The Books: Interview
Rectangular Block of Frozen Squid: The Books Open Up


A true indie rock phenomenon, Nick Zammuto and Paul De Jong (with Anne Doerner)
of The Books have emerged out of the ether of underground electronic music,
trailing a cloud of critics and avant-garde music fans behind them. Like their
contemporaries, The Books' work pushes on the conventional boundaries of sonic
composition, leaving them floating in the genre-less morass that ultimately
provides them with their creative sustenance. But unlike their peers, there is
something vaguely strangely traditional, almost oddly familiar about what they
do, as if they are grafting a page from our collective past into our postmodern
present. Whatever they are, they gave us a good hour and fifteen minutes of
their time. Here's what they had to say.


 


>>Introduction

Paul: I just
printed out your questions...

Nick: There's
plenty of them.

TMT: Oh,
would you like me to call back later?

Nick:
Uh, no.

Paul: No.
No. We're ready to go.

Nick:
We're
all high on black tea, so please excuse us.

Paul: Is
Tiny Mix Tapes based in Pennsylvania?

TMT:
No. I'm not sure...  exactly where the home office is.

Nick: They
won't tell you?

TMT:
I'm not sure. I think the editor lives in Minnesota.

Paul:
Oh,
yeah. Minnesota.

Nick: I was
checking out the site today, and it's very mysterious. Aliases...  So who are
you exactly?

TMT: Um.
My name's Matt.

Nick:
Yeah, but what's
your alias?

TMT: I actually go by matt fink. That's what I go by.

Nick: Oh,
really? Huh.

TMT:
So you guys are together in New York City?

Nick: Yeah.
At Paul's apartment.


>>Chapter 1: Don't Even
Sing About It: The Live Performance

TMT:
Are you guys working on some stuff right now?

Nick: No. We
haven't seen each other for about a month and a half. We're getting reacquainted
a little bit, going off and playing in the snow.

Paul: We're
not working on a Books project right now. We're working on our own stuff. At
some point, I'm sure the Books will start overwhelming us again. But it's good
to take some distance, because making these records is extremely involving. I
mean, for us, it's the avalanche of the work, and it kind of died down after we
played our show in Chicago, which was in October. And then the record came out,
which is pretty enervating, but at the same time, our creative work was more or
less done by then. So, we needed to get a breather.

TMT:
So how was the show at the Third Coast Festival?

Paul: It's
amazing, actually; Nick just got the DVD that they sent us. I haven't seen yet,
but Nick has been telling me terrible things about it.

Nick: I've
been saying exactly the opposite actually. I don't know. My whole experience, I
think the word “eek” kind of sums it up pretty well. Just totally freaked out.
We had no idea. We got together and basically gave ourselves a month to put
together a half an hour set, and by the end of it we were going, “Well... this
may not work at all.” (laughing) We went, and we played the show, and luckily we
had the best audience in the world, because I think they would have loved us no
matter what. We didn't play well, and they loved us. Very mysterious.

TMT:
So in what ways did your sound translate into that format?

Nick: I guess
the easiest way to describe it with our set up on stage, which was pretty
minimalistic. It was just Paul with his cello, and I with my guitar and a bass
guitar, as well. And Anne Doerner, who came along with us -- she played banjo
and fiddle and guitar. And we all had vocal microphones, as well, so we
vocalized. Between Paul and I, we had a sampler which had a lot of rhythm
tracks, that we had mixed down already, and then some loose samples that we
could throw in at the live moment. That's what we did.

Paul: We
played a couple of songs derived from tracks from Thought for Food and
from The Lemon of Pink, but they're not exact representations of what is
on the records. There's just no way we could do that. So we tried to translate
it into a more playful, instrumental way, and I don't know, in a certain way we
might have succeeded in turning some of the music into something that is fit for
the stage. And some of it, I'm sure doesn't work as well. We don't have any
pressure of live shows coming up, and we need to just play a lot together and
figure out ways to do stuff in pleasing way for ourselves.

