Dawson’s Crack (Interview w/Kimya Dawson)

kimya-smile.jpg

The timing and content has been a bit erratic here on MonsterFresh.com, especially as of late, but that is primarily due to its organic development.  I use the term “organic” in much the same way that a crop yield can be affected by the refusal to utilize outside elements that, although have the ability to stimulate growth, will also undoubtedly effect the natural composition of things.  I only mention this because Kimya Dawson was actually one of the first interviews that I thought to have when I started this website.

I spoke with her at a show in November, but mostly just about Olympia, Wa (Kimya lived in Oly during the 90’s, I lived there from 2000-’06 and then she moved back after I had left)  She did, however, mention that some of her music was used to make up the soundtrack to a small indie film that was coming out called JUNO.  I recalled seeing a trailer for it before The Darjeeling Limited, and that was that.

Jump to a couple of months into the future and JUNO is already an Oscar contender and the soundtrack, which is composed almost entirely of Dawson’s solo work and other projects (The Moldy Peaches & Antsy Pants) becomes the #1 selling album Nationally. Kimya’s schedule these days is hectic.  She tours with her family (husband/musician Angelo Spencer and their daughter Panda) and actually lists the days in which she is NOT doing a performance.  Fortunately for us, she played a benefit show in Seattle on March 1st for HollowEarthRadio.com, of which my friend DJ Knucklesupper hosts his own show.  She was kind enough to meet with me before her performance so that the interview could finally come to fruition.

DEAD C: So let’s see what I got here.  I want to ask you 2 questions about- well actually 1 question…  Are you related to Andre or Richard Dawson?

KIMYA: Neither, actually.  It was funny ‘cus, growing up, our next door neighbors were also last named Dawson and uh…they weren’t very nice people.  They claimed that they were related to Andre and we were not related to them… to our neighbors.  But also, I think that the Dawson name was a tricky thing.  I think that my grandfather had like, some sort of a step dad or something and his last name got changed.  And so I don’t know that we are even really from a long line of Dawsons.

Well I know you also are not related to Fabrizio Morretti, is that correct?

No I’m not.  I did inherit some of Richard Dawson’s affection, but I don’t think we’re blood *chuckles*

Well, what were you saying about the whole imdb thing with Fabrizio Moretti a while ago?

Oh.  On my imdb page it has, in the trivia, that me and Fabrizio are cousins and it’s not true.  It was a rumor that I started once in England as a joke.  But, I mean, I didn’t even mean to start it as a rumor.  Like, I was doing an interview for a zine and somebody asked how The Moldy Peaches were “lucky” enough to get to tour with The Strokes.

Ooh

And it was during the time that everybody was like, “Oh! The Strokes only got a major label deal ‘cuz they’re rich” and, you know, so people were like, “Oh, how did you guys end up on tour with The Strokes?  That’s really lucky.”  So I was like, “Oh, it was no luck, we’re cousins.”

*we both laugh*

You know, to totally up the privilege ante, but I was totally kidding.  But I didn’t let them know that I was kidding.  And it was just for some zine in New Castle, England or something and then, it just totally spread.  It was pretty hysterical.  But I tried to change it on the imdb page and they were like, “Yeah, whatever.  It’s totally true.”

Really?

Yeah.

How do you try to alter something like that?

You just-  You have to have a log-in thing for imdb and then you can challenge information on people’s pages, but I got shot down.

That’s pretty rough.

Yeah.  I mean I’ve had people, on The Strokes message board too, post pictures of me and Fab and be like, “Look at the family resemblance“, and I’m like, “We’re not related” and they’re like, “Yes THEY are!”

*we both laugh again*

So, you just played at Evergreen (State College) right?

Yeah.

Well, I didn’t realize that you went there too.

Yeah.

‘cuz I went there, but…I, um.. don’t have my degree.

*shakes head w/smirk* Oh yeah, me either.  When were you there?

I was there until, um…2 thousand and….4?

Oh, okay.  I’m much older.  I was there until ’94.

Yeah all of these things happened where they didn’t ever give me my degree.

Aww, yeah..okay.

And I’m really not too worried about it.

Yeah that’s kind of how I feel.

Were you just in town for a short period, in Olympia, when you did that?  ‘Cuz there was a riot

I lived in Olympia for- oh-

I mean recently.

Oh, oh recently?  Yeah the riot.  We had just gotten back to town a couple days after it.  Yeah, so I don’t have a lot of facts about it.  I’ve heard a lot of different…hearsay.

I heard something, that it was supposed to affect the performances that were going to take place.

Yeah, they made an exception for my show which was really nice.

