Kim Deal Is the Coolest Person In the World
Almost four months ago I had a chat with Kim Deal of the Breeders. You never saw the results on this blog for a number of reasons. I was too lazy to transcribe, it was more of a conversation than an interview, I wanted to keep it to myself. Mostly I was too lazy to transcribe, though. It was supposed to be part of a year-end series where we talked to some of our favorite music makers of 2008. The main point I wanted to make back then was that 2008 reaffirmed something I had long held to be true: Kim Deal is the coolest person in the world. The Breeders released a great album ("Mountain Battles") and the band's show at 9:30 club was one of the year's best. There is nobody who is more rock-and-roll than Kim Deal. Just a midwestern gal who likes beer, cigarettes and distortion.
This interview is sort of timely again thanks to a new Breeders EP, "Fate to Fatal," that comes out today. It kind of rocks, it's kind of hazy and there's a Bob Marley cover. We never got around to discussing too much back in December, just bouncing rock-and-roll theories off each other. Didn't talk about the Pixies or "Cannonball," just "Pacer," that awesome album by the Amps from 1995. So it was all awesome for me, maybe not as exciting for you. I still think it's pretty entertaining.
Did 2008 feel like a triumphant comeback?
God I wish I could say yes to that -- triumphant comeback. (Laughs.)
Well I guess it's less comeback than return.
Actually, I'm mulling more over the "triumphant" part more. Both of them are kind of sketchy, I think.
For a band that hasn't made an album in six years, a lot of times the formula is to make something that sounds like the most popular previous one, except more streamlined. "Mountain Battles" just sort of sounds like the next Breeders album, though.
Yeah. (Sighs.) You know, I think more than the fact that I take a long time ... I know people talk about that because I guess because I'm so incredibly boring. If I just had done some naked pictures I guess that would be something to talk about. But I am pretty boring. It is weird that I take a long time. But here's what I'd like to talk about, if you don't mind.
You know I've been looking over the lists of -- honestly, I feel like a tool. There was a halfway list and somebody brought it to my attention, it was in the summer. Somebody from MTV made a list of some of the top records of the year, the Breeders were on it. So I've kind of been looking at the year-end lists and we're not on any of them. We're not in the top hundred!
You made my top 10, but I'm just some dude who works for washingtonpost.com. Not even, like, the actual paper.
(Laughs.) I thought ["Mountain Battles"] was pretty good! But for some reason we're not in there. And that's fine. It did draw me to look with an expectation. And as I look, I'm not typically a player hater, but as I look, of course I'm hating. Because I'm disappointed because my expectations were up. Which they shouldn't have been in the first place. But they were! So I'm kind of player hating. And I'm looking at the list and I'm thinking, What am I player hating about? And one thing that I am thinking of that made me go, Well, no wonder I'm not on any of these lists, is because these are all programmed records.
There was a period of time in the '70s, there were a lot of live albums that were successful. And that tendency to create live albums continued until the point where I hated the sound of live music, recorded. Because there were a lot of bad ones. I just began to really loathe that sound. And it sounded so tired. And then there was a period of time in the mid-to-late-'80s where everything was thinned out. Like the Talking Heads. Everybody was using Rickenbacker guitars and really, really thin high hats.
Yeah, the '80s sheen, it sucks.
Right! And that's fine because there are trends and things get tired sounding. Well here's the thing. For a while I was comparing what was happening with laptop harmonies and laptop arrangements, I was comparing that to sort of a MIDI thing. That it was just going to come and go, and it was going to sound tired after a while.
But I don't think so. I think that music done in the studio, on tape, sounds tired to people. It sounds old, fogey. Not because it's not recorded well. Not because it's a demo. We're not talking about any real sound recording aesthetic. We're talking about the general fashion aesthetic. It just sounds old and tired. Whereas I would think that that AutoTune thing where you put it on your vocal -- dude, Cher came out, what, in '98 with that song? I believe in love and all that? It's been over 10 years they've been doing that thing!
(Much more after the jump.)
I heard that new Katy Perry song the other day and I swear it's just that Cher song.
The (starts singing that then-new Katy Perry song), the hot and you're cold, that song?
I don't even know, honestly.
Of course there's nothing wrong with that song and there's nothing wrong with Britney Spears or any of it. I just think I finally hit the fork in the crossroad where my taste really isn't gonna be like anyone else's anymore. Because I'm that much older. That AutoTune, I thought it was funny that people were doing that. I was so glad that I wasn't going to get roped into any crap like that. It would be like that Bruce Springsteen drum sound. Funny.
But I don't think you're really competing with Katy Perry or Britney Spears for these year-end list things, y'know? You've been well-established in the alt-rock universe for a couple of decades now, that's more your territory. Fleet Foxes, everyone loves them this year. I don't think they're using AutoTune.
I gotta tell you, I really haven't heard it that much. I only started listening to it because it got on all those top 10 lists so I thought, Wow! This is probably really good, I should give it a listen. And so I went to their MySpace page and I pulled it up, the one people like, you know how you look at the most listened? And it was a'ight, dogg. Y'know? It was a'ight.
It's nice. There's a lot of stuff now that's very nice. I remember I was at a show and some girl was raving about Fleet Foxes and she said, Oh, it's my favorite! It's the best music to fall asleep to! And that was her favorite band. Her favorite band was something she listened to when she wanted to fall asleep. That struck me as very odd.
(Laughs.) It is. I enjoy music that's pleasant to listen to, too. I think everybody does. But yeah, I don't know. I'll listen to a sleep machine to fall asleep. That could be my favorite band. White noise. I'm just saying that, if it's the noise you want to fall asleep to, white noise is pretty good. Or ocean!
