Jeff Tweedy and George Saunders Have an Epic Conversation

The Wilco frontman sits down with the acclaimed author to go deep on their process.

Released on 11/30/2018

Transcript

00:01
And this is the first time I've ever heard you
00:02
this close, it's like a dream of my life.
00:04
Do you want me to sing into your eye?
00:05
No.
00:06
[laughing]
00:07
[guitar tunes up] [laughing]
00:13
I'll do the right hand.
00:14
[laughing]
00:15
[guitar playing]
00:25
Well, thanks for having me here in the loft,
00:27
beautiful loft here, from my point of view,
00:28
your honestly incredible role of creativity,
00:31
like the last, what, year or two, we've got a new memoir out
00:35
an album out and another one right behind it.
00:37
Has it felt like a burst to you or was it kind of
00:39
business as usual?
00:40
It's felt like a little bit of a burst
00:42
I mean, I know why, it's because Wilco been off
00:45
the road for the first time in a long time.
00:48
I don't know if we've ever had almost two years
00:50
off of the road or a year and a half at least,
00:53
so that makes sense to me, that a lot of stuff would
00:56
accumulate during that period because I don't know
00:59
what else to do with myself.
01:02
But my dad told me, [laughing] before he died
01:05
and I'm sure we'll get to that, he said,
01:09
how old are you? [laughing]
01:12
And I was like, you don't know how old I am, all right.
01:13
And I said, I'm 50 and he said, oh.
01:17
That explains it, he said, 45 to 55,
01:20
I was the most productive I ever was in my life.
01:24
So I got four more years.
01:25
And he was on the railroad, so, for him.
01:27
Yeah, I don't know what productive meant for him
01:29
to be honest, I really don't.
01:31
I should've asked, [laughs].
01:33
He comes through in the book as a really interesting guy.
01:36
It feels to me, anyway, from the album and the memoir
01:38
that his death and his life is very much kind of
01:40
in your mind or sort of infusing these things, is that?
01:44
Yeah, his death coincides with me really wrapping
01:50
my head around writing about my life,
01:53
you know, kind of getting serious about finishing
01:57
this memoir. So you started
01:59
before his passing.
02:01
By the time I really kinda got around to writing
02:03
seriously, that was the thing I was processing the most
02:08
was being an orphan, [laughing] just the reality of
02:14
I guess you can still feel like an orphan at 50 years old.
02:17
Yeah, you know, our daughter Elena who you know,
02:19
there was a part of the book that really moved me
02:21
and I took a picture of it and sent it.
02:23
And she goes, Wow, that's his voice.
02:25
Oh, that's nice.
02:26
Which is not easy, so how was it
02:27
writing prose after so many years of writing
02:30
lyrics and poems and everything.
02:31
Is it different feeling, different process?
02:34
Prose has always been like a phobia, almost.
02:39
Like an irrational fear of not doing it right.
02:44
It's always felt more natural to me to distill
02:46
language into something that isn't so
02:50
rigidly specific.
02:51
But still paints a picture you know like haiku or something,
02:55
is like the ideal form of that.
02:57
You know and lyric writing to me is you know
03:00
not just for the listener but for me to sing
03:02
it over and over long periods of time.
03:05
It's ideal to have it be something where you can keep
03:08
coloring it in a little bit different.
03:10
So we end up being much more interested in the things that
03:14
don't really necessarily advance a story
03:17
when you're writing prose.
03:18
So you know you're telling a specific thing
03:21
you wanted it to be really clear.
03:22
You shouldn't be via off into like what type of
03:25
spoon was sitting on the table. [laughing]
03:29
Right I think that was a real confident
03:30
because a lot of times when people are first writing prose
03:33
especially if they're readers and little books
03:35
what do you do there's a tensing up you know
03:37
and yours was it was natural and it kind of a digression
03:41
really beautifully into things and came back.
03:42
And I was, I really loved that it was.
03:44
Oh thank was so much.
03:45
And I learned a lot actually especially about the.
03:47
We'll talk about a little bit to create a processor
03:51
and an uncanny writer about that kind of stuff.
03:52
Oh thank you. Yeah.
03:55
I really enjoyed it by the time I got
03:58
confident about it.
03:59
I initially started out saying I don't wanna have to have
04:02
anything to do with this and like I hired somebody
04:05
to help me write it.
04:07
And I was gonna do all these interviews and take transcripts
04:10
and trying to like shape them into a book.
04:12
And that's how the book kind of started
04:14
and that's where it's at for a long time.
04:16
Until it became really clear that theoretically
04:19
that should work but it was terrible
04:23
it just like felt awful.
04:24
And so in a pretty intense burst of like
04:27
just not wanting to have a book that sucked. [laughing]
04:31
I sat down and wrote it in about three months,
04:35
like kind of rewriting..
04:36
It took some of the same shape of
04:38
how the the transcripts had kind of been organized
04:42
but then really sad you know thought about
04:44
how I wanted it to read.
04:46
And I did read a lot of the sentences and paragraphs
04:48
out loud to myself when I was working so it felt like
04:51
I was able to say it.
04:52
You know it was interesting cause it,
04:54
you really in the book and and I left it kind of
04:57
the same way I leave your record which is kind of
04:59
just feeling more capable of like being
05:03
a decent person somehow.
05:05
And also that you know that one of the traits in it
05:07
that's really wonderful is the honesty.
05:08
Like you you start to go somewhere and you go, well, yeah
05:11
I guess I need to.
05:12
And somehow witnessing that makes the reader feel more like,
05:15
yeah you know never would kill you to be a little more
05:17
honest or to look directly at something.
05:19
So this interview won't just be all praise
05:21
we're gonna still go into that.
05:23
Well I don't, I'm fine with that
05:27
I saw me do sort of like the bio thing
05:29
but you grew up in Belleville Illinois down South.
05:31
Can you kind of set that up for us like
05:33
what was it like what was your house,
05:36
what was your day-to-day life?
05:38
One of the defining characteristics of
05:40
my childhood was that I was the youngest
05:45
of four by 10 years.
05:48
So I had the experience of being the baby in the family
05:53
but also being sort of an only child because my brothers
05:58
and my sister were, by the time I really have memories
06:01
they really weren't living at the house.
06:04
Belleville was like a kind of a dying industrial town like
06:07
a blue-collar suburb of St. Louis a lot of people that
06:10
live there work at the chemical factories
06:13
and the railroads in the st. Louis area.
06:17
When I was growing up it felt very sheltered from St. Louis.
06:20
It didn't feel like it was connected to St. Louis.
06:23
In fact it was treated as a huge deal
06:26
if you were going to St. Louis
06:28
and by the time we were teenagers and driving
06:30
to St. Louis to go buy records our parents
06:32
and people our parents age we're like.
06:34
Wow, you're going to the moon
06:36
why do you have to go to the moon to buy records.
06:38
You know it was really really shocking to them
06:40
that you would do that willingly
06:42
not for a Cardinals game alright.
06:44
Were there signs of that there was a musician
06:48
there in Belleville we're the early things that
06:50
you can look back and go yeah that's definitely
06:53
a budding young artist about to happen.
06:56
Of me?
