Q Magazine

Lou Barlow on Contributing to 'Metal Machine Muzak,' His Desire for a Dinosaur Jr. Christmas Album, and Having an Unlikely Top 40 Hit With the Folk Implosion

'There was a lot of stuff I was listening to...that was certainly in line with ["Metal Machine Music"]. A 16-minute piece of repetitive electronic noise was not totally unknown to me.'

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Source: Joyful Noise

Lou Barlow, at your service.

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The concept of the tribute album is one that's been around for decades - various artists pool their efforts and pay tribute to a particular artist or album - and it's one that's been used to honor both the insanely popular and the incredibly obscure. Still, of all the LPs to earn the "tribute album" treatment, few could've expected it to ever happen to one of the most maligned records of all time. Still, one person's maligned record is another person's source of inspiration, and that's what brings us to Metal Machine Muzak, described as "an ambient reimagining" of Lou Reed's 1975 album, Metal Machine Music.

Yes, it's an album of experimental noise - and we use "noise" simply as a descriptor, with no derogatory intent - that's become so much of a punchline amongst music nerds that it's been a punchline not once but twice on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and yet it's a record that has more than a few high-profile fans, among them Lou Barlow, best known for his work with Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, and the Folk Implosion. Barlow was one of four musicians (the others being Cory Hanson, Mark Robinson, and W. Cullen Hart) invited to participate in this "reimagining," and he put his heart and soul into his contribution, as he described in detail to Q.

Additionally, Barlow also discussed a variety of other aspects of his career during his conversation with Q, including the podcast he started with his wife Adelle (Raw Impressions), his early hardcore band Deep Wound, his first encounter with future bandmate J. Mascis, how Dinosaur Jr. came to cover the Cure's "Just Like Heaven," how he and the Folk Implosion ended up with an unlikely top 40 hit (and what it was like to hear it playing in his hometown), and his unabashed adoration of Panda Bear of Animal Collective.

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Source: Discograffiti

The promo art for "Metal Machine Muzak," a.k.a. arguably the most niche tribute album in tribute-album history.

I couldn't believe when I got the press release that there was going to a tribute album of sorts to Metal Machine Music. When I first started doing music journalism, I got a copy of Lester Bangs' Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, so I was assured that it was a masterpiece. It took me 25 years to try listening to it again.

I think I bought mine after reading that book, too, actually. [Laughs.] That's funny. I mean, I'd always known about it and known how notorious it was, but I think that's when I started to really look in earnest for the double LP.

As I say, it took me a couple of decades of evolution in my musical tastes to be able to appreciate it in any capacity. What was your initial reaction to it?

Oh, I liked it. I mean, there was a lot of stuff I was listening to at the time that was certainly in line with that, or influenced by that, or similar. A 16-minute piece of repetitive electronic noise was not totally unknown to me. [Laughs.] I really liked it! It was a lot more melodic than I was led to believe. And I think at least partially it was a genuine artistic effort on Lou Reed's part. I think there was that sort of antagonistic part, but I think that s--t probably sounded f--king great to him! It probably really gave him a lot of joy to sit in the midst of that.

So what was your reaction when you were approached about participating in this "ambient reimagining" of the album?

Well, I was kind of terrified, because it was Dave Gebroe, who just captivates me. The guy... I've done things with him before, and he's just so passionate about what he does. His podcast (Discograffiti) is insanely passionate. His spiels on bands are incredibly detailed. He's breathless. I mean, he's such a force. So I knew when he asked me, I was, like, "Oh, s--t, I'm really going to have to do something." [Laughs.] Because I thought it was a really good idea. Straight up, I was, like, "This is a really good idea." But then I was, like, "Oh, my God, if I get myself involved in this, I am going to get myself involved in it." I just knew that if I did get involved and was to offer a piece, then it'd take a big part of me. So I knew that, but I was, like, "I can't say 'no.'" Because you can't say "no" to Dave Gebroe! You can try... But I really appreciated that he asked me, and I was definitely on board from the beginning, and I thought it was a cool idea.

