|After talking a few about the recording equipment in the back of the bus, we began the interview on a great statement that we should all live by (oh, and by the way, I agree with Tommy, Macs do rule and firewall kicks the crap out of SCSI ports)
Tommy: That’s what I learned. Everybody is wrong about everything.
EM: Yea, we are good like that.
Tommy: (Laughing at my wrongness)
EM: It’s so much easier to be wrong all the time!
Tommy: Yea, definitely (still laughing at my wrongness)
EM:It just seems that both with the recording going on here on the bus and this, that it would be tough for you to finalize something on CD? This is now the second time I have seen you live, although you play the same songs, it seemed much different.
Tommy: Really? How was it different?
EM: I am not sure if the different vibe was do to the setup, but you seemed more raw, if that’s the correct term, than you did tonight opening for Lenny Kravitz. Maybe it was you just had keyboards and were more electronic opening for Garbage and you can’t do that here.
Tommy: That’s right. You can’t do that here because these audiences, well, we only get a half hour for one, but these audiences, and Garbage’s for that matter as well, if you try to be subtle, you just lose them. And honestly, the Garbage fans were not music fans, they were Shirley fans. And if you try to throw anything subtle on them, you are just going to lose them.
EM: I would assume you would have the same with Lenny fans. Lenny fans are here to see Lenny.
Tommy: Well, Lenny fans are more open and bigger music fans, I think.
EM: Really? I would have guessed it to be opposite; meaning Garbage fans would be better music fans.
Tommy: I know. I would have thought the same thing, but this has been my experience. And the Garbage fans really pissed me off. The front row would just be (picture Tommy with arms crossed and a scowl). I mean, come on. We are a good enough band and do things interestingly enough, that if you are a music fan, you have to get something out of this. Even if just an ‘Alright, this is coo.’ At the very least, that we are acceptable. But the Garbage fans, God...
EM: Damn, I just would have put money down on the exact opposite.
Tommy: I would have to.
EM: Because Garbage is so everywhere. Especially the new record.
Tommy: Yea, and it took me a while to get used to that. I was like, ‘Why is this happening?’ But with the Lenny fans, they are like, ‘Cool. We are on the lawn, we are happy to be here, just hanging out. Here’s a nice band.’ Maybe it’s just the environment because most of the people are on the lawn when we go on. What were there? Five thousand people, 4,000, something like that? But they were just all spread out and are like, ‘Ah, yea, cool sound.’ And we play some more, and we get them woo hooing from the lawn, and I totally accept that. And people come up and say, ‘I didn’t know who you were, but I liked it.’ And that is cool on this tour.
EM: What I noticed, because I am here for a lot of shows, was the security guards were bobbing their heads up front. Which says a lot about your music, because they are here for every show, and don’t normally get into the music.
Tommy: Yea, what I like is where you see one guy, who is supposed to be looking forward, kinda turn his head to catch a glimpse of what we are doing, kinda like, ‘What the hell?’ That’s what I want. That kind of extreme dynamic. I mean, this is a locked set within the half-hour, so it’s just bam, bam, bam. But within each song I like it when we tweak out and make the security guard turn around and be like, ‘What’s going on?’ That’s kind of cool.
EM: That happened with Garbage when you got to go off and do some electronic deejaying on the stage.
Tommy: I wish we could do that still. We were doing that to open the show for a while, because initially I thought, ‘Well, this is Lenny Kravitz and Pink, so maybe I should do something a little more on the mellower side. Sort of bridge the gap between the two.’ But then I was like, ‘Nah, fuck it. We are just going to go out and beat them over the head until they accept us.’
EM: Which is what you should do.
Tommy: Yea, but I would love to still do that. But I think we have to go out there and be obvious, for lack of a better term. Because we are introducing ourselves, we should be obvious. But that doesn’t mean the songs we are playing are necessarily obvious, but it’s that they are louder. So at least as volume is concerned, that is what is going on.
EM: I actually heard you up on stage say before a song, ‘Boy, we haven’t done this one in a while.’
Tommy: Yea, Brighter Days. And I think it sounded like it, too.
EM: But do you find yourself changing the set a lot or do you try and find a formula and stick with it.
