you picked up where 2006’s Go With What You Know left off?
Not really, since each album was so different from the next, with Via Zammata’ being a big departure from my other music in that it’s very song-centric. It’s more defined in what my solo music will sound like moving forward. I have song-oriented stuff as well as a guitar-centric album planned next—two different directions.

Speaking of albums, do you have any criticism on those recently released rare Frank records like Frank Zappa For President, The Crux Of The Biscuit, Lumpy Money Project/Object or The Road Tapes? Even the Eat The Question doc?
I love the film. Those records? I haven’t heard them and had nothing to do with them since they’re through the Trust. They’re not exactly sending me copies of what they’re releasing.

That’s a perfect setup for the next questions. I know you all fought over the Zappa Plays Zappa name and the mustache imagery, but you don’t even get a crack at your father’s vaults?
The way they’re operating is without my or my sister Moon’s involvement. We’re shareholders without say in what’s done, so they do whatever they hell they want.

I’ve read many letters between you and Ahmet, or you and the Trust. Are you able to speak to Ahmet as your brother?
I haven’t spoken to Ahmet since my mom’s funeral, so there’s no communication.

You changed the name of the showcase and the tour has no Trust connection. What can you play?
It’s a good thing that I’m now unconnected because I have the freedom to perform what I want. They wanted to control everything: name, songs, merchandise. That didn’t sound appealing, so I emancipated myself from the Trust.

You can play whatever you want of your dad’s stuff, just as I could play it?
But I can’t even use my father’s image onstage. I’m not allowed to promote myself doing a night of Zappa music, though anyone else could. They don’t get cease-and-desist letters.

I know the answer to this, but your dad wasn’t the litigious type. It was your mom’s doing. When did you first gather this, that she was this person?
Was 100 percent her. It was only after my father died that she came into a role that she created—that of an oligarch. The problem was she didn’t have knowledge of the music, but on the outside, she wanted to pretend as if she was protecting his rights, the rights of the music. Nothing to spread the music to the next generations—she didn’t care and shot down so many opportunities. It was always, “How dare you?” rather than welcome anyone to further his music for future audiences.

That’s why you did ZPZ in the first place.
Because his music was stagnating when it deserved to be heard. And what people did know about it, as wrongly categorized by some media, was that it was novelty or comedy music. I wanted to expose people to a broader sense of Frank—more of his strengths as a guitarist/composer, to be better understood. Even as a member of the family, though, I had so many avenues blocked to me. It’s all ridiculous. The one person who did the most for the entire family … well, it’s like that old phrase, no good deed goes unpunished.

Do you know why your mom placed two of you in a situation of greater control and the other two with lesser control?
There’s not one simple answer, but one is that she had run herself and the business into the ground, spent $20 million on lawsuits, and by her demise was $6 million in debt. She had not paid me—on tour monies and merch—for the last 10 years, and I called her out on that. We were embattled. So that’s an easy place to start—she wanted to remain in charge over me even when she passed. It goes beyond all that, though. When my dad died, he gave me all of his guitars, which she later repossessed and is now putting into auction. She told us there was no will of his, which was a lie.

Is there anything the Trust or Ahmet can do to right these wrongs?
Well, it’s within his power to overturn or change a lot of what has been done—say with the guitars—but I don’t think that will happen soon.

—A.D. Amorosi

Posted in INTERVIEWS | Comments closed

A Conversation With John K. Samson


Refusal to capitulate to expectations is the mark of an artist, and John K. Samson has that designation down cold. He will stay holed up in his hometown of Winnipeg for years, growing his hair and beard until he looks like Catholic Jesus. He will not update his website in a timely manner. He’ll let his former band, the Weakerthans, wither and die on the vine. And he won’t issue an album of clever, melodic pop/punk just because you want him to. What he’s been cultivating instead is his second solo album, Winter Wheat, 15 mostly doleful songs featuring vocals slow-dancing around fingerpicked acoustic guitar. The songs are quiet and emotionally intense, and they unfold like a collection of short stories in which characters and themes recur and play off each other.

