SPIN Interview | Paul Westerberg: Throwing Out the Past

SPIN was lucky enough to score a rare interview with Paul. Drew Fortune interviewed him in mid-February, around the time when Josh Freese was out in Minneapolis recording with Paul and Juliana. The interview touches on the Mats reunion, Paul’s solo work and The I Don’t Cares. It took place at Paul’s house and Drew paid a visit to THE basement (!):

The basement is almost exactly as I pictured it. To the left are more couches and guitars. To the right is the “studio,” a tiny room that can accommodate maybe four people comfortably. The barren walls are spray-painted haphazardly green in patches, as if a teenager, not Paul, tagged the place. There’s a drum kit, piano, and heaps of cords. A framed Thelonious Monk poster leans against the wall.

“Lemme play you some stuff we’ve been working on,” Westerberg says before queueing up “Sad Go Round,” a rollicking, soon-to-be released I Don’t Cares tune. Paul closes his eyes and listens intently, his head cocked slightly to the side like a puppy. Halfway through the song he stands and plucks absent-mindedly on the piano. “The bane of my existence is the utter confusion that reigns down here,” grumbles Westerberg. “I couldn’t find a certain song if I had to. It’s literally me going through old tapes, putting them on, and seeing what the f**k is on there. Nothing’s labeled.”

Emphasis mine: A new song from The I Don’t Cares, one that Josh presumably played on, called “Sad Go Round”? More IDC music = fantastic news.

paul westerberg basement

photo by josh freese

The interview includes Paul free associating on his solo records, which of course contains some surprises:

• 14 Songs (1993): “Overly written songs with huge expectations.”

• Eventually (1996): “‘These Are the Days’ should have been a hit.”

• Suicaine Gratification (1999): “I think my best. The saddest and the best.”

• Stereo/Mono (2002): “A lot of songs to digest. I couldn’t reproduce it if you put a gun to my head. I did so many weird, wrong things, and ran the mixes through amps and s**t. I had no idea what I was doing but it turned out really good. ‘Let’s Not Belong Together’ is a great lost song.”

• Come Feel Me Tremble (2003) “I can’t even think what’s on it. Is that the one with ‘Soldier of Misfortune’ and that s**t? ‘My Daydream’ is a good song.”

• Folker (2004): “Every one of these records makes me think of someone. I thought ‘Jingle’ was kinda good. I can’t remember any of the other songs because they’re s**t. I’ve learned that there’s a reason you don’t remember the ones you’ve forgotten.”

• Open Season OST (2006): “Money. I had to pay the f**king rent on the house. People think I’m rich but I owe more money than anybody realizes. You take Hollywood’s money and you eat Hollywood’s s**t. They ain’t called me back since.”

49:00 (2008): “If I drop dead tomorrow, that’s my masterpiece. I’m so tempted to [make a record like that one] again, but I can’t go through it again. It was absolute insanity and I was so frightened when I made it that people would think I was schizophrenic.”

You of course need to check out the entire interview, but two questions that seem to come up a lot were addressed and I’ll share those here:

Current drinking status:

“I’m not drinking now, but being on the road with that band and that pressure, it reared its head. If you ever fool yourself into moderation as an option, it prolongs it but it doesn’t cure it. I was like, ‘I’ll have two glasses of wine.’ Then it turned into every night and suddenly my head is a little foggy and I’m not thinking as straight as I used to. It creeps up on ya.”

Juliana and Paul:

The doorbell rings and I retrieve a UPS package. “Ahh, it’s a little Valentine’s package from Jules,” he says, his eyes lit like sparks. Paul very politely refused to discuss his and Hatfield’s personal relationship during the interview, but I can tell, right now, he’s happy. “She gets me,” he says. “She knows the real me.”

photo by josh freese

photo by josh freese