After a long, lazy hiatus People Who Work Here is back and this week we’d like to introduce you to Sub Pop’s one and only piece of international flair—Richard Laing from Scotland, Wales! He’s got this crazy Scottish accent and I am constantly asking him to repeat himself, partly for fun but mostly because I really have no idea what he’s saying. One day when we are all sending around lame jokey work emails with photos of infected dicks and links to other funny stuff, Richard replied with a youtube link to—get this—a Scottish stand up comedian telling jokes about blood sausage or how mean your lass is when you come home pissed after hanging out on the moors with the hounds of the Baskervilles. Needless to say, I didn’t get it. Anyhoo, up until recently Richard always had the best lunch in the office but he had an unfair advantage—his mom was making it. Click this and then let’s meet Richard!
L: You started off as an intern a long while back but now you do something in the sales department. Tell me what that is and how you got the job. Who do you like working for better, Carly or Andy?
R: I work in the Sales department with Dean and Andy mainly trying to ensure that Sub Pop records are available, visible and attractively priced in America’s fine and not so fine record stores. I got a job after spell interning and then temping at Sub Pop, then working for ADA (Sub Pop’s distributor). I’d like to think my incredible work ethic, effervescent personality and golden ears made me an irresistible choice, but the forces of convenience and pity were probably influential too. [That or the fact that “Scottish” was the only available minority in Seattle. –ed.] Carly and Andy have both been really great to me. I like working for Andy better though because it’s a real job, not an internship.
L: People give you a lot of shit about being from Scotland but I’m sure it’s really cool there what with the golf and all the delicious foods and town drunks and stuff. Name five ways that Scotland is better than the US.
R: To be honest, you are the only one who gives me shit about being from Scotland. [That’s what you think, bub. I just do it to your face. –ed.] I tend to avoid getting the gush about Scotland, mainly to preempt the inevitable “why don’t you fuck off back there then?” The funny thing is, after being born in Edinburgh, I spent the first 5 or so years of my life living in Nashua, NH. [Where the fuck is that? –ed.] When we moved back to the UK, I had an American accent and kids used to make fun of me and ask me to “speak American”. After developing an English accent, we moved up to Scotland where the only thing less desirable on your first day of school than ginger hair [Is this Scottish for pubes? –ed.] is an English accent, so I quickly got rid of that too. I’ve ended up with a pretty appropriate transatlantic accent. [If by transatlantic you mean even your own people can’t understand you then yes! –ed.] Anyway that’s not what you asked. Scotland is better that the US in the following categories: Castles, Drunks, Slang, Affordable Golf and Sausages. [Is Affordable Golf and Sausages a real place? –ed.]
L: I heard your dad has a killer record collection—is this true? Is this what got you into music? Did you always want to work in the biz?
R: My Dad had a pretty awesome collection of vinyl circa 1967-1973. There was a bunch of first pressings of classic records and 45s and then some weirder forgotten gems (and some garbage). I started digging in that stuff when Britpop was “happening”. A lot of bands were being referenced at that time that I remembered seeing in my Dad’s collection (Small Faces, the Who, the Kinks, Beatles etc.). I’d rummage through, stay up late and explore that stuff. Without that resource I probably wouldn’t care about music as much as I do. My friends’ idea of great music was the Stardust vs Madonna “Music Sounds Better on Holiday” mash up, so most the music I checked out was either through my Dad’s record collection, Mojo or late night Radio 1. From then I wanted to be involved in music, but it just didn’t seem possible. I didn’t know anyone who was in a band (except the Seamen [I am chuckling. I can’t help it. –ed.] who would cover the Red Hot Chili Peppers at school band nights) or anyone who had a job in music (except a friend of my Dad’s son who played guitar in the Exploited). [Crap! How did I forget to ask you about that!? –ed.] It wasn’t until I visited Seattle that working in music even seemed possible.
L: Did you graduate from college? Here or there? What kind of degree do you have?
R: I graduated from Manchester University in England, with a BA in Economics and Sociology. [Yep, that’s sales! –ed.]
L: You worked/work(?) with KEXP quite a bit. What did you do for them? Have you met John Richards? Do you like him?
R: I still work there once or twice a month on remote broadcasts (usually a live show from a club in town) as a “production lead”. I’ve been involved with KEXP for almost all the three and a half years I have lived in Seattle. I’ve answered phones, been a production intern, board operator, CD reviewer, made tea for moderately successful bands etc. I have met John Richards, but only a few times. He’s always been really friendly (I can recall him tolerating my anecdotes about the Mountain Goats and jobbies). He’ll be a legend if he calls his second kid Gabe though. [This is an obscure reference to the band Juno. Weird, Richard. –ed]
L: You are somewhat of a pun master. How did that happen and do you think you can stop?
R: I think to be a “master” you need better quality control. Here’s one last one, then I’m done, Lazy Swine. [Ugh. –ed]
L: I know you play soccer and that you’re a good golfer (Scotland, duh) but what else do you like to do for fun?
