and my man ben at work reminded me that a few years ago i was lucky enough to interview Paul Westerberg, thanks to my friend Kate Sullivan who was the music editor of the LA Weekly at the time.
you can read the weekly interview here. and below is what was left over from that interview, which i posted on this very busblog.
i remember the interview very clearly, i was working at E! at the time and my boss hated me and i had a really hard job but somehow i was able to carve out a half hour break so i could talk to one of my all time heroes. youd have thought i could have scored an interview like that and given it to, oh i dont know, eonline, but after several attempts to work there i gave up trying.
then one day kate emailed me and said she could probably set it up if i was interested in doing the thing, and i was all i think i can do that thing, and then i did that damn thing. i was on top of the world.
for about 15 minutes and then i had to go back to my crappy job, but at least i had a smile on my face.
me: You seem kind of reluctant to do tours nowadays. Is that because you’re a devoted father and husband?
paul westerberg: Certainly not a husband as much as a dad. She’s fine if I go away for a few weeks, sometimes it’s probably better that I’m not there. But, yeah, it’s hard to leave my little 6 year-old. I tried to set this all up so I could do a lot of my traveling before summer vacation so I could be around to play baseball with him and stuff. And also it’s the way I’ve been making records out of my home and releasing them, it’s a different ballgame. It isn’t like a major label where you have a single and we have to go promote the single and play at every award show and all of that kind of crud.
I can tour if I want or not tour if I don’t want. After we played three show in Minneapolis with these guys I said, “this is the band that I want to take out on the road.”
me: People were speculating who this band was, and one of the guys speculating said that this was a MN cover band. Is that the group that you hooked up with?
paul westerberg: Oh I wouldn’t say that at all, no. Michael Bland, Prince’s old drummer on drums, and Jim Boquist from Son Volt is playing, and my old friend Kevin Bowe is a songwriter and is more of a producer and he gets a chance to be a lead guitar player and step out and do all the things that he’s always done in his bedroom.
No, this is a very nice mix of guys.
me: So definitely not a cover band.
paul westerberg: These guys know my songs better than they know other songs, so I would be the one who would prefer to play covers. (laughs)
me: there seems to be a nice mix of songs that you play in concert of new tunes with your older ones. Is that intentional for the fans, or do they all kinda seem the same to you since they’re all songs that you wrote?
paul westerberg: It varies a little from night to night, but I’ve never been one to play my new stuff specifically and then just tag on the oldies. Also I’m never quite sure what the audience will want to hear. If I don’t play “I Will Dare” people will say “why didn’t you play ‘I Will Dare’”. And if I do sometimes I feel that they’re bored with it. I played a couple of songs in November, a couple of brand new songs that I had just written, a couple of left field choices that the other guys were sorta stumped on. And there’s basically a handful of ten or so that I usually play most of the time. But then, we’ve got two nights. So that makes for all the more of the variety.
me: so if you don’t hear your favorite tune on the first night, then you have to come on the second night.
paul westerberg: And you won’t hear it again.
me: I saw a picture of you with Keith Richards who has got to be a big hero of yours. Did you guys have a chance to sit down and talk?
paul westerberg: Yeah we met about three times and that was the time we were doing a television show… no that was his birthday. Funny thing is that was his 45th birthday, I was 28, and now that I’m 45 I’m trying to get a picture of me and someone who’s 28 and compare them. Or take one of me and Keith now.
No, that was very– I just snuck backstage through the security guard and took a Polaroid of us. I wasn’t scared of him. He gave me the look like he was going to kill me but he knew I was safe.
me: Speaking of younger guys, are singers and younger bands coming to you for songs?
paul westerberg: Not as of late. I’m always convinced that someday someone will take one of my songs and do them and maybe there will be a whole back catalogue that will come to life via someone else. I know Lucinda Williams is going to do a few of my new unreleased songs that I’ve written. And I’ve got tunes in Cameron Crowe’s movie (“Elizabethtown”), a score in this other movie (the animated film “Open Season”) where I’ve got songs and the score, so it’s like I’m definitely writing and it’s getting out there. I don’t know the next time I’m going to put my own album out but…
me: So these last couple years where you’ve been knocking out two albums a year are going to die down a bit?
paul westerberg: I think so. For now. I’m going to concentrate on touring and then after touring finishing up the scoring. Then I don’t know quite what to do.
me: The Pixies reunion seemed pretty successful. Did that spark any interest in you guys getting back together?
paul westerberg: There’s always bands getting back together whether they were popular or not. There was a time when the Pixies drew 60,000 in Europe. We were never at that level. We always had a solid underground level. But it was never beyond 6,000 people or so.
me: I hear ya, but they got to headline Coachella out here. I would imagine that you guys would probably have that kind of support too.
paul westerberg: It’s tempting but everything that comes along with it would be like… we would have to rehearse.
me: (laughs) We don’t care if you rehearse.
paul westerberg: Well we did before. But I think there’s a couple guys who are hesitant and I’m right in the middle and Tommy I don’t know if he’s in Guns N Roses still or able to go out and play in other groups or what.
me: Did you get a chance to read the Bob Dylan book?
paul westerberg: Yes, “Chronicles”.
me: What’s your take on it?
paul westerberg: I thought it was spectacular and in the very end I was not even sure that he was telling the truth. Pure Dylan, it was like he’s coming clean, he’s saying all the right things, champions Jack Elliot and everything, but in the end, you know, he could be lying. And that’s the crazy, legendary guy that he’s created. But I thought it was very interesting. And the fact that it was volume one that kind of jumped from ’62 to’87 and skipped “Blood On The Tracks” We could have 10 volumes before he’s done.
me: did it make you consider putting down your stories too?
paul westerberg: No. No. Mine are less spectacular. Cuz ours are– I would hate to be a half-assed musician that has to do it for the money. I think one day when I’m old and gray and it’s all said and done and a number of people are gone, I could. But there’s still sort of life in the band.
