The Swarm

March 13, 2013

Unmediated: Steve Albini and Tim Midyett on the Legacy of Indie Rock's Most Criminally Unsung Band, Silkworm...

Matt Diehl

Unmediated is a new feature here at The Daily Swarm where we take two fascinating eminences in the music world who share something in common, and then get them to have a conversation via the magic of social media. True to the title, this communication is unmediated by the presence of a journalistic moderator, and is allowed to veer unmoored into topics however esoteric, disparate, and over extensive as the subjects care to be.

To that end, we’ve brought together Steve Albini and Tim Midyett to discuss the enduring legacy of indie rock’s most unsung outfit, Silkworm. These are primary sources, people. Midyett was Silkworm’s bassist, original member, co-songwriter, and one of the band’s primary vocalists; he currently plays baritone guitar in the great band Bottomless Pit with former Silkworm guitarist Andy Cohen, and also invented a spectacular meat rub which you can purchase here. The esteemed, outspoken Albini, meanwhile, has served as the guitarist/vocalist in groundbreaking bands like Shellac and Big Black and is renowned as a recording engineer for the varied likes of The Stooges, Jesus Lizard, Pixies, Neurosis, Breeders, Pussy Galore, Nirvana, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and oodles more; he’s also worked on nearly every record Silkworm has ever made, and has been a close friend of the band and it’s members throughout its existence.

What makes Silkworm a timely topic is the recent release of a feature-length documentary on the band, Couldn’t You Wait?, titled after one of the band’s signature songs. For just a sawbuck, you can watch it here, and you should, as it is not just one of the best rock documentaries ever in current memory, but one of the most honest portraits of what it means to exist inside a rock and roll band. Indeed, while Couldn’t You Wait? rewards aficionados, it compares to acclaimed music docs like Searching For Sugar Man and Anvil: The Story of Anvil in that you don’t have to be a fan of the musicians that are the subjects to be moved by its narrative. That’s because the story of Silkworm is both a prototypical rock-band fable and utterly unique in its capacity for heartbreak, insight, and epiphany. It’s also a singular portrait of the peaks and valleys of the ’90s indie-rock bubble as seen through the experience of Silkworm and their circle. And oh yeah, the music is freakin’ awesome.

A labor of love directed with precision and heart by filmmaker Seth Pomeroy, Couldn’t You Wait? features incisive interviews with the likes of Silkworm’s musician peers like Albini, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, and Steve Malkmus of Pavement, as well as Matador Records honcho Gerard Cosloy, but it is the tapestry of found footage and archival material that provides the film’s golden moments. Those images and sounds Pomeroy has uncovered tell the story of an absolutely individual band within the indie pantheon – and one whose music has endured far better than many of the hyped indie outfits of the era that spawned Silkworm. That’s because while on the surface, Silkworm seems like an utterly typical guitar-bass-drums rock band, but upon investigation reveals itself to be a stranger, more compelling beast indeed. Silkworm was formed during 1987 in the not-quite-music-metropolis of Missoula, Montana around the nucleus of founding members Midyett, Cohen, and guitarist/singer/songwriter Joel RL Phelps. It was only after Silkworm moved to Seattle in grunge-drunk 1992, and Phelps left two years later, that the classic lineup of Midyett, Cohen, and drummer Michael Dahlquist took shape. This iteration of Silkworm cemented the group’s appeal – startling, unpredictable dynamics that only have parallel in, say, the hangdog grooves of Crazy Horse, combined with challenging song structures informed by post-punk and Amerindie iconoclasts, and idiosyncratic singing and songwriting full of evocative storytelling from each member. “They all played their instruments in a similar way, and I don’t know of any other bands that really played all three instruments with that similar type of attack,” Jeff Tweedy explains in the film. “I’ve always loved bands like that: a group of guys [who] get together and kind of bond in some sort of unified vision that nobody else would even care to share with them, except for these three guys.”