06:57
[Man] Yeah. [laughing]
06:59
Like trying to think if there are
07:00
any musicians in Belleville.
07:02
You take Carol he was pretty good.
07:03
I don't know if I've ever seen myself as anything other.
07:07
I don't know if I pictured myself as being,
07:10
well, I actually I had no problem picturing myself as
07:13
being Bruce Springsteen.
07:14
[laughing]
07:15
But I'm delusional I don't know if that has anything
07:21
to do with Belleville.
07:22
But in the book you tell story about sort of
07:25
you know the writing Born to Run.
07:28
[laughing]
07:29
Well, yeah in the fourth grade I took a cassette
07:32
that I'd made of Born to Run I'd recorded off the radio.
07:36
On Sunday nights they would play whole albums on the radio
07:39
in St. Louis and I guess Born to Run came out
07:42
they played it in its entirety I recorded it or somebody
07:46
had recorded it maybe my brother had recorded it.
07:47
I don't even know how I got it but it convinced
07:49
myself that I had written it and it was me
07:51
and I took it to school to show it off as part of
07:54
show-and-tell or something that
07:56
this is the record I just made. [laughing]
08:01
When I was a kid I had period where
08:03
I thought I'd written Swan Lake.
08:05
I heard it and I just insisted and my grandma was like this.
08:08
And I was so hurt that she didn't believe me.
08:11
There's an obvious benefit to that
08:13
I mean if you can't picture yourself doing something
08:16
like that it's pretty hard to do.
08:18
Right.
08:19
And it wasn't necessarily picturing myself actually
08:21
writing Born to Run but picturing myself being able to do
08:26
something that made me feel like Born to Run.
08:29
Or made me feel like well that's impressive. [laughing]
08:32
That would be really cool
08:33
and apparently somebody put their name on this
08:36
and said they did that.
08:37
And you also or elsewhere you know something
08:39
was really interesting to me as a teacher of writing
08:41
because you talked about how I guess basically ambition
08:46
is not only okay you have you have to have it.
08:48
Shouldn't it's got kind of a bad name but it shouldn't.
08:51
People mistake ambition for careerism
08:58
or something less savory than just wanting to do
09:03
something good.
09:04
You know wanting to be good at what you do.
09:07
I don't know something more Craven or phony or something.
09:11
But even self promoting I don't necessarily see as being
09:15
a horrible sin because I don't think necessarily
09:18
your output is self.
09:21
That's is interesting.
09:23
As much as people as people assume it is.
09:25
Yeah because you talked in there too
09:27
and I love this about how one of the pleasures of music
09:29
for you has always been the like I guess
09:31
the diminishment of self in the process.
09:34
Is that happening for you during songwriting,
09:36
during performance both I mean is there some?
09:39
And the bigger question me is when that self goes away
09:42
what is it that fills the gap?
09:46
I think for me the process of writing
09:49
or you know being engaged in the act of
09:53
creating something in the studio or anything
09:57
even writing the book from time to time I have
10:00
this experience which is kind of
10:02
what I crave and what is the most sustaining part of
10:06
the creative process for me is like feeling like
10:09
I have disappeared.
10:10
Like the burden of my ego and all its
10:14
insecurities and all of its desire to be seen a certain way
10:19
has evaporated and what you're left with is nothing.
10:26
And I think that's
10:31
incredibly powerful to be okay with
10:36
[laughing] to be in a position where you're okay
10:38
with being gone.
10:40
Yeah but then that thing also decides right?
10:42
I mean it were it kind of knows how to proceed it some how.
10:48
Right.
10:49
Which is weird.
10:50
I mean I can see how people get really mystical about it
10:53
and I'm not particularly mystical about it
10:55
and you know like oh, the universe is speaking through me.
10:58
And like they're like I'm a conduit
11:00
you know I look at it more as like oh, your subconscious is
11:04
always at work.
11:05
And that's just kind of getting out of the way
11:07
and letting your subconscious be a little bit more forceful.
11:11
How do you get into that space
11:12
and how does it proceed mechanically?
11:15
It's a lot less constant when I'm working here.
11:20
I have really wonderful collaborators and people that
11:23
I spend all day with Tom our engineer
11:26
and Mark who manages the studio.
11:28
Just kind of sit around and don't really struggle too much
11:33
to put together an agenda of what needs to happen
11:35
but at some point it just feels right to start digging
11:39
into something that presents itself as the next task.
11:42
Maybe it's a guitar part or maybe it's finishing
11:45
a set of lyrics.
11:46
And then the next thing I know it's five o'clock.
11:51
But at home it's a lot more sustained.
11:54
If I'm like finishing words or writing lyrics at home
11:57
it's much more an uninterrupted thing.
11:59
Right here-there know we've talked before about this
12:02
you call it a lyrical method mumble track.
12:05
So we you kind of have an arrangement down
12:06
and in you're sort of right over there I guess singing
12:08
and that was really interesting to me
12:10
can you talk about that a little.
12:12
When I first started writing songs and they started being
12:16
put out into the world where people were gonna hear them.
12:19
I started becoming a little bit self-conscious
12:23
about how simplistic they were.
12:25
And they were simplistic because I wrote them really quick
12:27
to have a song and I didn't really write them down
12:31
I did that if I could remember them
12:33
then other people could remember them.
12:35
So I tended to write really simplistic things that
12:38
I could remember easily.
12:39
I just felt like I wasn't trying hard enough.
12:42
And so when I started wanting to write more
12:48
and you know insightful or ambitious lyrics
12:52
it was really slowed down the process
12:55
because I didn't want to finish a song
12:56
until the lyrics were finished.
12:59
And so I figured out a way to around that at some point
13:02
would be to make the sounds and the rhythms that I know
13:06
I want to have there but I haven't had time
13:09
to put the words together for it to be a finished
13:12
set of lyrics.
13:13
So I could keep working on the song
13:15
until I'd really completed the the environment,
13:18
the landscape then I would have more of an idea of
13:23
what I needed to do to not break the spell of
13:26
what the melody and what the landscape was able
13:28
to contribute musically because that's the whole point.
13:32
I'll just be writing poems
13:34
or it would just be you know writing prose
13:36
or whatever if it was something
13:38
you could just tell with words.
13:40
So I've always kind of tried to air on the side of the music
13:46
doing all of or not all of but most of
13:49
the emotional heavy lifting.
13:52
You know like I've had this experience
13:54
and where if like things have slipped through the cracks
13:56
many times over the years where I have records
13:58
and if I go back and listen to him they'll be a turd
14:00
in the punchbowl. [laughing]
14:03
There will be a song that like a lyric that
14:06
I'll just go oh, no I broke the spell
14:09
but I I didn't see it at the time.
14:11
I think that's the name for the next album
14:13
the turd in a Punchbowl.
14:15
Yeah that's the outtakes. [laughing]
14:17
But so but in that process in the book you say
14:19
this really amazing thing which is that you're kind of
14:21
humming along and then words start to come out of
14:23
the stone a little bit you recognize certain phrases right?
14:26
But they're often are mostly not nonsense
14:29
they're actually meaningful or..
14:32
I think giving yourself license to just make sounds
14:35
and not be self-conscious about it.
