Six albums later and a myriad of lineup changes behind him, Adam Duritz continues to lead his Counting Crows. Their latest effort, this year’s Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did on Our Summer Vacation), is a collection of cover songs and their first independent release. In support, the band has been headlining the The Outlaw Roadshow all summer. The layered bill features an eclectic round up of artists — We Are Augustines, Field Report, and Filligar, to name a few — and has toured the country over two legs with its last date set for August 11th in Billings, MT. Recently, Consequence of Sound’s Len Comaratta sat down with Duritz to discuss Sunshine’s various selections, his adoration of Big Star, writing songs for films, and his personal struggles in the past.
Warning: It’s a lengthy one, so grab that cup of coffee now.
Your latest effort was originally called Under Covers, but now it’s Underwater Sunshine. Is that a reference to the Soft Boys?
Sorta. It’s the name of a website that we were starting a long time ago, which was going to be about all kinds of independent films and independent music, just anything under the radar that people didn’t really know about. And a bunch of bloggers were going to write for it, for me, and we were going to link to their blogs from it. It was going to be a cooperative Web site, I think about when I was writing a few years ago on Down the Rabbit Hole. It was like a magazine I was writing myself, but I was going to use a lot of different bloggers as well. We were just going to have people write for it. But we never got around, with everything else that was going on, to doing that.
I always planned to try and record “I Want to Destroy You”, or something off of that Soft Boys’ record [Underwater Moonlight], and we also did record “Meet On the Ledge” off What We Did on Our Holidays by Fairport Convention, so it just seemed funnier to me to name the record Underwater Sunshine (or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation). Kind of a reference to both records. But then we forgot to do the Soft Boys cover, and I forgot there was any reason for naming it that other than I liked the sound it. It actually did start out as a kind of referential thing, but all the reasons for using those referential things sort of disappeared.
I was going to ask why you didn’t do a Soft Boys cover if the title was in reference to the Soft Boys.
I know, I know. I do love the Soft Boys either way, and I do think that everyone should probably go listen to them. So it still works, as long as it starts the conversation.
You said recently “Do you want to know how big an influence these songs are? They all ended up on the album.” Well, then, why did you leave off the Stereophonics [“Local Boy In the Photograph”] and Joe Jackson [“It's Different For Girls”] songs?
Stereophonics we just didn’t finish. I think we were on our way to a really cool cover there, but we just didn’t finish it in time. We were only in the studio for…I don’t know how many days…ten or 11 full days on this record, and we were trying to do about 20 songs. The Joe Jackson song did finish, and I, just upon reflection, didn’t think it was very good. It seemed like the best possible reason for leaving something off. Everyone loved it too. People flipped when they heard it. Managers, agents, everyone in the band, everyone just flipped out when they heard the version, and we had the time of our lives playing it. I was driving off that day and I just was so underwhelmed by it. I didn’t know why. It bothered me for months. I went into the recording the next day, and I said, “Does anyone else think this sorta sucks somehow?” And everyone’s like, “No it’s amazing. It sounds great.” “I know. It sounds great to me too, it just sorta sucks. I’m not sure why.”
And it went on that way for months. I sort of let myself forget about it but I wasn’t gonna put it on the record, probably. And then when we were mixing, I forgot to tell Brian Deck [engineer] that we weren’t going to use it. So, he just mixed it one day, and sent it to me, and I thought, “well, maybe it’s for the best, because he’s been doing a lot of miracle work with stuff. He hears stuff in our music I don’t always hear. He seems to have a good grip on how to bring stuff out in our songs. Maybe it’ll just turn out great.”
And I went and listened to his version of it, and I thought the same thing I’d been thinking for months. It just sort of sucks. I don’t know why. I called Brian up, and I explained the whole situation to him. I said, “Look, everybody loves this, and I love it too when we’re playing it. I was really excited to lead with it, but ever since I’ve been listening to it since that first day in my car, it’s just not doing it for me, and I don’t know why.” And he said, “Oh, I can explain that to you. It sounds like a cover. It’s the only one on the record that doesn’t sound like it’s yours, and it kind of just sounds like you’re singing somebody else’s song.” And I realized that’s kind of what it was.
I love that song, and when we went to record it, I had the greatest time singing it. I think my whole life I wanted to cover that song; since I was a kid it was one of my favorite songs. And I was having such a good time singing that I forgot that it’s not a song about having a good time at all. It’s a really sad song. And it just sounded awesome, but it had no emotional weight at all. It was one of those songs when I was a kid…you know when something’s really sad, but you love it? When you’re bummed out, you listen to it, and it makes you feel a lot? It was that song for me, and it wasn’t doing that for me when I heard it. It wasn’t moving me. And I realized it’s because I had a great time singing it. And my band is really, really responsive to where I’m at. They listen and play to me. They don’t play a song, they play what I’m singing, whatever that is, in subtle ways, they don’t even realize.
So, it was a really great, fun take on that song. But it’s not a fun song. It’s just a great song, and we had a great time playing it. I took everybody, without realizing it even, took everyone down the wrong road. It just didn’t have any emotional weight to it, and that particular song isn’t supposed to be like that. You can just sing “Amie”. “Amie” is there to be just sung. It’s fun. “It’s Different For Girls” isn’t. So, I left it off. I realized that’s what the problem was. It’s my fault. Without thinking about it, I took it down the wrong road. Everyone else followed me right down it, and we recorded a great version of the song that has nothing to do with the song, so we left it off.
Do you think you’ll play it live because of how much fun you had?
Probably not, because it’ll have the same problem. I took the wrong tack on the song, and now everyone’s got a certain version in their heads that is all wrong. That song is supposed to move you, and I don’t think it does anything. Our version is so much fun to listen to, but it’s just not the right thing. I don’t know. I doubt we will, because I think we’d screw that up. Even if I could get my head around doing it a different way, I think everyone else is probably locked in the way they were.
You just mentioned how your band plays to you rather than plays the songs. You are also known for mixing your lyrics up and transposing different songs in and out. How did that come about?
It was the very first gig we ever played on the road. We were up in Vancouver, and me and Charlie [Gillingham], I want to say it was me and Charlie, and Matt [Mallery], and Dan [Jewett]. We walked over to Lake Victoria and we’re sitting there in the afternoon before we played our first gig. We were opening for Suede. I said, “You know what? You can play anything you like. I’m just gonna cut you guys off. I’m gonna gesture it, and everyone just let the bottom drop out of the song. I’m gonna do something, I don’t know what. Follow me.” And they were like, “What?”
