||40 Minutes With Andrew McMahon
by Myra Haq on 2006-06-27
40 Minutes with Andrew McMahon of
Jack’s Mannequin/Something Corporate
June 15, 2006
M = Myra, the interviewer
A = Andrew, the piano beater
B = Bob, the excellent guitarist
1. Did you guys just get here last night?
A: Everyone else drove here last night, but I flew in this morning. I was visiting my parents back home.
M: It beats driving here. People in Portland are the worst drivers ever. This is why I drive a tank.
A: Haha. I always talk on my cell phone and send emails when I drive.
M: Are you kidding me? How do you pull that off?
A: I drive with my knees a lot. I learned from my aunt. Well, I mean I learned by watching her, not that she actually taught me. What kind of tank do you drive?
M: My dad's old 1988 Mercedes Benz. It's been in 5 accidents and still works.
A: Hahah nice. Is it a diesel?
M: Nope, but it has a diesel body.
2. What are your future touring plans, and are you planning on touring outside the U.S. when your doctor gives you the okay?
A: We're going to do a headlining tour this fall, and we will definitely tour outside the U.S. at some point too.
3. Something Corporate recorded new music at the end of 2005. Are there any plans for a release?
A: Yeah, definitely, but I have to give Jack's Mannequin my full attention for now.
M: You want to finish what you started?
A: Exactly, I don't want to do it half-assed.
4. Can we expect a new Something Corporate record or mp3’s in 2008 or 2009?
A: (laughs). Probably before then. Something Corporate will keep making music, but it needs to happen on it own. Nothing forced, but it will come about! Also, Something Corporate will probably tour before a new album is released.
5. If you’re writing and recording music right now, which band is it for?
A: Jack's Mannequin, and then Something Corporate after that.
6. What does Jack's Mannequin have in the works?
A: Jack's Mannequin's Everything In Transit will probably be re-released around the holiday season with the live DVD from Irving Plaza and probably some footage from my 100 day show because that was significant to me. We're still working out the details so I can't say too much about it. I'm also interested in doing a book, and making a documentary about the past year, but we still have to talk to our lawyers. It's in the very early stages of happening.
7. You've said before that Dark Blue is your favorite song off of the album. Can you tell us the story behind it?
A: Dark Blue is essentially about the eight or nine months my girlfriend, well now my fiancée; were apart. It's basically the culmination of everything we went through, and how we got back together. It's a very emotional song for me.
M: It's also one of my favorite songs. I was listening to it on my iPod today and I felt like I had an epiphany. I've heard the song a thousand times before, but this time it felt like a completely different experience.
A: Thank you! I know what you mean; sometimes a song just hits you in a certain way, even though you've listened to it millions of times before.
8. When will songs like “Cell Phone” and “Dear Jack” see the light of day?
A: Dear Jack will probably be on the next EP. It was the first song I wrote for Jack's Mannequin. It was written about a friend whose younger brother was diagnosed with leukemia. It's ironic and very close to my heart. I'm really not so sure about Cell Phone. I really like it, but it doesn't mean as much to me as it did when I first wrote it. I want to put my best songs out, and not release lackluster material.
9. Will the next Jack’s Mannequin album be sort of story/concept album the way that Everything In Transit was, or just some random songs?
A: It should have some sort of story or concept behind it. The songs will all flow together and tell a cohesive story the way Everything In Transit did.
10. What direction would you like to take Jack's Mannequin in next?
A: Well, the music I've been writing lately is very sexy, dancey and full of grooves. But not dancey in the same way the newer bands are today.
M: So we shouldn't expect anything in the vein of Panic! At The Disco?
A: No, nothing like that. It's dancey music, but not completely either. It's very sexy, because I think about sex a lot these days. I want my music to portray what is on my mind, and sex is basically it.
11. How did you stay so strong and optimistic throughout your treatment? Did you parents raise you to always look on the bright side of things?
A: I wouldn't say that I was necessarily raised to be an optimist or grew up with a sunny disposition, but my parents always taught me to take what was given to me and make the best of things. I think that really helped me get through it.
12. What was your reaction to the fan projects such as the Andrew is My Homeboy t-shirts, the I Will Fight wristbands from absolutepunk.net, the 11:11 wristbands, the Hope Comes From The Inside wristbands, and the Letters From Noelle book?
A: I was just blown away. Absolutepunk.net raised a lot of money. And I'm wearing the Hope Comes From The Inside wristband right now.
M: Yeah, they did. I think it was around $10,000. Maybe people in Portland can't drive, but they're good at fundraising.
