Apple Music interview with Rivers Cuomo - January 27, 2021

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Apple Music
Weezer: The OK Human Interview

Zane Lowe

Rivers Cuomo of Weezer connects with Zane Lowe to discuss the band's album OK Human and vision behind this project. He reflects on Weezer’s discography, dark, honest lyrics on Pinkerton, and dealing with physical pain while recording that record.

Zane Lowe: Wow, this song is just unbelievable.

Rivers: What are you listening to?

ZL:Bird with a Broken Wing”.

Rivers: Oh, cool!

ZL: That song is unbelievable!

Rivers: Thanks, yeah, I love that one!

ZL: I love that song! That is like, McCartney/Harrison levels, like, that’s mastery, bro!

Rivers: Thanks, yeah, I feel the same way. Like, it’s so moving.

ZL: Can we talk about that song before we talk any further about this album, because I just can’t shake the image from my head: “don’t feel bad for me, I’m right where I want to be”. Like, wow! Where were you when you wrote that?

Rivers: I was literally right here. Um, and, gosh, I wasn’t prepared to talk about that one. I think I was feeling pretty irrelevant and passed over and past my prime, I guess, and just… feeling pretty sorry for myself.

ZL: No shit. But you really tapped into that emotion and you found something and you were able to express it and turn it into art. I mean, you’ve probably lost track of the amount of times that music has shown up for you like that. Where you just didn’t know how to get past it, and a song gave you the key.

Rivers: Yeah, that’s a good point, man. I remember starting in my 20s my songs started to do that for me. It was the greatest solace you could feel in your life, is listening back to a recording of your song and being like “Oh, yeah! He gets me. I get me.” To hear it articulated so precisely is just a wonderful feeling of being seen and heard.

ZL: It’s the most beautiful trade. Because you get to better understand yourself in ways you could never do cerebrally. And we get to better understand that we’re not alone. ‘Cause there’ll be people out there that’ll hear “Bird with a Broken Wing” and go, “It’s okay, I’m alright, I can feel like this today because it’s a totally relevant feeling— to feel irrelevant.”

ZL: Well, congratulations on surprising us once again. Your band has just become so full of surprises. I mean, you always were, from the minute you came out with your debut album and sold millions of records, and then dropped Pinkerton and then disappeared. It’s like, surprises all the time! I much prefer these surprises, where we get more music.

Rivers: Yeah.

ZL: And this record sounds to me like it wasn’t part of a plan. That it was something that kind of presented itself even to you and the band, because I felt like we were on a one-way ticket to Van Weezer.

Rivers: Yeah, well, we started this record in 2017. I just went over to Jake’s house— Jake is the producer— and he had the idea for the album. Just this tiny little seed of an idea he planted in my brain that day. It was: “alright, just you and a piano, and an orchestra, and it’s gonna be super-personal, quirky songs that only you could write, not worrying about commercial potential at all.” And he gave me another album, called Nilsson Sings Newman, that came out in the early 70s. And he said, “Listen to this, check this out, and then bring in all your love of classical music, of Beethoven and Bach, and just really go for it.” And I was just so excited from day one, and the songs came very quickly and easily. Then we recorded the strings at Abbey Road, and recorded the band, and I’d say we were about 90% done. And then the whole Hella Mega thing happened. “OK, this is gonna be your 2020. You’re going out with Green Day and Fall Out Boy, and you guys better bring the rock, because these are the big boys and you wanna look good, and you’re gonna be in these stadiums with like 80,000 screaming rock fans,” and we’re like “Uh, okay, we have this piano-orchestra record with introspective songs?”

ZL: (laughing) “Hello, Miami! It’s not the Weezer show you were expecting… We appreciate your patience.”

Rivers: So, yeah. We decided, you know what? Let’s put this one on hold for a minute, and let’s make this killer stadium heavy metal rock album. And so we went ahead with Van Weezer. We got that one wrapped up, and we’re about to put that one, and then the pandemic happened! The whole tour got bumped to 2021, so at that point we were like wha—! We can’t put out this heavy metal record now, when—

ZL: No one wants to rock.

Rivers: How can you promote a rock album if you can’t rock? So, at that point we said let’s go back and finish up OK Human. So that’s where we are now, we’ve got two albums coming out in the space of a few months.

