Clean Pavement Dirt
You cannot really help wondering: How can a whole band sound so out of whack for such a long time? Pavement have achieved this easily over the course of 10 years. Granted, their latest release "Terror Twilight" sounds more lushly produced and overall "bigger" but this resembles cleansed pieces of dirt: Underneath it all there's still the more or like erratic, uneven Soundtrack to a twisted mind that always has been and seemingly will always be the Pavement universe. Mind you: This is a good thing. A very good thing. Because a band with a vision and limited capabilities still is better than a band with a clean sound and no clue of what to do with it. But it's unusual that one is able to conserve such an attitude over such a long period of time. Unless you don't really care about people's opinion, that is. That seems to be the case with this band. And so, subsequently "music" seems to be only one of the driving forces in the lives of the band members. So it is quite easily explained, why it took them two years to come up with a follow up to "Brighten The Corners".
"We decided to take 6 months off after the touring for the last record", says Bob, the multitalented master of ceremonies at each Pavement live show ("He's our Brian Eno", explains Guitar player Scott Bob's somewhat puzzling status within the band), "we wanted to get reacquainted with our families. We have two married gentlemen in the band now. I don't know about their plans for families but I guess, it will be even longer intervals in the future for us."
Besides Pavement, most of the bandmembers have other projects, too. Bass player Mark plays with Free Kitten, Scott just started his own label Amazing Greece (for local bands mostly), Bob releases "A single every 5 years or so from my own label out of my cellar" and apart from that has bought some racehorses, of which he is quite proud (since they are quite successful (not in the major league, though) and Steve plays with pal David Berman in the Silver Jews (unless he's fired again, which seems to happen every now and then). Silver Jews main man David Berman lives in Bob's attic right now - 24 hours a day, as Bob states. He got beaten up pretty badly on a promo tour in Spain last year. When asked about his well being, Bob becomes strangely agitated: "If he's alright? In the head you mean? No, he's okay. He was worried about his hearing, but that's better now and he had a footprint in his face, which, by the stories I've been told, he pretty much deserved. 24 hours after his return he started stealing other people's girlfriends, so, yes, I think he's okay."
"Twilight Terror" created quite a buzz prior to it's release. But this really didn't bother Pavement that much. They don't seem to be affected by talk about themselves anymore. "Just let me state that we're no kings of LowFi and slackers", states Scott, "this record is not LowFi and we are not slacking."
Indeed: "Twilight Terror" seems to be quite elaborate and complex - like a lot of work has been put in here.
"Yes, for the first time we set out to make a coherent record", Bob describes the process, "we started recording last July, but then that studio turned out to be sort of a rehearsal space. Then we moved to another, and then on to London. This procedure did seem to make sense at the time and we are pleased with the results... the way it works is, that Steve comes to us with his ideas in the shape of demos and then we start to work on the songs. Some come out pretty much the same he'd imagined them, and others change completely. We did lose some songs in the process..."
"...and found some new ones, too," adds Scott, "what's important is, that we tried to make those songs as good as possible, whereas in the past we recorded as much as possible and then threw away what we didn't like."
"So we don't really have any b-Sides this time", explains Bob, "the ones we used for "Spit On A Stranger" are outtakes from the last album and some live tracks."
And the remaining ones sometimes sound as if several songs were combined into one.
"Exactly", admit's Bob, "that's how it happened. We took all those fragments and linked them together."
Interesting aspect: In the past Pavement applied that procedure to their live shows - starting one song, then abruptly changing to another or stopping mid-chorus or something like that - now they write songs in that manner.
"We do like to keep our audience in suspense", points Bob out, "it does become a little bit silly at times, but that's what we like to do."
When Pavement were playing that night at Cologne's Gloria-venue, this theory didn't quite work that well - more or less on account to the fact that the album hadn't been released and people didn't know the songs, but also because the magic of earlier shows somehow was lacking. When they played "hits" like "Cut Your Hair", it was mostly semi-enthusiastic routine - without surprising elements. In this context (and not to be taken as a reproach): Why don't they come up with "cleaner" sounding records - a hit single, for example.