Nick: Yeah, I
think what we need most is time, just for the three of us to work together in a
no pressure environment where we can really figure out what we want to do... in
a way that's satisfying. Although, the response from that first show has given –
me, anyway – a vote of confidence that it could be a very viable thing for us to
do creatively, although it certainly goes against many of my instincts. It
seemed to pay off, so it was worth it. It certainly was a good opportunity. I'm
glad we took it seriously, and it turned out to be... fun. We met a lot of great
people, and the great thing about that show was the conference itself. It was
the WBEZ Third Coast Festival, which is a group of radio people – mostly public
radio people – from all around the world who bring their work together and have
workshops and lectures and classes. And you get to hear a lot and meet a lot of
really great people. So that was fun.

TMT:
Do you think you'd ever be interested in doing a full-scale tour?

Nick: Uhhh...
one step at a time.

Paul:
Depends on the conditions, depends on how far... I mean, we are not the kind of
people who like to play late night gigs in smoky bars for people in clubs. So,
that's definitely not where you will find us. It really depends on how far we
are in creating a show so we also would know better what kind of space our music
would fit well. We'll see what kind of offers we get, but we're not pushing for
a tour. There are plenty of other things we can do. We've done basically five
things up to now as the Books: we've made two records, we've made a website,
we've played in Chicago live, and we've done a soundtrack for BBC3 Radio. In
retrospect, for instance, the soundtrack work was right up our alley, and it
went really smoothly. So, that's the kind of work that we're truly interested in
and that feels more within our grasp than thinking of touring. I mean,
personally, I'm not against it, but I also know what goes into it. It's a huge
effort, and something like that really needs to be organized meticulously,
because I don't want to find myself out in the street at 2:00 at night, wanting
to but not being able to get a hamburger.

Nick: I
didn't know you'd eat a hamburger!

Paul: I just
don't like that kind of life.

Nick: Yeah,
we're feeling a lot of pressure right now from all sides to tour, and I don't
really understand where that's coming from. As it stands, we'll do it when we're
good and ready, and right now, we're neither good nor ready.

Paul: I
mean, it's really flattering to know that there's a lot of people that really do
like our record and would like to see us, the people behind it. I'm already
really, really glad that they're pleased with what we're making and that they're
listening.


"It seems that there are people who make music
that also make money with it but also pay a terrible price that I don't think
we're ready to pay." -Paul


>>Chapter 2: Read, Eat,
Sleep: Thought for Food vs. Lemon of Pink

TMT:
Are you surprised with how quickly people have grabbed on to what
you're doing?

Nick: Uh...
yes.

Paul: Yeah,
sure.

Nick: It goes
way beyond our expectations, or at least my expectations. I don't know. We just
started working together, and had a lot of fun, and it was only with a lot of
pressure from Tom that we finished the first record. And the response to that
really blew us away. You know it's a blessing and curse, because now we have to
take this work seriously and we can't screw up.

Paul: Right.
The first record was made...  in this innocence...

Nick: Yeah,
like, “Maybe a hundred people will hear this one day.” So, yeah, the sophomore
feeling of the second record took a toll on my mental health, just trying to
figure out how to navigate through all of the possibilities and push everything
in a direction that we can really live with. And do it in a pretty short amount
of time, with a lot of pressure. But it was totally worthwhile. It definitely
took my listening to a new level.

TMT: So
what were your goals when you were going in to the studio to record The Lemon of
Pink?

Nick:
(laughs) We're not really all that goal-oriented, I think, as a collaboration.
Mostly, we just have to stay true to what makes us want to keep working together
-- just staying inspired and inspiring each other, and enjoying each other's
company. We're kind of all attached to our domestic lives, so when we get
together, we cook some food and make music and try to push it in a direction
that we're all satisfied with. But it takes a lot of time and space and energy.
We just wanted to continue in the spirit that we started the first record with,
I think, and the way that made sense for us. And we had some new working
conditions, as well. We got to see a lot more of each other, and we didn't move
around so much as we were making it, so that made it a lot more coherent process
in a lot of ways. So that definitely had an influence on the album.

