(Originally published on WildWeb.com, October 1999)

Pavement Pounds The Pumpkins, Tool

Story by JESS BARRON; photos by LEE BAKER / We checked out the Pavement show at San Francisco's Maritime Hall on Saturday, Oct. 9. Opening band, Calexico -- an eclectic instrumental lounge-y California surf act -- roused the crowd singer Steve Malkmus in this small venue that was entirely reminiscent of your high school gym. Film loops of underwater footage and other visual oddities were projected on the walls on both sides of the stage.

When Pavement took the stage around 10:30 I noticed that the film clip on the left side of the stage was projecting the flaming chaos of Burning Man. Though they played a few songs off of this year's excellent Terror Twilight, standout numbers included "Stereo" and "Shady Lane" from 1997's Brighten the Corners. Singer Steve Malkmus was punchy and more talkative than usual. He ripped on Billy Corgan and (as he called them) "The Pumpkies," before playing Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain's "Range Life" the song that reportedly caused Billy Corgan to ban Pavement from Lollapalooza '94 because of the anti-Pumpkins line: "Out on tour with the Smashing Pumpkins/nature kids, but they don't have a function/I don't understand what they mean and I could really give a fuck."

Malkmus also dissed on Tool. "I don't have anything against them," he proclaimed, "but I can't understand why anyone would like that music." Bassist Mark Ibold quickly interjected, "Maybe it's because they don't talk so much between songs."

I had a chance to chat for a bit with Pavement guitarist and founding member, Scott Kannberg a.k.a. "Spiral Stairs."

JESS BARRON: I guess the reason I'm interviewing you is that I was told the other band members don't like the Internet, is that true?

SCOTT KANNBERG: No, that's not true. A couple of the members of the band don't have computers, though.

So you go online?

Yeah, I do all the time. I'm in charge of the Pavement Web site.

The site's gorgeous. I like it a lot.

It's designed by this guy Greg Burtons who used to work at Wired and just does web design now.

Is he the same artist who did the Terror Twilight album cover?

No, we just incorporated some of that artwork into the site.

So, what do you do when you're online? What are your favorite Web sites?

I usually just use it for figuring stuff out. I go to Mapquest a lot. I like golf . So, I go to different golf Web sites and figure out about different courses. They have golf course architecture and history and stuff. Hmmm. What else? I order stuff online from Amazon -- other music.

Speaking of other music, what bands are you listening to right now?

Oh god. That's a hard question.

Scott Kannberg aka Spiral Stairs

What's in your CD player right now?

The new Delgados record. On our tour bus we listen to a lot of folk -- obscure '60s guitarists' records.

Where do you think the future of music is going - MP3, CD, or minidisc?

I don't know. It seems to change every year. I just think there's gonna be tons of different kinds of outlets. I think there will be more multimedia stuff on CDs. For bands who don't have a lot of major label money, MP3s are really good for them.

Your opening band Calexico were kind of fun. What bands do you like touring with?

Calexico is great. The Dirty Three, we did a bunch of shows with them. We're also doing a bunch of shows with this band called Carlos, who are on my label.

What's your label?

It's called Amazing Grease.

How long have you been doing that?

Just about a year now. We just started it. We've got a band called Oranger from San Francisco and a band called Carlos and a band called Sunless Day. You should go check 'em out.

Pavement's been together for ten years now; do you see the band as Y2K-compliant?

Well, I don't know. If it does keep going, it will probably be a little different. It probably won't be a full rock band. We're gonna take a little time off and maybe just work on records and not worry about playing live. 'Cause it kind of saps some of the members' energy. When you're on the road 6-8 months of the year, it gets to be a little bit taxing. But, we'll figure something out.

[Singer] Steve [Malkmus] was really talkative at the show, ripping on the Smashing Pumpkins and stuff. Somebody told me that that was about when you guys got passed up for Lollapalooza because of Billy Corgan. What was that all about?

We were up for Lollapalooza in 94 and Smashing Pumpkins said, "No, if Pavement does it, we're not doing it."

And that was all because of your song?

