This is an interview, originally done for the 'cultural gazette,' the Synthesis (sythesis.com) that took place while Tim and Greg were in Chico for an acoustic show late last year (1998). It was the first week in November, just after the Mother Hips played a Halloween show in Mill Valley. Tim and Greg had done a gig the night before at Harrington's and agreed to meet at Madison Bear Garden for lunch the next day. I hooked up with the dynamic duo downtown right after their on-air acoustic show/interview at KZFR was finished. My friend and fellow Hips Geek Arran met us as we walked in to the Bear, and various other characters walked by while we talked. Notable among these is DNA, a local music promoter and grass-roots media dude (not to mention two-time city council candidate). DNA is a friend of the guys in Mother Hips and a bright thread in the town's cultural fabric.
At the time I did this interview I was feeling a bit shitty; it was a combination of nervous apprehension of my first interview and excitement at getting to rap a couple of dudes I'd never really met, but whose music has meant a great deal to me. Add to that a bit of hangover, and I kinda wanted to crawl under a rock. Still, Tim and Greg were really cool, answering any questions my foggy mind would disgorge. I felt that I must have ruined the interview, but I want to put it out there for people to see 'cause there's some good shit here.
The interview was mainly supposed to be about the acoustic duos that Tim and Greg occasionally do, but ended up being much more far-ranging, covering topics from their goals as an independent band to social critique and even some reflections on writing music reviews and interviews. I have left in many hesitations, slip-ups and corrections, not to make all of us seem incoherent babblers, but to try and give a flavor of how the conversation sounded, how things were timed, when people were cut off, etc., etc.
Throughout our lunch a PA system kept sounding off above our heads, announcing when people's orders came ready; you can see at the end that Greg seems to be combating the PA, which keeps interrupting him, to tell me about how people can order CDs.
As I talked to the two guys I was impressed with their vigor and determination. It seemed to me that they were willing to keep playing in bars and small clubs for as long as it took to get their fair share of notice from the record companies. Tim in particular came across as a highway chile outlaw, expressing vehement disdain for commercial radio and a defiant conviction in the Hips' talent. He seemed to weigh each word, pausing, adding emphasis carefully; it was hard to catch him being unreflective. Greg, on the other hand, made fewer pronouncements, often content to lay low and listen, but he was clearly involved in the situation, as his frequent finishing up of sentences for Tim and slipping in subtle comments made clear. I especially liked Greg's description of the Halloween scene.
The two dudes are obviously very tight, and in their conversational style I couldn't help but find parallels with their music.
So, without further ado, here it is:
Matt: I heard the guy on KZFR really interviewing you guys, asking you about your plans and things. I
recall the last time you played at The Brick Works, some guy was asking you to put him on the list for a recording session. I guess you've been in the studio a little bit?
Tim: Yeah, that was referring to a song we were recording for the Chico City Limits II compilation at Dale's studio -- Dale Price's studio, it's called Pro Sound, or whatever. That was that. But yeah, we're doing all kinds of recording for our fifth record. We did some in San Diego, did some somewhere else too, but I can't remember where it was now.
Greg: Yeah, that live stuff we might be able to use...
Tim:Oh, yeah, we recorded a show at Slim's that we played.
Matt: I saw you guys open for, I mean I saw the Kinetics open for you guys at Slim's one time back in the day. [a couple years ago.] I got really turned on to them, but I guess they're no longer together.
Tim: They broke up. Their guitar player joined Cake.
Matt: No shit?
Matt: Xan McCurdy? He's with Cake now?
Tim and Greg: Yeah.
Matt: Did they [Cake] ditch their old guitarist?
Tim: He quit. He started his own band.
Greg: Yeah. He's in a band called "Deathstar" or something like that now.
Tim: Oh, really? The Chico band.
Greg: No no no no no. It's something like that, though. "Deathray," Deathray.
Matt: That guy's pretty good, man. I like him.
Greg: Looks really good, too! [Huh?]
Matt: Cake's crazy. They had an interview with them in the [Chico] News & Review recently, with their frontman John McCrae.
Tim: John McCrae's a smart guy.
Matt: It was weird, the way he was talking about being a musician and stuff, like, the whole industry. It struck me kinda funny. He was saying, like, he says if, you know, "at bottom I realize, I'm just a music worker" was the term he used.
Tim: He does good interviews.
Voice: Noah, come get it, Noah.
Arran: I saw those guys up at Belmonts in Portland, where I saw you guys.
Matt: What do you think about the term, "music worker?" Do you consider yourselves "music workers?"
Tim: No, no. He is, we're not. See, there's an important distinction between what he does and what we do for a living. He sells records for a living; we play Rock for a living.
Tim: He used to do that, but he got lucky. And he makes lots of money now.
Greg: Selling records.
Tim: See, he's like an employee for...what I assume he means by that, I didn't read the interview, so I don't know exactly what he meant, but I would assume he means that he's like an employee of the record label, which he is. But we're not...we would be, if we had the choice, but since we don't, it is something, kind of a cool thing not to be. You can celebrate that, at the same time. It's good, but what we do is...very pure. We just play music, and people pay their money to get into the room to watch us play it. And then at the end of the night, we get the money. And that's all.
Arran: You guys enjoying it?
Tim and Greg: Yeah!
Tim: We love it. We're addicted to it.
Arran: [Chuckles] I'm enjoying hearing it.
Tim: We go...c-- without it, it's, life is a bore.
