Green light means “stop”. Red light means “go”. Yellow light means “I don’t know”.

CJAM station manager Adam Fox recently propositioned me. And it wasn’t what you’re thinking. Get your mind out of the gutter. He said, “Yo, scraggly-face…let’s talk about what you do and record it.” And I said, “Dog, that’s phat. That’s fresh. That’s…phresh?” And he said, “I ain’t no dog. Don’t you be expecting me to bark.” So I did the barking, and all was well.

Or maybe it didn’t quite play out that way.

What did happen was this: Adam interviewed me for the CJAM show Not in My Backyard, and it aired today at around noon. If you missed it, fret not, for you can listen right here, right now, while watching the world wake up from history.

Not in My Backyard feature (September 30, 2008)

I like how the closing music is a demented instrumental song featuring toy piano, atonal recorder madness, and a title that references Luke Perry’s nipples. It fits somehow. And I’m happy to say I sound more coherent than I thought I did at the time, though I could have done a better job of articulating some of my thoughts. That seems to be the case pretty often when I’m trying to talk about my music outside of the comfort of blog-land.

There’s one specific thing I don’t think I explained very well, and that’s my whole songwriting process, or lack thereof. I’ve been trying to think of how I could get across what it’s like in a way that makes some amount of sense. A thought came to me the other day, and this is probably the best way I can explain it. You know how when you’re dreaming it seems like your brain will draw upon anything and everything it might have hanging around, from any point in your life, and throw things together in ways that don’t necessarily make a whole lot of sense in the waking world, creating situations, ideas, characters, dialogue, and stories you would never come up with while you’re awake? That’s sort of what songwriting is like for me these days. Only I’m not sleeping when it happens.

It doesn’t even feel like a conscious process. I sit down at an instrument, or I’ll be doing something unrelated to music, and then suddenly there’s an idea, and most of the time it starts to grow, and then pretty soon there’s a song. It’s almost as if it’s been written already, and I’m just transcribing it as it’s being broadcast over the airwaves of some strange, fuzzed-out radio station my brain is tuned into. I never sit down and say, “I’m going to write a song now.” The songs just happen, and for whatever reason they’ve chosen me as their vessel. I don’t know why. Maybe they like my equipment or something.

Anyway, this was probably the most comfortable I’ve ever been doing an interview — I think it helps when you know the person interviewing you and feel comfortable with them — and the most fun I’ve had in such a setting. I seem to have broken the odd habit I used to have of talking like every ounce of emotion had been drained from my body whenever I would speak into a microphone for something radio-related. I even almost sound like I know what I’m talking about once or twice! Hooray for me!

I also appreciate the way Adam left my answers untouched. I’ve had my words edited and chopped up in the past, to the point that the meaning of what I said was altered or made kind of murky. While I understand why that’s done (space considerations, most of the time), it still kind of pisses me off.

So thanks to Adam for interviewing me and not asking the typical questions like, “What are your influences? What inspired you to want to make music? What makes your pikestaff rise on humid summer nights?” And double thanks to him for sending me the MP3 of the finished feature as well. And thanks to both Adam and Tom for the kind words. And thanks again to everyone at CJAM for playing the hell out of the new album. And thanks to the makers of generic blue hand soap for planting subliminal messages in my head. Hey — if it smells okay and does its job, I’ve got no beef with them.

On a different note, you’ll be happy to know I’ve finally realized my dream of rhyming “pancake mix” with “dominatrix” in a song. At long last, my life is complete.

5 comments

  1. great interview! — adam is such an all-around great guy and yes, indeed, he asked you some interesting questions. hope you break the no-live-performance spell in the near future! great to hear the two interviews back to back too.

  2. we will be so happy to have you perform live!
    leesa’s right, adam sounds like such an intelligent guy, and it is a really great interview! you are my hero! oh, and i need another copy of chicken angel, cuz kate took her copy to toronto…and i will PAY for it 🙂

  3. Paying? For music? It cannot be! I’m happy to give you another CD when I see you. So, Katrzyna with the coolest socks grabbed another copy while she was here on the weekend? Because she told me she needed another one since she gave hers to someone as a gift…so if she was able to grab another one while she was in town, I’ll send her some other stuff that isn’t by me instead via snail mail excitement.

    And I may break the “no live performance” rule at some point, briefly…I dunno. Sometimes it’s a little tempting. Maybe I can do a Christmas show and just play a bunch of horribly offensive Christmas songs, and everyone can dance and be merry. Ha! Or maybe Adam and I will bring our ’80s-themed show idea to fruition and play a bunch of cheesy tunes from the decade of big hair and white powder, complete with an absurd band name.

  4. Rhyming “pancake mix” with “dominatrix”? Should be no difficulty for someone who can use “chalcogens” in a song and not sound twee or like a nutty professor.

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