A couple of weeks back, I was tipsily type-thinking out loud on the BackstageRider Facebook page about how cool it would be if we had a column in which you asked questions and cool indie rockers answered them. I tagged my friends Bob from Pavement and Mike Doughty (formerly of Soul Coughing, now of the solo universe) in the post, and thought one could do a column one month, the other the next month.
It was genius. Double team action! Comedy gold! Who will be the Abbott? Who will be the Costello? Who would be the Morecombe? Who would be the Wise? I think it’s obvious. I now present two of my most favourite musicians and people on the planet, united in Hipster AdviceLand. Here are the best questions culled from emails, Twitter and FB, now with answers. Read on, Macduff…
Bob & Mike – my mom wouldn’t let me see Joe Strummer live around 1996 because I was 13 at the time and she didn’t want me out on a school night. He died and I never got to see him. My question is… is my mom a horrible person? – Chris, New York, NY
MIKE: Chris, I didn’t want to tell you this before, but your Mom is an awful, wretched person. She is a walking cloud of dismay. I always thought she was a different person at home, but, alas, I was–apparently–wrong. In “Coma Girl,” J Strummer sang, “The oil drums were beating out / du-lang, du-lang.” (That was a non-sequitur)
BOB: Yes, she is. However, from what I heard, you didn’t miss much.
BOB: I love The Raincoats, PJ Harvey, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Eux Autres, Belle and Sebastian, Heart, Zeitgeist, Bratmobile, Unwound, En Vogue, Antietam, The Delgados, Salt-N-Pepa. That’s all I could think of in 3 minutes.
MIKE: Hey Aubrey. Do you think you’re better than us because you’re Norwegian? WELL HA HA WHO’S LAUGHING NOW? Sorry, Aubrey, I realize your worldview is purely egalitarian, but once I got beat up in Stockholm. And YES AUBREY I KNOW THAT’S IN SWEDEN. Miho Hatori makes me sigh like an exhausted radiator. Also, Brandy, who is my devoted wife in a secret universe. Oh! And that one girl from Fannypack. (though I really need a woman in her thirties, younger women look, to me, distressingly, like, as my friend Jonathan Maron says, “unbaked bread,” and women who aren’t girls but women tend to–just like all adults–be weeded out of the band-joining pack).
You know, I wish I could think of more–there definitely are more, I’m just not coming up with the names–as it would publicly send a signal balloon to the musician in question. Addendum: wow, have I ever dreamed of stumbling upon a beautiful and charming woman who’s a killing drummer, and would love to read to me–and have read to her–post-gig, aloud, the poems of John Ashberry. In Best Westerns throughout America. We would also DO IT.
Van Halen is reportedly going to release its first album with David Lee Roth since 1984. Does this fill you with joy, horror, or complete neutrality? – Lucas, Vancouver, BC
MIKE: The notion of reunions fills me with creepy unease. I fear that I’ll be forced to reunite Soul Coughing at knifepoint. I’d rather get a job hosing down the parking lot at Arby’s. (Bob, I hope you don’t take that as a bad vibe, I definitely don’t mean it that way–clearly you guys had a different thing going down than was the miserable grind of my old band’s life)
BOB: Mildly intrigued at best–I hope they don’t play the Super Bowl.
What is the best way to prove your love to someone special? – Kimmy, Holland, MI
BOB: Cook for them with care on a steady basis. When he or she is ill, homemade chicken soup is a loving food.
MIKE: Facebook has made it really easy to ask somebody out. You don’t have to ask for her number! As long as you learn her last name–or if she’s a friend of a friend you can search their friend-arsenal for her–you can casually breeze by, determine availableness, drop her a line. Oh, wait, though, Kimmy–you were asking how to PROVE it. I have no proof. If there’s a Vancouver-based blog about statisticians, or the applied sciences, I suggest you seek advice there.
If you could give one piece of advice to my highschool self (chunky, bespectacled, bowl haircut, slapping stickers all over my epi SG), what would it be? – Devon, Vancouver, BC
MIKE: Were I you, I’d go back in time, teach your [former] self the chords to Hoobastank’s “The Reason,” and then return to the future, so you could polish the Grammy on your endtable. Note: when you said “Epi SG,” I thought you meant not a guitar but some brand of epi-pen meant for the emergency treatment of anaphylaxis.