They’re going to release the best of my (solo) stuff, and of the Replacements, and the box set. I don’t know what will become of that.
me: Aren’t you going to get bored of everyone asking, “Is the band ever going to get back together?” Does that make you anxious about the greatest hits and the reissues or do you look to the future with happy feelings?
paul westerberg: I feel good. We all saw Paul McCartney at the Super Bowl. And it’s like, yeah, wouldn’t it have been great with John with him. The more the years pass the more I realize Bob (Stinson)’s great contribution to the early band, and then Slim was sort of Mach II, and then we ended up with a different drummer, so, as an easy way out it’s easy to say “the lead guitar player’s dead”.. and it changed Tommy and I forever. It changed our relationship and we’ve never been quite the same since. So that’s a little bit of a touchier a situation there.
me: Twin/Tone has video of a concert of you guys from 81 on their web site. Have you had a chance to see that?
paul westerberg: No. Is that the one where my hair looks like Frankenstein?
me: No, this is the one where you guys look sober. Was that just a happenstance?
paul westerberg: We could drink, for one. And for two, when we were young we took substances to spruce us up, as they say. Was it indoors or outdoors?
me: I think it was at First Ave.
paul westerberg: I know that one. That was filmed with Husker Du. The real footage, the first footage of us playing outdoors in front of Kaufman Union at the University of Minnesota in 1980, I believe. That’s the coveted stuff. That was the stuff we tried to throw in the river. (Laughs) Maybe we did.
me: A lot of people say you’ve mellowed out over the years, but going back to your catalogue even from the first album with “Nowhere Is My Home” and “If Only You Were Lonely”; “Within Your Reach”, “Kiss Me On The Bus”, “Sixteen Blue” all those songs, those were all songs that could have been on “Folker”. So have you always been kinda melancholy at heart?
paul westerberg: Sure, and I’ve always been able to bellow out screeching rock n roll. Like, I can’t think of the examples, there were some, “Pine Box”, stuff like that that was on the Grampaboy record or my record recently rocks about as hard as anything. I do go from a whisper to a shout and I’ve always enjoyed both styles. Give me Jackson Browne and gimme the Ramones. I’m a lover of both. I guess that’s what’s kept me out of the mainstream forever.
me: Now that you wont be knocking out two records a year, your old buddy Bob Mould has a pretty popular rock blog on the web, have you ever been interested of having a public journal of your thoughts or anything like that?
paul westerberg: No. Obviously I don’t even own a cell phone because I (accidentally) hung up on you. I’m a man of wood and dirt. I don’t go online. I don’t want to know what they say. I don’t like the fact that the instant — what we play Monday night is instantly available and so they know on Tuesday night. It puts more pressure to pull something off the cuff or out of the blue. But we’re going to try.
me: Recently you were on Jim Rome’s sports talk show. Do you listen to his show an awful lot?
a. I was tricked into it.
me: Were you?
paul westerberg: It was like, “This guy’s gonna call you up. Talk to him for a little bit.” So it’s like “sure, whatever.”
me: So you weren’t a fan of the show?
paul westerberg: I never heard it.
me: What other big famous stars have called you their favorite rock star like he did?
paul westerberg: Nobody terribly cool as far as I know.
me: So you don’t expect all of Hollywood to come out to the shows then?
paul westerberg: ahhh, no I don’t. (Laughs) It’s probably the night of the Grammys for all I know.
me: Are you using an iPod to listen to your music nowadays?
paul westerberg: No. No. I still like to pull out 45s and put them on the mono record player in the basement. I love the past and I love what it is. I feel I can learn more from what has come before than what is happening right now and what’s happening tomorrow. I’ll leave that to someone else who’s young and energetic.
Somebody gave me a blues compilation, a DVD from England, ’62-’69. It’s got Little Walker and Skip James and stuff and it’s I really enjoy watching that kind of stuff. I enjoy watching the Rolling Stones from that era too. I’m not a modern guy.
me: And you’re definitely a Minnesotan. Are there any spots you’re gonna wanna hang out at? Do you have any favorite LA spots?
paul westerberg: No. I go from the bathroom to the living room to the headphones to the telephone. I never go anywhere. There was a time I walked over to the Pink Dot to buy something, a candy bar. No. I’m not a go-seer of stuff.
me: Is that another reason why you’re not going crazy about touring?
paul westerberg: You make it so– The first gig is the 17th in Vancouver and I’m flying in on the 17th, that afternoon. If the flight is delayed or something then whoops. I’ll get there at 8pm, and get right to the gig, put on my shirt and kick it out.
I just talked to Michael and we’re trying to think of a good song for Prince to play on. I was thinking shit, what’s got a long, wiggy guitar solo on it? We’re stumped for now, but… We’ll think of something.
me: Is he going to be out here?
paul westerberg: I don’t know. Michael’s put in an appearance with him, and we’ve crossed paths, but… who knows who’ll show up.
me: Well, do a Prince song. You’re always good for covers.
top photo of paul via man without ties, photo of bob dylan via bobdylan.com