Alone II liner notes

From Weezerpedia



When I first read Brian Wilson's autobiography, Wouldn't It Be Nice, in 1993, I strongly identified with the author's sense of self-doubt, creative struggles and passion for music. I particularly identified with his words, "My whole life, since I discovered music, has been about only one thing: about experiencing the sheer, pure, unencumbered, liberating happiness of the creative moment" (390). His words seemed to describe my life perfectly at the time. But now, fifteen years later, I see that my life has been about something else in addition to experiencing "the happiness of the creative moment." It's also been about learning how to achieve those creative moments. It's been about learning what to do... and what not to do.

A year before I read Wilson's book, I had already postulated a few essential ingredients to a great song for me. A great song should have the aggressive performance style I had heard recently from the Pixies, Nirvana, and Sonic Youth. It should employ the soft-verse/loud-chorus song structure used in songs like "Gigantic" or "Teen Spirit." And it must have been a captivating lyrical subject.

My best friend Justin told me a juicy new rumor about Amy Moore, a classmate of ours from high school. Apparently, Amy had stolen a car, sped off to New Orleans and gotten herself arrested. I couldn't believe it: Amy was one of the sweetest–not to mention prettiest–girls in our class. The story sounded like it was straight off a Sonic Youth album cover. Whether any part of it was true or not1, it stirred up some conflicting feelings in me. On the one hand, I wanted to live as Amy apparently had, following my impulses and blasting away at the feeling of in-authenticity in my life. On the other hand I wanted to live conservatively, to have a stable family and to keep my life structured so that I could get the most out of it. The conflict between my desires seemed to be the compelling subject I had needed, so I put it together along with the details of Amy's story in a song called "Paperface" (Track 14).

Amy Moore blew her top
Stole a car, shot a cop
Sped away 2000 miles
Didn't stop until she hit New Orleans
But that's alright
There's just one thing
Her wedding ring, or anything
She left behind, forgot to pack
How the hell is she gonna get it back?

Paperface, Paperface

I never heard of paperface
Until I moved to the west coast
Where I found that to be smooth
I had to wear a paperface
That's alright
There's just one thing
How am I supposed to sing
With this thing in my way
With this thing...
In my face

Let's see what you've got inside
Underneath your paperface

In the first months of Weezer's existence, I roadied occasionally for my friend Kevin's band, King Size, helping out the bassist with his gear. I was surprised that he wanted me to rub his strings with isopropyl alcohol in between every song of their set, but I did my best to comply, despite my lack of motivation. King Size happened to win a competition to travel, all expenses paid, to Guatemala to perform in front of what we imagined would be a packed arena of screaming fans. I was invited to come along and happily accepted, wanting to practice my Spanish and experience a Kerouac-ian adventure. And perhaps do a little bass tech-ing too.

On June 18th, 1992, the King Size entourage, including me, flew to Guatemala City. We checked in to the Hoteles Camino Real De Guatemala where I changed twenty U.S. dollars for ninety-eight quetzals at the front desk. That night we all went to a private party at a local night club, with about thirty young people who had helped organize the upcoming concert. Kevin sang along, karaoke style, to King Size's tape as it played over the club sound system. A crowd formed a semi-circle around him as he danced, sang and posed. He was a natural showman and the crowd went nuts. I was very impressed.

That night the band and the crew were able to meet some of the girls in the crowd. I met a girl named Aliss. Aliss didn't speak English so I was extra-stimulated by my interaction with her. I was forced to exercise my Spanish language muscles. Over the next few days, she showed me around the city. She took me to her home where I was surprised to see her family living all together in one room, as did the other families in the area. Everyone seemed happy and cozy in spite of the conditions. Aliss and I had a great time together and I noted with pride that I actually seemed to be having more luck than the actual "rock stars," none of whom had yet paired off with anyone. The arena concert on the twentieth turned out to be a complete bust. For reasons unknown to me, hardly anyone attended the concert, apart from the thirty or so kids who had organized it. The arena looked totally barren.

The next day Aliss and I said goodbye to each other as the King Size crew returned to L.A. She gave me a tape of a Guatemalan band named Garibaldi which I took with me and listened to a few times, thinking back wistfully on my Latin girlfriend. I recognized that the heartache I felt apart from Aliss was another good subject for a song. Specifically, I wanted to capture my pessimistic belief that the love I seek in relationships will always break my heart because all relationships must come to an end. I used a metaphor to stand in for my romantic longing: a thirsty gringo travelling south of the border, made sick by the water he so desperately seeks. The song was called "The Purification of Water" (Track 3)

Everybody told me
and I knew myself
don't drink the water
it's bad for your health
But god, it's hot I had no choice
The sun it burned down on me
even though they told me so
I drank it deep, drank it deep

Even though, we both know
What we know, we can't say no
The world is blind to what it finds
The world is blind though it shines

Know I kneel
before the sacred basin
And offer up
the sweetest of all sin
But god, it's hot when I'm alone
The sun it burns down on me
even though they told me so
I drank it deep, drank it deep

By 1993, I had zeroed in on the kinds of melodies and chord progressions that I loved the most. One reason for this was my discovery of the Beach Boys and the Beatles' music. I had discovered The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album in a shop called Record Surplus on Pico Boulevard near the Weezer house in West L.A. I had gone there looking for a "classic" album to buy and to be influenced by. I narrowed down the selection to Pet Sounds or the first Led Zeppelin album, without knowing much about either album or either artist, and then, for some reason, chose Pet Sounds. But for that choice, my life could have turned out very differently, for Pet Sounds came to have a great influence on my writing and singing. And Pet Sounds led me to all the other Beach Boys and Beatles albums.

