For a man who doesn’t like too much attention, Isaac Brock has done a pretty bad job of keeping a low profile. There’s his band, Modest Mouse, who just released “We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank,” a follow-up to their biggest-selling album yet, 2004′s “Good News for People Who Love Bad News” — their first album to crack the Billboard top 20. Then there’s the fact that one of rock music’s most highly esteemed musicians, former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, joined Modest Mouse as a full-fledged member late last year. On the eve of the new album’s release, Brock took part in what he deemed a “necessary evil” and spoke to Salon on the phone from Portland, Ore.
– David Marchese
In interviews and articles, you almost always come off as slightly unhinged or tortured.
Because it’s easy for the press. It doesn’t matter that I don’t do drugs anymore; a lot of times people are going to want to talk about that. Four out of six people in the band don’t drink. It’s fucking lazy, man. It’s, “I can go strip-mine these other articles,” and make an event that’s not real. A lot of shit that gets focused on is in my past. I don’t feel unhinged; I feel pretty fucking focused.
The music press has gotten so much bigger in the last decade. Has that been good for the relationship between musicians and their audience?
It’s funny that you say that. I was just thinking about something like that. The thing that sparked it was I was sitting somewhere and there was a TV going. On one of them was Paul McCartney after he’d been accused of trying to stab his ex-wife with a wine glass and he was doing this live show where he was really trying to be the buddy to the audience, really giving the high fives and making himself accessible. He was in a T-shirt like, “I’m just a normal dude!” Then that ended and the fella from KISS [Gene Simmons] had a reality show. This was a guy who would not have been a huge success were it not for the fact he was invisible as a human being; he was a character. There wasn’t a lot of getting to know him and now all of a sudden I’m watching him and his wife and kids being put in all these demeaning situations. That’s what people are focused on right now.
I mean, James Dean — the guy was probably a fucking jackass. I don’t know him, I can’t say, but that wasn’t how they covered him. I do know that he was sort of a jackass, a wastoid, but at that point in history people really wanted to elevate their icons and make them seem better and more important than they really were. But now we’ve gotten accustomed to reality shows where the goal is to see people acting foolish. It’s like we’re a bunch of fucking gossiping teenagers at this point. That’s just how history works, I guess.
Are fans losing something as a result of knowing more about their favorite musicians?
I read one article in my entire life about the Pixies. It was in Thrasher and came out when I was 14, maybe 15. I don’t read a lot of rock magazines for the most part. I don’t want to know what the fucking songs are about. The one article I was talking about explained what “Debaser” was about — it was from a movie. I didn’t need to know that. I had my own idea and it was fucking great. What I thought the song was about was a lot more interesting than what it was actually about. Bedhead, another band I liked, when I found out one of their songs was actually about a bedside table? Fucking yawn, man — what is this shit?