The saga that followed proved one of rock’s most tragic and odd trajectories – the tale of a band that, if there was any justice, should’ve been a household name, but whose utterly sad demise proves without question that justice is in short shrift in our often shitty world. In 1996, Silkworm released its career high mark, its stone-classic third album Firewater on burgeoning indie imprint Matador, which, despite its epochal quality, didn’t achieve the recognition or sales of, say, labelmates and touring pals Pavement. Silkworm would move to Chicago and go on to put out five more albums on labels like Touch & Go, each one great, right down to the band’s very last LP release, It’ll Be Cool, which featured songs like the bittersweet anthem “Don’t Look Back” which proved as spectacular as anything in the band’s catalog. What happened next, however, is unthinkable – one of the great tragedies to ever hit the music underground: in 2005, Dahlquist was killed by a deranged female driver while driving in a Chicago suburb with two musician friends and co-workers, Douglas Meis and John Glick, who also did not survive.

Dahlquist’s memory, however, will never be forgotten due to a musical legacy that’s proven timeless and unstoppable, and in time will likely prove as influential as any in the canon. As Albini says in an interview for the film, “Silkworm, as it turns out, were never that popular. That doesn’t mean anything in terms of their value to the culture, other than that it will take longer for more people to hear about their music.” In the conversation below, Albini and Midyett thoroughly and candidly parse the story of Silkworm as only two fellow travelers who were there could.

Tim Midyett: lets do this jam l8r. whenevs today after 2PM my time i know u r working. Oh jesus I can’t do the txt talk any more. Next-door nabes got burgled yesterday! Gone for 1hr, burgled in interim. Sux! Talk/type soon.

Steve Albini: Those are some goddamn efficient burglars. Makes it seem like a real profession. Remember when there were all those police about and we went to speculating on your neighbors and their doings? We invented quite a backstory after dinner.

TM: I am getting an alarm. Turns out everyone in the hood has one. We are the only people who do not. Hey I am home all day tomorrow so let me know if/when you may be able to type.

SA: Dude we are totally doing this already.

The alarm will be a total pain in your ass since you have a barbecue and kitchen and smoke cigars once in a while. Also they have a battery that will make the alarm go off in a real annoying way all the fuck time what is it with batteries.

TM: Oh I get it this is the thing. OK sure.

The alarm is a burglar alarm, not a smoke alarm man. But you are right it will be a pain in the ass. If we get it.

SA: I am in Los Angeles where they gave movies an Oscar party the other day. I notice your movie didn’t win a goddamn thing. On NPR they said to win an Oscar you need to advertize, like as much as 10 million dollars in advertizing. How much did you spend and is that why you won ABSOLUTELY NO OSCARS?

TM: I can’t believe normal and smart people watch the Emmys and the Oscars.

They’re not fun to watch. The music isn’t any good, and very rarely are the movies all that great. Yet normal people watch 'em and talk about it and type on Facebook about it.

Now, the Tonys, that is a fucking show.

I think the Silkworm movie is doing fine. A lot of people bought it the first week, I just found out. Seth can pay back his investors not directly involved in the flick.

SA: Man have I told you how good that movie is? As a fan of a band, it’s the kind of movie I want to see about bands, and as a guy in a band, if somebody did a movie about my band and it was that It would make me like that I bothered to be in a band.

Of course I told you, that was a thing for a larger audience and I’m going to quit doing that.

TM: Yes, and now I will type for the reader as to how gratifying it indeed is.

I admit to thinking a bit in terms of history when making a record, like “this is going to outlive me, so I have to make sure it’s an accurate document.”

I remember my first exposure to Cheap Trick was, well, the first exposure was seeing their name all over this girl’s t-shirt. The typing logo. She had no bra on. I was ten, and that was the moment basically when I flipped from sports to music. I went all into it on my blog and stuff.

But musically, my first exposure to them was All Shook Up, which is, like, one of the worst three or four Cheap Trick albums. Later I heard the first three records, and I realized one, that Cheap Trick was awesome, and two, you really do yourself a disservice if you kinda boot a record every now and then.

So. You know, I try to get that part right.

But the day-to-day details, I mean, I really took almost no pictures while it was happening. I put a couple of tour journals online because they were entertaining to me. But capturing that stuff—which rounded out who we were as people and what we meant to each other—I did none of that.

To have Seth come in and not only dig up the source material but get it completely right—despite never having seen Silkworm and not knowing us as guys at all before he started—just kinda blows my mind.