Matt: For me, anytime I see somebody doing something that they like to do, and they're not just doing something because they have to do it, because they have to make a living somehow, and it's just as good as the next way. Anytime somebody's doing something they really like like that, and it works for them and they're able to make a living off of it, I think that's pretty neat.
Tim: Yeah it is.
Greg: We're very fortunate to have found that, like, so early. You know, a lot of people spend a lot of their life trying to--well, some people don't even think about it, I guess. They work, and they...die. Some people spend a lot of time trying to find something really important, you know, or something that they can do, and make money at, and really love and have passion about. Somehow we just stumbled upon it, which...we're extremely lucky in that matter.
[Long pause as easy listening plays in the background]
Matt: I'm trying to think of all these professional questions to ask...
Greg: Fuck the professional questions.
Matt: ...But truth be told, I'd rather just talk to you.
Tim: That's all right, just, just, go with it.
Matt: Yeah, I've been stoked lately to write music reviews for the Synthesis. I mean, they don't pay you that much -- I certainly couldn't live off it -- but just to get the practice, and just to get the opportunity, you know, to be published...is really neat.
Greg: That's great.
Tim: It really is.
Greg: I'd imagine that doing reviews is kind of a weird thing, though. If I were to do either one, I think I'd rather do interviews, even though you can get stuck in that thing where you ask the same questions everyone asks -- I would obviously try not to do that, but... Reviews, I just wouldn't...I critique other people's music all the time, but I wouldn't want to do it for other people. I do it for myself, and like Tim, but if my review is in the paper for other people to take to heart, you know, I don't think I'd feel very comfortable with that.
Matt: It's kind of a tough job. Yeah, I feel like I have a responsibility to the people who read it to say something that's relevant to them. And at the same time I'm trying to say things that are important to me, you know, and you know...Chico, I mean, sometimes I feel like I've gotta dumb down what I say so that people will be able to relate to it, you know.
Tim: Careful with that one.
Matt: Sometimes I feel that way. I don't really believe that that's true, but yeah, sometimes that gets in my voice a little bit.
Greg: You know, some reviewers too, take their own, like, I don't know, their own opinions about, not just the music, but about everything else and bring it into reviews. That always drives me crazy, when you can tell underneath is someone who either wants to be playing music and can't, or... you know, some reviews that you have have nothing to do with the song matter or even the performance, they have to do with...
Arran: Their perspective on life.
Greg: Right. They bring it into matters that are not, have nothing to do with it.
Tim: Well, in a lot of cases, music reviewers are music workers. I'd say in ninety-nine percent of the instances that someone is reviewing records they're just basically working for a record company. They're promoting a record, or... that's such a part of the business.
Matt: I feel like I...
Tim: I don't necessarily have to listen to that, have anything to do with that. We just play music. We don't...you know, doing reviews or interviews is just trying to sell a band, or...
Greg: Convince people that...
Tim: ...they're either really good or really bad. But, you know, it doesn't really have any bearing on what we do as musicians.
Voice: DNA, it's all ready. DNA.
Tim: We just play music that, that the people around us like and that we like. And if some stranger comes into the show and he reviews it, and if he likes it, good for him. That's awesome.
Tim and Greg: Yeah.
Matt: I'm going to go grab our food, you guys.
Arran: Do you guys still like travelling a lot...like, seeing what other people around the country think of the whole sound?
Tim: [Strained] Yeah, yeahhh...yeah, we travel a lot...a lot of people have trouble getting turned on to our band, because...a lot of, I would say most music listeners, if it's not on the radio or if their friends aren't listening to it, they're just not interested in it.
Arran: They don't try very hard to listen to new stuff, it's like blasted to them on MTV.
Tim: Exactly, so it's hard to like...
[Joey walks up]
Joey: Heeeey. How weird!
Greg: Hey. How ya doin'?
Tim: Hey Joey.
Joey: I just got out of some classes and I'm having lunch with my friends. Are you guys getting interviewed?
Greg: Sort of, yeah. Say something...you're on tape.
Voice: Mike, come and get it, Mike.
Joey: See you guys tonight.
Tim: Thanks, Joey.
Tim: Yeah, it can be really frustrating being on the road and you go into a room and you play in front of a crowd that's never heard you, doesn't know anything about you.
Arran: I can imagine that when you do get a good reception it's pretty rewarding, though, too.
Tim: Oh, it's awesome. We usually do get a good reception, but it's on a small scale when it's out of state.
Arran: Yeah, definitely.
Greg: And usually the songs that are received the best are, like, the Neil Diamond songs, songs that aren't even ours.
Arran: Right. People recognize them...
Greg: You start feeling like a true bar band.
Arran: [Laughs] I remember seeing you at Belmont's in Portland, the same place I saw Cake. And there was, like, me and two other kids out on the floor, dancing, no one else was out there, and I was all, 'alright.' But it was great.
[The food arrives]
Tim: I mean, in the time that we haven't been signed, we've really been working on developing our business, so it can exist without the music industry at all. Which is basically what we do -- we exist outside the whole music industry. They don't even know we exist, barely.
Matt: So, you don't care if...you'd just as soon do it on your own.
Tim: Well, yeah, we'd rather do it on our own, but it's hard to do. It's not that practical to think you can be successful selling a bunch of records on your own label that you started. We're not record executives, we don't pretend to be. We never will be. We're just musicians. We're trying to get some record companies to pay attention to us, and if they're not going to, in the meantime...
Greg: --We're prepared.
