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Moscow – Los Angeles, May 06th 2005., 18.00 GMT
Participants of interview: :
Ron – Ron Mael
Russel – Russel Mael
SR – Maria Anikeeva, Specialradio press attache

SR: Hello, this is Special Radio Russia, can I speak with Russel or Ron? Russel: Yeah, this is Russell and Ron is also here as well.

SR: Good morning. Russel: Ok, are you in Moscow?

SR: Yeah, Moscow. So, if you don’t mind we’ll start right now, ok? Russel: Ok.

SR: Ok, the first question is the following: has the world gone better after the release of Lil’ Beethoven? Ron: Yeah. Better. Oh definitely, you know, we always feel that what we’re doing is, eh, we’re arrogant enough to think that what we do improves not only the musical scene, but also the world in general. So, yes, about 25% better.

SR: Aha, why not more? Ron: Well, we’re modest.

SR: and what was the biggest change after the release of Lil’ Beethoven? Ron: I mean to be honest, for Sparks, you mean, for us it was a way to kind of show that after 19 albums that we were able to kind of do something as important and exciting as brand new band, so in that sense, that was kind of the importance of it, in the big picture for Sparks.

SR: Ok, thank you. Well, you know some people say that there is no music without dislocation, without swing in it. And what is the best thing you like to swing? Russel: Um, you know, to be honest, we’re um, I don’t know if we worry so much about, or if I’m answering the question correctly but we don’t worry so much about swinging we kind of, we combine swinging with more maybe cerebral elements, I think that people often need to maybe have a little bit more substance to what they’re given with music and stuff, so for us its sort of, there’s elements of, you know, uh, music should survive that element maybe to have, to give you some sort of motivation to be moved, but to be moved in not only rhythmic ways but also to be moved emotionally and to be moved mentally as well.

SR: Ok, so did I get it right that everything in the music comes naturally? Russel: I think that maybe it doesn’t come so naturally, maybe you know, it comes with a lot of hard work and um and um, you know planning…both. The Lil’ Beethoven album took over a year to record and it was not a natural process for us at all. It really takes a lot of work, we take a lot of pride in the fact that we think that what we’re doing is something really special and really substantial and really different from most pop music that’s going on and so in that sense I think its…you know we put a lot of work into it, so its not maybe such a natural project or process it’s a little more unnatural how it all develops.

SR: Ok great, eh, do you find it interesting and entertaining for both of you laughing at the world around and staring at yourselves from the other side of the mirror in your careers? Ron: We always kind of see ourselves as outsiders, you know, observing things and even in the musical world we feel a bit like we’re outsiders, so but you know we always try to do it so it isn’t just that we don’t distance ourselves from what we’re writing about, we really, we never feel like what we’re writing is satirical or a parody or a joke even though there’s humour in the thing. So we kind of stand back from things sometimes but as far as when we’re working it’s never in a kind of dispassionate or a dislocated kind of way.

SR: I got it. Well, you know some say that a song is something you sing in a shower so the question is what do you sing while taking a shower? Russel: Oh, it’s a good question. It just depends on the day I suppose, you know…

SR: Which song was today? Russel: Today it’s sunny in Los Angeles so I was singing happy songs…

SR: Aha, for example? Russel: On rainy days I sing sad songs.

SR: Oh, ok well it depends on your mood, right? Ron: Yeah. I’m a big lover of Russian composers, so I tend to sing things written by Russian composers.

SR: Oh, amazing! Ron: I like the tragic side of life.

SR: Ok. Russel: You know, for him it doesn’t matter if the sky’s blue or not. It’s always a grey song.

SR: Ok, well what is Sparks not able to do now-a-days? Russel: We kind of think that we’re able to do, um sort of everything now, we really feel, we’ve just recorded a new album which will be out hopefully in September. We just feel that now we’re kind of reaching this point where we’re really in command of the language of, you know, of music and being able to do, kind of broaden the possibilities of what a group can do within pop music. We still consider ourselves a pop band, but we’re just kind of bored with all of the cliches that exist in pop music, kind of you know we’ve lived through those things the first time through and I think that there’s a lot of recycling going on and so for us we really think that we’re at the point where we’re kind of, you know, have maybe a certain luxury to kind of be able to do, you know try to push things, push the boundaries within pop music and do stuff that isn’t just the cliche, the cliched sort of side of pop music. For us that’s really boring now and so in essence with our new albums, especially the one you haven’t yet heard it really tried to take things, you know outside of what the normal expectations are for pop music and to hopefully do something that’s really exciting and fresh.

