Days of Why and How: An Unedited Interview with The Kills

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When the Kills were first introduced to the world in 2002, they quickly seduced the rock n roll realm with their sexy swagger and an intimate onstage chemistry. What began as a transatlantic, tape-trade collaboration between newfound friends has since grown into world-renowned force to be reckoned with. The thundering pulse of programmed drum machines and an avant approach to electric guitars elevates the sound of a boot-stomping blues and stripped-down garage rock taking it to new creative heights. With five solid records,  (the fifth, “Ashes and Ice” released this past June), Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince continue to evolve, and while their core dynamic remains in tact, some things have changed.

While Mosshart spent her downtime returning to the studio and stage as the lead singer of Dead Weather, Jamie Hince spent his time soul-and-sound-searching on the Trans-Siberian Railroad and on the island of Jamaica while trying to mend the tendons in his hand. When these two separate paths led back into the studio, the duo brought very different batches of songs to the table. I caught up with Jamie Hince the week before the released of the latest record. The following is the unedited interview with exclusive live photos taken at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston. Enjoy.

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Hello is this Nolan. Where are you?

Im in Boston and we are finally haven’t a nice week of weather. Last week seemed a bit wintery.

Really? Oh god, I wish I had this interview the other day before I felt London, because I was trying to work out what to pack. It’s so odd when you’re going away for a month and going all over the place. Do I need a warm jacket? Do I need raincoat? I got this straw colored raincoat and now I wish I had packed it because it rains in Boston.

Where are you right now?

I’m in Atlanta. I woke up really early and went wandering around and I thought, “oh gosh, I really love Atlanta.” It’s great. I really like the vibe and right near my hotel there are three places that I’m really excited about going for food at already.

With the new record, did you come into the studio with songs individually or did you write the songs in the studio?

Yeah, we came together with songs. That’s always, at least since “Midnight Boom” and “Blood Pressures,” it was the same thing where we’ve come together with songs we’ve written separately and we’d get together when we thought there were nearly enough songs for a new record. Normally the way I work is I will come up with a load of things and just discard lots of them and concentrate on the ones I think really work and slowly develop them. When we got together I had about 8, 9, 10 songs and Alison probably had 38 songs. She writes in this beautiful explosion where she just puts herself in front of a mic and writes whatever comes out. Sometimes she goes through a stage where she’ll have 5 Neil Young ballads and then there will be 3 Krautrock songs. So it’s really good to sift through things like that. We sort of met up in LA for the first time and played each other what we had. We never really had a break from each other, but LA was the place where we sort of auditioned our songs in front of our engineer. Alison said “Oh we have lots of songs, let’s go,” and I sort of depressed everybody by saying “I don’t think we’ve got a record yet. I think we need to keep on writing.” So that’s what we did. We kept on working on about 8 of the songs that were going somewhere and then kept on writing.

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Did you find that when you came together you were bringing similar stuff, or was it so different that you had to hone it in?

It was really different. It was to the point that I was frustrated to be honest. I’m always going in search of something and trying to find the things that’s like “oh my god, this is it.” I always think I’m going to be super excited about trying to find a sound, find a blend… finding a secret almost. I’d literally, physically gone in search of it and that’s what going on the Trans-Siberian Railroad was all about, or going to Jamaica. It’s always about physically going in search of it. Also, when I’m physically in the studio, I’m desperately hunting for the things that going to be the theme for me. Much of my rhythms were inspired by dancehall and digital dancehall, dub and R&B sometimes. I wanted to make a record that was really forward thinking and not just a retro bizarre record– and then I met up with Alison and her songs were very traditional—bluesy, Neil Young ballad kind of things and it was frustrating to me because, “You’re not doing what I want.” And then it kind of dawns on me that because it’s my job to make these things work and make both of our things to sit right in one place– it kind of dawns on me that that’s what the Kills really was– my lunacy about trying to reinvent the wheel and trying to take guitar music somewhere else, and it’s Alison’s absolute confidence and how sure she is about whatever snapshot is in her life at the moment. Not having crazy changing influences in the moment like I have, but having influences rooted in the Velvet Underground, Charlie Patton, Captain Beefheart– the things she’s constantly inspired by. And that’s the blend, her consistent inspirations and my ever changing, crazy, whirlwind ones.