One day in March, I sat in my bedroom, transcribed the 5-part vocal harmonies to the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby" (Track 11) and then moved to the garage and recorded a quick demo of the song, Weezer style, with crunchy, down-stroked guitars. I loved the oblique motion of the main melody line moving around within the more static background melodies. And the verse melody totally knocked me out–"Well it's been building up inside of me for, oh, I don't know how long"–the wild combination of long and short notes, straight and syncopated rhythms, articulated and melismatic phrases, the big leap down a fourth and the leap up a minor 6th. This seemed to be the exact type of melody that I wanted to write and that I felt destined to write: grand, operatic, dramatic, Romantic. Soon I perceived these types of melodies emerging in my own songs, like "Buddy Holly" and "Holiday", much to my satisfaction.

When Weezer signed to Geffen Records in June of 1993, I used my cash advance to buy myself a trumpet and a violin and the related instruction manuals. My goal was to gain proficiency on the main orchestral instruments so that I could be a "real" composer, rather than a pop songwriter. I began practicing. Two months later, however, Weezer left L.A. for Electric Lady Studios in New York, to record The Blue Album, and I had to leave my new instruments behind. Because I was still excited about becoming a composer, I made sure to keep educating myself while I was in New York. I went to see two musicals, Cats and Les Miserables, during the days while the engineer got the mixes together for me to comment on.

When I returned to L.A. in October, I resumed my ventures downtown to see Essa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonic Orchestra. I saw a performance of Tchaikovsky's music and another of Beethoven's Third Symphony. And I started practicing my trumpet again. By November, I felt competent enough on the instrument to write a little classical piece. I wrote it out on a sheet of manuscript paper, using Brian Wilson's technique of keeping the background melodies as static as possible while the main melody jumped around. I recorded a demo of the piece in the garage and was amazed at how "real" the result sounded–especially the last tree staccato hits. I called the piece "Victory on the Hill" (Track 1) for no reason other than its triumphant sound. I felt I was off to a good start at becoming a classical composer. I wrote out my goals on November 27, the day of Weezer's first concert since before we left to make the album. (I kept my journal in Spanish, to protect against what I imagined were the curious eyes of my roommates and friends):

I want money so that I can buy cool things, like instruments: violins, clarinets, books about famous composers, music instruction books, CDs of classical music: Wagner, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Chopin. I want to study piano and music composition. I want to be a composer.
I have a yearning inside, a great yearning for something more profound than popular music. I need something more profound.
By the way, Weezer has a concert today2.

Since late '92, through many of the difficult days of playing the clubs in L.A. with Weezer, Jennifer Chiba had been my kind-of-girlfriend. I had benefitted greatly from her care and yet I had always kept my heart hard to her, believing that if Weezer did make it, I would want to be free for the many superior options I imagined would be available to me. Now in the summer of '94, as Weezer was indeed starting to make it, Chiba said she would resist me because of my refusal to commit. But whenever Weezer came through town I called her up looking for a place to stay (because I was no longer renting an apartment) and she gave in, letting me into her heart and home. In mid-July, when Weezer came to L.A. to record some B-sides ("Mykel and Carli", "Susanne", and "My Evaline") I stayed with her. We had an argument. She wanted more commitment and I wanted continued freedom. At the end of the work period, I flew back to my mom's house in Connecticut and on July 14 wrote a song called "I'll Think About You" (Track 19) that I hoped captured the pain and conflict of my situation with Chiba.

I've been standing here for a long, long time
Thinking 'bout the fight we had, oh
Now maybe we're all through
Or we've just begun
But there's just one thing I need to say

Everywhere I go
And everything I do,
No matter who's I am
I'll think about you

It may have been a game
It might have hurt a lot
But no one put you in that ring, oh
And so we kissed goodbye
You know I love you true
You know I love playing with you, oh

Everywhere I go
And everything I do,
Ten years down the road
Ten girls under my shoe
No matter who's I am
I'll think about you

I was glad the song had a few cynical, even sinister, lines ("You know I loved playing with you"; and "Ten girls under my shoe") undercutting the happy, sing-songy vibe of the music and I loved the high vocal melody, doubled by the organ, after the second chorus.

In August '94, I felt like I hadn't written anything truly exciting in over a year, since before Weezer had gone to New York to make The Blue Album. My thoughts turned negative even in the midst of Weezer's take-off for giant success and of all my dreams coming true. On August 5th, I wrote:

We've been on tour for a while now. I'm sad. We're ruling I guess. I've been so brainless. My life is such a waste now. I've haven't written in my journal, written one song, read one book, thought one thought, written one postcard. I'm a full-on vegetable.

And then I wrote to a friend:

I'm going to try to save my soul from the hell of rock stardom by writing to you. Hopefully this act will spark some sort of life into my spirit. I'm basically dead right now. It sucks. I have no desire for anything. I barely eat at all. A few bites of bagel or a handful of pretzels and I lose whatever appetite I might have worked up. (I used to be a pig.) My head doesn't turn for pretty girls anymore... I'm just not interested. Ho-hum.
I rarely think about you anymore. I don't reread your old letters and, obviously, I haven't written in a while. I don't think about anyone else, either. Actually, I don't think at all. I haven't written any songs, poems, stories–nuthin'. I'm a veggie. Our manager tells me things that should make me happy–sales and airplay statistics–buy instead, they just sound like random meaningless numbers.
Sometimes we come close to dying in the van (Karl's a scary driver) and I think weird thoughts like: "Who cares. Bring it on." I have violent thought involving large trucks, splintering bones, pools of blood, and car fires. And none of it bothers me at all.
I suppose the only thing I enjoy any more is playing our music in front of an audience. And even that only half of the time. A bad show is so ultimately depressing.

My thoughts grew even more negative. By December, I felt bad even about performing. On December 5th, I wrote:

Tonight/today was miserable. Madison Square Garden. It was the most passionless piece of garbage ever. And last night, too in Connecticut. This is the lamest job in the world. How much longer can I keep it up?

