My Dusty Old Flans Interview from August 2001

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Nikki and John

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May 1, 2002, 9:27:44 AM5/1/02
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While cleaning off my hard drive, I came across this transcript (which I had
intended to post months ago). Much of the info is dated, and this sucker is
long long long, but I figured you guys would be more interested in the full
unvarnished interview than the truncated version that actually saw
publication. With all apologies, here goes:

Me: Hey. Whatcha doing?

Flans: I was just working on a song. Iąm calling you now.

Me: Awesome. Is it a new song? Are you working on stuff for the tour?

Flans: Itąs a very new song. Itąs actually a thing for this TMBG Unlimited
program that weąve been doing with Emusic, and weąre doing this thing for
September called Battle of the Bands, where weąre writing in the style of
other bands...

Me: Fake bands?

Flans: It runs the gamut from perilously close to real bands to
supernaturally fake bands.

Me: Could you name something that theyąre perilously close to?

Flans: Well, this thing Iąm working on now is called łHeadless." The name of
the band is The Naykid Eyez, and itąs kind of psychedelic. Are you familiar
with the Pebbles collections?

Me: No, but I know the Nuggets stuff. Is it anything like that?

Flans: Itąs actually like the more obscure version of Nuggets. Some of those
songs were actual hits. Pebbles is actually a bootleg series of garage rock
from the 60ąs. Every disc is like a different region or a different kind of
thing. Some of it is pretty psychedelic too.

Me: Sounds great.

Flans: And the song Iąm working on now is kind of a psychedelic garage rock
thing. But weąre representing for all.

Me: Laughs.

Flans: You know, thereąs a pretty wide variety of stuff. And actually, in
some ways, any excuse to like, uh...

Me: Step outside yourself?

Flans: Step outside ourselves. Itąs always welcome.

Me: You guys do that all the time, it seems, over just the course of an
album.

Flans: Well, you know...itąs funny. Thereąs a documentary film being made
about us, and thereąs this long thought piece being done for the New Yorker
right now, both of which involve these long, extensive, long, LONG
interviews. Three-hour interviews, day-long interviews...more interviews
than weąve ever done in our lives. And it sort of causes us to reflect on
what we do. You know, even though we do a lot of interviews, theyąre kind
of short, and they tend to hit on some of the same ideas over and over
again. But one thing Iąve realized, you know, having to dwell on the idea of
They Might Be Giants a lot, is that in some ways--we started as a duo, and
John and I are still the primary forces in the band--we think of it as an
abstract idea. Even though it clearly represents our personalities and
temperaments and itąs a very personal project, the fact is that itąs a
collaboration between the two of us on an abstract idea of a band. Which is
a really good thing. I think itąs more rigorous to write for a project than
to write just to satisfy yourself.

Me: Or just to express your feelings.

Flans: Yeah, exactly. We express ourselves, but I think weąre also trying to
do something that kind of transcends personal expression.

Me: Iąve always thought of you guys as an ego-less band. There doesnąt seem
to be much posturing, or a whole lot of imposing yourselves on the songs.

Flans: Itąs an absurd idea to declare yourself ego-less.

Me: But itąs fine for me to say that.

Flans: Yeah. I mean, I think we aspire to be ego-less, which is an unusual
thing to aspire to be, and itąs especially hard to understand the appeal of
something that aspires to be ego-less, because youąre short-circuiting the
power that most performers have over their audience. A lot of rock
performers present themselves as superheros.

Me: (Laughs) Right.

Flans: And the only other kind of working model besides being a superhero is
being łjust folks.˛ And the thing is, weąre really not superheros, and weąre
really not just folks. Like...we really enjoy performing and we appreciate
our audience, but we donąt want to have a group hug with our audience.

Me: (Laughs)

Flans: And we do a lot of things that people perceive as kind of
fan-oriented, when actually, to me, theyąre just creativity-oriented. There
are so many pre-conceived notions of what a rock band is, and youąre always
working against that in some way, but you get to write songs in the popular
song idiom, which is a fantastic, open thing.

Me: Plus working against the rock model has itąs own kind of mindlessness,
like youąre denying the things that are cool about rocking out.

Flans: A friend of mine was talking about Pete Townsend, saying that the
first time he smashed the guitar, that was really great. But the second time
he did it, it became something else. And as exciting as it is to see
somebody do something like that, itąs kind of weird when it becomes a
ritual. I remember our old lighting director worked with the Pixies and the
Breeders and the Breeders opened for Nirvana on their big year of shows, and
he said that the weirdest thing to him was seeing the crate of Japanese
Fenders arrive. They would come on a shipping palette. They would actually
get them directly from Fender Japan, or Fender Korea, and there would be
twelve or sixteen of them, no cases, no nothin, just packed like they were
going from one factory to another. And those would be the guitars for the
week! Itąs crazy.

Me: How many guitars do you smash in a week?

Flans: Iąve smashed one guitar by accident, three different times.

Me: The same guitar?

Flans: Yeah. In the late 80s. You can do a lot with a guitar without
actually smashing it. You can really swing it around in a pretty
melodramatic way without doing permanent injury to it. For a long time I
played Telecasters, and you can really bounce those things around. And I had
a really good little dance routine that I would perform on top of my
Telecaster.

Me: Was it a hop and spin?

Flans: We did this one song that had this big solo section in it, and I
would put the guitar on the ground and actually step on part of it and it
would actually pin the strings against the body, and make this weird kind of
łdoing!˛ sound. It was a form of expression.

Me: Which is desirable at times.

Flans: Yeah. And I would also do this thing where, to make it play a chord,
I would knock it into part of the stage. These are musical stunt things that
you could do, but in the process of doing it over the course of a number of
years, I did accidentally break them. But itąs not like I broke anything to
express my true feelings. Being on stage is such an artificial environment.

Me: But you tour a lot, you play a lot of shows, so thatąs obviously a big
part of what you do...

Flans: Yeah.

Me: Do you get more jazzed about playing live, or going into the studio?

Flans: John and I started out as home recording enthusiasts and I think in
some ways our official professional aspiration is that we be masters of the
studio, but in a strange twist of fate, weąve become unlikely master
showmen. Just because weąve had to do so many shows. Weąve done over a
thousand shows, and played for a lot of different audiences. Weąve been
lucky in that theyąre not hostile audiences, but certainly unlikely
audiences. And weąve figured out a way to do the kind of thing that works
for us artistically but thatąs still an entertaining show, and thatąs
probably the main reason that we can go on. I mean, itąs very unusual for a
band. Weąve been doing this for nineteen years now and weąve got a new show
and lots of new songs and that puts us in about the .04 percentile of rock
bands in terms of life expectancy. And one of the reasons why is that it
actually does feel new on a pretty essential level. I mean, when we do
shows, we put a lot of effort into keeping them interesting for ourselves.
And that makes it interesting for other people. Itąs a project that weąve
worked on. And when we started, I couldnąt really even sing and play at the
same time (laughs)--so there was a lot of room for improvement--and weąve
definitely got that under our belts now.

Me: So you can sing and play at the same time now? That is good.

Flans: Oh, yeah, yeah! (Laughs) But itąs harder than it sounds. Itąs
actually kind of frustrating, because you can play a lot better if you donąt
have to sing, and you can sing a lot better if you donąt have to play.

Me: Well, that also comes from the studio mentality of being able to focus
on doing just that part while youąre doing it.

Flans: Exactly, exactly. So you just get it after a while.

Me: Youąre self-taught though, right?

Flans: I was initially self-taught, but I took some jazz guitar lessons
right as the band was taking off. Iąve taken voice lessons, like from a
Broadway belter teacher, and guitar lessons, just to figure out what the
right way to do stuff is. Because a lot of times, if youąre self-taught, you
kind of wipe out.

Me: You also waste a lot of time trying to do something that with a little
training, you would know how to do immediately.