Paul: Yeah.
For Lemon of Pink, we worked in an acoustically stable environment, which
makes a really big difference. 

Nick: And it
was warm, like over 60 degrees...

Paul:
Thought for Food

was made in below zero temperatures.

Nick: Yeah,
it was frigid.

TMT:
In what ways did being able to work together in person change the
way that the first album came together?

Paul: Well,
it's a nice myth, I think, the story that the first record was made so detached
from each other, but it's not that extreme. I think the real difference is –and
we did see a lot more of each other for Lemon of Pink – but the real
difference is that we were in so many different places for Thought for Food,
and we didn't see each other in a continuous stretch of time. It was really
spotty.

Nick: Yeah,
our personal lives were always going through some pretty major changes
throughout those two years that it took to make Thought for Food. There's
that kind of emotional patchwork in there, but we were just always in very
different places.

Paul: But
wherever the computer would go, we'd eventually meet up again, wherever it would
be. In the period that we didn't see each other, during the making of Thought
for Food
, we would work on it occasionally. And I don't think we
communicated all that much. We'd just listen a little bit, and save up
our thoughts, and then we'd have these bursts of creativity that would yield a
couple of tracks or we'd finish up a couple of tracks. Lemon of Pink was
very smooth – or at least smoother – and a very continuous stretch of work.

TMT:
How did it change the process knowing that there were people
waiting for this record to come out?

Nick: Um...
(laughing)

Paul: We had
a deadline, the same as with Thought for Food. I think we mapped out our
work fairly well for ourselves, so we knew what kind of timeframe that it took,
I suppose.

Nick: Yeah,
it was a different kind of schedule. I basically mapped it out in my mind, like,
“Well, we basically have to make a track every two to three weeks for the next
eight months.” That's what it felt like to make The Lemon of Pink, just
trying to keep that schedule, because I can't continue more than one or two
tracks in my head at the any one time. I kind of move methodically through
composing or I really get lost. So, I think the amount of adrenaline that I had
coursing through my body during the making of this record was at a much higher
level... of stress and angst.  (laughing)

Paul:
There's so much that we learned from Thought for Food... we knew you get
lot of ideas when you finish something, so I don't think there was – for me at
least – so much pressure from expectations from outside. Just more pressure from
ideas that I combed from Thought for Food that I wanted to improve on or
change or expand on. For me, it's all in expansion, really.

Chapter 3: Getting the
Job Done: Internal Dynamics

TMT: So
is there any fear that you guys will start repeating yourself at some point?

Paul:
I think that once
you find out that you're repeating yourself, you just try to do something else.

Nick: Yes and
no, and yes and no. (laughing)

Paul: What
is there against repeating a good thing?

Nick: Yeah,
well, I don't know, some have different theories about that. It's like everybody
wants something different, so you just have to find a quiet place and decide for
yourself. If something can really satisfy you twice, I have no problem with it.
But if you're just doing it as some kind of shtick, or some kind of ...

Paul:
Concept.

Nick: Yeah,
some kind of preconceived thing, it doesn't really qualify. I think a lot of the
similarities between our tracks are really unconscious things. It's just what we
sound like.

Paul:
I don't think that
we usually repeat ourselves. We easily deviate.

Nick: There
are those moments where you have to really throw a wrench in your own process in
order to take a track to a place where it really wants to go. So, you can't be
afraid to wreck something, and working with somebody else in a collaboration is
really helpful for that. Because whether it's on purpose or not, you're work --
which you're proud of -- gets totally trashed and rearranged, and it's a hurtful
thing. But then you listen to it again, and you go, “Oh, I never listened to it
in that way before.”

TMT:
Right. Do you think each of you approach music in a different
way?

Paul: I
wouldn't know. We just happened to meet in the same place.

