Thursday, March 08, 2007

Rolling Stone Interviews Isaac Brock

From Rolling

Q&A: Isaac Brock
Modest Mouse's leader on touring with the Flaming Lips, surfing and the joys of waking up sober

>> Listen to exclusive audio from this interview.
When Modest Mouse flew to Mississippi to record their seventh album, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, they came armed with a new member, former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. Bandleader Isaac Brock actively sought out Marr, believing their stylistic differences might produce interesting results, and after Marr visited the frontman in his hometown of Portland, Oregon, for ten days of writing sessions, the seed was sowed. Marr is now a full-fledged member, and We Were Dead is the Mouse's most thoroughly entertaining album, with the pogo-inducing lead single, "Dashboard," the anthemic "Fire It Up" and the eight-minute-plus "Spitting Venom," which hops between acoustic strumming and daggerlike electric riffs. And though Marr has so far failed to convert Brock into a nonsmoker -- oddly, while we chat in his Manhattan hotel room, he switches back and forth between Winston Lights and American Spirits -- Brock's self-destructive lifestyle seems to be a thing of the past. He's engaged, he owns a house, he drinks less and he even exercises -- a little. "I go to Bikram yoga, which is the hardest shit ever," he says. "Then I come out and reward myself with a cigarette."

Whether you intended it or not, "Fire It Up" will be the stoner anthem of '07.
My fiancée pointed that one out to me. It wasn't my intention. I was saying "fire it up" in the sense of turning over a car. But I highly approve of stoners and stoner anthems.

Do you smoke a lot?
Not a shit-ton -- I'm not stoned right now -- but I tend to get stoned in the evenings to unwind. It can make TV more entertaining.

What TV shows do you anticipate?
I watch the same cartoons over and over again. I watch Adult Swim. I watch Futurama repeatedly. Then it's DVDs, and I'm easily amused by crappy comedies. I've seen Super Troopers too many times, and there's a house rule that we're not allowed to watch Beerfest again.

I was happy to read that you despise the Grateful Dead.
Not them -- their fans. It's living in Oregon and just seeing these worthless, talk-too-much-about-what-people-are-doing-wrong, not-really-doing-anything-themselves fuckin' hippies. That I despise. "Casey Jones," or whatever, is a great song. I remember the last time the Grateful Dead played in Seattle, at the Seattle Center. I was living there, and after the show I was walking to work near there and I'd never seen so much debris. There were mountains of garbage. Outside of being green-minded about weed, I thought they'd be environmentally conscious, but it was the filthiest I'd ever seen Seattle. It's like they were tripping their balls off in squalor.

There seem to be a lot of nautical themes in your songwriting: "Float On," "March Into the Sea," "Missed the Boat" . . .
There is something genuinely freeing to me about the ocean. There are no borders -- it's fucking beautiful. I'm not going to get to do space travel, so what's under the water is quite a bit more interesting to me. I just went snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef with my fiancée. Also, I've gotten into surfing a bit. I can't stand up for more than five seconds, but I like the fact that I can paddle out into oblivion.

There's a new, unauthorized biography of Modest Mouse. Have you read any of it?
No. I don't know how you'd write a biography about a band without talking to any of the players or their families. I think it's written on speculation, from magazine articles and shit. I think the guy who wrote it is a fuckin' ass and an asshole.

Have you imposed any rules on yourself as far as drinking before gigs?
I try to pace myself. I've found that if I don't drink, I'm a little less fluid. So I like to have a few drinks. I used to get wasted before shows, and it could end horribly. Or it could start and end horribly. Out of respect for people who've paid to see the show, and the guys in the band who don't drink anymore, I realize it wouldn't be fair for me to fuck up the show for my good time.

Who are your favorite bands to tour with?
We used to really like touring with the Shins, back when they were named Flake Music. And we liked touring with Atlas Strategic -- some of whom are now in Wolf Parade -- even though they tended to show up late, or not at all. And the Flaming Lips, even though it was hard for us to be memorable with their giant flying saucer and fuckin' confetti.

What's the coolest thing you've seen recently looking into an audience?
There was a kid who looked about seventeen who was crowd-surfing, and he got pulled over the barricade by one of the security guards. The kid was really psyched, and he gave this big meathead a big hug and just danced off. These guys are supposed to have beef with each other, but I like that the kid totally confused the guard with a big-ass hug.

As a musician, where are you happiest?
Writing. I'm looking forward to writing the next one. And I love touring a lot more now that I don't party like I used to. I can get up at a reasonable hour and go check shit out, rather than waking up hung over with a fuckin' dollar bill hanging out of my nose.

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