13. Did you get to read the entire Letters To Noelle book?
A: Most of it. It was amazing. I can't say I went through and read every single letter, but I definitely read it and I really appreciate the effort those girls put into it.
M: Leah and Lianne?
A: Yeah, they are cuties. Total sweethearts.
M: I think it's awesome how someone so young can accomplish something so significant.
A: It's really impressive.
14. When you were in the hospital; did you ever keep a diary of your experiences, or is your blog your diary?
A: I kept a diary on and off when I had the energy to write, but in some ways my blog was definitely my diary too.
15. Last time you played in Portland you said “Miss Delaney” was about a girl from Seattle and there is a picture of the Space Needle accompanying the lyrics in Everything In Transit’s booklet. Can you tell us more about the song?
A: I can't really say too much about it, out of respect to her and wanting to protect her privacy. But she's an awesome girl, and a great friend who got me through a really tough time.
16. What bands are on your iPod right now that you’re particularly impressed with?
A: I really dig the new Gnarls Barkley stuff and I've gotten back into Elton John and Tom Petty. The Outline is this awesome band from San Francisco that we've done some one-off shows with, everyone should check them out. The Raconteurs stuff is just great. I also like the new Snow Patrol a lot.
M: Yeah, the new Snow Patrol is really good.
17. What is one technological item you can’t live without? (cell phone, iPod, laptop)
A: Probably my cell phone. I use this huge thing right here to send emails and stuff.
(whips out giant gadget)
M: Is that a Palm Treo?
A: Yeah. It's very useful to stay in touch with people back home when I'm the road.
18. Is there a rock pianist (other than Elton John and Ben Folds) whose music inspires you?
A: It's hard to say because there are so few rock pianists out there. I really like the guy who does keyboards for Tom Petty, and of course, Billy Joel. They are all really talented.
15. In “21 & Invincible” you sing "When my mom hears this song she'll tell me I'm crazy". When she finally heard the song, what was her reaction?
A: (laughs). I have to say that song has been sensationalized a bit. Yes, she heard the song and was like "I didn't say that, Andrew!" But I just wanted to immortalize her in the song. So now I've paid homage to my mother.
19. Who are some bands you would love to tour with in the future?
A: It would be fun to tour with The Academy Is.. or Hidden In Plain View again. I really enjoyed touring with Yellowcard in the past; it would be nice to go back out on the road with them. I would love to tour with Cute Is What We Aim For again.
20. If you could go back in time and meet one historical figure, who would it be?
A: That's a good question. But it's also hard. I have no idea.
M: I want to meet Siddhartha Gautauma. I think it would have been interesting to watch his transformation from sheltered prince to spiritual leader.
A: Oh! I want to meet him too. Look at my tattoo. It says "The River Is Everywhere". It's from one of his texts.
M: Very cool.
A: I think I would have been really cool to meet Jesus before everything happened and see what that whole thing was really about.
M: You mean like before Christianity divided into different sects and all that?
A: Yeah, I'm really curious about how that all came about and what made the world it is today.
21. Finish the statement. In 10 years, I’d like to be:
A: Oh man. I try not to think that far into the future, or plan that much. I hope to just keep doing what I love and make music. After the past year, I've learned to just live in the present and live well.
22. This is a question from The Messengers: What do you do with your old pianos?
A: I have three old pianos. I have one in my house, I keep the North piano in a practice space, and I keep the other in my parents' garage.
M: You should auction one of them off for like $10,000 to raise money for the Pediatric Cancer Research Fund.
A: That's a great idea. I've actually thought about doing that. But if I did it now, the piano would only bring in like $3000 or $4000. I'm hoping that the next single, Dark Blue will give us the push we need to get the point where auctioning off the piano would bring in $10,000 or hopefully even more than that. You never know.
23. Do your fans ever do anything really stalkerish?
M: When I interviewed Kenny from The Starting Line, he told me about how these girls who lived NOWHERE near him just randomly showed up at his doorstep one day.
A: (laughs). That's kind of funny. No, nothing that extreme has ever happened to me. I'm so open with my fans that they don’t need to do anything like that. People know where my parents live so sometimes they will drop off stuff for me there. I move so often that it would be hard to figure out where I live and randomly show up at my doorstep.
24. What has been your craziest tour experience?
A: Well, in San Diego last night my piano pedal stopped working. That kind of sucked. Probably touring with Cute Is What We Aim For.
25. In a recent interview you said you had a pretty good time corrupting Hidden In Plain View. What did you mean by that?
