It was a Sunday, and if you are a fan of my writing, you know what Sundays in August mean. Cat shows. Competition for the best and the brightest in the feline world—on a civilized tip. This is a non-violent struggle where poise and integrity rule. No blood spilled, the only thing being lost here is ego. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that cat shows appeal to everyone. Whether you love them or loath felines, sleep with them or have deadly allergies… you will love “the game.”
I had invited Clark “Clark-o,” Baechle, Jacob “T-Man” Thiele, Todd “Formerly-Baechle-But-Changed-It-To-Fink-On-Purpose” Fink of members both of the Faint and perhaps more importantly, Depressed Buttons along as I knew it would impress and amuse them. The latter two accepted. Even now, Clark has not RSVP’d. I do not know how to take this. What I do know is that they have just rolled out their first publicly accessible material—a four-track EP which inflames my limbic system and deserves to a sequel in the very near future.
For reasons I will attribute to journalistic integrity own sweet kitty, Betsy Anning, was not competing in the Connecticut Weston Invitational; however, Adolfo—my sainted midget manservant—had brought along TEMPEST 8, his prized Ashera and had thereby effectively invalidated the entire competition. He was assured victory. Assured.
The three of us watched as Adolfo carefully groomed Tempest—a final once over. We all knew how it would go, having “gone” so many times in the past that we’d lost count—his trophy room had more gold than did Fort Knox in its days of legitimacy. You see, Tempest 8 is so named as he is the eighth clone of the legendary Tempest—a cat who personified perfection, and never (ever) lost.
Thank my brilliant friends at Oxford for the favor, America still bumbling with the morality of big-brain genetics.
I turned the conversation away from T8’s brilliance as does make an effort, forever weak, to affect humility at such moments. He feels it solidifies his position with the judges, makes him more “accessible.”
Once I almost got in a fight in the crowd at a Locust show. The guy who took a swing at me probably didn’t know who I was. I threw my arms up like ‘You wanna go?’ but before he could answer he was on the ground getting punched and kicked by several people.
A bold choice, perhaps even controversial—naming your EP after a style of keyboard. Taking that, plus the actual name of your band having the word “button” in it already, well, I may be way off base here but do I sense a trend toward small knobs or disks pressed to activate an electric circuit, to release a spring or otherwise to operate a machine, small door or toy? If so, I think we’re all curious as to why. Not can, but would you discuss?
Jacob Thiele: You’re not off base at all.
JT: You’re completely on base.
That’s good to hear.
JT: Our name is our way of poking fun at the genre and methods of making electronic music, which involves those buttons, circuits, springs and such. We chose the name Qwerty because it’s an interesting example of a somewhat arbitrary choice that was made by typewriter designers that has effected everyone’s life in ways that they don’t even realize.
Todd Fink: To me the name Depressed Buttons is stupid, fun, cute and points a finger toward the temporary boundary between electronic and non-electronic music.
You are a trio of phoenixes, arising from the flame of the Faint; whereas both groups have a unique approach to integrating electric and electronic: What do you see as the root difference between the two?
JT: The Faint was a rock band. Although we applied unusual techniques and created unique music, it was a somewhat traditional operation in terms of arrangement, structure and instruments. Depressed Buttons carries the torch of utilizing the most modern technology we can get our hands on, but isn’t constrained by the confines of those traditional methods. Like the Faint we all contribute and discuss more than we actually play.
TF: Depressed Buttons is much louder and more generous. People should physicalize loud music. We want to be the soundtrack to these cathartic nights.
Where do you see electronic elements fitting into mainstream music in the next five years? Is straight electric, analog rock a thing of the past?
JT: Rock is rooted in the past, sure, but it will always have a fan base and there will probably always be people to fill the clubs and arenas for rock bands. Electronic elements like drum machines and synthesizers are currently dominating mainstream music though, in case you haven’t turned on the radio in the last 5 years.
TF: I hope mainstream music decides that isn't so victimized.
You’re both a collection of real individuals with strong personalities, describe the experience of working with/alongside the contemporary super group: Of Montreal.
TF: Yes, they've all seen my penis. Is that what you asked?
Why did the other two members of the Faint not participate in Depressed Buttons? Did they opt out, or was no invitation given? Is there a pay-as-you-go type of things going on here?
JT: Todd and I started DJing together several years ago. At first we did it just for fun at parties and after parties. Clark, being the most rhythmically inclined member of the Faint was a natural and quickly joined us. Depressed Buttons was created because Joel Petersen hates DJ culture and didn’t like seeing “The Faint DJs” on fliers and such. Eventually we started making remixes and tracks under that name and now it’s our main project.
TF: Dapose plays electronic death metal which is hard to dance to. And, yeah, Joel hates DJs but loves music? Talk about shooting the messenger.
Celebritydom. Ahhhh. Sweet nectar of the gods. Who’s the biggest star, including yourselves, you’ve dated?