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How did you approach it?

I just thought about it a little bit. There was a blip where my son was sort of fascinated with the synthesizers that I have, and he really wanted to play those, so I hooked them all up in my studio and just recorded a stereo recording of him one side and him on the other of us just jamming. Him just mashing keys on the synthesizer and playing with the filters and me kind of accompanying that with sort of an insistent [beat]. We were just creating these sounds, and it was a fun thing to do. Even my daughter would pick up the mike occasionally and sing along with it, and that was pretty fun. There are excerpts of that on some episodes of the podcast. But...I dunno, I just had a thought that I was going to find something within those recordings that I thought could be repeated...and that I could tolerate for sixteen minutes. [Laughs.]

So I went and snagged several of those things, and I laid those down, and then I started to build separate collages from other things. I have so much, just bits and pieces from my musical past. And I have full access to my cassettes now. When we started to do the podcast, I was, like, "I really want cassettes to be a part of this journey of this podcast. I really want to incorporate using cassettes but also going back into my archives, as it were." It's just a big pile. [Laughs.] Nothing organized. But I just go through my stuff and sort of rummage through it, and if I find interesting things, I can share them on the podcast. And I'm also working on an archival project with my stuff through Joyful Noise Records. We did this subscriber series where I put out something every month of either archival releases or new songs. I did that a few years ago. I'm fascinated with my own past, y'know? That's why I've always loved recording: because I love capturing things, and I love listening, and I love the nostalgia and how it can tweak new things in your brain.

So I really embraced this. Like, "I'm gonna go in and do a lot of little things that I've always wanted to do, and jam things together and see what sticks, and take a more aggressive approach." Not necessarily aggression and anger, but just be very ruthless about what I did and not get too particular about how much time it was going to take or get too particular about trying to slot things in. I was, like, "I just want to put things together and see where it starts to speak." And it took a really, really long time. Because I worked on it piecemeal from almost the time that he asked me until the day before I delivered it to him. And by the time I delivered it to him, I was getting up in the middle of the night to work on it on headphones. And the piece was so insane, and I was drawing on so much. So many really intense parts of my life are documented on those cassettes, and I remembered them. So, yeah, it was an intense personal process, and the last step that I took... I still wanted it to speak, and I realized that it literally had to speak, that I literally had to put voices in it, or a voice, anyway.

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And I had this thought... I had done a voice memo several years ago, I don't know how long ago, possibly ten years, where I just read a whole journal straight. I read it through, making no mistakes, not really tripping over my tongue. I just read from my journals. And I rarely do that, and I'm not really a poet. It's not that I bristle at the idea, I just don't consider myself one. It's not that level of quality. It's not that level of anything. But I thought of that and was, like, "Hey, I'll see if I can take things out of that!" And I did, and at first I was, like, "Oh, this is cool, it's pretty good, it's not too weird." And then the more I was listening to it, I was, like, "This is f---ing depressing." [Laughs.] I was depressed! And I has this big wave of realization... I mean, we're constantly all having these realizations about who we are and suddenly put ourselves in the present and realize what brought us to that moment. But I think that I had not acknowledged my own misery for decades. With my second marriage, my life completely changed. I'm making a lot of strides to be the most creative I can be and the most loving I can be, and all these really good things are in motion in my life right now, and it started 10 years ago. But all the time before that...

Because I just go back into the archives and I'm, like, "Let's flip through these things!" and I don't think about it until I suddenly go, "Argh!" Because I sort of consider myself sort of removed from it emotionally, because it's in the past. And I can be very cut and dried that way. I don't really get wrapped up in the nostalgia that way necessarily. I just really go for the quality of the sound and try to pick things based on what I can use in the present. But I found myself really drawn into my past in an emotional way that I was not predicting, and it peaked just as I finished the piece. [Laughs.] And afterwards I... I was so disoriented for almost two weeks after that. It's hard to describe. Like, I'm starting to come down from it a little bit, but the piece was so jagged, and I was not adhering to any rule necessarily, other than that I wanted it to somehow be good to me. Because ambient s--t bores the s--t out of me, and I don't want to press one thing on the keyboard and mess with an effect and be, like, "There's my 16 minutes!" I wanted it to be absolutely soaked in blood. And that's totally what happened!

