a new james mcnew / dump interview!


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?

a new chickfactor interview with lois!



basically if olympia, washington, singer-songwriter lois maffeo isn’t there, then it’s not really a chickfactor party. even though we interviewed miss lois for chickfactor #5 back in 1994, we are interviewing her again! she performs at the bell house in brooklyn on thursday, june 13 with the pastels, dump and jim ruiz set, mc sukhdev sandhu and special guests.

interview by gilmore tamny (of the yips & wiglet fame)

chickfactor: tell us a bit about the last your experience playing the last chickfactor show yonder brooklyn? highlights? unexpected pleasures? things you’re looking forward to this time?

lois: there’s a reason that gail always calls her chickfactor shows parties. there is a togetherness on these nights that doesn’t exist on most (any?) festival bills. It’s like everyone there, bands and audience, has this connection through these shared loves. It’s really magical.

any dish on chickfactor or gail or pam you wanna share? gaudy nights? bank jobs pulled? musical japes not yet known to adoring chickfactor public?

gail o’hara and a magnum of veuve cliquot is a dangerous combination. the last time that lois and dump shared a bill, gail, james and I sat on some steps at NYU (or was it columbia?—editor) and drank this massive bottle of champagne in scavenged paper cups. needless to say, I don’t remember much about that show and fear my set may have been a disaster.

how do you view the songwriting process these days?

sadness and torment are such invigorating tools for songwriting. but handily enough, I have avoided them for a long time and as such, my output has languished. but I’m not complaining.

what are the upsides/downside to playing out less? what do you miss or how do you feel freed up?

I miss being lost. so often we would be on the outskirts of a city and running late and having to ask someone on the roadside how to get to the club. inevitably the answer was “just turn there by the kroger. you can’t miss it.” and lo, we missed it every time.

how has birdie’s variety changed/enhanced your relationship to inatmate objects? history/the past?

I’ll just note here that birdie’s variety is both the name of my fanzine and the once-a-year sale of recycled cookware and useful things that I hold. (this year it will be at the unknown in anacortes, washington, on july 20.) apart from helping people get their hands on non-toxic and durable cookware, the appeal of the birdie’s sale comes in writing the pricetags. that is where I get to detail my thoughts on each object. (see photos.)

Is there (a) holy grail or grails of objects you’d like to find?

I don’t really search for things. I like to just come across them. what I like about finding things in thrift stores is that a person donated the object so it could benefit someone else. and estate sales can be fascinating in the way they illustrate a life through the stuff that was acquired along the way. In short, there are other ways of establishing value beyond looking up the price of something on ebay.

do you feel like lovejoy with nose for authenticity?

Your question hits upon one of the few ye olde TV sleuths that I don’t follow!

any lois maffeo recipes for cobbler/pesto/drinky-winkies you can share?

just some advice: grow herbs and put them in everything.

any artists (bands/writers/painters/what have you) of late that are driving you wild?

I’ve been listening to troubadours like idiot glee and karl blau, studying the songs of leslie bricusse & anthony newley, rocking out to hot hooves and faithfully following jarvis cocker’s sunday service on BBC 6. and gail introduced me to connie converse and molly drake who both made these spare and perfect songs that get right to the heart of things.

gilmore tamny wrote a novel, my days with millicent, which is being serialized on-line, and has a tumblr of line drawings here.

photograph by tae won yu

thalia zedek: chickfactor interview


thalia zedek is kind of an indie-rock bad-ass. before she formed come with chris brokaw, she was in uzi, live skull and dangerous birds. this spring, she is touring solo to support her new thrill jockey release via, and then touring with come as matador gets ready to reissue 11: 11 in may. gilmore tamny (from wiglet/the yips) managed to ask thalia a few questions to get the dirt.

chickfactor: any opinions on the “roadrunner” official song for massachusetts?

thalia: I’m all for it. I think that jonathan richman is an american icon right up there with woody guthrie and massachusetts should take advantage of the bragging rights

cf: touring for via with low (portland, san francisco, etc.) coming up and then I think with the come reissue—sounds like a great lineup. Any plans beyond the spring or later with come?

