Stephen Malkmus has done a lot of interviews in his 20-odd years fronting Pavement and the Jicks. So when we talked on the phone in advance of the latter group's Portland stop—it will be the first time the latest incarnation of the band, which features Jake Morris of the Joggers on drums in addition to longtime Jicks Joanna Bolme and Mike Clark, has played Portland—I wasn't surprised to hear him answer my questions in playful fashion.
But on the Jicks' new record, the Beck-produced Mirror Traffic, Malkmus balances his wry, playful writing with self-aware and emotionally direct lines about illusion-shattering that feel as sincere as anything in the songwriter's back catalog. Much like talking to a half-awake Malkmus—who moved from Portland to Berlin this summer—as the band drives through Virginia, it snaps between sincere and outrageous at a moment's notice.
WW: I heard you guys just recorded an L.A. Guns song. Why do you love L.A. Guns?
Malkmus: You have to watch a lot of their videos and look at their cover art and just stare at it. Just turn the sound down. And Guns N' Roses, obviously, is a much more important band than Nirvana...who is just like a pale imitation of Guns N' Roses, really.
Do you really believe that?
Yes, absolutely. I do believe it. I know that Guns N' Roses are much better than Nirvana, there's no doubt about it. But I can name like 700 bands that were better than Nirvana that were from that year.
You are not a Nirvana fan?
No, I love 'em. I just think that L.A. Guns were there at ground zero at this very important time that we used to celebrate. And now people sort of make fun of David Lee Roth and the party times and the good times. I was there in the '80s—I was there to experience it.
But it doesn't seem like you strive for the overkill and the grandeur of that era.
I know, but it was different times, you know? All we wanted was drugs and girls and money. And in the '90s, it was a different game. There was the rise of the indie girl. To get her, you could not play Guns N' Roses music. There was also the rise of boob jobs, which I am not a fan of. [And] my hair doesn't look long or teased, it just goes out in this ugly neo-Ramones look. So I was kind of forced out.
Do you have stock advice that you give young musicians?
Yeah. I would say, pretty much, sell all your bonds, because this bear market is gonna end. I'm sure you're already out of these tech stocks like Cisco Systems and Microsoft, but I would check the fundamentals behind a lot of these companies. A lot of these companies are actually profitable and—
[Laughing] I guess stock was the wrong word.
Oh. Not stock advice? Oh, just generic advice. Sorry. There are a lot of young musicians that need advice on that. Especially in Portland.
Forget I asked. Are you scared about the move to Berlin?
Not really, we've been there for a month. It already happened, the scary part. There are a bunch of college kids walking around and like, Canadian backpackers. I'm not afraid. If a Canadian backpacker can handle it there, I can handle it there. It's very livable, you'd be surprised. It's hard to get mugged. You can walk around saying, like "mug me!" They won't even do it. They're not into mugging.
Are you going to miss U.S. sports?
Yeah, that's one. America's spectacle sports are great, and we don't really have them in Europe. But we do have this thing called ESPN America. If I have time to watch, I'll do it. It's probably good for me to not do that, and get some culture or something. Like, read a book or get into architecture. That's something you can always do in your 40s.
What will you miss most about Portland?
Clubbing. I'm not going to be able to go clubbing anymore, around Portland. I'll tell you what I'm not going to miss: Basketball.