Oh man, oh man have I got a treat for you guys this week! That’s right, ladies and germs—this week’s People Who Work Here has scored an interview with the Big Cheese, the Head Honcho, the Captain of the SS Sub Pop—Jonathan Poneman himself! Jonathan is an elusive creature who darts in and out of the office at odd hours, travels to work via handsome cab, and lives in an underground bunker on his own private island. Okay, I lied about all of that, but I would describe Poneman as a mysterious and highly intelligent dude. JP has a couple of Boston Terriers, he doesn’t eat meat, he goes to lots of rock shows, and as far as I can tell, he doesn’t do drugs anymore even if he does threaten to treat us all to some of Bruce Pavitt’s homemade PCP from time to time. Let’s meet Jonathan!
L: You still into this for this week?
J: Hell, yeah. It’s like the therapist’s couch. I’ve noted how people in the office seem elevated after laying their burdens down during these sessions. I, for one, have deep, ugly secrets that have been gnawing at me for years… [I should really start upping my rates. –ed.]
L: Tell me about Jonathan Poneman age 13-18. What were you into? What was you home life like? What did you want to be?
J: I was a nice kid. My first job at age 13 was pumping gas at Rick Lawrence’s Gulf station in Toledo, Ohio. I sold a tiny bit of drugs on the side. [Once a businessman, always a businessman. –ed.] I remember going swimming at Centennial Quarry after smoking a joint of angel dust with my buddies. I thought that I had miraculously grown gills! That was an idyllic summer. By the time I was 18, I was pumping gas at Gary McDonald’s service station in Bellingham, Washington. I soon moved on to cleaning up the parking lot at the late, great Samish Drive-In Theatre. It was all meaningful preparation for my present duties here at Sub Pop!
L: When did you move to Seattle? Why did you come out here and what was it like then?
J: I moved to Seattle 28 years ago at the age of 19. My then-girlfriend had broken up with me because she was through with dating teenagers. (She had just turned 21.) [Yeah well look who’s laughing now! –ed.] I moved down from Bellingham and secured a one bedroom apartment on the south side of Queen Anne Hill…$210.00 a month. I worked for a company called Textured Yarn Arts. We used butane lighters to fuse together huge spools of synthetic yarn. Very technical. And some serious huffing! Seattle was smaller and far more charming then. But I actually prefer Seattle now. I prefer it if for no other reason than it is “now”. Nostalgia is a waste of time—unless one is trafficking in Grunge for aging X-ers. Then it—nostalgia—is a meaningful diversion. [Also known around the office as a “cash cow” –ed.]
L: How old were you when Sub Pop became super famous? Did that notoriety change you in any fundamental way?
J: Super fame changed fundamentally. From my perspective, Sub Pop was already “super famous” before I even got involved. Bruce put out cassettes, the Sub Pop 100 compilation album and “Dry As A Bone” before I came knocking, hat-in-hand. He was already a media magnate and I was just another morose dirtbag with a crummy band. Frankly, I feel like I’ve been the luckiest person in the world. Getting to work with and be around what’s happened musically in this city over the years has been a gift that keeps on giving. Kind of like an open chancre sore!
L: You travel a lot-what’s your favorite place and why?
J: First, listen to my concept: I think old cities in the High Plains, Midwest and the North Central states are where it’s at. Great, forgotten art museums, ghostly, dilapidated-yet-still-majestic neighborhoods and easy on the wallet. Why I like it so much that I’ve decided to move the company to Saginaw, Michigan. Get packing…
L: What do you think you will be doing in the next five years?
J: Introducing Grunge to my buddie’s grandkids. From dust to “Dust”.
L: What’s your favorite food?
J: Pet. Besides that—hmmmm. Is Nardil a food group? [I googled it so you don’t have to! -ed.]
L: Please tell me the secret to your success.
J: Surrounding myself with the most lovable, smart and talented people that a person can hope to know. [Aw shucks. –ed.]
L: What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you?
J: Ah, the questions have gotten serious. Hmmmm. Losing my father and nearly losing Sub Pop during a two week period in 1997. Kurt Cobain’s death was super hard. It’s not like I was close to him in the years leading up his death. But it was a transformative event that hit me hard. Very profoundly. Largely because it was so traumatizing to our community. I contrast it to Chris Takino’s passing which, while being very sad, immediately inspired so many acts of love and altruism. [No wonder you need the Nardil. –ed.]
L: What’s your favorite newish band and why?
J: There is this band, Foals, on the Transgressive label in the UK. I heard some of their new stuff recorded with David Sitek of TVOTR. Really some of the most compelling recordings that I’ve heard in ages. Besides that, I listen to stuff all the time that I get excited about. But if an artist’s name has more than one syllable, I may as well be memorizing the Vedas. I have a shoddy memory for names.