How was the Siberian Express? Was it as romantic of an idea as movies suggest? Did you bring anything back from it?

It’s like a working train really. It’s not like the Orient Express. It’s like a pedestrian train and there’s a lot of military on there returning from Moscow to their various Siberian villages. Gentry people going to camps and villages along the way. I would say a tiny percentage of the train were taken up by people like me who were doing this TransSiberian journey. I think there’s another version of it you can do on another train, but it takes about 3 or 4 weeks and you stop at places and you have a guide that takes you places and shows you what to do. That wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted to ride this retreat where I didn’t feel stuck or stagnant and I was constantly moving.

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Did you get anything out of it?

Yeah, I mean I always go by that adage– I think it’s Flaubert… “You have to drink an ocean to piss a cupful.” It’s really true. I think he was talking about writing history, but it’s true with my writing. I don’t just write lyrics to a song. I always just write pages and pages and pages of stream of consciousness and that turns into prose which turns into poetry and then it goes back to stream of consciousness, and at some point I find things that I like and they jump out and I’m inspired to finish a song. And of course “Siberian Nights” was written on that train.

Did you guys do anything differently in the studio?

Our whole approach was completely different. We rented a house in LA, which was different because we used to just hide ourselves away in the middle of nowhere in Benton Park, Michigan. In LA we were excited to make a record in the chaos and noise of LA. I wanted it to be a change as life went on. I wanted to bump into people and have them come over and play… which happened, you know. We had Carla from Autolux play some drums and we had Homer who played on Amy Winehouse records. As opportunities arouse, we made the most of them.

How is your hand doing? Is it fully recovered?

No. I have about ten percent movement in my middle finger on my left hand, so I don’t use it to play guitar. It just hangs out stiff, flicking everyone off while the other three go change the dozen.

Were you or are you nervous that you’d never be able to play guitar again?

Yeah I was. One of the things that came out of it– one of the most impactful things– is I realized I’m really fucking positive. I just thought, “How am I going to make this work?” And part of that was considering I may not be a guitarist anymore. So I immediately started putting a studio together. I bought myself a 1968 Neve mixing desk, which was my dream come true. I knew I wanted to make a record using dub production, so I bought lots of gear like that: reverb units, echo. I just made myself busy by building a studio. I thought maybe I’ll just be a producer.

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So is your studio in London?

Well it’s a mobile studio. My mixing desk is a 10-channel desk that wraps up in a flat case and I have all of my compressors and stuff in another unit. Right now they’re in LA, but I always wanted it to be that if I to decide if I wanted to make a record in Jamaica, I could just fly my studio out there.

Would you say this record has taken on a more introspective feel? It seems to have a more tender feeling and the lyrics a little less wrapped in metaphor, maybe?

Yeah. It’s less cryptic. Being cryptic is easy because you can blend meaningless rock n roll clichés with code that means something and people will actually never know which is which, but they might hopefully confuse clichés for something meaningful. I’m not ripping up what we’ve done apart, I’m just obsessed with the way rock n roll music is gong and where electric guitar music is going. I’ve been obsessed with why it’s so retrospective and why it’s so referential and why its so stuck in the 90’s or the 80’s or the 70’s, but never trying to invent something new for itself like hip-hop and R&B, you know. One of those things was maybe I had too much time on my hands because I only had one hand, but I started thinking about lyrics and I wanted to write a guitar record that spoke to people in a language that I was proud of, that I understood, and that other people would understand– and not dip into the skulls and devils and that kind of shit, which has been a sort of staple industry for rock n roll music in one way or another.

Would you say the general dynamic of the Kills has changed?