You kind of hinted at this a minute ago, but it sounds very much like you turned it in not necessarily because it was finished but, rather, just because you had to turn it in.

Oh, yeah. I could've gone on forever. [Laughs.] At one point, I was, like, "I should just do this a lot and have one running all the time!" And then I went, "Should I? Should I, really?" And I think if I did... I mean, it might be cool, because I think I'd probably try to make it more consonant and reassuring. I'd like to make it more about my life now, as opposed to my life then.

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Well, I'll say that, even though I've only just discovered your podcast, you and your wife have a really easy rapport with each other.

Oh, thanks! Yeah, we really enjoy it. My wife actually suggested that we do a podcast 10 years ago, when we first met. When we first got together, she said, "We should do a podcast!" And it was funny, because I'd actually had a friend - this guy Duncan Trussell, who's a huge early podcast master - who literally 20 years ago was, like, "Lou, you have to do a podcast!" And I'm, like, "I don't want to do a podcast! It'll take so much of my time! I'd want it to be so detailed. I can't do it!" But he was right. [Laughs.] And even 10 years ago, when Adelle initially said it, I went, "It's gonna take so much time! I don't have any time! I'm on tour, we're getting a new life together... I can't do it!" And then 10 years after that, finally, I was approached by Ben Lee, who was, like, "I'm doing a podcast network!" Which... I don't know exactly what that means, but he was, like, "You can do it under the umbrella of this, and I'll give you all the how-to to make this happen." And I was, like, "Okay, I'm doing it. I'm going to do a podcast!"

And Adelle and I... I love her voice. I just really enjoy the way her voice sounds through a microphone, and I think she has such an ease. She's a total f--king natural, and I love hearing her talk. So I was, like, "This'll be fun, and I can kind of work behind the scenes and edit these things." Although we're barely doing any editing these days. It's all based on these templates that I make, which is also similar to the collages. I make templates for the podcast episodes where sounds come in and out. So I was already in that flow, so doing the Metal Machine Music thing, it was just an extension of that. A very detailed extension of what I'd been doing for the podcast.

When I was going through the podcast archives, I saw that you'd found the tape of your very first Sebadoh show.

Well, I found the first show tape, which is different. I'd make these tapes that I would run almost as a template for the shows. And I'd run them, and I'd stop them, and in between the songs I'd play these pronouncements like, "SEBADOH! Three guys stuck in a van together! SEBADOH!" And then with goofy sounds and prank phone calls sort of burbling behind them. So I found the first iteration of that. Because I made another one. First I made one when the band was a duo, and then I did one when the band was a trio. So I went back and was, like, "Jason [Loewenstein], Eric [Gaffney], and Lou!" Those were almost 20-minute pieces that I did for those show tapes. Dave Gebroe expressed to me that the second show tape was one of his favorite things of mine that I'd done, and I was, like, "That's good!" When people tell me that, my answer is always, "It's the best thing I've ever done!" [Laughs.] There's no question. The second Sebadoh tape from... What was it, '93? Yeah, there's no question. That's a collage, too, and it's almost 20 minutes, and that? It's my masterwork. It's f--king stupid as hell, it's totally goofy and funny, but kind of dark. Yeah, it's good. I recommend it!

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I wanted to ask you about a few random things from throughout your career. First of all, how do you look back at Deep Wound?