"Well, when we set out to work on a straight track, the result is something like "Carrot Rope" - so there you are. We did work with producers this time and they were very good at finding flaws and keeping them out, but there are still enough left."
Well: How is it decided, what a flaw is and what not? Sometimes those even sound like intentionally done so.
"No, it's never done intentionally. That's how we are, how we like to be. I think this record sounds better than the last one. Steve thinks so, too. But on the other hand: He always thinks the last record sounds bad after a while."
In Germany, Pavement have just signed with Virgin records - which is an issue over here, but obviously not for Pavement.
"Virgin is a major distributor over here, right?" Scott want's to know, "well, we don't really care. In the US we just went from a major distributor back to independent again. It doesn't really matter, it has to be what's best for the music."
"Our status hasn't really changed at all", adds Bob.
Since Steve's asleep while the interviews are conducted, we cannot really ask about the lyrics, but there's this song "Major League" on the record - any references there?
"Well I think it's about death", Bob speculates, "but I'm not really sure what Steve's talking about. It's definitely nothing to do with us going major or anything. It had been written on a different occasion."
What's a "Carrot Rope".
"It's a sex toy", Bob blurts out ("So I've heard", adds Steve), "I'm not really sure, but I think it's something an exhibitionist might want to show to people, like 'Wanna see my Carrot Rope?'"
And what about the Title of the record?
"Twilight Terror is the short span between Sunset and Dusk", explains Bob, "this is considered the most dangerous time in traffic, because half of the people switch on the headlights, and the other half doesn't. It's when most accidents happen."
"Also it stands for times, when strange things happen, like Equinox, during an eclipse or on a full moon", emphasizes Scott, "and we thought that this would be the best times to listen to this album."
Well it's not that bad, really. Though there's a different vibe on this record. Someone mentions that this sense of longing, which could almost be considered a Pavement trademark seems to miss on "Twilight". Bob agrees in a way but cannot explain why this seems to be the case. There's a track called "Folk Jam" on this record. What's the idea behind this?
Scott has the answer: "Well there always has been an influence of folk and country in our music. We always liked that. And that's our little reference to that kind of music. It's a country song done Pavement Style, if you will."
On the excellent new Pavement-Homepage www.pavementtherockband.com there's lots of goodies for fans. Some bonus tracks and a whole live album as MP3 files, for instance, or the promise of a Pavement TV. What's that?
"Well the homepage is quite new", answers Bob, "so we are still figuring out what to do with it. But since everyone seems to be working with that medium we needed to have one. We had this Live-Album that never came to happen, so we put that on there. And Pavement TV is something for the fans, too. We had those film crews following us around - in fact, if they were here they would be filming you right now. The stuff they did is right now edited and it will be put on Pavement TV. We are planning to have several channels."
"And probably a webcam, too," adds Scott, "and some loops of Bob opening the refrigerator or drinking beer or something. Also we would like to buy a digital camera and take it on tour with us, so probably we will use that, too. We are planning on doing a feature of our road crew and a tour diary, although we haven't figured out how to do it."
About that MP3 thing (a new file-format which enables downloads from the internet and storing with acceptable ressources): Will they get anything out of that?
"Probably we will not get anything out of that, except, probably pleased fans. But it is a great chance to use available material and to do something which the record company hasn't got any control over."
It will be interesting to see how this thing develops. At the time, record companies seem to freak out because of copyright reasons and losses in revenue, whereas musicians seem to embrace the new medium enthusiastically.
Pavement will be playing some Festivals during summer. And then - who knows? As already said: The intervals between records could become longer since there seems to be a life besides Pavement.
And then it probably will be another load of cleansed dirt for Pavement are not likely to behave properly and become squeaky clean pop-stars in the foreseeable future.
Interview: -Ullrich Maurer-
Fotos: -Ullrich Maurer-
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