14:38
Tends to free your subconscious up to say things that
14:43
you would be too embarrassed in some cases to admit.
14:47
So at times there have been I'm really in a particularly
14:51
tuned in state of mind with a particular piece of music
14:56
there have been times where whole lines
14:58
or whole verses come out almost fully formed
15:00
and I just kind of keep them.
15:02
And just kind of work around them.
15:04
So it's gotta sound good a process of
15:05
really trusting that if you kind of just surrender
15:08
a little bit of control than what comes in will be informed
15:11
somehow or coming from a deeper place.
15:14
I'm trying to get into this a very similar
15:17
state of mind to our conversations.
15:23
You know that you and I have some times
15:26
where I did not compose sentences to say to you
15:31
or I did not premeditate what I want to communicate
15:35
but I have feelings that come from the way
15:39
you and I interact.
15:40
I want to have that conversation with a piece of music.
15:44
Is what I'm trying to do and I like I think everybody
15:46
improvises all the time.
15:48
It's a type of improvisation that requires
15:52
a little bit more time than what people standardly
15:55
think of as improvisation.
15:57
For me I for whatever reason I don't have the ability
16:00
to actually do that in real life.
16:02
I feel like I'm a little more constructed than
16:04
I would like to be but with writing prose
16:06
and especially the revision part this more honest part
16:10
will lurch forward.
16:11
And so that's actually what I mean it is definitely
16:13
self receding but the other thing that comes in
16:16
is much more frank and a little less polite
16:19
and will kind of go where it needs to go.
16:21
And that for me is the real rush this one.
16:22
Right and that's like that's what happens
16:24
when you know your conversations aren't the same
16:27
with everybody you sit down and talk to I mean you take
16:31
into account a lot of different information like
16:35
whether somebody's listening to you.
16:38
That's as close as I can get to explain it
16:40
to some people that think of it as
16:42
being something more magical.
16:44
We're doing kind of miraculous things all the time
16:49
as caring humans when you allow yourself to have an intense
16:53
conversation with somebody.
16:55
And I've discovered over the years that not everybody
16:58
likes that but I gravitate towards it.
17:02
And I gravitate towards people that are invigorated
17:07
by that type of talk.
17:09
I often think that that process of being in a work of art
17:12
has something to do with awareness.
17:13
Like in other words in fiction the the big game is that
17:17
you've written a bunch of stuff and you think
17:18
you know what it means but it might not mean
17:21
what you think it means.
17:22
And so every minute you have to reinvigorate
17:24
your awareness of what you've just done.
17:26
And then respond to that and it sounds like it's similar
17:30
and although I think you guys a song writers
17:31
have I've always so envious because it seems like
17:34
it's fresher and a little more fearless.
17:35
And like you know if I make a mistake in my room
17:37
if nobody knows about it.
17:39
But you guys are you know there's an open energy kind of.
17:42
Yeah I mean it's important to like let go of the fear
17:47
of finality or the fear of something being rigidly
17:51
presented as an idealized work of art.
17:54
For songs from me I don't go back and listen
17:56
to him very often.
17:57
I'm playing them, I'm performing them all the time.
18:00
So whether I consciously try to or not they evolve
18:04
and their meaning kind of evolves.
18:06
And so when I'm making a new song I aware that
18:10
that's still that potential is still going to be there
18:14
for the most part.
18:14
So in that case how do you when you're here working out
18:16
something in you've been in it for a few
18:18
whatever days weeks how do you make the decision
18:21
that that's the version that we're going with?
18:22
That seems to me like a Rubik's Cube that would torture you.
18:26
I'm a big believer in deadlines. [laughing]
18:29
I think they're really helpful
18:32
and there's a joke that we say all the time in the studio
18:36
is like we're thinking about things that
18:38
will not affect sales. [laughing]
18:42
Like spend a long time stressing out over a hi-hat sound
18:46
or something like that and that no one in their right mind
18:51
is gonna listen to the record for the hi-hat sound.
18:54
I mean it's an intuitive thing but generally
18:57
I feel pretty good about setting a deadline
18:59
for myself or knowing that there's a deadline.
19:02
And I do exercises like this all the time with even
19:05
shorter deadlines you know like I have 10 minutes
19:07
to write a song I'm gonna write a song.
19:09
Let's see how much of a song I can write in 10 minutes
19:13
and so it's like how much of an album
19:14
can I put together with what I have here today
19:17
to work with.
19:18
Kind of a constraint.
19:19
Cause anything can be an album anything can be a song.
19:22
So it's like what makes warm and now I'm like
19:24
what was your sort of selection criteria
19:26
or what's the art of that?
19:29
There was kind of a free-floating period
19:31
while Wilco has been on that I ATIS
19:33
where you know I was coming up to the studio every day.
19:37
And I'm just kind of amassing this dozens
19:41
and dozens of songs.
19:43
That I really wasn't sure what they were for
19:47
or what kind of home I could find for them
19:50
with a Wilco songs.
19:51
Were they songs for my band with the Spencer for Tweedy
19:55
and somewhere in the middle of that process
19:56
I started touring a little bit on my own.
19:59
And going out and playing shows with just an acoustic guitar
20:04
for some reason I just kind of got restless
20:06
and started playing new songs.
20:09
Every night I would kind of introduce a couple of new songs
20:11
to this set and see how they felt in front of an audience.
20:15
I hadn't done that in a while but it's a really good thing
20:18
to stay connected to it's like can I put this song
20:21
across with just an acoustic guitar and with a new song.
20:24
And they no one's ever heard.
20:25
No one's ever heard so I started doing that
20:28
and a lot of times you play a new song and you can kind of
20:32
tell that there's their people kind of tuned out.
20:35
You know and then there are times you play a new song
20:38
and it feels like you've just bared something
20:40
about yourself and people were really paying attention
20:43
and you can feel that.
20:44
I don't know you just feel that connection
20:46
you feel like you do when you're really being
20:48
to listened to by a friend.
20:50
Right. Or something
20:50
You can feel it in the room you can feel
20:53
it in the room like it's just kind of a sensation
20:56
and you can hear when you listen to other records
20:58
with people.
20:59
You know like if you listen to a record
21:00
with your best friend and you both love that music
21:03
it sounds better.
21:05
Than when you listen to it with somebody
21:07
that doesn't like music.
21:09
[laughing]
21:10
You know after the a couple of tours like that
21:14
I kind of sat down and said whoa!
21:16
I know what would make the best record
21:18
it would be putting all of the songs that
21:21
I've kind of played in front of an audience
21:24
and I felt that that coming back for me.
21:28
And that's what these songs on more arm.
21:33
And this is the first time I've ever heard you
21:34
this disclose, it's like a dream of my life.
21:36
Do you want me to sing into your eye?
