Thursday, November 13, 2014

A New Interview With Kim Shattuck of The Muffs

An entire decade has passed since the release of the last studio album by the legendary pop-punk band The Muffs. There was a lot to talk about with lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist, Kim Shattuck; including the new album, new shows, vinyl records, and rowdy neighbors. 

Interview Date: November 12th, 2014

The Vinyl Potato [VP] How have you been? How was Japan?

Kim Shattuck [KS] Japan was amazing! It was so much fun. There were a lot of people there and they were very enthusiastic. We felt really good and played good. It was cool.

[VP] Do you have a big following there?

[KS] To us it feels like we do. I don't know what other bands experience there, but people seem to like us there.

[VP] How are the fans there? Are they crazy?

[KS] They are really wild! They jump, scream, wave their hands and start crying.

[VP] That sounds intense. You played 26 songs and 2 encores in Japan.

[KS] Yeah that sounds right.

[VP] Can we expect something similar for the Atlanta show?

[KS] Well, Ronnie is not going to be there because he is having an eye operation. So, the guy who is substituting for him is Steve Lack from Veruca Salt. I gave him a list of songs, so he is going to learn that list and that will be the songs that we are gonna do [laughs]. But it will be fun, it's gonna be good. If we do an encore and he doesn't know the song then I'll just do it acoustically. 

[VP] So, Whoop Dee Doo, great album by the way, is the first Muffs studio album since 2004. Why did it take so long?

[KS] Well, what took so long is that after we promoted the Really Really Happy album we did a bunch of shows afterwards. After that we were just spinning our wheels. We thought that we should just wait and I take some time so I could write a few songs. And I wrote a few songs before we took a break and we played some shows with those songs to try them out. It's always good to try out songs with an audience when they are new. Then we took a break and we took our time.

[VP] You have been writing songs for over 20 years now. Do you see any difference in the lyrics that you write now compared to your early albums?

[KS] Oh yeah, definitely. The lyrics I wrote early on we're just mean and making fun of people. Based on stuff that happened in my life, I would just make fun of people and be mean and feeling sorry for myself. You know, just various weird emotions that I would be going through at the time.

Now I can be mean still [laughs]. But I don't know, I'm just a lot more mature now. The lyrics are still really fun and mean and I have a lot more expression. Just a lot more maturity in my lyrics now.

[VP] They are a lot more personal I guess.

[KS] Yeah I gradually got a bit more introspective, but not in a way of a folk rocker. I'm not being folk. You know, I'm not becoming Joni Mitchell or anything.

[VP] One thing that I noticed, from a fan perspective, is a lot more songs about love and being happily in love. In particular, from the last two albums, songs like Really Really Happy, Forever, Paint by the Numbers, and And I'm Happiest, all are just beautiful love songs. Where did the inspiration come from?

[KS] My husband. Me and my husband, and our relationship. We are really, really happy, and that reflects in the lyrics sometimes. We are a good couple.

Whoop Dee Doo (2014)

[VP] The album cover features a happy, middle-aged couple at the zoo. Do you see yourself represented in this image?

[KS] Wow, I never thought about it before. It's funny. Yeah maybe a little bit. I remember when I took the picture I was in college. I was a photographer and was at the zoo with my boyfriend at the time and he is an artist. He was drawing and I was photographing. I saw these people and I got really obsessed with them so I followed them. I wanted to get a picture of them looking at animals because they looked amazing from behind. They were old people but they had this old look like from the fifties. And It was the eighties when I took the picture. So anyways, I was super into them. I only took one picture of them. I kept not getting the right angle and I didn't want to waste the film. So I waited to the right moment and I got the picture that you see there. But I remember that I followed them around for a while. 

[VP] Did they ever realize that you were following them?

[KS] No, because I was behind them [laughs].

[VP] The first track in the album, Weird Boy Next Door, is it about someone in particular, or not?

