Monday, January 08, 2007

In the church of rock

I did this interview with Jeff Tweedy before last Xmas. It was about his new solo live dvd. Thanx to my aussie friend Mende for typing, understanding my bad english and taking care of the tape with the entire conversation.

PV: Great to talk to you again. Are you in the studio with the band now?

JT: Yeah, we’re recording. I’m not in the studio right now but we’ve been recording for about a week now. We had a session a couple of months ago where we were very close to being done with the record and we’re just kind of finishing things up right now

PV: Great news. Actually, the last time we met, it was when your live album with Wilco was coming out and there was talk about a possible live Wilco DVD and now we just have a solo Tweedy DVD. So, any news about the Wilco DVD being postponed forever or will there be a chance to se it?

JT: No, I’m sure we’ll have something come out eventually but it didn’t seem right with that record and the footage we had. It just wasn’t the right time but I think we’ll do something sooner than later. I think that footage will come out in some point of time. It was just didn’t feel right last year

PV: I have to say how much I appreciate the Jeff Tweedy solo, live DVD. It’s terrific – fantastic.

JT: Oh, I’m glad you enjoy it

PV: Its great. I only had it for a couple of days and I’m still watching and it’s terrific. Especially for me, I’ve never had the chance to see you in a solo concert - it was truly a revelation.

JT: Well that’s good – I guess that’s good.

PV: I also want to thank you – I don’t know if it was your idea, but thank you for the Italian subtitles on the DVD because its very hard to have a DVD with Italian subtitles.

JT: Honestly, I probably didn’t have anything to do with that, but I’m glad they did that. I think that’s an important thing because I want people to understand it.

PV: It’s great. I was thinking about the short interview with you at the beginning of the DVD when you said something very, very interesting. When you said, “Surrender to the idea that you are at the service of someone else”- those are great words

JT: Well, I think that’s a pretty healthy way of looking at things, even if you’re not just a guy on stage with a guitar. I think we’ll be better off if we can surrender to that idea more often and that we’re not just here for ourselves and that we’re here for each other and I think it sounds really old-fashioned and hippy! (laughs) I think its beautiful and I don’t know any other way to look at it that makes me feel good about it.

PV: Yes, for me its great and also when you say that any kind of environment like a rock concert where people gather around is an important part of any culture, like being in a church and you said if church was what it was meant to be. So, may I ask you, what was church supposed to be for you then?

JT: Um, well unfortunately, church has never been much for me at all. I’ve never gotten that feeling from being in any of the churches I was exposed to as a kid. I never really got that feeling that I was part of a collected experience and that everybody in room really felt good about themselves being in that room. I always got the feeling that everybody felt kind of bad and suspicious about each other and there was a lot of judgement going on. I don’t ever remember the feeling transcendent by being a part of that group. On the other hand, being a part of rock audiences for the better part of my adult life and playing on stage at the service of a rock audience for the better part of my adult life, I’ve had that experience nightly - that there is something bigger than just myself, that there’s something bigger than the group of people that are inhabiting that room and there was chance to lose yourself in that identity and that it was a safe place to do that. Basically a place where it was kind of… I don’t know, one of the only places where you can have an intimate experience with a large group of people

PV: That’s great ok. What about Brendan Canty and Christoph Green, the movie directors, how were you involved with them? Did you know them before? I think they did a terrific job with the film

JT: I really love those guys and they’re the best. I think I might have met Brendan one other time before. They asked us to be in the second instalment of their series, Burn to shine DVD's, I don’t know if you’ve seen them. They go to different towns and buy a house and they either tear it down or burn it down. But before they do that, they film all the local bands playing in that house. It’s a really cool project and all those DVD’s are really beautiful. They did one with Wilco a few years ago and it was so nicely done, I thought the photography looked really beautiful and I really enjoyed being around those guys so much that it felt really nice to work with them in the future and I contacted them about whether they’d be interested in following me around a little bit and making a solo acoustic DVD and they were both very excited about it, so I was flattered by that. At that point, I pretty much gave up on any input. They did it all and I didn’t even watch the movie to be honest with you because I had complete faith and trust in those guys and they did a fantastic job

PV: They did a fantastic job. I loved how it starts in Seattle with the rain and then in San Francisco with the sun and it was great to see all this. It’s like ‘we’ve done it and we arrived safely in the end’.

JT: Well, they definitely put a lot of thought in this movie the sequence. They definitely put a lot of thought into telling the story. I’m really happy those guys did the movie because I don’t know anybody else that would that much attention to detail

PV: Actually, Brendan Canty in the liner notes that your record company gave to me said about you that ‘Jeff is in a really good place right now’ and I think this is beautiful because it’s possible to see that you’re great on stage and very happy to be on stage. What do you think about this?