On one hand, it’s an album about a dying planet and late-period capitalism: “Vampire Alberta Blues” (a riff on Neil Young’s “Vampire Blues”) protests sucking oil from the land, and “Capital” tells of how bankers fleeced the citizens of “a one-bar Wi-Fi kind of town.” But it’s not all Bernie Sanders rally soundtrack—the most affecting songs here are finely detailed character portraits of struggling academics, drug addicts and other assorted losers trying to stay afloat and alive. At times, Samson is mining a similar vein to the Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle, inhabiting some dark psychic corners with laser-focused lyrics. Amid all this sad-bastardom, Samson’s notes of hope ring loud and true: “I believe in you and your PowerPoints,” he sings on “Postdoc Blues.” Who among us couldn’t be saved by a sentiment like that?

MAGNET recently caught up with Samson.

The majority of the Weakerthans appear on this album, so I assume the band’s breakup was somewhat amicable. How did that decision to disband happen, and how do you feel about letting that part of your career go?
We prefer “cryogenically frozen” to “broken up,” because no one ever really breaks up, it seems. It was a very slow and amicable process, so I was surprised that people were surprised. I took many of the songs along with me when I started playing solo shows four or five years ago, so I guess that gave me time to get used to the idea. I’ll definitely miss parts of it, but I’m happy to be working on a smaller scale.

You seem interested in the internet but you don’t participate in the social aspects of it: Twitter, etc. Why do you think some people find such solace and community online, while others just don’t connect that way at all?
Yeah, I’m definitely very interested in the internet, maybe obsessed. One of the themes that runs through this record is “delusional thinking” and how sometimes we need to figure out how to live with our delusions in order to survive. I think the internet is a kind of delusion—it can make some of us feel less alone, but it doesn’t actually make us less alone. In many cases feeling less alone and being less alone are the same thing. But for some of us the internet has the opposite effect—it makes us feel more alone, when in fact we are the same amount of alone as we ever were. I was thinking a lot about a book, The End Of Absence, by Michael Harris, while writing this record. Harris thinks that those of us who are among the last humans to know life both with and without the internet have a duty to preserve some valuable elements of that time—the joys of being lost, being separated by distance, meeting a loved one after a long absence, being bored, writing letters and so on. I do love the internet, but I’d be grateful for more skeptical thinking about it.

There is a kind of bravery in putting out an album like Winter Wheat: 15 songs, mostly acoustic, with semi-spoken-word things like “Quiz Night”—when you must be aware that there is a larger audience for an album of pop/punk anthems.
It was a relief to make something small and direct. It felt right. Maybe I never felt entirely comfortable being loud.

Three artists that I think–or have been told—influenced this album: Neil Young, John Prine, John Darnielle. Would you be able to pick a favorite or poignant song by each and say a sentence or two about it, either in relation to your work or just what you like about it?
Some of Winter Wheat was inspired by Neil Young’s record On The Beach, so I’m pretty deeply attached to those songs, but his soundtrack for the Jim Jarmusch film Dead Man had the biggest impact on me. I saw it in the theater when it came out in 1995, and the next morning I went to a music store here in Winnipeg and bought my first electric guitar. I hadn’t really thought of playing one before. I played electric bass and acoustic guitar, but it hadn’t crossed my mind that I could make interesting noises with an electric guitar. Dead Man made me think I could and made me want to try.

I love how John Prine animates the world. In the case of “Rocky Mountain Time,” he makes objects come alive and enlists them to play a song with him. It is a beautiful idea. He’s the master of starting a line somewhere and ending up way further ahead than you expected to be. Like you’ll hear, “The water tastes funny when you’re far from your home” and you think,”Yeah, that’s true,” and then he comes back with, “But it’s only the thirsty who hunger to roam,” and you go, “Whoa! Where’d that come from! And it rhymes, too!” It is like being shown a really good card trick. I also like that he lets you know the character might be an unreliable narrator, “I can’t even make friends with my brain,” but doesn’t hit you over the head with it.

I love John Darnielle’s entire body of work. The accretion of all his songs makes something beautiful and big and interconnected, and taken individually the songs are always surprising and smart. “Psalm 40:2,” for example, is a frightening and beautiful story, with enough room to let the listener wonder and wander a bit. I sing this one to myself often, I’m not sure why I find it so comforting, but I really do. I also adore the rhythm section on this song, so vibrant and propulsive and alive.

