Come’s Thalia Zedek and Morphine’s Mark Sandman take Come’s Gently, Down The Stream for a spin.
CMJ New Music Monthly, 1998
Thalia: We were just in Spain for like a month.
Mark: For what? Touring?
Thalia: Yeah, touring. It was great. We had like eight or nine shows in four and half weeks. It was this crazy thing cause we were like in a movie, and we were also part of this traveling film festival. So the first week we were there, we were in Madrid for the first eight or nine days.
Thalia: It was so fuckin’ nice. And then we went all over Spain. Barcelona and then Bilbao. We saw the new Guggenheim. It was pretty amazing. We played all over. It was the kind of tour of Spain that you could only get if a Spanish promoter was booking it. Because originally, they were gonna film in all these locations. Because the film is kinda about, like, rock, but not really. But it’s about a promoter, and a lot of this stuff takes place in clubs and stuff, so it’s really expensive to rent, so we were traveling in the film festival, and simultaneously they were making a movie. They shot us for like a week. Our part isn’t that big in it. It’s about this promoter. We played the American band that comes over, a band called “Come.” At first I was like, “Change the names and stuff,” but then by the time we were filming it, it was like, “I don’t give a shit.” It was totally a crazy no-budget production.
Mark: You could change it to “Venga.” There are probably some other dirtier words you could use. Venga. That’s not a bad name.
Mark: I can’t think of what the Spanish word for “come” is.
Thalia: (in exaggerated Spanish voice) I love the Colme!…We had some pretty wild times there. A lot of hangin’ out. We were hangin out with a lot of Spanish people. The movie was half Spanish, half English, so the leading man was Spanish. It takes place in Spain, but there were a lot of Americans involved. So when he was dealing with Americans, he’d speak in English, but the rest of it’s going to be in Spanish…so it’s kind of a bizarre mix of New York and Madrid people…
Mark: There was this movie that asked me to do a bit part in it, kinda, sorta silly, looking for love in the classifieds. It all takes place in Boston. I guess I would have done it, but I would have had to pay a couple thousand dollars to join the union or something and they were only paying $500, so I passed. But anyways, I was reading in the paper just now that someone just bought the movie for six million dollars just this week. I never would have guessed.
Thalia: Wow. What’s it called?
Mark: It’s called Next Up Wonderland. Reading it, it just seemed like an advertisement for Boston. “Shoot your film in Boston. Look at all the scenic sights we have.” Because they have, you know, the constitution and the aquarium and Bunker Hill. They make a point of shooting their scenes, and I thought that was what it, I had no idea it was like a real film, entered in festivals. I can never tell from the script that it’s going to be good.
Thalia: We did songs in so many horrible movies. And then you just feel bad because you know someone spent like years, because I have a lot of friends who do film. I know how expensive it is, and how people spend years on something that sucks, and then they know it sucks but they have to do something with it because they have invested so much in it. We had this song in this movie. It played at the Coolidge Corner for two nights. It’s called Never Met Picasso, Margot Kidder was in it. I’m usually just like “sure” when people ask me for a song, because usually I know the movie isn’t going to get played anywhere, ever. And it’s kind of like, why stand in their way? They have so many obstacles as it is.
Mark: You know that movie Spanking The Monkey? Our guy got this call that they want to use four or five songs for a low budget movie about incest. They wouldn’t let us see a rough-cut or a script. They said it was really tasteful–it’s kind of a black comedy–and we figured, well, no one will see it. But it didn’t work out like that. But it wasn’t a bad movie . Did you see it?
Thalia: I never saw it. I mean, I definitely heard about it. It made a big splash. And that guy has done other movies, right?
Mark: Yeah, he did…I forget what it’s called. I read the script of that too. It was a big hit with Ben Stiller and Mary Tyler Moore. Something about someone looking for their real parents. They drive across country or something.
Thalia: Oh, right, right. I didn’t see it.
Mark: He made a couple of movies. I don’t know. Dan and I just went to Los Angeles to play on somebody else’s soundtrack.
Thalia: Are we taping this? Should we tape it?
Mark: I’m taping it.
Thalia: Oh you are?
Mark: I think so. I’ll check.
Mark: I love wine. And maybe I’ll take you up on that.
Thalia: So are you gonna do your next record with Paul [Kolderie] and Sean [Slade]?
Mark: It looks like it. I hope so. We’ve always just done it with Paul. Do you guys work with the two of them?
Thalia: We just work with Paul.
Mark: I don’t know how that works.
Thalia: We’ve worked with Paul and we’ve worked with Sean. Like Sean worked on the first thing we recorded, like a single at Pete. And then we caught Paul kind of on his vacation. Kinda caught him at a good time, just passed him around. They usually work together I guess.