L: Tell me a funny story about Mark Arm.
J: Mark Arm is no laughing matter.
L: Knock knock.
J: Who there?
L: A pile up.
J: A pile up wh…hey!
Feel free to log-in and ask JP any other questions you’d like answered that we may have missed in this quick interview. Sample questions include things like “how much money do you make?” and “when did you lose your virginity?”. Please, ask away!
The Go! Team, whose really very excellent new album Proof of Youth we at Sub Pop just released last week here in the US of A, have put together a great documentary about their band and their new record. Directed by Bob Jarocs, this film really captures the exuberant cut-and-paste spirit of the band – it’s enthused, raucous, fun and occasionally funny. And, there is lots and lots of jumping; rampant jumping on a scale you might have previously, and not unreasonably, thought unattainable.
The first part of this film was recently posted on Youtube and you can check it out here. The entire film is somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 minutes in length, so they had to chop it into pieces for consumption on the internets. The subsequent portion(s) of the film will be posted subsequently (you’re welcome).
This week People Who Work Here travels to the far away lands of the cubicle right next door to bring you Angelina Saez, Sub Pop’s resident accounting/ticket buy lady. If you are a vendor she is the lady who types up your invoices and if you work at a venue where Sub Pop bands play, she’s the one who hands over our credit card info to purchase the tickets that we give to our contacts. Angelina talks on the phone a lot and I sometimes hear her arguing with her Greek boyfriend about whether or not they are going to happy hour. Okay, this really only happened once but it sticks out in my mind for some reason. Let’s meet Angelina!
L: Where did you work before Sub Pop? What was the best thing about it? What was the worst?
A: I worked at Hurley International as the Northern California merchandiser and freelance fashion stylist. It was good because I was able to travel all over the country to locations I probably wouldn’t have otherwise for free working on photo shoots and work out of home (by home I mean 400 sq ft studio) in San Francisco. The worst part was that I did styling for Eddie Bauer a bunch and it was really hard to make the frumpy clothes look like fashion pieces. Then with Hurley I had to drive to Modesto and Sacramento from my San Francisco apartment. It sucked to be in my 87 Integra on the open road for hours at a time and the scenery was less than thrilling.
L: How would you describe your personality?
A: It’s almost like I have a split personality. At Sub Pop I am pretty reserved and try to exhibit good behavior. In my personal life I’m a crazy mess and my friends love me and hate me all at the same time. I’m very opinionated and love to give advice (often not warranted) [I’ll say! –ed] and have a need for organization, cleanliness, and for things to be pretty. [She put wrapping paper on her cubicle walls b/c they were too green. –ed.] So, I am probably a high maintenance beeaaach to say the least.
L: If you could change one thing about who you are what would it be?
A: To not be so uptight. I’m not sure when it happened, but all of a sudden I became a cross between Martha Stuart and Madonna (the current one, not the one who wrote the sex book.) [I’m glad we’re not dating. –ed.]
L: You’ve often referenced your old partying ways—tell me more about this. What does partying mean to you?
A: I grew up in Auburn, WA and small towns are crazy. I wasn’t much of a drinker, but my friends were into experimenting. We spent a good deal of time picking mushrooms and tripping around town. Whoever thinks raising kids in a small town is a good idea has obviously never been to Auburn. Then I turned 21 and it was like this crazy lady, I named her Shelia, popped out of nowhere and apparently had to make up for lost time. Shelia watched the sun rise way too many times and it started to take a toll on my youthful glow. Luckily vanity took over and the bags under the eyes lost out to eye cream and the cigarettes had to go because they age your skin and can give you fine lines around the mouth. I don’t think there’s been any permanent damage [Are you sure? –ed.] because I can think clearly and often make complete sentences. All and all I wouldn’t change any of it, well except for one incident, but I’m not about to delve into that. I’m grateful that my own experiences have made me more open to and less likely to judge others for what they decide to partake in because I’ve probably done it myself.
L: You just bought a house—is this the craziest thing you’ve ever done? Did you save up a ton of money? Is it scary?
A: I think it’s the sanest thing I’ve ever done, because I didn’t really do anything but find it. My boyfriend, Minos (yes, he’s Greek and no we don’t do it in the butt, Lacey) [Then he’s not really Greek… -ed.] is the one who actually purchased the house I am just going to decorate it. I love to make things look pretty and can’t wait to start beautifying. [Here’s a small piece of advice—do not put wrapping paper on all your walls. –ed.] I’m not crazy like having special sets of dishes for every occasion, but I almost get a rush when putting together a room. It’s crazy. [Yes, I’ve seen this on that show Intervention—the ladies who are shopaholics look crazier than your run of the mill crackheads. You might want to get this checked out… -ed.]