Last album’s “When I Write My Master’s Thesis” and this album’s “Postdoc Blues.” Did you go to college? I know you teach at one—what interests you about characters involved in academia?
I went to university for about six months when I was 18, failed wildly and dropped out, and I’m no longer teaching. It was an online program anyway, so I never really got a sense of what academic life is like. But many of my friends are academics, and I’ve always been interested in that world. There’s something beautiful about specialized knowledge and vernaculars. Almost all the academics I know are extremely thoughtful and caring, and I feel like the world would be a better place if some of them were given more attention in the wider culture. I think academics are often marginalized because their work is progressive and revolutionary. It is easy for the status quo to contain ideas within the academy, so they don’t leak out and threaten to actually change the world. And I think the academy itself often does the work of making sure that doesn’t happen. So I have a lot of sympathy for academics, for sure.

Who is Virtute’s owner? I used to think it was you, but this album hints that it is the character at the 17th St Treatment Centre.
I think of that character as an extremely exaggerated version of myself. For example, like the character, I am now sober and I do take antidepressants, but I’m also happily married, have never had to go to a treatment center and prefer dogs.

Which brings us to a theme in your work: rehabilitation and reconstruction of the spirit. I always get a sense of compassion from these songs, not voyeurism. What makes you predisposed to characterize addicts and fuckups and failed academics as sympathetic?
Thanks, I’m really glad to hear that. I think there’s something political about finding a way to have empathy for other people, especially people who have messed up, or are messed up. And that’s pretty much everybody, I guess. I love the people who can’t fit in, who can’t make their flaws pretty, and can’t disguise their struggles.

Is “Alpha Adept” the answer song to “Quiz Night At Looky Lou’s”?
Yeah, I felt bad about leaving that guy out there all alone at the end of “Quiz Night,” so I wanted to find a way for him to live and maybe even thrive with his delusions.

You have good taste in fiction and once recommended an excellent book to me (Miriam Toews’ A Complicated Kindness). What books or genres do you enjoy that are generally considered in bad taste? Celebrity tell-alls, books about zombies from Mars … what’s in your closet?
Isn’t that a great book? I often return to it. I wrote “Winter Wheat,” the title track, partly for Nomi, the main character in A Complicated Kindness. Toews’ latest novel, All My Puny Sorrows, is exceptional, if you are looking for another good read. I like sports biographies. Some of them are great. Andre Agassi’s Open is a good example—the first chapter is a ghost-writing master class. I re-read Jim Bouton’s classic Ball Four every other year or so. But most sports bios, like David Ortiz’s Big Papa: My Story Of Big Dreams And Big Hits aren’t exactly good. I read and love them anyway.

Last question: When you turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana, was it really saving the best for last, or was the previous wine just a crappy vintage? (Sorry. I just saw your new press photos. Forgive me!)
Ha! I’m way too old to be Jesus now. But I’m Way Too Old To Be Jesus Now might be a good title for my sports biography. Would you like to be the ghostwriter? Split the advance? You’d have to brush up on beer-league curling and fantasy baseball.

—Matthew Fritch

Posted in INTERVIEWS | Comments closed

Exclusive Cover Story Excerpt: Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace Interviewed By Joan Jett


Here’s an exclusive excerpt of the current MAGNET cover story. To read the whole thing, order a copy of the issue here.

Interview by Joan Jett

Photo by Christian Lantry

I met Laura Jane Grace when Against Me! and the Blackhearts were playing the Warped Tour in 2006. This was before Laura’s transition began on a physical level—but on a mental level, the groundwork was being laid. I found her story to be very brave and raw: a story of Laura’s life, trials and tribulations, which shows the common ground of the experience of youth, music and the obstacles of transitioning. Her memoir, Tranny: Confessions Of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout, is a courageous look at her work in progress, finding her true self. —Joan Jett

Joan Jett: Hello!
Laura Jane Grace: Hey, Joan!

Jett: Hey. How are you doing?
Grace: Good, I’m really good. Are you in L.A.? I just got to L.A. yesterday.

Jett: Really? Yeah, we got to L.A. around four this morning.
Grace: Oh, awesome, are you playing?