“I don’t know, I kinda feel like I wanna be the kind of band where you just never know what’s going to happen, and maybe even we don’t.” And they were all like, “Okay.” So, that night, and we’re an opening band, we’re playing a half-hour set, in the middle of “Rain King”, I just dropped the bottom out of the song, and wandered off, and we wandered back eventually, and it was cool. And the audience was like, “What the fuck?” But they were into it. As much as the thing that everybody comes there wanting to hear exactly what they want to hear, they still get transported when you transport them. They still do react, sometimes, like, “Wow, I didn’t expect that.” And I don’t know, it just worked, and so I just started doing it. I also realized it was something I learned when I was singing on the first record too. The best thing to do is whatever you feel like doing at that moment. Take yourself where you’re honestly feeling like you want to go. That’s always going to be real and frosh.
I was afraid you’d have fan blowback that you were forgetting your lyrics, but apparently not. It seems to be a really positive response.
I think we probably had both. I do think there’s people who love to sing along and they’re pissed that they can’t sing along at the concerts. I saw somewhere on Twitter the other day, it was a couple days ago after a Counting Crows concert, “the bliss of not being able to sing along because you have no idea what’s about to happen.” Some girl wrote that. Something like, “I love singing along at concerts, but there’s a bliss to the Counting Crows’ concert where it’s impossible to sing along, because you have no idea what they’re going to do next.” Something like that. For me, whatever I sang on the record was just something that happened at that moment. You’re trying for a version that crystalizes into something timeless, but you’re also going to feel different on other days so you should always approach the song as if it’s happening right then. I don’t think these songs have to get old, because most of the feelings you feel in them are stuff you can experience on any given day. It’s a little different than it was the first time you recorded it, and it’s a little different from last night. And you should feel okay with just letting it go wherever you want it to go. I can understand not doing that too, but I’m a good enough singer that I don’t have to worry about pitch too much, and I don’t have to worry about…I don’t know, whatever else one worries about that you have to hold on to where you are in a song, which I totally understand, because it’s not easy to sing all the time. But I can do that, so I feel pretty safe just letting myself wander.
You don’t want to get too precious about it. You don’t want to fuck up your songs. I do think that sometimes it’s a big thing, like a complete detour in the middle of a song, and sometimes it’s just something that people probably wouldn’t even notice the difference. They might feel it, but they wouldn’t necessarily be conscious that you just changed a little bit of the tone, sang a line a little sadder, a little happier, a little funnier, a little quieter, a little louder, whatever. Just little things that make it exactly what you’re feeling at that moment, so that you don’t feel obligated to be repeating something over and over again, but more experiencing it right then and there. Like, sometimes, quite honestly, it’s as simple as “I forgot the lyrics.” But that’s okay, because I can stand here and be,“I forgot the lyrics,” or I could just make up new ones. There’s a new melody, and a new lyric out there. I’m going through stuff, there’s no reason I can’t make up something different, if you think quick enough. You’re playing music, lots of it is improvised, people playing different notes all the time, so why shouldn’t I sing something a little differently. I feel like I don’t have to be…just because I’ve got words and melodies that I can lean on every time doesn’t mean I can’t play a guitar lick or a guitar solo. Sometimes I will stop the song because it’s just too lousy. Like, “Wait a minute, that was just a huge fuck-up and this song isn’t making sense any more. Stop. Okay, let’s kick it in from the second verse, and then go.” I have no real problem doing that, because it’s human. The shit happens. But sometimes I’ll just go along.
With that in mind, and how you don’t necessarily feel the same way about the music you did twenty years ago, or even last night, how did you approach when you recorded and performed August and Everything After in its entirety? Was that something that the band wanted to do, or were you approached with that idea?
Well, we had this gig coming up…they were Town Hall gigs, and we were planning on doing something to sort of celebrate that. But in my mind, we were just going to…I just wanted to have friends come from all over our career and play songs with us. We called the Jayhawks and Jake Dylan, Chris Carrabba [Dashboard Confessional], the guys in the Gigolo Aunts who were then in Lo-Stars. We were just going to bring friends from all over our career and do all kinds of songs together, our songs, their songs. To me, it was going to be more like a Last Waltz thing. That’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t think the album would hold together very well. I listened to it. Someone came up with the idea of playing the whole record. I listened to the whole record and thought it didn’t sounded very good in order. It was really a trick, a prank that Jimmy [Bogios] and I pulled on the other guys in the band one day at a show. About a month before, we were filming that show, we were out in Jersey somewhere, we were playing minor-league baseball stadiums all summer long, and I was looking at the song list. I was looking at the list of songs from August, and I started thinking about how they actually go nowadays, not how they are on the record, but how differently we play them.
There’s a long center section at that point for “Sullivan Street”. “Ghost Train” has this really loud, dark guitar intro. It’s just very different than the way it used to be. “Time and Time Again” has all these instrumental passages in it. I started thinking about how they actually go nowadays. The fact that “Raining In Baltimore” is something that I would stick inside “Round Here”, and then I started looking at the sequence of songs and thinking, “okay, actually it’s not exactly the way I thought it was.” I look at it this way, it was “Raining In Baltimore” inside “Round Here”, and I think about the way we actually play all these songs now, this might be really cool in order. We just did it as a pr…we hadn’t even played some of those songs with the guys in the band, I don’t think ever. It was more a prank than a show. I already said it, but I’m not sure some of the guys had ever even played “Ghost Train”. There were a few of those songs that we hadn’t played in a long time. I didn’t realize Millard [Powers] had never played “Ghost Train”. He just didn’t say anything about it, he just went up and did it.
I figured we’d do them that afternoon, so we gave the set list to the crew and didn’t tell anybody. The night before the show, they go and look at the set list, and realize we’re playing August and Everything After in order. And it was like, “Okay, now what are you going to do.” [Laughs.] It was kind of a joke on the rest of the band, and then we did it, and it was awesome. And also, for some reason, that 50 minute record is an 80 minute concert. Some of the songs are stretched out a bit. And then somebody started thinking that might be a really good concert. After the show was over, and it was so good, I said we should actually do Town Hall. “Let’s do it this way. We’ll do August and Everything After, and we’ll play a bunch of songs off the new record that no one’s ever heard, off Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings. We’ll just do that.” And the guys were like, “Okay, great, let’s just do it a few more times before we get there.” I said, “No, we’re not doing it anymore. We’ll do it then. We did it today, it worked out fine. I’m not going to beat it into the ground. We’ll do it again in New York. That’s it, we’re not rehearsing this. That’ll just kill it.”
And so we didn’t. We waited, and played it again in New York at the concert. It was kind of like a prank more than anything else. Sometimes in the middle of a tour you get to the point where you’re just like, “I cannot think of how to make a set list.” So you start making rules. “Okay, I’m going to do it alphabetically, first song has to start with ‘A’, second song has to start with ‘B’.” Or you do, “this is my new rule for today, song from the first, song from the second, song from the third, song from the fourth, song from the fifth, song from the sixth album, and back to the top, and that’s how you have to make the set list today” [Laughs.] There was a period right there around those tours where I was really having trouble making set lists up, and so I did them that way. I don’t usually do that, but then I did. So that was just one of those, “Okay, what are we going to do today? You know what, let’s do the first album.” That’s sort of how it came about.
