1.) What were your Top 10 Albums released in 2012? Please list them in order of preference, from first to last, and also feel free to write 1-3 sentences on each album.
This probably isn’t the answer you’re looking for, but to be honest I didn’t listen to a heck of a lot of music this year. Unfortunately, that wasn’t entirely by choice. I spent most of April helping a buddy customize his Silverado. If you know me, you know I’ve never been much of a truck guy; they can’t do jack on the highway, and if I want the payload, that’s what my Bobcat is for. Hell, get a Gator and you’re essentially set, with maybe a quarter of the upkeep and maintenance. That said, this guy’s actually my sister’s ex-fiancee, and even though it wasn’t in the cards for them, we’ve remained decent friends. Honestly, he (Scott)—who I’ve known since high school—has never had a ton of work ethic, and I figured giving him a hand was a win-win; I have a couple Polaris machines in storage for the winter that I’ve been dragging my feet on modding, and this Chevy gig seemed like a good opportunity to dust off the Ryobi. Little did I know, at the time, that I would have been better off keeping her in the garage. As a result of some pretty unrelenting impact wrench work, I’ve sustained substantial sensorineaural hearing loss. My wife and I have been talking with specialists at HSDC and UW Medical Center; for the time being, it is what it is. Of course, Scott felt terrible and has been trying to kick down whatever he can for clinical visits, etc. Let’s put it in perspective, though: this guy works three and a half shifts a week (tops), out back at Lowe’s. Obviously, he has to look out for his new lady and their one-year-old and I get that. And I’m happy to own most of the responsibility anyway. I was going through my own stuff at the time (fairly textbook “royalties vs. studio debt” stuff, which my wife was riding my ass pretty hard on) and was drinking heavily during the project. I definitely could have been more on top of it with ear protection, scheduled breaks, and whatnot. At this point we’re just taking it one day at a time and scrambling to figure out what this means for touring in 2013.
2.) What was the highlight of, 2012 for either you personally or for the band?
My wife and I welcomed our second into this world. James Lee was born on August 18. It was a mixed bag, emotionally. I don’t think it’s compromising too much to tell you there were some paternity questions. My wife and I had been separated for most of 2011 and she was pretty upfront with the fact that she had been seeing other men regularly. I’m not an overwhelmingly jealous person but that’s tough to hear, you know? At the same time, I was no saint, and I’m not just talking about tapping on the road. Obviously there was some of that—not at all like it used to be in my twenties (Kozelek has that new song about how all his hot female fans have been replaced by nerdy thirty-something dudes, and as much shit as he took for that—maybe deservedly so, depending on your point of view—there’s a lot of truth in that assessment) but I would definitely be hooking up (usually not full sex) every second or third night of the fall trip. Anyway, we ended up reconciling right around Christmas. It’s been rough, not knowing, but in a way it doesn’t matter. I’m in a committed partnership and we’re both—at this point—dedicated to raising this family together.
3.) What was the low point of 2012 for you?
I was disappointed in a lot of the live gigs. At the level I’m working at, there are so many pieces in play, and some nights they just didn’t sync. The music end of it was largely fine. For the past couple tours, actually, I’ve been “stealing” most of Mraz’s band (well, for the last one it was just Noel Rivera on percussion and Bruce Hughes on bass, rounded out by some local friends on drums and lead guitar); Jason and I have been friends for the past five or six years—we met at Bumbershoot and I helped demo Love Is a Four Letter Word. There was a little tension when he scrapped our stuff but then ended up using some of my keyboard ideas in the final mix, but that’s mostly water under the bridge now. Point being, the band was great, technically. Unfortunately, you could have Ed Winter backing you up and if the sound is shit, the sound is shit. The venues we played had some almost unbelievably outdated gear. It was a drag. We had rehearsed our butts off and to not get that payoff in the moment is pretty draining, especially when it’s happening night after night. I don’t know. I don’t want to come off as negative. The money was decent, but then you get into issues of top-shelf fees, etc. which is boring—and frustrating— for me to think about, let alone your readers.