Jett: Yeah, we’re playing tomorrow night at the Forum.
Grace: Oh, no way.

Jett: Yeah, we’re in the middle of a tour with Cheap Trick and Heart. It’s about three months. It’s been going really well. Big crowds, you know; there are a lot of hits from those two bands, especially. What are you doing?
Grace: I’m just doing photo stuff with the band. I’d love to come out and see that show if I can.

Jett: Yeah, I think it would be totally great if you guys came to the show.
Grace: Yeah, we’re just out here doing photo stuff. We’re on tour in, like, two weeks.

Jett: I’m almost done with your book! I wanted to finish it before we spoke. It’s one of those reads where you just wanna find out what happens! Right now, I’m just starting chapter 10. You’re a wild motherfucker, man! [Laughs]
Grace: [Laughs] I’m terrified of the idea of people reading my book. I mean, you’re, like, my friend, and I’m terrified of the idea of people reading what is basically my diary, you know?

Jett: Right! But I don’t think it’s anything to be scared of, really; it’s just kind of a window into all the stuff you were going through. I think it’s very brave, actually, very brave. I really do see a lot of my own self in that kind of stuff—you know, the partying and just, you know, all the craziness of rock ’n’ roll, punk rock, the whole dream.
Grace: Right.

Jett: And how similar it can be to reality and how different your perception of it is. Does that make any sense?
Grace: Oh, completely, yeah. You know, like there’s all those moments where you find yourself thinking, like, “Woah, I’m doing that thing I imagined myself doing when I was younger.” And this is actually it, and it’s happening. And comparing what you thought it would be like to what it’s actually like is pretty stark.

Jett: Yeah, definitely. So … what are we supposed to talk about? Oh, I wanted to ask you something specific. You know how that North Carolina law went into effect? Of course, you do. We were gonna not play North Carolina, and then we started hearing from a lot of gay/trans fans saying, “Why are you punishing us for what those assholes did?” And so, I started thinking about it, and I thought, “You know what? Why not just go in there? Stick it up their asses, and give the money to organizations that help prevent discrimination, you know, across the board.” To me, that’s the way I want to fight ’em. Those politicians, who want to keep this stuff; we want to put it right in their face in some sense. I just want that government to take notice.
Grace: I agree 100 percent. That’s the reality of it, too. The people who make shitty laws like that and who are discriminatory—they have money. We need to fight against things like that. Unfortunately, the opposition needs to be funded, too. That’s just the way it is.

Jett: It is the way it is. So that’s why I think it’s a good way to fight it. Take the money that we make at the gig and just put it right back in the community. Say we’re real, we mean it, we want to play here, we don’t need these kind of politicians to go and screw up your state. I think that most North Carolinians aren’t at the heart of this. I don’t think they’re so hateful. If they explore their own lives, they’ll find people in their own families who, on some level, are in these communities—gay, lesbian, trans, whatever. They all know people who they care about that are in these communities, and we aren’t going anywhere, so they’ve gotta get used to it.
Grace: This relates: I know that one of the things that MAGNET wanted us to talk about was when we first met at the Warped Tour. And the Warped Tour has this similar thing to that. I know maybe not as much back then when we did it, but nowadays there’s, like, military recruiters at the Warped Tour. I heard something about them having a pro-life booth at the Warped Tour. A lot of bands have that argument—I’m against those things, but I’m doing the Warped Tour or doing whatever tour, so I can be there as a sign of opposition to that. Stuff like that though, the military recruiters and all that—when do you think the advent of all that was? Like, do you remember that in the ’80s/’90s, or was it strictly like the 2000s that that started happening?

