We stopped by to talk to the Foo Fighters in Baltimore during their most recent tour. We started the interview with William and Nate. Pat was off doing something else. Dave, who was entertaining his family (it was Easter Sunday), joined the interview later with family in tow, and along with the rest of the band invited us to join them for Easter Dinner. Thanks guys.
You guys at this point have done a lot of interviews. Whatís something or some things that you wish people would bring up, that nobody seems to bring up or doesnít seem to bring up enough?
Nate: Most of them have been pretty thorough as far as things relating to the band.
William: Thereís a lot of times in a lot of interviews where they ask questions where they already know the answers. Itís totally obvious. Every now and again youíll have a good interview where they actually ask good questions where you can basically have a conversation with the person, rather than be saying "Yes, no, yes . . . " (laughs with goofy face). We had this one interview with this woman for a Japanese magazine and she asked "Tell us about crazy tour stories and crazy backstage after show stories . . . " and we basically said, "Well, we pretty much play, drive all night, get there, soundcheck, eat, play, drive all night . . . " and sheís going "No, I mean wild crazy, tour stories!" Itís not really that glamorous.
You also have to get that very animated Japanese accent and have them waiving their hands around.
W: She had long, long, pink hair. She was INSANE. We offended her. That was the only question she really asked.
Wait, how did you offend her?
W: By not cooperating.
So she thought you were dissing on her . . .
W: By not being like waaaaah "after the show there are spankings and . . . "(laughs) It was ridiculous. We offended her. She was REALLY upset.
How could you tell? Did she tell someone?
N: We heard later.
W: We heard later. She called John Silva (their manager) and he had to set things straight.
Japanese people are really easy to offend. The thing is with the cultural difference you never know whatís going to be offensive. Iím Japanese, but I grew up in America. Iíve found myself pissing Japanese folks off before.
W: We were in Japan and we were having this big dinner and I passed a piece of food to Ian with chopsticks and he grabbed it with chopsticks and everybody was (gasp).
Oh, thatís a big no-no.
W: I was like "Oh, no."
N: That and pouring your own drink.
The big one I learned before I did it, which Iím glad I knew before hand, is never store your chopsticks by just sticking them in the bowl, because thatís what people do in funerals.
W: Yes! Thatís what they do in funerals too, passing the food with chopsticks. They were so freaked out because thatís only a ritual for funerals.
Oh man, thatís funny. OK from what Iíve read and researched, you guys were basically presented with a fully fleshed out tape and asked if you were into it and thatís how you got into the band. Iím assuming you are working on new material and stuff. We heard a couple of songs during sound check. I take it that these are a couple of new songs?
N: In progress.
NATE AND WILLIAM ON SONGWRITING
How has the songwriting dynamic worked out with the addition of the band members?
W: Basically at soundchecks. Thatís the way weíve been writing everything. A lot of times Dave has an idea and we just work on it at soundcheck. We sit and play. Get everything and trim the fat.
N: We arrange it together.
How would you compare the material stylistically from the first inception of Foo Fighters to whatís going on now?
N: I donít know. Itís just such a different batch of songs.
W: They all have a really different feel.
N: There are a lot more songs that sound like the Knack.
N: We like weird new wave, choppy new wave rhythms.
So the Knack is the big influence?
N: I wouldnít say itís an influence. It just happened. Thereís just a lot thatís reminiscent of the Knack. Thereís (makes twanging noises) and thereís (more twanging noises).
A lot of octave work. Has anyone brought themselves out as being more of a songwriting force or is Dave pretty much the primary songwriter?
N: Heís the primary songwriter because heís so fucking FAST at it. Before anyone can go "I think we should do a song like this," thereís this battery of songs. And theyíre all really good, so thatís where weíve been going. When thereís a point in time where Dave slows down, maybe someone else will have a chance to blossom. It works pretty well that way.
W: We have 22 new songs.
22? How many are usuable to the point that youíre playing them live now?
N: Probably only about half a dozen that we could play live, if that.
W: We could PLAY them, but itís one of those things where youíre going "Do I want to put this fill here or should I wait?"
Everyone in the band has come from other bands that have done very well for themselves. You guys did Sunny Day, Pat did the Germs who I used to worship . . .