So you are in the line of people such as Matt
Groening
and Marcy Playground

Yeah, well I think maybe THEY got diplomas.

So you were on The View right?

Yeah.

So everyone is asking you about The View and everyone wants to ask you about Juno.

Yeah.

Well, I had questions before and I’m trying to update ’em.

Okay.

So, on The View..

Mmm hmm?

You just had a little brief little, um…

Yeah.

You performed and then…  Whoopi Goldberg announced you?

Yeah.  I had like point two five seconds to say as much as I could possibly squeeze in.

But, um, every time that I see Barbara Walters

Pffft! *smiles* What a freakazoid, huh?

Yeah, she goes out of her way to mention The Moldy Peaches but then-

*laughing* It’s like she’s addicted to us, but she can’t stand us.

-but she… doesn’t “get it“?

Yeah.

She doesn’t “get it“, but she loved it when Ellen Page sang your song.  But, not so much, when you did it.

Oh, she was like… squirming.  Just totally squirming in her seat while Ellen was singing it.  But, yeah.  Well, I think part-   We (The Moldy Peaches) met her after we performed on The View and she was talking to Adam (Green) and I, and I think she didn’t like our attitude… about “the biz“.  And I wonder, when she says she doesn’t “get it“, if she means that she doesn’t understand “us“, you know.  ‘cuz I’m willing to bet that she hasn’t heard any of our music past that one song (“Anyone Else but You”).  And you know, she’s been on Conan, on her show, and-

Yeah, I saw her on Conan talking about how she doesn’t “get it“.

And on The View.  But she’s sang along to it on like 3 different shows now.  You know, so it’s like she knows it and it gets stuck in her head.  But yeah, she came up to us and was like, *in a gruff troll voice*So what’s up?  Do you guys hate each other?”  And I was like, “What do you mean?”  She was like “Why aren’t you playing together now?”  We were just like, ” ‘cuz we’re not a band anymore” or like, you know, ” ‘cuz we’re not doing anything these days“.  And she was just, “But you gotta strike while the iron is hawwt!”  Just really,  “You can make lots of money right now!”  and I was like, “That’s not why we make music.”  You know?

Mmm, hmm

And she was just like *grumbles* You kids!”  I think she wanted us to have more ambition, in the way that she thinks that people should be ambitious.

I think I should probably photoshop a picture of her for this and probably put it on the site.

Did you see the video that I posted like yesterday?

Yeah I just saw that today.  Where you’re singing along with her?

*We both laugh*

Over Ellen Page’s face?

Uh, huh.

Yeah, I was thinking about that and I was thinking, “Man, I should just photoshop Barbara Walters with gold teeth and diamonds and chains”  and maybe even just, kind of, pimped out-

But you know, it’s like…who cares if Barbara doesn’t get what they do, she’s like a hundred.

*we laugh again*

babspsd.jpg

Yeah, I think it’s funny though.

I think it’s funny too because she really can’t stop talking about it.  It’s like it’s making her nuts.

That’s the type of thing that for me would be, like… a little victory.  But, you know, not a “victory” so much, but like…

It’s so bizarre

Those are the types of things that entertain me more.

Yeah, yeah.

They wouldn’t let you say “turd” on the show (The View) right?

Right.

So you said “load” right?  Which is-

Which is grosser.

Which is grosser, but I don’t think-

I don’t think she got it, yeah.

But I think Whoopi Goldberg probably got it.

I think somebody probably talked.  Even if she didn’t get it on the spot, I think somebody probably…  After the fact, I think some people probably noticed.  I wonder if some producers were like,  “Uhh, they just said ‘blew a load’ “. *giggles* You know, somebody must’ve gotten it.

It’s shocking to me, even that this movie’s a hit.  I’m kind of just confused and I have nothing to do with it.

Yeah.  I didn’t expect it.

To see even just the top movie nominees and to have like, Tim Burton, the Coen Brothers, and P.T. Anderson… it’s weird to me.

Yeah.

And then, you know, you have this weird mix and… I mean, you didn’t expect anything like that, did you?

No, I didn’t expect that.  I mean, I liked it and I was like, “Oh, some people are gonna like it“, but I didn’t think it was going to be THAT big.

You didn’t really pick the music though, you sent it to him (Jason Reitman) right?

I sent him my stuff, but after I thought the film was done.  I thought he had already made the soundtrack, at that point that I had sent him my stuff, and then he told me that he wanted to use my stuff.

Were you, I mean, not so much shocked, but…

I laughed.  I thought it was crazy.

