most people know james mcnew from his other band, the condo fucks (and yo la tengo). as long as he has been in yo la tengo, he has been making his own recordings under the name dump. dump songs have sort have been filtered into yo la tengo these days so he is less prolific. we interviewed dump + yo la tengo for chickfactor 8 back in the mid-90s and again later, but here we are doing it again! we love dump and gilmore tamny conducts the interview this time and asks some excellent Qs. ps. dump performs at chickfactor 21 on june 13 with the pastels, lois and jim ruiz set. he also plays with the condo fucks and the pastels on june 15 at maxwell’s!
chickfactor: what chickfactor show do you remember best? missed but wished you’d attended? any particular fond/joyful/amusing chickfactor memories?
james: I think I Ioved every one I ever saw, and I definitely loved playing at them. I saw a lot of them. getting to see nice at under acme was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. same goes for the georgia hubley trio at fez. versus were just bloodthirsty at the bell house last year (“another face”!). gail was really the only person who ever asked dump to play, and that always meant a great deal to me. I will always remember the sight of magnetic fields fans in the front row with their fingers in their ears while I played my opening set.
who else will be playing with you for the chickfactor show unless that’s ruining a surprise? are you getting besieged with requests?
that shit’s top secret.
how has your relationship with the dump songs (if it does) change over time? the things that you like/that bug you tend to be the same when you revisit?
I cringed a few times while putting together the reissues, but I guess everybody does that, like when you see old photos of yourself. unless you’re really good-looking. but I still liked most of the songs, or at least the ideas. I feel like I have gotten a lot better at writing songs since then, but I can still relate to old me. depression is timeless.
many are superstoked about superpowerless and I can hear music getting reissued—tell us a bit about how that came about?
I was approached by thomas moor of the/his moor music label, of berlin. I was already a fan of their catalog & bands; he was a fan of the dump records. I am always kinda surprised when anyone says that, since they were so difficult to find. I dragged my heels on doing the project until he finally convinced me. so I spent a LOT of time turning it into a deluxe package; bonus tracks, photos, a bunch of new artwork and a ton of new notes I wrote for them. there’s no doubt at least one frustrated moor employee will punch me one day. still, I am very happy with the results. I’m glad he thought of it.
I read once that charles barkley was so keyed up after his games that afterward he’d often vacuum the house to relax. do you have to do any such similar things after shows?
I love charles, so I’ll try that. I also heard he would get his lady friends to shave his head for him. normally I like to pretend like I didn’t just play, and get on with my life, then scrutinize it later.
I’d think touring so much would—if you were inclined—turn one into a bit of armchair sociologist/anthropologist, noting regional differences or ways fans interact, or bass player vs. guitar personalities, etc. any thoughts?
everyone, everywhere, is nuts.
who do you know or admire that might prompt you to say: “that gentlewoman or gentleman, __. _______ _______, has exquisite taste.”?
walt “clyde” frazier.
are there any human virtues you admire or weaknesses that depress you that, when manifesting themselves in music, make you admire/loathe even more? like: subtlety. or: showoffyness. or, the opposite?
traditional “weaknesses” like not being a virtuoso, or having an unusual voice or take on reality, can be total pluses. fearlessness, whether to express yourself or challenge yourself, or just in general, is definitely something to strive for. also, personally, I don’t like when artists supply me with answers. I like mystery; I don’t want them to tell me what their songs mean. I don’t even want a lyric sheet. I prefer to use my imagination and come up with my own meanings.
what show have you played that has most felt like a hallucination? place you’d like to play you haven’t (parthenon, etc.?)
many of them feel hallucinatory, if all goes according to plan. the shows I played as a member of man forever were all that way. I have been insanely lucky to play at some pretty sweet places. that said, I would like to play at an aquarium.
what’s your perspective on musical literacy? If it isn’t too nosey, how technically literate are you or have you had to become? how would you say or observed it being a help/hindrance?
not very. I have learned to do some stuff. I am mostly self-taught, and completely self-taught on bass (I learned by watching and studying the greats, namely sue garner). I took guitar lessons from age 9 to about 12. one day my teacher refused (in disgust) to teach me a van halen song, instead trying to get me to play some fingerpicky blues thing. That was it for lessons. Technical proficiency is by no means a prerequisite for great, important music. by itself, without feeling or ideas behind it, it’s just dumb. to me, few use it for good. But just to name some who do, glenn jones, william tyler, mary halvorson, tortoise and the boredoms all make music I absolutely love.
what non-musical (piece of?) art(s) has had the biggest influence on your music?
the work of jim woodring, for sure.
do you ever feel like you glimpse, out of the corner of your mind’s eye, some instrument not yet invented that you wish was? can you describe?
no, but I would love it if I could get a car horn that is not only deafening but is also a flamethrower.
would you ever—presuming you haven’t, pardon if my internet research skills are lacking—like to do some sort of sound installation à la christo or spiral jetty (etc.)?
oh, most definitely. when do you need it by?