ZL: Here’s the bittersweet thing, that as a Weezer fan, a long-suffering and long-obsessed Weezer fan who’s been waiting to find some kind of rhythm to keep my mind at ease that I’m gonna get a Weezer album, or I’m not going to get a Weezer album, what’s going to happen, how’s that going to happen— that it finally caught up to even you. That even you were surprised, even you were like, “Man, I can’t even control the jokes anymore. Joke’s on me now!”

Rivers: Yeah, well, it’s good, man. Weezer’s prepared. Whatever the world throws at us, we got an album for you.

ZL: You sure do. This is a stunner. And you know, I speak to musicians who get to a point in their lives where they’re able to really lean into the idea of orchestration completely. It’s something that people dabble in to create new emotional resonance in a song, but if you really lean into orchestration completely, it has to be at a certain point in your life and your career where you really feel like you’re emotionally ready to experience that. What was it like for you hearing these songs that you wrote at your piano sometimes at your most vulnerable come to life with a 38-piece orchestra? Which is— I mean, an out-of-world experience.

Rivers: Oh, yeah, it’s— oh, my god. I knew this day was coming, I’ve always been such a fan of classical music and opera and I knew it was coming, and yet I feel like it’s overdue, like I got stuck in this pattern of “Oh, we’re a rock band, this is what we do, we don’t want to get soft too soon. This rock thing seems to be working.” But really getting encouragement from Jake, a light went off— “this is gonna be great.” And then, man, hearing it back for the first time with the orchestra is like, “Yeah, those are the chords I wrote, and that’s the melody I wrote, but man!” It just takes—

ZL: So much more width.

Rivers: It’s like seeing in three dimensions for the first time or something. It’s just gorgeous! And I can’t believe we haven’t done it before.

ZL: Because in my opinion you have to get to a point where you are emotionally prepared for the experience. You. Are emotionally prepared for the experience. Because otherwise you may not appreciate it for what it really is, which is these emotions and thoughts brought into vivid, 8K HD 3D just like, you know? You’ve written so many songs, but you can’t prepare for that.

Rivers: Yeah. It’d be interesting to go back and hear some of the early albums—

ZL: I was going to ask you which album you think off the top of your head would best fit, now that you’ve done this experience with an album purposefully built for orchestration, which of your previous Weezer albums do you think would be a natural fit on step one?

Rivers: The one I’d be most interested in hearing is Pinkerton. Those are the most complex songs, and they’re the most emotional songs. And yet, the way we recorded it is so raw, four-piece rock noise. I’d be really interested to hear that with an orchestra.

ZL: You’ve got such an opportunity now, because if you wanted to express it through that filter because we’re entering into a really important milestone. I mean, 25 years this year for that album.

Rivers: That’s right, yeah. Maybe in the fall we can put together some kind of tour— theaters, with an orchestra, and do OK Human and Pinkerton.

ZL: Incredible. So much was— amongst fans who fell in love with you so quickly, like it was just an overnight obsession, that debut album, I think we all got the nuance of the band really quickly, as fans. It wasn’t like, “Oh, cool, this fits into the MTV box.” Nah, there’s something really deep going on here; there’s stories, there’s real insecurities and anxieties here. This is what you really look for in a lifetime relationship with music. You know?

Rivers: Right.

ZL: And Pinkerton came out. And it just seemed like the whole thing had tipped upside-down, and you were searching for a way out of something, and I think as we get to 25 years on that, I sort of wonder how your perspective on that time in your life has changed in relation to that album and who you were and what was going on.

Rivers: I don’t think my perspective has changed at all (chuckles). I feel like it was such a rough time, and everything went wrong, and I made so many wrong moves, and so many self-destructive moves, and destructive of other people too. Just so many regrets, and ah, man, I would not want to go through that again. And I feel like I’m in a much better place.

ZL: Of course you are. Can you listen to that album, though? Can you reflect on that album as a body of work?

Rivers: Oh, yeah. I love it! And especially, I love the sound of my voice. It’s very low in the mix— I’d love to hear a remix with the vocal louder— but there’s just so much pain and vulnerability in my voice…

ZL: I mean, right from the get-go, right from “Tired of Sex”, which is like, at that point in my life I’d only ever heard sex being put on a pedestal. (mocking) “I get so much sex,” or “I wanna sex you up,” or “sex is the whole point,” or… I never heard somebody actually come out and say, like, “I’m using it to destroy myself. It’s a tool to help me dismantle my self-esteem.” I’d never heard that before.

