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Stephen Malkmus interview

| February 29, 2008 | 0 Comments

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
Sunshine Mountain

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Stephen Malkmus’ tone could easily be misinterpreted. His droll, frequently monotone delivery suggests weariness, a thinly concealed resentment for having to endure round after round of all the same questions — most of which inevitably contextually chain him to the band he led during the ’90s: Pavement.

Appearing: March 21st at Vic Theatre in Chicago.

You can even sense it when probing him about Academy Award-winning actress Cate Blanchett, whose portrayal of Bob Dylan in the ranging biopic I’m Not There found her mouthing renditions of “Maggie’s Farm” and “Ballad Of A Thin Man” sung by Malkmus: “I was just in England and I didn’t stop over at her flat. I haven’t been to visit her parents in Australia. We haven’t even met — only onscreen, in a meta way. But she inhabited my voice quite well, and I inhabited her body well. Maybe we should get to be friends, play Scrabble.”

But just when you get to thinking, “Man, this dude hates my guts,” he tailors a response about the impact of starting a family to what he’s hedging is your favorite baseball team.

“If you were interviewing Aramis Ramírez, besides asking about cockfighting — and he might have a family, he might not — would you ask, ‘Are you less aggressive at the plate now that you have children?’ You know? Music is just this. Still play the same shredding kind of music; don’t really soften it up. And I don’t cockfight. No, not yet. But it’s not part of my cultural heritage. In Portland we don’t cockfight.” At IE we’re more concerned with the White Sox’s Josh Fields/Joe Crede quandary than the Cubs’ third-baseman, but damn if the analogy doesn’t make you think Malkmus really cares.

Maybe the press has spun his realism as apathy and turned his wry jibes into sneering, bratty attacks. (Though he didn’t win many friends in Chicago when he sang of Smashing Pumpkins on 1994’s “Range Life,” “I don’t understand what they mean/And I could really give a fuck.” Rumors insisted Billy Corgan had Pavement crossed off the shortlist for Lollapalooza ’94 because of it.) Malkmus always seemed to see through attempts to fashion his dapper looks as a sort of golden boy for the alternative era, and perhaps grew to detest anything approaching hype because of it.

“At least in England,” he says, “there’s articles I’d read about young groups — their second album, they’re really worried. They have to make a good second album or the public eye is gonna turn off them and they’re gonna be yesterday’s news. To us, we kind of are just existing like a mountain that’s not going away, in a way. It’s not like the most popular, big mountain that everyone likes to visit like tourists, holiday. But we’re there.”

— Steve Forstneger

To find out what kind of mountain Malkmus’ new album, Real Emotional Trash (Matador), is, grab the free March issue of Illinois Entertainer, available throughout Chicagoland.

Category: Features, Monthly

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