COMING INTO A BAND THATíS ALREADY STARTED
. . . Dave, we donít need to get into his thing. How was coming into this project different from getting into something where essentially you were starting it off from scratch?
N: Just exactly that. (Laughs)It was kind of strange to have a batch of songs already finished. Plus we kind of started a band and became friends, where usually itís the opposite. Usually, youíre friends and then you decide to start a band together.
W: We liked each other, but we were getting to know each other at the same time we were learning to play together. I was in DC when Dave got a hold of me. We played our last show at Black Cat.
Was that with Shudder to Think? I was at that show.
W: Really? First night or second night? Things were pretty tense. That was it. It was OVER. Itís weird because it always really had this emphasis on the basements. All ages shows in Seattle became illegal after a while. The cops just were shutting them down over and over. We started playing in Sunny Day Real Estate, we just basically were in the basement. No big expectations or anything. When we got the opportunity to go out and tour, I think thatís what destroyed the band.
W: Yeah, I donít think it was really meant to do that. I think it was meant to be in the basement and hang around and play. That was the really interesting thing about this band. All of a sudden it was practice for a month, then out on the road.
I always was under the assumption, at least from what it was painted, that it was like "He called his old friends from Sunny Day Real Estate, and . . . "
W: No, he just got a hold of me and said "Hey, do you want to do a band?" and I was like "Sure, what do I play?"
Knowing that, thatís really lucky because like you were saying, being on the road tears the best of friends apart. You guys didnít even know each other that well. How long have you been on the road now? Well over a year at this point? Maybe two years.
W: With Sunny Day Real Estate, over two years.
With Foo fighters . . .
N: About a year on the road.
One thing I notice about you guys is that everybody seems to get along. Thereís none of that tension.
W: That was a goal of the band from the beginning; to make it fun. "Your old band is dysfunctional, our old band is dysfunctional, why donít we try to . . . sort of be ok."
TRENDS IN THEIR SONGWRITING DYNAMIC
Sort of jumping back to the upcoming record, the last release had something of a self produced feel, because it WAS self produced. Thatís a large part of what makes it stand out. How are you folks envisioning the approach for this next one now that you have this collaborative thing going on and you guys are having a good time, but still pissing off Japanese journalists?
N: Envisioning going into the studio? I think itís going to be pretty straightforward. Weíll have a couple of months just to play for the first time and write new stuff. Get it all down. Go into the studio, get it out in a couple of weeks.
W: We want to try and get everything in one take, two takes, whatever.
Keep it fresh.
W: Yeah. Just play the song and go. I think itíll be better. I think Daveís really excited, because it wonít be as lonely. (Acting out Dave sad and alone in the studio) "OK, Iím going to go play the drum tracks now . . . "
NATE AND WILLIAM ON DAVEíS VOCALS
Speaking of Dave, this might be more of a question for Dave, since you guys came into the mix later. In all of the articles, as well as the bio, he talks about how uncomfortable he was initially with his voice and...
W: He still is.
He still is?
N: Not as much as before. Last night he went up and sang a song by himself on guitar, which he wouldnít have done before; go up there by himself for a song.
Did you guys find yourselves in a situation where you had to say "Look itís cool, youíll be fine," and encourage him?
N: Heís got more self-confidence overall than to need that. Heís like "Well, I feel self conscious about this now, but... "
W: He thinks of it as a challenge and likes the challenge. We told him before, even when we were in Sunny Day Real Estate, the vocals sound like crap out there, so donít worry. No, Iím just kidding.
Let me get this down now. "Daveís vocals sound like crap."
W: No, itís a joke.
Iím underlining "crap." No Iím just kidding. Sort of bringing it back around again to the four of you guys and the chemistry you all have, one thing I noticed as soon as you guys got together, and obviously some other people noticed it as well, but Iíve never gotten the coverage Iíve wanted from them that Iím looking for here. All four of you came from scenarios where arguably the demise of the band was very untimely. For you guys, when the demise of Sunny Day came about, Sunny Day was a big buzz band that everybody was talking about. The Germs and Darbyís OD, etc. How did this, if at all, affect the way that all of you guys interact and work together?
N: Like we were talking about earlier, thereís an emphasis on making it fun, so youíre not going to have a situation where somebodyís erratic and ruining the band for everyone else. Fuck that.