SR: And are there still lots to do for Sparks? Is there still a lot to change? Ron: So far we’ve been able to find something to do every time, when we finish an album we kind of think that is all, then the next time its comes around to doing an album we always find some sort of inspiration ourselves to kind of keep going. We have such a loyal fan base, that that’s one thing that kind of inspires us to continue. So I imagine we will be continuing for generations to come.

SR: Um, ok. What is the something you wish for most of all in your music now-a-days and what do you fear in your career? Ron: Well, we really, I mean just like any other band we hope to reach more people with what we’re doing so, uh, Lil’ Beethoven really opened up a lot of things for us because we got to have a lot of young people coming to see us that hadn’t been before and didn’t know about what Sparks, know about the history of Sparks and that’s kind of really what we want to pursue in addition to having the loyal, cult Sparks fans, that we’ll reach a larger audience with what we’re doing because we don’t feel like we’re sort of an elitist band, we really feel that what we do given the right circumstances is something also for a broad audience.

SR: Um, I got it. Well, in which phrase of your music does your physical presence feel most comfortable for you?

Russel: Well, we, you know for us, performing live is always, kind of the most, maybe the most fun side of the whole process because you’re able to, you know, you don’t, we take a lot of pride now in the live presentation. We really feel that once we have the music recorded and we’ve come up with something as special as Lil’ Beethoven was, and something as special as the new album is that the live part is something that is kind of more the frosting on the cake, you know, that we can always come up with something which is a visual equivalent, or a visual, you know a visual enhancement to what the recorded music is. So for us the live part is always sort of just a fun element, you know it’s more a fun element of the whole process.

SR: And do you feel at harmony with yourself when you’re moving across the stage or just when you’re standing still? Ron: Well, for me it’s standing still and for Russell it’s moving across the stage.

SR: this question is for Ron. What point of view and what kind of life style do you put into your synthesizer as art? Ron: Well, I try to sort of, I mean in a way the synthesizer it’s a way for me to kind of just express ideas in my head so I kind of hear things in my head and then play them on the synthesizer in order to record them, so I guess it’s just sort of things that I’m hearing in my head.

SR: Ok, and another question is for Russell. Can you tell us about your art collection? Russel: My art collection, my one piece of art. I only have a small collection, but it’s a good collection. The only thing…well, my main piece is, we did an interview with, we were lucky to do an interview with Andy Warhol for Interview Magazine, it was probably in the 80s I think and so as a souvenir of that occasion Andy Warhol gave both myself and Ron just a signed, it’s really it’s just a large envelope from Andy Warhol’s studios. It’s printed and Andy Warhol signed it to me and put his signature dollar sign across the front of it, so it’ really, a really nice memento for me and my one piece of art that I’m happy with, it was a really great experience to have been able to, you know be sort of interviewed by Andy Warhol, ’cause Andy Warhol doesn’t actually interview, somebody else sitting there does the interview.

SR: Yeah, he’s amazing. Don’t you want to have any artist’s signature of someone? Ron: Well, he has a few other things. Like he has a Christo…
Russel: …yeah, I actually have more pieces, I have a Christo print from an exhibition in London and, no actually from sorry the Christo is from a Reichstadt company in Berlin and a John Valdesari print and…
Ron: …a lot of Asian art from Haiti.
Russel: We went to Haiti…I’d always wanted to go to Haiti and I bought a lot of Asian art.

SR: Ok, and what kind of world are you not willing to live in? Ron: Well, this one is a little difficult at times, due to for a large part our political situation. But those kind of thing inspire you as a musician, the worse things are maybe the better things musically for you.

SR: Well, and what kind of lies do people need to hear now-a-days by our musicians? Ron: What kind of lies, well, that everything is fine. That’s the big lie always.

SR: Do you need this? Ron: Yeah, I think so, people need this. It goes against what they, kind of see around them when they’re told that everything is fine. That is the thing that people need to be, to hear.
Russel: They also usually believe it too. Most people don’t bother to question it, I think the vast majority, they believe everything they hear when they hear its all fine. They don’t worry.

