Prettytheworld.com user submitted interview
What CD's do you have currently in your players or what tracks do you most find yourself repeating on your portable media player (ipod etc..)?
- Aaron: Straight to the heart of us music geeks - the question we love to answer. In the past couple weeks it's been:
Wilco: Sky Blue Sky (a lovely and perfectly sparse record from the unstoppable Tweedy & Co.)
About 100 Ennio Morricone Soundtracks (current favorites are Ad Ogni Costo, Il Mercenario, Lolita, and Forza G)
The Homosexuals: Astral Glamour (big thanks to my friend Kenny for introducing me to this art-punk gem)
Lake: Paradise Island (found this on a blog - it's like Air Supply meets Yes and I can't stop listening to it)
The Black Heart Procession: The Spell (I just love these guys, in all their dirge-y glory)
- Matt: CDs in the player: -spoon- ga ga ga ga ga, chris & rich robinson- birds
of a feather (live at the roxy), the national- boxer, bad brains- build
a nation, crowded house- time on earth
white stripes- icky thump, queens of the stone age- era vulgaris,
suzanne vega- beauty & crime, john vanderslice- emerald city.
stuff i repeat on my ipod... "the con"-tegan and sara, "it makes no
difference"- my morning jacket, "cryin"- aerosmith, "let's make love
and listen to death from above"- CSS,
"so tight"-greg dulli.
- John: Lately: : Feist - The Reminder, Kinks - The Ultimate Collection, Wilco - Sky Blue Sky, Zoe Keating-Zoe Keating, and Klaus Nomi - Simple Man.
What was your last non-musically related full-time job?
- Aaron: After doing my apprenticeship at London's Heathrow, I took a full-time job as a bootblack at grand Central Station. The hours were dreadful, but the money was good, and when I gave a certain Matt Nathanson's Italian leather Aldos a particularly luxurious shine, he took me under his wing and taught me the ways of rock and roll. I have never looked back...
- Matt: i was an office clerk at a pharmaceutical company. i was the guy who
set up conference rooms, stocked supply stations and took very long
naps in the AV room.
- John: Phone Tech Support for Apple Computer (Pro Desktop Support)
What drew you to music originally, and how did you get started playing your respective instruments?
- Aaron: My parents were really big on music - and learning an instrument in particular - in our house. We were encouraged to sing and sing we did, all the time. My brother and I would have made a fine pair of Gallaghers had he not gotten smart and actually learned a bunch of stuff that made him useful in more than one regard. But I would have been lost without music. Not only for the escape it offered me in my teenage years, but the simple act of opening my mouth and singing actually makes me feel good, or bad, or excited, or scared. It's ineffable, the way music can connect one with feeling anything/everything. If a song can make me weep, I'll never forget it.
I started out on the piano at about age 5, then tried my wobbly hand at violin - an instrument I loved, but I was more drawn to country fiddle than classical, and teachers of bluegrass were hard to come by in puritan Massachussetts. By the time I was getting so I could play two or three in-tune bars in succession, I stumbled upon Back in Black. It took all of three weeks for me to convince my parents to sell the violin and get me an electric guitar. A Memphis guitar, no less. Not to worry, I've still never heard of it, either. As soon as I learned my first Angus Young guitar solo, there was no turning back.
I've since returned to piano a little bit and am working on various odd instruments, like harmonica, banjo, my old friend the melodica, and more.
- Matt: there were other bands i loved as a kid... j-geils specifically. but i
didn't buy a guitar until i saw def leppard on MTV.
i just wanted to be IN that band. my first guitar was a sparkly, candy
apple red ibanez and it was shaped like a K.
i just thought there was no one in the world cooler than joe elliot...
i even ordered a union jack/sleeveless t-shirt from the back
of 'hit parader' magazine just like his. i wore it all the time. and if
i could have found a pair of leather pants that would have fit
my very heavy set, young frame, i'm sure i would have worn those
the video and the song for "photograph" totally changed my life.