W: Thatís MY job.
N: I donít know if people look at this band with the sense of permanence that you might with another band because weíve been in situations where the band has exploded. People donít look at this band lasting for twelve years necessarily. It might, but weíre not counting on it.
Thatís interesting because the way that things are configured with this band I think itís set up much more in a way that it could last for x-number of years, so to speak.
N: Yeah, definitely.
W: Dave said he wanted to stop touring in three years.
W: He said he wanted to be a Daddy. Three years from now heís not going to be "OK, Iím not going to tour anymore." I donít know if heís capable of NOT TOURING.
Well, heís a pretty...
W: Hyperactive. Even when we were talking about how the band came together. After one month he was "OK LETíS GO!" BAM! I was like "I donít play very well yet ..."
Well, I donít see him very often these days for obvious reasons, but he has calmed down considerably since the time I first met him. I first met him when he was like 16. He was just...
W: Did we answer the question?
Well, do YOU feel you answered the question. Thatís the question.
N: I canít remember the question.
The dysfunctional band question.
W: I always felt like the four of us were together for a reason. I know it sounds kind of cheesy, but I always felt there was a reason.
What is the reason?
W: I donít know if itís something you put into words, but sort of to help each other out. It seems like that. (Pause) Nate and I we kind of have a deal.
You have a deal?
W: Play together or not at all. We like each other.
Do you know about this deal Nate?
N: Thatís the deal. (Laughs)
I just noticed your eyebrows go up a little when he said that. I was wondering "Does HE know about this deal?"
N: If one of us breaks off, weíll be struck from the face of the earth. A lightening bolt will come.
One thing I noticed, and I forgot to ask this earlier, was that when the record first came out it was comparatively speaking a low key event. It wasnít hyped as much as I thought it could have been...
N: That was a conscious decision.
I figured. On whose part?
W: Everybody. It was basically Daveís idea. It would have been kind of tacky.
ADVICE TO BANDS STARTING OUT
Having come up from the basement, as they say, what advice do you have for those who are still coming up from the basement?
W: Donít try too hard. Unless you want to BE Candlebox. In which case itís cool to do that. Seriously, if you want to be a band like that...
N: If you want to be a good band...
W: If you go out to play music to gain recognition from other people youíve kind of shot yourself in the foot.
How about little annoying things like booking shows and stuff. Trying to get your music out and all.
W: Donít move to Seattle. Sunny Day Real Estate couldnít get a show there.
N: I worked my ass off trying to get us shows. Once every couple of months Iíd get us a show in a little dive. That was the point in time that everyone decided that Seattle was happening.
W: "I want to get big. I want to get big." ( Kind of laughs) So you call a club and you say "Hey I have a band we were wondering if we could . . . " click! It just was insane. We got a show by accident. This band called Skirt asked us to play with them at the Crocodile and we were "Oh wow, weird." We played other shows previously. Like this place called the Ditto with this speed metal band called Black Ivory, but they couldnít play very fast, it was really slow speed metal. But they wanted to play fast.
N: They were pretty bad.
W: We played about three songs.
N: We played three songs and the two people who were watching us went "Oh, weíre gonna go home."
Everyone that I interview they say how after a while, after doing a bunch of touring, going back to your home state takes on a different flavor. It sort of becomes odd.
W: I hate playing in Seattle.
W: I absolutely despise playing in Seattle. Youíre on the spot.
N: Everybody knows you and youíre on the spot.
W: The first shows that the Foo Fighters played it wasnít like people were "Aaah, weíre having a good time." It was like (gives this really concentrated face)
(Laughs) I wish I had video for that face.
W: All these people sitting and staring. You just feel like an idiot.
N: It was such a drag because we were so excited.
W: We were like "Check out our band! Weíre having fun. WOOOH!"
W: No it wasnít!
C'mon, itís funny in hindsight.
W: I guess the shows would be a little bit better, but between family and friends and everything . . . People don't have fun at shows in Seattle anymore. People seem to be so...
"Show me how cool you are."
W: Not that everybody should be "Waaah," or anything...People donít dance or anything. Iíll admit, I go and just stand and be interested and watch a band, but it just seems so... bland.
Thatís sad to hear.
Youíve shattered the impressions I got seeing that photo book on Seattle where everyoneís going bananas and all.
