Soundtrack Of My Life: Spoon’s Britt Daniel

Founder of the legendary alt-rockers talks love of The Beatles, Bee Gees and spending lockdown listening to Sleaford Mods

The song I wish I’d written

Jay-Z feat Alicia Keys – ‘Empire State of Mind’

“Why? Because it’s the greatest. That’s it. On the chorus you get pure emotion and the verse you get pure cool. To have them both in the same song it’s unusual. It goes to a lot of places for me emotionally. It’s just a stunning song, and I love how she says “inspi-ya-you” every time. I can never hear it too much. It’s never like ‘oh no, I’m hearing this again’ it’s like ‘oh, I’m falling for this song again’.”

The first song I remember hearing

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Richard Strauss – ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’ (theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey)

“I have distinct memories of hearing this one, going way back to when I lived in Rochester, Minnesota – I left there when I was three so it was earlier than that. I remember the record cover. My parents were mostly playing Paul Simon, Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney but hearing that was different. That’s not the kind music they’d normally listen to. I gravitated towards it because it scared the fuck out of me. That emotion of ‘this is something I’m experiencing’. I would ask them to play that song over and over again.”

The first album I owned

Michael Jackson – ‘Thriller’

“Before that I’d bought a lot of 45s because that was in my budget. I’ve still got a ton of them. I thought I’d probably buy all the singles off ‘Thriller’ so maybe I made an economic decision and bought the whole record. It was at the Hastings Record Store in Temple Mall in Temple, Texas where I grew up. I remember thinking Michael Jackson was a phenomenon. At that moment he was at his coolest – he was superhuman but he hadn’t become the weird alien yet. He was this omnipresent artist of that moment and everybody liked him.”

The first gig I went to

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The Bee Gees in 1979 at the Frank Erwin Centre, Austin, Texas 

“I was big on The Bee Gees. My dad had their records. I still think Barry Gibb was one of the greatest songwriters of his era. They were touring after the release of ‘Saturday Night Fever’ and the stage they were playing on replicated the disco lights on the floor from the movie. To be seeing these people who were the gods I’d seen on record covers was monumental. I didn’t understand what an encore was – they came out twice and I thought they were going to come out again. I just remember waiting at the end for a long time because I wanted them to come out again!”

A song that reminds me of home

Pixies – ‘Cactus’

“It reminds me of one summer I had a job – my first job – I was probably about 16. It was a job at an apartment complex in Temple, Texas and it was summer and my job was to move furniture from one apartment to another or to mow lawns. It was hot, physical work – 100 degrees (F) in Texas every day in summer. I’d take a break whenever I could, on the fly. I’d sit in the bathroom of the pool house, lock the door and just sit there… like the song “sitting here wishing on the cement floor”. That’s what I was doing. I was hiding because it was brutal outside. Whenever I hear that song I’m transported to that summer and the punishing heat.”

The song I can no longer listen to

The Beatles – ‘Yellow Submarine’

“I’ve deleted it out of iTunes. ‘Revolver’ is a perfect album but for this one. I just don’t need to hear it again. If I have kids I’m sure they’ll love it but I’m not a 4-year-old kid I don’t need to hear it again. It breaks the mood [of the album]. It’s just a bit of silliness.”

The song that changed my life

Violent Femmes – ‘Kiss Off’

“I’m not sure what it was like where you grew up but in Texas when you get to be about 15 and you could get in a friend’s car or your own car and shut those doors and be moving and making your own decisions – that was huge. That was a major step of freedom and growing up. When that moment hit me I was just finding out about Eric B. & Rakim, The Beastie Boys were just coming out, I was really into The Cure. The Violent Femmes were probably the biggest band for me in that burst of new freedom, I just completely related to their lyrics. The lyrics speak to the minds of high school students like no other record – insecurity, anger, masturbation, frustration and lust. It all rang super true for a kid in high school who was becoming an adult for the first time.”

The song I want played at my funeral

Glen Campbell – ‘Wichita Lineman’

“It’s just an emotional song, right? For me, the way that I usually relate to music is almost purely on the melodic level. That’s what gets me the most. But if you can match that up with a lyric at the same time… when that comes together it’s pretty powerful. “I need you more than want you / And I want you for all time” – it’s a pure emotional moment.”

The song I listen to before going on stage

Thee Oh Sees – ‘Lupine Dominus’

“As a band we have rituals before going on stage. There’s an energy ramp before a show. By the end of it we’ve usually had a couple of tequilas. Beforehand sometimes the intention is to play the music so loud that it scares people from coming into our dressing room. On the last tour it got to be a lot of classic metal but I remember this one coming on a lot. It was either AC/DC, Judas Priest or Thee Oh Sees.”

Your karaoke song

Neil Diamond – ‘Solitary Man’

“That’s always been the go-to. It’s easy to sing. Obviously it’s a masculine song. I don’t know, it doesn’t seem like the kind of song people usually do when they do karaoke. When you’re doing this song – you’re singing in a low voice – it’s sort of this presence you take on singing those words. It seems to make people notice.”

A song or album you connect with during lockdown

Sleaford Mods – ‘Key Markets’

“Even though things are open here [Texas, late July 2020] in no way does this feel like the real world. This is a band that my other drummer – the drummer for Divine Fits, Sam [Brown] – told me about way back when we were touring. When I heard it, I thought, this is far out, it’s tickling my brain in an odd way. I didn’t spend time with this record at all until the last couple of months. I just like it for what they are – their vibe is unique, ugly, real and doesn’t give a fuck. It’s a nice combo to throw on whenever you need that.”

Spoon’s back catalogue will be available worldwide for the first time on vinyl and CD in 2020 via Matador Records

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