Nick: Yeah.
We're very different. But we've become really good friends through the process.
Our backgrounds are totally different, though. I don't really even consider
myself to be a musician, where Paul is an incredible cello player. So we
all have different skills. And Ann, she adds another dimension to that, where
she is just incredibly versatile with her voice and instruments.

Paul: Yeah,
she brings forth the instrument.

TMT:
Do you think that you differ on musical theory and things like
that?

Nick: No. I
think that's probably what we have most in common -- what we like about music. I
think that's why we were attracted to each other originally, the common
interest. We both had a big collection of sounds when we first met. It was just
too tempting to not try to put them together.

TMT:

In what ways do you think your personal styles complement each
other?

Nick: I think
we're both positive. I think we just want to make... something positive. In that
way we kind of add to each other, but we have such diverse musical
backgrounds...

Paul: I
think a lot of the music that you hear is a reflection of how we get to know
each other. I don't really think we make music on the basis of what we already
know of each other. It's really a process in which we laid out how we get to
know each other and what we find out about each other. Our approach to style,
our approach to composition, our theories, our musical ideals – it's something
we talk a lot about, because we like the subject matter. But it never gets
dogmatic in any way, because we're not that type of people, I don't think. We
are very precise about what we finally want to hear, but it's not in a dogmatic
way. It's only in very loving way toward the sounds.

Nick: Yeah,
when it's really working, we don't really say all that much to each other. We
just kind of look at each other, and we both know. That's how we know we're
going in the right direction. We talk less.

Paul: Unless
somebody says that they really don't want to hear a particular thing. Then, it's
very clear that it's not going to go that way.

TMT:
So, at what point of your working together did you know you were
doing something special.

Paul: You're
saying that we're doing something special.

Nick:
(Laughing) I don't know. Are we doing something special? It certainly feels
really good. And I knew that right from the beginning. That spirit is still in
what we do.

Paul: I
guess it's something that... I really, really like to hear the sounds. I really,
really like to hear the music, and I know it's something that I want, and I know
that I didn't hear it before.


"Yeah, when it's really working, we don't
really say all that much to each other. We just kind of look at each other, and
we both know. That's how we know we're going in the right direction. We talk
less." -Nick


>>Chapter 4: Enjoy Your
Worries (you may never have them again): The Press and the Pressure

TMT:

So how do you feel about how the music press has given you
tremendous reviews?

Paul: They
are tremendously generous.

Nick: Yeah.
It's very strange. It seems that everybody is trying to outdo each other. I
don't know, it's like ...

Paul: They
keep themselves around that way, too, you know?

Nick: I think
it's sort of random that we're the ones that ended up getting this sort of
attention, but you can't take it all that seriously, whether the press is good
or bad. You have to do what you do, which I know is an extremely hard thing to
do. I think, more than anything, I don't get to listen to a lot of music. And
Paul says this all the time, that when you get compared to another band or
something like that, it's a great way to introduce you to their music. Because
we haven't heard of more than half of the people we get compared to. It's really
fun to hear people's thoughts. Especially the blogs. The blogs are really our
favorites.

Paul: Yeah,
those are really some of the nicest things that you'll read, because they're
pretty true. They're pretty honest; most people are just writing for their
friends. So, it's nice to read that, instead of the music press.

TMT:
So how do you feel about being called visionaries by some people?

Nick:
(laughing)

Paul: It
keeps me off my work.

Nick: We just
do what we do. I don't think we have any special vision, other than our own,
very peculiar, idiosyncratic vision.

Paul: I just
work at it all the time, because I love to do what I do. I mean, I'm curious as
hell, so that's what I tell anybody. If you like what you do, then you're on the
right track.

Nick: I don't
know, it's like the Beatles. There's such a feeling of perfection when you
listen to what they did. It's so undeniably clear; that's why I think so many
people responded to what they did. I think, when I'm listening to music myself,
I'm always looking for those moments of clarity is there. Those are the moments
that I'm always gravitating towards. Not that I'm comparing us to the Beatles at
all, but ... . Like Paul, I'm very curious, and I'm always seeking out those
moments to share with people.

