As someone who has based most of his life on keeping tabs on Stephen Malkmus, I feel pretty safe in saying that we are in the midst of the greatest Malkmus press onslaught ever.
He’s making the rounds with the Tuesday release of “Mirror Traffic,” his new album with backing band the Jicks. Maybe he did just as many interviews during Pavement’s heyday, but back then you had to spend money to buy all those magazines. Now we have countless Malkmus witticisms at our fingertips.
Almost all of the interviews hit on the same major topics, with Malkmus offering slight variations of the same answer when asked about how it was working with Beck (it was chill), the Pavement reunion (pretty chill), his lyrical approach (also pretty chill, with some pronunciation issues) and the tale behind naming the album “Mirror Traffic”(not so chill; lawyers and hair metal bands were invovled).
I’ve combed through a baker’s dozen worth of interviews and picked out the best quotes from each. Some are funny, some are incisive, some are pointless. Complete the metaphor yourself.
“We found this one porno from 20 years ago and all these "CSI" episodes. I don't know who taped them; well, the porno was mine, but "CSI” — I'm not that kind of guy.”
“I don't know what to say about the legacy overall, except that a certain strata of middle-class hipsters [laughs] share Pavement, and that's great. "Hipsters" doesn't have to be a pejorative or about trend-jumping, either. I wouldn't want to be called a hipster, but there's nothing really wrong with it. To me, it can be just about exploring, or an openness to finding the best things.”
“To me, rock lyrics are projection, a revenge fantasy, a fantastical pose, an imagined victory … For me, it’s what can I get over on the world, and sometimes it’s just joking around. Humor is important, really important. It’s the only inroad to the mainstream that someone like me could make.”
On whether marijuana enhances sex or ruins it: “I don't smoke weed anymore, but it could be pretty good, as long as you weren't paranoid. Marijuana is so powerful these days I think I'd have to go to the psychological ER. I'd be fried.”
(Much more after the jump.)
On Pavement’s 2010 reunion: “It didn’t feel entirely real somehow because it was a recreation of past events in a certain way for a nostalgia trip. Knowing it was so temporary meant it was like winning the lottery or winning some kind of free trip around the world, where you go on it and then it is over – but in a good way. It was sort of like a fantasy camp.”
“Comedies are definitely the best thing to watch on planes. I watched one with Owen Wilson. He got, like, a hall pass, so he could cheat on his wife, but then it had a good message.”
“I'm proud of everything that we did in Pavement. That was ten of my prime years. I wouldn't want to just throw those years away. When you're 28, when you're a baseball player, that's supposed to be your magic year -- you score your most home runs, you're the fastest -- and then you trail off slightly after that.”
“I could take initiative and release stuff online. But I still like the missive from my artists. I like to see that they really took the time. Like this is what they have to say for this year, instead of constantly releasing music, like on a blog or something. But it's all changing. I have to take down this CD rack that I've had for 10 years. I had to decide whether I needed it or not. And I probably don't need 300 CDs.”
On lyrics: “You don't want them to melt in so much that they just sound like background nothingness. You also don't want them to be like a dialogue, just somebody talking about their [expletive] on top of it all. Mark E Smith, he can survive doing that. He can talk about his [expletive] and it sounds great. His thing is a backing track, a band plodding or menacing away and he's on top, 'YA YA YA YA YA!' But for me, I'm a guitar player and it's all got to have a bit of west coast flow.”
“I was looking at this advert in a magazine for this festival, it looked like a cool festival. It’s one where Björk’s headlining … We’re not playing it this year, but we might next year. I started scanning and I was like ‘we’re gonna be right THERE. There’s Graham Coxon, we’re gonna be right… probably two above where his name is, or something, judging by the names… regardless of how good or well-received our album is. That’s where we’re gonna be.’ It’s like, that’s where you stand. It’s pretty funny. Those festival charts are the most incredible class systems.”
“I like playing live and I appreciate people coming to see us ... but it’s an "Is this really my life?" kind of thing. I’m admitting this is my life. I’m a rock lifer. This is what we do -- we play in Minneapolis on Oct. 23 every three years.”
“I play in a softball league here in Portland. It’s pretty serious, too, for a bunchof non-athletic people. I'm not good or anything. It’s just easy to hit the softball. It’s so big.”
“Unfortunately the Jicks songs are too difficult to play behind my head or fall to my knees so often. I end up looking down more often than I’d like. But those Pavement ones are in these totally remedial tunings, and I know ’em so well I can just play them with my eyes closed. That allowed me to have some fun playing the guitar, which I like. That was more showmanship, but I’ve been playing more, y’know, considered guitar for a pretty long time. Since [2003’s] Pig Lib people have been throwin’ that [expletive] around.”
And a bonus quote from Janet Weiss, former drummer of the Jicks and Sleater-Kinney and curent drummer of Wild Flag: “I don’t think Steve Malkmus gets wildly excited about much except fantasy sports. He did invent slacker.”