21:37
No, no. [laughing]
22:07
♪ All my life I've played a part ♪
22:13
♪ In the bouncer above the ones you love ♪
22:19
♪ I'm taking a moment to apologize ♪
22:25
♪ I should have done more ♪
22:28
♪ To stop the war ♪
22:31
♪ So I'm sorry ♪
22:38
♪ I leave behind a trail of songs ♪
22:44
♪ In the duck darkest gloom ♪
22:47
♪ To the bloody Sun ♪
22:50
♪ I lost my way ♪
22:54
♪ But it's hard to say ♪
22:57
♪ What I've been through ♪
22:59
♪ Shouldn't matter to you ♪
23:06
♪ Oh man so drunk ♪
23:09
♪ He can't understand ♪
23:13
♪ Told me once ♪
23:16
♪ Hold in my hand ♪
23:19
♪ Sufferings the same ♪
23:22
♪ For everyone ♪
23:25
♪ He was right ♪
23:28
♪ That was wrong ♪
23:31
♪ To agree ♪
23:35
♪ Aaaaaaaa ♪
23:38
♪ Aaaaaaaaa ♪
23:41
♪ Aaaaaaa.......... ♪
24:11
Beautiful. Thank you.
24:13
Just play the rest of the album, come on.
24:16
[guitar playing]
24:18
So I mean this might be an unfair question
24:20
but can you talk us through how that
24:22
little beauty came to be.
24:24
It's such a perfect little song and I was listening
24:26
to it the first time I'm literally like walking
24:29
through it like a poem like
24:30
oh, I don't know I'm not sure is that true
24:32
and then at the last moment it just pops so wonderful.
24:36
I mean it started on iPhone probably
24:39
the acoustic part just coming up with the like kind of
24:42
those chord voicings felt exciting enough
24:46
to me to document on my phone.
24:49
And then it lived for a long time where
24:53
it was just like.
24:54
♪ All my life ♪
24:56
Much more subdued like vocal performance
24:59
and it always felt a little bit ponderous like that
25:02
you know a little I don't know little less urgent.
25:07
But I think the lyrics were probably started
25:10
sometime right after the election in 2016.
25:14
Trying not to just feel complete despair and rage
25:19
and trying to take some stock in my own role
25:24
in whatever environment has been created for
25:28
a lot longer than just someone like Donald Trump.
25:32
You know just trying to remind myself that
25:35
the world outside of the United States has endured
25:39
a lot of trauma.
25:43
Beyond what I was experiencing
25:45
and this was like sort of normal for a large part
25:48
of the world.
25:49
To have this feeling of despair this feeling of being
25:52
so out of step with the values of someone in power.
25:56
You know or that there were no values for
25:58
someone in power and then there's enormous damage
26:01
going to be done.
26:02
And you're helpless and to stop it.
26:04
But in this song if I'm not mistaken that
26:06
has a throwback to something that's in the book
26:08
about a guy kind of in rehab
26:12
kind of calling you out on suffering.
26:14
And you're your relation to suffering.
26:18
When I was in rehab you know you'd sit in these
26:21
group therapy sessions and you'd go around in a circle
26:25
just horrific stories.
26:27
You know like I was beat with a extension cord
26:30
and thrown in a hot bath.
26:31
You know scalding hot bathtub and just people that
26:34
had just come through so much.
26:37
And then it would get to me and I'd feel like
26:42
I was really too sad to get on a plane
26:44
and go do a press junket for my new Album.
26:47
You know I was in the Hospital for
26:49
a very legitimate mood disorder.
26:53
You know a level of discomfort that had debilitated me.
26:57
But by if you're trying to empirically measures like
27:01
suffering it didn't come close to the suffering
27:04
I was hearing about.
27:05
And I had tried to share that feeling of
27:09
oddly enough inferiority.
27:13
With the way I was the mentality I had it was almost like
27:17
I'm trying to win suffering or something.
27:22
I was competitive or something
27:23
but it wasn't really it was more like I sincerely felt like
27:28
I was in the wrong place.
27:30
And I tried to express that to one of the guys
27:32
that I'd heard tell a pretty horrifying story.
27:35
I believe the story was that the first drink
27:38
he ever took in his life was when his dad killed his mother.
27:42
And had told him this will help you forget
27:46
and his father was convinced it and that
27:48
his nine years old son wouldn't remember
27:51
him killing his wife.
27:53
If he if he got drunk right away.
27:55
Instead of reaching out and consoling
27:58
I was like like I'm I don't feel like
28:01
I have I belong here I feel you know like
28:04
this horrible thing to say.
28:05
You know like I was trying to be honest about
28:07
what I was thinking but I wasn't reaching out
28:11
in a way that was helpful to him.
28:12
But he reached out to me in a way that
28:14
was helpful.
28:15
He said shut the fuck up it's like we all suffer the same.
28:19
Your suffering is relative to your ability
28:22
to tolerate pain and he was right.
28:26
And I was wrong. [laughing]
28:29
I was wrong to work so hard to absolve myself
28:34
of something that wasn't the point.
28:37
That song does a really amazing thing that
28:40
I think we've talked about before
28:41
and then a powerful work of art is able
28:45
to contradict itself.
28:46
You know kind of have two things at once
28:48
and you just say yes
28:50
the contradiction is actually the truth.
28:52
Right the truth is vast and that's the thing that
28:56
was actually sort of daunting to me writing a book.
28:59
Was coming to terms with that
29:03
I don't know if I'd ever really thought about it
29:05
in those terms and how how vast the truth is.
29:09
You know because almost any story
29:11
I wanted to tell in this book.
29:14
I'm 50 years old almost most of the people involved
29:18
are living and they're their version of
29:20
it was weighing on me.
29:23
You know like how accurate is this to someone
29:25
else's choosing not to mention how vast each moment is
29:30
for is as far as like describing a scene.
29:36
We write our own memories you know
29:37
that scientists now say you take a memory out
29:39
and you when you put it back you micro adjust it to fit
29:42
your current view of the world and thus overwrite it.
29:47
That's that seems totally legit.
29:49
In the book there's I'm a like of amateur guitars
29:51
and there was an amazing part where you talk about
29:53
why you prefer an old well I guess older strings.
29:57
You talk about that because that was a deep I thought.
30:00
I always feel like I talk a lot about this guitar
30:03
in particular in the book because I've used it so much.
30:07
And I'm and I've used it so much because I feel like
30:10
it is it has established itself
30:14
as much as my voice as being a part of
30:18
my identity as an artist.
30:22
I think it matches my voice I'm always really confused
30:26
by a brand new guitars that bring like
30:29
a well tuned piano or have like tons of
30:33
sustained and overtones and things that
30:36
sound like a really chipper and alert person.
30:40
And this this guitar is really unambitious
30:44
in a lot of ways.
30:45
You know different from the type of ambition
30:47
we were talking about before but just unambitious
30:49
about being a virtuoso or it doesn't have a lot of sustain.
30:53
My voice I don't tend to be able to hold a lot of notes
30:56
with a lot of confidence.
30:58
So there are tons of things I could talk about
31:01
a little they really opened up a can of worms
31:04
but yeah they're just tons of things about it that
31:06
feel like when I stop singing the the guitar
31:10
is still maintaining that something about that
31:13
Tambor you know like a duet more right.
31:16
And then there are guitars that I have tried
31:18
to play with and sing over in my life where I felt like
31:22
I'm really trying to sing like a different person.
31:26
You know it's not even a conscious thing even
31:28
just like sort of slightly adjust to try and fit.
