The grand, nightmarish finale.
Van Outside The Knitting Factory, NYC
Philly rock-like outfit/collective/band Man Man came out with their second album, Six Demon Bag (Ace Fu), a couple months ago. I heard the album’s "Tunneling Through The Guy," a brooding, mostly instrumental mind-fuck of a song, in a record store and subsequently walked out the door with my own copy of the LP. The record held up to three or four days of constant listens. Catchy, soulful, challenging, beautiful, cacophonous, acerbic, exciting, and at times disorienting, I began wondering what this music would sound like live.
I saw they were playing a show at Knitting Factory in a few days. Gold. But I was broke – too broke to pay $10. So, I fell back on the ol’ interview-the-band/get-in-free routine and set it all up. It seemed to be working out just fine, until their PR contact abruptly stopped e-mailing me mid-week, stranding me without a confirmation or a guest list spot. The day of the show, a Friday, I assumed nothing was happening. That night I arrived home from work to find a voicemail from said PR contact, who I apparently had to meet at the venue in about 45 minutes. Obviously, I had little time to prepare any questions, and their first album hadn’t arrived from Ace Fu. Though I had very little to go on, on some level I was enjoying the haphazardness of it all.
I got into the venue just fine, but then the band couldn’t talk before their performance, and then an ominous feeling about the interview expanded within me as I watched the show, and then I had to wait for them to load their van (growing increasingly frustrated with each beer consumed), and then Ryan (the band’s lead singer, songwriter, keys player) suddenly wanted to do the interview in the noisy street while they were loading up their equipment. Finally, we ended up in the tour van itself. Me, Ryan, and fellow band member Cougar. "Chang" also made a brief appearance.
And between their exhaustion with having just played a show and then being obliged to talk to some guy who was visibly annoyed with them, no one especially wanted to be there. Still, I tried to make the best of the situation, sarcasm and all....
And what’s your name?
Ryan: That’s Cougar.
And that’s legal, right?
R: He’s from the Poconos – anything’s legal there.
(acknowledging that we’re sitting in the van) This is, uh, this is interesting...
R: This is a RENTAL van.
It’s nice, though. It’s a nice van.
R: It’s a RENTAL van.
Right...so, can you talk a little bit about how your band got started? You know, the really boring, basic stuff...
R: Well, we’ve managed to simplify that question, as far as an answer. How this band got started: sperm meets egg, egg goes bad. So there you go, there’s your answer.
Well, who did you have the key conversation with, where –
R: The devil.
Oh. That’s an okay answer. Great.
R: That was a terrible answer.
You should all know that I have the lowest expectations I’ve ever had for an interview.
R: Well, at least we’re on the same page. So, I can’t wait for you to ask me questions about Tom Waits.
Oh, the Tom Waits stuff’s coming up. I know there have been a lot of line-up changes, haven’t there? I really don’t know.
R: There’s been some shuffle.
Anything you attribute that to?
R: Well, you know, I’ve said it a million times, but there’s a huge draw to sleeping on floors and not making any money – that’s so appealing. Not being able to maintain any sort of relationships. Hitting rock bottom...all the time. Right Cougar? Cougar’s on board.
C: I love it.
R: He loves it!
What’s your real name again Cougar?
C: Uh, Russell.
Alright, I’m going to ask you a few questions about Philadelphia, as every music journalist is required to do. Are you guys excited, dismayed, etc. by Sylvester Stallone’s efforts to make another Rocky? Or do you not care at all?
R: Cougar’s actually an extra in it. He plays Burgess Meredith’s illegitimate son-
R: So Cougar’s actually 60 years old...I mean that’s his name and that’s what we call him (cougar).
I don’t have a problem with the name Cougar.
R: Just wanted to make sure.
I’m curious what both names are. Obviously there are two names.
R: He lives in the Poconos.
Alright, alright, alright, alright. I was going to ask you more about Philadelphia...
No, I’m not going to ask you more about Rocky.
R: Hey Chang! Chang! (calling outside the van) How do you feel about Rocky?
Chang: Uhhh, he’s a fuckin’ wimp.
I was going to do this free association thing, but...I don’t know if it’s going to work.
R: Why? We’re game.
R: I think so.
We’re gonna do it with both of you guys.
R: We’ll take turns.
So, the game is this: I’ll say a word –
R: We know how it works.
