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No Softballs for Isaac Brock
An antagonistic interview with the Modest Mouse frontman
By Marisa Demarco
You start an interview easy, with some chill question that allows your source to go on and on about himself, to warm to you. This is, apparently, not the way to go with Isaac Brock, a man who isn't hot on the idea of explaining himself or why his band's latest album is so much better than a lot of the shlock Modest Mouse put on shelves in the last decade.
It was a great interview. Really. Here it is in its mostly unedited glory. Some stuff had to be taken out for space considerations.
How are you doing, Miss Tomei?
Great. How are you?
How is your most recent disc different from your previous work?
We're not starting like that, are we really?
All right. How do you want to start?
I don't know. I'm not really in the business of comparing discs. Whatever's going on at the time I'm making it ... the record ends up being a collection of all the rants and raves, moments, whatever the hell you're reading. Whatever agreements, disagreements, you know, all the things that put your life together—good meals, good sex, bad meals ... (laughs) good attempts at making things, bad attempts at making things. It all gets fit in there. It's hard to really tell, for me. Maybe not for you.
You have a lot of water- and ocean-related themes on your album. What inspired that?
(Laughs) Do you have a particular affinity with the ocean?
The ocean and probably a romanticized idea of canneries and fishing boats. You know, old and new.
Tell me about working with Johnny Marr. What does he add to your sound?
Well, all his parts (pause) ... he adds a fluidity to it. I know that much. It's different than the jagged thing I do.
Can you tell me the story of how he came on board? Are you a big Smiths fan?
I like The Smiths. His playing on that definitely was a selling point. Probably not so much the work he did with Talking Heads, but I fucking love that band. It just kind of popped into my head, to be honest. We tested it out and have been tight as thieves ever since.
You've been on the road a whole lot. Any favorite tour memories or great stage moments?
There used to be an onstage party I enjoyed, but then I got weary of it. When it was no longer a spontaneous onstage party, and it became folks showing up because they knew there was going to be an onstage party.
Are you trying to perform sober now, or do you drink a little bit?
I drink a little, yeah. I don't know where we're going with this, but I'll have a few beers and things.
What's the right number of beers to drink before a performance?
Albuquerque lays claim to The Shins, and you've got James Mercer on your disc. Are you guys friends? Do you play together a lot?
We've been friends since Flake Music. We've been friends since, well, shit, about 11 years ago.
Did you hear that part and want him to sing it? Was he just kind of hanging around?
There were a couple parts where it just felt like he was the right person for it. He's got a fucking amazing singing voice. Jealous? Oh yeah.
What's the worst thing about being a rock star?
OK. I'm a rock star? That's the scenario? Shit. People knocking on my door in the middle of the night.
Like they find out where your house is and come over, or what?
Usually they're trashed. I'm like, "What do you fucking expect? It's 4 a.m. What am I, Spuds MacKenzie? Partying all night, every night? The lights are all off. You knock on the door and I come down in my boxers. This isn't a good time for me." There are very few friends that I'll even bother at 4 a.m. There are a few, but I'll use the phone.
I read that you like to cook. What do you make?
I kind of just wing it. I have really shitty focus when it comes to shopping. If I decide to cook something, I'll go to the store without too much of an idea and I'll end up grabbing a lot of ingredients that seem like a good idea. Then I just have to try to find a way to make it work. I guess I just like to give myself a challenge.
Modest Mouse comes to the Kiva Auditorium Saturday, Nov. 17, for an all-ages show that starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $33 and available through TicketMaster.
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