The new Minus 5 album has been out for 2 weeks now, so it's the perfect time to sit down with Scott McCaughey and ask him to clear up a few things about this album.
Meanwhile the Minus 5 is ready to hit the road in the US, next week they will start with a small tour on the west coast and play in Callifornia, Oregon and end it in Seattle, Washington. After that they take a few days off before starting a 3 week tour that begins at SXSW festival in Austin.
- You recorded most of the record with the "In Rock" line up, but like on previous Minus 5 records there are a lot of guests. How did they record their parts? Did they come over to the studio, did they send in their submissions, or did you go on the road to record with them?
A little bit of all these ways!
The tracks with Wilco (With A Gun and Hotel Senator) were recorded at Soma Studios in Chicago (on day off during R.E.M. tour), same place where we did Down With Wilco album. Peter and Ken came by too.
I recorded John Wesley Harding and Kelly Hogan's vocals on Twilight Distillery in their motel room when the Love Hall Tryst tour was coming through Portland.
Sean Nelson came over and did his backing vocals (on Hotel Senator and Leftover Life To Kill) in Ken's kitchen when I was staying there in Seattle.
Colin Meloy came over to my house in Portland and sang Cemetery Row, the day before leaving on a Decemberists tour.
The tracks with John Moen, Jim Talstra, and Eric Lovre were done on a weekend we spent down at Eric's place in the tiny town of Turner, Oregon.
Tucker Jackson recorded his steel parts there, and at my place in Portland, and at his house. (Kurt and I had to download some of those off the internet at the studio where we were mixing.)
Bill Rieflin and I went to Morgan Fisher'shouse in Tokyo (again on day off during R.E.M. world tour) and he put his
keyboards on Leftover Life To Kill. He also recorded some keyboard parts for an earlier version of Twilight Distillery that will eventually getreleased somewhere, I'm sure.
Hmm, I think that's all the guests!
- Twilight Distillery is a song that has been played live since 2000, why did it take so long for it to get a studio recording?
I didn't want to do it for Down With Wilco because I was already used to doing it with the In Rock line-up. And I didn't want to record it for the EP because I felt strongly that I wanted it to be on the next full-on Minus 5 album. We did record it twice for the Gun sessions -- both were good but we used the later, slower version on the record. Everybody else in the band had been playing it so long they couldn't believe that we hadn't already put it on a record!
- Wilco backs you up once again for two songs on this album; were these songs newly written for this album, or were they songs you never came around to recording last time?
With A Gun was written by the time we did the three Down With Wilco shows that featured Wilco as the Minus 5. We played it at those shows. I loved the way it sounded with Wilco and knew it needed to be on the next record. So I waited till there was an opportunity to do it with Wilco (see above). The two versions of Hotel Senator were done the same day -- I really liked both so I put one on the EP and saved the other for the album. By the time I re-did the vocals on the second version I decided to change the lyrics, just for kicks!
- In terms of sales, do you have any expectations about this record? Are sales and reviews something you care about?
I never really think in terms of sales or expectations. I prefer to have it be a pleasant surprise if it sells at all! Of course the record labels have that angle to be concerned with, and I do what I can to help them sell the record. This usually means touring, which is usually difficult to arrange for the Minus 5, but we are managing this time to get out and do a fair amount of shows. I do read the reviews, and unfortunately, sometimes I do let the not-so-good ones upset me a bit. Which I really shouldn't! Luckily there are usually a lot more positive than negative reviews. Must be because our records are so good!
- When you were in Croatia with R.E.M. last winter, you recorded 3 songs with The Bambi Molesters, 'Rock and Roll Friend' by The Go Betweens, 'My Autumn's Done Come' by Lee Hazelwood and 'Sputnik '57' by Jon Langford. The last one has just been released on the Bloodshot Records Compilation - "For A Decade of Sin: 11 Years of Bloodshot Records", what's gonna happen with the other two?
Hmm, good question! I actually don't know. I imagine maybe they might show up on a future release under The Strange moniker, which is the Bambi Molesters and Chris Eckman. I feel I'm sort of a member too, since I toured with them on the last record. Really I'm leaving the future of those tracks up to my Croatian friends!
- If you could get anyone to play in The Minus 5, what would the line-up be?
George Harrison and Pete Ham - guitar
Rick Danko - bass
John Bonham - drums
Sun Ra - piano, organ
Sandy Denny, Gram Parsons, John Lennon - vocals
John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, John Gilmore - sax
I'd play sleigh bells and tambourine!
"The Minus 5" aka "the Gun Album" is out in Europe on Cooking vinyl
, in Japan on Oak Tree records
and in the US on Yeproc RecordsThanks to Iva for help with the questions.