Flans: Yeah, Iąm a big fan of trying to hold onto your beginnerąs mind, you
know, how to approach something and just where to draw your ideas from, but
in terms of actually holding onto my voice for six nights a week, I know I
have to do something.

Me: At what point did you and Linnell arrive at that mutual idea you were
talking about as to what a rock band should be? When was the łidea˛ of They
Might Be Giants born?

Flans: We were making four-track recordings before we started the band, and
playing on each otherąs tapes. And that was the thing that defined our
collaboration at the very beginning. And I think the rise of electronic
music made the idea of what defined a band kind of open up. I think, like a
lot of bands, when we started there was a practical thing we had to deal
with. We were living in New York and we really didnąt have any money at all.
So we couldnąt rehearse with a drummer. Without being able to do that, we
were just trying to figure out a way we could have something together enough
to be presentable. And we started working with a tape recorder backing us
up. And this was actually at the dawn of drum machines, but at our very
first shows we put together what was essentially a reproduction of a drum
track with synthesizers and by hand. At one point, we were convinced that
the best sounding kick drum that we could put on a recording was our thumb
against the microphone, which sounded...quite a bit like a kick drum. Iąm
actually staring at my four-track. Iąve been using it recently, the same
TEAC model that started the whole thing. Whatąs funny is that when we made
those recordings, we didnąt use EQ. I didnąt have a mixer, so I just mixed
stuff with volume. That was it. There was no such thing as a board, at least
in my life, in my little world. It was a very primitive time.

Me: You mention the documentary...I was gonna ask why it's been five years
since your last studio album. But then I realized you've been pretty dang
busy. You've recorded a kid's record and a soundtrack disc for McSweeney's
#6, done the incidental music for The Daily Show and two seasons of Malcolm
in the Middle, and started an online music magazine, all the while
continuing in your tradition as constantly touring road warriors. So maybe
the real question is how you found the time to record Mink Car.

Flans: In some ways the Mink Car record reminds me a lot of our first
record, because we amassed a large amount of material and we had a little
more time than usual. I mean, we came out with a live album that actually
had new material on it a couple of years ago, so Mink Car is our first
studio album in five years, but between the kidąs record, and the Austin
Powers stuff, and Malcolm...weąve never been busier, to be honest. I wish we
were tanned and relaxed, but weąre on the edge of nervous exhaustion pretty
much at all times. But itąs been a cool time just because all these projects
are so different and draw on such different things. Weąre doing this project
for PBS right now thatąs sort of the follow-up to this ABC Brave New World
thing that we did...it was like a science show on ABC and the same people,
the producers of Nightline, are doing this program thatąs actually going to
be presented by PBS, called Life 360. Weąre doing all the incidental music
for that. And itąs a completely different thing. Itąs instrumental music. I
honestly donąt think people would be able to identify it as They Might Be
Giants.

Me: Well, as far as being able to identify your sound, the Malcolm in the
Middle stuff is a little bit more dancey or hip-hoppy in ways. Very
different from your rock stuff, but it had a recognizable sound to it.

Flans: Yeah, the Malcolm in the Middle gig was so wide open. In one show we
would have the most dunderheaded heavy metal thing segue-ing directly into
electronica. It was a genre blender. But itąs interesting to do something
thatąs so faceless. A lot of times people describe us a band that has no
boundaries, but there were lots of things that we got to explore by doing
instrumental music that were well outside of our previous experience. I
mean, doing the sort of techno stuff...itąs really interesting stuff! Itąs
really fun to do. Itąs a completely different aesthetic than rock.

Me: But it also comes from the same kind of synthetic, do-it-yourself
philosophy that the early TMBG stuff comes from.

Flans: Oh, yeah! In some ways it really reminded us how cool stuff thatąs
just sonically driven can be. I mean, we really rediscovered live drums over
the course of the 90s, and then in the last couple years itąs gotten back
into this electronic thing. Itąs all music and itąs important to challenge
yourself. The problem that most veteran musicians have is that they think
thereąs a right way to do something. And in reality thereąs a million ways
to do something. The main thing is that itąs gotta be good! (Laughs) Thatąs
a much bigger challenge than making or doing it łright.˛

Me: So with all of this experimentation, you must be excited about Mink Car.
I guess youąd have to be, but I mean, are you particularly excited about it?

Flans: Iąm really proud of this album. And the response has already been
really positive. The advance copies are out and you can tell that people are
intrigued by the project.

Me: One of the things I noticed about it is that it has the--Iąm sorry, so
many things have been overused in articles about you, like łeverything but
the kitchen sink˛ and łquirky˛ and all that stuff...

Flans: Mmm-hmmm.

Me: But itąs true. And if anything, you just sound more łbig budget˛ now. It
sounds like your early stuff, but itąs almost radio-ready.

Flans: Oh! Iąm always intrigued by the idea of a radio that is able to play
TMBG. It seems like a fantastic, imaginary world to me, but it would be a
better world.

Me: Well, Iąve been told I live in an imaginary world.

Flans: (Laughs) Yeah. Well, itąs interesting, a lot of the record was
recorded in pretty humble surroundings, but we had really come a long way
towards getting the control of what weąre doing in the studio. And we have a
really killer band. The Band of Dans is not an insignificant xtra booster
rocket on our rocket sled. Weąve been working with them for a pretty long
time at this point, like three or four years. Theyąre just a killer band.
Weąre working with people that know what weąre going for.

Me: Well, they donąt always sound like your typical five-piece rock band
either. So itąs a little hard to tell, on Mink Car, which songs are
full-band songs, and which are...

Flans: Well, weąve included a graph in the artwork. Itąs actually a complete
breakdown, song for song, on a chart that has all the personnel on it. It
gets pretty mixed up, but itąs not as free-range as you might think. We just
let the songs drag us around, basically, in terms of how we do the
production.

Me: I assume there will be singles. Which songs are gonna be picked from the
herd?

Flans: I think łMan, Itąs So Loud In Here˛ is probably the first łpriority
track,˛ as they call them.

Me: Well, it almost sounds timely, because that 80s stuff is coming back in
lots of odd little ways.

Flans: Itąs a great song in that itąs got this twist to it. Itąs a disco
song for everybody else.

Me: Itąs totally descriptive of itself

Flans: Yeah.

Me: Is łYeah Yeah˛ gonna be a single? I think itąs ready to make the world
dance.

Flans: I think that would be a very good choice. Weąve actually been
approached by an ad agency to use it in a really high-profile ad.

Me: Ooo.

Flans: These days, thatąs like half the way people find out about new songs.
So itąs very possible that it might show up that way. Which would be kind of
great. Have you seen that Mercedes Benz commercial where the song is like łI
want to thank you / for letting me in your passing lane...˛ (sic)?

Me: Yes.

Flans: That is such an interesting song! I have no idea who did it.

Me: I donąt either, and neither does my wife, but she always says (in a high
voice) łThatąs such a great song!˛

Flans: Yeah!!! Itąs funny because for years and years thereąs been this
thing where songs enter the British charts because theyąre used in a
commercial, and usually itąs some Steve Miller song that seems incredibly
retrograde, but at the same time they would also introduce these unusual
songs that would have breakthrough appeal. I think the car commercial route
is sort of an unusual side door into the world of the publicąs
consciousness.

Me: Well, itąs less offensive than seeing you dance around with a Pepsi can.

Flans: Yeah, yeah...absolutely.

Me: I think that notion of łselling out˛ is kind of gone in a way.

Flans: Whatąs strange is that in so many cases the people who would be
accused of selling out are already dead, and the commercials bring the whole
world to appreciate the glory of what theyąre doing, so it seems kind of
unfair to say that Nick Drake is selling out from the grave. But it
certainly turned a lot of people on to his stuff.

Me: I heard a Violent Femmes song in a recent commercial and that took me
off guard.