Tim: We're prepared. We got a record company, we got distribution, we got records to sell, and we can back it up with a kick-ass rock show, any night of the week. So, you know, we'll go on. We'll make fans the real way, and they'll be with us for years. We've proven it. I'm not talking out of my ass -- we've done that, and we're gonna keep doing it, if we have to.
[Long pause while we munch and Yes jams on the jukebox.]
Arran: I totally appreciate the fact that you guys are still making hell of quality music. I've only been watching you for like four years or so, but... [unintelligible] ever since I first saw you guys back in Marysville in, like '93 on some little side stage there.
Voice: Joe, come and get it. Joe.
Tim: That's good that people like you can appreciate the different direction we've taken, 'cause we have changed the band...
Tim: ...considerably in the last two years.
Matt: A helluva lot.
Tim: It's a relief that the people that were there for us at the beginning are still there for us now. It's always scary to change direction and to...do something different. You hope that the people who supported you once will support you again.
Greg: Trust your, trust your judgment.
Tim: People really have.
Arran: It's gotta develop.
Matt: Will you talk a little about Gram Parsons? Just, uh, the way that you see...I don't know if you look at it this way, but a lot of people...
Voice: Jeremy, it's ready.
Matt: I don't know Gram Parsons, really. I don't know his music very much at all, and uh, a lot of people have been saying, you know, 'to understand the Hips you've gotta dig Gram Parsons. What do you think about that?
Tim: I hope that's not true, but it's flattering. I think you can [puts on nasal, newscaster-hipster voice] 'dig the Hips' just straight off the record, or straight off the rock stage. You don't have to know any other kind of music. You might understand where we're coming from more if you listen to some Gram Parsons records, but Gram Parsons is just a small part of where we get our influences from. I mean, he's great.
Arran: Was he in Buffalo Springfield?
Tim: No. He was in the Flying Burrito Brothers and he was in the Byrds.
Matt: Yeah, I just found that out last night. I was talking to Deanna; she was really helping me out, telling me some pretty interesting stuff.
Tim: Yeah, he's really good, and he wrote some really good songs...
Voice: Gina, come get it, Gina
Tim: ...put out a couple...
Voice: Joey, it's all ready, Joey.
Tim: ...a couple really good records that we've listened to...
Voice: Gian, it's ready, Gian.
Tim: [without missing a beat] ...a million times.
But there's a lot of other people that mean just as much...
Voice: [loud and obnoxious and unintelligible]
Tim: ...just as much as Gram Parsons does to us. Merle Haggard. Neil Young. The Beach Boys, you know.
Matt: Led Zeppelin?
Greg: Why not?
Matt: [laughs] Didn't that guy ask you that on the radio?
Greg: He asked who we'd want to open for, if we could open for anyone...of course I said Led Zeppelin.
Matt: Oh, that came from you?
Greg: Who wouldn't want to open for Led Zeppelin?
Matt: I don't know.
Tim: I would.
Matt: I thought it was interesting that you guys put a good-old, kinda bluegrass-styled number on your last album.
Matt: I never really saw a lot of bluegrass influence in you guys' music. Except, I guess you've got some banjo, like on your first album.
Tim: We'll listen to a lot of bluegrass...
Greg: When we'd sit around at the house in Chico, when we lived there, Jimmy Faye, Jesse, Jay Harris, and Mark Adams would come over and pretty much, we'd be doing old Hag songs and a lot of bluegrass. We're not, like bluegrass players, we're not good enough to be bluegrass players but we love the music. And we'll play it, even though we're not bluegrass players we'll play the hell out of some bluegrass.
Matt: You guys know...
Greg: And the harmonies, Imean, we'll sing harmonies of whatever, whatever...
Tim: It all goes to...we listen to lots of Everly Brothers, that's been like the model for Greg and ours...for our singing style that we have...that we're developing. And the Everly Brothers, of course, listen to, like, the Stanley Brothers and the...
Greg: ...the Louvin Brothers...
Tim: ...The Louvin Brothers, all those guys, that's just a tradition that...
Greg: ...so when we find out...just like when someone in Chico that likes our band finds out that we listen to Gram Parson, they're like "who's Gram Parsons?" and they want to go get it, it's like when we found out that the Everly Brothers listened to the Louvin Brothers, you know, we go get their CD. It's that same kind of thing, you like some music, and you want to see how they got to be where they're at.
Matt: I read for a long time that Albert King really influenced Jimi Hendrix, but I never knew just how much, or in what way, until I got some Albert King records and sat down and listened to them...
Matt: ...and I could totally hear it.
Arran: Yeah, that's pretty much how my record collection develops. I pick one out...see what...
Tim: ...Yeah, me too. That's how it...how it works.
Greg: Listen to Chuck Berry and then listen to Keith Richards, and like...
Voice: Dick, it's all ready for you, Dick.
Tim: That's how it works with books, novels, too...authors. We do the same exact thing.
Voice: Nario, it's all ready for you, Nario.
Matt: You know, I was a... I dressed up as a beatnik for Halloween. It was pretty interesting, but... I carried around a book of Jack Kerouac's poems in my pocket; I was whippin' 'em out and reading 'em. One of the poems was called, "The Idiot," I think. And it, it, uh, it mentioned...Sherwood Anderson?
Matt: Is that his name?
Matt: And his book, um...
Arran: Not in reference to the idiot, I hope.
Matt: I couldn't really understand the poem...
Tim: Was it, The Poor White?
Tim: What was the book?
