Stephen Malkmus is back in Portland, Oregon after he and his family spent some time living in Berlin, Germany where he marveled at how many Canadians were residents there. Or at least how many people claimed to be Canadian.
"When I used to travel, I would often say I was Canadian so you can't tell,” he explains over the phone, ahead of tour dates with his band the Jicks in support of their new album, "Wig Out at Jagbags." "It was sometimes a better thing to say if you were in the Middle East or something. Although in Germany, I feel like America and Germany are pretty copacetic. Most of the people I met there like to visit America. They appreciate our loudness, our arrogance."
Malkmus says that he and his wife/bandmate Joanna Bolme decided to move their family there on a whim, basically to give their kids a different, worldly perspective.
"I mean it felt like a vacation at first," he says. "We got there in the summer and it’s great there — great playgrounds, parks, ice cream for one Euro. It's really family-friendly. You wouldn't maybe know that if you're just a music journalist. You think it's all techno and bars and stuff."
Stephen Malkmus, former leader of Pavement, one of my favourite bands ever, just reduced my potential to have a unique worldview based on the fact that I’m a music journalist.
"I didn't mean it like that," he laughs. "It has a reputation as being a nightlife place, which is earned. They've earned that through bloated livers and bleary-eyed hipsters, of course. But there’s another world there. There’s the real people; those of us that get up at eight in the morning and haul our butts out into the snow and stuff."
Malkmus is an early-rising dad. The last time he and I spoke was at the 2012 Sled Island music festival in Calgary where he suggested that I get my then one-year-old a trampoline ("Does he have a broken arm yet?" he asks now before I inform him that I never made good on his recommendation. "He'll love it. I still stand by it. Or jump by it").
Interview continues after slideshow
I tell him that I've been pretty amazed at how much of the music I love is resonating with my now two-and-a-half year old.
"At that age they don't have free will and can barely walk to get away from you," he suggests. "You're in a good position there but as time goes on, they develop a sense of taste that’s based around their friends and the media with what is age appropriate. You can show them old stuff that you like, like The Point by Harry Nilsson, for instance. They like that. You have to start curating a bit towards their interests, not just yours."
I decide to up the ante a bit here by explaining that, after a steady diet of Raffi and the Wiggles, my son soon took an interest in bands I like, including Malkmus’ work in Pavement, notably "Stereo" and "Shady Lane" and Silver Jews songs like "How Can I Love You If You Won’t Lie Down." He seems taken aback.
"Well, that is pretty crazy. You must have a really cool kid," he chuckles. "I’m just kidding. They're sing-songy. Those melodies are almost like children’s songs so I can see that working."
Another recent obsession for the boy is a video for an older Jicks song called "Gardenia."
"You should play him the 'Jo Jo's Jacket' video," Malkmus says. "It's really kid-friendly. It's by these guys called Shynola who did Radiohead videos. It’s really high-tech and probably our most crowd-pleasing video for kids. It's got kittens even playing guitars and stuff."
Given his penchant for offering me parental advice, I ask Malkmus if he thinks that my kid's current fascination with my interests is likely as fleeting as it feels.
"Enjoy it while it lasts because pretty soon he’s going to be into his version of some teen metal band," he responds. "He’s going to have his own tastes and they’re going to be hard for you to swallow. He's going to need to individuate from you."
Listen to this entire interview on the Kreative Kontrol with Vish Khanna podcast.
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