I felt tortured on stage because I assumed everyone was looking to me to be a passionate performer but I perceived not even an ounce of passion in myself for what I was doing. Weezer had been working non-stop for six months. My voice and my body were sore and exhausted. Before the last show of the year, the KROQ Christmas show on the eleventh, I described the depths to which I felt I had sunk:

I guess I should record these blackest of feelings before our last show. For the past couple weeks I've been completely miserable.
I don't talk to anybody, and onstage I never even so much as look up. Now I've got a sore throat, I feel like crap and we go on stage in three hours.

I was completely burnt out. After the KROQ show, I flew back to Connecticut for a vacation and on Christmas Day, I wrote in my journal with apprehension about the next year's schedule.

I'm petrified to return to the band, to return to the stage. I hate that life with all my heart...

I went on to clarify my feelings in January in a Rolling Stone interview, unpublished to this day.

Possibly the worst part about being on tour is that my emotional life is completely on hold. It's been about four months since I've had substantial (or even insubstantial) contact with a female, or anyone, for that matter, outside of my band-mates. I rarely feel any emotion at all anymore. I'm never really sad, happy, or even lonely. I'm just numb like a robot. I miss the soap opera of settled life.

What really worried me about not having an emotional life was that I had nothing to write songs about. Now a year-and-a-half had passed since I'd written anything that I loved. I believed that what I needed as a writer was to shut myself off from the world and from the over-stimulation of being a touring rock star, and to let my feelings rise to the surface again so that I could describe them in songs. On January 12, three weeks into my vacation, I wrote in my journal:

I'm starting to feel the blackness closing in. I'm really alone. I'm really insane. I play piano constantly. I'm at least four hours a day of total, complete concentration and mindlessness... I'm definitely going nuts.
I miss Chiba terribly sometimes but I never call her. I'm totally alone.
For the longest while I was lifeless. Dead meat. Now at least I feel the pain and loneliness starting to creep in.
It looks like I'm finally writing in this journal again. Plus I wrote a song today. And sadness. Hopefully more on the way. And then in one week it's back in the deep freeze.
I've got to settle my life down. I've been rootless for one-and-a-half years now.

The song I had written that day was a song called "Walt Disney" (Track 15). In this song I tried to describe the frozen, numb condition I had fallen into after seven months in the spotlight on the road. The song had a beautiful, mellow sound. I really appreciated it and was grateful to it. It did capture the state of my life at the time: the "phone singing" in the third verse standing in for Weezer's manager calling me to go over the details of our impending tour, which I clearly dreaded.

It's cold outside
Seven months of suicide
I've been in suspended animation
Just like Walt Disney

My only love
Asked for me to wait out there
I waited
Waited but she didn't care
Just like Walt Disney
I'm just thawing out

My fingertips and toes are frozen to the bone
Give me an hour before you throw me in the cold

Ring, ring, ring
Now I hear the phone singing
Calling me
Telling me to start freezing
Just like Walt Disney, yeah
I'm a block of ice

My fingertips and toes are frozen to the bone
Give me an hour before you throw me in the cold
Give me an hour before you pick me up and throw me 'cross the sea
Why don't you, please?

In '93 I had spent a lot of time listening to Jesus Christ Superstar. In '94, on the road with Weezer, I listened to Les Miserables, Verdi's Aida and Puccini's Tosca and Madama Butterfly. I loved how these works married music and drama, how the different characters would sing to each other instead of talk and how the story unfolded through song. I realized that musical-drama could be the larger scale composition I wanted to write for Weezer's second record: a new-wave influenced rock musical in which I could explore my feelings about relationships, stardom, and my life in Weezer. I would call the musical, Songs from the Black Hole. I purchased an Electro-Harmonix keyboard and a Korg keyboard from Center Music in Newington, Connecticut on January 3, 1995, to add a sci-fi tone to Weezer's guitar crunch. I got excited, now knowing what I wanted to do. I started planning and writing out sketches, music, and songs. To stand for my relationship with Chiba, I imagined a character named Maria (a role which I hoped to be sung by Joan Wasserman of the Dambuilders, though I abandoned the project before asking her.) In the liner notes to Alone I, I quoted the opening scene of The Black Hole in which Maria lets the guys known how she feels about being called a "b***h". Next Maria opens up to Jonas in private.

The Black Hole synopsis
Act I
10 May 2126
Scene I (The Main Deck)

...Jonas tries to calm Maria, taking her into the hall. Maria says she loves him.

"Oh, Jonas" (Track 8)

Oh Jonas, I miss you
Nobody else loves me like I do
Oh Jonas, I need you
Nobody else, nobody else loves me, loves me like you

Jonas insists that he and Maria can only be friends, because she's much too crazy for him. Maria says that she'll make him love her.

"Please, Remember" (Track 9)

Please, remember I'm only a friend

A friend who boinks me

You're too crazy to settle down with

Then why lead me on?

I don't love you but I can't help myself

I'll make you love me

Please, Maria, it won't ever be

I'll make you love me

I love you

Love me

I do

Maria brings Jonas to her pod and seduces him.

"Come to my pod" (Track 10)

Come to my pod
There's no one there, we'll be alone
We can talk
And if you want to, we'll get stoned
And relax, have fun
In my pod

In your pod no one knows the things we do
We'll get high
We'll get high, if you want to we'll sniff glue
And relax, have fun
In your pod

[Jonas and Maria]
In my/your pod
There's no one there, we'll be alone
We can talk
And make love the whole night through
And relax, have fun
In my/your pod

Now that we're left alone
Touch me and kiss me and love me

In February, 1997, I went back to Harvard to finish my Junior Year. I decided to take all English classes as if I were an English major, leaving open the option to formally switch to English (from Music) at the end of the semester. I had become disillusioned with my goal of becoming a classical composer. That was because, firstly, with Harvard's emphasis on scholarship, as a music student I was mostly writing papers anyway. I might as well be an English major. Secondly, the music being created at Harvard and at other contemporary music schools was not the kind of classical music that I liked. Harvard music, to my ears, was modern, 20th century, atonal, serial, non-catchy, and non-emotional. The music I liked was Romantic, heart-stirring, with Puccini and Tchaikovsky-esque melodies, and of course the even older music of Bach and Beethoven. Thirdly, I now blamed my love for classical music and large scale composition for the failure of Weezer's second record. I perceived my interest in this field as egotistical and pompous. What, was I too good for simple three minute pop songs that everyone loved? Then I deserved to fail. And lastly, now that my career as musician was in doubt, English seemed like the more practical choice in the event of a necessitated career change.

