How's that's been?
The music has been great.
How about the new material from The Whole Love?
Oh, it's killing. The new record I have to say unreservedly that I love it. I'm very proud of this music on the new record -- the sound of the record, the production that Jeff [Tweedy], Pat [Sansone], and Tom Schick did on it, and the music is sounding really good live to me. There's only one song on the record that we haven't attempted live yet and I still don't know how I'm going to do it because there's so many guitar overdubs. It's a song called "Sunloathe" -- we are going to attempt it at some point.
I actually just checked out a video that Premier Guitar put out on you...
Oh my god, I just looked at that yesterday. I've been putting it off [laughter]. I'm pretty embarrassed. I didn't know that they wouldn't edit it, or hardly edit it. Talk about a man that needs severe editing, my god. Yeah, that had me scurrying into bed to put the covers over my head for an hour. I was just like, "Oh my god! Will somebody help me?" I guess the polite word for it would be "forthcoming."
Yes, and also very insightful to see how you get all the different tones and sounds you're going for.
Well, I hope it's helpful to somebody instead of really embarrassing.
[laughing] I think for anyone who's a fan of the music, it's very insightful.
OK, well, I'm going to try to get a sense of humor about it. I asked my wife to look at it this morning and she took a look at because I needed reassuring. But she's not objective though, and she thought it was great [laughs]. But I'm still working on it.
It's a really good period for sound. There are just great boutique pedals and interesting amplifiers and wild guitars, and a ton of creativity in that. I know it's not exactly considered in most people's minds for pop music the most creative time because you get a little bit inundated with certain kinds of sounds that people are trying to make us like or grab our attention with, but I know there's always really creative stuff bubbling under somewhere and I think this is a great time. There are great tools out there, both guitar based and not guitar based. I mean, you can do incredible music with your phone now. I think it's really exciting time for sound.
I think that's a great perspective on it. You're embracing it and dreaming up the exploratory possibilities with it, instead of I guess what you would call the purist route.
One thing I guess I say about forty times in that forty-minute-blather-extravaganza is that I am not a purist [laughs]. I have some tendencies that are purist about certain things, but it's really not being purist. It's me trying to embrace my curmudgeonly side and then laughing at it, you know what I mean? Because it's pointless. But we do have our preferences in life. I mean I still prefer the sound of analog to digital, but I'm not so sensitive that sound of digital music or even an mp3 is going to send me running for cover. After all, we used to listen to music in the 60s on our transistor radios at the beach and stuff. That doesn't exactly have the best sound in the world, and it didn't make the music of that time -- which admittedly is such a magical time in pop music -- it didn't make it any less magical hearing it on that tiny speaker with no bass whatsoever. So, I don't get too wrapped up in that. What? Did everyone back then have killer stereos with every record perfectly mastered? With it perfectly on-center, not warped, with no dinks or pops? I don't think so. Every format has its different limitations, and all that matters is how you react to the music and the sound. I don't want to get all wrapped up with whatever the medium is or the style or the genre or whatever they all come up with to divide things. You know? I much more interested in trying to unite things.
Exactly. That's a great perspective. I feel like I've been preaching that...
Well, they had these t-shirts that were super attractive -- this is not a statement about jazz mind you -- this is a statement of purism or perspectives on sound and I guess the parameters of genre or style. They had these t-shirts at this hotel we stayed at out here on the West Coast, in Portland, that said... and I was perplexed by this, why they had these t-shirts, but I think it had to do with some arts organization, and it said, "Jazz is Freedom." And I thought, "God, I wish that was true." [laughter] But in a certain way I guess it is if you look at it from the perspective of other, etched in stone kind of disciplines like the so-called classical world or even rock 'n' roll where a lot of it is very scripted. But there are so many rules and parameters to everything, that I think freedom is certainly a subjective word. I, as a not very accomplished straight ahead jazz player, may have been less enthused growing up by the rules of so-called jazz then by the freedom. So, I just wonder about these things. I like to look at everything as potentially having freedom, I think, within whatever restrictions there may be on the surface.
That's interesting.
I'm not sure I'm making any sense.
I think it makes sense. Let me draw a correlation, for instance, with Wilco there's a lot freedom within the music but it's still rock songs, you know? [laughs]
Right, but if I wasn't comfortable with that I couldn't do it. The beauty of Wilco is not just that there's some really, really good songs, and not just that everyone knows what's he's doing and can play really well and is completely committed to this music every time we play it, but there is that certain amount of flexibility and that certain amount of freedom. And certainly there's a lot of diversity. And yes, there are certain pieces in the cannon that I have a lot of freedom and latitude, and others I'm part of the orchestra, which is something I really enjoy. I don't come into situations wondering how much solo space I'm going to get. It's actually some of my least favorite moments in my life of playing guitar is my guitar solos. It's just the act of playing committed music with people who are on the same level of commitment and passion, and also, maybe even the playful enjoyment of it all like we were talking about before. That's what really matters to me the most. I'm very lucky in that I feel like I get to do that not just with Wilco and not just with my own band, but with say Jenny Scheinman's group. And just so many individuals that I've been lucky enough to meet and play with over the last several decades. I don't think I'm one of those people that can walk into a situation and turn the whole thing into this glowing ball of visionary excellence just by being me. I need people to inspire me and be part of it with me. I'm a team kind of guy. I'm a group guy. I love collaboration. And I think I play better when I'm playing with people who I feel that affinity with.
Do you think philosophically you would have approached this different say 20 or 25 years ago?
Only in the sense of the psychology of it. Musically I could have jumped in. I don't think I was perhaps psychologically ready to be this noticeable in the world. Certainly, I'm more of a relaxed person about myself -- in spite of my many neuroses -- than I was at that time. Being older is helpful in the ways one sometimes recognizes so-called maturity [laughs]. Although, I would not claim to have any real insight about maturity, but there is a little bit of it squeaking into my life. I think that helps me right now be more relaxed about all this visibility that comes along with playing in a band like Wilco. I guess... life was not as visible before. It was difficult to survive and play interesting music, but it was also easier psychologically to not be kind of noticeable -- at least for me.
What is it about that? Is it the pressure? The admiration?
I just don't like to think about myself much, so I try not to think about how many people might be pondering what I'm into or what I'm doing. And I'm realizing very, very slowly that it's a lot more people because of Wilco than I care to admit to myself. So, I just have to adjust because that does make me a little self-conscious. You know, like looking at this Premier Guitar thing and realizing that a lot of people look at this stuff [laughs]. I feel really naive, embarrassed and stupid afterwards, but I'm just trying to learn. I don't know, this is ridiculous -- I shouldn't be talking about this. [laughter] My life is great.