Megan Jasper has a long and illustrious career here at Sub Pop Records. She started out as the receptionist, got fired and went to work for ADA (our distributor), and then came back and gave a million BJs all over the office in order to become GM and then VP of the Pacific Northwest’s premiere record label. After Megan had time to rest her jaw she sat down with me in her opulent, well-organized office to give me some insight into what makes her tick. Megan is a hilarious and generous lady, a consummate prankster, and a lover of huge rings who also makes wedding cakes in her spare time. I am proud to call her friend, boss lady, and cum dumpster. Let’s meet Megan!
L: You are most famous for your pulling the wool over the eyes of the New York Times and providing them with a totally bogus dictionary of grunge. Tell me a little about this—was it off the cuff? Did you giggle? Did you ever think it would haunt you for the rest of your life?
M: Actually they called Jonathan first but he re-directed them my way. [Yep, shirking responsibility—sounds like JP. –ed.] I wasn’t really expecting the call but it couldn’t have come at a better time. I was bored shitless and on my third pot of coffee. The kid asked me to tell him the lexicon, but I told him that it might be easier if he gave me a word and I provided the grunge translation. I wrote down a bunch of words that rhymed and mixed them up to come up with the answers but then I got bored and just started making up things that my friends and I used to say as jokes. I felt bad for him and tried to make each answer slightly more retarded than the last, but he never got it. I figured it would just be edited, but a few days later it was on the front page of the style section. At first I was trying not to laugh, but by the end of the phone call I was almost bummed that he just kept typing. Did I ever think it would haunt me for so long? God no!
L: You have a long, weird relationship with Dinosaur Jr. How did that begin? Tell me something strange about J. Mascis. Is he a practical joker? Why does he like purple?
M: I met J when I was in high school. J would show up at the same punk/hardcore shows that I went to. We used to call him, “Chemo Boy”, because he cut chunks out of his hair right to the scalp. Other strands were long and hung over the random, weird bald spots. He almost always wore the same shirt to every show, one with the Trix cereal rabbit holding up a box of the cereal saying, “Trix are for kids!” To be honest with you, we didn’t quite care for each other at first. I thought he was a freak and he thought that I was kind of gross. The first time he came to our house, he got in a screaming match with my mom. The visit ended with J standing at the front door yelling, “YOU’RE FUCKED!” to my mom and my mom then yelling to my dad, “JIMMY!!! DID YOU HEAR THAT? HE SAID THAT WE’RE FUCKED!” I don’t quite remember my dad responding. However, in time he became close friends not only with my sister but with the whole family and now we refer to him as, the “third Jasper sister.” [I see who got all the looks… -ed.] Whenever he and my mom are together, my mom will say that if you’re looking for J he’ll be in one of two places—to her right or to her left. Purple? I guess he just likes to celebrate the look of his shaft engorged with blood. Just kidding. I have no idea, but he’s been into it since I’ve known him.
L: You’ve worked at Sub Pop for a very long time, but a lot of people might not know that you were actually fired at one point at time. How does it feel to get fired, rehired, and promoted straight to the top?
M: It makes me feel a little bit like David Lee Roth.
L: Do you think that working in the music biz for so long has helped or hurt your love of music? How do you combat musical burnout? You’ve worked with a lot of bands on the label—who surprised you the most?
M: Working with people who love music is a gift. It’s like being in a library and realizing that you’ll never get to all of it. Stuart M made me an amazing comp once with all oldies, [Oh, God! I drove back from Portland with him one time and he made us listen to every Billboard #1. Through his laptop speakers. From the back seat. –ed.] Andy turned me onto PP Arnold and Bobby Charles, and Tony has given me a bunch of stuff that I never knew about too. That’s one of the best things about working with people who appreciate music—you get turned onto great stuff that might otherwise go unnoticed. I can’t imagine getting tired of music in the same way that I can’t imagine getting tired of any art form. [I’m so over mixed media. –ed.]
A lot of bands have surprised me in many different ways, but the most surprised I ever was by a band was when I saw the Yo Yo’s play in Texas with the Backyard Babies. Danny, The Yo Yo’s lead singer, got mad at the Backyard Babies and pulled down his pants (mind you, they were leather and he didn’t bring any other pants on tour with him—and he shat those pants numerous times on tour, so they were black on the outside, brown on the inside), shook up a bottle of beer, shoved the bottle into his asshole (his crack looked like a chocolate smile), and gave himself a beer enema. Almost as good as a GG Allin show.
L: Sub Pop’s 20th anniversary is tomorrow (April 1). What are the three things you’re most proud of here at the Pop? What are the three things you wish could’ve gone down differently?
M: Isn’t that fucking crazy? 20 years is pretty amazing. I’m most proud that Jonathan kept the label going—there were many times during the 20 years when he could have easily walked and lost a lot of stress. I’m incredibly proud of the label’s roster over the past two decades. We’ve worked with and continue to work with some of the smartest and most talented people out there. I’ve said before that Sub Pop is like a history book. It’s the artistic reaction and reflection to what’s been happening in the world for the past 20 years. I think it’s cool to work with a team of people, who care that those expressions are heard. And, thirdly, I’m proud of the staff. The people who work here constantly blow my mind with their creativity, humor, and dedication.
There are some things that would have been nice if they’d gone down differently—probably too many to even mention but those are situations that you learn from by taking the lessons to heart and moving on so that all of the upcoming lessons are new ones. [Yes, but these are the most interesting! –ed.]