So there was never an intention to record it until actually that night, when you guys started doing it?
We knew we were going to film that show, but we just weren’t planning on doing the whole album. It was going to be a Last Waltz kind of thing with a bunch of friends of ours. We actually had a bunch of them we had invited already. But then, once we played that show in Jersey, I had to call Phil back, and say, “You know what, we’re just probably going to do our own thing.” All we had were the people that were on tour with us. I think Lo-Stars were on tour with us, and Chris Carrabba lives in New York, so he was right there, so it was easy to have Chris come by and do the second encore. We did an encore of songs from Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings, which wasn’t released yet, and then we did a second encore of cover songs that we all played together. Although we did “Angels of the Silence” acoustic with Chris singing on it because, he’s been playing a version of it. We did…I think we did “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”. I don’t know what else we played. We just kind of knew some songs that everybody could play. I think we did “Ballad of El Goodo” for the second encore.
Is that what led to that song being on this album [Underwater Sunshine]?
No, I think it’s just something we love to play. And that’s the reason it was on this album and the reason we did it at that show. It’s probably a song that everybody who was at that show who was playing music, who was a big Big Star fan, whether it’s Chris or the guys from Gigolo Aunts or Lo-Stars, everyone, we were all kind of devotees of Big Star. It seemed like a good thing to do at the time.
You’ve said that Big Star means more to you than any other band, and is at the heart of what you do. What’s your favorite Big Star song? Is it “El Goodo”?
You know, I think it probably shifts, but certainly the first song I really loved was probably “September Gurls”, because it was the first one I heard. And the first place I heard…it was actually the Bangles playing it in concert before they released it. It was on their second record, I think [Different Light]. But that’s what made me want to figure out who Big Star was, because I saw them play it in a concert years and years ago on their first tour, in San Francisco, in a club. I was, “What the fuck is that song?” I read about this band Big Star. That’s probably ’82 maybe, or something like that. I don’t know when, something like that, ’81, ’82. I really loved that song, “Thank You, Friends”, for a long time. There was something really joyous and also incredibly depressing about that song, like much of that record, Big Star’s Third. “El Goodo” seems to sum up Alex [Chilton] to me in some ways. I think he wrote it. It always seemed like it might be about sort of like getting drafted in Vietnam at the time, I don’t know. I always had a suspicion he was writing about that, but also it’s about having to be like everybody else, or not in the first place, the desire to be your own person, stand on your own two feet, even when it’s really difficult. I think it’s what he went through in life. They really did their own thing in a pretty magnificent way. It was pretty much a disaster for him a lot of times.
You got to meet with Chilton. You’ve worked with him before, right?
Yeah, sure. When Big Star re-formed and did those concerts, the first ones, years and years ago, when they made that record Columbia. Rhino or Ryko released those records again, and they played Columbia. Then a few months later they decided to play a couple more concerts. I think they played San Francisco and New York, I’m not sure if they did any other ones. On the first tour we were ever on, when we got to Memphis, Dan and I, I think it was Dan, it might have been Charlie, we went right to Ardent Studios to see what it was like. And who was fucking working there but Jody Stephens, who’s sitting right there. It’s hard to miss Jody. He looks exactly the same as he did when he was eighteen. He’s a good looking guy who’s looked like a rock star since he was eighteen years old, and he looks like one now. We met him and we talked. He was really nice, and he knew our band, I guess. I don’t really remember the conversation, it was such a long time ago, and I was so sort of star-struck at the time. It’s different than meeting other famous people when you meet someone who’s from another place.
I can remember once being at a film festival. I was in London playing a gig, and my friend had a film in a film festival, and we went to the premiere of it with another girl who was in it with him, and another film there. It was Queen Margot. And we went over there with Isabella Adjani. I’m standing there with Isabella Adjani…do you know who she is? French actress.
She’s like the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen, but she’s also French. [Laughs.] She’s this French New Wave star. She’s, like, from another planet somehow, otherworldly. Something about Big Star was that way, because not only were they legendary, but they were only legendary to a few of us. Nobody had ever heard of them. It was weird. A few months later, we get a call from somebody that said Big Star was going to play another show. They’re going to play San Francisco, and they want you to open the show. And the other band that opened the show was Gigolo Aunts. We were at the height of our popularity of the first album, we were huge right then. I agreed to do it as long as we could go under an assumed name, because I didn’t want anybody to know it was a Counting Crows show, because in San Francisco in 1994, in April, it would have sold out in seconds to Counting Crows fans, and it needed to be Big Star fans. I didn’t want them to do a concert and have it be a bunch of our fans. So, we went as The Shatners. If you ever see that Fillmore poster it says Big Star, Shatners, and Gigolo Aunts.
So, no one knew we were playing until we walked on stage, really. It was really cool. I met those guys and saw Jody again. It was probably ’cause Jody liked the band and requested us. I don’t know if Alex knew us, even then. But I met them that day, and then that summer we had Alex come out on tour with us for a while. So, I met him then, and for years New Orleans was my home away from home a lot during the first decade or so in the band, and I spent all my time there until all my friends from New Orleans moved to California to live with me. It was like twenty people living in this house in L.A., all from New Orleans. It was the hotel for every band from there. But Alex lived there for years. He moved down to New Orleans years ago. Well, I can’t remember when it was, but he was always around there so I saw him all the time. I just can’t really talk around him.
Why? Star struck?
I’ve always been pretty shy, first thing with new people, but especially with my heroes. I never got very good at that. I’m not very social in the “star” part of the world [laughs], the entertainment business. I don’t know what to say around people. My godson for years went to school with Bruce Springsteen’s son, and I’d see Bruce everyday picking him up after school. Bruce has always been so nice to me, before we were anybody, before we even put out a record, and I can’t form a sentence around him.
He’s probably used to that.
I think he is. It doesn’t make it any better. [Laughs.] I was really bad around Alex, because Alex is also kind of touchy. Alex can be sort of annoyed with people who only love him for Big Star. I could not form sentences around the guy. He dated a friend of mine, he lived with a friend of mine for a couple of years down there. I’d see him all the time, and he was so nice to me, always so nice to me, and I was “Hi Alex. Hi. Hi. Did I say that? Hi. Okay, yeah, bye.” It was tragic. I always thought I’d get better one day, but then time runs out. I didn’t go to that thing down there. I was invited to this thing at South By Southwest that they were going to play at. I didn’t go because I could not deal with another fumble-fest in front of Alex. And then he passed away. I can’t remember what the exact circumstances were, but it turned into a tribute, and I didn’t go to that either because I was just really bummed out.
