L magazine Q & A with JF

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Rob Plass

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Mar 20, 2004, 11:35:15 PM3/20/04
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This recent issue (Mar 17-Mar 30) of L magazine
http://www.thelmagazine.com features "the brooklyn issue", and a nice
Q & A with Flans. Nuyoricans: pick up a copy in downtown Manhattan or
in Brooklyn from the ubiquitous orange boxes. It's free!

Here's an excerpt (the interview portion of the article):
The L Magazine: What was the impetus for coming to Brooklyn in the
first place?
John Flansburgh: Well, I moved to Brooklyn to go to the Pratt
Institute, and John Linnell was moving from Rhode Island. He was
playing with a band called the Mundanes, and they were sort of a
power-pop, skinny tie, new-wave type of band. I think in the fullness
of time, they woudln't feel bad admitting to that. They were a really
great band, and really winning. They just seemed like they could make
it. They had a really great guitar player, [Jonathan Gregg - Ed.],
and a couple [sic] great singers. They were, like, a serious band.
The L: Was John playing keyboards?
JF: John was playing keyboards. He was a sideman in the band. It
wasn't his band. So we kind of started They Might Be Giants in the
shadow of that other band that had so much more commercial potential.
In a way, the fact that he was already in a band that had something
going on was useful in that it made us realize that having a good time
might actually be good enough.
We kind of arrived as the last gasp of the original NY punk rock
scene. We arrived in 1981, and all the clubs that were synonymous
with punk rock were basically folding up. CBGB was kind of turning
into a more straight-ahead rock and roll place, and the scene was in a
general recession. It was just a very down time for New York. So
that was kind of the environment we came in on, but it was pretty
exciting. I loved it from the first second I arrived in Brooklyn.
The L: Was there any sense of a music community in Brooklyn, or did
everything still revolve around going into Manhattan?
JF: We did a lot of starnge one-off gigs, because there weren't that
many gigs around, but the one we did were total UFO's, where as the
shows we did in Manhattan seemed like they might be getting us
somewhere - if only in so far as the East Village scene was a
burgeoning one. It was really interesting to observe the East Village
scene as a non-East Village resident, because the Soho art-rock scene
had really dominated the late-70s underground culture of NY. The
shift in the mid-80s to the East Village was met with a ton of
resentment by slightly older hipsters who were really invested n [sic]
the whole Soho thing, and they really felt threatened in a way that
only a 31 year old can feel threatened. What's interesting to me is
that as a long time resident of Williamsburg, I hear people in the
East Village talking in the same strange, twisted up, disdainful ways
about Williamsburg that all the people I knew from Soho talked about
the East Village.
The L: In the past few years, Brooklyn has gained an almost ridiculous
amount of media attention. What do you see going on there every day,
in terms of the quality of the art being produced, and in terms of the
lifestyle of the people who are living there now?
JF: You know, I've lived in the same place for 20 years, and it's
changed about as much as a place could change. It's gone from being
very low population density. It seemed like for years, I'd get off
the subways and I'd be the only person getting off. Now it's like an
extension of the NYU dorms. It's changed a lot.
The L: For the better?
JF: I think it's just complicated. I think it's very exciting to see
people doing stuff on their own terms. I think there is something
truly fantastic about New York bohemian life, and wherever that's
happening, it's a good thing. Its not part of the money culture of
New York, or at least it's yet to be appropriated by the money culture
of New York, and that's a fragile situation that always ends. I mean,
there were bohemians in the West Village in 1920, and it's sure hard
to think of it as a center of bohemian life now. It's basically just
another place where fancy people live. The strangest thing about NY
is that it's always changing, and it's filled with people who always
think there's a way you can stop it from changing. Every single new
thing is met with a ton of resistance. Every new movement is treated
with tons of skepticism. I think it's very exciting that there's so
much happening in Williamsburg. It makes me sad hearing people
breaking up outside my door at three in the morning on Sunday mornings
- but besides that, you know, it's all pretty cool.
The L: Could you possinly single out one They Might Be Giants song as
your favorite?
JF: I love the song 'John Lee Supertaster.' It's off the children's
record, but it's as messed up as any song could possibly be, and it
sounds like Cream.
The L: Children love Cream.
JF: Yeah, it's just an incredibly loud track, but it somehow fits in
on the children's record. And also, my friend John Lee is a real-life
supertaster. He was in this band called Muckafurgason, and so just
having a chance to write a song about a real-life person and his
real-life, strange predilection was really exciting. It's like a
win-win-win kind of situation.

Love,

Rob

Rob Plass

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Mar 21, 2004, 9:43:20 AM3/21/04
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Blarg! Nice to reply to my own message, dork. The remainder of the
text of the article can be found at

http://www.thelmagazine.com/f_rockstar.html

Or if you choose to navigate from the main page, click on "features"
and then "rock star files".

Love,

Rob

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