L: You like to garden and seem you seem to know a lot about plants. What’s your favorite plant and why? How and when did this interest begin? Do you and Brian garden naked?
M: I love to garden. I didn’t know how much I loved it until I lived in a house with a yard. The yard had a couple of plants and a lot of grass. I didn’t know what kind of garden I wanted, I just knew that I wanted one. I went to a bunch of nurseries to find things that I liked and that might work in my yard. I also started reading gardening books so that I could learn more. Now, I walk around nurseries like they’re record stores, looking at each plant and reading about them. Trying to pick a favorite plant is like trying to list a favorite band—there are too many good ones. But I will tell you this: my favorite evergreen tree is a hinoki cypress, my favorite deciduous tree is probably a paperbark maple, and my favorite flowers are tulips, ranunculus, and peonies. Gardening naked? Sick. I prefer to keep my secret garden indoors.
L: You had a mohawk when you were a kid. Tell me about being an East Coast punker back in the day. Do you think kids have changed? Did you ever think you’d wind up doing marathons?
M: I was a little shit, crusty punk. I almost always carried a bottle of Aqua Net Super Extra Hold in my bag and I used to have to tilt my head sideways when I sat in a car so that the hawk could fit as well. Being a punk rock kid on the east coast was pretty great. There were a million bands that I got to see—X, The Circle Jerks, The Misfits, Negative Approach, SSD, The Bad Brains, Minor Threat, etc. They played all ages shows in Boston on Sundays. I became good friends with a bunch of those—J was one, Todd Cote was another, Crazy Adam, who drove an old pick up truck that had “Raw Power” on the front. Adam used to blast Johnny Cash songs, jump out of his truck and spin on his head. His favorite hobby was “scoopin’ tuna” on a Friday night. If he got some, he could hang with the guys on Saturday. [He sounds like a real catch. -ed.] Then there were the Meatgirls, a hilarious group of girls (with hair that that went to high hell and back) who decided that if the Meatmen could do it, so could they. One of them lives here in Seattle and books shows at The Comet. [Michelle? –ed] I was lucky to be around these people—they were a fucking blast and they were an escape from the douche bags, who were threatened by anyone (like me) who was abnormal. I don’t think kids have changed at all and I think I always knew that I’d at least run a couple of marathons. I used to go running when I was a kid (mohawk and all). I’m sure that it was quite a site.
L: Your mom once poisoned your dog Vito and Carly once pranked you in the Seattle Times by putting out an ad that said free Chihuahua puppies. Go ahead and tell everyone a dirty secret about your mom, Carly, and your dog.
M: Oh wow…this will be fun. Let’s start with my mom. You know that we were a dysfunctional Irish Catholic family. My parents made us go to catechism classes when we were kids. My mom was the principal and my dad was one of the teachers. After my class, I would go to the principal’s office to find my mom practically being man-handled by the priests. It’s not that they were digging for her lady-gold, they were drooling over her jewelry! I think she sniffed out every gay priest in Worcester and made each one her best friend. My mom told me that she believes that she has “fag hag” in her DNA. [Moms should not say fag hag. –ed.] She also claims to have passed it on to her two (and three if you count J) daughters.
And as far as Carly goes—her nickname for an entire summer was “Upchuck”. She was visiting Old Faithful and, feeling the spirit, started to projectile vomit in front of everyone. Also, her real last name isn’t Starr. That’s the name she took when she worked at the Lusty Lady. She’s got a bag full of nicknames! [I give you a golden opportunity and this is all the shit you give her? She half-heartedly tried to kidnap your dog the other day! -ed.]
L: Tell me why you hate these things: eggs, avocados, and squirrels.
M: I think eggs are super fucking gross. It’s kind of like eating a bird’s period. Sick. [If my period tasted good scrambled or deviled I’d eat the shit out of it. –ed.] Avocados have a nasty texture that grosses me out. I know that they’re good for you so I wish I liked them. Squirrels scare the shit out of me. I think it’s strange that people think they’re cute and harmless. They have sharp teeth and they’re unpredictable little beasts. Once in Boston Common a squirrel jumped on my lap to steal my bagel. I nearly had a fucking heart attack.
L: I just heard that Mark Lanegan beat you up in an elevator. What the fuck? And then you re-sign his band?!
M: I was working for Dinosaur Jr, selling merch. This is post-fire, pre-rehire and promoted—I’m thinking early ’92. The band had just played in NY and I sold merch for them. The Screaming Trees were recording in the city so Mark came out and met up with us. I think I had a few thousand bucks in my pocket and I made the mistake of bragging about it when I was in the elevator with Mark. As a joke, he tried to grab it and not as a joke, I tried to make sure that it didn’t leave my pocket. It turned into a bit of struggle that bled into the hotel lobby when the elevator doors opened. People crowded around a bit not knowing if it was a fight or just fun and then Mark split pretty quickly. I’m sure that it didn’t look good to anyone not knowing us. Mark is someone I first met over 20 years ago. I’ve always been a fan of his music and he is undeniably gifted as well as being a very decent person. Nobody sings like Mark and I’m super proud to work with him. [Plus, Megan likes getting hit by dudes. It’s her “thing”. –ed.]
L: And finally, what is the weirdest thing that you and JP have ever done together?
M: Definitely the dolphin meditation. [I’m not even going to say anything about this one. -ed.]