Mark: I want to record a lot of it at my house. We’ve got kind of a big space. It sounds better than most studios. Lots of wood, wood floors, wood ceilings. Soft. Then we’ll take it and mix it somewhere else. Maybe bring in a bunch of reel equipment, 24 tracks…
Thalia: Is your studio in Cambridge?
Mark: Yeah. I like to record at home.
Thalia: Yeah, I do too. I always wanted to, and we haven’t really done anything in town except for this record. We’ll record the first one at The Ford. Everyone will say “Oh, check out this stupid studio.” I don’t like to feel as if I am on tour. That was always kind if a drag, recording out of town. You get there and you’re staying with somebody, and crashing at someone’s house. And I like the Ford a lot too. I like that new room, the one that they are gonna move everything into. Have they done it yet?
Thalia: It’s a drag ’cause they were always like “This is the cheap room,” and then all of a sudden it was like so much better in the other place.
Mark: But mixing…
Thalia: I mean you had to mix in the other one, that was the deal. I think they realized because everyone was recording the basics. The sound was so good that it didn’t even matter that they had their worst board in there. The other studio was just so tiny, so dead.
Mark: Well, we did all our albums there. It was good for us.
Thalia: We were never there when the new board was there, and I guess it worked good. But it was just sort of comparatively…
Mark: They had more comic books at the other one. It was more of a clubhouse feel. The new one is more, I don’t know, much less European.
Thalia: When we were there, everything was in the other one, so there wasn’t even enough chairs to…
Mark: Right. Well, they’ll grow into it. It’ll be great. Having all their new ge
Thalia: Did you guys record live?
Mark: Well, we try to get the bass and drums and stuff.
Thalia: See, the big one was good for us, ’cause we do everything live. Well, we start off that way, and sometimes we have to, you know, save stuff, like if the bass and drums are really good and one of the guitars breaks a string, we’ll keep it, and replace the guitar. But pretty much, we try to get as much live as possible.
[Phone rings and they let it keep ringing]
Thalia: I’m just gonna let that ring, not answer it.
Mark: Do you do a lot of interviews?
Thalia: Not really. Actually, the first record, we did insane amounts. We did a whole slew, and now it’s kind of like…less.
Mark: But the new record’s coming out?
Thalia: Yeah, the new record is coming out. We haven’t done that much.
Mark: Is it coming out overseas?
Thalia: Yeah, on Domino. It’s this British label.
Mark: And they have distribution deals all over, all those little countries?
Thalia: Yeah, yeah. They are basically all over.
Mark: They work with Matador?
[Thalia puts Come’s new CD, Gently Down The Stream, in the stereo]
Thalia: Your car stereo probably sounds better than this.
Mark: (responding to music) That sounds pretty much like an Egyptian kind of thing?
Thalia: Yeah, it’s sorta like that, I don’t know what this is.
Mark: Gently Down The Stream. I like that.
Thalia: It’s kinda the urination analogy, sorta. I really appreciate you doing this, Mark. I know it was really last minute.
Mark: It’s okay. Sorry I have to squeeze it in. Today turned out to be really busy.
Thalia: This copy’s been sounding really weird to me…Do you think that’s too loud?
Mark: No, it sounds good.
Thalia: You can have this actually. We have the real thing now.
Mark: All right. It’s not in the stores quite yet? February 10, right?
Thalia: February 10. But I’ve played this particular one for people before, and it sounds weird..
Mark: It doesn’t sound like you wanted it to?
Thalia: No, in general it did, but we have a bunch of different promos and I’ve been kinda giving them out, and this particular one…
Mark: You mean this CD? This pressing?
Mark: I don’t know, they should be the same, but nobody really knows how it works anymore. Everybody just pokes at buttons. If they can hear something, they figure it’s okay. Nobody knows what bits are…they just throw these terms around.
Thalia: I know. We’ve actually had some problems with the mastering. Like this master didn’t get some edits on it that were supposed to be on it, so we just sent it back. Then we got a call from England yesterday, saying that the master they’d gotten was at like half-volume for the last half of it.
Mark: Really? Shit. That’s fucked up, huh?
Thalia: One of those weird things…So you guys are on Rykodisc?
Mark: Well, we’re kind of on two labels right now, two record companies. Twice the fun.
Thalia: Yeah, we’ve always done that. Well, I mean, Europe and the United States are two different ones. I think that’s the best actually.
Thalia: At least it’s worked out for us to have things separate.
Mark: Yeah. It’s kind of a little more complicated than that though. We won’t get into that.
Mark: I like this. I hear more words than your other records.