R: I’m pretty obsessed with soccer (or football [Why don’t you fuck off back there?! –ed.] as I used to call it). I play twice a week and watch games at the weekend and sometimes Champions League games at lunch during the week. [No lie—Richard was watching soccer on the clock today and we all heard him gasp like a woman from the other room! –ed.] I also play guitar in a band we call Weightless (we recently lost our rhythm section which makes the name even more fitting). [Does that qualify as a pun? I thought you were done. –ed.] We’re just finishing up a little EP (is it still extended play if it only takes up a third of a CD?). Beyond that I like the same things everyone else does fine foods, walks in the park, being held, sandwiches etc. [Is this a things white people like joke? –ed.]
L: Tell me something that people say that really drives you crazy. For instance, I hate it when people say “I love live music!” I mean, that just barely means anything….
R: “I’m going to design a garment that combines the utility belt and the kilt” and “My bad”.
L: Who is your favorite coworker?
R: That’s a hard one – I like almost all of the people that work here. [You better start naming names and quick. –ed.]
L: What’s the next step for Dick Laing in this crazy thing we call life?
R: The past few years have been pretty unsettled, so it’s been nice to have a routine of awesome things going on. My ambitions have been pretty modest (e.g. the other day I was thinking how rad it would be to be the first person on the express lane on I-5 after they switch directions). I’m not very good at making plans, so I mainly try and listen to my gut. My gut isn’t saying much more than “what’s for dinner bro?” so I’ll keep stepping in the same directions. [Woah man—what a long strange trip it’s been. –ed.]
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!!! DIDYOUHEARTHAT? HE SAIDTHAT 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.
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.]
One of the greatest joys of People Who Work Here is introducing you to our newest employees in a timely fashion. These interviews are — let’s face it — great reading for you, but they’re also a useful and powerful tool for Sub Pop staffers to get to know our new coworkers so that we can commence harassing them in better, more effective ways much more quickly than ever before. Mona D is our newest addition to the Sub Pop radio promo staff and she’s a nice little thing who is paying way too much for a studio apartment in Capitol Hill. Mona has only been in Seattle since January, and I think she’s a vegetarian and I know that she likes to drink vodka sodas. Let’s meet Mona!
L: Mona, welcome to Sub Pop! You have been here for about two months now—how do you like it? What is the most surprising thing about working here? (This can be anything from ‘I had no idea you guys worked in cubicles’ to ‘Who knew that people in Seattle were so racist!?’)
M: I think Seattle is actually hell of rad (you can take the girl out of California…). [I always thought it was ‘hella’. I guess you get to church it up a little if you have a Masters, though. –ed.] There are a ton of good record shops and bars here, and the weather is actually kinda nice these days. The most surprising thing about working here? To be honest, I wasn’t expecting such a high percentage of the staff to be married or own a house or have kids or all those adult things…I was more expecting to walk in on people doing hell of drugs in the bathrooms. I’m definitely not disappointed that it’s babies over blow here, just a bit surprised. [For the record, most of the staff does drugs with their babies at home, not at work. –ed.]
L: What have you been doing in your free time? How do you find Seattle? Do you pretend you live in England on account of the grey? That’s what I do….
M: I’ve pretty much been doing here what I do in every town…chain smoke, listen to records, and wander around town (Ballard and Capitol Hill both seem pretty awesome so far). I’d like to start DJing again soon, ‘cos that’s pretty fun too. Seattle reminds me a lot of San Francisco but without all the pretension. Sometimes I do pretend it’s England though, and I say ‘cor blimey’ and ‘bollocks’ a lot…until I get punched in the face, and then it’s not fun anymore. [You should lay some of that cockney shit on Richard the Scotsman—he looooves it. –ed.]
L: Please tell me about Mona D in high school. I see you have some Souxsie and the Bashees stuff at your desk—were you goth? Would you consider yourself goth presently? Wait, fuck it, what’s your favorite band?
M: Mona D in high school was pretty goth if you consider a Robert Smith hairdo, 20 eye docs, and black lipstick ‘goth.’ I never wore a cape thankfully, but I did used to recite poetry with my best friend at midnight on the weekends…it was some next level loserdom. I don’t think I’m still goth (do I still seem goth?), [Sure, a little. –ed.] but I still love all that music…Bauahaus, Christian Death, Virgin Prunes, Sisters of Mercy…so good! My favorite band? The Smiths…hands down. Best band of all time. Though I’ve been obsessing over Richard Hawley for a while now too. [He’s really great—you should check him out for sure. –ed.]
L: Tell me about the first show you ever saw—mine was Bob Dylan and Tom Petty at the Southern Star Amphitheater with my mom and dad, followed shortly thereafter by The Monkees reunion tour where Weird Al was opening for them. Do you think that your first musical experience shaped your life in any fundamental way or was it just blah?