Not really. I mean we’ve never really had a mission. I remember saying that in 2002 when we were doing interviews that I don’t think its really smart to make a mission statement or have a plan because when we started a band it was at the beginning of the cyber revolution which changed the fucking world. And it changed it so much that it was apparent even then that to have manifesto you were going to have a cult that was like the dinosaur. You know? It changed so much, capitalism was going to implode on itself back then and a new thing was going to work out. I think we’ve always just changed with what’s going on. People have always told us that we’ve done our own thing. Well, it doesn’t feel like that. It really doesn’t. It’s always when you look back and say, “Fuck, I always think we’re hindering ourselves by doing this and not doing that,” but I guess we’re proud of what we’ve done.

The single is a song called, “Doing it to Death.” You obviously don’t think you’re beating a dead horse when it comes to the band?

No, I don’t think that. It’s not a song about the band; it’s about constant pleasure-seeking. It’s about partying and addiction and having so much fun that it’s boring. You get so high that you’re low. That sort of shit. That’s “doing it to death.”

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The Kills live vs Recording? What do you have the most fun doing?

It’s funny because we always used to say, “We like them both.” One was a good anecdote to the other. These days the studio is my domain and it’s what I’m most excited about and the band’s moving forward in terms of writing new things. That’s what I’m most inspired by—that’s where my heart is… making new things. Also I’m the King in the studio. I’m the king of the Kills. I’m the boss and I like it. When we play live I’m completely usurped and Alison is the King or Queen or boss. That’s her domain. It works really nicely like that I think. I get more out of the studio, and for Alison, her place is the stage.

Do you guys still tour with the drummers in the background?

We have a different setup now. We have one drummer and we have Scott who is playing bass, keyboards, sub-bass and reverbs.

Would you say it’s a more live band set up?

Yeah, I guess. But we’ve always got heavy drum machine and sequencers. I never want it to be live where there’s no sequenced drum track. That’s what I love about it– it doesn’t speed up or slow down.

You guys seem to have an affinity for Boston. Last go around it was one of your only US dates, and this time you’re doing two shows in one week.

We always say that. The last time around we got really superstitious about Boston because the last couple of times it’s been the show that has completely woken us up and turned it up a gear. I don’t know what it is. I have no idea, but this time around, because we sold the first show out, we wanted to do a second night. There were bands playing the next night, but we were so superstitious and concerning that we decided to come back a few days later.

New Multitudes: Woody Guthrie’s memory lives on through a supergroup quartet

In honor of this month’s PBS premiere of Ken Burns’ amazing new documentary series, “The Dust Bowl”, featuring the music of Woody Guthrie, I give you this year in the life of New Multitudes.

A supergroup of sorts, yet leaving any ego behind, New Multitudes is a quartet formed to honor and record unreleased songs of Woody Guthrie on this, the centennial year of his birth.

Woody Guthrie wasn’t just the voice of a generation– he was the voice of several generations, and his legacy is destined to live on forever. Known reverently as America’s premier folk singer, Guthrie was the voice of the people, the voice of protest and a voice of peace. He sang for children, for the workers, for the underdog, and always against injustice. One of the most important storytellers of all time, he is not only known for his original songs, but also for keeping traditional tunes alive and relevant in our nation’s historical repertoire.

It is within this history of retelling the tales of others that the recent New Multitudes record came to be. Paying homage to Woody, and released as a tribute to the centennial anniversary of his birth, four of America’s most earnest troubadours have united to honor Guthrie by recording an album of his previously unreleased songs and taking those tunes on the road for a brief American tour.

First conceived by Jay Farrar (Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, Gob Iron) back in 1995 as a potential collaboration between him and Billy Bragg, the idea fell through and eventually his old bandmate, Jeff Tweedy, would pursue the project with Bragg instead. Farrar would eventually return to the project, enlisting Anders Parker (his band mate in Gob Iron) and later Jim James (of My Morning Jacket) and Will Johnson (of Centromatic and South San Gabriel). Invited by Woody’s granddaughter, Nora Guthrie, Farrar and company were invited to the Woody Guthrie archives in New York City and rummaged through an overwhelming and well-organized file of unreleased Woody Guthrie songs.