SA: Man I make records every day, and it’s true, what you do on that one day you’re in the studio will hang around, maybe only on your own conscience, but it will hang around. It’s a pretty heavy thing when you realize you’re holding a band’s legacy in your hands. Like if I fuck up this record then the band will get blamed for it forever.

I wish you and I had this conversation with Rick and Robin before they recorded The Doctor.

You know what I like a lot about Seth’s movie? Seems like there’s no politics in it, but the whole thing is political. You make a real good case that proletarian art—working stiff art—is maybe the best kind of art to do. I mean, you had some benefactors over the years but eventually they pretty much all decided they’d had enough of not turning a profit on you and cut you loose. There’s a point in the film where you all decide that the band is family and you don’t fuck your family for money, and from then on you did your best shit and your comfort level seemed higher.

If people get nothing else from observing Silkworm’s career arc, it should be that people devote themselves to music because the experience of doing it is reward enough. All the pop-culture babble about getting rich and attracting chicks, that’s all a bunch of bullshit. I know ten thousand guys in bands and I’ve literally never heard anybody say he was in it for the money or the women.

Music is maybe the number one thing that counterfeits all conventional labor economics. People don’t just do it for nothing, they work a job to support it like a family.

TM: It is political. I’d never thought of that before.

I don’t have a ton of perspective on it. Silkworm was super insular. Bottomless Pit is really insular now. It’s the only way I know how to do it.

Last year sometime, someone decided Bottomless Pit should play a benefit, which probably wasn’t a great idea.

Silkworm did a couple benefits. We did one semi-famous one for the Washington Wilderness Coalition, as the Crust Brothers, where we played a bunch of Bob Dylan covers and stuff with Steve Malkmus. It got recorded on cassette and put out as a semi-bootleg, and we probably made more money on that all told than we ever made on anything we put out. That one went great all-around.

But the Pit—I mean, I try not to explain the band because then I have to get into a lot of stuff that speaks for itself, but it’s pretty heavy music. Emotionally so, not just musically so. It’s not geared to help people have a good time on a Friday night.

Plus…we make Silkworm look like Maroon 5 when it comes to publicity and stuff. Bottomless Pit has been a band for almost eight years, and this thing is literally the second time I’ve ever even mentioned Bottomless Pit in print. I don’t do interviews about the band, and we are totally fine staying almost completely under the radar.
Anyway, all bad reasons to have us play a benefit. Of course I see that the nice people liked our music a lot and all that, and I liked the cause, which was a gallery for outsider art here in Chicago.

They have some people play and do stuff, then we get up there. And set up tons of gear and all that. I look out at the audience, and it’s just folks who would go to an art gallery, who don’t look so different from us but I can just tell they’re not really…prepped.

I’d never done this before, but I launched into this brief synopsis of who we were, what we’d done, all that, so people wouldn’t be totally taken aback or have no context at all for what they would see before they turned around and left.

And as I was describing everything—the years in exile in Montana, the years in exile in Seattle, the years of touring and sleeping in the van and playing for four people—I realized out loud, man…outsider artists don’t realize they’re outsider artists do they? I never realized…we’re basically making outsider art.

SA: The thing about our end of the culture is that—maybe uniquely or ultimately so in the case of the Pit—it’s not primarily for an audience, it’s for those of us in the band. Each band is a marriage or its own Albania and people outside need a visa and special dispensation to visit, and no matter how intimate an outsider is with the material, they’re not in the band and they’ll never have the experience we have, the thing that makes it important.

TM: Yeah. And Silkworm actually was an unusual expression of that. I don’t know of too many bands who kept doing what the Worm did at that level, consistently, for that long. For better or worse.

Dead Moon, who…I mean, if there was ever an outsider-art rock band, it’s them. There are bands like the Fastbacks and the Walkabouts and Eleventh Dream Day, but their profiles seem a bit higher.

Maybe I’m romanticizing it.

SA: Jesus Dead Moon, what a trip that band was. Just chugging along, year after year, quietly being incredible.

TM: The movie did a great job of conveying the pirate-ship aspect of doing that kind of thing.

