iTunes Originals band commentary - 2010
|Digital audio interview with Weezer
|January 1, 2010
|See where this interview is referenced on Weezerpedia
The following is a transcript of an interview conducted with Weezer, released as a series of tracks on the iTunes-specific digital compilation iTunes Originals: Weezer. The interview occurred as part of the promotional cycle for Raditude.
A List of 50 Songs That Were Amazing
Pat: Hello, I'm Pat Wilson, I'm... I'm in the band Weezer.
Rivers: Hi, Rivers Cuomo from the band Weezer.
Brian: Brian Bell from the band Weezer. And this is iTunes Originals.
Scott, Pat, Rivers, and Brian: [Humming] ♪ Ooooooooooooooo... ♪ and break.
Rivers: Before Weezer had its first rehearsal or even called itself a band, I was very determined to have a list of fifty songs that I thought were amazing, because I just wanted to make sure we had a lot of great material and we really had our act together before we through the process of trying to go out there and tell the world about who we were. Um, so, I don't know if we made it to fifty songs but we definitely had a demo tape, um, that included "My Name is Jonas", um... "Undone - The Sweater Song", "The World Has Turned and Left Me Here"... we weren't actually, we weren't actually rehearsing or playing shows yet but, uh, Pat would come over to my apartment or I'd go over to his, and Jason would get involved a little bit from time to time, and we'd make demos that, y'know, they don't sound that different from the final product.
You Have to Have a Producer
Rivers: Weezer was super confident about who we were musically, um, when we were playing the clubs in L.A. and we, uh... the last thing we wanted was a producer to come in and tell us how to sound when we were making our first record. And, but when we got a record deal with Geffen Records, they pushed us hard, basically they said you have to have a producer on your first record. Uh, so... I thought about it for a while and I just reached a conclusion—I think maybe I'd heard on the radio, a Cars song came on, maybe just what I needed. And the guitar sound kind of reminded me of Weezer, these downstroke eighth notes on the distorted guitar. And it sounded great. And I just thought, if we need a producer, I want somebody who's actually a musician and a guy in a band, that sort of thing. Not somebody who's just, you know, working in the studio, uh, working basically for major labels, making records. So, I didn't even know Ric Ocasek was actually a producer and had made some great records before. So I told the label, they sent him our demo tape and he immediately got back to us and said, "This is amazing, I gotta do this." And he was so cool, he completely waived his fees so we didn't have to pay him anything at the time, which was good, because we didn't have any money. Uhm, and then he just did an amazing job helping us... polish up our sound but retain our sense of who we were. And that record, to this day, sounds pretty unique.
This is Freaking Amazing
Commentary for "Undone - The Sweater Song". Details Cuomo and Wilson's feelings leading up to and following the release of The Blue Album.
Rivers: When we turned in our first record, before it came out, I think I had two different feelings in me. One is, you know, "We're gonna be a total failure, we're gonna sell just a few records and then we're gonna get dropped, that's just how it goes." And then there was another voice in me that was saying, "This is freaking amazing, I love this record so much. I love this music, I love what we're doing, this is better than everything else out there. Other people are gonna have to feel the same way." So then, when it immediately took off, when we put it out, in a sense I was shocked and surprised but [in] another sense I wasn't.
Pat: Yeah, I remember, there was a period, we got done in October, and it wasn't released until... May. Yeaaah, there was this sense of, like, "we're not really sure what's gonna happen" but I remember driving around once it was released; first, going to the mall and actually seeing it in the store and being "Okay, that's huge." And then the second thing was hearing it on KROQ, it was... surreal.
Short Haircuts and Major Key Songs
Commentary for "Say It Ain't So". Details Bell's reaction to hearing the band's songs for the first time and Weezer finding an audience.
Brian: I came in at the end of the recording and, uh, when I heard the songs for the first time at Electric Ladyland I was... I saw the band live and that's what I knew and I, I loved "Say It Ain't So" and, uh... a couple songs from the live set a lot. But I heard these new songs like "In the Garage" and, um... I believe that was the first one I heard, and I just looked at them like, "You understand this is gonna be huge," and they had a lot of self doubt at that time. And, um... so I wasn't surprised.
Rivers: Y'know, something else, uh... when we were just playing the clubs in L.A., they were all 21 and up clubs, of course. So it was mostly, you know, older people and they were really into super grungy type of music... lot of tattoos and nose rings, that sort of thing. And we came out with our short haircuts and major key songs singing about girls and... it didn't really connect with the clubgoing in L.A. at the time. There were other bands at the time that seemed to be really taking off, and they were getting record deals and it seemed like they were gonna be huge. But we didn't get a buzz like that at all. We were lucky to get a record deal, I guess. But then, once our song hit the radio and kids starting hearing the music, then it felt like we've connected to our audience, and it took off in a big way.