Recording the songs over an extensive time frame, the four participants released New Multitudes on February 28 of this year on Rounder Records. Each member assumes the position of lead vocalist for three tracks each, alternating in sequence, and with each of the members joining in at the harmonies and backing instrumentation. In spring 2012, the band did a small big city tour to showcase the record with each member adding some of their own material to the each show’s set list.

The following interviews with Will Johnson and Jay Farrar were conducted separately, over the phone, and just a few days into the tour. Accompanying the interview are exclusive photos and videos from the band’s shows in Boston and at the Newport Folk Festival. Enjoy….

An interview with Will Johnson:

Nolan: Hey Will, how are you?

Will: Hey Nolan. I’m doing okay. I appreciate your patience in doing this and keeping the volley going. This might be a record. This might be one for the books in trying to organize an interview.

I know you’re busy and I’m just glad we get to talk. Where are you guys now?

We’re in Portland right now. We got in about midnight last night.

How have the shows gone so far?

It’s just been a ton of fun. We only have 2 under our belt and it’s been fun trying to assemble it and its been quick. We’ve had to do soundchecks basically as full-set run-thru rehearsal to make sure we have all our ducks in order. But I’m around some really great folks and just as I said when I was doing the Monsters of Folk tour, I have the best seat in the house [as the drummer]. This is a pretty good band and I feel very lucky to be part of it.

Is it just the four of you on stage?

Yes, it is.

Let’s start with the beginnings of this project. Who approached who and who joined on in time?

I guess going back to 1995-1996, Jay [Farrar] was in contact with Nora Guthrie [Woody’s granddaughter] and the idea was to work with Billy Bragg on some Woody Guthrie recordings. I guess the timing didn’t work out. I don’t exactly know the details, but it didn’t happen. But Jay attained to eventually get around to that on his terms. Toss that forward to 2005 and 2006, I guess he and Anders had Gob Iron and they went to the archives and started tracking with Nora’s blessing to put music to these lost and unrecorded Woody lyrics. That gained a little steam. Then in 2008-2009, Jim went by the archives and heard some of those recordings just to say he liked the songs that he heard. Then Jay extended the invitation to Jim and soon after they discussed it, they extended it to me. Then it started to snowball. Jim and I went to New York and cut our songs and got together for a followup session about a year later in March of 2010. So this record came from various corners of the universe in a way—recording sessions and different locations. But the cool thing is that we’ve all known each other for years and years and years through touring and recording and mutual admiration. I guess I go back to 1998 with Jay and Anders and Jim and I have known each other for years of course. It takes awhile to tell that story because it took that long to make the record.

Was everyone in the studio at once or did you guys do it in pairs?

Jay and Anders had the bulk of their tracks done before Jim and I came along. And they had various musicians record with them. The session that took place in ’09 shortly after I was invited involved all four of us. We were at the studio in Brooklyn for a week and we cut Jim’s three songs and we cut my three songs and we all played all over theirs. The session that took place in 2010 was mainly to get mine and Jim’s background vocals on Jay and Anders songs so that there’s a continuous run of fingerprints—everyone’s fingerprints are on all the recordings.

Did you get to go to the archives?

I still have not got to go. The way I received my choices and selections and song choices was from Jay, who had been to the archive several times. He sent me photocopies of 16 to 18 pages of Woody’s writings and scribbles and metered song lyrics… things like that. I went through those on my own time, but I still have to get to the archives.

Where is the Guthrie archive?

It’s in Manhattan as far as I know.

Is it open to the public or do you have to be specially invited?

I guess I’ll find out. I think people have to be in touch with Nora.

What has her roll been in this project?

I hope she goes to the New York show.

So you recorded for a week and just started practicing for the shows this past week?