TMT:
Do you think people accurately understand the essence of what
you're trying to do?

Nick: I don't
know. It's really hard to know. What do you think, Paul?

Paul: We get
so many different responses, and people hear things in the music that makes me
listen to, in a different way, what we made ourselves. Sure they do
(understand).

TMT:
Do you think that there's a way to misunderstand what you're
doing?

Nick: That's
a good question.

Paul: I mean
...  I don't know how Nick listens. I don't know how anyone listens. I'm just
trying to find out how my listening works and how my own mind works. Nick and I
spend a lot of time together to make the music that we've been putting out, and
we've probably come to understand a little bit more about each other's
listening. But, my goodness, to say that about random people -- that's very
difficult. If they misunderstand it, I guess what you mean is that they won't
listen to it a second time? Or...

TMT:
Yeah, I guess.

Nick: Well,
that's fine. That's good.

Paul: I just
think that music has an important role in life for a lot of people, but I don't
think it's something to fight over (laughing). I think it's something that
should induce benevolence and should be approached with benevolence. So, yeah,
maybe we should say that, with our music, we'd like people to, of course, enjoy
it as a pure musical thing but also as something that tunes their ears better to
the world and that it sensitizes their ears. That seems to be hard to
misunderstand.

Nick: But, I
guess it's true that some people don't want that or are really uncomfortable
with that process of sensitization in their lives just because it's inherently
painful process. And that it sad that people want to fill their minds with noise
so they don't have to deal what's actually in front of them. I don't know. Maybe
I've said too much.

Paul: Yeah,
that shouldn't keep us from doing what we're doing. We're just doing the best we
can.

TMT:
Uh huh. So what's it like to have something so innate and
personally meaningful to you communicate with other people?

Nick: I don't
know if I really take personal responsibility for it. It's much more a
subconscious process for me, because at any point any of the tracks can go in
any direction. And it's true for me as well as for anyone else. It's not like
either of us are really deciding what direction things are going to go. We're
all just human beings, and our minds work in these really strange an irrational
ways most of the time. And I'm glad people have found resonance with that.
Rationally is a very dangerous thing, and it has to be tempered with something
more realistic sometimes.

TMT:
Right. A lot of people have said that you're music has defied
easy categorization, but out of all the descriptions you've heard, which do you
think it most appropriate?

Paul: We
make the best descriptions ourselves (laughing). Country and eastern...

Nick: Yeah,
country and eastern!

Paul:

Actually, there was one review in Germany where this guy really hated us – I
don't know what was eating him – but he said it would be very therapeutic if
anyone could find, what's her name, Nurse Ratchett from One Flew Over the
Cuckoo's Nest.
That's a really good [movie]...  Like it would be good music for
her to use for therapeutic purposes. He didn't try to say anything nice. What
was it... styrofoam cup...

Nick: Yeah,
“styrofoam cup torture.” That was another.

Paul: But
country and eastern is pretty good. They're putting a lot of categorizations on
it that I just find humorous, but I don't think they describe us.

Nick: Isn't
there a magazine called Town & Country?

TMT:
Uh huh.

Nick: Then,
“Town and country” music.

TMT:
(laughing) I've read before about how you guys resonate with old
Appalachian folk music and Harry Smith's “old weird America” and that there's a
“new weird America” today. So what would you say is the “new weird America,” and
in what ways are you representative of that?

Nick: Hmmm.
Well, if you look around, things are very strange... but strange in a way that
is different than things used to be strange. I think everything is kind of
strange and wonderful... in a way. Except when things start to get dangerous.
Then things are just scary. And I think everybody is a reflection of that in one
way or another. In this culture, everyone falls in line in one way or another
and becomes a part of it.

Paul: It
seems that there is more music today that isn't a part of a mass movement, and I
really like that. And that kind of makes me feel that it's a local thing. In the
“weird old America” there were these isolated spots where beautiful things just
rang out...  

Nick: ... It
was totally decentralized in that way...    