Matt: The Kerouac book?
Tim: No, the...
Matt: Oh, it said, "Ohio Ville." Um, two words, but I...uh...the one that you guys quoted from was, uh...
Tim: Winesburg, Ohio.
Matt: Winesburg, Ohio, is that it? OK, so what's up with this guy, Sherwood Anderson?
Tim: He was just a... a famous American writer that wrote about the...the coming of the Industrial Revolution, the effects it had on small-town America. It's good shit.
Matt: That's something you guys probably get a good look at, travelling around the country a lot, visiting a lot of small places.
Tim: Yeah, well. Not so much that, it's just that, I think most people would say that it, it just translates to people in general. And he was focussing on small-town America, but if you broaden that...view a little bit, you'll find that it's relevant to...you.
Matt: Well, most people, in the early part of the century, most people lived in small towns.
Tim: That's what Sherwood Anderson explores so well, the end of that era, where big cities started to come in. Sinclair Lewis has a couple books about that, one called Main Street and one called Babbitt [unintelligible] that I just read that's about this first generation of small-town people that moved to the city and started to become sort of affluent and...worship their motorcars, and their clean wool suits, and, you know, all that stuff. I just love, just, I don't know, I'm just into it.
Matt: I really felt the flavor of that in your last album.
Voice: Tori, come and get it, Tori.
Tim: So...that's good. I'm glad. That was intentional.
[Pause as "Bad to the Bone" plays on the juke.]
Matt: How do you see your next album shaping up compared, compared to Later Days? In terms of, like, you started off with a certain style, and then it went and went, and it became this other thing...
Voice: Alex, it's about ready, Alex.
Tim: Well, in a way, this next one, I think -- this is all speculation, 'cause we don't, we haven't recorded the whole thing yet; we've only recorded...part of it...if that. In some ways it'll be going back to the roots, it'll be a little more, like, rockin'. But, I don't know yet. It just is hard to say. It hasn't, like, formed yet. We have a pretty big song list, and which songs get on the album depends on how good they sound, and which ones fit together...we really don't know yet. It depends on how they're produced, and how they're played, and the tempos, and the performances. It's really up in the air at this point, which is a...it's an exciting time.
Tim: It'll be better, though. Than the last one.
Matt: The last one was pretty damn good, Tim. [Laughter]
Greg: So get ready.
Tim: We're gonna knock ourselves out on this one.
[long pause as "Bad to the Bone" plays.]
Greg: I've been hearing this song way too much lately.
Arran: [Truly befuddled] I don't understand why George Thorogood gets so much radio play.
Tim: Me neither.
Arran: Yeah, it's interesting what you guys were talking about, with the associations of, like, the sound of music to like, whatever...like you were talking about small towns. I always trip out on that, whether, like, when you hear that steel guitar play, it kind of like, brings these images to your head, like, whatever, like the countryside, like the high, rolling hills, or whatever -- is that, like, just associations we have through reading or culture, or is it like, something really deeper, like...
Arran: Like the sound of the countryside coming out somehow.
Greg: Well, you watch Western movies, and they always have the...
Arran: ...I guess, yeah.
Greg: But still, what if you've never seen a Western movie and you heard a pedal steel, would it bring...would it make you think of that. That's a good question.
Arran: I was listening to Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys this morning, and I was wondering if you guys ever listen to those guys. They're kind of more like...they get pretty jazzy.
Tim: Yeah, Western Swing. We listen to that a little bit. You can trace that back through listening to Merle Haggard.
Arran: Yeah, totally.
Tim: And Willie Nelson.
Greg: They always talk about Bob Wills being the King.
Arran: Yeah. It's funny how, you know...
Tim: Merle Haggard was in that band!
Matt: Get out!
Arran: Oh, really!
Tim: Yup, yeah. He was a singer in that band for a short time.
Matt: You guys ever go up...I guess Merle lives around here somewhere, you guys ever meet him?
Arran: I think Saul told us just the other night that,uh, he went and saw him up in Red Bluff, I guess. He played up in Red Bluff.
Matt: Somebody else told me they just saw Merle Haggard [unintelligible].
Tim: You wanted to talk about the acoustic music thing and why we were doing it?
Matt: You're reading my mind.
Tim: Um. The, ah, Greg and I like to do it, because...For one thing, we get to sing together and we get to hear our voices very clearly, which we like to do. Singing is something we've enjoyed doing together for, ever since we've known each other. When it's just the acoustic guitars and the voices, it really...is a much different dynamic on the stage. The voices are just...the loudest thing, and it's so much easier to sing and to be...have a little more finesse, you know, it's not just...shouting out and making your throat sore, which is what happens sometimes when you're playing rock. It puts the focus more on the craft of, like, songwriting and the craft of singing that definitely gets overshadowed by the...the energy of a Mother Hips show. Mother Hips takes the energy of-- I mean the focus off of the, the...gentle side of it, and makes it...there's a lot more raw energy. Which is -- awesome. Couldn't do without it. But, they're so different, in terms of the approach, what it takes to make it sound good. And so... To have both, is awesome. To be able to do both well, is the goal.
Greg: And to be able to do this acoustic...acoustic shows more often, is definitely a goal. We're doing it, we're fulfilling that goal right now, but...It'd, it'd be nice to do almost half of the time, or, you know, more realistically, a quarter of the time.
Tim: It'd be nice for us...
Tim: ...but it wouldn't be nice for John and Isaac.
Matt: [laughs] I can't imagine!