31:32
I don't know a guitar doing better than me.
31:35
[laughing]
31:36
I love that because one of the things with
31:38
my students what I talking about is you don't get
31:41
to eradicate any part of yourself.
31:42
You can't alter your fundamental voice right.
31:45
So then everything you're doing in terms of structure
31:47
and form is just ways of making that part
31:50
of yourself play nicely with the other part.
31:52
And also that level of self-awareness
31:54
it took at some point for you to say
31:55
I don't this new strong guitar is isn't pushing
31:58
me out of the room.
31:59
[mumbles]
32:00
And that's the other side of it
32:02
aside from being an old small like
32:05
a small body guitar that doesn't have a like
32:08
a really wide range like similar
32:10
to my voice when you put new strings on it.
32:13
It's really unhappy.
32:16
Put it in too tight of a suit.
32:17
Exact thing it's like
32:18
you know yeah it's like a kid in Sunday school
32:22
But also I think I've talked
32:25
to somebody about you in this context
32:27
you're a great guitarist but you often will
32:30
I mean you're not you're not shredding all the time.
32:35
I wouldn't think of myself as a great guitarist.
32:37
I feel I've know like I've tried to learn how to do
32:39
a lot of things in my life on the guitar that
32:41
I'll never, I'm aware I'll never be able to do.
32:45
Like what?
32:47
Show us know.
32:48
[laughing]
32:49
No I mean I play with you know Nels Bayer
32:52
and I've played with a lot of musicians.
32:55
And I love a lot of musicians that are just
32:57
so conversant with the guitar for it to be
33:01
I don't know to me it's just like it seems miraculous
33:04
to be able to think that fast and things like that.
33:07
But I spend a lot of time with guitars
33:09
and I've been able to figure out how to make them
33:12
do some things that I feel are unique to me
33:16
to help me get a point across.
33:19
So one time when I was visiting you here
33:21
you were out of the room and Tom told me
33:24
something like has he said that you had
33:26
the uncanny ability to kind of pre imagine
33:29
what certain combinations of say guitars
33:31
and amps sound like do you and I do have a really.
33:34
[laughing]
33:36
I have a really good memory and for stuff
33:39
and you think with this amount of gear.
33:41
There's so much gear up here yeah but you'd think that
33:44
I wouldn't have a conversant relationship with all of it
33:47
but I'd say a bulk of it.
33:50
I'd really do.
33:50
And so I'll just remember certain characteristics
33:53
about certain things and I don't really consciously
33:56
try and do that it's just like I'll just think of a sound.
33:59
I think I would be great if it had this like sort of
34:03
nasally, rude person coming.
34:07
I always think as people people as like what's
34:10
that guy doing.
34:12
You know or you know what I mean I always picture a band
34:16
inside the speak you know like inside the speakers.
34:18
And I always want to know what's why
34:20
that guy stick around why is like why didn't
34:22
he go away you know after that chorus or whatever.
34:25
So that I think about things like that but yeah
34:28
and they'll be like you know that's not gonna be rude
34:31
enough just by himself he's gonna need one of these
34:35
you know a fuzz pedal or something.
34:37
And sometimes it's just luck but but I think for
34:41
the most most part I can get pretty close to the sound
34:44
I'm picturing.
34:45
And does that memory work backwards in time
34:48
so if I name a song on an album and say
34:50
can you kind of reconstruct the setup to get that
34:53
guitar tone.
34:54
We document a lot of times but I think most of
34:57
the time I can kind of guess.
34:59
Do you think that's true Tom?
35:00
[Tom] Definitely.
35:01
Yeah I can like what's up we've recorded like
35:04
four or five years ago like oh that sounds like
35:07
the brown base with the B 15
35:10
That it'd be fun to exist in it that space.
35:13
Well it is the problem is you have to spend time like
35:18
communicating with normal people.
35:21
[laughing]
35:22
That's a lot more technical.
35:23
In the book you says how the Cubs doing?
35:26
Like you know they're all gonna die someday.
35:28
That's a party bus they might be dying right?
35:34
[mumbles]
35:35
I know Jeff Tweedy
35:36
[laughing]
35:37
Can you talk me through sort of like
35:40
three musical moments that you went through as a kid
35:43
that transformed your approach?.
35:47
My approach.
35:48
Or like your love for it.
35:50
How did it come alive for you
35:51
and at certain inflection points?
35:54
I fell in love with my sister's 45.
35:57
I figured out later that it was my aunt
35:59
and my sister had combined their 45s into 145 bucks.
36:03
They're roughly the same age my sister's
36:06
a little bit older than my aunt, my mother
36:08
and my grandmother were pregnant at the same time.
36:11
And then had kids that went to high school together
36:14
and so anyway I digress [laughing]
36:18
but so they had the birds
36:22
turn single that would be one big moment of
36:26
deep affection that felt like you had to call it love
36:30
you know okay.
36:31
You know what I call it.
36:32
In the book you tied that in with the structure.
36:33
That it was kind of a weird not versed Corti thing.
36:37
Well it just seemed to create its own..
36:40
it created its own internal logic
36:43
and Sonic Universe in ways
36:45
that other music hadn't yet for me.
36:47
You know like other things sounded a little bit
36:49
more like I'd understood where they were being performed
36:53
with instruments and there were people singing.
36:56
And that one had like the 12 string guitar sound
37:01
which was not particularly common to me
37:08
or I think that's one of the things that
37:09
was appealing about it when it came out.
37:11
Even is electric 12-string guitar.
37:13
Which was so sort of novel Roger McGuinn voice
37:19
was something I could really relate to because it's sort of
37:22
meek and not particularly soaring
37:26
as an instrument but there are harmonies.
37:28
So but I wasn't really aware that was
37:29
there were a lot of harmonies.
37:31
I just let this one guy could make his voice sound
37:33
like a you know I don't know something richer
37:38
and more spiritual.
37:40
Like something I don't know you know the lyrics
37:43
sounded you know I sounded like something
37:46
I could abide by.
37:47
That makes sense, seasons go by right.
37:49
[mumbles]
37:53
So that would be one I don't know
37:55
if I write about in the book.
37:57
I had a friend growing up
37:58
who lived a couple houses away from
38:01
and his dad was a farmer.
38:02
And they actually moved back to the farm and started
38:05
farming again at some point when I was a little bit older
38:08
my mother had talked to his parents and decided
38:11
that we're gonna get Jeff and Rusty back together.
38:15
You know like Jeff will visit the farm and spend
38:19
the night out there and hang out.
38:21
And work on the farm a little bit
38:22
and see what farm lives like.
38:23
By this time in my life I was maybe eight or nine.
38:26
My normal weekend ritual was to watch the evening
38:30
Rock concert shows.
38:32
There was like Don Kirshner's rock concert
38:36
and Midnight Special.
38:38
And these were really miserable things for me to miss
38:41
and so we were gonna camp out in his yard.
38:44
And I begged this farmer to bring a TV out there a tent
38:48
with an extension cord so I could watch Midnight Special.
38:52
[laughing] Did you do it?
38:53
And he did it.
38:54
But my friend who was my friend
38:57
when I was little but he couldn't stop making fun of
39:00
every single person that was on the TV.
