Here I will type some questions that arose in my mind as I listened to the music, read the liner notes, studied photos, and wandered extensively the website of musician/writer/filmmaker/photographer Cody Weathers. Some of my questions were answered here, although you have to scroll down to the "WARNING TO READER: Cody was forced to answer these questions seriously." section. And most of the links are broken. Any questions that remained are below.
1. On the cover of Least Significant Failures you are walking along train tracks. On the back cover you are in front of a body of water, presumably the Pacific Ocean. Was this an intentional reference to the wide open possibilities of sea and rail travel available in your home town of Portland, Oregon?
The composite photography and graphic design for the LSF cover was done by my college roommate, Eli Castillo. I've been pestering him to do one of my albums since he made a fake album cover for the Executioners H_NGM_N album (one of the fake bands from the Monkey Eat Monkey sampler) for his graduation portfolio. I finally nailed him down for this album, since I didn't want my typically mediocre DIY cover to be the face of what I knew would be a heavier round of promotion. I told him I wanted to do triplets of me, representing phases of my life as well as signifying more literally that I played most of the instruments on the album. Our idea was to try to tie the album cover into some subtle iconic notions of what a "Greatest Hits" album looks like, and he came up with the train tracks idea, saying "it's the new brick wall." We shot an alternate cover down at the boat ramp into the Willamette River near downtown Milwaukie, Oregon (look, all you Wisconsinites raising your hands, I know that it's double-e in Wisconsin, but not here, OK? And it turns out that's your own fault anyway since you started out as "ie" then changed your minds after we named our town after you. Just Wikipedia it and get it over with!).
2. On the Jiffle Baf T'Bak version of "Something Out" on Tongue Meets Eyeball are you absolutely sure it's Jason Kaneshiro singing in a David Bowie voice or is it possible he actually got David Bowie?
It is possible that it's the Thin White Duke instead of the Thin Hawaiian Dude, and I'm very excited to think that such an enormously fabulous secret has been kept from me for this long because I love surprises.
3. Were you really punched in the face by a junkie?
Oh, yes. The facts in that story on the website (not the John Speranza hobo diary, obviously, but the "Cody Weathers Punched In Face By Junkie: His Account" version) are true. I had just moved to Buffalo, and rented Jaws for 4th of July, and the last thing I remember is leaning in to hear what this guy was saying then POW waking up disoriented on my back on the sidewalk, knowing something wasn't quite right, but taking another few minutes to realize --from the blood in my mouth-- that somewhere between leaning in and waking up, he'd knocked me out cold. Then as it all came clear to me, I did in fact warn a passing elderly couple of the danger ahead, only to freak them out at my own schizophrenic behavior (and potential rabies). Obviously, the version on the website is stylized for comedic effect, and the "Robert McIntosh" questions are a Socratic device using an inside joke between myself and another musician (the real Robert McIntosh) about Fuchs to further alienate the reading public. Nonetheless, that really happened pretty much exactly how I wrote it.
4. Which leads to the bigger question: How much of what we read on the website is true?
Torch & Bacon has evolved into this elaborate platform where --from a new reader's perspective-- a psychotic break has been achieved, and the difference between fact and fiction is difficult, if not impossible to distinguish, but hopefully remains entertaining. All the self-aggrandizing stuff is pretty much false. I'm a very small artist with a very small profile and very small following (and you know what they say about the size of a man's following). This smallness cannot be emphasized enough. Yet somehow, I've never stopped thinking that it's funny to write about myself as if I'm a famous and dramatic rock star. The facts represented in the listening log are overwhelmingly true. The drama reported in the interviews and liner notes is typically false. There are no real tensions between myself and Cat Mayhugh, John Speranza, John Fried, or Joh3n O'Meara. Cat and Joh3n aren't really record producers, just old friends who allow me to blame my foibles on them and slander them innumerable other ways for yuks. All the self-aggrandizing pseudo-press is false. More than half the interviews are me interviewing myself, however there are several where legitimate questions were sent to me by friends who follow the site (Eric Rorem has "forced me to answer questions seriously" at least twice, and Scott Farr also sent me a list of questions which I answered reasonably seriously). A couple of the interviews were written by other people (Cat interviewed himself as an equal-time fair response to my relentless ongoing character assassination). Any time Checkmate Records is represented as an actual record company with employees, decisionmakers, a budget, etc. it is patently false. UFO Catcher is really a solo project of mine --neither my infant daughters or my non-musical wife played anything on the albums (with the exception of some sampled baby babble).
