Carl Newman - 2002

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Carl Newman is a Canadian young man who has played in bands called Zumpano and Superconductor and is now the MASTERMIND behind The New Pornographers, a fantastic guitar-heavy bubblegum glam pop sextet with keyboards whom you might read about at if you like cuss words. The "`Nographers" are getting ready to release their second blockbuster CD and Carl (of the "Porns") was nice enough to agree to an email interview! With ME, of all bad choices! My questions are in bold; his answers (that is, Carl of the "Graphs") are in plain text.


I once tried to be in a band with only THREE people and it was a complete nightmare trying to teach the songs, write parts, deal with personalities, etc. How in the HELL do you manage to lead a SIX-PIECE!? Are you just amazingly patient or is everybody really nice and quick to learn the songs and write together?

Sure, there are logistical nightmares trying to co-ordinate people's schedules and whatnot. Musically, it is relatively easy because the band is a benevolent dictatorship, similar to the American government. It is acknowledged that this is my baby. I am the guy that usually cuts what doesn't work, always remembering that the song is more important than someone's hurt feelings over having their guitar line edited. In the end, some of the songs are mostly played by me, but then there are the songs that work because they were a total group effort. Whatever works. Everyone's got their creative outlet in other parts of their lives so the egos don't really clash very much. It helps that most of the band members are hot-shit players, particularly the rhythmn section. You gotta have a good rhythmn section.

I know you're tired of telling the story of how you came up with the band name. Would you mind making up a whole new story about its origin? Feel free to be as creative and/or plagiaristic as you'd like!

To make a long story short, the new pornographer is a revolutionary. He/she turns over the existing social structures so that pornography might mirror a better world, a sexier world. Dig?

Say, you're Canadian! You people don't think we all support President Bush, do you? Most of us think he's an arrogant asshole. A poll released today revealed that if an election were held today, he would lose to a Democrat. As an outsider, what is your view of this man and his delightful government?

I really, really dislike George W.. It's a tough call, but I think Rumsfeld is the biggest asshole. It fills me with the same outrage that most of the world feels. There were some good slogans at the Feb. 15th protests. "Stop Mad Cowboy Disease", that was one.

The guy who maintains my web site, Rich Bunnell, is the one who got me into your band. Usually he likes just CRAPPY music by LOUSY bands, so I didn't trust him when he sent me a copy of your CD but MAN was it good! You guys have "it." But that's taking me off the subject. The subject is this: Rich wanted me to ask you whether lyrics like "Letter From An Occupant" actually mean something or if they're just a bunch of words that sound cool together (like the Pixies and Pavement have been known to do). He wanted me to emphasize that it doesn't really matter because they sound great either way, but he was still curious. You?

Some of the lyrics have literal meaning. Some of them i just like the sound of. I've never cared about the meaning of lyrics, I'm more interested in the sound and the force that they have. T-Rex was a great lyricist but it was all meaningless, his lyrics were just a translation of the rock'n'roll soul that was there in the music. I don't know what a "letter from an occupant" is, but I'm hoping that I will figure it out at some point. It sounds like it must mean something. It simply must. "Centre For Holy Wars" seemed like mostly gibberish when I wrote it , but now I listen to it and it sounds like it's about 9/11, all that talk about buildings coming down, floating through the air, holy wars. Does that mean I'm a psychic that channels events before they happen and turns them into pop songs? Yes. I'm a genius.

What do you think about all these bands that certain people are lumping you in with - these new rock bands like the Hives, Strokes, Vines and White Stripes? Would you like to be lumped in with them on a regular basis? Or do you think they all suck?

Yeah, I like the Strokes and the White Stripes, but we rarely get lumped in with them. Sometimes we get lumped in with The Shins. That's a compliment. I love The Shins. That whole "rock revival" hype is stupid, just like "post-rock" hype was stupid and "grunge" hype was stupid. Though, if it means we'll sell a million records then the press is free to categorize us as much as they want. It's not my fuckin' headache.

Say, you're Canadian! Would you mind giving us a few words concerning your feelings about a few of my favorite Canadian bands? Here they are, with dashes next to them. Personal anecdotes encouraged!

- The Guess Who

I went to high school with Tal Bachman, he had that hit "She's So High" a few years back. He gave me a copy of the Union album, Randy Bachman's short lived eighties band. It had a great song on it called "Main Street U.S.A." It came with a sticker that I put on my binder. The Guess Who, they ruled. "These Eyes", that's a great song. So many great songs.

- Nomeansno

My sister lives in the boondocks (Lund, B.C.), right next door to (the drummer) John Wright's summer cottage. I stayed there over one Christmas. I had sex in his bed. With a girl. That's punk. They're a great band. Their guitar player used to live in the apartment right next door to me.

- Neil Young

What can you say? One of the all-time greats. I will not diminish him with my feeble words.

- Propagandhi

I know nothing of them, except that they exist and are popular and they're from Winnipeg.

- Dayglo Abortions

Please. They embody everything that is stupid and shitty about punk rock. Once Neko and I were getting interviewed on Joey (D.O.A) Shithead's internet radio show (why I don't know), and the Dayglos singer called in to talk to Joey. We had to sit there and listen to them shoot the shit for five minutes. That was a low point for me.

- Canned Hamm

I love these guys, they're pals of ours. The New Porn are on their upcoming tribute record "Karazma- Reimagined" Their Christmas show was amazing. The Baby Jesus as fat man doing yo-yo tricks. That is comedy.