BOB: To quote the aforementioned En Vogue, “Be yourself and the rest will follow”.
If you met YOU 20 years from now, what would you ask him? Or would you just awkwardly watch him as he akwardly watched you? James, Fresno, CA
BOB: I’d be real happy he was living. I don’t think it would be awkward–probably just logical. Flames rising from burning wood in trash can.
MIKE: I would tell myself how handsome I was. It would be a lie, but don’t I have a right to happiness?
Should I get a cat? Do they like acoustic guitars and recording studios? – Dave, London, England
MIKE: If your guitar is marked with that this-is-mine cat-spray-scent, then, when you play shows, other cats may dislike you intensely. Whether the cat’s spiritual this-is-mine spray will become imbued in your recordings is an intriguing question. When I was twelve, our cat would curl up around the boombox when I played the cassette of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Psycho-Candy.” I suspect the album’s mix held a certain frequency of cat-soothing lower midrange, but perhaps it was recorded in the presence of canaries.
BOB: No, you shouldn’t. Get a corgi. I knew a mongrel in Hull, UK (Adelphi Club) that slept on stage next to the kick drum during loud band’s performances. Not that that has a thing to do with animals listening to Cat Stevens.
I have a fake eye and I would like Hollywood, television, comedy, and fiction in general to stop using wonky eyes as an over-simple device to create “weird” characters and easy jokes. What should i do about it? .-) – Bob, Vancouver, BC
BOB: I’m afraid there’s nothing you can do about it. It is tacky and cheap but you can rise above.
MIKE: Bob, I’m afraid I really have no idea. Be comfortable with yourself, and laugh off the ignorance of others. They are dumb and also bad. Not incidentally, if I had a fake eye, I’d have a super-freeze-ray installed in it.
Would you prefer me to hit on the cute hipster girl during your song or while you’re talking in between them? – Mark, Los Angeles, CA
MIKE: Hey Mark? You are such a swell fellow. It’s not that I don’t enjoy all the wonderful, insightful things you have to say, but if your purpose is to talk to people, perhaps you could GO SOMEWHERE WHERE OTHER PEOPLE AREN’T LISTENING TO MUSIC. You might be shocked to learn that there are places like that! Also with drinks, just like rock clubs! And people! Speaking! Are you, perhaps, the guy in the Kangol whom I shoved against a wall for babbling at top voice during a Magnetic Fields show? Do you know of this recent invention that the children are calling ‘whispering’? Also, because you were wearing a Kangol, are you LL Cool J?
BOB: Leave them alone. It won’t work.
Dear Bob and Mike: Outside my condo is a duck with what I’m pretty sure is the duck version of Tourettes disease. Quacking randomly. Everytime I hear him quacking I think he’s swearing. And I laugh at him. Does that mean I’m insensitive to duck mental health problems? Lizz, Calgary, AB
BOB: Absolutely not–it means you have a glorious sense of humor and love animals.
MIKE: Lizz, this is more or less how I feel about the haunting, repetitive drawings–rendered, sometimes, on unused examining-table paper from doctors’ offices–of Martín Ramírez. Went to see an exhibit–boundless iterations of caballeros, trains, men at desks, repeating structures in the shape of the St. Louis arch. So arresting. He passed away in a mental institution near Sacramento in 1963. I also feel strange about loving Daniel Johnston and Wesley Willis, and being captivated by the breathtaking, meticulous, hilarious puzzle of an art piece that Ray Johnson made of his suicide. Why is it different, if we respond to the disquieted spirits in the work of Rimbaud, or Paul Celan, or Basquiat, or Hank Williams, that we should find the art of the mentally ill–there’s a Chicago museum that calls it (and other kinds of so-called outsider art) “intuitive art”–beautiful? But it is different. Somehow I can disconnect this question from myself when I’m rapt, delighted, listening to D Johnston’s “Chord Organ Blues” on the train.
