You have a long history in the music business. Tell me a little
bit about that.
MN: Oh really...? Well I certainly
have a long history in the independent music business. And independence
is a good place to be, unless of course you crave fame, fortune
and endorsement deals as much as I do. So I suppose you could say
that I have a long history of striving to be in the bidness. Oh
yeah, and I did sing on some records when I was a kid, but that
is its own long tale, replete with conversion experiences, codeine
cough syrup and redemption so let's skip it...
CA: You recently had to change your
band name from simply Clear, to The Clear, what's up with that?
MN: Some evil, horrible, awful bastards
already had the name. Did I mention evil, horrible and awful? (hey---can
you be sued for libel for internet content? Hmmmmm. Intrigue.)
CA: And while we're on the subject,
aren't you afraid with that name you might be associated with the
MN: Yeah, yeah, fuck them.
CA: the Clear is comprised of an
amazing collection of extremely talented musicians. How did you
come to collect them?
MN: I have serious dirt on all of
them and I just keep threatening to go to the tabloids with it.
Seems to be working so far. Um... the real answer is I don't know
exactly. They are all pretty fucking good, huh? Mark Smith and I
started the band as an acoustic project lo these many years ago
and it has steadily mutated since then. Everybody knows how much
I respect them musically, and I think they feel the same way about
me (except during rehearsals when I forget the words to songs and
sing "la la la" instead). Plus what with that mutation thing I mentioned,
we are all now involved with the sound and the songwriting; it's
not just me and Mark and a bunch of backing players, it's, um, one
of them.... band things.
CA: Why have you chosen to go the
band route musically rather than the singer-songwriter route?
MN: Collaboration is an essential
part of this art form for me. I ain't as good on my own. I need
help, help and more help. Besides, doesn't everybody want to be
in a band?
CA: Who writes the lyrics & music
for the band?
MN: I write most of the lyrics although
I have occasionally been known to collaborate (most recently with
Steve Kruse, on "Lightning" and "Ghosts" from the new record). Usually
I'm most comfortable working on lyrics myself, because the process
is really very personal, but there is always the happy exception.
The music is collaborative, written in a mind-numbing variety of
ways by an ever -changing variety of band members, and the occasional
outside ringer. Lately we are moving more towards writing collectively,
but most often someone will bring in a chord change or two, and
it will get adapted by whoever else happens to be at that writing
session, you know, blah blah blah. Again, always exceptions: Steve
Kruse brought in "Faith" complete, I just melodicized & lyricized;
a song like "Lightning," was begun years ago by me & my former brother-in-law
(yep), Bay Area songwriter guy Peter Ford, and then given a new
verse melody by Steve, and then given new verse lyrics after Steve
said something to me about "paper, scissors, rock," and all this
in progress before, during and after the tracking. When we did lead
vocals for that one, we had just finished that lyric that day, and
I had to be walked through the verse line by line because I didn't
know the new melody yet...
CA: Your lyrics contain a lot of
Christian religious references, but the music itself is not in any
way Christian music. It seems like you have an uneasy yet ever present
relationship with religion in your music and life...
CA: You are also a well-known poet
in Los Angeles and beyond, but music seems to be your major artistic
outlet. Why is that?
MN: Well, actually, I've been writing
again, so we'll see if that continues to be true. The simple truth,
though, is that there's a LOT MORE MONEY in pop music then there
is in poetry, even pop poetry, as it were, and we are in it for
the bucks, dontcha know?... as if we were ACTUALLY acquainted with
any of that alleged loot yet, yeah, yeah, yeah. OR, alternate answer:
Different media, different mood. Or even: Different mood. Different
CA: What's going on with the band?
You just had a limited release CD, and from what I understand that
is selling out, you've got an MP3 site & have been featured around
MN: We're on the verge BABY. Our
new record, done with funds from our hotshit production deal (oooh)
and produced by Eagles drummer Scott Crago, is done and being shopped
to the people-with-ponytails even as we speak. We're selling a limited
pressing at shows and on the web. We've had some success and exposure
on the Internet. We'll be playing a buncha East Coast dates in July
on Club Mp3.com's 50-city tour. We got lotsa gigs in LA, acoustic
here, electric there (we like to mix it up). You know, all the regular
stuff. And, while we wait for the ponytails to do their thing, we're
writing, playing, rehearsing, recording all the time.
CA: What's your goal as a band? Fame?
MN: Immortality would be tough. I
mean, you don't usually encounter, say, happy vampires in literature,
but fame, yeah, fame would be cool.
CA: What's next for the Clear?