M: My first show was Thompson Twins and Cyndi Lauper at the Lawler Events Center in Reno, NV. [It’s too hot to wear a cape in Reno! –ed.] I was in the 1st grade and my sisters dragged me out and made me wear INXS cycling shorts, that were in fact pants on me ‘cos I was so short. I don’t remember much of it, but I think it definitely shaped my musical tastes…I still love a good synth track any day, and I still wear cycling shorts all the time…especially when I go to shows.
L: You used to live in London—what were you doing there? Did you pretend to live in Seattle on account of the grey? I hear you have some hot shot British boyfriend—lay it on me, sister.
M: London is where I got my Masters and worked at a bunch of radio stations. [Well la ti da! Look at the big brain on Mona! -ed.] BBC 6 Music was my favorite station I worked at, ‘cos at the time it was super new and the DJs got to take a lot of risks…it seemed to kind of have this John Peel ethic where they’d play loads of stuff from all different genres old / new that weren’t heard on other stations…like you’d hear Lord Kitchener into Gang of Four into the new one from Futureheads into Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band into Half Man Half Biscuit. It ruled!
L: You are from Reno and I am going to Reno in the near future. What should I do for fun?
M: Dude…where to begin!? You must stop by Pneumatic Diner they have some really tasty vegan/vegetarian treats…try the Princess Erin Shake: it’s a ridiculously delicious drink with chocolate, coffee, espresso bean, and ice cream goodness). Um…Recycled Records is pretty cool and my favorite casino to gamble at is the Atlantis…might I recommend the Double Double Bonus Poker machines…play nickels, 5 credits at a time and play slowly so you keep getting free drinks before you lose all your money…if you are lucky you might even win and get paid to drink…pretty exciting stuff. (Note to editor: If you and your dude wanna skip the fancy wedding you have planned, you can do a quick one at the trashy chapel downtown called White Lace and Promises …you can call it White Lacey and Promises if you like.) [Oh, I like! –ed.]
L: Please tell everyone what the day to day life of a college radio promoter is like. Are you going to stay with radio or would you like to do something else?
M: My days are always different, but they usually include stuff like talking to music directors …setting up studio sessions…putting people on ‘the list’ for shows…mailing out records…bringing joy to people’s lives one day at a time. I’m basically a pusher, but my product isn’t gonna cause anyone to lose their day job, or their teeth. I’ll probably stay with radio for a while…I wouldn’t mind being an astronaut either. [Is that what your Masters is in? Astronautism? –ed.]
L: What is the worst injury you’ve ever had? Do you do drugs?
M: I’ve been pretty lucky and haven’t had any crazy inuries…I did land on a rock once when I jumped into a lake and had to get stitches in my knee. But that wasn’t too bad. Why would ask if you I do drugs? I don’t. Do you? Is that the right answer? [You seem a little paranoid, Mona. –ed.]
L: Can you tell me a good joke? If you had to sum up Mona D in one word what would it be?
M: Here’s a joke: Why are indie boys so bad in bed? They’re always lying about their 7 inches. [I don’t get it. –ed.] Mona in one word? Razzmatazz.
L: And finally, is there anything you’d like to ask me?
M: Can I have a lollipop now? [No, but there are a TON of Wonka products in the kitchen if you want some! –ed.]
Well, this is it, folks. I am pulling out all the stops and bringing you what you’ve all been waiting for, and it can only go down hill from here. Ladies and Germs, it is with much pleasure that I bring you People Who Work Here’s exclusive interview with the man, the myth, Mark Arm! (wait for applause) Mark Arm is the Warehouse Manager here at Sub Pop Records, and that means that if you order anything from our store, especially a big package that has to be sent via UPS, Mark will have, most likely, put those golden hands of his upon your box. I mean, package. Whatever. Some things I’ve learned about Mark since working with him are: he is super into politics, he has to listen to NPR really loud because his ears are not what they used to be, he can stand fully upright on a yoga ball, his wife cuts his hair, and he’s a funny/fun dude. Let’s meet Mark!
L: Contrary to popular belief your real last name is not Arm. Please discuss how you got this name and how you feel about having a “punk name” at 40+.
M: My friend Smitty and I were deep into a fake argument using non-offensive body parts as swear words. The argument culminated with him yelling “arm arm” at me. I had no response to this attack and we both broke down laughing. Then when Mr. Epp became a real band, complete with instruments, we adopted non-sequitur punk names. Jeff Smith became Jo Smitty and I became Mark Arm. I never thought it’d stick. Luckily, I’m more comfortable with my “punk name” than the easily garbled Scottish name I was born into. [This version seems a lot more tame than what I was led to believe. –ed.]
M: Of all these bands, the MC5 is my favorite. It’s not my band, so it’s much easier for me to embrace. The MC5 is one of the best bands ever and they helped lay the foundation for what would become punk rock. Getting to play with the DKT/MC5 was such a fantastic mindfuck. That said Bloodloss was most satisfying musically. After playing together for a few months I realized that we were able to effortlessly pull cool shit out of thin air with everyone playing around each other instead of following the same riff (and no, we weren’t “jamming”). The downside was going on tour with a dude who was in a constant state of withdrawl. The rest of us felt like we were dragging around a whiny corpse and propping it up for shows. [Weekend at Bernie’s! –ed.] Monkeywrench is a total hoot and getting to play with Tim Kerr, Tom Price and Martin Bland is a total treat that happens way too rarely. Shameless plug: our third album (Gabriel’s Horn) in 17 years comes out in February on the Birdman record label.