Paul: ...
And I think there's an opportunity now with the accessibility of technology,
where everybody can have a PC at home and make their own music. That stuff
actually does happen in a different way, but these opportunities are such that
is happens that very beautiful things spring out of these isolated rooms where
people get together and get involved in music.

Chapter 5: The Future and
Technology, Wouldn't That Be Nice?

TMT: So
you would say that this is a good time for music?

Nick:
Oh yeah. No doubt.
For me, that means that there's less and less control.

Paul: Just
don't expect to make money (laughing).

Nick:
Exactly. But there isn't that much corporate control because corporations are
very quickly losing their control on vital music, and it's not clear that they
ever did have that much control of vital music. It seems that music is just an
unstoppable force, in every culture in that way. And unharnessable, too, and if
you put your thumb on it one place, it's going to pop up somewhere else that's
unexpected. And I think it's an expression of freedom in that way. So, it's a
good time for music because the technology that we have around us is becoming
more widely available so now pretty much anybody has access to make professional
music and has free distribution through the internet.  

Paul: Yeah,
for instance, there is this guy that I met from Buenos Aires, and he plays
keyboards and a lot of traditional South American instruments, and he lived his
whole and spent his whole career in Buenos Aires where they don't make very much
money at all. So, he was very isolated for many years, and he told me that the
internet for him has completely opened up his world and changed his music. A lot
of music became accessible to him and he was able to get in touch with musicians
that he would have otherwise never have been able to get in touch with, and it
did him a lot of good in his music. We didn't confuse him in any way; it just
reassured him that he was doing the right thing. You're able to, as musicians,
get in touch at a much more personal and individual level than as a musician
going to the record store and buying the next record that is being sold in the
millions.

TMT:
So, would you say that in a weird way technology has replicated
Harry Smith's “old weird America” in that people can just make music and not
have to worry about doing it as a way of life?

Nick: Yeah.
Maybe not as a way of life, because you can't expect to make a living solely off
of your work, but as a way of life in the sense that there is nothing to stop
you from putting your music on a CD and giving it to all of your friends and
seeing what they think about it. Everybody is a musician all of a sudden.

Paul: Nobody
is telling you not to do it, that's one thing...

Nick: Yeah,
and I think that ten years ago, people would basically say, “Oh, you're not a
musician,” and you'd tell yourself that and stop making music. But now, if you
have the drive and the determination, you can do whatever you want.

TMT: Do
you think that the Books could have happened 10, 15 years ago?

Paul: Ten
years ago?

TMT:
Yeah.

Nick:
Probably not. That's one really interesting thing is the size of our database
alone and the way we have access to it and technology that have to mix that
sound together and control that mix very finely, technically, I don't think we
could made this work ten years ago without an enormous investment in money...
which wouldn't have happened. And also just the collecting the sounds and
keeping them on one hard drive, everything doesn't have to be mixed in live with
a turntable or something like that. So, yeah, I think technology has made our
work possible in a way.

Paul: But, I
guess that ten years ago, if we had been the age that we are now, we wouldn't
have made music at all the same.

Nick: Yeah,
we would have been a garage band (laughing).

Paul: Yeah,
with cello and guitar...

Nick: And a
garden hose.


>>Chapter 6: Soundtracks is
for Evrysing

TMT:
Do you guys approach your soundtrack work any differently than
you do the Books?

Nick: Oh
yeah. The collaboration expands to at least one other person, and we play a
secondary, supporting role to the content. We can't usurp it because it doesn't
do justice to the whole. You have to figure out a way to glide in just right...
and at the same time still satisfy yourself musically, which is a challenge.
Luckily, working with Gregory was pretty amazing, because he basically came up
with the soundtrack first. We gave him a whole bunch of improvisation that we
did, and he listened to them and got a mood from it, and then he recorded all of
his actors. And we actually sat in on the production process itself and we
helped him lay it all down and tighten it up, so it was nice to have that sort
of collaboration. But, yeah, it was a very different kind of music that you can
make without the normal confines.