Yeah "Range Life" off of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. It's not very nice to them. But we got on the next year - a much cooler year.

Who was headlining that year?

Sonic Youth, Hole, Beck. Yeah, a much cooler year.

So, you're living in Berkeley, and the other members of the band live all over the country - has that been hard?

It's been that way for a while. It's pretty hard, but that's all we know really. We don't really know how to be a real band. With this record, we kind of tried to be a real band, but it didn't work. I think you need to live around each other for a while and lose your ego. Things just can't happen. Just like when we play live, it takes us a few weeks to really get something going.

What is up with your nickname, "Spiral Stairs"? How did you get that?

I just made it up when we started the band.


We were trying to be mysterious in the tradition of some bands in the past. With like fake rock names. That was our schtick in the beginning. We were very mysterious and very cryptic.

Do you think you're moving away from that now?

We've been forced to. We still try to keep some sort of mystery there.

Is that because of journalists like myself being in your face?

In the begging they didn't like that; they were like, "Hey, they're putting one over on us; his real name is Scott Kannberg." We still keep some mystery.

Yeah, that's true. With other bands, you find yourself inundated with information about them, but with Pavement I had to really search to find out anything about you guys.

And that's good. With my favorite bands I could really care less what their sex life is.

Well, I'm gonna have to ask you a really random question - don't worry, it's not about your sex life. Which member of the "A-Team" are you most like, and why?

Oh god, I haven't seen that show in like ten years.

Mr. T was B.A. Barracus, Murdoch was the crazy guy, George Peppard was Hannibal, the other guy was Face.

Yeah him -- Face -- I don't know why, I think he was the coolest.

Do you have any favorite A-Team episodes?

I don't remember any episodes, I just remember Mr. T saying, "I pity the fool."

Do you watch any TV now when you guys are on the road?

Not really. I check The Weather Channel. Some members of the band are into sports so we end up watching baseball. We watched "Something About Mary" the other night.

Did you like that?

There were parts of it that were pretty funny. You mentioned that you're into golf, do you have a favorite golf course? Well, yeah. There's a golf course in Ireland I went to once in Portmarnoch.. It's pure golf. It's all natural. It's in sand dunes and the grass is natural grass that the sheep graze. They don't need to manicure it. It's all kind of rugged. Nothing like the courses in the US which are all manicured. People who golf at this place are all Irish kind of working class people. It's fun.

With Amazing Grease do you think that your new label is influenced by stuff you've done with Pavement?

Oh definitely.Over the past ten years, our experience with the music industry and people in bands -- I think I'm using a lot of those influences for this. The reason I kind of started is that I was seeing all these bands in San Francisco and they were making a lot of the same mistakes that a lot of people make.

What are those mistakes?

Believing that you need a manager, believing that you need all this bullshit like that.

Do you think it's better to do it in a more low-fi sort of way?

Yeah, I think bands need to start out that way. Carrying their own gear. Driving around in a van for a couple of years.

Yeah, like how you guys started out.

We're lucky enough now that we make a little money on tour so that we don't need to stay on people's floors. It's been eight years of doing this to get to this point. And we're still not staying in the Ritz-Carlton.

Where are you guys staying in San Francisco?

I was staying at home in Berkeley, but they were staying at the Commodore.

When you guys started who were some of the bands that you guys liked?

The Velvet Underground, The Fall, Echo and the Bunnymen. Those were the bands we were listening to at that time. American college rock influenced us.

So you guys have been on tour for a while now, what's your favorite road food?

We're connoisseurs of road food. There's this great book called Eat Your Way Across the U.S.A. On this tour we've been mostly going through the South and Texas and Southwest and it's been great. In the south, there's just amazing barbecue. There's a place in Missouri that's probably the greatest roadfood place. It's the "Home of the Thrown Rolls." You walk into the place an all of a sudden you're hit by a roll. And they say "roll!" and you're like "what?!"

Cool! Whereabouts in Missouri is that?

Somewhere along the road. Somewhere off the highway.

All right. Thanks for talking with me and good luck on the rest of your tour.

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