A Particular, Unique Flavor
Rivers: I remember, uh, when I was writing songs for Pinkerton I was very into the idea of "I don't wanna build a demo track and write a song like that in my little home studio, what I want to do is just sit with an acoustic guitar and make sure that the song is great with just me and an acoustic... no rock guitar, no sound effects, nothing like that. Just one guy and a guitar singing his songs." And so, almost all the songs were written like that, um... so that kind of gives it a particular, unique flavor, I guess.
The Winter is Seemingly Endless
Commentary for "The Good Life". Details how Cuomo's surroundings affect his writing and headspace.
Rivers: I feel like my surroundings affect my headspace when I'm writing... uh, for example, The Blue Album, all those songs in West L.A., just perfect, beautiful weather every single day of the year, pretty much. Um, it's very invigorating and uh... I think you can hear that joyful quality in the music. Now, Pinkerton was, most of those songs were written in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And a lot of them were written in the winter. And, the winter there is just seemingly endless, and... snowfall after snowfall, and then... mud, and... sludge, and slush, and uh... [laughs]
Pat: It's a wear down...
Rivers: I think you can hear that on the record, and certainly in the artwork too, you can just see it on the cover.
Rivers: I remember having a very strong vision for the first album, The Blue Album, what that cover was gonna look like. I never anticipated people would call it "The Blue Album", or even Weezer. I just thought of it as an untitled album. It was like the year later that we noticed that everyone was calling it "The Blue Album". And, since then, seems like every other album we come up with a strong, uh, idea for what the album is about and we get these titles like "Pinkerton" or "Maladroit"... "Raditude"... "Make Believe"... and sometimes we don't. And, uh, we just put a picture of ourselves up on the cover and, uh...
Brian: Put a color behind it.
Rivers: Heh, yeah, in fact The Green Album, I remember, I was thinking it was just going to be, uh, a white background. And so, we took a picture in front of the white background, sent it to the art director, and he sent it back, like I had requested, but he also sent back a few different versions with different colors in the background, one of them was green. So I took them, printed them up and brought them to the record store, uh, the CD store, which still existed back then.
Rivers: And uh, I put up all these mockups in the racks, and then I walked back about 15 feet and looked and the green one just stood out [laughter] from everything, I was like "That's our cover!" [laughter]
Rivers: I think there's a misconception out there that I had an insane amount of material going into the making of The Green Album and at the end of 2000. I guess I did have a lot of material but most of it was like, half-finished, abandoned ideas. Kind of half-songs and then I'd give up and get disheartened and then move on to the next one. So there's a big pile of stuff there, but [laughs] I don't... yeah.
Brian: But what was most impressive, I think this was like, during a hiatus... uh, between records, and uh, Rivers had a new house at this time and I came over to see him for the first time and see, he was gonna show me some songs, I don't know if that was on purpose but I looked on the wall, and it was a chronologically listed of, like, number... I don't know, 026, this song. And I looked at all these song titles on the wall and I remember going "what's this one?" and I pointed to "Island in the Sun" first, and that was the first one he played to me. So then we were onto something, or he was onto something, out of a song title, yeah.
Rivers: All that stuff on a list, you picked one of the best songs.
I Always Try to Scrub These Songs Clean
Commentary for "Hash Pipe". Details how the lead singles for Weezer's first three albums had all been censored despite Cuomo trying to keep his music clean of any profanity.
Rivers: You know, it's funny because I always try to write clean lyrics, I don't like... whenever I've written, uh, curse words in songs or something it just doesn't sound cool to me, so I always try to scrub these songs clean. But just about every time we've put out our first single on a record, it's gotten censored, and I'm always surprised, I'm like, "Oh, that's a bad word? I didn't even know that!" "Sweater Song" had...
Pat: Damn... goddamn. [laughs]
Pat: No, you can't say goddamn.
Rivers: "El Scorcho"... goddamn you half-Japanese girls got censored again. "Hash Pipe", ha, I think we wanted to change that to "Hash Browns".
Pat: Yeah, with "Hash Pipe" it's strange that they chose the phrase, the two words "hash pipe" as the problem when, y'know, they listened to the parts about transsexual prostitutes that maybe had been a little more troublesome.
I Was a Scientist, This Was an Experiment
Commentary for "Dope Nose". Details Cuomo experimenting with drugs during the writing of the song.