W: Things used to be more like that, but it just seems...
N: It just seems now that as soon as a band gets good enough where it can incite that kind of reaction in people then theyíre playing in a huge place where you canít have that kind of energy.
W: We played a few shows . . . Sunny Day Real Estate played a show at the Velvet Elvis, played a show at the Crocodile, played a few shows where everybody was dancing, which is a really neat feeling.
GOING FROM CLUBS TO LARGER VENUES
How weird was it making the jump from a small club to something like a few thousand seat venue?
N: With Foo Fighters?
Yeah. The jump must have been pretty damn immediate.
W: I think itís sort of . . . I really donít pay that much attention. I actually completely forget about it.
N: Getting up and playing isnít all that different. Itís still a stage. Itís just how far back the people go. The things around it are strange. Like not having to go out and eat, (motions around the room) the food is right here.
W: Itís a lot easier than playing those shows I was talking about earlier, where theyíre just sitting there staring at you like youíre on trial.
Howís playing for Pat and Dave when they play their hometowns? Like now weíre in Daveís hometown.
W: Pat doesnít like playing LA. Dave freaks out whenever we play here. I know I totally freak out playing Seattle. Weíve actually avoided playing there recently.
N: Weíve played one festival show and then we played with Mike Watt.
W: There was like 87 of my family members there. It was crazy. Iím not exaggerating.
Nothing like having a show for a family reunion.
W: There was a section roped off. Our first show was a keg party. In a warehouse. We got a bunch of beer.
DAVE JOINS THE INTERVIEW
How are you doing Dave?
D: How are you?
W: (To Dave) Do you have a light?
D: Oh, Iím sorry. I donít want to interrupt.
W: (Again to Dave) Do you have a light?
If you want to join in thatís fine.
D: (To William) No, I donít.
W: You donít have a light?
D: No, I donít.
W: Oh, I thought you were talking to him. Everyone join in "No, I donít." (laughs all around) So, it was a keg party and we thought weíd get kegs of beer and itíll be fun.
D: (Affecting a slurring drunk voice) You guys are great! (Laughs) Naah, it wasnít like that. It wasnít too bad. But it kind of was.
W: It was pretty much like that. It wasnít as bad as the Velvet Elvis. But it was pretty...
D: It was the wrong idea to play your first show in front of all your good friends. Just do it in front of strangers. That might be what youíre supposed to do. I donít know...I donít know.
I would imagine that friends would be a lot more forgiving.
D: Yeah, but I think that as a performer...I donít know.
They were just telling us about how you get nervous when you come home.
D: And how it is when we play Seattle.
They were talking at length about that.
FOO FIGHTERS ON THE FIRST TIME THEY SAW SLAYER
D: Last night was a little weird because when you play at Roseland (NYC) , that stage, that thing on the side (VIP area), everyone down there (on the floor) is going crazy and you canít help but focus on these people on the side just looking at you.
I saw Slayer at the Roseland and I remember thinking how glad I was that I was on that elevated thing.
N: Yeah, because you were going to get hurt?
Oh, I wouldíve died.
W: I went to see Slayer in Seattle at the Paramount.
N: You saw Slayer at the Paramount? (Laughs)
W: I saw Slayer at the Paramount and it was insane. I just stood way in the back. People were coming out all bloody.
D: I saw Slayer at the Warner Theater.
You saw that show? That was with Motorhead, right?
D: It was Slayer and Overkill, I think. I was amazed. Itís a beautiful place, velvet seats, totally destroyed. First five rows were totally destroyed.
That was the show that made the Warner Theater stop doing rock shows, right?
I remember that now.
D: It was insane. It was crazy. The band security was so rotten. A kid would get onstage. The band security would grab him and as one guy is dragging him by the heels, another guyís just going (makes punching gesture).
Oh my god.
W: Awesome. (Laughs)
N: How rock and roll. (Laughs)
Well, Daveís about to sit down to dinner so I probably should let you guys get to dinner too.
W: What is it? Do you want something? Do you want it?
Twist my arm. If youíre offering, Iíll take it.
W: Totally. Letís get some food.
One thing thatís in the bio and all the articles, is that you say that initially you said you were very uncomfortable with your voice, and...youíre still nodding here...(laughs)
D: I donít like it. I just didnít ever really consider becoming a singer. I was kind of singing backups in Scream, singing back ups in Nirvana. Always being the main focus of the band is scary.
