Menomena : Interview
Fused Out of Iron
There is so much that can be said about the debut release of Portland's
Menomena. You could say it's one of the year's best albums, which would be
absolutely correct; and you could say that we at TMT think it's got some of the
tightest “hip-hop-ish” beats since The Soft Bulletin, which is also
correct. However, before we fill you in on all things Menomena, the most
important thing to consider is their beautiful sense of humor. Whether it's the
midi file of “Oh L'amour” by Erasure on their homepage, their
website in general (which you must visit to understand), a dog that looks
like (and is named) Geddy Lee from Rush, or the fact that if you jumble the
words to their album I Am the Fun Blame Monster, it actually translates
to “The First Menomena Album.” Don't believe me? Try it!
Amneziak (Tiny Mix Tapes): Howdy gentlemen. Thanks for joining us here
at TMT. Who will be participating today?
Menomena: Hello, hello. My name is Danny. On behalf of Brent and Justin,
Thank you for having me.
Amneziak: If you wouldn't mind, please give us a brief overview of the
band: where you're from, how you met, how long you've been together, etc.
Menomena: Well, we've all lived in the Portland, Oregon area for the
last 15 years or so. Justin and I used to play together in a teenage band. We
got a show at a local, now defunct all-ages club, filling in for a more
established touring band that canceled at the last minute. This was about
1996. Brent was at the club to see the band that canceled, and he ended up being
persuaded by the club's manager to stay to see us instead. Brent approached me
afterwards and invited me to coffee. I thought he was a little odd and possibly
interested in me romantically (my fingers were crossed). He shared some of the
songs he had written on the piano. I thought his talent was incredible, but at
the time, I had little interest in music that wasn't based around a male
screaming in a high-pitched fake British accent.
A few months later Brent went back to his East Coast College and I went back to
my band with Justin. The band continued to tread water. We finally broke up
until 2000, which just so happened to be the year Brent finished school. Brent
moved back home to The Great Northwest and we shared a house together for a few
months. Justin and I were still playing music together after the demise of our
band, and the addition of Brent was a logical next step. We played our first
concert as Menomena in 2001.
Amneziak: I Am the Fun Blame Monster is one of TMT's favorite albums of
the year. How long has it been in the making?
Menomena: Well first of all, thank you. It's an honor to be included on
your list. I guess you could say that the album has been “in the making” since
we first started composing music together. Every song on that album except for
two ("Twenty Cell Revolt" & "The Monkey's Back," if you're interested in such
trivia) had been recorded and mixed in at least a couple different ways before
the final recording sessions of I Am the Fun Blame Monster took place.
We've taken for granted the ability to record a few different versions of a
single song over a period of time and then ultimately decide on what goes into
the final album version after repeatedly listening to and tweaking the demos. We
wouldn't be able to have this sort of creative control with our sort of budget
(a big ZERO) without the digital format. The analogue purists have a lot of good
arguments, but it would be nearly impossible for a band such as Menomena to be
in existence today with out the use of the computer as a recording tool.
"She has nipples, so we always assumed she was a
girl. I guess that's not the most educated way to judge someone's gender."
Amneziak: For those who don't know, where did the name Menomena come
Menomena: “Menomena” means different things to different people. I'd hate
to spoil the fun for someone by laying down my personal interpretation as law.
It came from a list of about 50 other band names that we were deciding upon. We
like the way it rolls off the tongue, sexually, or something. Um... Next
Amneziak: Portland is increasingly carving its own niche in the
independent music scene. Do you guys spend a lot of time going to shows in the
Menomena: Portland is the best city I've ever lived in. Then again, I
was 13 when I last lived anywhere else. But yeah, people are so wonderful
here. It's getting crazy though. One of our friends that books shows here (Chantelle
at Berbati's Pan; more trivia) said recently that literally hundreds of bands
have moved up to this city in the past couple of years. That's sort of mind
boggling, because Portland is still small in comparison to Seattle, L.A., or San
Francisco. We're honored to live in a place where there is so much talent all
around us. The scene is very close-knit here, while still not becoming too much
of a clique. But to answer your question more directly, yes we do spend a lot of
time at local shows. It's hard not to take this creative climate for granted
sometimes. It seems like there's an amazing band playing every night of the
U N S E C T I O N :
Amneziak: I'd like to get the obvious out of the way. Who's
responsible for your website? What gives?