I live in a tall building so I take a long elevator ride every day. Most everyone in the building is normal, we say ‘hello’ and ‘have a good day’ and maybe sometimes have a short conversation. However, there’s a one guy that ALWAYS has to talk about nothing when he’s sharing a ride with you. If I’m not holding something for him to discuss, he has actually bottomed out with “So….Blue shirt, huh?” What I would like to do is to say “We don’t have to have a chat every single time – your small talk is microscopic and makes me wanna die” but I’m going to have to keep seeing him – he’s a neighbor. What should I do? – Dan, Winnipeg
MIKE: My friend Andy from college liked to say, randomly, to strangers, “Sometimes my stool is black and tarry.” Also barking out a one-man round of “Row Row Row Your Boat” tends to terminate interpersonal discourse. And, admit it, though you might not be a committed Proclaimers fan, you’ve probably had the urge to suddenly cry out TA DA DUN DA! Have you heard Mongolian throat-singing? Bursting out with a booming BAAAUUUUUURRRRRHHHHHHHUUUUAAAAAARRRRHHHH will end the pleasantries briskly–but don’t try it without a sincere affection for the culture of the Mongolian people.
Sidebar: did you know that the yurts that Mongolian nomads live in aren’t called yurts, but gers? A less comic word. It’s made it impractical for me to breezily proclaim that I’m dropping out of society to go live in a yurt in Mongolia. Actually, I really want to go to Mongolia–you can get there BY TRAIN from Moscow! How magical and weird! One drawback is that it offends the Mongolians to refuse an offer of fermented (hence, alcoholic) camel’s milk. The majesty of the steppes of Central Asia are a poor choice of venue for a relapse.
BOB:That is a nightmare especially when battling a hangover. My advice would be to throw this guy off by starting the conversation yourself. That way, you seize control and can blather about whatever you want. Or, you could always get off at the same floor every time on the way down (as if making a quick stop at a friend’s) and catch the next one.
Is it cool to wear a band t-shirt to a show of a band that’s not playing, because aren’t you really saying ‘I don’t like your band, but I do like this band’? – Giselle, Vancouver, BC
BOB: Not at all — you’ve already shown your support by attending. Wear whatever you want.
MIKE: One great development of modern life is that it’s no longer gauche to wear the t-shirt of a band you don’t actually listen to. You can choose a promotional garment based on factors of graphic interest and ease of wearability. In my high school, you also had to have actually seen the band live, and bought the t-shirt AT THE SHOW NOT AT THE MALL BEFORE OR AFTER THE CONCERT. We were sometimes compelled to spin a convoluted web of lies as a means of justifying wardrobe choices. That’s not right. Personally, it’s never made sense to me that someone would wear a t-shirt with my name on it to one of my shows, as your presence has already convinced me that you enjoy the music. But I do understand it, as –and I truly mean this non-sardonic-ly –there is a deep-rooted human urge for brand loyalty. From my particular performer’s point of view–it can be interesting to wear another band’s shirt, like, “Hmm, you also like the Cali Swag District, I would not have guessed an affinity.” Of course, my personal shirt universe is weird because it’s my NAME, not a band name, which–in its way–is more akin to Adidas, the Kansas City Royals, or the Rhode Island School of Design.
How do you deal with the yahoo who keeps screaming out the request to play your most popular song right from the start of the show? Steve, Edmonton, AB
MIKE: I’ll say one of these things:
Often, dudeman is insatiable. So it goes like this:
Dudeman: SONG TITLE!
Me: I just said I wasn’t gonna play it/I’m gonna play it later. But, try yelling it again, maybe I’ll change my mind.
Dudeman: SONG TITLE!
Me: Hmm. Nope. Try yelling it again, maybe I’ll change my mind.
Dudeman: SONG TITLE!
Me: Nope. Try yelling it again, etc.
Dudeman: (ceases, hopefully laughing)
BOB: I hand that guy a beer.
What’s your favourite Vancouver-based music blog and why? – Mikala, Vancouver
MIKE: I’m partial to dear_vancouver_mike_doughty_wants_to_know_your_darkest_auditory_secrets.ca. It’s the “Uncle Vanya” of Vancouver-based music blogs.
BOB: Backstagerider.com; it’s fun to hang out with Mikala. \m/
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