Paint Interview with Robb Johannes and Mandy Dunbar James Walker The Road Dog for CKMS 100.3 (SoundFM), Waterloo
The Road Dog Show on SoundFM (CKMS 100.3 Waterloo)
June 12, 2010, 6:30 p.m. EST
Road Dog: Host
Robb Johannes: Vocals/guitar
Mandy Dunbar: Guitar/vocals
Tyler Cardy: Guitar tech/road crew manager
Rachel LaGroix: Manager
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Road Dog: And welcome folks, this is the Road Dog doing a special, exclusive interview with the band Paint, who are gonna be performing here tonight at Maxwell's. I promised these guys, I said, "You know what..." I opened my big mouth and I said, "Damn, I like your music." At that point, that was it, they just stuck to me like glue. They said "Can you interview us, man? Come on, we just, we've gotta, we've gotta do it, man! " And I said, "Okay, fine, only cos I like your music" ...(and) your album cover. Everyone looks at this thing and goes, "This is so cool!" Very professionally done, you got a bit of the Marilyn in there and celebs. A bunch of us sat down one day and went, "Okay, who's that?"
Robb: I actually did that album cover on a film set. I was an extra in a film called Scott Pilgrim vs. The World... You're on set for 18 hours and you're in the holding area for 16 of those. So my friend David Van Drunen taught me how to use PhotoShop and I just ran with it. So I spent the whole time on that set designing that cover... Kurt Cobain, James Baldwin, Malcolm X... And our manager Rachel is actually the one who's standing right above Satan. She's the angel on Satan's shoulder... The concept behind that image was meant to play on that theme of "Can You Hear Me?", which is a song that's a conversation between someone who has murdered someone and the parent of the murdered person, and finding reconciliation on that. It's these fringe but very powerful voices that have existed throughout history and have not been heard. So I saw it as the speaker's corner from Hell, made up of all these people who have been so controversial but have said very profound things and have changed our whole way of thinking. What would happen if they were all hanging out together?
Road Dog: That would be one hell of a party! Literally!
Robb: Could you imagine Karl Marx, Ian Curtis, and Marilyn Monroe...
Road Dog: I would love that! "So tell me Karl Marx, tell me the truth. You want to know what really happened to communism?"
Robb: Marx, tell us about that baby you had that Engels raised for you.
Road Dog: ...your voice... that could be Davey Jones at that time singing that song ("Don't Blow Me Away"). Where's the politics in the circus?
Robb: The circus is the site for people who don't fit into established norms.
Mandy: Kids who don't really grow up and are in a rock band go to the circus.
Road Dog: And Tyler's done the video, he's head roadie kind of guy, he's the master blaster of making sure your show comes through.
Robb: I always say that Tyler is the most valuable member of the band. Without him I don't think the shows would go as smoothly as they do. We play in a lot of different tunings and use a lot of different instruments with capos. Our setup is very complicated. As simple as the music sounds, it's actually very complicated to achieve what we do. And Tyler makes it all possible. He's great. And he follows us around, he videotapes everything we do. So we have this series on your YouTube Channel called "A Day in the Life."
Mandy: Well that Rush documentary just came out. So when our documentary comes out, you'll need the footage from the beginning. So what Tyler's doing is very important.
Tyler: Well, I'm the guitar tech, I do all the videos as well. On the website, www.thepaintsite.com, we've got a YouTube Channel, where I do a series called "A Day in the Life," which is all the behind-the-scenes stuff. For instance, the first one shows how a song is created – which is hopefully gonna be one of our singles coming up, "End of the Reel." I also shoot all the music videos. The last one was "Don't Blow Me Away," it's one of the greatest videos ever... And there's a newer video we're working on for "A Gentle Art." I've had these storyboards for a couple months now. On the 27th of June we'll be shooting the video. We're shooting at a bar, at Robb's place, in an alley way. And there's gonna be a lot of smashing. The song is about ripping someone's heart out, doing a Riverdance on it, throwing it in the blender, and smashing it against he wall. It's gonna be great, smashing up some guitars, TVs, frames.
Road Dog: Why not? You gonna throw some TVs out of hotel rooms?
Tyler: I would love to actually.
Mandy: We also just do that for fun. It's what you're supposed to do in a band.
Road Dog: I can't tell you where, but yes it's hysterical. And if you've got some Jack Daniel's in you, it's even funnier. And then when the police come and put the handcuffs on you, you wet yourself laughing. All the way down in the paddywagon, and then for some reason when everyone's gone, and it's just you in the back of that vehicle, you start crying. It's not so funny anymore.
Robb: That sounds like a typical Saturday night for me two years ago. I don't think there was TV smashing, but there was Jack Daniel's and fighting with police officers. Good times. I've cleaned up now though.
Road Dog: They earned their paycheque that night.
Road Dog: So you guys are on the way of making a new album?
Mandy: We're in the midst of writing a lot of new material.
Robb: ...it's opened up the need to go out and tour. I've always wanted to be a live band first and foremost.