Rivers: Yeah, there’s gotta be something more.

ZL: In that moment when you’re singing those notes across that album, you’re right. It’s a very raw experience to listen to as a fan. It’s funny, isn’t it? That we find these albums that sometimes cause the most pain when you make them, become the most loved amongst us.

Rivers: Yeah. And I don’t know if this is disillusioning at all, but I think some of the pain you hear in my voice is actually physical. At that time I was going through this procedure on my leg, where I had all these pins and spikes and wires going through my muscle and bone, for like a year and a half. It was this constant pain, and right in the middle of that, I went and recorded the vocals for that album. So I just sound like I’ve been through a lot, and I think some of that is physical. Maybe if you want to have a really great vocal performance, you could consider some kind of self-torture device?

ZL: Surgery, put a clamp on your leg? I mean, they joke about that, back in the day. That was always the joke about The Bee Gees, “Well you’re gonna have to wear some tight trousers if you want to sing those notes,” do you know what I mean? But you’re actually qualifying the fact that physical pain can resonate through an emotional performance. Which is incredible, really, because I never knew that.

Rivers: Yeah. I don’t know if I’d put myself through that again willingly, but I’m glad it’s on the record.

ZL: Yeah, I mean, what a body of work. More anniversaries to talk about soon, but getting back to this album right here, OK Human. I have to touch on the title, of course. The idea of 1997, when that album came out it felt like we’d entered into a new dawn. You were a musician at that point, you were an artist at that point, I’m not sure how active you were at that point— I’ve lost track of the timeline— but I know that Radiohead really put everybody on watch. It was like, you’ve gotta go deeper, further, and you’ve gotta prepare for the future. How impactful was that album to you as a music fan? Because clearly, I know that you flipped the term, (and perfectly, I mean now we have to relate to technology far more than— it’s in reverse) but how impactful was that album in that moment in time? Has it stayed with you?

Rivers: Oh, it’s funny, but hearing you ask that question I was just suddenly reminded of the story of, I don’t know if you’ve heard this, but after Pet Sounds came out, I think The Beatles and The Beach Boys had kind of been in this arms race with how amazing their albums were.

ZL: Yeah, The Beatles put their guns down after Pet Sounds.

Rivers: No, they put out— what came first, Revolver or Rubber Soul?

ZL: Rubber Soul came first, and then Revolver.

Rivers: Ok, so Rubber Soul, and then Brian Wilson was like alright, here’s Pet Sounds. Unfortunately, it flopped when it came out, and then The Beatles put out Revolver. And that just destroyed him. It was like game over for Brian Wilson. At least, that’s the way I understand it. And that’s kind of what OK Computer was like for me, because Pinkerton came out at the end of ’96 and it was supposed to be my, our magnum opus, and it just got destroyed, almost like game over for our band. And then summer ’97 we were on tour opening for No Doubt around the US in these big amphitheaters, and you could imagine what 15,000 fans of “I’m Just A Girl” are thinking of Weezer playing “Tired of Sex”. It just did not go over. And then one day on the tour bus the guys were like “Check it out, it’s the new Radiohead single!” And they turned on MTV and it was “Paranoid Android”. It completely obliterated me. Then at the end of the tour, I remember there was a big— some kind of album release party for OK Computer at the Mondrian in Hollywood, and I went there. I was like a nobody, sitting there in Radiohead’s moment of glory. It was these twin feelings of pain and jealousy, and at the same time this music they made is so otherworldly and inspiring. So it was a real push and pull in my heart at that moment.

ZL: You weren’t alone. It was a lot of people who don’t make music with any sense of competition, really. Even though it kind of is just a little bit below the surface, but you just learn that on the playground. That’s just like, “you didn’t like me in school, so I’ll show you.” And you carry that with you in your adolescence as an artist, even with success, you just carry it with you. There’s a little bit of fuck-you going on there, you know what I mean? But no one’s really thinking about it on a competitive level, and then an album like that comes out, and you get drawn unwillingly into that. I’ve spoken to so many artists who have listened to that album and had to rethink. They had to go away and rethink. Because what they captured with Nigel Godrich was that moment. It was that moment where humanity and the ability to record with technology— and they were desperate; they’d had their second album which had done great, and it was brilliant and everything, but they couldn’t—if they made another one of those they were going to end up being a Britpop band. And that was coming to an end, the idea of jangly acoustic guitars, that’s all you got, you’ve got these five instruments. They came out and they were like “fuck it, we gotta change!” And if they hadn’t made that record— well, look where they went! They went off into outer space after that! OK Computer sounds positively pedestrian compared to what they’ve done since then!