39:02
And like you know what these freaks and he was racist
39:06
and it was just like it was just a horrible experience.
39:09
It was one of those experiences where
39:10
I realize music sounds different when you're like
39:13
you have the wrong like companion.
39:17
[laughing]
39:19
Ie Rusty.
39:20
Yeah Rusty was not having it I think that stuck with me
39:24
for a long time if there was something communal
39:27
about the ability to even absorb things that
39:31
I was cared about it.
39:33
I was like good at it by myself you know as like
39:36
really sustaining and perfect can listen
39:39
to almost anything and enjoy it.
39:41
We were talking on the phone while ago
39:43
you said something really beautiful about
39:44
how if I'm paraphrasing but this song isn't
39:47
complete until somebody hears it.
39:49
And for you that's part of it is it?
39:51
I mean you need another consciousness
39:54
to put it together.
39:56
There's a you know there's a broadcast
40:00
there's a way I'm transmitting this thing
40:03
and for it to complete the circuit someone has to like
40:07
you know put it back together in their consciousness
40:10
and we all see the same colors.
40:12
You know the same way we all don't hear
40:14
the same frequencies.
40:15
So a lot more is relying upon that person's talent
40:19
as a listener and and intent as a listener.
40:24
Then I think we normally give credit to you.
40:27
And I've noticed even being in your audiences that
40:29
one of the things is happening is and I don't want
40:31
to like make it to new age but I felt that
40:34
there's like a feeling of mutual consolation like
40:36
people come to your music.
40:38
I think with this sort of a different set
40:40
of hopes than in many cases like
40:44
there's some sense of like trust.
40:46
And of some kind of looking for reassurance is that
40:48
does that seem like that does seem that
40:50
way to you and is that interesting
40:52
to you helpful to you terrifying.
40:54
I don't know if I completely
40:59
am able to put myself in the audience that way right.
41:03
I know on stage I really want it to be great
41:09
and I wanted, I know I don't want to let people down.
41:11
I don't like feeling like we let people down
41:15
and at the same time that's a different criteria
41:18
than you would think it would be that doesn't
41:20
necessarily mean giving everybody everything they want.
41:24
To me it means I'd be letting them down
41:28
if I wasn't sincere.
41:30
If I didn't acknowledge them as being a part
41:35
of it in some way.
41:36
I don't know no that's beautiful.
41:38
One things in the book that
41:40
I loved was you had sort of self-identified
41:44
one of your artistic gifts
41:45
or maybe personal gifts is that you were vulnerable
41:48
from a young age and you didn't care like
41:51
you're basically okay with it that was it.
41:53
That's kind of my brand.
41:56
Vulnerability.
41:58
What does that mean it means you you feel something.
42:01
And then you don't edit it or you know I mean what's.
42:03
I don't know.
42:04
The best I mean the best thing we've been able to do
42:07
to put it together is that I was you know
42:11
as a baby of the family and as a almost like
42:14
an only child.
42:15
And one of the things we also haven't addressed yet
42:17
is the fact that I was my mother's primary companion
42:21
you know I was very much a mama's boy.
42:23
And sort of unhealthily relied upon as a joy bringer
42:29
for my mother.
42:30
And at the same time it was very easy for me
42:34
to bring my mother joy she just adored me.
42:37
So I think in a very early age that put it in my head
42:41
that my every passing thought was interesting.
42:45
[laughing]
42:47
To somebody in some way that my mother would be fascinated
42:50
to know that I felt like I couldn't draw
42:53
as good as the girl that lives up the street
42:55
or something.
42:56
I don't know that was indulged a lot.
42:59
And at the same time my mother was very
43:02
insightful and intuitive.
43:04
She was a brilliant woman who never finished high school
43:07
you know she had ambition probably artistic ambition
43:12
that was unfulfilled.
43:14
So there was a lot of vicarious.
43:16
I know encouragement to be an open wound
43:21
you know are like she would if it was up to my mother
43:23
I would have worn like a zoot suit to school or something.
43:28
I would have worn a beret or you know like
43:29
I would have been much more flamboyant.
43:32
I don't know whatever that cloistered sense that
43:35
I got from her probably made me just think that everybody
43:39
must feel like I do and so what's the shame.
43:43
And crying in front of everybody when
43:47
they obviously all cry.
43:49
[laughing]
43:51
Let me segue to I had a chance
43:54
to interview Joe Biden last year and it was kind of
43:57
you interview him you're like a little Stefano.
44:00
And then halfway through I just blurted.
44:02
I said so Joe what the hell is going on
44:05
in this country and he started laughing.
44:07
And he told us I guess
44:09
what do you thinks going on
44:10
and how does it intersect with your artistic mission
44:13
if it does?
44:14
Someone has figured out how to weaponize
44:19
victim hood in a way that's very difficult
44:23
to combat when someone has the sense
44:26
that they're a victim.
44:27
And in this case I'm talking about fairly privileged
44:33
white people they're really dangerous
44:36
because when you are convinced of your victim hood.
44:39
The other side doesn't isn't human anymore
44:42
they've done something to you intentionally
44:45
and they deserve punishment.
44:46
You know and I think it's how a lot of really dangerous
44:52
movements have started out of the sense of victim hood
44:55
that can be kind of like stoked.
44:59
So you're saying victim hood at the top
45:01
and but also that victim sense of victim hood
45:04
resonating with people who also feel a sense of victim hood.
45:07
Underneath is that the idea?
45:08
Well a lot of the people that are at each other's
45:11
throats in this country have way more in common
45:14
than they think they do.
45:16
And in a lot of ways they've been kind of like
45:19
they've been conned into fighting over scraps.
45:22
[laughing]
45:23
You know I don't think that a lot of people
45:25
can even imagine some of the wealth that people enjoy
45:32
and at their expense.
45:33
I grew up in a place where I can really empathize
45:37
and understand all of the profiles
45:41
you see of Trump voters and stuff.
45:43
Very much resembles the atmosphere I grew up in.
45:47
I can totally see those people believing someone has
45:50
consciously done this to them that the immigrants
45:53
are going to have you know whatever,
45:55
whoever is being blamed.
45:56
I think they can buy it.
45:58
So then with that understanding how do you approach
46:02
your work like is there is it is there a purpose in music
46:05
and that kind of a set up?
46:08
Well for music more than a lot of other art forms
46:12
and for a working band like Wilco.
46:14
And like myself the solo performer you still get
46:17
to provide this one communal experience
46:20
that still happens outside of sporting events.
46:24
And you know like there are other things
46:25
you know but it's a really important one
46:27
to me to get people in the same space
46:30
singing along with each other.
46:32
Having an atmosphere an agenda that is outside
46:35
of all of their concerns.
46:38
And at the same time one of the benefits of like
46:41
a church type environment was always that
46:44
it was a place where you could go
46:45
and feel a part of something.
46:49
Feel a part of something bigger than yourself.
46:50
I don't know to sort of lose yourself
46:52
and find yourself at the same time you know
46:54
you lose your all the burdens of yourself.
46:58
And find yourself where you actually are
47:00
and that is as a part of a much bigger bio mass.