- John: I played a bunch of instruments as a kid, Violin, Cello, Piano, Guitar and Trumpet but I had two friends that played guitar and drums and they asked me if I wanted to play bass in their band, so here I am today. I guess I should also mention that I went to the Performing Arts High School in Dallas and was a music major in College before I switched to Cognitive Science/Psychology. I've always been attracted to the support/harmony instruments and their real effect on music and Bass is underrated in the power it holds in a band.
What is the creative process like during the recording of the album? Specifically, how do you balance Matt's view for how his music should sound and the contributions that Aaron and Jon bring to the table.
- Aaron: The process for this album was fairly unique, in that we tracked a handful of songs before playing them live, then worked the hell out of a few more on the road and recorded them, THEN recorded a few more brand new songs in the final sessions. So, the process was a bit hunt and peck at first, but developed into something perfectly natural and intuitive. When working with someone who's name is on the cover of a record (as John and I have done for numerous artists) you always know that what they want out of a recording is the most important thing. The trick is anticipating their wishes and then turning them around into your ideas and convincing them that what you are doing from the get-go is exactly what they want to hear. Right, John?
- Matt: i can answer this from my perspective... which is that the process felt
everyone could bring their parts and thoughts to the songs, and
everyone had a chance for their ideas to be reviewed...
unfortunately for them, it was at that point that the process went from
being a democracy to more of a...um, dictatorship.
cause i always had the final say... though, i could be swayed if enough
people ganged up on me... like a coup.
- John: The songs are mostly finished when Matt brings them to us. He'll play it for us on acoustic guitar and then we will start hacking away at it as a band. Songs are kind of demanding little creatures and there are usually only a few ways to approach it relative to the artist that is singing it. So it usually comes together quickly if the song is fully realized on Matt and Mark's (Weinberg) side of it. Of course it all gets filtered through Aaron, Jason and myself. I'm proud of what we brought to the table. Jason and I sent some of the songs like Car Crash and Falling Apart in rhythmic directions that were different than the original ideas that Matt had in mind. Aaron added some really great guitar hooks.
What artist/band would you most like to tour with?
- Aaron: I'm thinking we pretty much have to do a summer county-fair tour with Def Leppard. Journey Mach XII is just slowing them down.
- Matt: i guess in terms of band that i would love to watch every night, i
would say the black crowes. i don't think it's a very good match for me
musically, and their fans would probably boo and throw shit... but i
could watch them play 365 days. and they change their sets every
so i would be in heaven. in terms of bands that i think would be a
good fit, audience wise....
i would LOVE to do shows with the national... and tegan and sara. they
are both the shit!
- John: Wilco
Which artists would you want to collaborate with in the future?
- Aaron: I've been fortunate to have performed and recorded with many a great artist in the past few years, but for a wish-list it would be hard for me to say anything other than Wilco at this point. Not that they need a guitarist, but... accidents do happen...
- Matt: i would love to work with martin gore, of depeche mode. where he
produced. and wrote with me. i think he's a fucking genius.
and since i'm reaching here... i would love to work with peter gabriel.
and Flood... he's an amazing engineer and mixer. not my
favorite producer... although pj harvey's "to bring you my love" is a
masterpiece... so i guess he could produce too, if he wanted.
...in a more realistic capacity, i would love to work with Bill
Bottrell. he has a studio up here in northern california, and i think
he makes always sound like they are from another planet. in a good way.
- John: Willie Nelson
If you could be a character on any TV show, who would you be and why?
I think I'd want to be Sarge on Gomer Pyle USMC. My patience needs a little trying.
- Matt: i guess Angel, from buffy the vampire slayer. it wasn't that he was
such a stud, or anything...
it was more that he got some serious drama/naked time with buffy, who
was TOTALLY foxy...
with the added bonus of being able to pretty much kick everybody's ass.
which is H.O.T. HOT!
- John: Macgyver, all he needed to to get by in this world was a ball-point pen, chewing gum, some string and good hair.
What is your most memorable fan encounter?