Greg: ...Put 'em out of work.
Tim: But, we really like doing it...a lot.
Matt: Right on.
Tim: That was the original, you know, that's what we started out doing.
Matt: You two started out and hooked up with your rhythm section from another band, right?
Voice: Phooooone. Judy, line one.
Tim: It's nothing new, for us. [as the Byrds' "Turn turn turn" comes on the juke] I think we have a lot to offer in that, in that realm as well as rocking. I think we're just as good at singing harmonies acoustic-style than we...as we are shouting them on, you know, in front of a full band.
Greg: And electric guitars.
Tim: If not better. We've been talking lately about, sort of integrating that, the acoustic thing, more with the band. Playing, maybe part of the show with John and Isaac, but playing with acoustic instruments, playing a little quieter for part of the show.
Matt: How are you gonna get John to play quietly, man?
Tim: We're gonna make him smoke more dope. [laughter]
Arran: We'll try to help him out.
Tim: No, people are doing their part. Smokes a lot of weed.
Matt: That's cool.
Arran: That's alright with you guys?
Greg: Yeah, he can do whatever he wants to do.
Tim: Everyone can do whatever they want to do.
Greg: He's way older than us, too, so we can't tell him what to do. [laughter]
He's like our older brother or something.
Arran: Right on.
Matt: Did he do a good impression of you for his Halloween costume, Tim?
Greg: Don't ask Tim about it. Tim probably thought it was good, just 'cause it was someone dressed as him. If someone was dressed as me, I would be, like, "whoa..."
Tim: I was just, like, giddy.
Greg: But, it was good, the thing is, is that, he stole some of Tim's pants, and, and, Tim's a pretty skinny man, but John Hofer is, like twice as skinny as Tim, which is hard to believe.
Tim: My pants were baggy on him.
Greg: His pants...Tim's pants were baggy on him. Well, Tim's got a, you know, he's got a nice butt...Hofer's got...just back that goes to his legs, with a little extra flesh. The wig was pretty good, it was a Tammy Wynette wig that his wife cut in the image of Tim's hair. And then his mustache was like, just yellow paint. Not even make-up or anything, it was just paint.
Tim: Frankly, the mustache was an insult. [laughter]
Greg: And he had the cocaine sunglasses on, you know, the mirrored sunglasses...
Arran: Right, right, right.
Greg: And he was doing the...infamous arm-swing [Greg demonstrates Tim's famous "lumberjack" gesture ]...to the side, hurray.
Arran: I can see him looking like a cop or something, almost.
Greg: He looked like a street pervert, is what he looked like! [laughs]
Tim: [sharply] Hey!
Arran: Pretty close to home...
Greg: But he was hittin' those drums, man. [laughs]
Arran: Yeah, I still haven't seen that place, Sweetwater. I want to check it out.
Greg: You should come down. We do, you know, a couple shows there a year, or something. It's fun.
Arran: I got some quarters if you want to play pinball.
Greg: No, I'm alright.
Tim: Oh, you know when you mentioned, when we were talking about Gram Parsons...
Tim: In that section, you should also mention that, I said something like, ah, 'if you wanna...find out, you know, if you're gonna listen to Gram Parsons to find out about the Mother Hips, you also gotta listen to Gene Clark.'
Matt: Gene Clark.
Tim: He was also lead singer of the Byrds for a while.
Matt: In their later period?
Tim: No, the earliest...
Greg: ...uh, first.
Matt: When they did "Eight Miles High"?
Tim: He wrote "Eight Miles High."
Voice: Ben, come and get it, Ben.
Matt: That's always been one of my...one of their songs, that when I hear it, I go, "whoa...the music, that's weird, man!"
Tim: Gene Clark makes Gram Parsons look like...Donny Osmond.
Greg: Yeah. And you can quote him on that. [laughter] Better quote him on that.
Matt: I will. ...Oh, I want to ask you a little about songwriting...
Tim: Hit me.
Matt: Alright. Um, your older songs are...the lyrics are much more, okay, I can say exploratory, for one thing.
Tim: Yeah. Experimental.
Matt: Yeah. I was gonna say, 'poetic,' but I don't think the lyrics you guys have these days are 'un-poetic.' But, they're really different, you know. They seem to me like they fit into a tradition, more.
Tim: Yeah, they're more traditional style, for sure. Which is something that I find agreeable, to me. I think, I think...I think it's just a little more timeless to...to be a little more traditional. I think that's...I think you can...you can reach more people, I think, by being a little more simple and maybe a little more straightforward -- at least on the surface. They're not, they're not necessarily traditional, if you try to link 'em all together...they're more traditional sounding, that's for sure.
Greg: Yeah, I think that's more what it is. It sounds...I think it's more the music. If you listen to the lyrics, I don't think they're very traditional -- I think they're timeless, I don't think they're too traditional, though. I think the music's a little more traditional, so therefore you think, while you're listening, it's more...easier pattern to follow, there's not so many wild, you know, drug-induced changes...
Greg: ...so it gives the impression that it's a little more traditional, but...
Matt: You guys seemed to used to delight in, ah, in making the most bizarre connections from one series of, uh...the most bizarre changes, you know, to where the audience would be, like, if they hadn't heard the song before, if they didn't they'd be doing this [demonstrates], and then they'd be thrown off-kilter.
Tim: Yeah, that was...that's just, like, youthful...
Matt: ...exuberance, huh?
Tim: Exuberance or arrogance [laughs].