That’s right. We went down to St. Louis and had three practice days at Jay’s studio doing the best we could to work out a set.

Does the song each person sings on the record reflect the song that they individually decided on to do, or was it a united effort?

I would say so. Speaking from my own experience, I got that mailer from Jay sand spread those pages out on the couch and just decided to find the things that came most naturally. It sounds a little cryptic but I started cutting demos within twenty minutes of opening the mailer. As far as the set we’re going to go straight through and then a mini second set where we do a solo song a piece and a solo song with the full band backing. It’s a full night of music for sure, but I think going in we wanted to perform every bit of the record for sure.

What did Woody Guthrie mean to you and did that view change in anyway with you participating in this project and recording his unrecorded songs?

It’s one of the most humbling feelings I’ve ever experienced. I feel I’m repeating myself with this, but I feel that it is truly one of the most highest honors that I could have ever experienced, either artistically, or in life. Woody Guthrie was always important to me as a kid, thanks to my folks and my grandparents and adults around me. By 1997, I really started exploring deeper into how complex and encompassing he was on all life levels. Just the breadth of his pallet became apparent to me. That Joe Klein biography sticks out to me as an important stage in me learning more about Woody and just how many people he affected. Once I read that book I started to look for more recordings. I guess it didn’t hurt that I was living with a semi-Woody obsessed roommate. So it was always around the house. We actually had a record player in the bathroom and whenever you flipped on the light switch it activated the record player. So, if we were taking a shower, the record player would go and there were a couple of Woody records that were on that record player for the better part of a year, which is great. Use the rest room, brush your teeth and you’d always hear Woody. That was such an important part of my life where I chose to dive in and wanted to learn more about this person.

I know that you and Jim are roadwarriors. Do you see an affinity with Woody Guthrie and that aspect of bringing his music on the road while rambling around the country?

Yeah, Jim and I met just from that sort of setting. It was the Jacket’s first U.S. tour and a good friend of mine was promoting the show in Austin. My friend had some really keen insight and is really responsible for forging the friendship and our friendship’s to flourish. He kind of insisted that South San Gabriel play that show with My Morning Jacket. And we played that show and friendships were forged immediately. Jim and I would send recordings to each other and we did tours in Europe and the US. That friendship flourished into the Monsters of Folk tour and this project as well.

When you approached Woody’s unreleased songs, to what degree did you try to consider how Woody would sing the song versus giving the song your own treatment?

That’s a really good question. On one song [“No Fear”], I took into account how Woody would have sang it and I could hear his voice so clearly when I read those words. Such simple lyrics and if you see the page, it’s scrawled out, it’s later in his life and his faculties were…um… his handwriting was a little shakey, and that makes reading those lyrics all the more intense. There’s still this fire, despite the condition he was in, but he was struggling with his handwriting. That song I did in fact hear his voice and I always kind of thought that Woody was one of the original punk rockers and when those lyrics–to my eyes, and eventually my ears– were very punk rock. Looking death straight in the eye and not being afraid of it. With the other two songs, I tried not to bring in too many outside influences and tried to let the lyrics guide me and let it unfold in a way that felt most natural. I thought it would be incredibly daunting, but I found the songs came very naturally and quick and I think that’s a testament to his voice and his songwriting.

An Interview with Jay Farrar

JF: Thanks for being flexible and thanks for your patience.

NG: No Problem. So are the shows going well so far?

JF: Yeah, really well. Even the first show. There’s always a first show aura I guess and it felt like we’d already been doing it for a while, so it’s going well.

Do you wanna give a brief history as to the beginnings of this project. I know you spearheaded it because you did stuff awhile back.

Yeah the idea of working with Woody Guthrie goes back to 1995-1996 when a request came through the record company. Son Volt was on Warner Brothers then and the idea was to work with unreleased Woody Guthrie lyrics and to work with Billy Bragg. That didn’t happen, but the idea started then. Then in 2006, I approached Nora Guthrie and she said sure. At that point we started going into the Woody Guthrie archives.