[KS] Oh yeah, I was sitting down writing lyrics and I heard a bunch of noise coming from next door and I freaked out because it was loud and I heard banging and swearing. So I peaked out the window on my tippy toes and looked over the fence. My super crazy college-aged next door neighbor was literally taking a baseball bat and hitting the garage door with it. I was freaked out and I was alone with my dog and I was about to sit down and write a song. I was super pissed off that it was so disturbing. I didn’t feel safe so I closed all the doors, locked them and shut all the windows. I was so mad that I wrote the lyrics on what it felt like three minutes [laughs]. I just wrote it all fast and hence the song.

[VP] You have interesting neighbors.

[KS] I don’t live there anymore, but yeah, luckily it was somebody that was in for college break so he doesn’t live there all the time.

[VP] There is an unreleased song that you have played live in the past. In the lyrics you sing “the most excellent guy”. Is that the name of the song?

[KS] Actually, the name of the song is The Best, but I like your title better.

[VP] Oh, I thought that “most excellent guy” was the title because you sing it in the chorus.

[KS] That’s right. That’s a good title. I might consider using it if you don’t mind.

We were going to put it on Whoop Dee Doo, but we had too many ballads I thought. Actually we didn’t have that many ballads, so I don’t know what I was thinking. But we didn’t end up putting it in there. It might show up in the next one.

[VP] What are you listening to these days?

[KS] Um, on my itunes I have been listening to ELO. The album is the very best of ELO. I really like some of their songs. And then Beatles. I always listen to the Beatles when I feel like listening to something good. 

[VP] Do you have any guilty pleasures?

[KS] No, you know why? Because I’m super proud of every single thing that I like. I’m not embarrassed about any of my taste at all.

[VP] I wanted to ask you a couple of questions about vinyl records. Do you still listen to music on vinyl and what do you like about those?

[KS] I actually did get one of those cheap little record players and both Ronnie and Roy are mad at me for having because they say that it will ruin my records. But I’m like it’s either that or have the records in the closet. And records in the closet doesn’t do me any good. At least I have something to play them. And yeah, I’ll ruin the records. I don’t care [laughs]. I’ll throw them away when I’m done. And those guys, especially Ronnie, go like [whining noise], but whatever.

You know what I like about vinyl? It’s everything. It sounds so good and dirty. It’s the pops and the way it sounds sonically. I don’t really know what it is exactly that I like about them, but that’s how I grew up, having vinyl. So I’m glad people still like them.

[VP] Yeah, I hear that they are coming back and I guess it’s the pops and clicks that people like hearing.

[KS] Yeah, you hear the surface noise a little bit and I don’t mind that. In fact I was really picky about The Muffs Whoop Dee Doo in vinyl and the first one I got sounded terrible. I don’t know, they pressed it too loud. We mastered really loud and when I heard it it sounded terrible. So I was like “did you even listen to this? Why did you even give this to me. Sounds like shit.” So we sent it back and said “take it down two db” and then when it came back to me I was really afraid of listening to it. But when I put it on, it sounded amazing. I actually think it sounds better than the CD and digital versions. To me, it’s be best one. It all sounds pretty good to me, except the cymbals came out too loud in the digital versions, but oh well.

[VP] Now that you’ve become a master at fixing your vinyl records, can we expect some re-releases of Muffs older albums?

[KS] Oh my god, I wish. You know, they only one that was not released on vinyl was the first one. And I don’t really care for that record very much [laughs]. I don’t really care.

[VP] Oh, the first album was never released on vinyl? Only on CD?

[KS] Yeah it was not on vinyl at all. It was right on that little zone where people thought that vinyl was out so they just stopped doing it. And a couple of years later, they realized that people still like to have vinyl, so they did Blonder and Blonder, Happy Birthday to Me, Alert Today Alive Tomorrow, and Really Really Happy on vinyl. And now Whoop Dee Doo.

[VP] I think one of the things that people like about vinyl records is that they get to see the big album cover artwork. And I noticed that the vinyl version of the second to last album had an alternative version of the cover art.

[KS] Oh yeah.

[VP] Were you planning on doing something similar with the new album?