But I mean… what they used, because there are certain songs that I would think-

Yeah, he picked some of my really old ones.  And it’s weird, you know.  Some of the songs he picked I was like, “Oh, weird.  I feel like that song has maybe the least substance out of all of the songs I’ve written“, but then within the context of the movie, it makes sense.

But the tempo kind of seems like some of the decisions were made based on the…I don’t know..the chords.. or…
I mean, ‘cuz you have songs like “Nothing Came out” that seems like, maybe…or you have songs like “The Smoothie Song” that, you know… things that you’d think would relate.

Yeah, and well that’s what I learned during this process is that they don’t necessarily want songs where the lyrics have very much to do with what’s actually happening.  He had asked me if I would try to write a song for the movie, like an original song, and I was like, “Well I can try, but I don’t really have time, and I don’t really function like that.”  So I made up this silly little song and then he was like,  “No, it really IS too much for the story“.

So they use one Moldy Peaches song?

Yeah.

After they contacted you, did you contact Adam and tell him.  How did that really work?

Well they emailed me first and I gave them the email address of his manager.  The day, the woman who emailed me, emailed me,  I just said, “Okay, send me a screenplay/email Adam’s manager“.  And then, after I saw the screenplay, I said, “Okay” and then, for his half, they dealt through his people.

They contacted you, but then…?

Well, there was a woman working on the film who knew me and so, when Jason Reitman said to her, “We have to track down the Moldy Peaches“, she said, “Oh, I can email Kimya, I’ve got her contact information“.

Do you feel kind of like-
I mean when I saw things like, Peter Jackson filming Lord of the Rings and Sam Raimi filming Spiderman.. it’s like “These people haven’t seen Meet the Feebles; these people haven’t seen or watch Evil Dead movies“, and they send their kids to these movies (Spiderman, etc.), you know?

Yeah.

I mean, I saw you last time and you play certain things like that song “The Beer I had for Breakfast” and songs that don’t really… I mean if you see this with your family sometimes-

Oh no, that’s one of the most incredible things about this whole experience for me is the thought of some soccer moms watching The View and being like, “What a sweet song.  Let’s go get The Moldy Peaches album” and then hearing “Steak for Chicken” and being like, “Oh!

Yeah, or “Downloading Porn with Davo“.

With the kids in the room, yeah.  And “New York City’s Like a Graveyard“.  You know, like those sorts of songs.  “Who’s Got the Crack“, and just being like-

Well, when you look at the back of that album

Yeah, the titles kind of say a lot but, yeah… I don’t know.  And definitely with my stuff too, with the exception of “Loose Lips” and saying, “Fuck Bush and Fuck this War“, the songs on the soundtrack are pretty tame.  And then they go buy one of the CDs and pop it in the car with the kids.  And yeah, not all parents are as open to cock talk as others.

I know you’ve done other stuff…do you still connect with that?  Since you’re doing really old material.

Well I’ve always, at my shows, just mixed it up.  It just depends on which songs I feel like playing.  My set is always all over the place.

So you don’t really feel the need to-

I feel weird like, when we did a couple things around the premier of the movie and The View thing, playing Moldy Peaches stuff and I feel like that’s harder for me to connect with now.  And, I still think the songs are nice, you know, I’m glad we wrote them.  I don’t dislike the music but I feel like I’m just in such a different place right now and also, I don’t like standing on stage without a guitar.  It makes me feel lame.

When you’re standing on stage does it give you more of something to focus on beyond the fact that you’re just standing there being stared at, if you have a guitar?

Yeah.  Well, I mean, when I’m playing and singing my own songs it’s much more internal. Which is always a stranger place to get into when you’re just standing at a microphone.

Your guitar skills…do you have more confidence in them?

Then…I did…?

Well, I think I’ve heard you comment on them-

I’m not super awesome at guitar, I mean, that’s kind of obvious.  But I can play my songs. *laughs*

Because anything I can play, I’ve taught myself.

Yeah, I’m totally self taught so I can’t play other people’s songs but I can play mine.

kimya-play.jpg

Y’know Leo Kottke?

*she nods*

I saw him once and he was saying that when people ask him his influences that, he tried to be like Mingus and he tried to be like all these people, and he thinks that your style basically comes from all of these accidents of trying to imitate other people.

Hmm.  Well, I don’t think that I ever tried to imitate people on guitar because I think I just knew that I couldn’t.

Well, he was basically… well, what I got, was that you just basically accept you who are and how you do things and that’s just as good or better.

Yeah.  Well, that’s why when I see people cover my songs, like on Youtube or something, it’s like nobody can really play their guitar the way I play my guitar.  When they play my songs it’s always a little bit different sounding.  Just because I think I have a strange sense of rhythm… a strange strum.