The lazy thing to do with bands like us is to focus on the negative effects of not being part of the music industry. The limits on our audience, the need to ration the time we spend on playing and recording music. It’s arguable as to whether that’s a bad thing exactly, but most people assume that you’re in it to get recognized and not have to work for a living.

Being apart from the gen pop music industry has some obvious good effects, in that you avoid compromise and your thing stays the way you want it to be. It’s pretty easy to grasp, and it is common to ride that pony to death, as well.

But maybe the best part of doing things the way we did 'em is that when you find kindred spirits, a bond is forged that goes beyond personalities. It’s based on the whole way you go about doing things in life. Which truly is powerful. Andy and I are brothers. Michael was our brother. I’m still super tight with all the people I met during that time who were on our wavelength, however often I actually run into them.

That’s the hardest thing to describe-the sense of purpose and satisfaction you get from forging your own path, on your own terms, with people you really love and trust. The movie really drove that home in an awesome way.

It didn’t do that as well the first time it was “done.” But Seth realized, I think, without anyone telling him, that he had a better story to tell in there somewhere.

SA: The 90s was such a weird time. There was this boiling, active underground of radical people totally unconcerned with success in business terms, and then briefly there was this dabbling, dilettante-ish presence of the old-school music business that seemed to tip more than a few people’s reference points.

There were a few spotlight examples of people taking them for a ride, I’d put Matador and Sub Pop squarely in that camp, and as a carry-on effect, all the bands to whom they doled out largesse. The Worm benefited from that in a modest way, but I think the net effect it had on the scene was destructive, and it created an atmosphere of artificially-inflated expectation.

I found that the only really infuriating part of that era, that people who were otherwise content as outsiders were being lured (sometimes quite actively recruited) into being part of the crass old-school showbusiness melee. Those people often played it as irony, but the intent was usually transparent.

In addition to good souls tempted foul, for a while there people with a genuine interest in their art were sharing the scenery with grasping, brazen, ambitious sellouts, and their company made me particularly uncomfortable. I can only imagine what it was like in Seattle. Bad I guess?

TM: Seattle had to have been the worst place in the country, in that regard. Fortunately, from 1992 on, we were gone a lot.

A certain amount of reasoning went into everything we did and didn’t do, but really it was 90% instinct. Just gut reactions. We talked to various big labels about doing stuff, and every time, we were just ehhhhhhh…no. I think we sensed that our purchase was in our distinctiveness, and our distinctiveness was tied to our natural working method. And every big label wanted to disrupt that working method to some extent. They certainly didn’t want us to make records with you.

SA: Haha you’d be surprised how common a sentiment that was. When Robbie Fulks got signed his A&R guy said he could do basically whatever he wanted with his record except work with me. I can’t really blame any of those people for their prejudices. They deduced pretty accurately that I wouldn’t respond on their behalf in anything, and I was less than likely to share their aesthetics. All these are legitimate concerns on their part, but they betray the pretty stark difference between us and them. We looked at music and band culture as a continuum of our friends and peers, and they looked at the world in terms of its utility in business and power. I couldn’t bestow any clout, I wasn’t interested in acquiring any, and I didn’t give two fucks about what other people (people not in the band) might think.

TM: Most of the big-label guys talked about being into the songwriting a lot. That was a good clue that they were going to change everything that was unusual about us.

Brian Eno pointed out that even a casual listener can ID various rock recordings in very short order, based on the way they sound. I just was around someone who did this, on a dare, with some super obscure German industrial 12”—he got it based on the quality of the noise floor at the beginning of the track. Try doing that with classical music or jazz—doesn’t really happen, not to the same extent.

A band’s sound is really what it has going for it. The sound is the ultimate manifestation of its approach. The approach guides the writing and stuff, of course, but without their sound, the band can really be made to be anything. Which is what record guys realize, which is why they always want to control that part of the process.

SA: Yeah, and even the tiniest changes can sometimes make something click over from incredible to pure bummer. When I think about the bands that have meant the most to me, the Ramones, the Stooges, Kraftwerk, Suicide, Chrome, the Pop Group, the Wipers, MX-80… I could go on but I won’t, all of them have something built in that’s a little bit insane. Something a professional would probably try to straighten out if only to make things go smoother in life.

