What is your secret to staying together as a band this long?

JF: I think we've been lucky on a few levels. We're friends, but that doesn't necessarily mean a band is going to work out. From the very beginning we shared a pretty fundamental notion of what kind of band we should have, and although our music has evolved we've stayed true to that.

Sent in by: Greg O

Do you have any pets?

JF: I got 2 cats.

Sent in by: MrBean43

What are your favorite TV shows?

JF: The Simpsons is always a favorite on the bus. Personally, I find myself hypnotized by those car wreck shows, Judge Judy, Washington Week In Review, and Antique Roadshow ("Would you be happy to hear your commemorative Milton Berle ashtray, in the right situation, could get over $100,000 at auction?")

Sent in by: Adrienne T

Will you be doing a guest appearance on Malcolm In The Middle anytime soon?

JF: If we were invited, but our job of putting together the music is keeping us very busy.

Sent in by: DrSaxx

I heard on the radio that you were released from your contract with Elektra and may be doing a children's TV program in the future. Is that true?

JF: Yes, we are happy to tell you we have been set free from Elektra, and are wiping the "Slave" tattoos from our faces. Common sense is guiding my hand as I write "It was mutual and amicable" and, yes, getting out of a recording contract does taste like a game of chicken. It must be said that we made many friends at Elektra over the years, and they continue to be a great company, but they had a very difficult time figuring out how to "work" a band like TMBG. We were continually disappointed by the bickering and lack of focus at Elektra that would set in almost immediately after our releases, and as the company continues to go through major staff overhaul every year or so, we just wanted out. As we enter our sixteenth year with TMBG, John and I happily anticipate the exciting opportunity of working with people who are equally interested in our project. We are talking about a number of projects on a lot of different scales with people. We've worked on TV ideas in the past that are now floating high above the earth's atmosphere, so it seems foolish to discuss ideas that may never be realized, but it is safe to assume we'll be making more records, with "Severe Tire Damage" being the first project out of the gate, and kid projects are a real possibility.

Sent in by: esv@psu

Has the change from Brian Doherty to Dan Hickey had any effect on the music?

JF: It is hard to describe the differences between musicians when they are as good as Brian and Dan, and as Dan came in to a touring band that had a full show already going, he picked up on a lot of what Brian had brought to us as a player. At the risk of getting everybody mad at me, I would say Dan is a more "fiery" player, and seems happier with on-stage improvisations. Dan is more demanding in restaurants, and is left handed.

Sent in by: noixe

Are you bothered by the concept of your fans being constantly preoccupied with you?

JF: We are very appreciative of all the long-standing interest people have shown in our music, and are very grateful to our audience. We travel great distances to get to people so they can experience the band first-hand, and I feel we have a healthy desire to be people's #1 favorite band. It is really only a problem insofar as we fear extreme, excessive interest would make the casually interested newcomer feel like there was no place for them in the proceedings - which is certainly not the case - or that to be into the music you have to join a cult.

Sent in by: nav130

How do you select titles for your albums?

JF: It's surprisingly tough. We try to avoid titles that are going to come back to bug us. We also tend to keep them short because the name of the band is so long. In a way "Flood" and "Factory Showroom" work in the same way- here's a lot of thing, specifically songs. "Apollo 18" (the theoretical next manned space mission to the moon) and "John Henry" (the folk legend of a battle between a man and a machine) try to echo the mood or mission of their respective records. Ultimately, the titles are very abstract and kind of decorative, because the span of styles and approaches on the records are always so wide there is a hardly a single theme that ties them together.

Sent in by: Matthew Monberg

Can the band be e-mailed at the web site?

JL: If you write us at the web site, someone will read it. They don't routinely pass everything along to us, unless it's from some long-lost relative or someone we owe money.

I do not have a computer and would like to know if there is any information or offers that internet users are receiving that the cyberspace challenged are not?

