you own all of the instruments you play or do you borrow them
for recording purposes?
Mostly we use our own gear. Sometimes we come across something
that sounds interesting and borrow it for the session. We've rented
lots of odd percussion from Carroll Music in New York, like the
handbells on "The Bells are Ringing." Vibes. Huge bass drums.
We rented a Mellotron for parts of "John Henry." I used Brian
Dewan's accordion for some of "Apollo 18" because of its smooth
tone. I can't even tell you what John F. and Graham Maby have
rented or borrowed. Probably tons of things.
does the skull mean on "Back to Skull" and "John Henry"?
We generally prefer not to decide what things like that mean.
The skull was chosen as an element on the cover art partly to
offset the adorable cuteness of the kids. The effect of the whole
thing seemed right, for reasons hard to put into words.
is the backwards message on "Subliminal?"
It is not a message, just the vocal and drum track reversed.
"Why Must I Be Sad" linked to Alice Cooper in any way?
"Why Must I Be Sad" is sung from the perspective of a kid who
hears all of his unspoken sadness given voice in the music of
Alice Cooper. Alice says everything the kid has been wishing he
could say about his alienated, frustrated, teenage world. It's
another one of our speculative, non-autobiographical songs which
uses the word "I" a lot.
album did you enjoy making the most and which did you enjoy most
when it was finished?
"John Henry" was really fun to make because we were in an exotic
location (upstate NY during the blizzard of '94) and surrounded
by lots of people we liked and admired. I think my favorite record
is still "Lincoln" though as I recall recording it was pretty
hellish because the air conditioning in the tiny control room
was not equal to the blazing Times Square heat, and we had lots
of arguments. At one point stinky white smoke started pouring
out of the computer, and everyone went "AAAAGH!"
The process of making both "Apollo 18" and "John Henry" was a
pleasant experience for me. We spent about ten weeks of studio
time recording "Apollo 18." The actual recording sessions for
"John Henry" was just a week and a half in Bearsville and a couple
of weeks in New York, but we had done song writing demos, as well
as band demos, and then an intense week of rehearsal upstate.
Both took about three weeks to mix. The mixing sessions are tense
because that is the final process, but most of those days are
spent waiting for the mixing engineer to finish his job. Making
records has always been really exciting for me, but the process
used to make me very tense. I think I'm finally acclimating myself
to the careful pace and insane expense of working in a recording
did you change the "Nyquil Driver" to "AKA Driver" and omit the
lyrics on the liner notes of "John Henry"?
It was an brief education for us in the difference between protected
speech and trademark infringement. Although it was a possibility
that we could have gotten away with it, or settled with the Nyquil
manufacturers for a small amount of money, the path of least hassle
was simply omitting the name from the package. According to our
lawyer you can say pretty much anything in a song about a product,
and that expression is a protected part of every American's freedom
of speech. However when you title a song after a trademarked product
and then start selling your recording (which is also a product)
you run the risk of the trademark holder suing you for infringing
on their trademark. To make matters tougher on ol' Nyquil Driver,
trademark holders are compelled by the law to protect their trademark
or they run the risk of their product name falling into the public
are the children in the "John Henry" photographs?
Half are friends' kids, and the other half are professional model
kids we cast for the shoot.