And of the people I’ve worked with the most, you guys, Kim [Deal], Nina [Nastasia], almost whoever it is, there’s an element of mania there. Some little bit of nobody-else-could-do-that obsession. I’m convinced that not giving a shit about other people is critical to making anything of value. The moment somebody starts deferring to outside opinions, their output suffers. Their productivity might go up, but what they’re doing loses some of what made it worth listening to.

That’s why I’m loath to suggest anything substantial to a band in the studio. I’d be doing it from an ignorant position. I just got a little walking tour of Capitol Records studios in LA, and Al Schmitt was there, working on some nondescript pop jazz horror. But he can work on that, or an orchestral session or super high-tech modern stuff or an old-school rock band and all of it is fucking flawless. Now I don’t know his tastes, but he has to hate at least some of the horrible music he works on, it’s only natural. What makes him a badass is that he doesn’t try to shoehorn any of that stuff into his own aesthetic, he just makes it come out of the speakers as intended.

He’s had an awesome career and it’s probably partly because he’s never been cited as the hot producer of the moment or anything. He just humps the load. You can hump the load for 50 years or more, but you can only be a skyrocket for a short while.

TM: Rhett Davies was like that. Great engineer. Worked on some of the best records and some terrible records and a lot of in-between. They all sound exactly the way they should.

Sometimes I say that rock and roll ruined my life, and I always say it like it is a joke. Because it didn’t really ruin it. It has enriched it hugely and has given me a leg up on most other people when it comes to cutting down on deathbed regrets. I get to rock, and most people don’t.

But…yes, it is a mania. For me. And it’s a little crippling sometimes, or at least it controls me in some ways.

I had this realization the other day—I like to think I choose things, like I think about what to do, and I choose this thing over that thing based on the pros and cons blah blah.

I realized—I forget what it was—something made me realize I don’t do that at all. It’s all instinct or compulsion or something like that. And very certainly music is like that, there’s just about no conscious thought associated with it. It requires a lack of conscious thought to be really great.

Which is why it is so deeply satisfying, which is why I keep coming back to it, and a band like Silkworm can stay together for seventeen years with a relatively limited audience to show for it. Why it doesn’t matter how many people tune in. It’s really a deeply selfish endeavor, isn’t it?

SA: Right, like I’m sure neither one of us “chose” our wives from a pool of available wife choices. We didn’t do a spreadsheet and make a decision.

TM: Being in a band is very much like being married. Without the sex in my case, but otherwise. I don’t know too many people who choose their partners conceptually who do well on that front….

SA: “Choose their partners conceptually…” You might be talking about wedlock but that sounds like Zwan. Or that thing from TV where they had the Nuge and Scott Ian and dude from whatever hair metal band and Bonham’s kid… I saw like three minutes of that and wanted to drink lye.

TM: Zwan is a perfect example.

SA: If your band isn’t profoundly selfish then you’re doing it wrong, or at least you’re doomed to perceive the thing as a failure sooner or later. I’ve said this before, but playing music is like playing chess or bass fishing or ballroom dancing. Very few people get to call these things a profession, but nearly anyone can do them for their own sake and have their lives be better for it, and I’m certain the people I admire most in music do it primarily because they can’t not do it.

Have I lent you the Stompin’ Tom Connors autobiography? It’s pretty great, along those lines. Dude just wants to stomp and sing and travel Canada, and fuck everything else about it. [Editor’s Note: Stompin’ Tom Connors died five days after this interview was completed.]

TM: Chris Brokaw is the Stompin’ Tom Connors of our circle. I don’t know if I could live his life, but I still envy it on the reg.

SA: Yeah, Brokaw is incredible. Just keeps fuckin’ that chicken. Seems like sooner or later he’s going to have a moment, like get asked to be David Bowie’s musical director or do the score for a Tarantino movie and be one of the go-to guys from then. Be set for life. Like a postmodern GE Smith.

Can I ask you a couple of aesthetic questions? Okay I will.

You know that song The Brain, how it has a pretty strong Cars vibe, if he weren’t dead would you have wanted Orr to sing that or is it better for you to channel Orr? I ask because you had Kelly Hogan sing Young, and you occasionally tapped Michael to sing key parts in songs. Like you’re not precious about it being you singing your song.