Ron: I mean it also happens in the world of music too, because the big lie in music is that there are so many exciting things going on and most of the music that’s around is pretty unambitious, you know, it’s people not really taking chances and kind of the thing that we pride ourselves on is, you know, always doing something where you don’t know what the end result will be. We kind of wish that people would question, I think more as far as what they accept musically, because it shouldn’t be that you just like something, you should really be passionate about it.

SR: Yeah, I agree. Well, Sparks is the kind of band which nobody is able to catch and how does it feel to be there where you are right now and where does your music go from here? Russel: Well, we’re really happy that we’re that kind of band that you can’t define what it is that we’re doing and I think because of that, that’s one of the reasons Sparks has managed to have now with the new album, 20 albums, and without having this massive commercial success, we just feel that we have, you know a goal, a real desire to do something just to push the whole way that you see pop music that you can do things in different ways but still make it accessible to people also and so that’s kind of our mission statement, if there has to be a mission statement about what we’re doing now. It’s just to not kind of conform to the rules of pop music. Like I said earlier, it’s all, the stuff you hear is just recycling of what you’ve already heard and for us it’s not relevant any more. You know, there’s been pop music for over, you know whatever, 50 years now almost and you know it’s the people who are willing to push, you know the boundaries of what’s possible but still working within a general framework of what we consider to be the challenge. We’re excited that we’re doing, at least we feel we’re doing what we feel is our part, to push things forward.

SR: Great. Well, are you of an opinion what music images will be popular in the future? Ron: Well, the way things are going as far as people downloading stuff, I don’t know, I don’t even know what’s going to be around in the future. It seems that people now-a-days more and more are needing a visual image to go with music and it’s a shame because I think I’m old-fashioned I think, I prefer music where all the imagery is in your own head, so I just think that so much of music in the future will be attached to visual images, I mean it’s obviously already there in a big way but I think that even more of that will happen. People will have a tough time listening to music without seeing images.

SR: And what would be the perfect future of music for you? Russel: Really, just every household will play the Sparks album. That would be the perfect music future.

SR: Ok, well please describe your recording studio you’re working in.
Russel: Well, we work in my house, in a studio. We’re in Los Angeles and we’ve recorded the last, I think 5 albums, something like that, at my studio and um. Today news technologies relatively accessible to anyone compared to what it was before where you were always obligated to be, to have a record company financing your recording and now the way we’re working, with the new album we worked for a year and a half on it and there’d be absolutely no way in the past, before to record in that kind of manner. Where you take your time you know, and think about what you’re doing, 8 hours in the studio a day and maybe throw away what you’d done from those 8 hours but now with technology and being able to work from home you can have that kind of luxury of taking as long as you want. Here we have a studio with digital, you know digital recorders and all that sort of stuff and we just we like the freedom and there is a certain kind of atmosphere that we don’t like when you step into what you normally think of as a professional recording studio, a commercial studio where there’s other people kind of lurking around and even if they’re not always kind of in your studio, there is just a feeling that you’re being watched and we kind of like the feeling of just basically just the 2 of us in a room and there is no outside kind of, you know activity whatsoever, and you can just focus and you don’t have to think of having anyone listening to what you’re doing, because its inhibiting when you start worrying about whether somebody else, even an engineer, what he’s thinking about during the process. We’re totally self-contained, I do the engineering and Ron does all the composing and playing and so we’re really self-contained in that kind of way. And then when we need outside musicians or a guitar we have two people that are our regular musicians.

SR: That sounds perfect. Well, you know that Special Radio is working with some young musicians and what would you like to wish to those who are thinking of becoming musicians? Russel: I don’t know, ’cause it’s a difficult time, obviously if anyone is aspiring to be a musician, you know, you encourage them to pursue that and you have to be really dedicated to enjoying what you’re doing musically because if you’re worried about, you know any kind of commercial side to the whole process it’s an incredibly difficult time for consideration. To have the passion to do it then I wish them well.

SR: Ok, well that was the last question. And I want to appreciate you for your attention and time. Just thank you, very much. Russel: Thank you.

SR: And good luck and everything in all your future projects. Russel: Thank you, I hope to come there and play in Russia some time.

SR: Yeah, we will be very glad. Russel: Ok, thank you. Bye.

SR: Bye.
May 2005

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