JT: Well, I’m happy that I’m happy (laughs)

PV: Of course I’m talking musically speaking, from an artistic point of view

JT: Whatever you wanna talk about, I don’t really care. The simplest way to put it is I’m a lot of more comfortable in my skin than I’ve been most of my life and that’s a revelation from me and I think it’s a pretty wonderful thing to happen and I certainly don’t take it for granted that it was going to happen inevitably. I feel like, I don’t know…. I guess it’s the thing I most wanted to do and probably the only thing I ever wanted to do. So, that’s a pretty exalted place to be. Not many people find something they love to do, much less get to do it

PV: And also if I may say, today is the day after the day of the last American election and I’m sure you feel in a very good place now since the winning of the democrats…

JT: Well, to be honest with you, I can try cause I feel so relieved that the American people finally seem to be waking up and have finally put their foot down and I can only hope for the future that things get better. And I have to tell you that it was pretty hairy. The more I thought about this election before it happened, I really didn’t know what I was going to do if it went the other way, if it was another disappointing night like it was in 2004, I’m not going to handle this!

PV: Yes, I think the situation in Iraq has gone too far now and the Americans understood that.

JT: Well, I’m ashamed it took us so long and thinking on behalf of other Americans, I feel like I’ve been upset since the 2000 election when the Bush presidency, ah, the presidency was stolen. I’ve been frustrated and amazed that it’s gone as far as it has but I have to be happy now that at least things seem to be turning.

PV: So, again about the DVD, how was it to perform, knowing that you were filmed?. Was it something that requested a particular approach or was it as easy as ever?

JT: Honestly, I feel so comfortable around those guys that, Brendan and Christoph and the crew they worked with that, I felt really comfortable with all of them. I honestly didn’t think about that much. At the end of the day, I always feel that if it’s really, really terrible and I mess up, the DVD doesn’t have to come out (laughs). Also, I felt if it’s really, really bad, it might make a more interesting DVD!. We certainly didn’t pick the best versions of stuff to put in the DVD. I messed up a lot, I know that, so luckily I’m not a brain surgeon – there might be somebody dead on an operating table if that was the case.

PV: Did you decide which particular songs to include? Was it your choice?

JT: No, I honestly didn’t have anything to do with it. I played the shows, they filmed them and they put the DVD together. I watched it once when they finished with it with my wife and my wife didn’t hate it, so we said OK (laughs)

PV: That’s great, cause I know you have a lot of songs you perform when play solo, a lot of different songs and there might be been a reason to choose particular songs to perform

JT: No, I don’t think they took the best performances. I think they took the songs they liked the most and the songs they felt like fit best into the movie. I really think they had a script to push the story along and that they had a whole different agenda and it was about making a film to them and that was fine with me and I didn’t have a problem with that. I didn’t really care – I just wanted it to be a better movie and I don’t really think the best performances of the songs made it into the movie

PV: Ok, your work’s great anyway. There is a brand new song - Is that The thanks I get, right?

JT: It’s a song that been around a while. I wrote it for Solomon Burke but I didn’t get it to them on time to be on that last record that he did with Joe Henry, so I started playing it cause I kind of liked it and it ended up being in the movie and Wilco started playing it too at some point. We’ve recorded it but I don’t know if it’ll be on the next record or not, but it ended up being on the DVD which is kind of nice, I guess.

PV: Like you did with the last Wilco album, the people that bought the DVD can download for free some songs from your website?

JT: Yeah, all the audio from the DVD, you can download from the website

PV: That’s great. You’re not worried about people on the internet that download Wilco shows and that kind of stuff. There’s a link on your Wilco about live shows, right?

JT: Yeah, I just really want people to listen to our music and I’d be more worried if people weren’t interested in doing that, you know? I don’t really have any use for it once we’ve played the show, so they might as well have it and do whatever the want to do with it. It’s theirs!

PV: That’s great. The recent Harry Smith tribute concert that’s coming out with Wilco involved with a performance, I think it was recorded some years ago..

JT: Yeah, that’s probably four versions of Wilco ago! That’s a long time ago, so it’s a little of a different sounding version of the band but the Richard Rabbit Brown song, I think we’ve played it as slow as you could possible play it, but that’s neither here nor there.

PV: So, you told me you’re working on a new studio album – Is there any idea when it’ll be coming out?

JT: April, I think

PV: That’s great. Are you producing it in the usual way or is there somebody helping you to produce the album?

JT: We’re doing it the usual way. We’re recording it at our loft, Jim O’Rourke is going to mix it again. I’m really, really excited about it. I think it’s the closest record we have to, the way this record is turning out, is Being There. It sounds a lot like Being There, except that I think this is a much more an accomplished and experienced band than we were than when we made Being There. I don’t know what to say, I felt really great doing all the recording and right now, we’re kind of just finishing it up, so I can’t tell you how excited I am

PV: The English magazine, Q magazine, recently labelled your live album, Kicking Television, one of the best live albums of all time. How do you feel about that?

JT: (laughs) I don’t really know. I take all that with a grain of salt. I feel that it’s really nice that they liked the record – I can only look at it like that, I guess that means they liked the record. In ten years, they probably would have forgot about Kicking Television, but we’ll see

PV: I agree with them anyway, I think it’s one of the best live albums ever

JT: Well, thank you!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting, Wilco is an amazing band and JT is an amazing songwriter. They should be more popular than they are.

Paolo Vites said...

the 'thanx i get'... i give them to JT :-)

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