Oh, it's awesome! I mean, I don't remember anything about it, because I was absolutely so nervous. I was so nervous! There was just so much tension that it's almost like a childhood trauma that you don't remember. Even though it was amazing being in a band, it was actually at the time a traumatic experience to be performing, and in that kind of way, too. Because we were fast. And we tried to be precise. And being tight was a really big thing to me. I wasn't just, like, "Hey, whatever!" I was this little f--king uptight kid, really into hardcore and skipping school to shop for records. So I was super wound up. I don't remember s--t about any of the specifics. I just remember fleeting things. Because we went to the studio, and that was terrifying. But we f--king recorded a record!

I never thought the band was that good, to be frank. [Laughs.] Because I was measuring us against stuff I was listening to, and there was incredible, f--king amazing s--t, like Poison Idea and the Neos and... Like, there was so much great hardcore, and we were obsessed with these bands. Die Kreuzen, Mecht Mensch, SSD, Jerry's Kids... And then all the stuff like Minor Threat and all that was sort of a precursor to it. But it was so wound up. So I don't remember s--t. I remember nothing.

Well, I remember the shows we played. Because I remember the other bands. I loved the shows. The shows were fun, and it was really, really cool to be part of something. The shows that we played, there would be eight or nine bands on the bill. And they'd be in the afternoon, so it'd just be this rambling long afternoon of kids getting onstage and playing half an hour of songs. It was f--king cool. And there were bands from Boston that came out here that were tremendously powerful. Flipper came through, and they were just absolutely incredible. Husker Du came through. They were headlining hall shows. It was f--king great. That was my introduction to live music, really, these thundering hall hardcore shows. And being in a band meant you could be, like, backstage. Not that there was really a backstage. But I could be! I could lurk behind the amplifiers because, hey, I was in a band! And I really was always trying to distance myself from any slam dancing, so that was a perk. It was, like, "This way you can watch the shows but you don't have to be in the f--king pit or hiding somewhere." [Laughs.] Staking out your corner near the P.A. and just watching quietly.

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I feel like I've known this, but I can't remember in the moment: did you actually know J. Mascis before you joined Deep Wound?

No, that was our introduction. My friend Scott and I, we ate lunch together in high school... He was pretty much my only friend. [Laughs.] And we'd met because he was wearing a Black Flag shirt or some s--t like that. It was just one of those moments. "You like 'em?" "Yeah." "I like 'em, too. Let's each lunch together." And then we started playing music together because his brother had a f--king Motorhead cover band, and it was incredible. That was the first live show I ever saw, and in my high school cafeteria: a Motorhead cover band. It was f--king great.

That's amazing.

Yeah, it was really f--king cool. So anyway, Scott and I put a flier in a record store, and J. answered that. It was: "We want a drummer who plays really fast!" [Laughs.] And then J. came over, and we had a bunch of songs that we'd written. We actually had a kid hitting pots and pans before J. Which was pretty cool. But J. sat down, and he had this incredible kit and a crazy haircut, and we played him one of our songs, and he said, "You guys are the fastest band in Massachusetts!" It was one of the most positive things that J. Mascis has ever uttered...and I mean that in the most affectionate way.

I know you do.

[Laughs.] But those were his first words. And we were, like, "All right!" It meant something. Because I think we knew about Gang Green at that point. The f--king This Is Boston Not L.A. compilation is an incredible f--king slice of Smithsonian-Folkways style capturing of hardcore. It's so good.

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So did Deep Wound just kind of disintegrate, or did you choose to break up and then you and J. started Dinosaur Jr.?

We kind of chose to break up, because hardcore was done for us. I mean, you could only get so far into 1984 before you were hearing R.E.M. on the radio, and you're, like, "Wait a minute... That sounds pretty f--king good!" [Laughs.] And there was just tons of college radio where we lived, so it was so easy to hear other things. And J. had a show on the University of Massachusetts radio station when he was high school where he played hardcore. I'd actually heard him on the radio before I met him, because he had this amazing hardcore show on right after the polka show on Saturday mornings.


