For a guy who makes some of weird sounding shit, Tom Fec is a pretty normal dude. He exercises. He dreams of giving up, getting fat and going bald. He loves the '80s, but not in a lame, ironic way. But Fec crafts day-glo hallucinogenic pop with Black Moth Super Rainbow, and drops bass like a fisherman under his chosen nom de costume Tobacco. He's released four albums since 2007, switching gears between Tobacco and BMSR, which has left him psychically fatigued and turning to prank calling Yinzers from his native Pittsburgh for fun. We caught up with him Friday night after soundcheck in Madison, Wisconsin to answer some burning questions, like whether or not he's ever going to release another album (seriously) and why we're heading for a "crazy revolution" or widespread creative devastation. Take a little time to get to know Tobacco, and then see him with the whole Black Moth Super Rainbow gang tonight at Off Broadway.
Diana Benanti: We're going to start with a verbal Rorshach test if you will.
Tobacco: Oh God. [laughs]
Just say the first thing that pops into your head. Galaxy.
[laughs] I don't know, all I can think of when you say creamed corn is creamed corn.
Um, haha, she's just funny.
Okay, enough of that, sorry. You've expressed some cognitive dissonance with BMSR versus your solo projects, saying that you've not the same person who wrote Dandelion Gum. Do you still feel that way or were you ready to dive back in after Maniac Meat came out?
When I wrote Dandelion Gum I still had a regular job and no one was paying attention. I was just a completely different person. Anything that sounded kind of cool I just went with it; I think I'm a lot pickier now. It's harder to have fun sometimes when it gets to that point, so Maniac Meat was almost an escape sort of.
Are you having fun working on the Psychic Love Damage stuff?
I am but it's different, this is completely different, this is me taking way too much time, like years now of just throwing stuff out constantly. I'm trying to treat it as if this is my last chance. And also, I feel like there's so much wasted stuff out on the internet, everyone is just constantly releasing stuff and putting it out for free, so much music; I feel like whenever I do something again it's gotta be special. Yeah it's fun playing with it, but for the last Black Moth album, my escape was making Maniac Meat. Now my escape on this one is prank calls. I guess I'm trying to be a professional idiot or something, but I'm trying to make a prank call record. The Black Moth record should be done right now, but it isn't because I keep getting sidetracked with this prank call shit. I feel like I went so far away from your question.
Not at all. I want to come back to the prank calls, but do you think that with constant releases, of every song someone's banged together in two hours, do you think it's a struggle for relevance that's prompted that or what?
Absolutely. It's really weird, everyone's got a manager, and I still don't. It's interesting to watch all this stuff happen. It's like, Bandcamp is crazy because people just come out of nowhere, and the first idea you think of is up on Bandcamp. And there actually people scouting that stuff, and that shit gets reviewed, and that's really all it takes. I don't know, I could go on forever for that. Especially: A lot of, like the hip hop guys, you know, the underground beat guys, it's like every single idea they could possibly come up with they just release, and there's so many albums...it's kind of crazy. I guess it is a struggle for relevancy, I don't know.
Yeah, it's kind of depressing because it makes it really difficult to keep up if you really like someone's work, you have to be trolling daily while sifting through everything else.
Yeah, I'm going to try to make it easier to keep up with my work. I'm going to make my work get a lot smaller. But hopefully at the end of the day that says more.
What do you mean when you say a prank call record?
I don't know, its like a Jerky Boys kind of thing that I've been working on nonstop. It's not really work, it's getting together with my friends and playing around with people on the phone. I've been channeling Pittsburghers. I don't know if you know about Yinzers.
I grew up around that stuff so it's like ingrained in me. I've been channeling these Yinzers and trying to talk like them in these calls, and act the way I think they would act, and calling these other Yinzers. It's really stupid [laughs] I don't know, but it's a lot of fun.
Are you really making a movie too?
The one that I was making I had to scrap because the guy who it was about, it's not really working out, it's so much work. I had a few hours of footage and it sort of fell apart. Maybe. I don't know. I feel like I've had all these ideas, and then people come out and they do them better than me. That movie Trash Humpers, I had that same idea, and then that guys came out and did it so much better than I ever could have. So maybe leave the movie making to the movie guys. Maybe someday though.
Do you think that maybe, since you didn't, like, put the time in like that guy did, maybe yours would have been better? You can't really know at this point right?
I guess not, but it's more of just what I saw in my head. I'm sure I'll want to do something. For the next Black Moth or Tobacco, I want to do like a full video for every song so it all sort of works together. I guess that would be a start. Maybe that'll get me going.
You said the album should be finished. Do you have a drop dead date that you're looking at?
No, there's nobody waiting on me. I mean, the album could fizzle, and I don't think anyone would care. I thought I would have it done, on my own little imaginary time line, in like November or December, and out next summer and we'd be touring and stuff.
So if the album fizzles, are you prepared for what will happen? That 40 second tease on Soundcloud really has people excited for the new stuff. There are so many ideas in that snippet, and it sounds brilliant.
Thank you. I don't even know if people are excited about it. I just wanted to see if these ideas were even worth pursuing, almost. I don't want to be like Weezer, where they ask their fans to pick out their record for them. I think that's kind of fucked up. I have Dandelion Gum and Maniac Meat, and maybe that's enough, maybe it would almost be a bad thing to make more. I don't know.
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