He was a really nice guy to me. Also, because there’s a thing about his songwriting that we take for granted nowadays in all these years post-The dB’s, post-The Replacements, post-The Cure, and all those singers who pen very melodic songs with incredible, clumsy vulnerability that was just real boyish, openness to their singing….a way a lot of people sing nowadays. And also, college music radio kind of came out, and we got used to that, but there wasn’t anybody singing like that, certainly not in the ’70s, singing Beatles’ melodies and Beatles’ harmonies with Paul Westerberg’s openness. Big Star was astonishing, especially because of the time period. There was nobody doing that. Springsteen is writing very personal songs right after that, but I’m not sure they have the clumsy vulnerability. They’re so well written. They don’t have the clumsiness that a song like “Thirteen” does, or even “El Goodo”, some of the lyrics…
Or the simplicity of “I’m In Love With a Girl”.
Oh god, and the way his voice drops out. [sings] “I’m in love with a … girl,” But the fact that “Thirteen” actually sounds like the syntax of a 13-year-old. “Why don’t you tell your dad to get off my back,” “Tell him what we said about ‘Paint It Black’.” He doesn’t even tell you what it is. He doesn’t tell you anything meaningful, just, you know, when we were talking today about “Paint It Black” and what that means. Tell him what that means. That’s how we feel. Who knows what that is, but only a kid would say it that way, and he’s like, at his age, so understanding of the syntax and the utter pure emotional honesty. It taught me everything about writing in a lot of ways.
I think there were big lessons for me from a number of different people when I first started writing songs. Van Morrison lived in Mill Valley when I was growing up. So he would do these shows at the Great American Music Hall, which was a club. Six hundred, seven hundred people. And he would do these shows. They would announce it in the Sunday, on Sunday, and it would just go on sale on Monday. It’d be standing room only. You’d just walk in to this little club. So, you could see Van Morrison in a club constantly. They would announce it 24 hours before the show, and you would go. And I saw a guy stand up on stage with an eight-, nine-, ten-piece band and just make it up. I mean, clearly, as close to jazz as any pop singer I’ve ever seen. He was clearly singing whatever he felt like singing at any given moment, took songs wherever he wanted to take them, and it really just tells me something that it’s okay to let whatever you’re feeling come through in the song. Because that is going to be really powerful in the end. It’s very real and very tactile. You can feel it. I got that from him.
And all those early R.E.M. records, where I couldn’t understand a fucking thing they were saying, there was this impressionistic sense how you could make a song. That even if you didn’t understand the words he was saying, you could understand what he meant. Somehow, you just got it. The music and the words mashed up in such a way, they communicated what he meant, no matter what that was. It made a difference. The other thing, the certain thing about it was really Alex and Big Star, because there was this brutal, clumsy honesty to it that was really powerful. It’s the right words. Someone said that they thought the lyric…I can name a couple lyrics in mind, “Oh baby, I surrender to the strawberry ice cream, never ever ender,” lyric on “Accidentally In Love”. It’s really hard to write a love song and mean it. For that one, it just seemed like the right words. It’s just what it felt like. It felt like being a kid with strawberry ice cream, forever ever after, being a kid, falling in love. It’s just a perfect flavor. Or I used a really clumsy lyric on “Speedway”, where I said, “I get so nervous, I’m shaking, so I got no pride at all. It gets so bad but I just keep coming back for more, I guess I just get off on that stuff.”
That line, “I guess I just get off on stuff,” there’s nothing poetic about that line. It’s said with my voice dropping off the way that it does on the “I’m In Love With a Girl” line. I remember a lot of our fans were like, and even some writers were like, “He’s not really working on his writing, it’s very clumsy. There’s nothing poetic about this.” And I don’t think you’re supposed to be poetic. Poems aren’t even supposed to be poetic. They’re supposed to communicate something very real. What I learned from Big Star is it’s okay to just say simple things, that simple things are often brutal. I think that line, “It gets so bad but I just keep coming back for more, I guess I just get off on that stuff,” it’s an embarrassed line, I almost mumble it. It’s something you’re ashamed of when you’re abused by somebody. “I guess I just get off on that stuff.” It’s a terrible thing to say, and it needed to be clumsy, and it shouldn’t be poetic. I learned that sort of stuff from him, from them, Chris Bell too.
But he had passed away long before you began working with them.
Yeah, I never met Chris. But I have that song because The Posies recorded it, and they put out those records then. The wonder that I think people forget about songwriting, you want to contrast that stuff. You want to say every night, “I tell myself I am the cosmos. I am the wind.” And then you want to contrast it with “but that don’t bring me back again.” The ridiculousness of being a poet and saying beautiful things when it doesn’t really get what you need, which is something really simple, like the girl to come back. That’s a really amazing line right there. I thought that that first line in that song, that could break me anytime. They were pretty big for me in that way. They were a big thing in my life, more than almost any other band. Big Star taught me a lot. Even if I don’t listen to it that much anymore, all the time, somehow it really gets me wrecked up. It kinda tears me up a bit. I do love singing that song in concert.
Earlier on you said when you started touring with Big Star, it was at the height of your career. Had we ended around there, I was going to ask you about what also happened at the height of Counting Crows’ career at that point in time: Cobain’s suicide. But then we started talking about all this great stuff with Big Star, I really kind of hesitate to come back to such a bummer topic.
I didn’t know Kurt really well, but I did know him. We were kind of our A&R guy’s two little brothers that he signed. Us and Nirvana, we were both on the label together. I can remember going to lunch at Danny Goldberg’s house with him, and Francis Bean was just a baby, and Courtney. And I remember hanging out in the dressing room years later, well, not too many years later, right before they released In Utero. We were in San Francisco, hanging out backstage before they played this concert. It was the first time I ever heard the record played live. They came right on stage and blew “Rape Me” through all of our heads. He was always really nice to me too. Sweet guy. It was very cautionary to me, because I did a lot of drugs when I was a kid, and they just sort of messed up my head, and I had to stop doing them. I knew I had a lot of mental illness, a lot of mental difficulties back then, I just didn’t talk about it at all.
The difference is, I wasn’t doing any of those drugs then. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to go through the stuff that happens when you become a rock star if I was still doing drugs like that, because I had enough troubles dealing with being crazy. Kurt obviously was. It was kind of weird, because I didn’t spend a lot of time around him, just a few times. Actually, I knew Courtney better over the years. Courtney’s always been really nice to me, for what it’s worth. I don’t know what that means, because I know she’s not always nice to other people, but she’s always been really nice to me. I don’t know if it was because I was there back then, I have no idea. My experience with her is totally different from the ones I hear other people have. The time she flew off the handle at me, she actually kind of apologized. [Laughs.] She’s was always kind of sweet about it.
