The Daily Collegian interview with Karl Koch - April 1, 2004

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Back in Blue
Nerdy alternative rockers Weezer re-release classic Blue Album
By Nick Romanow, Collegian Staff
April 01, 2004

It was a little under 10 years ago when Weezer, a California-based band that seemed more fit (and willing) to play Dungeons & Dragons than rock a stadium, inauspiciously released their debut work.

The self-titled album, which has come to be referred to as The Blue Album" (after the color of the artwork) introduced, with the help of the hit singles "Undone - The Sweater Song," "Buddy Holly" and "Say It Ain't So," the band to an audience of over 3 million enthralled listeners.

Weezer is now practically an alt-pop-rock institution. It's had the two of the best albums of the 1990s: Blue and their 1996 follow-up Pinkerton. Also under its belt are the equally great 2001 self-titled effort, referred to as The Green Album, and the not quite as outstanding, but far above average 2002 release, Maladroit. Now, the band is being honored with a double-disc reissue of their debut and a packed DVD that traces every step to where they are now.

Ten years ago all this fanfare wasn't even imaginable, as The Blue Album barely sold at all when it was first released.

"Nobody was shocked that [The Blue Album] only sold 90 albums [in its first week]," recalled Karl Koch during a phone interview with The Massachusetts Daily Collegian.

Koch is the band's friend, photographer, webmaster and archivist. He has been with the band since before they were signed and also assembled its DVD.

"Nobody knew about the band," Koch continued. "They had never toured outside California. I just remember ... living in an apartment with Rivers [Cuomo, the band's frontman]. One night, we were [listening to a college radio station] and we heard "The Sweater Song." We were freaked out - like 'Holy crap, there it is!'...

"It could've died there, but then we heard Rodney Bingenheimer, the big KROQ DJ, ... play it on his show. Usually when he plays something, the station will pick it up. It took off. MTV put it in their "Buzz Bin."

"That moment was the real moment."

The special edition of The Blue Album is a true testament that, even though Weezer is still a relatively young band, it has had a great impact on the world of rock music.

The first disc of the deluxe edition features a remastered version of the already-classic album, although the difference is barely audible. The second disc contains 14 tracks, including all the b-sides for The Blue Album singles.

There're also some early, pre-Geffen demos from what is known as The Kitchen Tape (named because the drums were recorded in the kitchen of the band's rented house) and the original mix of "Say It Ain't So." Even two previously unheard songs, "I Swear It's True" and "Lullaby for Wayne," find a place on this collection.

The tracks range from cool-for-completists ("My Name Is Jonas," live) to songs that are amongst Weezer's best ("Susanne" and "Jamie"). "The Kitchen Tapes" are interesting, but diehards will be upset that only three of the five songs made the cut.

All in all, the set is a welcome addition but not a necessity.

"I actually wrote a huge story about making The Blue Album, which did not appear in the liner notes just because of space," Koch said of his help in putting the anthology together.

For track selection, it seemed everyone weighted in with thoughts.

"It was really a compromise between my vision, and the band's vision, and Todd's vision [the band's A&R man]," Koch explained. "They really wanted to be more cautious with the selection. I wanted to blow it out and put tons of stuff in there. I kinda lost."

Luckily on the DVD, titled "Video Capture Device," Koch was the person behind the project. He culled over a decade's worth of footage to show studio sessions, live performances and everything in between (including hysterical footage of the band attempting, and failing, to shoot promos for a Yahoo! sponsored tour). The DVD contains all of the band's videos: even the rarely seen "Photograph" and "Slob" clips, both directed by Koch. It includes commentary on every video, alternate cuts and behind-the-scenes footage for many of them.

"There are numerous intents going on at once. I wasn't shooting a documentary like the way you'd shoot something for The History Channel - you interview people after the fact," Koch said. "I'm just putting together actual vintage footage. I really slanted it toward fans that would want to eat it up."

Koch added that if the viewer is to watch the DVD straight through, they might find themselves running into the same thing over and over.

"We wanted it to be in chronological order," he said. "In doing that, there were things that repeated themselves ... it's not a film ... there's no way to get around that."

If that is the biggest problem with the disc, then it's still not that bad. And it is its biggest problem. Aside from the occasional inconvenience of the same song repeating, the set is flawless and should leave no Weezer fan complaining. The disc, which runs over three hours long, is something fans will be watching over and over and over.

But is there anything more on the way?

"[Doing a straight documentary] would be quite a challenge," Koch said. "[As for future deluxe edition,] I don't know what Universal's criteria are ... I really think it's what they think is worthy of a second look ...I certainly think 'Pinkerton' deserves that."

"With The Blue Album, there's so many different demos and tracks that could or could not go in there, it's not really like there's a wrong answer. But Pinkerton would be very delicate. But I would support [a properly done special edition]. I think the album deserves it."

As for the more immediate future, the band is currently recording their fifth album with producer Rick Rubin. The release is estimated for later this year, or early 2005.

Koch does note a summer excursion is still an open possibility, though no plans have been considered. Until then, Weezer fans have a solid reissue to honor one of their best albums and a superlative DVD necessary to add to any fan's collection.