Greg: Like, you've got three different songs, and [puts on a struck-with-inspiration tone] let's put 'em all together!
Tim: Doing it on purpose. And now it's, now it's a little more careful, and we're taking it a little more seriously, I think.
Voice: Grill one...grill one please.
Greg: [imitating PA voice] Grill one. We still like to do that, but we try to refine it, so it kinda slips by you, like...hold on...
Tim: We're better at it, so it's not as noticeable. And it's just, it's just changing styles. I mean, we did that, we checked that out, and we, and we're...you know, we did that part and now we're working on something else, you know, we moved...moved on. It'll change again, you know? But for now, simplicity is...the classiest choice.
Matt: I've seen you in print saying that before.
Matt: That, uh, that you prefer...you think good songs tend to be more simple songs, that's a quality of good songwriting. I don't know if these are your words, but...
Tim: I said something like that, yup.
Matt: ...a good song sounds like anybody could play it, you know, but the...the, you know, somebody had to write it, you know, somebody had to get it out there.
Tim: Exactly. It's harder to be original when you're simple. And that's where...that's the challenge. To be unique, and sort of like, fresh, but to do it by using the exact same tools that anyone else has been using for years, you know? We don't...
[DNA walks up]
Matt: What's up, DNA?
DNA: I've got a question. What were you for Halloween? [Points to Tim] He was Neil Young.
Greg: I was the clown who was sick that does the trick of disaster.
DNA: Wow! Were you really? Dude, that...
Greg: Yeah, I rented a full-on clown costume, DNA.
Greg: It had big red shoes...
Tim: ...red nose...
Greg: ...scary face-paint; I had Jesus do my face paint. Jesus.
DNA: The actual Christ. Wow.
Greg: He won fifty dollars that night. He actually won a hundred dollars in one day on two different costume competitions, my friend Jason. My friend Jesus.
Greg: He did my makeup, I had the big red, white and blue afro. [DNA laughs] And like the full ring-thing around your neck, the frilly ring thing? And the full...full regalia. Tripping over all my pedals.
DNA: Didja have the clown feet?
Greg: Oh, yeah. Big shoes. Just, really...almost fell down.
DNA: What was Ike?
Greg: Isaac was a testicle-hanging female. [DNA busts up]. He wore my girlfriend's slip. And, uh, he had like, boxers underneath it, and he pinned 'em up 'cause they were gonna hang out, but instead of the boxers hanging out a little something else was hanging out. [laughter].
DNA: Lovely. And what was John?
Greg: John was Tim. We were just talking about that.
DNA: He dyed his hair blond?
Greg: No, he got a Tammy Wynette wig and cut it.
DNA: Wow. Sorry I missed that one. That was all I wanted to ask.
Greg: You don't leave town, though.
DNA: Continue. I know. Well, we're moving to Japan, it looks like. We find out in March if we got accepted, then we leave in July.
Greg: Really? We're gonna have to come over there.
DNA: Well, my hope is, we'll be making 70 thousand a year teaching English and then, um, on top of that, all the people who just came back from the program have a lot of free time, so I want to start, like and international booking company. By taking all the CDs from here, and you guys, selling them in Japan, and then working the clubs, with the money that I'll be making, what I was figuring is, I could pay for, like to fly you guys out to the first gig, and then have a month of gigs.
Greg: You know, we have a friend who does some work in the music over there, in Japan, Andy ____. It'd be interesting to get ahold of him, maybe get you in contact with him.
DNA: I could use some hookups. You know who's moving there, too, in January, is, ah, ah...Now I forgot his name...Jim. Rizzutto.
Greg: Oh, right! He was talking about that.
DNA: So we'll have some friends there. But I heard the Freewheelers are really big in Japan...
Greg: Right, some portion they sold, like ten thousand records, or five thousand records or something.
DNA: So John's like a star over there.
Greg: Oh, yeah...
DNA: ...They'll be, like, pushing Tim out of the way, [imitates Japanese accent] "John, Fleewheel so gooooood! Mother Hip, you know...Hey Emorie, it's aright." [laughter] [To Matt] Anyway, it's your interview, I just wanted to...
Matt: Dude, I need all the help I can get, DNA. I never did an interview before, and I'm feeling, like, kinda weird, like I really have to be on the ball and, like, say all this intelligent shit. I appreciate any help, any questions you have, anything you think might add some insight.
DNA: Just keep doing it. More better. You'll figure it out.
Voice: Brian, come get it please, Brian.
Matt: I almost with my first interview had been with some dudes that I didn't really give a shit about. It might have been easier.
DNA: Are you, are you like, a Mother Hip Fan Boy?
Matt: Uh...uh...well, I mean...
DNA: You can say yeah. I am.
Matt: Yeah, I am, as a matter of fact. You got a problem with that, man? [laughter]
DNA: Yeah, I'll call up...When I talk to Tim or Greg or whatever, I usually geek out. So it's like...
Matt: I can't imagine you uh, uh, not, just like, being the most nimble speaker and the most...
Tim: Oh, he is!
Greg: He's nimble as fuck, man.
DNA: I'm like Jack-Be-Nimble.
Greg: He's the kind of guy that makes you feel better about the interview, and you can talk -- he makes you nimble. He makes the interviewee nimble.
Matt: Yeah, that's an enviable quality, for sure.
DNA: I think it's important that you like who you're interviewing, or else you'll end up with a boring article, you know what I mean? If you're excited about it, then they'll be excited about it... [spills ice on the table] ...unless you spill shit all over 'em, then they get [unintelligible].