L: When Mudhoney was getting going you were relatively old (26-ish, right?). How do you think that being more, ahem, mature helped your band achieve the dizzying success that it did?
M: Maturity had nothing to do with Mudhoney. It still doesn’t. [Whatever you say, old man. -ed.] The dizziness was usually bedspins. We were old enough that we had a pretty firm idea of what we wanted Mudhoney to be when we started. I was well aware of the glass ceiling we’d encounter with our brand of entertainment. I just figured it would be lower. We weren’t dazzled by the brass ring and we never bothered to reach for it. [I smell lyrics a brewin’. –ed.] We achieved more than I ever anticipated and I feel incredibly lucky that I still get to muck around in this shit.
L: Major label vs. Sub Pop. Pros and cons of each, please.
M: Major Labels have giant warehouses all over the country. I don’t think I’d be able to wrap my head around their inventory, but I would probably get to drive a forklift. Sub Pop is blessed with a pretty swank warehouse, but since T-shirts have become a major part of our inventory, I wish it was bigger. [Touche, Mr. Arm. -ed.] Perhaps I can expand into the Art and Hardly Art departments. One of the odd side effects of working in the warehouse and getting to know our inventory is that item numbers are seared into my brain. So when the clock strikes 6:47 or 7:04 I flash on Comets On Fire.
L: You have remarkable posture. How do you do that?
M: Why thank you Lacey, how nice of you to notice! Emily & I invested in a matching set of gravity boots nine years ago. We have a wall mounted TV that rotates so we can watch it when we’re upside down. We try to do this at least 3 hours every evening. That’s why I don’t go out that much. The first time I tried this I nearly choked on popcorn and mountain dew poured out my nose. After years of dedicated practice I’ve gotten pretty good at snacking upside down.
L: Who in Mudhoney do you spend the most time with? Who in Mudhoney knows your deepest, darkest secrets? What is your favorite Mudhoney record?
M: I probably see Guy [Male Nurse! –ed.] more than anyone else these days, Dan is a close second. I don’t see Steve that much since he moved to Portland. Steve & I started hanging out in 1983 so I guess he knows more about me than the others, but he doesn’t know much. I refuse to let anyone past these walls, no one get’s in…Get Out! As far as favorite record goes, I don’t have one. I don’t listen to our records unless we’re putting together a comp or trying to relearn a forgotten song. At this point I’m most familiar with The Lucky Ones since that’s the one we’ve been working on and you know what that means, it’s the best one yet. [Available May 20th on Sub Pop brand Records. –ed.]
L: I heard there will be a Green River reunion this summer, true? Tell me how the whole thing went down and how you think your performance will be.
M:True, we are slated to play Sub Pop’s 20th Anniversary this July. I’m not sure how it went down since nothing’s happened yet. Everyone is psyched to get together again so I think it’ll be great (for us at least).
L: Please name your five top rock performers, in order, and let me know why you like them.
M: This is tough, Lacey. Since you asked about performers and not musicians, I’ll talk about folks who”make good show”.
I’ve been going to Nick Cave shows since the first time the Bad Seeds came to the Northwest (’86 in Vancouver) and I’ve seen them in Europe, the UK and Australia. After all of these performances I’ve concluded that Nick is always on fire and will stop at nothing to put on a good show. I would have loved to have seen the Birthday Party in LA & SF in ’83, but I didn’t have money or a car. John Brannon is super sweet in real life, but on stage he exudes more heartfelt distain, hatred and contempt than anyone I can think of. I’ve seen Negative Approach play to 3000 people, Easy Action play to less than 20 as well as a bunch of Laughing Hyenas shows and despite the audience, he’s always super intense. The Butthole Surfers were brilliant performers. No one could touch these guys in the mid 80s. They hung out in Seattle for about 3 weeks in December of ’83 and their special effects amounted to little more than a couple of Radio Shack strobes and flying safety pins. They were mind-blowing. They kept adding to their shows, lights, films, naked dancers, etc. When they played Reading in ’89 they opened by smashing their gear (no, I didn’t see that). It all went south when they started hanging around Ministry though. Iggy Pop puts everything into each performance, even if he’s touring on a crappy record and is backed by a bunch of hacks. I wish he had a better sense of who to play with. I’m glad the Stooges got back together. That’s something I never thought I’d see. I wish I could have seen them in the late 60s/early 70s when no one understood what they were doing or how to react to them. I would love to watch them confront a crowd of indignant Crosby Stills and Nash fans in some Midwestern college auditorium. I hope I can still hop around like Iggy in 15 years, well not exactly like that, I hope my back and hips don’t get as fucked up. That shit looks painful. Jimi Hendrix died well before I was going to rock shows, but I’ve seen him preserved on film and no one plays guitar like that. He’s astounding to watch, he makes the craziest shit fluid and effortless. He didn’t just play guitar, he played electricity. He’s even amazing when he’s sleepwalking, like the first part of the set at the Isle of Wight Festival. He wakes up mid-set after going behind the amps to get a boost and blows doors. Sadly, he died a week later.