I felt quite at home in my English classes. Out of all the subjects in school, this was what I had always been best at–reading a story or poem and then writing a critical essay about it. But the super-academic milieu of Ivy League English wore me down just as the Music department had. By April, I was fried from hearing academic language every day. When one of my classmates, Lucia Brawley, left a message for me on my home answering machine relaying an assignment I had missed, I couldn't believe how obtuse the language of my world had become. I snapped mentally and made a sound collage of Lucia's message, calling it "Harvard Blues" (Track 5). Yet I persisted with my schoolwork. At the end of the semester, on the last possible day, as Weezer was about to embark on what would be its last tour for three years, I changed my major to English.

"Harvard Blues" was not a real song, though. In fact, I hadn't written a complete song since June of 1996, when I had written Pinkerton's "Butterfly". Now in the summer of '97, as Weezer toured with No Doubt, I continued to overhaul my compositional style, furiously thinking things through and writing in my journal. The word around which my thoughts now crystallized was "structure." "Good structure" was what, I concluded, the music of the trance bands and Oasis and Nirvana had and Pinkerton didn't have. Whereas Pinkerton was all wildly expressive, with non-repetitive and highly developed lyrics, chords and melodies, "well-structured" songs exhibited an economy of ideas–just two or three ideas, contrasting perfectly, and positioned perfectly in relation to each other. The perfect verse, the perfect chorus, the perfect bridge. That's all one needed. Repeat three times. Done. So easy. That's what the listener wants. How could I have been so stupid? Of course Pinkerton had to fail. On July 31, I wrote, "Not melody, not lyrics but STRUCTURE, like Noel Gallagher's songs. / Learn all the Oasis songs."

On August 8, the tour was almost over, and I anticipated getting back to work as a songwriter, finally. Again I concluded that what I needed was to isolate myself and to work as hard as I could.

Man, what an amazing summer. I'm sad now. I'm leaving Taipei. Leaving Asia. Leaving the insanity, the girls, the epic battles, the cruise. But it's time to work again. It's time to be alone and to produce. I want to produce like a monster now. No more slacking, napping. ... My body's really crashing now, finally. From lack of sleep, caffeine, drinking; stress and foreign bacteria. I've been having dizzy spells, paranoia, and a fear of fainting and of enclosed spaces. Soon I'll be reading and writing, writing and recording songs, playing piano, and playing soccer.
These guys in Weezer have been good friends. We're more of a team now.

When it came time to choose a subject to write a song about, I couldn't help but think of M., whom I had met on December 3 of the previous year. I had been signing autographs at a table in Tower Records in New York, my head down. Brian nudged me and said, "Hey Rivers, check it out..." I looked up and saw her standing in line, a young woman with black hair in a puffy silver parka. She was just about as shiny, beautiful and physically flawless as a woman could be. I felt sick to my stomach but still managed to talk to her a little as I signed my name. I invited her to our show that night at Roseland. She agreed to attend though it turned out that she wasn't even a fan. She just happened to be in the store and gotten caught up in the excitement of our little performance and signing. She actually knew nothing about American rock music, which I thought was very cool.

At the show that night M. was knocked unconscious by the sudden press of the crowd when Weezer went on stage. It was her first concert and she had not expected it. She had to be pulled out of the crowd by bouncers and tended to by a medic. She missed most of our show. She also lost her purse. After the show I went out on the floor looking for her. I found her and helped her search for her purse, which we didn't find. Then she came back to my hotel with me and spent what little remained of the night with me talking, innocently, in bed. In the morning, we said goodbye to each other and I got on the Weezer bus bound for New Haven. I couldn't believe that someone as gorgeous as she was apparently excited about me.

After I went back to school in February I saw M. a few times. I visited her in New York where we skated at Rockefeller Center. And she came up to see me once in Cambridge where we played one-on-one soccer in the lightly falling snow in the dusk at Danehy Park near my house. I toasted bagels for her and we went downtown to see "West Side Story". Bernstein's music seemed to perfectly express how I felt for her. The phrase that came to my mind when I thought of M. was "The Prettiest Girl In The Whole Wide World" (Track 12). And this was the phrase that I would use for a title now that I was ready to write my first song since Pinkerton. On April 20, I wrote the chorus:

I got the prettiest girl in the whole wide world
And nobody can taker her from me
And in the evening when she goes out walking alone
I wait at home patiently
I've never been so happy
I've never been so sure

I had to wait until August before I figured out how to develop the song. I wanted a perfect (and minimalistic) structure–restrained, simplistic, and repetitive. As I wrote the verse, I strummed only one chord, a B chord, over and over, and limited my playing to just that. What could be more different from Pinkerton?

Sunshine is falling
Over my head
Turtle doves are calling
"Good morning, friends"

Red roses blooming
All unaware
Of seasons turning
Of coming care

I've got the prettiest girl in the world
and I'm in love with her

I thought that it was a stunning melody and that it perfectly captured my passion for M.'s beauty. I loved it. I also loved the foreshadowing of doom in the lyrics: "Red roses blooming, all unaware of seasons turning and coming care." And I loved the irony in the line, "I've never been so sure." The listener just knows I'm doomed! With these lyrics I meant to criticize my passion even as I was reveling in it.

