Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
We did some songs where we tried to bring something new to them. Mainly you just imagine what you would personally want to hear, and then try to make it happen. Having the best musicians in town certainly helps. You toss out an idea to them, and generally they’ll come back at you with an even better one. I had a thought one night as I was about to go to sleep, that personally, I would love to hear a trio of Jack Black, Mike Patton, and myself, perform “Everything’s Alright” from “Jesus Christ Superstar”. That’s the type of recording I think the world could use more of.
The next day I asked these gentlemen about it, and they were willing to take part. In a very short time, Erik had put together a basic track, which we sent off to the United Kingdom to the incomparable musical genius Rabbit Bundrick to work on further. And then over a series of additional sessions with additional musicians and vocalists back here in the United States, the track was eventually completed to everyone’s satisfaction. It is very satisfying to see something go from a fantasy to a reality in a short span of time. Ask the astronauts—anyone involved with NASA or who has walked on the moon. They’ll tell you the same thing.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
The best time is always going to be when you are in warm water. Even just washing the dishes. You just have to have paper nearby to write the ideas down, and the worry there is that it will get wet and the ink will blur.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
It’s great to have some inspiration. A live audience will do that for you. In the studio, for a few of the tracks on this record, we brought in a little group of people, friends of ours, to be our audience, in the hopes that it would liven things up, as far as the mood. You don’t want to be singing to a brick wall, where there’s no give and take going on.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
Well, you have to do the best you can with what you are given. If we knew we would have access to certain sounds and instruments and musicians, I think that would be an inspiration. You are going to have better ideas knowing you have a Rabbit Bundrick or a Petra Haden or a Probyn Gregory behind you to carry them out, than if all you have at your disposal is some dumb hippie with a fife.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
If you have a song about the troubles that one is facing in life, palpable anxiety and nausea can lead to a great vocal performance. I would not want to sing a song about a fun dance party if I felt I was about to throw up. It would come out very unconvincing!
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
No, but I can tell you that there’s a lot of art in this new record, and that we were not screwing around.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
IS it still intact? I’m hearing a lot of very sterile, unpleasant music that is really debilitating to have to listen to. I think we would all welcome a return to the era where you had a singer sincerely attempting to connect to the lyrics of a song, for better or for worse. The last thing I want to see is some drug-fucked crumb-bum jumping up onto a table and shaking his fool ass around while what sounds like a computer glitch blares out over an endless sea of losers. Or these singers who approach singing like some sort of athletic contest.