Flans: I think that was also a Mercedes Benz commercial. Itąs very odd to
think of MB as having progressive commercials, but I guess theyąre trying to
łkeep it fresh.˛

Me: As are we all. How did you come upon łYeh Yeh˛? Did you just like the
Georgie Fame version?

Flans: Iąve always really loved that song. And thereąs another version of
it, I guess by Lambert Hendricks and Ross. Hendricks is the guy who wrote
it.

Me: Mm-hmm.

Flans: The Georgie Fame version, I always thought of it as the definitive
version, but I have heard other versions of it that are pretty similar. I
just think itąs got a great manic quality. Itąs such a single-minded and
insane song. Whatąs also kind of funny about it is that the beat seems
really fresh.

Me: Yes.

Flans: Right now. And we didnąt actually change the tempo or feel of the
song that much. It just happens to have sort of come back around. So it
seemed like a timely thing to recapture that feel. Whatąs strange is that in
continental Europe in the 60ąs, that whole sound, the sound of the song łYeh
Yeh,˛ became known as a genre. Like they would just call it "Yeh Yeh˛ music.
It was sort of the French version of the twist. It would be their version of
high-energy discotheque music. It was like łboo tootent denh um-denh, boo
tootent denh um-denh, boo tootent denh um-denh...˛ Itąs really good for
dancing.

Me: Do you have any favorites on the new record that you wrote?

Flans: Iąm really into Cyclops Rock, just because itąs such a, itąs such a
bone-crushingly rowdy song.

Me: The new version especially. It kind of lost that ska feeling.

Flans: Yeah, we worked with Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley, the guys who
produced "Birdhouse." It was really a lot of fun getting back together with
them, because we hadnąt worked with them in ten years. And we were working
in England. It was totally different in a way because the first time we
worked with them we were so nervous, and this time we were much more relaxed
about our whole scene. Theyąre just really great guys, and theyąve got
crazy, extreme ideas about how to work on songs. Theyąre into throwing the
rule book away, right away. Theyąre always trying to do something in a
completely new way for themselves. I just like the way the recording came
out. I think the band really shines. And part of the thing about the way we
made the record is that the process between writing the song and finishing
the song would only stop when we were completely satisfied with whatever
song was in the works. Like..."Working Undercover for the Man" is
essentially a demo for the song, but we really liked the way it came out, so
thatąs where we kept it. Whereas with a song like łOlder,˛ which we did in a
really straight way for the Malcolm soundtrack, for the album we got a bunch
of early musicians, people who play instruments from the Middle Ages, to
bring in an array of instruments for the duet part at the beginning of the
song. We just found the right textures. Which turned out to be the
Rauschpfife and Saroussaphone. Which are, you know, definitely unusual
instruments. At one point while we were recording it, we were in the control
room and the engineer turned to me and said, łYou know why people stopped
playing that instrument? Cause it didnąt work.˛ (Laughs)

Me: (Laughs)

Flans: But the textures are really amazing. And it just kind of creates a
very unusual atmosphere. Itąs very apropos of the song.

Me: Yeah, I was about to say, especially with the song being about something
being kind of ancient, and getting more ancient by the second.

Flans: Yeah.

Me: I was noticing that on the new record...I donąt know, I hope łpastiche˛
isnąt a bad word...but łMink Car,˛ for instance, is a straight-up pastiche
of a Burt Bacharach song.

Flans: I think the thing about that łBacharach˛ style is that there are
other people who work in that style, but his stuff is so definitive that it
would be a lie to say łItąs LIKE a Bacharach song˛ I mean itąs totally an
homage to Burt Bacharach. But heąs so great, so singular, that itąs all
right for people to kind of attempt their homage. On the other hand, one of
the main pieces of action in the song łMink Car˛ is the actual lyric, which
is completely different from how a Bacharach song would be (laughs).
Although it alludes to the sort of łluxury˛ of Burt Bacharach.

Me: What I was wondering though, was when you write a song like that, to
what extent do you set out to do a kind of homage or do you just go łOh,
wait. We just wrote a Burt Bacharach song.˛?

Flans: Well, that song is very different from almost anything else weąve
ever done in that John and I were sitting at a piano when we worked the song
out. So itąs got a very piano-istic approach to the melody, to the
structure, to the sound. It was originally written to just be played on the
piano. So it almost has an archaic songwriter quality. But I think, in
general, itąs something that we feel pretty skeptical about, because itąs
very easy to confuse TMBG with what people would call a łnovelty band.˛ And
in general Iąm not interested in novelty music. The idea of novelty music is
just to make a very strong first impression.

Me: It has a limited shelf life.

Flans: Yeah, and and to me thatąs the musical equivalent of a cheap gag.

Me: Does it bug you, then, that critics often dismiss you as a comedy band?

Flans: The funny thing is, and this might sound like a weird thing to say,
but on paper, the way people write about us, They Might Be Giants doesnąt
sound like anything that Iąd be interested in. It sounds horrible. But you
learn to filter that stuff out. Itąs totally different from the way we think
about what we do.

Me: You guys are definitely funnier live than on your records.

Flans: Oh, sure. There are some things that we do just to keep the audience
interested, that by necessity are funny, that I would never want to record
for posterity. Thereąs a spontaneity to a live performance that allows for a
certain humorous element. On records that stuff gets old fast.

Me: Are there any songs that youąve done, that did end up on records, that
make you cringe now?

Flans: Good question! I donąt think anyoneąs ever asked me that.
Oh....(pauses to consider) yes. Yes. łYouąll Miss Me,˛ a song on our second
album that comes up on those newsgroups a lot as, like, one of the fansą
least favorite songs. It dates back to our very earliest days as a band, and
I think it might be a little too strident. Whenever I hear it, Iąm just not
sure that it works.

Me: Well, for a song to work, should it please you, or should it please the
newsgroups of the world?

Flans: A mixture. Basically, if people donąt like it, and Iąm not sure about
it, itąs unsuccessful in some way. But I donąt have any regrets. I wouldnąt
strike it from the record even if I could.

Me: Speaking of łstruck from the record,˛ whatąs up with łNo!˛? Why canąt it
find a home?

Flans: łNo!˛ is kind of the Flying Dutchman of the They Might Be Giants
catalogue. Weąve been through a lot trying to get it out. Originally it was
suggested to us by Rounder Records that we try a kidąs album. And when we
delivered it to them they wanted to put it out as a regular TMBG record,
without any indication on it that it was for kids. Which amazed us. They
were shocked that we wanted to market it as something child-oriented, but I
find it unimaginable that you could call up a modern rock radio programmer
and say łHereąs the new single from TMBG. Itąs called ŚClap Your Hands.ą˛

Me: Well, your adult audience would be pretty receptive to this material
too, I think. If anything, some of it is even more out there and messed up
than your current rock stuff. Have you played it for many kids?

Flans: Yeah, I have. Iąve played it for a lot of, like, three-year-olds, and
six-year-olds, and ten-year-olds. It seems that six-year-olds like it best.
Theyąre at that hyper-verbal stage where they can recognize the wordplay but
theyąre not too cool for it yet. Anyway, that album will definitely be out
soon on a giant childrenąs music label that shall remain nameless. Somebody
that knows how to market it to the right audience.

Me: Which would be stay-at-home parents in their late 30s/early 40s.

Flans: Right. (Laughs)

Me: One last question: Would it be fair to say that you and John Linnell are
in awe of one another?

Flans: Wow. I wouldnąt ever expect him to say heąs in awe of me, but Iąm
certainly in awe of him. Heąs just an amazingly smart and talented guy.

Me: Do you send each other back to the drawing board a lot?

Flans: Now that weąve branched out from a duo to a five-piece, it takes a
little pressure off of both of us. Itąs nice not to always be the guy whoąs
saying to his dear friend, łnah...maybe it would be better if the beat went
like this...˛

Me: Well, however it works, apparently itąs a pretty productive arrangement.