4.) What are your hopes and plans for 2013?
I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag prematurely, but there might be an emphasized sea change in how I relate to music. It’s not a secret—at least not in the northwest—that I’ve partnered on a restaurant in Ballard. Nothing that’s going to set the world on fire, but above average surf and turf that your average middle- to upper-middle class couple can actually afford. Honestly, I haven’t been incredibly involved since I joined in mid-2009, but that’s exactly where there’s room to grow. Most recently I’ve been giving my “two cents” on seasonal specials and menu layout—typical bullshit, from-the-top-down calls that mean squat to the board. At the same time, it’s way, way more hands on than I’ve ever been. Point being, I would not be entirely surprised if two, three years from now this is where 90% of my creative and professional energies sit.
5.) To what extent did the poor world economy affect your ability to make a reasonable living as an artist in 2012?
We were solvent. The deck definitely got shuffled, though. A couple overseas appearances were shelved and one domestic leg was postponed. At the same time, I saw an uptick in a few film placements, so go figure. And, Christ, I know it’s blasphemy, especially in the wake of Lowery’s rant, but I’ve been a huge supporter of sites like Pandora and Spotify from day one. This might date me, but I was pro-Soulseek, too, for what it’s worth. Am I seeing huge online dividends? Obviously not. But by currying favor with these sites, I’m putting myself in a position to remain afloat when the industry final Titanics once and for all. It’s coming, that’s for sure.
6.) What are your thoughts on the 2012 U.S. presidential election?
I think Rock nailed it in that recent New Yorker profile. Here’s a guy from Detroit, hip hop, etc. Different worlds, sure. But his point about bringing himself up, making a little coin in the game, and how he now wants to make sure that paper’s protected…I don’t know. It made sense. And I think you’ll find a lot of legitimate artists—and no I’m not talking One Direction, Mumford and Sons, Radiohead, Taylor Swift bullshit—who were in the same camp, backing Romney. Sure, maybe they didn’t have the chance (or wouldn’t have, if they had) to come out like Rock and back Romney in some liberal rag, but believe me, they’re out there. What happened happened and that’s fine—politics don’t come into my life as often as you might think on a day to day basis.
7.) Steve Albini criticized Amanda Palmer for recruiting musicians to play in her backing band for free. Was he right to do this and was Palmer right to change her mind and pay her musicians?
Why does Steve Albini care what Amanda Palmer does? I certainly don’t, and for the record I have never once paid my musicians. It’s ridiculous. I thought the reason we all lived in America was to have the freedom to live the way we wanted to live. I know for one thing that my cousin David did not bomb Kosovo so that Steve Albini could write a P.O.S. blog about who should and shouldn’t pay who. It’s ridiculous.
8.) What pop culture phenomenon from 2012 would you most like to erase from your memory?
I know I’m a little behind the eight ball on this, but I recently saw that “Throw it on the ground” skit from Saturday Night Live. Oh my God, that is just so fucking annoying.
9.) Were you affected by Hurricane Sandy? Do you think that climate change was partly responsible for the hurricane?
I lease a boat slip in southern Connecticut / Long Island Sound area that was roughed up a little, but other than that I was fine. Climate change is kind of one of those “don’t go there” discussions for me, so I think I’ll plead the fifth. :)
10.) Tell us about the most memorable fan encounter you had this year.
If it’s OK to talk about last year, I would definitely have to say this girl Kris that I met in Richmond. It’s funny because Bruce was actually flirting with her after soundcheck (she worked at the venue) and said something backstage about it. As it turned out, he got some deal going where a buddy of his from Annapolis had driven down with a couple high-end remote control helicopters (I know that sounds stupid or immature or whatever but they were actually a lot of fun and could go really, really fast) so they got into that behind an abandoned FedEx parking structure. Kris was still hanging around, though, so I asked her if she wanted to get some food. Of course—oh the joys of touring—there was nothing open after the gig so we bought a couple sodas from CVS and just walked around 14th Street and Shockoe Slip. I was at a pretty low point with some debt stuff and I can remember how amazing it felt to just talk about it with someone who seemed to not only care but “get it.” We ended up sleeping together later and hooking up again in the morning. I had plans to go back in January but that was right around the time my wife and I were patching things up and trying to move forward together.