L: You also teach yoga—tell me how you got into yoga and how one becomes a yoga instructor. Do you yell at people when they’re doing it wrong?
A: I was in SF working for Hurley and I decided that California just wasn’t my thing. I immediately quit my job, started packing and returned to good old Seattle. Once back I had an anxiety attack and the reality of what I’d done started setting in. Realizing I’d quit a great job without another one lined up and had zero health insurance the obvious thing to do was teach yoga. [Obviously. –ed.] I found a teachers training program and signed up. You have to complete 250 hours of training on the various postures, pranayamas, and history of yoga that is determined by the Yoga Alliance. I don’t teach Bikrim, that is the more aggressive yoga that can have yelling. I’m not really into that. I mainly teach flow which allows me to combine a bunch of different methods and I love my students to much to yell at them. You should come to my Saturday class at 11, you’ll love it. [It’s not really my thing—I like yelling. –ed.]
L: What’s your favorite band ever?
A: I am a total sucker for the one hit wonders. I’ve purchased several albums based on the one hit and have been fooled time and time again. [What’s that saying about crazy is repeating the same thing and expecting different resuts? –ed.] I’m the friend that plays the same album over and over again without ever getting sick of it (even if you do). [I would kill you. –ed.] I love Gish from the Smashing Pumpkins, but I can’t say there my all time favorite band. [So, you’re not stoked for Zeitgeist? –ed.]
L: What’s your favorite band on Sub Pop?
A: Postal Service (I’ve had it in the car CD player since it came out and still love it)
L: What rockstar would you show your jugs to?
A: Who hasn’t seen them? Kidding. I’m not really a breast flasher. Until my 30’s I didn’t really have breasts then out of know where I had to start wearing a bra. What the crap? [That’s totally bogus. Did you finally get your period, too? –ed.]
L: Please tell me about your very first day of high school. What were you like then?
A: I was just looking at my senior annual [ie. Yearbook. -ed.] and I have apparently gone into denial about what my eyebrows used to look like and that the 90’s were way cooler than the 80’s. I could’ve (and probably still can) give Brooke Shields a run for the money and the fashion wasn’t as cute as I made it in my head. My first day of high school was easy since I had friends already attending (never date boys in your grade, always go for the older) [Friends, eh? –ed.]. Auburn High had about 3000 students so there were friends for everyone and lots of parties and kegs in the woods. I have a fondness for high school, but skipped the reunion in 2003. Maybe 2013 I’ll check it out.
L: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
A: Back in my Diesel jeans from age 25, I can barely get them over my thighs, but I will by Christmas, come hell or high water! (I don’t think Diesels are even in fashion anymore, but I am very serious.) [I couldn’t tell you either. My jeans have a tummy tuck panel sewn into them. No shit. –ed.]
L: Please tell me if you plan on having babies and why or why not?
A: No babies, no babies, no babies! Well, not in the immediate future. Kids are great, but the whole growing inside you like a parasite really freaks me out. I like the idea of being a foster parent and giving some of the kids in there teens a chance to have a safe home and get them into a good college. Plus if I’m going to work hard to get back into my damn Diesel jeans, I don’t need any extra pounds and you can’t drink for nine months and that is too committal for me right now.
L: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: Never assume anything. I try not to, but the damn Western mind (learned about this in yoga school) just starts racing through a ton of scenarios and then I’m totally worked over and hiding in a closet in the fetal position. I am really working on this and hope to find serenity. Serenity now!! [Your adoption plans just went down the tubes, lady! -ed.]
L:Guess a number between 1 and 10.
A: 11 is my lucky number, but since it’s not an option how about 2? [Nope. –ed.]
Chad VanGaalen, history’s most talented and charming very tall Canadian person, currently recording for the Sub Pop Records Entertainment Group of Seattle, Wash., was very recently nominated for The ECHO Songwriting Prize. For the uninitiated, The ECHO…
“…is designed to identify what’s next and what’s best in current independent music. The prize honours (sic) some of the most innovative, creative and artistic songs created in the past year by emerging songwriters in Canada. Five songs, determined by a panel of respected, knowledgeable tastemakers in the music community, are posted for you to listen to and vote on. The writer(s) of othe winning song will receive a $5,000 CDN cash prize. You can vote for your favourite (sic) once a day, from now until the deadline of 4:59 p.m. on September 28, 2007.”
Anyone even passingly familiar with Chad’s excellent 2006 release Skelliconnection or his equally fantastic 2005 album Infiniheart will find themselves with ample reasons here for unabashed ballot box stuffing.