Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus – Does Rock’n’Roll Kill Braincells?

Testing musicians’ memories after a lifetime of abuse. This week we test Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus.

What happens to which member of Pavement at the barbers in the video to ‘Cut Your Hair’?
“Bob [Nastanovich] drinks some tonic from the thing. I have a crown on. Scott [Kannberg] turns into a monkey. And I don’t know what the other two guys do.”
Half a point. Mark Ibold sneezes out a cat, Steve West turns into a lizard. You get crowned then burst into tears.
“It’s the anxiety of the Indie Prince. Ha!”



Name three working titles for your new Jicks album ‘Mirror Traffic’?
“That’s easy. There’s ‘Madonna in Love’. There’s ‘LA Guns’. And there’s ‘LA Guns UK’. My wife and I loved ‘LA Guns UK’ but no one else thought it was funny.”

You used to be a security guard at the Whitney Museum Of American Art in New York, along with Pavement’s Steve West and David Berman. What are its current opening hours and how much does it cost to get in?
“I would say it’s probably $18. I didn’t have to pay to go because I was a guard! The hours are probably eleven to six. The free day used to be Tuesday until eight. The closed day is probably Wednesday.”
Close enough. Correct. Happy days?
“Oh yeah, fantastic. Standing for your money is a weird concept. It’s like a David Blaine endurance test or something. It’s more for your mind than your legs.”

Name three of the five reasons a spokesperson from Domino Records gave NME for Pavement retiring for the foreseeable future in November 1999?
“Let’s see. Something about horse racing? To pursue other projects? The band were tired of touring?”
Wrong. “1. Start families 2. Sail around the world 3. Get into the computer industry 4. Dance 5. Get some attention.”

You had a bit part in 1997 movie Sweet Hearts with Janeane Garofalo and Bobcat Goldthwait, who played Zed in which 1980s movie franchise?
“I’ll guess…Scream?”
Wrong. He was in Police Academy.
“I haven’t seen any of those movies. I haven’t seen that movie I was in either.”

Which British frontman claims early Pavement were a “rip-off” of his band and they didn’t “have an original idea in their heads”?
“I’d like to say Morrissey just for fun but it’s Mark E Smith.”
Correct. You’ve since covered ‘The Classical’ by The Fall. Any feedback?
“No. I’ve never met him. I thought maybe we’d let drunk sleeping dogs lie. I admit to copying Fallism in [first Pavement album] ‘Slanted And Enchanted’ but it pretty much stopped after that. He’d have liked it more if we kept up as a Fall tribute band. Maybe the spigot was turned off when he said that.”

What did original Pavement drummer Gary Young hand to an NME journo after a gig in Bristol in 1992?
“Some pasta maybe?”
“I think he was thinking, ‘I’ve got 98p in my pocket, what can I give people?’ Maybe he had a different reason for it. At least he didn’t give you the clap [Er, gonorrhea – Sex Education Ed] or something. He kept it simple. It was all about the gesture, I suppose.”

Who refused to play on the same bill as you after you slagged them off in your lyrics?
“Smashing Pumpkins [at 1994’s Lollapalooza]. I’m not sure if that’s actually true. We definitely did mention them in that song [‘Range Life’]. It’s debatable whether it was a full-on slag. It was more of a hip-hop mock. ‘Yo, Smashing Pumpkins, you’re not a real indie gangster.’ I was kind of joking but there’s always some truth in a joke and hurt feelings are real.”
Correct. The lyrics go, “Out on tour with the Smashing Pumpkins/Nature kids, they don’t have no function/I don’t understand what they mean/And I could really give a fuck.”

What colour jumper (or ‘sweater’ to you) are you wearing in the video to ‘Shady Lane?’
“Was it maroon? I get my head decapitated and it flies around. I haven’t seen that in ages. It was done by genius director Spike Jonze who’s just made Scenes From The Suburbs for Arcade Fire. I just read that in your magazine!”

Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood plays harmonica on which two songs on final Pavement album ‘Terror Twilight’?
“I know that. ‘Platform Blues’ and ‘Billie’. Nigel Godrich [Pavement and Radiohead producer] rang him up. We were down at a studio and we wanted some wild blues vibes. You wouldn’t think this little skinny kid from Oxford with 20th Century classical training could sound like he was in some Soho blues band. But he can because he’s pretty much a musical genius.”

Total Score:
“Not bad! Pretty good. The ones that were hard were really fucking hard! But the ones that were easy were easy!”