But back then, eventually our record did come out, and we went off on the road. We spent a lot of time being like an indie band. By the time we played Saturday Night Live, our record [August] still wasn’t even in the Top 200. We weren’t on anybody’s radar really. “Mr. Jones” was sort of becoming a song. We were starting to attract our own crowds, so we could sell out clubs. We played that show, and it went through the fucking sky. Our record jumped 40 spots a week for five straight weeks, until we ended up at number six. I’m not exaggerating. It was, like, at 212, and then the next week it was at 170, 130, 90-something, 50-something, 13, six, six, six, two, for a year or two. But, at that point we weren’t even in the Top 200, we played Saturday Night Live and it blew up, then we spent a few months playing our own gigs. We played a few of our own gigs, and then we went back to touring with Cracker. We played with Suede, and Cranberries, and then we went out with Cracker for awhile. Then, after Saturday Night Live, we did a few weeks or a month of headliners in clubs and went back to opening for Cracker around the country. We did a lot of tours with Cracker. They were really great to us. Then we went off to Europe, and I think right before we left for Europe we played Letterman, literally like the night before we left. I was really nervous about it. I agreed to do Rolling Stone, the cover. And I was really nervous. I know it sounds stupid, but you cannot say “no” to the cover of Rolling Stone. You just can’t. But I didn’t want to do it, because I was wondering what was going to happen to us. It all seemed like it was changing very very quickly.
I wasn’t sure about how to know what to do the right thing, and what the wrong thing was, and I made some mistakes that way. So much of the music business is just bullshit. It’s so weird. There’s a lot of baby-kissing and hand-shaking, and it seems very fake and strange. I just wanted to make sure we always did the right thing, so I didn’t have a lot of regrets. But I had no idea what the right thing was. It just seemed to be getting out of control. It was “Round Here” that blew us up, not “Mr. Jones”. That’s the strange thing. Because “Round Here” is what we played on Saturday Night Live first. “Mr. Jones” we played late in the show, but we played “Round Here” first. And that’s what blew people’s minds.
Just like “Rain King” that day in that club, because “Round Here” was different from anything they had ever seen before. And when we went on Letterman before we left for Europe, it wasn’t “Mr. Jones” we played there, it was “Round Here”. We got huge while we were in Europe. We didn’t know it because we were gone. But I knew everything was getting really, really weird, and I was very nervous about talking to Rolling Stone, and the thought of being on…I know it sounds like a great thing, but the thought of being on every magazine stand in the country, on the front cover of Rolling Stone, where everybody could see your face every moment of every day for two weeks. That just seemed like a lot of exposure to me. I was really nervous about it. They were meeting us in Paris when we were over there. It was our first European tour, and we got to Paris early in the morning. I want to say it was really early in the morning, I feel like. The rooms weren’t ready, so we were in the lobby of this little hotel in Paris, and I met David Wilde and Mark Seliger. Mark was taking the photos, and David was writing the article. I don”t know if you know those guys at all, but they’re pretty great guys, actually. I’m still friends with David, and I’m sure if I ever saw Mark I’d be thrilled. He’s such a nice guy. And they were cool, so I thought…I kind of got over a lot of my fear, and that this was going to be all right. “I don’t feel so bad about this, I like these guys.”
And then the weirdest thing happened. It’s, like, etched in my memory. The desk person answers the phone, and then says, “Is there an Adam Duritz here? Adam Duritz?” It was weird. Why would I be getting a phone call in the lobby of a Paris hotel this early hour of the morning. And I said, “sure,” and she was like, “you can pick it up over there.” It was like one of those old, ornate wrought iron tables, and it had an old-fashioned phone on it. I’m picturing this, it’s stuck in my memory that way. I’m sitting in a wrought iron chair with this old-fashioned phone, and I pick up the phone and it’s Gary, our A&R guy, calling. Well, he was then the president of Capitol. He wasn’t our A&R guy anymore. This is the father of my god-children. He’s my friend. He was our manager for a decade, later on. And he was mine and Kurt’s kind of big brother at the time. I knew Kurt had been missing for a few days because that was all over the news. No one could figure out where he was. And it was Gary calling from America to tell me they had just found Kurt’s body in the attic, or the garage, or wherever it was, and that he had killed himself. All that…being comfortable with what was about to happen to me went right out the window, because here was a guy who was kind of like, in my mind, a lot like me, just a few years ahead. It had all already happened to him, but it was starting to happen to me right then. We were blowing up. The biggest difference was that I wasn’t doing any drugs.
I was having a really hard time coping with it, because my mind didn’t work that way, and I wasn’t comfortable being a rock star right then. And here I am, sitting in the lobby of this Paris hotel, looking out across the lobby at these two guys from Rolling Stone who are about to plaster me all over the world, and on the phone is my friend telling me that this really nice guy, that I didn’t know very well, but who did exactly what I did, and who seemed to resemble me in a lot of ways, that I hadn’t told anybody else about, because nobody else really knew about my head back then. But I knew. That scared the living shit out of me, and it was really sad. I flipped out a little later that summer. About five or six months after that, I totally flipped out on the road, and we canceled the end of some big summer tour we were on. I just shut down. Although I didn’t really get any time off because we had to get a new drummer right then, and went back out on the road again, and kind of got myself together. It was scary, and it was really sad.
If you were on drugs still, or doing drugs back then, do you think you would have survived the ’90s?
Oh, I don’t know. I mean, it was pretty clear to me that heroin was a bad idea, even when I was a kid. Even when I thought drugs were the best thing in the world, heroin never did seem like the best thing in the world. I don’t know if it would have been the ’90s so much as later when it would have been a problem for me. Because once the mental illness got really difficult, luckily I wasn’t playing around with drugs then. I was still drinking a bunch. I like drinking, I’m a big fan of it. But it doesn’t have the same kind of effect. It’s not quite as addictive, for me, as the drugs were. I never turned to liquor. It’s not for me to touch when I’m alone, or when I’m feeling bad. Whereas I have no qualms with doing drugs alone. When I was a kid. I don’t come home in the afternoon and drink. I like going out and drinking. I like playing and drinking, although I can’t really do it on tour, because my voice wears out, but I never turned to it the same way, even recreationally, that I did with drugs. Doing it first thing in the morning, doing it before you go to bed at night, that sort of shit was never part of it. Drinking was never that, it was fun for me. I worry about what it would have been like doing any drugs at that point, but, I don’t know.