Rivers: Right, that’s interesting.

ZL: It’s so crazy. So you weren’t alone. It was a huge moment. Bringing that up to date, and being able to find some closure with your album title, with OK Human, which is brilliant. And I think hearing the themes throughout the record, the idea of trying to reconnect with your own sense of humanity while technology constantly tries to pry you away. Constantly tries to draw you into a reality which isn’t what you were born with, it’s manifested and it’s a construct. How was it writing that almost with a concept in mind?

Rivers: Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but it seems like Jake’s sense of production— and also our drummer, Pat was a very big influence on the way the album was recorded— is just very in line with a questioning of current recording technology, if not technology in general. I don’t know how much you know about recording these days, but most recordings are done on a grid, where every drum beat, every note gets locked to a grid, and it’s all perfectly in time, and it’s very rare to not record that way. But we didn’t use a grid at all. Pat just went in, played whatever came to his mind, and the songs speed up and slow down. And in the middle of one song, his wife calls him on the phone and he stops playing?

ZL: Was that on “La Brea”?

Rivers: Yeah! He stops playing, and you can hear him talking to his wife, and then he’s like “OK, bye baby,” hangs up and he starts playing again.

ZL: (laughing) I didn’t realize that was actually a legit thing. I thought that was a bit of a studio in-joke. I didn’t realize he got called during the take!

Rivers: Yeah! The rest of us musicians were trying to play along to this… The reduction in computer sounds and electronics is really dramatic. I mean, I was thinking about it. Not only aren’t there things like synthesizers and drum machines and samples, there’s not even electric guitar on this album.

ZL: No. Nowhere to be found.

Rivers: We’re going back to instruments from centuries back, if you’re talking about violins and cellos. It’s like some pretty ancient technology. That was really Jake’s idea, and Pat’s idea, and coincidentally I’ve just been lyrically searching through my anxieties. Like I’m so anxious about looking around my house and seeing ok, there’s one child on that device, there’s the other child on that device, my wife’s over there on that device. Next door, my mom’s on that device— you know, everyone’s looking in a different direction at a different device, and that’s the way things are going. Nothing I can do about it. I can’t help but feel a sense of loss and anxiety about it.

ZL: I do too. I have this conversation sporadically with my family. I’m like, “can’t we just pull it together?” And we do, they’re receptive to it, but it’s always an intermission. It’s never the full thing. It’s “let’s take a break from what we’re doing here, and then come together.” And to your point, I can’t tell whether I’m just softening because I’m recognizing that perhaps this is just the way we’re designed to move forward, this is what it is, this is what it becomes.

Rivers: I keep thinking, man, twenty years from now, are we going to look back on this time nostalgically? Like “remember when we all used to be— we could physically see each other?” and this was a time of human connection compared to what it’s going to be in 2040, 2050. Who knows.

ZL: Well, thank god we have these songs to remind us. Do you ever think about that? Do you ever take enough of a step back or seek enough altitude to reflect upon the music that you’ve made, that it lasts forever? That these inner thoughts you’ve had and these emotions that you share, ultimately, to some degree, they are observations that sit in a library and can be drawn upon at any given moment.

Rivers: I guess I don’t really. I’ve always had this deep assumption of the impermanence of everything I do. Like, oh, well this is going to be somewhere in oblivion pretty soon, forgotten completely.

ZL: But as you find yourself moving through life and being a husband and a father and a son and all those things that really matter, how do you reckon with that? Because that sense of pessimism clearly is a part of what drives your artistic spirit, and yet I know that you’ve been searching for growth, right? You yourself said you’re in a much better place in 2021 than you were back in the early- to mid-90s. So how does that relationship between those two things, the fuel that drives your art, versus the human being that wants to actually show up in the right way?

Rivers: I don’t know. I don’t think it’s that bad of an influence, I feel like it helps me have some kind of detachment and not take things too seriously.