TM: I like to sing my own songs, but every now and then, there is something that seems like it should have someone else’s voice on it. I can sing enough like Ben Orr that I would just do it myself. I can’t sing like Kelly, certainly, not even close. I couldn’t sing like Michael. Michael couldn’t sing like anyone but himself, but neither could I sing like him.

SA: I’m going to ask something about Michael here in a second, but I’m working on how to say it.

So… the hinge of the film — and maybe also your life — is when Michael was killed. It’s a small point, but some references to Michael say that he “died,” while in the film, and certainly in other conversation about it everybody says he “was killed.” The distinction obviously being one of action rather than occurrence that matters to people who knew him. I felt a particular and unfamiliar kind of sickness over the manner of his death. Like there was an extra insult to it beyond the suddenness.

I don’t mean to have you relive it, but since you attended some of the legal proceedings and spoke at the trial and everything, were those steps at all beneficial to your well being, or how would you characterize them? What I’m getting at is that I didn’t think I could be in a room while all that was being gone over, and that it would do me no good. I certainly didn’t get the feeling while it was all going on, with you and Heather and Vick and the families, that it was palliative at all.

That’s also not necessarily why you would do it, which is I guess what I’m asking about.

Big topic I know, and feel free not to go into it. I’ve had a hard time talking to most people about it myself.

TM: Oh, I relive it a little bit every day, so no problem.

Michael surely was killed, which…people can describe it however they want. He is dead, and we will never see him again—that’s what matters. But when discussing his actual death, he didn’t “pass away.” It wasn’t a “car accident.” He got killed; many of us would say he was murdered. A court basically said he was murdered. Kind of.

I was relieved that Heather [Whinna, Steve’s wife and the “producer” of Silkworm’s 2000 album Lifestyle and Vickie [Hunter, Tim’s wife and Silkworm’s “den mother”] took it upon themselves to go to all of the court proceedings. We are required to acknowledge the miserable nature of people sometimes. I would have felt obligated to do it if they hadn’t, but they allowed me the luxury of not caring very much about the trial and its results. Dealing with his death and the loss of the band was way more than enough—I wanted to avoid the “extra insult,” as you put it, of having to wade through how he and Doug and John went out.

I got no comfort from any of it. I love this whole concept of closure as it relates to tragedy. Ha ha! Yes, now that the person who killed my friend on purpose has been dealt with in court, I can begin to experience closure. It’s gonna be great. All this misery will be over soon!

SA: I’ve always taken the word “closure” to mean revenge when I hear it on TV. If you listen to the way people use it — generally people unrelated to the incident who are talking about it — you can substitute “revenge” in any sentence using “closure.” Same goes for “justice.” The thing about survivors is that the loss, the void is now part of our identity. It won’t ever close, of course not. I don’t want it to close. If it closes then there’s nothing and the space it defines is a big part of me.

I didn’t suffer the trial, as noted, and honestly I felt guilty about that, like I was being a bad friend to Michael by not standing his ground for him. But the bigger feeling, a kind of overwhelming one, was that I didn’t want to have that person who killed Michael, John and Doug on my mind at all. This woman was going to have a big to-do, society paying her the attention her tantrum was designed to elicit, and even granted that it was about deciding her punishment, it felt like an intrusion, like she had found a way to appear significant.

You may have noticed that over time my level of distaste for a person has developed into a plateau, and never rises to anger, I tend just to never think of such a person again. My “closure” is in not having a worthless piece of shit on my mind, not even for a minute.

I don’t know what it is, but I have essentially no desire for revenge. I get no satisfaction in seeing someone punished and have none of the lust for consequences that drives most public policy. When I see a homeless guy, I never wonder how he got in that situation, pondering whether or not he “deserves” it. I just assume he’s a regular person and that’s where he ended up, and if I have it on me I give him five bucks. When I see a guy getting sent to prison, I never think, “good job, system.” I just think about how rotten a thing is prison, just wasting people and turning them into assholes.