So as far as the Billy Bragg thing, did Jeff Tweedy [former bandmate in Uncle Tupelo] just take and run with that?

I don’t know, but frankly I don’t really care which is important. This project finally came to fruition and it’s a great experience working with Will, Jim and Anders.

So you did some songs before this band got together?

That’s right. That’s reflected in the bonus deluxe version of the New Multitudes record, which has a lot of extra songs. Those were songs that Anders Parker and I got a head start on. We started recording, sometimes together and sometimes individually in 2006 and we started the process. Since the beginning this has been a side project and we just did what we could. Probably for the best, there was never any record company involved. The best example of that is that I once traded a guitar to make a recording situation happen. It’s always been an ad hoc situation to make this happen.

How did you come about meeting Nora Guthrie?

We met her while visiting the archives. She’s been supportive all along.

Tell me a little bit about the archives. Do you have to be invited there or can anyone go?

That’s a good question. I was invited because I approached Nora about doing a project with Woody Guthrie lyrics and I’m not sure what she thinks about anyone stopping by, but…. At the time in was located in upper Manhattan and it just occupied just a few relatively small rooms, but there was a vast amount of Woody Guthrie stuff there. It was essentially a repository of all things Woody and lyrics that had never been put to music. Originally I started with the letter “A” with the intention of making it all the way to the letter “Z”, but after about two days, I realized I was only on the letter “C” and wasn’t going to make it and started picking letters arbitrarily that I thought might be good like the letter “S”.

So everything is that well organized?

It is. It’s organized by pre-existing lyrics and then there are journals, which Woody often engaged in more of a free-form style of writing. Sometimes it was a stream of consciousness style, like in the song “Hoping Machine” which reflects Woody’s charms.

What was the craziest thing you found in the archive?

There are too many to mention, but when we found the song “Hoping Machine”, it was just in the middle of his journals where he would be writing routine stuff like “I woke up and drank coffee” and right after that he would launch into something philosophical, along the lines of  “Hoping Machine” which struck me to be a song where he’s talking about music as a language… where the mind which travels back to the laws of time and space.

Were all of these songs from a similar time period, or do you even know?

I started out concentrating Woody’s work in the 1940’s. That particularly interested me because it was a period where his guitar said “This Machine Kills Fascists”. And it was also a period where Woody went in and out of St. Louis, which is where I’m from. I think that “Hoping Machine” comes from the period. But, as Nora pointed out, most of the work that we chose was from a later period, maybe in the 1950’s when he was in California.

What did Woody mean to you before and has that perspective changed now that you’ve recorded his songs and even discovered his unreleased works?

I think going into the project I always thought that Woody was the first guy who though music could change the world. He was essentially the archetype. You can draw a flowchart with people that Woody Guthrie influenced along the way. But I think just visiting the archives it was amazing how prolific he was at creating. I think his first profession was a sign painter.

When you went into these songs, what part of you was conscious of giving the songs your own treatment versus the was Woody would have played them?

We didn’t really go into the writing or recording project with any game plan. We just wanted it to evolve and would reflect each of the various backgrounds that each of us bring to the background.

Would you say you wanted the songs to sound like how Woody imagined them, or did you try and do your own take on things?

There was never any conscious thought about how Woody would have sang it. But I think there are instances where we’re gelling enough to sound like Woody would have done it.

Spiritualized: Sweet Heart, Sweet Light… Exclusive Interview and Live Video

Spiritualized records have a history of being some of the most intricate, complex and laborious undertakings in modern rock music. Conceived from the often medicated mind of Jason Pierce and translated to tape, Spiritualized’s musical journey has explored everything from psychedelic freakouts and overwhelming orchestral offerings, to gospel soul and epic etherealism. Exploring the sonic peaks and valleys of drug use complete with agnostic, religious allusions that seem to cry out for redemption, the band’s anxious buildups and triumphant crescendos sounds like symphonies for substance sympathizers.