Flans: Yeah. We just did a new shirt that lists all the songs weąve ever
recorded, in alphabetical order. And there are like 300 songs on it. I
looked at the list and was like, łOh. So maybe thatąs why Iąm so tired.˛ But
then it occurred to me that, split between two guys, thatąs only 150 songs
each, over 19 years. And somehow that doesnąt seem like enough.


Yer Pal Paul

unread,
May 1, 2002, 2:11:15 PM5/1/02
to

"Nikki and John" <mr....@verizon.net> wrote in message
news:B8F561D3.1D68%mr....@verizon.net...

> While cleaning off my hard drive, I came across this transcript (which I
had
> intended to post months ago). Much of the info is dated, and this sucker
is
> long long long, but I figured you guys would be more interested in the
full
> unvarnished interview than the truncated version that actually saw
> publication. With all apologies, here goes:

Where was the truncated version published?

> Like...we really enjoy performing and we appreciate
> our audience, but we donąt want to have a group hug with our audience.

I hope that settles the debate then.

> Weąre doing this project
> for PBS right now thatąs sort of the follow-up to this ABC Brave New World
> thing that we did...it was like a science show on ABC and the same people,
> the producers of Nightline, are doing this program thatąs actually going
to
> be presented by PBS, called Life 360. Weąre doing all the incidental music
> for that. And itąs a completely different thing. Itąs instrumental music.
I
> honestly donąt think people would be able to identify it as They Might Be
> Giants.

I don't recall reading of anyone ever actually seeing this program. Did it
actually happen? Did anyone see it? Was it any good?


> Me: Are there any songs that youąve done, that did end up on records, that
> make you cringe now?
>
> Flans: Good question! I donąt think anyoneąs ever asked me that.
> Oh....(pauses to consider) yes. Yes. łYouąll Miss Me,˛ a song on our
second
> album that comes up on those newsgroups a lot as, like, one of the fansą
> least favorite songs. It dates back to our very earliest days as a band,
and
> I think it might be a little too strident. Whenever I hear it, Iąm just
not
> sure that it works.

Aha! So he does read the newsgroup!

Hi John!

Anyway, groovy interview! Thanks for posting it.

Yer Pal Paul
Not back on that old Time is Money kick, still on it.

Bryce

unread,
May 1, 2002, 3:36:44 PM5/1/02
to
"Nikki and John":

> Me: You guys are definitely funnier live than on your records.
>
> Flans: Oh, sure. There are some things that we do just to
> keep the audience interested, that by necessity are funny,
> that I would never want to record for posterity. There's a

> spontaneity to a live performance that allows for a certain
> humorous element. On records that stuff gets old fast.

A few days ago I was noticing this very tendency, specifically with TMBG UnLtd
December. Best of Spin the Dial, Spin the Country Dial, and Dan Hickey's
Actual Drums lost most of their appeal really quickly. Time to put them on a
shelf and forget about them for a few years.

Bryce
Draw the line dividing laugh and scream.

scratch

unread,
May 1, 2002, 3:37:20 PM5/1/02
to
Great interview.

-scratch

scratch

unread,
May 1, 2002, 3:39:19 PM5/1/02
to

I'll agree with you on the other two, but I still like Best of Spin the
Dial. Especially the backwards-lyrics While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

-scratch

The Third John

unread,
May 1, 2002, 4:11:07 PM5/1/02
to
Just to let everyone know, the song he's talking about is "Whoever You
Are" by Geggy Tah. I found them through the same commercial and now
I'm a pretty big fan. They're on David Byrne's record label and he
helps them out a little, it's good stuff. I love the first two albums
and the stuff I've heard from the third sounds even better.

Am I the only one who really really likes "You'll Miss Me"? It's so
chaotic and mysterious and just...weird. And the "stars above" bit is
just beautiful. I also heard that Flans isn't too fond of "Hall of
Heads," another of my favorites. Nothing like having your beloveds cut
down by the artists who created them. Makes me think I'm probably
missing something.


Nikki and John <mr....@verizon.net> wrote in message news:<B8F561D3.1D68%mr....@verizon.net>...

> While cleaning off my hard drive, I came across this transcript (which I had
> intended to post months ago). Much of the info is dated, and this sucker is
> long long long, but I figured you guys would be more interested in the full
> unvarnished interview than the truncated version that actually saw
> publication. With all apologies, here goes:
>
> Me: Hey. Whatcha doing?
>

> Flans: I was just working on a song. Iım calling you now.


>
> Me: Awesome. Is it a new song? Are you working on stuff for the tour?
>

> Flans: Itıs a very new song. Itıs actually a thing for this TMBG Unlimited
> program that weıve been doing with Emusic, and weıre doing this thing for
> September called Battle of the Bands, where weıre writing in the style of


> other bands...
>
> Me: Fake bands?
>
> Flans: It runs the gamut from perilously close to real bands to
> supernaturally fake bands.
>

> Me: Could you name something that theyıre perilously close to?
>
> Flans: Well, this thing Iım working on now is called ³Headless." The name of
> the band is The Naykid Eyez, and itıs kind of psychedelic. Are you familiar


> with the Pebbles collections?
>
> Me: No, but I know the Nuggets stuff. Is it anything like that?
>

> Flans: Itıs actually like the more obscure version of Nuggets. Some of those


> songs were actual hits. Pebbles is actually a bootleg series of garage rock

> from the 60ıs. Every disc is like a different region or a different kind of


> thing. Some of it is pretty psychedelic too.
>
> Me: Sounds great.
>

> Flans: And the song Iım working on now is kind of a psychedelic garage rock
> thing. But weıre representing for all.
>
> Me: Laughs.
>
> Flans: You know, thereıs a pretty wide variety of stuff. And actually, in


> some ways, any excuse to like, uh...
>
> Me: Step outside yourself?
>

> Flans: Step outside ourselves. Itıs always welcome.


>
> Me: You guys do that all the time, it seems, over just the course of an
> album.
>

> Flans: Well, you know...itıs funny. Thereıs a documentary film being made
> about us, and thereıs this long thought piece being done for the New Yorker


> right now, both of which involve these long, extensive, long, LONG
> interviews. Three-hour interviews, day-long interviews...more interviews

> than weıve ever done in our lives. And it sort of causes us to reflect on
> what we do. You know, even though we do a lot of interviews, theyıre kind


> of short, and they tend to hit on some of the same ideas over and over

> again. But one thing Iıve realized, you know, having to dwell on the idea of


> They Might Be Giants a lot, is that in some ways--we started as a duo, and
> John and I are still the primary forces in the band--we think of it as an
> abstract idea. Even though it clearly represents our personalities and

> temperaments and itıs a very personal project, the fact is that itıs a


> collaboration between the two of us on an abstract idea of a band. Which is

> a really good thing. I think itıs more rigorous to write for a project than


> to write just to satisfy yourself.
>
> Me: Or just to express your feelings.
>

> Flans: Yeah, exactly. We express ourselves, but I think weıre also trying to


> do something that kind of transcends personal expression.
>

> Me: Iıve always thought of you guys as an ego-less band. There doesnıt seem


> to be much posturing, or a whole lot of imposing yourselves on the songs.
>

> Flans: Itıs an absurd idea to declare yourself ego-less.
>
> Me: But itıs fine for me to say that.


>
> Flans: Yeah. I mean, I think we aspire to be ego-less, which is an unusual

> thing to aspire to be, and itıs especially hard to understand the appeal of
> something that aspires to be ego-less, because youıre short-circuiting the


> power that most performers have over their audience. A lot of rock
> performers present themselves as superheros.
>
> Me: (Laughs) Right.
>
> Flans: And the only other kind of working model besides being a superhero is

> being ³just folks.² And the thing is, weıre really not superheros, and weıre


> really not just folks. Like...we really enjoy performing and we appreciate

> our audience, but we donıt want to have a group hug with our audience.