Jett: What, seeing the military recruiters there? It probably did start … the beginning of the 2000s. I’m not sure if I remember seeing that in the mid-’90s. I just remember that I’ve been seeing them around for a long time. We were in eastern Europe in the ’90s, and my military take on this might be a little different. Because after the Runaways broke up, I was in a really bad place—way fucked up, partying way too much. My dream had just been destroyed; I felt like a whole city was laughing at me, saying, “Told you it wouldn’t work, told you it wouldn’t work.” And at that time, I kind of stood out—it was before everybody was dressing punk rock and it was sort of ubiquitous, the way it is now, you know, there’s a lot more kids out there. But I just felt really … I didn’t know what to do. It was at that point: “I don’t think I want to kill myself, but I’m sad enough that I want to think about that,” I don’t know, I guess at one point I thought, “Maybe, I’ll join the military.” It’ll give me a couple of years to figure out what the hell I want to do; I’ll get some kind of training. I was kind of thinking along those lines, seriously, for about two weeks. And then I met Kenny Laguna, who became my songwriting partner first and then my manager because nobody would manage me. And then producer. And so, when I look at the military, I see a lot of those people being me—I could be there. And it’s, like, a lot of people join the military not to fight wars but to do exactly what I was looking to do. Figure out a direction. Figure out what you want to be in life. I didn’t know if I was at the end of my teenage dream of becoming a rock star and I had to look for something different or if I could continue to play music. But at that point, I couldn’t, and I needed to figure out what to do. So I feel differently about the military in a sense that people are here—god forbid there ever is a war on our land or anything—to protect us. And given that there only is about one percent of people serving, that’s not very large. There’s not many people who really feel the need to give back at all. It’s an interesting angle, too—you see different countries where service is mandatory. I kind of think that’s a good idea.
Grace: I get that, too. I understand that conflict being, like, “No, I’m against militarization and I’m against war.” But at the same time, I grew up in a military family. I know the benefits that my family has from seeing the world and traveling at a young age. It is people like that. I have family members, too, who joined up for those reasons that you’re talking about, who probably would have killed themselves if they didn’t have that direction to go in. It was a positive thing in their life, for whatever reason, and it didn’t have anything to do with them wanting to start wars. It’s a tough conflict—it’s tough when it comes to recruiters being at a festival, but I don’t know, it’s one of those things, you know?

Jett: I guess they just go where the young people are, you know? That’s what it boils down to. I don’t have any kind of visceral reaction as far as going, “Oh my god, they gotta get the fuck outta here!” I just normally go, “Oh, you know, somebody might be interested, it might save somebody’s life today.” Who am I to judge? That’s when I start getting into that—who am I to proclaim that I know more?
Grace: Did you feel more like that when you were younger, or did it take you awhile to get to that place?

Jett: Oh no, it took me awhile! That’s why it’s so hard to grow up in our lifestyle. It’s hard to grow up; it’s a difficult thing if you make it, not just physically. It’s the mental aspect of it—you know, your brain is made to think, and that’s what it does. What we do is we get caught up in the thought. I read a lot of books trying to get myself away from my ego and away from all of those mind games. You know, if you’re in a car and you’re driving across town and all the sudden you think, “How did I get here? I wasn’t even paying any attention, and now I’m here.” That’s called the working mind. And the thinking mind is the mind that’s going, “Am I going too fast? Was I supposed to make a left?” All that bullshit that screws us up instead of us just being in the moment. I know that just sounds like the same old prose that people give about things, but you know that I find that growing up mentally has been … I like it!
Grace: Sometimes, you need those sharp edges to be grounded a little bit. That makes you a better person, when you have those experiences that kind of test those things.

Jett: Yeah, I mean, I can get very explosive. I recognize myself in you and parts of the book, and you know—quick to anger, ready for a fight. And I don’t want to be like that anymore. I want to be able to have some level of control over angry thoughts—there’s too much anger in the world now. I don’t want to contribute to that. That part of growing older and being able to say, “Take a breath, walk away, don’t talk now because you know you’re gonna say some stupid shit.” It’s stuff you don’t mean that’s very hurtful. That’s where you’ll go, you’ll go for the heart, and you don’t wanna do that. It’s becoming bad karma. If it’s somebody I don’t want to deal with, I just leave it, as opposed to trying to get them back or whatever. I don’t know if I’m making sense.
Grace: No, totally. That’s what’s fucked up is, in response to whatever your conditions are. For me, I was quick to anger and quick to fighting and everything like that because I always got my ass kicked. So, like, I had to become that way in order to survive through certain situations. But you get to the point where, because of the hassle that is caused by trouble like that, you have to unlearn those reflexes once you become an adult. Which is fucked up, because it wasn’t your fault to begin with!

Posted in INTERVIEWS | Comments closed