Tim: ...Grumpy and unpleasant.
Greg: Then you leave; you make a hasty exit. [laughter]
[Joey and her friends walk by]
Tim: See you, ladies.
Greg: Bye, gals.
[various goodbyes are said, DNA leaves]
Tim: Maybe we should talk about the Street Team. Hey, Jen, you wanna come talk about the Street Team? This is Jen Perez, who is the, ah -- what is your title, officially?
Jen: I'm the Street Team Queen Number Two.
Tim: Street Team Queen Number Two.
Matt: What's the Street Team?
Jen: Street Team is a fan-based promotional outfit that's, ah, it's just sort of getting started right now; it's pretty small, and we're just dealing mostly with sending out poster art to people in the different cities and getting them started posting for the shows. Eventually we hope to be able to go to the venues and take the posters there, take promotional packets to weekly papers, sort of do everything grass roots. It's a good thing.
Matt: I've been reading about that on the website.
Matt: While we're on it, maybe you guys could tell me a thing or two about the website. I notice it doesn't get updated very much, and...
Matt: I know you guys are, like, technophobes, but... [laughs]
Tim: [with mock gruffness] No, no no no no no no [laughter] Umm... well, there's the official Mother Hips website which is just Motherhips.com, which admittedly doesn't get updated very much. You're just looking in the wrong place. The hyphen grotto, the dash grotto, that's the site [the-grotto.com]. It will soon become the official site, we're gonna link them both so that they're one and the same. The Grotto is a fan-based website, and it's run by a, a fellow in Denver by the name of Jonathan Griggs, and who is just a...he's a supporter of our band and he's really good at building websites, and, ah, it's a, it's a handsome website. And THAT's the one that Jen and her fellow Street Teamers use to communicate and to carry out their important operation. Through the...there's this thing called the 'Bulletin Board' -- is that what it's called?
Jen: "Are You Breathing?"
Tim: It's called, "Are You Breathing?"
Greg: "Are You Breathing?" -- that's what you click on.
Tim: ...And it's like a discussion board, and you can ask questions, or you can, like, yell and someone and they'll respond...or whatever.
Arran: Do you have to have a subscription to, like, a newsgroup thing to get...
Tim: ....No, anyone can do it. We do it all the time. Greg and I get on it all the time; we read what people say, we answer questions, if you have any questions...
Greg: ....We see if people are talking shit about us...
Tim: ...and then we just SLAM 'EM! [laughs] And Jen uses it daily to contact people...
Jen: ....that's because I have no life, basically.
Tim: Well, she has a very important role in life, and that is to promote the Mother Hips, which is very, very important. It might not seem that way, but...
Jen: ...It's giving my life meaning.
Tim: It is. It gives my life meaning as well.
Matt: [unintelligible] ...it seems to me like it's gonna depend on things like the Street Team, and, and like the World Wide Web.
Greg: Fuck you. [in a good way]
Tim: [over laughter] And we're gonna keep going, we're gonna start...we got ideas, we got ideas...we're gonna make it BIG, all from the ground up. We've got a LOT of ideas, this is just the first one. And it's working really well, actually. People have been incredibly generous in their...in donating their time and their energy and even in some cases their money to, um, promoting the shows. And like Jen said that's just the first level of it, we're just seeing if it's working, and it's been way more successful than I ever thought it would be, already. More people, more enthusiasm...
Greg: We weren't sure if people were gonna take to it.
Arran: It sounds like the right way to spread the right word to the right people.
Tim: Yeah, it's righteous, you know, you can't go wrong...
Matt: The Synthesis also has world domination through the World Wide Web in mind, so you guys are right there with 'em on that one.
Tim: See, we just feel like the music that we're playing, it's too good to be on the radio. You listen to the radio, radio sucks! All of those songs except for maybe, like, one or two of them...
Matt: ....Every so often a song comes out...
Tim: Yeah, it's true, every so often...But it's incredible...
Matt and Arran spew unintelligible stuff for a few
Tim: Well, you know, I don't really, but there's certain things in this world that you just...you know, if we could get a song on the radio we wouldn't turn it down, necessarily, but I hate the radio!
Matt: KFM, when you guys...after you had your deal with American and you put out Shootout -- no, you put out Part-Timer, all they would play was "Shut the Door", you know? Like it's the best song on the album or something, you know?
Matt: I mean, and no offense to Isaac; I mean, it's an alright song and I like some...I like the solos in there, they're pretty cool, you know, but it's definitely not the best song on the album, you know?
Tim: Isaac wouldn't be offended.
Tim: The thing about places like KFM, I mean... KFM's...they played our song when we were signed on the label, but when we really needed it, where was KFM? You know? I wish they would. I'll ask them now: Play our music, for cryin' out loud -- support a good local thing, you know?
Matt: But they can't, can they? Isn't it all...don't they have to play what the labels tell them to play?
Jen: Well, they get a certain amount...
Tim: Yeah, their program director just...can't do it. And for whatever reasons, that's no excuse. That's just...it's lame, is what it is. And then, KFM's no different than any other radio station in the country. And radio, commercial radio is fucking lame. That's all there is to it. I wouldn't listen to it...if, even if we were getting played on it. Because it sucks. So...
Matt: [puts on announcer voice] So Tim doesn't like corporate radio!
Tim: I don't think anyone does, it's just all you can hear.
Matt: I don't enjoy it very much. I like this song [Zeppelin's "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You"], and they play this type of stuff on corporate radio...
