TH: That's it exactly‚ the pedals explain that‚ besides the fact that I can't play the instrument at all. (laughs)
MM: (laughing) Yeah‚ I need to run my guitar through all this shit.
TH: (laughing) I actually can't play‚ I just sit there and try to look as good as possible. You know‚ step on a pedal here and there.
MM: Right‚ chicks dig it.
TH: Yeah exactly. That's a big lie. The thing that got me about all the pedals‚ you know‚ this head set I'm in about the theory behind playing guitar is I started giving guitar lessons. About three years ago I started‚ you know‚ I needed some cash and there were a bunch of kids in my neighborhood that knew I played guitar. The coolest thing about it is when you're an uneducated musician like myself - I was self-taught on everything‚ I didn't know a lot about theory‚ and I wasn't technically proficient. So to teach somebody you really need to know the fundamentals of playing because the person you're teaching is going to need to know what you're talking about. I had this one student named Mark‚ and he's seventeen now and just a great player. When he's my age he's gonna be kicking my ass up and down the street. When I would sit and talk to him about music and philosophies behind playing‚ and what I thought was good and bad‚ I would come up with ways to vocalize and express my ideas through my guitar. One of the philosophies I told him was that it's all about options. There's no need just because you play guitar to make it sound like a guitar. You know‚ make it sound like a fucking dumpster being dropped off the Empire State building.
MM: (laughing) Okay...
TH: I'm serious! I have a sound that sounds like that. (laughs) Make it sound like rain drops hitting a windowpane very lightly‚ or make it sound like someone just chopped your face off with a sword. I don't know‚ like a sound that's more abstract. So that's where the effects come into play.
MM: It's all about options.
TH: All about them‚ life's all about options.
MM: And choices…
TH: Yeah exactly. I have the dumbest rig ever‚ I have so many fucking pedals‚ you don't even want to know how many pedals I have - it will probably make you want to throw up. But through all those pedals I can constantly come up with a new sound. There's always something new you can discover‚ you know‚ change a knob or setting by accident and you can find this whole new sound.
MM: I have a good understanding of your philosophy about making music in the studio‚ what about your philosophy playing live?
TH: Polar opposites basically. The studio was a very deliberate thing. Like I said‚ we spent two weeks preparing for it‚ and we were fucking idiots about it. You know like "don't hold that note so long‚" "make sure there's a cymbal crash here." I mean we really went through it with a fine-tooth comb. When we got into the studio‚ it was right on for the most part‚ I mean obviously there's room for improvement - we're a bunch of guys in our early twenties with no cash trying to make an album. It's definitely not going to be Dark Side of the Moon. For the resources that we had‚ we definitely did it the way we wanted to. I think there's only one track on it that is balls-out improvising‚ and that's on "Monsters Come Out At Night‚" which clocks in at like ten minutes or something. There's only one guitar solo on the whole album‚ which I think is awesome‚ and I actually didn't want any. I guess you've got to give a little. (laughs)
MM: You have to show off a little.
TH: Well it's not a great solo‚ but it is a solo. Those guys are playing changes and I'm doing something stupid over it. I don't really think there's anything else that's improvised on the album‚ and that was the coolest thing about it. Every night we play a show‚ people are coming to see us make shit up basically. That's a great release and a great outlet‚ but like I was telling you before when we were talking at the bar‚ an album is your chance to make something that is going to stick. It's your chance to make something that lasts forever‚ regardless if it's good or bad. There are a lot of albums that suck ass‚ but the thing is that's where you were at that time‚ deliberately. That's where you thought you should be at that time‚ that's where you thought you should have been. That's a really cool thing‚ hopefully we will be a big band and people will have this album years from now and they will say 'wow‚ listen to what they were thinking in 2002‚ and listen to what they were thinking about in 2020.' It's your chance to make something solid. You play a concert... I remember hearing something that Bob Weir said in the late eighties‚ someone asked him about the taping policy of the Dead's music‚ you know‚ like pop culture trying to figure out what the fuck the Dead were about. Bobby said it the best - he said something along the lines of "Look‚ that moment is over‚ the second that note is played it's done. If someone wants to tape it and hold on to it‚ they have that right‚ but for me that moment is gone the second it passes." That's definitely a good way to look at it‚ that's what you have at a live show. When you make an album‚ it shouldn't be that way. It's a wonderful opportunity to have to make a statement‚ something you're proud of‚ and that will be something that is a piece of you and will forever tell me where I was when I was twenty-three years old. I'll be one of the luckiest people on the planet because I'll always have that to sit down and listen to and say that's where I was when I was twenty-three. I still have recordings from when I was in eighth grade. My dad had a four-track and I used to fuck around on it all the time. So I still have these tapes and they're god-fucking awful. It's the worst shit I've ever heard‚ but it's still awesome to me because I can go back and remember exactly where I was at that time. I'll remember my set up in my bedroom‚ where the microphone was on my dresser‚ and listening to that is better than a picture to me. Well I guess that's the sentimental mushy side to making a record.
MM: Yeah‚ making a statement in sixty minutes not only telling you where you were at that time‚ but anybody whose listens to it and it has some sort of impact. For instance‚ I remember listening to this album in 2002‚ and I remember exactly what was going on in my life when I first heard this album. Every time I throw this album in I remember that time period in my life.
TH: Exactly. For me albums are like when JFK got assassinated. (laughs) You know‚ guess where I was when I first heard Dots and Loops by Stereolab. I mean that album changed my life. Or my first Beatles record - I mean those are moments my man! Those are unbelievable occasions‚ and if there weren't so many of them I would celebrate them like Christmas. Oh... it's John Lennon day!
MM: (laughing) I know exactly what you mean.
TH: Like I said before‚ I don't really listen to any music with lead guitar in it‚ so I really listen to a lot of singer-songwriter oriented music. I'm a psychotic Beatles freak‚ you know‚ I should be in a twelve-step program. I mean it doesn't get better than that. I went through a huge Bruce Springsteen phase‚ not like the "Born in the USA" stuff‚ but his early stuff. When he was considered the next Bob Dylan‚ for good reasons. Then I got into European bands like Stereolab‚ Radiohead‚ Coldplay‚ and stuff that's not just about the guitar player. It definitely has given me a different outlook on making records. They don't jam - they make records.
MM: Well‚ you guys are grouped in with the jamband scene‚ and what I think is really cool is the whole approach you're taking in making a studio album‚ and playing in the moment when it comes to the live show. I think a lot of bands have yet to tap into the art of the studio album.
TH: I think it's not only the art of the studio album‚ but it's the art of the song. Just because you are a proficient musician‚ well‚ that means dick when it comes to writing songs. Look at Kurt Cobain‚ or even Bruce Springsteen‚ these guys are not proficient guitar players by any stretch of the imagination. These guys are idiots compared to the kids our age in our scene‚ you know‚ these guys who are just unbelievable musicians. But that doesn't make them songwriters. It's a whole other thing to be able to write a song‚ something that somebody hears and relates to‚ and has those memories throughout their lives - this song makes me think of the time I traveled across the country‚ or this song reminds of the first time I got laid‚ you know...