You’ve said that your mental problems are behind you and that during the recording of this album you detoxed…
I did not say they were behind me, or if I did, I didn’t mean that. I’m trying, and that’s better than just failing. In the last year, I got off all these different medications, so I’m not on them right now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean…I’m probably supposed to be on something. We just can’t figure out what it is yet. So, I’m living a pretty raw life right now, with almost nothing in my system that’s prescribed. Just the stuff for the ADD is the only thing I’m still taking right now. And that’s pretty obvious that I need that, and that helps a lot. But, nothing for the rest of it, nothing for the crazy symptoms. So, the world’s a pretty raw place. Which is good, because now I can feel it. Better to feel a lot than not to feel at all, because I can handle it nowadays. There was a time where I probably needed to be as heavily medicated as I was, because it wasn’t safe otherwise. But right now I can handle this. It’s just not ideal. This isn’t ever going to be behind me. It doesn’t work that way, I don’t think. I wish it did, but I’m sort of figuring out how to live through it better than I used to.
In the early part of your career, a lot of your self-therapy, if you will, came through your music, and a lot of the songs were, to a degree biographical. But then you also started branching out into film and even theater. Was that a means of coping?
Honestly, the music is not therapeutic at all. It doesn’t do that. I just figure it’s better to have a bad day where you write a song than a bad day where you don’t. I do think it’s better to write songs than not to, but it doesn’t provide any sort of therapeutic release to me. Well, let me put it this way…that’s probably not true. It doesn’t fix anything. You still have to fix it yourself. Writing songs is who I am, and what I do, and being crazy is also kind of that same thing, so they intersect a lot. But I don’t think the one fixes the other. In fact, it does the opposite, because the life you get into from writing songs is not therapeutic at all. Having to talk about everything publicly, having to sing about everything every night, having to scrape that shit from out of your stomach and put it out on stage, because our songs don’t work unless you really feel them, and doing that every night could be nightmarish. It isn’t lately, but it can be.
I think the film was just…I like being interested in things. I’m always fascinated by people that do things that everyone else can’t do. Anyone who’s willing to spend all their afternoons indoors whatever your doing, or outdoors, if you want to go out and play football everyday, if you want to go ice skate everyday, you want to do ballet every day, you want to write songs every day. All those things that people do that separate them from everybody else, because they are disciplines that require all that extra time and discipline. To me, playing a guitar and dunking a basketball is the same thing. You dedicate yourself to it. So, I’ve always been fascinated by that stuff.
I love movies. Honestly, I got more involved with movies because I had friends who did it, and they needed help, and so I did it. But really it was always only that. I am good, after all these years, at running projects, and working with lots of different creative people at once. I have a crew. I know what it’s like to work with a lot of people really hard, so I actually ended up being a pretty good movie producer when it came to that, because I could understand the artistic side and the Teamsters. I have a lot of respect and value for Teamsters because, honestly, you don’t get shit done without people driving it there. I have truck drivers who drive my shit for every gig. I know they put the work in, the time in, in the long drive. Everything that goes into making a movie, I think I’m uniquely positioned to appreciate it, because I’ve been doing it with a whole crew for 20 years.
I have a band and a crew, and my crew is loyal. They’ve been around, most of them, ten to 20 years, because they like working for us. They’re really good, and I’ve got a lot of respect for them. So, I think I ended up being pretty good as a movie producer because of that. Not necessarily because of the artistic talent, but because I could understand everything about it. It made a lot of sense to me. But, that said, it’s a huge fucking pain in the ass. There’s just too many people involved, too much money involved. It’s just very, very difficult.
The theater thing I really like, though. I think it’s very, very difficult and I don’t know how to do it yet. And me and my partner, who I’m writing with, he’s a very successful playwright and movie director now, but he’s never written a musical either. We can’t exactly figure out how it works. But it’s really nice to write for people that are not me. To write for women, to write for multiple voices, to write for multiple characters as opposed to just writing about myself. It’s very liberating to be writing and know that I’m not going to be the one singing it. In fact, it’s not even about me. It’s not going to be me on stage regurgitating my lines every night. It’s going to be these other people, and it’s a little bit removed from my life even though it is my feelings.
Do you see yourself writing more songs for films?
Oh, I might. It’s always a pain in the ass working with movie companies. It’s always just kind of a nightmare. I’m sure we will. I’m more interested in the theater stuff. I live in New York. There’s a lot of it around. I’ve always loved it. It’s a lot like being in a rock band, because it’s live, so I understand that part of it, and you have a little more room to express yourself. Composing a whole score for a play is a very cool, collaborative effort with a bunch of people. And I found that I really like teaching songs to people. I liked working with the performers. I liked collaborating with the other writer and the directors. I’m a band member, and I do like collaborating. And I think also, although there is money involved, a lot of it in order to make things work on stage, I’ll be able to exert more control in that area than in the movies, which is a pain in the ass that way. I can trust myself to exert control without fucking something up, because I’m very interested in other people’s points of view and creativity. Whereas, in the movie business, there’s so much money it just comes down to a lot of other things.
Well, you had a lot of creative control in the music business though too, with your contract with Geffen.
I did for a while there, but you always end up…there’s so much money involved you have to sell it, you get producers, you get movie companies. When you go to make music for films, you always end up fighting with somebody’s lawyer about nothing. It’s pointless, but the guy’s gotta have a job. He’s got to have a reason for being there, so he’s gonna make a suggestion about your song. Sheesh, shut the fuck up.
Now you can go in and say, “I’m an Oscar nominated guy. Leave me alone.”
Yeah, like that’s the most impressive thing in the world. Sorry, but being Oscar nominated for songwriter is really not a very good resume [line]. I would have loved to win an Oscar, because I would have loved my parents to have that on their mantle, but that’s not where good songwriting goes to live. I think that song’s a great song that we wrote. It’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written, and I’m very proud of it. We got nominated because we were part of a great movie with a fucking cartoon over it. That’s why we got nominated, I’m sure. Because they’ve ignored other stuff. I’ve put plenty of great stuff in movies that didn’t get anywhere near an Oscar nomination. We got nominated because we were in Shrek [Shrek 2], which was a great movie for kids, which is why I did it.
Let’s face it, the Best Song winner is like Grammy for Best New Artist. In ’77 you have the Talking Heads, you have The Pretenders, you have Elvis Costello’s first album. God knows how many other amazing albums came out in 1977. And then you have the winner of the Grammy for Best New Artist, which I believe was A Taste of Honey for “Boogie Oogie Oogie”. I’d love to say I’m honored just to be nominated, but it wasn’t Elvis and the Pretenders. And we didn’t win. On top of it, we didn’t win. Which, sucks. [Laughs.] I’ve blown off award shows my entire life, because I think they’re stupid. The only award that I’ve ever even been slightly interested in winning, and I do think it would be great, is a Tony award, because it’s a live-performance thing. I love theater. I grew up in it and I love it. I really have a lot of respect for it. That is an award show I’d go to any day. The rest of them I can’t even watch. That one year I’d thought it’d be so cool to win an Oscar and give it to my parents, and then we lost. And I fucking went. Although I had a great time. I did have fun that night, except we lost, which I find so much less fun than other things.
