By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
What about the music underneath the words? Why did it take a year-and-a-half? Why different studios? Was it structured time in the studio or recording on whims?
You know, the whole record is a whim. We tried to make some sense out of it in the end, and structure and organize it so it sounded like a record. But we were in the middle of touring when we started on it, and we would just go into the studio on our days off, so that's why different studios. Then we were ... we just didn't have a deadline. We knew the Woody Guthrie thing was coming out, and (Summer Teeth) wasn't going to come out right after that, or before it. So we took our time. Of that year-and-a-half, maybe three months of it was actual time in the studio.
That's still a long time.
Yeah, it is. But we worked really cheaply. We found some studios we really liked that were inexpensive, and we'd go there and never really go longer than a week at a time, 'cause we'd get burned out, and we'd make a tape of everything we did, drive around and listen to it for like a month or so, then go back. We just stayed focused on like 12 or 13 songs and rerecorded them, took them apart. It just felt like we just really didn't have a lot of pressure. But really early on, the way we record, and the way we do demos, it sounded like a record; it sounded like Being There. That was the first two weeks total of recording, and then the rest of the time was like, "Well, that's not exciting to listen to." It was more a matter of us getting bored with ourselves. So it was like, "Let's go fuck it up and see if we can make something more exciting to listen to."
That's funny -- the next question that I have written down is: Was there a moment in the process that you decided to fuck it and go whole-hog?
Yeah, totally. And then we'd do a song like that, like a couple of songs would get done like that -- like, "Pieholden Suite" and "Via Chicago" were the first couple songs we did a lot of computer editing and studio manipulation.
And you use a timpani.
We use a timpani. We try to use one on every record.
And a flute, too. You know what (Vintage Vinyl East manager John) Henderson says about that:continued on page 44WILCOcontinued from page 42 "It ain't rock & roll if it ain't got a flute."
I know. But I don't want to tell him it's not a real flute (laughs) -- don't tell him. Yeah, but from that point on, the rest of the time was spent trying to make the rest of the record fit in sonically with those couple of songs. Maybe "Always In Love" was in there, too. And then we ended up surpassing it with a few songs. Early on it sounded like some of the heavier songs and lyrics really stuck out, not in a good way. It really sounded self-loathing, things that I really didn't intend. And what little control you have over it in the end is how it's going to be perceived -- we tried to undermine it. Once we got something to sound really big and beautiful, that was the goal. It would be much more exciting to hear someone sing about all these sort of -- in the grand scheme of things -- relatively petty personal problems -- not petty, they're human problems. But they're really small compared to -- they're not like life-or-death -- it's just what you fucking go through.
And then you make them really grand.
Yeah right. Or make the center of it, which is the lyrics or vocal, sound more like someone trying to convince someone they've got it really bad (while standing) in the middle of the redwood forest, or in New York City, you know, ignoring all this great stuff around them.
(We have a long discussion on books Tweedy's been reading that have affected his writing):
Also, surrealist stuff, not really writing. I have this book of surrealist games, and the techniques behind surrealist art, particularly writing and exquisite corpses.
It's funny -- I've been doing exquisite corpses...
We do that on the bus all the time.
Drawing or writing?
Writing. We take lines from them for some of the songs. God, this all sounds so pretentious. You're gonna have to wade through all this (pauses). Basically we're gonna get a lot more pussy with this record.
That's a pull quote right there.
That's the difference between European and American press. That would be a pull quote no matter what you said. All the pull quotes so far from our European interviews have been, like, talking about Jewel's tits in one; there was a photograph with a caption: "Wilco on the lookout for more cocaine and whores."
I'll use both of those. In the press release, it says you apologized to the band after you were finished with this one?