5. I assume that the following people are real: John Fried, John Speranza, Robert McIntosh, Cat Mayhugh, Eric Rorem, and all four participants in UFO Catcher. I assume the following people are invented: Griffin and Carmen Buboe, Brian Costello, Angel Boring, Corinna Buchholz, Gringor Stynx, Krandler, and all members of the following bands as listed in Monkey Eat Monkey: Fingernail Factory, The Brothers Three, The Executioners, Nuffin, Leaky Joe, Jiffle Baf T'Bak, and Farm Sister. Do you wish to confirm, deny, or in any way comment on these assumptions?
Brian and Corinna are real, and --in fact-- married to one another. Brian is an actor, hailing from the Minneapolis area (I'm shocked that you are unaware of him; how fickle your state must be to forget its favorite son!). He was a college friend who participated in frequent post-college interstate writing contests (some of which are posted on the Frumples Pictures site), including contributing the opening scene to the patchwork screenplay for Flame Cow. During two days they stayed with me en route to NYC, we decided to hastily film that ludicrous script. Brian starred in the title role (and shamed us all with his --well-- actual acting). Brian can also be seen as the assistant to the director ("are you ready for your closeup?") in the game-show fantasy scene in Requiem for a Dream, spent several years working for Thousand Words (a film finishing fund), and recently directed a series of OPB TV episodes about the history of Oregon. Also real, but not mentioned above: Joh3n O'Meara and Barry Shapiro.
The samplers (Monkey Eat Monkey and Tongue Meets Eyeball) are best described as the fake samplers of the fake bands on my fake record label. In reality, the first sampler (MEM) was an experiment in "the music of non-musicians," or the "music of adjustment" where many of the real participants were placed into unfamiliar roles or made to interpret directions with which they --as non-musicians-- were unfamiliar. For instance, how would John Speranza --who didn't normally sing-- adjust to carrying a lead vocal? How would Eric Rorem (who was a beginning bass player at the time) cope with getting through a bass line? Furthermore, how would I adjust to writing in unfamiliar styles or helping the disoriented musicians towards what was emerging as their best performance?
The second sampler (TME) shifts to being a clever mix of completely fake (e.g., Executioners, Brothers Three, Nuffin, Fingernail Factory, Jiffle Baf t'Bak), somewhat fake (e.g., Sunhouse Branch, Leaky Joe --for whom full-length albums exist, but are nonetheless not real bands), and unfake bands (e.g., Flip Nasty, UFO Catcher, The Stunt Beatles, Barry Shapiro). Plus Eric Rorem slipped in a song he wrote ("Primrose") as EZluvR, while not having a complete album in the works.
Griffin Buboe is my pseudonym, with a writing style specifically patterned on Cameron Crowe's "big picture" style as occasionally seen in Rolling Stone (his profile of Pearl Jam being that which originally inspired Griffin's "comrade fan" voice). At this point, Griffin's voice is so much a part of how I write musical prose that I fear that I'll turn this Q&A into a typical self-aggrandizing mockery, in which case I apologize.
Part Two (because this was getting too long)
1. I recently read your screenplay Colfax (after, I must admit, cutting and pasting the text to a traditional black-on-white word processor document) and found it to have a very valid central message about sex and love. The way the message was presented was decidedly non-dogmatic and unconventional and I think it would be a great movie. Was this or any other film you mention on your website (Flame Cow, etc.) actually filmed and if so are your films available on VHS or DVD?
I'm extremely disappointed in you. It specifies in the careful instructions appended to the screenplay that it is to be read *only* in red on black. How can you expect to catch the subtext when you monkey with the text? Seriously, though, thank you for the compliment. We did indeed film Colfax. It's difficult for me to tell to what degree we succeeded or failed in our result, but I'm proud of it. I typically describe it as "a decent student film," and I think that description prepares you for the majority of its most-glaring flaws --no budget, amateur cast, some roughness to the sound and editing, lack of coverage, continuity, etc. It would invariably benefit in every phase from professional involvement, but for a band of amateur filmmakers, it's pretty good, and I feel like it is one of the better pieces from my uncomfortably-long "broken people" period.
