By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
On this new record, the range of sounds both electronic and acoustic is enormous; it’s like every tonal color under the sun. How did you harness it all?
Anything I’ve done the last few years is pretty much just the old Mac G4, with lots of VST plug-ins, and guitars and vocals and drums added onto it. That’s it. For the drum sounds, a couple of good mikes and real drums. I really got into the process of sampling real drum sounds and building digital drum sets out of them. Or using the real thing when you feel they’re more appropriate for your song. I take all these guitar and vocal and drum sounds, and it all goes into the Mac through those tiny wires.
Weren’t you afraid of blowing out your system?
I’m never one to worry about that kind of thing. I just get what I get. [laughs]
Yeah, you always recorded in the red on the early Medicine albums.
That’s still the gist of it. It works really well with computers. But I’ve blown plenty of speakers, for sure. It’s kind of gilding the lily, I guess, a Phil Spectorish thing — there’s three of everything happening at once.
In the past you’ve been pretty sarcastic about terms like ambient music, because you’d found yourself thrown in with a lot of that stuff. How would you rate what you’re hearing from the electronic sphere, like electronic dance tracks, or laptop artists?
If I have anything to say about that kind of music, it’s what I’d say about music in general, which is that everything is so safe right now that for the first time in quite a long time there’s a clear line between knowing what’s bad and what’s good by whether it’s on a major label or not. People are just running scared. It’s a minor miracle a record as weird as mine came out on a label as large as Astralwerks.
Your new album isn’t so weird. The melodies are very strong, and that’s a big part of how you sell the other bizarreness.
As far as the kind of melody you can really make a mark with, melody has just been done. But I’m back into it now, and it’s sort of a natural thing. Melody is a priority for me. Everybody has one song, and everything I write is just another version of my song, you know?
And you’ve got lyrics that dis-harmonize with the musical backdrops. In one tune you’ll say, “It’s my sole wish that you should die,” but the music is kinda cheerful and peppy. I like that, because the area between the two gains expression.
It’s just a line that flew out of my mouth — I’d had some serious ends of relationships with people, a lot of anger.
But are you a traditional songwriter who writes from motivation?
No, it’s just this feeling that happens. A lot of this stuff is just baldly emotional. I love on TV commercials when people sing emotively about room fresheners.
Most of the songs have obtuse titles, like “Sodden Rockets.” That’s pretty unusual for pop music — not being literal-minded.
The whole idea is that it’s pop music without compromise. And it is pop music.
Your brand of pop music works in a distracted, fractured manner — just like the human mind.
That’s my ongoing commercial suicide. It’s my version of pop music. As maybe as unfashionable as it is, it’s an expression of myself . . . I’ve been noticing a lot of old Medicine fans are upset with this record, and it’s come as a shock to me — it’s amazing that some people’s lifestyles and identities are dependent on familiar sounds. Someone said, “The first song sounds like demented disco.” And I was like, “Thanks!” As if that was supposed to be a bad thing.
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city