>
> Me: (Laughs)
>
> Flans: And we do a lot of things that people perceive as kind of

> fan-oriented, when actually, to me, theyıre just creativity-oriented. There
> are so many pre-conceived notions of what a rock band is, and youıre always


> working against that in some way, but you get to write songs in the popular
> song idiom, which is a fantastic, open thing.
>

> Me: Plus working against the rock model has itıs own kind of mindlessness,
> like youıre denying the things that are cool about rocking out.


>
> Flans: A friend of mine was talking about Pete Townsend, saying that the
> first time he smashed the guitar, that was really great. But the second time
> he did it, it became something else. And as exciting as it is to see

> somebody do something like that, itıs kind of weird when it becomes a


> ritual. I remember our old lighting director worked with the Pixies and the
> Breeders and the Breeders opened for Nirvana on their big year of shows, and
> he said that the weirdest thing to him was seeing the crate of Japanese
> Fenders arrive. They would come on a shipping palette. They would actually
> get them directly from Fender Japan, or Fender Korea, and there would be
> twelve or sixteen of them, no cases, no nothin, just packed like they were
> going from one factory to another. And those would be the guitars for the

> week! Itıs crazy.


>
> Me: How many guitars do you smash in a week?
>

> Flans: Iıve smashed one guitar by accident, three different times.


>
> Me: The same guitar?
>
> Flans: Yeah. In the late 80s. You can do a lot with a guitar without
> actually smashing it. You can really swing it around in a pretty
> melodramatic way without doing permanent injury to it. For a long time I
> played Telecasters, and you can really bounce those things around. And I had
> a really good little dance routine that I would perform on top of my
> Telecaster.
>
> Me: Was it a hop and spin?
>
> Flans: We did this one song that had this big solo section in it, and I
> would put the guitar on the ground and actually step on part of it and it
> would actually pin the strings against the body, and make this weird kind of

> ³doing!² sound. It was a form of expression.


>
> Me: Which is desirable at times.
>
> Flans: Yeah. And I would also do this thing where, to make it play a chord,
> I would knock it into part of the stage. These are musical stunt things that
> you could do, but in the process of doing it over the course of a number of

> years, I did accidentally break them. But itıs not like I broke anything to


> express my true feelings. Being on stage is such an artificial environment.
>

> Me: But you tour a lot, you play a lot of shows, so thatıs obviously a big


> part of what you do...
>
> Flans: Yeah.
>
> Me: Do you get more jazzed about playing live, or going into the studio?
>
> Flans: John and I started out as home recording enthusiasts and I think in
> some ways our official professional aspiration is that we be masters of the

> studio, but in a strange twist of fate, weıve become unlikely master
> showmen. Just because weıve had to do so many shows. Weıve done over a
> thousand shows, and played for a lot of different audiences. Weıve been
> lucky in that theyıre not hostile audiences, but certainly unlikely
> audiences. And weıve figured out a way to do the kind of thing that works
> for us artistically but thatıs still an entertaining show, and thatıs
> probably the main reason that we can go on. I mean, itıs very unusual for a
> band. Weıve been doing this for nineteen years now and weıve got a new show


> and lots of new songs and that puts us in about the .04 percentile of rock
> bands in terms of life expectancy. And one of the reasons why is that it
> actually does feel new on a pretty essential level. I mean, when we do
> shows, we put a lot of effort into keeping them interesting for ourselves.

> And that makes it interesting for other people. Itıs a project that weıve
> worked on. And when we started, I couldnıt really even sing and play at the
> same time (laughs)--so there was a lot of room for improvement--and weıve


> definitely got that under our belts now.
>
> Me: So you can sing and play at the same time now? That is good.
>

> Flans: Oh, yeah, yeah! (Laughs) But itıs harder than it sounds. Itıs
> actually kind of frustrating, because you can play a lot better if you donıt
> have to sing, and you can sing a lot better if you donıt have to play.


>
> Me: Well, that also comes from the studio mentality of being able to focus

> on doing just that part while youıre doing it.


>
> Flans: Exactly, exactly. So you just get it after a while.
>

> Me: Youıre self-taught though, right?


>
> Flans: I was initially self-taught, but I took some jazz guitar lessons

> right as the band was taking off. Iıve taken voice lessons, like from a


> Broadway belter teacher, and guitar lessons, just to figure out what the

> right way to do stuff is. Because a lot of times, if youıre self-taught, you


> kind of wipe out.
>
> Me: You also waste a lot of time trying to do something that with a little
> training, you would know how to do immediately.
>

> Flans: Yeah, Iım a big fan of trying to hold onto your beginnerıs mind, you


> know, how to approach something and just where to draw your ideas from, but
> in terms of actually holding onto my voice for six nights a week, I know I
> have to do something.
>
> Me: At what point did you and Linnell arrive at that mutual idea you were

> talking about as to what a rock band should be? When was the ³idea² of They


> Might Be Giants born?
>
> Flans: We were making four-track recordings before we started the band, and

> playing on each otherıs tapes. And that was the thing that defined our


> collaboration at the very beginning. And I think the rise of electronic
> music made the idea of what defined a band kind of open up. I think, like a
> lot of bands, when we started there was a practical thing we had to deal

> with. We were living in New York and we really didnıt have any money at all.
> So we couldnıt rehearse with a drummer. Without being able to do that, we


> were just trying to figure out a way we could have something together enough
> to be presentable. And we started working with a tape recorder backing us
> up. And this was actually at the dawn of drum machines, but at our very
> first shows we put together what was essentially a reproduction of a drum
> track with synthesizers and by hand. At one point, we were convinced that
> the best sounding kick drum that we could put on a recording was our thumb

> against the microphone, which sounded...quite a bit like a kick drum. Iım
> actually staring at my four-track. Iıve been using it recently, the same
> TEAC model that started the whole thing. Whatıs funny is that when we made
> those recordings, we didnıt use EQ. I didnıt have a mixer, so I just mixed


> stuff with volume. That was it. There was no such thing as a board, at least
> in my life, in my little world. It was a very primitive time.
>
> Me: You mention the documentary...I was gonna ask why it's been five years
> since your last studio album. But then I realized you've been pretty dang
> busy. You've recorded a kid's record and a soundtrack disc for McSweeney's
> #6, done the incidental music for The Daily Show and two seasons of Malcolm
> in the Middle, and started an online music magazine, all the while
> continuing in your tradition as constantly touring road warriors. So maybe
> the real question is how you found the time to record Mink Car.
>
> Flans: In some ways the Mink Car record reminds me a lot of our first
> record, because we amassed a large amount of material and we had a little
> more time than usual. I mean, we came out with a live album that actually
> had new material on it a couple of years ago, so Mink Car is our first

> studio album in five years, but between the kidıs record, and the Austin
> Powers stuff, and Malcolm...weıve never been busier, to be honest. I wish we
> were tanned and relaxed, but weıre on the edge of nervous exhaustion pretty
> much at all times. But itıs been a cool time just because all these projects
> are so different and draw on such different things. Weıre doing this project
> for PBS right now thatıs sort of the follow-up to this ABC Brave New World


> thing that we did...it was like a science show on ABC and the same people,

> the producers of Nightline, are doing this program thatıs actually going to
> be presented by PBS, called Life 360. Weıre doing all the incidental music
> for that. And itıs a completely different thing. Itıs instrumental music. I
> honestly donıt think people would be able to identify it as They Might Be


> Giants.
>
> Me: Well, as far as being able to identify your sound, the Malcolm in the
> Middle stuff is a little bit more dancey or hip-hoppy in ways. Very
> different from your rock stuff, but it had a recognizable sound to it.
>
> Flans: Yeah, the Malcolm in the Middle gig was so wide open. In one show we
> would have the most dunderheaded heavy metal thing segue-ing directly into

> electronica. It was a genre blender. But itıs interesting to do something
> thatıs so faceless. A lot of times people describe us a band that has no


> boundaries, but there were lots of things that we got to explore by doing
> instrumental music that were well outside of our previous experience. I

> mean, doing the sort of techno stuff...itıs really interesting stuff! Itıs
> really fun to do. Itıs a completely different aesthetic than rock.


