article - May 31, 2002

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Foosball Wizards

By Corey Moss

WEST HOLLYWOOD — Somewhere between "Hash Pipe" and "Dope Nose" Weezer got hooked. It started during the recording sessions for Maladroit and "it's gotten stupider ever since," to put it in their own words. It has consumed countless hours of their time and has in many ways shaped Weezer into the band they are today. More mellow. More honest. More content.

"I don't know how it happened," says drummer Pat Wilson. "Somehow foosball has just become immensely important to our day."

"We spend hours on the foosball table every day, and we just totally mellow out," singer Rivers Cuomo adds. "We play it very seriously, but there's no, like, negative sense of competition. We just bond over the foosball table."

Wilson, an offensive force with enough tricks to convince Cuomo he's the best of the bunch, says he wants to pitch a foosball show to MTV. "It's gonna be Weezer against the Foo Fighters, and it's gonna be like a seven-show miniseries about how a grueling foosball season is gonna maybe make us better friends."

There's no foosball table in Weezer's dressing room at the legendary Whisky A Go-Go[1], though Cuomo and Wilson seem mellow and friendly anyway. Cuomo has just arrived, looking like the college student he was a few years ago with a backpack draped over his shoulder. Wilson has been waxing classic rock with new bassist Scott Shriner, scheming a plan to get backstage at an upcoming Rush concert both are ecstatic about.

The Whisky green room happens to be entirely black and bare. Fortunately a few friends have decorated it with streamers, strings of lights and even a few books, including one about Chinese culture. The floor is rumbling from a soundcheck downstairs.

Outside, hundreds of fans are waiting to pile into the free show. Some drove straight from Weezer's show two nights earlier in Tucson, Arizona, and have been living on a curb without a guarantee they'll even get into the Whisky. At midnight, when the show is over, the guy with the Weezer tattoo and his neighbors of several hours, whether they made it into the show or not, will march a couple of blocks to Tower Records and be the first to purchase Maladroit. It doesn't matter that they've been downloading the album's songs for months from Weezer's Web site. Over the years, Weezer have developed an amazingly loyal fanbase, one that continues to surprise even them. Online and at shows fans analyze set lists and trade bootlegs. If they were wearing tie-dye, you might think Phish were playing the Whisky tonight, which is fitting, since Weezer are beginning to incorporate long instrumental jams into their shows.

"I'm really proud of us," says Cuomo, staring through his signature Buddy Holly glasses. "We've gone from being just another three-chord power-pop band to being like Pink Floyd or Phish or something, but in a good way."

"I just wanna let go and have fun on my instrument."

Cuomo credits the growth to the band's relentless tour schedule since the release of Weezer (a.k.a. the Green Album) a year ago. "I think it's a natural progression when you're playing shows every night," he explains. "After six months, you're like, 'F--- this, man. I don't wanna play these same 10 songs the same way every night. I just wanna let go and have fun on my instrument.'"

Having fun has been a big part of Weezer lately, and not just onstage or at the foosball table. The recording sessions for Maladroit were some of the most enjoyable days they have had together since forming Weezer a decade ago.

"We've gone through a huge shift in the way we're creative," Wilson says. "Something just happened. It clicked. It felt easier and just more natural to play, and it's been a joy."

Certainly some of that shift can be credited to Cuomo, the band's longtime songwriter, who approached the new album feeling more flexible than ever. He even stepped back at times and let his bandmates sing and write material.

"I feel like I'm very open to what anyone wants to do on their instrument," Cuomo says. "We just go in there with no preconceptions and just encourage each other to just have fun and be creative, and it just happens naturally."

Weezer were also refreshed on Malodroit by the addition of Shriner, who stepped in for Mikey Welsh when he checked into a mental institution last fall.

"I just called a friend of mine and said, 'Do you know any cool bass players?' The guy said, 'I know somebody, but he's covered with tattoos and has a gold tooth.' I was like, 'Cool, perfect. Perfect for Weezer,' " Cuomo explains. "He comes from a different background, where shredding is OK. And he just gets up there every night and puffs his chest up and just shreds, and I think we all get excited and follow his lead."

"He really made us man up," adds Wilson. "I'm so excited to play with a guy who's into all the classic rock stuff."

"Now we're just out of our minds playing music and having fun."

Shriner joined Weezer at an abnormally transitional time for the band. While they were welcoming in their third bassist, they were saying goodbye to their managers and publicists. They decided to do the work themselves, which they have actually done quite well. In February they sent out advances of Maladroit with a hand-signed letter announcing the album's release date to journalists and radio programmers. It irked their record label, but those who received the music were stoked. The contact information on the letter and a recently mailed press kit is Rivers Cuomo's.

"Who else is gonna care more about their band?" Wilson explains simply.

"Earlier in our career there were more professionals around us all the time, encouraging us to play the game and be smart, and we fired all of those people," Cuomo says. "Now we're just out of our minds playing music and having fun. Making mistakes but getting better as we go along."

Self-management is not as time-consuming as it looks, Cuomo says. "'Cause if there's something we don't wanna do, we don't do it. It's made things a lot simpler."

Many of the songs on the hard-rocking Maladroit appear to be about lost love, though there are lyrics that seem to touch on the band's newfound freedom. On "Slave," Cuomo sings, "When you're on your own/ You can see things clear, clear as a bell/ And you're free, slave." "Space Rock" includes the chorus "It's a game and you'll play/ But you can't have fun when all they do is says lies."

Cuomo, however, will tell you most of his songs are not about specific things, and he can make a pretty convincing case. Take the superbly infectious first single, "Dope Nose," for instance, and lines like "Cheese smells so good on a burnt piece of lamb."

"'Dope Nose,' as far as I can tell, has no meaning whatsoever. [It came from] just kind of writing random lyrics," Cuomo says. It's definitely not about drugs, as the title might imply. "It's kind of weird that we're singing a song about drugs all the time, 'cause we're not really a druggie band, and we don't have any political stance about it. It's just kind of random drug references that we don't really mean."

Perhaps Cuomo's simple approach to lyrics is what has made him such a prolific songwriter in recent years. Or maybe, as Weezer fans will argue, he's just a genius.

Since January 1, 1999, Cuomo has been numbering his songs. Although it's not on the set list for the Whisky, Weezer have recently been playing a song with the working title "367."

"I think I'm on number 378, something like that," Cuomo says nonchalantly. "It's not a lot, actually. It's like one a week or something."

Actually, it's more like two a week.

"It's 'cause there's nothing else to do," Cuomo continues. "Before, I was always in school or I had a girlfriend or some other responsibilities that were distracting me, but now there's just nothing to do but play music."

Weezer are constantly logging Cuomo's vast catalog of songs and expect to release their fifth album in January. That would make three albums in less than two years — shocking considering it took five years to follow-up fan favorite Pinkerton.

Aside from "longer passages of instrumental freakouts in big sections of big buildups," Cuomo says his new songs will include his most emotional lyrics yet. The catchy pop hooks will be there too, though blended with styles Weezer have not yet explored on record.

"We can take on all different kinds of styles and fit them into our sound..."

"I really feel that one of our strengths now is we can take on all different kinds of styles and fit them into our sound and have them be a Weezer song, even though it may be essentially a funk jam or a metal jam or who knows what," Cuomo says. "We can make it Weezer."

It hasn't always been that way. Four years ago, Cuomo went through what he calls a "really weird death metal phase." When he took the music to the band, they were so confused that none of the songs were recorded.

"If we listened to them now," reflects Wilson. "We'd probably be like, 'Right on.' "

Oh, how foosball can change a man.

Source:, May 31, 2002

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