Jason Pierce wasn’t easy to track down. He never has been. But at the last possible hour of the last possible day before deadline, he came through to talk about the recent release of his seventh album, Sweet Heart Sweet Light.

While his previous record was recorded after a near death experience with double pneumonia, Sweet Heart Sweet Light was written during another health scare, one he doesn’t like to talk about. This record wasn’t created with the help of illicit drugs like many of the previous ones. It was recorded under the influence of different substances—ones prescribed by a doctor.

Thanks to the kindness and access provided by Spiritualized’s management and the venue’s security staff, this interview is accompanied by exclusive live video and a few photos from their recent show at the Paradise Rock Club.

Without further ado… Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr. Jason Pierce……

What is the background story behind the cover art?

Wow. I wanted it to look like one of those medical logos. But most of all, more than making it look good on a 12” LP, I wanted it to look good on any scale, no matter how small it goes. I wanted it to look like a work of art. It kinda worked on each scale and it kind of looks like the Periodic Table as well, so it kinda worked.

It seems like an interesting choice to start with a 9 minute song. Was there any reasoning behind that decision?

No, it just kind of came out like that. With the record, I wanted to make the whole thing like a pop record, like the Beatles. Then halfway through I realized I didn’t really like the Beatles. Not that I don’t like the Beatles music, but I decided I wouldn’t like to make a record like that. The idea originally was to make all of the songs two and a half minutes so it would be about harmony and melody and not about that abstraction or distortion– but some of it just came about like that. You can’t really edit that down. In a way, with the album as a whole, all the songs lean up against each other and editing them down would have made them more fucked up than this freedom. All the songs lean against each other, you know?

How did the official music video for “Hey Jane” come about and was any of that your idea? Did the video give the song a different meaning in the end?

You know how that video came about… it’s how most videos come about. You commit to someone to make your video. We usually use the video money to have some fun like when we went to Mount Edna. But most of the times you commission someone to make something. And then someone makes it seem like it was their idea. But this time, I sent it out and people came out with their ideas. This time I hadn’t known what he had done and I let him run with it and I did the opposite and didn’t give him any input. My only input, if you can call it that, was to resist any further conventions of the record label to destroy what it was or to try and chop it down to vignettes. There’s all kind of restrictions.

Is it true that you scrapped the original mix of this record after you released promo copies?

No. You know I didn’t mix the record by sitting in a room and mixing the record. I started mixing it a year before I was finished and I was trying not to do any further recording and try and balance it. It wasn’t strictly mixing. But I sent out what I called a finished thing ahead of time to try and jump the gun. There’s so much importance placed upon lead-up time nowadays. It used to be you finished a record and had it out in the stores a month and a half later. Now, it’s 5 months ahead of time because magazine have 3 and a half months lead-up time, so they’re not writing about current affairs anymore– they’re writing about things that happened 3 and a half months ago. So, I figured we could get a jump on that and if I sent an early copy out for review, I could jump on tour right when I finished the record. And it kind of worked. Within a month I was on tour. There wasn’t a clever thought about it. I wasn’t trying to get a jump on journalists or trying to make a clever statement. Sometime down the line I said as a joke that people who review the record haven’t got the proper record anyway. Some people didn’t find that funny. Some people thought I was trying to make some clever point on the state on music journalism. I was just trying to get a jump on touring.

Is the record thematic at all to you?

