Interview with Sebadoh's Lou Barlow

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Lou Barlow of Foke Implojun, Folk Implosion, Sentridoh, and Sebadoh.. By Marcel Thee via e-mail.

I had a discussion once with one of friend, who?s a big Sebadoh fan. He said, while he loved most of Sebadoh?s LPs, none of them has ever really had all the member?s songwriting simultaneously at their best. One member?s songwriting tend to ruin the enjoyment of the album as a whole. For instance, he argues that, he loved your songwriting most on ?Bubble and scrape?, but thought that it had Jason?s weakest songs. What do you think about this dumb theory? Is there a particular Sebadoh album, where you though ?wow, the other guys writing will really compliment the record, and my songs are damn good too??
i enjoyed eric and jason’s songs, i liked how different they were from my own….i understood that some people didn’t share my opinion but i didn’t care..the records were meant to be extreme..i loved it and am proud of all of them..i didn’t think it was our responsibility to make it easy on the listener..i hated albums that didn’t challenge me at that time..

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If the internal band relationship had been better, do you see yourself still working together with the rest of Sebadoh? Or was it just a matter of time no matter what?

the members of sebadoh never all lived in the same city ..eventually we couldn’t afford to continue travelling great distances to keep the band together..there’s plenty of other reasons we needed to split but for me,and perhaps only me, internal tension was not one of them..not even with eric gaffney..he just became very unreliable during a time when jason and i wanted (and needed) to tour and record as much as possible…
the important thing about sebadoh was keeping things free and democratic which, as almost anyone in a band will tell you, is very difficult..i think we did quite well..

Your songs tend to be/sound very personal. Is it matter of sitting down to write a song, and trying to tap into certain moods or feelings, or is it more an automatic thing where these feelings just come to you?
the feelings come and i try to describe them..it can take 5 minutes or 5 years..by describing what i’m feeling i feel like i can cope better, that i can grow..

After the success of ?natural one? did you find yourself having different perspectives on songwriting or ?success?, maybe caring more about people?s opinions about your songs. Not in trying to sound more ?accessible? or more ?commercial?, but just knowing that there will be a lot more people listening to your songs and lyrics?
for me there’s not much difference between sharing my songs with 10 people or 100,000..i’ve always cared what people thought but i can’t say i ever did anything to please them..except for my mother ( “willing to wait” )..

What are you listening to mostly now? I read somewhere that you love the Shins. Would you collaborate with them if the occasion arises? Because some of the Shins catalogue ( e.g ?caring is creepy? and ?weird days?) wouldn?t be out of place at all if you performed it.
they’re better off without has-beens trying to sponge off thier audience..i can only collaborate with close friends anyway.. i listen to Quix*o*tic these days..as far as current bands go..

When push comes to shove, do you love Foke Implojun, Folk Implosion, Sentridoh, and Sebadoh equally? Which band do you think you gave the most into? Who would you tell your grandkids you sang for?
love ’em all equally, that’s the truth..the grandkids need only know i was a musician..they can find out any details themselves..it would be far more interesting and fun for them that way..

A lot of great bands we love, tend to be on an indie label, and with their limited distribution power, would you consider signing with and obviously corporate major label (we know you have with Interscope, but would you do it again), just for the sake of reaching a wider/diverse audience? Or is ?Control? more important to you?
no label has ever taken control from me…..i got what i needed from interscope: money to make a big , shiny pop record..that’s what i wanted to do and they made it possible..i wouldn’t do it again, i don’t need alot of money to make records now..no label would sign me anyway..which is good, they waste money and , generally, have no taste..
if people want your record they will find it, you don’t need corporate distribution to sell records..you need a good record..they sell themselves, eventually..

What do you think of the new ?garage rock? trend? Do you enjoy the ?back to our roots? approach of these bands?
yea, i’ve been listening to 60’s garage, 70’s punk+ post-punk since i was 13..

How has your fans reacted whenever you change bands? Especially now, how has the reaction been towards Foke Implojun?
they don’t like it, i don’t change in ways that most fans want me to, or imagine i will..
because they often form deep attachments to certain songs +sounds they feel betrayed..not all, but most..at this point my records are selling less than they have in 10 years and most shows i play are for 50- 100 people..because i have done so many different things there is nothing for people to hold on to and no reason for them to trust me..

You?ve been really great at giving fans a chance to find very rare songs from your catalogue, giving us free mp3?s. What?s your take on mp3 sharing? Would it bother you if Foke Implojun?s songs were leaked before they?re officially released? Do you think it?ll really affect sales?

of course it affects sales..they can preview an album , find out they hate it and not buy it..years ago you had to buy an album to find out it sucked..things have changed and i am O.K. with it..i fully support file sharing , MP3’s ..i prefer to buy albums but that’s my choice..

Is Foke Implojun more of ?band? than Sebadoh was? Or do you write most of the materials?
it is more of a band..i write most of the songs but the sound of the band is more unified and consistant than sebadoh..

Would you ever operate in the same manner as you did w/ Sebadoh again? You know, having each Foke Implojun members bring complete songs, kind of a ?white album? method?
only if sebadoh was to reunite would i do that again..

You?ve been writing songs for years now, do you ever scared that you might have found the ?perfect Lou Barlow songwriting formula? and might become a parody of yourself? What approach do you give yourself in order to keep things ?fresh??
calling me a parody of myself is a critics job..i think i’ve managed to keep from repeating myself better than most musicians.. but REAL people LIKE bands that repeat themselves..
to keep things fresh i switch instruments (right now i play bass more than guitar)..find new partners..i let nature take it’s course..change happens without me trying to force it..

As Indonesians, we?re very interested in what your opinion is about the war on Iraq. Do you have any strong opinions about it? Or is it just a no right/wrong issue?
i think the current american goverment is corrupt and deeply insensitive to the plight of the poor..the war was a blatant act of imperialism and really, really stupid..they could have removed saddam in other ways.. they never found any weapons of mass destruction..it’s typical republican paranoia, idiot christians with too much power.

Do you find yourself consciously operating in a democratic way as a result of your experience w/ Dinosaur. Jr?
i’ve always considered the Beatles a perfect band model..so when i wasn’t in dinosaur it seemed natural to start a mini-fucked-up beatles..

Would you ever consider coming to, say Indonesia, to do a lo-key acoustic set?

yes i would..


Which Lou Barlow record would you recommend to a Lou Barlow virgin?

depends on the person..young experimental kids should hear Sebadoh III.. a mother might like ‘one part lullaby’..

What do you think is the ultimate Sebadoh album?
sebadoh III

Any chance of Sebadoh re-arising?

yes..don’t know when , don’t know how..but, yes

Lastly, Which songs would be on the ?Sebadoh:greatest hits?album?

we didn’t have any hits..i don’t know really, there is too many choices.. i considered each record a greatest hits….really

great thanks to Lou Barlow, who is willing to answer the interview.

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