L: Please tell me a funny story about when Mudhoney was in that Chris Farley movie! Also, your wikipedia entry says you were in Velvet Goldmine which I did not know. What was that like? (PS Dean Hudson HATES that movie!)
M: We were only on the set of Black Sheep for one day, but we did hang out a bit with Chris Farley. Steve was totally star-struck and offered him some blow, which took us all by surprise since the rest of us had never seen Steve near the white lady. Anyway, Chris had only been clean for two months or so. Apparently he never got clean again. Steve still feels guilty about it, but we tell him it’s not really his fault because Chris Farley would have been offered drugs from some other sycophant. I’m not in Velvet Goldmine. My name is on the soundtrack recording, but my voice got erased in favor of Ewan McGregor’s. I did get a chance to write two songs with Ron Asheton (another happy mindfuck) and record them with Ron, Mike Watt (this is how he ended up in the Stooges), Thurston Moore and Steve Shelly as the Wylde Ratttz. Due to the Ewan McGregor crap, it’s hard for me to be objective about the movie. What’s Dean’s problem, is it too gay for him? I like Todd Haynes stuff, especially Safe and Far From Heaven. I just saw I’m Not There and really liked the Fellini homage in the Cate Blanchett part. The Christian Bale segment was straight out of hack biopic 101 though.
L: Tell me how your met your lovely wife Emily, Pet Photographer. What do you guys do in your free time?
M: We met in ’85 probably at a party or a show. I don’t remember the exact circumstance, but there was a lot of beer and MDA around at the time. We went out for about three weeks. She moved to NY for awhile, came back to town for a summer and we hung out as friends. Then she moved to L.A. Mudhoney would stay at her place. I had a girlfriend so Emily wouldn’t make out with me. [What a prick tease! –ed.] She moved back to Seattle in ’91 with a boyfriend in tow. Then in ’93 they broke up, I stopped with the opiates and we started going out. We got hitched a year later. By the way, I hear Ruben finally proposed to you,congratulations! [Why thank you! –ed.]When we have enough free time, we like to travel. Our last two big trips were to Brazil and Burma. We’re going to Costa Rica when the rest of Sub Pop goes to SxSW.
L: If you were to have kids what would you tell them about drugs?
M: That’s another reason to not have children, it’s a conversation I’d rather not have. I like drugs. I just don’t like people on drugs. [But what about kids on drugs? That’s fun, right? –ed.]
L: And finally, what is Mark Arm’s favorite place to eat in Seattle and why?
M: Except for lunch, which is usually just sandwiches, I don’t go out to eat that much. I always enjoy the Boat Street Café, Matt’s in the Market, Machiavelli, The Tamarind Tree and a place right next to it that’s simply called Schezwanese Cuisine. A couple of default places in West Seattle I enjoy are Taqueria Guaymas and the West 5. That didn’t really answer your question, did it? [That’ll do, I suppose. –ed.]
PS Mark, don’t try to get all clever in the photo booth. I won’t allow it.
It’s a new year and we’ve finally got a new People Who Work Here for 2008 and it features Gabe Carter, International Man of Mystery. When I first started here Gabe and I worked together for an hour or so during the day and we’d make fun of everyone and jam out a lot to Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/Love Below or the Misfits. When Alissa started working in the warehouse a little later we’d have a full-on delicious snack spread with cheese and crackers and all kinds of good stuff in the afternoons. Gabe is a stand up guy but now that we both have different duties at Sub Pop we rarely get to eat cheese together. Gabe always has the sharpest knife, though, so if you need to slice an apple he’s your man. Let’s meet Gabe!
L: You started at Sub Pop in the warehouse and worked there for a good long while. Please tell me about how you started working here and your subsequent rise to power in the International Department. What do you do now? Do you ever want to go back to working in the warehouse?
