You graduated from high school
in Lincoln in '83. What do you remember about the music scene back
I wasn't really too in touch with the scene at the time. I remember
the local hero was Charlie Burton. I was in a group called The Specs
that had a song on KFMQ Homegrown Vinyl. There was a guy named Danny
O'Kane who had a group that played there a lot (Model Citizens),
and a group called The Boys that played glam rock. I always played
with kids who were older than me -- I was playing in bands at The
Drumstick when I was 13.
Did you feel that you had to leave Lincoln to make it in the
It wasn't so much that I had to leave to make it in the music business
as I was curious to be out on my own and sort of explore. I never
felt that where I was ever influenced my songwriting. I moved to
Athens because I met the guys in R.E.M. and became pen pals with
Linda Hopper, who was in Oh-OK. I gave them my multi-track tapes
and they liked them. Back then it was foreign for me to have much
confidence in myself.
Has being from Lincoln influenced your songwriting?
The openness of rural Nebraska certainly influenced me. That openness,
in a way, fosters the imagination. But growing up, Lincoln wasn't
a small town. It was a college town. It had record stores and was
a liberal place.
So how often do you return to Lincoln, and is it strange coming
My family lives there, so I come back sometimes between shows for
a couple days. I get back a couple times a year. When I was 30 to
34 I was weirded out when I came back -- you know, how your past
gets away from you. It's grown so much. Back then, we could drive
a mile from home and there was nothing. Now it's grown in every
direction and is populated and modernized. I guess I have mixed
feelings about it, but I'm not someone that thinks everything should
Let's talk about the new CD. In the press materials there's
reference to your following in Japan. How would you characterize
the devotion of those fans?
First off, I don't want anyone to think I'm this huge thing in
Japan. Every group from here that's made any records over any length
of time -- even indie bands -- have a Cheap Trick effect in Japan.
When I go to Japan and do shows I play for 1,000 to 1,500 people.
I like a lot about Japan. Their popular culture and mass commercialization
appeals to me. There are things that I value now that I didn't when
I first went over there, like Zen Buddhism, which has become part
of my life over the last couple years.
I wanted Kimi to be a Japanese record with a Japanese title.
I wanted it to be for them. They appreciate things on a different
level, and take their art very seriously -- that's special if you're
an artist. You know that they're not just into it for the moment,
they really care about it and value it over time.
When I did the record, I was coming off a time when my contract
had been sold and the music industry had changed a lot. I didn't
understand how to make records for big labels. I was waiting for
a new kind of record label to emerge. So it helped me to just let
go of all my tensions and feelings about that world and say 'OK,
this is for my fans in Japan. They'll be nice and get into it and
have fun.' And it was the first record I made at my home studio.
It must have felt liberating.
I think of it as 'pretend freedom.' It was a way to trick my mind
into not feeling so pressured. I felt like I had become numb to
that process. I got into rediscovering how I felt about music before
I was on a record label. I felt I could do this record totally apart
from that world. A couple months after Kimi, I recorded another
album's worth of stuff. It was fun and exciting.
Right in the midst of all this, The Thorns came out of the blue,
and that was a year and a half of working with Columbia Records,
the world I was trying to escape. During that time I could see what
was happening with labels, and stayed free in terms of a contract.
I know I had these two records I could release on my own label (Superdeformed)
and got a distribution deal through Red Eye, which is one of the
best indie distributors.
Would you consider releasing other artists on Superdeformed?
I don't know. I would if something came along and I felt I had
to do it. I will do a record with Susanna Hoffs (The Bangles) the
same way I did these records -- in my house -- but we haven't talked
about putting it out on my label. I guess we could. Susanna and
I have been friends for a few years. I really got to know her after
I moved out here and after the first Austin Powers movie when I
was a member of Ming Tea. We hung out a lot with her husband, Jay
Roach, who was a film instructor at UCLA. He just did the "Meet
the Parents" movies.