Tommy: Well, you know what’s funny is we have been touring for nine months now, with only taking half of December off, and I don’t think anyone is bored. Which is totally cool. I am not bored at all. I like playing these songs. We have been pretty much sticking with the same set because it works. We just changed it up tonight just for the fun of it. But I don’t think it works nearly as well as the other one. Because when I switch guitars, there is a lag between songs and I have to start the second song. So that was a little bit of a lag, and I like going straight in to the next song. Like with Flourescene, which is the last song. But we will probably end up going back. Because when you find a set that works, you stick with it.
EM: Obviously, you get a lot of comparisons to the Smashing Pumpkins, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all.
Tommy: I am fine with that. But then I notice that for people who are more aware of music and more rabid fans will start talking about Placebo, The Sneaker Pimps and DJ Shadow and then I know whom I am talking to. These are people that know their shit. And Blur. You start talking Blur to me, then I know you know your shit. But that’s rare. Those kinds of fans are rare.
EM: But of course, for most it’s the vocal comparison.
Tommy: Right, that same sort of nasally voice.
EM: Right, and it’s like, there is nothing you can do about how you sound and people want to say this or that about the band.
Tommy: There really isn’t much I can do about it. But that’s why they bring up Placebo, too. But it’s not just the vocals; it’s because I have alternative rock roots. I came from the Eels, and that was less of a rock band, but that was still tied in to that era of late 1990’s rock.
EM: The one thing that you also do, that the Pumpkins did real well, was work the electronics in with the course of the song.
EM: Which a lot of bands are not doing now. They see they should have electronic parts, and add them and they just don’t fit in with the course of the song. If this is making sense.
Tommy: Definitely! It’s so obvious when they are trying to fit it in because there is some guy sitting at a turntable with an MPC. But I have an MPC too, but I use it within the context of what was written. I am not just going to go out there and bang on it for no reason. People have said, ‘Why don’t you have a deejay in the band?’ And I like the idea of it and the spirit of it, but it’s kind of formulaic. The way I do it is to have the Chaos pad to have something different, but to also have a context to is then to just try and merge to genres together.
EM: When you finished with the record and it was printed and was now being sold to everyone who wanted it and there was nothing more you could do to it but just hear and see reaction, what the CD what you expected?
Tommy: Well, I guess so. Yea, I mean, this is my first record. Well, the Eels were my first record, but this was my own record, so I was really just groping in the dark. I was like, ‘Well, let’s try this.’ But once you made a decision, you were pretty much stuck with it. Like when it came to mixing, we got this really expensive mixer who would like come in at 10 am. We’ll talk about it, then come back at 4 p.m. At 4, he would play it for me, he would be like, ‘Alright, what do you want me to do?’ I couldn’t spend a lot of time with it. I couldn’t come in the next day and be like, ‘I spent all night with it and spent a lot of time with it and I want this and this and this.’ All those details are lost. It was just like, ‘Alright next!’ Which just sucked. In the end, the mix was very good for the radio. But instead of being in this dynamic, I would rather it be in this dynamic, sort of a wider dynamic. So that’s one of the things. My own mixes are highly detailed and that detail is missing and it is all sort of crunched in there. But the mix is good, that is just a style, preference. The mix is good, but I think the more you pay for somebody, the more you are not going to get your money’s worth. There are so many myths going on in the industry that you have to have this person, or that person. It’s all bullshit. I could throw this microphone in front of my amp and get a killer guitar sound and it doesn’t take all this fancy equipment, you know what I mean? That’s the big myth. So, I think for the next record, like now I know what I am doing. So if someone tried to pull that shit, I would be like, ‘Beat it. Get the fuck outta here,’ know what I mean? I know what I am doing so I think on the next record I am going to be on a tear. “Nope, this. Nope, that.’ I will know exactly what I need; I know exactly what I am doing. You stand in my way, I will destroy you! (laughing)
EM: Reminds me of the Custom CD Fast. It was recorded all in his loft with his own equipment and no one can tell that is wasn’t done on this mass scale.
Tommy: Yea, and it’s not a carbon copy of everything else that person may have done in the past.
Tommy and I spoke on and on and I missed the Pink set. So, apologies to Angie for making you sit there alone and if you like what you read so far and want to read more, e-mail me and I can add to this. Trust me, Tommy had a lot to say and it was all good!