JL: I don't think so. The Info Club newsletter contains all the print info & offers we have, although some digitized TMBG pictures & sounds can only be seen or heard with a computer. If you get a computer and subscribe to AOL you can also receive irritating offers for products you don't want each and every time you log on.

How do you decide who opens for you on tour? What bands have you really enjoyed that you have toured with?

JL: Sometimes someone at our office will come up with a good suggestion, but other than that we try to tour with people we personally like as much as we like their music. We've had memorable and fun tours with artists like Frank Black, Pere Ubu, Soul Coughing, The Dambuilders, Ivy, Freedy Johnston, Poi Dog Pondering, our friend Mr. Brian Dewan, and recently with Cub and Gravel Pit. For the past four years we've routinely invited a member of the opening band to jam with us during the free-form section of "Spy." Happily, everyone has been game.

Other than the "Live from NYC" promo disc, are there any live TMBG recordings? Are there any bootlegs that you know of?

JL: There seem to be lots of cassettes of our live shows floating around out there. Some of the tapes I've heard are interesting, often due to some unexpected thing that happens either onstage or out in the audience. We recently heard a live recording overlaid with a couple's conversation. The guy says: "I'm going to get another beer." The girl replies: "Why?" The guy: "There's no answer to that question." Underneath this you can hear us unwittingly serving as the background music.

The 2040 World Tour shirt is great. Do you hope to still be playing at such an old age? What are your expectations? Las Vegas perhaps?

JL: It would be excellent indeed if we were still performing at 79 and 80 respectively. I really should join a health club or something. A friend of mine recommends a new diet which says that what you're supposed to eat depends on your blood type, but I don't even know what my blood type is.

How did you get signed to Elektra?

JL: Susan Drew, along with Peter Lubin, members of the Artist & Repertoire department at Elektra back in '89 took a chance on us based on the track record of our two Bar/None albums. After a few conversations with us they dropped the invitation into our laps and we accepted their offer. At that moment we weren't getting any other bites from the "Majors," but within days it seemed like every other big label suddenly wanted to cut a deal with us.

Do you record b-sides specifically for that purpose or are they ust tracks that you feel don't fit the album?

JL: Over the years it has really shifted. We used to record the EP tracks after the albums were finished.

How many accordions does Linnell own?

JL: I've seen him playing a few different ones at different shows. I've got seven that I've used at live shows. My original Walters which dates from 1928 and is now too fragile to take on the road, a "Music Mart" which you can see in the live photo on the back of the "Don't Let's Start" EP, an Excelsior that I played in the early 90's which has many busted off ivories and two grills that look like bug eyes, a gigantic and burdensome "Marinucci Recanati" (I don't know which name represents the manufacturer) a tiny Chinese accordion that is good for radio shows, and two Hohners, one old and black, one brand new and red.

I was at a concert recently and you played a rocking version of "Why Does the Sun Shine?" Will this version ever be released?

JF: There is a version of it on our "Live in NYC" promo disc, although that only went to radio stations. We also recorded a version at this Pachyderm Studio session. They are setting up a web site with Real Audio and some down-loading capabilities.

Where did the idea for the costumes on your Conan O'Brien appearance come from? Is this what the band wears every night on tour? Where can I get one of those medallions?

JF: The jackets were from a costume shop, and actually were prohibitively expensive to rent. We just wear street clothes on stage. The medallions were designed and built by Barbara Glauber & Beverly Joel at Heavy Meta, the graphic design firm that does a lot of our print stuff (as well as this!).

What is your favorite hockey team?

JL: The Bruins. Shoot score Bobby Orr!

There is a song on Dial-A-Song that isn't a song, it's some woman interviewing you, asking you questions about you two living like pigs and your music being compared with Nazi Germany in the 1940s. How did that originate?

JL: The recording you heard was an excerpt from a promotional tape we made in 1985 which was a fake interview interspersed with real songs by TMBG. The voice of the interviewer was our friend Jennifer Neff.