It was f--king amazing. J. had an incredible selection of imports, like Discharge, GBH, all the f--king amazing Oi! bands and anarcho bands or whatever. He had all these amazing import punk singles. And when we met, he had all the imports, we had all the domestic stuff, because I had mail-ordered all of these domestic hardcore releases. So we came together. [Laughs.] We came together and swapped more information. J. learned more about Dischord and stuff like that, and we learned more about Discharge. So it was a great union when Scott and I joined Charlie and J.

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I've never known: whose idea was it for Dinosaur Jr. to cover the Cure's "Just Like Heaven," and were you surprised that it took off the way it did?

We were immense Cure fans, and I think J. was just savvy enough to know and go, "I wanna f--king play this song!" Because we did a pretty good Peter Frampton cover on our first EP. It was pretty f--king good, I have to say. [Laughs.] And when we dig into it, we can still do really cool covers. I really want us to do a Christmas album at one point.

Well, you've done a few Christmas songs yourself, I know.

Yeah, but I'm talking a full-blast Dinosaur Jr. album doing Christmas songs.

To use your phrase, that would be f---ing amazing.

[Laughs.] It would be really great! But I don't know if that'll happen or not. But anyway, J. was, like, "I want to do 'Just Like Heaven.'" And we had this session at this Boston studio, Fort Apache, and we went and recorded it. Because there were also tribute albums at this point, so we were asked to be on a tribute to the Byrds, and we were asked to be on a tribute to Neil Young. We actually did a f--king killer version of 'I've Been Waiting for You" that's not on that album, unfortunately. Our version of "I've Been Waiting for You" is f--king great...and I think I'm the only person who has even a warbly cassette version of it! I should post that someday.

That's got "future podcast episode" written all over it.

It really does! Anyway, I think it was that same day - I could be wrong...and, in fact, I probably am - that we did a session where we did all of those covers. I remember we stopped the "Just Like Heaven" cover halfway through because we were, like, "The performance sucks, we slowed down, let's cut it." But it was a really good cover. I mean, we were a cool f--king young band. J. was amazing. And Sonic Youth was talking about us, and when we got an English record label... It was, like, "It's done: you're in Melody Maker and Sounds and NME, and they're reviewing your single and saying how great it is..." Back then, you could be noticed. It was a great time to be a really young, weird band. [Laughs.] It was a really great time.

This, by the way, is when the British narrator would go, "And then it all went horribly wrong."

[Bursts out laughing, then sighs.] Yeah... But we made it through three records, so that was good! And then I was kicked out of the band.

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Were you surprised at the time?

Uh... [Hesitates.] Yes and no. Because I had had visions of killing them at that point. And doing really crazy shit. I was starting to have violent fantasies about my bandmates. And having panic attacks.

That's not great.

Yeah. And then they kicked me out, so I kind of threw a fit about that and was, like, "Goddammit!" Because they told me the band was broken up. They were, like, "Hey, Lou, the band's breaking up." And then within two weeks of that, it was, like, "They're in Australia? With a new bass player...? What the f--k?!" [Laughs.] "They lied!" So I was really hung up on the fact that they lied. I was, like, "Where's their integrity? Why did they lie?" But I think the result was beneficial to everybody, because I stopped having panic attacks immediately. Like, right away. I was a little bummed that I wasn't in a cool band anymore. But I was young, and I was writing tons of songs, and I had a good friend who wanted to play music with me, so I was, like, "All right, f--k it, I can do it. I'll make it work." And my friend was awesome. He had tons of energy and really wanted to push it and was really encouraging me to play out and do stuff with him. So I was, like, "F--k, yeah, let's do it!" So it all worked out.

And you were clearly recognized by your peers at the time, because Superchunk and Teenage Fanclub both almost immediately covered "It's So Hard to Fall in Love."

Yeah, like, right away. And one of our first singles was "Gimme Indie Rock," and that was the NME Single of the Week. So we followed in the footsteps of Dinosaur Jr. at that point and got ourselves labels and started doing tours, and I went back to living that life. But we were super loose. Sebadoh was really loose. Which was infuriating, but also liberating. We were a very fragile little unit, but we knocked around for most of the '90s.