11.) What were some of the rejected names for your band?
Well, I’m guessing you know that originally the band was called Microphones. I can’t remember any of the other ideas I had. For some reason I want to say Fun House, but I’m pretty sure that was the name I was going to call this improv group I was trying to get off the ground with some friends at Evergreen. This was a long time ago, when I was splitting time between music and theater. Obviously I was studying, too (and working part-time at the student bookstore), but what I mean is that my “artistic” pursuits were multifaceted. This is crazy to think about, but a lot of my first “songs” were pieces I had put together for drama stuff we were working on in and around Olympia.
12.) Tell us about your first kiss.
This will be a disappointment, I’m sure, because it’s definitely not sexy or whatever. I was seventeen and spending the summer in a place called Guemes. It’s a small island in Skagit County, just north of Anacortes, where I grew up. I was helping a friend of my uncle, who was building a three-season cabin. I don’t want to print his name; I’ll just call him Jeff for the purposes of telling the story. Jeff’s daughter—again, not her real name, but for privacy, etc. I’ll refer to her as Kate—was hanging around with some of her friends from Western. I think she had just finished her freshman or sophomore year there. Her boyfriend of the time (I think they were together) ended up getting me into a lot of cool music and even took me and my younger brother to our first concert (Jane’s Addiction) in Seattle. Anyway, I totally had a thing for Kate but, like I said, she was hanging out with this other guy. And he was cool, too, which made it even more difficult. So, as you can imagine, nothing happened with her, but another one of her friends—who was not as cool as Kate, but still pretty cool—kind of had a thing for me and we ended up hooking up one night. It was not much, mostly just kissing and I tried to finger her a little (obviously I had no idea what I was doing) but that was it.
13.) Would you survive a zombie apocalypse? Explain.
I know it’s a joke question—and I hope it goes without saying that I don’t believe in zombies, etc.—but I am actually pretty well outfitted for whatever shit comes our way in the next ten to fifteen years. My dad helped me turn this shed on my property (the former owners had a pottery studio in there) into a decent survival shelter of sorts. It doesn’t hurt that my wife’s always been pretty OCD about having extra canned goods and water on hand (it’s funny that you mention Sandy, because even though we were, what, 3,000 miles away, my wife was still freaking out about it) so we’re set on that end. In terms of arms, I’m laced up. I don’t know if you can print this so if you need to cut it I won’t be offended, but for any fellow Ditto-heads out there who are interested, this is my basic “fiver” set up: Remington 870 12ga 18” 7-Round, 200 Rounds of 00 Buckshot, 100 Slugs, 200 Rounds of 6 Shot; Model 19 Glock 9mm 10 Magazines (5: 15 Round, 5: 33 Round), 2000 Rounds of FMJ, 100 Rounds of Black Talons, 200 Rounds of Win Silvertips; Springfield Armory M1A1 .308 (10: 20 Round Magazines), 2000 Rounds FMJ, 200 Rounds “Black Tip” Armor Piercing; Armalite M15A2 5.56/.223 (10: 30 Round Magazines), 2000 Rounds SS109 Penetrator, 2000 Rounds FMJ; Smith and Wesson 686 .357 4”, 100 Rounds Black Talons, 100 Rounds Hornady XTP, 100 Rounds Golden Sabers. I also have a pretty mellow “house arsenal” just for basics: AGM MP40, KWA SR12, CYMA Thompson, CYMA Shotgun, CYMA Glock 18C, HFC Colt .25, UTG L96, Echo 1 MTC, Echo 1 P90. Anyway, I’m not saying I want this to happen, but, yeah, I’m good with whatever goes down (nukes, aliens, some bullshit Obama thing, etc.).