By Jim Teacher
JT: I was just relistening to some old mps (something I really rarely do), to "Rivers of Water, Rivers of Mud," and damn, my vocal chords tense up just listening to that shit. Like they're afraid they're gonna have to try and make those sounds again!
JT: Mine too! Speaking of recording, can you talk a little bit about the early trepidation you had in recording any music for the band whatsoever?
JT: Ah, you had to ask that one...the fact is that my early insistence on this might have somewhat sabotaged the band early on. But I was crazy, crazy, at the time, so, you know. We actually played a pretty large (for us) gig with this emo band the Juliana Theory and kids were all like "Where's your record" and we had to be like, "Surprise! WE DON'T HAVE ONE!" Which is sort of a career stopping idea.
Look, we live in an era of recorded music. Apart from some nursery rhymes and maybe some folk songs, we have no common, remembered music, at least not in American culture. Much as writing is sort of an external memory drive for deep thoughts, so recording is that for music...it no longer has to reside in your heart and brain. And for the idealistic Jim Teacher of 1999, that was disturbing.
Inevitably, the artifacts--the records, the paintings, the writings--become fetishized and no longer track with or represent the original ideas or emotions that inspired them, which is, you would think, utterly against the artist's intentions. It's the museumification process. So I wanted to somehow resist that, by fighting the impulse to record altogether. I wanted a return to memory. Life ain't nothing but remembering.
Obviously, this didn't really gibe with the times, and was not great for the band's popularity (such as it was). And of course I eventually broke down and we recorded some pretty awesome shit, first with King Django, then with the awesome Mike Olear. Still, I remain fascinated by improvisation and forgetfulness, and was always amazed at how bands like the Stooges in the '70s, you'd get these live recordings with songs that they just made up on the spot, never to record...it was kind of mind-bending. And I wanted the recordings to retain that element of live-ness...I still think we often sounded better live (in certain venues) that we ever did on record.