Stephen Malkmus was kind enough to talk to us in the middle of a busy family day. We discussed a few subjects, including Daft Punk and baseball. His wife Jessica really digs Wowee Zowee.
NT: You’ve been writing songs for a long time. Has the process become any easier over the years, or has it gotten a little tougher?
SM: I can’t really say that it gets harder. I mean, there are times when it is tough coming up with lyrics, like I might have to grasp for things. I do sometimes look back at stuff that I have written and think, “I could have definitely done better”. On the whole, I think that the songs tend to come naturally.
NT: Your latest album Wig Out At Jagbags has been described as “an album fearlessly skating all over the landscape of American rock”. Would you consider this an accurate statement?
SM: Yeah, I mean I think it’s fearless for sure. There are quite a few sounds of that are influenced by American artists of the past and bits of information that get crammed into the album. There’s also the influence of British bands that were trying to sound American.
NT: Musically speaking, do you feel we are living in an interesting time?
SM: I mean, I really wouldn’t say that we aren’t. Every era has interesting moments. I’m of the mindset that things that really blew me away came from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. There are certain things today though that are quite interesting. There are elements of hip-hop that are quite creative and come from a real place of integrity.
NT: Many people call you one of the saviours of modern rock, but you reference the Grateful Dead in your music and have recorded a version of Ege Bamyasi by Can, and even some soul influences as well. Do you find yourself discovering older pieces of music which challenge you to create more?
SM: I listen to all kinds of stuff. I genuinely have a soft spot for artists that are under the radar, from like the 60’s and 70’s. It doesn’t always bleed into our music. I try to be myself. You know, I’m really not angry, I’m not from the inner city. So what I write, really comes from an honest place, I try to make honest music. The Rolling Stones sold us some working class blues, I’m not so sure about that.
NT: I know you’re a Daft Punk fan. What do you think has spawned this wave of popularity in french music, Other acts including such as Air, M83, Phoenix, and Justice have all done pretty well for themselves in the past few years.
SM: I do like Daft Punk. The French are very good at curating the music of other cultures. The new Daft Punk album is a curated album. As a country, France doesn’t have a ton of artists that have found success, aside from painters obviously. [Random Access Memory] curated Chic and made it interesting for us and showed how great they really were.
NT: You’ve made more albums with The Jicks, than Pavement, yet you’re still primarily known as the singer from Pavement. Do you feel this takes away from your present work?
SM: Well, I can’t really know for sure what it would be like for The Jicks if there was no Pavement. It was definitely a big in-road for the Jicks. It’s not really something that I give much thought.
NT: I know you’re a baseball fan, and a pretty knowledgeable one as well. I wanted to ask you about your feelings towards the sport these days, especially after the scandals involving Bonds, Clemmons and McGuire.
SM: I don’t have a problem with the whole thing. I would probably legalize steroids [laughs]. Load up! It’s part of the game. Guys really wanted to get an edge, and see how much stats they could produce. I’m interested in the game beyond the box score. Teams like the Mariners who try to buy players for insane amounts of money, and the arbitration. Then you have other teams who can succeed on a shoe string budget, like the Devil Rays.
NT: Which five albums are most inspiring to you?
White Light/White Heat – The Velvet Underground
Exile on Main Street – The Rolling Stones
Astral Weeks – Van Morrison
Twin Infinitives – Royal Trux
Wowee Zowee – Pavement (as chosen by Jessica Hutchins, Malkmus’ wife)