Moustache-free to Be You and Me

We chat with a fresh-faced John Oates, pick the brain behind M.O.T.O. and play a scary game with Burnt by the Sun

Questions Three
Paul Caporino is one of those bonafide basement-pop geniuses, the best songwriter you've never heard of. Since the waning days of the Reagan administration, his band, M.O.T.O. (for Masters of the Obvious, but the cognoscenti just say "moto"), has issued literally dozens of EPs and cassettes along with the occasional full-length on vinyl or plastic. Through countless lineup changes and three geographical moves (New Orleans to Boston to Chicago), Caporino has only sharpened his gift for insanely catchy punk-pop and genuinely funny lyrics. Neophytes would do best to start with last year's Kill Moto! before delving into the whole Byzantine discography. Irresistible tunes such as "I Hate My Fucking Job" and "Dance Dance Dance Dance Dance to the Radio" offer big, Cheap Trick-esque rock melodies played at Buzzcocks speed, proving definitively that two or three chords are more fun than six or seven. Through it all, Caporino sounds like a man who can write perfect two-minute pop nuggets by the hundreds, as indeed he is. He's as concise verbally as he is musically:

The Riverfront Times: Your early records had a lot of lyrics about your penis ["Crystallize My Penis," "It's So Big It's Fluorescent," etc.] -- your recent ones, not so much. Has your penis become less important to you as you've gotten older?

Burnt by the Sun's Michael Olender (third from left) is an "off-his" rocker.
Burnt by the Sun's Michael Olender (third from left) is an "off-his" rocker.
M.O.T.O.: They don't sing about real penises.
M.O.T.O.: They don't sing about real penises.

Paul Caporino: I don't have any songs about my [actual] penis. I wrote those lyrics 'cause they were funny and they got us attention.

You've recorded songs for tribute albums to Motörhead, Shonen Knife and Frank Zappa. Does that trio pretty much triangulate the M.O.T.O. sound?

Not really. Good guess, though.

M.O.T.O.'s prolific output, homemade recordings and catchy melodies have prompted some to call you "the punk Guided by Voices." Do you take this as a compliment?

It's not a compliment or a put-down. But if it makes people buy our stuff, come to our shows and give us money, that's okay by me. -- Jason Toon

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