[KS] No, we decided to be really consistent and have the new album with the same cover. We like the artwork so we didn’t want to mess with it.

[VP] What is next for the Muffs after the upcoming shows? Are we going to have to wait another 10 years for a new album?

[KS] [Laughs] No, I already have ten songs towards the next album. All we have to do is record them and write a few more songs. I don’t think it’s gonna take ten years. It won’t.

The next thing is to continue to do more shows. We haven’t been everywhere yet. There are still a lot of places that we need to go.

[VP] Thank you so much and looking forward to the show next weekend.

[KS] Thank you. It was nice talking to you. See you at the show!

[I also interviewed Kim back in 2007. You can read that interview here.]

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Interview with Joe Queer of The Queers (2007)

[As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, a few years ago I interviewed a few musicians. The interviews were posted in a now defunct alternative rock music website. I am now posting them in this blog. Hope you enjoy them, but keep in mind that these interviews were done a few years ago so the content might be dated.]

Interview With Joe Queer (2007)

The Queers, one of the most influential bands in punk-pop, have been playing since 1982. From their great debut "Grow Up" to their latest album "Munki Brain", the Queers have mantained their usual style of pop-punk/surf-rock that made them famous around the world. With over 14 albums released, Joe Queer and friends are still hanging out and touring around the world. We had the great chance of interviewing Joe while driving to DC.

Interview Date: February 1st, 2007

The Vinyl Potato [VP]: Hey Joe, How is the tour going?

Joe Queer [JQ]: So far, so good, Indiana was great, first few shows, all the shows in the US have been great. We have a real big tour lately.

[VP]: Cool, are you guys touring outside the US?

[JQ]: We did a few shows that went up to Canada for a week and then we just got back into the US a few days ago and we are going to Washington DC now.

[VP]: Now, a lot of people want to know more about the band. Where and how did the band start?

[JQ]: In New Hampshire, we started a long time ago and then kinda kicked around in 93’ we got in Lookout! Records, Green Day was there, Screeching Weasel, Op[eration] Ivy has just left to for Rancid so it was kind of a good time to be on the label. Once we got on Lookout we were able to start touring and stuff ‘cause when Green Day hit it big, the whole pop punk scene exploded so it was great.

[VP]: Who would you say are your influences? Where do you get inspiration to write your songs?

[JQ]: Beach Boys, Black Flag, Angry Samoans, Dickies, Chuck Berry, stuff like that, yeah.

[VP]: Besides the Ramones, what are your favorite bands?

[JQ]: Screeching Weasel, The Muffs, Jesus and Mary Chain, those are the big ones for me.

[VP]: Last year you retired your catalog from Lookout Records. What happened there?

[JQ]: Ah, to explain it simple, they stopped paying. We took the albums out and we mixed them a lot and re-mastered them and put them out in Asian Man. They are coming out in Asian Man Records. Yeah, Green Day also picked their albums out too so it was time to leave, you know.

[VP]: Your new album is called “Munki Brain” and its going to be released in February, right?

[JQ]: That’s right. Just a few weeks from now, yeah.

[VP]: What can we expect from this album?

[JQ]: Uh, just kind of a lot of poppy stuff, not a lot of harder edge stuff that we throw live, more pop punk, but there’s a lot of good stuff on it. Definitely more to the poppy stuff of the punk scene.

[VP]: Why “Munki Brain”?

[JQ]: That’s kind of taken off a Jesus and Mary Chain album “Munki”. Not too many people in our scene know of Jesus and Mary Chain though, but that’s were it came from.

[VP]: To close up, the last question is: What do you think it’s the most important thing about punk rock music?

[JQ]: You know, what I got for myself is not too take things too seriously. I think that’s really what I got from punk rock really. And it’s been a lot of fun, the friendships and stuff. That’s some of the big things I got from punk rock.

[VP]: I agree, I think it’s also very important to have fun.

[JQ]: Yeah, that’s right. Sure it is.

[VP]: Thanks Joe.

[JQ]: No problem. See you at the show.