But I can't ignore or gloss over the fact that people who watch it tend not to like it.
Some of the other short scripts on the Frumples site have also been made:
There was some discussion between myself and Brian Costello about shooting Drunken Dove and Who Is Jarbus Forquim? with real actors on DV, but as it turns out, I am not made of money. I've also floated the idea to Eli Castillo about doing an animated adaptation of my favorite short story, Robotica, Mine, but he was more interested in taking a stab at Rusty Does Wyoming first.
Currently, those that have actually been shot are only available on VHS (if you weren't discouraged by now....), but will soon be re-issued on DVD, probably starting with Colfax, then proceeding to a single DVD of our best short films all together. Anybody who really wants one can send me an email: flip_nasty (at) hotmail.com.
2. Will there be a "dramatic works" or "scripts" or "short stories" link and index added to the new and very helpful primary index at T&B? I enjoy them when I stumble on to them, but I currently forgot how I ended up at them and can't find them again right now.
Done. There is now a link to Fiction/Film that leads to the Frumples Pictures website and a list of such nonsense ready for perusal.
3. The partial draft script for Flame Cow as written by Script Applicator 4.1 (™), made me laugh so hard I almost accidentally woke my house. Much of the content of your website and liner notes is satirical, self-deprecating, and hilarious. Have you ever written or performed in something that was strictly in the comedy genre? (Maybe acting at college, high school, etc?)
Most of the fiction and theatrical work I write or contribute to, as listed on the Frumples site, is intended to be comic first and foremost. I consider that to be a hobby (as opposed to a second failed career like songwriting). Nonetheless, I enjoy doing it, especially when I'm feeling spent or in a rut or blocked up writing music. I acted a little in high school, and was a de facto cast member in lots of short films, but I am unashamedly wooden or unashamedly hammy, depending on my mood and how many tacos I've eaten prior to filming. It is for actors like me that David Mamet created the memorable rule of thumb, roughly condensed as "just say the lines, a-hole."
4. I have some questions and theories about the album Flame Cow. In the "serious" interview linked to above you said you were determined "to stick to (what had always been) the plan and over-record". The album you were working on then became Flame Cow. Now that I have read the Listening Log section of the page, this is not a question. It merely sets up the following questions:
5. Did finally doing the over-recording you had wanted to do all along leave you with a wealth of good material you couldn't stand to not release? Is that why Flame Cow became two CDs, mastered by Tabor at Alien Beans with non-photocopied artwork?
Believe it or not, there was a ton of stuff left off of the final double-CD of Flame Cow, most of which was subsequently "semi-released" separately as a large part of "I Hate You: Box Set Disc 1." This included my version of Kaptain Karl's "Garbage," "Need," "Stay," and "Certainly." There were even more songs that we considered but didn't record. Over-recording definitely served its main purpose: exclude songs that didn't quite click (e.g., "Falling Hard," "Movie Movie Girl"). Still, your assessment is probably more true than I'd like to admit --I do seem to love jam-packed double-discs more than your garden-variety highly-discerning over-recorder probably ought to. When I look at the track listing and think of why I included the songs I did, I definitely felt like I wanted people to hear anything that I ended up liking, so.... um.... yeah. Guilty!
6. Final follow up: Was the task on Flame Cow more extensive, demanding work than previous albums and did that contribute to the departures of Fried and Speranza?
