e-mail interview with Tony Goddess - jan 15th 2002
by Barbara H
How are you?
I'm fine thanks.
What are you currently working on? Are the Papas Fritas going to release anything soon ?
now I'm writing songs. At this point I think of myself as a songwriter first. I'm sure some of the songs will be used for Papas Fritas but some just aren't right for the group. I don't think we'll be releasing anything soon. Once I've decided which songs would make a good record for the band we'll start. I think Shiv (Shivika Asthana, Papas Fritas drummer/part time singer) is writing some songs too.
Can you tell us how it is going to sound ?
I don't know at this point. Sometimes I want to further perfect "our sound" and other times I want to completely change.
How was the recording of Flexa Lyndo’s new album ?
Before the release of “Buildings and Grounds”, you were working as a cleaning man, have the things changed ?
It was a lot of fun. They have a lot of different musics inside of them. From sixties pop to contemporary classical, and it all comes out on in their playing. Naturally, as a musician, it was fun to participate.
Actually, I was a cleaning man around the time of our first record, before Buildings and Grounds I was working in a used record shop. Right now I am self-employed.
“Buildings and Grounds” was very well received by the press but somehow failed to reach the 'masses', do you have an explanation, and how do you feel about that ?
Oh, there are a lot of variables. Radio promotion budgets, media monopolization. People only have so much time and money to spend. Music isn't necessarily what they want to spend it on.
How I feel about it:
In France we had the most success with the 'masses' ever because, at least partially, because of the press. I think in Europe, the masses have more respect for art and culture and the press is respected for it's ability to recognize and promote good art. In the US the 'masses' don't seem to care much for art and culture, it is all around us but many don't have this sense of appreciation. This can be good in some ways. Less self consciousness for one example. In terms of the press, the largest magazines appear to have completely lost sight of art and their job to help it survive and flourish and better itself. The most widely read music magazine in the US is Rolling Stone, I believe the cover story for three of their last six issues has been Britney Spears. It's hard to believe anything they have to say about art at this point. This is not meant to be dismissive of Britney Spear's music. The problem is that Rolling Stone doesn't appear to be able to say that Britney Spears makes great music, yet they seem to be obsessed with her. So what does that lead the reader to believe about the tastes of the magazine? That they are driven by money and spectacle as opposed to a passion for music. Sadly, I think the American public has grown used to and accepted this dichotomy and has been given up on by the major communications companies in a cycle of continually lowering expectations with regard to all of the major distributed art forms--music, film, TV, literature, etc. We'd like some good, quality, maybe challenging art, but we're so used to being sold cheap titillations instead, (and who doesn't like a little cheap titillation now and again?,) that we don't care anymore. We've come not to expect quality from music or film. When it does show up it is a shock, gets overly praised in reaction to the glut of mediocrity around it and then is weighed down by false expectations. We don't expect to hear real emotion. We don't remember what it feels like to be moved by another human being's ability to create something that makes so many of us feel alive. This makes me feel very sad and afraid. I don't know if this deadening cycle can be stopped at this point. I don't plan on starting my own magazine or radio station but I hope that if I persevere with my songs some people will be moved enough to move another.
Most of the greatest US pop bands (you, Fountains of Wayne, Ivy…) seem to have trouble reaching a bigger audience, do you think that the situation can evolve ?
Um, I think that last essay I wrote basically answered this. I think any of us could have a hit through chance, if we have another, then something might be happening As far as our place in the market, I don't know. Sure, eventually. The music climate right now doesn't have much to do with groups like us, but we'll see. I think it's harder with pop though. Pop is supposed to be all things to all people. That's a nearly impossible goal, especially in this day and age. Really only the Beatles seemed to do it, or the Loving Spoonful for awhile, Motown. But, rap is one audience, Metal is another, country is another, classical is another. All of those styles, when marketed have very strict rules in terms of sound, presentation, etc...Pop's whole point is that there are no rules, it tries to just find the common truth.
Shivika adds a lot of charm into the Papas Fritas records, you make a very good writer/singer team, do you intend to keep on having her sing some of your songs ?
On Papas Fritas songs, definitely. If I make solo recordings I would probably want to distance them from Papas Fritas for the time being though.
You just talked about solo recordings, do you plan to release something on your own or is this just a vague idea ? What's the difference between your solo songs and Papas Fritas songs ?
I don't have a plan for it. I'm just recording demos right now. But Shivika is very busy in school and Keith lives in Los Angeles now so I will probably be making them myself or with other players. I imagine the demos that don't sound 'right' for Papas Fritas could be compiled as some sort of solo project or another band. Really though, no real plans besides making demos to showcase the songs in hopes of getting them turned into records. Of the songs that I write, generally the band doesn't do the more traditional or 'rootsy' ones.
NYC band IVY is going to cover “Say Goodbye” (they’re going to release a covers EP on Nettwerk later this year) do you know them ? Have you been covered before ? Does it feel nice ?
I've met them when they were mixing, I believe their second record, in Boston. I've met Adam (Schlesinger, of Ivy & Fountains of Wayne) in the context of Fountains of Wayne and Andy (Chase, of Ivy) has/is producing my friends Tahiti 80, so I feel as though I know him a bit more through second hand news as well.
I know of some bands that have played songs live, but have never heard a recording. It feels great. Really great.
You put up very nice shows, do you like touring ? do you plan on coming back to Europe soon ?
I do like touring. Not until another album is released.
What is your favourite memory as a musician ?
Usually finishing my latest song. Although, Our first concert in Spain has a huge memory for me. It was the first time the audience ever sang the words louder than us. A great feeling.
Now here are ten more or less stupid questions :
"Was you ever bit by a dead bee ?"
What becomes of the broken hearted ?
Depends, some stay that way, some carry on and find a way to love again.
Life on Mars ?
Not that I've heard of.
Are you a manic record collector ?
Not really, I have no need for another obscure garage rock band but if it's good record I want to have it. I like a lot of music so I have a lot of records but I wouldn't call it collecting.
Do you like moustaches ?
Yeah I do.
Favourite band and worst favourite band of the moment ?
Current bands? My favorite is NRBQ, they aren't brand new but they put out a new record already this year. I love the new Dylan, Jonathan Richman, and Sade. Newish groups, I like the Shins' record. The Strokes' is good. Really though, the best new stuff generally revolves around the Missy Elliot/Timbaland axis. Dre too. Just the whole competitive hip hop/r&b singles scene is very inspiring for me.
My least favorite is Ja Rule. He drives me crazy. I really don't like Creed either.
Are you insomniac ? How do you cope with it ?
I do have trouble sleeping though I wouldn't go so far as to say I am an insomniac. I occasionally take an organic sleep aid called Melatonin. I've also started exercising and that has helped as well.
Which Hollywood Star (dead or alive) would you like to date ?
I'm drawing a blank here. I'm not too choosy, just as long as they're smart and like to dance to rock and roll.
Do you have a hero ? who is it ?
You know, that question is strange. What does it mean to have a hero? Someone who helped me though it was difficult for them to do so? I guess my parents. If having a hero means having a source of inspiration then I have many. Brian Wilson, Al Anderson, Thelonious Monk and Eddie Hinton spring to mind.
What was your first song about ?
Well, the first songs weren't about anything. Usually just lines that went together. The first song I remember having an idea of what the lyrics really meant is Guys Don't Lie from our first record. It was about trying to add something new. Trying to get people to enjoy some uplifting music in response to the grunge/gangster stuff that was so popular at the time.
/pic from www.papasfritas.com/