>
> Me: But it also comes from the same kind of synthetic, do-it-yourself
> philosophy that the early TMBG stuff comes from.
>

> Flans: Oh, yeah! In some ways it really reminded us how cool stuff thatıs


> just sonically driven can be. I mean, we really rediscovered live drums over

> the course of the 90s, and then in the last couple years itıs gotten back
> into this electronic thing. Itıs all music and itıs important to challenge


> yourself. The problem that most veteran musicians have is that they think

> thereıs a right way to do something. And in reality thereıs a million ways
> to do something. The main thing is that itıs gotta be good! (Laughs) Thatıs
> a much bigger challenge than making or doing it ³right.²


>
> Me: So with all of this experimentation, you must be excited about Mink Car.

> I guess youıd have to be, but I mean, are you particularly excited about it?
>
> Flans: Iım really proud of this album. And the response has already been


> really positive. The advance copies are out and you can tell that people are
> intrigued by the project.
>

> Me: One of the things I noticed about it is that it has the--Iım sorry, so
> many things have been overused in articles about you, like ³everything but
> the kitchen sink² and ³quirky² and all that stuff...
>
> Flans: Mmm-hmmm.
>
> Me: But itıs true. And if anything, you just sound more ³big budget² now. It
> sounds like your early stuff, but itıs almost radio-ready.
>
> Flans: Oh! Iım always intrigued by the idea of a radio that is able to play


> TMBG. It seems like a fantastic, imaginary world to me, but it would be a
> better world.
>

> Me: Well, Iıve been told I live in an imaginary world.
>
> Flans: (Laughs) Yeah. Well, itıs interesting, a lot of the record was


> recorded in pretty humble surroundings, but we had really come a long way

> towards getting the control of what weıre doing in the studio. And we have a


> really killer band. The Band of Dans is not an insignificant xtra booster

> rocket on our rocket sled. Weıve been working with them for a pretty long
> time at this point, like three or four years. Theyıre just a killer band.
> Weıre working with people that know what weıre going for.
>
> Me: Well, they donıt always sound like your typical five-piece rock band
> either. So itıs a little hard to tell, on Mink Car, which songs are


> full-band songs, and which are...
>

> Flans: Well, weıve included a graph in the artwork. Itıs actually a complete


> breakdown, song for song, on a chart that has all the personnel on it. It

> gets pretty mixed up, but itıs not as free-range as you might think. We just


> let the songs drag us around, basically, in terms of how we do the
> production.
>
> Me: I assume there will be singles. Which songs are gonna be picked from the
> herd?
>

> Flans: I think ³Man, Itıs So Loud In Here² is probably the first ³priority


> track,² as they call them.
>
> Me: Well, it almost sounds timely, because that 80s stuff is coming back in
> lots of odd little ways.
>

> Flans: Itıs a great song in that itıs got this twist to it. Itıs a disco
> song for everybody else.
>
> Me: Itıs totally descriptive of itself
>
> Flans: Yeah.
>
> Me: Is ³Yeah Yeah² gonna be a single? I think itıs ready to make the world
> dance.
>
> Flans: I think that would be a very good choice. Weıve actually been


> approached by an ad agency to use it in a really high-profile ad.
>
> Me: Ooo.
>

> Flans: These days, thatıs like half the way people find out about new songs.
> So itıs very possible that it might show up that way. Which would be kind of
> great. Have you seen that Mercedes Benz commercial where the song is like ³I


> want to thank you / for letting me in your passing lane...² (sic)?
>
> Me: Yes.
>
> Flans: That is such an interesting song! I have no idea who did it.
>

> Me: I donıt either, and neither does my wife, but she always says (in a high
> voice) ³Thatıs such a great song!²
>
> Flans: Yeah!!! Itıs funny because for years and years thereıs been this
> thing where songs enter the British charts because theyıre used in a
> commercial, and usually itıs some Steve Miller song that seems incredibly


> retrograde, but at the same time they would also introduce these unusual
> songs that would have breakthrough appeal. I think the car commercial route

> is sort of an unusual side door into the world of the publicıs
> consciousness.
>
> Me: Well, itıs less offensive than seeing you dance around with a Pepsi can.
>
> Flans: Yeah, yeah...absolutely.
>
> Me: I think that notion of ³selling out² is kind of gone in a way.
>
> Flans: Whatıs strange is that in so many cases the people who would be


> accused of selling out are already dead, and the commercials bring the whole

> world to appreciate the glory of what theyıre doing, so it seems kind of


> unfair to say that Nick Drake is selling out from the grave. But it
> certainly turned a lot of people on to his stuff.
>
> Me: I heard a Violent Femmes song in a recent commercial and that took me
> off guard.
>

> Flans: I think that was also a Mercedes Benz commercial. Itıs very odd to
> think of MB as having progressive commercials, but I guess theyıre trying to
> ³keep it fresh.²
>
> Me: As are we all. How did you come upon ³Yeh Yeh²? Did you just like the
> Georgie Fame version?
>
> Flans: Iıve always really loved that song. And thereıs another version of


> it, I guess by Lambert Hendricks and Ross. Hendricks is the guy who wrote
> it.
>
> Me: Mm-hmm.
>
> Flans: The Georgie Fame version, I always thought of it as the definitive
> version, but I have heard other versions of it that are pretty similar. I

> just think itıs got a great manic quality. Itıs such a single-minded and
> insane song. Whatıs also kind of funny about it is that the beat seems
> really fresh.
>
> Me: Yes.
>
> Flans: Right now. And we didnıt actually change the tempo or feel of the


> song that much. It just happens to have sort of come back around. So it

> seemed like a timely thing to recapture that feel. Whatıs strange is that in
> continental Europe in the 60ıs, that whole sound, the sound of the song ³Yeh


> Yeh,² became known as a genre. Like they would just call it "Yeh Yeh² music.
> It was sort of the French version of the twist. It would be their version of

> high-energy discotheque music. It was like ³boo tootent denh um-denh, boo
> tootent denh um-denh, boo tootent denh um-denh...² Itıs really good for


> dancing.
>
> Me: Do you have any favorites on the new record that you wrote?
>

> Flans: Iım really into Cyclops Rock, just because itıs such a, itıs such a


> bone-crushingly rowdy song.
>
> Me: The new version especially. It kind of lost that ska feeling.
>
> Flans: Yeah, we worked with Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley, the guys who
> produced "Birdhouse." It was really a lot of fun getting back together with

> them, because we hadnıt worked with them in ten years. And we were working


> in England. It was totally different in a way because the first time we
> worked with them we were so nervous, and this time we were much more relaxed

> about our whole scene. Theyıre just really great guys, and theyıve got
> crazy, extreme ideas about how to work on songs. Theyıre into throwing the
> rule book away, right away. Theyıre always trying to do something in a


> completely new way for themselves. I just like the way the recording came
> out. I think the band really shines. And part of the thing about the way we
> made the record is that the process between writing the song and finishing
> the song would only stop when we were completely satisfied with whatever
> song was in the works. Like..."Working Undercover for the Man" is
> essentially a demo for the song, but we really liked the way it came out, so

> thatıs where we kept it. Whereas with a song like ³Older,² which we did in a


> really straight way for the Malcolm soundtrack, for the album we got a bunch
> of early musicians, people who play instruments from the Middle Ages, to
> bring in an array of instruments for the duet part at the beginning of the
> song. We just found the right textures. Which turned out to be the
> Rauschpfife and Saroussaphone. Which are, you know, definitely unusual
> instruments. At one point while we were recording it, we were in the control

> room and the engineer turned to me and said, ³You know why people stopped
> playing that instrument? Cause it didnıt work.² (Laughs)


>
> Me: (Laughs)
>
> Flans: But the textures are really amazing. And it just kind of creates a

> very unusual atmosphere. Itıs very apropos of the song.