Tim: Classic rock.
Matt: ...but they've been playing it forever. I have that album; I could sit at home and listen to it, too, you know?
Matt: I just want you guys to know -- pardon me for interrupting you -- I just want you to know that your music has been played in Brazil.
Greg: Great. Excellent.
Matt: And enjoyed.
Greg: Good. Very well.
Matt: I lived down in Brazil from '91 to '92, and this guy here [Arran] sent me a tape that had Back to the Grotto on one side and it had some Phish songs on the other side. I played the shit out of that tape 'til it broke, man.
Matt: I was even... at one point I was gonna take it down to a local radio station there and, ah, try and get them to give you guys some airplay 'cause I knew somebody who did some shows on there and stuff, but...that never happened.
Tim: You know, for now, we're just trying to do a concentrated effort in our part of the country here, the western United States. It's working, you know. You just gotta stay with it; it takes a lot of energy, it takes a lot of optimism, but...We believe in it, and a lot of other people believe in it, too, and that's what encourages us.
Tim passes the tape recorder to Greg: Say something.
Greg: That's right. It's encouraging. Extremely encouraging. Ask me a question, I'll say something.
Matt: All right, ummm... How ya doin'?
Greg: I'm doing pretty good. The salad here was alright, it's sittin', sittin' pretty easy on my stomach. Realizing that I gotta call our, our wonderful road manager Danny Ponder and, ah, tell him...er, ask him what time we gotta be down at Harlow's tonight. Start bothering him. He's probably already gettin' bothered by Isaac, but I figured I'm gonna join in. Start bothering him.
Arran: You guys are playing electric tonight, right?
Greg: Playing full rock tonight, yeah.
Matt: Where was John when you guys came up here? Did he kick it in Sacramento? What did he do?
Greg: When? Just...like, yesterday?
Greg: Oh, he's in San Francisco. He lives in San Francisco now. Yeah, with his wife.
Matt: Oh! She's down there. I thought she was back in the midwest somewhere, so...
Greg: Nope, she's in San Francisco with him -- Noe Valley.
Matt: You guys are rad, man! I appreciate your giving me time to talk to you, and ample opportunity to ask you any questions....
Greg: Oh, it's our...
Matt: ...my mind is getting blank.
Greg: It's our pleasure. We've covered a lot of ground today, so I'm sure you'll be able to come up with things. Things that were really relevant to us these days is that we're...we're...workin'...workin' for ourselves, we're not, we're not, right now we're not...Music Workers. And we're, ah, we're enjoying this time while we can try to take care of as much things, as much of our...life and business and take care of it ourselves for as long as possible. If something comes along and someone wants to make a record for us and give us money, then...if it's a good deal then we're gonna be into doing it, but if, ah, if not, we're setting up our shop...
Voice: Jim, come get it, Jim
Greg: ...we're setting up our shop right now so we know what to do and how to do it. How to arrange our lives and our business for ourselves.
Matt: Did you learn a lot from your experience with American?
Greg: Sure. Learned a lot from, ah, watching how a, a major record label works; learned a lot from having different managers -- realizing that you're really your best...best manager. I mean, it's a lot of work, and I'd rather concentrate solely on the music, but... Since we've had to concentrate on management, we've really kind of learned a lot about it. What to do and what not to do.
Voice: Bobby, come and get it, Bobby.
Greg: ...So we'll be extremely picky when it comes time to getting a new one because we'll have that knowledge behind us.
Matt: It's not your goal to go out and try to get a contract as soon as possible?
Greg: Sure, that's one of our goals, but we're not...we can't be anxious about it. We've got a good thing going now. As soon as we get the next album out, things are going to be going even better than they are now, you know, and as long as we keep learning on how to put out albums better, if you're doing it on your own, and how to manage the band, and how to promote with the Street Team, you know, at a grass-roots level, then...then we'll, ah, be that much better prepared, and if something does come along, like I said, shit! If it sounds good, and it's a person who really likes us, that's great. They have money that we don't have, and we really...you know, we could make records, instead of now, we're kind of fishing around, going from place to place to make a record. That's not really ideal, you know? It's a lot better when you have a nice chunk of money and you can go into one place and make your record in one...one place, really focus.
Matt: Let's say somebody reads this and they want to get one of your albums, but they can't go to your show. Do they have any recourse?
Greg: Okay, yeah. Through the websites, you can order it through the website. Motherhips.com or the-grotto.com. You can order the record and some shirts. Actually you can order Later Days and Back to the Grotto. Shootout and Part-Timer are kind of...hard to find these days [chuckles]. But Back to the Grotto and Later Days you can order. And also, if you're...
Voice: [loud and unintelligible]
Greg: ....if you....
Voice: Jan, it's all ready for you, Jan.
Greg: If you get on the mailing list...
Voice: Josh, it's all ready for you, Josh.
Greg: I gotta get outta this place. You get on the mailing list...
Voice: [loud and unintelligible]
Greg: I gotta leave. If you get on the mailing list you can order it through that, or if you have a friend that has it, there's an order form on the other side of the mailing list, and you can order it there. And, ah, we'll be...we'll have distribution soon, so... As soon as that happens, it'll be registered, and like, you can go into record stores, like around mostly north California and find out how to get it. You know, you can go to a record store and say, do you have Later Days, Mother Hips? and they can order it. That's not right now, but soon...soon it'll be like that. Right now, it's only website and shows, and the order form on the mailing list.