Lovefool 09.19.12 | Matthew Sweet Talks, Part 2

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Matthew Sweet once sang "Nothing Lasts," but his interview with our own Lovefool went so long we split it in two! This second half sticks to Sweet's non-musical pursuits: comics, animation, art, and the vast reaches of space.

 

 

Oh, nerdlings. You guys. Seriously. Guess who your Lovefool got to talk to? Guess? Guuuuuesssss.
 
Matthew Sweet, that's who, taking time off to talk to me about his September 22nd show at the Duck Room, where he'll be playing Girlfriend for you, gorgeous St. Louis, one more time. Matthew. Sweet.
 
You'll be pleased to hear that I kept it together during our brief chat and that he didn't bat an eye when I 'fessed up to actually being a comics writer but I couldn't bring myself to tell him I've been listening to his tunes since I was a wee Lovefool. This is part of a two part interview, one discussing music and politics and this one covering comics and his madman pottery skills and Ren & Stimpy. And space, we talked about space and it was rad. We also briefly discussed his next project and his ‘80s covers album, the thought of which makes me gibber with delight, but you'll have to head over to the other section of our conversation for that. We talked about Evangeline-the-comic and Japan's Walt Disney and his Lum tattoo, which he said he would absolutely show us if we asked nicely. Matthew Sweet is indeed one of us, nerdlings, and he's an okay dude, to boot. | Erin Jameson
 
 
When you were doing Girlfriend and the videos after that, they all had a very comics feel to them, even when they weren't directly anime-based. Are you still reading any comics?
 
You know, honestly, not too much, I'm sort of just out of touch with the whole world, I hate to say. At that time, I really got into it, even a couple years before Girlfriend. I remember I was in England doing something for a little bit of time and I went to a big comic store in London and I just started. I read Watchmen, which you know later got made into a movie. I liked it. Some people don't. And I started maybe finding some translated Japanese stuff then. And then when I was back in New York, where I lived at the time, I started going to a comic store in Manhattan. And then there was one in New Jersey where I lived and I just kind of was drawn towards the Japanese style of art. It was very unfamiliar to me, even though as a little kid, I saw Speed Racer and stuff, it just looked so wild and psychedelic to me.
 
So when I had to make a video, I didn't want to just have it be me so there was a great lady, this lady Sandy at Zoo Entertainment and she was the video person and she helped me get in touch with Streamline Productions, who had lots of Japanese anime that they'd started bringing over and we got those Cobra clips [for the “Girlfriend” video] from them. Eventually, I went to Japan and they were huge into the fact that I liked anime. I met Buichi Terasawa, who did Cobra, was the artist and made the movie. And Lum from Urusei Yatsura, when we used her, that's just such a popular character in Japan. I just loved how she looked and the whole vibe of it so we ended up getting some of that footage and, eventually, the woman who draws Lum, Rumiko Takahashi, she made one of those fan panels where she drew the character and signed it to me, even though I never met her. She was like Walt Disney or something there.
 
I know, you have the tattoo and everything of Lum. Are you still proud of that?
 
Sure! I mean, I never got tattoos to be proud of them, like in a showoff kind of way. It was more a personal thing for me.
 
I think there might be a photo of you with the the tattoo, perhaps, to go along with this interview.
 
Yeah, they used it on some 45 or a CD single or something from that time. Maybe when they put out “I've Been Waiting”? I'm not exactly sure.
 
You know, I was also really into Ren & Stimpy. I was a psychotic Ren & Stimpy fan and I went to Spümcø and met those guys, before I had any tattoos, and became kind of friendly with both John Kricfualusi and Bob Camp, who were together in the original ones. They would send me scripts on the road where I could read about the cartoons they were going to make, they were really hilarious. And they would sometimes act them out for me in John's office. They would play two of the parts and I would sit on the floor. It was really pretty cool. So that's a great memory I have from that time. And to be around during a cartoon as important as that—its style alone is just so far-reaching, not to mention groundbreaking as an emotionally twisted kind of thing. It was over the line from what anyone had done before.
 