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How did the Kids soundtrack come about?

I was approached by Harmony Korine, who wrote the script to the film [Kids]. He wrote me a series of insane fan letters, but kind of mostly based on my early solo work. Like, a lot of my cassette work, the early stuff, the crazy pre-band stuff. It was maybe at the tail end of Dinosaur. There was a period between Dinosaur and Sebadoh. It was really f---ed-up lo-fi stuff, really short songs and collages. Anyway, he liked that stuff, and he was, like, "I'm going to do a film. I'm gonna do a film called Kids. It's gonna win a f--king Oscar, and it's gonna be amazing. It's Academy Award sh-t. Larry Clark, this incredibly famous photographer, is gonna be the director of photography, and we're gonna make this incredible movie that's gonna blow everybody's minds." And I'm, like, "What is this?" [Laughs.] "Is this real?" I mean, it was just these handwritten letters. And my girlfriend at the time was, like, "You've gotta answer this guy." I'm, like, "Really?" "Yes!" So she made sure that we connected, and then sure enough, he was, like, "I want you to come meet Larry Clark, you're gonna f--king score this film." So I'm, like, "Okay!" So I went down and hung out with Harmony and Larry, and I was, like, "This is real. This is actually f--king happening." And it did! And it was cool.

That was a really cool experience. And at the time, I had this really great collaboration with my friend John Davis. I was playing more bass with my fingers. We were, like, this new wavy garage band. And our collaboration was blooming at that point, and I was, like, "John, come do this with me!" [Laughs.] And he was, like, "All right!" And we had an amazing time.

And just think: you get to be in one-hit wonder documentaries for the rest of your life now, too.

Yeah, man, I know! It's the f--king best, I swear to God. It's hard to describe, but... I mean, it never has to happen again. [Laughs.] I mean, if it happens, hey, look, I'm human, I love people loving what I do. I'm reading Geezer Butler's autobiography right now, and he describes how... Well, [Black Sabbath] weren't really a one-hit wonder, per se, but they did really only have one heavily-charting single, which was "Paranoid." And he was just saying that everything was so crazy after that, they vowed never to write another three-minute pop song ever again. And they never did!

Well, to be fair, to score a top 40 single off of the soundtrack to a Larry Clark film... That's got the be the least selling-out anyone's ever done to get a hit.

I know! [Laughs.] It was funny when the song did become a hit, because there was rumbling among the indie community. "They're just doing what's gonna be played on the radio!" We didn't. We were experimenting in the studio. I mean, we were listening to some pretty f--king cool music. We were inspired by the beginnings of trip-hop, and I really loved this band Moonshake from England at the time, who were this incredible sample-based band that was just this total collision of shoegaze, post-punk... They were so f--king cool. I loved that band. But then we were listening to hip-hop pretty obsessively, like N.W.A and the f--king Snoop Dogg s--t at that time... Oh, my God, and Dr. Dre? All that stuff was so f--king good. It was such a good time for that.

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I would not have imagined we'd ever see you and J. reunited in Dinosaur Jr., let alone that it would've lasted as long as it has.

I don't know, it kind of fits each of our temperaments, actually. Although... I mean, we haven't made huge strides in our friendship, I wouldn't say. But I feel more than tolerated, generally. So that's pretty good! [Laughs.] J. and I just really have a common sensibility, in that, hey, we're in a good band that people like, we should continue to be in a good band that people like, and we should play the songs they wanna hear, and we should do it as well as we can. I think we both have that ethic. And we've been reunited now for, what, 19 years? We're family. We're musical family. I see a lot of those guys on tour, not so much when I'm home, but it's perfect. It really works out.

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Okay, I've got two stock questions to close with. The first is, do you remember the first person you ever met where you had to fight to keep from going full fanboy?

