In last week's paper, Christian Schaeffer interviewed singer-songwriter Michael Zapruder, who's playing at Cicero's tonight. Read his article here. However, the musician also works as a curator for Pandora, a "personalized internet radio service that helps you find new music based on your old and current favorites." He had some interesting things to say about how his job and creative life collide.MP3: Michael Zapruder, "Ads for Feelings"
Christian Schaeffer: Does your day job at Pandora force you to look at your own music on a more microscopic level? Michael Zapruder: It definitely has. I don’t go through with a fine-tooth comb. I keep it intuitive when I make records, but it does inform it. Mainly, the listening to such an incredible variety of music – the Shaggs or Caetano Veloso or the Fleet Foxes or Jodeci – all this stuff has to go through you. It makes it harder for me to believe in my own stuff, because I’ll hear stuff that I’ve done before. I can’t accidentally do something that someone else has done and not know it. As far as the analytical side, I like to think about music, but it’s like lifting weights so you can sleep well at night. Ideas are toxic to music, especially in record making. You just have to be available for whatever is gonna be good. If you do it right, the background work is the foundation and you don’t notice it. You just incorporate tons of stuff and it becomes a part of your behavior and your choices.
Your lyrics walk this weird line between inscrutable poetry and mundane detail. Is pop music always the most worthy vessel for these ideas? It’s a cool tension. I try with every record to be more direct and more simple, but it never seems to work. But something that seems direct to me never really is to other people. I definitely think that [Dragon Chinese Cocktail Horoscope] is the best one for me because I really like songs and the record making process, but as far as I’m concerned, anything someone makes is defined by its function. If it carries that info – it’s up to the artist to make it function that way. If it does communicate that thing, I’m succeeding. Some of the stuff is confusing narratively, since I was into the idea that certainty is the worst things person can have, and that ambiguous writing just works better. I think a lot of indie music is great in that people have a lot of freedom to do what they want to do, and songwriters are trying to expand the form to carry more information. We’re in such a serious situation in the world that anyone who makes stuff up wants to add to the culture. And I do think that cultural contributions can be helpful. I think songs and records can function any way – they’re just limited by their own capabilities.
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