You know how it works?...And then you guys will go back and forth. Okay, ready? CAPTAIN BEEFHEART.
C: ...Me? I don’t know!
You have to say the first thing that comes to your head.
R: Potatoes...Oh, oh, so it’s supposed to keep going?
Yeah. Otherwise there’s no point.
R: Captain Beefheart...I thought you were going to toss out words and we were going to respond.
No no, the whole point is that I’m NOT involved.
R: Why don’t you jump in?
Okay. We’ll do it for the next one. So, I’ll say the first word and then we’ll do this rotation (CR to Ryan to Cougar, etc.).
R: Round Robin style.
Yeah yeah. Alright: LEGOS.
R: First thing?
We’re talking subconscious. First thing. First word.
R: First word?
First word, idea...
R: Ah man, I’m failing this one...
R: Tom Waits.
R: Frank Zappa.
R: The Residents.
R: Barenaked Ladies.
Alright, this is going to be the last one. We’re going to go in THIS direction (CR-Cougar-Ryan) now. And let’s NOT break the fuckin’ order this time. Okay: SAND.
R: Wolf Parade.
C: Uhhh, Waiters.
R: Wolf Eyes.
R: Is that a word??
I don’t think so. Can you spell that?
C: Aids Wolf.
R: Awww man.
I think we can end with "Aids Wolf." Who do you guys influence most?
R: Who do we influence most? Oh, holy shit. Is this still free association?
It can be whatever you want it to be.
C: Four to six-year-olds.
R: Four to sixty-year-olds?
C: Four to sixty-year-olds!
We’re going to tie it all together here: If Captain Beefhheart, Frank Zappa, and...Tom Waits....
R: What about ’em?
If they all got together and listened to your album, and then recorded an EP together, what would the EP be called?
R: "We Dug Up Frank Zappa and Got Arrested"... "Unlikely," that’s what the EP would be called. "Never Happening."
I was going to ask about the first album versus this one.
R: I think this one fuckin’ houses the first record. I think it’s way better. The crew is just stronger. I like it more.
When would you say you came up with your voice, or figured it out. ’Cause obviously you didn’t start singing that way – throaty stuff.
R: I can’t really say – I think that’s what it was. I realized my limitations, or I couldn’t sing. So I just screamed. I’m really bellowing – I think that’s where it comes from. But I don’t know. I just like the idea of this music, and also dragging my voice through the dirt.
You know guys, I wish I was more prepared for this interview.
R: Yeah, what the hell? Did you get stoned and just make up these questions? Can we get some shout-outs?
The tape’s rolling.
R: Cougar you got any shout-outs?
C: Can we play the association game again?
R: I got a shout-out for Tong. Islands. I Death.
C: I See Demons.
How do you know Islands so well?
R: Nick’s just a solid guy, so...
...Cool. Hey, well, thanks for the – I don’t know, you know I COULD try to come up with more questions here...
R: You can just e-mail us some questions.
I’m not – I don’t do that.
R: You can call me if you want to.
No, I don’t do that either. Only in person. I only want the full awkward moment.
R: Yeah, it’s definitely kinda awkward. At least you’re sitting in a van with us.
I’m just glad we’re not out back.
R: Wh-what’s going on out back?
R: Oh, I thought you meant something shady was going on out back.
Ummm, there’s obviously a strong performance element to what you guys do – all wearing the white shirts, doing the facepaint and all that stuff...
R: Where are you going with this...?
...is that something you’re tied to or where did that come from? You just wanted that element or –
R: The facepaint thing we don’t do all the time.
I just mean in terms of production value. There are a lot of theatrics.
R: There is?
Tons. Totally, from my perspective. I don’t think it’s a BAD thing.
R: We’re just feeling it, man. The white outfits –
You all happened to be feeling white shirts on the same day?
R: Cougar has the answer for that one.
C: I do?
R: It’s ’cause we’ve surrendered. Uhh, the white outfits were just so you focus on the music we’re playing and not necessarily what we’re wearing. That was the INITIAL idea.
Do you feel like it’s turned into something else?
Do you always wear white outfits?
Oh, okay. I didn’t know that.
R: And so do The Islands. That’s really our kinship.
C: That’s how we know them.
R: We were buying whites in the same store. And I found a shirt that Nick wanted, so...
Okay, I’m gonna fuckin’ end this thing, before it gets any worse.
R: Yeah, you need to get a gun and Ol’ Yeller style this thing.