ZL: That’s interesting, that it actually acts as a tool that enables you to continue to do what you do.

Rivers: I think if I were super attached to having some kind of permanent legacy or some kind of massive success I might be even more tormented and a little harder to work with. But as it is, I just put out a record and forget it and move on, always in the moment.

ZL: One of the most beautiful songs on the album, on OK Human, is “Playing My Piano”. I love that song so much because you are immediately drawn into that experience of someone just finding their wonderful isolation that comes from getting lost in their moment, playing their kind of piano. What do you get out of that experience that you weren’t able to communicate in the song, if you could elaborate on how it differs for you than being in a room with bunch of fans rocking out or on a stage or— how does it feed your soul, just sitting there and playing?

Rivers: It’s weird. I feel like naturally I’m this amazing musician and composer, that I was born that way, but I didn’t get any training, so I’ve got very little skill. I feel that way as a piano player and as a singer too. Like inside I’m like Luciano Pavarotti. Just this huge voice, hitting all these glorious high notes. But I actually don’t have the instrument for it in my throat. So when I’m here in my room I have the door locked and in some cases even put a sound machine outside so nobody can see me, nobody can hear me. I don’t really have to face the reality of my limited skills, and in my mind I’m just jamming away on the piano, and I sound like Beethoven or Puccini, singing like Pavarotti, and I think it allows me to go to all these places that I really get so much pleasure out of. Then the next day I can come back and listen to what I recorded, and it’s pretty pathetic, but the ideas are in there. I can go in there and practice them, and touch them up, and hand them off to some actual skilled musicians, and it ends up sounding really great.

ZL: I love that. It’s a beautiful process. Is there a song on this record, maybe with the exception of “Bird With a Broken Wing” because we talked openly about that, that really enabled you to unpack something that had been deep inside you that you couldn’t have communicated? Is there one song that really springs to mind that was particularly personal to you?

Rivers: I mean we already talked about screens— there’s a song called “Screens” which addresses all my anxieties about what we were talking about, with people detaching from other humans and spending all their time connected to screens. Okay, “Numbers”. That one is very personal.

ZL: I love that one.

Rivers: I think I was in a really good mood, feeling like “Wow! Weezer’s pretty great, I’m pretty great,” and I think I must have looked at an email, or a Billboard chart somewhere, and got some bad data. There was a number next to my name or Weezer’s name that told me, “You know what? You kinda suck, man. You’re not really that great.” I don’t know what it was, we were like falling down a chart or something. And immediately my mood was crushed. And so I was just thinking, like, there’s always a number. If you look, you’re always going to find a number that makes you feel bad about yourself. That’s the opening line of the song. Obviously, for a musician like myself that’s true, but I think everyone has different scales they may look at to end up feeling pretty bad about themselves. There’s always data out there.

ZL: I’m fascinated with the relationship between math and music because basically it’s all math, but really that is just the language used to connect to something that is really you can’t align it to any kind of equation at all, a song like that, even though it’s made from a mathematical equation. And now we exist in this world, to your point, with OK Human where so many decisions are made to the rise and fall of art based on math. It’s all math. When I was growing up, you picked up and instrument because you were shit at math.

Rivers: (laughs)Yep, same here.

ZL: And it’s just all math now. You know, and that’s, to some degree, what that song speaks to. The idea of how you get past that.

Rivers: That song just fell out of me there in that really emotional moment. And ever since then, I’ve been much more careful about— I’m not even going to look. I don’t care where we are on the charts. Because if you start looking, you’re just going to keep looking until you find something bad. At least, that’s how I am. So as soon as I start to look I’m like oh yeah, I remember the song says forget about it.

ZL: Even when charts really mattered, in the early stages of the band, or so I’d say the first three albums, when you came back with The Green Album and it was a colossal success and everyone welcomed you back with open arms, I still never got the feeling that that made you happy. I never got the feeling that being the number one band was the driving force. If it was, you wouldn’t have gone back to university or college, you know?

Rivers: Yeah. Well, it’s never enough— ‘cause we were number two, we weren’t number one. It’s like, “Damn it!” And this is my nature, it’s never enough. I’ll keep looking until I find a number that tells me I’m not good enough.

ZL: So how do you find the strength to get past that? Do you look within as opposed to external validation? Are you getting better at understanding your own personal value? Do you meditate? How do you find a balance in terms of calming, creating a stillness in all that chaos?

