ARTS

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May 7, 2002

The New Critic

When given the chance to interview Rivers Cuomo, the lead singer of, and chief creative force behind, Weezer, I jumped with a start, shaking my head, scratching my ears, and ruffling my hair. As my arms ceased to flail and my balance returned, I began formulating a lists of advanced questions along with a series of possible assorted wardrobic assemblages in which to adorn myself for that destined day. The following, a question-and-answer session - an interview, if you will - though really just a friendly chat, grew out of the events of that great day.

Me: I like the beard, what prompted it? You're a regular grizzly bear. Some even say it's a little reckless.

Rivers: Look, I'm no Six Foot Hot Look All American Man, so it just seemed like something worth trying, what with the Dusty West tour and the new album. Besides, there's been a lot of serious, even originary, work done in the past six months concerning a conceptually grounded theory of facial hair.

Me: For the Dusty West tour, you say?

Rivers: Indeed.

Me: Because people don't shave west of the Mississippi?

Rivers: Seems so.

Me: What about California?

Rivers: Doesn't count.

Me: Why not?

Rivers: Just doesn't.

Me: Really?

Rivers: Yeah.

Me: Okay.

Rivers: Great.

Me: How's the tour going?

Rivers: Good.

Me: You sure?

Rivers: Fairly.

Me: Let's talk about your new album, Maladroit. Is it going to suck?

Rivers: [sneezing] Not like the green album.

Me: Yeah, the green album was pretty awful. But you've put that behind you?

Rivers: You know, it's not something I can even put behind me. The whole band—what's left of us, we've all just sort of stepped outside of time—basically, we collapsed it, so it doesn't even pertain.

Me: I think I know what you're talking about. So what's Maladroit?

Rivers: [Steps into an anteroom for what he calls "a minute"]. Returning to the green album, that was all mathematical—geometric, maybe. And some people don't like math. Now the new album, it's still mathematical, it's really [mathematical], but we're doing number theory now. [Chortling]. Oh, it's going to be big. REAL BIG. I'll go so far as to say it may or may not awaken ancient feelings.

Me: This new album has some similarities with Pinkerton, a cartoonish cover (perhaps one that was painted), no photographs of the band, it isn't self-titled, just to name the few of which I'm aware. How does it compare with that mid-nineties masterpiece?

Rivers: Masterpiece? Really…no…you think?

Me: Yes, very much so, except for "Butterfly", of course, which is terrible. But hey now, have some confidence.

Rivers: [Rubbing at and blowing nose] YEAH? It's like this, in the arts, feeling is always meaning. Our feeling, and the feelings of our intelligent listening audience—as distinct from those who liked the "green album"—were sort of lost with said endeavor. We're tapping back into that here. There'll be some rock, some angst, a little something else, all of it childish, occasionally even embarrassing, but still great.

Me: About the songwriting process, is it true that you've got to live on an island to find the juice? And if so, where is the island? What's it like? Would I like it?

Rivers: That's a metaphor. Sometimes in songs I express myself using a metaphor. There isn't an actual island, so it's hard to describe, but if I had to, I'd say it's fuzzy and warm. Oh, and occasionally it emits a low buzzing noise.

Me: You've had bad luck with people whose first name starts with the letter "m," first Matt Sharpe leaves the band, now he's suing you over songwriting royalties, and then there's Mikey, who checked into a hospital for (unspecified) medical concerns.

Rivers: About Litigant Sharpe, I'm not allowed to speak. Concerning Mikey: he's not adverse, in some strict sense, to nose candy. But who is? Not me. But, you know, it's like…[starts mumbling, unintelligible warbling noises. Now standing on chair throwing his Orange Julius].

Me: You mentioned the green album, just what are the lyrics to "Hash Pipe" about?

Rivers: Ah, well back in Wilson High, I had two best friends. They lived down the block, where Eagle Ct. bends. Anyhow, they gave me a hat that was awful rad, so I gave them this song.

Me: What with the pointed-jagged seventies rockstar guitar you've started using? Is it really comfortable, or even that special, isn't it hard to handle?

Rivers: Truthfully, no. But it's kind of cool, and weezer is nothing else if not kind of cool.

Me: I don't know, you guys can be kind of lame.

Rivers: False. We're TurboRockers. Name one other TurboRocker out there today. You can't! No one can. Because it's just us. It's our EXCLUSIVE property. [Starts sneezing]

Me: Sorry.

Rivers: Well, it's a common misconception that's a little insulting. [Blows nose]. Fine, say I am not a rockstar, just so long as you then point out that I'm a TurboRockstar.

Me: So what is TurboRock?

Rivers: It's a violin in a void that falls away, allowing for the emergence of an aria and a wolf-whistle of the writhing cultural mass in which we find ourselves immersed. [TurboRock contains] multitudes.

Me: Why would you want to sit down and chat with the Chicago Maroon?

Rivers: Well, the blue paper certainly isn't an option. And that other one brings to mind bag ladies. [Shudders]. So this was it.

Me: Any thoughts about that thin wild mercury sound?

Rivers: No, to aim for such greatness, would only confound our many musical dreams, of pop perfection.

Me: Thus creating an audio feast, of most sumptuous delectation.

Rivers: Indeed, you are right, of this I can say no more.

Me: Then let us conclude and head now, scurrying for the door…there we will discover, TurboRockstar-luxury.

Rivers: I doubt it not for a moment. Embrace this reprieve!

Conclusion: Well, after that it got pretty late. And we both had to go, but it was great seeing Rivers. I realized what a terrific person he is. And how great all his songs are. So now I just say to myself: Rivers Cuomo: singer, sure; songwriter, why not; rockstar, more or less; madcap genius, probably; a nerdy pervert, seems likely; a grizzly bear, most definitely. ROOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!