Stephen Malkmus

Seven things you didn't know about former Pavement star

Interview

The former linchpin of massively influential, literate college-rock dons Pavement now fronts his band The Jicks. Their latest album, Mirror Traffic, was produced by Beck and is out now. But did you know the following facts about him?

Despite his bookish image, he’s always played a lot of sport.
‘I grew up on sports and skateboarding and I missed out on comic books and video games. That’s pretty much pre-teen America – what a boy would be into. My dad is obsessed with American sports and I’ve inherited that. I was really into college basketball and I played soccer. I was also into waterskiing, snowskiing and playing baseball. But I wasn’t built for the game that really makes America tick, which is football.’

During all his time with Pavement, they never had a manager.
‘For one thing, we came from the indie scene and our labels and booking agent sort of looked after us. Then we thought it was a bit of a corporate thing to do – kind of unmanly, like getting someone to do your dishes. You should be able to take care of it. And then the third thing is, we were kind of cheap. Managers take like, 20 or 30 per cent. The idea is – and the manager will tell you this – that you’ll actually make more with one. Maybe it was a mistake, to be honest.’

Having two kids has changed his life, but not necessarily his music.
‘I’m not sure having kids has had any effect on my music. My kids are aged six and three and they know I cuss. I cuss in the car when I’m driving; I’ve told them that adults can cuss when driving, because cars are a place of anger in a city. Obviously having children has changed my life in a way. It’s not good for selling magazines because I’m just a dad. I spend a lot of time doing boring stuff – not doing anything that’s hip or romantic.’

Courtney Love once called him ‘the Grace Kelly of indie rock’.
‘That’s not such a bad thing, even for a boy. It was nice of her to do that. I’m sure she was whacked out on painkillers when she said it, but I’ve got a lot of mileage out of it. But then, it’s like all things relate to Courtney Love in the end. It’s sort of like, “Poor me – I can’t be the Grace Kelly of indie rock.” You know what I mean?’

Rolling Stone voted Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain among the 500 greatest albums of all time, but he takes it with a pinch of salt.
‘It doesn’t resonate with me as much as where you’re playing. That tells you more where you stand in people’s minds in the industry. I know from my Pavement experience that with the critic thing, stuff gets slipped in that no one cares about. Accolades don’t necessarily translate into ticket sales, or even reflect how good something is. Although it shows that people care about you. I’d rather be there than not. I mean, why not do it in your room for nobody, if you don’t care?’

He’s quite comfortable with the public’s perception of him.
‘I guess I don’t really know for sure what it is, exactly. But if you’re saying it’s a science-project/bookish persona, I think I’d rather be that than have a Fred Perry-wearing, lager-swilling persona, with gelled-up hair.’

The Jicks once played a show that consisted solely of Pavement songs.
‘We were touring so much and were looking for a Situationist prank, so we learned the songs. It was in this town in Milwaukee, which is a funny place to do it. No one in the crowd knew before we played the first note and then we just kept going. It was sort of a wind-up and we didn’t try to sell tickets on it. There were some people there going, “When are you gonna play a song? I didn’t come here for this.’

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