This is kind of weird because I didn’t want to be another person trying to contact you at this stage, but the only thing that I try to do, as for the website, is deal with people that we’re interested in, that we know of, that we feel need some kind of promotion or at least deserve it, and that we have respect for in some way.

Yeah.

Is it weird?  Do a lot of people come to you and you can tell that this is just an assignment?

Yeah, and most of the time I just ignore them.

*both laugh*

You know, sometimes if it’s for a website or a newspaper or something that’s of interest to me, and then I’m more likely to be like, “Oh, that’s cool” but yeah, if it’s just like, *monotone*Hello, my name is Jim and I work for Yahoo.com“…

What about questions that you get asked all of the time?

The same exact ones… every time.  And it’s like… it’s killin’ me.  One of the women putting together one of the shows that I’m playing at South by Southwest just emailed me yesterday and was like, “I’m gonna try to put together a press conference before the show“, and I was like, “That’s a nightmare but ideal“.  ‘cuz everybody just asks the same shit and it’s like, “Okay, everybody come sit in the fucking room.  I’m gonna say it once“, y’know? *laughs*

You should get one of those things on your site that says, “Frequently Asked Questions

Yeah, that’s what I need to do.

Just to be like, “For Press Inquiries“, so that when they click it before the contacts it just has  “Maybe I can answer this…”

Well, that’s what i should do too, is just be like, “I will only do email interviews” and just have all of the answers in a file and just cut and paste them.  ‘cuz it’s always the same and it’s like…c’mon. If you’ve looked at a single newspaper article about Juno, you know that “Ellen Page told Jason Reitman blah blah blah…

It says it in the CD doesn’t it?

Yeah.  Yeah, it says it in the soundtrack, but everybody asks.

Back to Ellen Page, it just seems really interesting because its comical.  Barbara Walters mentions how she doesn’t get you so it’s funny to me, it’s hilarious to me.  And they have to say things like, “Stripper Wins Oscar” about Diablo Cody every time.

Yeah.

But the movie is about a pregnant teenager, and somehow everybody looks to that character like the saving grace to this whole situation and like the answer to it (the success).

Yeah.

Yeah, and its almost like, “Well, that’s because you have 3 reels, 90 minutes to explain her“.

Right, right.

And you need that much time to explain-

Diablo.  Right, and..

You guys

*both laugh again*

Totally.  Do you subscribe to Diablo’s blog on Myspace?  She’s fuckin’ awesome.

I sent her some weird friend request but I don’t remember…

Oh, yeah, she’s kind of weird I think, with friend requests.

Your myspace page went crazy.

Yeah, it’s weird.  I guess after you have a certain amount of friends it automatically processes the friend requests for you.  Because at one point I was getting a shit load of friend requests and then like, the next day, I had 2.  And I was like, “Only two people want to be my friend.  What’s wrong?  Nobody likes me anymore?“.  And then we realized, “Oh wait! I didn’t have any friend requests but I have 2,000 more friends today“.  So it’s pretty crazy.  But, yeah, I read Diablo’s blog and she’s cool.  She’s handling it all really awesomely.

I didn’t see the Oscars but I’ve seen since, and it looks like a bunch of people just rushed the gate…and then everybody else… it’s this weird merger.I just have a couple questions about (Hurricane) Katrina because I know on your site, a long time ago, you had this girl that was trying to collect music.

Well, I set it up.  Yeah, I set up this thing.  I was trying to think, “What could I do?”  I was just trying to think about kids and teenagers and what helped me through hard shit when I was a teenager and it was always music.  Bad things happen, put on your headphones and escape.  And so I was like, “What would be a way that kids could help kids?” And then I just thought about how I had this insane music collection of stuff I never listen to anymore.  And then I was like, “Oh, I bet tons of people have that, and I bet tons of people have upgraded to iPods and have Discmen and Walkmen laying around that they don’t use anymore.  So, I just posted a bulletin that said, “Is there anybody, sort of, in the Gulf region who could accept donations and distribute donations” And about 4 or 5 kids said, “Yeah, Yeah sign me up.”  There was just this one girl in Houston, most of the donations were sent to her, and she just like, had a warehouse.  And she was going down to the biggest shelter they had set up in Houston and just finding kids and handing out hundreds and hundreds-  I mean we collected thousands of CDs and tapes, hundreds of walkmen and discmen…and… Yeah, these kids just got out there.

When your doing this and things like this radio benefit for Hollow Earth, it seems like you’re really focused towards, you know, “Here’s what I can do with the fact that I’m getting this more global appreciation

Yeah.