>
> Me: Yeah, I was about to say, especially with the song being about something
> being kind of ancient, and getting more ancient by the second.
>
> Flans: Yeah.
>

> Me: I was noticing that on the new record...I donıt know, I hope ³pastiche²
> isnıt a bad word...but ³Mink Car,² for instance, is a straight-up pastiche


> of a Burt Bacharach song.
>

> Flans: I think the thing about that ³Bacharach² style is that there are


> other people who work in that style, but his stuff is so definitive that it

> would be a lie to say ³Itıs LIKE a Bacharach song² I mean itıs totally an
> homage to Burt Bacharach. But heıs so great, so singular, that itıs all


> right for people to kind of attempt their homage. On the other hand, one of

> the main pieces of action in the song ³Mink Car² is the actual lyric, which


> is completely different from how a Bacharach song would be (laughs).

> Although it alludes to the sort of ³luxury² of Burt Bacharach.


>
> Me: What I was wondering though, was when you write a song like that, to

> what extent do you set out to do a kind of homage or do you just go ³Oh,


> wait. We just wrote a Burt Bacharach song.²?
>

> Flans: Well, that song is very different from almost anything else weıve


> ever done in that John and I were sitting at a piano when we worked the song

> out. So itıs got a very piano-istic approach to the melody, to the


> structure, to the sound. It was originally written to just be played on the
> piano. So it almost has an archaic songwriter quality. But I think, in

> general, itıs something that we feel pretty skeptical about, because itıs
> very easy to confuse TMBG with what people would call a ³novelty band.² And
> in general Iım not interested in novelty music. The idea of novelty music is


> just to make a very strong first impression.
>
> Me: It has a limited shelf life.
>

> Flans: Yeah, and and to me thatıs the musical equivalent of a cheap gag.


>
> Me: Does it bug you, then, that critics often dismiss you as a comedy band?
>
> Flans: The funny thing is, and this might sound like a weird thing to say,

> but on paper, the way people write about us, They Might Be Giants doesnıt
> sound like anything that Iıd be interested in. It sounds horrible. But you
> learn to filter that stuff out. Itıs totally different from the way we think


> about what we do.
>
> Me: You guys are definitely funnier live than on your records.
>
> Flans: Oh, sure. There are some things that we do just to keep the audience
> interested, that by necessity are funny, that I would never want to record

> for posterity. Thereıs a spontaneity to a live performance that allows for a


> certain humorous element. On records that stuff gets old fast.
>

> Me: Are there any songs that youıve done, that did end up on records, that
> make you cringe now?
>
> Flans: Good question! I donıt think anyoneıs ever asked me that.
> Oh....(pauses to consider) yes. Yes. ³Youıll Miss Me,² a song on our second
> album that comes up on those newsgroups a lot as, like, one of the fansı


> least favorite songs. It dates back to our very earliest days as a band, and

> I think it might be a little too strident. Whenever I hear it, Iım just not


> sure that it works.
>
> Me: Well, for a song to work, should it please you, or should it please the
> newsgroups of the world?
>

> Flans: A mixture. Basically, if people donıt like it, and Iım not sure about
> it, itıs unsuccessful in some way. But I donıt have any regrets. I wouldnıt


> strike it from the record even if I could.
>

> Me: Speaking of ³struck from the record,² whatıs up with ³No!²? Why canıt it
> find a home?
>
> Flans: ³No!² is kind of the Flying Dutchman of the They Might Be Giants
> catalogue. Weıve been through a lot trying to get it out. Originally it was
> suggested to us by Rounder Records that we try a kidıs album. And when we


> delivered it to them they wanted to put it out as a regular TMBG record,
> without any indication on it that it was for kids. Which amazed us. They
> were shocked that we wanted to market it as something child-oriented, but I
> find it unimaginable that you could call up a modern rock radio programmer

> and say ³Hereıs the new single from TMBG. Itıs called Clap Your Hands.ı²


>
> Me: Well, your adult audience would be pretty receptive to this material
> too, I think. If anything, some of it is even more out there and messed up
> than your current rock stuff. Have you played it for many kids?
>

> Flans: Yeah, I have. Iıve played it for a lot of, like, three-year-olds, and


> six-year-olds, and ten-year-olds. It seems that six-year-olds like it best.

> Theyıre at that hyper-verbal stage where they can recognize the wordplay but
> theyıre not too cool for it yet. Anyway, that album will definitely be out
> soon on a giant childrenıs music label that shall remain nameless. Somebody


> that knows how to market it to the right audience.
>
> Me: Which would be stay-at-home parents in their late 30s/early 40s.
>
> Flans: Right. (Laughs)
>
> Me: One last question: Would it be fair to say that you and John Linnell are
> in awe of one another?
>

> Flans: Wow. I wouldnıt ever expect him to say heıs in awe of me, but Iım
> certainly in awe of him. Heıs just an amazingly smart and talented guy.


>
> Me: Do you send each other back to the drawing board a lot?
>

> Flans: Now that weıve branched out from a duo to a five-piece, it takes a
> little pressure off of both of us. Itıs nice not to always be the guy whoıs
> saying to his dear friend, ³nah...maybe it would be better if the beat went
> like this...²
>
> Me: Well, however it works, apparently itıs a pretty productive arrangement.
>
> Flans: Yeah. We just did a new shirt that lists all the songs weıve ever


> recorded, in alphabetical order. And there are like 300 songs on it. I

> looked at the list and was like, ³Oh. So maybe thatıs why Iım so tired.² But
> then it occurred to me that, split between two guys, thatıs only 150 songs
> each, over 19 years. And somehow that doesnıt seem like enough.

Nathan Mulac DeHoff

unread,
May 1, 2002, 4:39:03 PM5/1/02
to
The Third John:

>Am I the only one who really really likes "You'll Miss Me"? It's so
>chaotic and mysterious and just...weird. And the "stars above" bit is
>just beautiful.

Yeah, the "stars above" bit is good, but it's different from the rest of the
song. "You'll Miss Me" isn't one of my favorites, but it has its charm (and as
far as "chaotic" stuff goes, it didn't get old anywhere near as quickly as
"Spy," which the Johns apparently still like). I liked the demo tape version
better, though. (Flans would hate me for that, wouldn't he?)

>I also heard that Flans isn't too fond of "Hall of
>Heads," another of my favorites. Nothing like having your beloveds cut
>down by the artists who created them. Makes me think I'm probably
>missing something.

Or THEY are...

Nathan
Dinne...@tmbg.org
http://www.geocities.com/fablesto/
"And the silver chauffeur says it's all in your head, when you're 24 karat
dead." --They Might Be Giants

Robert Hutchinson

unread,
May 1, 2002, 5:45:23 PM5/1/02
to
Please snip most of the original post in the future. Thanks.

The Third John says...

> Am I the only one who really really likes "You'll Miss Me"? It's so
> chaotic and mysterious and just...weird. And the "stars above" bit is
> just beautiful. I also heard that Flans isn't too fond of "Hall of
> Heads," another of my favorites. Nothing like having your beloveds cut
> down by the artists who created them. Makes me think I'm probably
> missing something.

I really really like "You'll Miss Me." I think it gets a bad reputation
because it's so unexpectedly discordant. It's a crime that some of the
lyrics were cut out of the album version, though. "I('ll) remain sitting
on this fence / My mind a blur of common sense" are the best two lines in
the song.