Did you perform it that night? I can’t remember.
Yeah, we did. It was good, the whole thing was pretty fun. Everyone was really nice there. I just never cared much about awards, and I actually went to those shows, and we lost. I did not go to the Grammys or the MTV [Video Music Awards]. I went to the Golden Globes because someone told me you can’t win an Oscar without showing up to the Golden Globes. So, I went to the Golden Globes and the Oscars. I’m not going to the MTV Awards or the Grammys. I don’t have enough time in my life to spend. But we still lost all of them, so fuck it.
Well Adam, I’m gonna let you go because I heard the phone beep a few times, but I want to really thank you very much for giving me so much of your time today. Good luck with the album and the tour.
Oh, no problem man, thank you very much. Oh, I also forgot to tell you. At least let me talk about the Outlaw Road Show. I have to say, it is like the prime joy of my life right now, how great this is turning out. The best time I’ve had the last few years has been me and Ryan Spaulding, from Ryan’s Smashing Life, putting on all these showcases at CMJ and at South By Southwest. And the best suggestion anyone ever made to me was to take that on the road. This tour with Counting Crows headlining, with these three bands, we’re doing it all summer long, so we’ll have nine bands over the course of summer. This idea I had was such a good thing. Everyone plays a half-hour set. We’ve got it down to a ten minute changeover between bands. And then they just rotate, so they play first one night, second the next night, third the next night, then you go back to the beginning again, and we always headline.
And the audience says it’s just the right amount of time, because they’re swamping the merch booths to go get these guys records and T-shirts afterward. And you can see it in the audience, they’re attentive, they’re listening, they’re digging these bands who have never had a chance to play in front of these kind of crowds before, and they’re killing it every night. And it’s just the right amount of time, so the audience gets to experience new music without being overwhelmed by too much show [they] don’t like, without being exhausted by three bands before us. It’s a half-hour, they find they really like it, they surprise themselves by liking new music.
It’s like, I went to South By Southwest. And then when we come on stage, it’s the most keyed up audience we’ve ever played in front of in our lives. They’re not burned out or tired. Their ears aren’t ringing. Whatever’s going on, seeing these three bands in a row is crushing them, and then when we go on stage, they absolutely explode. It’s been the fucking greatest thing ever. Filiger, Foreign Fields, and Good Old War are just delivering every night. Then they’re learning to play first, which is really important to do. And they’re learning to play in front of the big crowd right before us. Everyone’s having a fucking blast. We’re having the best time, all of us together. Now, I get everybody on stage with us at the end of the night. The next leg is going to be We Are Augustines, Field Report, I don’t know if you’ve heard that Field Report record [Field Report], but it is amazing, and my friend Kasey Anderson, whose song [“Like Teenage Gravity”] we cover on the record. It’s going to be a great summer, and the shows are the best shows we’ve ever played right now. [It's] really energizing, a very cool show. I hope you can check it out somewhere. These bands are awesome. I hope people come out and see it. It’s the best we’ve ever played.
You sound extremely energized and enthusiastic just talking about it.
I love it. I really love all the stuff that Ryan and I have been doing. I’m happy to be surrounded by my peers. The truth is, it got depressing in the record company world for a while there. We were all kind of beaten down. But there’s so much great music being made right now, and because of all the blogs, like yours and others, there are people who will play it. You don’t have to have a record company paying money to get you on the radio. There are blogs who will put your songs up and will write about you. For years, all we had were people, and they were very clever. I learned the worst thing possible from Lester Bangs, talking about what sucked all over every magazine in America, and newspaper. And now the internet means that we have a lot of people online writing about the music they love. And that means, as a listener and a fan, you can find music you love, because however clever the other shit may be, it doesn’t really help you find good music. And you want good music, because it’s harder to find nowadays with the radio as it is.
The blogs make a huge difference, because you can find music you love. You can have people that write about it, and make it easier for you to maybe get into it, because you can understand the way in. You can push that play button right on their Web site, and listen to it, or watch the video in a way that was not immediately available. It’s really an amazing time, because all of that means you can be in a band without getting signed, and risk being on a shelf for the next ten years of your life. You can survive, and can thrive, and you can become a great band. You have time to do it.
You made a comment a little bit ago regarding the record labels, “I don’t have time for people who don’t understand the Internet.” I paraphrased the comment, but you were referencing how the music industry was falling behind with regards to the Internet.
Unfortunately, the first experience a lot of them had with the Internet, because they were too dumb to notice it in the beginning, the first thing that really woke them up to its existence was Napster. And Napster wasn’t a good thing, it’s just not. Instead of peer-to-peer turning into the next radio, which it should be, because guess what, you don’t have to bribe them, it’s free. If you want people to listen to your songs, put them up on peer-to-peer. I’ll download it. Instead of it becoming that, it became these tubes down which all of your money got flushed. And so, their reaction was to put up defenses, and try and stop anything from going out on the Internet. They overreacted and made everything bad. Streaming’s obviously bad. I don’t know why it’s bad, but it’s bad. Downloads are definitely bad because it’s stealing.
And instead of making the logically…it could have gone either way. Someone could have pointed it out to them early on. Everyone has an iPod now, and not a boombox. This is just like the radio, only you don’t have to pay them like you do the radio, and they’ll play it when they want to play it, they don’t have to wait for it. If they like it, they can just go buy it. It could have all been different if that had happened, which might be worse for us, because we’d still be stuck with record companies. Your fans that really love you probably ignore BitTorrent because they don’t want to rip you off. We’re just trying to integrate people into a different way of thinking, and educating people that way takes some time.
You’ve even released some albums via BitTorrent. You had a four song EP you put on BitTorrent.
We can put four songs out there and get two million downloads the first week. I’m pretty sure it’s a good thing. But, also, it’s like we hit a home run right away. We put links on there to go to [buy] tickets and to go to album sales. I haven’t seen the analytics yet, so I don’t know if they did, but I’m guessing they probably didn’t, because it was the first time that any of them used it, so I doubt they’re necessarily thinking of it as a portal to buying the record, or a portal to buying tickets. But if you put it out there this time, it’s something they can get used to for next time. Some of this stuff you have to keep coming back to, keep talking about it. So many people made a fortune on the internet, people get in the lazy habit of thinking. “Put your money in the slot, pull the handle, and out pops the jackpot.” But nothing in life works that way. There are no short cuts that are that short, and the Internet is no different.