A: Oh man, they still talk about that? We just had an amazing time together out on the road. I love taking younger bands out on the road with us and corrupting them (laughs).
26. What was touring with Cute Is What We Aim For like?
A: Oh man, we had such a good time with them. Their guitarist was so innocent when we first started out. He was like "caffeine is a drug" and by the end of the tour we had him begging us for pot brownies.
M: I was going to bake you pot brownies, but I was afraid that someone would mistakenly eat them.
A: Oh man. I would LOVE any fan that baked me pot brownies! The doctors won't let me smoke pot for medical reasons, but pot brownies are okay.
27. What are you reading right now, and what do you think everyone should read?
A: I'm about to start reading The Lathe of Heaven which a fan gave to me. Everyone should read Charles Bukowski. He wrote some really insightful stuff.
M: I think everyone should read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.
A: What's that about?
M: It's kind of disturbing. It's about the rape and murder of this fourteen year old girl, and she tells her story from heaven.
A: Sounds really disturbing.
M: It is, but it's one of those books that makes you realize how lucky you are to be alive. I'll write down the author's name and the book's title for you later.
A: Okay, thanks.
28. What was the last movie you saw?
A: Gosh, I can't remember. I really need to watch more movies.
M: I saw Shopgirl.
A: Oh yeah! I saw that too. What did you think of it?
M: It was actually pretty good.
A: Yeah I liked it too. It was a great little movie, but I thought Steve Martin's narration was unnecessary.
M: He was basically just reading aloud from the book that the movie was based on.
A: I wanted to actually see the stuff he was reading play out on the screen. I felt like the filmmakers copped out by just having him read the book aloud.
29. If you were to attend Warped Tour this year, what bands would you go see?
A: Ooh, that's a good question! I don't even really know who's playing, other than The Academy Is.. I would go see them play. I really like those guys. Something Corporate toured with them before. I haven't heard Cartel, but people always say good things about them, so I would probably go see them.
30. Can you tell us the story behind River Apparel?
A: River Apparel is basically me and a few of my friends getting together to make clothes that we would actually like to wear.
M: Are you going to make flip-flops, since you're famous for rocking those?
A: No, actually. We're aiming to be a little more high-end than that. Mostly just polos. I love a good polo. Almost something like Lacoste, where they have polos in…
M: Every imaginable color?
A: Yeah, polos in every color.
31. If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing? Is there anything else you wanted to do as a child?
A: Bob, what do you do when you're not making music?
B: I'm in a bar. Sitting down.
A: Yeah, I don't know. That's a tough question. I'd probably be doing something really boring. Something that wouldn't be as cool as this. It's hard to say because it's all I've wanted to do since I was eight or nine years old.
M: I'm envious that you've always known what you wanted to do. I think I am going to do Pre-Med, but I change my mind every other day.
A: (whistles) That's a lot of school.
M: I'm Asian, I don't have a choice. It's programmed in me.
A: Medicine? Yeah. I had an Asian doctor. Dr. Trevor Lim. He wasn't my main doctor though.
M: I want to be a psychiatrist.
B: Interesting. Treatment with drugs.
A: I fucking… I had an 85 year old woman on the plane who told me she thought I should see a counselor.
M: Had you been talking to her for awhile?
A: Yeah I had been talking to her for a few hours. I don't know. I didn't voice any concerns or problems to her at all. She's like (imitates woman's voice) "maybe you should see a counselor or something." I said "I think I'll keep my inner demons to myself". I was like "I see your point, but it seems like every musician I know who decides to go see a fucking shrink ends up writing really gay songs"
M: I wonder what high school would have been like if everyone had been in therapy.
A: It would have been the same, because therapy doesn't fucking work. It would have been a lot of people using a lot of big words to describe their feelings.
M: Tom Cruise?
A: (imitating a psychiatrist) Why are you regressing? You're regressing. You're projecting your anger.
B: In high school, our psychiatrist was named Dr. Clam and we had to go see him for counseling if we got busted for smoking pot, doing drugs or drinking. He had a beard. People would always joke around about having to go see the "Bearded Clam" I never had to see him.
M: Maybe I'll be a pediatrician instead.
A: There you go!
32. Any last words or messages for your fans?
A: Not really. Should I have some?
M: I don't know.
A: Peace. Love. Eat fish and chips!
Thank you to Andrew's publicists, Dvora Vener-Englefield and Myleik Teele for setting up the interview, the tour manager Casper for making sure it happened, and Andrew for his time. And a huge thanks to The Messengers and the Soco-Onliners for their witty questions :)
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