Imaginary Scoop Pavement Stephen Malkmus

Malkmus Interview: You're the Maker of Modern Minor Masterpieces for the Untrained Eye

The potential for greatness was all here, but it didn't quite deliver. Two rock stars talking about rock and roll- slam dunk, right? Not so much…

Ian Svenonius of VBS.TV's Soft Focus interviewed Stephen Malkmus in a 4-part interview that was, in a word, abtruse. Intervewer and interviewee seemed out of synch for much of the piece, which made for a frustrating viewing. Even their physical presences seemed at odds– Malkmus appeared as serene as the Blessed Virgin Mary (perhaps with some liquid or herbal assistance), while Svenonius appeared twitchy, distracted, and almost manic at times

The line of questioning was bizarre, disconnected, at times inane, and it seemed several times as though Malkmus wasn't allowed to finish his thought before Svenonius was onto a completely new and unrelated topic. Many of the questions were excellent, and it would have been really interesting to hear Malkmus' full response, were he allowed to give it. One could see on a couple of occasions the confusion that would cross Malkmus' face during a particularly strange line of questioning.


Svenonius: Because so many films about the south were filmed in Stockton where you grew up, do you feel this influenced the Southern qualities of your music?

Malkmus looked genuinely perplexed at this particular moment, but somehow managed a coherent response that playing in Virginia helped with that, as did Southern groups like REM, etc.

All in all, the interview was an interesting glimpse into Malkmus' way of thinking, and proved him to be an intelligent person with a wry, fun sense of humor. At the end of the interview, he said with a sly smile, "Do you want to know why I have socks tied around my knees?" (Which appeared to have never occured to Svenonius) and replied that he and his daughter play dress up and thought it would be really fun to do for the interview. In closing, he said "All I do is pick up children and play guitar anymore…," a charming thought to entertain after listening to something like "I Wanna Mess You Around."

Click here for the interview.


Part 1: Discussion of musical influences and scenes.

Part 2: Disappointing discussion of the meaning of "indie" (a question he probably gets a LOT though). Does not like David Bowie. Does not like John Cale's violas and Warhol involvement in the Velvet Underground. Says of Cale "Maybe he should work behind a desk (meaning he's a better producer)." Discussion of fine art (another disappointing topic that Svenonius kind of derailed).

Part 3: Discussion of whether or not Pavement and the Jicks "shred or rock?" Explored the idea of shredding being a "pejorative term." Described the Jicks' sound as "melodic west coast with bent notes." Claims to be "out of touch with underappreciated bands."

Part 4: Discussed move to Portland, being a basketball fan. Said "No one in the NBA has a Jicks album. Steve Nash should, but he probably likes Maroon 5 or something." Mentions with pleasure Manute Boll is a Pavement fan and called to tell him so. 

iPod Roulette Pavement Stephen Malkmus

"Unseen Power of the Picket Fence" by Pavement

Well, even though my iBook is out-of-commission, the Spins will try to muster on (even if this lab computer only has Safari, so don't expect any fancy things like "italics" or "links"). Especially today when I got a gem of song. I find it odd that considering the vast ouevre of Pavement that my favorite song by the band is from the relatively forgotten compilation No Alternative. The song is classic noisy Pavement and the whole darn song is about … R.E.M. It is a sonic love-letter to the Georgia band right down to track-by-track desriptions of R.E.M. albums like Reckoning and fun profiles of the band ("the singer, he had long hair and the drummer, he knew restraint/and the bassman, he had all the right moves and the guitar player was no saint.") If that's not enough, Pavement then goes on to do a little revisionist history by asking us to go "way back to the ancient times when there were no 50 states" and who makes the last stand in Georgia against the North and Sherman? R.E.M.! Take that warriors of Northern aggression! You are no match to R.E.M.!

iPod Roulette Johnny Cash Matthew Sweet Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Stephen Malkmus

"Ghostriders in the Sky" by Johnny Cash

Looks like after seeing his house burn down, Mr. Cash decided to make an appearance on the Spin (although with a least a hundred Cash songs on my iPod, its not too surprising). This song comes from the "middle period" of Cash's career when he was playing up the old-school country aspect, like a tough Kenny Rogers or the like. However, listening to this got me thinking. Johnny Cash really became a bonafide legend when he made his big comeback with Rick Rubin on American Recordings, so who, these days, is likely to pull off such a stunt 20, 30 years down the road? I mean, it is a little hard to compare considering that Johnny Cash first became famous in a completely different era of music – rock was just starting and they're went that many rock stars in the first place. So who could return to their roots, stripped down by a future Bearded One, to resurrect their career?

It's tough. Some of my best guesses so far: Nick Cave (maybe its the vocal similarities), Matthew Sweet (if he just got simple again), Chris Isaak? (Is this a good thing?), see, it's a little hard.

Then, with the second song of the day, it hit me. Stephen Malkmus! Of course, he's no where near as popular as Cash even at Cash's lowest point, but listening to "1% of One", it struck me that in 2030, you stick Malkmus in a studio with a guitar and let him record like Cash did for Rubin and, well, the results might be career restoring (if Malkmus isn't a superstar then – I'm not holding my breath).

Any other ideas for who could pull off even a tenth of the comeback that Mr. Cash did? (email them to me! erik <at>