Rivers: I don't remember the exact amounts of substances, but it was definitely tequila and Ritalin. I took early one morning, like six in the morning. I was... this was an experiment.
Pat: You took some tequila?
Rivers: Yeah? I had... what is it?
Brian: Oh, you had it exactly measured out too, for sure.
Rivers: Yeah cause I was a scientist. This is an experiment. This is an experiment in songwriting. So what happens when you wake up at six in the morning and take these substances and try to write a song? And the first morning I did it, I wrote Dope Nose, and it took about the length of the song, three minutes done. And then I was like, whoa, that's cool. So the next morning, I did the same experiment again and I wrote Hash Pipe, and there were two singles just like that. And then, for some reason, I lost interest in that particular method and moved on.
Pat: Well let's go back to that method. It's that simple.
Rivers: Well, that's the irony of searching for the one method to write a great song, and that's that whatever works once probably isn't going to work more than one, or two times more than that, and then you have to move on. So there's really no point in trying to find the one method.
A Fun and Steady Stream of Inspiration
Rivers: Well, in around 2001, we had been pretty seriously using our website for about a year, weezer.com, and we're just starting to realize the potential of the internet in a lot of different ways. And one of the things we decided to do was, after we were in the studio each day, at the end of the night, post up the day's progress in the form of an mp3, and the fans would download it and they would give us their opinion of what they thought. And sometimes it was just like, "Oh, I like this idea, "I don't like that idea," and sometimes it would have even more specific suggestions, "Try a solo more like that other one you used to play," or something like that. And I look for inspiration wherever I can get it, and I'm always open to hearing anyone's idea. So it was fun and very steady of inspiration for me at that time, and that resulted in the album "Maladroit".
Flying Under the Radar of That Whole World
Commentary for "Beverly Hills". Details "Beverly Hills" being nominated for Best Rock Song at the 48th Annual Grammy Awards, and how Cuomo felt that the song deserved to win.
Rivers: I never really thought about getting recognized by the establishment by getting a Grammy award or something. I kind of figured we were flying under the radar of that whole world. But when "Beverly Hills" came out, to me, that was easily the best rock single of the year. And so when the awards came around, I thought we deserved to win. And I was... I wouldn't say shocked, because so many times I've seen the Grammys give the award to the wrong recipient.
Brian: But what was great is that we couldn't even sit in the Grammys. I got an invitation to watch the Grammys.
Scott: Yeah we got an invitation. Then I was told I would have to pay—
Brian: To watch it in a television screen! Not even at the Grammys!
Rivers: That was our first number one.
Scott: Yeah, and it's like every time I would look at iTunes, it was just hanging in there week after week after week. It was unbelievable. It was us and the Foo Fighters.
Rivers: Yeah, and at that time, I didn't realize what an extraordinary thing that was.
Brian: And it's one of those songs... I think the lyrics are quite deep, and I think they're deeper than people realize, but it's one of those songs, like, kids like my nephews age, like five, really love that song. So you know you're hitting a huge audience when five year olds like you.
There's So Much Danger in Playing it Live
Commentary for "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived". Details the difficulty and amount of practice that goes into performing the song live.
Rivers: My first demo of The Greatest Man, it sounded kind of choppy cause it was basically written in pieces, where every 20 seconds or so, it shifts gears and goes into a new musical world. But I had confidence and I knew once I brought it to the band and we all started to play it together, just keep running through it, it would start to flow, and that's what happened. I think it's quite an accomplishment to compose a song that should feel so disjointed like that one. And because we're a great band, we make it work.
Scott: Crazy thing about Greatest Man is there's so much danger in playing it live.
Brian: Oh, so much danger. [laughs]
Scott: I think we might be gearing up to do that soon, and we rehearse that song for hours, man. Just the vocals alone, you can rehearse for a week.
Eating Pork and Beans With Candy
Commentary for "Pork and Beans". Details Weezer turning in a draft of The Red Album and Geffen asking for more radio-friendly single material.
Brian: After we did The Red Album proper, we turned it in and they felt we needed a couple more, a couple singles. And... we were really, y'know, we thought we had made a piece of art and we have to put some singles, I love both of these songs, and then... uh, Rivers pulls out this song about eating pork and beans with candy. And we actually recorded it in the room we're sitting in, right today.
I'm Starting to Get Vertigo
Commentary for "Troublemaker". Details Cuomo searching through demos to add to The Red Album, stumbling across "Troublemaker" and working with Jacknife Lee, and how Cuomo often smashed a ukulele over his head while performing the song live but was beginning to get vertigo.