So I do kind of know what you're talking about. One would hope there would be more than a lulling sonic frequency that would encompass your favorite band. Hopefully it would give you butterflies in your stomach and make you want to scream or something. Maybe not. Maybe other people aren't like that.
Not everything needs to be edgy or dangerous. When I saw the Breeders at the 9:30 club I wouldn't say that was a dangerous show. But it wasn't just this pleasant gathering where everything was smooth and serene. It was a rock-and-roll show.
It feels dangerous when I'm out there! Because you never know if Kelley's going to finish a song. (Laughs.) So that's very risky and edgy to me. No, I'm kidding. I'm not kidding! (Laughs.)
Every song that she sang, she apologized before playing it, made some weird face while playing it, then apologized after it was done.
She needs to just relax, maybe.
And she's really musical. She learned how to play violin. She just decides, Oh, I'll play that part. And she did. And now she plays the part to "Drivin on 9" on violin. Very strange. Let's talk about TV on the Radio. What do you think? I root for them. They're the nicest guys in the world.
I kind of like their new album. It's more song-y and less Brooklyn arty. It's still not my favorite. I call it "catharsis rock." Like Arcade Fire and TV on the Radio and Broken Social Scene. Does that make any sense?
Oh, totally. I root for them as a band. I don't have the record. I root for them anyway. But I think that's interesting what you said about catharsis rock. Into the song, swelling instruments, strings start -- basically what you just said. Catharsis rock.
And here's where I have a disconnect with that. Catharsis rock, when you think about it, you're thinking about people who are actually, when listening to the song, the recorded moment where this catharsis is supposed to take you into a place, and give you a physical, emotional feeling, and help you through it. You imagine that the band is sweating, that they're bleeding from their fingers, that the noise is so deafening that they can't hear each other afterwards and they're sweating and maybe somebody stumbled over a cord or something. Or missed a part or something, because it was so physical.
Well here's the trouble. When you're listening to that, remember -- this is all done on a laptop. No band members are in the room. A lot of the music doesn't exist. It's programmed catharsis. So I think when I hear catharsis done via a synthesizer and a program, I automatically don't feel it because I can hear that there was actually nobody physically having a catharsis.
Right, it's hard for it to really hit you in the gut. Maybe it can get you in the heart, or something, but that's kind of lame. At least for me. I like to feel it in the gut.
It's weird because these people are so musically knowledgeable and so good and they've got everything together. And the strings do come in, and somebody's programmed it and worked very hard at it. It's not like it's bad music.
Right, not at all. It's that it's too perfect. It's not real. One of my favorite moments on "Mountain Battles" is the solo on "It's the Love." There's an obviously flubbed note, but I love that. That is real. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes that I probably read in Option magazine or something when I was 13 or 14 that said, "Sometimes the notes you miss are more important than the ones you hit."
Oh, totally. That's what I'm saying. I think nowadays, for the first time I think that audio tape sounds old and tired and not good anymore. And "on the grid" is fresh and it's real. I think for most people, on the grid is no disconnect. If you're not on the grid you sound old and fogey. Which is weird. I think it's strange.
So where does it go from here?
I don't know. It just makes me feel like I should do it. Then I feel like if I go on the grid, what am I gonna do? I can't charge people for that! How can you [expletive] charge someone for programming music? That's weird. Tap tap tap tap. It's weird, I don't know. People don't pay anyway, so I guess it doesn't matter.
I'd say just keep it status quo. Release the next album halfway through the second Obama administration and just make it sound the way you want it.
(Laughs.) Actually we're going to release an EP this spring!
That's good! The EP needs to make a comeback. I feel strongly about this. OK, here's a random question about one of your old albums, "Pacer." Sometimes when I'm trying to be jerky or contrary I'll say that's the best record you've played on.
Our drummer likes it the best! Cheryl, the redheaded dreadlock girl (guitarist), that's her favorite record.
Do you ever think back and say, Man, if it just said "The Breeders" on the spine instead of "The Amps" then everything would have been different.
Well nowadays I do, yeah! But I never would have. It's called "Pacer" for a reason. Kelley and Josephine (Wiggs, bassist) couldn't get it together. Josephine, when I said, Let's do the next Breeders record, she said, I'm going to sit this one out, maybe next one. And then Kelley couldn't get her [expletive] together. So out of respect for those two I wouldn't just release it as a Breeders record. What kind of person would I be? It would be really ugly.
Not that plenty of other bands haven't done the exact same thing, of course. But I guess you have standards, or something.
Yeah, I'm not gonna do that, no way! I thought I would do it solo but then Kelley and (drummer Jim) McPherson were hanging out with me at the time so they kind of got on it. Then Kelley went to rehab, but McPherson was on it. And there were a couple more people from Dayton, and I figured we could just play out around Dayton. So it worked out really well.
But if I'd have known they would never come back ... I really thought it would be just a couple of years. I had no idea. Kelley then lived in St. Paul, Josephine went on to do her stuff. Now Kelley plays with me, of course. And now Josephine, when we see her, she's like, Well, let me know if you want me to play any bass guitar, I'd love to be on the record. So it's really cool. I think that's nice that maybe they're responding to the fact that I wouldn't just call it the Breeders without them. They were going through something. Both of them were. I'm not going to just ... I'm not like that.
But in retrospect, hell yeah I wish I would have known and then I would have called it the Breeders! (Laughs.)
By David Malitz |
April 21, 2009; 1:05 PM ET
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