Is there a thread through the whole record? Is that what you mean? Yeah, kind of. I kind of had a difficult time putting it together actually. Sometimes I think I just make a record to tour because I feel the need to get back on the road. I think that’s what is most exciting… when you’re not trying to tie it down and catch something and put it down forever and be able to hear it in 20 years time. There’s something exciting live when you’re pushing it and you’re within it, but you’re not trying to hold onto it. With this record, as I said, I was trying to make a pop record—I wanted to make something where you didn’t have to be hip to a certain style or music, you could just sit and listen to it like a collection of songs that really worked. My influences were Iggy Pop’s Kill City, Clear Spot by Captain Beefheart and Accelerator by Royal Trux. They weren’t albums that they were releasing into the stars or that would change music forever, they were just beautiful collections of songs. When I tried to put that down, it became very hard to make. Anyone trying to make pop music has nowhere to hide. Everyone knows the definition of pop music. You can’t hide in an abstract idea. I started thinking that the more abstract you go with music, the more you can start to say “oh you’re not really hip to this or you haven’t got the musical ear to understand this”. But with pop music, you can’t really hide behind anything. It doesn’t really come with a disclaimer.

How is your health these days?

It’s good I think.

Did your health problems affect your visions of songs and how you approached songwriting?

Yeah, I don’t know. They got in the way. The treatment was worse than the thing I was suffering from. I had to do the treatment, otherwise I was going to get worse. Really it was made under a whole set of conditions of what being cut off of drugs can do. And so that got in the way. I can’t really even listen to the record now because it reminds me of that time. And I’ve never really made a record like that before. I usually make records that make sense to me after. It’s weird because I haven’t really got a control record to compare with. I haven’t made a record that wasn’t made under those circumstances so I don’t know if it would have been made different, but I really think it might have been.

The last time I saw you play, you played stripped down with gospel singers. Is this going to be similar, or will it be a more all-out rock show?

It’s a similar lineup. I’d like to say it’s a sit-back show, but it’s a little more involved and still allowing the ideas of the new record. But I’d like to say it’s more pop. We’re traveling with the same girls who played on the previous record, but they’re not gospel singers, they sing pop music and they sing like Leonard Cohen or the Leonard Cohen singers. They sound more ethereal and spaced out. It’s not gospel anymore, it’s taken on it’s own thing.

You’ve always used religious allusions in your music. After the near-death health experiences, the Jesus references are still there. Are they any more realistic or are they still just reference points?

No. They never really meant anything religious. I’ve had trouble trying to explain this. It’s like “Heaven Sent Me an Angel”. It’s kind of a short cut in language. I read something this morning about the Beach Boys’ song with Brian Wilson. Even though it has God-reference in the title, the song has NOTHING to do with God. It’s about love. It’s like an economy of language. Really that’s my use of language. Having a conversation with Jesus, you know exactly what that’s about. It allows you to take things with few words to carry what the songs about. There’s no religion in these songs at all.

As far as touring vs. making records, which do you enjoy more?

Touring, always. I’m not trying to pin things down and hold onto things when I play live. You can push it around from the inside and make changes. I fucking hate making records, I really do. And it just gets harder. It changes the way you listen to music. It starts changing the way you listen to other people’s records. You get caught up thinking about what kinds of reverbs they’ve used. Once I get to playing again and I get on the bus, it all starts to make sense again.

When you guys play now, do you go back through the whole catalogue or are there songs you stay away from for any reason?

It’s not very thought about. It’s not really planned. We don’t sit around with a list of songs we can do. We play something and then we think about what leads into that. Nothing’s really out-of-bounds.

Your characters have names on this record, at least more so than usual. Are they based on real people

Yeah, but they’re a bit more fluid. I think there are about 3 Janes in there. There’s no single Jane.

Do you think your songs have turned into more of a quest for penance or redemption at all?

My songs? No, I’ve been trying to write pop songs. In making an album, you almost drain the songs of any substance. By the time I’ve finished the album, they almost have no emotional effect on me at all. It’s kind of wicked because I know it’s in there. I know that some of it really moved me and some of it had to be said like that. But now I listen to the album and I like the pop aspect of it, but I have a few chuckles after hearing some lines of it. But there was a time when the whole album and lyrics were important to me. But you can’t make records fast. I think most bands relinquish responsibilities and hire a producer who comes in with his own bag of tricks. I set out to make my own records. I have to learn it as I go along. I don’t write the finished song before we record it. I record enough ideas and add to it as we go along.