By Bob Ruggiero
By Hilary Hughes
By Peter Gerstenzang
By David R. Adler
By Devon Maloney
By Brian McManus
By Jessica Hopper
By Harley Oliver Brown
Gerard Cosloy: Spin gave Slanted a very favorable lead review—only trouble is that it ran three months before anyone could buy the album. We weren't intentionally trying to fuck with people's heads—we just had difficulty manufacturing enough copies to satisfy demand.
SK: It seemed natural that the tapes of Slanted were being passed around and reviewed by these people before we even put it out.
MI: Pavement became popular very quickly. That first album was very well received, so we basically were able to go on tour and do headlining shows.
CL: Slanted felt tangible. . . . It felt like a success. It was something that was—all of a sudden, we actually had work.
BN: Pavement didn't become a real serious endeavor until 1992, when Slanted and Enchanted came out. That's when things really started to change from being just an interesting little hobby that gained critical acclaim to becoming an actual entity. Of course, we retained a substantial amount of amateurishness, which some people found charming, for some reason.
SW: I was in the band for about eight years, and we maybe rehearsed six or eight times. It was more like we'd get together and hash out for one day . . . even that, we'd just go straight on tour and hash it out for the first four or five shows.
SK: When Steve West joined the band, he lived in Williamsburg—and that was really fucking scary.
SW: We lived in some pretty shady areas. My van that I had when I lived in Manhattan—it would get broken into all the time, and they'd have crack parties inside. I remember going to Max Fish a lot—that was kind of the rock place. Stephen and I lived together briefly in my loft in Williamsburg, and we would go to this place called Teddy's and Brooklyn Nights; we would play a lot of pinball and drink beers and listen to music at the bars.
BN: Things were harder; bands were harder. There were some that had drips and drabs of grunge, but there was no mass appreciation for the Stooges in our band or anything like that. There was more interest in Wire and Swell Maps and Can and things like that. I'm sure there were other bands around the country that were like-minded, but in terms of the New York music scene, we felt like outsiders. We were basically looked at as smart-ass college kids who thought it would be cool to move to New York and think that you're somebody. We dealt with a fair amount of snobbery when we lived there, but we sort of invited it. We were pretty obnoxious, I think.
MI: I think we were in CBGB's when Stephen asked me to join Pavement, and I said, "Sure, I think I can do it." Every time I've been asked to be in a band, my first question is, "Do you think I can do it?"
CL: Pavement played a show with Superchunk, opening up for My Bloody Valentine at Studio 54. People were there to see My Bloody Valentine, but people were really there to see Pavement, too. That was the real eye-opener for me: that we stumbled into something bigger than I had imagined.
After touring worldwide behind Slanted, the band started to evolve into its final incarnation—Young left the group, while West and Ibold officially joined. As the "alt-rock" movement of the early '90s was in full swing, Pavement entered into a Midtown studio (i.e., some dude's apartment) in August 1993 to record Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, the album that would yield "Cut Your Hair," a single that nearly made them Smashing Pumpkins–big. Though raw and eccentric like its predecessor, Crooked Rain was a noticeable leap in production quality, classic-rock nods, and Malkmus wit.
SK: We had rough mixes of the songs that we'd put down on cassette tapes, and I'd just kind of go back and forth between cassette tapes to figure out what songs fit best together, what the order would be.
SW: I had that loft, and we'd go and jam there. Stephen played some songs that he'd already recorded with Gary and some new ones, and I'd try to figure out what he was trying to get after. I guess we played for maybe a week or so, and then went in to record. It took about a week to really get natural with them, and then one day, we recorded two-thirds or half of the album and got all the takes we liked. Not that they were perfect takes or anything, and that was good. We did the rest of the songs probably in another day, and then started doing overdubs. It was pretty lo-fi, low-key. A lot of it was just us in some guy's apartment—just me and Stephen, and Scott would come in and Mark would come in at different times and add their two cents. But a lot of it was Stephen just pressing "record" and running into the room with me on the drums and playing. Usually, Stephen had a real strong idea of how each song would go. Even during the taping, he'd tell me we were going to stop here or go there. He'd just kind of talk me through it. That's why some of it has a slacker feel: We were learning it and he was learning it as it was going on.