That stuff played into when I was a fan of anime. I guess I really just had so much of my fill of it that I never really got back into collecting or reading a lot. Although, I do occasionally get sent things from Dark Horse and some people I know and I do enjoy it. I just don't pursue it.
 
You have the song “Evangeline,” and it's great, but it's based on kind of an obscure comic book. People who have been collecting comics their entire lives are like "Oh, that's about a comic?"
 
Of course, the Evangeline thing. I found Evangeline comics somewhere where I was buying comic books and I thought "This is super fucked up." Like, she's supposed to be an agent of God but it's totally violent. That was amusing to me and I liked the name of it and, you know, at that time, that's the time I recorded "Divine Intervention" and "Holy War" and things that kind of touched on that. And so I just attached it to that song and it's interesting because more people than you think knew about the comic then. I think it was after it existed a little bit.
 
Speaking of art and artsy things, I notice that your website's pottery shop is down, will you be reopening that anytime soon?
 
Pottery. I've been really lazy about it for the last year. I made this bunch of little white cats for Modern Art. I made maybe 45 or 50 of them and I sold them in the last few days of touring last fall, when we first toured Girlfriend. And then, while I was out touring and neglecting everything, somehow Etsy shut down my shop? Even though people had ordered things and then I couldn't tell what the things were. One guy finally emailed my management and I was able to take his stuff to New York in June but I think I might even owe something to another person. But I go on there and there's nothing. Even the things I sold, you can't see. So I think that combined with just being busy doing other stuff, I've really not done pottery for kind of a year now. I've been thinking about going out there and starting so there may be a burst sometime soon.
 
But I've been working on the ‘80s [Under the Covers] record for Susanna Hoffs and I and some music for a documentary that Mike Myers is making about this old Hollywood manager guy named Shep Gordon and I'll probably try to do something new in the fall once I can get finished with the ‘80s record, so… It's kind of hard to say when I get the bug. But I imagine, yeah, I'll make more pottery because I really love doing it. Every time you don't do it for a while, it's kind of horrifying, like you can't imagine how you ever did it. I mean, for me, this is how it is. If I do it every day for a week or two, I start to really feel like I know what's going on. When I don't do it for a while, and I'm gonna go do it, it just seems like I won't be able to do it. Because it's such a weird, mysterious thing, how it works. I don't know. Have you ever made pottery?
 
Well, I took an ill-fated ceramics class but we didn't use any wheels. I can't imagine I wouldn't end up with pottery just flying everywhere.
 
The wheel is a crazy thing. It's very, very, very difficult and when you get in the mind where it works, which is forgetting everything and being very Zen-like, it's a weird spiritual experience, almost like writing music or something, where it just kind of pops out of nowhere. The thing with pottery is there's an actual object so, to me, that was really cool because, you know, most of what I do, it's just kind of in the air. Being a musician, and to have a thing that was just a solid object left over was kind of cool. And working with fire and all that is kind of exciting to me somehow. You know, this sort of fire of Zeus kind of thing. It's really high-temperature stuff.
 
That's very elemental. I don't know that I realized that you were going through that whole process, with the kiln and the firing and all that.
 
Oh, yeah. I do it all in my garage and I make some raku stuff. I really started out doing dangerous, crazy raku and then I learned how to make normal stuff and glazes and now I have a little kiln that's electric where I can roll up the top and use it for raku. And so I may be doing some of that again, I imagine. That's when you take it out with tongs when it's glowing red hot and you put it in a little trash can filled with newspaper and slam the top on it and fire eats all the newspaper and oxygen and it drives weird carbon stuff into the glazes that makes it look really cool.
 
That sounds horrific.
 
It fits my side of me that's into science and Mars. I'm very excited about the rover. This is the fourth time I've gotten to see them put rovers there since 1976, when I was…I think I hadn't turned 12. So when I was 11, I called JPL [NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory] and got them to send me the first Martian panorama from the first lander. And I've gone to JPL a lot over the years. I do have nerd science as another thing I'm into. Kind of like politics, I read a lot about physics and quantum physics and stuff I'm interested in.
 
Click here to read the other, more music-centric half of Lovefool’s Matthew Sweet interview. For more info, visit matthewsweet.com.
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