Menomena: It's the Fun Blame Monster's fault. All of it. He/She/It
apparently loves Jay-Z and Erasure, which is just fine by us.
Amneziak: I have to ask about your dog, Geddy Lee. I laughed myself
hysterical when I saw her. Does she own the place?
Menomena: Geddy Lee is actually the Fun Blame Monster reincarnated in
canine form. Geddy Lee sleeps with my wife every night. Geddy Lee eats
everything, including Bananas, Apples, fortune cookies (after all, she is a
Chinese breed), and especially hot dogs. Geddy Lee still isn't completely potty
trained. As you can see, there are certain benefits to having a dog named Geddy
Lee. Statements such as these are fun to say loudly in public.
Amneziak: By the looks of your site, Geddy doesn't seem to be the only
animal in your life. Who are some others?
Menomena: Oh, my wife and I only have two animals, Geddy Lee and her
sister Boo Radley the cat. Well, we always refer to Boo in the feminine sense,
even though the receipt from her “fixing” appointment came back reading
“Neutered MALE”. She has nipples, so we always assumed she was a girl. I guess
that's not the most educated way to judge someone's gender. We've respected her
(his?) privacy enough not to inspect any further thus far.
Justin used to have a rat named Queensford and a parrot named Joshua (RIP, both
of them), and Brent doesn't live with any furry friends, not that I know of.
Amneziak: Every time I see pictures of the band a couple of your heads
are always hidden? Are you guys that good looking?
Menomena: Our modeling agency doesn't allow unauthorized reproductions of
our likenesses. Hehe.
Amneziak: I've heard that one or more of you like to skateboard. Very
important question: How high can you ollie?
Menomena: Ahh, Skateboarding. Skateboarding was the wind beneath my
wings, the epitome of my adolescence. I'd like to say something like, “I used to
live and die for skateboarding until it became an organized sport in which
athletes showcase their skills on a piece of plywood in front of a prime time
audience for the sole purpose of gaining endorsements from huge corporate
entities that care more about increasing the size of their sweatshops overseas
than about the art of focused rebellion by intelligent, talented youth who use
aggression resulting from a childhood of misunderstanding and marginalization to
creatively reinterpret the intended use of ugly man-made cement, metal and wood
structures by perfecting carefully orchestrated and tirelessly rehearsed
maneuvers with no compensation other than the unparalleled feeling of personal
satisfaction that can only be realized after a long day of persisting through
intense physical pain, the unpredictable elements, and constant harassment by
the powers that be in order to create one's art”. But alas, the truth is, I
just ran out of time. I can still ollie over a parked school bus though, if
you'd just give me a few minutes to warm up.
"I compensate for the lack of firewater in my system by devouring gigantic
amounts of sugar, which has given me terrible dental problems and horrific
Amneziak: What do you want Santa Claus to bring you for Christmas this
Menomena: Ooh. Good one! World peace, an end to famine, a cure for
cancer, and uh… A new iPod? Mine only has 6 gigs of memory.
Amneziak: What was the last restaurant you visited that made you sick?
Menomena: Well this one time back in the fun teenage years, I had an
entire romantic evening planned out with my then-girlfriend/now-wife. I bought
us tickets to see Weezer on their Pilkington tour. We were so excited! We were
all ready to sing along with "El Scorcho" and everything (except for the naughty
“God damn you half Japanese girls” line, which we changed to “gosh darn” so as
to avoid taking our Lord's Name in vain, not to mention condemning an entire
nationality AND gender to eternal Hellfire). So on the way to the show, I
started to feel all funny inside. By the time we reached the venue (La Luna,
RIP) I was honestly ready to explode out of every public and private region of
my being. I wouldn't allow my girl to miss the concert of a lifetime, so I
dropped her off at the door and broke the land speed record to the nearest
restaurant, which happened to be Jack in the Box. I made an enraged beeline
through the mass of confused customers to the bathroom and slumped on top of the
toilet without even bothering to first apply a sanitary disposable seat
cover. I'll spare the lovely details. Let's just say that “El Scorcho” took on a
whole new personal meaning AND I missed the entire concert. Gosh DARN!