The true story of the breakup of Flip Nasty occurred in two episodes, one somewhat shrouded, and one crystal-clear. I don't want to speak for Speranza, but I think it's fair to say that Flip circa Flame Cow was an awful lot of work, and an awful lot of phone calls to field from me for a guy who was trying to wrap up a film degree and get a foothold in the industry. He effectively quit the band sometime during the Flame Cow sessions (which trickled ongoing over a period of about two years), having long since diminished his role in the studio and live to providing spontaneous lead guitar. We remain friends, but haven't done any more creative projects together since then. I have nothing but good things to say about his playing and wish I still had him in the band, but I don't think it was a whole lot of fun for him or really right for him anymore (he has since seen some success in a stint with the Bay-area band The Plus Ones). Meanwhile, Flip Nasty had already basically transitioned into me playing a solo gig with whoever was available joining me, so after Speranza's departure, Fried and I decided to tinker with the lineup, and officially move me full-time from drums to rhythm guitar. We then enlisted a very solid drummer friend of mine, Kevin Ozias, as my replacement. We were all pretty excited about that lineup, and we had one really good outing as a trio. However, even though at that moment I was arguably at the apex of my professional life --with good things happening with Flip, The Stunt Beatles, and my studio-- my personal life was absolutely abysmal. Then suddenly, I had this narrow window of opportunity to pursue the girl of my dreams, and I seized it. But the price I had to pay for that opportunity was to move immediately to Buffalo, and so the incarnation of Flip Nasty with myself, Fried, and Kevin was amicably broken up for that reason. It was I --I am the quitter, not Fried. I think --as I repeatedly write on my site-- John Fried is the most amazing natural musician I have ever met, and is a phenomenal freak of nature on the bass guitar. He knows absolutely no music theory, never ever practices (he infamously left his bass at my house after every rehearsal), and has only the slimmest take-it-or-leave-it interest in even playing music in the first place. But if I wrote out a bass part for him, no matter how impossible I believed it to be, he would stumble through it once, then nail it by the second run-through. Without fail. Incidentally, on the positive side, I married the girl.
7. Final, final follow up: I just noticed something as I was studying the album here at my desk. Is there any special meaning to the all-black spines of the double CD Flame Cow?
No special meaning, just something we thought looked cool during the period where we forced John O'Meara to cobble our album covers together out of materials we provided (Songs You Hate, Leaky Joe: Fistful of Blues, Flame Cow, Clapping Sold Separately). Problems with the duplication house & their printer led to us telling them to just add black margins to the back page of the booklet as a tray card rather than endure another round of delays.
Part Three (for no really good reason)
1. You know a lot of music jargon and apply a lot of educated conceptual schemes to your music, far more so than any other "rock" act this side of, um...me. What college did you go to? Were you a music major? What were some defining moments from your education?
I have a BS in Music Composition, having studied under Vincent McDermott at Lewis & Clark college in Portland from 1992-95. I appreciate the exposure I gained to an impressive survey of truly creative composers who I otherwise would likely never have heard. I appreciate the opportunity I gained to cultivate my own orchestral writing. I appreciated Vincent's attitude toward teaching, and his openness towards the particular signatures of each of his individual students, myself included. And finally, I appreciate the confidence I gained, through study, that I could judge myself on my own merits and not be swayed by the sea of subjectivity that engulfs musical thought. Certainly, I had my well-documented frustrations with the culture of music school, and having this degree has not helped feed my family, but the experience was nonetheless valuable.
2. Are you at all familiar with Minneapolis' own beloved, defunct Trip Shakespeare or its leader Matt Wilson? Often your lyrics remind me of his. They both seem to come from an alternate universe where poetry, strangeness, and magic frequently physically intrude on what might normally be a typical life situation. "One Will Win You" could easily be a Matt Wilson song.
I am not familiar with them (apparently Brian Costello hid them from me), but I will definitely check them out on your recommendation.
3. I recently obtained chord and lyrics sheets to three of my favorite songs of yours and had more trouble than I expected in making them sound right with me playing and singing them. Your songs seem to be somewhat idiomatic to your voice and guitar, which I think is a good thing - the artistic idea of "Do what no one else could do". Also, I think I need more practice. The experience made me curious: Has anyone ever covered one or more of your songs? Were they successful?
