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Interview with Modest Mouse from August 24, 1996
First appeared on
Pitchfork in September, 1996
Photography and interview by Ryan Schreiber

I conducted this interview with Modest Mouse in August of 1996. The band had just played a set at Minneapolis' 400 Bar in support of their then-freshly released Up Records debut, This is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About. We met up in the parking lot after the performance and talked about the usual stuff. (Give me a break on some of these questions-- I was just a kid, for crying out loud.)

Everything printed here is just as it occured in the interview. I told them I wouldn't print the part about them hitting the dogs, but... oops.

Pitchfork: You guys are from Olympia?

Issac: Never. We're from Issaquah. It's by Seattle, kinda. East of it, you know? You know, a little closer to Milwaulkee. Not Milwaulkee, I mean, it is that, but... Minneapolis.

Pitchfork: What was your first job?

Issac: When I was eleven, I was a janitor at a gymnastics place. I've had a shitload of 'em.

Pitchfork: What was the worst job you ever had?

Issac: Oh, yeah. Door-to-door salesman. I sold oil changes for Firestone door-to-door. I had people threaten to shoot me and shit. It was a freaky job.

Jeremiah: I was a paperboy.

Eric: My worst one was working in a software packaging warehouse in Kirkland. It was shitty.

Issac: Going door-to-door, you realize how bleak it is, what people are doing. It's like, everyone's watching the same program on the television set. Everyone. No matter what house you go to, [people are] watching TV, doing absolutely nothing. It was, like depressing, you know? It's the poor people you'd all be havin' to sell this shit to 'cause the rich people don't give a shit whether they save money or not. I'd go and read and stuff. They paid me by the hour, not the sale, which was a dumb move.

Pitchfork: I'm doing this weird telemarketing thing right now. On Wednesday or whatever, everybody tells me they have to go because they're watching Seinfeld.

Issac [suddenly enraged]: "Don't be a douche! Don't you watch fuckin' Seinfeld, too? What's up?! I thought everyone liked Seinfeld! You're an asshole if you don't like it! Fuck you! I won't buy shit from you!" Did you get that one? "Seinfeld makes me happy and you don't! Click!"

Pitchfork: How long did the album take to record?

Issac: A month and half.

Pitchfork: You have a lot of fuckin' songs.

Jeremiah: We got more songs than we can deal with right now that we haven't recorded.

Issac: We're doing a 7" for this label called Suicide Squeeze, and we got two fuckin' awesome songs on that. We just did an EP, we just did some shit for Dub Narcotic [Sound System]. Calvin [Johnson].

Eric: What was the question?

Issac: Whether or not we have sex.

Eric: Of course! Why would you ask?

Pitchfork: So, your EP has like eight bonus tracks.

Jeremiah: Oh yeah.

Issac [maniacally]: Ah ha ha!

Eric: Those are all old songs we did on four-track that we thought we'd throw on. [Looking around.] Where are those cute girls?

Jeremiah: Terrible.

Pitchfork: What?

Issac: Someone cute. She was walking.

Pitchfork: How did you come up with the album title, This is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About?

Issac: Whatever it means to you, it means to you, but it meant something to me at some point. It's like I was driving a lot, and when we were recording is when I came up with it 'cause I was driving back and forth a lot.

Eric: Smoking beer and shit.

Issac: I'm sorry what was the question?

Pitchfork: I don't remember.

Issac: Oh, yeah. And I didn't have a damn thing to think about. I was bored. I had nothin' to say to my girlfriend, nothin' to say to anyone. It was like ten hours a day and then I'd do this stupid thing where I'd go to Seattle to crash an hour away. It's a longass drive for someone with nothin' to think about. I had nothin' to say. Nothing.

Pitchfork: Had you just picked up your best songs and recorded them for the record?

Issac: We wrote a few there, but mostly it was shit that we were doin' before that. We recorded them all and there's probably like for every one song we recorded, two other songs that we ditched.

Pitchfork: How long have you guys been together as a band?

Issac: Two years. We were on "Star Search." We had this song that went, "Sign us!/ Sign our asses!/ Sign us!/ Sign our asses!" about getting signed and shit. And then we all slept with the guy who, uh... the host for "Star Search." You know, you sleep with him and he makes a couple calls in the morning. He's all, "Shut up, bitch." We were like, "Are you gonna get us signed?" and he was just like, "Shut up, bitch." That's what he was like.

Issac: What was his name?

Jeremiah: Ed McMahon.

Eric: Bob Barker.

Issac: Fuckin' a.

Pitchfork: So, everyone's drunk today.

Issac: Yeah, we are! Jeremy's fuckin' wasted! It's hard for us to keep that dude sober. Like most of the time, he can't even play these days. It's like we'll start a show, and he'll be so wasted, he'll just hit the drums a couple of times and fall over. It's awful, but it's funny. We've been makin' him do speed so he can stay awake and shit, and he's doin' a good job. You saw today he was drunk. He drank a whole fuckin' fifth of vodka on the way over here and shit. And we were like, "Jeremy, Jeremy. Fucking take this speed."

Jeremiah: Oh, I gotta go swimming, man. I'm so stinky.

Issac: People diss drunk driving, but I think it's the best.

Eric: It was funny 'cause we were running around hitting dogs the other day.

Issac [laughing excitedly]: Oh! Remember that one that, like, lived and shit, and we took it with us 'cause we felt bad?

Jeremiah: I smashed its fuckin' two back legs so we got blood everywhere.

Eric: I don't know if you wanna put this in your magazine.

Issac: Yeah, this is between us. All I know is this is a rental van, so who gives a fuck? There's all doggie tails stuck to the muffler and stuff. Go look at the front of the van.

Eric: Go look at it.

[I did go look at the van. There were red splotches on the front, but it could have been anything.]

Jeremy: Should we tell him? Should we tell him about the bodies?

Pitchfork: You can tell my tape recorder.

Issac: No, let's just get rid of the bodies.

Jeremy: Do you want some acid?

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RATING KEY
10.0: Indispensable, classic
9.5-9.9: Spectacular
9.0-9.4: Amazing
8.5-8.9: Exceptional; will likely rank among writer's top ten albums of the year
8.0-8.4: Very good
7.5-7.9: Above average; enjoyable
7.0-7.4: Not brilliant, but nice enough
6.0-6.9: Has its moments, but isn't strong
5.0-5.9: Mediocre; not good, but not awful
4.0-4.9: Just below average; bad outweighs good by just a little bit
3.0-3.9: Definitely below average, but a few redeeming qualities
2.0-2.9: Heard worse, but still pretty bad
1.0-1.9: Awful; not a single pleasant track
0.0-0.9: Breaks new ground for terrible
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