Paul: It's
almost a different medium.

Nick: Yeah.
Absolutely.

TMT:
What's it like trying to work off of someone else's idea in a
certain way?

Nick: Well, I
think we definitely have to be attracted to the initial idea in order to get
into it.

Paul: But
then it sort of becomes somewhat of a relief, where it's like we don't feel that
responsibility as strongly as when we're making a record all our own, which can
be terribly demanding and intimidating.

Nick: And
self-critical. It helps relieve a lot of that when you have someone else to say,
“Oh, that will work great. Don't touch it.”

TMT:
So it's not the same kind of personal expression?

Paul: It
serves a different purpose.

Nick: It's a
much more collaborative thing. Like working on a film, you can't give too much
credit to the actors or the director or the cinematographer. You can't divide
it. It's nice. It makes you feel like you're more than the sum or your parts
when you feel like you're collaborators within a collaboration within a larger
collaboration.

TMT: Is
it as time consuming as the stuff you do for the Books?

Nick:
Yeah. It can be.
Definitely. Once you start to believe in a project, you're going to push it as
far as it will go. But there are deadlines, and I think soundtracks escape more
than they get finished.

TMT:
So what's it like to go from making music pretty much just for
yourselves to now having people that you're making music for?

Nick: (long
pause) As much as I can just try to stay sane, I just always want to come back
to the idea that I'm making it for myself. And that's what making electronic
music feels like to me, that I'm the audience more than the musician or the
artist. Because it's more 99% listening and 1% action when you're sitting in
front of the computer listening and arranging. I just want to please myself, not
in a masturbator way, but in a way that other people will enjoy.


"It seems that there is more music today that
isn't a part of a mass movement, and I really like that." -Paul


>>Chapter 7: Contempt:
Music as Discourse

TMT:
So what do you think about critics of contemporary culture that
would say that this generation, or even the last century, didn't produce a
genius on the level of a Bach or a Beethoven?

Nick: Yeah...
uh... I'm not sure what kind of personal agenda that comes from. I don't know. I
think you need some kind of hindsight to really understand the full impact of
what is going on in a generation.

Paul: Right.
What would they have said in 1750? That their preceding century didn't produce
any Ockeghem and Machaut? It's a little bit hard to figure out about the century
that has just passed us. There are so many things that haven't sunk into
oblivion yet from that century. It's hard to tell what will survive, because
there is utter crap that was produced in that century that has been reproduced
in such an immense amount that there is a good chance that it will stick around.
But that's probably not what we're after.

Nick: No, but
I think it is true more than ever now, in this culture this is rapidly
accelerating due to technology into this postmodern way of life, that people
have this genius complex more than ever. They're always seeking it, both within
themselves and outside of themselves, and they're trying to put people up on
these pedestals, because society is so aimless and diffused that people really
need those kinds of role models because we're really lacking them. It's also
because of the way our culture is put together. But I guess what I'm trying to
say is, if I could give you one piece of advice, it would be not to try to raise
anyone to level of genius because it's just a lie. People are certainly talented
in particular ways, but I don't think it does anyone a service to make them into
more than a human being.

TMT:
Right. Do you think if we did have a Bach or a Beethoven that we
would recognize them today?

Nick: Uh...
yeah. I think we do.

Paul: In
what way would we recognize them? We'd recognize them because there would be a
large amount of people from different backgrounds who would respond favorably to
their music? If so, we could say that composers like John Lennon and Paul
McCartney are on that level? I'm not going to deny that.

TMT:
Do you think that a hundred years from now those will be
recognized as our geniuses?

Nick:
(laughing) Yeah... hopefully we'll find out. I don't know. Yeah, maybe. Probably
not.

Paul: It's
so hard for me to say anything that makes even remote sense, because there is so
much music that I listen to, and there is some music that I completely enjoy and
find fulfillment in, and there is so much of that music that nobody that I know
actually knows. I think we're already talking about that is only part of music,
which is recorded music. We're not even talking that much about life music,
about music that is only heard once, and that's when it's played. And I think
there is an immense power in that part of music. I think if people would play
more instruments of their own they would enjoy music in a completely different
way, in a healthy way.