I do think it’s the future in a lot [of] ways, because there’s no denying it connects to everyone in the world for free. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to pay you a million dollars every time you link at it, right now. If it’s social media, you probably have to go be social. That’s why it works. Just like putting your money in, you better take part. If it’s BitTorrent, well, they can steal your record, you are risking teaching them how to do that. But, c’mon, who the fuck under the age of 20 doesn’t already know how to do that? You have to view all this as a work in progress. It’s very easy with record companies, the way we were all taught to do business early on, thinking that we have to hit our jackpot right away, and we don’t necessarily need to put the work in, someone else will do it for us. But it doesn’t work that way. It’s time, effort, it’s actually giving a shit, and it’s sheer imagination, and it’s persistence. Jesus, it’s there and it’s free, I’m not gonna not use it.
I love how record companies are adding the download codes when you buy the vinyl. I have no problem paying extra for the vinyl over the CD if that code is there, because I’m going to rip the CD anyway.
I think that is a great idea. It started off with a lot of indie bands doing that at gigs, giving you a handwritten download code. We did it. The first Outlaw Road Show at South By Southwest 2011, we gave a laminate out to everyone, and on the back of the laminate was a code and a Web site. And if you went to that Web site, it gave you a free download from every band on the Outlaw Road Show. This year, we promoted them all for weeks leading up to it ,and then we just set up a download page and said, “it’s there, go ahead.” We had 20,000 plus…I want to say 25,000 downloads, off that, for those 19 bands. That’s a lot of downloads. 7,000 for Filligar, only because they were the first band on the list. That was pretty amazing. We got people to go there and listen to the music, and they liked it. And that way, even the people that couldn’t come to Austin still got to experience the Outlaw Road Show down there.
We just did a thing last week where we filmed. We brought some friends of ours down from New York, and we filmed the whole show. All three of the openers and us. And we made sure everything went to ProTools, so people could remix their sound on it, and we’re going to start pumping videos out so you can not only see how cool the Counting Crows show is right now, but I want you to see how great these other bands are. Because part of the Outlaw Road Show should be the lure of seeing them, even if it’s not yet. But I want you to see how great these bands are, so we essentially provided all three bands with a 30-minute concert that they can go do whatever they want with. We’re going to put it all up online, but they’re going to be able to use it too. It just seemed like a great thing to do. It was my piano player’s idea. He came off stage before we went on stage one night, he came out from watching one of the bands, and said, “The bands sound so great every night, and the audiences are flipping out. People need to see how good they are. We should film them all.” He wasn’t even talking about filming us. I mean, we filmed us too [laughs], but he was just saying that people should see how great they are.
We owe it to everybody to show them how great these bands are. I think that’s the best way to sell our concert. I think it’s probably going to sell more from us, but I agree with him, that’s why we picked them. I’m out there on stage watching every band, every night, because, honestly, I can’t get enough of these guys. They’re great. We’re going to keep doing this stuff. It’s not just generosity. We do a lot for independent music. Yeah, we like the music and it’s fun, but also, we’re an independent band now, and in order for there to be a world in which we can sell records and sell tickets, people have to start to look at new places. They have to read your blog and about Counting Crows, because I don’t really do anything with Rolling Stone, because I wanted to go to the blogs. But they don’t necessarily go to the blogs right away, but they will hopefully. And they don’t necessarily look to BitTorrent to buy tickets, but hopefully they will. The more they get into independent bands, the more they’ll notice the places the independent bands are showcasing. And guess what? That’s where we’re showcased too nowadays. It’s not entirely unselfish. I think it’s the world we live in now too, and as a part of it, we’re going to do our best for it, because it’s survival.
In a world where everyone would probably think that electronic artists are on the cutting edge of the internet, you seem to be proving them wrong.
I think with electronic artists it’s a little more immediate. It’s always easier for them to get at places for one thing, and also, whenever you go see an electronic artist, either you have a bad experience and you don’t write about it because it was boring, or you were at a rave or something where it’s awesome, and it’s an incredible experience. It always seems like it’s part of a bigger scene than other bands are. But, I do think, in general, it’s harder for electronic artists to sell tickets to their shows. It’s just that every once in a while, when someone has a great experience at one of their shows, it’s often at an incredible scene, and it makes it seem like there’s a big scene around all this stuff, which is probably erratic. True, but erratic. But before us, that band Pretty Lights, a band that none of us had ever heard of, did millions and millions of downloads of their whole record. They may get in trouble for it, because I think they sampled without asking. But still, six million downloads is what they did, over…I don’t know how much time, but still. That is a delivery mechanism for making your band popular. You need to sell records, but you also just need to be known. It’s hard to get yourself out of the masses somehow, and those guys got themselves out of the masses. That’s a lot of downloads.
It’s all just music to me. There’s enough blogs out there nowadays writing about music and writing about bands that I think the Internet’s just as much become a place for all rock and roll bands. There’s so many. You go to the sites of any of the blogs that you read, you could chase endlessly looking for cool shit on the Internet, just running from blog, to blog, to blog. There are a lot of really good writers writing really good stories about really good music. It’s available, we just have to show people where it is. Obviously, they are. It’s not always immediate, it just takes some time.
A few years ago I don’t think Twitter seemed as useful as it is. I don’t think anyone realized how useful it could be. It just seemed like a goofy little toy. It’s actually incredibly useful. I mean, there’s going be a little bit of a backlash now, where it’s not quite as immediate a response as people thought it was going to be when they got a million followers or something, but you don’t get all one million of them to go do something just because you say so. If it’s on the Internet, I’ll try it on the ground floor, because it’s all ways of communicating with people, and that’s what you need to do. That’s always been the hardest part, how do you reach people? I don’t care if it’s Pinterest, Instagram, or Twitter, or Facebook, or whatever, it takes time. You have to put in time.
I think the blogs are a better venue for us, because people are actually talking in depth about stuff, and our music is better off in depth. They’ll play music, and it’s better if you can hear it from us than a lot of the other outlets. But there’s less people on the blogs, so you have to take all that time to talk to everybody. But for me, it’s probably better to be taking the extra time, and having less people in venues where your music is going to make more sense, than it is to reach a million people through someone who actually doesn’t give a flying shit about your band, and who also probably won’t be in their job the next time. People who work on blogs, it’s often their blog, so the next time you come around, they’re still there, because this is their life. Whereas if it’s the Rolling Stone or it’s a newspaper, they’ve moved on to the next thing after that.
The other thing is, the people that write for blogs end up being the editors of Rolling Stone sometimes, because they actually learn something about music, so you never know. I do know that I prefer to read about us from people who want to write about the music, and the record, and how much they love it, and want to talk about Big Star, than, like, who I fuck, or worse yet, who they imagine I fuck that I’ve never met in my life. It has nothing to do with records. Oh shit, I have other interviews. I fucking forgot. Dude, I’m sorry. I’ve got to get off the phone because I’m pretty sure there was supposed to be other interviews.
Yeah, yeah. We were supposed to get off a while ago. I heard the phone beep in a few times.