Thalia: Yeah, it’s like…cool. It’s weird. There is this one song…Chris [Brokaw, Come guitarist] is playing piano and playing clarinet. It’s got some different stuff on it, some heavy stuff. And lighter stuff.
Mark: So you recorded it pretty quick?
Thalia: Yeah. I think we did it in like ten days or something. I think we like did like six days on sort of basics.
Mark: So you pretty much knew what you guys wanted when you went in there?
Mark: The songs worked out?
Thalia: Yeah, it’s pretty live. Do you guys write in the studio?
Mark: We try not to. We try to just get in there and record it. But we do a lot of writing in my home studio. Just playing along with it, fooling around with it, on eight-track. Sometimes those things end up on the albums. All the albums have eight tracks from my house on them. So you never know. You can’t tell though, on the albums. You don’t go “Oh, they put a home recording on the album.” It doesn’t sound like that.
Thalia: Yeah. There’s one song on here that was pretty much a jam, you know, and it was pretty improvised. It had different parts but we didn’t know when it was gonna switch. We just kinda knew. We were like, “Let’s record it and see how it comes out,” and it came out pretty good.
Mark: Which one is that?
Thalia: Umm. It’s called “A Jam Blues.”
Mark: “A Jam Blues.” A…Jam…Blues.
Mark: What’s the cover look like?
Thalia: I’ve got it around here somewhere…
Thalia: [with cover art] This is a photo this Boston artist took during this hurricane. I think it was like Revere or something.
Mark: You played clarinet?
Thalia: Yeah, there’s like six clarinet tracks. You want to hear that song? I can fast-forward it. Well, I’ll finish this song.
Mark: I like it. This is around here? These houses?
Thalia: Yeah, it was all on the same day. Like that, that first shot was in Revere beach.
Mark: What was this kid doing? Just running around?
Thalia: He was running away from the wave. It was during a hurricane. That’s like actual…it’s not doctored, really. That was actually the wave. Actually, the photo is kind of cropped…
Mark: Who did the package?
Thalia: Actually, Chris saw it at an art show.
Mark: No, but who did the design?
Thalia: Oh, my brother.
Thalia: Dan Zedek.
Mark: All in the family, huh?
Thalia: Yeah. It was kinda like, you know, people you can rely on in an emergency. We’ve got these photos and we need a cover in like four days. But he has done stuff for us before. He’s really good. He actually works at the Globe now, doing design. He’s always done that. He’s always been into magazines, comic books…
Mark: Are you into comics?
Thalia: No. When I worked at Newbury Comics, you were allowed to take home their comics.
Thalia: I started getting really into it. We didn’t have a TV at the time.
Thalia: Actually, this was pretty improvised too. Not Chris’s part, but the clarinet part.
Mark: How did you happen to play clarinet? Did you take lessons when you were a kid?
Thalia: Yeah, I’ve played since I was young.
Mark: Dana [Colley, Morphine saxophonist] was playing clarinet with me today, bass clarinet.
Thalia: A lot of people I know play clarinet just kind of by chance, but I actually really wanted to play clarinet.
Mark: Yeah? That happens to some people.
Thalia: I lived in New England when I was like nine. I had this really weird teacher and all we ever did was music there. It was like a normal class but she was just real eccentric. So everyone played recorder and she was also the choir teacher and the teacher of all the music, for the whole school. It was like a first-through-sixth grade kind of school. So we would learn these operas and all this weird type stuff. I remember once, this student that had graduated came in and played her clarinet and I really liked the sound of it.
Mark: I played the trombone.
Thalia: Really? I love the trombone.
Mark: I suddenly realized, just last year–I don’t know why it took me so long–but the trombone is a slide, baritone instrument, and now I play a slide, baritone instrument in a band.
Thalia: Wow. That’s true.
Mark: Been shopping for a piano, myself.
Thalia: Do you play the piano?
Mark: Somewhat. I have an organ.
Thalia: Chris’s roomate…Do you know Dave Curry? He does sound up the street. He ended up with all these really great Yamaha keyboards. They can’t really be transported, because they are really big.
Mark: I like the piano bass. That’s why I’m getting it.
Mark: I go into the piano stores, and I just hit all the bass keys on all the pianos.
Thalia: Do you use them on your recording at all?
Mark: Well, hardly any of the studios we’ve been in have pianos, so the next one I’ll make sure there’s gonna be a lot of piano.
Thalia: You have to mix it up really high so that you’re able to hear it. It really blends really, really well.
Mark: That was a nice song.
Thalia: This is the last song, the abbreviated version.
Mark: Before I go, we should drive around the block and play it really loud in my car. I have really good sound.
Mark: Just for your own edification. Musicians have the worst stereos of any people I know. I don’t know why that is. (laughs) I myself am included.