Rivers: I do meditate. I just got out of a ten-day meditation course, I’ve been going for 18 years, absolutely love it. But I have this very deep tendency to feel bad about myself, and so you just have to retrain yourself and not look at that kind of stuff. Meditation helps.

ZL: Well, I’ve just started again. I’ve had an on and off relationship with it, never really taken it up properly, and I realized, getting to this point in my life I really wanted to stick at it. So I decided it wasn’t going to land on my lap, I needed to show discipline and practice like everybody else. What was the breakthrough moment for you? Because I know it’s coming for me, but I haven’t had— I’ve had moments where I’ve been sitting for 20, 30, 40 minutes and my visualization is effortless, and I’m able to just disappear and let go, but it’s not something I can switch on and off, you know?

Rivers: Hmm. Well, it doesn’t really matter what state of consciousness you attain while you’re doing the practice, it’s more you get the benefit from just trying the practice. It’s like lifting weights or some kind of physical training. It doesn’t matter how much you end up lifting, it’s just you lift as much as you can and that’s what you get the benefit from. But for me, I really bottomed out in 2002, beginning of 2003, and I was just totally desperate to try anything to recover my creativity and get myself out of all kinds of personal trouble. And that’s when we started working with Rick Rubin, and famously he’s a big meditator. He saw something in me, like “maybe this guy would benefit from meditation.” And he suggested it. At first, I was like, “No, man. That’s totally— that’s exactly wrong. That’s gonna make me all calm, and I’ll have nothing to write about. I need drama, I need personal tragedy,” and he was like, “Ok, cool!” But a few months later—

ZL: ”See how that works out for you!”

Rivers: I’d tried everything else, and I just couldn’t feel inspired. So I went online and found this one meditation center, and I went there for the ten-day intro course, and I’ve just been going back ever since, I love it so much.

ZL: This year is lining up big. This album is such a joy, and it’s such a beautiful way to start the year, to hear these songs brought to life in this way and hear your vocals just soar above it without necessarily having to compete with the band in the way that you have before and you hold your own. But when Weezer’s rockin’ out, Weezer’s rockin’ out.

Rivers: Yeah, I’m curious to see what the fans think, because the big guitars have always been a core part of what Weezer is, and there’s none of that on this record for the first time. And I haven’t talked to a single person who even missed it, a single bit. So I’m really curious to see what Weezer world says about this record.

ZL: Well, ‘cause I think the orchestration and your voice really— I think Pat, he was right. To bring the band into an environment where the performance was natural, and the chemistry was in play— it stirs a performance within you that a computer could never capture. Because you’re going to sit there and over-analyze your performance, fifty-five takes, which one’s the best one. You have to rise to the occasion now. With the equipment, you have to. And these songs deserve it.

Rivers: Yeah.

ZL: So before I let you go I’ve gotta get one more point, maybe we’ll talk about this in more detail a little bit later on, but you’re also entering in— outside of Hella Mega being back on the books, and fingers crossed that’s going to continue, we live in hope that by September we’ll be back on track— but let’s talk a little bit about the Green record and twenty years on that. So two anniversaries in one go. You know, so we have Pinkerton at 25, Green Album at 20, you’d made the decision to come back by that point. You decided that you were going to give Weezer another go. But it hadn’t been as cut and dry as that, right? There was a lot of push and pull, I guess, internally.

Rivers: Oh, yeah! Man, it was, I almost didn’t make it back. It’s hard to remember what that was like, but I think as far as most people thought, Weezer was done. It was like, first record came out of nowhere, kind of a one-hit wonder, and then second record, did it even come out? Nobody was— complete flop. In those days, probably even now too, that kind of mean you’re done. I was like “Ok, I’m’na go back to L.A., I’m’na get a rehearsal space, I’m’na lock myself in there, I’m’na work, I’m’na focus, I’m’na get this other album done.” That was like 1997, after the OK Computer party I told you about. And it took ‘’five years’’! Man. I just had no confidence. But once we came back from that, it was like, “Ok, if I can come back from that, I think we’re pretty much good from here on out. I can get through anything.”

ZL: Thinking back to it now, can you establish a singular moment or song or something where you knew that you’d broken the back of it? That you knew that this was something you were going to be able to come back from.

