In a Green Man Minute: Stephen Malkmus Talks to Phil Sutcliffe of Mojo Magazine

Stephen Malkmus

Glass tent. **

** Seen at the 2007 Green Man Festival. The festival’s “Literature Tent”, designed more for poetry readings than interviews with rock stars, could barely house all of emperor-of-indie Stephen Malkmus’ fans. Fortunately, Your Correspondent and his Lovely Assistant had arrived early - with all of the UK’s Sunday papers to tide us through the wait - and had literally the best seats under the canopy for the Malkman’s interview with Phil Sutcliffe of the British music rag Mojo.

Stephen Malkmus and Phil Sutcliffe

It was a desultory conversation, with Sutcliffe’s pack of ultra-mild questions inadvertantly exposing a parochial streak in his subject - Malkmus is strong on music, but suffers from the West Coast mutation of intellectual apathy on other fronts - an inkling of which is appreciable in the following clip from the interview. Here’s the Malkmovich in his default ‘tude, sarky-but-not-seriously-so, relating his one and only night in jail:

What Manner of Place is Stockton, California? (or, “The Night Malkmus got Arrested”; 1:39)


One hesitates to give the Malkmeister the bullet-point treatment, but since, as Sutcliffe said, Mojo plans to run the entire inverview online - though it hasn’t yet, as far as I can tell - perhaps a highlights reel makes more sense than a seamless write-up. Here, then, are further notes gleaned from SM in the big top:

Stephen Malkmus

  • Factoid: SM would rather be stuck on a desert island with an ape than a talking robot. (As long as the ape was female.)
  • Early influences: Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Social Distortion (”before they went really rock”), Dead Kennedys (”the perfect band”), TSOL and MDC (”Millions of Dead Cops”).
  • Quote: “The Fairport Convention is one of the best English bands ever.”
  • Follow-up: SM also likes the Incredible String Band.
  • Factoid: SM has never bumped into the Smashing Pumpkins or the Stone Temple Pilots since recording Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain.
  • South African bands that crack a nod: Both Freedom’s Children and Suck comprise part of the SM discogriverse.
  • Confirmation: It was, indeed, his playing for the Silver Jews on American Water that proved the watershed moment for SM, and opened his mind to life beyond Pavement. The freeness of that records’ production led him to conclude, “Don’t be afraid to play with someone else.”
  • What’s a “jick”?? In cards, it’s slang for a “jack”. But it sounds to SM more like a bug: a mosquito, or tick… “or any kind of head lice”.
  • Writers SM likes include David Foster Wallace and James Meek, for his The People’s Act of Love.
  • Quote: “David [Berman] has notebooks ‘this thick’ filled with great stuff that’s unpublished… I have, like, one page.”

and to conclude:

  • The glass house referred to on “AT&T”, from Brighten the Corners, is New York City resident Jacob Javitz’s. But you knew that already from the next line of the song.

Stephen Malkmus

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