WMCX interview with Brian Bell and Mikey Welsh - August 24, 2000
Interview originally aired on WMCX Radio's Noise from the Basement. Transcript originally posted on SlashAndBurn.net.
Back to the Good Life
August 24, 2000
In my opinion, Weezer is one of the greatest bands there is. They have a totally original sound that is unique enough to attract indie kids, catchy enough for pop fans, and aggressive enough for the straight ahead rock fan. Even though they haven't put out an album since 1996's Pinkerton or toured since 1997, this summer they sold out every show they played and had thousands of people singing along to every word of every song. After several years of uncertainty which included one major lineup change and many rumors, Weezer has returned to the touring world and is preparing to record it's long awaited third album. Before their soundcheck at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park on August 24th, I had the honor to ask Brian Bell (guitarist) and Mikey Welsh (bassist) a few questions for my radio show.
WMCX: It's been about three years since you guys last toured. How does it feel to be touring again?
Brian: It's a lot of fun. It's just been a heartwarming welcoming from our fans and from people who haven't seen us before. People would always ask us, "Hey, what's up with Weezer? Are you guys still a band?" and the answers is, "Yes". So it's been fun. How's it been for you, Mikey?
Mikey: It's been just the most beautiful experience of my life.
WMCX: You guys stopped playing for a while, and there have been a LOT of rumors. Was there any real reason for this or did you guys just need a break?
Mikey: That's a tricky question that we get asked everyday.
Brian: Ok, well first of all, Mikey is our new bass player. Our old bass player quit on us so that took about a year to audition people and find Mikey. So then for maybe two more years we decided what we were going to do with the band, and then finally we decided, "Let's try it again." We had new songs to work on, and we're kinda just trying to make this the best album yet and make sure we have the best songs. It takes a long time to write really good songs.
Mikey: I think we were also experimenting with different sounds and song styles too. We went through a few periods of trying out different ideas, but we are very happy where we are now with our songs and everything.
Brian: We kinda went full circle. We're back to where we used to sound like.
WMCX: You've been having increased fan participation with the website (www.weezer.net). You've had a lot of polls on it about songs and who the fans think should produce the album. Why did this come about and how has the reaction been to this?
Brian: Well, it's nice to know that the fans are even coming on to our website and answering these questions. It helps for us to know what songs they like the best and what they want. We're not necessarily going to do what they want, but it's just good to get somebody else's opinion. I think it keeps people interested to be interactive with the future of Weezer. Maybe later down the road they can say, "Yeah, I told the guys they should have Ric Ocasek produce the record, that was me!"
Mikey: Well, I think the whole idea is just that it's a really great thing for us to have direct contact with our fans everyday, because Karl (Koch, Weezer's assistant, roadie, 5th member, and friend) goes on and reviews the shows and we have photos and videos to download and I think that's a really special treat for people and it seems to make them really happy. I would have loved to have had something like that when I was younger with one of my favorite bands, to have direct contact with them and tell them what I thought about their songs and receive instant photos from shows.
Brian: Of course, we're so old that the internet wasn't around when we were that age.
Mikey: (in old man's voice) We didn't have the internet back when I was a young'un!
Brian: I don't even think we had computers. I think I had a Texas Instrument or something and you could only write, "10, go to 20," or something.
WMCX: I want to ask what's up with your other bands, the Special Goodness and Space Twins. Are you guys on hiatus now? And also, how does it compare touring and playing on an indie level compared to Weezer, which is on a major label?
Brian: I've never toured with the Space Twins, just played shows. It's just a different thing altogether because I'm the frontman of that band and it comes from a total different place inside me. I get very, very nervous. Even if there's 10 people in the crowd, I get really nervous. It's a completely different feeling and a completely different music. When I play Weezer, it's a whole different excitement level, but I don't necessarily get nervous. That's the only difference I can tell physically and mentally from the two. It's a whole different thing being the center of attention than being the guitar player in a band.
Mikey: This is obviously a lot easier, because we're out traveling in a much more comfortable thing with a huge tour bus and the shows are all sold out and the fans freak out. It's a lot easier, there's a lot less to worry about and think about. With the Special Goodness, both of the tours that we did went really, really well, and we just have so much fun doing that. They're both really fun. The main thing right now is that when Weezer's working, those things get put on the backburner because we're all trying to concentrate on this.
WMCX: You guys seem aware fans are posting the new songs on the internet. On the website, you're even asking for feedback. Along those lines, what's your opinion on the "digital revolution" and Napster? Are you afraid of it or do you embrace it?
Brian: I'm neither afraid of it, nor really embrace it. I don't think it's gonna hurt anybody. It will only broaden people's awareness and they will make more of an effort to search for something that they took from Napster, even if it's the whole record. Maybe they want to find out who produced it or where it was produced or have the artwork. It's a whole different thing having a tangible piece of music in your hands, although it's hard to say. Maybe we'll feel differently when our record comes out and we have no record sales.