- Aaron: This wasn't so much an encounter, but I will always think of this when we play "I Saw." I think it was in Cleveland-ish on the first tour I did with Matt in '05. After the delicate first verse, as I'm about to come in with the little Edge-like twinkly part, a guy in the front row - looking more intense than any of us - points at me, as if he's Zubin Mehta cueing in the second violins, or perhaps as if he's Bret Michaels, about to say "CC, pick up that guitar..." It was awesome. I couldn't stop laughing to myself for the next few nights after that.
- Matt: let me preface this by saying, i have pretty kick ass fans. and they
regularly blow my mind with the cool shit they say or do...
or the gifts they bring me. but this one encounter really sticks in my
head, because i was just getting started really... and it made a HUGE
probably about 8 years ago, in santa barbara. i played a youth center
there.. it was sort of a punk/emo recreational center. i think i was on
with a punk band, and a metal band... anyway, after my set, this sort
of punky kid pulled his pant leg up and showed me this beautiful tattoo
just gotten of a ship out at sea, on choppy water... with 'little
victories' written underneath it. i was stunned. and flattered. and
and that's really stuck with me.
- John: The first time I played Irving Plaza with Matt. I met so many of the regulars that night. The grilling was pretty intense that night, but in a really good way.
How do songs translate from being played live for the last couple of years to recording them in the studio for the album itself?
- Aaron: There's always an unavoidable difference between the live version and studio version of a song, but that's part of the magic. I approach each process differently, and appreciate what each has to offer to both myself and the people who are listening. And, as a fan, I am usually disappointed if a band merely plays the songs exactly like on the album, as if trying to recreate something that is by definition separate and, in a way, unnatural. It's always fun to let the song evolve and not be tied to some mythical "ideal," just because that's what's on the record. not for every song in a set, mind you, but as a general approach.
As for the recording, see answer above... and then add: The touring really helped us all get from point A [playing Matt's existing material faithfully] to point N [playing as a band separate from anything else], thereby making completing the album a veritable walk in the park.
- Matt: it's funny... most of the songs on this record actually changed live
because of the way they were tinkered with in the studio.
the way it worked was, we recorded in between tours and i would play
the new songs during tours, even if they weren't finished.
so one tour might have a version of car crash without certain lyrics or
certain guitar parts. then between tours, we'd go in and record some
the song would change, usually because of how the song came across
live... then, for the next tour, we would play the next evolution of
does that answer your question? or is it just more confusing.... this
whole record was like a big, organic, malleable experiment... so to
question, i guess the songs translated well on the record, because the
live versions (either solo or with the band) played a crucial roll in
the final, album versions turned out...
- John: This is really a question for Matt. Most of the songs were recorded before we ever played them live. Come on Get Higher is really the only one that has been recorded after we spent some time playing live. We were trying to force it with the old version. Matt couldn't really sing the way he wanted to with the version we did last fall.
What role models did you have growing up and how have they influenced/impacted your life and the direction it has taken?
- Aaron: I have never had a single definable role model - and I don't much like the term - but have been fortunate to have been surrounded by some very admirable people too numerous to mention from childhood up to the present.
- Matt: most of the roll models i had were my teachers in school. in school, i
really related more with the teachers than i did with the students.
and because i've been in boarding school most of my life, my weekends
and nights were spent hanging with the teachers, most of whom were dorm
so i pretty much have a handful of teachers who were crucial to my
development, both personally and musically.
they would even take me off campus to see concerts... i saw so many
shows in between 5th-9th grade with a few of my teachers. it ruled.
i'm still friends with them all today, actually.
- John: Musically it was the Beatles but I can't really think of any one person that had a huge impact on my life growing up. Science and art are huge to me and they have a huge impact on my art, how I live my life and spirituality.
Spotlight Show Banter
Download: Gospel Song
This banter is known as the "Gospel Song Improv" which was performed at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northhamtop, MA on 2004-02-08
The song is started with Matt fooling around with biblical line references and evenutally turns into a full improv song.
"This is a sing along. If you see someone not singing, you point to them and go 'f*** you' over and over. Point them out."