Are you planning on handing over the vocal chores to anyone else, or having anyone do more of it?
D: Pat would be nice. Patís got a really great voice. Heís got a great voice. Heís going to do another Pat Smear solo record. Itís really great stuff. Yeah, sure, take it away. (Laughs) Itís not so bad. I go back and forth. Sometimes Iím comfortable with it, sometimes Iím not. I think thatís why there are so many songs where I scream my brains out, so I donít sound like a moron cuz I canít actually sing.
DAVE ON SONGWRITING AND PLAYING
Now that you have a full band behind you as opposed to how the record initially was where it was all you, how has the songwriting changed?
D: Well, Nateís a great bass player. Heís an incredible bass player. I donít think I ever realized how much you can add to the texture of the song by bass. My bass playing was really simple, just follow the guitar lines, and on the album itís basically the stuff I recorded where I would come up with the riff and Iíd hear this bass line in my head thatís just basically just following the thing. Nateís playing makes what I intended bigger. Itís nice.
So in other words itís definitely a collaborative thing now.
D: Oh yeah. Everyoneíll bring in an idea and weíll start messing around with it. The only time weíve really had to write songs is on tour. Iíve been in a band for a year and two months and Iíve been on tour for a year.
D: Itís great. Itís nice. Now we have 20 new ideas for songs. Itíll be different. Itíll have more of a live feel to it. The songs are different too. Thereís still our sense of melody and if itís fast or hard the energy is twice what it was on the first album. Theyíre a little bit different.
W: Itís hard to find the words on how theyíre different, isnít it?
Howíd you manage to keep the live feel going when you were doing the first one?
D: I donít really think it sounds like it has a live feel. Thereís a good room sound on the drums...
It has more of a live feel than most self produced things. Itís not one of those things where you go "oh yeah, itís the same guy doing everything." ĎCause some self produced things you can tell thatís whatís going on.
DAVE ON BEING IN THE STUDIO AND WORKING WITH BARRETT
D: I just felt like Steely Dan or something in the studio. (Laughs) "Wait a minute, that was perfect." I really was trying to make it as perfect as I could in 45 minutes.
45 minutes? Thatís really not that much time to make it all perfect.
D: No, but there werenít that many takes. There were about two takes for "Iíll Stick Around." Everything was basically first take. We had a week in the studio and I didnít want to dump all my money down the drain. Barrett (Jones) and I had recorded together a million times. When we would record in Barrettís studio or in his basement it was a lot more relaxed. Weíd do drums, then maybe go back to the guitar, and this was over six days of running from instrument to instrument. Barrettís a wizard, a genius in the studio.
How is Barrett doing?
D: Heís doing great. Now heís a big hotshot producer guy.
I noticed that. I was going through some CDs at a friendís house and I noticed that he was on some of them.
D: He was just asked to produce the Neurotic Outsiders, a band featuring some dude from Duran Duran and the drummer and bass player of Guns and Roses and Steve Jones. He said no.
He said no?
W: He said "no way." (laughs)
Whyís that? I can imagine a few reasons why I would say that.
D: Well, heís used to going into the studio with people who are really anxious to get into the studio and have two days to record their LPs., rather than "I just canít work like this. I need two more months to get that snare sound down." (Laughs all around) Those people are used to being in the studio for a long time. He didnít feel like he had anything in common with them.
That I can definitely see.
D: It wasnít based on money. Iím sure he would have gotten a lot.
W: Slash was at our show last night.
W: Did you guys know that Slash was at the show last night?
D: Slash? Anyway, Barrettís fine. Heís doing really well.
Well, that was a good textbook answer. You gave the extended answer, then in bold print at the bottom, "Barrett is fine."
W: That was well done.
ON DOING YOUR OWN DEMOS
Yeah, youíre doing good. Sort of on the same self-produced tip, any advice for people doing their own demos?
D: By themselves?
By themselves or just trying to keep it low budget.