Road Dog: It's part of the evolution of this business. You've gotta do it on stage. Bruce Springsteen was an overnight success. In ten years. Bon Jovi, it took him ten years. Any of the greats... Do you have blisters on your fingers? (in reference to the guitar solo in "A Gentle Art")
Robb: Not really... I just stand in front of my amp and let it do the talking.
Road Dog: Oh, Jimi! Jimi do it again!
Robb: Somebody yelled out "Jimi" at us once, remember that show at C'est What?
Robb: I finished that solo and someone in the audience goes, "Jimi!"
Road Dog: I don't what it is with that. Maybe it's my generation. I hope to see more of that in today's sound and in the future of music. I'm always looking to the future, and what is the next wave of music. When someone such as yourself does this kind of feedback thing, and it reminds me of Jimi and Peter Townshend. It does something to me as a music lover. I don't know if the caveman comes out, must grab woman, beat on head and drag home, I don't know...
Robb: There is something very primal about it. I'm a really big fan of Neil Young as well. His guitar playing... He said, "I don't play notes, I just make noise." Just so much crunch... I saw this particular solo, and I'm not sure about Mandy. Mandy does some fabulous lead guitar work on stage as well, it completely blows my mind. But for me personally, I've never been a big fan of flashy guitar playing, but I've always been a fan of guitar playing that makes you feel something... The solo in "A Gentle Art" is really just chaneling. It's stepping outside myself and letting the instrument and me become one.
Mandy: I think the solo has to tell part of the song's story or else it's useless.
Robb: It's self-indulgent... Wait till you see Mandy on stage playing the solo for "Can You Hear Me?", it's one of the most inspiring things I've ever seen on stage.
Tyler: Best female guitarist.
Robb: Best female guitarist.
Mandy: Aw, you're so kind... I always pretend that whatever I'm playing at that moment is the hardest thing anyone's ever played on guitar... Robb always talks about how we don't have lead and rhythm guitar in our band, we just have left and right guitar, which makes it feel much more democratic and we can step forward and step back.
Robb: That's the point. It's meant to be almost indecipherable. The parts are really distinct but they're supposed to work together as this "wall of sound." That's really what inspires us. That's our character: it's a wall of sound with vocal melodies that carry over the top.
Road Dog: Here comes the big question itself: what inspired you to become you? Both of you? Why do you play guitar, who brought you to formulate your own thing? Throughout your life, parents play a part in our lives, our siblings, cousins, the kids we play with, then we start developing our love for someone's talent. We say, "You know what? I love that, I can do that, maybe better!" Who formulated you? Was it 2 or 3 different bands? One musician? Two musicians? It's a tough one.
Robb: It is, and that's a very loaded question. Malcolm X once said that every single moment of your life shapes who you are what you've done. So in order to really understand someone, you have to see it all. In my case it was an evolution, starting from Motown through to... You and I were talking about the Beatles, and I laugh when bands say they're influenced by the Beatles because if you've lived on earth since 1964 whether you're a musician or not, you've been influenced by the Beatles. That's just obvious. In my case, Pearl Jam's been a big influence, everything they've done with their career. The shoegazer bands from the UK, My Bloody Valentine, which spawned into Oasis and Blur, were really huge. Folksingers, Neil Young, Bob Dylan; making sense of very complicated issues through direct means.
Mandy: The first record I ever had was New Kids on the Block.
Mandy: I think for me playing the guitar has been as much of a journey about growing up and figuring out who I am, as a woman, as it has been about the music. Music can be so presumed male that playing electric guitar as a woman, I find it to be extremely powerful. And as I've been sorting out who I am as a person it's been a great tool in figuring out how I relate to the world and I want the world to see me and who I can be different in the world.
Robb: And Kim Deal. She is the coolest person that's ever lived.
Road Dog: In the '70s, when that band came out, I was overwhelmed. "Chicks can rock, man! They're good-looking and they can rock!"
Robb: There's so much to be learned from pop music, and also from electronic music. I've been really listening to Kraftwerk lately. It's brilliant! ...when you have these things that don't sound like what your band sounds like but you look at the way they put chord progressions and melodies together. I played in a band called Paper Moon for a while. They were based in Winnipeg and they moved to Vancouver and I joined them for a bit when I was reconceptualizing Paint and what I wanted Paint to be. And Paper Moon was so unapologetically pop. I liked putting that limitation on. With Paper Moon, it was: "We sing songs that are poppy and we're not gonna apologize about that." Regardless of what you're doing to have that conviction, don't apologize, is what we do in Paint. This is what we do. The guitars are loud, the melodies and soaring and poppy, and they get stuck in your head. And we're not gonna apologize for that... If we're talking about pop music, Peter Gabriel said it really well: if you give artists no limitation, they're just gonna go off into this self-indulgent universe. You have to impose structure, such as "We're only going to play songs with this instrumentation. It's gonna go verse-chorus-verse-chorus like this." I like having those boundaries, and working within those.
Mandy: Yeah, I don't think Robb's gonna start rapping over the beat or anything.
Video of this interview can be viewed at The Official Paint YouTube Channel (WATCH PART 1 // WATCH PART 2).