Pavement. The band that sets many an indie rock heart aflutter. Well, they no longer exist now, having performed their last show in London last fall. We chatted extensively with Pavement's "leader" Steve Malkmus, a few months before the band ground to a halt, and we covered the band's recording history in detail, which will be featured in Tape Op, the book, due out fall 2000. For the more timely among you, here is an excerpt from that conversation where we detail the band's recording of their swan song, Terror Twilight, with producer Nigel Godrich (Radiohead's OK Computer, Beck's Mutations, REM, etc). Incidentally, after four albums this is the first time Pavement has used a producer in the studio.
The first time you used a producer was just recently. You never had anyone officially produce. Bryce [Goggin] is probably the closest.
He had a lot to do with how our last album [Brighten the Corners] sounded. He did a great job- he's definitely creative. So he gets credit, but he could've been called the producer of the last album if he had really pressed for it, but we were sort of against that title anyway. We still are, we don't think we ever get produced, but by this point it's sort of old. So it was like, "Nigel wants to be producer? Well it's fine with us." We've done this for five albums now, and we wanted to work with him too.
He's really creative, and he works with Radiohead, which I think is a really cool band. We found out that Nigel wanted to record with us. We didn't request him, he just said he would do it and we were excited cause we knew that they were a cool band, even though I hadn't listened to Ok Computer all that much before we got a hold of him. We decided we wanted a producer and he decided he wanted to do it and we didn't want to ask anybody. We didn't want to look and he'd asked. So I called him up and he was a really nice, friendly guy. He had just done the Beck album [Mutations] and I like Beck.
That's a good sounding record.
Those are two really good records and the two coolest popular bands, just about. We were originally going to do it in Sonic Youth's studio [Echo Cañon], because we were just supposed to record on the cheap, like we always do. "They'll have a bunch of different little toys," cause they're Sonic Youth. Their studio had a good tape machine, like the two inch 16 [Studer]. We went there with Nigel and started to record there (this is after rehearsing at your place, and Steve's for a while). Nigel couldn't get his head around it. All he brought were some speakers and like one microphone. He just wanted to use everything else there. But it was really weird. The faders are backwards.
You pull them down for the sound to go up?
You'd be surprised how that can freak you out. Things like that. There were weird things you had to do with playback and listen back, and there were no headphone mixes per se. We left and were going around to other studios in New York, cause there are inexpensive ones in Brooklyn that are still cool. He didn't care about working in the nicest studio. But he knew, cause he mixed REM at RPM, that he liked it fine. He said, "We should go check it out." We were all sitting there like, "We can record anywhere." It's just a professional, impersonal studio. That's where we did a lion's share of the recording. It's very comfortable but, I mean, I wouldn't go back there really.
You got an advance from Matador for the first time ever too, didn't you?
Yeah, this was more expensive then any of our other records. The last one wasn't cheap either, just because of flying and paying Bryce and then mixing. It wasn't as much as this one, it just kind of started getting expensive. Again, for me, I just wanted to get it done. Done well- I didn't really care at this point. I just figured we could be irrational for once in our lives. Just do that big thing and see if it's fine, but still, that being said, we were still kind of grasping. We only did twelve days there or something. Basically we wanted to have all the drums and everything, but the vocals done, and we didn't quite do that. So we went to London to do the vocals and mix it. Get a break. We went to this place where Nigel was a tea boy and started his stuff. He met Radiohead there, when they were doing The Bends, at RAK. That's when he agreed to become their mate. When John Leckie was passed out...