D: Donít spend too much time in the studio. Some people try to write songs in the studio. Donít go into the studio unless you have your shit together. The more time you spend in the studio, the more things get really . . . I hear about bands going into the studio for eight months. (Someone comes in and Dave plays host introducing them to his family) But, you just waste away. The studio is the worst place in the world for...itís the worst possible environment to be creative because I donít like to nit pick. I did on that last record and I swear to god Iíll never do it again.
Youíve got his quote here. Heís not going to nit pick, youíve got his quote.
W: I hope not man. (Muttering facetiously and laughing)
D: Make sure youíve got it together before you go in, unless youíre like psychodrama or something like that, you can go in.
DAVE ON THE BAND DYNAMIC
I was asking these guys this question a little earlier, and Iím really curious how this affects you. All four of you were in bands that arguably had a demise in an untimely fashion. You had the misfortune of having two bands have a demise in an untimely fashion. I remember being back in DC here hearing "Screamís stranded in California now." I was like "Oh god, that sucks."
(Laughs all around)
D: My feelings exactly. (Laughs)
How has that dynamic of all four of you having that in common affected you?
D: I think itís nice that we all . . . we used to joke about it when we first got together that weíre all products of dysfunctional band relationships. Itís almost like a little self help group weíve got together. Iíve been fortunate enough to experience the rock industry on a few different levels. Booking your own tours, Scream had a budget of..
Catering person: Was the food all right?
D: Yeah, thank you very much. It was great. We had a budget of seven dollars a day on a two pack of cigarettes habit. Or, how to go to a meet and greet and not let everyone know that you donít want to be there. (Laughs) Those are two ends of the scale. So, thatís nice. You learn things every day that you use to better yourself.
How has going through all the different levels like that affected you in how youíre dealing with stuff now? Arguably these days the success curve for a lot of bands is pretty sharp. A lot of them all of a sudden, out of nowhere, theyíre up there. So, how has this affected you?
D: The thing that bothers me about a lot of bands, that you donít like and Iím not going to mention their name and theyíre a perfect example. (Laughs all around) They get together, they look really great, theyíre all cute guys, the singerís got a good voice, they write poppy tunes, they dress up nice, they have nice equipment, theyíve been a band for maybe . . . they have a bidding war, get signed, get a video, and now theyíre on their first tour. It sort of amazes me. When I was starting my first band...
W: Is it their first band?
D: I was more concerned with "OK, do I even get along with these people? Can I spend two months in a van with these people?" Itís more important to me that you have a relationship with the band and that you feel like youíre a little gang. Itís just terrible that itís so much easier now for bands to have their five minutes of fame. I think with that, the quality of music . . . this bizarre motivation, itís too weird. Itís all motivation. For a lot of people, it doesnít seem like theyíre playing music for the sake of playing music anymore.
Itís a job.
D: Yeah, itís just a job. Or itís a chance to say "Oh shit I donít have to work at Taco Bell for the next couple of years, so Iím going to make it."
Itís interesting that you say that a primary concern is that you know whether you get along with everyone and stuff. These guys just got done telling me that when you assembled this ensemble that you guys didnít know each other well at all.
HOW DAVE STARTED FOO FIGHTERS
D: No. That was kind of one of the scary things about it. Pat had never done a tour in a van before. So, we had no idea how it was going to work. We just sort of took a chance at it, I suppose. Itís so weird how everything fell together anyway. Originally it wasnít intended to be a band.
D: Yeah. Just like the stuff I did in the studio with Geoff Turner (WGNS Studios in DC). It was just for fun. Then I wanted to start my own label and release it just on vinyl. Then I started thinking, "Wow, maybe I should at least just TRY to see if it would work." Just around that time, Sunny Day Real Estate broke up. I had seen them play twice. Except like their two last shows in Seattle, Iíd never seen them play before. I was immediately drawn to William because there arenít that many drummers in Seattle that play like drummers should. So, when I heard he was going to be available, thatís when it started.
W: We went on tour with Mike Watt before the record was even out.
D: It was really soon after we got together.
It was the 29 shows in 42 days not so hard tour with Watt.
D: If that Watt tour hadnít been offered to us we probably wouldíve spent more time...
W: (In low, breathy porn star whisper) "Getting to know each other."
(Gesturing to William) That sounded scary Dave.
W: That tour was pretty interesting though. That was a good tour.
I think Iíve asked all that I can immediately think of asking. Is there anything that you wish people would bring up more that they donít?