- The Subhumans

I played one show in a Canadian rock tribute band with their drummer, whatever his name is. I think he went to jail for some political bombing back in the seventies. They were called the "Squamish Five" in the papers. Yeah, they were good. "Fuck You", that's a great song.

- Voivod

My high school friend Lena lives with their old bass player Blackie. She left her husband for him. They live in Montreal. Voivod were really good in their time, if you like prog-metal. Never been a HUGE fan of the prog-metal.

You have a new album on the way, right? What does it sound like? What's it called? When's it coming out?

The new album is called "Electric Version", coming out on May 6th on Matador Records in the U.S., Mint Records in Canada. It sounds like us. Shit, I don't know, it sounds like us playing an entirely new and different set of songs. There.

Are you worried at all about what the fan reaction to your second album will be? Like what if everybody hates it? Aside from financially, do you think this would hurt you? Or do you figure if it's good enough for you, then that's all that matters? The reason I ask is because I still sometimes get a really rabid piece of hatemail and it still depresses me and makes me doubt myself. Are you that kind of person?

Yeah, I'm totally that kind of person. Always worried about the reaction of fans. Spin and Rolling stone could praise us to the skies and I would still cry myself to sleep over something that a 15 year old skater wrote about us on his website. Matador seems to love our album, so that's a good sign. If people hate it, I will still go on, strive to be better. Business as usual. Ultimately, I just want to make records, try to make them as good as I can, and then move onto the next project, and not look back. So that's what I'm doing. I've started working on my own solo record and the next New Porn record, they should both be done within the year.

What the heck is it that you've been listening to your whole life that has helped you to have such a great brain for bubblegum melody?

I don't know. I've always loved pop music. Songs like "Daydream Believer" or "Happy Together" still make my heart soar when I hear them. I'm a sucker for that shit. For me, the song is in the way the chords and the melodies move, the rest of it is just fancy dressing. I think our songs are just fifty years of pop music thrown together haphazardly. Everything is an influence. Glam, bubblegum, new wave, indie rock, psychedlia, sixties garage, etc.., it all rules. You've got to have respect for the entire history of rock'n'roll. You've just got to.

What are you into besides music?

Been doing some yoga. Been jogging. Been trying to become a healthy person. Free my mind, in the hopes that my ass will follow. Shit, I spend a lot of time on music. I should get out more. I've even stopped smoking pot. I must have a few ounces of it here, you'd think I would smoke it. Someone's got to smoke this pot.

I read somewhere that you'd be happy to "sell out" for money as long as you didn't have to compromise your music. Basically, in my opinion, if you don't compromise your music, then you're not selling out. And even if you DO sell out, who gives a shit really if the music's still good. But my question is this: If a big huge record label promised you lots of money and promotion if only you'd change your name, since, in these desperate times, Americans don't need to be reminded of the horrors of pornography -- would you agree to do so? And if so, what would you change the name to? And don't say "Rush II" because that's totally cheating!!!

Change the name for a lot of money? Sure. I'm not married to it. I'd have to be guaranteed at least a million. I'd change it to......well, if someone was paying us enough, they could pick it themselves. How about Smash 18? That would be the worst name ever, I think.

As an alien in a strange land, what is your impression of America versus Canada?

They're just countries. We all know that people are the same wherever we go. Sadly, many Canadian politicians want to turn us into America. They think that business should be the guiding force in society, not realizing that Canada's best quality is a sense of social responsibility, however small it is.

What's next for the New Pornographers? I NEED TO KNOW!

Touring in June, July, and August, across North America, about six weeks all told. Another album finished by the end of the year. And then another. I expect we will be talking to many journalists.

Reader Comments (Hossein Nayebagha)
This interview goes to prove that anyone who plays in an indie pop band is a pretentious jerk-off, even when they try to imply that they don't take things too seriously by not too funny jokes.

I'm also suprised he likes the Strokes, they're a shit band. Is Carl Newman the guy who sings with that really annoying baby vox? If he is, then I like him less.

Anyway, I didn't notice this because more than half of the rockers that've been interviewed here are people I don't know too much about, but this is apparently from the earlier half of 2002, which is around the same time as his NP buddies were producing Tegan & Sara's brilliant second album. I think that's a good band, and that's the only reason why I became familiar with NP. I frequent their messageboard, so I could probably get them to vote them up on the Who's Next page, but I don't really wanna see an invation.

Anyway, I don't know...I think you should've said something rude to him at the end, Mark, so he doesn't feel too high-mighty about what he's doing.
Joey Shithead interrupts Newman's interview for five minutes to talk to a caller and "that was a low point"? What an epic tragedy! And he does mea culpa by saying "Neko and I were being interviewed by Joey Shithead for his radio show(WHY I DON'T KNOW)"(emphasis added)as if Joey is some silly little man that Newman needn't have trifled with. This guy makes Sting seem humble and down to earth!
Hey Uglytruth and Croationmeathead! What interview were you idiots reading anyway? Carl Newman is clearly a very reasonable and down-to-earth human being. You both seem FAR more high-and-mighty. Resent talent much?

(ps- I realize this all transpired at least two years ago. Whatever... Carl's a good guy and doesn't deserve this shit.)
I would endorse a motion for the rest of NP bandmembers to have Newman stuffed in a closet to avoid any public appearances where he might be tempted to open his mouth (take away his computer too) when not singing. I know physics doesn't work this way, but I hope there is a cumulative effect over time such that gravity might work on his head - before it taints the bands musical impressions.

Good Luck NP

(if no motion was passed, how about another interview to see if he has changed)
Hey, what's with the Newman criticism in these comments?

Do you guys really hate Canadians that much?

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