By Dan McQuade
By Brian McManus
By Hilary Hughes
By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
Not really. The song "O Superman," right after 9/11, people were going, " 'American planes, smoking or nonsmoking,' what is this? So weird!" It's just that people forget about what's around all the time—you just really do. And you get so distracted because there's lots of distractions. Our culture—it's a cliché—it's about distraction. You forget that things are not so different, year to year, day to day. They're not so different. Even though it has to be sold on the fact that it's really different. Because, otherwise, no one would buy anything! It can't be the same old thing.
At one point, I started writing down every question you ask on this record.
That's what it's about! You got it! That's what it's about. There are no answers and no polemics. It's a bunch—just a list of questions. How many questions did you come up with?
I stopped at, like, 10. Do you have any of the answers?
Nope! I don't. I really don't. And if I did, I probably wouldn't say. Because that's not what I'm interested in doing, at all. In all the shows I've done, things that I do, they're not about that. And they're not about saying, "Look at me," either. It's not like, "Check this out." It's about, kind of, "Look over there—what do you think that is?" That's what it is.
Given the robot-voiced similarity between "O Superman" and a lot of contemporary hip-hop, is it fair to say that some rappers out there owe you some money?
Oh, god, that's crazy. I probably owe them a bit as well. I don't think of "O Superman" as a robotic voice. I think of it as a pretty human voice that has some chords around it. It's not in techno-speak: "Hey, Mom," you know. Well, it has some sloganeering in it as well.
I love rap. If I'm close to any art form, it's rap. Language used like that is one of my favorite things. One of the things that I like most about being a musician is that ideas and images and ways of doing things are really free-floating—it's very different from the art world, where people have to get a style and defend their territory, and nobody can do anything like that, or else they're copying. . . . The music world is a lot looser, thank god.
What rappers do you like?
Well, just about, he's not real—he is a rapper—King Khan is one of my favorites. We had him at our festival in Sydney. And he became a really good friend. You know what happens also at a music festival, when people really are asked to play together and they're in each other's music, it's a whole different thing. You just get to see what they're really about, not what their PR is about. What do they want that song to sound like, and how can I help make it sound more like that? He was one of my favorites.
And then, of course, there was the dog symphony.
Oh, god. We did like 30 really beautiful shows, and then that was the one that kind of went a little viral, but you know what, that was like, such a dream.
It must have looked pretty incredible from your perspective, from the stage.
It was amazing. It came from last year. I was hanging out with Yo-Yo Ma backstage at some place—we were wearing mortar boards, so I guess we were gonna give some talk to graduates or something, I even forgot where. But it was really boring, really hot, and we were waiting forever, and I was saying, "My fantasy"—we were talking about fantasies—"My fantasy is I'm playing the violin at a show, and I look out, and the whole audience is dogs." And he said, "That's my fantasy, too!" And we both said, "OK, if we ever get a chance to do that, we're gonna do that. And you can play on mine, or I'll play on yours." He couldn't come, but I did that. And it was on my birthday, and it was such a dream, literally.
Was it how you pictured it, in the fantasy?
No, because I didn't imagine there'd be so many dogs. I thought maybe 100 dogs. There were thousands and thousands of dogs! It was insane! But it was such joy—really, I've never done something that had so much joy in it, ever. And people are saying, "Oh, my dog likes classical music." I doubt it. There were so many rockers there, they were just dancing around, they were so proud to be somewhere with all these dogs. A bunch of great dogs in the mosh pit, and then a bunch of droolers in the front row: Ullllll, what is this? It was great.
I realize it's been more than two years now, but congratulations on your marriage. Can I ask, in a way more cheerful way—why did you wait so long?
Well, I was walking down the street—I think in California—and I was thinking of all the things I hadn't done in my life: I haven't learned German, I haven't learned physics, I haven't spent a year in Rome, and I was talking to Lou on the phone and was saying, "Yeah, and I've never gotten married. We talked about getting married, but we'll probably never get married." And he said, "Well, how about tomorrow?" And I said, "Don't you think tomorrow's a little soon?" Anyway, he flew out to Colorado, where I was gonna be, and we got married. It was like an impulse marriage. Also, I think there should maybe be another name for it, when you get married to, like, your best friend, someone you've know forever. Just have a different name.