What have been your career highs and lows?
I think I’d have a slightly different perspective than people would imagine. I think the highs have been when I’ve had a highly functioning band that could very quickly and readily turn new songs around into music that we could play. I would say the lows have been when alternative music was sort of swamped in by the changes in the music business combined with the shift into what I would call a precocious niche culture. Alternative music has always been niche culture and will continue to be in its truest definition but now we’ve broken down into ten thousand sub-genres with everybody competing for who’s cooler or who’s dumber and that’s really sapped a lot of the power, the collective power, of an alternative band or artist to marshal forces around them ― which maybe are more in support of their ideology than their music ― that can push them and their ideas and the expansiveness of what they’re bringing into the mainstream culture.
What I see is that you have this very fractionalized thing, that now those bands can’t get enough steam behind them to launch into the mainstream. I think that’s really sapped alternative music of its true effective power, which is to mess things up. It’s basically messing things up for people who like things messed up so it’s giving rise to this very safe rock and roll. I was reading an article by Chuck Klosterman about how he’d gone to see Creed and Nickleback on the same night in New York, asking “Why do people hate these bands and yet there are audiences fist pumping and singing along to every word?” It’s the dichotomy of the mainstream’s music and the alternative music and yet now, never the twain shall meet. We’ve had a few of those moments, with the Byrds singing “Eight Miles High” and having a hit with it, and Sly and the Family Stone doing this very sublime soul music. There’s something that happened. There are still dangerous elements in straight-up pop. There are very radical producers doing stuff like Nicki Minaj. But it doesn’t seem to be crossing over from the alternative ranks like it used to and like it had done for 50 or 60 years, and that, to me, is very suspicious, because now it’s like everyone’s just going to exist in their own bubble and a self-justifying bubble ― see isn’t our bubble better than your bubble? And that’s something I’ve always been against, no matter what era I lived in. It’s shocking to me as someone who came of age in the ’90s with the barriers we were able to break down collectively, that it’s just turned into some other weird thing. Part of what we took pride in was introducing fans to stuff like Electric Light Orchestra and Mudhoney. That’s what you’re supposed to do. You’re not supposed to just glorify your own subculture. That, to me, is very, very strange, but that’s what we live in now.
Read the entire interview at Exclaim