ON RECORD CONTRACTS AND WHY BANDS SHOULD TRY TO GET LICENSING DEALS
D: I wish bands would do licensing deals.
D: If you have a recording and people like you, then license your tape to a label because you get it back. It always feels weird when someone else owns your music. Someone else owns it. You donít own it. Someone gives you 500 dollars to go into the studio, that doesnít make it their music.
How usual is it to work out a deal like that?
D: I did. Shit, if you canít do it . . . screw it. (Starts laughing)
That sounds like the headline for the story there. (Laughing). So thatís your arrangement with Capitol?
D: A distribution deal where weíre licensed to them for eight or ten years or something like that.
So Roswell is your label.
D: A lot of labels donít do them (licensing deals). Like Sony. Sony will not do licensing deals for fear that if they do one, then someone else will do one. I would like to see everyone stop and ask for licensing deals so nobody can own your music for the next 150 years. The scary thing for them is the renegotiation. For them that is the threat. Well, in 11 years when you get the tape back youíve got an option to renegotiate with the same company or take it to another place and get a better deal. Or you can always drop it.
As it stands now, the recorded work is a work for hire and as such the label owns that.
D: The bottom line is that whoever pays for it owns it. So, if the label gives you 10,000 to record an LP, it would be better to take out a loan and pay for it yourself than to get the money from the "man." It just worries me. And publishing . . . For this album we all get three points on the album, but I get the publishing. The next is going to be split even. Because, publishing is the virus that will destroy a band like that. Really bad.
Sounds to me like you got a very good lawyer for this.
D: (In radio DJ voice) Jill Berliner, give her a call. Sheís a wonderful lawyer, she knows what sheís doing.
Iím getting the sense that youíre saying that for any sort of dealings with a label you would want to have a lawyer on your side.
D: Oh, definitely. You always do. To me, reading a contract is like reading french. I just do not . . . Itís its own language. Itís hard for me to understand . . . It is! (Laughs) I think lawyers are the only people . . . I think Shakespeare said it best. The first thing we do is kill all the lawyers. Except mine, of course. (Laughs) Or a friend if you have a friend who has some clue.
How easy was it for you to negotiate this deal because this isnít exactly the norm?
D: No, and it was discouraged by most of the labels weíd talk to. We would meet with labels and send them our proposal.
W: Virgin Records were like "OK if you want, just push the button, weíre full on with this thing, weíre ready to go, weíll take the reigns, everythingís going to be cool, ready when you are." Weíre like, "Well, have you listened to the tape?" None of them had even heard it.
W: They never even listened to the music. They were just like "Letís do it." It was like "Here we go."
D: I think the reason we talked to them was the president worked with Nirvana.
W: He was a nice guy.
D: Yeah, heís a really nice guy. Their whole thing was that they wanted to be the major label that could still put advertisements in Maximum Rock and Roll. I didnít have the heart to break it to Ďem. (Laughs) I donít know if thatís going to happen.
Well, if theyíre not going to give you what you need, theyíre not going to give you what you need.
D: We were fortunate. We were lucky in dealing with all of the labels. The president of Capitol used to be Nirvanaís A&R person.
D: Gary Gersh. Heís a great guy. Heís so nice. So we donít really have an A&R person.
You just have a president of a label working for you. Thatís always nice.
ON TAKING YOUR MUSIC SERIOUSLY
D: Thatís pretty cool. Oh I donít know. Whatís other good advice? Donít take anything so seriously. Take your music seriously, but the rest of it I just think is a big circus. (Laughs) You know? (Laughs) It is like a traveling circus. Itís really flattering when people like your band, but give me a break. Itís nice to make music that people enjoy, but thinking of yourself as being any better than anybody else because you wrote a song is ridiculous. Itís stupid. If I wasnít in this band Iíd probably be in the audience watching the band. I just hate people that really think theyíre Jesus. They just really believe that thereís something about them thatís so different from anybody else that they just canít relate. (In affected snooty English accent) "Iím not like you." I just hate that. Iím a pretty average person.
W: I think part of playing music the way we do is to actually get the point across that we are just like everybody just sort of hanging out. Everybodyís sort of on the same level.
Well, I feel good about what Iíve got so far. Anything else that you wanna add?
W: Avoid venomous chicken.
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