Well, the truth is that two of the songs on the Tongue Meets Eyeball sampler are just that: covers by other artists. "Something Out" (attributed to the fake Jiffle Baf'T'Bak) is --as you've previously alluded to-- really my song performed by Jason Kaneshiro. Or David Bowie. Probably Jason Kaneshiro. "Sleep" (attributed to the fake Fingernail Factory) is really my song performed independently by folk singer Dave Potts. In both cases, I think they took the song in a completely different direction and made it really work for them. There have been a handful of others: In 1992, a number of my songs were used as the replacement "soundtrack" to a play that was embroiled in some licensing issues, but those were still my arrangements, just with different performers. Over the years, I've heard a couple covered by jazz friends of mine (as are jazz hands to hands, so are jazz friends to friends). I'll be very curious to hear your versions of the ones I sent you, if you ever scratch them onto a demo. Incidentally, I think you chose a doozy in "Best of Days" (streaming), or as my daughter, Cara (3) calls it, "rabble-rabble-rabble."
4. Much like Minneapolis' own beloved Prince, you have an immediately identifiable, layered backing vocal style. I had always assumed Fried and Speranza did at least some of them, so I was surprised to find that they are largely absent from the live albums. Did you write and perform most of those by yourself on the Flip Nasty studio albums or did Fried and Speranza have a role in them that they then abdicated in front of an audience?
Virtually all the dense harmonies start out as Cody & the Codies. Occasionally, we'd invest some time in masking my voice by having someone else sing along with one of the harmony lines I'd already recorded, then blend their voice in with mine to give the combined effect of their vocal character with my pitch burden. Speranza was pretty good at this chimera effect (Guitool's versions of "Best of Days" and "Amazon Women" or the Jiffle Baf t'Bak song "M" are pretty crisp examples of how this worked). Fried (along with a consistent band of misfits like Cat Mayhugh, Eric Rorem, and Joh3n O'Meara) often contributed unison vocals in the studio. But it was just too much to ask for live. Fried can't play and sing at the same time, and while Speranza occasionally would thicken up a line with a unison vocal, he was so much more valuable concentrating his efforts on being a reactive guitarist that we eventually stopped bothering to set up a mic for him. But I saw him sing backup for the Plus Ones, and he really rose to the occasion, so it's not a matter of inability, by any means.
5. As I read over the Listening Log, I notice Nuffin's minimalist instrumental "Snow", track 8 on Tongue Meets Eyeball, is left out. Considering all the "experimental" or "art" music on your albums, I think it is a tribute to say that this is the only one that, for me, truly attains the status of "unlistenable". Given that, I am curious about why it was left off the Listening Log.
Oops. When I did that part of the listening log, I was shuffling back and forth between the various constituent fake artists on my iPod, and simply forgot Nuffin. That song was an exercise from college to write in the style of either Reich or Glass. I chose Reich, whose work I enjoy, but don't really want to emulate. Furthermore, I'm confident if you were to dig a little further back in time or further into the early live albums, you could easily pad the "unlistenable" stat. However, your particular choice is interesting, because for me, the single most uncomfortable, unlistenable song in the entire "Listening Log" challenge was another on that album, "Future Farmers of America." Whereas you're probably right, most people would likely much rather not listen to "Snow," I guess I can't help but just want to go back and stop myself from hamming it up during "FFA." Personal embarrassment vs. true palatability.
6. Afraid of Love, M, and Train are one trilogy of songs you've said are linked. Coyote, Leave Me Be, and Footsteps are another. Please describe further their relationships and delineate any other such examples.
Coyote, LMB, and Footsteps revise and revisit the same metaphor of the coyote as a lonely scoundrel kept from his quarry by the intervening magic of sentient trees. There is basically no way that I can encapsulate that theme without sounding a.) stupid or b.) fourteen. And I have tried, Memphis, Lord I have tried. Nonetheless, those songs really mean a lot to me, and capture the emotions, albeit in cryptic fashion, of the frustrations and struggles from that period in my life. Afraid of Love, M, Train, and No One Could are all linked by the "I was choking on the promise/I'm afraid of love/I'm afraid of loving you" section either as a bridge or chorus. Those songs are far more openly self-analytical (even comically so --what's wrong with me? Afraid of love.)
7. Finally, how do you pronounce Fried's name? Is it FREED like uncaged birds or FRIED like a chicken who never made it out?
Freed like steed, baby! In parting, thanks for the opportunity to wax endlessly on my favorite subject: me, glorious me.
Read on! Parts 4-6 await you.
[Back to Impenetrable Wall of Force ! The Unofficial Cody Weathers/UFO Catcher/Flip Nasty Fan Site please]