47:06
You know a part of these these humans that
47:09
are walking this Earth at this moment.
47:11
Zadie Smith was I heard her talking about
47:14
I think her in-laws are a little bit on the right
47:17
and she was there some how do you relate them
47:19
and she said we kind of imagined that
47:22
every person has many persons inside them.
47:24
And then at different moments different people
47:26
will step forward.
47:27
She can relate to the one who's the great-grandmother
47:31
a wonderful grandmother and in the same way
47:33
you start hearing music.
47:34
And maybe you could that music loving part could
47:36
step forward and it's complicated though isn't it?
47:39
It's really complicated and it's hard
47:41
to watch cruelty happen and not be angry
47:46
or feel like there's something more that
47:48
you should be able to do.
47:49
And in a lot of cases there is you know
47:52
and there's a minimum that you can do just like vote.
47:57
[laughing]
47:58
You know or at least try and weigh in
48:01
when something is directly in front of you
48:03
that's a little bit that's one step above that.
48:06
Maybe and then there's the frustration where
48:08
to draw the line between having a life
48:10
that you enjoy that's joyful
48:13
and that you share with your family
48:16
and how to tolerate the knowledge that
48:18
they're suffering in the world.
48:20
For a long time I felt like one of the big problems
48:24
for humans is that we haven't evolved as fast as
48:27
our technology has evolved to absorb all of
48:31
the suffering in the world.
48:32
All at once you know a hundred years ago
48:35
you would find out about the suffering in your
48:37
you know like the problems or the the trauma
48:39
or the consequences of some dispute in your community.
48:44
And you would maybe find out about something
48:45
that happened it will overseas or somewhere far away
48:49
over a long period of time.
48:51
You'd get the news that it happened
48:53
it's done there's nothing you can do about it.
48:56
Now we know in real time like things that are happening
49:00
all day long every day.
49:02
Yeah it sets up that weird moment where
49:03
you're experiencing an authentic moment of joy
49:06
that might be hard-earned.
49:07
And if you wanted to you could go over
49:09
and just bring in something that would it up
49:12
basically right.
49:13
Yeah I mean it's I know from having kids that
49:15
it's the next generations aren't any
49:21
they haven't evolved yet they're still
49:22
suffering from it there's anxiety that goes with it.
49:28
So like trying to figure out what
49:31
I'm how to have a good day.
49:33
Yeah well and also that you know the idea that having
49:35
a good day is actually empowering
49:37
because you have a good day
49:38
or a day of presence.
49:40
Then if something actually comes into the domain
49:42
you can take care of it whereas if you're distracted
49:44
and agitated you can't.
49:46
Let me ask you this you when you look at
49:49
your career and your development as an artist
49:52
first of all what do you think you've gotten
49:54
better at over the years?
49:55
I honestly feel like I've gotten better at
49:57
everything I think the bar was so low.
50:00
[laughing] When I started
50:02
you know from the beginning to now.
50:05
Steady improvement on all fronts.
50:07
I mean I don't know I think that's the thing
50:12
that is most satisfying to me.
50:14
Is coming up here and realizing oh I just worked
50:18
on a guitar part that I could never played four years ago
50:22
Is there stuff as you look down the line
50:24
what do you want to get better at
50:28
What's still under your skin to get done?
50:31
Oh I don't know I just have a ton of
50:36
energy for it I don't know I don't question it that
50:40
much I mean I'm on a need-to-know basis with a lot of things
50:43
and like there has never been a steady progression
50:49
towards virtuosity but there's a steady
50:52
progression towards being able to hear
50:54
more elaborate things in my music
50:57
and do it intentionally.
50:58
Then there I'm also confronted very often
51:01
with I hear something but I cannot play it
51:04
I can't do it and working by myself
51:07
so much over the last eight years
51:08
or so has forced me to go well I can wait
51:12
for like three weeks somebody I think you know
51:16
Pat will be here or somebody will be here that
51:18
can play that on the piano or I can try and figure out
51:21
something that will work.
51:24
Yeah you mentioned doing like faux steel guitar
51:27
around a lot of that.
51:28
Yeah that's the taupe that's one of the defining things
51:32
of warm for me musically is that began
51:37
to be a thread through the record is to have
51:39
this sort of pedal steel sound.
51:41
But they don't know how to play the pedal steel
51:43
and I didn't know how to make a guitar sound
51:47
like a pedal steel consistently.
51:50
Luckily I have a studio and a lot of time on my hands
51:54
I made an effort.
51:55
Yeah speaking of the studio kind of like
51:58
what is where are what going on out here.
52:00
We are in the Wilco loft we've had it for 20 years or so.
52:06
What was the first album you did here?
52:08
We did parts of Mermaid Avenue
52:13
two here we moved in right around the same time we started
52:17
on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot a little bit before that.
52:20
So Yankee Hotel Foxtrot out a lot of it was recorded
52:23
here over the years almost everything since then has
52:27
had every record since then
52:28
it's had at least part of it done here.
52:30
I would imagine may be Wilko the album might not
52:34
have had that much done here.
52:36
It was originally a friend of my wife's
52:39
had come by to check the place out
52:41
and he had a band and the rent was a little bit too high
52:44
for his band and he told her that I should check it out.
52:47
It was originally rented as a place hopefully
52:50
where we could rehearse up until that
52:52
time we had had our stuff in storage spaces
52:54
and then you'd have to go drag it out
52:56
and you rent a rehearsal space and I hated that.
53:01
So I wanted to have a place where everything was set up
53:02
all the time.
53:03
It's like a paradise in here.
53:05
Now it's transformed quite a bit over the years
53:08
but this is the last six or seven years
53:11
has really been I think where it's really shaped up
53:15
into studio slash museum kind of thing.
53:20
So you record I mean this kind of guide us
53:23
from what we can see this here is really interesting.
53:25
It's basically designed around Wilco
53:29
and luckily will cause a six piece band.
53:31
So most bands or other people when they come up here
53:33
to record they usually fit in to do it at least
53:37
some somehow right.
53:39
[laughing]
53:40
But um that would be my location which
53:42
with the amps I prefer to use generally that's
53:45
Nels Klein's station and the base area.
53:50
John's area right here and then there's a drum booth that
53:53
you can't see that kind of to keep a little bit of
53:55
that out of everyone else's microphone.
53:58
Because drums are awful you don't get anything else
54:03
now this is obviously the keyboard world.
54:07
Patton and Tom sitting back there.
54:09
And then a control room is not really a closed.
54:12
Control room like a lot of Studios traditionally
54:16
would have that can be problematic.
54:18
If you're worried about sounds bleeding into each
54:20
other's microphones but it's okay.
54:23
If you're trying to get a performance from everyone.
54:26
This is really beautiful.
54:27
And I can see your your frame picture of Don Rickles
54:29
which is important. It's important.
54:32
In every artistic venture there should be.
54:34
There's a Don Rickles
54:35
and there's a Bob Newhart framed on top of art console.
54:39
Do you ever find it sounds like maybe not
54:40
but do you ever get to a place where your talent
54:42
needs a little jump-start like a little reminder of
54:44
why you love this stuff and if so what do you do?
