By Jim Teacher
JT: So what type of things contributed to your musical stylings?
JT: Well, first of all, church music. Fuzzy and I were brought up in a hyperreligious environment, so that's where Fuzzy gets his aficion for those type of baroque guitar riffs. Lots of old hymns and such. Growing up like that we really didn't get exposed to a lot of pop music, and although you'd catch snippets of it from TV and movies, we still tend to have gaping holes in our musical knowledge.
So then when I finally started listening to music it was your basic shit on the radio, Peter Cetera type of shit, until my friends got into rap and metal. So there was this time where basically all I listened to was Metallica and some Megadeth and G'N'R and old Aerosmith, and I tried to be metal and hung around with that crowd. But I still relished pop-like things. So that was when my friend Richie B. told me I ought to check out this band the Ramones, so I did and that was the end.
I could get away with this idea in my mind that the Ramones were somehow metal 'cause of how they dressed and shit, but the music itself was a throwback to '60s bubblegum pop, which, in retrospect, was the shit I really liked. By the end of high school that's pretty much all I listened to, the Ramones and shit like Iggy Pop and old Alice Cooper (the latter two on the recommendation of my friend Black Metal Mike, who I worked with at a bookstore and who I guess took pity on me and introduced me to the writings of Lester Bangs.)
Then I sort of segued into the whole pop punk and ska scene of the late '90s, although in general I was not into the music, more the idea of playing shows, do-it-yourself, on the fly. The mps was never fully accepted in those scenes, later on, I guess 'cause we didn't conform with the three-chord shit. At the same time, I just never got into hardcore, 'cause it was so musically uninteresting. Again, looking back, the main shit I liked at the time was I guess what you would call post-hardcore: Fugazi, Dismemberment Plan, etc. And I got into ska by way of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones [Stephen winces and shudders], which, at first, I basically assumed was metal with a horn section, but that introduced us to ska and superior products like the Slackers and the Stubborn All-Stars, which hearken back again to '60s pop and especially soul. Besides borrowing the vocal stylings of Dicky Barrett (who does the Cookie Monster but in a way that suggests the blues and soul, which is something I wanted to exploit), I also took from them and the ska scene in general this idea of dressing up. I guess I just liked the idea that, you know, you were stepping out, getting dressed up to go out and dance, and so on, which is a throwback to an older era of American music. And at the time I liked the irony, of this ferocious sounding band that is lead by a guy who is suspiciously overdressed and maybe even ritzy looking--but yet there was still this solid dance aspect to it all, like big bands and jazz.
Then in the early days of the mps we started really listening to shit like the Stones and Bruce and AC/DC and Tom Waits and UO and the Smiths (I told you there were huge gaps in my music knowledge) and especially soul, which I had unwittingly always loved, but had no idea that it existed as a separate genre altogether. When I was a kid on the playground I used to run around and sing in my mind that "Na na na na" from Wilson Pickett's "Night of a Thousand Dances." Although I didn't know the name of the song, I would say that was one of my favorite songs on earth at the time, it played in my head incessantly, along with shit like "Stand by Me" (for the obvious reason, the time period). So later, finding shit like Otis Redding and Bill Withers and James Brown and Stevie Wonder, was like unearthing this treasure you had been looking for your whole life. And that obviously influenced the mps a lot.
So when you look back, you really find all these elements flowing into the mps: the metal riffs, the complex chordage a la classical music-cum-post-hardcore "angular" guitars (Stephen brought the whole Sonic Youth thing in there), the '60s bubblegum pop and punk and a little '70s glam-like shit, and of course the dance aspect and the beats of soul and the blues. All rolled into one.