G: It’s a Cinderella story really. I started in April of 2002. I had been fired from my previous job of 7 years at a snowboard factory for touring too much with my band during the busy season. The irony here is the band I was in broke up shortly after. Kristin Meyer called me and asked if I’d be interested in the ‘warehouse manager’ position. It initially paid about the same as what I was making on unemployment but it was getting at the point where sitting around the house wasn’t as fun anymore. After you’ve been on unemployment for a while they start making you jump through lots of hoops: turning in your job search list, going to classes etc. Not working in itself starts to become a job. Warehouse manager title was a bit misleading as you weren’t in charge of anyone, just the warehouse. Kwab trained me for about a day and a half and then I was on my own. It was a bit different than what I was used to. I started trying to get to know my new co-workers I nicknamed myself “Talking Gabe” or occasionally “Shit Talking Gabe” and spent too much time yacking to people trying to work. People have that look though when you interrupt them while they’re trying to read an email or just get their work done. For sanity’s sake, the warehouse manager job became something I decided to/needed to take pride in. I tried to just be a reliable shipping engine in the back of the office. I got miracled [I like when Gabe uses these weird phrases. I mean, what does that even mean? –ed.] in to the International job when Shawn Rogers left. Shawn is still a very well regarded person both in the company and abroad. It’s taken a while to grow out from his shadow over the department. My only immediate qualification for the job was that I was well traveled. Carly and I split the job down the middle she does all the marketing and publicity, I do all the nuts and bolts stuff like logistics and production. I do still love the shipping room. I like the physical and social aspect of the work. I like the blasting music and loud talking. The warehouse is like the mafia—they never really let you go.
L: It’s a new year-did you make any resolutions? Even if you didn’t will please pretend that you did and then tell me what they are? Also, what did you do to celebrate?
G: I didn’t make any special resolutions for New Years. I make resolutions all the time but they are broad like “stop drinking so much” or “get to work on time” “get your shit together” [When do you plan to start working on these? –ed.] I’m a ‘watch the New Years on TV’ kind of guy now that I’m a father. I always make a pot of black-eyed peas for New Years Day. It’s supposed to be good luck, one pea for each day of the year. I’m not superstitious though I just like black-eyed peas. I usually end up eating all the leftovers for days afterwards. [Me too! I was sooooo farty. –ed.]
L: Fantasy Basketball-what gives? Is it really that fun? What about Real Basketball?
G: Yes, I’m totally into it. One year I even got several other Sub Pop employees to try it out. These days, players don’t stick with teams long enough for you to really develop any personal attachment to any specific team. You become fans of certain players as they migrate around the NBA. [Sports are so boring to me—wake me up when this is over. –ed.] Sport’s betting is one of the most addictive things around. Sports are unscripted drama. Fantasy sports is just a couple bets on the side. As for real basketball, I was a Sonics season ticket holder since the Key Arena inaugural season (‘95) up until a few years ago. It was a good time to be it to basketball in Seattle. Sonics were always playoff contenders and even went to the championship in 96. I let the tickets go when my wife got pregnant. I used to play actual real basketball but I hate playing pick up basketball, too many day pass thugs and all that running. I hate playing basketball with jerks. [You mean YOUNG jerks, don’t you? –ed.] I’d much rather play half court three on three with some friends. For one it’s easier to get back on defense.
L:You were born in Texas. Tell me three reasons why Texas is better than Washington. Would you ever in a million years consider moving to Texas?
G: Yes, I was born in Houston. The Republic of Texas is one of those places that has an almost indefensible amount of state pride. I have to say the three reasons why Texas is better is: real BBQ, Austin, people are friendly. It takes a while to get used to how unfriendly strangers are here. People just don’t say “hi” here. You walk down the street in Seattle and people pretend they don’t see you. It is really weird and takes quite a bit of getting used to. I would be the first to concede, I’m not a real Texan. [See you are a real Texan—you’re trying to concede! Oh wait…it’s secede, isn’t it? -ed.] I moved here when I was nine. I would never move back. It’s too beautiful here. There’s nothing on the horizon there both literally and figuratively. I get a wave of nostalgia when I go back to visit but that’s all it is. Seattle is my home now and probably forever.
L: You work very closely with Carly Starr, who was recently featured here in PWWH. Please tell me Carly’s three best qualities and one really annoying one.
G: It goes without saying that Carly is great. She and I used to carpool together and I would make her late most days. I’m going to take the high road and assume you’re not talking about Carly’s physical attributes. [Carly has nice jugs. –ed.] While she is clearly an attractive and stylish lady, three of her greatest qualities have got to be her generosity especially with sweets [You mean when she breaks into the ice cream before the party? –ed.], her heightened sense of cleanliness and organization [That’s clearly a neuroses. –ed.], and her ability to have fun [She does love mayonnaise! –ed.]. As far as annoying goes, while she can be fairly bratty at times, which she readily admits, I find her tabloid addiction much worse. Nevertheless, I usually hand the TV remote over to her in the lunch room so she can watch her shows on E.
L: You were in that band Juno and I remember reading about you guys in Punk Planet when Arlie broke his neck or whatever while doing snow sports. You were guys were fairly big, huh? Tell me what it was like being in Juno and tell me what you’ve been doing musically since.