By the beginning of 1999, I had not managed to write any songs in which I felt any confidence, despite having devoted almost all of my time and energy to the effort since August, 1997. My band-mates each were pursuing other projects. Weezer's manager and record company rep stopped calling me regularly. Friends and family grew distant. I encouraged the space so that I could be alone. I determined that with enough concentration and effort, I could analyze my way out of the predicament I imagined myself to be in, the predicament of "poor songwriting". For the first time since I was a teenager, I now allowed myself to analyze my writing process in detail. I began to think of my writing sessions as experiments from which I could learn whether or not they turned out good. I disciplined myself to write a steady stream of these song-experiments, giving each a number, and keeping a log of my work called "The Catalog o' Riffs." I analyzed a large number of writing methods, varying what seemed to be every possible facet of the process: the order of the steps (guitar, melody, lyric, beat, riff, etc.); the tempo; the feel; the level of distortion on the guitar; whether I was composing aloud or in my head; the time of day; my emotional state; whether I had eaten or not; the number of drinks I had imbibed, if any. My goal was to ascertain the one method by which I could write the best songs.

The music I produced cycled through various styles, from extremely abrasive to light and folky, but in accord with my new post-Pinkerton values, almost none of the lyrics had any personal meaning. Many of the results appealed to me, but frustratingly, I did not feel satisfaction or confidence in any one of them for long. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking, maybe I should write a song with personal meaning–after all, that was what had always worked for me in the past (in the sense that it had generated songs that I loved). But the relatively low sales and critical reviews of the uber-personal Pinkerton convinced me that I had to learn to write songs that worked without personal meaning; I had to construct songs that were so compositionally perfect that no one could deny them. This was how I saw Nirvana's and Oasis's songs, the lyrics of which seemed largely impersonal and incomprehensible to me. So I kept trying.

Song experiment #49, utilizing method "Arbitrary-Progression-Distortion-open-Strum-Intro-Melody-Arrange", produced a somewhat Oasis-sounding song, with its loping bar chords and bluesy solo. "Cold And Damp" (Track 18)

The lyrics meant nothing to me on a conscious level. They just came out of my mouth automatically in reaction to the sound of the guitar chords. The melody I loved. Overall, the song had a strong appeal for me and I worked on it for quite a while.

Eleven more months passed making song-experiments, growing ever more disappointed and anxious, until finally one day in November I felt so stressed that I absolutely had to express my mind-state in a song, impersonality be damned. Without even picking up an instrument, I wrote the opening stanza to "My Brain is Working Overtime" (Track 6):

My brain is workin' overtime,
I need something to ease my mind
And as my thoughts go manic
I reel and start to panic
Cuz there's no place to hide behind

I logged this stanza as an experiment #92 in the Catalog O' Riffs. It seemed unusually compelling to me but I was still so rattled by anxiety that I could not maintain the faith to finish it. Over the next few months I continued on with other song-experiments and mostly avoided any personal content. But in January 2000, I happened to review #92 and determined that it was indeed strong, and precisely because of its personal nature and psychological truth for me. I finished the lyrics:

I freak and then hallucinate
I go at lights when I should wait
My parents think I'm lazy
But damn I'm going crazy
I can't help my mental state

Oh la la (he's trippin')
La dee da (mental slippin')
Take these brains out of my way

I work into a frenzied clip
I bit the corners of my lip
I'm losin' my appetite
My pants don't even fit right
Take away the month-old dip
My hair could start a bowl cut fad
The state of my attire is sad
And if I was run over
By a brand new Range Rover
Hey, I'd actually be glad

It was February, 2000, with the catalog growing to 167 entries, before I finally had the confidence to play even a handful of the songs for anyone. Weezer's manager came over to my house to hear what I had. When he heard #92, he said, "That's a hit!" and that exclamation was one of the reasons I felt confident enough to get back on the road and in the studio with Weezer. I felt like I had finally written something worthwhile after two-and-a-half years of near-fruitless labor in a science lab. And for that reason, I felt gratitude for this song.

A year-and-a-half later, on May 15, 2001, with a total of 286 entries in The Catalog O' Riffs, The Green Album was released. I was still racked with self-doubt and bothered by external criticisms that the album wasn't as good as the earlier albums and that the new songs all sounded the same. At the same time, I was encouraged in my empirical approach to creativity because of the commercial success of the album and its subsequent tours, and by the fact that I seemed to have emerged from Weezer as a star personality. I therefore continued, anxiously, with my experiments and The Catalog O' Riffs.

On September 5, I conducted experiment #333, the method being "Concept (IAEVC)-Incipit-Melody-Guitar-Develop-Tea." "IAEVC" was an acronym which stood for an "intellectually acquired emotionally volatile concept." It meant that rather than waiting to be overwhelmed by a feeling to write about, I would calmly seach my mind for a subject which I knew had the potential to inspire emotion in me. I would then compose the incipit (the opening lyric) which was the seed idea, the main thrust of the lyric, then write the melody, start strumming the guitar and continue developing the lyric, melody, and guitar from there freely. And all throughout the experiment, I would be sipping a cup of tea with half-and-half.

The first IAEVC that came to my mind when I sat down to write experiment #333 regarded my friend Kevin Ridel. Kevin had been my friend since we were in the same band in high school. He had also been one of the main sources of inspiration for me to start writing melodic pop songs instead of heavy metal guitar compositions. I had always been amazed at Kevin's ability to churn out emotional, personal and catchy songs so effortlessly. In 2001 when Am Radio and Weezer both recorded a batch of new demos at the same time, I listened back to all the recordings at once and painfully told myself that Kevin's songs blew mine away. My admiration for Kevin, then, was the IAEVC for experiment #333. The incipit generated by it was "I Admire You So Much" (Track 16). I sang those words to the first tune that popped into my head, started strumming the guitar, and then developed the song from there, abandoning the original concept and letting the lyrics flow freely from my unconscious mind. I recorded the experiment on an Olympus digital handheld recorded. It was a promising start to a song.