Rivers: "Troublemaker", we figured we needed... After we finished The Red Album, we were like, well, we need a few more, like, fast songs with a kind of badass attitude. And so I just kind of started just scrolling through my iTunes and, because I have everything all organized there, and, just looking through old demos. And I found a song I'd written a few years earlier called "Troublemaker" and I listened to it. I was like, dang, that's exactly what we're looking for. So we brought it in and we jammed it out very quickly.
Brian: And then this is the first time we worked with a producer named Jacknife Lee...
Scott: Who did things really different than we had done on the rest of the album. So it was really shocking and fast, but it came out amazing.
Rivers: Troublemaker is a fun one to play live. I often smash a ukulele over my head while I'm playing, but I'm starting to get vertigo. And apparently I knocked something loose in my inner ear. I think it's initially from my bus accident last December, but it's starting to get worse. So I think I got to lay off the ukulele smashing on my head.
Scott, Pat, Rivers, and Brian: [laughter]
We Just Got to This Point
Commentary for "Can't Stop Partying". Details Cuomo's writer's block while attempting to finish the song.
Rivers: With Raditude, we didn't set out to, uh, start experimenting with, with other, um, artists on our tracks. I think with "Can't Stop Partying" we just got to this point in the song, like two-thirds of the way through where, it took forever trying to figure out what was supposed to come next. Um, there was this, like this space in the song, I couldn't, I kept trying to write different things, I couldn't come up with anything. And uh, it just seemed like a cool idea to have Lil Wayne come down and do a rap, I'm such a fan of his, uh, thought he could put a cool spin on the lyrics.
We Were Just Blown Away
Rivers: "Love is the Answer" was a song we had, that, uh... it's kind of on the, threshold... of, heh...
Brian: We recorded it for the Make Believe sessions.
Rivers: Yeah, we did it for Make Believe, it didn't quite fly, and there was something missing from it. And I think our manager just ran into this, uh, he knows this Indian woman, Amrita Sen. He's known her for a while, didn't even know she could sing. And then one day she just said, hey, check out this recording of me, or something, and it blew him away. She has an incredibly gorgeous voice, and he had the idea of having her come down and just try it. And obviously we've never done anything remotely like that before, but we were just blown away. It sounds beautiful.
We Still Argue About the Call and Response
Commentary for "Kids/Poker Face". Details Weezer originally learning "Kids" on its own, and the band's manager telling them to add "Poker Face" because of the songs sharing a chord progression.
Brian: "Kids/Poker Face" was a suggestion from our manager.
Pat: I think I pushed for "Kids" because I was fascinated with the video, the unauthorized video with the, uh, people in makeup.
Scott: Brian was dating Lady Gaga at the time, and so she kept pressuring him to do part of her song.
Brian: So I uh, learned, "Kids", I remember spending all day trying to learn this solo and get it up to speed, and I finally got it close. And then I get a call from Dan, he said "oh, we're not doing the solo, we're going to do Lady Gaga instead in that section because it's the same chord progression", and I was mad at first, but I hadn't even heard the song yet, I just sort of knew who Lady Gaga was at this time. That's about, what, nine months ago? And, um, I was like, oh, yeah, that works. And I was really, mostly surprised with that. He knew that it was the same chord progression. He could tell that, so.
Scott: it was another iTunes thing, I'd kept seeing her at the top of iTunes week after week, and I had never listened to it. And then it's all of a sudden, we're playing it. I was like, god, I better listen to that song.
Brian: And I said, no, it's saying he's got to love somebody. Whatever it was.
Scott: Yeah, we still argue about the call and response, yeah.
It's Really Become a Great Story
Commentary for "Represent". Despite this, "Represent" is not on the album and this commentary is the final track. Details Cuomo being asked to write a song for the US National Soccer Team.
Rivers: "Represent" is maybe the first, uh, soccer anthem for the U.S. National Team released by a higher profile American artist. I was talking to some of the people at the US Soccer Federation sometimes to get me tickets to games or whatever, I'd been able to stand down there at the sideline as the team's warming up. Uhm, and one time they asked me if I'd write a song for them, and of course, it was already on my mind. But then when the World Cup started to loom in the near future, we started to look around, to look for sponsors, somebody to help us with the expenses and everything of recording and promoting the song. And we couldn't find anyone that was really excited to help us. So I kind of gave up on the idea. And then we kept getting closer and closer to the cup. About a week from the first US game. I just couldn't take it anymore. I was getting so excited. I was like, let's just get in the studio. Let's do a song now, and let's figure out how to get it out there to the soccer fans as quickly as possible. And at that point, it started to pick up some momentum, as all the soccer fans and Weezer fans started downloading it and the press picked up on it, and it's really become a nice story.