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Jim Wilbur of Superchunk

Superchunk

An Interview with Superchunk Guitarist Jim Wilbur
by John Noyd
January 2014

Formed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1989, Superchunk has maintained the same line-up since 1991, releasing heartfelt high-velocity indie-rock over the course of eight albums before taking a hiatus in 2001. Returning from their various side-projects in 2010, the band currently finds itself promoting their tenth full-length, “I Hate Music,” without their original bassist Laura Ballance, whose hearing issues has made her participation in their volcanic live shows untenable. In anticipation of playing Madison’s 2014 FRZN Fest January 19th, Superchunk’s Jim Wilbur was kind enough to answer a few questions via email.

MAXIMUM INK: Superchunk’s guitar sound has been an influential force for years, what guitarists do you admire and are there any guitarists/bands playing today you find particularly interesting?

Jim Wilbur: Thanks for the compliment. Let me say first of all that I am a completely un-trained guitarist, never had a lesson. I bought my first guitar (a crappy off-brand acoustic) when I was a senior in high school after listening to the Minutemen’s “Double Nickels on the Dime”. I had a little pamphlet with some basic chord diagrams and that was that. I usually tell people I perform with a guitar - rather than say I play a guitar. So… basically I admire anyone who can ACTUALLY play the damn things, especially people who seem to play intuitively.

MI: After so many years together Superchunk seems more like a family than a band, how would you describe the group dynamics and what do you feel are your responsibilities in the band?

JW: You’re right. I think we are more like a family at this point, that, or maybe a gang. We all know how to deal with one another, where each other’s toes are and ways to avoid stepping on them. As far as my responsibilities go, hmmm… back in the 90’s I did most of the driving, but I don’t suppose that is what you mean. I think the most important thing for each of us is to be respectful of one another and allow each other the space to live inside the group. That may sound a little New Agey. When we are arranging/writing songs we all have to figure out how to complement one another and not step on each other’s parts. I’m talking musically here - but the same goes for the personal relationships we share with one another.

MI: The band seems happy to tour, I’ve always wondered, how does it get decided who gets to choose the music in the van?

JW: Back in the day the rule was “Driver picks the tape”. Since I drove about 90% of the time, that meant the band had to sit through my homemade mix-tapes of Def Leppard, Squeeze, The Verlaines and various hardcore punk bands. These days everyone is plugged into their own little worlds. Everyone but me, that is. I don’t really like listening to music in moving vehicles. Mostly I just sit there and ask questions of my band mates that go unanswered because they can’t hear me. Ha.

MI: Obviously there has to be a difference not having Laura touring with you on bass for this tour, what’s the band’s history with her stand-in Jason?

JW: We’ve know Jason for years. Jon has played with him in Bob Pollard’s band as well as Bob Mould’s trio. He’s a smashing fellow and a quick study. I’m reminded of our first practice with him. We ran through “Slack Motherfucker” and after the chorus we stopped because the bass sounded weird. Mac, Jon and I were sure he was playing the wrong notes. So we sent a quick email to Laura who was at her desk in the Merge office asking what she played at that point in the song. While waiting for a reply we listened to the song on YouTube and sure enough, Jason was right. I think we never heard the song properly since we usually play it at the end of a set when some of us might have had a little too much beer!


MI: The energy your guitar provides is enormous. Is there a warm-up routine you employ before a show or do you just plug and play?

JW: Mac and I just plug in and play.. Mac will do vocal warm-ups that sound like he’s making farting noises with his lips. Jon will warm up by playing paradiddles on sofa arms or chair-backs. If I’m sitting too close to him he’ll use my calves and feet

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Supersuckers on the cover of Maximum Ink in May 2002

Supersuckers


by Sarah Klosterbuer
May 2002

There are two types of country music. There’s the whiney, poppy, overproduced dribble, and then there’s the kind produced by the Supersuckers - the good kind.

To say the least, the Supersuckers are a bit bipolar when it comes to musical styles. They’ve opened for White Zombie and Motorhead and also backed country legend Willie Nelson. Producing primarily rock albums, the band also delivered a country disc in 1997, providing the material for their latest live release, “Must’ve Been Live.”

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Sweet Cyanide

Sweet Cyanide


by Alexandra Radel
July 2009

With songs titled “Suicide Love Machine,” “Certain Shadows on the Wall,” “Crash Theory,” and “Heartbreaker” these four New York rockers put a new spin on sex, drugs, and rock n roll. Sweet Cyanide is an electric collision of two respected New York bands, Crashbox and Moment Theory. The band consists of Sal Scoca and Angelo Fariello from Crashbox and Mike Bambrace and Joe Salvatore from Moment Theory. When the two bands were active Crashbox sold over 5,000 copies, and Moment Theory was recognized by Billboard’s independent songwriter’s contest.