How is life different for you now that you are internationally famous in comparison with when you weren't? How have your attitudes changed about music, fans, etc.?

JF: Well, ah, first of all, we don't walk around feeling internationally famous. For the most part I feel like we are on the same life course we were on before we made records, though we've certainly grown up a bunch since we started the band in '83. Our values and goals for the band have always been more personal than professional for us. I don't think we've taken anything for granted in terms of what this level of public exposure would afford us.

Who is your favorite composer of classical music?

JL: The number one cat in my, and probably many other people's book: J. S. Bach. The more music I listen to, the more this opinion is reinforced. He rules.

Do your parents like your music?

JL: My dad is a pretty rabid follower of our music. He has opinions on almost every song. My mom is generally not as interested in contemporary pop music, but she likes our lyrics and has all the records.

JF: My folks are big boosters. They wear our t-shirts at shows. I always inadvertently swear when they're at a show. I don't usually, really, Ma, you gotta believe me...

What's Track 13 on "Miscellaneous T" all about?

JF: This is a very frequently asked question. Back when very few people called Dial-A-Song the phone machine that played the songs took messages. I came home one day and found the message tape full, instead of the ten or twenty messages it usually had. I rewound the tape and found that most of it was taken up by a woman who had called on a conference call with her friend, listened to the song and then proceeded to have a private conversation unaware that the Dial-A-Song machine was recording them. The recording on track thirteen is just an excerpt of the first couple of minutes of their conversation. It actually got much stranger, but it was unrelated to the band, and too freaky to put on a record.

What are your favorite foods?

JF: On the road we are always on the look out for Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, and Mexican. And barbecue when we're up for it.

Which song of yours are the two of you most proud of?

JF: Linnell's.

JL: Mine. (just kidding)

Do you get much fan mail?

JL: Regretfully, at this point we get too much to answer it all personally.

Do the Giants prefer cream or sugar in their coffee, or black as it stands?

JL: black with sugar

JF: "light" no sugar.

How do you decide in what order the songs are on your albums?

JF: I've been the one proposing the set list for the show for a few years now, and applied some of that show-business intuition to the records. I'll run it down with Linnell, and then we defend it from everybody else. Unlike the show, which is set up around momentum, it seems like the TMBG goal in sequencing albums is to place each song in its own setting, while complementing the songs around it. Usually one offsets the rhythmic style of the previous track. Tempo, key, singer, instrumentation, and lyrical content also play a part in our decisions. We are guilty of "front-loading" our records with the poppier songs, but that doesn't dictate exactly how we put the sequence together. It's gotten harder with CDs, since you don't get that great "side two" break to start over.

Left or right handed?

JF: left handed.

JL: right handed.

What type of computer do you have?

JL: Both of us use Macintoshes at home and on the road.

Are you guys Republican or Democrat?

JL: I think I'm registered Independent. I usually vote for the loser.

What do you like on your pizza?

JL: We've been getting into olives lately.

Will future TMBG releases be pressed on vinyl in the U.S.?

JL: Our Bar/None catalog is available right here on vinyl. Elektra is evidently starting to put stuff out on vinyl again, but we don't know if that will include our recent back catalog.

Who is "that guy"?

JL: "That guy" probably has a family or an estate or something and we don't want to alert them to the fact that we've been using his likeness in case they'd want to sue us.

I've never seen you guys play live. Are there any pits or crowd surfings at your concerts? How wild do your shows get?

JL: Regrettably, there seems to be no end to the moshing and what we refer to as "pass the dude," though we feebly try to discourage those things, particularly during our quieter numbers. No one listens. Sometimes I feel like a cranky old man yelling at the neighborhood kids going mental in his backyard.

What are some of your favorite music groups?