Nick: If they
played with their family and friends, as part of their lives.

TMT:
So would you say that our culture has an unhealthy obsession with
music as a product?

Nick: Oh
yeah.

Paul: It's
completely commercialized. Luckily I'm from a family that internalized music in
their social life. But I guess...

Nick: It
modifies art. It's always been argued that that's the very death of art, that
art loses its spirit any time you put any sort of value on it at all. That being
said, it would really be great to be able to do what you do all of the time and
not have to worry about paying the rent, but I don't think it's worth it to put
that above the music. Or to seek that out and take that energy away from the
work.

Paul: It
seems that there are people who make music that also make money with it but also
pay a terrible price that I don't think we're ready to pay.

Nick: Yeah, I
think what we're interested in is creative longevity and making everything else
secondary to that.

TMT:
Along those lines, what is success for the Books at this point?

Nick: Hmm...
”what is success?” (thinking aloud)

Paul:
Talking to you. Talking to people who are interested in what we do. It's
wonderful to hear people of very different ages – my nephew is fourteen – and
having people of that age being concerned with it at all, that's a great success
for me, personally. And enthusiasm from outside, although it's an abstract
thing, really.  We know we work for an independent label, but things are selling
quite well. At least there are quite a few people listening to our music, and we
never expected something like that. Sure, that's success. The day we finish a
record, that is a sweet taste of success right there.

Nick: Yeah,
I'll never forget that moment. After finishing The Lemon of Pink and
putting that master in the mailbox. That was a very lovely moment.

Paul: That
really feels like success, that we've been able to accomplish something together
that I don't think I'd have ever been able to accomplish on my own. That's
success – if you can collaborate in a fruitful manner.

TMT:
So have you begun working on the next record yet?

Nick: Oh...
 we have to see how the universal forces align, with us or against us, on that
one. All of us, Paul and I and Anne, we have to just stay sane. We have to enjoy
each other and let that happen in its own time. So, right now, we don't have any
particular plans. We're just taking it easy while we can and trying to survive
and take this deluge of attention we're getting and take those opportunities and
use them in the best ways that we can without driving ourselves insane.  That's
what our lives are like right now, but as far as the future goes, I think
anything can happen. I think we're at the very beginning of working together. We
definitely expect more, but we have no idea where we're going.


"If I could give you one piece of advice, it
would be not to try to raise anyone to level of genius because it's just a lie."
-Nick


>>Epilogue

TMT: Ok,
well, I imagine I've probably taken enough of your time. Thanks.

Paul:
Alright, so we'll go cook our dinner. That's what our concern is.

Nick: Yeah,
Paul has this huge rectangular block of frozen squid. He's going to cook it.

TMT:

Food's always involved when you guys get together isn't it?

Nick: Yeah,
we're much more comfortable cooking for an audience than performing for it.

Paul: One of
the craziest questions we've been asked in an interview is, “Are you a food
band?”

Nick: Yeah,
that's exactly what we are. I guess that's the answer to that “country and
eastern” question.

Paul:
What's the genre?
We're a food band.

TMT:
It could be a whole new movement.

Nick: Well, I
hope it is! I think if there is going to be any great social change in this
country, or in the world for that matter, it's going to involve taking our
messed up food supply and paying more careful attention to what goes into our
bodies.

Paul: Yeah,
who eats it and how to eat it.

Nick: Yeah,
Apples from Chile. What's up with that?

Paul: The
lamb that is grazed in the Netherlands get exported to New Zealand.

Nick: Doesn't
New Zealand eat their lamb?

Paul: Oh no.
In Holland, we eat the New Zealand lamb. You can't get the Dutch lamb in Holland
because it gets exported (laughing).

TMT:
Hmm. Ok. Well, thanks for your time.

Paul: Yeah.
We're wasting your time now!

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