THE BELIEVER: Do you think [the music industry] has gotten more intense, though, or more pervasive in any way? I’m thinking about that car, the Honda Element, which was designed by surfer kids to appeal more comprehensively to the youth market. A lot of music coming out now has that feel to me. There’s a sheen to it, like when you take off the shrinkwrap there’s another, impermeable layer of shrinkwrap.
STEPHEN MALKMUS: Yeah, you’re right, when you imagine all these guys around a table, all these seventeen-year-old kids looking at press packets or magazines or whatever, saying, “I like that,” “I don’t like that,” “That’s good,” and then the label guys kind of roll with it. And probably in Hollywood, too, they’ve got these younger agents that try to bond with the star and make him feel cool. You know, they need to find someone who’s willing to go to all these boring parties and watch people dance. Get the free drinks.
But if you’re starting to get out of touch—and it’s inevitable if you’re really in the music scene—even for an indie music person there’s a point at which you become too old. Like the Matador Records guys—they’re going to be pushing forty soon. And at that point you start asking yourself how in touch you want to be. Do you want to be the guy with the bald spot at the seventeen-year-old’s prom? You don’t really want to do that. Maybe it’s better to just go online and look at makeoutroom.com or something like that to find out what kids like. Just prowl the Internet like a child molester so you can find out what the new music is.
BLVR: That’s sad.
SM: I don’t know. It depends on what you want to do, whether you want to make music for a dwindling market or not. You know, like trying to sell music to the people that are having kids and going out less and buying fewer CDs, except the ones they already bought when they were twenty. People are really stubborn about sticking to what they know. “Stones Forever” or whatever. Or Nirvana. The people that liked Nirvana will get a box set when they’re fifty, or someone will get it for them for Christmas, and that will be it.
Stephen Malkmus talks with Matthew Derby (October 2003).