Rivers: I never got that feeling from any of those songs or from the album. It was more just sheer force of will, like “I don’t have any confidence still, after five years, but I’ve gotta put this out, I’ve gotta get back in the game, just to get the machinery moving again, and hopefully, at some point, the confidence is going to come back.

ZL: Was it tough to convince the people around you, who probably felt like this is not an investment anymore, like no more funding for the band? Was it really hard not to convince just yourself, but— and you had the band, who had your back, but everyone else, to really open the door and let you back in? Because I remember when “Hash Pipe” came out, man, it was like you kicked that fucking door in, hard.

Rivers: Yeah, well, we did have a big helping hand. It came from the fans. You know when Pinkerton first came out, and everything fell apart, there wasn’t really this killer hardcore fan community. But over the next few years, unbeknownst to me, locked away in my rehearsal space in west L.A., people started to fall in love with that album and to fall in love with the band in a really heavy way. And as the years went by that demand for Weezer grew and grew. Again, I had no idea this was happening. It wasn’t until, I think the beginning of 2000 one of my friends said, he was in a small band just in this van tour around the country, and he said, “Do you know that there’s kids all over the country that totally love Pinkerton and love your band? And I was like, “What, really?” “Yeah, it’s cr— it’s taken on this new life.” So I was like, “okay…” And then I remember, that spring, we got an offer for a show out of nowhere. It was from Japan, and it was for like ten times the amount of money we’d ever received for a show. We just played small venues, never really made any money on the road. Suddenly we got this massive offer. That kind of, those kinds of numbers make you feel like, “Wow, maybe there’s some life in this thing, yet.”

ZL: I love that. I mean, Pinkerton to me is a classic in the same vein as Paul’s Boutique. It set the Beastie Boys on a whole other path to have to make changes and figure it out just like you did with The Green Album and yet that album has gone on to just breathe and live and… when you do make these records, and you release them, you do have to let them go, don’t you? They take on a life of their own. It’s never more evident than in that example of Pinkerton being probably the first child that you released that actually just lived its own life.

Rivers: Yeah, it’s been wild to watch. It’s interesting you brought up Paul’s Boutique, because I was wondering about this recently. I remember people around that time, around the time The Green Album came out, they were saying like, you know, Pinkerton has turned into the new Paul’s Boutique. This album that got trashed when it came out, but years later is super important. I was wondering, have there been other albums like that since Pinkerton?

ZL: While I’m sure there are rap records that people really demolish when they first came out that people have started to appreciate, not to the same degree when social media kicked in. Because you’ve got to remember with Pinkerton and with Paul’s Boutique, people had to breathe new life into the record via word-of-mouth. So it would be one friend would tell another friend, “You like Pinkerton? I like Pinkerton!” or, “Hey, you’re wearing a Pinkerton t-shirt, I love that album,” and it takes a few years for that to build into a momentum that your friend’s going to report back to you saying, “Hey, there’s kids all over America who love Pinkerton,” but they were working that out for two or three years. Working out some kind of unofficial momentum, some kind of clubhouse where they could appreciate that record. Now I think if you release an album, like Playboi Carti just released his album Whole Lotta Red. And if you read the reviews online when it first came out on social media, the way everyone was responding to it was like “Oh, it’s so disappointing,” “It’s a 6/10 at best,” “I waited for two years for this?” Yada yada yada yada. Then within a week, that album was streaming through the roof; if people could have reviewed that record in hindsight they would’ve added two more stars onto it, and everyone fell in love with it much much quicker, because I do think that that momentum of communication happens now through social media. Whereas you guys, man. You were ahead of the curve. You made a classic album and it took people four years to admit it.

Rivers: Yeah, interesting.

ZL: So it’s a whole different way of communicating now, around music, which breathes new life into it. But the good news is that you guys, you summed it up so beautifully before: “Weezer’s ready for anything.” And you really are. I mean, the fact that we get to talk now about what is effectively a group of beautiful personal songs with classical arrangements, you’re ready for anything. I dare you to take it to Hella Mega. I dare you to bring out a quartet for at least three songs. I dare you to. I double dare you to!

Rivers: That is such a great idea!

ZL: It’s so good to see you man, I’ve really enjoyed the conversation, and hopefully we’ll get to touch base again when Van Weezer’s ready. I always enjoy our time.

Rivers: Thanks so much.