JT: Dated or fucked?
TF: Gwen Stefani and I shared a microphone in the raw once but I wouldn't consider it a date.* I've also had many fruitful dates with myself.
* = weighty pause.
People seem to consider Oprah Winfrey as silly and pedantic. These same people might see Omaha an unlikely place of origin. Thoughts?
JT: Currently Todd and Jacob live in Omaha. Clark is living on Bright Eyes’ tour bus at the moment. When the tour’s over I think he’s going to be living in New York because it’s the coolest city in America. Omaha is home though. We’ve got family and friends here. It didn’t used to be that cool but it’s getting better all the time. Being surrounded by friends who understand our passions and creative intentions is great for discussing and philosophizing. We used to miss out on a lot of cool shit going on in other parts of the world, but then god created the Internet. Or was it the military? [I do believe it was Al Gore. –ED]
TF: I just moved back to town. I'm kind of a loner really. Where I'm at is where it's at.
If you could have anyone on call 24/7 as a resident re-mixer of your material whom would it be?
JT: Jan Driver?
TF: I like Ramadanman, Erol Alkan, Boys Noize, Para One, French Fries, Canblaster, NT89, Modeselektor, Marble Players
If you could write your own fortune cookie…?
JT: Today you’ll be really productive and blow your own mind.
TF: You are eternally lucky in this life and beyond.
Nature versus nuture on the music tip. Go.
JT: I was born with 0% of my skills. Then I went to school until I realized that I could often teach myself faster than a professor could. Actually I quit school to go on tour with the Faint. But Todd finished. He majored in music. We’re pretty good at teaching ourselves new skills. Especially Clark. That’s why everybody calls him “whiz kid.” Either that or because of something that happened one night at a certain party in Oklahoma City.
TF: I was born with all my skill…and no memory.
A painless torture there. Now, imagine you’re trapped on an island with just one type of music. Go.
JT: The early ’70s were very influential to me at one point. Brian Eno, T. Rex, David Bowie. For me it was really obsessing over Brian Eno’s four song-oriented albums. He had a vision and with a little help from his friends, he was able to create sounds and styles that were truly original.
TF: I realized the potential of musical expression when I saw a band called Slowdown Virginia play in a garage in 1993.
The ole Slowdown, eh? Beautiful. Beautiful.
Omaha. Check. Fave music. Check. Studio space. What are you working with these days? I remember the refrigerator box you guys had, in the beginning, when times were tough. That was a joke.
JT: No specific environment is required, but we have a studio that’s a pretty great place to work on music. We like to surround ourselves with lots of instruments and noise makers, but the only essential piece of gear these days is the computer. We like to tune our ears to some of our favorite new tracks before we start working. We love to get experimental, but things move more quickly if we have a vision for the track in mind. Usually there’s some caffeinated beverages involved.
Have you any decisions which haunt you?
JT: I’d order more expensive wine when dining with A&R reps from major labels.
Favorite toy. Go.
JT: My favorite toy was probably Lego’s. I don’t know why I stopped playing with them. I should get some.
What’s the craziest shit you’ve ever seen go down?
JT: What happened at that party in Oklahoma City.
Wow, yeah that was shit-crazy.
JT: Once I almost got in a fight in the crowd at a Locust show. The guy who took a swing at me probably didn’t know who I was. I threw my arms up like “You wanna go?” but before he could answer he was on the ground getting punched and kicked by several people.
How will you feel six months after your heart stops beating?
TF: Depends where you feel me.
Hoho. Have you run into any of life’s infamous “tough lessons?”
TF: We are all part of one living thing. It helps me be nice. Sorry to be so cliché, but do what you love, and love what you do. Don’t worry about what anybody else thinks. Many clichés exist because they’re fucking true.
Does character invent style or the other way around? Or?
JT: They are correlated. I think my X-factor is Omaha thrift stores, but many here are privy to them.
TF: Character has its own style.
Is there anyone you owe “big time?”
JT: Well I owe Todd big time for still taking me seriously when I said I wanted to play in the Faint after I had tried to get him to give me his synthesizer as payment.
What’s you favorite venue or city to play?
TF: Venues in the cities I haven't been to yet.
The future of the music industry. Crystal ball. Go.
JT: I suppose the cloud concept, not actually having to store your music because you can access it from anywhere via wireless interwebs. Spotify, for example. Although I couldn’t find Mukilteo Fairies on there.
Do you have a pet at home?**
** = I stroke Tempest 8 nonchalantly, yet lovingly; he had, as predicted, won “the” blue.
TF: Small, old, white 14-year old Chihuahua, Jack Russell Terrier with a British-Mexican accent. He bites peoples’ faces. Sorry, if you got too close.
British Mexican, eh? Well, the food is a gimmie, but I’ll die wondering which type of beer he drinks.
And that, as they say in the movie business, was a rap.