I admire you so much
In the morning time our hearts will touch
Hold, hold on
'Cause I never needed anyone like this
You never needed me
I never needed you
And that's the way we are

New Years Eve, 2002, I went downtown in L.A. to attend a large rave. I booked a room at my favorite hotel, the Standard, which was adjacent to the rave, so that I could crash out at the end of the night in whatever state I happened to be. My favorite DJ, Paul Van Dyk, was performing. I was all alone, not coming with anyone and not planning to meet anyone there. Everything seemed lined up for a perfect night.

After getting settled in my room, I took the elevator down to the street. Many hundreds of people danced there, packed in, facing the stage. A succession of electronic acts pulsed out their music. Normally, I loved this type of environment. I would stand right in front of the giant speaker towers and let the bass pummel and massage me as I watched the people do their strange dances. Tonight for some reason, though, I couldn't get into it. I felt like a total outsider. I couldn't connect with anyone as I walked through the crowd. The music wasn't pulling me in. I imagined that everyone besides me was having a great time. My mind started tripping on its favorite worries, how to write songs, what kind of songs I should write, and whether or not my new songs were worse than my old songs. As everyone around me danced in ecstasy on New Year's Ever, I sat down on the sidewalk, took out a piece of paper from my jacket and scrawled out some notes about my situation.

1. Everybody wants to sing. What is there to worry about? People like to dance, sure–– and people like to rock. But everyone loves to feel the primal scream of song emanate from their chest, their lungs.
2. I have to lead these people. I have to remind them how to sing.

Just then a random guy recognized me as Weezer's singer, walked up to me, sang "Say it ain't so-o-o-o!" directly into my face, and walked away. I looked back down at my notes and continued.

3. See? That's exactly what I'm talking about!
4. I have to remind these people what it feels like to sing from the chest.
5. That money-moment of belting from the chest is what I'm all about. The rest–riffs, lyrics, heaviness, etc. is all secondary. If I have all of those things and NOT the belt, then I have NOTHING. A thousand "Keep Fishin's" does not equal one "Say it Ain't So-ooo-ooo-oo" That is my role, my job––that full-body F# through G#. If I don't have that––I don't have anything. Capisce?
6. It's almost as if each artist really just represents one GESTURE. Whatever ornaments surround that gesture, the fact remains that there is ONLY one gesture that is important. I accept this. Everything points to this moment. This feeling. Yes, indeedy.

As lonely as I was, I left the ecstatic crowd behind and went back up to my hotel room. I had a guitar there, left by mt assistant at my request, just in case I wanted to write something, but I let it lie on the floor untouched. I sat up on the bathroom counter and focused on belting, singing out a new songs at the top of my lungs in the mirror. I figured the sound of the rave below would drown out the sound of my voice, and even my immediate neighbors wouldn't be able to hear me. The melody I sang tapped into the gesture that I imagined was "my role, my job–that full-body F# through G#"; the ingredient that I felt my newer songs had been missing. The lyrics expressed the loneliness that I felt, alone at a rave on New Year's Eve. I called the song "I Want To Take You Home Tonight" (Track 2).

I want to take you home tonight
And lay you down beside the fire
I've never seen your face before
I probably won't see you no more

I hope I find another girl
That thinks that I am lovely too
But they don't make those kinds of girls
And so I cry from me to you

This is another New Year's Eve
And I am happy with myself
I like to disco on the floor
I probably won't see you no more

If all I take from this ordeal
Is to sit down with you and feel
And tell you that I love you so
I probably won't see you no more

Don't go, I want you to stay
I need you to stay and hold me
Don't go, I want you to stay
I need you to stay and hold me

Much time had gone by as I belted out the song over and over, revising it as I went, when suddenly I heard the New Year's countdown out on the street below. I rushed to the elevator to go down and be with the people, but by the time I reached the street it was too late. The moment had passed though confetti still floated earthward and people still danced. I stumbled through the crowd, anonymous, loneliness gnawing at my gut. I sat down on the sidewalk. More time passed. The DJ played "Clocks" by Coldplay and I heart the song as I'd never heard it before–the piano riff soaring majestically as the band dropped out from under it. More time passed. I saw a face in the crowd I thought I recognized. Josh Freese. Dancing joyfully, long limbs flailing. How strange. Why was he here? I didn't know. He was an acquaintance of mine. I could have talked to him, bro'ed down with him, but that was little consolation to me on this night. I needed a soul mate.

I went back up to my room, alone, and continued to belt out the song. Experiment #431. Hardly an experiment any more at all. It had arisen pretty spontaneously, out of psychological necessity, and had been developed fairly unconsciously. It sounded like a song.

In May of 2003 I went to my first Vipassana meditation course in the hopes that the technique could melt away the thought patterns that infused my creative process, the self-doubt, the self-criticism, the fear of trying new things, the craving for a reliable formula. One of the first things that came up for me, during my second Vipassana meditation course, in June, sitting in the meditation hall for twelve hours a day for ten days in silence, with nothing but my mind and my memories, was a painful experience I had had fifteen years earlier. 1986-1987, my Junior Year of high school, was the toughest year of my life, in terms of getting hassled, picked on and bullied. That was the year that I had stumbled upon the perfect formula for "doing" my hair (wash, condition, apply several dollops of Dep gel, blow dry whilst scrubbing scalp with palm, then a heavy coat of Aqua Net "Extra Super Hold") and the jocks did not like it one bit. They also did not like the ripped jeans, spandex, chains, spiked wristbands, faux fox tails, and zebra bandanas that my friends and I wore to school every day. Especially, they did not like the music that we liked: Metallica, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Kiss. Scott H. (about twice my body mass) and the others taunted, pushed and shoved us and made us terrified for our physical safety when we had to walk through the halls in between classes.