I was wondering about a couple of things as far as some of the people you get to meet.  I know what would interest me and it doesn’t really seem that, for the most part, it’s what interests other people that get to those positions.

Right.

Like with…Jason Bateman

*we laugh*

The guy was Teen Wolf 2 and he was on Silver Spoons!  Did you mention those things to him or do you try to hold those things in?

Oh, no.  I mean, the first time I met him, I kind of gushed.  I don’t know if I took it all the way back like if I was like, “Oh, Little House on the Prairie, Silver Spoons, It’s Your Move, Hogan Family, Teen Wolf 2, Dodge Ball”  Y’know, I can rattle off like every job he’s ever done.  “And you’re in one of my songs!“. *laughs* You know?  I didn’t tell him that.  But yeah, I definitely gushed and was awkward the first time I met him and then when I just met him this last time, he came over and was like, “Hey, how you doing?” it was much more natural.  And that’s kind of how it always is (when) I meet somebody.  Since I was a kid, (I’d) just sort of create funny scenarios in my head involving interactions I have with celebrities and the combinations that I could get together for weird… Like, “If I could have a tea-party with so-and-so and so-and-so…” and then it culminates into, like on my album Hidden Vagenda, having a song that’s like, “Aww, if I could get Stephan Jenkins from 3rd Eye Blind and Daniel Johnston on the same song *taps fingertips together methodically* hee, hee, hee, hee“.

Yeah, that was weird.  And Regina Spektor’s on that album.

*nods* And Regina
Spektor
and Vanessa Carlton on a song together.  Y’know just these weird combinations.  It’s just something that I always thought was pretty funny.  People from different universes and colliding those worlds and figuring out what’s in common.

When I get out of cars I do this thing…  I used to do it all the time, but I step out like this.
*I rise from my chair slowly panning the room with wonderment*

Yeah.

Like I’m entering the big city.

Totally.

Every time, in my head, I’m in a film.  One of the reasons that I started dating my girlfriend was because, I can’t remember what the context was, but she said, “Brain Games!

*nods and laughs* Nice!

And I was just like, “Whoa!”  So we started dating.  Pretty much that was it for me.

That’s awesome.

So what you have coming out is with K Records… the “Alphabutt” album?

The kids album, yeah.

And there’s gonna be a book with that also?

No, not anymore.

You gave up on the book, or it didn’t work out?

Well, it just would have taken too long and the CD’s done and I’m really excited to get it out.  K said if I just did it as a CD it could come out in August.  And I decided too that I really want to do the album with K but I was thinking that, if I do a children’s book, I’d rather find an independent children’s book publisher that would have the distribution that a book really needs.  So I’m gonna do books in the future.

Does Panda listen to Dan Zanes or anything like that?

We haven’t very much.  He’s been highly recommended by The Tiny Masters of Today who are friends with his son.  They gave us one CD but she’s really into this album called…”Alphabutt” right now. *both laugh*

kimyate.jpg

The interview was over, so I handed Kimya my book of the 100 Deadliest Karate moves and asked her to pick a move that she would like to autograph.  As she took her time looking for the right one, I asked her if she felt that her “success” would continue in this form or if it would all wind up “like the Proclaimers“, as in, they still have their die-hard fan-base but, by the time Benny & Joon hit VHS, the majority of consumers didn’t really give a fuck anymore.  She said that she didn’t feel that it would continue because of the type of personality that she has.

I gave her a 4-Leaf clover on a little piece of white board in a cellophane wrapper, which I found in my leather sweater.  She told me that she used to find clovers like these by a polluted river when she lived in Boston and that she had lost the one that she used to have in a little yellow rapper.  She played another engaging set that night and when I got home late and turned on the television, low and behold, Ellen Page was the host on SNL.

-Dead C

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBg3J-VDofw

This is a clip of Kimya’s performance that night.  Please check out HollowEarthRadio.com and give them your support.

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Dead C

Located in Seattle, Dead C is the founder/editor, as well as the principal writer and photographer, of Monster Fresh. Creating the site in 2007, he did so with a specific dream in mind. Unfortunately, being a muscle relaxer-fueled fever dream, it’s hard to recall all of the details.

I remember that my mom was there, but it wasn’t actually her in the dream, it was actually 70s heart throb, Jan Michael Vincent. And everything took place here, in this room… but it wasn’t actually here… it was different. The colors were washed out and, for some reason, there was a raccoon kicking it with us and it was wearing a holographic monocle.

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  • micah

    are you saying there is something wrong with liking the proclaimers?