For killing people, yeah, I suppose you should spend some time in jail. I say that because I have no idea what to do instead, and as crimes go, killing people is the top one. So if there’s prison for anybody, okay put killers in there. But for most things fuck no. How is putting somebody else in prison going to restore me in any way? What do I get out of it other than this nonsense about “closure?”

For small stuff it’s obvious. There’s some asshole kid who keeps tagging our building. It creates a lot of work for the Diamond, who maintains the building, and it’s an eyesore. One day a cop came by to take a statement, saying they’d caught the kid tagging our block. My first question was, “they’re not sending him to jail are they?” because I didn’t want to be part of that. It’s not that I wasn’t mad at him, I was and if I’d caught him in the act I’m sure I’d have been a real dick about it, chasing him like an asshole until he got away and I was all out of breath and three blocks away and everything. But that’s about it.

So the trial and punishment thing meant very little to me. Intellectually I suppose it’s important that this woman be made to take responsibility for her behavior, but there was never an inkling of that. She just waved it all away onto her psychology and medicine. Just nonsense. When I heard that she had returned to modeling, and had been hired by a car show it seemed both impossibly insensitive and also absolutely consistent.

TM: People like that are black holes. We know people who got sucked into giving a shit what happened to her. It was kind of the price they had to pay for being noble enough to take up the slack and go to court. I don’t think we should feel bad about it. They would have gone anyway.

But nothing good comes of becoming absorbed in the story of someone that weakly formed.
I can’t imagine something happening to someone as punishment and it making me feel BETTER. Or not happening, and making me feel worse. Impossible. Not allowed to be part of my life.
I’m glad they caught your tagger, though.

SA: Been in the studio with a bunch of old instruments, really weird idiosyncratic stuff. Incredible the lengths people went to for variety before there were computers. Like the very small and specific differences between a clavichord and a spinet and a harpsichord required three full pieces of furniture, for what would be like a quarter of a drop-down menu on one preset now. It seems like a totally legit approach to me. You want a thing, you have that thing. You want another thing, you have to go get another thing. Probably goes a long way toward stopping the capricious eclecticism and cram-it-all-in-ism that seems to be a thing now.

Neil Young basically plays that one guitar. Seems like if you only have the one thing you get real good at it, whatever it is. It’s hard to think of a really exceptional guitarist who doesn’t have one primary instrument and sound. I guess Rick Nielsen is good, but I think of him as an arranger more than a guitarist.

TM: Bass players are a bit more specific than guitarists, usually, I think.

For the last twenty years, I’ve had one main bass: a Travis Bean Wedge I bought for $300 in Kansas City. I’ll have it forever.

I have a few of the Electrical Guitar Company baritone guitars, but the one I play is the prototype, first one ever made. I have to send it to Kevin today for some work, and I’m pretty nervous about it.

Andy has a few guitars, but he is defined by the Stratocaster and the Les Paul gold top with P-90s in it. I think he’d say he is the Strat if he had to pick.

He has a really great Telecaster, but he says Teles in general are tainted by all the slapdick indie pusses who play them nowadays. Whereas hardly anyone plays a Strat, because it is hard to make them sound good, and gold tops are both rare and not that cool.

It’s funny that he even thinks about that kind of thing. Then again, Kevin is making me another baritone, and while I like the Jazzmaster body shape ergonomically, I can’t abide by it due to…all the slapdick indie pusses who play them. So there I go.

SA: Tim, we talk a lot, more than most dudes do to other dudes, so it seems a little odd to type our conversation out but I have enjoyed it. Do you think your daughter (as a signifier of a generation born post-internet) will have any idea how weird it is to type across distance to a person on a computer?

TM: In a few years, the Singularity will be upon us, and we, by which I mean the Great Cosmic I, will have a great laugh at having to interpret things and express oneself and all that.

SA: I remember when Andy was the only guy in either band to own a cellphone, and how incredible it seemed that he could call the venue and get directions while we drove there. Remember when arcade games were all the rage and mini-golf seemed old fashioned? We just went mini-golfing with your daughter the other day, and it was a really modern, black-light rave type jam. Crazy that mini golf is still around. Okay see you soon.

TM: Steve, I hope we are both making records until it is physically impossible for us to do so, perhaps even beyond that. L8R.

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