JL: I like The Beatles, Ramones, Residents, The Comedian Harmonists (from Germany), The Smiths, Band of Weeds, The Pixies, The Kinks, Constance Towers (a Japanese band), The Beach Boys, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Prince and the Revolution, Chris Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music, The Raspberries, The Harmonicats, Pere Ubu, Fletcher Henderson and his Orchestra, other things I can't remember...

JF: My personal musical obsessions are pretty relentless and dull. As a child I grew up with a transistor radio tuned to Top 40 waiting for Beatles and British Invasion songs, with my folks playing Joan Baez and Cambridge folkies on the hi-fi. Currently, I have an on-going obsession with Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra, along with R&B and soul songs from the '60s and '70s (exceptionally well compiled by Rhino). I enjoyed the Green Day album, and got our drummer Brian to pull out his Weezer tape a million times on this last tour to listen to that "Buddy Holly" song for its Brian Wilson-like vibe. Recently I've been listening to this great collection of songs by Allen Toussaint (a New Orleans R&B and pop record producer/pianist who made a few very cool records over the course of the Seventies.) I really dug the last Superchunk LP and recently got the new Guided by Voices album. In the past I have been into early Mills Bros. (their pre-band, 30's era stuff) and Tennessee Ernie Ford.

I heard somewhere that you guys used to be a Christian band. Is that true?

JL: No. We've always been non-denominational.

Linnell, what kind of Bari Sax do you play and how old is it? Also, what kind of mouthpiece do you use?

JL: I recently bought a new Yamaha YBS-52 which has a very snappy tone and plays in miraculously good tune. I brought an electronic tuner to the store to check it out because I've had so much trouble with intonation in the past. My previous horn was a King Zephyr from the 30's (formerly owned by the New York public school system) which started coming apart from all the abuse it took on the road. My mouthpiece is a Berg-Lar-son which came with a very cheap Bundy bari I bought at We Buy Guitars on 48th Street in 1985.

I am starting a band that was heavily influenced by the music of TMBG and I am wondering if you could give me any advice on what to do to make it work and establish ourselves?

JF: Well, once you've figured out how to successfully hide our influence, I'd recommend that you write, perform and record as much as you can. Experience is the fastest and most exciting way to develop your music. A guitar teacher of mine once told me there wasn't a gig not worth doing in New York. Looking back I feel I have strong proof to the contrary, but the spirit of his advice is valid. Don't be too calculating about having a career. If you have fun and nothing happens professionally, you probably still had more fun than the guys with the good haircuts who just got dropped from their record deal.

Linnell, before you began playing accordion, did you listen to any accordion players' music? If so, whose?

JF: I was completely ignorant of the vast repertoire of accordion music when I first picked up the instrument about a year into the life of TMBG. I think I formed a few positive associations (Tex-mex, Cajun, various European varieties of music) but mainly I liked the fact that it was a keyboard instrument that didn't seem played out or ungainly. Currently I like the schooled sound of William Schimmel's playing and that of his student Anne DeMarinis (Band of Weeds).

Flansburgh, what is your favorite guitar brand?

JF: After five years playing a Japanese Fender Telecaster which had its neck broken twice, I have switched to Gibsons. I find the Gibson Les Paul the most versatile stage instrument, and I can play them very, very hard and they stay in tune. Gibson Montana very kindly built a left handed L1 acoustic model for me for the "John Henry" recordings, and can be heard on "Self Called Nowhere" and on "Sleeping in the Flowers."

If you could be any kind of animal, what would you be?

JL: I'd be a delicious steak dinner.

Have you guys ever been on Saturday Night Live or Letterman or something like that?

JF: We did the old Letterman Show three times, and Conan twice, along with the Tonight Show twice, and a recent slot on the Jon Stewart Show. We've never been on Saturday Night Live, but we have been on Good Morning America which is like Saturday Night Live only it happens in the morning.

Are there any songs you can't stand to play anymore?

JL: Once in a while we pull a song out of circulation simply because it's become a grind and we're not doing it justice anymore. Usually we can revive such a song after a little vacation and it sounds fresh to us again.