I have got some new material that I’m really excited about working on and hopefully recording in the near future. I don’t want to wait 4 years this time!

cf: what do you like/love/find not awesome/hate about touring?

I love traveling and looking out the window from a van, meeting new cool people and exploring new cities. and reconnecting with old friends. what I don’t like is flying and club promoters who don’t appreciate musicians and the effort that it takes to tour.

cf: writers like to talk about their writerly routines and I’m curious if you have a particular sort with song-writing or practicing. is it cyclic? daily? inspiration based? do you work better under looming deadlines or slogging along day-in/day-out (etc.)?

I’m definitely inspiration based but looming deadlines definitely speed up my process. I find that sitting down and just noodling around on my guitar is how most of my songs start out. sometimes finishing them is a problem for me!

cf: how do you write the lyrics for your songs? go they come first/second or hatch as the song does? who are some of your favorite lyricists?

lyrics pretty much always come last for me, but on the rare occasion that the music and words come at the same time, that is truly magic and those songs are my favorite. some of my favorite lyricists are nick cave, leonard cohen, vic chesnutt.

cf: first few favorite-favorite songs as kid/young person?

“the boxer” by simon and garfunkel. I used to sing the La Di Li part over and over again!

cf: are there any artists–books, painters, dancers, whatever–that you would say have influenced you a lot in last 10 years?

carla bozulich is doing some really cool things these days. she used to be in geraldine fibbers but has a new project now called evangelista that has put out a lot of cool records on constellation records. I find her music and her work ethic really inspiring!

cf: tell us a little about the recording process for via. I imagine you are pretty technically conversant at this point with so much recording under your belt. what sort of sound were you looking for, if you had an idea ahead of time, and then how you went about executing it?

we worked with andrew schneider again as the engineer and producer. I personally think he is a genius. he just makes us sound like us and sounding natural in the studio is actually no mean feat. I wanted the record to sound warm and deep, but I don’t really like getting into the technical aspects of it. it’s just not my thing so  I just try and record with really talented engineers.

cf: is there any show you were dying to see that you are still kicking yourself for having missed?

I had the chance to see rowland howard perform in melbourne in 2005 but I was too jetlagged and exhausted from touring to make the show. he has since passed away , and I really really regret not seeing him that night. he was a big influence on my guitar playing.

cf: how many guitars do you own? What are some of your favorites?

4 electric guitars and 1 acoustic. I have a tele deluxe that I used on the early come records and two black hagstrom I guitars. also a pale blue kalamazoo. my first hagstrom which I got as a birthday gift from a bunch of my friends in the ’90s is my favorite. they knew that I had put a down payment on it and they pooled together the rest and gave it to me for my birthday. it was amazing!

cf: is there any folk music from a region or tradition you particularly dig?

rebetica, which are greek “hash songs,” indian music, as well turkish and romanian music too.

cf: what are some things you do outside of playing music that best ‘feed’ your music? I mean, like: biking? reading? watching bad TV? cooking? etc.

I love cooking, especially BBQ in the summer and biking around!

cf: I know you’ve done some volunteering with girls rock camp boston. could you talk a bit about your experience?

it was great. I volunteered at the first boston rock camp for girls as a guitar instructor and band coach and also at a ladies rock camp as a band coach. kids love making noise so it was a lot of fun to encourage them to thrash away and see them just break out with these huge smiles! I also discovered what I had already suspected, that I’m not that great at teaching people instruments. I’m a great band coach though!

cf: short list of places you’d like to travel, either touring or not?

lithuania, latvia, indonesia, new zealand, israel for a start. china and japan too!

cf: I’ve always thought you were a very stylish gal. any influences in that area? anyone whose style you admire?

thanks! ’70s-era mick jagger meets goodwill is what I’m going for. not sure if I’ve achieved it or not.

cf: do you have any animal cam weaknesses?

I love to watch baby seals frolic!
photograph by lana caplan