Mikey: Well, that's not gonna happen because I think music fans will always want to go out and buy the real product and have, like Brian said, the artwork and they want the real thing. Most people I know, they go onto Napster to check out songs and stuff, they still go out and buy records. It's not going to destroy anyone's carreer.
Brian: Only a true music fan would even go on Napster and spend the time on it anyway.
Mikey: I think a lot of college students that go on and download Napster stuff, it takes them like 5 hours sometimes to download a whole record. People are still going to buy records and I think people who have been freaking out about Napster, they're either greedy or their insecure because they're not selling any records in the first place so it's easy to blame it on Napster. Like some guy in whatever band that a lot of people have heard of, they're not selling any records for whatever reason, but it's easy to blame Napster.
Brian: And it could only benefit the turnout at live shows too, because these people have got the music that wasn't played on the radio, but all of a sudden thousands of people know about this band, whoever it is, and they show up at a show. That's where the true fun of music is anyway, it's the live shows.
WMCX: Mikey, you're the new bass player. How is it playing with these guys and Brian, how has it been with Mikey in the band?
Mikey: It's funny because obviously to so many fans, especially coming out in a live setting like this, I'm obviously the new guy, but I've been in the band for two and a half years, so it doesn't feel new at all. We're so used to being around each other and spending time together and playing together, that it doesn't feel new from my perspective. As far as the fans go, they've just been awesome. I feel embraced by them and it makes me feel good. From the playing aspect, I think we're all really lucky because we all really love hanging out together and I could never imagine playing with three other guys that are all as individually talented. We have a really good time playing together because we all have a lot of ideas and we really love making music together so it adds up to a really nice way to spend your time and make a living. I think I'm lucky and I think we're all lucky because a lot of bands don't have that. So, it's just a big feel good session. How about you, Bri?
Brian: Yeah, it's been really wonderful to have such a talented bass player. We're tighter rhythmically than we've ever been. Pat (Wilson, drummer) and Mikey really listen to each other. I think it's the strongest that Weezer's ever been.
WMCX: I would think that since you and Pat play together in the Special Goodness, obviously it's different because in that he sings and plays guitar, but does that help you guys in Weezer?
Mikey: Well, we're just really close friends and there's a lot of chemistry involved, musically, whether he's playing guitar or playing the drums. Either way, we just have an incredibly fun time playing together. It's not just between me and Pat though, we all really listen to each other and to what we're doing. I think it's even more fun how we've been working on the new songs because it's really open, the way Rivers (Cuomo, lead singer, guitarist) brings the songs in now. He just presents the bare essence of a song to us and we all come up with our parts individually and a big part of that is how I listen to what Pat is doing, obviously, and I listen to what Brian is doing and no one is really stepping on each others toes. It's just incredibly fun to be able to have that with other people. With Pat and I, it's obviously there because we do the SG together, but I think we all really listen to each other and it makes the songs that much better and it makes the old songs that much better, too.
WMCX: A while back, you guys played some shows as "Goat Punishment", and you played covers of Nirvana and Oasis songs. What brought that about, and will we ever hear from Goat Punishment again?
Brian: I hope that we never hear from Goat Punishment again. I don't think we will.
Mikey: That was just purely fun. We were at a weird time with our band. We didn't really know what was going on. That was a while back, that was probably a year and a half or so. At the time, it was very fun to go out and do that, at least three quarters of us, to go out and play in a club, whether we were playing covers or not, but I have to agree with Brian that I don't think that's ever going to happen again, at least under those circumstances. We're praying that it doesn't, and I don't think it will. But it was fun when it happened. The Nirvana one was fun.
Brian: Oh, the Oasis one was fun, too. I think, maybe we were just trying out different styles of songwriting, and it was basically just to play live again and not have to play our own songs.
Mikey: I think actually why we started doing that was that it was a good exercise for Rivers because he was comparing his songwriting style to other songwriters he liked. So that was probably the basis of why we did it, but it ended up just being a goofy, fun thing for everyone, but I hope it never happens again.
WMCX: What is your most optimistic and pessimistic predictions for recording and release of the third album?
Mikey: Well, we're gonna start recording in October.
Brian: If things go according to plan, April release.
Mikey: If everything goes smoothly it should be coming out in April, and things so far with our label and everybody else have been. We're making everybody very happy and they're very excited.
Brian: And they can feel the buzz around about us and they're gonna try to make that album come out as soon as possible. Pessimistically, things could go wrong in the studio, who knows what could happen, and the album might never get finished. If it doesn't come out, it will never get finished, and it will never be made. So that's just to be pessimistic.
WMCX: Where do you see the band and yourself in the next five years?
Mikey: Well, I think we're all gonna have nice big houses, and we'll be able to bar-b-que every night. We'll have lots and lots of multi-platinum records on our walls and nice cars and we'll be selling millions of records and playing to probably ten or fifteen thousand people every night.
Brian: We might all have kids by that point.
Mikey: I'll probably have a couple kids. And a couple that I probably won't even know about.