G: I was in Juno from the beginning until its ultimate demise or rather, extended hiatus. It was and sometimes still is a large part of who I am. [Let it go, Big G. –ed.] Experience shapes perception and what not. We toured and toured, 14 or so Secret Santa [? –ed.] US tours and 2 European tours and a last hurrah Japanese tour. We released two full lengths on DeSoto Records and 7” singles with Sub Pop, Jade Tree, Magwheel, and BCore and a split with the Dismemberment Plan. Former Sub Pop employee Joan Hiller was our publicist for the last record. I loved being in the band. I’m sad that we couldn’t keep it together. Traveling to Europe and Japan as a band was very rewarding for me personally. Some people go to college, I went to rock school. I’m very proud of what we were able to accomplish as a band, most of which we had to do for ourselves. We had a tendency to burn bridges while we were still on them. Arlie’s broken and then healed neck was the 6th member of our band for a while. He was trooper though he got right back in the van and toured as soon as he could. After Juno I joined Hint Hint and managed to record a full length and do a little touring with them before the inevitable break up. Since then I had a personal musical project going for a while but right now I’m the only one in project and the music is all on a pile of practice tapes.
L: Please tell me your favorite Sub Pop album from each year that you’ve worked here. What’s your favorite song from each record?
L: If you had to lose either both your feet or both your hands which would you choose and why?
G: Feet. No question. People can lose their feet and still run marathons with prosthetics. Showers would be weird though, right? Have to get one of those shower chairs to wash my nubs. I need my hands. I would hate to lose any part of either hand. How do you get dressed with no hands, or drive, or make a sandwich. [With your feet, ding dong! –ed.]
L: You have a kid—tell me what it’s like! Are you going to have another one? If so, can I pick the name?
G: Let me be the 10 millionth person to say how great it is. It is unbelievably great. I think I have a better perspective on it since we waited until we were older. I don’t feel robbed of my youth and ambitions. I feel I have a rich enough life and wealth of experience to share with him. All I want to do is hang out with him. I don’t know about a second one yet. My need to procreate is completely satiated by my son. I wonder though sometimes if his quality of life might be better with a sibling. [Sure, why not? He’ll have someone to pick on. –ed.] It’s still on the table. If we do, I would endure some suggestions from you for sure. The name Ulysses was a top contender last time Jimmy Carter 2. –ed.]
L: You are into Japan quite a bit-why?
G: I’ve heard that before. I’m not really so into Japan more than anything else. [Well why do people keep saying this to you? –ed.] I like a lot of Japanese film: Akira Kurosawa movies (Seven Samurai), Battle Royale, I even like my fair share of anime [Blech. –ed.] like Spirited Away. But to be honest, I like Sushi more than Japan. Last time I was in Japan I felt slightly unwelcome. They aren’t really so into foreigners. Gaijin is the Japanese word for “foreigner”. It also happens to be the word for “barbarian”, since that was what all foreigners were considered to be. Baka roughly translates into “smart, no”. Perhaps as close to “stupid” as they would want to call somebody. So Baka Gaijin roughly translates into “stupid foreigner”. [Yeah, sounds like you are not into Japan at all…. –ed.] Also if you see another gaijin on the street, they pretend to not notice that you are clearly not Japanese. It’s like you went to high school together and they are praying you don’t recognize them. Maybe I’m extra sensitive to that. As a general rule tourists and ex-pats are dorks it sucks to feel like one.
L: Tell me something that you’ve learned as you’ve gotten older. You know, something like “it’s OKAY to trust people over 30” or something like that.
G: I got a few, take your pick: Don’t judge your friends or you’ll lose them. Don’t buy a car at night. A good man can whistle and change a tire at the same time. [These are good. I’m going with the tire one, though, because I’d never buy a car in the dark and if I have to quit judging my friends I might as well stay home. –ed.]
This week People Who Work Here takes a look at Sub Pop’s newest all star publicist, Kate Jackson, but not that Kate Jackson. This one is 26 and married and has a dog and a home in West Seattle and is a very nice lady and she has not been on any TV shows, at least as far as I know. As Kate is pretty new here I don’t have a lot of interesting facts to lay on you right here, but I will vote her most likely to sunbathe topless and drunk in Hawaii. I’ll let you know how that goes when we get back. Let’s meet Kate!
L: Tell me how you came to be employed at Sub Pop.
K: I used to do a little work with Steve Manning’s wife, and met Steve through her a few years ago. Around the same time, I was introduced to Megan Jasper while working on a fundraiser for the Vera Project. I thought both were charming freaks and apparently they thought the same of me, so when there was an opening here they thought I would be a logical fit! [Knowing people is the only way, my friend! –ed.]
L: Are you enjoying yourself so far? Who is your surprise favorite coworker?
K: I am enjoying myself thoroughly. In my first week we got to ride the Duck with the whole funny clan and I had a massage in the office. How could I complain? I just rearranged my cubicle so I feel like the vibe just got a whole lot better in here. [She’s not kidding—I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen feng shuing in action. –ed.] My surprise favorite co-worker…Bessie, Vito and Dinky…although the humans are cool too.
L: You married your high school sweetheart—what’s up with that? Is it working out?
K: Yeah, the guitarist of his then band went to my high school and he set us up on a blind date at an all-ages Superdeluxe show at Green River Community College when I was 14 and he was 15. It just kinda stuck and we ended up getting married about 2.5 years ago after 10 years of hanging out. [So that means you two have only had sex with each other, huh? What? I’m just asking! –ed.]