Oh, yeah. I didn't fight it. I just gave in. It was Panda Bear, the guy from Animal Collective. I went through a period where I was completely obsessed with his second solo record, called Person Pitch, and I listened to it all the time. It was when my first daughter was born, and we used to just listen to it. And then he did an absolutely incredible record with Animal Collective called Merriweather Post Pavilion, which is a gorgeous record, and I became obsessed with him. His songs are incredible, and his solo record was... I mean, talk about beautiful. Just this enveloping, reassuring piece of work. I just found his stuff to be so incredibly creative and lullaby-esque and simple but complicated and all this beautiful stuff. And I met him at Primavera in Barcelona, because my buddy was doing sound for Animal Collective, so I got to go backstage. And when I put my f---ing sights on Panda Bear, it was, like, "Whoa!" And I think I was drinking, too, so this kid was, like, "Uh, who are you?" [Laughs.]

Because those kids... Well, they're not kids anymore, but their reference point is not '90s indie rock. It's much more all over the place, that wonderful sensibility that settled in in the 2000s, where a lot of young musicians were truly inspired by all kinds of things. They weren't so catholic in their tastes, they really were all over the place. And I think Animal Collective were definitely an example of that, where they just drew from so many things. I mean, they weren't even name-checking Sonic Youth. They were pulling stuff from a pretty broad palette of experimental music and pop music. So I just followed him around and peppered him with questions! "How did you record...? How many tracks are on...?" [Laughs.] And then I found out we were born on the same day: July 17. And Geezer Butler, too! Also on July 17. So that's my little thing: I worship Geezer and Panda Bear! And I really want to get Geezer Butler on my f--king podcast. I don't know how it's gonna happen. Because I generally don't like to interview people. I'm a terrible interviewer. My wife is really good. But I'm terrible, and I've actually ruined interviews because I start sputtering. Because when I start talking about music, I can get really inarticulate really fast.

Well, you've been relatively articulate with me, and I appreciate that.

Yeah, I'm not really stumbling too much. [Laughs.] Which is good!

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So the other stock question is, when you look back at your career up to this point, is there a particular moment that you look back on as your real rock star moment? Whether it was ridiculous or wonderful.

Oh, I mean, I have several, good and bad. [Laughs.]

I could take one of each.

I mean, there was just being in my newly-purchased house in L.A., watching the sun rise, just f--king blasted on heavy street drugs in the middle of complete f--king VH-1 style chaos, my life falling apart around me, working to death on a record that was soon to be a flop, and we'd get dropped by the label... All that s--t was going on, and I'm watching the sun rise in my new L.A. house, and I can see the f--king Hollywood sign from my porch.

That's a scene from a bio-pic if I've ever heard one.

[Laughs.] You know, just in the middle of a long, protracted, extremely-stoned bout of abject f--king failure. And my wife was in love with somebody else, and I had all these rockers and drug dealers coming in and out of my house.

Jesus, that really is a scene from a rock bio-pic.

It is! The people even looked good, too, because they were all local L.A. rockers!

So what era was that? What album was about to come out?

There were two. I did one with the Folk Implosion called One Part Lullaby, and the other one was [Sebadoh's] The Sebadoh. The dual flops.

Well, I'm going to presume that falls under "bad moments," so what was one of the good moments? Or was that a little of both?

No, that was all... [Hesitates.] I mean, I loved the records that I did from that time period, to be honest. So now I'm, like, "Eh, I paid the price. I survived. I changed, I shifted." But I don't know, the only other thing I can think of... I mean, there were no triumphant performances. There were no award shows. There were no platinum records being handed. So it's not really a rock star moment, but when "Natural One" started to make it on the radio, I went back to my hometown to visit my parents, and I went to the liquor store, and the song was playing in the liquor store. And I was, like, "What the f--k." I was, like, "Oh, my God, my voice is in the f--king liquor store right now." I went... [Deep breath.] "Take it in. Take this in, because this is really special." And then shortly after that, I saw Tony Robbins' infomercial...and he walked onstage to a Muzak version of Folk Implosion. I was, like, "Okay! Okay, unexpected and amazing. Just take this in and really appreciate this moment, because you don't take this s--t for granted."

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