--
Robert Hutchinson |
| "Butterflies are real asses."
| -- Conan O'Brien
|

Sylvan

unread,
May 1, 2002, 6:29:33 PM5/1/02
to
"Robert Hutchinson" <ser...@hotmail.com> wrote:

> I really really like "You'll Miss Me." I think it gets a bad reputation
> because it's so unexpectedly discordant. It's a crime that some of the
> lyrics were cut out of the album version, though. "I('ll) remain sitting
> on this fence / My mind a blur of common sense" are the best two lines in
> the song.

I looove You'll Miss Me! But then, I like a lot of crazy, discordant, jazzy
music.

By the way, DINNER BELL! It's a song that I was always sort of lukewarm on,
but it has now become one of my favorites. So, um, I declare today "Give
That TMBG Song You Never Really Liked A Chance Day". Try it! Maybe you'll
grow to love it!
--
Sylvan
http://www.godcomic.net
"The hamster is still dead." --Leonard Nimoy

Bryce

unread,
May 1, 2002, 6:51:48 PM5/1/02
to
Sylvan:

> So, um, I declare today "Give That TMBG Song You
> Never Really Liked A Chance Day". Try it! Maybe you'll
> grow to love it!

This has already happened to me with You'll Miss Me, Metal Detector,
Absolutely Bill's Mood, and Counterfeit Faker. Hmm...

*puts on Escape from the Planet of the Apes*
*listens*

Nah. I could have told you that in advance, though. I'll try another one.

*plays Thermostat*
*turns it up* ;)

Bryce
Think you're gonna like it once you've given it a chance.

jessie

unread,
May 1, 2002, 7:45:37 PM5/1/02
to
>Am I the only one who really really likes "You'll Miss Me"? It's so
>chaotic and mysterious and just...weird. And the "stars above" bit is
>just beautiful.

no, you're not! i love that song, and don't really see why other people don't.
that's so sad that, as you say, the artist that created the song doesn't like
one of my favourites. if you are reading this, Mr. Flans, sir, which is very
possible, according to this interview, please note that "you'll miss me" is not
MY most hated song.

jessie.

Chris Kuan

unread,
May 1, 2002, 7:48:25 PM5/1/02
to
Nikki and John <mr....@verizon.net> wrote in message news:<B8F561D3.1D68%mr....@verizon.net>...

> Flans: These days, thatąs like half the way people find out about new songs.


> So itąs very possible that it might show up that way. Which would be kind of
> great. Have you seen that Mercedes Benz commercial where the song is like łI
> want to thank you / for letting me in your passing lane...˛ (sic)?
>
> Me: Yes.
>
> Flans: That is such an interesting song! I have no idea who did it.
>
> Me: I donąt either, and neither does my wife, but she always says (in a high
> voice) łThatąs such a great song!˛

Geggy Tah - Whoever You Are

All I wanna do is to thank you
even though I don't know who you are
you who let me change lanes
while I was driving in my car

This song was used as a road safety advertisement in Australia a
couple of years back and got heavy radio airplay on the national youth
network.

--
Chris

john m

unread,
May 1, 2002, 9:23:11 PM5/1/02
to
"Bryce" <br...@tmbg.or(somethin)g> wrote in message
news:aapreb$cmcum$1...@ID-50687.news.dfncis.de...

> *plays Thermostat*
> *turns it up* ;)

Great song. It holds a special place in my heart for being the first song
(TMBG or otherwise) I ever learned to play on drums.

-john


only just a hat

unread,
May 2, 2002, 12:57:07 AM5/2/02
to
>> Flans: Oh, sure. There are some things that we do just to
>> keep the audience interested, that by necessity are funny,
>> that I would never want to record for posterity. There's a
>> spontaneity to a live performance that allows for a certain
>> humorous element. On records that stuff gets old fast.

I can see his point, but there are a bunch of mp3s that still crack me up
*every* *single* *time* . . . like Why Does The Sun Shine from 4-16-98, and
Their reaction to the uncooperative crowd in I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die
from 6-20-88. ( "You were having a hard time singing *quiet*" ) LOL!

~Rappaccini's Daughter
=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=
I believe in everything; nothing is sacred.
I believe in nothing; everything is sacred.
=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=

wolfie180g

unread,
May 2, 2002, 6:02:24 PM5/2/02
to
> I can see his point, but there are a bunch of mp3s that still crack me up
> *every* *single* *time* . . . like Why Does The Sun Shine from 4-16-98,
and
> Their reaction to the uncooperative crowd in I Hope That I Get Old Before
I Die
> from 6-20-88. ( "You were having a hard time singing *quiet*" ) LOL!

i put that song on jus about every cdr i make for potential fans - and yes i
find it painfully funny. thinking of putting some of the phrases on some
tshirts. got a couple of icons for lj with them all ready to go :)


wolfie
"WHERE ARE YOUR LOST SOULS ?!!?!?!"


switsawa

unread,
May 2, 2002, 7:56:07 PM5/2/02
to

> > I can see his point, but there are a bunch of mp3s that still crack me
up
> > *every* *single* *time* . . . like Why Does The Sun Shine from
4-16-98,
> and
> > Their reaction to the uncooperative crowd in I Hope That I Get Old
Before
> I Die
> > from 6-20-88. ( "You were having a hard time singing *quiet*" ) LOL!
>


Someone please let me in on these jokes...perhaps an AIM file
transfer(*hint*)...I'd love to hear them.

Jenn


switsawa

unread,
May 2, 2002, 7:58:43 PM5/2/02
to
I like "You'll Miss Me" but it took a while. You described it very well..
I have to side with Flans on the "Hall of Heads" though..

Jenn


scratch

unread,
May 3, 2002, 1:19:08 AM5/3/02
to

"sing damn you!!!"

-scratch

wolfie180g

unread,
May 3, 2002, 1:26:47 AM5/3/02
to
> Someone please let me in on these jokes...perhaps an AIM file
> transfer(*hint*)...I'd love to hear them.
>
> Jenn

i gotcha :)
jus like holler or something when im on.

wolfie
wuf187 for the rest of yas


Doctor Worm

unread,
May 3, 2002, 1:53:08 AM5/3/02
to
> Oh....(pauses to consider) yes. Yes. łYouąll Miss Me,˛ a song on our
second album that comes up on those newsgroups a > lot as, like, one of the
fansą least favorite songs.
Hey, I like that song. It's better than a lot (not that any are incredibly
bad per se).


Robert Hutchinson

unread,
May 3, 2002, 2:16:25 AM5/3/02
to
scratch says...

"The dead man rises."

--
I *am* Jesus!

The Demonic Kangaroo

unread,
May 3, 2002, 9:51:52 PM5/3/02
to
Or, just go to the source of these files: http://mp3.theymightbegiants.org.

-Mike

"switsawa" <swit...@attbi.com> wrote

switsawa

unread,
May 3, 2002, 10:29:45 PM5/3/02
to
Thanks Mike..Just one more place for me to waste time on my fixation with
TMBG....hah.

I'm not as messed up as I want to be,
Jenn
"The Demonic Kangaroo" <t...@tmbg.org> wrote in message
news:aavenr$dtr83$1...@ID-55088.news.dfncis.de...

Daniel Yovino

unread,
May 5, 2002, 12:31:18 AM5/5/02
to
>By the way, DINNER BELL! It's a song that I was always sort of lukewarm
>on,
>but it has now become one of my favorites. So, um, I declare today "Give
>That TMBG Song You Never Really Liked A Chance Day". Try it! Maybe you'll
>grow to love it!
>--
>Sylvan

Hmm. I immediately loved that song when I heard it, and it's still practically
my favorite.

-Daniel Y

Lex

unread,
May 11, 2002, 5:45:59 PM5/11/02
to

Bryce <br...@tmbg.or(somethin)g> wrote in message
news:aapreb$cmcum$1...@ID-50687.news.dfncis.de...

Let's try House At The Top Of The Tree...
...nah, still sucks.

Violin...
...same.

I guess my least favorites are constant.


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