L: What is the first Sub Pop record you ever owned? What is the last Sub Pop record you bought before becoming employed here?
K: That is a tough one…I think it may have been L7 that I first bought on my very own. I had others that I had gotten as gifts, but I saved for that one. The last Sub Pop record I bought before I started here…I believe it was Band of Horses Everything All the Time. [Oh c’mon—you know you got that for free! –ed.]
L: I heard you are into some weird personality analysis called enneagram. What is it and what can you tell me about myself using this witchcraft?
K: You’ve clearly been talking to Megan! Yes, I was raised with the Enneagram and love it to this day. Aside from sacrificing small animals and drinking their blood, the whole practice involves minimal witchcraft. It is disturbingly accurate although sometimes hard to admit that you have the characteristics spelled out in the personality descriptions. I am an “8”, so watch out. Lacey, hmmm…not sure I could peg you so easily. Maybe after a few drinks together I will have you all figured out. [I can’t wait for this! Please bring your witch tools to the island! –ed.]
L: You are super active with the VERA Project. Tell me a little bit about the project and what your roll is there. Why do you think it’s a worthwhile organization? Why should parents feel safe leaving their kids in the hands of punk rockers and other musical degenerates under the Space Needle?
K: Vera is an all-ages, not-for-profit music and arts venue that is run primarily by youth volunteers. It is a space for people of all-ages to engage in music performance and other related arts in an alcohol and drug free environment. They offer live shows, studio engineering classes, silkscreen classes, sound and light engineering classes, have an art gallery and do a million other wonderful things that empower youth and cultivate talent. I have been a board member of the Vera Project for a little over a year but involved with the organization in various capacities for about 4 years. I spent almost every weekend in high school commuting from Tacoma to go to RKCNDY or the handful of all-ages venues that existed. When the teen dance ordinance closed all of it down, I didn’t see a show for 3 years that wasn’t at a festival or arena sized rock. Being involved in the music community brought me to my current day profession. It is imperative, especially in a city like Seattle, that we have a place for the young musicians, fans and art lovers go to learn how to appreciate art in their own way and sustain the growth of that community. [See, I told you she’s a publicist! –ed.]
L: If I had to hazard a guess I’d say you drove a Volkswagen, probably something with a hatchback. Am I completely wrong? What kind of car would you drive if money were no object?
K: I have a Subaru wagon. If I could drive any car it would be a Volvo wagon when they go hybrid and I also love the new prototype for the VW Minibus, so I guess you were kinda right about me. [It’s a gift, what can I say? –ed.]
L: Alright, let’s get to the juicy part…you used to work with Pearl Jam—what were your duties? Who is your favorite Pearl Jam? Do you still talk to them on the phone? Tell me a funny story about Pearl Jam that does not involve Ticket Master, mohawks, or Crohn’s Disease.
K: Ahh yes. Mostly I just picked out all of the brown M&Ms. nothing makes Mike McCready more angry than brown M&Ms… [Not even Crohn’s? –ed.] No, really I worked for a small publicity firm that handled a lot of music and non-profit related clients but was also Pearl Jam’s in-house PR in addition to handling the band’s philanthropic efforts. We did everything from set up a record to handle day-to-day appearance, donation, etc. requests for the band, to help strategize political involvement and activism. My favorite Pearl Jam…impossible to choose! Nicest people ever. The secret about the Pearl Jam organization [They sound like the grunge mob. –ed.] is that they have about three times as many dogs in office as Sub Pop does. When I was there we would have anywhere from seven to thirteen dogs on any given day. Scared the hell out of visitors when a pack of dogs – ranging in size from Jack Resells to Lab/Rodesian Ridgeback mix- would come tearing through the office.
L: You are a young go-getter of a gal—how’d you get to be like that? Do you have any tips for someone who might be in her early 30s, floundering around fairly aimlessly with no clue as to what she’d like to make of herself?
K: Good God, you overestimate me. I personally invest a good amount of time in wine drinking and reading thesuperficial.com and therefore am the last to be doling out advice to anyone. [Well then I must be on the right track…. –ed.]
L: What does Kate Jackson do on the weekends to relax? Tell me about it.
K: The best kind of weekend contains these ingredients – one night out for dinner and drinks/show, good Saturday morning greasy breakfast, a lot of On Demand, red wine, and a long walk on Alki beach with my dog. [Where’s the shame spiral? Or is that on Monday morning for you, too? –ed.]
L: When I was in high school I had a gay friend who told me that I looked like Kate Jackson but I don’t think you and I look anything alike. Say, who’s your favorite Charlie’s Angel?
K: You only get one guess…the smart one.
L: And finally, let’s do some quick word association:
Catholicism – my upbringing
Ireland – my homeland
West Seattle – the best neighborhood in Seattle
Grunge – my youth
Steve Manning – monkey
Publicist- dirty word
Balls – I wanna dip my…