David was one of Scott's group, and he, for some reason, picked my brother, Jimmy, a year younger than I, for his mark. As I remember it, one day David challenged Jimmy to a fight and offered us what appeared to be attractive terms: if Jimmy would meet David, alone, in the back of the school after classes let out, and fight him one on one, then David's whole group would leave us all alone thereafter. This was the one fight that David really wanted to have, apparently.

Jimmy, Matt, Justin, Adam, our other friends and I mulled it over. This fight, if my brother would face it, would mean liberation for our whole gang.

"It's up to you, Jimmy," I said

Jimmy accepted. He went out behind the building after school and I stayed inside, telling myself that Jimmy and David were supposed to go out there alone to fight together. I was supposed to stay inside. I knew damn well that David wasn't going out there alone.

"Pete, you should go outside," Adam said to me in the foyer of the school. "They're all out there. They've got him surrounded." I told myself again, I'm not supposed to go out there. He's supposed to be out there alone.

They had him in a circle. David hit him to the ground and I stayed safe inside.

After the Vipassana course in 2003 during which I remembered these events, I happened to be going to my brother's house. When I got there, I sat at the desk in his home office and wrote "I Was Scared" (Track 4).

Listen to me, I've got to clear the air
There's something I've held way down
Deep inside all these years
You always were a friend
You always trusted me
But now I must admit
That I was not so trustworthy

I let you down, I sold you out
I turned away as you fell onto the ground
I was scared, I was terrified
I was lost and so I shied away

I don't know what I can do
To make it up to you
I can't turn back the clock
I can't rewrite the book
But if I could, the end would be happy
And you would be safe and I would be proud
To look at you when I look you in the face

Though I loved you I was so afraid
I could not think of anything to say
Though I loved you
Though I trusted you
Thought I needed you
I was so afraid

I promise that I'll never do
The thing that I did on that day
When I acted like a fool
When I acted like a fool
I might get my ass beat,
my throat slit
or my fingers hacked
But I'll never miss another chance
To watch my brother's back
And I got your back

Then I went out to Jimmy's kitchen and told him how sorry I was for not defending him on that occasion in 1987, for letting my fear of physical pain and injury prevent me from helping the little brother that I loved so much. I continued to go on about it for an undue amount of time until finally he said, almost amused, "Let it go." I was so grateful that he said that.

In the summer of 2005, Weezer went to Europe to do a festival run. I arrived a few days early in order to spend some time with my half-brother, Gabe, and step-brother, Shannon, both of whom grew up in Germany and have a strong European sensibility, though being American citizens. I was always amazed at how different their musical perspective was from mine or from anyone else that I knew–it was all about house music for Gabe. As we screamed down the Autobahn at 130MPH, he played the latest house hits for me and explained the genre.

"It's gotta have that beat and some cool riffs. It's gotta have a simple, cool lyrical phrase that the singer says over and over like that."

I couldn't believe that this music was so popular–as popular in Europe, it seemed, as Black Eyed Peas or Gwen Stefani in the States. I couldn't believe it because there was hardly any singing or lyrics! "Trust me," said Gabe. "This is going to be the biggest hit of the summer." He played a track called "The Weekend" by some unknown-to-me guy named Michael Gray. It had a jammin' beat for sure, but without a strong vocal presence and personality, without many lyrics, I couldn't help but think it was only half a song, that it was missing the main point of connection. I kept an open mind, though, remembering the fact that Weezer's success in America had never translated to Europe. Sure we'd done all right there, but we'd probably had only one or two gold records in twelve years throughout all of those countries, as compared to multi-millions sold in the U.S. Clearly, I concluded, I had missed something as a writer. My songs couldn't translate beyond my border in the way that the songs of some other American writers had, for example, Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day. I concluded that I had something to learn about relating to European sensibilities through my music. I told myself, "I'll write a new song over this Michael Gray song, "The Weekend", using his beat as a template, and see if that produces a song that Europeans will like." Gabe gave me the CD.

When I got back to Connecticut for a short break in the midst of all the touring, I set up a little recording area in my mom's basement, buying a cheesy Casio keyboard, and a small Marshall amp and I set up my laptop to record into. I ripped "The Weekend" into my computer, dragged it into Vegas, chopped out a piece of the beat, made a loop, ran it, played the first chords that came to my mind with a synthy sound on the casio, and started singing, not knowing what I was going to sing about. When I was finished with the demo, I simply muted the loop from "The Weekend" and I was left with my song, "I Don't Want To Let You Go" (Track 7).

All the times you came to me and told me that you cared
I was dreaming of happy days that we both could share
Maybe I got too excited and maybe you freaked out
Maybe I just have to call you up and scream and shout
All of my friends tell me that I ought to play it cool
No one likes too much attention from a desperate fool
Still I don’t believe that I can keep it all inside
When I see your pretty face I almost want to cry

I know it isn’t right
But still I have to fight
I have to let you know
I don’t want to let you go

I remember the days when I was stronger than wall
Try as anybody might they couldn’t move me at all
Now I fall to pieces when you softly call my name
Going up in smoke rings like a moth within your flame
I have lost all hope for being normal once again
I will be a slave to you until the bitter end
Even if it’s a hundred years before you change your mind
I will be here waiting girl until the end of time

The pain is killing me
But I can’t let it be
I have to let you know
I don’t want to let you go

On June 19, the day after I got married, my wife and I flew to Germany to see one of the United States' soccer matches in the World Cup finals as part of our honeymoon. I had long been asking the U.S. Soccer Federation for tickets to the U.S. matches, hoping that they would hook me up, I being a celebrity and all. But they had responded to my request, after long delays, with a list of counter-requests, one of which was to write a theme song for the team. Normally, I would be excited and honored to take on such a challenge, but in the months leading up to the Cup Finals, I was so busy with my last semester of college and with preparing for the wedding that I had no chance to write at all. Thankfully, some friends gave us the tickets for a wedding gift and I was able to set the songwriting challenge aside. Later that year, my creative mind turned back to the challenge and I started writing, but now my mood was far different from before the Cup. Now I had just come out of the abysmal experience of the team getting eliminated in the first round, of scoring only one goal in the competition, of losing two games and tying one. So I wrote the anthem, called "My Day Is Coming" (Track 17), but it turned out to be more sad than rousing, more bitter than confident.