You know, I guess it wasn't the restaurant that made me sick, after all. Next?
Amneziak: Complete the following sentence (you may all answer if you
like): When I'm drunk, I always seem to:
Menomena: You know, I've honestly never been drunk. Imagine that! One
of the few positive outcomes of my ultra conservative, super religious,
inhumanely restrictive (kidding, Dad!) childhood is that I never developed a
taste for alcohol. I mean, I've heard such fun things about alcohol
consumption. Portland has created an entire subculture based around the intake
of Pabst Blue Ribbon. We have more breweries here than you can shake a stick
at. It's hard for me, though I try to fit in. I have a cache of fake “good
drunken stories” to bullshit my way through awkward questions such as the one
you asked. Stories like, “Oh man, this one time, I ran through a retirement
home! Naked! On Bingo night! In winter! And then I totally barfed
everywhere! Like, EVERYWHERE”. But the truth is, it's all a lie. A LIE! And I'm
sick of lying. If I were doing this for religious (pro-Jesus!) or ethical
(anti-Budweiser!) reasons, I'd feel a little better about myself. Truth be told,
beer just makes me feel like gagging. I've tried, honestly. I spent my
twenty-first birthday in a tavern with drunken friends, with a bottle of Royal
Crown Cola in my hand. How pathetic is that?
The worst thing is, you'd think I'd be happy because I never have to worry about
DUI's or liver failure, or hangovers… But I compensate for the lack of firewater
in my system by devouring gigantic amounts of sugar, which has given me terrible
dental problems and horrific acne. Well, not so much anymore, after spending my
pubescent years lathering on layer upon layer of Retin-A. Sighhh, you get the
point. So now that Menomena will forever be known as the band with the most
uncool drummer EVER… Next question please?!
Amneziak: Complete the following sentence: The most rare music item I
own is (you may all answer if you like):
Menomena: Hmm… Jerry Garcia's fingertip.
Amneziak: When are you slated to be on MTV Cribs?
Menomena: Right after they bring back Kennedy. She's from Portland, you
know? Justin actually worked with her brother at a really crappy sales job. Oh,
and I currently work with a fifth cousin of Lisa Presley. With connections like
these, who needs record labels?
Amneziak: List a few of your favorite movies.
Menomena: Brent and I occasionally lapse into entire conversations based
around the dialogue of UHF. Sometimes it gets so intense that Justin has
to throw in a penis joke just to get us back on track!
Amneziak: List a few of your favorite artists (i.e., painters,
sculptors, designers, etc.)
Menomena: Mike King; Richart; Basquiat; etc.
Amneziak: Which do you prefer (as a band)? Your answers must be
unanimous. Feel free to explain your answers.
Q. Coke or Pepsi?
Q: Carpet or Hardwoods?
A: Astro Turf!
Q: Summer or Winter?
A: The Eve of Summer!
Q: Pizza or Mexican Food?
A: Spanish Fly!
Q: Tequila or Scotch?
Q: Playboy or Penthouse?
A: Dungeons & Dragons!
Q: Sammy Hagar or David Lee Roth?
A: Gary Cherone!
Q: MTV Cribs or Behind the Music?
A: Rich Girls!
Q: Joy Division or New Order?
A: Gang of Four!
Q: Marlboro or Camel?
A: Pixie Stix!
Q: Rain or Snow?
A: Hail, as in, “Why the HAIL am I making an ass out of myself here”?
Amneziak: Thank you for your time. It's been an honor being one of the
first people to interview you. Any last thoughts you'd like to cover?
Menomena: Yeah, this is why my New Year's resolution is to develop a love