Sweet Cyanide’s self-titled album drops July 7. Immediately following the release of their album they will be doing some regional touring through August. The first song on the album, “Crash Theory,” will also be the first single. Be listening for “Crash Theory” on the radio in early Sept. Currently, Sweet Cyanide is working out the kinks for opening slots in the fall with some big named bands.

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System Of A Down on the cover of Maximum Ink in November 1999 - photo by Paul Gargano

System Of A Down


by Paul Gargano
November 1999

There’s no shortage of bands raising their pitchforks in the name of Lucifer, raping and pillaging in the spirit and disorder of chaos, and redefining battle lines with a flammable spray of piss and gasoline for the entertainment of their audiences. But when it comes time to walk the walk, too many are too busy fumbling over their own absurdity to matter for more than a sweaty night of mosh-pit mayhem. System Of A Down spare us the verbal diatribes, and when it comes time to lead by example, they aren’t satisfied with simply walking the walk. They power the pits, give the masses metal worth mulling over, and provide a rainbow of musical colors in a scene forever dominated by black.

It takes little more than a cursory listen to their self-titled American/Columbia Records debut to realize that there’s more to System Of A Down than your run-of-the-mill metal-thrashing-mad quartet. Building on the artistic foundation of their Armenian heritage with finger-flickin’ guitar licks, crunching bass riffs, and drums that punch, pop and pierce the unflinching darkness of their sound, frontman Serj Tankian snaps lyrics like a mad genius-calculated in their delivery and impact, yet presented in the manic and crazed ilk of a manifesto.

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Joey Santiago

The Pixies’ Joey Santiago

A brief chat with Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago
by John Noyd
September 2014

A self-proclaimed quiet thinker, self-taught guitarist and sonic architect, Joey Santiago would much prefer to talk about how producer Roy Thomas Baker brought his unique skills to shape both Queen and the Cars than about himself or his substantial contribution to creating the Pixies’ now classic loud quiet loud dynamic. The third of six sons, Joey remembers his mom calling up to his room asking if everything was alright. Santiago refers to being “stuck in the middle” growing up, but his youthful strategy to fly solo and let his curiosity lead the way brought an early discovery that the public library lets you check out vinyl. With the world at your feet Santiago says, “you’re not afraid to go check out riskier stuff,” and he soon became an avid reader of liner notes educating himself on everything from cool jazz to hot punk; a knowledge that tuned his college roommate Charles Thompson into sounds that eventually prompted them to drop out and form a band.

In preparation for their October 12th concert at Madison’s Orpheum Theater with up and coming rockers ROYAL BLOOD, MAXIMUM INK talked to Joey; which was not all that different from the music he is best known for; elusive then emphatic, he dodged questions with stories as revealing as any answer. Asked about his guitar playing and educating himself on Pro Tools, Santiago begins by saying he embraces his limitations, calling himself a “stress case” when it comes to getting the sounds in his head on to tape or more likely computer file. At the same time Santiago says, “Charles (Frank Black) and Gil (long-time producer Gil Norton) hand it over to me and let me run with it.” Joey admits that no matter what guitar he picks up it always sounds like him. He stumbles at trying to describe his style, referring to it as a “pointy thing,” then recalls former Pixies bassist Kim Deal calling him up after she watched an episode from the first season of Weeds, instinctively recognizing Joey’s sound in the incidental music.

 

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Todd Sharpville

Todd Sharpville

An interview with the blue blooded bluesman Todd Sharpville
by Tina Hall
November 2010

It isn’t everyday you come across a Blues musician who comes from one of the UK’s oldest aristocrat families(with a history that spans a thousand years), but Todd Sharpville is just that. Nor is it everyday you find one that plays so well they have been asked to open for the likes of BB King and Joe Cocker.

No stranger to the blues himself after his marriage ended, Todd found himself being hospitalized for a nervous breakdown and spent 4 years fighting for his children. It was during this hospitalization he was asked by Leo Sayer to make guest appearances on 5 tracks (with Sayer driving 8 hours to negotiate face to face with the hospitals chief consultant to get Sharpville released a week early in order to be flown out to the studio in Denmark..whilst still wearing his pajamas,slippers and a dressing gown!)

With is whiskey soaked voice and music played from the soul he pours all of his past experience into the music in a most intriguing fashion. His latest offering the double album Porchlight(produced by the legendary Duke Robillard, featuring special guests: Joe Louis Walker, Duke Robillard, and Kim Wilson) is due to hit the US in November 2010.

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Tommy Stinson

Tommy Stinson

Interview with Tommy Stinson of the Replacements and Guns N' Roses
by Joshua Miller
May 2011

For Tommy Stinson, it it can safely be assumed that it’s often easy to get lost behind his history and reputation.  As the bass player for Minneapolis punk rock/alternative rock band the Replacements, Stinson helped craft a new style of rock and roll throughout the 80s.  From the early age of 13 to his early 20s, he joined the band on their furious onslaught of touring across the country and world.  Their live shows were wild, unpredictable and spontaneous, with the band making it up as they went.

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