Sometimes I lose my pride
And leave my best behind
And everybody has a good laugh
But still I understand
The chance is in my hand
Someday I'm going to make em believe

So people all around
Let me hear you lay it down
This is all the hope I have

My Day Is Coming
My Day Is Coming
My Day Is Coming, it's coming up someday

It ain't too far from now
I'm gonna work it out
Today is better than yesterday
My shining star will rise
And lead me to the prize
The best of times are on the way

My day is coming, it's coming someday
My day is coming, it might be today
My day is coming, it's coming up someday

And when I get the things I want to have
Will I look back on the critics
Will I say that they were stupid
That they underestimated me all along

Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Freddy Adu, Clint Dempsey, Oguchi Onyewu, Bobby Convey, Eddie Johnson, Steve Cherundolo, Brian Ching, Carlos Bocanegra, Jimmy Conrad, Pat Noonan, Let me hear you say

On September 10, 2007, Jermaine Dupri sent me a demo of a song he had started writing, "Can't Stop Partying" (Track 13). He also sent me his number to discuss where we could take the song. I gave him a call. He told me that he had noticed that the rock world and the hip-hop world were really the same: they were both all about partying. He wanted to write a song–and to find an artist to cover that song–to show the unity between these two apparently disparate worlds. He thought Weezer was the perfect artist.

I thought about it long and hard. I had been a great admirer of Jermaine's songs, especially Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together", which had been a big influence on my recent composition, "Heartsongs". And I loved the demo he sent me of "Can't Stop Partyin'". It was so fun and catchy.

I can't stop partying, partying
I gotta have Patron, I gotta have the e
I gotta have a lotta pretty girls around me
I can't stop partying, partying
I gotta have the cars, I gotta have the jewels
and if you was me honey you would do it too

Monday to Sunday I hit all the clubs
And everybody know me when I pull up
I got the real big posse with me, yeah I'm ?
And if u lookin for me I'm in vip
Just follow the smoke; they're bringing bottles of the goose
And all the girls in the corner getting' loose
Screw rehab I love my addiction
No sleep no sleep I am always on a mission

But the music sounded a little cheesy to me, like generic punk rock. And worst of all, the lyrics were clearly a celebration of drinking and drug-taking, which I could not sing without qualms. I tried to expand the lyrics to make them more in line with my values. That's when I realized what a true genius Jermaine is. His lyrics had seemed so simple to me, as if any seventh-grader could have written them, but when I tried to write a second verse, I couldn't manage to write anything one-tenth as good as his first verse! His lyrics were all about celebration. They were totally inclusive. My lyrics couldn't indicate confidence or joy without being at the expense of someone else. Every line of Jermaine's was so strong, so iconic, like a song title. My lyrics were awkward and strained. I set the song aside. In October, in another Vipassana course, it suddenly occurred to me that I could change the meaning of the song, not by changing the lyrics, but by changing the music under the lyrics. When I got to my wife's family's house in Japan after the course, I picked up a guitar and strummed the four chords that you hear on my demo of the song. These chords suggested sadness and resignation in the face of something ineluctable, something fated, a drug-habit, a drinking addiction. Suddenly, "I Can't Stop Partying" might be a sad thing to say, and this was the undertone which, I believed, allowed me to sing the song with conviction. Was it a celebration? Or an elegy for one lost? I didn't know. But I thought it was beautiful. And that's all I've ever really cared about as a writer. The happiness of the creative moment. It has always been mine.


1Recently, I corresponded with Amy via email and learned that she did steal a car, years ago, and she did drive the car to New Orleans but she never shot a cop and she gave the car away "to the first guy to beg a sandwich off me."

2Quiero dinero para que puede comprar cosas buenas, como instrumentos: violinas, clarinetas...; libros de compondedores famosos, libros instruccionales; discos compactos de música clássica; Wagner, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Chopin. Quiero aprender el piano y componer. Quiero ser un componedor. A propósito, tenemos un concierto hoy. Siento un anhelo adentro, un gran anhelo, que necesita algo más de hondo que la música popular. Necesito algo más de hondo.

Special thanks to you (falettinme be mice elf agin)

All songs written by Rivers Cuomo, published by E.O. Smith Music (BMI) except "Don't Worry Baby", written by Brian Wilson and Roger Christian, published by Irving Music (BMI) and Careers-BMG Music Publishing (BMI), "Harvard Blues" written by Professor Nancy Yousef and Rivers Cuomo, published by E.O. Smith Music (BMI), and "Can't Stop Partying", written by Jermaine Dupri and Rivers Cuomo, published by Shaniah Cymone Music/EMI April Music (ASCAP) and E.O. Smith Music (BMI)

"I'll Think About You" keyboards by Jay Buckley, drums by Fred Eltringham, bass by Drew Parsons

A&R: Todd Sullivan Assistant: Sarah C. Kim Management: Daniel Field, Blair Dickerson and Michelle Gonzales at Boom

Mastered by David Donnelly at DNA Mastering, Studio City, CA

"My Brain", "I Was Scared" and "I Want To Take You Home Tonight" mixed by Chad Bamford at Tranny Alley Studio

Design: Karl Koch Layout & Typography: Alexander Field

Photos: Laura Ann, Alice Claire, Robert Fisher, Steve Kitts, Karl Koch, Julie Kramer, Norman Richey, Beverly Shoenberger


See also