NP: I AM NEON PHOSPHOR.
MW: hey, neon
NP: TWO GIGS. WHAT AN EXCITING TIME TO BE A TONIC.
MW: sculpted static never had it this good. arta mentioned that we're the second band to play at the lava lounge. that's right, isn't it? well, i'm curious as to what the other bands are going to sound like
NP: WELL, YOU WON'T GET TO HEAR THE THIRD, SINCE THEY WILL BE TOO BLOWN AWAY TO TAKE THE STAGE.
MW: that's what i'm afraid of. what if they're violently mediocre?
NP: I HEARD YOU JUST WROTE A NEW SONG, POSSIBLY THE NEXT BIG HIT. WHAT IS IT ABOUT?
MW: whatever it ends up being about. i have a sense of what it's about, and i always try to build a thesis for whatever i'm writing. but i think i'd be a fool if i tried to pin down its meaning before i even have a demo of it. i'll say that it's going to have a helluva rhythm, because i want songs with rhythm, just in general
NP: I THINK A LOT OF READERS WOULD BE CURIOUS: HOW DO YOU WRITE SONGS? DO THEY JUST COME TO YOU? WHAT IS THE PROCESS?
MW: oh, jeez. ask me in about 5 years. if i'm still writing songs, maybe i'll know how to do it then. right now i don't really have a technique besides having something on my mind, which is probably why i come up with good stuff. not having a procedure can make creating something an act of desperation. of course, it can also prevent you from doing something well. but if there's something you'd like to say and you don't know how to say it, you start casting about beyond what you'd normally think of. since there's not a lot to lose except your patience; there are no parameters to violate. the process itself isn't sacrosanct, just the need to say what you mean. at the same time, it's terribly limiting because the exploration is in the composition, not its refinement. so i'm comfortable only writing in certain keys as i have to take them for granted; i'm only now taking the time to transpose songs to hear how they sound and so that i can develop a sense for something beyond G natural. how about that? am i ready to hold a songwriting clinic?
NP: SO, BEING A TONIC. YOU'RE OBVIOUSLY MORE THAN JUST A SINGER-SONGWRITER SOLOIST. DO ARTA AND STEVEN PLAY ANY ROLE IN THE SONGWRITING AND THE REALIZATION OF YOUR SONGS?
MW: well, right now, i'd say they almost have more of a role than i do. if only because i can't put the same time in during the mixing and subsequent arrangement, being stuck here in davis. it's a little like i'm the oil well and they're exxon. i spend a lot of time up north, laboring the mind-numbing labor of drilling for something good. so they can labor the mind-numbing labor of turning crude ore into cherised goods. that's what i mean. so when i come down south we rock the casbah
MW: hey, thanks. i hear hamlet's going to bring tears to my eyes
NP: YEAH, THAT'S WHAT I HEARD. TOO BAD STEVEN HASN'T GOTTEN AROUND TO MIXING IT YET.
MW: naw, he just hasn't finished it.
NP: THAT'S AN INTERESTING SONG, TOO. I BELIEVE IT'S THE FIRST TIME YOU SING LEAD VOCALS ON A SONG YOU DIDN'T WRITE.
MW: it is. we tried lucy, but i was a much worse singer back then. it's strange. you realize that even if there's no procedure for writing songs, there is an unconscious union between what you write and how you sing. i don't write lyrics like steven's, and my brain isn't used to creating a melody around words like that. such is the lot of the amateur. i think it worked all right, though.
NP: HOW DO YOUR MUSICAL/LYRICAL STYLE AND STEVEN'S DIFFER, AND IS THAT PROBLEMATIC WHEN YOU'RE TRYING TO MAKE A COHERENT ALBUM?
MW: i don't think so. it's obvious that steven saw his education as training in a more direct way than i have. you can scan the meter of his lyrics. that's a kind of sophistication i don't possess. at the same time, we do a lot of the same things. rely pronouns with uncertain antecendents, twist things around prepositions. i mean, the songs that are lyrically plain are mine and the songs that are fancy are his. that's a potentially grating duo, but i think it's been all right so far. this album's going to be all over the place, anyway. hamlet and get things done? the lyrical juxtapositions aren't any more alarming than the musical ones, and people approve of the latter.
NP: HMM, WITH ALL THESE STYLISTIC DIFFERENCES THROUGHOUT THE ALBUM, DO YOU THINK THIS ALBUM MIGHT BE REGARDED AS PROG?
MW: naw. prog is about flash. there're no drum solos or overt, wild guitar antics on this record. the songs are short. maybe if we put on 18 minutes of birds chirping like the mars volta did on their last album, we'll be fucked. but, as it stands, the only word people have for music that's exploratory yet tasteful is "good." you can swap "pastiche" in for tasteful if you'd like
NP: JOHNNY CASHPOINT ONCE SAID, "I would like to hear you take your obvious musical talents into new and exciting pastures, rather than (what i interpret as, again and again) pastiche. That's not being pedantic, that's what music is all about, imo."
MW: well, he hasn't heard save the day yet. having said that, it seems a little insulting to me that a song that has acoustic guitars and harmonies is necessarily immative of simon and garfunkel. ahem, let me put it this way. i don't like deerhoof. that's not music, guys, that's fucking around in my book. and they're pretty popular because they do as they see fit, not because it's good, but because it's original. and that's why most people don't give a shit about independent music. it doesn't want to be appealing to the ears, but rather appealing to some abstract aesthetic sense of originality, of envelopes that need to be pushed, or it's music that sounds good to people who are nuts. i mean, take motown and take the indie scene now. as i see it, and this is pretty limited and probably incorrect, i'll grant that. but the way i see it is that motown made impersonal the process of creating songs that sound good. the indie scene these days, and i think it's fair to compare because there's a canon i have in mind of artists like blonde redhead, etc. the scene, whatever you want to call it, has made the process of innovation impersonal. there's a way new songs sound. and that's a little ridiculous, because while there were motown songs that were hokey and insincere, they were still pretty good music. these songs lack even the merit of mediocrity. now, i'm not arguing for the mainstream music industry. they've focused on the process of making music appealing, which is pretty smart, i have to say. who cares what sounds good if you own all the other options, too. but my point is that it's a little ridiculous to lambast music that sounds good because it might sound like something somebody else did before. at what point does it stop? are harmonies pastiche? guitars?
NP: GOOD POINT.
MW: i mean, i see what that guy means. there's doo wop in sunday night, just as there's simon and garfunkel in elegy. but i've listened to a lot of old R&B and been forced into a lot of simon and garfunkel. and i don't think that either is actually pastiche. take the guitar playing on elegy. there's not one paul simon guitar line. and call me crazy, but that's about half of what simon and garfunkel were about. the other half being the harmonies. and the harmonies are, to my ears, more beatles esque. the phrasing's pretty goddamn different, too. so what we're left with is that harmonizing on lyrics that might suffice as poetry outside a subdued acoustic guitar heavy backing is far, far too much like simon and garfunkel. throw that shit away, and with it what? elliott smith? no, thanks. i'd rather risk being pastiche (and i mean that over being considered pastiche) than eliminate a wide range of styles and be considered "hip".
NP: I THINK WE ARE ALL LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS NEW ALBUM, PASTICHE OR NOT. GOOD LUCK WITH THE SHOW AND EVERYTHING, AND THANKS AS USUAL FOR YOUR TIME.
MW: absolutely. and thank you.