54:52
I don't feel like it's so deeply ingrained
54:56
in my idea of Who I am.
55:01
I don't necessarily feel like my talent
55:03
needs a jump start my ego definitely is less
55:09
consistent you know
55:11
and I feel like that's good.
55:13
I feel like it's kind of
55:15
been helpful to me to be restless and dissatisfied.
55:20
So you want more so than you do more kind of..
55:22
Right yeah I'd love it if you made one great thing.
55:25
And you were really happy with it
55:26
and everybody loved it and then you felt like
55:29
you were great because that you did that
55:31
the rest of your life.
55:33
That was my original model was all my neurosis
55:35
would go away.
55:35
If I just write a book and it actually got worse.
55:38
Exactly now you have to make something
55:41
that competes with something everybody
55:42
already told you they like.
55:44
[laughing]
55:45
Right you are almost sure to fail.
55:47
Yeah it's impossible.
55:48
Yeah I think both the memoir
55:51
and the album if I'm reading correctly are full
55:54
of this incredible familial warmth
55:56
that pursues you and your kids can you talk about
55:59
the way that has sustained you over the years.
56:02
And what at this point no after the the kids
56:04
are pretty much grown.
56:05
I really credit my wife with that
56:09
being the case that I'm that I'm 50 years old
56:12
and I have a marriage that has stayed together
56:15
and two kids that like to hang out with us
56:19
this little young men.
56:20
Amazing one.
56:21
Yeah and really smart and thoughtful people
56:26
and it is a family that likes to spend
56:29
a lot of time together.
56:31
On one hand Susie one of the big things Susie did
56:35
that I'd never experienced was we ate meals together.
56:40
You know it's like it's very simple.
56:42
It's as simple as that
56:44
you know I actually that when you were
56:46
saying what what could we do about how
56:49
what the hell is happening and like
56:52
we got more people eating meals together.
56:54
I think things would be but much better
56:56
and to me a rock concert just kind of like
56:59
eating a certain type of meal together.
57:00
You know my family ate
57:03
I would picked up from school we drive through
57:05
the McDonald's drive-through.
57:06
My mom would dropped me off back at home
57:08
and she'd go back to work.
57:10
And we even on Thanksgiving it would be
57:13
go make yourself a plate.
57:15
All day long you go make yourself a plate.
57:18
Suzie the first time we went to my folks house
57:21
for Thanksgiving. She was like what the hell does that
57:23
mean what do they mean make yourself a plate.
57:26
It means that the food is ready
57:28
if you want to eat and you like you mean
57:31
we're not gonna sit down together.
57:32
So that was a real revelation
57:34
and it really it should be like in
57:35
my opinion rule number one for anybody that
57:38
has a family you know.
57:40
Like you would never find out a lot of the things
57:43
you find out about your kids
57:44
without putting yourself in proximity.
57:48
You know it's just not gonna come up.
57:50
Collectible proximity.
57:51
So then yeah every night.
57:53
I mean that met her she's a force of nature.
57:55
I think she's impressive and wonderful and artful.
57:59
Know this is the way it's gonna be
58:03
because only an idiot would not want to do it
58:05
like the right do you mean you're gonna go eat
58:07
in the basement come here.
58:09
Come here with us.
58:10
So they really benefited from her strength
58:14
and her ability to kind of show me the way
58:18
from behavior that I didn't have modeled for me.
58:21
And then the other thing is that for all of the problems
58:24
and flaws that my parents had and for like the problems
58:30
that my brothers had.
58:31
And the distance I'm naturally inclined
58:35
to feeling like wanting to get along with my family.
58:37
You know one thing to be connected
58:40
and loving my family they just like think that
58:43
you know that's on not a unusual thing at all.
58:47
But it's been kept really separate from rock
58:50
for a long time because the rock was built
58:53
on this generational divide and the generation
58:55
gap as being a defining characteristic.
58:58
And it's extremely to me extremely counter
59:03
productive to think that you could have
59:06
a youth revolution without allowing yourself
59:12
with an older generation.
59:16
Yeah I think that's one of things that
59:17
that's in your work that is really..
59:20
Actually it's radical because the idea
59:22
that someone would be completely edgy.
59:28
And also at the same time completely open
59:31
to the idea that love is all you got
59:33
and family of course is important
59:35
that's for me it's been really meaningful
59:37
and I'm grateful. Oh thanks.
59:39
Yeah I think it's there's a lot of nihilism
59:41
and like a punk rocker stuff that
59:43
I grew up with and a lot of it's not a lot of
59:45
damage like you've done the damage
59:47
to the idea of like being able to play
59:49
your instruments it's done damage
59:51
to this notion of getting along with older people
59:54
or you know there's a lot of anger.
59:57
And things that are difficult to control
00:00
and harness in a positive way.
00:02
And I don't know what the point is
00:04
if you're not going to make an effort
00:07
to do something positive.
00:09
I read one critique it was an Irish journalist
00:12
but she was saying that the niallism that started
00:15
in art is kind of a dead end.
00:16
And actually what's happening on the far right
00:18
is they're turning it on us a bit
00:20
because if the only sort of cool artistic stance
00:23
is to disregard and distrust and sneer then
00:26
that's the one position you can't critique.
00:28
When somebody starts sneering in
00:31
discarding the truth you can't possibly
00:33
resist him and be cool.
00:35
So this is sort of opening a door for another way
00:37
of thinking about art.
00:38
Yeah Susie had a rock Club for years
00:41
in Chicago lounge acts and it was really enlightening.
00:46
We were like I never gave you a third musical
00:49
experience.
00:50
So this would be my third musical experience
00:52
that I think really transformed me.
00:54
And that is like I always assumed that
00:56
the bands that I bought records by that we're
00:59
like super gnarly like intense almost
01:04
demonic sounding or you know like
01:07
just the edgiest scariest bands.
01:10
They'd always be the sweetest guys.
01:12
It always come in and sit down
01:14
and end up being friends with them
01:16
even though I would always assume that
01:19
they would never like a band that played sort
01:21
of country music or whatever.
01:23
[laughing]
01:24
And that was wrong too you know
01:25
because I never really ended up meeting very
01:28
many musicians that I felt were very good
01:30
that didn't have a pretty broad appreciation
01:33
of other people's music.
01:34
Even if they seemed very specialized
01:37
and dug into their particular genre
01:40
they generally they're pretty into music you know
01:45
so that was really enlightening.
01:47
I really love that idea that this guy
01:49
ended up talking to him and he's like
01:51
singing about you know babies being ripped apart
01:54
or so and that's an expression it's cathartic thing
01:59
that they're doing.
01:59
That you know but they collect stamps
02:02
and they're really into you know talking
02:06
about I don't know Joseph Campbell
02:09
or something like that.
02:10
You know like they have a broad palette
02:13
of things they're interested in.
02:14
They just selected to do it in that one way.
02:16
And then and as we got older like a lot of them
02:18
have you know really nice families.
02:21
Really wonderful families and really loving
02:25
commitments to their spouses.
02:27
And I like normal people doing
02:29
extraordinary things with there time.
02:32
This has been so much fun.
02:33
Thank you.
02:34
Thank you always great to talk to you George.
02:37
Me too.